Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!  All our presents are opened, our tree admired.  All that remains is to play with the empty boxes.....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Walking into a restaurant yesterday, the hostess looked at our group of five.  "You need two children's menus?

Anna, taller than I, certainly wasn't who she suspected of being a child.  Myself?  Too obviously old.  So, yeah, Lauren.  Who is nineteen.  And William.  Who eats like an adult male.  And no, they weren't making faces.

The horses don't seem to mind the weather.  They come in each night with "high heels", ice balls stuck in their hooves.  It is slippery and I worry one will fall.

Someone I know made the dean's list!

Friday, December 17, 2010


It is a sign of advancing age that one calculates the probability of breaking one's leg before venturing out in the ice and snow of a morning.  I was not quite as old as Elizabeth Edwards when I had my last child, but old enough that I no longer look at a slide down the miraculously ice covered driveway as a cool personal luge, but as an opportunity for a visit to the emergency room.  Nothing could convince his sisters to go outside and try, so that left me.  I must admit it was fun, but not fun enough to do the return climb back up the driveway more than a dozen times.

After lunch, promised the sisters, we'll go out and slide with you.  Saved by the florist, they were.  Florist?  An old van with balding tires boldly (stupidly?) drove down to the house.  My disbelief that a florist was in our driveway (we don't usually spend money on such a luxury) was suspended long enough to predict that he wouldn't get back up it, but it doesn't seem it occurred to the delivery man.  He just needed a running start.  Uh-huh.  After losing a half inch of rubber from his tires, I told him I'd get the tractor out and plow it, thereby ruining the luge.  William's face fell, but there was no hope for it.  I didn't want the man staying for dinner. Anna took William to sled on the ice crusted snow in the back, but it wasn't the same.

After twenty minutes of pushing ice, the man thanked me and commented, "That looks like fun!"   Perhaps he should get a job on a construction crew, rather than delivering wreaths (what we received from dh's work).

Horses were confined to the paddock next to the barn.  I couldn't risk that one might fall and break a leg crossing over to the pasture.

An article claims that school is not where most Americans learn science  I believe it just based on the questions I get from my son.  A friend asked if I had noticed the beautiful rainbow colors as the sun shined through the ice crystals on snow?  Yes, I replied, I have an 8 year old, who asked:

Why does the snow make rainbow colors?  (Because it is made of ice crystals.)
How does it make ice crystals?
How is it that each snow flake is different?  How are snow flakes formed?
How did that water you dropped freeze so quickly on the driveway?
Where are the squirrels?
How can they manage to sleep so long?
How do the birds stay warm?
...and so on.  If I've said it once, I've said it many times, "We'll have to look that up on the Internet."
I don't know what I did before we had it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Freaky but True

I was up in the barn putting the horses to bed.  On the radio, there was a show about animals.  A woman read a letter to her cat who loved her through the woman's alcoholism, anorexia, and cutting.  In the background played the music "Comptine d'un autre été".  I listened to the sad story, seemingly sadder because of the music and which ended with the cat leaving the woman, sensing, she thought, that the woman no longer needed her.  The song made a brain worm in my head.

In the house, I headed upstairs to see Lauren, newly arrived home from college.  In her hands was a sheet of music:  "Comptine d'un autre été".  And no, she wasn't listening to the radio.  Here's a YouTube version:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Go Monarchs!

Yesterday was the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.  During the Homily, Father told about the new parish Catholic school formed four years ago, and the water-torture decision making to choose a mascot for the school.  Finally, "Monarchs" was chosen.   Confusion sometimes occurs people ask why a football team might agree to be named after butterflies, although the symbol of the school is clearly a crown.  He went on to describe the connection to "King of Heaven" and talk about Jesus as King.

I think, however, he sells the Monarch butterfly short, and it is a worthy symbol for a Catholic institution.  Why? The Monarch caterpillar has to die to its old life to transform, reborn again as something glorious.  It is a great symbol of sacrifice and faith.  Late in the season, Monarchs, the longest living and farthest flying butterflies on the planet, escape the desolate earth and descend into the heat of Mexico and rest there.  Come spring, the same Monarch begins a journey to paradise, but never makes it.  Instead, three generations fly the distance, make the ultimate sacrifice and lay eggs of the next generation, dying before the sixth generation of Monarchs finally arrive at their summer grounds.

The Monarch is also bright orange, signaling to other insects and animals not to mess with it:  it's poisonous.  Other butterflies try to imitate it's coloring, but none can match it.  They serve a purpose in our ecology and bring beauty to our world.

As for political monarchs, which have sacrificed so much to be reborn to the new?  Which live their lives so peacefully, fulling their God given purpose?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old Spice Man

Hello, ladies! Look at your man, now back to my man, now back at your man, now back to my man. Sadly, your man isn’t my man, but if he stopped using ladies scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like my man. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a boat with the man your man could smell like. What’s in your hand, back at me. I have it, it’s an oyster with two tickets to that thing you love. Look again, the tickets are now diamonds. Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.  He's on a horse.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kindle a Swindle?

One feature I really love about the Kindle is the ability to download sample chapters of a book before deciding if you'd like to purchase it.  Sometimes this saves a reader money. While historical settings and pirate ships interest me, Michael Crighton's Pirate Latitudes did not hold my interest enough to shell out cash.  Delete.

Recently, I downloaded the first chapters of Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, but decided to read the reviews on Amazon before purchasing.  Surprisingly, I found that the Kindle version lists for $19.99, but a hardback (shipped free because I'm a Prime member) is $18.00.  The reviews were diverse:  many five star reviews, and just as many disappointed compared with his previous bestsellers.  Clicking on the 1-star reviews to understand their discontent, I found a lively discussion about the cost of the Kindle version.

