Exploring nature

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Today we went on another one of our hikes, and guess what we found? It’s the first one I saw since we had moved here.

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Little explorer.

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A cool moss-covered rock. We had a rainy weekend, so everything was fresh and lovely and not too hot.

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We all had so much fun!

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A breathtaking view on a lovely afternoon.

And, most importantly, we still adhere to social distancing. Our government is opening everything up way too fast to my liking – but just because something is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is recommended.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Making soap with kids

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This week, we had some fun with making soap. I used to be very wary of using lye near small children, but decided to give it a shot with very, very careful supervision. The older girls had a blast and learned loads.

Making soap is a great way to work in some math and science. We talked about the chemical reaction that heats up the water when it’s mixed with lye, and also about the process of saponification.

I used a mix of coconut and palm oil, so the soap bars were ready to unmold pretty soon and popped right out of the cute little silicone molds the kids chose.

Those who don’t feel like using lye at all: you might want to try making soap jellies. It’s quick, easy, and super fun.

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Recipe:

1/2 cup clear liquid soap

3/4 cup boiling water

1 packet of gelatin (about 1 tbsp)

A few drops of food coloring (optional)

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water, add soap and food coloring, and pour into molds. Allow about an hour to set. You will get squiggly jiggly bits of soap jelly that are very fun to use in bath. This activity will leave even the most stubborn bath refusers squeaky clean!

From our backyard

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The little quail pen. It’s easy to move so that they can dig in a fresh place from time to time.

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An inside shot of the quail: the darker one is the female. Raising them has been fun and I can’t wait to try hatching their eggs (which, by the way, make delicious tiny omelets).

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The upgraded chicken coop: now on a raised netting-covered platform. Most of the poop falls right through the netting, which reduces the mess and smell.

Clockwise: sage, mint, rosemary, lemon balm.

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Tomato seedlings are in the ground.

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Two of my favorite repotted geraniums. They are incredibly easy to propagate: just cut a piece, stick it in moist potting soil, and it will soon sprout roots. I’ve been making little plants to give to neighbors this way.

As you can see, we’ve been busy and enjoying the nice weather. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe.

A beautiful walk (in total isolation)

Well, the final hectic rush of Passover prep and the seder night are behind us. It’s time to enjoy some well-deserved rest, and today the kids and I managed to sneak to the lovely, lonely fields near our house again. Of course, we strictly adhered to social distancing and saw nobody but this little agricultural aircraft which my children got very excited about:

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It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained all weekend and everything – the earth, the plants, the sky – was delightfully fresh and there was a smell of honey in the air. Thousands upon thousands of flowers swaying in the light pleasant breeze. It was like walking in the midst of a lovely fairytale.

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The ladybug season is here, too!

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They had such fun exploring. It was honestly one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life.

As the shadows were lengthening, we went home in a roundabout way, making sure not to run into anyone.

I hope we can make it out there again soon. Stay safe, everyone!

Hunkering down

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I am honored to say that my latest Mother Earth News post has been included in the magazine’s online newsletter. If anything I have to say is even a bit helpful to a single person across the world at this tough time, it is ample reward for me. 

It appears that the you-know-what has really hit the fan now. When I wrote my post in the link above, the restrictions imposed by our government were not yet as stringent as they are at this moment. Right now, people around here are permitted to leave their houses only for absolute necessities (buying food and hygiene products, medical treatment, etc) or for a short walk with their dogs. There are strict social distancing rules and it only looks like the restrictions will become harsher still in the very near future. Tens of thousands of people who live alone will be celebrating Passover in isolation – a heartbreaking but necessary measure.

Personally we are hunkering down right now and operating on the assumption that everyone on the street is a covid carrier, just in case. There has been an alarmingly high number of confirmed cases in our area, and some people in our family are at an increased risk due to respiratory issues, so we definitely take every measure to protect ourselves.

