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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


These are the eggs, butter and buttermilk we went to a farm to purchase. The farm we bought these from is run by an elderly couple who have known no other way of life. The house they live in was built by his grandfather in 1890. It sits on 51 acres today, where you can see no other neighbors but still hear the freeway just over the hill.

They handchurn the butter, purchased for $2 a pound. They collect the eggs, purchased for $1 per dozen and they make the buttermilk that smells like heaven, purchased for $2 a gallon. Yes, you read the prices right. She sells it just to cover her feed costs, to neighbors and friends that ask. No advertising or any other such thing. No CSA or farmer's market. They just do their thing and if you come and ask to buy some of their bounty, they'll share with you for a mere pittance.

I feel wealthy, having access to food such as this.
The same day, we stopped at our locally owned and run produce stand. I love stopping there as the kids and grandkids all take their turns working, the whole family is part of the venture.

Jellybeans and boiled peanuts are the favorite treats lately.
We made a slice of heaven out of their strawberries (brought over from NC, not quite local) and the wonderful buttermilk, butter and eggs from the farm.

Sierra and Jalen had fun shucking corn. Reminded me of past days living in Battleground WA, where Bleu's aunt shared her garden with us every season. I could fill the freezer with corn she grew. Back then, I thought I was a great gardener because that soil was so amazing! Florida knocked the wind out of those sails.:)

I do so love having local, fresh food to eat. There is an abundance of it in this region. The next step is to grow and raise more of it ourselves. Buying local is the next best thing though.....

Strawberry season brings up a lot of memories for me. My Mom adored strawberries. She cooked with them, sliced them fresh, made jam...heck, she decorated her house with strawberries!

The summer I spent at my grandparents farm was spent working and playing. My sister and I would help them hoe row after row of strawberries. They had a working farm the entirety of my childhood. There was that instant and constant connection with the earth at the farm. We ate the beef they raised. Her cupboards were filled with things from the garden. We made ourselves sick eating so many strawberries, cherries, apples, plums, blackberries, grapes and other growing things.

Thankfully, we visited the farm often and saw different seasons. Sledding down the back hill in winter was always fun, but my favorite times were bringing the hay in or picking fruits of the season. After the hay was in, we thought it would be great fun to sleep in the hay crib. It's really not that much fun though, especially when the cows sneak into the barn at night and make weird noises. We always ended up back in the house.

The farm for me, was a place where one was nourished. In so many ways we were free there, with more space to roam than most kids understand. I dream of the farm often and wish I could be the one to carry on the torch. But my life decisions have taken me away from the farm and away from the possibility of it being passed on to me.

I carry that farm with me though. My grandparents are still there, on the hill in the house they built in the 1940's. Their time is coming to a close......the farm will pass into other hands. It's effect on my life is permanent and I seek ways to bring those connections to my own family, on our small space here.

Surprise visit

Last week, we got a phone call from some of our good friends we knew in Pensacola...they were just West of Knoxville and wondering if they could stop by to visit. DUH! :) The Johnsons came on over and spent the night, then we took them around some of our stomping grounds...

with a short hike at Buffalo Mountain,

A visit to downtown Jonesborough,

where wise old walking sticks seemed to stare at us,

and the kids hiked around the park at the Storytelling center.

We had some playtime at Willow Springs Park too.
It was really great to connect with some old friends (some of the first homeschoolers we met after moving to P'cola in '98) and catch up on life.
Sierra and Wesley were very close friends as toddlers. I once did a painting of them at the beach, which became the "metamorphis" painting later. They look like they could be related to this day. I'd love to post a "then" and "now" pic of those two.

Becky and I are opposites in many ways, beyond the obvious size difference.:) But she's still one of my favorite people to hang out with!

Can Good News go big time?

I had mentioned my friend Geri's "Good News Network" in a recent post, but now I need your help. She has entered the NPR talent search contest and will have GNN on NPR if she can win! So go listen to her lovely clip, and let everyone know what you think. :)

You can register here and you can listen to Geri's clip here.

Two finalists out of 1,368 will move to the final round. Help get Good News on the radio!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dirt issues

Or maybe it's more accurate to say clay issues, because we don't seem to have much dirt at all!
the area I had planned to grow a sunflower house and morning glories seems to be hard clumps of clay with a bit of dirt mixed in. I'm tempted to haul it off and throw a pile of compost down.

In spite of the hard lumps, there were many earthworms. Not sure how they survived in the rock hard soil...many got moved over to our compost bed that sports a hollyhock, some strawberries and oregeno.

Sierra helped me with the worm re-habitation while Jalen picked wildflowers.

In the end, we have a plot of lumps. It doesn't look as bad as it really is in this pic!

The tomatoes and peppers are doing well in their bins full of rich soil and compost.

We even managed to harvest quite a bit of lettuce from one raised bed down the hill,

which made a lovely salad that night. Jalen and Sierra had a great time chopping accoutrements...even Jared chopped a few carrots just for fun.:) The salad was really fantastic with lettuce from both my garden and Mary's and a spot of homemade olive oil dressing on top. Yuummmmmm!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My happy day....

I'm starting where it all ended, at Acoustic Coffeehouse with small people playing "make-up-your-own-rules" chess,

a surprise visit by the Lost Mountain String Band, which gets you right up out of your seat for some dancing. The guitarist is a local unschooling Dad...very cool!:)

We chilled and chatted with good friends,

while Sierra designed Hug Buttons for the willing (thanks to Cameron Lovejoy for such a wonderful and sweet idea)

My Birthday was filled with people I love,

beautiful views, sunshine

and smiling kids.

