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It’s Hard to Raise a Good Kid January 31, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
5 comments

We haven’t blogged about the goats of late, but they’re still around.  They aren’t big respecters of fences, especially barbed wire ones, so they’ve kept us on our toes.  We’ve fenced and re-fenced.  (Well, Joe has done the lion’s share of this- I like to help whenever I can, but Lydia is mobile now.  No more plunking her on a blanket and getting something done).  The perimeter of the property is slowly being redone in a combination of sturdy woven wire over barbed wire.  The cross fences are mostly electric.  You’d think that would be sufficient, especially since Joe got a 50 mile 10,000 volt charger.  As we explained to the kids- that’s strong enough to run a wire all the way to Grams’ and BePop’s house and back and still make you wet your pants if you touched it.   

But no.  The goats told me that they only stay in the fences as a courtesy… and they don’t feel very courteous anymore. 

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(Why should they use their nice range shelter when they can just relax on the porch?  I mean, come on, the ground is wet out there!) 

Recently, we decided to get a hayring to make it easier to feed the animals (it takes A LOT of armloads of hay to feed 2 cows, 2 donkeys, and 4 goats).  Wouldn’t you know it- the goats aren’t content to just reach in and get what they need.  They get IN and climb ON TOP of the roll of hay.  It drives Joe crazy.

What’s more, we’re pretty certain that the does (the girl goats) are bred (pregnant) and that ‘Mator will be the proud papa.  (We tried hard to keep them apart while the girls were in heat, but I think I mentioned that fence problem…).  If our count is right, their 5 month gestation should be complete in another couple weeks, just in time for the coldest wettest weather of the year. 

I gave the girls a cursory exam and their udders are beginning to hang and feel sloshy.  They are walking like I do when I’m getting close to my due date, though they don’t seem nearly as irritable as I always feel.

It will be interesting to see what kind of mothers they are because each doe has a different personality.  I am hoping for kiddings (goat births) that don’t require intervention on my part and good bonding between mamas and babies.  We’ll keep you posted.

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One father’s perspective on home schooling January 28, 2008

Posted by Joe in Homeschooling.
2 comments

Before we home schooled, I had very serious concerns. I don’t take my role as a parent lightly and I wanted to make sure that we were making the absolute best choice for the education and growth of our children.

I had absolutely no doubt that Laura could teach our children very, very well, at least as well if not better than the education they were receiving in a traditional school. She has an undergraduate and graduate degree in teaching and has taught for a number of years in both public and private schools. She has the knowledge to impart and the skills to do it successfully.

No, my concerns were not about what they would learn. It was about the the other skills, like socialization, that they may be missing if home schooled. So, before we home schooled, we talked with home school families.

We were told over and over that the amount of socialization opportunities would be so numerous that we would have to set limits and consciously help our kids select what they would do. Still I was skeptical.

Then I looked at the home schooled kids. They were very respectful to adults and very comfortable around other kids. They seemed to confident in both small groups and as part of a larger crowd of kids.

Laura and talked it over, prayed about it, and came to the conclusion that benefits of home schooling far outweighed any potential drawbacks. We began the home schooling adventure with an intentional awareness of the socialization issue and we made a conscience effort to include our kids in activities that involved other kids of their age.

And I am happy to report that the advice provided by other home school families – that the socialization opportunities would be plenty – has been confirmed in our experience. Benjamin, Rachel, and Lydia all have lots of opportunities to play and learn with other kids of their own age. Whether it’s in a structured environment like soccer, gymnastics, or Tae Kwon Do, or on a field trip to an ice skating rink or the zoo with other home schoolers, or in Children’s Church, or just a play date with friends, or whatever.

None of this is to say that we focus exclusively on the socialization aspects. We take the traditional school curriculum very seriously. Laura strives continuously to ensure our kids are learning what their traditionally schooled counterparts are learning – in math, science, literature, etc. For if we ever feel led to place our kids back into the school systems, we want to ensure they enter at grade level. We also want to provide them with a solid educational foundation so that when they enter college, the can pursue any course of study they wish, from medicine to engineering, from business administration to teaching.

In addition to the traditional school curriculum, home schooling provides other opportunities for learning important life skills. Since they are home most days (and I frequently work from home, too), the kids are available to help out with farm and home related activities. These activities, though not measured on any standardized test, can contribute to a child’s growing up with confidence and developing a good work habit. Activities such as loading and splitting firewood, fixing a leaky faucet, plugging a nail hole in a flat tire, and preparing a home cooked meal. As home school parents, we can take advantage of these learning opportunities as they arise. Education should be about preparing a child for life. These activities certainly help with that.