Why did it cost $2 more to get the Kindle version versus a hard copy which would cost the publisher manufacturing costs, paper, handling, storage?  Many considered this a swindle, and that Kindle prices should be significantly lower.  You cannot, after all, resell the book, give it to a friend, or display it on your shelf.

The advantages?  Follett is not know for his brevity, and carrying the 1000-page book around can be cumbersome.  I could get the book right now, no waiting.  I can search the book, make bookmarks, and share passages wirelessly to my Facebook account, a whole new aspect to reading.

My guess is, however, that the publishers are exploiting the instant gratification for U.S. customers who want to read a bestseller right now, and for international customers who might have to wait longer and pay more for shipping.  There is a shipping cost as well for those that are not U.S. Amazon Prime members   It is likely that authors do not benefit at all from the price differential.

My decision?  The book seems interesting, although some reviewers said that by the end of such a lengthy tome, they were glad to be finished with it.  I will wait until the price drops.  The Pillars of the Earth is only $6.99, and I can wait.

Mr. Rooster and Aunt Rita

Both are molting.  My barn looks like a pillow factory that has been bombed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bet They Don't Teach This in Public School

William hypnotizes "Aunt Rita"

I am guessing that of the three Black Australorp chicks we have, two are female and one is a rooster, which would be perfect.  We are basing this on behavior so far and tail feathers.  When alarmed, only one chick sticks his head straight up as if to look and be ready to fight.  The two hens hunker down.  Tail feathers support this gender division.  Here is the tail of one of the hens:

And here is the suspected rooster's tail:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lack of Hero Worship

For the past two days, the power has flickered at about 8:00 a.m.  This resets the answering machine, cuts out Internet connection, and apparently, turns off the television.  William had arisen early, and wanting to finish my coffee before playing twenty questions, I was a bad mom and he was catching his morning "Sponge Bob".

That is, until the TV suddenly turned off.

He came running into the kitchen.  "What did you do?"

I suppose I've been watching too many episodes of "Heroes" because without a blink, I said, "Well, it is 8 a.m. and time for you to turn off the TV, so I turned it off."

"No, really," he said with quizzical grin.  "How did you do that?"

"With my mind," I said.  "I have powers.  I just thought hard and turned off the TV."

"Do you have another remote somewhere?"  Sigh.  The days of believing in an all powerful mommy are over.

It was raining this morning and chilly.  Knowing that it was going to quit after lunch, I gave the horses hay and left them inside.  The neighbor's horses, used to our routine, yelled over the fence, "HEY, WHERE ARE YOU??  YOU ARE COMING OUT, RIGHT?  I'M HERE, WAITING!!"  Of the three, the young gelding called until I went into the house, ignoring him.  He would have to wait.

Another sign you are officially old:  you don't think you can stay awake long enough to see the premier showing of Harry Potter.  Anna, however, got to go thanks to friends.

Dh and I were discussing a jar of his mom's pickles.  "They are quite spicy,"  I said.
"I like them," he said.  "Hot and crisp.  (pause)  Just like you!" he grinned.  He always knows the right thing to say.  I'm glad he thinks I'm hot, but I'm not quite as crisp as I used to be.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Funky Eggs

Dear Junosmom:
I have hens in my backyard.  My eggs are tasting funky.  Any ideas?

Dear Elizabeth,
Backyard eggs should taste no different from store bought eggs, although they should be more fresh and the whites should "stand up" more when the egg is broken.  The shell color and yolk color (free-ranged chickens often have more colorful yolks) will not affect the taste.

So, a little detective work is in order.  I would start with "What goes in, must come out" and investigate the food your hens consume.  It is possible that foods fed to the hens could be affecting egg taste.  Onions, garlic, and members of the Brassica family of vegetables (cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli) could be the culprit if fed in large quantities.  Feeding table scraps?   Chickens are omnivores, but large quantities of meat and fish are probably not natural.  Try removing all kitchen and garden waste from your hens' diet.  Does that change the taste?  If not, try another brand of layer feed.

Secondly, make sure that the coop is clean and has fresh bedding.   Eggs should be collected daily and refrigerated.  Any cracked eggs should be discarded as bacteria can enter through the cracks.  If the eggs are dirty when collected, brush them off, but do not wash them.  Washing removes a protective coating on the eggs and they should not be washed until right before usage.  Unwashed eggs can be stored without spoiling at room temperatures for up to two weeks.

If these measures don't improve egg taste, you might consider not allowing them to free range for a week to see if they are perhaps ingesting something in your yard that give them an off taste.

Most people find that backyard eggs, because of the freshness, are better for eating.  The exception to this might be in making hard boiled eggs.  Older eggs seem to peel more easily, while fresh eggs can be tough to peel.

Some people will tell you that your problem is eating something that comes from the butt of a chicken in the first place, but the same "some people" doesn't even eat lettuce so you have to take into account the source.

Good eating,

The horses were much more, shall we say, respectful when I called them to come in at 6 p.m. last evening.  In fact, they were dancing in place like dressage horses.  I cannot understand how deer can stand living outside in this type of weather, or any animal for that matter.

Finished reading Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.  More on that later.
On my Kindle:  Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy) for me, The Railway Children for William

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All Wet

Finally, we have rain.  With lower temperatures, the horses can get quite chilled.  After William's fencing class, I cleaned all the stalls, put down hay, filled water buckets, put up my hood and dodged into the rain to call for the horses.  They stood in the shed, looking out at me with blank faces.  What did I want?  They were not going out in the rain!  Okie nudged noses with Etta, "What d'ya think?"  She nudged back.  "Staying right here!"

