August 2011


S and I have been talking a lot lately about several issues, and what we could do to solve them.  These issues jump all over the place, so bear with me.  I do have a point. 

  • One was little N’s CP.  He is doing fine, but it is always a concern on the back of my mind–ensuring he uses both sides of his body equally, making sure all his muscles stay loose and stretched out. 
  • Another is A, who tends to be very off-balance and clumsy.  The poor guy has mishaps daily that usually result in injury.  He hardly even cries any more because it happens so frequently. 
  • Another, totally unrelated, but possibly more pressing, issue is that the coyotes and fox are really moving in around here.  We haven’t had any problems yet, but I am well aware that chicken happens to be a favorite dinner for fox, and coyotes are often pretty keen on unguarded goats (especially little goat babies).  With winter approaching, I have been getting increasingly nervous about how our animals would fare once the wild food supply dwindled in the coming snows. 
  • In addition to the safety issues, I have been having a big problem with wasted hay.  The goats tend to enjoy browsing through and eating the leaves, but not the stems of our hay.  This is really good, horse-quality hay (meaning a bit pricey!), so waste is a big deal. 
  • Another issue is that our weekly one-on-one dates with the older kids have dwindled a bit since we have moved out here.  We live so far from everything that it just isn’t very economical to use the gas to drive into town if we don’t have to.  We have also been trying to save money, which has meant no more horse-back rides with them.  M, in particular has really been asking, obviously missing that time alone, riding trails with Mom. 

Well, all I can say is I think God has provided the solution to all those, and more–and in a completely unexpected, unplanned way!  Meet our newest addition, as of Monday evening:

I was on Craigslist the other night (often the case since we are always looking for inexpensive farm supplies), and came across a rescue looking to quickly re-home some donkeys.  I knew S would never go for it, but for whatever reason, I half-heartedly brought it to his attention anyway.  We were both well aware of the multi-purpose potential posessed by donkeys. 

You see, donkeys have a God-given instinctual hatred of the canine species.  In many domestic donkeys, however, this instinct has been somewhat bred and/or trained out of them, or they are too small.  So, using a donkey as a guard animal is somewhat hit-or-miss.  Certainly livestock guardian dogs are better, but we prefer to wait until we get to the farm to get one of those.  Anyway, if you are lucky enough to find one that is gentle and has the guarding instinct, then, like a horse, it can also be ridden, pull carts and loads, and they are intelligent enough to teach all sorts of tricks.  To top it off, unlike horses who tend to be very flighty when spooked, a donkey is more likely to just freeze up and think about the situation a bit before reacting.  This makes them very good mounts for young children.

So, I found this ad, mentioned it to S, we discussed the opportunities it could provide, and he actually agreed that I should at least call and check on the situation.  We knew most rescue organizations require all sorts of strings-attached agreements, which don’t interest us.  I also knew that any donkey over about $100 would be a no-go at the present time, and that was highly unlikely.  Nonetheless, with the odds stacked against us, I called.  The lady asked a few questions about my horse-related experiences, which I answered, and I honestly told her what I was looking for.  She then explained that one of the donkeys, an almost-4 year-old jenny (female), was larger than average, hated dogs with a passion, was very sweet natured, and loved kids!  In fact, over the weekend, they had taken her to the county fair just for some socialization, and she spent several days being loved on by children, and being exposed to all sorts of sights and sounds.  Concerned about how she would act around my goats (some donkeys will chase, play rough, and/or hurt goats), the lady explained that she had been housed with goats and chickens all summer.  She sounded perfect.  Then the lady said there was just one big problem…there was a good chance she was 3-4 months pregnant!  (of course, I’m thinking, “THAT is NOT a problem!  HOW COOL would that be?!)  So, I finally said, “OK, let’s talk price.”  She then said, to my utter surprise, “if you will take her, you can HAVE her.  I’ll even deliver tomorrow, when I pick her up from the fair.”  There were no strings attached, except the request that we provide a loving home.  HOLY SMOKES!  You can imagine my surprise.  So, I tried to stay calm. Anyone who knows me knows my life-long passion for horses, and I was within 24 hours of having a cousin to the horse, anyway.  I told her I had to talk it over with my husband, as he had the final say, and hung up.  S was totally game to give it a try! 

