Two Books You Might Like to Read this Summer

I distinctly remember being a girl fresh out of school for the summer and being able to spend my time any way I wanted.  What I wanted was to curl up the on the couch with a good book to read.  I loved the luxury of being able to read to my heart's content. 

I still do. 

I don't get hour upon hour of reading time anymore, but libraries and bookstores are some of my favorite places, I have stacks of books everywhere in my home and always by my bed, and I'm usually in the middle of at least one book.  I  also love to pass along good book recommendations.  So, here are two for your summer reading pleasure:

First up: Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk. 

I spotted this book on a library display last week while I was there with my kids, perused it briefly-- which means reading the back, the inside flap, and at least the first few sentences.  (Sometimes I'll also flip halfway through the book and read a few lines, to see if it catches my interest.)  It did.  I brought it home and finished it in a matter of hours.  I could not put it down.  Then I immediately wondered how I hadn't read this yet?  (Am I the very last person to hear about this book?!?) 

I loved this story, and the characters within it.  This is considered a middle-grade reader, so it's an easy read, but the content is rich and the writing truly beautiful.

Our narrator is an almost-twelve-year-old girl named Annabelle, and you will love her.  She is courageous, kind and compassionate.  I don't want to give anything away, so I will say only this:
Do not miss this story.

I am scrapping all other read-aloud plans for the immediate future and reading this, all over again, to Mark and the three older kids.  (My two youngest (8 & 9) will not be joining us for this one, due to a mean classmate who is frighteningly cruel and I just think their hearts are still too tender for that.)


Secondly: The Secrets of Wishtide, by Kate Saunders.  This is told first-person by an older widowed woman named Laetitia Rodd, "Letty".  Letty's brother Fred is a criminal lawyer, and turns to Letty for her help in solving his case.  Letty is such a likeable character, and I really enjoyed this story, and think you will, too.

Are there any books you've read recently that you'd like to recommend?  Do tell. 

Life (around our home and garden)

Hello, dear friends. I hope you are all well.  (Today it seems I have time to put up a blog post!)

We finished school over a month ago.  I say "finished" which really means I was all done, so I ended with the little girls and supplied the older three with a list of what I wanted them to complete for the year (mostly math lessons).  Last time I checked, one of them had finished their list and the other two are nearly there....  and I'm okay with that. 

I have yet to do our end-of-the-year evaluations or testing, so I need to do those sometime soon.... but for NOW I am enjoying rest and summer and gardening.  And the older kids are enjoying sleeping in.  Our teens (Ella and Isaac) really love to stay up late, talking to us and snacking and then head to bed and reading for another hour or two, and then sleeping in until afternoon.  It's summer so I am happy for them but am wondering how they'll transition back to real life in the fall.

Ella finished Driver's Ed in June, so she's happily driving us all around town with her permit, when she's not babysitting, which she loves to do.

Here is what else has been going on around the home front.  We planted our garden late May.  Here's a photo right after planting:

(I'll try to get an updated picture because it does NOT look like this now at all.)
Each of the kids chose a crop this year again:
Ella | carrots + romaine 
Isaac | cucumbers + lettuces
Isaias | beans
Adelia | sugar snap peas 
Audra | flowers

They are responsible for caring for their little sections of the garden and as they harvest (and as I use or enjoy their harvest), I will pay them.

In addition to what the kids have going, I added tomatoes.  They have been my favorite to plant for the past couple of years, so this year I went all out and purchased several varieties to see what grows well and what I like best. In addition to my standard choice of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, I also potted two of each of the following varieties:

Cherokee Purple (Heirloom)
La Roma
San Marzano
Early Girl
Happy tomatoes in the garden.

(For whatever reason, in my (very limited) experience, tomatoes seem to do better in pots than directly planted in the ground, so my garden is full of pots of tomatoes.  I had placed some pots in other areas around our patio and back garden, but the ones in our garden space were doing so much better that I've since moved all of the pots into our garden space.  It's a wee bit crowded in there but I'm hoping they'll all thrive now.)

My first bouquet of peonies this spring.  I love them so much!

