Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Keeping busy this Spring

September 24, 2013

It seems like life speeds up once the warmer weather arrives, and we seem to be keeping busy.  We made up a long list of things to do this Spring which was perhaps somewhat optimistic, however we have made a start, and can hopefully work our way through a chunk of the work.  Anyone wanting to get their hands dirty and to do some hard labour is most welcome to camp at our place!

Spring cleaning for us seems to have nothing to do with the house.  Instead we have been cleaning out Kim’s workshop and my greenhouse.  It seems that over the winter months things that need to be out of the rain migrate into both of these places until they fill up.  Of course cleaning up all takes time, pulling things out and deciding what belongs where and do we really need this anyway?  I must say it is nice having Paul in town, as he has offered some of his sheds as storage for our overflow. The workshop is better now but still has a pile of things along one side that we have to go through.  The greenhouse is good now though.  I have the reticulation going again and have made a rear door so that I can regulate the temperature better.  Last Friday I planted tomato, cucumber and corn seeds etc into the pots and filled the raised beds under the benches with fresh compost, so I feel like I finally have a working greenhouse again.  I still want to put some bird netting across the back door to keep the chooks out during the day when I have the door open, and we are going to replace the plastic back wall with vertical boards, but for now it is back in action.
       SONY DSC
Josiah and I also set up a herb garden in some pots in the front yard.  We are hoping that our dome of netting is enough to keep out the local wildlife, it seems to be keeping the chooks out so far.  And we have planted peas and other veggies directly into some of the caged gardens, and are keenly awaiting fresh home grown peas again.  It’s a lesson in patience.  The snow peas I put into Paul’s garden a few weeks back are already coming up.  Growing vegetables really makes it feel like Spring!
I have made my first attempt at making camembert cheese.  It is a bit different making such a soft cheese as you don’t cook the curds which usually toughens the curds and separates the whey from them a lot.  Instead once the milk has set from the rennet you cut the curds into large cubes and just let a little whey seep out slowly.  Then you spoon a bunch of the whey out and gently shift the damp and fragile curds straight into the hoops.  The whey continues to slowly seep out while the curds are in the hoops, and you turn them over every hour to facilitate the process.  The cheese gradually shrinks down in size until it is about a quarter of the original size and firm enough to remove the hoops, usually the next day.  Also with camembert and brie there is penicillin in the culture and it is supposed to grow a surface mould of penicillin.  The first photo below shows the cheese in the hoops, slowly reducing in size, and the second picture is of it once the hoops were removed.  Our two cheeses are currently in the cheese fridge being turned daily for a week or so while they develop the surface mould, then they need to be wrapped and aged for about 4 weeks.  I’ll let you know how they go.  I’m a little concerned as there appears to be some greyish areas under the mould in a few places, but I’m going to wait and see what happens anyway.
   Camembert In Molds
Camembert before Again
Some of us made it up to the snow this year which was fun.  We were especially eager to go so that we could let Paul experience snow for the first time.  Lydia, Josiah and myself made snow forts and had a big snowball fight.  I like to think that my fort was the strongest, however it was also the lowest which had definite disadvantages.  🙂
I’m pleased to say that turkey has been on the menu lately.  Still plenty more to go but it is good to have made a start.  Lydia and I find them much harder to process than the chooks, but the rewards are greater  as we are all particularly fond of turkey breast roast.  YUM.
We are very excited to have picked up a solid post hole digger for our tractor at a good price.  With plans for extending the second row of chook house / gardens it is sure to come in handy. Lydia also wants to build a smoke house, and Kim would love some carports one day.  There is always so much to do, it gets a bit overwhelming at times.
The other weekend Kim, Lydia and myself took a trip out for sustainable house day at Lorinna.  The drive into Lorinna was interesting as the last 10km was a single lane windy track with a 25kph speed limit.  With a pretty sheer drop on one side and a vertical wall on the other I was sincerely glad that we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way!  The small community seemed to be having a great time catering to the 100 or so visitors who came over the day.  We enjoyed examining a large straw bale house and particularly appreciated seeing a micro hydro electrical system in action.  We would like to try micro hydro here one day, but it would require a fair bit of time and money to set it up properly.  We do have an all year creek and a 15m drop, it is the 500m of up and down terrain that would make running a 6 inch pipe difficult.  However we may see if we can do a bit of a trial sometime using the 1.5 inch pipe that we already have in place to bring water to the shack.  Although a larger pipe would be better, the system we saw in Lorinna only had a 2 inch pipe so it may well be worth us giving it a go.  Even if it is not bringing in maximum power, it still does bring in power day and night all year round.
