Dwelling On The Darkness

 

Dear All,

Things have happened in this past week and they’ve made me realise a lot. I started this blog to be ‘a light in the darkness’ and I’ve become consumed by the very thing I’m fighting. I’ve been dwelling on the darkness, and that doesn’t make any difference to the world. Nothing is changed unless you’re positive and hopeful. Unless you actually take action. 

Blogging is a beautiful, beautiful thing with so much potential, but for me it’s turned into a part of the darkness. It’s taken over my life, meaning I haven’t been getting out there and actually living a life that makes me ‘a light’.

My Mum wrote this in my notepad:

“It’s the life you lead that makes you a light, not your awareness of the darkness”

She’s right.

I’m going to write more about my own life, things I’ve done and thought, things that I hope will inspire others. I believe that getting young people talking about things that matter is extremely important, but our world needs action too.

Signing off…..

Gracie ❤️❤️❤

 

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Butterflies…

‘Butterflies in your stomach. Butterflies in your stomach.’ It’s such a cliche but it takes experiencing it to understand how true it really is. I take deep breaths and stare down at the salted caramel cookies my Dad bought especially for today. I realise that this is actually happening.

The gentle rocking of the boat isn’t making me feel any better, I keep glancing up the towpath, nervously watching, waiting. I expect to see them any minute. I don’t really know what they look like. All I know, (well, all you’re allowed to know) is that I am being filmed for a casting development project for a mainstream TV channel. A London production company is coming to film me and my life.

This has all happened so fast and, although I’m nervous, I feel an elated anticipation. Suddenly they’re here, carrying a huge camera and looking professional. This is it, Gracie…..this is it……

It all goes so amazingly, I enjoy every minute. Every minute spent giving my opinions on big modern life issues, being interviewed on challenging topics like politics, feminism, social media, materialism, relationships and social care. Every minute talking about my life and the things I’m passionate about, reading poetry and stories in a voice that seems more powerful now there’s someone here especially to hear it. Every minute spent being absolutely myself.

It was intense and my brain whirrs just thinking about it now. But I was in my element, I like a challenge. I like people who value the perspectives of young people on modern society. I loved thinking about the questions and carefully wording my replies. I didn’t find it easy, but I had the opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it.

All in all, I may be accepted to participate in this programme or I may not. I would love to be able to share my thoughts on life even further, but if not, I am just eternally grateful for this experience and I’m proud of myself for making it happen and getting this far.

Please leave me a message in the comments box below, I absolutely love to hear from you all. Thanks! 

Poppa

 

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The next part of our adventure takes place in Kent. Currently we are living in a house here, taking care of a good friend’s 95 year old father.

We are looking after Poppa, as everyone calls him, in his own home on Romney Marsh.

It’s a lot of work looking after Poppa and a lot of it my parents have to do, but I am Chief Tea Maker and I do bake a lot of cakes and puddings for him, as he does have a very sweet tooth. He’s a lot of fun to be around and everyone loves him.

It’s funny, but exciting for us to live in a 3 bedroom house, seeing as we’ve only ever lived in tiny houses and, just recently, in the back of a car!

We have our own room, me, my brother and sister, and we look out of our window in the morning across the flat marsh with sheep grazing in the sunrise. It’s beautiful.

I’ve set up my own little corner on the landing with a table and a chair. I’m right next to a window again and the view looks like a painting. I have my stack of books and my writing stuff. And, of course, a tin of biscuits! It’s blissful.

This morning Poppa did some Homeschooling with us. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He made everyone laugh by playing Irys’ recorder!

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Looking after Pops is a pleasure for us.

We always said that if someone’s in need of help we would make it part of our journey to help them and we are.

 

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A good student

Off To A Flying Start

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I am about to describe one of the best experiences of my life.

It all started off like an ordinary day, we were going for a picnic with some friends, it was beautifully sunny and, yeah, everything seemed normal.

About an hour before we were going to leave Dad told us that, yes, we were going for a picnic, but we were doing something else first. I was intrigued, as I’m sure you are now. Dad revealed, after a while, that we were going flying in a plane!