Home schooling is not for everyone and we certainly don’t look down our noses at those who choose otherwise. Each family must take into account their own circumstances, their children’s innate and God-given proclivities, and the school systems available to them, and draw their own conclusions. What’s best for one family is not necessarily best for another. And within a family, what’s best for one child may not be best for another.

Our hope is that each of our children will grow as Jesus grew – in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). I think that homeschooling provides the best opportunity for that.

On the Homestead Bookshelf: The Omnivore’s Dilemma January 26, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
2 comments

Ever since we moved to our rural oasis, we’re been reading everything we can get our hands on about gardening, animal husbandry, self-sufficiency, and the like. For quite some time, we’ve been meaning to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Just recently, I reserved a copy at the library.

When I brought it home, Joe pounced on it like a cat on a mouse. I already had a book going, so I let him have it first. We exceeded our limit on check-out time to both read it, so we finally purchased a copy for ourselves.

I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I checked it out, but it is not the dry read I thought it may be by the synopsis- tracing 4 meals beginning to end. I’d even consider it a “must-read” for anyone who eats.

In part one, the author traces his McDonald’s meal back to the Iowa cornfield from which a large portion came. He explains how our nation subsidizes corn production (at the continued expense of the farmer) and then how it invents uses for that corn that is sold below cost. He also follows a steer that is hamburger-patty-bound from its birth to its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), and then on to slaughter. He explains how industrial meat operations have abandoned the natural feed and raising of animals in favor of quick fattening, often toxic confinement operations. Though much of this was not a big surprise to us, the statistical and insider information he was able to gather from those involved (from farmer to slaughterhouse designer) was truly astounding. It is very compelling and spurs us on all the more to produce as much of our own healthy food as possible.

The next section covers a farmer who is well-known for his pasture-raised meat and eggs. Joe and I have both read several books by this maverick farmer, Joel Salatin, who insists on producing food in the way God designed it to be done- in sunshine, with fresh air, and natural foods. Mr. Salatin is a bit of a hero to us since he is living the life we work towards.

The third part investigates “organic” and what happens when it goes “industrial.” I won’t say much more about that, but it was quite interesting also.

The final section is a meal the author forages entirely himself. He either hunted or gathered all the components. He tackles the morality of hunting and meat-eating in a pretty thorough way. I won’t spoil it for you about where he comes out on the issue in the end. He spends more time on the topic of mushroom hunting than I was interested in, but overall, this last meal was well worth reading about, too.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone who takes an interest in food, its origins, and their own health. My sole hesitation would be that the author sadly misses one integral part of the whole picture- God’s hand in it all. It appears that the author is an atheist, so some of his conclusions are odd and disjointed in my mind. How much more sense it all makes when one is willing to see God’s design and integration of all the parts!

Beyond that one criticism, it is a fascinating read. The author has a style that is easy to read, but packed with information. It is not shocking in the sense that The Jungle was, but still eye-opening. I will probably get the next book he wrote also.

A Homeschool Day January 25, 2008

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Homeschooling, Uncategorized.
2 comments

I am always interested to hear what other homeschoolers are doing, so I thought I’d share a typical day in our house to get the ball rolling.  Maybe some of you will tell how you spend your days in the comments section.

We begin each day with a Bible story.  We are currently reading from Ezra about how the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem during the reigns of Cyrus and Darius.  We have prayer, and then say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Lydia always looks from person to person and grins whenever we say or sing anything in unison.

We frequently start with our least favorite tasks to get those behind us.  For Benjamin, that is math.  For Rachel, phonics.  Once completed, we usually move to a theme study that both children are able to do.  Right now, that is The Arctic/Winter/Inuits.  We have read up on blizzards, covered several books on Arctic animals and people, worked on the science of snow and other winter precip, and have enjoyed lots of picture books like Katy and the Big Snow by Burton.  From that wonderful book, we have studied all kinds of map skills, discussed the necessity of road signs, defined municipal vs. private businesses, and looked at industrial equipment used to keep cities running.  Tonight, we are planning to have a family movie night to watch the old classic Nanook of the North.  We’re looking forward to seeing them build a real igloo.

Besides those topics, we are concurrently working on a space unit and we periodically pick up biographies of people involved in our theme studies. Any other skills that don’t fit into our theme studies, we do separately, but we prefer to incorporate them whenever we can.

Both children will get some Physical Education in this afternoon at their respective gymnastics and Tae Kwon Do classes.

Nearly every evening before bed, we do a family read-aloud.  We’ve recently been reading the Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary, but plan to get Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George and maybe Winter Room by Gary Paulsen to tie into our cold weather theme. The public library is our friend!

We plan to make some snow pictures by painting and then sprinkling them with Borax while they are still wet.  We’ve cut oodles of snowflakes and talked about the symmetry of them.  Seems like I should be able to find some winter/snow songs besides the Christmas ones if I put my mind to it.

