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Gardening Girl May 29, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
4 comments

Lydia is walking right in her mother’s footsteps, loving to spend time in the garden.

And like her sister, she likes to make a fashion statement while doing it.

She’s a hard worker- she’ll sit for an hour piling dirt in her lap and packing it down.  Seeing as how this outfit will never actually be clean again, this will probably continue to be her down-and-dirty gardening ensemble.

Pictures from Kuwait May 27, 2008

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
9 comments

GrandMosque1-2008-05-01

Last month, I had the opportunity to travel overseas for work. This time, it was to Kuwait City. I was there for two weeks and it was really very interesting. The picture above is of the Grand Mosque in downtown Kuwait City. As you can probably tell by looking at the vehicles parked just outside, it was huge.

GrandMosque2-2008-05-01

Periodically throughout the day, loud speakers would broadcast prayers from atop each Mosque. I had thought that everything would stop during prayer times, but things continued as normal. Although Kuwait is officially a Islamic state, their interpretation is not as strict as some other countries.

 StockExchange1-2008-05-01

I was working a few building away from the Kuwait Stock Exchange. So I stopped by one day during lunch to see what it was like. I even had lunch in the cafeteria.

StockExchange2-2008-05-01

Inside lots of men were intently watching the markets.

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Since the oil industry is nationalized in Kuwait, most everyone I met there knew a great deal about the oil market.They knew how many barrels per day were being produced, what the going rate per barrel was, and Kuwait’s percentage of overall OPEC production levels. It was something like the housing market or interest rates here in the U.S. Ships were docked and being pumped full of oil at various places around the city. It takes almost 24 hours to pump the water out of the hold and to then fill it with oil.

KuwaitiTowers2008-05-01

These are the Kuwaiti Towers. There is an observation deck and restaurant in one of the balls. You can see for miles from inside. During Iraq’s invasion during the 1990’s these two towers were a target of many of the Iraqi war planes, not for strategic or tactical purposes, but symbolic reasons – destroying a symbol of Kuwait’s identity. One of the seldom used palaces just across the street from the Kuwaiti Towers was also a target of the Iraqi aggressions.

KuwaitCityScap-2008-05-01

Getting a picture of the skyline of Kuwait is difficult because it’s very spread out. There are plenty of skyscrapers, and many more under construction. But unlike most U. S. cities, they are not confined to just one “downtown” area; they are scattered out over broad areas.

 Designerbuilding-2008-05-01

Most of the buildings in Kuwait are what I would call designer buildings. They were not just standard rectangular buildings of 30 to 50 stories. They have unique shapes and curves.

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I went to a mall there. It was remarkably similar to what you’d find in the U.S., except that in addition to a parking lot, it also had a marina attached.

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I was told that Kuwait has approximately 3 million people and 2/3 of them are ex-patriots from other countries. English seems to the common language that most people can understand.

The thing I remember most about my visit was the work culture. It was completely different than here in the U.S. People were relaxed at work. They smiled all the time and seemed to truly enjoy themselves. There was lots of what appeared to be socializing, yet they some how produced the same quantity and often better quality of work as we do in our stress filled offices in the states. Amazing.

Two weeks was a long time for me to be away from home. But I really did enjoy it and I’m glad to have done it.

The Little Graduate May 24, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Homeschooling.
4 comments

Rachel has worked very hard this year learning to read and add and and write neatly and all the other important Kindergarten skills. She was rewarded with a graduation ceremony with our homeschool group.

A little nervous before going onstage to receive her diploma. She seemed to have a “popcorn hat”- the elastic in it would cause it to suddenly pop up off her head.

You can just about count on being at the end of the line if your last name starts with W.

Rachel received some awards from her teachers, most notably one for always being cheerful and seeing the good in other people. We are very proud of her!

Art on Display May 23, 2008

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

We participate in a wonderful homeschool enrichment group that we enjoy very much. While I am teaching Science to first and second graders, Benjamin and Rachel are taking a wide variety of classes from Guitar to Geography to Art. While I’m in class Lydia plays with other teachers’ children under the loving care of several students’ moms who are a blessing to the kids.

Last week was the art show- an opportunity for each child to choose their favorite 2 pieces to frame and showcase for all the parents. Here are Benjamin’s and Rachel’s choices.

Maybe this one by Benjamin should replace the masthead on our blog since Joe used to insist that we might as well call this the Poultry Pages given what he considered unequal coverage of chickens.

