mum's rants

Nettles and Men

Started listening to Le Miserables while working in the vineyard. This is something I got this week.

One day he saw some country people busily engaged in pulling up nettles; he examined the plants, which were uprooted and already dried, and said: “They are dead. Nevertheless, it would be a good thing to know how to make use of them. When the nettle is young, the leaf makes an excellent vegetable; when it is older, it has filaments and fibres like hemp and flax. Nettle cloth is as good as linen cloth. Chopped up, nettles are good for poultry; pounded, they are good for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle, mixed with fodder, gives gloss to the hair of animals; the root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow coloring-matter. Moreover, it is an excellent hay, which can be cut twice. And what is required for the nettle? A little soil, no care, no culture. Only the seed falls as it is ripe, and it is difficult to collect it. That is all. With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added, after a pause: “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.”
– Victor Hugo “Le Miserables”

Czech Republic

Krasny Day

Really enjoying being back in the truck. We are back at Divoka Sarka and it is beautiful. After the big clean-up is finished and we are back from the Germany festival we can really enjoy.  The girls want to have a “creative day”. However the “creative day” is something they want to have every day. With their official homeschool books still in transit they are enjoying a bit of a holiday by dusting off some science experiment kits and sewing and crocheting. Seems the more “creative days” we have, the more they want.


Lizzy is working on animating every member of the family after a session of “clothing modification”.  She is also working her way through “The artists way” (thanks Juliette for the book). Of course we still get our daily saxophone recitals and now some new ones on the piano.


Hannah takes occasional breaks from her reading to work on a Jonesberry version of Where’s Waldo called “Where in the world are those Jonesberries Now”. She has been reading “The Benedict Society” and has discovered a misprint at the most suspenseful part of the book. Isn’t it always at the MOST suspenseful part of the book! Instead of continuing on with the story they reprinted the last 29 pages and then skipped the important 29 pages and continued on with the story as if nothing has happened at all. The nerve.


TJ is enjoying reuniting with old toys and her new love of reading. She has just received a whole box of books and American candies sent over from the U.S. by the Shengs. Deanne seemed to be searching for months for just the right books to stimulate a young readers appetite for reading. I mean, seriously, is there any better way to encourage reading than a box of carefully chosen books in a pile of candies.


Abigail has limited mobility after misjudging a step in the dark and injuring her ankle. She is busy with our collection of colourful cotton and a new book on crochet squares.


Andrew has been off every morning working on his book. He has a daily pilgrimage from one wifi spot to the next. An hour + at McDs for a coffee and wifi. An hour + at KFC for another coffee and wifi. Then finishing off with a more relaxed hour + at the pub around the corner for beer and wifi. He came back yesterday and, with the help of TJ, created the most amazing backwoods composting toilet I have ever seen. It has a wall that is carefully woven leaves and branches that makes it impossible to find until you are right next to it.


I am busy utilizing the culinary resources that surround me. I have my outdoor kitchen back, We have finished off our indoor kitchen. Armed with my “wild foods” cookbook I have made nettle and wild garlic soup, nettle tea, elderflower fritters and elderflower lemonade. TJ thinks she identified wild horseradish yesterday and I am contemplating making some elderflower syrup. As I identified a tree yesterday that was ready to harvest some “headache tea” a Czech man came up to me with his little black, leaping dog and asked me to follow. With our backpacks full of groceries from the shop at the top of the hill and leeks sticking out of my pack, me, Lizzy and Hannah silently followed the man through the woods. He took us to a beautiful rocky outcrop with an old man with long white hair, wearing nothing but a speedo, was sunbathing.  With one look and a sweeping gesture he repeated a single word “Krasny” (meaning beautiful). We looked out and saw the whole beautiful valley. I was immediately condemned. You silly woman. Stop working so hard. Have you forgotten to just stop and take in the beauty. A hard lesson for an American. Our whole approach to life and our self-identity seems to be through our work. This is just the latest reminder. I seem to get these a lot. Last year, in Morocco, I was told to slow down and enjoy or I will make myself sick. Good reminders. Good times.