Well, at least the barn will be all done for this evening, when I know they'll be ready to come in for their grain.

During William's fencing class, I ducked out to drive a few blocks down the street to the laundromat.  Not a frequent customer, I realized I had brought no detergent and had to run to the local Save-Not-So-Much to buy it.  Returning, I fed the monster machines a bucket of quarters and stuffed them full of horse blankets.  I looked around furtively, wondering if it was okay to stuff the machines with material laden with horse urine and worse.  No one seemed to give me a second look.  Back to fencing class to pick up Prince William, whose class was running 20 minutes late.  Oh, no!  Would I get into trouble leaving the blankets in the washers?

Back to the laundromat, I found the blankets washed, reasonably clean and no one waiting to cuss me out.  Success!  They now hang wet in the barn, but due to the rain and humidity, are not likely to dry for a long time.  They do smell good.  I smell, however, like I've rolled in a dirty stall.

Chickies are growing fast.
It is almost time to start using the wood burning stove.
Our schedule is about to change dramatically for the better.  Imagine, staying home while homeschooling!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fire and Brimstone

All I can say is that he or she must have been a guest to our Church this morning. Otherwise, how could they not know what would happen?

Father M holds up four fingers.  "So today, I want you to remember four things that the Church wants you to know are at the end."

  1. Death
  2. Judgement
  3. Heaven
  4. or Hell
Simultaneously with his utterance of "Hell", someone's cell phone went off.  

Father M's eyes narrowed.  "And that's where you are going right now!  (He says, pointing in the direction of the ring tone.  Congregational laughter.)  When I die, I'll be at the pearly gates to testify against you!"  

We all know he was joking just as we also know he is dead serious when asking us to silence our cell phones during services.

I just want to take a moment to tell all of my friends how very blessed I am to know you, those in real life and those who are my cyberpals.  I enjoy all of your comments here and on Facebook.

The men in my life take in a football game

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I remember when Pitawoman told me about this puppy.  She and I share a love of Great Danes, and because her "Smokey" loved my "Juno", we are in-laws of sorts.  The puppy was deaf and possibly blind.  The breeder was going to euthanize her.  After all, who'd want a 120 pound blind and deaf dog?  Besides, Pitawoman already had two Great Danes, enough pounds in dog food per month to qualify as weight lifting.

Olivia has surpassed all obstacles, from deafness and blindness to recurrent seizures.  She now walks in charity events and visits shut-ins as a pet therapy dog.  Recently, she was nominated as "Dog of the Week" at A Dog's Purpose..  I repeat the entry here as it changes weekly, and there doesn't appear to be a direct link:

Born Deaf and Nearly Blind, Olivia is Now a Service Dog
By PitaWoman

A dear friend of mine that shows and raises Great Danes had a litter in March of 2005.  We had previously gotten 3 danes from her over the years, and had two in our house at that time, so we had no interest in acquiring another.  I had always had an aversion to white dogs, I'm not certain why, but something about them had always kind of freaked me out, especially dogs with pink noses.  So when I saw those two puppies, I had no trouble resisting the urge to cuddle and coo over them.

As the pups were nearing the age of 6 weeks, I was talking to my friend on the phone about watching our fur-babies for us while we went on vacation.  The conversation turned to her small litter and she mentioned that she was taking them to the vet to have their hearing and vision checked, and how she felt almost certain the little girl was deaf &/or blind.  I was still indifferent to the pups, but just making conversation, I asked, "Hmm, how on earth will you go about finding a home for her (or them) if they are disabled?"
She replied, "well, it wouldn't be easy.  In all likelihood, I will have to have her put down."

I gasped in horror at the mere thought.  She continued, "Well, she really wouldn't have any quality of life."

I was still horrified at the thought and somewhat speechless.  Our conversation finally ended and my heart was suddenly aching to give that little girl a chance at life.  I went outside to butter up my husband and ask if we could get another Great Dane.  He thought I needed my head examined, and probably I did, but when I explained the situation, his heart gave-in as well.  The next day I talked to my friend and asked her if she would consider letting us have the pup, she said she need a few days to think about it and would let me know.

When she finally got back to me, we came to an agreement that the little girl would come to live with us and be given a chance, only if I agreed that if the puppy proved to be too difficult to train, house break, or couldn't get along with other dogs and people, then we would do right by her and have her euthanized.  I made the agreement with a determination that I never knew existed inside me.  I was bound and determined to prove that little girl would have a quality life.  I even went a step further and tossed out the idea that maybe one day she could become a therapy pet.

Her vet had determined that she was completely deaf and partially blind.  We took possession of her when she was 9 weeks old.  We decided to name her "Olivia" because our male dane is "Eliott" after the lead detective on "Law & Order: SVU", so we needed an Olivia to complete the detective duo.

Olivia fit in with our family right away and I got over my dislike of pink-nosed white dogs immediately.  She had been born with just a few black and gray spots, and a few more popped out over the next few months, giving her just enough to be recognized as a Harlequin Great Dane.

I wasted no time getting her enrolled in obedience school.  She did well, not the star-pupil by any means, but considering the challenges we both faced, we got through it.  Just to make sure the lessons were reinforced upon both of us and to get her socialized with many different people and dogs, we repeated the course several times over the next year.  When Olivia was 16 months old, I finally took a deep breath and took her to be tested for her Canine Good Citizenship.  She passed with flying colors!!  I was beaming with pride.

