Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A few bits and bobs...

Ok, so what has been happening besides the installation of a heating system?
We had a surprise visitor in the boot room....
He created quite a stir!!!! I do love frogs and toads. We do actually have quite a few resident toads in the usually is in the boot room but I expect he vacated when this fellow arrived. I miss our pond. That may be something we will address in the new year. Now that we have the allotment, I could spare a few square feet for a pond nearer the house.
Well, Tom has fitted the new water pump in his Vitara....all by himself!!! It is no easy task as it involves the removal of the cam belt which if isn't fitted correctly upsets the timing and the engine would not run properly. Amazing..not yet 15 years old and off to an off road meet at the weekend in his OWN car!!!!

His progress and pictures of the Vit can be seen at his blog Landykid on my list of blogs.

A very kind lady from the HE yahoo group has leant me a fabulous book called More than Moccassins which is full of excellent crafts for our Native American Indians theme. Thank you Ginny!!! We had already made some head dresses, tomahawks and have been collecting feathers for a dream to follow!

Jonathan has sold his Ripstick and helmet on Ebay to get the money to buy a mobile phone. He is spending a lot of time out and about now so we felt we needed to keep track of him and he, the time!!!!

William has been spending alot of time chalking and painting. It is great to see him so creative with no pre conceived ideas of what things should look like. William also likes to type on the computer and can type all our first letters of our names in various orders of his choosing. He can also do 'mum' and 'will' when he is in the mood!!! He has been using the montessori materials I made a while ago...matching cards in various themes. He has also been helping me in the kitchen the last few days...grating cheese, making gravy and talking constantly!!! He made me laugh when he was stirring the gravy though....he was talking to himself saying 'stir, stir, stir it in' and then it became 'swer, swer, swer it in'....which is one of Tom's CB terms referring to the 'tuning' in of an aerial!!

David announced autumn had arrived the other day when he noticed the leaves changing colour on the trees at the bottom of the garden. It is good to see them making their own observations. William commented on the falling leaves down the canal this morning while we were picking blackberries.He is very good at picking the nice ones. He knows not to pick the red ones, and to leave the squishy ones there for the mice. He knows the firm and shiny looking ones are best for jam.

David has been really enjoying The Deathly Hallows which we have been reading. He follows it well, and often can guess what is about to happen. It is not an easy book to read aloud as there are so many odd names in, and lots of high pitched shrieking, which I am NOT good at!!

I have been re reading Gareth Lewis's book 'One to One' which I highly recommend to anyone starting out on their Home Education journey. Or indeed anyone who is HE'ing and has not read it! I also like his other one entitled 'Unqualified Education', for over 11's. They both are very reassuring reads.

I have also been reading the Home Education Journal from Cinnamon Press. There is a very good case study in there written by a boy of 19 years old who was educated autonomously. He is the Warden of a flagship National Trust property, which he gained through his voluntary work there, not by any qualifications acquired through the system. He did go to college at one point but left because of the poor organisation and time wasting!!! He finished his course by distance learning in a fraction of the time. He also talks of learning to drive several types of tractor in a morning, where as at college they only got to drive one kind round and round in first gear for weeks!!

I do like to read success stories. It is good for the boys to read them as much as anything. I think I will start a collection as evidence for certain unsupportive individuals!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Well, we survived!!

Plumbers have gone. Radiators and boiler all installed and working. We have hot water and warmth!!
We have no timer or controller as yet. That will be the electrician's job on Monday apparently. Not that anyone has told us who or when or anything!!! Then we hope there will be a builder/Mr fix it man who will come and sort out the holes etc We currently have a BIG hole in the dining room where the gas fir and back boiler was, which is drafty and bringing black dust (presumably coal dust from a previous life) with it.
But all in all, it is done. What a relief.
And I had a letter arrive yesterday too...we have an allotment!!! For real this time, not just a carrot dangled in front of our nose only to be whisked away again a moment later! It is, as last time, only a half plot, but that is bigger than the plot I have here at home. I am thinking about all the onions, potatoes, parsnips and leeks I can plant there, leaving more room for carrots, beetroot, peas, beans etc here at home.
It is need of weeding as it has been neglected for the last season but it doesn't look too bad, and there is a path down the middle already dividing it so at least that bit is easy. The allotment organiser had left us to decide who has which half though, so I need to make a phonecall. I hope it is a nice person that we are sharing with! Part of me wants to get down there weeding it straight away, and the other half wants to get my house sorted.....but there is no competition really!!! The allotment isn't ours until Thursday though so unfortunately that is plenty of time to unpack the boxes of stuff and put things back where they were.
I'm just not sure I want to!!!!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

