Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dance recital 0508

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dance Recital

Ellen and Arianna were in the same ballet class this year. They practiced every Wednesday afternoon and had a few of their homeschool/playgroup buddies in the class with them. They performed on stage this weekend for the big dance recital. The show was a circus theme and they were "Merry Marionettes." All the girls were so excited and did such a good job. Daniel and I were so proud. He was the only one in the entire show who yelled out loud after a performance (not just for this dance but the entire show). As soon as they finished and bowed he shouted "way to go Ellen Arianna." I looked over at him and he was smiling, laughing, and crying at the same time. He couldn't help but shed a few tears over our beautiful babies up there on the big stage. So, that made me tear up! We were pitifully proud parents:) Here are a few of the best pictures that captured some of those precious moments.

Before the show.

At the dress rehearsal.

After the recital with their friends.

Proud mom.

Proud family!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Daddy Bill and Nana

My dad and Davie (better known as Daddy Bill and Nana nowadays) drove up from Baton Rouge for a quick visit. They were only here for a few days and every moment was precious. I loved having them here all to ourselves instead of having to share them with the rest of the family:) We really got to spend quality time with them hanging out by the pool at their hotel and sharing meals at our favorite local places. We also visited the zoo and the art museum. They got a little taste of homeschooling and came out for our field trip to the Ancient Egyptian exhibit. They met the girls' friends and watched them participate in the studio time after the tour of the exhibit. The last night we tried to savor every moment on the front porch talking and sharing memories. What a sweet visit. I'm so thankful they made the trip up here. We miss them already.

The gorillas are always fascinating at the zoo. This big guy sits right in front of the window with his back to us most of the time. He gave us a show as he rolled around and stuck his bottom on the window:)

They wouldn't let me take pictures in the Egyptian exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art so here we are in one of the galleries where the girls were studying some art work done by local students.
The girls were drawing Egyptian symbols they learned about in the museum. They used pencil, then stylus, then water colors on the plaster of paris tablets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sweet Potato Propagation...It's Easy!

From Daniel-
Sweet Potatoes are an amazing food source. They are incredibly nutritious, the plant itself is resilient in extreme conditions (last year they were one of the few plants that survived the mid-summer 100+ temperatures here), and last, as I want to describe below, they are easy to grow.

Next time you get sweet potatoes (organic preferred) at the store to use in the kitchen cut off the tops (2-3 inches) and place them cut down in a jar or pan of water. Because I put mine in a pan I stuck pieces of toothpicks in the cut in order to keep them off the pan (for air and water circulation) like little tripods. Soon little shoots began to appear. I placed them in a pretty sunny spot and had to change the water every once in a while in order to prevent rot and smell. The longest wait in the process was to see the first glimmer of shoots (2 weeks). After that it all happens pretty fast.
Soon the shoots were really growing. Once they reach 3-4" they are ready pick.
Simply pick the shoots off by hand. I wasn't terribly careful either although I tried to get the whole shoot out of the sweet potato.Place these shoots in a jar with water and viola! In days the shoots will root and each will be a plant-able sweet potato vine that will bear several good taters.

Here are the roots growing on the end of the shoots.

Most gardening books will tell you to plant these shoots 2 weeks after last frost. They generally take 100-140 days to mature (a bit slow). If they continue to grow into the Fall frost mulching is necessary. But if you have a successful harvest they can store in a cool humid environment for up to 6 months. This method is not mine. I found it in THE VEGETABLE GARDENER'S BIBLE by Edward Smith.

We are starting ours late, but we also have a late frost. It's worth experimenting with. Nature is ever so prolific.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Added Tuesday morning to clear up some confusion. Daniel was creator of this family activity and post. :)

Arianna has hollow bones and a steel grip. I offered her a quarter to climb the wall. I thought it would be fun for her to try. To my knowledge she hadn't done this before. She hopped on and shot right up. So, I made her do it again for the camera. She did make sure she got her quarter. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Family Time

Once again, I'm a week behind. We got to spend mother's day weekend with lots of family. We went to Charlotte to see Daniel's brother, David, who was in town from Philadelphia. We got to spend the day by the pool with Aunt Anna and Grandmother Gail. Then we went over to Granddaddy William's house. He let us go through his collection of seeds, some from his mother's garden in Alabama.