Up until now, we would only let her out in the back yard with the other dogs if we were going to accompany her.  We weren't sure what her degree of vision was and didn't want to risk her falling into the swimming pool or falling off the deck.  More often than not though, we tended to just take her out for a walk on a leash instead of letting her run around the back yard.  Besides, if left to run loose with the other dogs, that beautiful white coat wouldn't have stayed white for very long.

We were beginning to discover what her visual limitations were through trial and error.  She has no peripheral vision or depth-perception, no control over her eye movement as her eyes are basically "locked" in position as if she's looking at the floor, and much of what she does see is clouded by the 3rd-eyelid constantly covering most of the pupil.  But she sees well enough to get around and there is certainly nothing wrong with her nose.
The fact that she is 115 lbs. doesn't stop her from being a lap-dog.  When she's not curled up in her own recliner, then she can often be found curled up in the nearest lap.

A couple of years ago, I started taking Olivia out nearly every weekend and participating in either 5k events or charity walks in order to get her used to being approached and petted by strangers of all shapes and sizes, to get her used to walking in crowds and being around bicycles, children in wagons, people in wheelchairs and what-not, all in an effort to prepare her towards becoming a therapy pet.

All the hard work has paid off.  Last year she passed her test and is now a member of Pet Love, Inc. and goes on visits to nursing homes.  Some of the patients are put-off by her size, but many are drawn to her because she's easier for them to love on without having to bend over to reach.

Olivia has heart, literally!  She has a heart-shaped spot on her side, and as a pup also had one on her tail, but as she grew older, that spot grew and blended in with the others around it.  This sweet girl has had her challenges in life, including suffering from occasional seizures. Fortunately, those seem to have subsided, hopefully never to occur again.

Everyone that meets Olivia thinks she's awesome and we feel she's a fabulous ambassador for what can be accomplished with a little time and energy and a lot of love.Not only has she got quality of life, she has added so much quality to our lives!!!  We can't imagine life without her!

Z:  I don't really know..........but I don't think....... you have to pay taxes on your bicycle.
A:  No, riding your bike is free.
W:  You don't have to pay to ride your bike.
A:  (laugh)  'Cause if you had to pay to ride your bike, I'd be, like, broke!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Horse for Your Child?

A friend told me yesterday that after attending my class on raising horses and chickens on a small acreage, she decided that I work very hard and she's not so sure that she wants chickens after all.

True, animals are a lot of work and money.  I estimate that keeping one horse for a year costs about $1000 per horse.   There are moments in the dark of February's cold that I have to steel myself to going outside to muck stalls.  So why?

Animals remind me to slow down, to enjoy the gift of sunshine, to take a moment to lay down and feel it.  Etta always reminds me to give her a hug after her grain is eaten, chuckling softly to me.  Come here, she says.  It was a hard day, but I'll give you a hug.  You give one to me.

We have learned invaluable lessons of life and death, of hard work and dedication, of handling crisis and of loving unconditionally.  The horses are my meditation.

Questions of the week:
"What horse (breed) would you buy for a young child (wanting to have their own horse)?

Buying a horse is a long-term commitment to an animal.   Before buying a horse, the child should take riding lessons with a qualified instructor for a year.   While learning to ride, they should also learn basic care of the horse, safety, health issues and how to tack their own horse.  If that child still wants to go to their riding lesson when it is February and very cold, then the child may be ready for their own horse.  If it is too cold to ride, it is still important to take the student to the barn, brush or lead the horse.  If dedication wanes in the cold, then owning your own horse will be difficult and parents will end up either fighting with the child or feeding the animal themselves in the coldest months.

If after a year's time, you think proceeding with buying your own horse will fit your family, consult with your instructor as to horses available in your area.  Buy a horse with the most training you can afford or have the horse in training before coming to your barn.  It is expensive to buy a horse, but that is only the beginning of the expense.  The true cost of a horse is in the yearly upkeep.  Many times I have heard of a "free" horse.  There is no such thing.  Horses begin costing you as soon as you own them, and a free horse eats just as much as a $3000 horse.

Too many horses are purchased because they are inexpensive, yet "green".  Don't ask me how I know, but I'll show you my cracked helmet.  Unless you are a horse trainer, you need an experienced, older and trained horse for your child.

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities
Natural Horse-Man-Ship: Six Keys to a Natural Horse-Human Relationship
How to Be Your Own Veterinarian (Sometimes): A Do-It-Yourself Guide for the Horseman

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

North American International Livestock Convention

Any time you think you are having a difficult day as a parent, consider the pig mother:

Having a long, hard day trying to earn your daily bread?

Reading to William:  The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Tumbling, Tumbling, Tumbleweeds

You know your house is in a pretty bad state when you are apologizing to the cable guy for the mess.  The dust bunnies are reaching the size of tumbleweeds.  In the past few months, I have gone from having a full time job homeschooling and keeping up the house and animal farm, to driving four days a week to Anna's classes in a nearby city.  Because of the distance, I find something to do there, or work with William on his schoolwork.  Multi-tasking on the house, however, is impossible.

Dh buys more clothing to compensate for the black hole that seems to have opened up in the laundry basket.  Thinking that the cleaners is, well, taking me to the cleaners, I decide to iron his shirts myself.  They sit in a pile, waiting and collecting dog hair.

It has occurred to me that I have started a full-time job, more or less, without the organization and preparation that should come with such a transition.  Soon, she will be able to drive herself, although a new driver in rush hour traffic isn't optimal.  We have only to get through this month and the classes will be over.

Twenty-six adults and children came to my farm to learn about raising horses and chickens.  I always enjoy sharing what I know about animals.

We have frost on the ground, and it is 29 degrees F.