So that’s most of what we’re doing around here right now.  How about you?

Cheated Children January 17, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
5 comments

Middle TN tends to get most of the snow it’s going to get between mid-January and Valentine’s Day. Typically, there are about 3 snows that will actually cover the ground entirely and then a few more dusts. Occasionally, we will get a 6 incher, but usually there is just enough to pelt each other with snowballs, make some snowmen, and sled ’til our lips turn blue.

Last night, as we drove from town, snow was really coming down. You couldn’t use high beams or you’d blind yourself from the glare. By the time we got home, the grass was hardly visible and you could actually run and slide on the driveway. The kids were ecstatic. I wasn’t sure they’d ever go to sleep.

But alas! When they awoke this morning, not a flake! A 33 degree front came through and rained their precious snow away during the night!

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Here are a couple of pictures from snow days past:

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See what I mean about sliding on the driveway?

Meet the Flock, part 10 January 10, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
1 comment so far

Josephine

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In the last installment, I introduced Napoleon.  Here, most definitely, is his better half.  Meet Josie.

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Josie is also a Mille Fleur bantam.  Like Nappy, she has buff yellow feathers (though hers are of a softer shade) with black and white speckles.  She has cute little cheek puffs that give her a chipmunk-like appearance.  On top of that, she has built-in feather snowshoes, should she ever need them.  I’ve tried hard to get a good picture of her feet, but she must be self-conscious about how big they look- she won’t hold still.  Extending down her legs and fanning out over her toes are long curved feathers.  When she runs, they give the impression of big galoshes, though she is very graceful.

In every way that Nappy is full of himself, Josie is meek and humble.  She is easily chased away from food and never challenges even the chicks.

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Two springs ago, she set a small clutch of eggs and hatched out 3 chicks.  She was a very good mother, but something (a chicken snake, we think) got all but one of her babies.  Before long, her wee babe had outgrown her.

Josie is quite a little lady and far too good for Nappy in our opinion.  Maybe this spring, we’ll get her another beau.

“I’m One!” January 9, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
5 comments

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Can you tell she had a good birthday?

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A couple of naps ago, this sweet girl was a 9 pound newborn. Now, she has nearly tripled her weight and is zipping around the house, wearing out the knees of her jeans!

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Her new zebra rocking horse was a big hit. In theory, she would rock and bounce on it by her own power. But she has doting siblings who fancied her a cowgirl on a bronc and galloped her the length of the house over and over. At each pass, she would grin and wave. She is blessed to have such a wonderful brother and sister.

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YOU are invited to her next party!

Laura and Lydia January 4, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family.
1 comment so far

Here’s a nice picture of Laura and Lydia, taken before her helmet therapy was completed.

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Fear not! January 2, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.
5 comments

We live in an old farm house. The original structure was built in 1900. Over the years, however, a couple of additions were added; the most recent of which was in 1954. The image at the top of the blog is actually a picture of our front porch.

Of course, it’s been retrofitted for indoor plumbing, electricity, and even central heat and air conditioning, so we have modern conveniences available to us. I’d rather not make a late night run in the dead of winter to an outhouse wearing little more than a night shirt. 🙂

Speaking of which, last night it got really cold for our part of creation and, for the first time in our 3 years of living here, the hot water pipe under the house froze. Our guest 1/2 bath and the master bath didn’t have hot water this morning.

Our house has a very small crawl space underneath – ranging anywhere from 6 to 24 inches between the earthen bottom to the sub-flooring. I had been underneath the house before, adding insulation beneath the kitchen floor, so I had a pretty good idea where the pipe was frozen.

Benjamin and I donned some old work clothes and crawled under the house. The opening to the crawl space is approximately 28 inches by 18 inches so squeezing through that opening is rather tight for me; less so for Benjamin.

We looked around and found what had to be the location of the freeze blockage that was preventing the flow of the hot water to our master bath. It was behind some air conditioning ducts and against what used to be an exterior wall. There was only 8 inches of clearance between the bottom of the duct and the ground.

With Benjamin at my side, I said “I don’t know how I’m going to get the heat lamp over there, not to mention putting some pipe insulation around the exposed area.”

That’s when Benjamin replied “Well, I may be able to fit under the duct. I don’t really want to, but if you need me to, I’ll swallow my fear and do it.”

Where do they come up with things like that? “Swallow my fear and do it.” He’s a great kid!

In the end, I was able to reach under the duct, get the heat lamp over there, thaw the pipe, and apply some pipe insulation to hopefully prevent this from happening again. Benjamin didn’t have to squeeze through.

After we were finished, he wanted to go exploring further under the house. Oh to be 8 years old, full of energy, and fearless.