New home … for the blog

I know I’ve not been fantastic about updating this blog but Andrea and Ron have decided to close so I had to move what I had and decided I wanted it to still exist.

So here it is. Complete with new header.

I kept the old name because now that F is old enough to be thinking about moving out and the sheep have all been killed (not by me, predator), the topics are likely to revert to the knitting, quilting and sewing realm. I’ll try to keep you posted.


How it’s going so far, with a focus on Literature and essay writing

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which is about 6 weeks into the new school year and seems like a good time to reflect a bit on how things are going.

We had a family meeting at the beginning of September to talk about what we wanted out of homeschooling, what Freya's goals were, and how that all might work. I talked about about the things I said here.

Mat and I wanted her to do more writing and develop her analytic skills. This is based roughly on the kind of progression that Julie talks about in the Bravewriter Help for Highschool. In service to this, I registered her for 2 Bravewriter Literary Analysis classes — American Poetry (in September) and The Great Gatsby (in November.

The American Poetry one went pretty well, I think. I am not a looking-over-the-shoulder mom so I asked her about it and we talked about it a bit but she basically got on with it. She hasn't had comments back on her essay yet.

It did raise some issues about structure, following rules and doing things according to a plan. That led to some discussions about giving things a try even when they are uncomfortable and seeing if you can figure out why someone would make you do them.

In particular, Freya had a lot of resistance to talking about rhyming patterns. She doesn't find them interesting. However, talking about the rhyming structure was one of the required things, so she did it. I tried to talk to her about the difference between doing it to say you've done it and actually trying to figure out why someone might think it was important or interesting. I pointed out that the poet probably thought a lot about the rhyming structure and it is likely that is because the poet thought it related to the meaning. She has since reluctantly admitted that she figured out that rhyming structure might be important to meaning. I'm calling that a win.

We also had a long conversation about the ways teachers communicate criticism and the difficulty of taking criticism. This was tougher.

There is an inherent problem in the pedagogical approach that encourages students to communicate thoughts by saying “there is no wrong answer”. Because even if we think there isn't ONE right answer, we do expect students to move on from their initial thoughts. Where's the learning in having your initial ideas confirmed? The problem becomes how to nudge students to develop their initial thoughts, consider other interpretations, and maybe even change their minds, without sounding like that first “there is no wrong answer” was a lie. All teachers struggle with this. And I definitely recognize Freya's reaction.

I tried to explain the difficulty and how hard it is to communicate and that teachers are only human, etc. I tried to give her strategies for seeing the useful things in the teacher comments even if the way it was said annoyed her. Since it's an online course I suggested that maybe it would be helpful to look at the teacher comments on someone else's writing and then what they did with those comments as she'd have a bit more emotional distance. My hope is that that might give her enough distance to be able to identify what's useful.

I'm not sure what she did with what I said, but she did go back and try to engage with the comments differently. And she recognized that she is learning things in the class. This is good because her initial response was to ask to pull out of the 2nd class because she doesn't like the teacher. I'm all for validating my kid's feelings and finding what works for her, but Bravewriter is one of the few curricula that feels really aligned with our educational philosophy. I can't teach literary analysis because I never really felt like I understood it. I think this is likely to be the best option for doing some of this work. I told Freya this.

All is well. We'll work on those strategies for getting the most out of a class even if it isn't perfect for you. It also turns out that she is really not keen on writing essays though she accepts that there are good reasons we want her to do this kind of work. Also, she's already read The Great Gatsby and loved it. She's seen the film. She's talked about it and tried to write about it. I pointed out that she won't need to work at understanding the book and doing the literary analysis because she knows the book. The purpose of doing the class is precisely to help her look at the book differently and write something she couldn't write without having her ideas challenged.

Being challenged is always uncomfortable but I think this is what this next phase of her education needs to include.



I'm not much of a small project knitter. But I'm discovering that I might be a small project quilter. Or maybe it's just my exploratory approach to the medium at the moment that is making small projects seem appropriate.

I also have a completely unrealistic view of my stash. It is paltry. But I think it isn't. I've been thinking I need to use stuff in the stash (which is good) but I really only have a stash that can support small projects. (With the exception of that scrappy trip around the world quilt which might have had more scrappy trip and fewer borders if I had a more substantial stash)

My first bag

I attended the Lanark County Quilters Guild biannual show this August. At the Flare Fabrics booth, I noticed that there were several patterns for bags that used 6 fat quarters. I have fat quarters …

This is where that line of thought led …

The pattern is Carmel. These fat quarters were purchased last winter on a whim. They seemed to go together better in the stack than they did when I started to lay things out. I'm not dissatisfied with this bag but I'm not completely happy with it either.

It has interior pockets but they are just that tiny bit smaller than my iPad, which is kind of annoying. I probably should have checked before cutting. I am impressed with the strap construction which makes a very sturdy strap. It may become a knitting bag. Or a gift.

It didn't end there

And then I stopped in at the big bookstore one day after dropping Freya off at the Park & Ride and picked up a magazine. It contained a pattern for a cute bag using 32 charm squares. I looked through my cut stash (I've been cutting smaller bits of fabric into commonly used sizes: 5″ squares, 2.5″ squares, 1.5″ squares, 2.5″ strips, 1.5″ strips) and it seems I don't have 32 coordinating 5″ squares. Hmmm.

