Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dance Recital

Dancer's songs were Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings, Witchcraft by Elvis, Come Sail Away by Styx, I Got My Mind Set by George Harrison and Dancin' Machine by Jackson 5.

Spark' songs were Fishin' in the Dark by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, La Bamba by Richie Valens and Dancin' Machine by Jackson 5.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The wandering turtle

This is a mud turtle, very common in our area. This is a rather large one, usually they are about four inches across and five inches long.
It's beautiful under shell. It has a lot of scratches on it so it must have crossed a road or two.
The kids put it in the duck pool to observe it swimming. They put a couple leaches in the pool hoping to see it catch and eat them, it but it didn't. They decided because it was so far removed from it's habitat that it was too nervous to eat.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eggstra big or eggstra small?

The egg on the left is a regular sized chicken egg and the egg on the right is one that a chicken laid today. A couple times a year we will get a little egg like this one. Then a couple times a year we will get one that is just huge. When ever we get a really big one I always look around to see what chicken might be walking a bit funny.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Once Upon a Family turns 20!

Twenty years ago today we stood facing the pastor in front the church and exchanged our vows. After we were officially married, we turned to face our friends and family and the pastor said, "I present you a brand new family, never seen before on this earth!" And so our Once Upon a Family story began on May 28, 1989. It has been a great story of love, hope, joy, blessings, disappointments, riches, lean times, triumphs, struggles, health, and illnesses and we look forward to adding many, many more chapters in the years to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby bird?

This is a butternut squash seedling. As we were looking over our seedlings this morning, we decided that this one looked like a baby bird with it's mouth open for it's mother to drop in a morsel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Planting tomatoes

Dig the holes for tomatoes about five feet apart. Don't look at the little plants now and decide your spacing, think of the size they will be in August when they are big and bushy. If you don't fit between the plants you can't pick the fruit.

Put in a scoop of rabbit poo or other fertilizer. My dad always put fish guts in each hole. All year whenever he caught fish, he would wrap the guts up in newspaper and put them in the freezer. In each hole also goes a half gallon of water so that there is good source of moisture at the roots to help the tomato get established after the shock of replanting.

Grandma and Grandpa blessed with us some great tomatoes that they have been tending to for the last couple of months. They brought them up from Arkansas where the growing season starts way before ours. This is what a tomato in late June might look like here.
Gently, ever so gently, slide the plant out of the pot supporting the root base so that it doesn't fall apart and none of the branches break.

Fill the hole in around the plant with dirt. Any part of the plant that is buried will sent out roots, so planting them up to the first set of leaves or higher gives it a nice strong base.
Put a tomato cage around the the plant to keep it off the ground as it grows. As it gets taller, keep tucking the limbs inside the cage. Our cages are made out of woven cattle wire. The other goal of the cages is to make it harder for the ducks and chickens to get to the plants and prohibit them from digging up them up.
Now we will put mulch, we use grass clippings, around each one to help hold the moisture in the soil during the heat of the summer and to keep the weeds at bay.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The great dust bowl of 2009

Dad was tilling our new garden spot again today and dust was just flying. It was so thick it looked like the tiller was smoking. I hope by the time we get that plot in shape to plant that we have some dirt left!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

150 calorie snacks for kids

Like everyone else these days, or so it seems, we are trying to eat a better diet. Snacks are usually quite loosely defined at our house. To get better control of this area of our eating we made a list of snack that are 150 calories. The kids have really gotten into this, reading labels, figuring out how much of a food would be the allotted calories, and deciding if a food is worth the cost of the calories. They can have a snack in the morning, the afternoon and in the evening although they don 't have all three every day. Sometimes we get so busy that it is lunch time or dinner time before we realize it or we aren't home and they don't think of snacking. Here is the list of snacks that we have come up with so far that they think are a good deal for how much you get.

