Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Panoramic Parsonage

For those in my family who haven't yet come to visit me... A little temptation ;)

*Click on any of the images to see them larger... totally worth it! Just be sure to hit your "back" arrow to come back to the blog. The "X" will close the window AND the blog.

So I stood in the center of my grassy area and took panoramic pictures of the back yard. Starting at the left you can barely see the stone steps that lead up to the east side of the house. The house sits on a hill so the garage is at basement level. A door from the garage into the basement is the family's first choice for entrance. Another set of steps leads you up to the patio area. The sliding glass doors are actually what our guests use as the main entrance. The patio is L-shaped with a side section that wraps around the west side of the house, taking you to the kitchen door; the second favorite entrance of guests. There are so many ways to get into the house... but we rarely use the front door.

Warning: If you are a stalker/burglar-type person lurking through innocent people's blogs for unsuspecting victims to thieve, take note that these entrances are all well lit and ALWAYS LOCKED.
Just sayin'...

Hanging over the patio and shading the back yard is a rather large and messy Black Walnut tree. Technically, its trunk is in our neighbor's yard, but we get the pleasure of cleaning up after it. blah. Last year we were thankful that the cold winter kept the tree from producing any walnuts. Otherwise we send Eric out each day to collect the walnuts in 5 gallon buckets to toss into the compost pile. I like to think of it as the squirrels' one-stop walnut shop.

Along the west side are several variegated hostas, two severely pruned forsythia, day lilies, honeysuckle, and a mock orange. (There are a couple other large, flowering shrubs that I am not mentioning because I don't know their names and would like to avoid appearing ignorant... oops). The green mass growing alongside the lawn is comprised of millions... did I mention MILLIONS, of Lily of the Valley and one lonely iris trying desperately to find some sunshine. Fear not my bearded friend, I will transplant you this fall, and you shall once again bask and bloom in the wonder of dappled sunlight!
Situated in a garden urn on the broken base of an old birdbath (like that alliteration?.. I didn't even plan it!) is an ever blooming tuberous begonia. Basically, it means I can dig up the plants' root (tuber), store it all winter in the basement and pot it again next spring... FREE PLANTS!!!

Above the urn is... contented sigh... a lilac. Need I say more?
Queen Victoria "something or others" (read: red flowers that bunnies and deer won't eat) and hostas are growing at the base of an evergreen-type tree.

This is the section of the yard that I am currently dreaming and contemplating about. At the far left, barely seen, is my pride peony bush (white flowers). There are actually three bushes, but two of them I only just planted last year and they won't flower for another year or two. I'm sure at some point I will dedicate a whole blog entry to my beloved peonies, but that won't be today.
Several evergreens and one oak make up the sloped edge of the yard. While edging the lawn, I discovered an abandoned stone path that leads to the church's pavilion. My dreams almost always include restoring that path. Sometimes with an arbor... sometimes a gate... who knows. Yesterday, I started clearing away the lower branches in an attempt to make that dream a reality.
Note to self: You will get wet if you cut back tree branches right after a thunderstorm.
The sunnier slope on the eastern side of the yard will be home to azaleas, hydrangea and maybe even a bridal spirea! I plan to use Tennessee Ostrich ferns under the trees to keep the current secluded feeling without looking or being overgrown, which is how that area looks right now. If you are a keen observer, you've no doubt noticed the clothes line.

Yeah, that usually isn't in my dreams...

The lawn slopes dramatically at this section which requires me to pay homage to my "lawn guy", Kurt Dell, who fearlessly rides a mower up and down these treacherous angles. Yikes. At the base of the lawn you might recognize the previously blog-honored hostas. In the background is the church parking lot and sanctuary. I love living next to the church.

Here is a view of what I call the "driveway garden". I was standing by the church sanctuary as I took this picture. Blooming right now: blue and yellow bearded iris (left), pastel pink verbascum, daisies, and pink dianthus (far right).

Purple coneflowers, various lilies and Missouri primroses to come. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Here Comes the Rain Again...

