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When Opportunity Crows August 10, 2010

Posted by Joe in Farm.

Or in the way that The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had two names for every episode “Make Hay When The Rooster Crows”

After supper, I went out to give the turkeys and chickens in the portable tractors some fresh water and I noticed that one of the tractors had some new residents. It contained three roosters we’d kicked out of the tractor earlier for being mean to the other residents. We had just turned them loose to forage and fend for themselves. And they’d done that well.

A couple of weeks ago I learned why they’d been so successful surviving on the outside. While I was processing some of the other chickens, I tried to catch the mean-spirited cockerels to include them in the day’s activities. I couldn’t. They were elusive little buggers.

This afternoon however, the playing field was leveled a bit. They had somehow worked their way back into the tractor and thus would be easier to catch. So as daylight was rapidly yielding to dusk, I quickly gathered my supplies and went back out to capture the three roosters for a quick processing.

As I entered the tractor, I was entering their domain. But I was able to capture two of them rather quickly. Unfortunately the third escaped through the same hole that allowed him to enter. Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad as they say.

So since the unexpected opportunity presented itself this evening, I processed two roosters for Laura to make into canned soup. It’ll be good this winter!


An Exhilarating Sunday Afternoon August 8, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

Remember Easy Like Sunday Morning from Lionel Richie? Well Sunday mornings may be easy, but this Sunday afternoon was full of adrenaline for me.

I needed to take several items down to the toolshed where we store off-season clothes, camping equipment, and of course some tools. When I got down there, I noticed a couple of wasps flying around near the door.

Generally, I don’t mind all of God’s creatures being around. They’re part of nature. They exist for a reason. In His omnipotence He created them. I don’t pretend to understand why He created some of them, like the horsefly, but I know He had a reason.

So I live and let live for the most part. There’s an exception for me, though. If the animals are causing problems for us, they’ve got to go. For example, I don’t mind chicken snakes, unless they are eating our eggs. In this case though, the wasps were in a very inconvenient place. I didn’t want Benjamin or Rachel to get stung while getting something from the toolshed for me. So the wasps had to go.

I sent Benjamin back up to the house to get the fly swatter. As he walked back up to the house to get it, I began unloading the totes and items from the bed of my truck and taking them into the toolshed. I’d gotten about half of the items into the shed when he returned with a fly swatter and a very old can of Raid. In fact, I believe both the Raid and the flyswatter were purchased when we moved into the house 5 and 1/2 years ago.

I decided to go ahead and take care of the wasps before unloading the rest of the items in the truck. As I approached the door armed with just the flyswatter, I noticed that another wasp came out of a baseball-sized hole in the side of the toolshed. I carefully peaked into the hole. And there, inside the hole, was a whole swarm of bright red wasps busily doing whatever it is that wasps do.

Wow! I immediately retreated, nearly falling over myself, and grabbed the can of Raid that Benjamin had brought for me. Since it was  a very old can, I tested it out before approaching my newfound Sunday afternoon nemesis. I’m glad I did. A fine mist came shooting out of my secret weapon. Well, shooting is not exactly the right word for it. It was more like a mist from can of spray starch. Then I remembered. A couple of years ago, the nozzle of the can somehow broke. I replaced it with the only other nozzle I could find, one from an old can of spray starch. So the can of Raid that boasted of a being able to hit bugs at 25 feet now couldn’t shoot 12 inches.

Undeterred, I approached the hole in the wall, aimed the spray starch nozzle at the home of the little stingers with wings and let it rip. Mist!

And did the wasps come flying out! It seems a fine mist of Raid is very effective at getting a swarm of wasps very agitated. As I turned to run, I nearly knocked over into my 20 month old son, Timothy, who was standing right behind me. A picked him up, holding a can of spray in one hand and a flyswatter in the other and awkwardly ran toward the truck. Benjamin was under the truck.

I ordered Benjamin to take Timothy to the house. He didn’t object.