  • celery with 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • apple
  • 28 almonds
  • 18 chips
  • string cheese
  • carrots
  • 2 grahmn crackers with a little jam
  • a slice of goat cheese
  • orange
  • green beans - in the summer they love these raw picked right from the garden
  • hard boiled egg
  • bowl of spinach with a spritz of dressing
  • 4 crackers with a slice of cheese
  • little bowl of yogurt with a bit of granola for topping
  • turkey slice with a pickle
  • glass of chocolate milk
  • 27 little pretzels
  • a freezee with 18 pretzels
  • 8 Combos
  • 1/2 cup of sugar free pudding
  • watermelon
  • granola bar
  • 3/4 of a pop tart - we eat Nature's Path organic tarts so I don't know how others compare
  • 2 cups of noodle soup
  • 1 can of fruit with the syrup drained off
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup hot chocolate
  • 1/4 cup popcorn before it is popped - of course we eat it after it is popped!
  • 1/2 can of spaghetti rings
  • 8 Late July Classic Rich crackers - these are like Ritz
  • 30 Late July cheese crackers - these are like Chez-its
  • 3 tbsp. hummus with 1/2 pita or 4 crackers

Some things they didn't think were worth it, mostly because of the serving size, were candy, trail mix, peanuts, sugar pop, french fries, spray cheese (we never have this but they looked at it in the store and decided it was bad deal) and things that are high in sugar. We haven't done a full search of the grocery store but I am looking forward to what they think of different choices. I also like that they are taking more control over their diet instead of me policing it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The loathsome tick

The dry weather has brought a bumper crop of wood ticks to our little country haven. They live in the grass and I swear are waiting in the pounce position for someone to walk by so they can find a host. We are finding several a day crawling on us and a few times even attached. None have started to fill with blood, when they get large and gray, before we have found them. I am like a mother monkey every night though, checking my kids over thinking every mole is a tick and picking through their hair. I have found them crawling on the walls and the floor. They must get knocked of us as we come in.

Nikki, the dog, has also had a few. She went to the vet the other day, for a well check up and to get her shots, and on the way over we found one on her ear. When we were waiting in the exam room for her heart worm blood test to come back, the kids found a brown pill jar on the counter and it was full of ticks so she isn't the only dog with them. As an aside, the kids hold the jar up to the light and say "oh, how cool, look there is even hair floating in there." I think the proper response should have been, "eeww, gross" and dropped it like the jar full of ticks that it was.

The other day, the Dad was looking under the lawn mower to see why it was making this thunking sound and he said the bottom was just covered with ticks from the grass. I have heard that guinea hens love ticks, perhaps we should look into getting a flock a few very hungry ones.

Friday, May 22, 2009

From yard to garden

The amount of the yard that we use for recreational purposes is very small. Since we don't need as much yard as we have, we decided to turn a sunny spot behind a garage into more garden space. We market garden and it seems we never have enough room to plant all we want to put in so this will be a nice addition. I also like that it is closer to the house so not so far to drag the hose for watering.

We had hardly gotten started and Dancer ran right over with the rake to start helping.

Spark, not so much, he sat on the gas tank and watched us. Sometimes it takes a stick of dynamite to get that kid to help. Hopefully age will help with that.

Dancer worked super hard pulling the grass clumps out of the dirt and she had the dirty face to prove it. It was really dusty, it didn't seem like there was a drop of water in the dirt. There was so much snow this winter and rain in April that we were optimistic that the trend of precipitation would follow for the summer. As our neighbor says, and now Spark echos him everytime we complain about the rain, "that's farming!"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

There's a little black duck swimming in the water

See her open beak? That is her telling me to back up or she will back me up. And she means it too, if we get too close she attacks, hisses and bites.

Both of these mommas brought out their ducklings from under the hay tarp today and they must of mixed up the babies because they are now co-parenting. The duck out of the pool is still giving us and ear full. The other mother is protective but not near as aggressive.