The worst part of it all is the uncertainty. Although we fully approve of the government-mandated quarantine, and believe it should be enforced even more strictly than it is now, there’s no knowing whether it will be enough. This is a new virus which is, apparently, remarkably contagious and adaptable. Several studies point to the conclusion that the incubation period of the covid-19 may be a lot longer than previously supposed. So if the quarantine is lifted too soon we might see a new wave of contagion.

I think that right now we are all keenly feeling our vulnerability. At the start of the social distancing measures, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised there would be no food shortages. Well, there are. Yes, you can still go into a supermarket and fill a cart, but many products are in insufficient supply, such as fresh produce, eggs, and milk. It is natural and very predictable.

I can tell you I am going to make a lot more effort with my vegetable garden this spring and summer – now is a great time to start a garden and I know a lot more people are giving it a try. I also plan to hatch a few extra chicks if possible this season. I would like a couple more laying hens myself, and I predict backyard chickens, other poultry, and even goats will become a lot more popular in smaller towns.

My opinion is that many people are beginning to internalize that the lifestyle of universal abundance and cheap disposable goods might not be as stable and reliable as we have grown to take for granted. Many have remarked to me how lucky I am, working remotely from home as a fiction editor and writer, that my employment opportunities have been largely unaffected by the covid pandemic. Yes, I am grateful, but people should also keep in mind – I know I do – that money may very well lose some of its value in times of crisis. Stocks are falling. Many people are experiencing devastating losses in their retirement funds that have been tied up in stocks – imagine saving up and being financially prudent all your life, only to have everything collapse because of external circumstances no one can control! It’s a huge wake-up call for all of us to examine our lifestyle and priorities.

There is no better time to invest in building skills and resources that will be valuable regardless of what happens to the money economy – growing food, foraging, upcycling, various repairs and handiwork, and a robust barter and small local business system that will be much more reliable in times of crisis.

For the time being, we are doing our best to keep safe (and sane!). I wonder what kind of world we will all emerge to once we can leave our homes again. I suspect there will be substantial changes and it is better to be prepared.

Unseasonably warm crochet cardigan

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This was my last winter project for this year – a top down raglan cardigan made from alpaca yarn. I love the satisfaction of throwing something over me that feels almost like a blanket – but I suppose I will get to enjoy it next season, as it’s already getting too warm here for stuff like that. I’ll probably attach a couple of nice big buttons.

Now on to summer projects – lacy tops, table runners, baskets, bags, and more. Always more ideas than time!

On another note, we are doing OK in the midst of all the craziness that is taking over the world. We are, of course, privileged to have a house with a private yard and a nice balcony with a beautiful view, so despite the lockdown we never really feel confined. There’s always plenty of outdoor work going on, whether it’s hanging out the washing, weeding, or mucking up the chicken coop.

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One of our recent projects has been raising a pair of Japanese quail Shira got for her birthday. The female just laid her first egg a couple of days ago. Japanese quail rarely go broody, but we’ll probably try to incubate once we gather enough eggs.

Stay safe, everyone. These are scary times we live in, but I have never felt so connected to friends all over the world. We are truly all in this together, and I am optimistic that it shall pass and we’ll emerge on the other side stronger and more resilient than before.

A baby for my baby

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During this busy time of us all staying at home in quarantine, I found a few relaxing moments to put the finishing touches on this crochet doll I got done just in time for Hadassah’s second birthday. I’m happy to say that, though not perfect, this cuddly doll is a big hit and Hadassah loves toting it around.

I made it like I usually make my dolls – crochet the head and body from the top down, fill with stuffing, and then attach arms and legs. Then I used scraps from other projects for the dress. That’s one of the things I love most about making dolls – you get to use up yarn odds and ends, and the craft cupboard is a lot less messy by the time you’re done.

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Here is also a photo from our walk this afternoon. We are being very, very careful, but fortunately, very close to our house there are empty fields where you can wander as much as you want without meeting a living soul except the occasional distant glimpse of someone walking their dog.

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I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Please run no risks! We’ve got this and we’ll get through this.