Tuesday, 22 February 2011

1st Park Day of 2011!

Blueberry Girl loves the swings!
I love park day. I love that we can keep the relationships we have formed over the years, five years now, in the Des Moines homeschooling community even though we have moved an hour away. I love that it happens right after Lil'Bug's art class. I love that this park is so perfect, easily accessible, nice bathrooms, variety of play opportunities and sand (I hate mulched playgrounds; I'll take sandy pants and socks over splinters any day), and I love the freedom.

Baby Zap had never sat in the sunshine outside before. He wasn't sure what to think.
I notice that sometimes they play on the equipment, but so many more times they play in the trees and run around the grassy field.  There is room to play. If someone they are not getting along with is there, there is room to move along and play something else. There is also a variety of cultures that meet. The casual exposure creates questions and learning about how each family lives, without the pretense of show and tell.

We keep going and it has not been easy. We almost quit after a teenage bully, also a homeschooler, started targeting 6 year old girls....but we worked through that and in a way that left Lil'Bug and her friends feeling empowered and infused with a dose of empathy and kindness. It also demonstrated to Lil'Bug my trust in her, which happens in little noticed little ways everyday but when tested in a big way held up.

More playing.
It is nice to also have moral support for how we live. Homeschooling is a lifestyle and not many people outside the homeschooling circles actually get that. I have for the last 6 years so surrounded myself with people who do get it, that I forget how alien, misunderstood, misrepresented our lifestyle choice can be and what expectations are placed on us as such. Lately, that pressure has been exponential and having a safe place where people get us is really a quiet relief.

The view from the camera falling, luckily the only thing that seems broken is the UV lens.
Only one other family made it to this first, glorious park day of the year. It was unexpectedly 70 degrees, not windy, sunshine, and not terribly muddy. It's Iowa, it may not be that perfect again until May! Ha. A perfect day for Baby Zap to have his first park day, and for the girls to run off some winter blahs. At 4 pm they didn't want to load up and that's when the camera was "moved" out of the car and onto the parking. All is well though. I think.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Farm Work Day: Status of the Flock

Marshmallow. Not pregnant or not far enough along to see in ultrasound. Was exposed to ram for a very short time in the last 6 weeks, so we will recheck in a month, maybe two. She was injured in the dog attack in late December/early January but has recovered really well.

Male llama, intact. Not yet named. In my mind I call the two of them, Brothers Dmitri and Ivan.

Flurry - a cinnamon (phaeomelanin) coloured unregistered Icelandic ewe with a poor bite (her teeth don't match up to her upper palate) but she had a lamb with no mouth problems. She is 3-4 years old. We call her Cinnamon. She is pregnant. Was injured in the round up today, cut her lip, but she should be fine.

Bianca - a white unregistered full Icelandic ewe, probably about 4-5 years old. Thought this one was MB, but her name is now Wether-NOT. Lily thought that was silly so we'll call her Lady Bianca. She IS with lamb.

Buttercup Not pregnant. Healed from dog attack. Her injury didn't even bring her into the house. Was exposed to the ram only briefly - we didn't want her to lamb this year since she had so much trouble with her *5* lambs last year.

Cream Puff - white ewe, Poppy's daughter of last year, sired by Blizzard (before he was wethered) so she is 50% Icelandic and then has the Rambouillet/Suffok/Dorset mix genes. Her ears have tan coloured tips. She would probably throw coloured lambs, is not pregnant.

2nd male llama.

Mary. Leg injury from dog attack. Not pregnant.......because she's a he? Just checked the records and it seems that the white lamb that came with Marshmallow is actually a ram/wether lamb not a ewe. Which means the lamb we lost last week, Wilbur, that we thought was a wether, was actually a ewe? Think we'll change his name to MerryWether. Odd thing is, the vet didn't notice he is a she is a he?

(born 3/29/08) Poppy -Peeking up behind the whether in the front of the picture. A great mother - Rambouillet/Suffolk/Dorset mix ewe, Poppy is pregnant.

Blizzard - a white unregistered full Icelandic wether, well tempered, probably also about 4-5 years old.

Ferdinand - a black Shetland wether who is a real love-bug. He is second only to Poppy in affection and kid friendly interaction.