Our friend built his own plane, which he flies quite regularly from an airfield near Lewes. He often flies over our house and sometimes we wave. He had offered before to take us up, but I never thought it would happen. Now it was.

A strange feeling crept up inside me, I was utterly excited and a bit nervous, as I’d never been in any sort of plane or flying machine. I’m sure my stomach flipped when Dad said the words “flying in Dave’s plane”.

I’d always fantasize about flying high up in an aeroplane. I’d dream about it too, but then I’d wake up because I couldn’t really picture what it would be like.

The plane is called a Streak Shadow and it seats two people. It was amazing to think that Dave built it all by himself. My sister went first, then me.

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Irys coming in to land

I clambered into the cramped cabin and sat down. I had to undergo a safety check where I was shown how to undo the seatbelt in an emergency and how to open the hatch. I had to wear headphones with a speaker to communicate during flight.

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Then we were ready for takeoff. Dave, the pilot, spoke into the radio to tell them that we were departing. Pilots talk in a sort of code with coordinating words and long series of numbers. I learnt that you never say the words ‘take off’ unless you are actually about to take off.

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Dad and the Streak Shadow

You should always try to take off into the wind when in a plane. Sometimes there is what is called a crosswind, where the wind blows across, not down the runway. There was a slight one today, but we looked at the windsock and judged the best direction to go in.

Soon we were racing down the runway at almost 150mph. Then we were in the air. Gradually we gained height until we were 2000ft above the earth. We slowed to about 80mph. Finally, I had the chance to get a proper look at the ground below. Immediately, I thought of my Granny’s dolls house! Everything was miniature. The sheep in the fields looked like ants and the fields themselves stretched away into the distance like a patchwork quilt with hedge stitching.

Because the plane was so small and light, you felt every little, tiny movement. Every jerk and every lurch, and every gust of wind.

Dave took me on a tour of the area, pointing out the sights. Then we flew over and saw the coastline. I was absolutely loving it.

Then Dave asked me if I’d like to have a go at using the controls. I said, over the intercom, that I definitely would. He showed me how everything worked and I had to use the joystick, which is the steering instrument.

Right is right, left is left, forward is down, backwards is up. What I didn’t realise is that only tiny jiggles are needed. I pushed forward really hard and we literally plunged downwards. That was very, very, very scary.

After a while I got the hang of it. Dave put his hands on his head to prove that I really was flying the plane alone. I practised picking a point on the horizon and steering towards it, keeping it in the centre of the dashboard.

The landing was a little nerve-wracking since we came in at a weird angle due to the crosswind.My whole flight in one word: exhilarating.

At the end of the day, I received a Young Aviators Certificate. It was brilliant.

I would like to thank Dave for giving us such an awesome experience. He was so willing to teach us and share with us, we really loved that. He also taught us a lesson in generosity. I hope that other people will be like this as we journey through life.

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So happy!

Four Birds

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I hope you like this short story that I wrote. I’m working on my story writing and I do believe it’s slowly improving. This story is like a fable, it has a moral, and the moral is that your parents may make you work hard and learn lots, but they’re doing it because they want to prepare you for life. And they want the best for you, because they love you. Dad and Mum talk to us about this all the time. They are always teaching us things and it’s because they care.

FOUR BIRDS

There once was a family that lived peacefully up in the High Hills. They lived a simple life, in a simple little cottage, on a simple little farm. The children never knew anything about the outside world, but the parents did. Every evening they would sit by the crackling fire, the littlest on the Father’s knee, the other three curled up on the rug. The Father would tell stories of big cities, millions of people, great palaces, schools, brightly coloured markets, beautiful sunsets not blocked out by hills, mountains that touch the sky, majestic forests and exotic animals and oceans that stretch further than the eye can see.