The cars continue to keep Kim busy.  They are all currently due for servicing and seem to take turns in developing problems that he has to sort out.  No sooner is one fixed up than the next one demands attention!  However it is nice to have the Toyota registered now, and we usually make that do the bulk of the work as it is the youngest car in the fleet.  Kim much prefers his old VWs though!
A lady from church recently organised a homeschool get together in the church hall for Mole Creek folk, and we ended up having 8 families come along, with 24 children in all.  Unfortunately it rained all day so we couldn’t go outside to play, but the children had fun with the toy corner, cards, play doh and colouring and the mums seemed to enjoy chatting.  Another meeting is planned for a months time.  It was nice to be able to meet new homeschool families without having to travel so far.  We also have a new lady coming to church with her 3 children, so suddenly the children outnumber the adults most weeks at church now which is rather nice.  I certainly don’t feel like Josiah is missing out on socialising with other kids these days!
That’s all for now!

Touching Base

July 22, 2007
Hello again.
How are you all over there in the warm.  It was -2 degrees when we arrived home from church tonight, after being a much warmer 3 degrees while we were chatting in the carpark before leaving Launceston.  I must say we are finding the temperatures not too bad, mostly because we rug up heaps when we are outside, and make sure the house is warm when we are home.  Two heat pumps and a wood fire can be quite effective.   🙂
Speaking of heaters, Kim also managed to get our inbuilt wood fire installed in the shack at Milkenunny on Thursday.  That means no worrying that wood will fall out and burn the place down, no more smoke in the house which is much nicer for those sleeping in the clerestory, and it is much more efficient at getting the heat from the wood into the house, especially since it has a fan in it.  We also put some insulation in the walls in the loungeroom in preparation for lining, but we need to get more.  I really enjoyed that job, it was cool fun.  We have bought the pine lining now, and just have to tee up a time to get it delivered.  Our major expense though was our composting toilet.  At just over $3000 it was a big decision, but we think the right one.  It needs no water, which is useful as we only have a small creek to get our water supply from, it means we don’t have to go getting council approval for a septic system as this is justice department approved and also we don’t have to do major clearing to install a septic as the loo basically just gets put in a room with a vent through the roof.  It is also a very ecologically sound system with little ongoing costs, although it needs electricity to run it’s heater, stirrer and fan.  After installing the fire and taking delivery of the loo (and watching the delivery guy get bogged on our driveway – most amusing to see the poor fella having to jump out past the DEEP puddle to lock the hubs on the front wheels – personally I never drive through that puddle, I go around it!) anyway we decided to take it a bit easier.  So we went for a hike up to the top of the block to our creek and tracked it upwards until we eventually found a road.  Now we’ve decided we need to buy some maps to find out what road it is.  We also took a sample of the water from the creek and are getting it tested which will be interesting.  The weather was lovely again for our visit, fine and sunny and not too cold.  Strangely enough we had someone drive up to the house about midnight while we were there, but they no sooner saw the cars than they took off like a bat out of hell.
I can report that the meeting with the Homeschool lady went well.  At least it went well after she got here some 2 hours after she intended.  Poor woman called to say she was running late, then called to say she had reached Evandale expecting to find fuel there, but there was none, so she had to backtrack to Perth to get fuel.  She had to come the long way to our house because our bridge was still being worked on so we warned her against taking the log truck track off Burns Creek Rd which looks more like the road than the real road, if you know what I mean, but she took it anyway and meandered around the countryside back and forth for a while before finding someone to ask directions from.  Eventually she got here, and seemed to recover over a cuppa.  She seems to think we will have no problems with our registration as we have a pretty comprehensive schooling programme, which is good.
I have been feeling very old fashioned this week.  I wanted to sew up some curtains for Milkenunny (I’m not much good at sewing but I can just about manage to sew straight lines) and the only sewing machine I have is an old Singer treadle machine.  So we threaded her up and shortened the belt and away she went, as good as new despite being 108 years old.  I even found a bunch of attachments I’d never looked at before and it turned out that one of them did hems and when we tried it, it worked a treat.  So I sat down sewing on a treadle machine while my vacola was bubbling away on the stove bottling pumpkin soup!  As I say I felt very “old school”, but Josiah was sitting next to me playing educational games on his computer which kept me in the 21st century.  Lydia decided to have a go with the Singer too and after a while she was doing pretty well also, and so we were very chuffed to hang up the curtains in the shack when we went there.
