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Notes on Goats February 21, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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We’ve been goat owners (though not very effective goatherders) for about a year now. In that time, we have accumulated a small amount of knowledge which I thought I would share with you.

Lesson learned: DON’T make a dog-like pet out of a buck.

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Here is a shot of 3 of the goats playing on a “toy” we got them, back when they were about 6-7 months old. They looks so young to me here. The black and white Alpine (? or Alpine cross?) is ‘Mator. He was always the friendliest one of the bunch and we spoiled him with extra attention, treats, and so on. He would run up, lean against us, sniff us for treats and wiggle his head up under our hands for scratching. He really liked to be brushed and would stand still as long as you’d keep brushing. He would playfully push against us when we weren’t paying attention to him to re-direct the loving his way. We thought it was kind of cute, especially the kids.

And then he grew. And grew. Into the strong stinky buck he is today.

Along about August, a pungent repelling odor began to emanate from him and we started to keep our distance. But he had no shortage of love for us still. You couldn’t fill the water troughs or drop the food fast enough to escape his affection. Then you went in to shower and change clothes.

And then he developed the ability to take the mega-zap from the fence charger and just come on through when it suited him. You’d best not hide any sweet feed on your person.

Last Sunday, ‘Mator was adopted by some friends who are hoping to have their does bred to allow them to milk year-round. ‘Mator proved to be an effective “mater” here, (and we’re tiring of being head-butted for attention), so we tearfully gleefully took him for a ride to his new home. I asked about how everyone was getting along on Monday night. The answer was “great, but if he gooses me one more time…”

It was (kinda) nice knowing you ‘Mator.

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Cuddling Kids February 20, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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We have been fortunate that the weather has not been too harsh since the kids were born.  Still, they enjoy a good nap all cuddled up together while their mothers graze.

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The kid cousins like each other a lot even though the aunts dislike their niece/nephew.  When a kid wanders too close to the udder of her aunt, it will be sent packing with a swift use of her horns.

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Lightning McQueen is in the foreground with his sister Betsy peeking over his shoulder.  Pop’s baby Cookie is standing.  With those names, I’m sure you aren’t surprised to hear that Benjamin and Rachel came up with them.

To the Moon! February 18, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
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We have been doing a long study of Space in our homeschooling. We are almost finished with a biography of astronaut Gus Grissom. I believe he inspired this role playing.

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Notice those fabulous Moon Shoes. They really help give the illusion that you are bouncing across the lunar surface. The footwear was a recent thrift store find.

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Who knew that the moon was populated with chickens and guineas!?

A Fine Feathered Friend February 12, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
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Rachel really enjoys animals.  She is always quick to volunteer to help with farmwork and gives lots of loving care to her little charges.  For her part, Roxanne is very tolerant of the loving and is happy to ride around on our shoulders.  Just beware- she rarely remembers to wipe her feet before flying up for a ride!

Brand Spankin’ New Kids February 11, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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I tried to take some pictures last night by the light of one weak flashlight, but they didn’t turn out- go figure.   After church today, we got some good shots.

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Brother and sister cuddled up together. The black one was born first.  He has wavy hair down his back.  The girl favors her mama.

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Crackle with her new young-‘uns. 

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A little girl, tentatively named Betsy by Rachel. 

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 When this little boy was still newborn and wet, the white cowlick on his forehead formed a lightning bolt.   He was instantly dubbed Lightning McQueen after the main character in Cars.  Since his father was named for the towtruck, it seemed right.  Isn’t he completey adorable!?

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Proud GoatMama. 

A Common Miracle February 9, 2008

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Farm.
6 comments

“Grab your coats and boots if you want to see a kid being born!” I yelled as I burst in the backdoor. We were all out the door in under 10 seconds, never mind zippers and laces.

The mama in me required that I go out after dark and check on Pop’s baby to be sure she wasn’t by herself getting chilled in the dropping temperatures. (Often I have become concerned during the night about one group of animals or another and gone out to check on them. Then and only then am I able to go back to sleep). It was shortly after dinner and the family was watching a movie together. I began cleaning up the kitchen and then couldn’t help myself anymore- I had to go check.

I found Pop! and baby nestled in the hayring (watch your blood pressure now, Joe) and then took roll by flashlight. Hmmm… Crackle’s missing. Ah, there she is!

Oh! It’s time! So I ran back to the house and summoned the others.

So that is how we found ourselves in boots and pajamas standing in the cold night air watching a kidding by flashlight with two dogs in attendance.

And it was spellbinding. Crackle had known it was time and gone into the range shelter. There on the hay, she was standing stiffly and straining. The children watched in quiet amazement, even Lydia, as a kid’s head appeared. Crackle! groaned and Benjamin whispered his concern. “It sounds like it hurts.” “It does. Having a baby hurts, but I think she’s doing fine.”

A long time seemed to pass with only groaning and I was growing anxious. What if the kid was too big? How would I know if she was in trouble? Is this how Joe feels when I am having a baby- anxious and powerless to help?

More pushing and a few minutes later, the kid was out and sneezing. Crackle! began to lick it. We whispered our cheers and watched as mother and baby took in each other’s scents and sounds.

A little bit later, another head appeared, but Crackle’s focus seemed to be entirely on the first kid. As the minutes ticked by, we were beginning to get concerned that the second kid would suffocate if she didn’t finish delivering it and get it out of the amniotic sac. We wondered if that is what had happened to Pop’s male kid. It was very hard for me to stay put and not “help.”

To our relief, she did shortly deliver it and divide her attention between the two. As the first one got to its feet and began looking for a nipple, we stifled more cheers. We continued watching until the second one was trying to get up and then returned to the house to warm up. All the way back, we talked about how exciting it was and how happy we were to see those cuties.

