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An unusual catch July 31, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
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This Sunday after church, we went out to eat and then had a Webb family nap. We really love those! Laura and I were pulled back into our new bed as soon as we entered the house. In case you haven’t heard, we got one of those adjustable beds. It’s great!

After waking up we did a couple of fun chores and then Benjamin, Rachel, and I walked down to the ponds to do a little fishing. The last time the Moseley’s were over, Jason brought spinner baits and caught bass until it got too dark to see the water. Benjamin’s been begging for spinner baits ever since. Finally I bought some and we put them to use today.

On the very first cast, I caught a nice 2 pound bass. A few more casts produced another one that I let Rachel help land. Then it was Benjamin’s turn.

But Benjamin sometimes does things his own way. Rather than landing a nice bass like Rachel and me, Benjamin’s cast yielded a rather large snapping turtle!
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VBS Ends with a Big Finale July 21, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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Our children LOVE going to church! They begin most mornings with the eager question, “Is today a church day?” so they were very excited to have an entire week of “church days” during Vacation Bible School.

They did all the usual fun things, but also prepared a skit for the congregation to conclude the week on Sunday evening. Rachel had a speaking part, but I’m not sure what it was that she said. (If you look closely in the picture, you can see the wonderful jewelry she made during Girls [or “Gulls” as Rachel says it] Weekend while the guys were at scout camp).rmicrophone7-15-06.JPG

Benjamin was King Xerxes and had a speaking and acting part. (He has come lightyears in getting over his stagefright since we started attending this church!).

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Everything was going well until Queen Esther lost her earring on stage and began to fall apart.

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Benjamin accepted Christ a couple of years ago, but has been a little reluctant to be baptized because of the stagefright issue. Last week, he decided he was ready and even chose Sunday night so he could be baptized in front of all his friends. We are so proud of him.

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When he came out of the baptistry, he grinned and asked Joe if he could do it again!

Scouts-A-Million July 19, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
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Scouts-A-Million is the nickname that Benjamin has given to the annual Cub Scout Resident Camp in our area. The Boy Scouts refer to it as Gaylord Cubworld. And rather than being a million scouts there, it usually has about 140 people there including fathers, mothers, and siblings.

Last summer, when Benjamin was but a Tiger Scout (the youngest level of scouting) we went to Cubworld and ever since, he’s been asking when we can go back. Well, this past weekend it finally came! So we packed up our camping gear, loaded up our truck, and embarked on the 1.5 hour journey to Scouts-A-Million.

We arrived just after lunch on Friday and were immediately ushered to the pool to take our swim test. At resident camp there are 3 levels when you swim. The Non-Swimmer level doesn’t require a test of any kind, but it limits you to the 2 foot section of the pool.

The Basic Swimmer classification requires that you take a pretty simple swim test; you have to swim 10 meters, turn around, and swim back. We both qualified as Basic Swimmers this year. Achieving this level gains you entrance into the 6 foot area of the pool where the water slides are. These slides, which would make any McDonald’s proud, spin you around and around while dropping you 40 feet and eventually spitting you out into the water. We did it over and over again. The things you do for love!

The final level is the Swimmer which requires 200 meters of swimming followed by 30 seconds of floating. A non-trivial exercise to say the least.

After the test we had the rest of the afternoon to set up our campsite and play at the floating pirate ship, the rock castle, and the western fort city. We also through the baseball and Frisbee for a while too.

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Saturday is jam packed with cub scout adventures. After a flag raising ceremony and breakfast at 700am, we enthusiastically headed for our first activity of the day – Archery. For the next 50 minutes we learned about the sport, the equipment, the safety procedures and protocols at the range. Then we got to shoot for a while. Benjamin did a great job this year.

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Our next activity was BB Guns! Again the first half of the session was dedicated to safety and knowledge while the latter half was spent shooting on the range. Benjamin was one of only two scouts in our group to earn a shooting patch for being a good shot. To earn the badge you have to score a total 35 points with 5 BB’s – an average of hitting the 7 ring with each shot. Benjamin did it! That’s my boy!!

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Our next two sessions were Science and Astronomy. We learned about the scientific methods when doing experiments, and about the planets and our solar system.