We got hay delivered yesterday, and William, consistent with his age, wanted to be friendly and show off his bantam chicken.  He put Aunt Rita on his head and walked around with her, expecting the guy to notice, which eventually he had to because William was in the way of the hay stacking.  Later, as we got out of the car to go to martial arts class, William leaned over.  "Smell my hair," he asked.

"I don't want to smell your hair," I refused.  "Why should I?"

"Well, I had a chicken sitting on my head."  I assured him that the stocking cap he was wearing likely protected his hair, I gave a swift sniff, and approved him for going in to a room to sweat with a bunch of other kids who likely would not smell his hair.

Friday, November 05, 2010

"Educate a boy, and you educate and individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen "
— Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time)

Tuesday night, Anna, dh and I had the honor of hearing Greg Mortenson speak.  It was a first for me - attending an author's forum and book signing.  His books make so much sense and he claims that key military commanders have read and agree with his approach.  Then why are we not giving him an office in the White House, setting him up with a staff, and moving forward?

I am wondering if it is because as Americans, we must take the credit, the glory.  According to Mortenson, if we can fund the schools behind the scenes, but allow the Afghans to plan and build the schools, the schools won't be burned to the ground by the Taliban.   But then, it doesn't look like your big brother, America, came and rescued you, does it?

Mortenson is an engaging speaker, though a bit breathy.   Self-proclaimed as shy and introverted, perhaps it is nervousness or the fact that being on the road a lot may affect his health.  My most favorite moment was the photo of  Afghan men in turbans, long robes and beards, "scary men" as Mortenson put it, swinging on a swing set at a school.  Forced to become soldiers, they had had no childhood.  They would approve the building of a school, as long as it had a playground.

Aunt Rita (bantam) has gone broody.   Normally, I'd be aggravated: broody = no eggs.  Yesterday, however, I had twenty-six adults and kids over to learn about keeping horses and chickens.  A broody hen is good for kids to hold, except when they poop on you.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Driving on Autopilot

Boys seemingly begin planning what car they will someday own from the point of birth.  Myself, I'm lucky to be able to identify what company manufactured a car by looking at the symbol on the car.  From a distance, I can't tell one model from another.  You have to understand:  I have had to mentally discount the importance of the car model and how it reflects on the driver or face what it means that I drive a beige mini-van with 225,000 miles on it.

Outside, I am a beige mini-van; inside I'm this.
(At least, I drive like that.)

Recent questions from William (within a 15 minute time frame):

Who invented the car?
Who invented the engine?
Did he get rich?
Did they invent electricity or the car first?
Why do cars cost so much?
What is the fastest car?
What car is newest (most recent release)?
What is the oldest car still made?

And so on....I need a cheat sheet.

I lost a chickie this week and it was all my fault.  Another life lesson.  Most mother hens allow me to remove them in the morning from the 100 gallon galvanized tub in which I have them to let them get out and do their "business".  I removed this new mom, and panicked, she jumped back in and nailed the chickie, injuring it severely.  I picked it up, breathed on it, prayed to St. William Firmatus (loved animals, especially birds), nearly did mouth-to-beak resuscitation, but to no avail.   I started with $25 in fertile eggs and yielded three chicks.  They'll likely all be roosters.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

It started as a good idea.  Anna had an art class downtown scheduled (we thought) exactly during trick-or-treating time.  How to take William trick-or-treating and yet, still get Anna to art?  There is a neighborhood that can only best be described as Halloween's version of the neighborhood in Skipping Christmas.  Each Halloween, the front yards of this street contain decorations, some animated and live entertainment.  We would take William there, as it was only a short drive from the art school.

After finding out that Anna's art class had been canceled, the prudent thing to do would have been to high tail it to a neighborhood near us.  But no, I still clung to my original idea.  Soon, it became apparent that everyone else in town was headed there as well.  Hundreds.  Thousands?  Really.  

The side walks were lined three across as people shuffled along, looking at decorations, laughing, enjoying the "festival".  In fact, I found out after that this neighborhood is such a destination on Halloween, that the city wants them to get a permit next year.   As many adults were costumed as children, which made for amusing viewing.

Anna and I most enjoyed a large rubber spider, suspended from a tree, that was let down by it's operator from a hidden location onto the unsuspecting crowded sidewalk.  One large black woman walked right into it.  "Sheeeeeeeee-it" she screamed, swatting at the air and doing a little dance.  Then she bent over the stroller she was pushing.  "My apologies," she said, "to all you children, but that scared the sh*t out of me."  Then she laughed.  And we laughed.  We could have stood there all day watching that, but William was not pleased.

"I am like a puppet, being pulled and pushed," he said.  Short and dressed all in black, he was not enjoying the crowd.  As dh, Anna and I pointed out something new to see, he only wanted to go home.  So much for my great idea, and likely, he'll be too "old" next year.  Ah, well, I tried.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowed E'en

 Jorgen comes in from the field each day with his halter jauntily off one ear.  I wonder if another horse is pulling him around by the head, or if he is being "cool" like a boy wearing a ball cap to the side.  

He was spooked this morning and ran up the hill when I lifted the hay feeder off the bit of hay left.  No other horse was out.  He rolled deliciously in the sun, then, figuring the danger was over, returned to see if he could now get at that hay.  It was then I noticed he already had his halter askew.  He is doing it by rolling.

He is quite the alpha horse, despite being the smallest.  I might even go so far as to say he is "pissy", meaning he would stand in the middle of all the hay and well, pee on it rather than let anyone else have any.  The other two stand delicately at the edges, eating what they can before he squeals.  Notice how he puts his whole pie hole in the hay.