The children listened in awe and one by one they decided that one day they too would see all these wonders. They spoke to their Father about this and he nodded, smiling. “My children,” he began ” I would like nothing more than for you to go out and explore the world, follow your dreams, settle down and help our world to grow.” The children’s eyes grew wide with anticipation. “But,” their Father continued, “but first you must be ready. The world is not just wonderful, it is dangerous too. You must be able to think for yourselves. At the moment you are fully reliant on your Mother and I. Before you go, you must learn and put the effort in. If you do not work hard, you will not be able to go out and adventure.”

The four children walked away, their wise Father’s words resounding in their ears ” You must be able to think for yourselves.”

That night, as the children lay asleep in their warm cosy beds, their Mother and Father sat talking. “Must we make them think for themselves?”, asked their Mother, “Can we not think for them?” ” My dear, the time has come. We cannot think for them always and forever. They must begin now otherwise they will be adults who have no idea how to live. They will always have to rely on someone else, they will never live their lives to the full. Surely that is not what you want for them?” “No,” sniffed the Mother, “I want them to spread their wings and fly.” “Good” smiled the Father “I’m just giving them a little push. That is my job as a Father, to help my children be the best they can be.”

At first the children worked extremely hard, watching and learning from their parents and trying to think for themselves at every opportunity they got. But their Father knew it wouldn’t last long. Slowly, they grew tired and less motivated. Their Father took them aside and reminded them. “Children! How many times have I told you the importance of thinking for yourselves?! You mustn’t keep relying on me and your Mother. It is my role to guide you , but I can’t do everything for you. If you want to go, you must do it for yourself.”

The children felt refreshed and inspired after their Father’s speech and they set about it once again. This time they stuck to it. They learnt more and more and they began to do things for themselves ever oftener.

Their Mother watched them with tears in her eyes, but also pride and joy. Their Father just looked on, content. He rarely had to say anything nowadays.

Eventually the time came when the children were ready to leave. Their parents stood on the hilltop, outside the little cottage, and watched them go. Four birds, flying free.

The Father put his arm around the Mother’s shoulder. “My dear,” he said “our children are off to live their lives the best they can and we have helped them the best we can. They are part of the future and, because we love them, we have made them as ready for it as they possibly could be. They will contribute to a bright and hopeful world.”

THE END

birds

Staff And Rachel’s Wedding

Staff and Rach

Staff and Rach

We were invited to our friends, Staff and Rachel’s, wedding. It was a lovely day, everything was perfect, exactly how they’d wanted it.

The whole room fell silent, I remember the silence ringing in my ears. Only the fairy lights twinkled from their places entwined over the wooden boughs of the ceiling. The atmosphere was expectant and people turned to look at the little doorway through which the bride would enter, causing a rustling of fascinators.

The curtain was drawn and the guests drew in their breaths, a bridesmaid stood there quietly.  She wore a navy blue dress and reminded me of an ancient greek goddess. Clinging onto her hand was little Charlotte.  She was wearing a white dress and the hair on her head was curled into sweet, wispy curls.  People smiled as she walked by, swinging a little wand of willow.  The next bridesmaid walked quickly and I could hear the hard clack clack of her heels on the shiny floor.  Her dress swayed softly as she went, her head bowed, her hands clasped together.

The curtain was drawn again and I looked over to Anna who was pulling a bow across the violin she held. Her eyes were closed and a smile much like the Mona Lisa’s played on her lips. Secretive, but happy, as if only she knew the secret to making such heavenly sounds. The music rose and fell. I turned back round to see the curtains opening.

Through the tiny gap, rapidly widening, I saw a swish of ivory. I watched as, slowly, a beautiful bride appeared. Her Father stood beside her, he was proud and smiling. She looked straight ahead to her future husband, a gentle happiness and eagerness in her face. Rachel’s dress was stunning. Dainty lace, a woven web of tiny flowers and leaves, covered her chest and arms. Silky ivory folds cascaded down her body and swirled around her feet, like a waterfall into a whirlpool.

She took her first few graceful steps. She held her head high, her golden hair pinned up. She reminded me of a swan, the way she glided down the aisle, her snowy train trailing behind her.

Staff stood waiting, his expression emotional, his eyes full of love and adoration. For a few moments all they saw was each other. Until the celebrant broke their trance.

