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Snorkeling in Orange Beach June 29, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.

Benjamin has always loved the water. Even as an infant, a joyful expression would wash over his face when his little bottom hit the warm bathwater in the kitchen sink.

As he’s grown, so has his love for the water. He’ll swim as often and as for long as we’ll let him. No matter the temperature of the liquid bliss in which he’s submerged, he’ll never admit to being too cold or tired for swimming.

Benjamin really wants to learn how to scuba dive, too. I’m sure a large part of it has to do with his love of the water. But I think he’s also looking forward to having another hobby that we guys can do together. He’ll have to wait a few years before he can take lessons, though. I want him to weigh at least as much as the tank before he tries to swim with it strapped to his back.

With that in mind, the day after Chris, Sheryl, and I dove the Oriskany, Benjamin and I went snorkeling together along the jetties at the pass in Orange Beach.

We had a great time. He loved seeing the schools of minnows and the hermit crabs as we made our way past the underwater rocks. We even developed some hand signals so that we could communicate without having to completely surface.

For an 8 year old who loves the water, it was the next best thing to scuba diving. I’m glad we did it.


Sisterly Love June 26, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family.

Rachel sure loves her sister.  A year ago, her kitten Coco was all she could think about.  Now her baby is the topic of nearly all conversations she has with anybody.  She’s already looking forward to the day that they can share a room.

This probably means that there will never be a cross word between them and I can expect continuous harmony as they grow up, right?  🙂

Diving the Oriskany June 23, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.

In May of 2006, the U.S.S. Oriskany, a World War II era air craft carrier, was intentionally sunk 22 miles off the coast of Pensacola. At 911 feet in length, it is now the world’s largest artificial reef.

Divers come from all over for the chance to dive such a site. Fortunately for us, our vacation spot was a mere 20 minutes drive from Pensacola and the prospect of diving the wreck was too good to pass by. So Sheryl, Chris, and I, arranged to take a diving expedition to the famed vessel.

We boarded the 35 foot custom dive boat near Pensacola on Tuesday morning and made our way, along with 6 other divers, out of the bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. Seventy-five minutes and twenty-two miles later we arrived at our dive site.

The ocean’s bottom was 212 feet beneath us. The Oriskany’s flight deck was 135 below the surface. Even the very tip top of the tower was 70 feet below us.

With great anticipation, we gathered our gear and donned our wet suits, preparing to make our way down through the occasional barracuda and schools of Amber Jack, to the object of our adventure. And then it was time. Divers Down!

The current was unbelievably strong at 110 feet below and we had a difficult time staying on the wreck. The first dive went far too quickly as we rapidly consumed much of our air while struggling against the current.

During the second dive of the day, we were able to find some shelter from the current so we had a bit more bottom time. Chris and I even managed to get inside the navigation bridge. One of the dive masters snapped this photo of us.

The Oriskany is a great dive, one you could dive a couple of dozen times without coming close to seeing it all. I’d love to do it again.

Meet the Flock, part 5 June 22, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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The wee babes we received in February are growing up.  They have full feathers and now forage freely with the “big chickens.”  The new ones have fallen right in line with the older ones and follow me around the yard like I’m the Pied Piper, hoping for handouts.  There are some interesting personalities, plumage patterns, and habits in this batch.  One standout is Roxanne.

I can only guess it is the position of the sun in the sky that the chickens use to know when it is 4:30.  Somehow- though they keep an eye out during the rest of the day and are prone to keep me company in my chores- come late afternoon I am completely unable to walk across the yard through the masses of feathered bodies.  The unique sound of running poultry makes me smile.

As I try to navigate the 25 yards between our house and the henhouse, a hundred or so chickens try to keep right at my ankles, yet beat me and all the others to the feed cans.  Roxanne has a different approach.

When I get to the cans, she flies from the back of the crowd and lands on my head.  No respecter of hairdos is she.  I am learning to dodge at the last second now so that she can light on my shoulder instead.  It’s cute and endearing to me, but I may have a hard time getting volunteers to take care of the critters while we are away now.  It IS slightly reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.


(I had just removed Roxanne, an Ameraucana chick, from her favorite roost when Wilson decided to give Roxanne’s idea a try.  Better view of dinner.  From there, Wilson dove directly into the feed- you’ve gotta admire a girl who goes after what she wants).

U.S.S. Alabama June 20, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.
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On Monday, the kids and I made the short trip over to Mobile bay to visit the U.S.S. Alabama, a South Dakota class World War II battleship.

On the way, I was telling the kids about the ship. When I told them that the ship had guns so large that they could each crawl inside of one of the barrels, Benjamin said “Daddy, you’re just making stuff up now.” When we got there, he changed his mind.

