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Finally, The Snow We’ve All Been Waiting For… March 10, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
7 comments

About a week ago, we got a 2 inch snow and Benjamin made the most of it. He worked ALL day scraping every bit of snow he could find, packing it hard into a cooler, then stacking the snow “bricks” into walls trying to build an igloo. Well, Nanook would be proud of the effort, but there just wasn’t quite enough snow. Here is his partial igloo, the next day.

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Well, Friday night we finally got that real snow that the children have been itching for. Here are lots of pictures.

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This is the view from the henhouse, facing the back of our house (West). To the left, you can see the old well (the black thing is the crank).

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The view of the house and the wonderful old trees from the garden.

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From the henhouse, facing East. These ponds are the sites of some perfect kid fishing- toss in a line, get a fish. Toss in a line, get a fish (before Daddy can even get the first kid’s fish off the hook!)

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This was the “Snow Rachel” they made, with the real life Rachel posing beside her. She was in a bad state the next morning after church. We decided that spiteful old Woody the donkey kicked her over, but it could possibly have been the 50 degree sunshine instead. We prefer to blame Woody.

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A no-holds-barred snowball fight.

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Benjamin, giving the thumbs-up for good sledding.

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We had to try out ALL the sleds we had.

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Cows can’t help themselves. They are so curious by nature. This one kept inching closer and stretching her neck out to observe better, then turning and running off when the shrieks got too loud or the kids spilled out across her pasture. Then she’d come back and do it again.

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You can tell in these last couple of pictures that it’s late in the day and the snow is starting to “wear out.” While Lydia and I kept the home fires burning, these three spent most of the day outside. They have the (unanticipated) sunburns to prove it!

It was a great day! One they’ve been waiting for for a long time!

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The Tough Stuff March 7, 2008

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

A long time ago, God created a perfect place where man lived a life of leisure and animals coexisted as herbivores. But man is a selfish willful creature and he refused to live as God had commanded. He brought sin and all its repercussions into the world. No longer do we live to be 500 in good health. Animals now exist in a food chain with humans at the top. Those people who have embraced Jesus as their Saviour will one day be rewarded with a paradise again, but in the meantime, we must live in a very fallen world.

What does that have to do with farming? Well, a lot actually.

Yes, to be sure, there are lots of idyllic moments of new chicks peeking out from under their mother’s wings and goat kids playing king of the mountain and leaping for joy, but what comes along with them are the moments of sadness, anguish, and dread. We haven’t shared many of them.

On Tuesday Snap had two kids, both bucklings. The one pictured in the previous posting seems to be doing well enough, but his brother was born crippled. His front legs were too short and the hooves were turned under so, even if he could walk, he’d be treading on the tops of his “wrists” for lack of a better word. He couldn’t really stand, couldn’t nurse, and couldn’t follow the others around. A very sad thing indeed.

We didn’t have many choices. If we did nothing, the kid would be easy pickings for predators or would starve. If we bottle-fed it, we would only be postponing the inevitable. It’s not reasonable to do orthopedic surgery on a goat. That only left one choice- to put it down.

When we were little, we all cringed in Charlotte’s Web when Fern’s father was going to put down the starving runt that became Wilbur. “How cruel!” we thought. But was it? Statistically, runts rarely go on to do well and, if they survive, they tend to have offspring with problems.

In real life, animals don’t really talk, they don’t have souls, and nature has a way of keeping the herds/packs/flocks healthy. The sickly and weak don’t survive to reproduce, thus the group can stay healthy and strong. In our very imperfect world, God has put safeguards in place. In the wild, those weak animals allow the ones higher in the food chain to survive.

But don’t think that just because we understand all that that it makes it much easier to do what needs to be done. I listened all afternoon with sadness and anguish to that poor kid calling for his mother because he was hungry. But when she came, he couldn’t get any nourishment. And Joe had the heavy heart of dread all day knowing what he needed to do when he got home, hoping that the poor thing would pass on its own before then. It didn’t and so he had that awful deed to complete when he arrived.

How can we continue hobby farming if there are these components to it? With a full range of emotions. With a respectful understanding of God’s design. With appreciation for all the healthy ones and the opportunity to live life as a cohesive family unit. We rejoice in the blessings and sorrow in the losses. Though we don’t see life through rose-colored Disney glasses anymore, we wouldn’t trade it and we are grateful for all the experiences He gives us.

Snap Is Finally a Mama March 6, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
2 comments

Remember how we had 3 goats that were bred and we were expecting the last kids any day? Well, apparently one doe was not bred until the following heat cycle. While we were away on Tuesday, she kidded.

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Here are Mama and a son.

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He’s a cutie, isn’t he?