Dave, Daniel and the girls.

Father and son posing with the seed packs. Arianna took this picture.

All of us posing with our flower necklaces we made from Granddaddy's yard.

Then on Sunday, mom and BB came in town and took us to lunch and toured our garden. I was so happy that they made the drive and I got to spend a relaxing mother's day with my mom. Daniel did all my work for the day and I hung out in the hammock and spent quality time with the family! What a great mother's day!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Semester over and more time spent in backyard

All of these pictures and the idea for this post actually happened last week. But, the days kept passing and I'm just now getting to it. Daniel finished up his semester last week. Congrats to him for completing his final semester of course work towards his PhD. We have been taking a little break and spending a lot of time in the yard before summer school starts next week. This first picture shows the big bed. Since it was taken last week some of the beds actually look a lot bigger already! You can't really see what's going on in each bed but I thought it was nice because it kinda gives you an idea of what's going on in the yard. We've had requests to show the whole yard. It's really not that big there's just a lot going on! So here you see the bed, the holly tree with hammock underneath, the new bean trellis in front of shot and the pomegranate on the back left of the picture. You can see a little bit of our back deck as well.
This is a close up of the potatoes that Daniel spent several hours last weekend hilling. We started the seed potatoes in trenches. Once they got to be about a foot above ground he piled up soil around the plants and created little hills to provide more room for growing the potatoes. We have russet, red and yellow potatoes coming up.
While playing around in the backyard Daniel spotted this swarm of honey bees. It was so cool. They were on one of the tree branches in the hedge along the back side of the yard. We watched in amazement for a little while. Since they were in search of a new hive they didn't stay here long. They were gone the next day.
Another thing we have been doing is keeping better watch of the compost pile. We always have a big one in the back corner of the yard. This time we started it mostly with horse manure and leaves from other people's yards. After turning and watering it we tracked the temperature every day. The first day after turning it was 80 degrees (same as temp. outside). The next day it was about 90, then the next day 100-110. The temp steadily increased and by the 4th day it was at 140. We were very excited!We will turn it again soon. I should post a more detailed description of composting or at least what we do in case anyone reading would like to start one. Here is a great article I read online (I was reading in bed on Mother's Day!) that can get anyone started turning their yard and kitchen waste into "gardener's gold." Of course you can find books all about it at your local library too :)
We've talked about our rain barrels before. We have set up 5 different ones in the back yard. Two are under down spouts of gutters next to the house. Then we have 2 that are right next to the garden. During big rains, Daniel siphons water with a hose from the ones closest to the house to the ones in the garden.
Daniel and I installed these gutters on the shed a few weeks ago and he rigged them to pour into the 5th barrel.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Strawberry picking

Ellen's description of the day. This is an example of something that we will put into the portfolio of schoolwork we keep for the girls.We were the first ones at the farm. Isn't it beautiful? I consider it a privilege that I can take my kids/students to the farm at any time. A few minutes later 2 bus loads full of school children surrounded us. We stayed well after them and picked for about 2 hours and brought home 2 gallons of fresh SC strawberries.

Here the girls are taking turns mashing the berries. We then took them into the kitchen, cooked the berries, added sugar and canned the jam using a water bath method. We used the recipe on the box of Panoma's Fruit Pectin.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bike Riding featuring Columbia's Waterways

Way to go Columbia...You have provided some beatiful trails right along the river and canal. They are maintained very nicely and offer shaded and sunny, paved and unpaved trails right by the Congaree River and historic canal. Friday I took the girls for a short bike ride but then they really wanted daddy to come with us.So, Saturday afternoon we took the whole family for a long bike ride. It ended up being about 5 miles total. They loved it and never complained of being tired. I've never seen legs move so fast on such tiny bikes (especially Arianna's). In fact, one family passed us and I heard them comment as they were looking back at Arianna cruising along on her little bike saying, "Did you see that little girl--she didn't look old enough." They got a good laugh out of it. We had to stop along the way to enjoy the abundant honey suckle vines and wild blackberries. They were so sweet smelling and tasting! Arianna and I couldn't get enough. We'll definitely make this a regular family activity.

