Friday, 30 October 2009

Pumpkin - stories, carving, cooking and stuff

Getting stuck into a couple of monstrous pumpkins.


Once completed we lit their tea lights and they've glowed all day.


We saved all the flesh for soup and now have a huge batch for tomorrow. We decided to try to make something of the pumpkin seeds. I looked online and found a recipe. Basically I fried them in coconut oil then added some cinnamon and maple syrup. It is debatable as to whether they were edible.

Posted by Picasa

Miles spent much of the morning sorting the remaining mound of seeds. He washed them, picked off the bits of flesh, placed flesh and seeds in separate bowls and sieved the floating flesh from the bowl of rinsing water. Lots more practice for his fine motor skills! Our hens don't like pumpkin seeds so he placed them on our new bird table - well, an old bird table actually, in a new position, so that we can get a closer look at the birds.

There was a real cuddly, hot chocolate sipping,story telling sort of mood here today. I think this was possibly their favourite tale of the day.

The Littlest Pumpkin


Christine Natale

Once, in the middle of a great field full of pumpkins, there lived a wee little
pumpkin. This little pumpkin was hardly bigger than a walnut. He was not a baby
pumpkin, because baby pumpkins are green and he was a beautiful bright orange,
just like his big brothers and sisters. But he was the tiniest pumpkin in the
world. He was also the most miserable little pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.

"It's going to be a good Halloween for you, " he cried to his neighbor, "You
will certainly be chosen by a child to be her own Halloween Jack O"Lantern, but
I am so small that no one would be able to make a face on me, or to fit a light
inside me. In fact, when the farmers come into the field with their heavy boots
on, I'm sure they won't even see me and I'll be stepped on. I probably won't
even have any Halloween."

The other pumpkin felt sorry for him, but there was nothing that he could do
about it.

That very morning, the farmer and his two sons had come out to see the field
full of round, glowing orange pumpkins among the dark green vines and leaves.
The farmer said to his sons, "The pumpkins are perfectly ripe. Tomorrow we will
come back and pick them, lead them onto our truck and take them into town.
Children will buy them and take them home to make their Jack O' Lanterns for

That night, all of the pumpkins in the field were talking excitedly about the
next day. A big fat pumpkin boasted that he would probably be the first chosen
by some lucky boy or girl, but a small, pretty little pumpkin said, "I think
that a child would like me best, because I can be carried easily."

Everyone had a wish to tell the other. Some wanted to have a happy face, others
wanted to be scary and a few even hoped to look sad - just for fun.

As the night became deeper and darker, and the full moon rose above the field,
they all became quieter, except for an occasional whisper. All through the
night, the little pumpkin looked up at the beautiful Mistress Moon, so high
above him. He spoke to her.

"We are alike, you and I, because we are both so round. But you are great and
wise and loved, and I am too small to be loved by anyone."

The moon shone down with loving light on the little pumpkin and tried to comfort

Before sunrise, as the moon began to wander home and it was very dark, the
little pumpkin saw a tiny light flickering at the far edge of the great field.
The light twinkled and sparkled as it zigzagged over the field, pausing here and
hurrying there. The little pumpkin thought that a star must have fallen to the
earth, but he couldn't see what it was doing. It came closer and closer. Then,
all at once, it was standing in front of him and he could see that it wasn't a
star at all - it was an autumn fire fairy, dressed in gold and orange and
scarlet leaf-fire, which dances without burning.

The autumn fire fairy bent over the little pumpkin and cried out, " Oh! Here it
is - the very pumpkin that I am seeking! All of the other pumpkins are much too
big for me to carry home to my children, but he is just right."

What joy filled the heart of the littlest pumpkin when she picked him up and
flew with him to the forest. They entered the bottom of a hollow tree and a
great many little autumn fire fairies clamored around to admire their Halloween
pumpkin. They took tiny fairy knives and cut a big smiling face on him. Then
they brought little fairy candles that shine in all different changing colors
and put them inside. Now the littlest pumpkin was turned into a sparkling,
shining Jack O' Lantern.

Then all of the autumn fire fairies held a big dancing festival with many kinds
of food and sweets and lots of music and singing. And the littlest pumpkin
shared the best Halloween of all.

The end.

Hermione has practiced recounting her spooky story, one which she has made up herself about a cyclops living in a cave on an island off the coast of Sweden. Miles has recounted all kinds of tales of gore and brutality which I find rather disturbing. People always told me boys are different but I didn't believe them till now.