Then I approached the clearly annoyed wasps again. There’s something very exhilarating about doing battle with a swarm of wasps. Your adrenaline starts pumping was you swat one out of the air, mid-flight. The only thing more electrifying is swatting at one, missing, and then losing sight of it as it flies right by your head. That’ll really start your cardiovascular system to pumping.

In the end, I did battle with the wasps for 20 minutes. I’d get two or three of them, and then have a couple of close calls that sent me running back to the perceived safety of my truck. I’d slowly approach again, score another couple of points and then hurriedly retreat again.

I’m glad Laura didn’t have a video camera on me. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty sight. Me swinging wildly left and right with a bent flyswatter then high-stepping it out of there with my elbows pumping.

But I’ve got to say it was as fun; fun like going to a haunted house and roller coaster all rolled into one. If you do well, you win. But there’s always the threat of intense pain when one of them gets through your line of defense.

Fortunately, I bested the wasps this day. And I didn’t get stung.

After it was all done I still had to enter the toolshed and finish putting away the remaining items. I was a bit nervous about it. I was still on high alert. But I finished my task without getting stung.

Who says you can’t get a cardiovascular workout while doing farm chores?

What about you? Got any stories bug stories you’d like to share?

Voting in America August 7, 2010

Posted by Joe in People, Politics.

A couple of days ago, I went to the polls to cast my ballot in our local elections and state-wide primaries. I view voting as a civic duty and responsibility. Every citizen has the right, nay the obligation, to help select the person that he believes will best represent his beliefs and interests in our great republic. If you consciously choose not to exercise that right, you are forfeiting a powerful opportunity to help shape our democracy. But that’s another great thing about out country: it’s your choice. You can choose to sit on the sidelines if you wish.

An Imperfect System

Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947). I’d have to agree with that sentiment. The are lots of imperfections in our system of government. You don’t have to look far to recognize them.

For example, consider one person, one vote.

In every election there are well-informed people who study the issues and the candidates, who carefully considered the specifics and the larger picture, and finally reach a carefully formed conclusion on who they believes is the right person for the job. They take their civic duties seriously.

On the over hand, in every election there are people who enter the polls that have never heard of the candidate’s name before. They haven’t studied the issues; they are making their selections based solely on the name of the candidates. “I’m not voting for that Williams fellow; he’s probably kin to that kid in sixth grade that stole my lunch money.” Or, “Gomez sounds like a foreigner to me; he should go home.” Or equally bad, they make their selections based on race, or gender, or something else that has no relevancy.

Yet in both of these cases, the decisions of the votes of those individuals carry the exact same weight when voting level is pulled. The person who has carefully weighed the factors has the same impact on the election as the one who make his choice without any regard to the issues.

Is that good? Is that what our founding fathers intended? Not really, yet on some level it is.

A Hope Continued

How can anyone except for the person casting the ballot know how and why he is voting. It can’t be done. And even if it could be done, who would set up the commission to determine who has a right to vote and who doesn’t? The voters? Elected politicians? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t want anyone telling me that my vote would carry more or less weight than another due to the way they perceive my decision-making and consideration of the issues. That’s not democracy. That’s the facade. It’s only a veneer of democracy with tyranny lurking just beneath the surface.

So even though my vote may be cancelled out by someone who’s never heard of a candidate, I’ll carry on making my decisions. I’ll keep hoping that the majority of people will study the issues before casting their ballots and that this country will be led by the individuals we’ve consciously and intentionally elected.

A Handshake And A Smile At The Dump August 4, 2010

Posted by Joe in People.

Late yesterday afternoon, I took a break from my busy work day to take our trash to the drop off station a few miles down the road. That’s one of the nice things about working at home: you can check off a couple of items from your honey-do list while taking a mental break from work.

The trash really needed to go. It wasn’t that I had a large quantity to take, rather it was the quality of trash that necessitated its departure. I’ll spare you the odiferous details; suffice it to say it was offensive. The combination of contents and extreme August heat created a concoction that could rival any smell.