After lunch we spent the afternoon putting our swim test to use. Four hours at the pool – playing, sliding, dunking, chasing, and generally just having fun.

We had a little time before dinner, so I let Benjamin use my pocket knife to learn how to whittle.

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After the Saturday evening meal, we attended a giant camp-wide campfire where the Boy Scouts who work there put on skits and told jokes. At the conclusion of the campfire, we respectfully retired an American flag by burning it on the campfire while the bugler played taps. The scout leaders, fathers, and mothers who are military veterans were presented with the white stars that had been cut out of the flag prior to its retirement. That brought a conclusion to the first day.

On Sunday, we had breakfast, a short non-denominational church service, then started our 4 activities of the day. We had Flag Football, more BB Guns, Ultimate Freebie, and finally Whittling.

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The Sunday’s BB Guns really stressed safety and knowledge – even more than Saturday’s session. We learned the 12 parts of a BB Gun, how to load it, and how to care for it.

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Likewise, Whittling was all about safety with knives. The scouts learned by using Popsicle sticks to carve soap.

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After lunch, we broke camp and headed home so see our family and our beloved cats.

The Lazy Days of Summer July 15, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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As July wears on, the humidity goes up.  As the “sweat factor” increases, so do the requests to Slip ‘N Slide and eat popsicles.  Ah, to be a carefree kid in the summertime!

Benjamin and Rachel have helped a good bit in the garden and with various other farming projects, but the majority of their time has been spent playing with friends, riding bikes, climbing the old apple trees, swinging on the rope or tire swings, roller skating, playing in the water, and babying their kittens. 

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They are very imaginative and have come up with a number of activities that are either messy or dangerous, or better yet, both- the basic kid criteria for fun.  There has been the Slide Through the Mud Hanging From the Rope Swing, the Apple Chute, Rappelling With a Dog Tie-Out, Dig Big Holes in the Yard, and my favorite, Tie Yourselves Together and Try to Climb a Tree.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten or blocked out many more.  The sludge in the bottom of the bathtub proves how much fun they’ve had.

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“The Corn is as High as an Elephant’s Eye…” July 14, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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(A line from one of my favorite musicals, Oklahoma.)

When J was up here with Becky back in April, he brought along some seed corn for his very favorite variety, Moses Prolific. We put in a few rows of that first thing. Moses Prolific is getting hard to find and “dent corn” as a whole is not generally used for on-the-cob eating anymore.

Corn rapidly loses its sugar (turning to starch) after it has been picked. As a result, growers began developing sweeter and sweeter corn so that by the time it was shipped to grocery stores, sat in the produce section, and was eventually purchased, it still retained some of its sugar.

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In the days before the supersweet varieties, a lot of folks ate field corn. It tends to grow taller, produce bigger ears, and sometimes, more ears per stalk. We have yet to taste our first ear, but J assures us it is wonderful.

After we ran out of the seed for the field corn, we put in some sweet corn called Golden Bantam. This is an old standby, an open-pollinated heritage variety.

We like to plant “heritage” seeds whenever we can for several reasons. First, you can save your own seed in most cases. (Chemical companies have been obtaining exclusive patent rights to seed in recent years and they sue aggressively if you save their seed from year to year. Many of the seeds are hybridized and a great number are also genetically modified, frequently called “Frankenfood.” The companies engineer the seed to have a weakness for a specific pest or disease so they can then sell you their chemicals to treat the problems).

Second, heritage seeds are tried and true- always delicious. Third, a lot of these wonderful old varieties are being lost as farmers give them up in search of more productive strains, so they can actually turn a profit farming.

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We’re doing our part to keep these old favorites from disappearing.

Turkey Poults on an Outing July 12, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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The turkey poults are coming along.  Joe’s prediction about them drowning in the first rain or being too dumb to learn to eat haven’t come true.  They are actually good little hustlers when it comes to foraging.  They are more obedient to their mothers than some of the chicks we’ve had also.  (Shhh…  The mama hen still doesn’t know that her babies aren’t chickens).

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We only have 4 of the original 6 left. One was lost to chilling and I think the mother is to blame for the other loss.  She had been taking them through very tall grass sometimes and I think one got behind and couldn’t catch up before the mama got out of sight.

