We are now in our 2nd year of officially homeschooling our boys, which means full time of the stuff we did around the edges of their ‘normal’ education at public school. We love the unknown and the ‘around the edges’ stuff like family bike rides, traveling, and art all day, and have always found places like Kahn Academy and Skillshare, to be grounding companions. With so many students of the world currently homeschooling, or hodge-podge schooling via Zoom and Flipgrid (like we are!), we have decided (thanks Silas!) to unearth a Peg and Awl project that will eventually make its way into a notebook, and have turned it into a free downloadable PDF: Specimen Cards! We love to encourage movement, getting outside, observing, drawing, writing, and research. These cards cover all of that – be it a Citizen Science Project, backyard explorations, or for identifying mysterious objects around the house.
There is something about unearthing a thing with your own dirty paws that transforms the simplest of objects into pure magic.
As we drove past Amish farms and families, on our way to the Amethyst Field (part of a private Amish farm) in Lancaster early Saturday morning in post-rain-perfection, my mind wandered to The Foundlings Collection that we were launching 3 hours from then. We passed horses and buggies, families dressed in black and white, and a very tiny Mennonite school established in the 1800s. Everything was simple and beautiful and open, and the earth smelled clean and loved. It could have been 1919—except for our car and Aldous Harding singing. As we wandered through the Amish community I wondered if any parents or grandparents of the very people we were passing had painted any of the animals and plants and creatures we were celebrating, since they were made 100+ years ago, in this very area. I wanted to ask someone, but I thought it would be intrusive, so we passed through.
We arrived at the farm that glorious overcast morning and parked in the alfalfa field by the Delaware Mineralogical Society's makeshift cardboard sign. When we stepped onto the freshly plowed and rained-upon field with our antique tools (which had been left in our new old house by the family before us, or the family before them), the earth fairly sparkled with purple gems—but we didn’t see them yet. First you must clear your expectations, then comes a finding, and soon enough, you can’t not see them. Within a few hours our Hunter Satchels were brimming with earthly magic: Amethyst, Smokey Quartz, regular Quartz, Feldspar, and mystery minerals.
We gathered with some families from Open Connections and within a few hours everyone was sitting in the muddy fields chattering and inspecting their finds. By the time the sun broke through the clouds, Søren and Silas were thirsty and hungry, so we walked back to the alfalfa field where they sat in the trunk of the Subaru and ate lunch. I headed back to the field to retrieve a forgotten antique and found a few groups of determined treasure hunters who remained, one of which found the biggest Amethyst of the day—had Amethyst fever, and couldn't stop searching. Another group was digging a trench that looked more intentional than the rest of the holes scattered throughout the field. I asked about their digging—it turns out they are part of the Friends of Mineralogy, Penna Chapter, and, like so many geologists and rock lovers we’ve encountered, they were happy to share their knowledge. They told me about saddles and folds and intersecting ditches, but, being foundationless in this complex science, the information trickled through me like the dirt through so many sieves that morning.
I returned to Søren and Silas, who were not bored as I feared, but hanging out with the other boys. We set off for home, covered in dirt, (after stopping for ice-cream of course) where we were greeted by Walter, also covered in dirt (from our garden-to-be) who photographed us as we tooth-brushed our finds.
Postscript: I posted this on Instagram @thebrotherskent and on FB and received a lot of questions (public and private) about the site. This is private land, and the family was kind enough to share it. I would recommend you look into mineralogical societies near you. There are chapters all over the US, and they are amazing resources! The PA and DE chapter cost $25 per family for a year. There are many field trips and educational meetings. Links are above!
I have been determined to write outside of my journal more and share on our blog, but paralyzed with this need to find a beginning. There is no beginning, just an ongoing. I have to jump in. It feels a little like double dutch, which I was never very good at. But here goes...
Last Monday — a bitter cold and damp Monday — Søren, Silas, Jacey, Ted, Shep, and I went in search of a mineral dump from the French Creek Mines at St. Peters Village. We heard of Magnetite and Calcite and Malachite buried there — unwanted minerals from the old iron ore digs. We found a deer skull (the entire deer skeleton buried beneath a blanket of rotting leaves), Jacey fell in the frigid creek, and we met a Woodsman Uncle with his niece and nephew – he was teaching them how to find shed antlers. He told us all about collecting things from the earth - from Native American arrowheads on the farm he grew up on in Phoenixville, Penna, to bottles from privies, naturally shed antlers and rocks. He went on about his love for digging and the past and the woods, and how he lines his multi-coloured bottles on his windowsills so that when the sun comes through multi-coloured light spills into his house. He boasted of a collection of thousands of bits and ended his monologue exclaiming, “I love this world.” What a joy it was to meet Carl.
After 5 hours of wandering through endless Japanese Barberry, Multi Flora Rose, and brambles, we exited through the corn field and ended our search with a much needed cold picnic.
This is our first year of homeschooling, but we've been explorers all along. The search for minerals began with Silas finding quartzite in a flea market parking lot* and quickly also became one with a Peg and Awl project in the works (for 2 years!) I shall not yet divulge our plan, but for now wish to share our adventures.
We would love to hear about your expeditions near or far! The blog thing is new to me, let's see how this goes... It feels like a journal — without the satisfying scritchy scratchy of pen and paper.
*3 May, 2018 Instagram @thebrotherskent
Stepping out of our car on a breezy Sunday morning into a parking lot full of regular parking lot rocks, Silas spied a slightly green one. He put in in his pocket and upon returning home put some lemon juice on it. He and Søren identified it as Green Quartzite and that marked the beginning of our new adventure – or re-adventure – into the world of rocks! This summer will now include a gem show and a dig in North Carolina. It will involve handmade Rock books and magnifying glasses and an even closer look at the ground. And, as always, heavy Hunter Satchels. I cannot wait. And the best part of this journeying is we need not stop when summer is over. #homeschooling , we’ve got this.
When we make new objects for Peg and Awl, we don't set out to make. They come about through exploration and need. We pull from life. There is rarely a moment when Walter and I get together and say, "what should we make next for Peg and Awl?"
The same is true for our lives. As I look through my photographs from 2018, this year seems to be all about art, journaling, exploring, curiosity, and finding our way together, as a family, as small business owners, as makers. We were clearing a path for ourselves and didn’t even realize we were on the move...Read more →