What an amazing event! Yes, it happens all the time, so technically, birth doesn’t qualify as a miracle, but I don’t know how someone could see such an incredible thing and not see God’s hand in it. To me, that’s a glimpse into God’s mind and I am awestruck.

God gave those minutes-old kids the knowledge and ability to get up and seek out food, in just the right place. He gave their mother the instinct to lick her babies dry to bond with them, to disguise their scent from predators, and to get their circulation going. Much as I enjoy these animals, I know they aren’t smart enough to figure out on the spur of the moment that they ought to do these things. And I don’t believe for a minute that on their own, animals just evolved to have these instincts. That’s a God thing.

I believe God gave us a gift tonight. I don’t just mean the addition of two kids. I mean the privilege of seeing Him at work. If I had gone to check 10 minutes earlier or 30 minutes later, we would have missed the whole thing. But I didn’t. I went just in time.

Benjamin told us after we returned to the house that he kept praying and thanking God for letting us live on a farm, for letting him watch, and for the new kids. He said a memory verse kept going through his mind as he stood there- “Glory to God in the highest…”

If ever I have doubted, I know for sure that God led us to this place and this lifestyle- what a privilege!

On the Schoolroom Bookshelf: The Educated Child and Home Learning Year by Year February 8, 2008

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family, Homeschooling.
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In previous posts, I’ve explained some of our reasons for homeschooling our children.  One of the main ones is that we feel we can provide a better education for them one-on-one than they can get in a 30-1 public school classroom.  Our goal has not been to just replicate the curriculum at home either.  We’ve always striven to go beyond that in terms of both depth and breadth. 

There are many homeschooling curriculum companies out there, all striving to provide the best materials available.  We have looked at and adopted some of those texts, but still find them missing some important elements or find they don’t address our preferred learning styles.  This has left us in a bit of a quandary.  How do we make sure that we cover all the skills and content we need to be well educated?  I have a good foundation in education, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t overlook anything.  Beyond that, I had done all my classroom teaching at the middle school level.

The county school board was of no help at all.  A few weeks into Benjamin’s first grade year, we decided to withdraw him and homeschool.  When I asked the county office for a listing of content and skills at each grade level to refer to, they stared at me blankly.  I explained why I wanted them and the reply I got was, “Well, just go get one of those everything-for-first-grade workbooks at the dollar store.”  I was dumbfounded. 

I’ve since found listings on the state education site that gave me a little more help, but they aren’t very user-friendly.  There are lots of very long vague statements in education-ese.   I was looking for something a bit more straight-forward.  I found that in these two books.

The Educated Child by Bennett, Finn, and Cribb was not written with homeschooling in mind at all.  It was actually intended for parents that wanted to evaluate the public education their children were getting.  It is a rather thick book, but well worth reading.  It covers a good bit of the theory and reasoning behind the education children should be getting as well as outlining the topics and skills that should be covered grade by grade.  The authors advocate tackling far more weighty topics (in social studies especially) than I have ever seen in practice.  I would honestly be surprised if there are more than a handful of schools that would pass their evaluation. 

Home Learning Year by Year:  How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School by Rebecca Rupp has has also been very valuable.  The author writes from years of experience and also advocates a much more rigorous plan of skills and topics than public school books tackle. 

Both of these books have kept us at the library a lot, but we are really enjoying our learning.  I love seeing our children make the connections between what we have studied and items in the news or in documentaries we watch or novels we read.  They are developing a good understanding of cause and effect and are adding pieces to their mental “big picture.”

New Kid on the Block February 6, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Couldn’t resist the title.  Other finalists were “Pop Popped!” and “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

This morning, after hearing the woe-some tales of tornado destruction across the southeast on the news, we went out to check on our animals.  To my utter delight, Pop! had kidded.  Beside her stood an absolutely adorable, wobbly, wee babe.  I, of course, RAN back to the house for the camera.  Here are the baby’s first pictures.

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This little girl is about the size and weight of a medium sized cat.  Some of our chickens are bigger!

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Over her left eye, she has a dark patch connected by a thin line all the way to her nose.  Down the center of her back, she has a dark stripe. 

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She is newly licked clean, but still has her umbilical cord visible.

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She knew just where to find her all important first meal of rich colostrum.

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Mom and baby together.

Pop actually had twins, but the little male didn’t survive .  It made me sad, but I can’t dwell on that.  We will rejoice in the blessing we have.

Benjamin and Rachel are very excited and already arguing over who will raise this one.  For a while at least, we’ll let Pop! have the job.

After mom and baby had had several hours to bond, we couldn’t resist loving on the wee one.  Pop! kept an eye on things, but did not seem bothered by our presence.  The kid, however, can make a surprisingly loud cry for such a tiny thing!

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I think I was much more nervous than Pop! when the other animals came over to inspect the newcomer.  I was ready to intervene, but to my relief it has all gone well so far.  The cows even went so far as to lick and nudge the kid!

Snap! is doing a lot of getting up and lying down.  I suspect she will kid before long also.

Meet the Flock, Part 11 February 4, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Elvira

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This is our only remaining Polish hen.  Isn’t she lovely?  If you are hearing an Oak Ridge Boys song in your head right now, you are showing your age!  Me, too.   🙂

Elvira was originally named for the late night horror movie queen, but in retrospect, I’m not crazy about that association.  Our Elvira does always wear black, but she’s also always modest.  No cleavage here.

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I’d like to get her a friend and maybe start a small flock of “showgirls” by crossing her with some Silkies, Turkens, or Frizzles.   Wouldn’t that be something?