Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Farmer Boys

What a gorgeous fall day. It was so inspiring I decided to turn two pictures from the day into a new blog header. (It took too long, but I am pleased with the results!)

Friends joined us on a trip to my father's farm. The temps were in the low 70's which is unusual and welcome for the last day in October in Pennsylvania. Even though the trees have passed their peak, there were some gorgeous colors. Special treats today were watching a combine harvest corn and off-load it into a large truck, seeing a steam powered tractor or possibly soybean roaster trucking down the road, walking through the corn field and picking up ears the combine left behind, throwing same ears into the combine auger, playing in the creek, finding "treasure", making "laurel" wreaths out of weeping willow branches and playing in a barn full of hay!

It was idyllic, and sharing it with friends made it all the better! (If you don't believe me just look at the picture of the boys!)
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mosses, Liverworts and Lichen

DSCN2448.JPGMy daughter, a friend's daughter and I attended a lecture/walk by Dr. Susan Munch on Mosses and Liverworts this past Saturday. This again is one of those things that you think may be incredibly boring. I mean, how exciting can mosses be? Even though I was the one who signed us up, I was dubious. Erin is interested in botany however, so I thought it would be worth the risk and it was only a few dollars to attend. (This one is moss.)

It was really interesting. Really, it was. First, I had never even heard of liverworts and DSCN2453.JPGI never really knew what mosses were. I noticed that sometimes they had little "thingys" sticking out of them, but I had no idea what those did or what they were called. Now, we know the difference between mosses, liverworts and lichen and we know the two main parts of them, the gametophytes and sporophytes. We know a few of the ways they reproduce and we've seen a number of specimens in the field and under lenses and microscopes. (This one is lichen.)

Although Dr. Munch threw all this vocabulary around very fast, she kept it just simple enough so as not to lose us during the slide show. She brought quite a number of specimens and was very good at explaining and pointing out details in them and the examples we saw on our walk. She has just published a kind of field guide called "Outstanding Mosses and Liverworts of Pennsylvania". DSCN2461_1.JPGShe said she calls these 50 species outstanding because they are the most common of the 350 in Pennsylvania and they can be identified by a layman with a hand lens. Apparently many species cannot be determined unless looking at the cell structure in a microscope. She lives in Berks County and gives various walks and lectures for the public throughout the area. A great person with which to do some fieldlearning! I found that she will be giving this same presentation on November 16th in Lancaster Co. Click here for more info. (This one is a liverwort - note that the top of the sporophyte is spherical.(wink, wink))

And yes, I'm getting her book. Erin is excited about finding out more about these littlest of plants.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Keeping up

Obviously, I haven't been...keeping up that is. We've got food on the table, but the house is a mess and the list of things to get done is miles long. My husband started a new job in August and also, you know, while he was at it, a graduate program in Educational Leadership. Also known as a principal's certificate. Glossing right over how a homeschool dad would become a public school principal. The program and the job have been pretty intense. Plus, we've been used to having him home. If I needed to run out to the store I didn't have to take all the kids with me, etc. Oh and did I mention that we went on two trips for a week each, our car didn't pass inspection (it was 15 years old) so we had to get a new one. One more thing, my dishwasher broke. Too much to fix, so we bought a new one of those two. Whew!

Here's a photo mosaic from the last few weeks:

  • Learning about trebuchets and medieval weapons at Green Lane Celtic Festival (the kids had a dance performance as well).

  • Visiting family in NC. (We went by train.) Visiting the birthplace of the Pentacostal Holiness Church in Falcon, NC. (It was built by my husband's great-grandfather, Julius Culbreth.)
  • Picking apples from the tree across the street from our home and Julius doing the sword dance at a competition in MD.

I hope your fall has been full of fun!

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I didn't know what to title this post. It is so hard to believe this happened. If you've read my blog before you know that I grew up in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties in PA and I respect the PA German culture and the various practices of the plain Christian faiths. In the last year especially I have tried to introduce my children to various aspects of Amish and Mennonite culture.

Last Saturday, a good friend took my children to a customer appreciation day at an Amish farm. We've been buying our milk, cheese (very yummy), beef and pork from a family in Paradise, PA. I wasn't able to go to the open house, to tour the farm and meet the farmer, but my children were. They had a wonderful time with several of the farmer's 11 children. During the course of the 5 hours they visited, the children discussed school. Homeschool and Amish school. They mentioned that if you looked hard you could see the roof of their one-room school from the farm.

I spent a good deal of time on Monday night, trying to get an address on West Nickle Mines school. When I finally did I was horrified. It was less than a mile from our farmer's home. I told my oldest to be prepared for the worst. This morning, I talked with my friend on the phone. Someone had gotten in touch with the farmer's driver. (You all know by now that Amish don't drive; this person delivers the products to the Philly area.) It wasn't their school, but it was very close, for that I am thankful. Two of the victims share the same last name as our farmer. We have yet to find out if they are related somehow. Something about this makes me want to get in the car and drive out to Paradise. To go up to every Amish person I see and say "I'm sorry." I'm sorry that our violent culture invaded your world in such a tragic way. I'm sorry that the innocence that has been lost. I'm just so sorry that this happened, but especially that it happened to you.

I am thankful that the Amish can trust in the sovereignty of God at a time like this. It will be hard, very hard, but they have a greater hope than this life, an eternal one in a place that is truly Paradise. My oldest daughter reads from a devotional that was written by a Mennonite woman. The story today was about a little girl who dies. The scripture for today was:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall their be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. ~ Rev 21:4

She printed it up and colored the margins with a note for the Amish girls she met on Saturday. I'll be sending it along with a note from me tomorrow. And each time that I eat a meal with Alvin's meat, or milk or cheese, I will be reminded to lift up a prayer for all the those affected. If you want to help, the Lancaster paper posted this guide. It includes places that funds have been established for the Amish and the Roberts family and an address to send notes and cards.