learning from the natives

IMG_6917My accent, or lack thereof, gives me away most of the time. Folks instantly know I’m “not from around here”. (Here being southern Kentucky.) I am not native to this place that I have called “home” for nearly fifteen years. I never will be. I was born and raised in southern Indiana and in most people’s eyes (and I suppose in my own eyes, too) those are my native stomping grounds. I am a native Hoosier. I always will be. It doesn’t matter that in just a few years I will have lived more of my life in other places than southern Indiana. Funny how that works.IMG_6992My kids are a different story entirely. They were born here. Right here. Right in this very house on this very farm. (Well, except for Ira… he was born just down the road in Tennessee ’cause my midwife for his birth couldn’t cross state lines, but that’s a different story for a different day…) They have known no other home than this little cabin in the woods. They are native Bugtusslers. They are native to this place in a way that I never will be.

a native tway blade orchid

a native tway blade orchid that just revealed itself to us a few years ago.

From the very beginning of their lives they have been learning the landscape of this farm. I packed them in a sling or backpack everywhere I went. Walking up steep hills, snug by my side, they would hear my breath quicken and unconsciously associate my body’s rhythms with their own developing internal map of this landscape. When their two legs could carry them, they learned to navigate the rough terrain on their own. They wanted freedom from mama’s clutches, and freedom I gave them. (Ira was a particularly fat little guy and my back breathed a sigh of relief when he was ready to use his own chubby feet!) There was no carpet to soften the falls, either, just rocks and dirt and grass. And I always had to be prepared to pause when they did find themselves on the ground from a fall, as there was always something new and interesting to investigate down there.IMG_6844My first born child is a prime example: Already in his ten years, Ira knows this farm better than I do. He knows all of the hidden little springs. He knows each species of fish in the creek. He knows the trees, even obscure varieties like Carolina buckthorn and ironwood. He knows the difference between a scarlet tanager and a summer tanager… not just by their physical features but also by their voices. He remembers these things with ease. It all comes so naturally to him. He is native. I, on the other hand, have to work to remember. My native terrain did not include the same things. I wonder, If these hills were my playground as a child, would I also remember the details with such ease? Will Ira carry this landscape and its occupants forever in his heart even if one day he no longer calls this place “home”? IMG_6848The other day he came bursting into the house saying to Eric and me that we just had to come right now to look at these different birds that he had never seen before. A small group of rose breasted grosbeaks were feeding on something in the tree canopy. We aren’t really in their habitat range so we can only guess that they were just passing through. If not for my little native boy, my eyes would have never witnessed those beautiful birds. He helps me learn. His native eyes see what mine overlook. IMG_7006In my family’s journey of homeschooling, or unschooling, or life schooling, or whatever you want to call it, Eric and I are not just teachers that spurt out information for our kids to remember. We go hand in hand together each day with our children. We learn from each other, from our surroundings, and from our work, (and from books and the computer, too). Obviously, as adults with more life experience, Eric and I have a lot we want to teach our children. We are both passionate about nature and the environment, so undoubtedly our teaching (learning) has a serious lean in that direction. Most of the time, we let the days unfold as they will, and we see what we see, and we learn from it. Even if we can’t always quantify what was learned, the learning is happening. Being present and open to the experience is the key to success with this style of learning. And to be an example. A good example. (Oh, man, do I really have that responsibility?) When my children witness my continued passion for learning, their doors open even wider. When they witness firsthand the joy of discovery  (like a few days ago when we discovered that an intact snakeskin could be inflated. who knew?), the world becomes even more intriguing. As we go about our days, we aren’t just learning…we are also discovering ourselves and our place in this world, whether we are native to the terrain or not.IMG_7005

right now :: covering up

The crayon smudge was the last straw.

We were given this beautiful couch.  Not too big, not too small, in good shape with firm cushions, and beautiful yellow upholstery.  Light yellow.

I knew it wouldn’t stay pretty long in our muddy-footed home.couch cover 2

I covered it immediately with a couple of big pieces of cloth, but if you’ve ever tried that you know how it goes – the covers slip and slide and every time the children turn to look out the window, which is four hundred times in a day, the fabric turns and wrinkles and becomes a lumpy mess.

Blackberry winter provided the down-time.  The days were cold and gray.  I was busy procrastinating on some other indoor work that still needs doing, and then there was the crayon smudge.

I ignored all the other things that needed doing, served left-overs for dinner, and covered the couch.  It’s a four piece cover.  There’s a long strip that covers both arms, anchored by the cushions.  There’s a long wide piece that covers the back and drapes over the front, also anchored by the cushions. And then there are two cushion covers with seats that nearly match the curtains.  Close enough counts here.couch cover1

I measured the couch, two or three times, just to be sure.  I measured the cloth, then folded and cut and sewed.

The cushions were the biggest challenge, and I just kept breathing and let them be.  I didn’t want them too tight, and so they are a little loose.  But our dirty knees and seats won’t show on the burgundy nearly as bad as on the yellow, so I’m satisfied.

My seams aren’t always straight, and my measuring isn’t perfect, but it’s a job I’m grateful to have done.  I’d like the add some more burgundy pieces to help anchor the arms.  It will save for the next rainy day.couch cover complete

Don’t be afraid.  Have fun.  Make it yourself – make it your own.


best bun ever

there is some place where each of us feels it. the butterflies. the wide eyed “where am i”, the deep introspective “who am i?” i am not sure where that is for you. the place that pushes you, makes you feel somehow socially awkward , a bit of a misfit. you know the spot that forces you slightly outside of your comfort zone. (as i write this i realize that perhaps my farm is the place that a lot of you would find uncomfortable, sheesh) anyway, for me, i feel it smack dab in the middle of my daughter’s beloved dance studio. and these feelings have been heightened these last few days,  the culmination of months of hard work:  the recital weekend.

photo 2

we entered the world of dance 5 years ago.  the entry was easy,  i was ushered in by my dearest teenage friends and their then professional dance mom, one of my favorite people ever. these were madeline’s first teachers, they allowed me to sit there giggling and watch the classes, the taught madeline the grace of ballet and showed me the ropes of dance momhood. heck, they did madeline’s bun and make up for me.


each child is different and each needs us, their parents,  to honor those interests. madeline loves the stage, she thrives up there and i strive to provide her with the opportunity to grow and delight in this medium. alas, i am definitely not your traditional dance mom. it is hard for me to be authentic in that space. i feel clumsy and dirty. it is just in that environment that i have felt so odd in year’s past. this year however, we rocked it. i shed my fears, put on my best flannel and got the bun on the first try, only needed 3 bobby pins.


you know, i think we are doing this dance pretty well, my daughter and me. we are creating our own rituals, friends come to celebrate, we dote on our favorite dancer and honor the place that has become integral in her life:   ms. adrienne’s dance studio. so, for all of you dancers and dance moms out there (traditional or not) hope your recital weeks are perfect.


for everyone else i wish you  joyous comfort when you are most likely to feel  uncomfortable. i invite you to glory in the beauty of yourself even when those beside you don’t feel similar. for the differences in our worlds are just what make it all so lovely and full of wonder. allow yourself and your children to push outside of your familiar zone, for it is there i hope you will learn to accept yourself and others most fully.