They are quite cute still.  For several days, they had 2 sets of wing feathers that stood out from their sides.  Now that the feathers have grown longer, they are lying down. 

This is what these calico Royal Palm turkeys should look like when they are grown.

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Here Kitty, Kitty Part 2 July 11, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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The children have so enjoyed their new kitties.  Much to Benjamin’s unhappiness though, his sweet mama kitty went missing.  We looked and looked for her.  We called and called.  She was nowhere to be found.  Rachel’s kitten was still right where it usually was, but there was no sign of Tiger. rcatslide7-11-06.JPG

I knew that we were going to have to make plans to get Tiger fixed soon, but I thought I had a little more time.  After all, Joe had seen Rachel’s kitten nursing and it is only 8 weeks old.  After checking an Ask-a-Vet posting online, though, I’m not so sure that my time hadn’t run out.

According to the vet, an adult female cat can go into heat again as soon as 4 weeks after she delivers kittens.  Here were the signs listed for imminent heat-

–         extremely affectionate     

–         rubs on you a lot

–         follows you around

–         makes strange noises

Hmmm…. Three out of four.  Tiger had a silent “meow” (she kind of lip-synced) so I’m not sure if she was making strange noises.  She was here for 2 days, apparently happy and nothing seemed amiss.  Who’s to say she wasn’t always that attentive and affectionate? But the third morning, she was missing.  Since we haven’t found evidence of foul-play, I suspect she went looking for short-term companionship. 

Benjamin was so sad, though.  I told Joe about my suspicions.  He had been very reluctant to get the kitties, but he knows how attached the kids are to them.  He actually said, and I quote, “I’d rather her come back pregnant than not come back at all.”  I nearly fell over.

I thought she’d probably come back after a couple of days, but maybe she wasn’t familiar enough with our house to find her way back after such a short stay.  After five days, Tiger had still not returned, so Benjamin picked out another kitten.  She’s “almost as good.” buildingcathouse7-1106.JPG

He has been very busy using the boxes we carted things home from Sam’s in to build “houses” for the outdoor felines.  With each renovation he makes (cuts in the cardboard), he shoves them back inside to see how they like it now.  The kittens thought of some things they needed to do up in the trees out of the kids’ reach for a while, but now that it has started sprinkling, they have returned.patchinbox7-11-06.JPG

Here, Benjamin’s kitten (tentatively named Patch) is cooperatively napping in the granola-bar-box bed he made for her inside the house.  The house, I am told, doubles as an Apple Chute for the fruit that prematurely fell from the trees.  With the picnic table on an angle and “doors” cut in the boxes, one can put apples in one side and they magically roll through and drop out the other side.  As each drops out, you try to whack the apple in half before it hits the ground.  A fun but messy game, somewhat akin to Apple Smash (where you pitch apples instead of baseballs).applechute7-11-06.JPG

By the way, the last I heard, Rachel’s kitten was tentatively named Cocoa (even though it is a pale yellow tiger) to memorialize a favorite cat that belonged to a friend.

Time’s Up! July 11, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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If you look closely in the picture, you can see a hen in nearly every nesting box (the ones who really like privacy are in the boxes with the curtains).  But those hens aren’t laying eggs.  No, they are each determined to raise a family.  I’ve made nice brooding coops for them, but they insist on trying to have children in the high-rise.  This is not working well.

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The fresh eggs get mixed in with the partly brooded eggs and you don’t want to have to guess which are which-  cracking into a half-“set” egg is a sight not to be easily forgotten!  Trust me on this.

I’ve given “the ladies” a few weeks to either get over being broody or hatch a clutch and vacate the box.  Only one hen, a bantam Mille Fleur named Josephine, proved capable.  She has one cute little 2 day old chick.  The others apparently got back into the wrong boxes or didn’t turn their eggs or something.  After a month + of sitting, they have nothing to show for it.josephinebaby7-10-06.JPG

It seems silly to have so many chickens, yet be hard pressed for enough eggs to make an omelet, so this morning I went out to remedy the problem.  I collected all the eggs from all the boxes.  I removed the broody hens from their piles of prized possessions.  This meant enduring the wrath of very protective mamas-to-be.  I have learned to wear gloves, but one still got a few good bites in above the wrist.  Score one for the poultry.mamawithtoomanyeggs7-10-06.JPG

You can see that this hen has more eggs beneath her than she can even cover.  She kept poking one under from the left, just to have one roll out on the right.