The other weekend there was an open day at Poatina.  Kim and I remember Poatina from when we were in Tassie 14 odd years ago because we had planned to buy fuel there but found the entire town deserted, a real ghost town.  The town was originally built when part of the hydro-electric work was being built nearby, and when the work was finished of course the town was not needed.  All the transportable buildings were moved on but the brick buildings which had been built to house the managers remained empty.   Well a Christian group called Fusion bought the whole town some 12 years ago and they run a community there doing various projects there such as working with troubled youth.  Apparently you can buy a house there at a reduced rate but you have to commit to working for one day a week in one of the various projects or shops in the town.  They have a primary school, college, swimming pool, tennis courts, radio station, art shop, second hand clothing, garage, general store and a restaurant and motel.  They also seem to have conferences that form part of TAFE youth work certificates amongst other things.  It was a very festival type open day with lots of free activities that thrilled Josiah.  He had his face painted, ran through a canvas wind tunnel thing I don’t know how many times, enjoyed a bouncy castle and went on a couple of trips on a Thomas train.  There were various teen and adult games on too and arts and craft activities that could be done as well as bus tours and free tea and coffee.  We didn’t have time to see it all so must go again next year.  Kim vanished for a while and when we eventually found him it turned out he had been hobnobbing with the director, he tells us we have a standing invitation to drop in for morning tea sometime.  I talked to a couple of ladies, one who was there for a week’s conference to do with getting a TAFE certification in youth work.  She downplayed the Christian focus of the course quite a bit which surprised me.  I guess in order to get TAFE certifications going through them they would have to be seen to not push their Christianity?  It would be hard to maintain a balance I would think, to ensure you did not compromise the fact that the whole foundation of what you are doing is build on Christ.  Anyway it was hard to get much of a feel of the ministry of the place from one person’s comments.  I also talked to the local gardener, a Tassie born lady.  We waxed lyrical together on permaculture and she said they plan to run a horticultural course there soon also.
Caleb starts TAFE this week.  He went to enrol last week, thinking he would probably do the Certificate III of Financial Services, but after talking to the advisor he came home enrolled in Cert III and Cert IV of Financial Services as well as a Diploma of Accounting and the Advanced Diploma of Accounting, all to be achieved in 1 semester!  The guy assured him that he would get enough credits from what he has done at Uni to mean he is just doing one full time course.  Some of his units are done flexi-time which is like distance ed, and it looks like he will have to go in to classes 3 days a week which isn’t too bad.  The plan is to help him to manage his time well in the process.  I don’t expect this will be easy for him or me.
We bullied Kim into buying snow chains on Saturday as we all want to go and visit the snow.  (I think Kim sees the cost as being 2 bags of insulation that we can no longer afford, but hey, this is snow we’re talking about and we are so close).  Ben Lomond is busy with skiers lately, I think we passed about 3 dozen cars heading that way in the 30 minutes that it took us to drive to town on our way to church this morning.  Then the boys would go and be sick today so we couldn’t go.  Still there is plenty of time to get there, or so Kim says.  The weather has been just fantastic for skiing I would imagine, cool, clear and still with the sun shining.  Just beautiful winter days, although I guess we really do need more rain.  We had lots of rain in May but have had hardly any serious rainfall in June and July.
Well, I am told it is getting late and that it is perhaps time to go to bed so I guess I better go.
love to you all.

Catching Up Again

July 9, 2007
Hi All
Once again it seems like ages since I wrote, I’m getting either lazy or busy!  Today I have been filling in forms for the Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council who are sending a representative to meet with me on Friday.  They want to assess the school programme we have running for the kids so I had to write down what we do in various areas and what texts we use and where the kids are up to and so on and so forth.  It was not too bad because we tend to keep good records anyway as we had to report in WA as well, but it is a little different here.  Anyway it seemed to take me half the day to get it done, and then they want dated samples of work, which was a bit more difficult since a bunch of the work was done in Albany and is in boxes in the garage and also we have leaned towards less written proof of our learning as time has gone on, but hopefully I have enough to satisfy them.  Since a lot of folk over here seem to do unschooling I can’t see that they can complain too much about what we do.
