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February | 2016 | Atomic Bee Ranch

Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Potato Cages & Rain Reservoirs

Last year I really wanted to grow potatoes, but ran out of space in the garden. This year, as you can see on my garden plan, I made space for potatoes. I am not popping them into the ground or the straw bales, though. I read a few years ago about making cages for potatoes that are lined with straw and dirt. They don’t get great reviews for production, but I’m experimenting with them. They’re pretty simple to make so if I can strike the right balance between straw, dirt, and water (potatoes need to stay moist all growing season, which may make them less than ideal for our climate) then I think this will be the way to go.

You can read about how to make them here. As a side note this is a great site to browse around on for anyone interested in living on a tight budget. Here is the article from Oregon State about why potato cages don’t really yield great results. It’s a pdf and is well worth reading if you are interested in trying them out or need convincing not to. There is also a lot of good information about how potatoes grow and their requirements for getting a good crop of them. 

As I noted last month in my garden plan we went out and bought some enormous reservoirs to collect rain. 275 gallons each enormous. We tied them in with our gutter system and now the roof acts as a water collector. There are three reservoirs piped together in the front yard that will water the vegetable garden all summer long (hopefully). There is one along side the house that we are going to hook our hose up to for hand watering and then there are two more that we haven’t had time to hook up just yet, but will soon. 

Reflection 2016:1

So we have officially decided to unschool Cam. I don’t know why I say officially, but we’ve really talked about it and come to terms with the fact that she will not be going to school in the fall (or for many falls to come).

In some ways this makes me sad. I love the succession of the seasons and because of my childhood going to school I feel like the school year is very intimately connected with that. It makes me feel like she won’t have that even though I know this is not true. In our family we do a lot that is connected in with the seasons. Gardening, chickens, bees to name a few. Plus our family traditions and celebrations focus on the seasons too. For my husband I know he is sad that Cam will not be a “lifer” at the school he went to. He had deep ties to the school (we both do, but his are deeper and more positive than mine). I’m sure he’s mourning the loss of that potential connection, one we thought for several years would happen. 

I think we both have needed to come to terms with the idea that Cam will have a happy childhood without having one that looks like ours. It’s a mind shift for sure. 

Now that we are going to unschool we’re actually talking to people about our decision. I am getting questions from people. Is she going to school in the fall? Oh, really? What exactly is unschooling? And that right there has been a hard answer for me to articulate. Basically nothing is going to change. We’re just going to let her be. She can play and imagine and choose what she’s ready to learn. Which brings me to her latest endeavor. She’s started to write letters. 

The other day I was working in a puzzle magazine and she was watching me out of the corner of her eye. After a few minutes she leaned over and asked if I would help her write some words. I showed her how to form the letters and told her which ones to write and she did it. And she’s been doing it since. Prior to this she had been doing scribbled lines to indicate text, but she made a comment that she no longer needed to write in “her way” (which, as a side note, made me sad to see that go, it was so sweet).

This is how unschooling works and works well. She has the interest, no forcing or cajoling from me. I’ve offered to teach her letters before, but she hasn’t been ready or interested. Now that she is, though, she’s off. Slowly she is learning the letters’ names and the sounds they make. I suspect if she keeps this up she’ll be reading in six months or so. I’m helping her when she asks for it instead of inserting myself and deciding she has reached an arbitrary date for learning something. It’s very exhilarating to see this happen, because I think until you see your child do it, it’s worrisome and hard to disconnect from everything you’ve been taught about school and the traditional model. 

So, yeah. I’m working on formulating an explanation of what it is we want to do with Cam, not because I’m confused, but because others are. And they are genuinely curious about what it is we mean.  

Tradition: Candlemas

This is the first year we will be celebrating Candlemas on February 2nd. Traditionally (i.e. religiously) it is the celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. Since we aren’t particularly religious we celebrate the more pagan tradition that I think the Feast of the Presentation is supposed to obscure- it’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Basically it means the days are getting noticeably longer.

I have noticed that out on our walks and in the evenings when I head out to take care of our flock and creatures outside. I’ve also noticed it in the mornings when I head out to take out treats and open the run for the chickens. I don’t mind winter at all, which is in part probably due to the mild winters we have here in Sacramento, but I’m always glad to see the longer days. 

To celebrate we are going to read two poetry books that I got from the library that celebrate the passing of the seasons. A Circle of Seasons and A Brighter Garden. I am also going to put out candles during dinner and we may even read the books solely by candlelight. 

Spring is coming!

A Little Weekend Reading: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

From Goodreads: What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

This should be required reading for all parents of girls (both parents) and, quite honestly, parents of boys too. Adiche is an incredible writer (and speaker, as this was originally a talk she gave), but more than that she makes such excellent points. Points we should all be well versed in to help raise strong daughters, respectful sons, and end as much of the gender inequality as we can. 

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not in our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”  

For the homeschooling and unschooling parent I think she often speaks to some of our ideals and ideas. The fact that the traditional schooling system does not address many of our concerns and feels more like it perpetuates ignorances and half truths, as well as falls into perpetuating stereotypes and incorrect ideas seems to be here in many of her points even though she is not speaking to that at all. This applies, at least for me, to both cultural, racial, and gender ideas, but here she speaks most to the gender aspect. 

“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?”

That part about interest really spoke to me. She also says:

“What struck me–with her and with many other female American friends I have–is how invested they are in being ‘liked’. How they have been raised to believe that their being likable is very important and that this ‘likable’ trait is a specific thing…We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for me about pleasing women.”

I really think a lot of this stereotyping and inequality pops up in traditional schooling. I’ve seen it in action and am probably guilty of it myself in the classroom and at home. I cringe to think that and try to be aware of it. Reading things like this help bring it to the forefront of my mind and the more it gets in there the less likely I am to do it.

This is a very approachable read. Not because she isn’t an adamant feminist, but because it’s short and so readable. Adiche, as I said before, is an incredible writer and that comes through here. She could have come off very dry, making this feel like a college lecture, but it isn’t. She weaves in her own anecdotes and experiences. 

Certainly I am not doing this short piece justice in my review. All I can say is go read it. It’s available in print format for a few dollars or two dollars on Kindle.