Everyone present there that day could not help but be mesmerised by the sight of Rachel meeting her groom. They held hands and looked at each other with such fondness that it brought a wide smile to every guest’s face.

Photos!

Rachel and her Dad

Rachel and her Dad

 

Outside taking wedding photos. Staff and Rachel, Staff's parents in background.

Outside taking wedding photos. Staff and Rachel, Staff’s parents in background.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Staff making his speech

Staff making his speech

 

 

 

All dressed up

All dressed up

Me, Evan and Irys

Me, Evan and Irys

 

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Lavender biscuits

Lavender biscuits

 

I thought this was really cool

I thought this was really cool

These showed us where to sit. Aren't they lovely?

These showed us where to sit. Aren’t they lovely?

Irys looking pretty

Irys looking pretty

Evan wearing a proper tie for the first time!

Evan wearing a proper tie for the first time!

Selfie with Dad

Selfie with Dad

 

Selfie with Irys and Mum

Selfie with Irys and Mum

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum and Dad in the photo booth

Mum and Dad in the photo booth

All having fun in the photo booth

All having fun in the photo booth

Dancing with Charlotte in after the ceremony.

Dancing with Charlotte  after the ceremony.

Pose!

Pose!

The delicious wedding cake. Four layers: red velvet, victoria sponge, chocolate and lemon drizzle. WE ate this whilst dancing along to a energetic folk band!

The delicious wedding cake. Four layers: red velvet, victoria sponge, chocolate and lemon drizzle. We ate this whilst dancing along to an energetic folk band!

My Honest Diary

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This is an entry from the diary I have begun to write. Dad speaks to me often about being honest and honesty’s importance so I decided to start this diary. It will allow me to me honest with myself and occasionally, through this blog, honest with the world.

10th March 2016

“No matter how stupid it sounds, honesty is your friend. It is only when people are honest that wrongs can be righted. If you are honest you can be forgiven. When you are honest you can live without guilt and fear of being uncovered. Honesty is another word for truth. And the truth is the truth, whatever you do to it, it will remain the same.”

And at the moment I’m not always honest. I’m not a liar or a fraud, but I am defensive and I don’t like to admit that I was wrong. If I was honest with myself I would see that I was not right and accept it.

Gracie…..

 

Day 15 – London Canal Museum

IRYS

When I was walking down the towpath dad told me and Evan about horses pulling boats and what happened when they fell in the river.

The horses might fall in the river because they slip or get spooked.

There are slopes at the side of the canal for them to walk back on to the towpath and tow the boat again.

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They have to wear a full harness, one of the bits is called a head collar, it helps them pull the weight of the boat.  The head collar has to be the right fit because if it’s too tight it will make the horse choke and if it’s too loose it rubs on the horses neck and it gets really sore.

The  Romans used mules to tow boats on their waterways.  In the 1960’s people stopped using horses to tow work boats.

There are still used for towing passenger boats today.

Outside the London Canal Museum

Outside the London Canal Museum

GRACIE

We visited another Museum, ‘ The London Canal Museum’.  Here I learnt the life story of Carlo Gatti.

Carlo Gatti was born in the Italian -Swiss Alps, the only Italian speaking region of Switzerland.  He was a bad scholar so, at only thirteen years of age, he joined his two brothers in Paris.  They had a business selling chestnuts on the streets.  Carlo longed for something bigger, more fruitful.  He wanted to be rich and successful.

So he travelled to London, where he figured he would be better off, he hadn’t imagined the poverty and squalor.  He, like most other Italian emigrants, had to live in a poor  part of town called ‘Little Italy’.  Nowadays it’s ‘Little Venice’.   He began selling chestnuts again and even sold waffles at a coffee stall.  He was very unhappy, his dreams weren’t coming true.

His fortune changed the day he met Ballo, who would soon become his business partner and good friend.  They set up the Gatti and Ballo Café Ristorante. Carlo put a cocoa grinding machine in the window.  It was his pride and joy.  Soon he became famous all over London for his chocolate.