This evening, we confined the kids indoors, didn’t tell them what was going on (though we told them we had something special for them), and when the trailer arrived, I went out to give the donkey a once-over evaluation before committing.  Granted, it’s only been a few hours, but I don’t think this situation could be more perfect!  When they unloaded the donkey, I was once again thrilled that we weren’t dealing with a little mini, rather, she is a good 11-12 hands tall!  That means I could actually ride her enough to get her well trained for the kids to ride.  She was also a total sweetheart.  We introduced the kids, who I think are still in shock (BTW, Mom, M acted just like I did with Sonshine, exclaiming, “That’s the surprise?  That’s just a donkey.”  Of course, I couldn’t get her away from it later.) 

So, we are now the proud owners of a donkey.  We are going to take our first school break of the year tomorrow and spend some time working with her.  Great as she is, she is a typical rescue with few manners and little training.  I love having a clean slate to work with though.  I am just amazed at God’s handiwork though.  I mean, seriously, what are the chances of everything working out this way?  Just 2 days ago, we had all the above issues we were somewhat concerned about, and through one classified ad and a phone call, God provided a donkey that could guard our goats and chickens, that was large enough and old enough to ride, that loved children, that could provide hippo-therapy for A and N’s physical issues, that could provide a way for M and I to once again have our one-on-one horse riding time, that could thrive on the “waste” hay the goats don’t eat, and who knows how much more is in store?!  I even just “happened” to bring all my horse stuff back from Red Gate on our last trip, so I have all the necessities.  The only items I need to find are a few pony-sized items for riding.

Thank you, God, for your provisions, and thank you, Honey, for allowing it to happen!

Oh, my goodness, what a couple of weeks we have had.  I was stuck posting quick photo clips just so you would know I was still around.  Things have been hectic, but all in a good way!   I will update you in the next few posts, as there as been so much going on! 

First up, an update on R…

R is doing wonderfully!  She is now 7 months old, and all that fresh goat’s milk is working wonders on her.  Her pediatrician is amazed by her, and thrilled that we are taking a more natural, organic approach.  She is almost 20 pounds, and already wearing 9-12 month clothes, and is just as cute and cuddly as can be.   Check out those fat rolls! 

She is also starting to darken up a little bit.  She is technically biracial (1/4 AA, 3/4 CA), so the color is finally showing up a bit on her hands and feet, and the rest of her body is taking on something of a tanned look.  Her hair is still very fine and causcasion-like (A’s had already turned courser by this age), but it is starting to show lots of curls.  She started crawling this week, so life will only get more hectic now, I fear.  She isn’t quite sitting up yet, but I suspect that has more to do with the fact that she can’s sit still long enough.  She just wants to go, go, go.  She will periodically take a few-second break from her crawling and busy-body antics and position herself into a leaning, half-sit type thing, then it’s off to the races again!  It only took her about a day to find my canning jars on the low kitchen shelf, and Will’s water bowl.  Now I am working on trying to teach her to stay out of the kitchen.  Here is a video of her crawling. (I should warn you we were in the middle of our evening family worship, but she was so cute on her still-wobbly arms, I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera!)

http://youtu.be/vSA20knZC0o

We just got word today that we FINALLY have a court appointment to finalize her adoption.  It’s not for another month, but we are absolutely thrilled they finally made space for us!  The journey to having her as our daughter is almost over, and the end is in sight.  By this time next month, we will finally be a family of 7 legally as well as physically!

