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.


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