In amidst everything else Hermione watched more of her DVD from the parliament education services and we had discussions about democracy, dictatorships and some of the limitations of both. Interesting stuff. I'm pleased we are tackling these issues. I thought perhaps eight was a bit young to be looking at forms of government but Hermione is really keen to study China in detail and I think an understanding of basic politics would be important in order for her to understand some of the stark differences in how the country operates as in comparison to Britain. She's taking it all on board and I think perhaps I was under estimating her by having such reservations.

Right, the man from Tescos has been. I am stocked up with baking potatoes, toasting marshmallows and cider for mulling. I'm done for today.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Children on Facebook - why?

It's horrific news no matter where you live, but somehow it seems even worse when it's close to home.

I have been following the story in the press and was surprised to read a comment from someone at Facebook saying that you are supposed to be thirteen or over to be on Facebook. I know a fair few children who are well under that age and have a Facebook page. What I don't understand is *why*.

I suspect there will come a time when my children wish to join sites like Facebook - but I dread it and will delay it as long as I can. Obviously, once children are of the age that this poor girl was they are making their own decisions with less guidance. I am not in any way suggesting that what has happened here is anyones fault. I think it just goes to highlight the dangers of sites like these - you can in extreme circumstances pay for a single mistake with your life.

Anyway, back to the point I was making - why do parents allow young children, (some I have seen are much younger than ten), to have their own Facebook page? Is it to do with the games they can play? I never play games on Facebook so I'm not sure. I have to say it's certainly my preference that my children engage with others in 'real life' - and also that they engage with a wide age range including adults, (parents etc), as opposed to constantly seeking out an age related peer culture.

I'm genuinely interested, what do young children get out of having a Facebook page? Safety issues aside, what's the point? It pains me to be a member of Facebook but I find it hard to resist. It pains me becuase I don't like the thought of someone making mega bucks on the back of social exchanges between friends and like minded people. However, I percieve a benefit so I stay. What benefit are these children having? Is there a benefit?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Blimey!!! Bunny burglar!!

'Mummy!!! Mummy!!! There's a vampire at the back door' yelled Hermione. Yeah, yeah - as if. Our back garden is fully enclosed with high fencing. Anyway, I pulled back the curtains at the french doors and right enough there was a vampire! I nearly wet my pants. It's very dark out our back.

I stood for a minute not quite knowing what to do. What if it was a freaky bloke behind the mask? I now realise it was probably quite foolish but I opened the door and asked if I could be of any help. I do despair at how damned British I can be at times! I'm looking for my rabbit he said. Well how can I help? I asked. Oh, it's just over there he replied - pointing at our rabbit! That's our rabbit I informed him. No, he's mine! - Oh no he's not!

After a minute or so of panto type dialogue the young lad (he was about ten) asked politely if it would be OK for him to climb back over the fence. I told him that would be fine and asked that he didn't return.

How blinkin' bizarre! It would have served him right if I had invited him to try to catch the rabbit (he's free range). Last time Craig had to catch him for a purpose he was totally shredded. He looked like he'd done a round with Freddie Kruger! Also, this is the rabbit that neighbours stopped me in the street to complain about because it goes into their garden and chases their dog. Shheeesh, that young lad had a lucky escape....

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Scary faces and new potatoes

Hermione went to a Halloween party last night and won the fancy dress!


The new potatoes I'm hoping will be served with Xmas lunch this year are coming along nicely.

Posted by Picasa

We've been plodding along with Venn diagrams today. I've also been busy arranging trips for the local home ed group - a trip to the local TV and radio studios and yet another Pizza Express trip - yay!!!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Halloween and other horrors

First we looked at the official horrors - a dvd which we obtained from UK Parliament Education Services. As free educational packs go it's alright.

We then made a start on our Halloween decorations.


We had great fun making specimen jars. We've lots of them and Hermione hopes to label then tomorrow.

Posted by Picasa

We're hoping to make toffee apples for the first time this year. Does anyone have any tips? I foresee a very sticky kitchen.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Glacier experiment and elephant whispers

I read about this experiment online and expected it to be a bit more impressive than it was. Hey ho, I think it made a point all the same.

We put about an inch or so of soil and small stones in the bottom of a plastic cup, topped it up with water and froze it.


We laid out some tin foil on the bench and slid the smooth end of the 'glacier' over it. Brief conversation about erosion and how the bottom of a glacier would probably not be smooth. We then pushed the rough side of our glacier across the tin foil. It ripped and crumpled - a big mound being moved along by a glacier.

