Sunday, April 26, 2015

The slippery slope of backyard chickens

This is just fabulous for a good laugh. I can definitely relate to what she is saying - chickens are addictive, and it's easy to evolve from wanting just a couple of laying hens for fresh eggs, to deciding you want to be a heritage breeder with a flock of a hundred birds, plus some goats and a livestock guardian dog thrown into the bargain.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Some photos from the coop

A tiny egg; for comparison, the egg on the left is a standard-sized Leghorn egg. At first we thought it must have been laid by one of our pigeons, but eventually we discovered it simply had no yolk. We've heard this might happen, but for us personally it's a first-time encounter with a yolk-less egg. 

Black and white: a Polish hen and a Leghorn hen taking a dust-bath together. 

Getting ready to sleep. 
 Our Russian pigeons, the latest addition to our coop. We're supposed to have two couples, so we are eagerly waiting for them to start making a nest. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What is learning?

Last week, I was really pleased to come across this article, which speaks about a new research showing that early academic achievements aren't necessarily beneficial to a child's learning process in the long run. Actually, the same principle has been discussed 25 years ago in the excellent book Better Late Than Early

Not long ago, we were at a social gathering with another family. Their children, aged 5 and 3, dazzled us all with a display of their mathematical and foreign language skills. Turns out that such things are now taught in private preschools. To me, however, it sounded more like parroting than actual learning, encouraged for the parents' bragging rights rather than for the children themselves. 

Of course it's possible to argue that each child learns at a different pace, and we've all heard of prodigies who have learned to play the piano at the age of 3, wrote advanced poetry by the age of 5, etc. However, here we are talking about a roomful of 3-year-olds who are all sat down in a circle and drilled until they memorize counting until 30, or the names of the days in the week in English (we're talking about children whose mother tongue is Hebrew, of course).

Naturally the daily drill is sugar-coated by fun, games, colorful flashcards and lots of positive reinforcement (clap hands! Clap hands! What clever little children!). However, I believe putting an emphasis on this kind of achievement hinders the child-led learning, free thinking and free play which are so important for young children's physical and mental development. Furthermore, the children are being robbed of the delight of learning for its own sake, of the thrill of discovery. They do what they do for rewards, attention, peer competition or in order to please their parents and teachers. 

Some will say that these are musings of a lazy parent who is unwilling to teach her children anything. I disagree. Encouraging children to memorize facts and rewarding them for it with sweets or stickers is easier than promoting their independent efforts to explore what interests them, let alone finding time to answer their many questions about life and the world we live in. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Best way to store parsley

Image result for parsley

We love fresh parsley in soups, stews, meatballs and various other dishes; however, I use it sparingly, perhaps once in a few days. As a result, whenever there’s a fresh bunch of parsley, about half of it gets used at once, and the other half slowly wilts, until it looks very sorry indeed and finally goes out to the chickens.

Last week at the grocery store, we came across parsley which was bright green and fresh and lovely, and evidently had just been picked. However, it was sold in huge bunches, and I knew a lot would go to waste. Determined not to let it happen this time, I picked up the parsley with the intention of processing it in the course of the next two days.

Today, I picked through the whole bunch and discarded some yellowish sprigs. The rest was carefully washed and shredded in a nifty little hand-held vegetable processor my husband bought not long ago. I divided it into portions and froze it in smallish sandwich bags.

Now I have an on-hand supply of fresh, pre-washed, finely chopped parsley to be simply taken out of the freezer and tossed into whatever is on the stove. Very time-saving in busy moments!

For a more elegant solution, the chopped parsley could be pressed into an ice cube tray, stored in ziplock bags or molded into small boxes. Of course, the same can apply to other fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, mint, etc. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Not a job; so much more

Less than a week before Pesach, few things can lure me away from cleaning; this article was one of  them. 