Lazarus is another one that has a more difficult personality.  He is somewhat mentally ill, but tolerable if you know how to deal with him.  He lives outside, mostly.  When we had a storm this week, he was in the house (why??) and was so nervous, he went feral.  He wanted out!  Now!  I couldn't get him out the door because he would try to attack me.  I finally propped it open and ran him out.  Today, he was loving, rubbing all over my legs and allowing me to hold him.  I have to feed him in the tack room because a four pound hen will run him off of his cat food and steal it.

We have four chicks as of today.  I think the other two eggs will not hatch but we'll give them a little more time.  

Quote (à la Cloudia, who always finds great quotes)

"Only those who are asleep make no mistakes."  

-Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA

From the book The 4-Hour Workweek

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Getting older has its advantages, like opening up all sorts of topics I might not have previously discussed.  Assured of aches and pains I felt not in my youth, the goal has changed.  After attaining a certain age, we no longer strive to look good.  Rather, we strive to look not as bad as others our age.   Admit it.  You look at others and say, well, my arms may have a little wing action, and my belly, welll... and my girls are migrating, but by comparison....

I remember my mom saying that aging was hard because while she still got "looks", the age of the guys looking had changed and they were much too old.  In her head, she was still very young.  Lately, I get my mom more.  For example, I was driving down the road with Anna shotgun, William in the back.  Keith Richards was on NPR, and I knew who he and what he was.  I knew the word to the songs.  And as we drove, I felt the youthful surge of the beat and the words, but knew that no longer could, even should I move to that beat, would I ever be "cool" again.

Thank goodness for the recent revival of classic rock, however, because I know the words and can sing to the radio.  William asks incredulously, "Mom, how do you know this song?"

As an aside, I enjoyed Richard's story about how he wrote (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction in his sleep.  More likely, in a drug induced haze.  It is kind of funny though.  And I marveled that the band still wants to play.  The man is 70 years old.   Can a band of 70 somethings attract and audience?  Is a longer life span going to affect our view of age?

William's costume this year

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cluck and Baby

We checked in at 9 p.m. last night and one chick had just emerged from the shell.  So, now there are two!

"'W'sup?"  (Someone has been watching too much Karate Kid (2010).)

Because I have such a lame life, I was watching clips of a show from my childhood, The Flying Nun.  Anna popped into the room and looked over my shoulder.

"Seriously?  People watched that?" she asked.
"Why not?"
"Well, it is so unbelievable that a nun could fly around using her hat!"  (She also complained of the special effects and I can't argue there.)

"Oh," says I.  "Because it is SO much more believable to watch a boy flying around on his magical broomstick chasing a ball with wings."  Score.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich  Yeah, that's me all right:  the New Rich.  Huh.

Reading on my Kindle:
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1757)
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (Classic Reprint)
The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version - Burgundy - Second Catholic Edition

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boy Talk

Overheard:  (three boys, ages 8-9 years old)

"I don't know what it means, but it means a really bad word when you stick up your middle finger."

Friend was asked by her son, one of the three, "Why did God made your third finger bad?"

Overheard, Part II:

"I think he's a boy," said one boy.
"No, she's a girl.  She is wearing [elbow length, orange suede] gloves."
"But look at his [mohawked, partially shaved, dyed orange] hair.  He's a boy."
This went on for a few more observations. 

Finally, a tie breaker was called for.
"Mrs. A____, is that a boy or a girl?"  I looked at the obviously transgendered individual in front of me and weighed how to handle a delicate conversation, particularly with children who were not mine.

"Well," I said cautiously, "judging from the facial hair, I would say that he is a boy."  [Aside:  yes, I know you have an auntie that had to shave regularly, but this was a young person.]  "He just has a different taste in clothing.  Would YOU wear orange suede gloves?" 

The boys giggled.  "Nooooo..."
"Would you wear those white pointed elf shoes?"

I distracted them by asking if they liked the articles of clothing, rather than the whole package.  Thankfully, Anna arrived (we had been waiting for her) and the conversation shifted. 

Obviously, I am not very good at record keeping.  I had the chicks on my calendar as hatching on Saturday.  We found one hatched this morning, another is hatching now.  Either they are precocious or ....well, likely it was me.   Here are some cool photos that show how you can know if an egg is developing. 

It's college application time again.  Yeee-haw.

Proving to my young son that I'm not too old to climb through a small cave.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finally, You Say

My excuse is that I've been falling apart since my 50th birthday.  Literally.  I am determined to go into old age strong, but it isn't a good sign that you have to feel your VISA card like braille to type the numbers for an online order.

I began having problems shortly after the bird pooped in my ear.   Yes, you read it correctly.  My son and his two friends thought it was hilarious that one of those damn Lorikeets (you'd think I'd learn) sucked up the nectar that costs, per ounce, more than gold, and rewarded me by climbing on to my head.   I have no idea how the timing of his bodily functions and my ear being tilted just so happened, but it did.  For days after, I kid you not, I could feel fluid only in that ear.  I had a photo of this bird on my head (photos add much to a blog, don't they?) but I didn't see the card laying on my computer, and it was cracked when I closed the lid.

A few days later, I began having vision problems.  Having watched too many episodes of the Monsters Inside Me or some such, I visualized exotic Australian lorikeet worms working their way from my ear into my eyeballs. I was not so lucky, as I am sure that would just take a good worming.  Rather, my corneas, made of 6 or 7 layers like all human eyes, have begun to separate.  Hooks hold these layers together and for some reason, long term contact users can one day develop this condition.

