Friday, May 30, 2008

Science Friday

As a homeschooler, I am often asked about what curricula I use. For example, how do I teach science? For this subject, I am amazed that anyone can think that science can be found in a book exclusively, particularly a textbook. We use "real" books from the library and things we find in our environment mostly. I decided to make Science Friday a regular feature of my blog, inspired by one of my favorite radio shows Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and post something we've studied that week. This week: Cicadas.

Brood XIV of the seventeen year cicada is here, and while feeding chickens, William discovered them crawling out of a stump of a tree.

Once we started looking, we found they were everywhere.

Here is one shedding its brown nymph shell to become
an adult cidada with wings.

As it emerges, the cidada is white at first, with very red eyes.

William would like to comment that with the black spots, it looks very much like General Grievious (Grievous, actually but he insists it is Grievious) of Star Wars.

We found them in various stages of emergence. Here Daisy is investigating a nymph that has just come up out of the ground and is rock wall climbing to find a good place to begin its transformation. Next to it, is one that has begun splitting it's shell.

When they first come out, they are very white. An unnamed teen in our house said they were gross and they looked naked.

Having successfully gotten out of its shell, the cicada now sits and dries its wings. I wonder what process occurs to change it from the white cicada above, to the finished black cicada below.

This cicada we took back to the house to watch it "hatch". It is a very slow process. The cicadas seem to be very vunerable at this stage, as they can't really move once they start the final process. We found that the chickens loved eating them. In fact, did you know that cicadas are eaten by humans? In case you are inspired to cook up a batch, I found many recipes on the web. I can just see it now. Mom, what's for dinner? Cicada tacos. Right. Perhaps if I were starving and it was like, oh, 1100 A.D. and Kroger wasn't down the road with perfectly good chicken breasts all cleaned and ready to cook.

From the recipe: "Before you start your cooking you need to remove all the hard parts: "Before you start your cooking you need to remove all the hard parts: wings, legs and head. These parts don’t contain much of the meat either but may be very sharp, so its best to get rid of them. Right. Now, I don't eat things I have to coax out, like oysters, crab legs, etc. Call me spoiled, but I just don't visualize myself pulling the wings off of live insects and popping them in the oven on a cookie sheet for a tasty treat or frying them up in a pan. Gag. I did find a recipe for chocolate covered cicadas, which maybe would be a possibility. Nah, why spoil a good thing?

Back to science lessons, we downloaded some good diagrams and information from and spent the day hearing from William, "MOM. COME LOOK!" He determined that he could not climb his favorite tree without squishing cicadas, or really even walk in the grass. The most amazing thing to think about for me is that this variety of cicada laid the eggs for this brood before my kids were born, before we moved here, and when I was newly married. All done seventeen years ago on days when I was busy in my life, unknowing that 20 miles from where I lived, insects were busy preparing a science lesson for me and a little boy not yet born.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In a Dead Faint

William frantically called me away from my desk work. Something was wrong with one of the chickies. We had tried picking them up for him to hold, and though William is gentle beyond his years, the chickies are not very socialized yet and were very hard to hold, flapping and carrying on. So, I had put their crate on the floor for him to pet them rather than hold.

"This chickie is dying, " he said. I thought there was no way, as I'd just put the crate on the ground. But sure enough, one of the chickies was limp in my hand, its neck lolling around, eyes closed, and it had the "pant" that I've seen many times on injured baby fledgling birds. It was dying. William claimed no injury from him and I could see no visible trauma.

I held it, wondering what to do. Did it inhale some sawdust? Something in its throat? I massaged its neck, held it up. Nothing. I blew on it. Nothing. I tried mouth-to-mouth to Lauren's disgust. No really, I just blew in its beak. Still nothing. So, I returned to my desk, holding it against me thinking at least I could hold it until it died. It then began to jerk every now and again, and suddenly, it was okay though shaky. I put it in a box under my desk lamp for warmth, and short story, after awhile, it was fine and returned to its mates. Today, I cannot tell which of them it was.

This story is perplexing because last week, my sister Diane and my nieces were visiting and reported the same exact thing had happened with one of the black chickies outside up by the barn. Reanna had picked one up and it had virtually "died" in her hands. She put it down, thinking she must have done something, and it popped back to life. Can chickens play "possum"? I've googled and googled and can find nothing on it. I will continue to search for the answer. Perhaps like fainting goats, I have fainting chickens. I can only think they were "chicken" and were frightened literally to death.