Spark and Dad dug a hole for this bin so that the ducklings can get in and out of it easily.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Frozen Yogurt Peanut Butter Pops

The library we visit has big bins of magazines that patrons can either drop off their used magazines or pick up magazines. When we were there yesterday Dancer hit the jackpot in that there were about 30 American Girl magazines. She has been in heaven all day perusing them. She found this recipe in one from 1999 and jumped right up from her chair to make these yogurt treats.

Put three stripes of peanut butter down the sides of a glass.

Fill cup with yogurt, Dancer used strawberry and vanilla.

Put a spoon in each one for a handle and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours until frozen solid.

After they are frozen pull them out of the cups with the spoon. If they don't come out easy run the glass under a little hot water to loosen the sides and they should slide right out. Top with a bit of thick ice cream topping such as Sundae Syrup.

Enjoy! We found that these should be eaten over a plate as they are messy. These were quite large and would be too big for a snack unless we made them about half the size. We ended up having them for supper with a toaster pastry. These were really, really tasty and I can see her making them a lot this summer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer - Bring it on!

Our official school year is over. Who was I trying to kid, keeping Spark inside and focused was like trying to hold a cat underwater. The nanosecond my attention was else where he was out the door. And who can blame him, we had seven months of snow this year. The summer will consist of math, Latin and history. Spark, if he works diligently at both math and Latin, can be done in about half an hour a day and Dancer, give or take an hour. She actually enjoys math so it shouldn't be hard to keep her motivated. Past summers have proven that if we don't keep up on those subjects we spend about a month grumpily in the fall getting back to where we were in the spring. History will also continue because we love it and it doesn't seem like school work. We will also continue to read, check backpacks full of items out of the library and listen to books on tape in the car. Video games are nixed for the summer. I will assume if someone wants to sit inside and play a video game that they are bored and I should find them something to do. My kids know better than to say they are bored because what I find them to do is an extra chore or two. Ahh, let the summer begin.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Robin's nest

Soft nest Momma makes
Silent sleeping in the egg
Egg cracks, tiny bird

Dewy grass worms hide
Little bird goes cheep, cheep, cheep
Momma brings a worm

These two Haikus were inspired by a nest of baby robins taken out of the roof of our house. A soffit had rotted and there was a rather large hole in the space under the roof and above the eaves. We had seen that a bird had taken up residence in there and nailed a chunk of paneling to the front of it so she would stop making her nest in our house. She didn't take the hint and pushed the board aside and started her little family. When the men came today they tore it all out, including her nest of four little birds. She was watching the whole time and so we hope that she will start tending to them in the tree we relocated them to. If not, we are sad that they may not survive, but don't care to have them growing up in the space right next to our bedroom ceiling. The kids with about a third of the nest she had constructed. I don't know how many eggs she thought she was going to lay as her nest was just massive. There was even a corn stalk in there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bunny Breakfast

Runtidunt and her babies enjoying alfalfa.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Black Bean Salsa Recipe

Black Bean Salsa

4 C. black beans, rinsed

1 can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 can sweet corn

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 C. celery, finely chopped

1/2 C. vinegar

4 Tbsp. sugar or to taste

Add additional seasoning to your taste such as lime, cilantro, salt, bell pepper, etc.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Finding, picking, cleaning and cooking fiddleheads

Finally, the day to pick fiddleheads has arrived! For the last few weeks we have been scouring the ditches where they grow, anxiously waiting for them to show themselves. They are only the right size a few days out of the month of May so proper timing is crucial. This spring has been quite cold for us so they are later than usual. A fiddlehead is the beginning of a fern plant, the frond, right before it grows into a plant. If there is already unfurled ferns then you missed them this year but will know where to go next year. The fiddleheads usually grow in wooded, rather moist areas. The easiest way to find them is to walk down in the ditches looking up as they seem to be rather elusive when searching from the road. They grow from a crown like bulb and fiddleheads come up in clusters of sometimes up to 10 or so of them. The desired part is the little curled part that you just pluck off the crown.We hit the jackpot today and got a rather large crop of them. Many more were just starting so hopefully tomorrow we will find just as many waiting to be picked.
To clean them, the brown papery covering needs to be picked off as well as possible. The brown part comes off easy, it is just a tedious job.