One down, one to go...fingers crossed!!!

Day one of upheaval is over.
Came home from work to find floorboards up in nearly EVERY room, dust and tools as far as the eye could see. Luckily Tom and Rob had carefully moved my precious bookcases and moved the books as the guys seemed to need access to everywhere, all at the same time. Hrmmmph.
Just the boiler to fit tomorrow and the main pipework to and from it, oh and the radiator in our room isn't on the wall yet. They have worked really hard, but it will take a while to recover from the strain of this. I do not cope well with strangers working in my house, although they seem nice enough. Father and son team.
Time for dinner and try to wind down a bit. Trying to focus on how nice it will be to have heating in our room this winter and not have to camp in the living room in front of the open fire...although that was quite exciting and cosy had the 'mattress' been a little more comfy. Sofa cushions have a habit of sliding apart just when you don't need it!!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Today we had a phonecall at about 1pm, when we had just arrived home from a morning in the woods and desperate for lunch, from the heating company asking if they could come to fit the new heating tomorrow.
Well, we obviously said yes because we are desperate to have hot water again, and heating too now that the evenings are getting colder. But, tomorrow?
Anyone who knows us, will be sharing my feelings of horror as I looked around me at the mammoth task ahead.
We have to clear the dining room, the hallway, our room and allow access to every room in the house for new radiators and obviously there will be floorboards up etc etc etc
OMG we have soooooo much stuff!!!
I am a hoarder it is true. I hate to throw anything away. I collect things that I think might be useful for future projects. I have a huge collection of books and have two bookcases on the landing full of books that both have to be moved so the floorboards can be taken up for pipework. I have done the bookshelf in the dining room this afternoon and the shelf unit full of puzzles and craft stuff. I have boxed up one bookcase upstairs. Tomorrow when I get home from work I will have to make a start on the second one upstairs...and then there is our room!!!!
It is like a second storage space and halfway house for things on their way to the loft. Eeeeeek!
I wish I could have a clear out of things but it is impossible when you HE four boys....books, puzzles and games that span the age group from 3 - adult, drawing and craft stuff to suit all sorts, shoes and coats and fleeces and boots and waterproofs etc etc is just impossible!!!
Right off to get the wee ones into bed....two boys to read to before I can rest! Room on the broom for Will, and David and I are over halfway on The Deathly Hallows.

Yes it is!!! Here's the proof!!

Pictures of yesterdays experiment....
Some of the honeycomb in the saucepan.
The melting has begun!!!!
The mould all ready to go...a bit optimistic possibly!!!
The melted wax after the mass has been removed. All that honeycomb reduced to this!!
The mass that was left, squeezed to get every last drop out!!!

The finished candle!!!!

The dark part at the top is where we used all of the honeycomb even the dirtier looking bits...we didn't have that much so couldn't afford to leave any out. I guess it could've been filtered but not sure what we could have used for this.
I still can't believe that it was that easy!!!!
And here it is on the seasons table.

And a quick note to let you know that Tom has his own blog now....its on my list. Landykid. He's using it to document his progress with his Vitara. He's doing the body lift today....I wonder whether it would work for me too?!!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Can it really be as simple as that?

Candle making is something we have toyed with in the past. We bought some wick in a long length and a mould a number of years ago, when we saw how much wax went unburnt on some of the candles we had bought. The fatter the candle the more waste there was, or so it seemed. So we did make an attempt at remelting itand making one. It worked ok but I always wanted to make some really good quality ones with beeswax.