Posted by Picasa

I had planned on also doing an experiment with a glass bottle, three matches and a hard boiled egg, to demonstrate how the heating and cooling of the air could create a vacuum that would suck in the egg. I decided to leave it for another day though. I couldn't have coped with another floppy experiment.

Nu nite. I'm off to rest my weary bones - which incidentally are feeling a lot less weary today. I'm usually a bit of a night owl but I can't wait to jump into bed with The Elephant Whisperer at the moment. I'm really enjoying it.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Odin's Glow

I was delighted when I managed to pick up three tickets for Odin's Glow, a community event to celebrate the regions viking heritage.

It sounded as if it was going to be great.

Well, it was great by all accounts, but I didn't get. After crawling back to bed mid morning, Craig called the Swine Flu help line such was my general predicament. I must have looked really really crap because he never does anything like that. Apparently my symptoms are in keeping with swine flu but don't follow the correct pattern and therefore it's unlikely I have swine flu - so, that's good.

Ok, enough bleating - in the end Craig went with Hermione and one of her chums. They had a great time. Photos haven't come out well but by all accounts it looked fab.



This is a transformed bus stop.

Posted by Picasa

In preparation for the trip Hermione and Craig spent a fair while this afternoon reading up on the vikings so that was a bit of a bonus too. It's becoming a regular thing this - Craig being involved with education. I don't wish to sound ungrateful, but it's about blinkin' time and long may it continue!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Shame on me

I knew I only had the energy to get dressed or go to Marks and Spencers - so, I went in my nightie and fastened up duffle coat. It was quite liberating. Not quite Katie Price commando, but it felt naughty all the same.

If you saw something even scarier than the price tags in Marks and Spencers food hall this evening, it may well have been me!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Foot and mouth

I decided to cancel our plans for today. I'm coughing lots and couldn't face having to be places at set times and stuff. I just felt too rough and a little sorry for myself perhaps. My chest is aching so much from coughing. I think I need to do something about my pelvic floor too. Oh the joys of growing old!

Anyway, while we were home we decided to look into the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak as part of our farm follow up.

Can you remember these pictures in the press? I can. In actual fact I feel I can still smell them. *Shudder*.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Home ed farm visit

We were down on the farm for an education visit today. The weather was dismal but the company was good and we had a great time 'behind the scenes'.

Hitching a ride. These chicks are only a week old.


Oats in the barn. Winter feed.


Forest trail.


Cows snaffling clover silage.

Posted by Picasa

We saw much more than this and there are a few areas I want to follow up with Hermione; why meat is more profitable than dairy, animal welfare, the reason for animal tagging and passports, difference between silage and hay, the science of animal feeds (grass testing for deficient nutrients to enable appropriate supplements to be used) and farm safety.

It was good to be able to go along and see people at work as opposed to petting fluffy animals in the public area. We got to chat and watch a guy weighing sheep to decide whether they had become fat enough for slaughter. The ones that had attained the right weight were marked with a dot of paint. The farmers wife explained that those particular animals didn't go through their own butchery, they went elsewhere to be made into kebab meat! If she didn't dispel confusions about where meat actually comes from nothing will! I think I was the only veggie there. I wonder if that's still so *grin*.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Oxygen experiment, fine motor lentil stuff and willow aphids...

I'm trying to help Miles brush up on his fine motor skills. We painted using pipettes today and sorted beads from lentils. I enjoyed the bead sorting. Very therapeutic.


We experimented to see what happens when you place a jar over a lit candle. It goes out once it has burnt all of the oxygen in the jar.

Posted by Picasa

It also creates a vacuum which you can see quite clearly if you place the candle and jar on a plate of water, preferably coloured with food colouring. As the oxygen burns away the water is sucked up the jar. Obviously this will happen with or without colouring but colouring makes it easier to see.


I'm very concerned about my willow dome. It has been attacked by willow aphids. A real infestation of damn ugly bugs. They're horrid looking things. They make me feel really squeamish, they're just too spider like for me. I don't know what to do. I'm not sure the willow is sufficiently established to withstand them but I don't want to use chemicals. Miles tried to beat them into oblivion with a stick today but I think it was the willow that came off worse. Apparently high pressure water may help. Must sort that out. We certainly need them gone before Halloween as Hermione is hoping to decorate the dome this year. Could turn out to be truly beastly!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Keep your eye on the target please..

