Regrettably, it's been awhile since I posted much of substance here. The reasons are many ~ I've been in a funk over homeschooling for the past month or so that I can not seem to shake, I've been ├╝ber busy with the garden - watering, transplanting seedlings, planning, planting, etc., and lastly, I had the [brow lift] surgery for my migraines nearly 2 weeks ago that I'm still trying to recover from. Actually, I think I'm just overwhelmed by life right now.

My surgery went well, but the swelling and bruising is SO awful, I cannot imagine anyone subjecting themself to this for cosmetic reasons, yikes. Perhaps it will eventually be worth while, but right now it's a serious inconvenience, and an embarrassment whenever I have to venture out in public. Also, I've still managed to have some pretty intense headaches in the past week or so. Sigh.

As for my homeschooling woes... It seems that every few weeks of school, I go through a spell where I'm plagued by self-doubt ~ pondering our failures, questioning whether anyone is learning anything, wondering if I'm doing the right thing by homeschooling, etc. Periods like this make it all too easy to get discouraged by the ceaseless grumbling over school work, and lately this negative mood has just been hanging on (and on). It's very hard for me to be enthusiastic about anything right now, so we've been keeping work pretty light, and frankly, not very interesting.

In history, we had a mini-unit on Charlemagne - utilizing lots of primary source material - that dragged on and on. Now we've embarked on a study of feudalism which is slightly more exciting. Our CLAA memory work has not been going well, I'm beginning to accept that perhaps we're not up to a program SO intense. Math has been unremarkable, as usual, and science has been quite spontaneous. Everything else is being tackled in bits and pieces. I'm hoping that I'll feel more like myself next week.

For science, among other things, we've been learning about wildflowers (aka common weeds) in our own backyard. I just received the excellent Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, and will be trying to put together a more formal, organized plan using this, among other resources. Here's what we've learned about thus far:

Henbit (Lamium aplexicaule)

Henbit in our back field

The first "wildflower" we spotted in bloom this year was Henbit, which began blooming here during the last two weeks of March. Henbit is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, and a winter annual or biennial that is native to Eurasia and Africa. In the United States it has become a common, agressive weed most often found in fields, garden plots, pastures, lawns and waste areas, with a preference for disturbed areas.

Young leaves are edible and healthful and can be used as a pot herb or in salads, my children also enjoy sucking the sweet nectar out of the flowers. It is an important nectar and pollen plant for bees and also greatly enjoyed by free-ranging chickens (including ours!).

Henbit is easily confused with Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) ~ more information on the two can be found here. Some great pictures and additional information can also be found at Discover Life

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Next in bloom, beginning the first week of April, was Shepherd's Purse. Shepherd's Purse is a member of the Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) family which includes mustards, cabbages, broccoli, turnips, cresses, and their many relatives. The plant's name comes from its triangular purse-shaped seed pods; the four white petals of its flowers are arranged in the form of a Greek cross, a common characteristic of the Cruciferae family. In Kansas, it blooms from March - June.

Shepherd's Purse begins with a basal rosette of toothed leaves, similar to a dandelion. Young leaves are edible and healthful, mild in taste, and can be used as a pot herb or in salads. A native of Europe, the plant
has become naturalized over much of the United States and can be found in waste areas, lawns, gardens, barnyards, cultivated fields, and roadsides.

More about Shepherd's Purse can be found at Wildman Steve Brill's site; a lesson on Shepherd's Purse is available from Outlines of Lessons in Botany by Jane Newell.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelions also began blooming here during the first week of April. The root, leaves and flowers all have both medicinal and culinary uses. According to this article,

  • Dandelion root can be roasted as a coffee-substitute like chicory, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.
  • Dandelion flower can be made into a wine, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.
  • Dandelion greens (i.e., the leaves) can be boiled, as you would spinach, and used as a cooked vegetable, in sandwiches or as a salad green with some "bite." The leaves are high in vitamins A, C, and Iron. 
Dandelion leaves are best when they've just emerged in early spring; flowers should be harvested early to mid morning. We made Dandelion Cookies (they weren't very popular) and plan to make Dandelion Syrup. More dandelion recipes can be found at Cooking with Dandelions.