This is the 3 gallon bucket I used to collect the eggs.  There must be at least 100.  Score one for the humans!bucketofeggs7-10-06.JPG

When I was finished stealing inviable eggs, I put a fresh supply of cedar shavings in the boxes to keep the newly laid eggs clean.  Those stubborn hens hopped right back in the boxes and hurled insults at me.  If they won’t either set in the brooding coops or get over their broodiness, they will have to go to solitary confinement until they are cooperative again- it’s embarrassing to have so many chickens and no eggs to share!

Overlooked Produce July 10, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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Oops!  Guess we missed these.  I don’t guess you’d care to have a radish the size of your head or a zucchini that doubles as a pegleg, would you?

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Predator Control July 10, 2006

Posted by Laura in Uncategorized.
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I think we have mentioned in previous postings that we have had some trouble with predators, or more accurately, the chickens have had that trouble. Neighbor dogs get word of the buffet of slow-witted flightless birds and get in line to partake. We have tried various means of deterring them, but none have been completely effective.

We built the chickens a fenced yard so they could scratch and get sunshine in safety. That “sort of” worked- some can get just enough clearance by fly-hopping to get over the fence, which means keeping up with feather trimming on dozens of birds. But, the flock quickly grew until there were really too many to confine to that small a yard anyway.

We built one chicken tractor with intentions of building more, but that hasn’t happened yet. There are many benefits to that system (safety of the birds, fertilizing the pasture, no chicken “calling cards” on the porch, etc.), but each can only hold so many chickens and many more tractors are needed.

Our two dogs are no help with the problem either. They are glorified porch ornaments who specialize in squirrel and skunk chasing, not predator control.

Donkeys are very good guardian animals, but our search for one has been futile thus far. They are very good at keeping predators out of the pastures they are in, so that may cut down on the dogs able to cross to the chicken buffet. We would also like to get cattle, hogs, and maybe sheep or goats soon, so a donkey guardian would be helpful for them.

To solve our problem, we decided to look into a guardian dog. Unlike herding dogs, these dogs live among the animals they protect, but do not try to move them or corral them. They have a naturally protective instinct for smaller and weaker animals. The most available breed is the Great Pyrenees.

I located a lady in Dickson, TN who rescues abandoned Pyrenees and trains them for work as guardian animals. After several email conversations with her, we thought we had found just the right one.

The kids and I went out and met Lady Angela, in addition to touring their very large working farm. (They have about 1500 hogs, 50 dairy goats, cattle, and tobacco). Lady seemed to be perfect, having been trained to guard chickens, kittens, and pigs. We loaded her up and brought her home.

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This posting is getting mighty long, so I’ll jump to the chase. Lady felt that her primary mission in life was to protect her new humans from their dogs. Every opportunity she got, she lunged for Lucy and Daisy’s throats and we could never break her of that. Because she persisted in trying to eradicate our pets, we couldn’t ever untie her. As a result, the neighbor dogs were still plucking chickens out of our yard at their leisure.

We did a dog switch-er-roo and gave it another try. We brought home a big handsome male named Klondike. He and “the girls” have worked it out so that everyone can coexist happily on the porch. Thus far, it seems things are going pretty well. Klondike happily patrols a big oval around the house barking his presence. Twice we have seen predator dogs in the yard, but we aren’t sure whether Klondike was running them off or playing with them and they ran when they saw us. The jury is still out. Joe is concerned that all we have is another dog to raise our redneck rating (you know- if the porch collapses and no fewer than 6 dogs come running out, you might be a redneck). We’ll see.klondikeonporch7-09-06.JPG

This picture doesn’t do Klondike justice really.  He is a pretty sizeable, impressive animal when he is standing and alert, but it was time for a water break.  As you can see, one must leave no stone unturned (or no muddy place unchecked) in the war on predators.