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homestead happenings: expansion

2014 March 13
by Rachel Turiel

(Sorry to leave you so long with creepy chicken feet).

I call tell spring is close because my brain is swelling with ideas and projects. (Does this happen to you?) This just from yesterday:

*develop creative writing class for girls (and boys?), 9-12.

*organize meditation/Buddhist study group for parents.

*take kids on first backpacking trip!

*help Col explore his athletic grace by finding martial arts or hip hop class.

*invite Col’s homeschooling girl friends who claim to hate math over for day of Math Games are Fun!

*write more guest posts about homeschooling for homeschool website. (1st guest post coming soon!)

*teach summer-long class on local plant families.

There are small slivers of day when anything seems possible, when my mind inflates with airy potential, when I call ideas to my consciousness like birds to seeds. This occurs roughly from 5:30am – 5:45 am. Before the deluge of children and chicken chores. Before I remember to worry about our resident skunk and his bad manners. Before it’s clear there’s been an overnight uprising in our “shoe area,” snow boots flinging themselves into the arms of sandals, each making a muddy break for freedom.

Next, the mental Critic and Time Keeper are roused from their night off and begin rolling the documentary about how I’m already overcommited and Col doesn’t even have his times tables memorized yet. The balloon of my mind contracts, whooshing down into something small and airless.

I snuggle the children, feed the chickens, kick the shoes back into submission, and flex my muscles of trust. I wait for the next morning, the next quiet, unencumbered moment, listening and receptive, knowing anything worth my time will return, like a migrating spring bird.


Apparently Col’s bypassed the need for actual sleeve cuffs.

What’s happening right now is that Col has been spotted READING. Not just skimming pictures, but glancing up from his book, remarking, “That’s cool that submarines and bats both use sonar.” 

“Yup, pretty cool.” I agree, while my heart cartwheels into a new plane called Reading for Pleasure is the Portal into Infinite Worlds. 


Rose is in a frenzy of drawing and writing, her skin perpetually marked up with pen. Not to say you could recognize many actual words. It’s more like she’s in the historical human pre-literate phase, heavy on consonants and on the verge of great breakthroughs. I think of our human ancestors just before becoming masters of fire, perhaps obsessed with lightning strikes the way Rose is compelled to scratch a pen across any paper, furniture, her own legs. She tells me proudly, “I know all of the letters, just none of the unknown letters.”

hh -11

She brought me this note while I was in the bath: Mom, can I take a bath I would love to but if that doesn’t work we can have a bath tomorrow.

hh - 8

And Dan?

Last night at dinner he tells us about finding a little blood in a deer bed recently, tasting it, and…

Tasting it?”

“Oh yeah, I often find blood in deer beds,” he replies as if discussing the laundry, then launches into various hypotheses on the causes of said blood. Meanwhile, the kids are like, ho hum, typical Daddy.

Dan keeps referring to the upcoming summer as “The Summer of Love,” and then winkingly adding, “or Love-Making.”

On the homestead:

:: The cold frame plants are also expanding under the spring sun.


We’re harvesting actual food from the cold frames, which means the whole family is subjected to my emotional Oscar-veggie acceptance speeches about how I never ever ever imagined we’d be eating bok choi in March. Gratitude and all the little people and such.

hh - 9

:: Dan is following in the tradition of his own father, pushing the kids just a little farther than their comfort zone on hikes. He’s the Vanna White of the woods, all enthusiasm for what’s up ahead. “Have you seen the cartwheel mat, Rosie? No? Oh, you’ll love it. Just a little farther.”

hh - 9

The kids are ready for a snack, ready to turn back, but there’s always the next cool spot to get to: the big rock, the old miner’s cabin, the spring, the site of the 8-bow juniper tree.  hh - 6

:: Rose has been manifesting again. On a recent hike, a sweet, human-less, border collie joined us. Rose threw sticks for her, hugged her and bounded through the oakbrush alongside her. When we got to the parking lot and found no owner, I announced “We’d better take her home.” “HOME!?!?” Rose shrieked. “Her home,” I clarified. Rose, who had dog treats in the car (What? Why does Rose travel with dog treats?), rode in the back with Molly and kept her well-fed until we returned her home. (Note to locals: Rose is a very competent and professional dog-walker/dog-sitter).

hhDan found a nice deer antler on our hike because these things call to him, they really do. 

We also found an Abert’s squirrel tail and the squirrel’s bark-stripped ponderosa pine twigs, which Col carried like a talisman.


:: Have I told you that our family has our own personal hair cutter who comes to our house? Well, Joanie now comes with a bonus assistant. P.S. If anyone knows where to buy one of those haircutting practice heads, I know what Rose is getting for her 7th birthday.


Though I’m always up for more snow, spring seems to be settling in. Truthfully, we didn’t have much of a winter. As Col’s friend Mathew explains, “It was spring, then summer, then fall, and now it’s spring again.” Fair enough. Someone in New York recently told me about ten foot high snow drifts. “I’m jealous,” I replied. He laughed in disbelief. So I launched a cumbersome explanation of how in the Southwest, any moisture is welcome. And then we both shook our heads on our cross-country phones, thinking, “whatever.

:: Spring sports.

hh - 10

Who knows which of today’s Spring Ideas and Projects will come to fruition. Or tomorrow’s. But, if you want to co-organize a meditation group for parents, sign your kid up for a spring writing class, or have some chicken feet to offload, you know who to call.




22 Responses leave one →
  1. Mollie permalink
    March 13, 2014

    Spring is dangerous like that. I like that you’ve found a way to let the ideas come and go.