 

 

I generally hide the fact well, but truthfully, I have roots planted deep in Redneck-ville.  So, I can totally appreciate a situation such as follows (btw, I have no idea where this originated, but it wound up in my e-mail box):

Instructions for Red Neck Camping:

First, most of the time is spent on the front porch whittling down a MASSIVE solid pine 4×4  to fit precisely down into the hole in the ball mount receiver.  Second, add a piece the 14’x14′ piece of 3/8′ plywood to the underside of the tailgate to distribute the load more evenly and beef up that tailgate support.

Third, add some super heavy-duty chain for extra support on the tailgate, (note the ‘Heavy-Duty ‘S’ hooks to attach the chain) .

Fourth, go ahead and invest in some BIG Number 5/16 sheet metal screws to attach the hitch frame to the tailgate (see ’em there?  one on each side…) .  Consider two more through the carpet into the floor pan inside…. Yep, probably overkill, but don’t want the possibility of having an accident, ya’ know!

Fifth, air up the rear tires a bit (’bout 160 psi). 

Finally, hook that baby up! 

All hooked up and ready to roll!  Amazing how that extra weight smooths out the ride! 

Anyone care to join this fellow for a little camping trip?   The ride alone will be lots of fun….just look at the backdrop of mountains he gets to cross through, pulling that rig! 

 

 

 

Attention all my readers with older homeschool students:

God has laid a burden on our hearts to complete a project.  While it is a specific project, the details are still coming together at this point.  That being said, we need your teen-age-ish homeschooler’s help!  This project will be very beneficial to your student, as they will be able to practice researching, writing essays, thinking for themselves, and forming an educated opinion, in addition to learning about the topics assigned, in turn, helping educate our society as a whole, and preparing the next generation with knowledge of our history and government they may not receive otherwise (at least, not to this extent).  I am truly excited to begin working on this calling, and pray that God can use it to fulfill His will.  If you/they would be interested in participating in a real-life, history/political science research project, please let me know.  Be sure to include your preferred e-mail in your comment (I will delete it before posting the comment).  I will send you all the info.  Thanks so much!!

S has been having some parking and traffic flow issues near where he works.  The office in charge decided to take care of it and hired some non-English-speaking contractors to do something about it.  This was the result:

 It’s tiny, but notice which way the arrow points, then notice the “one-way arrow” sign on the column. 

After quite a bit of hassle to get someone to straighten the mess out, S received an e-mail that everything had been taken care of.  The next morning, this is what they found:

Looks like there is going to be a little more hassling required to get things sorted out!

For science this homeschool year, we are using Apologia’s Young Explorer Series.  This semester, we are studying the Anatomy book.  I have to tell you, I LOVE this book!  I LOVE the way it relates everything (so far) to God and Biblical creation.  I LOVE the way it goes right along with everything we are trying to teach our children about how the world and humans came to be.  I also love the way it brings everything we learn to life.  There are a number of hands-on, simple experiments in each lesson, and a big project at the end.  We are only on lesson 1 so far (a single lesson is designed to last 1-2 weeks, depending on how you break it up).  I did notice that, because it is written to be used with grades K-6, my younger children tire quickly of the lengthy reading passages.  I have found if I skip around a bit, discuss the important topics on their level, and then move into the experiment, they seem to retain it much better!  I figure we can always study it again in 3-4 years, and go word-for-word.  Flexibility is one of the keys to homeschooling, right?!

Anyway, Lesson 1 ended with an in-depth discussion of cellular structure.  First, we got to break open an egg to look at one of the largest “cells” known.  Then, we had to build a cell out of jello and candy.

Each child got a bowl of jello mixture and a selection of candies, each intended to represent a different cellular function.

As we discussed each part of the cell, the kids took that particular candy and carefully inserted into their bowl of jello.

The jello, of course represented the cell membrane and the jelly-like cytoplasm.  Red Mike & Ike’s represented the mighty mitochondria “power plants.”  Green and Orange Mike & Ike’s represented the lysosome “policemen.”  Then we had one color Nerds serving as the Golgi Body “grocers” and another color nerds serving as ribsomes. 