Quick update on the rain barrel. We had some thunderstorms and some light to moderate rainfall in the last hour or so. This would be the first rain since I installed the barrel under the drain pipe. In the following video I claimed to have collected nearly 2/3 of a barrel o' rain in a mere 20 minutes, but in reality it's probably not that much... yet. In my defense and quite understandably, I was caught up in the sheer excitement of the moment. ;D

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Why Do You Homeschool?"

I have been asked numerous times to explain why we homeschool. I don't mind the question at all. In fact I look forward to talking to others about our decision to homeschool. Right off the bat, let me preface my answer with saying we don't think homeschooling is for everyone or every family. To be sure, there are many who are successful in educating their children in other ways. There are just too many variables to consider for me to definitively say, "Everyone should homeschool." Besides, I wasn't homeschooled and I think I turned out all right ;)

So now, back to the question. Why did the Pools decide to homeschool? Well, the original reason differs greatly from the current reason... with several medial reasons to fill-in the gap. Probably the greatest influence for homeschooling in the beginning was my desire to watch my kids learn from a very close proximity. I wanted to be the one who would teach them to read, write, tie their shoes, do a cartwheel... My dad taught me all those things. (Well, maybe not the cartwheels.) And I thought he was so cool. I wanted that connection with my kids. Dan and I wanted to be the major influences on our children. How could we do that if they were out of our care for up to seven hours each day?

As the years moved on, we revisited the homeschooling questions... Is this working? Is this the best for our family at this time? Is mom still sane? We took it year by year. Often I was asked, "Are you planning to homeschool through high school?" I wasn't even sure sometimes if I was going to make it through the week let alone several more years. I recall one particular day when Dan was very concerned with the amount of stress homeschooling seemed to be putting on me. He actually said, "I just don't want to come home one day to a note that says you've had enough and are gone to Mexico." Seriously, there were many occasions when I felt like a complete failure. I'd lose my patience, my focus, my inspiration, and my desire. I might have been the one educating my kids, but God has taught me so much about grace, forgiveness, and faith.

When we made the decision to leave California for Missouri where Dan would attend Seminary, the question about homeschooling was an easy one. We were facing four years and tentatively four moves within those years. Would we homeschool? DUH! All that change is crazy enough on its own, but with homeschooling we had a built in schedule; no new teachers, no new curriculum. It was a no brainer. We continued to homeschool through Seminary.

So what has made us continue to homeschool? Results. Plain and simple. It's worked for us. We saw great progress in our kids' performances academically, socially, and spiritually. What Dan and I had envisioned for our family was happening. We wanted empathetic, intellectual, responsible children who loved learning. A bonus we hadn't foreseen was how well homeschooling works with a Pastor's schedule. The flexibility that homeschooling affords us is something I could never relinquish at this stage.

So, this is how our family has functioned for the last 13 years, and we don't even ask ourselves the question anymore.

We homeschool.

It's what our family does.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lotsa Hostas

If you are a friend of mine on facebook, you no doubt have heard me wax poetic about my garden. It is no exaggeration to say that I LOVE my garden. Sometimes even I am shocked at the extent of my adoration for all things green (minus creeping charlie).

My first summer caring for the parsonage gardens introduced me to hostas. I didn't even know what a hosta was. I was clueless about midwestern gardens. The only reference books I owned catered to West Coast gardeners. Plus, the area of California I lived in would literally be hell for a hosta... dry and HOT, hence my ignorance about them.

In the last three springs of caring for these wonderful faithful growers, I have come to adore the hosta. My goal is to learn all the different varieties growing here in our yard. For now, I know them only as green hostas, blue hostas, yellow hostas and striped hostas; small hostas, tall hostas and ginormous hostas. Lotsa hostas!

One of the greatest traits about the hosta is that you can divide them and plant them nearly anywhere semi shady and they will thrive. (In my head I hear this translation: "FREE PLANTS!") They are fantastic to grow under trees and along lawn edges. The leaves gracefully arch or fan and they are perfect for hiding the dying foliage of early spring bulbs such as tulips or hyacinths.