Farm Notes
Daisy proved last night she's as worthy of a scavenger as Kiara by stealing half of a turkey breast (about two pounds) from the counter last night and eating the whole thing.

The big chickens are on strike, though Chickin' Lickin' continues to lay steadily.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Cicada Casings

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My Week in Review

Please excuse my lack of blogging lately. I've been busy with pet shitting. No wait, make that pet sitting, although this particular time, it actually has been both. A dear friend and I exchange pet sitting with each other, and I love their animals like my own. It is even (normally) a nice little get away a few times a day to a quiet, clean house.

Scratch clean this time. Lauren best described it as a crime scene. If you are reading this at breakfast, you might want to navigate away from this page and come back later. Really. Or maybe I should temper what I say, as I've been told by known sources that I can be crude. (Excuuuuuuuuse me!) So I'll be a bit more circumspect.

This beautiful dog to the left, Kiara, is a lot like my Daisy. Both are imposters, masquarading as one breed all the while they are really Beagles inside. Both having abandonment issues, they need a lot of love and reassurance, and love their food, eating everything quickly and totally. Given that I know this way of thinking, I should have predicted ...well.

As I've done myself, the owners left a treat for the dog, something to assuage the dog's sadness over their departure. In typical Kiara (and Daisy) fashion, she finished the footlong rawhide bone in one day. This resulted in days of digestive upset (which is putting it mildly). To top it off, Kiara also somehow managed to get an entire canister of soft dog treats off the counter and eat the entire can. The results of that - you don't want to know. As I said, think crime scene. After a few days of boiled hamburger, rice and cottage cheese, she is all better. Thank goodness.

During this time, we also were trying to increase Chiron's (minature horse) training and exercise. One day, Anna and I walked him around "the loop", a two mile walk. Because it started raining, we walked quickly. Later that night, Wm came running from the barn. Chi wasn't doing so well, laying down and rolling, which is a typical sign of colic. He seemed, however, in no pain, had gut sounds, had manure even. He was also doing a strange stretching out with his back legs.

Lauren suggested that he was "tying-up", a condition sometimes seen in horses that have over exercised due to release of lactic acid from exercising into the muscle. He seemed to be having muscle spasms. I'd worked the poor little guy too much. I called the vet and he didn't agree - said it was colic. The prescription for both was the same, however, a bit of banamine (pain killer). After twenty minutes, he was doing well. I, however, got no sleep that night as I had to get up every two hours to make sure he was making manure (I told you this week was crappy) and on his feet. He's fine now, and on a more gradual exercise schedule.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lessons for William

On the way to StuffMart, I outlined our errands for William. They included voting. He asked what that was and after a brief explanation, he asked if I was running for President (bless his little heart). No, I replied, it would require me to be away from him for much of the day and that would not be what we wanted. So, he asked if Daddy was running for President then. No, Daddy is not running for President, as he isn't a politician. What is a politician? Well, it's someone who helps to run the government. What is the government? Well, it is the structure that makes the laws and such that help run our country. A lot of lawyers are polititians for that reason. What is a lawyer? Well, .....and so on. He can exhaust me in under a minute.

We proceeded to StuffMart where he perused the Star Wars aisle in need of spending his allowance. Allowance is the best thing ever invented for a little kid. I am often now asked, "I want this, but am I paying or you?" which often determines whether the item is really all that desirable after all. He's been saving weekly for some time to buy a costly Lego Star Wars ship. It bothered him, however, that he would have to use all of his money to purchase it. He settled for a ship that cost half of the desired ship, as he can't stand the idea of using all of his money.

Allowance also allows for the idea of trading smaller bills for larger, counting the available cash and subtracting the cost of the purchase. We came back to the subject of the government when I explained that he not only had to pay for the ship, but also pay tax on it. What is tax? Well, taxes are what the government collects to build roads, schools...."Well, I'm not going to school. I'm going to homeschool." I guess that settles that!

Farm Notes
A retired neighbor took four loads of manure from us, which was a favor really. Yet, he thought we'd done him a favor and wanted to give something of himself back. He brought five newborn chickies to us. I don't know the breed, and will have to ask him. Pray for hens.

Dh cut some of the taller grass this past weekend, including an area where our ailing septic system has left a "slick". We laughed that we'd had the same thought - of boys using the black slime as a "slip-n-slide".