Birthday parties aren't at all what they used to be. Hermione was treated to archery, climbing, abseiling and an assault course today - all topped of with good grub too of course.

Not at all like it was in my day - not a cheese and pickled onion hedgehog in sight - for which I suspect many children will be very grateful.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Swing Birdge visit

Craig and Hermione visited Newcastle Swing Bridge with a group of other home edders this week. This has to be the first time Craig has taken an active role in Hermione's education.

Hearing from other mums later and seeing the photographs perhaps I now know why he was keen to go. Apparently he was like 'a kid in a sweet shop'. I only hope he let the kids have a turn when they were offered the chance to turn buttons and twiddle knobs!

I'm pleased he went. I'm a little peeved that he can never take time off work to do anything else I ask him - such as collecting me from hospital when I had his first child, hence the need for a home birth second time round, but it's a start I guess. I'll not put his name down for textiles or cookery sessions just yet though!

Hermione blowing the horn.


Looking down from the top of the bridge.


Craig turning a knob with enthusiasm and gusto.


Complex looking workings.

Posted by Picasa

I don't know that Hermione understood a lot about the mechanics and from what I can gather Craig was much too busy getting stuck in to explain things to her. I still think it was a good experience for her though - one which wouldn't be possible on a usual run of the mill day.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

No sew bunting and stuff

I asked Craig and Miles to collect the last of our apples this morning. Why the stick? I think it's right what they say about that Mars and Venus thing. I just don't get the method or logic sometimes. When they came in with the apples, many had holes in. Stick sized holes. I wonder how that happened? Grrrr.

Posted by Picasa

While we were yurting nana snapped up some plastic table cover type fabric. She though it was quite harvest like and I agree. There was more than enough to cover the table so we cut shapes for bunting and stapled it to some ribbon. I think it looks fine...


..and of course it matches the table cover.


A rather tasty coffee and pecan cake. I had no walnuts and pecans are more seasonal I think so I improvised.


Right, off to put my feet up with yet more vitamin C. I really hope my sore throat and pounding head don't turn into anything. I'm much too busy for that. Amongst other things there's a home ed trip on this week which I'm organising so I need to sort myself out! Miles is fast asleep in bed and Craig is reading aloud to Hermione (Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver). There's nothing to stop me popping the kettle on! Nu nite.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Harvest wreath

Hermione and I headed on out this morning to meet another home edding family at a local museum. We planned on doing some joint study about Egyptians. It wasn't to be. We arrived at the museum to find they were preparing for the arrival of a school party. Neither the other mum or myself were in the mood for that so we headed instead to the Botanic Gardens where the children explored and we drank coffee. Bliss.

I'm pleased the day worked out as it did. I'm feeling a bit run down, physically. I think the time out chatting and laughing did me good. Sore throat, throbbing head - possibly the onset of some kind of lurgy.

When we arrived home nana and Miles had made this harvest wreath with things they found in the garden.

Posted by Picasa

I like it. I also like the no sew harvest bunting we made the other day, which I've not yet got round to photographing - but I will.

Right, I'm off to bed with a mega dose of vitamin C. I'm much too busy to get sick. I need to try to shake this off.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Egyptians and Gruffalo Toes

We read from Story of the World this morning. There are aspects of this book that I really like, (the enagaging narrative style), and other parts I really dislike, (the blurring between commonly accepted historical facts and religious beliefs). We read about Ancient Eygpt.

We set about creating our own mini Egypt, Miles style...


Gruffalo toes.


Busy bees.

Posted by Picasa

Voila! Dried, shaped and redesigned. Complete with tricky words, map location and timeline.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Death Penalty

I learn so much in the process of educating the children. For some reason I had always convinced myself that the death penalty happened in very few countries now. Hermione has been asking about this today after spotting a decorative (????) electric chair on a Halloween decoration site. We decided to try to find out where it still happens and I was shocked by how wide spread it still is - many countries still use it in the case of adolescents too!

'But why?' she asked.

Some questions I can't answer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Hammocks and heavenly havens

Yep, still catching up on a few days away.

Hermione swinging about in a hammock. We got in together and it collapsed *blush*.


Miles getting up close to Miss Tiggy Winkle at the Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness.


One of many boat trips. Miles and Craig love boats. We even took the car ferry across Windermere a couple of times, which was a new experience for all of us.


Just look at this beautiful little building! Originally built as a viewing area, many moons ago. Now it's a place for meditation and quiet reflection. Oh, how I would have loved to have spent an hour or so alone here. May be some time.

Posted by Picasa