The pain hit while I was away from home on a trip to see Lauren at college and celebrate an early Thanksgiving with relatives.  To understand what it felt like, take a bamboo skewer and stick it in your eye.  There, that's it.

Four doctors later, one had the solution: I'll have to give up my silicone.  Not the girls, no, they're all mine. My contacts were of  the highest tech material available, silicone.  I will have to revert to a material I used many, many years ago, but my eyes are now recovered.  Computer work was not comfortable for some time.

Aches and pains were also an issue during this break.  I found that if you carry 40 pounds of used cat litter outside to dump it, and there was a frost the night before, and you try to walk down a hill, the resulting fall can rip your tendons in your shoulders.  The rest of the day I went about like a wooden statue.  This was just a follow-up to the previous day when the miniature horses, headed to their stalls and held only by a lead line, decided to detour to outside of the barn, where again, I encountered the slippery grass.  By the time I got up, ran to shut the front gate as a precaution, they were in their stalls serenely eating their grain.

So, my plans to age gracefully have suffered a slight set back, but I'll go down swinging!  Or at least, I'll go down.

"Cluck" is sitting on six eggs.   At least four and probably five are viable.  Heard a cheep today from inside the egg.  Due on Saturday.

The horses have been "flipped".  This is not like cow tipping.  Rather, they are now outside in the daytime and inside at night, the reverse of the summer schedule.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why We Homeschooled High School

Lauren is off at college now.  During a phone conversation, I worried aloud as to whether I had covered enough subjects to prepare her.  How will she do? This is my "final exam".  She assured me, "Mom, you taught me how to learn."

In addition to raising a child who is now, in college, already fully engaged and volunteering at her Church there (faith), and who calls us several times a week to share what she is doing (family), she is doing well academically.  As one commenter on the website The Race to Nowhere stated, we do not have to "produce happy, motivated, and creative human being(s)".  They are born that way.  We adults need only be sure to not drum it out of them.  

This trailer brings up some very good points.  This trailer is all I know about the film, but I would like to see it.  I truly believe that our educational system won't succeed until we have focused in our society on what is truly important.

Evidently, the drought has also affected the corn production, candy corn that is.  It is candy corn season and I've already been to two stores looking for it.  They are sold out and apparently there is a shortage.  I've eaten the one bag I found early in the season and it can't be replaced.  I didn't know that there was a shortage and did not properly ration myself.  I have found the kind that is orange, brown and white, but everyone knows that's not real candy corn.   My sister reports a similar shortage in Cincinnati.

It rained today.  Not enough to make a difference, but enough to remind oneself that it can and to give one hope.

I had a nice birthday with many good wishes on Facebook, flowers, chocolate, wine and Chinese takeout, a back rub.  Family and phone calls.  What more could a person want?

Reading:  The White Queen

Friday, September 24, 2010

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

(I must say, my photography skills do not do justice to Anna's paintings, but still, I hope to share a bit of their beauty.)

Looking at our wedding album this week, I pointed to a photo of me on our wedding day.  "I still feel like that inside."  The girl in the photo wasn't half a century old, but she was young and vibrant.  Strong.  Still, there was a lot she did not know yet.

"You still look like that to me," dh said.  It is part of God's plan that our eyesight fails as we age.

Today, I pass the half century mark.  One down, one to go.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can We Have A Little Privacy Here?

When dh suggested (jokingly) that we could pad the college fund with a pornographic webcam, I don't think he was thinking of wheel bugs.  These two provided a science lesson today as they climbed the tree while procreating.  Thank goodness humans don't have to do that.  Climb trees, that is.

This particular tree is right outside our front door, and unfortunately, seems to be dying.  An ash tree, the bark is split in places and sap is running.  As a result, lots of insects come to the tree to get a sip in this drought, providing a study for us.

At a visit to a college, Anna and I sat having lunch outside.  A glance at a nearby table, and I was convinced that the girl sitting there was someone I knew or had met.  It drove me crazy trying to think of her name.  I tried not to stare, but I did indeed know her.  From where?  Finally, it hit me.  She was the spitting image of "Daisy", a character on the TV show "Bones", and not at all a real person I knew.  I need to get out more.

The Erie Canal at Rochester, New York by Anna

Yesterday, Anna and I tried to figure out how to ride a city bus.  We knew the bus number and the busy intersection where it stopped.  We stood at one corner, wondering which of the four corners was the right one.  Our pale skin stood out, we looked about confused.  Looking at placards on the shelters, none had our number.   A man tried to get my attention, "Are you paying with cash or a token?"  He waved small paper at me.  Was that a token?  I ignored him and went on.  He muttered something about how you ask a person a question.....

Finally, we waited just to see.  The bus arrived on time, pulling up to a shelter not at the intersection as it was described, but one third of the way down the block - and on the opposite side of the street from where we were with the light against us.  Fail!  Luckily, this was just to investigate an alternative route home in an emergency.  We turned around and walked back to our car - one of the privileged who don't have to wait for the next bus.

Watching:  Lie to Me, season finale

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It Is What It Is
Coming downstairs, Anna smiled.  "Something smells....."  Her smile faded.  "Tell me that's not dog food," she said, looking at the happily bubbling pot on the stove.

"Yup, that's exactly what it is," I smiled back.  Of course, as dh says it is perfectly good people food, too.  In fact, he said, it is probably what we all should be eating.  With two in college next year, perhaps it will be what we will eat - lentils.  It will be easier.  I'll just cook up a mess of it every weekend and we'll, the dogs and people, eat from the slop bowl.

Note to self
Do not put an egg in your jeans pocket with your cell phone and then bend over to pick something up.  'Nuff said.