So, donning some work clothes that I didn’t mind parting with if permanently contaminated with an odor and some work gloves, I set out for the dump.

Our drop off station is frequently manned by a nice older fellow whose name I don’t know. He doesn’t know my name either but we always have a pleasant conversation about the weather or some such. He’s usually supervising at least one teenager that begrudgingly helps toss my trash into the giant compactor. The teenagers are there working off their community service hours as prescribed by a local judge for some act of stupidity perpetrated by them.

Yesterday was different though. As I pulled into the station, I noticed that my normal acquaintance was accompanied by a second gentleman in his mid-50’s. “Sad,” I thought as I pulled in, ” I wonder what landed him in this predicament.”

But as I got out of my truck, I immediately realized that this was not ordinary time-server. No, he gladly strolled out to the bed of my truck and started unloading the stinky trash. He asked how I was doing and commented about the heat of the day. I could tell he had been there for a while. His shirt was soak through with sweat and his face red.

Before I left, I learned that the man working so hard in the blazing sun that August day was running for County Commissioner in my district. His name was David Romain and rather than meeting people at restaurants or banks, he was lending a helping hand at the local trash drop off station – a good place to meet a broad cross-section of our community.

I don’t know much about his politics, but I’ll do a little research tonight before casting my ballot tomorrow. I respect a man who’s willing to roll up his sleeves and do the hard and unpleasant jobs, a man who is a servant leader.

Did I fall for his tactics? Maybe. Would he have kissed a baby if I’d brought one? Probably.

If he’s elected, only time will tell if he’s any different than the majority of the politicians that “represent” us. But for now, he’s sparked a glimmer of hope in me that maybe he’ll be little different.

We’re Back! The 2010 School Year Begins August 3, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Homeschooling.

Working in the recliner just like his old man.

Yesterday marked the passing of yet another era for the kids. The short-lived summer break that they enjoyed came to an abrupt end and school started. Since we homeschool, it’s really our choice when the school year begins. We’ve found that starting the first week in August works well for us.

As I mentioned in a prior post, we’ve made some changes to this school year. More of their daily activities will be driven by a homeschooling software called Switched-On Schoolhouse.

Although the kids weren’t excited about the end of summer, they were eager to try out their new software. The demonstration lessons that they asked to go through on Sunday night were entertaining and engaging. So it wasn’t a chore getting them started on Monday morning.

Their enthusiasm soon wained as the reality of the start of a new school year set in. Although the software is interactive and even fun for them at times, they soon became a frustrated with the way it asks certain questions. They were unclear how to respond to the prompts, how to answer the questions, and how to manipulate the software. It became stumbling block for them.

In a way, their experience parallels what many users, regardless of age, go through. Initially, there’s new excitement and the promise of something new. There is optimism about how it will make the normal routine better. The optimism soon subsides and is replaced by questions and uncertainty. “How does this software work? It’s not doing what I thought it’d do.” Soon that gives way to annoyance and frustration. At that point the software is actually inhibiting them from actually doing work.  That’s where my kids left off yesterday.

Fortunately the life cycle of adopting new software doesn’t end there. Eventually, the software will become another tool to get the job done. In this case, the job is imparting knowledge to the sponge-like grey matter of my kids.

Today has been a better experience for them. They are beginning to understand how to respond to the types of questions. Hopefully this will continue for them and by the end of the week, they’ll be able to navigate through it without problems.

Then they’ll be back to just be disliking The Three R’s rather than the software that presents it to them.

A Cat by Any Other Name… August 2, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

As you may imagine, living in an old farm means being surrounded by a lot of history. It’s fun to imagine all of the births, lives, and events that must have taken place over course of this house’s 110 year history. We love living in the country and being the next chapter in the story of this house and land.

But living in an old farmhouse also means being surrounded by fields full of mice just looking for their opportunity to join us inside. That’s one of the reasons we got two outdoor cats a couple of years ago. After getting Patch and Coco, we noticed an immediate and dramatic drop in the number of mice we saw in and around the house. The cats often leave remnants from their hunting excursions on the back porch; I think they’re paying tribute to us for providing them food and shelter.