We used Twizzler Pull and Peels as the endoplasmic reticulum “delivery boys” and cake sprinkles as centriole “mothers of the city” (they assist the cell in dividing/reproducing). Finally, we had Riesen chocolate carmels that served as the nucleus (the chocolate was the nuclear membrane, while the carmel was the interior RNA and DNA).  At last, their cells were complete!

The only rule I had was that they had to wait until Daddy got home and explain their cells to him BEFORE they were allowed to eat them.  Of course, by the time S got home from work, they had pretty much forgotten all the scientific names.  Then, since they aren’t used to lots of sugar and artificial flavors, they were only able to eat a few bites each before throwing the rest out (I assure you, I didn’t mind that one bit, as I can only imagine the dental bills it will save me later!)

This afternoon, however, while I was doing some chores, I overheard the kids playing.  Each child had aquired a box large enough for 1 child to sit in, and they were pretending to be “Golgi Body” and “Lysocomes” scattered around the basement, transporting needed supplies to the body.  I guess they learned something, anyway!  

I love when homeschooling is fun, and I get to see that shine in my childrens’ eyes as they ENJOY what they are learning, and even get excited about it.  It’s one of the biggest keys to keeping this homeschool mom going on those tougher days, because I can always remember that joy.  I am so thankful God led us down this path!

I needed to get some good pics of my adult goats for several different reasons, so this afternoon was spent cleaning them up a bit.  M helped with the bathing and grooming, and JR was my photo helper (meaning they aren’t perfect).  Despite the lack of professionalism, though, I must say, I am very impressed for a couple hours of work! 

Stallion before:

Stallion after:

Lilac before:

Lilac after:

Sara before:

Sara after:

Sara is the one I am most impressed by.  I actually didn’t even get to bathe her.  I have noticed her long, course hair has gradually been being replaced by shorter, finer, shinier, healthy-looking hair–to the point she was almost looking patchy in areas.  Finally today, I decided to clip the old, rough stuff off.  I gave her a full-body clip to see what was underneath, and I must say I was thrilled to discover that, although she is a lean goat by conformation, she was not nearly as thin as a I thought, and I think she looks great!  I think she may just turn out to be a fine dairy doe yet!

While I have greatly enjoyed the last few months, and having a life outside of homeschooling, it is once again time for the book learning to begin!  The fact is, once we moved, I kept the homeschooling up for a few weeks, as we had gotten behind with all the housing maintenance events of last year.  After a while, though, something had to give.  Friends and fellow homeschool moms, and even CO law made me realize that it would be OK to just relax for a while, and allow the children to learn from life itself.  I finally gave in, and we officially began an early summer break.  We still found time to review handwriting since I had the kids write thank-you notes periodically, math skills when they helped me in the kitchen, history and Bible during our family worship times, and science with all the animal goings-on around here.  As I saw all they were learning in our new life, I quickly felt better about all those unfinished worksheets remaining in their textbooks. 

Now, though, we are officially settled in, so it is once again time to begin.  The first thing I did was set up our “Home Operation Center”, details of which can be viewed here.  It is currently missing the If-Then Chart, as I haven’t decided whether to use it this year or not.  You’ll also notice the Extra Chore List (chores the children can earn allowances for) has grown substantially with their ages and abilities.

Next was getting everything organized–a slight challenge in itself since M will officially be doing K5 work this year, meaning I will be formally schooling 2 children in different grades.  As a result, I decided to branch out on my own a little for the first time.  I still ordered the Abeka system for the cores such as math, handwriting, phonics, and reading, as I love the ease with which I can allow the children to work independently, yet, I can also easily evaluate their level of understanding when I check their work later.  I also absolutely LOVE Abeka first-readers.  I think I have purchased far too many little books for our library, but I love the moral lessons found in each book, and the children seem to very much enjoy reading them.   Then again, I’m not sure you can have too many books, as M is already reading many of JR’s books thanks to her rapid increase in reading skills since last summer.  For science , I decided to attempt unit study this year.  A friend introduced me to the Young Explorer’s “Exploring Creation” Series, and I have fallen head-over-heels in love with it!  Finally, I also have to get JR officially registered with the state this year.  Hard to believe he is that old!