At the Zoo
William and I had an hour to kill yesterday, so we dropped in at the zoo.  It is an interesting place to observe not only animals, but people.   For example, a woman stood with her son and husband at the exhibit just beyond the meerkat exhibit.  William and I like watching the meerkat expressions, so we lingered a bit.  I hear, "Oooh, yuck, look at the babies!"  She tells her son that they are looking a the babies of those animals (meerkats) around the corner.  By now, William and I are ready to move on, so as I pass, I casually mention that she is viewing naked mole rats, adult ones, and they actually are not baby meerkats.  She looks at the sign hanging prominently near the exhibit.  She doesn't seem any less repulsed, and maybe more so.

Only minutes later, they seem to have followed us to the gorilla exhibit, our ultimate destination.  
"Look," she points out to her boy.  "Here comes another monkey!"
I sigh.  The zoo is a teaching ground for me for science.  I want to shout, "IT'S AN APE!"
See, no tail.  Monkeys have tails.  I shake my head.  We didn't stay long there.  It is hot outside, so the apes are inside lounging in an area that reminds me of a prison.  I feel sorry for them.

My schedule is crazy right now, arranging my life in minutes not days or hours.  It is all working, as long as there is no emergency, nothing goes wrong.  My heart sank when dh asked me to the barn yesterday, thinking Etta looked "bloated".  It appears my formerly starving horse is just getting very fat on the sugar-rich drought pasture.  We will have to make some changes.

Why do you blog?  William asks me.  He stands at my side while I type.  Waiting.  Wanting the computer to play a game.  When will I be done?  He waits.  He fidgets.  In case you wonder why I sometimes miss a day writing.

Finished watching:  A Man for All Seasons

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting Results

My cell rang as I drove towards home, the flat golden soybean fields of southern Indiana sliding past me.  It was William.  Excitedly, he told me that the second chrysalis had turned black!  Only an hour after I last wrote on this blog and posted the photo of the blackened chrysalis and trying to get ready to leave on a two day trip to see colleges, William had called, "Mom, it HATCHED!"  Sure enough, the beautiful butterfly had emerged, still wet and unable to fly.   We propped up the lid so it could fly away.  We couldn't stay to watch - it was time for us to leave.

Anna and I have been visiting colleges, searching for her future.  Each place is so different, with so varied a type a life:  a cosmopolitan city life full of bustling students, an intense and vigorous lifestyle or a quiet, rural contemplative place, more nurturing and slower paced.  What fits her?

It hits me as I talk with professors and students alike that here I am, in the second half of my life, living the quite rural life, away from the stimulation of the scholarly world.  They seem so confident, so absorbed in their fields.  All the subjects pull at me.  I would study them all.  I would enjoy this environment.  The only one that does not pull at me is the one I majored in.  "You can skip that building,"  I think.  I don't want to tour the engineering building.

Instead, I work to find what will fulfill and fit my girls.  It appears that Lauren has landed in the perfect place, already, as her professor says, "making a presence".   I must find another perfect fit for Anna.  My feet, or more particularly, my recently redesigned foot, is having a hard time keeping up.

After Communion, William whispered, "I think I got a stale one."

Finished reading:  Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting Closer!

This butterfly is going to have to migrate a little farther than it thought. William is going visiting to my sister's house, two hours away. He is going to take his chrysalis with him, so as not to miss it hatching. That is, if it doesn't hatch by this afternoon.  My sister also homeschools and appreciates learning from real life.

Farrier came today to trim the horses.  He said that all hooves are growing at fast rates right now, which is good for his business.  This spring, we had a lot of rain and great grass pastures, followed by drought.  The grass reacts to the drought by producing more sugar in the grass.  Horses, then, can get fat and even founder on very (apparently) poor pastures that are actually more like candy than protein.  Imagine, walking around all day on your food! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Backyard Visitors

"Come quickly, Mom!  Look what's in our backyard!"

William and I went creek walking to look for milkweed and the possibility of another Monarch caterpillar.  Did you know that only the ones who change into a butterfly this time of year live long enough to migrate to Mexico and California?   By the time we see them again in the spring, six generations have been born, reproduced and died.  Anyway, we did not see any milkweed but we did find some other treasures:

One spot in our creek I call the swimming hole.  There, even if the creek is dry, will be a small amount of water sheltering any fish or frogs trying to survive to the next rainstorm.  William went there today with dh and reportedly caught thirty fish with his net!  Walking the dry creek bed is interesting:  you see tracks of deer, raccoon and other creatures.  You find buckeye nuts:

and later learn about a boy game called "conkers".  Buckeyes are so called because Native Americans from this region thought they resembled the eye of a male deer. 

We saw wildflowers of many colors:

We also found an oak leaf with interesting attachments.  What are they?

As we walked, William shook his head.  "This is just sad, Mom," he said quietly.

What was sad? I asked.

"There is no water!  What do all the animals do?  Did all the fish except those in the swimming hole die?"

I assured him that soon, the life cycle would begin again and water would again flow.  The weather, however, has been a big tease this week.  Perhaps next?

Daisy woke me up with her intense itching at 1:30 a.m. so I got up, walked to the barn to get the special shampoo, and washed her.  She was much happier.  I, on the other hand, could then not go to sleep, and when I did finally, I nearly overslept the time to drive Anna to her ACT test!  We made it with no stress somehow.   What is wrong with this dog?

I love fall.

Special note:  I still have trouble watching it.   I got goosebumps watching the story of Ladder 6, and how they survived.  Prayers to all affected by 9/11, which I guess would be all of us, but especially to those who lost someone special to them.


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