Dolly. Has been exposed for 6 weeks. Not far enough along to detect if she is pregnant. Would be due in November. Dark brown and white female, registered, mother of Stormy. Not extremely approachable but tolerates shearing.

 There is also another wether, a white icelanic, but I didn't get pictures of him. There is one more ewe who is pregnant too. Again, I missed getting her picture and do not have name confirmation on her. We really, really need Claire to come for a visit and help us get these names straight! :) 

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Farm Work Day: Bellies

Mostly this series of posts is to log pictures for our own records. I'll do a long one with each sheep's status later today, we have 4 ewes with lamb in my field notes, we verified the identity of the wether that the coyote killed in December, and we know that Buttercup and Marshmallow are not with lamb (which is intentional).

Farm Work Day: Lovely Childhood

I somehow captured this smile while documenting the vet in the pasture. Blueberry Girl ran up beside me and said, "Here I is! Smile!" I love, love, love the moments of sheer windblown happiness on the farm. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Blizzard 2011 Feburary First

So this month, I got to sit and read everyone enjoying the snow days with a heavy heart. Sure, we were at times curled up with a roaring fire in the wood stove, venison roast slow cooking, and homemade cherry sodas and hot cocoa....but the rest of the time Chad was outside doing regular chores in 40mph gusting (-60 windchills) winds, ice dagger snow, below zero temps and even colder wind chills.

So here are my neglected blizzard/winter updates.

Pipes freezing. Last year I couldn't leave the house if it was in the teens or below because the water had to be run every hour to keep pipes from freezing. This year Chad insulated the pipes going upstairs, set a timer on the basement faucet to run the water automatically every so many hours, and changed some stuff around. We've had outside temperatures in the NEGATIVE twenties and teens and been ok. Only a few times did the upstairs and laundry room cold water pipes freeze and once the wind froze the hot water heater (a tankless). Just once. Mostly I can leave the house without worrying about it, but with the baby it is not likely that I will leave the house when it is that cold anyway. You know?

Keeping the wood stove going is easy during the day. At night Chad gets up every 3 hours and tends it. The way he does it burns more wood than the way I manage it during the day, but that's mostly so he can sleep. We grossly underestimated the amount of wood needed, but even since purchasing the wood, we have saved money in heating PLUS we are actually comfortable and can heat the downstairs to 70 degrees. Last year it was a good day if we could keep it at 60 and the girls and I spent a lot of time upstairs where the furnace actually worked, which was ok since I had to constantly do laundry to keep water going through the pipes so they wouldn't freeze. This winter I have only needed to do laundry once a week. :)

Our chickens stop laying in the winter. We don't give them supplemental light. I know its not efficient and our customers really want our eggs, but I like the idea of giving the ladies a seasonal break. They have started laying again now that the days are getting longer. They fared the cold well, we also don't have supplemental heat in their coop, but we use deep bedding. They do get heated water though.

When the blizzard and dangerous cold hit our farm we still had two sheep in the "med shed".  Basically Chad rigged up a livestock trailer with deep bedding for them to be close to the house. Paddington was still healing from the amazingly gory and horrific wound from the dog attack. He was doing well and was about to be renamed Rasputin since we'd seen him come back from the brink of death so many times. Suddenly he was comatose and two days later he died at the vet's. We also lost our ram, who was perfectly healthy. We had post mortem done on both and showed that they were eating well and had few parasites and good muscle tone and healthy organs.  The official cause of death was "severe cold". The idea has been put out that maybe our hay quality did not match up with our mineral supplements. So we are crash course learning about soil/grass deficiencies and sheep nutrition. We had a couple ewes start showing signs of lethargy like the ram did and so we were proactive and gave them vitamin shots. So far, so good. Lucky for us that we planned our lambing to be late Spring and we have lots of time to figure this out. Our next batch of hay will be tested and we can match the supplements with its deficiencies for a more exact nutrition. Good can come of bad.....

Our dogs are outside dogs. Even in the cold. We tried to, and did, bring in Lucy when the winds were bad, but she hated it. Coming in to the super warm house isn't actually good for her. We had sure she had unfrozen water to drink and deep bedded shelter and she was fine and happy. I also fed her fatty meats. The high fat content helps her keep her body warm. Hobbit is old and comes inside gladly.