Do check it out if you have a few minutes. The author makes some interesting points. There is this, however:

"Being a stay-at-home mother to your own kids is not a “job,” no matter how difficult it is or how hard we work. Period. Getting to do nothing but raise a person you opted to bring into the world is a privilege, and calling it anything else is ignorant and condescending."

I agree; being a stay-at-home mother is not a job. It's so much more; I could write a vast number of paragraphs explaining why, but because time is short, here it is in a nutshell: 

Anyone (who has the proper skills and training, of course) can hold a job. But there is only one person in the whole world who can be a mother to my children, and that is me. G-d had given me these children to raise; not to someone perfect, not to the most competent mother in the world, not to the most accomplished, sweet-tempered, patient mother. He gave them to me. 

Therefore, raising my children is not a job, not a career, but the main and most important project of my lifetime. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The great trap

I've been following Kelly Crawford's writings for several years; despite our obvious differences (I'm Jewish; Kelly is Christian), I often find poignant truths in her writings. This article is one such example. Titled "Why Your Children Annoy You and Homemaking is Boring", it brings some unpleasant truths to the table of discussion.

"See, the Internet is very exciting. There are fun Pinterest ideas that at least make me feel crafty. There are articles galore and blogs that help me grow. There are fabulous pictures, funny videos and of course, a whole community on Facebook where we not only get to keep up with everything that’s going on, but we get to project our goings-on onto other people, and for the first time, for some, feel validated, important.
The Internet is addictingly f.u.n.
And this excitement does something terrible –it makes our children, our husbands and our daily work boring, tedious and frustrating.  This excitement is why your children annoy you and homemaking is boring."

In the past, I've miserably failed in this area and had to work very, very hard to pull myself together so as not to stray from what ought to be my number one priority. The Internet is just one venue of distraction, though; the same effect can also be caused by hobbies, personal projects, community activities or relationships that take up too much time and energy which are so precious, and needed so much by our husbands and children. 

[As always, it's a question of how much time we spend on something, and at what cost. Too much of a good thing, you know...]

I remember once, I was reading an article on how to teach and entertain preschoolers, when my dear real-life children came to demand my attention. I mumbled something like, "wait, Mom is reading something important. Come back in a few minutes." Then almost immediately I realized just how ridiculous this sounds. Surely being with my children in real life is more important than reading about being with children. I put the article away and dove head-first into whatever it was that needed my intervention. 

Speaking of, real life calls and I must cut this short again. I look forward to checking again soon, as time allows. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's been too long

A month rushed by, during which I only got to check my email about three times. I have found out that in this very busy, very intense season of our lives (a new baby, Purim and then Pesach just around the corner, and various projects in which I function as my husband's helpmate) it really does help if I put as much as possible aside, on the back burner so to speak, and focus on the things that are essential for a smoothly running home.

I am grateful for our less-than-reliable internet connection, which prevents me from squandering the precious few spare minutes I have here and there on frivolous pursuits (such as watching 5 Best Pranks Ever on YouTube). It's amazing how much more productively time is spent without the lure of the limitless web. 

Things have been pretty stormy here, and we had some snow again last weekend, which makes it the second time this winter - quite unusual. My husband says he had noticed that there's always more year during the Shmita (the Sabbatical year), which is G-d's way of telling us, "trust Me - I will take care of your crops and trees."

Whenever I have the time, I enjoy logging into Mother Earth News. Some of the great articles I've read lately:

Choosing Voluntary Poverty - though I must say, I wouldn't have chosen the word poverty. The proper term, as far as I'm concerned, is "simple living". I do have to say, however, that I can't imagine living entirely without electricity. I know some do, and voluntarily (the Amish, for example), but I can't imagine my life without a refrigerator and washing machine.

The Power of Barter - nothing builds up a community like swapping the goods you've made, or grown, or raised yourself.
Moving to an Island in Southeast Alaska - no place in Israel is that remote, but some can sure feel so. Either way I always love reading about families who've left everything behind and started their life from scratch in someplace new.

Read if you have a few minutes, and I'm sure you'll be inspired!