(don't they look especially happy here?)
But one of the best parts about turning 38 years old?

I feel strong......

....and beautiful.

and that's worth celebrating any day. Happy birthday to me, and Rue and Sharon.......two of my other favorite people in the world. Thank you to everyone that called or wrote or sang to me, you all made my day, including Dante the dog who sang to me from Alaska. Much love and gratitude to you all. I am truly wealthy beyond measure.


That's for Lake Eden Arts Festival, held at Black Mountain every spring and fall. We came home with this handwoven Mayan hammock swing, which has been utilized almost constantly all week. We're loving it and plan to buy a couple more for bedrooms. The company operates at festivals and such, so very low overhead. If you're looking for a hammock or hammock swing, definitely contact them! This one cost us $50 and their prices range from $30-$60...a bargain for sure. They have no website, but you can talk to them at (304)536-2959 and they'll be happy to mail your products. Sweet Springs Hammocks is the name.

Other fun things at LEAF? Why a didgeridoo toning circle, under a tree next to the lake,

A ten foot tall Blue Fairy granting your wishes,

an entire creek full of Obos (see my Tea With Ren blog for further description) which children and adults sculpted and moved all weekend. It was awesome.

LEAF for a day was really fun...but next time we're joining Trevor for the entire weekend. There was so much we didn't have time to try out, like the zipline into the lake. It's a big, happy, hippy/kid/music/food/obos/art fest. Sounds like something unschoolers might like.:)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Geography songs

My good friends, the Traaseth's told me about something they do while traveling; they play music about that area as they drive through. Well I thought that sounded pretty cool and it got me thinking about songs that have familiar places in them. Bleu played a Travis Tritt song for me not long after the Traaseth's visited that named Johnson City of all things! So I've wanted to compile some songs that have places I've either lived or visited (or would like to visit). I didn't even remember that Joe Walsh names my hometown in one of his songs. Awesome.:)

Any songs you know of that name the place you live, or favorite places you've been? Share yours....I'm curious. Now to burn a CD for the next road trip.

~Fairbanks Alaska by Joe Walsh (also mentions Lincoln Nebraska)
~Anchorage by Shocked Michelle (Anchorage Alaska and Texas)
~All the way to Memphis by Mott the Hoople
~Alphabet Street by Prince (Tennessee)
~Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde by Travis Tritt (Johnson City and Richmond and hwy. 95)
~Take it Easy by the Eagles (Winslow Arizona)
~You'll Never Work in Dis Bidness Again by Jimmy Buffet (Biloxi and Hollywood)
~Mainline Florida by Eric Clapton
~Florida by Modest Mouse
~Margarita by Traveling Wilburys (Pittsburgh and New York)
~Kings Highway by Tom Petty (there are several Kings Highways in the world, but as he's a Southern boy I'm guessing it refers to the trail that runs North along the Mississippi from New Orleans)
~Louisiana Rain by Tom Petty (San Diego, Baton Rouge and South Carolina)
~Portland by The Replacements
~Portland Oregon by Loretta Lynn
~East Asheville Hardware by David Wilcox

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"I'm eatable", says he

When I got home from work tonight, Jalen and Sierra were running laps around the house and showing off how many sit ups they could do. "We're exercising Mom!" they proudly exclaimed. After some obstacle courses and timing each other (Bleu instigates this stuff) and swinging, Jalen worked up quite an appetite apparently. He wanted me to fix him some "potatoes smashed with butter and salt and some chips and cheese." A veggie sandwich got added on and when I said "That's a LOT of food Jalen, I don't think you can eat all of that." He answers,

"But MOM, I'm EATABLE!!"

"Oh goodie" says I, "let me try some" and proceeded to pretend-gnaw on the sweet arm of Jalen Kai.

"No MOM, I'm an eatable kid you can't eat 'cuz I'd die if someone ate me!"

He was serious as a heart attack when he said it too, as if concerned that his Mum thought he was truly edible. Funny guy that one. And he ate most of the food.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

But the best part

about living near Asheville is the drive over the mountains...

yes, that's the highway down below, running right through
the mountains.
Happy, tired people heading home to Jonesborough.

I found ELVIS!!

And he's in Asheville North Carolina!! Where else did ya think he'd be?
There are other great things
in Asheville too............

...........like happy teens,

and curious kids,

(more of the happy teens),

cupcake shops with no cupcakes,

little boys with blue, elephant umbrellas,

homeschool Mums trying to convince
other people to move to Asheville,

bearded, dreadlocked gurus (ok,
I have no idea if he has an ounce of wisdom, but if
anyone looks like a modern day Jesus, it's this guy)

artsy, fartsy pizza places,

artsy, fartsy vans,

giants that drop their monopoly pieces
and leave them on street corners (so Asheville's
just plain artsy, fartsy.....yeah).

places to feed your head,

and people with colorful hair having coffee
on a quiet side alley (until some crazy woman
waving a camera asks if she can shoot said hair).

My favorite moment was when we approached a hot dog stand on a street corner because Jalen suddenly had a hankerin' for a hot dog. I noticed the guys sign listed a VEGGIE dog! My first hot dog stand that offered veggie options...cool right? So we order the veggie dog and he asks if we want any veggie chili or organic cheese to go on top. I'm standing there with my jaw on the sidewalk and Jen says "REN, you're in Asheville!"

If you're attending the Live and Learn conference this fall, be sure to check out the Chocolate Fetish and
The Mellow Mushroom.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Schools are for fish

You can find out more about the cartoon and its creator at Inflatable Studios if you wish. :)