The kids love the snow and hated the sub zero weather because mean old mama kept them inside in the dangerous temperatures. They survived it by climbing the walls, jumping on everything and everyone, I let them trace out the foliage mural on their room wall, and when things got mean I made them do chores. Ha. Actually, the floors are quite clean as a result.

Some things I never thought I'd have to do as a farmer. This week I had to explain to the grocery clerk that yes, I was loading my groceries on to my two year and six year old's laps because the bags of chicken food were taking up the empty seats and floor space in my full size pick up....and they were there because the vet did the post mortem in the truck bed and the dead sheep were still back there (we were just driving home from that and it's not like I could unload them anyway....).....and the grocery clerk wasn't even phased. Farm life. You know? Also, in the last month I have learned a lot more about livestock vet science then I thought about previously.

So, that's how we have weathered this last round of weather. About 30 minutes prior to writing this post I was Googling Iowa Girls Basketball Tournament dates. Why? Because the last big blizzard of the season is always that week in March. Always. Then it snows again in April at least once randomly. So, this years tourney storm? First week in March. Looking that up was a turning point. I think I am officially, after living here for 16 years, an Iowan. Right?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Clementine Betrayal

So following the last post, I feel inclined to disclose the Clementine incident.

So, background....if I buy 1 bag of Clementines they all get eaten the first and second day. If I buy two bags of them, then they all get eat the first and second day. Now, I love Clementines, so I understand. So this last time I squirreled away about 10 for myself. I thought I would stealthily indulge on afternoon.....

and I was caught. The look was one of shock. Followed by silence. Then...

"Mom, what is that?"

me: "A Clementine."


me: "Hey. Yes. I do."


me: "Yes, you ate yours. These are mine."


me: "No?"


me: "Yes. And you didn't share with me. So I set these aside."



More silence.

Ever since I have not gone alone into the kitchen. They are quick footed. When we replenished supply, the new pattern is that they get out 3 at a time, one for each of them and one for me, which is nice.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Someone recently asked me what we do for snacks around here. We do snacks at will, as in the kids have full access to have them at any time they feel hungry, even 10 minutes right before dinner (though I discourage that by getting them busy helping me with dinner preparations.)

Why? I regulate my own hunger and eat at will. Most adults do, so in raising them to be adults I want to create healthy habits. If healthy snacks are available and they learn to regulate their own hunger, they form good habits. They also take pride in creating pretty presentations and preparing the food for each other. They know they can ask for help at any time too. I also encourage them to drink water, because sometimes thirst pretends it is hunger.

Dried fruit
popcorn (in lard or coconut oil)
cookies (rare)
frozen fruit
yogurt (Greek)
beef jerky
peanut or sunflower seed butter sandwiches
hard boiled eggs
fresh fruit
carrots and celery
chips and salsa

In the summer, full access means they might eat 10 peaches each in a day. You know what? It's peaches, not soda pop, chips, and candy. In the winter, I keep a bucket of apples in the kitchen and they eat at those. Again, it's fruit not junk.

They recently realized that many breakfast foods are included in the snacks so they make their own breakfast too. Later they often ask for a second breakfast (the little Hobbits). Sometimes elevensies. ;)

For car trips, apples and crackers. Easy to pass out and eat and clean up. We will stop and get food while out too. Smoothies are a favourite.

We don't do dessert except for holidays or special occasions. We have blood sugar issues and there tends to be less problems at night if we avoid the idea of dessert after dinner. It also eliminates the child urge to "save room" and not eat dinner. Ha!

Here's the thing. We ALWAYS have ice cream in the freezer. I love ice cream. There is no limit on that treat either. They girls still choose yogurt and fruit and cheese. They also don't feel pressured to "finish" what is on their plate, even dessert items. I wish I could get that kind of control for myself!

Also, I found that if I buy fruit snacks....that's what gets eaten. So I buy the healthy foods. I don't buy the junk if I can help it. I only go to the store every other week so when they run out of something, like clementines, they are gone until next time. At the end, snack time gets creative- that's a good thing!