Today, Jonathan came back from the field with an armful of honeycomb (minus the honey!) that he had noticed in the hedge. It seemed bizarre that it should be in such an exposed place...we are not sure if it was built there by bees, although Jonathan did say it looked as though it had, but how else would it have come to BEE there? (Sorry, couldn't resist it that time!)
It was difficult to pull out and it therefore arrived at our house in pieces, although one of the edges looked very rounded so definitely not dumped out of a private hive or something.

It was obviously just the empty cells but they felt very waxy, so we decided that we would try to melt it down and see if we could make a candle with it.
At this point I would upload all the pictures we took of the process, but I know that having got this far, they would all end up at the beginning of my post and in the wrong order, so I will need to do that under a different heading later on. Bah!

Monday, 21 September 2009

What's in a name?

As Shakespeare said...'a rose by any other would smell as sweet'. (I think!!!!)
We gave ourselves the name of Survival Family long before Home Education and long before blogging. When we started our blog it was the obvious thing to call it, but I sometimes wonder if this gives a false image of us.
So to explain our name at this point, as I have been sharing this blog with more people recently, seems right.
It goes back to the summer of 2003 when, for some inexplicable reason, Rob and the boys decided to try to light a campfire in the back garden without matches. The attempts were not amazingly successful and led to research on the internet and ultimately the purchase of a book. This book started a real phase in our lives, one that was to become the basis of all sorts of activities. SAS Survival Handbook by John 'Lofty' Wiseman. Fire lighting led on to shelter building and trap making, and then we bought the boys camo trousers for our trips to the woods. We jokingly gave ourselves the name 'Survival Family' and it sort of stuck.
We are neither military obsessed or regimented in any way!!! Our photos often show the boys in camo gear but it is just because it seems the right gear for the job. Hard wearing and forgiving when it comes to dirt!!!
Over the years we have changed from Survival Family, John 'Lofty' Wiseman style, to The Survival Family. We are more Ray Mears, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tom and Barbara Good style now! The boys still love lighting a fire to cook over and building dens, but we have a different take on Survival now. We keep chickens, quail and ducks. We grow veg and fruit in the garden. We eat little processed or pre packaged food. We forage for free food, making jams and wine from the hedgerow. We collect wood and make paper logs for the fire. We make cards and presents. We make or fix things for ourselves. We do not have a TV licence. We are educating our children ourselves. No, indeed, the boys are educating themselves!! We are moving towards self sufficiency. A long way off, but a life less dependant upon consumerism at least.
So the word survival can be looked at in a slightly different way, than when we first gave ourselves the nickname. We have evolved. Our lives have changed so much in such a short space of time. We have had to adapt. We have moved away from survival in the 'keep yourself alive in an emergency' sense, and more towards survival in the 'look after yourselves and the world around you' sense.
I can't imagine calling ourselves anything else!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Woods, websites, wigwams and wierd fruit...

This is Will striding off to find the den they had built on a previous visit...he knew exactly where he was going. He is so confident in the woods. So very at home. This was a boys only woods visit as I was at work, so there are very few photos actually fit for public viewing!!!! Rob bought a rabbit from the farm shop to take with them for an authentic survival feel, along with a few sausages as back up! There are lots of photos of Jonathan skinning and gutting the rabbit, with a close up of the insides; a few of the rabbit, beautifully skinned, and the skin hanging up in a tree awaiting cooking by master chef Tom; a delightful one of Jonathan's finger with a slice taken off the top and various silly faces and poses.
This is Will loading his bow ready for action....
And this is David taking aim with the catapault at a pre fabricated papermache target. Apparently it worked really well and almost exploded as the ammunition hit it!