To prepare them we just saute them in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes or eat them raw. We discovered that we loved eating them raw because the first year we found them Spark was little, about four years old. We brought them home, excited that we had found them, but wanted to be sure they were in fact fiddleheads and not something poisonous. As I was searching the Internet for a picture, he comes over with a mouth full of them and asks what they are because they were really good. My kids are obviously not picky eaters and will try anything. They tend to go with the philosophy of eat first, ask questions later.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The flower and the bees

These are made for a 4-H banner that will be in the county fair. This was the best picture I could get in the light I had so it doesn't show them near as cute as they really are. The bees have sparkly wings and the flower lost it's depth of color.
The flower is so simple. It is made from a strip of polar fleece about four inches wide. Scallops are cut on one side of the fleece and the other side is gathered with thread. The thread is pulled tight and tied to form a circle and then the fleece pulls into this neat flower. I love working with the polar fleece because it never needs a hem. A pompom is glued on for the middle and to cover up the gathers.

The bees are foam eggs cut in half, this is the duck size. Paint them yellow, we used tempra paint, and when the paint dried use a Sharpie to draw on the bee stripes. The wings are Foamies Glitter Sheet, the feelers a black pipe cleaner and the eyes are large googly eyes. Glue the parts together, we used Elmers glue but it took overnight to dry on the porous egg so next time I will pull out the glue gun. The eyes were attached with glue dots.
I showed my age when I went to the craft store to find materials for these bees. I wanted this twisted paper for the wings. It came in a long rope of paper and when it was untwisted it made a strip of crinkled paper that was about three inches wide and then many feet long. It was used to weave on boxes, make paper bows or lots of other paper crafts. So after searching the store with no luck finding this product I go up to a sales person, who looks to be about 17 years old at the very most, and ask what aisle this paper is in. She gives me this blank look and says she has never heard of it but she will call and ask the manager. Calls the manager and reports back that the manager doesn't know what I could be talking about. I said, but it is really popular and what crafts were done with it and how it was all the rage blah blah blah. Still this blank stare. Finally I say, because I am feeling desperate to explain myself here that I didn't make this up, that it was, I am quickly doing the math in my head, about 20 years ago. Now she is looking at me, but has raised the eyebrows a little at me like you have got to be kidding lady. I just turned and left, time for the crazy old lady to move on. Twenty years ago wasn't really that long ago was it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

We got Dad a yummy marble cake. Mom and Dad had marble cake for their wedding cake and now for every occassion that we buy a cake, we choose marble. The marble cake has become sort of a family tradition.

Dad at about age 5. He keeps getting better every year!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

She's a beauty

We were dropping off items at the 4-H garage sale fund raiser (selling old clothes, toys etc.-- not actual 4-Hers) and Spark saw something that really caught his eye. This old Snapper lawn mower looks almost exactly like the 1983 Snapper mower that Dancer uses on our yard. We bought the mower because our other rider isn't working right now. Spark has visions of lawn mowing becoming a cool live action Super Mario Kart. We have all seen Spark's driving skills on the neighbors go cart, so it will be a while until he's trusted with whirling blades of steel. On the way home from picking up the mower Spark looked out the back window of the truck, gazed at the lawn mower on the trailer and sighed "Isn't she a beauty".

Monday, May 11, 2009

B 4 and after

The kids played BINGO with residents at the nursing home for a 4-H project. They did this last fall and now again in the spring and it is really a lot of fun. Spark had a wonderful time going from table to table mingling with everyone. I think it was fueled by them telling him he was cute and laughing with him. He communicates so well with little babies all the way up to senior citizens.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Voles galore!

