Tuesday, 25 March 2014

March 2014: Autumnal Equinox and Elderberry Cordial

Monday 17th March - Sunday 23rd March

We spent the best part of last week with a nasty gastro bug. We did little but lie around all day in bed, only moving to visit the bathroom to empty sick buckets. Yes, parenting is a glamourous job sometimes! :)

We used electronic entertainment liberally. We don’t actually own a television, but we do have a collection of DVD’s and out they came! We also read stories, listened to Sparkle Stories, napped on the couch, in the beanbag or on the bed, but on these occasions when you are all sick, well, hooray for Dirt Girl World and Playschool!

We did leave the house briefly during the week to take a little Owlet-Nightjar to the vet. We aren’t sure what happened to him, but Little Deer (3) discovered him on the ground, missing tail feathers and unable to fly. We checked him over and he seemed stressed, but otherwise ok. We took him to the local vet and he checked out fine and then was sent off to Bonorong Sanctuary for some R&R. We hope to have him back to release here when he is ready for release back to the wild.

He was just a bit cute and brightened our dreary sick days immensely!

Mousey Brown (5), Little Deer (3) and I did a Bonorong Sanctuary Wildlife Rescue course in November last year and I followed in up with a more intensive Wildlife Carer’s Course allowing me to care for orphaned and injured native wildlife. We have done quite a few roadside rescues and transports already. Sadly, our own little orphaned Bennetts Wallaby joey ‘Twiggy’ passed away just before Christmas despite our best efforts to save her.

Caring for native wildlife has given our family many great opportunities to learn about Tasmania's native animals, to learn about intensive care for sick and injured animals, and to learn about life and death in a meaningful way. We were all very devastated to lose little Twiggy, but the experience of her life enriched ours immensely, and in a funny way became part of our decision to homeschool. My Bonorong mentor was a local expert wildlife carer who also Waldorfy homeschools her own daughter, and that family became part of our homeschooling journey too. Support and encouragement come from the most unexpected places :)

Toward the end of the week, we began to feel a little better and started nibbling at food again. Mousey Brown (5) didn’t attend his usual morning at the local Steiner school, as we really didn’t want to pass this one on. To be quite frank, last week was pretty full on. Two housebound boys with low energy, low patience, and sick tummies, and two parents feeling equally as sick, doesn’t make for a very pleasant week. There were a few times of peace and we had moments of beautiful play together, but mostly, I’d rather put the first half of the week behind us and remember it no more! Just keeping it real :D

{ Play Time }

With all the time spent indoors this week, I’ve really noticed an increase in Mousey Brown’s (5) imaginative play. He is right at the stage of long involved dialogues with characters and complex plots. Out came the play mat (I still haven’t finished *gulp!*) and it was turned into a farm, where the farmers were harvesting and selling apples and feeding the apple cores to their pigs :) It’s always delightful to witness both boys involved in cooperative imaginative games.

{ Story Time }

We have also been using the play mat for our story each day. I use their own Steiner dolls, teddies and props to help bring the stories to life and I find it sparks a whole new energy in their imaginative play afterwards.

We are continuing with Week 3 of the Waldorf Essentials Autumn stories this week. Each week builds a little more on the main story. During the week, I retell the story, embellishing it a little more each day, so that the story becomes solid in their minds and imaginations. By the third day of retelling, they help with the props and characters, joining in the story telling, making it interactive and lots of fun.

This week I made the boys Steiner doll’s felt capes and a twig sword each to go along with the story. I repurposed (accidentally) felted woollen jumpers to make the capes, and fastened them at the neck with press studs. A quick and simple hero cape, and the boys just love them!

{ Handwork & Artwork }

The Huon Valley is renown for its apple orchards and we pass them every time we leave the house. We see the orchards blossom in Spring, leaf and fruit in Summer, ripen and drop in Autumn, and bare their branches in Winter. Right now, the orchards are in full harvest swing, and each time we drive past, little old vintage grey tractors tow trailers with wooden apple bins filled to overflowing with ripe apples, loose ones bouncing along down the road after the tractors. It’s a particularly delightful way to experience the changing seasons.

We made an 'apple tree’ of our own this week, from a twig we collected on our walk and small balls of modelling beeswax: green for the leaves and red for the apples.

The apple leaves are all still green in the orchards, but as we see them change, we shall add yellow leaves to our model ‘apple tree'. The boys have enjoyed including the apple tree into their farm games and they pick the red apples and place them into a modelling beeswax ‘basket’ we made.

