Aug 12, 2012

We Now Return You...

Last week we were blessed with the opportunity to go to a market as a family.   This is only the second time we have ever gone to a market with every single member of the family and it was fun--hectic, distracting and noisy--but fun nonetheless.  We are hoping to get to repeat the experience this week, spending the morning at McKinney Falls State Park and then going to the SFC Triangle Market in the Afternoon.

It seems like the past three months have been just a whirlwind, but when I stop to think about it, it seems as if our family is just spinning from one whirlwind to the next.  In all reality, perhaps the only difference is that the past three months of normal, everyday whirlwind was documented for all posterity.  I am not sure if that is a sweet, comforting thought, or a scary one!

Y'all know that we have had a film crew here since the last week of May.  Well, Roberto, Diego, Aaron, Carlos, Julian and Nacho have moved on.  Diego and Nacho are back in Spain.  Aaron, Carlos and Julian are back in El Paso, with Julian planning a trip to Venice, Italy for the film festival screening of "Low Tide",  the last movie that he worked on with Roberto.  Roberto lives in Houston but he is on to the next phase of the project after a quick trip to the film festival in Venice.   And we return to the next stage of our life...just plain living.

It is the time of year when our attention returns to two of the constants of our life, school and goat breeding.  School has shaped our life for two decades, now.  We have always been homeschoolers.  We knew two years before we even had children that we wanted to teach our children ourselves.  Tim and I had specific ideas regarding education and we wanted the freedom to see our ideas fleshed out in our children.  We wanted to see our children have insatiable appetites for learning.  We wanted our children to thirst after knowledge like a plant wilting in the dusty Texas Summer.  We wanted to give our children the tools with which to satisfy that thirst.  We wanted them to know the Greek and Latin roots of words and to have the freedom to spend hours reading about Mary, Queen of Scots.  We wanted them to not just know that there are deciduous and evergreen trees, but to know what the trees are that are outside their own backdoor and what kinds of animals eat or shelter in that tree.  We wanted them to know what the Constitution says but also how to clean the guns that the Constitution says they have the right to own.  We wanted them to take their time learning to read at their own pace--and not be able to put books down once they can read.

We have now "graduated" our first four students.  I say "graduated" because at our home life doesn't seem to change much from pre-graduation to post-graduation.  When we sit down as a family to discuss history, everyone gathers around, not just those who are formally still "students".  Tim still has discussion time with the olders that spans politics and the latest edition of the Economist with every one of the girls available to join in.  I suspect that as long as they live in the home and the demands of their work responsibilities allow, that they will always continue to learn.

This time of year always brings with it a review of our curriculum and materials choices.  Many years we do not see much, if any, change.  This is one such year.  Last year we found a handwriting curriculum that I liked and switched to that, we returned to a tried and true math curriculum and kept the backbone of our history/politics/geography/et al.  This year we will stick with that plan, with the only real change being a formalization of how we use the Economist magazine in teaching our older children.  This year, like every other year, the season always births in me a desire to make a fresh start, clean and declutter the house, tighten up schedules, plant (fall) short, August is my own personal "Spring Cleaning".

The other area of focus is goat breeding.  Goats are typically seasonal breeders, with breeding season generally spanning the months from September through January.  This is when we start seeing signs of heat cycles in the (goat) girls and the (goat) boys start strutting their stuff for the girls on the other side of the fence.  We start looking over pedigrees and bloodlines and deciding who we want to see bred to whom.  It is, like the beginning of the school year, a time of potential and promise and hope.  The truth is that we have had a buck in with the does already, as we are ever hopeful of seeing goats kid earlier in order to keep our supply of milk higher throughout the Winter, but we have learned not to expect much from these late Summer exposures.

In the dairy things continue on.  We are thankful to have dodged a drought this Summer but were still frustrated by feed prices that continue to climb.  We are anxiously awaiting production to begin at a new micro-brewery in Houston where we hope to get spent brewer's grains.  The goats did so well on them when we were getting them last year that we hope to be able to have a ready source for them that is a bit closer than the one in Austin.  We are forever tinkering with streamlining things in the dairy and working on new flavors.  It has been almost a year since we started making our Pesto and Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Chevre Torte, now we are gearing up for a seasonal Roasted Hatch Chile Pepper Chevre.  We have had to scale back chocolate milk production since our chocolate prices have almost doubled over the past year or two.  I am still holding out hope of starting some aged cheeses, perhaps now that we are not filming I will be able to focus more on that area.   We shall see.  Another American Cheese Society competition has come and gone without us being able to even so much as enter.  I was bummed until Tim reminded me that every single person who tries, likes and buys our cheese is a blue ribbon and who cares if people in Maine or Spain never get to try it, how local would that be, anyway?

One change that has taken place here on the farm is my view of my writing.  Writing was always something that I could never justify spending time on and if I did manage to weasel in time and space I always felt self-indulgent.  After watching someone else frame our family through his creative views for an entire Summer I decided that it was time that I gave myself permission to explore this incredible life that God has given us through my own words.  It is heady and exhilarating to be able to be free with my time in such a fashion and already I am guarding my time like a lioness with a newborn helpless cub.  It must be protected until it has teeth of it's own.

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