The kids thought they hit the jackpot this afternoon. While trying to get the trailer out from behind the tree line to go and get a lawn mower we bought, Dad moved a piece of particle board. Under the board were all kinds of tunnels. When the board came off, and the sun shown on the tunnels, these little voles started scurrying to a pile of fluff. The fluff was a glorious nest of baby voles living in a very shallow tunnel with an entrance and an exit. From poking around at the hole six voles came out. Spark comes running the house with one to show me the incredibly adorable prize he had just found. While he was seeing cute, I was seeing vermin rich with germs. Dancer had the rest in a sidewalk chalk box and she was holding, petting and playing with them. They were utterly dismayed that I wouldn't want to do the same, but I did take a picture of them on the hood the truck. If I had found them, I would have added them to the cat food chain. But after looking into the faces of my children and taking into account their tender feeling for the little critters, I told them to put them back in the hole for the mother to come and take care of since there was only six, they were a long way from the barn and I am sure a very small percentage of the vole population at our yard. They couldn't have been more than about a week old as their eyes weren't open yet so they must still need to be nursing. It took a long time for Dancer to get those six to stay in that shallow little tunnel. As soon as she would get one in one end, another would run out the other end. Finally she got them all to stay in, they probably figured out that was the only way she was leaving and they would stop getting picked up. I don't know if the mom will come back now since they were handled so much and their house completely dismantled. Either way, the kids feel like they will be okay and that is all that matters to this mother.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What's a boy to do...

A dance competition can be a pretty long day for the family. We had a 186 mile round trip, left at 4:45 AM and returned home at 8:15 PM. It was a lonnnggg day for some of us. Dancer, however, commented "today went so fast". Sure. Mom and Dad spent the day sitting on oh so comfy folding chairs or pacing about the auditorium.

Spark and his friends spent much of the day playing Nintendo DS. Here they are sitting by a wall because we were there so long the batteries went dead and they had to go where they could plug in. The Picto-chat feature is always popular as groups of kids try to find each other in the crowd. Spark did behave really well at the competition and got to have supper at a restaurant he really like. The goats, rabbits, ducks, chickens and Nikki the wonderpup, thought the day was even longer for those left behind.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rhubarb Bread

The kids 4-H club had a garage sale this weekend with the rest of the town in the city wide garage sales. Along with the garage sale they sold baked goods. Dancer and I spent the better part of the afternoon baking up plates of Snickerdoodles, lemon cupcakes with chocolate frosting and rhubarb bread.

Rhubarb Bread

1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. oil
1 beaten egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. diced rhubarb
1/2 c. chopped nuts

Mix together wet ingredients and then add the dry. Sprinkle top with sugar before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mowing down the grass

Dancer comes up to me the other day and in her most exasperated, I am over worked and under paid voice says, "Well, I guess I better mow the lawn." "You know," I said "both the riders are not working and you would have to use the push mower." "Forget that then" she retorts and walks off. She truly loves to mow lawn. She gets out there and sings at the top of her lungs while zooming around as fast as the lawn mower will go. It is a real hoot to watch her. But now, sadly, our riding mowers aren't starting this spring so were are at a fork in the road. Fix one of them, again. Or bite the bullet and buy a new one. Or I can get some good exercise and push mow it. I started this morning with a spring in my step and managed get done the area up by the mail box and around one garage. I think if I mowed about 45 minutes to an hour every day I could have the whole lawn mowed in a week. That option would definitely be the best for my waist line, but it is only May 7th. We will see how smart I am talking by July!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Scur be gone

This gross thing is a scur. A scur is a part of a horn that wasn't burned completely when a goat was being dehorned.

This scur is about as big around as an adult thumb and if stretched out would be about six inches. It has been growing in this twisted way because it hit the top of the goat's head and then started to turn back upward.