This past Monday was our first homeschool day of the year.  

M, age 5, grade K-5

….

JR, age 6, grade 2

 It has been interesting seeing how the summer break completely renewed the children’s interest in school, and they seem to be having a great time.  Every day, they are so eager to start their worksheets.  They seem to feed on each other’s excitement, and perhaps a little sibling rivalry and competition is helping those worksheets get done quickly.  Even A has jumped on board, and I am having him work on some Montessori activities and do his Starfall computer lessons independently.  N is asking for school as well, but I am still limiting what he does at this point.  I just hope I can keep their “fire” lit.  I love seeing my children eager to learn.  It is one of the big reasons we homeschool!

Today was the big day.  I got up early this morning and prepped the minivan.  Yeah, you heard me, I was planning to pick up a buck in my minivan.  However, we had been assured he was not in rut, and since hauling Sara and Lilac, I learned to take a few precautions.

Redneck goat hauler, consisting of a tarp, a sheet to protect my front seat upholstery and form a fake “wall”, and shavings to prevent any “accidents” from seeping through the tarp.

Then, JR and I left bright and early to make the 2 hour (one way) drive to pick up our handsome new stud buck.  I had seen his pictures, studied his pedigree, and was so excited.  I was expecting this:

Then I learned lesson number 1 of buck ownership…..show pictures depicting a handsome, freshly washed and shaven, yearling buck are very different from the reality of a 3-year old, fresh-from-the-field, fully mature, ungroomed, stinky, studly beast!  I nearly panicked when I saw him.  The scur (horny growth on his head that happens when they aren’t thoroughly disbudded) made him seem all the more intimidating.  This is what I actually got:

YOWSERS!  So, I spent the next hour talking to the owner, and picking his brain for all sorts of info.  As we chatted, he gave me a tour of his buck pen, which, today, housed “my” buck, Stallion (actually his registered name!), another slightly older Alpine buck, and a pack wether.  As we stood there discussing the ins and outs of buck ownership, the other buck decided to demonstrate some of the disgusting buck habits I had only read about.  He missed marking my leg with his urine by about 6 inches, then proceeded to squirt himself in the face, thoroughly soaking his full beard, and is if that wasn’t bad enough, then begin lapping it up as he peed!  GROSS!!  At least I had been forewarned.  However, when he then tried to snuggle up to me for pets, it was a little more than I could handle, and I ever-so-kindly (but firmly!) pushed him away!  And he isn’t even in rut yet.  The owner said he randomly does it year round, just for kicks!  BLEGH!

Finally, I had all the lovely demonstrating I could stand, and we loaded up Stallion–who, by the way, had proven himself to be somewhat more of a gentlemen with some self-control in the presence of ladies and children.  Thanks to his upbringing, training, and show experience, he is also very well-mannered and gentle, which made feel much better.  I felt like I was hauling a horse stallion in my minivan as massive a beast as he was!

Alas, gentlemen or not, he still smelled!  For the two hour drive home, I had to rotate between blasting the a/c, cracking windows, and opening rear vents, in addition to making lots of funny faces as a direct result of Stallion’s smell.  JR was a good sport, until Stallion decided to dump a nice big pile 2 feet from our seats.  The smell of pungent, processed alfalfa mixed with buck cologne was almost more than we could bear!  Finally, after failing to hold our breath for the remainder of the drive, we finally reached home.

I forewarned S that the pictures we had seen were slightly different than reality.  Then he got his first view of Stallion:

Although quite surprised, I think S was genuinely impressed with the sheer masculinity of this new addition.  He wasn’t quite so impressed later, however, when he tried to get the putrid buck smell out of our van.