Last week I was in one of the local quilt shops and saw a charm pack of batiks… I bought it along with some coordinating fabric for the lining and…

I love this bag. It makes me happy to look at it. If I were to use this pattern again, I might make an interior pocket but otherwise it's just fine. Most importantly it's “me”.

More bags may be in my future.


First homeschool field trip of the year

One of the joys of homeschooling is that you can do things off season. This year Freya and I took a trip to the Stratford Festival the weekend after Labour Day. The timing was dictated primarily by the combination of plays available.

We used the format that a group trip she's been on has used: 4 plays over 3 days with 2 nights accommodation.

The plays we saw:

  • Measure for Measure
  • Merchant of Venice
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Blithe Spirit

All were excellent. Freya was particularly excited about the Chagall inspired set for Fiddler. This was nice for me because she was ambivalent about the first Chagall exhibit we saw (in Switzerland in 2007) though I think his work has grown on her since.

Her grandparents introduced her to Noel Coward a couple of years ago by taking her and 2 UK-based friends to see Hay Fever in Keswick. She was an instant fan and the production of Blithe Spirit reinforced her views.

I think seeing some Coward in the same year we saw Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan was also thought provoking. They share some larger themes about the relationship between middle-class propriety and reality. And some comedic strategies.

We also had lunch with an old family friend that I hadn't seen in years but had run into at a recent funeral. It was so nice to see her and we agreed that the next time we go she may join us for a play, too.

There was also a nice bonus on the quilting front. In the upstairs lobby at the Avon Theatre hangs a quilt made by members of the wardrobe department as a fundraiser. It is gorgeous.



Other farm news

We have also recently built a rainwater collection system on the back of the barn.

The barrels were purchased from the local Scouts who were having a fundraiser. SInce you need to get a bucket under the taps at the bottom, we built a platform. It's big enough for 3 barrels and made from mainly leftover wood we had lying around.

We live on the Canadian Shield. Getting those posts in the ground was not happening, hence the cement bases. If you had ground you could actually pound a post into, you could do it that way.

Putting eavestrough on the back of the barn was not obvious either but we managed.

We had to sort of gerry-rig a facia board to screw it to. And the barn and lean-to are not in line, hence the s-bend to drain water from one into the other.

We need to manually change which barrel the water flows into. I suspect one could figure out how to get the overflow from one to go into another but we were stumped and this seemed easiest.

These are located at the back of the shelter the pigs are sleeping in. We've put their drinking water container just off to the left of it so this makes it much easier to get water to the pigs.

Pigs are thirsty animals (one theory as to why many desert cultures have a taboo on eating pork) so being able to use rainwater is also a bonus. And this year we have had quite a bit of rain.

We plan to figure out how to put eavestrough on the front of the barn and where to collect that water. We were thinking we could run a gutter back to join these but now I'm wondering whether it makes sense to have another set of barrels at the front. I think the water coming off the back will easily fill 3 barells.

New pigs, with bonus duck

In other news, we picked up 3 little pigs this week.

Freya got a photo of them in the shelter but that's still on her camera so you'll have to live with the pics I took later.

These wee pigs are a bit shy. And their field has a lot of long weeds and grass in it so most of the time we have no idea where they are.

There are footprints in their food though, so we know they know where that is and come back for meals. This is pretty typical for pigs.

They are only about 6 weeks old so pretty small. I let the dogs have a look and a sniff before we let them out of the crate so they know they belong here. Norm (our labrador) is pretty fascinated and runs up to the gate to their field to see if he can see them.

While we were picking them up, we were offered a male duckling if we could catch him and put up with his mother's reaction. Mat did catch one. The mama duck whacked him hard in the shin but he kept him.

He's pretty cute, eh?

I was a bit worried about putting him in with the little chickens. I thought maybe they'd peck at him or something. But no. Apparently ducks are automatically higher in the pecking order. They were a bit scared of him at first and now all coexist peacefully.

And in case anyone is getting sentimental, Freya was absolutely right when she said “This may sound cruel, but he's just the cutest Christmas dinner I've ever seen.”

Pandora’s Box quilt Finished!!!

And I think I'm going to rename it Pandora's Flower Box because of how I chose to quilt it. But here it is:

and the back, with clever use of pieced strips to save on backing material

A close up of the flower motif quilting

A recap on how this quilt came to be

I started with a jelly roll of batik prints that I'd purchased in PEI when I was visiting a friend there in late April 2010. At the suggestion of Andrea, I picked up a book of patterns for jelly rolls at my local quilt shop and decided to try this one.

Later, I bought border and binding fabric to coordinate, knowing that I had enough leftover squares to do the stripes on the back. I decided to get enough binding fabric to incorporate some of that into the back, too.

Then it sat around for a long while. I had the fleeces shorn in 2012 made into quilt batting and decided to use that for this quilt. It took me a while to figure out exactly how to do that and in the process I wished I'd made the backing bigger. Or hand basted it. Or something.

There was some movement when sewing even with a walking foot (used to stitch in the ditch around all the squares and borders). And there are a few puckers as a result. Some of the edges got fudged a bit to ensure there was top and backing to bind.

But in the end, I looks great. It's a single bed size so it's on Freya's bed. Blitzen (one of the cats) approves, though he is generally a fan of quilts anyway.

I do have a hand wash cycle on my washing machine and I used that to wash it. The swatch experiment demonstrated that the regular cycle might lead to migration of wool fibres through the fabric. On the hand wash cycle that did not happen. And the puffy parts stayed pretty puffy though I assume the batting will felt a bit over time.