It's owner, Elizabeth, was the leader of our herd. This spring, after she had her babies, we have been keeping her inside so that she can nurse her kid during the day. Now that we are working on weaning the babes we put her outside with the rest of the goats and keep her baby in. Desdemona is a little 3 1/2 month old girl out with her mom that we don't want to get pregnant, hence, the boys and girls have to be separated as they are old enough the reproduce.
Elizabeth gets out in the corral yesterday and realizes that her position of leader has been taken over by someone else. This did not sit well with her at all. She starts fighting with who ever was closest, letting the others know she is back and ready to take her rightful place in the herd. When goats fight for dominance, they rear up on their back legs and smash their heads together. Dad looks out and sees that Elizabeth has blood on her head. Looking closer he sees that her scur has broken off. She still has a little stump there so we are assuming that it will grow back again.
The goats that were born here have horns. We don't have a dehorner, they are quite a large expense. Dehorning is also not a pleasant task. It has to be done when the goat is very young and the horn bud needs to be burnt down to the skull. The goat screams and it smells horrible. We had two of our goats done by someone else before and I couldn't even watch. That was when we were first starting with goats and I was more squemish, I would probably be able to now. It is also a talent to get the whole horn and not make these scurs. Even people who have dehorned many goats sometimes leave a scur. The horns also make good handle bars for steering them into their houses at night. If a goat goes to the fair to be shown for 4-H they have to be dehorned, so a dehorner could be in our future.

Monday, May 4, 2009

If the chicken can't get to the worm, bring the worm to the chicken

Digging in the garden tonight uncovered a plethora of worms. Spark found a little jar lid to put a couple of worms and nice plump, juicy, grub in. Over to the chicken coop we took the little worms, who had no idea what fate was awaiting them there. We threw them in to the coop one at a time and chickens just went loco. One of them would score a worm and run around trying to find a place to devour it before one of their cohorts could get a nibble of it. A couple of the chickens would even jump and pluck them out of our outstretched fingers. We had forgotten what a fun activity chicken worm feeding is. So out came a ice cream pail and another digging implement to get even more worms. We spent a long time digging up spots in the garden and yelling gleefully whenever we spotted one of the little creepy crawlers. Back to the coop we went after we had filled the bottom of the bucket for Worm Feeding round two. Now that the chickens knew what was up for grabs, they were really ready to go head to head. This was country entertainment at it's finest!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nervous jitters

Dancer had dance try outs today and she has been so nervous for days. The last couple of weeks she has been working very hard to get some new tap steps, leaps, and turns looking polished and increasing her flexibility. The try outs were two hours long and when I went to pick her up she felt she had done well. Now she waits. The letter on which level she will be placed won't come in the mail until after May 11th. We thought she worked really hard and did a great job preparing so this morning Dad stopped and got her a gorgeous red rose. I was very proud of her attitude afterwards. She was telling me about what level she hopes to be placed in and how she felt she did well enough to make that level. I asked her what she would do if when the letter came she didn't make it. She said that then she would just have to work harder this next year and try again and that she wouldn't quit dancing even if she was disappointed. In my mind, with that attitude, she is a great dancer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

3-D art

Spark drew this picture of Cream his rabbit about to enjoy a dandelion. Later he was outside under the clothes line and came upon a woolly caterpillar. It has the honor of being the first one he has discovered this season. He brought it in and put it on his picture so it could enjoy the dandelion as well. The caterpillar has since been set free out into the wild of the back yard.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Home repair

Looking at this scene of utter devestation you might be thinking "hurricane, F5 tornado, maybe earthquake?" No, this fine bunny bungalo was demolished by a hungry dairy goat (a case of udder devestation).

When the goats are let out of their pen they run straight for the milking stand, without regard for where they are supposed to be going. In the mad rush to get to the empty grain bowl a greedy goat leaped onto a rabbit's cage to beat it's goat buddys to the snacks.

The unlucky resident was moved to an empty cage, but now with lots of babies on the way we needed this cage. The battered and bent panels were straightened and reassembled for a soon to be new mother.

Check out the newly refurbished Rabbit Ranch Royale--One bedroom. Great views!! Eat in kitchen. Plenty of room for the growing family. How many bathrooms? Why it's all bathroom!!!!
We hope this helps to alleviate our country's housing crisis, as long as the rabbit doesn't go for the subprime mortgage.