marveling at the magic potential possessed by a stack of old quilts and a few vintage binder clips. it's been raining for much of the day here, and thus half of our living room has been transformed into a bit of a retreat for the littles. they've gone about filling it with blankets and pillows and dolls and books. very sweet. 

of course no good fort is complete without at least a day's worth of rations. here we've got oranges, homemade jarred cherries, pretzels with peanut butter and a few chocolate bear cookies. in the interest of being self-serve (i'm not allowed in the fort) they've also got a small pitcher of water and (breakable!) teacups. good manners seem to be encouraged by the oldest of the bunch, whom i overheard saying things like "pour carefully," and "you have to eat the healthy things before you eat your cookie." i've taught her well, i suppose. 

sunny and sweet is fun, but cozy and quiet is pretty good too. 
lucy has recently started a drop-off "into the wild" program for kids. the program itself has many wonderful things about it, all which deserve another post. one of the hidden benefits though, is a good chunk of time spent alone with my two boys. four hours, to be exact. this morning, the littlest happened to be sleeping soundly in the ergo, and much of the time was spent chatting and hiking with hudson. 

i often refer to hudson as my life's work. sometimes jokingly, sometimes not. he's a tiny little guy just brimming over with energy and emotion. he's exuberant. exuberance can be exhausting. i don't blame him, by the way. the middle child has a tough row to hoe--the big is out doing cool things all the time, doing them first and best, and the baby is the baby and everyone know babies are just about the loveliest things on the planet. if you're not screaming at the top of your lungs and jumping off the furniture, you might just go unnoticed. 

well, not today. it was pretty much just me and hudson and i do think we made a nice little pair. i look forward to many more mondays spent alongside him, traveling at his pace and letting him choose our path. and of course, which things to jump off of--bench and stump above, included!
we had a very bouncy day. a great start to the weekend. happy happy!
demolition work started on our new-to-us house yesterday. jeremy knows me pretty well. instead of wine and chocolates, i got pulled-up carpet and piles of sheetrock. i'll take dust and debris over presents any day of the week. especially if it gets us closer to moving into what is hopefully our forever home. of course, we thought that about our current home. life has a funny way of taking you for a good ride sometimes.  this new place will eventually be a real, true farm with lots of animals--a dream come true for a gal like me. there are 20 acres for the kids to run and explore and play and get into mischief. we're so excited to start this new (and very unexpected) chapter in our lives!
of course, we weren't entirely without a little glitter. lucy did a bit of art, and all three kids ended up taking a nap in the car on the way home from the farmers market. what more can a mama ask for in the way of true love?
our winter has been  mostly mild and we have making use of the good weather to get outside and explore. there are so many fantastic places nearby that i never knew about until having kids! pictured above are two of our recent day trips, to old borges ranch and hiking at point pinole. we're headed out the door again this morning for a beach hike in marin... photos to come!
this little guy is officially on the move--if he's not crawling on hands and knees, he's pulling himself along army-style. pulling up to stand? check. eating all kinds of solid food? check. giving mama one heart attack after another? double check. we love him all kinds of crazy. especially when he lets us get away with stuff like this:
it doesn't get much sweeter than a baby in a vintage ice cream bucket. we bought the bucket with intent to resell, but i might have a hard time letting go. one day not long from now it will be pretty impossible to believe that any child of mine could have fit into something so tiny. plus it looks good on my shelf. 