The thing Gatti was most famous for was his amazing ice cream.  He got ice from all over London, mostly on the Regent’s Canal.  It wasn’t a success, the ice was dirty, thin and some winters, not even there at all.  So he began to look further afield.  Soon he started to send ships over to Norway and America.

The process of ice collecting is relatively simple. First horses pulled a plough over the surface to clear debris.  Then they pulled a sort of blade that cut the ice into large cubes.  The blocks were then lifted out of the water by a pair of metal blades with wooden handles, these were called ‘Ice Dogs’.  The ice was then hauled up the steep fjords and sent down the other side on a chute. Then they were loaded onto ships bound for England.

The ice was then transported up the canals and taken to one of Gatti’s ice wells.  The museum had two of these deep, dark, damp wells beneath it.  The ice was lowered in by hand cranes and left. It didn’t melt because it was cold underground. Also the sides were packed with sawdust that helped keep the ice cool.

Soon ices became all the rage and Carlo Gatti became really rich.

A model of the ice well

A model of the ice well

EVAN

In the afternoon we went to the London Canal Museum.  Up till about 60 years ago it was a place where they stored ice for fish mongers, ice cream makers and lots of other things, it was called The Ice House.

The ice  wells could hold 2000 – 3000 tons of ice at a time, the ice came from Norway.

Looking down into the ice well

Looking down into the ice well

The first way to move boats along the canal was to get horses to pull the boats, they then used steam engines, now boats have diesel engines .

One of the most famous and common diesel engines was the Bolinder.

The Bolinder engine was 9horse power.  If you still have a Bolinder engine in your boat it is worth a lot.

A few helpful tips and points from Andy

Today I was sitting in the manor house kitchen, sipping yannoh and chatting, when Andy came in.  “Hey Gracie,” he says, ” I’ve just read your blog.”  ” Is it all correct?” asks Mum, ” I mean all of the facts and figures?”  ” Well,” Andy answers ” I’ve made a few notes of things you could change, add or include.  Do you wanna come up to the office now?  We could discuss it, you can make some notes of your own”.  ” Sure.” I reply and I follow him up the creaky wooden staircase to what all of us call the ‘Top Office’.

The next hour or so was spent in a comfy chair, with a view out onto the wheat field, discussing extra information concerning wheat, illnesses, spelling mistakes, varieties, questions and so on.  I learned a lot in this short period of time, these are the main points that Andy talked about.

Now for Summer Harvest! Part 2.

 Why Do We Grow Heritage Wheat?

Heritage wheat is taller than modern wheat.  The reason why our ancestors grew tall wheat is because it grew higher than the weeds and so cast a shadow over them.  Obviously no plant can live without sunlight, so, simple as, the weeds died.

Now farmers want to put chemical fertilizer on, if they put it on the tall varieties of wheat they’d get super huge and topple over.  Therefore they have to create a small type of wheat so that when they put the fertilizer on the wheat grows to the right height.  But the weeds can grow easily in short wheat, so now what do we do?  Easy, we spray the field with weed killer!  Ah, but what if you’re an organic farm, like us?

Now you’ve covered your wheat field in weed killer,all the weeds are gone.  In most fields of modern wheat it’s all the same variety, unlike a lot of heritage wheat where it’s lots of different types.  Without the weeds the illness just passes from plant to plant to plant.  Whereas if there were weeds the disease would hit one and stop because that species isn’t affected by it.  Because all the plants are identical the illness spreads mega fast. So?  We can easily spray the plants with fungicides to stop diseases.  Oh no!  The organic problem has just popped up again. Eeeeeeeeeeek! Here come some pests, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, what can we do?  DON’T PANIC, we’ll just put some pesticides on. Grrrr, why does that same old prob keep ruining everything?!

So you see how many chemicals and horrible, disgusting, artificial substances are in the bread that you eat?  If we all just grew heritage wheat, all these things wouldn’t be needed.

Thanks Andy for your advice.

If you want to learn more about heritage wheat visit Andy’s wesite:

http://brockwell-bake.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Harvest!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Imagine this:  a field of beautifully  golden wheat, it’s perfectly ripe and sways gently in the warm, humid, summer breeze.  Harvest  weekend has finally arrived!