More about Dandelions can be found at Wildman Steve Brill's site, also at Dandelions are Super Foods.

Other: Little Dandelion by Helen Bostwick (verse). The Legend of the Dandelion from For the Children's Hour by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. How West Wind Helped Dandelion from In the Child's World by Emilie Poulsson. 

Heartsease (Viola tricolor)

I was most excited to discover large patches of Heartsease in our back field one morning this past week. In ancient times the plant was frequently used for its potency in love charms, hence perhaps its name of Heartsease. In many old Herbals the plant is called Herba Trinitatis, being dedicated by old writers to the Trinity, because it has in each flower three colours.

Heartsease (aka Johnny-Jump-Up or wild pansy) is a wildflower native to Europe and a member of the Violet (Violaceae) family. Here in Kansas they bloom from March - April. Native Americans used the plant to treat coughs, colds, and headaches.


  1. Faith said...
    Hi Kristine,

    Did you come into the Church on Easter? When did you have the surgery? I do hope it helps you with your migraines and is worth all the trouble!

    I have been homeschooling for 14 years and one thing I've learned is that a light touch is much more conducive to learning than otherwise. Just living at home in a family involved in so many things leads to learning and even a love of learning. So don't be discouraged, you have so many wonderful things going on and have such an appetite for life, your kids can't help but become well educated.

    I've also found that kids will grumble. Even if life is perfect, they will grumble, because though wonderful, they are fallen and in need of grace. I go through periods of discouragement too. I'm so mercurial, one minute I'm delighted with my brilliant offspring and the next minute I am thoroughly frustrated! It's a rollercoaster ride!

    I love wildflowers! Love the photos and the arcane info about them. Lovely!
    WildIris said...
    I love Faith's comment about homeschooling being a roller coaster ride. We all go through periods of discouragement.

    Beautiful garden photos. The Clematis is wonderful. I wish I could grow one, but I've killed everyone I've bought. I planted a bunch of stuff in the garden, bought more seeds, and I'm looking forward to a nice edible spring.

    Kristine said...
    Faith ~ Thank you so much for your comment. I'm sure I'll pull through this somehow, and you're absolutely correct, there is a lot of learning going on here all the time, just maybe not things that I've planned or scheduled. :-)

    I did *not* get to join the church at Easter, which was yet another disappointment. I had to get my first marriage annulled, which was supposed to be no big deal since it was a very clear case. However someone in the diocese office misplaced my paperwork and didn't find it until it was too late. We're hoping that next week I'll be able to join.

    Iris ~ I'm afraid I can't take credit for the 2 rose & clematis photos, I found them online. My plants are still babies & I may kill them yet! Best of luck with your seedlings this year!
    Kristine said...
    Oops - Faith, I forgot to mention, I had the surgery on 3/29 - so just about 2 weeks ago exactly.
    Daisy said...
    ((hugs)) I'm sorry you are having a tough time right now. Your post was an encouragement to me though. I've neglected posting on my blog very often lately simple because I'm down in the dumps, too. Far too often I'm plagued with doubt about my ability to teach my children what they really need to know in life.

    But oh, the flowers are beautiful! Exploring God's nature is always a great way to bring us back to worship.
    MissMOE said...
    Kristine, I learned so much from your info about the wildflowers. I'm sure that passion for learning you have will spread to your children. The first thing I thought when I read your about me section is wow--she has four children really close together! I have five myself--5 years apart. I think its hard with the argueing when they are so close together. Couple that with you not feeling well and things can be hard. AND putting in your garden! This is a season and it will pass--take time to rest and get yourself better. Pick the easy stuff for school for now. I've been in a funk myself and I know it is mostly not feeling so good and then putting everyone else before my own needs. I'm going to work on changing that this coming week! Want to join me in trying?
    Faith said...
    Well, raspberries to that! Lost your paperwork? Bureaucrats! I hate 'em! I do hope you can come in soon!

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