These first pictures show my ride with the girls on Friday. You can see the river in the background and we are on one of the many bridges and boardwalks that carried us along the path and under bridges.
Little side note here...Notice the outfits, especially the "leg warmers." Aparently it is the new fashion style with the girls. It started by cutting off some socks that had holes and now they love to wear these colorful creations with their carefully chosen outfits.
This next one is of the canal. We had stopped here to walk over to the river and get a closer look.
The river is on the other side of the paved trail.
Yummy blackberries!
Now that I have praised Columbia for its one great bike trail can I just say that it's time to create a few more??? I'm loving bike riding and I think if we had more trails to get to and from grocery stores, parks and other attractions we'd be riding a lot more. Unfortunately our neighborhood is stuck between some very busy roads and we can't really get anywhere without having to deal with a lot of traffic and drivers not used to seeing bikers. Maybe I should look into starting a local campaign for more bike trails, right? :) Sure would be nice. Anyone else agree and want to help!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Yard Fruit

Here are some pics of the fruit we have in the yard. Most all of this was here when we arrived although in various deteriorating states. Below are some pics of what we have found and what we are doing to try and make the yard more bountiful and perennial. The general moral (as my utterance always contain) appears to be twofold: First, our highly mobile culture doesn't support the care of yard for food. A perennially bountiful yard takes years of development and care. Moving often doesn't allow that. I am frustrated by that. BUT, as our food culture changes and everyone becomes more conscious of the food sources and food possibilities nearby (yards) we should encourage this by investing in a couple fruiting trees or plants that will eventually bring free (monetarily), sweet, healthy joy to others lives down the road. Whoever planted our fruit trees years ago had to hope that someone else would come along and continue the care. They were nearly lost (reasons are unknown and not important) for some years but are being nursed back to health. We are so thankful for the kind folks who placed the plants in the yard.

This is our pomegranate. It was planted by someone a while back and was cut like a shrub when we got here. We are not sure what its needs are for producing fruit, but it is enjoying becoming a tree again.

These are Black Cherries. We have several trees in the yard. They are wild. They are the edible, slightly sweet cousin to the sweet cherry. For those of you who remember our Boone days we had four large sweet cherry trees and we used to eat them till we couldn't eat anymore. These are not as good, but nice to have and know about.
Here is our lone fig. We have two mature fig trees, and one youngun (thanks Matt). The first fruit generally gets knocked off by a frost. They are all picking up steam again and we should have a full late harvest. I am going to try and use root hormone and scraping to produce several more plants. Figs are supposed to be transplantable that way.
The blueberries. Thanks Deirdre for the netting you just supplied. Now we can enjoy these and let them ripen fully without having to worry about the birds (sorry to the birds). I am going to experiment with the scraping rooting transplant process with the blueberries as well. I have read that it will work.

These are our blackberries. The first pic is of a vine that has been growing along the ground (to avoid mowing) which has the berries along with its new red shoot that will bear next year. Last year a friend came over and told me to quit picking the red prickly weeds because they might be blackberries (thanks Emily). I stopped and haven't mowed this year just to see where they are coming up. Answer: Everywhere. We will be competing with the birds but are amazed at just how many blackberry plants there are all over the yard. I am trying to figure out whether to make a patch and try and transplant them. But if anybody wants a few (plants) we have plenty.

This is an example of a blackberry coming up in the yard where it used to just get mowed under all summer. She is so excited to be stretching out new shoots again!

We think we have two apple trees, and that they are not crabapples. But this is the first year they have produced. They were not healthy when we bought the house. This year one of the trees has a bunch of apples on it. Yeah!

The peach tree was really struggling when we got here. But we cut away dead limbs and mulched and fed it and this year we have about 30 healthy little peaches. Very exciting.

This is a poor pic. But, as I was meandering through the yard I noticed this other small peach tree growing in the shade under a locust. Wow! It is rather young but I am going to transplant it and nurture it to see what it will do.
There are a growing number of "edible landscape" books on the market and the general term "perma-culture" is a good keyword when searching for resources. The internet and local library are good places to start. Next time you plant. Think fruit!