Where I live, on a farm in Sussex, the harvest is a big deal for everyone, men, women and children alike.  Everyone  has to muck in and pull their weight.

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Tiger enjoying herself.

Tiger enjoying herself.

Loading up the trailer

Loading up the trailer

Long ago scythes and sickles were the only means of harvesting, but recently they have been forgotten because of modern technology such as combine harvesters.  Not only do combine harvesters do the job in a very short amount of time, they also save a vast quantity of human sweat.

Working in the early evening sun

Working in the early evening sun

Everyone helps out.

Everyone helps out.

Andy, our chief baker here on the farm, is incredibly knowledgeable about all sorts of grains, baking and the whole process from grain to loaf.  People say that he is one of the most learned people about wheat.  He specialises in something called heritage wheat.

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Heritage wheat is very old wheat.  Wheat that you might say is not used by any farmers anymore, except growers of this heritage grain.  It’s Andy’s passion to reintroduce these old varieties back into use.  You may wonder how he gets hold of the grains, well, that’s simple enough.  There are two different ways.  Number one is a seed bank, there are usually one each country.  For every type of grain that is ever cultivated, they save about 180g.  People can get it from the bank in tiny quantities. Number two is more romantic, but probably less used.  It’s  where you visit an old mill and with special permission, take up the floorboards and gather the ancient grains that have fallen through over hundreds of years.  The absolute maximum age that you can still grow wheat at is around 40 years old.

The main reason why types of wheat get wiped out, is because of illnesses.  Most types last 8-9 years before an illness that can take them over forms.

Once you have the grains, maybe fifty or so of them, you sow them.  Then when you harvest them, you find that each head has say fifteen grains in it.  Again you sow all of these seeds and the numbers keep multiplying.  Soon you have a whole field of heritage wheat.

Anyhow, because we were harvesting heritage wheat, it seemed only proper that we did it traditionally.  Plus we were all wanting to do it with scythes and sickles.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

Before the harvest Andy worked extremely hard, sowing, reaping, sowing again, reaping once again, he’d been nurturing this wheat for 7 long years.  We just came to help with the cherry on the cake.

All weekend long us workers harvested, sometimes having breaks to sit in the shade and sip cool icy water or run down to the river and have a refreshing swim.  Our wide-brimmed straw hats bobbed among the long yellow stems, as we waded through, collecting the heads of the Orange Devon Blue Rough Chaff, which is dark and furry and leaving the tall, light, velvetty Old Ken Hoary.  Us kids would run up to the taps and fill jug after jug of cold water, then pour it into cups with a splash of ginger cordial for the other workers.  We’d cut sheaths of a certain type of wheat and tie it with tape, writing its name, whether Welsh Hen Gymro or Chidham Red.  We separated the weed from the wheat, all the while munching on crunchy grains.  Each tastes a little different, Old Kent Hoary is slightly spicy, ODBRC is more sweet.

Evan working hard

Evan working hard

Chewing grains of wheat

Chewing grains of wheat

where's Irys?

where’s Irys?

Ah! There she is!

Ah! There she is!

At noon we all walked down to the manor house for a delicious and totally traditional lunch of pickles, cheese and , of course, bread! We all talked pleasantly and discussed the afternoon’s work.  The puddings were all made by me, they included flapjacks and rhubarb & plum crumble. In the evening there was music, meat, a campfire and beer.

Yum!

Yum!

The grand finale of the harvest weekend was when we loaded all of the sheaths onto the tractor trailer and followed it up to the bakery were we unloaded and had a team photo taken on the trailer.  Then we all rode back to the field to do it again!

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Daddy!

Daddy!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

 

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Well done!

Well done!

Overall I loved doing the harvest, getting a feel of how it used to be for people in the books I read, like Laura out of Little House on the Prairie, and learning so much.  This weekend has been part of my homeschool life education.

 AwesomeTeam photo!

AwesomeTeam photo!

ME!

ME!

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

 

A good view!

A good view!