flowers by lucy. the collection started with one, and due to my excitement, i suppose, has continued to grow. such sweetness, watching her figure out drawing, all on her own, without guidance. we've always kept many art supplies down within reach of the kids. they get into it all, everyday, usually in the mornings before breakfast. good stuff. 
we got the first of the strawberries at the farmer's market last week. as you can see, they were not totally ripe but the kids thought they were such a treat. tucker too. we've had a string of sunny days. reaching the point where it seems winter may not actually last forever. the strawberries are a good reminder of things to come. 
speaking of spring, our chickens are downright confused by all of the sunshine. the above photo is not the greatest, but it does show off the newest little peep-peeps in our coop. this mama hen hatched out two ducklings and a chick early in the week. they are so stinking cute. i get an especially good laugh when the ducklings hop into their water bowl, and the little chick (which hudson named bingo) hops in after them. they're all up to their knees in water (well, they don't really have knees but you get the idea) and mama hen looks at them like they're a bunch of crazies! yes, mama hen, i feel that way about my own three every now and then. 
baby chicks are cute but i am just in love with ducklings. we will be moving to a bigger property in the next few months and we'll be able to have a bigger duck flock. i am so excited!
lucy has learned to ride a pedal bike. this deserves a post of its own, but i will say that transitioning from her strider balance bike to a real bike without training wheels went off without a hitch. i can't say enough good things about the strider bikes that we own. they are truly fantastic (and of course our gal is pretty fantastic, too!). 
in the months leading up to christmas, i decided on the perfect gift for the kids. their "santa" gift, a "big" gift, something they could share. i ordered them a handmade teepee, found on etsy, and was super excited about it. on christmas eve, after they had been tucked into their beds and were sleeping soundly, jeremy and i opened up the huge box that we'd hidden so well, and set up the brand new teepee. i trimmed it with colored lights and hid it all behind a makeshift curtain. i just knew the kids would love it. 
image credit to house in habit on etsy
here is where i would love to insert a photo of our teepee, in our house, with my kids curled up inside of it, reading books, dressing dolls, etc. except they haven't. used it. all all. not sure why. the teepee is adorable, it's well made, it's a perfect little place to hide away. and yet, no interest. 
fast forward to this afternoon--we spent today at the home of good friends. a sunny day, an afternoon with nothing planned activity-wise for the kids. the "fearless foursome," as i like to call them, spent awhile riding their bikes and then busied themselves with collecting dry bamboo shoots from a neighbor's house. they were hard at work, caught up in a sudden burst of creation. with just a bit of help to sink the poles, a teepee was constructed. raking, digging, spreading, decorating. handfuls of grass were pulled for carpet. bamboo was broken to set a pathway. a makeshift oven was put together out of bricks and dirt. the whole thing was a true enjoyment to watch, and to help out with. creativity and teamwork at its finest. 
the only issue is that this was a teepee made with room for three and not four. improvements, design-wise, can always be made. but that is the case with most prototypes, wouldn't you say? 
they'll get it right next time, no doubt. and no worries, he got his turn eventually. 

i'm holding out hope that our christmas teepee will eventually find its place and purpose around our home. come springtime, i think it will be moved outside to provide a little quiet spot in the yard. or perhaps i'll hire the fearless foursome to design something even more fantastic for themselves. they're a good team. 

and they work for food. always a bonus. 
not sure if failure is the right word for it, but our bees did not survive the winter. it seems, in leaving them the entirety of the honey they stored (which is what they feed on through the winter), we also inadvertently left them too much real estate to maintain. the hive population dwindles through late fall and winter as the queen takes a break from laying. water got into our hive, because the bees could not do the upkeep on such a space. they also likely had trouble keeping themselves and the queen warm--even when doing their best, they were heating a condo, instead of a hut. 

in hindsight, this could have been combated by inspecting the hive in mid autumn and combining frames full of capped honey down from three boxes into one. our hands-off approach, which had seemed to be working well since the springtime, led us down the wrong road here. it's not a mistake that we'll make again. these are the kind of lessons that stick. 

the only upside to the sad state of the bees was the honey harvest. unexpected, for sure. conditions definitely not optimal--honey flows well at about 90 degrees. our house, at its warmest point that day, was 61. midday, with kids playing outside (and thus, the back door open) it was 55. 

we set the frames (heavy with honey) directly in front of the fire to warm. jeremy headed to the local urban farming store (biofuel oasis) and rented their honey extractor--a big, electric behemoth of a machine that spins the honey right out of the frames and into the bottom of a big tank, where it flows out and into the vessel of the harvester's choosing. 

honeycomb after uncapping--a few tries with a heated knife and we resorted to a rough uncapping with a regular dinner fork.
makeshift straining of the honey--running it through a reusable produce bag into a large pot, in order to rid the honey of wax from uncapping, bits of honeycomb, dead bees, etc.
of course, had the room been 20 degrees warmer, the whole process might have been a bit smoother--literally. in the end, after a whole lot of sticky, sticky, sticky mess--i can truly not impart how messy the project actually was--we ended up with three and a half gallons of honey. not a bad haul. we ended up opting to stop trying to strain the honey--the cold room just didn't allow for the honey to be viscous enough to flow through the fine mesh of the produce bags. instead, we heated the honey slightly on the stove. this made it easier to pour into jars, and it also sent the wax and other bits floating to the top where we could skim them off with a spoon--a much easier, though slightly less perfect process. 

cleanup required not one, not two, not three but FIVE wipe downs of every surface in our kitchen, including the floors, plus a proper mopping. later that night, fully exhausted, i read about people doing an outdoor honey harvest in the summer, after dark, when the bees are tucked away for the night. 

sign me up for this, please. 

next time. i am missing those darn bees already, and looking forward to spring when we can install another package or two, and give it another go-round. it's funny. of course the bees aren't pets--nothing close to it, but they do give a lovely presence to the yard and we came to think of them as our own. they are hard workers, tireless really, and i am sorry we couldn't have done a bit better by them. 

next time. 
half a year! it's hard to believe. the kid is a true ball of smiles, he squishy and cuddly and has baby babbling down pat. i see crawling in his very near future. with all of that said, he's actually napping right now so i'm ditching the computer to get a few things done. 

happy half-birthday, tucker blue!