December 2013

You may recall past posts in which I discussed our son buying plane tickets and cockatiels and our daughter purchasing a hamster.  Finances are an important issue for S and I, and we have strived diligently to lead our children by example, teach them the ups and downs of debt, and the ways to avoid it whenever possible.  One thing we don’t do is give them an allowance just for being here.  We believe in teaching that money is a reward that must be earned.  According to Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” In order to teach this concept, in our family, earned allowances start around age 5.  They have standard chores that are expected of them, just because they are part of our family “team.”  Then, I have extra chores on a list, which they can do to earn some money.  The amount of money depends on the type of chore.  These vary from easy tasks like emptying a trash can for $.10 to medium tasks like unloading the dishwasher for $.25 to harder tasks like brushing the donkey for $.50 or time-consuming tasks like cleaning our van out for $1.  There are some tasks which are reserved for the younger children (to prevent the older ones from doing only easy stuff).  Chores are also designated as “Daily” or “Weekly” chores to help the children learn the frequency with which tasks should be completed.  On top of that, I periodically offer to “hire” them for really big tasks such as cleaning the van really thoroughly, helping with the younger children in an extra-ordinary way, etc.


We’ve found our children don’t really comprehend the concept of money until around age 5.  We allow the younger ones to earn as desired, but just put the money away at first.  Around age 5, they show a desire to spend and buy things.  At age 5-6, they tend to want to spend the money as fast as they earn it.  They are required to tithe 10%, but the rest is theirs to do as they wish.  We allow that (within reason) for a short while, just to introduce them to earning and spending, and value therein.  In the beginning, they often buy candy or gum, so we try to encourage an end to this phase quickly, and begin encouraging them more toward toys or gifts for others.  By age 6, they are required to save and buy a Christmas gift for one of their siblings (usually around $5-$10).  When they seem to have a grasp on the concept of money, as well as the fact that the higher-priced items are usually of greater quality than lower priced items, (typically this occurs around age 7), then we begin to encourage them to save up for something bigger (in the $20-$30 range).  JR initially chose to save up for a type of toy he had seen.  By the time he was 8, he saved to meet us dollar-for-dollar to buy a plane ticket so he could travel with his dad on an airplane.  M is a rather content child who wants little.  It was very difficult to find something she desired to save for, so saving was more difficult for her since she had no goal.  After S and I discussed the issue earlier this year, we decided to really begin challenging the children.  We wanted them to not only understand the concept of money, but also to encourage them to grow in responsibility and knowledge.

First, we determined something they really wanted, and as it turned out both children wanted their own pets.  We agreed, albeit reluctantly and conditionally.  We set rules.  They had to save their money.  They had to buy all needed supplies.  They had to fully care for it.  If, at any point, we felt the pets were being neglected, then we had the right to sell them (and give the kids their money back less any “payment” we required for last minute care).  They agreed, so we moved forward.

After some discussion, it turned out that JR was very interested in having a pet bird that he could care for.  We helped him research to pick a type of bird, and after he narrowed it down to cockatiels, we bought him a book to encourage reading and learning about his new pet.  Then, we helped him map out a plan for saving.  Eventually, he reached his goal, and got his birds, which, 5 months later, he still cares for completely on his own.


M decided she wanted a hamster.  Again, we bought her a book to encourage reading and to help her learn.  She read that book from cover to cover to learn all about hamsters.  And she saved.  Within 4 months, she had enough to buy her cage, bedding, toys, and food supplies.  M needs immediate reward at this point moreso than JR, so we went ahead and worked with her to buy those items first, even though she didn’t have enough for the hamster.  Once she had those items set up on her dresser and waiting, it only took another 2 weeks, and she had enough to buy her hamster.


So far, S and I are seeing excellent results.  JR and M both learned a tremendous amount from their books, and have both worked diligently to train their animals.  JR’s birds say several words now, know routines, and let him know when they need something.  He has become very sensitive to their needs and desires.  Likewise, M selected the tamest of hamsters at the pet store, but it was still semi-wild.  She has worked with it multiple times a day, and now “Molly” is a very sweet, gentle, calm hamster that will walk right up onto a hand (especially M’s), cuddle, allow pets, etc.  When she sees M walk in the room, she often stands up on her hind legs to greet her owner.  It is so precious.  Both have had to continue saving, in order to keep enough money in their jars to purchase bedding or feed as needed.  JR even went a little farther, and decided to buy a day-time perch/playground for his birds to sit on his desk while he does school each day, just to get more time with them.  Not only did he purchase it, but he spent about 2 hours reading instructions and assembling it totally on his own.  Talk about boosting confidence!  That was one proud little boy the next morning, as he showed off his creation!!


M is pretty happy at this point, so her money-earning has slowed down.  JR is beginning to make new goals for his money nowadays.   He desires to open a bank account.  We have given him a large amount to save up prior to doing so, so he can deposit some, but still have some to keep as fun money.  We are also encouraging him to start a 3-way system with his earnings, where 10% goes to tithe, and the remainder is split into 1/2 for big savings and 1/2 for general use. We are beginning to encourage bigger goals for which to use the big savings account–such as his first car or even a house when he is old enough.  He gets it.  M is not quite ready for that yet, enjoying only this moment of reaching her first goal.  I love seeing this though.  I would love little more than to see my children grow to be fiscally responsible adults, that manage to begin their adult lives free of the burden of debt.  I can totally expect them to take excellent care of their first car because it took them years to save for it.  I can imagine them meeting that special someone one day, marrying, and having enough set aside to purchase a quaint starter home without the financial stresses that affect so many newlyweds.  JR is also learning more about giving.  This year, for the first time, he purchased Christmas gifts for each of his siblings.  At one point, he confided to me, “Man, I need to save up a lot more for Christmas next year!  Once I start buying for others, I just can’t stop because it’s so much fun!!”