Today, I noticed policemen all over town pulling over cars, though I could see no violation myself. At my volunteer job, I found out that two separate cases of an escaped prisoner were being worked this morning. In one case, it was 40 miles away, yet the guy used to live here. No details on the other case. I hope they got them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Full House

My days are very full, often of music coming from the piano, boy sounds of blasting rockets coming from ingeniously constructed plastic toys, and spaces taken by painting easels set up in front of my windows, books spilling out all over the tables. My kitchen is my one refuge, my one space I try to keep cleared and clean, yet even there, activity hums and no sooner is it clean, but another meal is needed.

Yet, I've heard moms rejoicing in their pending empty nests. Though I'm certain that I'll fill my time with just as much activity when the days come that scissors stay where they are put and clutter doesn't grow in corners, I'm just as certain that I'll wish for those days of seeing Anna painting next to the piano where Lauren plays. I'm certain that I'll wish for a little boy that still admires me and doesn't yet struggle for independence.

There are times, pet sitting for people with newer houses with nice furniture that I wonder if I ever will get to the point of having a neat, tidy home. And then again, I hope not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

My Margin: Hanging from the Cliff with One Finger

God has a wry sense of humor. Over the next few days, I have activities and responsibilities back to back. Just as I was contemplating this, a friend brought over the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Hah! I won't have time to read it until at least Monday. I also got the book Organizing Plain and Simple: A Ready Reference Guide with Hundreds of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter Challenges from the library which I will read as soon as I remember which pile I threw it in. My daughter is telling me "do you really need to be doing this now?" which is my clue to get moving and get to work. It should be an interesting day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

C'est Vrai?

In our French lesson today, Anna and I came across the following quote from journalist and writer Françoise Giroud:

La femme sera vraiment l'égale de l'homme le jour où, à un poste important, on désignera une femme incompétente.

(Women will really be men's equals on the day when an incompetent woman is appointed to an important position.)

In light of our current political races, what do you think of this quote?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bad Horse Month

It is definitely not the year of the horse, at least for me. This has been a bad horse month. First, losing Bay. Attended Rolex next, a competition involving cross-country jumping where two horses were euthanized that day. Then, miniature horse "Maggie" who resides on our land as a favor to a former neighbor, escaped and hit a car. She survived unscathed - the car racked up $1100 in damages. We heard a friend's beloved favorite horse is gravely ill. And then the Derby and the loss of Eight Belles.

And I wonder - will I feel that same connection again with a horse? Oh, yes, I have Roxie, but as a mini, she's really more like a dog. Horses do not sit in your lap as Roxie does. Still, as I watched the Derby and saw Big Brown run, and even despite the tragedy, I marvelled at his strength, his power, and the beauty of a horse at his prime. Someday....but not just yet.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Load of .....Well, You Know

Lauren and I are pet sitting this week for a young couple and their baby who are in Paris and then London. Another job starts in two days for a woman traveling to Israel. And of course, my own dear daughter just returned from Japan. Myself? I am moving manure.

Over the winter, we've accumulated a good amount of, shall we say, fertilizer? An elderly neighbor loves all that we can give her, and so her husband dutifully brings a trailer over for me to load with our tractor.

It is good timing. The house next to ours, built behind our barn and near the manure pile for what reason I'll never comprehend, was sold and a "middle-aged woman and her mother" (according to the selling couple) are moving in. I've not had to deal with neighbors much at all, but each time I do, I wonder if they'll complain about our rooster crowing, my kids in the yard all hours of the day, or horses that churn up the dry paddock that is next to the intensely manicured lawn.

The house and yard in question are beautiful. Lauren described the cleanliness of Japan. Yet, how could I live without the animals? What could be more satisfying than a good tractor and a pile of manure to move. Okay, I dream of a Caribbean vacation with dh and my girls before they grow up and fly the nest. And yes, I'd like to travel. And yes, a new house with a working septic system and new roof would be lovely. But right now, in this place, we've worked together as a family, felt joy and loss, learned to appreciate small things - like how little chickies love to fight over and rip apart a worm, or how foals make a funny face to older horses that says "I'm a baby - please don't hurt me". I wouldn't change our lifestyle for the world.

As for the photo, William continues his paternal family's farming tradition by learning to drive a tractor from an early age. Dh claims to have driven a tractor standing up, well before he could reach the pedals. (Warning: Do not try this at home!) You can see that Wm has the same photosensitivity that runs in our family. I offered sunglasses, and he claimed he did not need them.
"But, you are squinting," I protested.
"It's only because my eyelashes are sweaty," he replied.


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