They all ate some of the rabbit that they cooked with a sauce made from cuppa soups I understand and the skin is now drying in the shed. I'm not sure what he plans to make with it but the lady from the farm shop has said that she will save all the skins for him, on the proviso that he makes her a coat!!! They are brilliant there. Really enthusiastic and keen to hear all that the boys have been doing. They have been instrumental in the incubating of our first hens eggs (Buffy and the original Cocky Locky) the 8 Guinea Fowl that we raised for meat, given freely in the name of education and the rabbit gutting, encouraging us wholeheartedly along the way with all that we do. Thank you Chris and Maureen!
Further to my thoughts on websites recently, Rob has gone a step closer to our own website and 'purchased' a domain name and web space from BT. Now I 'm not really sure how all that works but watch this space because he and Tom will have it all up and running in no time, and I will have no choice but to hop on fo rth eride and hold on tight!!!
David and I are planning a Native American Indian lapbook (Hands of a child), since our little prairie set up inspired by the Little House books, so we thought we'd start with making one of these.......
We all love wigwams/tipis. We nearly bought one before HE camp in May but couldn't afford a decent canvas one :-( They are very popoular these days so I'm guessing it is only a matter of time before they'll be out there as second hand bargains!
This one was knocked up very quickly (don't you just love it when a creative inspiration turns out well?) with the broken poles of the gazebo and Jon's infamous knotting skills. Tom is the real knot genius, but he was at scout camp so we plumped for one of Jon's granny knots that invariably do the job but with less panache!
And this is the fire that Rob made with them the other day as a taster to get the project juices flowing!!!...paper and good old acrylics on a sturdy wooden base with extra logs for effect. Pure genius.

Will isn't in that picture as he had whizzed off to find cooking pots and vegetables!! The fire is now in the centre of the tent with cooking pot suspended over it in Ray Mears pot hanger style! I am typing this in bed as the living room is still taken up with wigwam!

And what is this?!!!!!! Jon and I found this growing on a small tree/shrub along a pathway by some houses while out on Bob the other day. We took a shortcut (ahem!) through Blacksmiths lane that connects the two roads in the next village. It has vehicular acces at each end for the houses but in the middle it narrows to pedestrian access only with the use of bollards. Bob just loves a challenge!! Anyway, I digress. It is very hard so initially thought wierd apple, but the shape is slightly oval/lemony so could it be a whole tree of unripe quinces? Han and I think this the most likely choice...but all suggestions welcome. Answers on a postcard please...or I guess you could just leave a comment....

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Lippity, lippity, not very fast.

That is such an accurate description of the movement of a relaxed rabbit!!! Merlin is just rabbiting around the living room as we read/type/drink coffee and the fire is roaring away. He sounds like a really dainty equine (we have no carpet in here), as he busies himself with rabbit things.
Beatrix Potter certainly knew what she was talking about!

Monday, 7 September 2009

A few crafty makes from the last week or so...

Rob and David both made Wolf amulets from a section of a branch (hence the uneven circle), using acrylic paints. They used a picture printed from the internet and then traced it on to the wood. This gives David the good likeness that he needs, and then he painted it with the guidance of Rob. It has come out well, and he is really pleased with it.

Star Wars has had a bit of a revisit here, since David's birthday saw the arrival of the set of dvd's....I may live to regret it, but he has waited a long time!!! Did you spot the mystery guest?!!

This is David's light saber made from wood, painted with acrylics and detail added in the form of screws, bolts washers and a cupboard door knob!! Williams is the one underneath...he has a good imagination!!!
Rob made David a wooden knife while we were in the woods on his birthday and then we designed the case from an old leather handbag they picked up in a charity shop for £1.50. It looks frighteningly real!!!!

And this is David's Anakin Skywalker picture. Outline drawn with the aid of carbon paper, and then details added in coloured pencils. He has a good eye for detail and colours, just lacks the confidence to draw things himself. I hope one day he will learn to draw for himself, but until then we will find ways for him to enjoy art.

Todays hive of activity.....