So we are now the proud owners of a top-quality buck, and look forward to having some beautiful babies out of him next spring.  After a few days in quarantine (or as long as we can stand his odor that close to the house), he will be introduced to Lilac and shack up with her for awhile.

There is just one more issue I have to figure out.  Our children have been quite sheltered from knowledge of the birds and bees of life.  It is easy to hide that kind of thing with rabbits who just like to “play” and nothing is visible.  Goats on the other hand aren’t going to be quite so simple to explain.  JR got one look at this angle and asked, “Uuh, Mom, WHAT is THAT?!”

At which time, M promptly spoke up and asked, “Why does he need that?” Oh boy.  Welcome to a whole new realm of farm life.

When it comes to dairy goats, there is something very important you have to consider.  If you want a doe to produce milk, she has to have babies first.  In order to have babies, she must be bred, and in order to get bred, there must be a buck involved.  Thus was my dilemma.  Lilac’s milk is finally petering out, as she is only producing about 3/4 quart per day.  Due to Sara’s health, I don’t plan to breed her until toward the end of breeding season–if she comes around by then.  Lilly also probably won’t be breedable until at least November. So, I decided I needed to get Lilac bred as soon as possible, in order to get a solid milking doe as early as possible next year. 

The next step was figuring out who to breed to.  I wanted to breed for quality kids, even if I couldn’t get purebred ones.  So I found an amazing Alpine buck with awesome genetics, who happened to be owned by Lilac’s original breeder, fell madly in love, and figured he would be a perfect suitor.  What do you think?

I still had a dilemma, though. He lived over an hour away, which would mean I would have to know exactly when Lilac was in heat, then hope I had the van that day, load up 5 kids in 5 carseats, hope to have room for what would likely be a very messy, unhappy goat doe, haul down to the buck, hope they bred, then bring her back home.  Oh, yeah, and his stud fee wasn’t exactly cheap.  He was an exceptional buck after all.  The type I would love to own some day.  Like today.

YIPPEE!  OK, so call me crazy, but I promise I didn’t just go buy a buck on a whim!  Thinking I wanted to breed Lilac to him anyway, I had done my research in advance.  To summarize, his dam has won a number of awards.  She is a star milker, documented to have milked 4090 lbs of milk in 270 days.  If you can’t do the math in your head, that averages out to 15 pounds of milk per day (that’s almost 2 gallons/day)!  She also had top scores for butterfat production.  This boy’s breeder is one of the top dairies in the state, and they are aiming to be a top in the nation.  Their goats are nothing short of impressive.  Even this boy has produced some impressive daughters that have placed well in shows.  I would never have been able to afford such a buck under normal circumstances.  However, should the owner of said buck decide he wants to focus his herd a little less on milk production and a little more on showing, and should owner simultaneously need to move and therefore cut back on his herd numbers, then said buck could very possibly become available for an affordable price.  Suddenly, I found myself all the more in love (sorry, Honey).

I still wanted to do this right, though.  I mean a buck is a big responsibility, and I have to feed it year round to breed it a few times in the fall.  So, I consulted with and sought advice from his very reputable and knowledgeable breeder, as well as several online and personal goaty-friends who are far more experienced in this area.  All things seemed to suggest we go for it.  So then, I simply had to convince my hubby.  I came up with all my data and info, and spelled it out for him.  To my utter amazement, S was totally game!  He is still a bit concerned about me taking on this project, but I am convinced it will be easier to feed one more goat than to try the alternative of last-minute load-ups to go have the does bred–especially during home-school season!

So, as of 10:00 Saturday morning, I will the proud owner of an awesome buck.  For anyone who knows goat data, this buck is a *B 01-04 85 VV+.   For the rest of you, that means all terrific things, and he will very likely be my Alpine herds’ foundation sire.

Now, if I can just get a few things to sell on Craigslist so I can buy him tomorrow morning, and then, somehow, find enough healthy does to breed him to so he can earn his keep through stud fees, I think I’ll be set.

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