We have slept over at our block 3 times now, twice it was quite pleasant and once we froze our butts off.  However on Saturday we bought a second hand but good condition built in wood heater with a fan and hopefully we can install that soon, it will be a lot more efficient than the open fire I am sure.  We also picked up a pot belly stove at an auction, originally thinking it would go into the second cabin, but Kim is now thinking of putting it into the kitchen instead.  We’ll have to see how we go.  We continue to clean up piles of tree offcuts from around the shack and do various other odd jobs whenever we are there.  Kim has to go over again on Wednesday to meet someone from Telstra to see if they can connect the phone using the old line that is there, he was supposed to come last Friday but never showed up.  Since it is an hour and a half drive from here to the block that was just a bit of a nuisance.  There has been all sorts of confusion over the phone connection between Telstra and various sub contractors and sub sub contractors.  At first they said we had to put in a new line from the junction to the shack, then we had to dig the trench for the new line to go in and they would provide the line, now it appears they can try to connect the old line after all, but the latest is that another sub contractor says we need to find someone else to locate the end of the line first, however Telstra didn’t indicate this themselves so we’ll just wait until the guy gets there and see what happens.  Either way since we are about 13km from the nearest exchange it would appear that broadband is not going to happen.  We’ll have to look into satellite I think, and if getting the phone itself connected is going to be a major headache we may research skype in and out instead, or check out all the satellite providers regarding VOIP.  Eventually I guess we will get there, one way or another.  We also have a neighbourhood rat on our block.  He ate the tops off the vegemite jar, peanut butter jar and soy sauce bottle and chewed numerous holes in the cordial container that I left at the shack last week.  We have left a trap there this week in the hope of stopping him dead.
On to local politics.  Things are heating up with the Deloraine/Mole Creek and surrounds community debate about the implementation of the Protection of Agricultural Land act by the local council – Meander Valley.  We went to a public meeting in Deloraine last Thursday night and quite enjoyed the feisty atmosphere of the evening where they voted through a number of resolutions to take back to council.  Unfortunately of course it was all a bit of a toothless tiger thing, but certainly there are a large number of people who are prepared to fight some of the ‘over the top’ regulations that the councils are bringing in which stop people from building on their own land, amongst other things.  The act itself never mentions a lot of what is being done.  This directly affects us as if the amendment that is proposed goes through it stops people from building on plots of land that are less than 40 hectares, even if they are not prime agricultural land.  It has been interesting to hear some suggestions that the RPDC, which is the body that liases with the councils to tell them how to formulate their amendments, is bringing in these rules that go against the PAL act itself in order to support the tax avoidance forestry plantations that are swallowing up lots of land over here.  We certainly have seen that most of the councils seem to have the implementation of the act in almost the same words so it is very interesting.  I certainly hope they do quash the 40 hectare limit, that will be helpful for us.  We were talking to the deputy mayor who has been quite a mover and shaker with this issue and who turns out to be a christian as well, and he was quite positive that at least this aspect will be removed.
Funnily enough it turns out that there are lots and lots of Howe’s in Mole Creek.  Someone said that out of 150 families there 149 were called Howe – an exaggeration of course but apparently half of them are spelt How and the other half Howe.  We met our neighbour on one side on Saturday, who only comes down on weekends, and his name is Bernie Howe.  We have yet to catch up with the other people in the street who live much closer.
I forgot to tell you that we recently experienced our first cracker night in Tassie.  They remind everyone though the papers to lock up their pets on a particular night in May and everyone can go out and get fireworks and set them off, just like some hazy memories I have from my distant childhood in WA before they outlawed it.  You can buy and use many fireworks without a permit, but do need a permit for some.  The church had a get together a couple of weeks after cracker night and had a fireworks night then.  They built a huge bonfire, invited the neighbours and set off lots of crackers while munching on sausages in buns and sipping soup.  They even had a wheat and milk free pumpkin soup which Sam could eat!  There were little fireworks that did little more than make a loud bang, to funny ones that spun around as they flew up throwing out sparks along the way, to various smaller rockets and finally they let off some that were just the same as we used to see at the Albany show.  It was a good time, if a little cold!