Well, i know that the schools around here went back today and it was odd, because although we do not follow term times or school hours AT ALL here, it coincided with my first day off for 4 days. One of the afternoons I was struck down with a migraine and spent the rest of the day popping pain killers and hiding in a dark room.I felt I missed a whole day so was determined to catch up today!
So today we have.....
been for a walk in the woods, carving bows and amulets as we went. Louis is still on lead walkies as he was neutered last Tuesday and is yet to have his stitches out. Poor boy, he is very frustrated at not being able to run through the bushes and chase smells.
We had omlettes for lunch and jellies that Jon had made yesterday afternoon, along with the meringues I whipped up to use up the egg whites from the bread and butter pudding I made a few days ago! Yummy!!!! I'd never made it before and was using a recipe I had cut out from the back of a sugar bag, years ago , but never got round to doing. It was lovely despite a few hiccups along the, no white bread in the house, no cream (thank goodness for the village shop and willing errand boys!!), and then the spilling some of the bain marie into the pudding itself...oops! Boys loved it never the less, so a new pudding to add to the regulars.
We have made birthday cards and presents, of which I am giving no details away!!!! William and David both sat together and discussed what they were going to draw and actually sat alongside each other drawing for a little while, unsupervised!!
We fetched out the wheat grinder that we bought ages ago from my friend Han, and had a go at making flour. It is quite a coarse grinder but with all the man power we have here, we put it through several times and managed to get about 9 oz of flour from about half a kg of grains....oh dear, mixing imperial and metric doesn't really work, does it!! 1oz is 25g or there 9 x 25 = 225g About half good usable flour for bread and the other bit I'm guessing I can use to bulk out a mince dish or soup.... will read my notes on that later.
A few photos of the process.....
Jon and Will securing the grinder to the computer table. What? The computer table I hear you cry? I would normally do such activities in the kitchen or at the dining room table, but it seemed a good idea at the time. Well, it was actually the right height for Will to be able to have a go, too.Two man grinding....

David seiving the resulting flour...Will using the letter stamp set while he was waiting!!!

And the lovely fluffy soft bread that I have just sneakily eaten two slices yummy. We cheated slightly in that we added one cup of strong white bread flour to the two cups of the grinded wholemeal (I wasn't anticipating disaster honest!!!) and we used the bread maker to knead the dough before cooking it in the oven in two loaf tins. By far the best way, I think!

So, voila!! Grain to loaf in three huh?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Scenes from the kitchen.

Wine brewing from the quick, spontaneous pick of wild berries while out on Bob one day....

Bramble jelly made from a serious blackberry picking session!!!
William the artist....the sunshine can be seen on the left hand side of the paper. We are all obsessed by it in this house!! This is one of several 'masterpieces' he created that day. He paints with a purpose: sometimes he paints a pre-detemined subject, others he paints and decides what it is afterwards.

William helping to unload the dishwasher...he loves to do the cutlery. He also loves to wash up but aswe have no hot running water at the moment (Don't ask. Sore subject. It has been nearly three months!!), this is the next best thing!

William chalking a picture of Louis...he added spots on after I took this picture. I was quite amazed at the detail! He even included representations of each of Louis toys..naming them as he drew them.

And one of our first duck was enormous so I had an inkling it would be a double yoker. I had to crack it in to a bowl to show the boys. My question is...would it really be capable of hatching twins?!!! Wouldn't that be so cool!!!!