Our kids have learned at an early age about life. They’ve learned about the circle of life and where our food comes from. It doesn’t bother them to know that what we have on the dinner table may have once walked in our fields. That’s the natural order of things, the way it’s supposed to be.

But what did bother them a bit was the disappearance of Patch a couple of months ago. One day she was here, the next day she was gone. Patch would often hunt at night. We surmise that one night she met with an owl and the predator became the prey.

So over this past weekend, we went to pick out a new kitten from some friends who suddenly found themselves with many more felines than they cared to manage. We are now the proud owners of a new, solid black, male kitten.

We haven’t actually taken possession of this newest resident of Blessed Acres Farm; he still needs a week or so with his mother. But when he does arrive, he’ll need a name. We’ve been talking about names almost nonstop since he was selected on Saturday. Personally I like the name Chubbs. But Rachel, who somehow feels the most ownership in the cat, is dead-set against that name. She prefers Miko or Thin Mint. She is willing to compromise a bit and go with Tubbs.

So, we’re looking for suggestions for a name for our new outdoor kitten. Got any?

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year July 30, 2010

Posted by Joe in Homeschooling.
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A couple of years ago, Staples had a commercial for it’s “Back to School” push called It’s “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. It’s considered a classic in our household. The dad is joyfully dancing around the store stocking up on school supplies as his kids trail along mournfully in his wake.

As funny as it is, the commercial is not really applicable to us. Sure the kids are forlorn over the passing of summer. But since we homeschool, the start of a new school year means extra work for Laura and me.

Laura does most of the schooling here at Blessed Acres Farms School. I help when I can.

This week I’ve been preparing the kids’ laptops. One needed to be completely repaved, starting with a fresh install of Windows. The other is still ok from last year’s use. In fact it still has the Rosetta Stone
software installed on it. That, along with the Weekly Reader program, was the extent of their use of a computer for school lessons last year.

This school year, we’re going to have the kids do a little more of their work on the computer. I’m installing some homeschool programs for science, history and language arts. They’ll also spend some time learn to touch type.

Hopefully this year will be less time intensive for Laura and I can post a video of her dancing around singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Your Order Has Shipped July 29, 2010

Posted by Joe in Preparedness.

I tend to get a lot of email during the course of a day so I have to go through my inbox regularly to keep it from getting out of hand. But there’s one email that I like seeing as it pops into my inbox. It’s a message from Amazon telling me that my order has shipped. I like getting those emails. It means that in just a few days I’ll have a package on my doorstep.

I received a “Your Order Has Shipped” email earlier this week. Yesterday, true to Amazon’s word, a package was delivered to my home. Inside the shoebox sized package were two knives I’d ordered recently.

Both knives are manufactured by Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT). As with most of my purchases, I did a fair amount of research before I made a buying decision. I read review after review that touted the knives so I have high expectations for them.

I intend to carry one of them, the M16-13T, as my everyday pocket knife. It’s a little big for that, but the size is offset a bit due to it’s light weight. The handle is made out of titanium so it’s incredibly strong yet not excessively heavy.

The second knife is noticeably larger and wouldn’t serve well as an everyday pocket knife. The size and weight would make it cumbersome. Besides, it would probably alarm anyone around if pulled it out to open a box at a client’s. Yes, it’s that scary looking. I intend to Cathy this knife while in the woods on camping trips. It’ll make a great survival knife.

I’ve only had these two knives in my possession for a day now, but I really like them. They seem solid and well balanced.

Trying on hats at the Ren May 18, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family.

Last weekend we went to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. We had a great time.

Here we are trying on hats.

Lydia the ballerina May 13, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Uncategorized.

During a recent trip to Beck’s house, Lydia had a spontaneous burst of dancing. Never mind that there was no music; that didn’t stop her.

But not to be outdone, Timothy joined in on the fun, too.