We also made pinwheels and kites this week and the boys ran straight outside to fly them in the Autumn wind. They also made pinwheels for their bikes and a number a minor accidents ensued as they were too busy admiring the spinning pinwheel to watch where they were going!

During the week, Mousey Brown (5) decided he would make a Wedge-Tailed Eagle costume, and so he did. He has been collecting feathers over Summer, though none of them are actually eagle feathers, and he came up with his own design, as usual. It’s quite ingenious as the arms move so that he can flap his wings! He is adding more feathers to the wings each time his finds them on our nature walks.

{ Circle Time }

We didn’t do circle time for the first half of the week, no one had the energy!
We picked it back up as the week progressed. We’ve added a few old favourite songs and rhymes to our list and dropped a few off. 

{ Autumn Circle Time }

Opening (Action Song)
Good morning to the sun up in the sky,
Good morning to the birds as they fly on by.
Good mrning to the tree so straight and tall,
Good morning to the nest where the possum rests
Good morning everyone.

* * * * * * * *

O Dandelion (Verse)
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass, ’till the children come to play.”
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls, and my hair grows long and white.”
And what do you do when your hair grows white, and the children come to play?
“They take me in their little hands, and blow my hair away!”

* * * * * * * *

Wood Chopping (Standing Action Rhyme)
We are working, working hard!
Chopping firewood in the yard.
(Stomping feet moving around in a circle)

Hold the axe, grip it tight,
(Hold clenched hands togehter in front as if holding an axe)
Lift it up with all your might…
(lift “axe” above head)

Chopping, chopping, chop, chop, chop!
(Bring clenched hands down on each “chop”)
Merrily the pieces drop.
(Clench both fists and roly-poly them round each other)

Now a bundle we shall tie
and stack it in the shed to dry.

* * * * * * * *

If I were a Farmer (Standing Action Song)
If I were a farmer, a farmer, a farmer.
If I were a farmer, what would I do?
I would feed the hungry chickens/milk the cows each morning/pick the ripe red apples… etc.
That’s what I’d do!

* * * * * * * *

Scarecrow (Action Song)
When all the cows were sleeping

And the sun had gone to bed

Up jumped the scarecrow

And this is what he said!

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

With a flippy floppy hat

I can shake my hands like this

And shake my feet like that.

When all the hens were roosting

And the moon behind the cloud

Up jumped the scarecrow

And shouted very loud.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

When the dogs were in the kennels

And the doves were in the loft

Up jumped the scarecrow

And whispered very soft.

I'm a dingle, dangle scarecrow

* * * * * * * *

Windy (Standing Action Song)
Like a leaf or a feather,
in the windy, windy, weather
We will whirl around and twirl around,
And all fall down together.

* * * * * * * *

Autumn Showers (Sitting Action Song)
Autumn shower, Autumn rain
Wash the earth all clean again
Wash the earth all clean again

* * * * * * * *

The Appleseeds (Verse)
My nice red rosy apple has a secret midst unseen;
You'd see if you could slip inside,
five rooms so neat and clean.
In each room there are hiding
two seeds so shining bright;
Asleep they are and dreaming
of  lovely warm sunlight.
And sometimes they are dreaming
of many things to be
How some day they'll be hanging
upon an apple tree!

* * * * * * * *

Two little apples (Action Song - Tune: This old man)
Way up high, in a tree,

Two red apples smiled at me.

So I shook that tree as hard as i could.

Down came the apples.
Mmmmm, were they good!

* * * * * * * *

Pumpkin Seeds (Verse) 
One day I found two pumpkin seeds.

I planted one and pulled the weeds.

It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.

A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.

The pumpkin was quite round and fat.

(I really am quite proud of that.)

But there is something I'll admit

That has me worried just a bit.

I ate the other seed, you see.

Now will it grow inside of me?
(I'm so relieved since I have found

That pumpkins only grow in the ground!)

* * * * * * * *

Up The Tall White Candlestick 

(Action Rhyme)

Up the tall white candlestick 

(Make left arm into candlestick)

Crept little Mousie Brown

(Two fingers of fight hand run up the candlestick)

Right up to the top but he couldn't get down!
(Fingers wiggle at top)

So he called to his Grandma

(Call through cupped hands)

Grandma! Grandma!