This little guy has been a little confused about exactly who his mama is. One of our dogs, Lucy, really likes the kids. She nuzzles them and licks them the way their mamas do, so it isn’t too surprising to me that, for a while, they see her as a surrogate mother. She gets more than she bargained for, though. She is quite taken aback every time they cuddle up to her and and then ram her in the abdomen like they do their mothers, to start the milk flowing. Lucy takes a leaping step backward every time.

Science Fair March 5, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
4 comments

I’ve mentioned in the past that we participate in a homeschool enrichment group and that I teach science classes there. Well, yesterday was the big day- Science Fair!

The kids really enjoy doing experiments at home with me, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to do a project for the Fair. Rachel chose a project that tested the preferred environment of worms (damp or dry) and then for fun, we also did warm or cool. (As an aside, when Rachel was about 3, she’d yell out “Aaaah! Crabs!” every time she saw a worm. We never did know where that confusion came from. Now she tries to save them all from opportunistic chickens. She’s been known to take them and rebury them when we are digging in the garden because she knows they are good for the soil 🙂 ).

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We teachers encouraged the younger students to use the “lapbook” style of presenting their projects. It is essentially a file folder (or 2 glued together, like Rachel’s) that provides a more proportional (and less overwhelming) size for smaller people. Rachel spent a lot of time illustrating her lapbook with drawings of worms.

Benjamin tested the distance various styles of paper airplanes could float when released. He has been very interested in flight and space travel recently, so this fit right in with his study.

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Benjamin’s favorite part of the project was making the planes- no surprise!

The children did their best on both their experiments and their displays and we are proud of their efforts.

I Like Pasketti March 4, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
6 comments

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What do you mean “I missed a spot?” 

This girl really likes Italian food.  She eats her weight in it, shaming her brother and sister with their paltry portions.

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She cleans up pretty well, though, huh?

Hanging Out at The Hermitage March 3, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
3 comments

Our family recently accompanied one of our homeschooling groups to visit Andrew Jackson’s home (The Hermitage) in Nashville and had a really nice time. Here we are in Rachel Jackson’s garden, though not at it’s best this time of year. Though the sun was shining, it was still pretty cold too.

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In the weeks before our field trip, we read a biography on Tennessee’s famous president. Here are just a few of the things we learned:

– he became the nation’s 7th president in 1828

– there were 24 states in the union at that time, and only white men were allowed to vote then

– Jackson won the popular vote against John Quincy Adams in 1824, but lost the electoral college vote

– he served 2 terms, but the first began only days after the death of his much-loved wife Rachel Donelson Jackson

– Rachel had been unhappily married when she and Andrew met. They both thought she was officially divorced when they married but found out 2 years later that the marriage hadn’t been legally ended. They remarried, but this caused much controversy and mud-slinging during his campaigning.

There were many other things, including how he got his nickname Old Hickory, his military career, his hot temper, the infamous duel with Dickinson, and lots more. He certainly led a very exciting and colorful life, though some things wouldn’t make us Tennesseans very proud anymore. For instance, he owned many slaves on his cotton plantation and he was integral in the large-scale removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands.

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The kids are standing in front of the inaugural garb of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. He was 6’1″ and weighed 140 lbs!

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The tree-lined drive as visitors would have approached the house.

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Andrew and Rachel Jackson are buried on the Hermitage grounds out in Rachel’s garden.

Reading aloud March 1, 2008

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
3 comments

Many evenings, just before bedtime, Laura or I will read aloud from a “chapter book” that appeals to the kids. Whenever possible we make it a family affair, all gathering around and giving the reader our full attention.

Recently we finished reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It’s a very engaging book about a 13 year old boy who is stranded in the Canadian wilderness. His only chance and tool for survival is his hatchet. As he attempts to provide food and shelter for himself through trial and error, he learns many new things about survival and about himself. It’s well worth the read.

Throughout the book, Benjamin was intrigued about many of the skills the boy learned. How to make fire without matches, why water refracts light and distorts your perception of a straight line, and how to process a small gamebird. At the book’s end, Benjamin was eager to try some of those things for himself.

As it happened a few days later, it was time for Laura and me to process some of our chickens. Laura and I both feel that it is important for our kids to know where their food comes from and the natural order of things that God put in place for man and beast. We’ve tried instilled upon them that it is our charge as stewards of this land and of these animals that we treat both with respect. They are comfortable with knowing that the chicken on our table may have once had a name, but we’ve never pushed them into helping it to get there.

This time however, inspired by what we’d just read, Benjamin asked to process a chicken on his own. He actively watched me as I harvested the first chicken, asking questions and pausing me to get a better look from another angle. He paid close attention to my every move.

Then it was his turn. Without hesitation, he started from the beginning and 20 minutes later he handed the fruits of his labor over to Laura, ready for the pot.

Like the boy in the book, Benjamin learned more than just a new skill that day. He learned a bit about himself, and gained some confidence in the process.

Afterward, it occurred to me that he has now done something at 8 years old that I didn’t do until I was 38! I’m proud of the person he’s growing up to be.