I decided this year that I wanted to use our back garden (which in previous years has been planted with corn or pumpkins or squash) as a cutting garden, so I did a bit of research and decided to go with zinnias and dahlias this trial year.  Here's a picture of our back garden space all ready for planting (props to Mark, for throwing up walls to hold the dirt):

I purchased my zinnia seeds from Johnny's Seeds in early April, ordering:
Benary's Giant Lime
Giant Dahlia Flowered Mix
Queen Red Lime
Oklahoma Pink

I started them indoors under a grow light and when they got tall enough, gradually introduced them to the outdoors. Then I moved them for a couple of weeks to these pots until planting into the ground:

And just this week, snapped this picture:

(Those are my dahlias in the foreground.  I have two (Melody Dora and Claudette) that are SO happy and one (Cafe au Lait) that keeps wanting to die on me, which is of course the one I was MOST excited to see bloom!  Gr.) 

My zinnias that are about a foot and a half tall now.  Two have flowers already and many are nearly-there.  However, according to my best resource on this subject, (this website: Floret Flowers, and her beautiful book Cut Flower Garden) it's time for me to pinch those flowers and I'm procrastinating because it's so hard to think of removing those precious flowers!  I am assured that pinching encourages the plants to begin branching low and will ultimately produce longer stems and perhaps more blooms. It's on my list for this week.

The other really exciting news around our little backyard garden and farm is that in the nearly-ten years that we've been keeping chickens, we have always wanted to allow one of our hens to be a mama.  We can't have a rooster in the city so we never have fertilized eggs, but occasionally we will have a hen (usually one of our Buffs) go broody on us and we've wished we could get ahold of some fertilized eggs for her.  Well, this year the opportunity presented itself-- a co-worker of Mark's mentioned that she had eggs and we had a broody Buff-- our sweet old Elizabeth-- and so we jumped at the opportunity.  She had been broody for five days already and then we set twelve eggs beneath her.  We marked them with an "x".  (Note: I cringed at the number Mark brought home because I was a bit terrified that all twelve might hatch and we do NOT need twelve more chickens in our yard (!!!)

It was a bit tricky because Elizabeth was sitting in the favored nesting box, so the other hens kept trying to wrangle their way in to lay, but she patiently shared space with them and kept sitting.  She was such a good mama.  She would get up and come out once a day for about five minutes to stretch, drink a lot of water, and eat a bit, and then she'd be back in to settle on her eggs.  A few eggs were broken in the process, so we would remove those and any (unmarked) eggs our other hens were laying. 

A chick has about a 21-day life cycle, so when it had been about 19 days of her sitting on the eggs, we began watching more closely.  It was at this point that she stopped coming out for food or water at all, and we also closed off the back of the nesting box so that the other hens would stop pestering her.  Then we kept running out and checking on her, offering her water and telling her what a good job she was doing, and listening for little peeps. 

On the 23rd of June we heard peeping and saw one little head.  A bit later we saw two.... then three... and out of the seven eggs Elizabeth was still sitting on, six ended up hatching.  They were adorable, poking their little heads out from her feathers!  Audra (8) pretty much camped outside her nesting box for days.  Elizabeth stayed put in the nesting box for a couple of days until all had hatched (she kept sitting on #7 for a full day but then eventually got up and left it, and sure enough, when we checked, the baby chick had died at some point within the egg).

This was her a few days ago: 

It has been so fun for us to watch her with her chicks.  I keep telling Mark that I doubt any family has had as much joy as we have watching this whole process.  It has been such a delight.  She is such a good mama, those first few days, breaking up their food and setting it before them, clucking to them and nudging them to eat and drink and now teaching them to forage.  It's my favorite thing to watch how she'll call them her side and they will duck underneath her feathers for safety or at nighttime.  And also I love this stage (above) of them climbing all over her.  

One more thing before I end this ever-long blog post: Mark and I were able to get away recently (to the ocean, of course; my happy place) to celebrate our 20th anniversary!  I am so thankful for this man.  He remains my best friend and I love doing life with him.  It is a good thing, marriage, and I am so thankful to God for blessing us with the gift of one another and the grace to live out each day of these past twenty years. 


Love to you and yours!  I'd love to hear from you if you're able to say hi in the comments.  :)