  2. Becky permalink
    March 13, 2014

    I was able to read Rose’s note about the bath perfectly and glad that Colin is now wanting to read – I knew it would kick in. In your final picture – is it hot or cold? Rose is dressed like summer and the other 2 like winter. Thank you for sharing your life with me

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 13, 2014

      Rose is partial to sundresses and bare feet no matter the weather. Col is rarely seen in shortsleeves and shorts.

  3. Sara permalink
    March 13, 2014

    I wish I could blow some of our freezy Northeast weather your way.

  4. March 13, 2014

    Here’s what I love about you, Rachel: when I get the spring tingles and start thinking of projects to complete, I have shallow ideas about organizing my spices and vacuuming the car. Meanwhile, yours are all about teaching and enriching and exploring. You are a marvel, my dear! xo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 13, 2014

      Kristen, my family dearly wishes my spring urges were more about vaccumming and organizing.

  5. March 13, 2014

    I recently read about an artist who breaks up his nocturnal sleep into 2 hour segments so he can get up and have that “anything’s possible feeling” more than once a day! Tempting, but not terribly practical if you have to stay up the whole day with kids. I can totally relate to that early morning inspiration and I love your description about how it slowly gets taken over by stray boots and such. Also, I just posted a why I love teaching kids writing… I say GO FOR IT. It will be so much fun!

  6. Molly permalink
    March 13, 2014

    On painless math teaching for girls and others: We recently invested in Mobius Noodles as an e-book and have done the first game, which is “Live Mirrors”. Standing opposite each other and copying each other’s moves teaches symmetry. Who knew? I bought it after reading an article about how math education is traditionally done wrong. I was thinking of starting a Girl Scouts troop at Needham for next year, and now I’m wondering how much math could be worked in…

    “The Unknown Letters” is the title of something really good.

  7. Grace permalink
    March 13, 2014

    Cute writing like Rose’s “on the verge” note to you trumps perfectly-spelled writing anytime.

  8. March 13, 2014

    I think “Sorry to leave you so long with creepy chicken feet” is probably the best opening line to a blog post EVER. LOL.
    Regarding tasting the blood. I took a parasitology class in college. Besides making me never want to leave my house, I learned to always where close toed shoes and never swim in an unknown body of water in foreign countries. A LOT of parasites are blood born. I’d have to do some research to see how many can be transmitted this way (they have cool primary host, secondary host life stages a lot of the time – Col would LOVE studying them), but me…I just wouldn’t be tasting uncooked blood. Just sayin’ And I have no 5 second rule in my house. Ha. I didn’t learn my times tables until 4th grade (age 10), which was normal for Twin Falls Idaho in the 70’s. And Rose is WAY ahead of me at that age in terms of communicating in writing. I understood every word. Hugs to you and yours. I’ve turned a couple of people on to your ginger brew and granola lately.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 13, 2014

      We are definitely on the 70’s education plan here.

  9. Sara permalink
    March 13, 2014

    Oh, yes, spring bubbles up with ideas and energy. I call it my sap running. And, you’re welcome to some of my snow. I’m eager to see the ground again.

  10. Sarah permalink
    March 13, 2014

    Rachel – yes on parent meditation group! I was thinking the same thing. Let’s chat!

  11. March 13, 2014

    I’m really very curious about the squirrel tail. There was no squirrel attached to the tail? How strange. I agree that the no winter thing was weird. In Tucson we got about a week a winter and that was all.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 13, 2014

      No squirrel attached. Stuck in an oak shrub. Felt like it was just there waiting for us.

  12. Megan permalink
    March 13, 2014

    I think my 10 year old son would love to come to a creative writing class – if only we didn’t live in Australia. I can highly recommend the ‘Horrible Histories’ series to encourage book reading in boys (and girls). My son loves them, they’re educational but have lots of gross and gory details, which he loves, of course!

  13. Andrea permalink
    March 13, 2014

    this is so fabulous in so many ways.

  14. Susan S permalink
    March 13, 2014

    Love love love this! Rose is writing because she has something to say, rather than having all creative initiative drained out of her by someone else telling her what she should write (which is so close to telling her what she should say, which is even closer to telling her what she should think). Col is reading because he wants to learn something. Reading and writing as means to ends, rather than punishment. Oh, the unknown letters to be discovered . . .

  15. Melissa permalink
    March 14, 2014

    I want to organize parent meditation too! And teach more yoga. Sorry to say it feels more like summer or sunny fall here in berkeley (but perhaps you know that already). And I love how all kids write first in mostly caps. Why do you suppose that is? Hooray for the tub, too. I especially like to be in it with our almost 5 month old. Crazy time. Envy your hikes a little. We are more urban than I can quite fathom these days…xoxo

  16. March 14, 2014

    Rachel, I read this first thing in the morning, and what a great awakening! I am totally in love with all of your spring-y ideas. Yes, yes, yes! And every part of this post is thoroughly palatable.

    Also, just like Susan, I think Rose and Col’s approach to writing and reading is the best. And thanks for sharing Dan’s painting portrait :o)

    I’ve been meaning to ask you: does he know about Anna Breytenbach’s work? She’s a true interspecies communicator and a very inspiring person (you’ll love her, Rachel). As you can see (in particular) through the resources in the “media” page of her organization:

  17. March 18, 2014

    ilg KNEW s(om)ething gorgeous was happening with your hair!!! JOANIE!!! Of course! she is the best, calmest, zen hair-stylist-who-actually-comes-to-your-house in D-town! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this entry! you’re sick, dudette!

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