This one reflects Benjamin’s ongoing interest in knights and chivalry.

For Rachel, it was a close tie between this Crazy Spotted Frog and a bold sea life picture she had painted using salt in the wet watercolors to create the look of bubbles.

Now, this is a testament to a girl’s love for her father. Rachel loves color and her artwork typically is more exuberant and splashy. Rachel’s teacher has really stretched her to consider and try a wide variety of mediums and styles. I can tell you that this would NOT have been one of Rachel’s own favorites. But Joe was extra complimentary about this one when he remarked on how impressed he was with her technique and shading. As usual, she drank it up. When it came time to decide which to submit for the show, she quickly picked this one. Daddies take note- your daughters crave your approval and flourish under your compliments.

This is the Life! May 14, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
2 comments

Oh, the life of a farm animal around here!

Wake up. Watch the humans fetch water and feed. Eat and drink. Rest and chew your cud. Repeat.

Oh yeah. And play.

Could somebody give me a boost?

Our 6 year old wordsmith May 12, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.
3 comments

Rachel loves to help. She loves to lend a hand in the garden, in the kitchen, and with the animals. We’re very blessed with her giving nature in this way.

But she has another God-given gift that is not very commonplace. She’s very tactful in her speech, and not just for a 6-year old either. Her natural bent toward considerate phrasing can rival the skills of those many years her senior.

Yesterday, for example, she was helping me feed the broilers – those chickens we’ve raised to be meat for our family. Afterward as we were walking back to the house, I was chatting with her – really just spending time and making small talk. I told her that we’d already processed just over one-half of the 33 broilers we’d raised, leaving 15 more to harvest.

That’s when it occurred to me. I could introduce a little basic math into the conversation. So I said “I think we can finish these 15 in two more days, probably processing 8 in one day and 7 the next.” I paused to let it sink in a little. “Or may 10 one day and 5 the next. Or even 9 and 6.”

To which she responded “Well, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision when the time comes.”

That’s our Rachel!

The Chicken Tractor System is Working May 8, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm, Uncategorized.
6 comments

A few weeks back, we posted pictures of the chicken tractors we’ve been using to pasture our meat and laying chickens. I thought I’d show you one of the many reasons why we have chosen to raise the chickens this way.

Here is what it typically looks like right after the tractors have advanced. You can see on the right edge that the grass had been pretty tall and medium green. Where the tractors have been it is pretty thin and tired-looking now. When we began this system, the worn-out looking grass made us shake our heads and cluck our tongues in concern.

Here is a close-up of how the ground may look right after the chickens have been on it. Lots of bare spots, but not to worry!

Most of what is missing in the previous picture is this easily scratched up weed. As far as we know, it not a valuable pasture grass for ruminants, so we don’t care if most of it is removed. We are trying to improve our pastures for all species. The chickens consider it to be red lollipops (see previous post 🙂 ) and don’t leave a single leaf behind. We take the opportunity to toss good grass seed down on the bare spots and let the rain water it in. (If there is a reader who can identify this weed, we’d love to know what it is. We are always trying to learn more about plant identification and use).

This is a view back across the previous tractor paths. The higher ridges are the weeds shown above that were between the tractors, but the good grass is already rebounding nicely and the new seed is beginning to sprout. It’s hard to tell on this picture, but the lower leveled grass is also coming back a dark rich green color.

Here is a picture of a spot where a chicken tractor was in an area we mow. Notice the dark green color and faster rate of grass growth. Our meat birds were here about 3 weeks ago. On the right, you can see the area where the edge of the tractor was, then the beginning of the next spot where it sat. Because of a hill, we moved it laterally here.

We get a quicker recovery after moving the meat birds because they aren’t as efficient at scratching for bugs and seeds as the well-practiced laying hens are.

Here is a different view across the previous paths. There is a paler stripe where the unused nesting boxes sat and no manure was put down. Then in the top right corner you can see edge of the previous row by the darker green grass color.

In the areas where we ran the tractors last year, the grass is so thick that we can hardly walk through it. It should yield wonderful hay. I remember Joe’s grandfather saying that the benefits of applying chicken manure are best seen a year or two later. I’m a believer!

Ode to a lollipop May 7, 2008

Posted by Joe in Family.
4 comments

Red sugar on a stick;
You do not make me sick,
No one could call you ick,
Red sugar on a stick.

LydiaLollipop-2008-05-06