To the left you can see some hosta shading the base of my delphinium plants and covering the remnants of purple hyacinth. The next picture shows some hostas that I transplanted earlier this spring. They will be the forefront for my gladiolus just beginning to show here.
The verigated hosta in the picture below is hiding an Easter Lily... which doesn't really bloom at Easter, but actually, in June. Notice the beginnings of flowers on the hosta. Not only do you get wonderful foliage, but the flowers are often beautiful as well.
The pictures here are a small biopsy of the numerous hostas here at the parsonage, and as long as I am tending these gardens they can only increase in numbers. Viva la Hosta!!!


Ironically, when I was a part of a pentecostal denomination, this day came and went virtually unnoticed. Now as a confessional Lutheran, I rejoice in Pentecost and all that it reveals to us, the church.

There is a church body in St. Louis, MO, that helped a great deal in my spiritual maturity, Hope Lutheran. One particular Sunday morning during the adult Bible study, we were taught about Pentecost. Now, it's one thing to start with a blank slate, but for me, it means wading through a lot of confusing doctrine from my past in order to grasp the truth.

Previously, Pentecost in my understanding meant: tongues of fire, speaking in tongues or a "spiritual language", a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit outside of water baptism, and a virtual "power boost" to your spiritual journey. It meant God giving revelations apart from scripture, randomly and with hyper emotionalism and often supernatural experiences. I was taught this second baptism was an individual's quest for higher spirituality... ultimately to seek the gift of speaking in tongues.

... but I digress...
Back to Sunday School

I listened to Pastor Asburry explain that the purpose of Pentecost was the proclaiming of God's Word, His Gospel, to His Church. He explained Pentecost in a way I could understand. He said, "We speak in tongues whenever we speak the Word of God." The miracle to focus on here is not that many languages were spoken by uneducated disciples (although a wonderful miracle to be sure), the miracle that needs our attention is that the Holy Spirit enabled sinful, spiritually deaf ears to hear and understand the message of Christ, His life, death and resurrection.

Sin will always block our understanding. Because of our sin we are unable to receive the Words of our Savior. Because of sin God's people were scattered at the Tower of Babel, languages confused and cultures divided. Today we remember that the Holy Spirit was sent to restore communication, to reunite the culture of the church from many different cultures, and to show that the Word of God is our common language.

Pentecost is no longer a confusing story from scripture. Quite the opposite, it is an account of spiritual clarity brought by the power of the Holy Spirit. Praise be to God.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays...

My homemade rain barrel. I just finished it and set it up today. The idea is to fill this with rainwater that I can use in my garden. Supposedly, it will fill up within an hour of a good rain. I'm not so much "green" as I am frugal, which in many ways is the same thing. So, the idea of getting free water really excites me... I know, it doesn't take much.

Last fall, I mentioned to a friend in passing that I wanted to make a rain barrel. A generous church member heard my comments and brought me a barrel. The barrel was in rough but not bad shape. A little scrubbing, a little paint and it was ready to be fitted with plumbing.

I watched a few "how-to" videos on the internet to figure out what I needed in order to turn this barrel into a rain catcher/dispenser. First trip to Home Depot had my head spinning. No, I didn't bring a list and no, I had no clue what I was forgetting... but I knew I was forgetting something. Second trip to Home Depot (and the same salesman) was a better success... had my list! Third trip to Home Depot (dodged the salesman) was only for the correct sized bit for the drill.

Assembling the parts was pretty painless. Although I did ask my dear husband to drill the holes. I'm not much with powertools, I am ashamed to admit. I fitted the faucet, the overflow tube, and put screening over the "water in" holes to keep out egg laying mosquitos.

After the barrel was assembled, I adjusted the drainpipe to direct the downflow over the top of the holes. I've used an old hose in the overflow hole to take excess water out to my garden. I feel so accomplished!

Now, bring on the rain.