Most things seem to happen in our kitchen or garden in this family. I didn't include photos of the jars of chutney I made the other day, or the mountain of runner beans that just keep on coming!!! The small, sweet and juicy tomatoes that are ripening at such an amazing rate....hard to believe after they were showing real signs of blight a few weeks ago. A hefty pruning and some sunshine seemed to scare that away.
The vegetable patch is starting to look bare and so I am turning my thoughts to what grew well this year, what I want to grow next year and how best to organise it. The ducks are busy adding some nutrients to the soil in situ for me, and I have plans to move the compost heaps to make them more accessible....who does that? I ask you. *tuts and shakes head in disbelief*
A large amount of wood being chopped up for firewood and paper logs being made (not as frequently as I would like!!) as well as the usual woodworking, angle grinding and welding.
There have been many changes around here recently and probably a good few more before the year is out I would think. But then that is the nature of Home Education isn't it? Or maybe life in general...well, it is for us anyway. Nothing stands still for long. Things are evolving all the time. We change things to keep us all on our toes!!! We change things to stop things from getting boring and mundane!!! We change things to counteract external things that we have no control over. We change things to try and make something that isn't working terribly well, to work better. Things just change don't they because children change and we need to change with them.
So, Rob starts his Fire Service training next month and I have started a part time job at a local nursing home that specialises in dementia (hence the recent lack of postings!!). I am enjoying the job and feel that it is something I will be able to do well, as long as I can manage to detach myself when I leave and return to domestic goddess and education facilitator!!
David started swimming lessons just five weeks ago, and has already been moved up to a higher group. He is a fantastic swimmer...he has both strength and confidence in the water. It is just his technique which needs some fine tuning, but already his crawl and back stroke are starting to look like that of a 'proffesional' swimmer. We have finally found David's niche. I am thrilled. As is David. It has been a long time coming.
Jonathan has become a bit of a social animal!!! He spends a lot of time with friends down the park and is hardly ever around at mealtimes!! One boy asked hime when he was going to be back to his home schooling, and a girl asked him what he did all day if we don't have a television which he replied..'we go out, make stuff and read books'!!! Go Jonny, go!!
We have all been reading the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series of books by Michelle Paver. We are all on different ones and as I am on the fifth book (out of six) I am wondering what we will all do when we finish them. It is a fabulous series, one that has really captured us all. We all talk about them and often speak in Wolf or talk about the clans!!!! It will be like coming home from a fabulous holiday...we'll all be moping around!! My only hope is that David, who is showing a big interest in them, will be able to read them for himself soon and then we can re-visit them!
We are also considering a change to the blog. We are thinking of moving to a more website type set up , so that we can have different pages for different things that can be more easily updated. With the change to the way things are going in the house, it seems fitting that there should be some changes to the blog too. A more shared approach to everything.
Another post tomorrow...some more pictures from the last few weeks that I have missed.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The view from my dining room window...

This is Tom's car!!!!!!!!!
This is the reward that I spoke of in a previous post. Not from us....but from the very wonderful and generous guys on his 4x4 forum. The same guys that take him to the events and sometimes let him drive their cars!
It is a very cool (I have been converted!) Suzuki Vitara soft top, just itching to be modified for off road use. He has had many gifts from the guys in the form of parts. Some posted to the house so that it felt like christmas, and some that he has had to collect...the biggest thanks of all goes to Phil, who has engineered (no pun intended...honestly...well, maybe just a little!) the whole thing.
Tom has done some jobs on Phil's truck..welding and such like, but we never expected anything like this!!!! He has sourced it, brought it here and persuaded others to part with things that he will need to get it done. He has also been the taxi driver on many occaisions. He ha salso said some wonderful things about my son that has brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Phil.
Still, such a wonderful present for a boy his age to get. He has been out there almost non stop since doing things to it. The original bumpers have been removed and he has made a new one for the back from a scaffold pole, I believe. Cut, angled and welded...including brackets for fixing and a tow hitch.
I still look at him and can't believe he is only 14.
So my dear boy, good things come to those who deserve them. You have been a rock to me over the years and in return, I hope I have helped you to grow your own wings, in a way that school would have never allowed. I am so proud of you.

A few pictures from the boys trip to Cornwall

I think that I shall use the captions that Uncle George put with the photos for some of them. One on One... William and Uncle G playing footy. Help the Aged... William 'helping' granny get up. Sorry Maggie, but it is a lovely picture!

Sand Tom.....Rob drawing around Tom on the sand.

''What is he doing?!'' caption here, lol

''CHEESE!'' ....William and his new balance bike. Thank you Uncle George and Aunty Taz. Its great!!!

Jon air....

Tom air.....

The big boys, camped in Uncle G's and Aunty Taz's garden, while Rob and Will shared the spare room.....thank you so much for your hospitality!! Not everyone would want those two smelly beasties staying with them!!! Or Tom and Jon either...!
Thank you also to granny for looking after Will so often giving the big boys could do cool stuff without having to drag along the wee one all the time.
I would say that we wished we lived closer, but I'm not sure that Uncle George could keep up, long term!!!