As of today they have closed off the bridge we usually use at the end of our road.  We now have to detour through Burns Creek to get into town.  They are replacing parts of the bridge apparently and should have it open again in 2 weeks.  It is not too bad in the daytime, adding about 10 minutes, but will slow us down even more in the evenings because there is so much wildlife out then.  I am sad to say we have spoilt our clean record of no roadkill by hitting a wombat and pademelon in the same night just recently, both of them on our gravel road.  Not a good event for an animal loving ex-vet nurse like me!  However on the good side I have added to my list of critters seen with an echidna (actually in the daytime) and a Tassie Devil as well.  We have seen lots of deer lately, they seem to hang around in the early mornings but are very nervous and flighty.  They can jump a fence well though.
Caleb is going to a TAFE enrolment day on Wednesday and will chat to the advisors there about what he can do.  I think he is tired of feeling unemployed and unwanted!  Sam’s health has taken a turn for the better this week, and he is happily reporting that he has felt pretty good for 3 days now.  Lydia is well as always and spends many hours drawing with her graphics tablet on the computer, 99% of the time her drawings are of ponies but I guess it is all good practice.  Somehow she manages to fit in a little schoolwork along the way.  Josiah is starting to come around to the idea that he really can read, even if he can’t read every single word he sees yet.  He continues to be a cheerful if time consuming fellow, and remains obsessed with computers.  However we recently picked up a trampoline at a garage sale and installed it at our block so he is pretty happy about that.  He can spend an amazing amount of time jumping on a trampoline.
Kim’s health continues to be quite good, apart from an attack of kidney stones which seemed to pass without any major intervention being required.  He is very busy researching everything and planning and organising things for us and our future, and I sometimes think he must be overloaded with responsibility, but he seems to manage okay.  I sometimes think he wishes there were more hours in the day, but that could be me just being my usual impatient self.  He is enjoying getting to know the church people I think, as they are a bit different from everyone else we know, most of them have quite a depth of similar theological understanding to ourselves and yet they come from a very different background.  He has taken our 71 VW wagon successfully over the pits now and so it is sporting new Tassie plates.  The beetle has been installed onto the block for the time being, until we have the time to do some restoration work on it too.
I am going fine.  I went through a bit of homesickness for a little while recently, just missing familiarity I think.  You know, there is a certain comfort to be found in the familiar, people that you know how they will react, gardens that you know what will grow in, churches where they sing songs the way you expect them to be sung, houses that you know all the warm and cold areas of, roads that you know where they go and what you will find along the way…  Anyway I am feeling back on track again now, most of the time anyway.  I am finding it a little hard to adjust to living out of town because it makes it more difficult to be involved in things, especially when I don’t like the night drives with all the wildlife out there trying to get themselves killed under my wheels.  Mole Creek will be better for that as there seems to be less wildlife about at night, probably because there is more farmland rather than so much bush where we are.  I also miss my vege gardens, I found it very peace inducing to plant things in my gardens and watch them grow, and I can’t really get started on more until we move onto the block so I’ll just have to learn to be content where I am.  However I did manage to pick up a worm farm last week, so I’ll have to see if worms can survive the freezing cold of inland Tassie in winter.  It has gone against the grain to throw food scraps out I must say so it will be nice to have worms again, even if I can’t have chooks yet.  I got the worm farm and a rug for the shack at second hand shop that is run by a member of our church as a fund raiser for missions.  The name of the shop is Goods in Remission, which I thought was cute.  Good prices too, and that from a hardened second hand shopper!
A week ago we went for another drive to Ben Lomond National Park.  We went as far as we could without snow chains.  We actually thought all the snow would have melted because we couldn’t see it anymore from the distance.  But to our delight there were small patches of snow still around so we got to touch our first sample.  It was actually just like what you get when you scrape out the frost in the freezer, just like my sister in Canada told me once, but we were still pretty chuffed.  Since then there has been more snow appear on that mountain top, as well as on the Western Tiers on the way to Mole Creek, so we really must get some snow chains to go and see some fresh stuff.  It’s all very new and exciting for West Australians who’ve never seen the cold stuff.  My relatives in Canada must think we are pretty silly.  I have decided that sub zero temperatures have a bit of a bite.  Down to near zero is not TOO bad, but once it gets to zero and below the cold really feels sharp against your skin.  How on earth do people manage in the sort of well below zero temperatures that are to be had in places like Canada?  Recently we have had a bit more misty rain and so the temperatures have been a bit milder which is nice, and we do need the rain.
Well, I am under pressure to finish up and pass the computer on to others now so I guess I better go.  Love to you all.