But Grandma was in town

So he curled himself into a ball

(curl right hand into a fist)
And rolled himself right down

(Clench both fists and roly-poly them round each other)

* * * * * * *

Brown Possum (Action Rhyme)
Brown Possum, Brown Possum
Swish your bushy tail
(swish hands behind your back)

Brown Possum, Brown Possum
Swish your bushy tail
(swish hands behind your back)

Wrinkle up your little nose,
(wrinkle your nose and touch in with a finger)
Grab an apple with your toes!
(touch your toes)

Brown Possum, Brown Possum
Swish your bushy tail.
(swish hands behind your back)

* * * * * * *

Pygmy Possum (Fingerplay)
Here is a tree-hole.
(Bend fingers on one hand)
Inside is a Possum.
(Put thumb inside fingers.)
See she comes out
(Pop out thumb)
When Teatree blossoms.

She stays out all summer
In sunshine and heat.
She hunts in the bush
(Mimic picking and eating berries)
For berries to eat.

When snow starts to fall.
(fingers fluttering, moving side to side)
She hurries inside
(Bend fingers of one hand)
her warm little home
And there she will hide.
(Put thumb inside fingers.)

Snow covers the ground
(Place one hand over the other.)
Like a fluffy white rug.
Inside Possum sleeps
(pretend to be sleeping)
All cozy and snug.

* * * * * * * *

 Autumn (Closing Verse)
Yellow the bracken,
Golden the sheaves.
Rosy the apples,
Crimson the leaves.
Mist on the hillside,
Clouds grey and white.
Autumn, good morning!
Summer good night!

* * * * * * *

{ Festivals & Celebrations }

You would hardly know it is Autumn just yet. The first leaves on the poplars in the Huon Valley have only just begun turning. We’ve had windy days and a few small sprinkles of rain, but it is still dry, and there are certainly no puddles to test out the shiny, new season wellies in!

However, Autumn is slowly beginning to make her presence felt in cooler weather and the darker evenings. I enjoy the days drawing in - sewing in the evenings, lighting the candle during the evening meal, fungi spotting, warm nourishing soups. And in exciting news (for us), we ordered our fireplace for the house this week, not in time for this winter unfortunately, but we are already dreaming of gathering around the  cosy fire-hearth in the cool, windy Autumn and Winter evenings next year!

In fact Thursday marked the Autumnal Equinox - the light hours and dark hours of equal length. As a family we like to mark the passing of these important days in the natural world. It is a way of celebrating the seasons and the passage of time. Autumn Harvest Festivals are my favourite.

We spent the morning preparing food and crafting lanterns [tutorial here], and in the afternoon went elderberry picking with friends. We gathered together in the evening to share a potluck dinner of delicious seasonal yummies. The dads got competitive during apple bobbing and the older children and mamas had fun with ‘apples on a string’.

As dusk fell, lanterns were lit and the families moved down to the bonfire to sing songs and toast marshmallows. It was a wonderful way to mark the season with our special friends, and I think the children felt the magic in the air.

{ In The Kitchen }

{ Elderberry Cordial }
<recipe> from Suzanne Askham. 

'Collect as many berries as possible. At home, remove the berries from their stalks, discarding any that are past their best. The easiest way is to run a fork down the stalks. Put all the berries in a big bowl of water and swill around to remove any dust and bugs. Please note that the leaves and stems of this plant are considered toxic in the long-term, so don’t add them to your brew! A few tiny floret stems are fine, however.

Place the berries in a large pan and add just enough water to cover comfortably. Bring slowly to the boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Stir from time to time.

Strain into a large bowl through a colander with a muslin cloth draped over it. Press the cloth with the back of a large spoon to get as much of the juice out as possible. Be careful about spills: this liquid stains!

Measure the amount of liquid you have and put it back in the rinsed out pan. Add half a kilo granulated sugar for each generous litre of liquid.

Heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved. While you are doing this, you might like to add the juice of  a couple of mandarins (or an orange or lemon) per litre of liquid.

Pour the liquid into sterilised bottles and seal immediately. Label and store in the fridge. (You can also freeze your cordial, but make sure you use plastic bottles and leave enough room in each bottle for the juice to expand when it freezes). Your elderberry cordial will keep all through the winter, until early spring, in the fridge.

To Use:
Dilute with water to drink – a ratio of 1 juice to around 5 or 6 water depending on your taste. You can also drink it with sparkling water, or white wine, or even champagne. And it’s wonderful diluted with hot water to chase away winter chills.'

*Note: It is quite delicious but much too sweet for our liking, so next batch we will experiment with using less sugar and a little less water to intensify the flavour. I added 4 or 5 whole cloves to the syrup with the sugar also. It will be delicious as a syrup on ice cream or in water kefir!

{ In The Garden }

We didn't get much done in the garden during week, and the poor junipers are still in pots waiting to be planted! We did potter a little in the garden from time to time, mostly just enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. 


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