We took several self-guided tours of the ship. Benjamin ran from room to room eager to explore every crevice of the 680 foot vessel.

Aren’t these the coolest bunk beds ever?

Rachel was a trooper and had fun throughout the day.

There are several mannequin scattered throughout the ship posed as if they were tending to their duties. Unfortunately the very first mannequin that we stumbled across was missing an arm – that was a initially a bit unnerving to Benjamin and Rachel so they entered the next few rooms with a bit of trepidation.

We had a great time. I think Benjamin and Rachel each shot down about 100 imaginary warplanes during our 3 hours aboard the Alabama.

We had a great time. It was also a perfect opportunity to talk about how the brave people in our military set their own lives aside to protect our freedoms and way of life.

We’re on vacation! June 19, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.
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We’re on vacation! is a little made up song that we sing once or twice a year to get get us in the mood to spend some time away from our little slice of creation. As much as we love living on Blessed Acres Farm, it’s nice to occasionally get away and spend time together as family in a relaxed atmosphere.

For the past 6 years, we’ve gone to Orange Beach. BePops and Grams have rented a couple of condos and have invited the whole family to come and enjoy the beach life for a week. This year, there were 12 of us in all.

We had lots of fun and the week seemed to fly by much too quickly. There was lots to see and do. I’ll post some pictures from our activities over the next few days.

Having fun can be quite exhausting!

RFD June 18, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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I LOVE living on a farm!  Where else can you walk the quarter mile down the driveway to the mailbox accompanied by two dogs, one cat, and a goat?  I’ll bet that Roxanne, a chick that has taken a real shine to me, would have gone along to, if only she’d known I was going.

Barnyard Justice June 18, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.

Since we moved out to the country, we’ve had opportunities to see the circle of life up close. Our children understand the food chain and predator/prey relationships pretty well. Most of the time, it seems there is no justice for the freeloading predators that take a toll on our animals. This time, however, was different.

Raising chickens is always interesting. They are in some ways very simple-minded creatures, yet also a bit creative in their abilities to frustrate us. We built nice nesting boxes for them- they lay eggs on top of the spare fridge, in the cats’ house, on the rocking chairs, and in a corner of the barn.

On Saturday, I walked into the barn and found this.


You can’t see the head in the picture, but this chicken snake has coiled itself around an egg to hold it and is beginning to swallow it whole. In addition to eggs, they like to dine on chicks and we are short two crested Polish cuties.
I ran back up to the house to tell The Protector that another predator was on-site (he recently had to put down a coyote that had come for goat-burgers). He grabbed his pistol and made that the last egg this snake stole.


We were amazed at how long the snake was. At 5 feet, he had probably been dining here for quite some time.

We decided that turn-about was fair play and let the chickens get their revenge. Guido (the supposedly snake-eating guinea) wanted no part of it, but the others were happy to oblige.

We were struck again that humans have domesticated chickens to the point that they have very few useful instincts left. They SHOULD have been afraid of the still writhing (but headless) chicken snake, but instead they crowded around to watch and peck it. No wonder they are regularly picked off by predators.

Ah, it felt good to tip the scales in our direction for once!

Lights out! June 7, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.

It’s been a rather dry spring for us. For the first half of this year, we’re 7 inches below average for the amount of rainfall we’ve received. And still we’re fairing a bit better than some of the counties just to our south.

So, yesterday afternoon when we heard the low rumble of thunder in the distance, we were hopeful that rain from the heavens would soon follow. But alas it was not to be. We’re still 7 inches below average.

Apparently the thunder was enough to trip a circuit breaker on a utility pole at the far end of our driveway, interrupting that precious flow of electrons that affords us the modern convenience of electricity.

Fortunately, Laura had been simmering a bean, ham, and barley soup in a crock pot for the better part of the day so a nice hot dinner was in still in store for us despite the lack of power. It was delicious!

As the day gave way to evening, we decided to put our time without power to good use. We fired up a few candles, broke out a board game, and had a great time wheeling and dealing our way through Junior Monopoly.

In Junior Monopoly, the Jail of regular Monopoly is replaced with a Restroom. And when you land on certain board space or draw a certain “Chance” card, you are sent to the Restroom without passing Go and without collecting your $2. Additionally you must pay a $3 fee – we referred to this as the Tinkle Tax. And some of us really had to go last night!

All in all, a good evening.

Meet the Flock, part 4 June 6, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm, Uncategorized.

Back in late February, we received a batch of day-old chicks. One of them is a Silver Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben pullet (what a pedigree!). Joe has named her “Wilson!” after a notable “character” in the movie Castaway. Striking resemblance, isn’t there?