And THAT, my child, is a heart-attitude that will take you far in life!

Christmas season is upon us, and we are in full swing around here.  The tree is up and decorated, signs of Christmas are scattered around the house, most of the presents are purchased and wrapped, the stockings are hung, and the children were finally old enough to help with a lot of it this year.  Today, it flurried outside, so we spent some time together baking and decorating gingerbread cookies.  Ahhhhh, Christmas.  My favorite season of the year!























Over the summer, S discovered a new type of pant called “firehose pants.”  They are sold by Duluth Trading Company.  Apparently they are made of the same material as fire hoses, supposed to be very rugged, and offer a guarantee that they won’t rip or tear.  S was in love with the concept and begged for a pair for his birthday back in September.  I obliged.  They seemed like fairly normal, if slightly thicker material, cargo pants.  Until last week.

S needed to cut down a tree and then cut it into a bunch of logs to stack it.  He was wearing his firehose work pants.  In addition, he was also wearing his Stihl chainsaw safety chaps, helmet, and gloves.


About half-way through the cutting, he took a bit of break to help the kids stack some of the wood, and while doing so, he took off his chaps because they were in the way.  After stacking, he returned to cutting, but totally forgot to put his chaps back on.  Not long after, a branch snapped back at him, flinging the running chainsaw right into his lower thigh.  Have you ever experienced a situation where time slows down?  He said it was like that.  He felt his pants get caught up in the chain, tug tight, and the blade came to a complete stop.  He was scared to look down, fearing he would find his leg half cut off.  He finally did, and found this:




Now he has a really good, quite powerful chainsaw–a Stihl MS 311 to be exact.  We’re talking serious cutting power, like a hot knife through butter.  He had just had it snap back onto his totally unprotected (or so he thought) thigh.  Yet, he was completely unscathed.


We are both amazed.  And thankful as can be.  This could have been a serious accident, yet, thanks first to God’s divine provision, and second, to a really awesome pair of work pants, he was completely unharmed.  S has written the company to tell them about this incident.  However, if you are in need of a good pair of work pants, while they aren’t guaranteed as chainsaw-proof pants, we highly recommend them as some seriously heavy-duty pants!



Butterball is a fairly recent addition around here.  We’ve had him about a month, and he is going on 4 months old.



After Katie and her kittens went to a new home, and then Shadow just disappeared one night, we were down to just one barn kitty–Sarah, the calico we got back in May.  The mice were starting to take over, so we needed more barn cats.  Our local vet was giving away several, and offering a discount on multiple spays.  We took advantage of the deal, picked up Butterball and an adolescent neutered male for free.  Then, we picked a new 6-month old female and had her and Sarah spayed.

The three older ones are a bit more timid and prefer calm, quiet, and safety.  Butterball, however, is another story, and gets into EVERYTHING.  The older cats sit patiently and wait for their meal while I milk.  Butterball climbs my leg, bats at the goats’ ears, tries to steal milk from the pail, and is a general nuisance.  The other cats mostly avoid the dog-patrolled paddocks, but not Butterball.  One day, while we were out there working, he came right under the gate.  I really didn’t know what the dogs would do to him, so we watched.  I had seen them chase other cats out of the pasture or up trees, but Butterball clearly wasn’t scared.  To the contrary, he walked right up to them and introduced himself!



The girls sniffed him all over, determined he wasn’t a threat, and walked off.  Butterball wasn’t too happy about that idea.  He begged Athena to let him help with the day’s patrol duties.



Athena was less than impressed and told him to go play with the other cats.  Her job was far too important for the playful antics of a kitten.  She was nice about it though.

Honestly, I found it a neat testament to the ever-impressive dispositions of my Colorado Mountain Dogs.  Their temperaments and personalities never fail to impress me.  They truly have no desire to attack or kill any creature, and reserve any aggressive behavior for a true threat to their charges–be they 2 or 4 legged.

I have decided I don’t ever want a “rabbit barn.”  Designated barns, sheds, and buildings just seem the way to go for so many rabbitries I have come across.  This summer, circumstances forced us to install our rabbit cages inside our barn temporarily, while new outdoor accommodations were figured out (you can read more in this post).  For the last 7 months, the poor rabbits have seen no fresh air (except what drifts through the little window and barn doors) or direct sunlight.  I watched as the cobwebs collected, shedding hair built up, and manure piled up in the corners.  I hated it.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t THAT bad, and in fact, the barn never even smelled like rabbit (which any rabbit raiser knows can happen VERY easily in confined quarters).  It’s just that it wasn’t up to OUR standards.  Then, one of our junior does came down with snuffles, a highly contagious cold virus that usually turns into pneumonia and often kills a rabbit within a few days.  We had worked hard to breed a line of rabbits that was hardy and resistant to this virus.  However, there was one big problem.  Rabbits use sunlight to synthesize their own Vitamin C, a critical ingredient to a healthy immune system.  Our rabbits were descended from a line of outdoor and colony-housed rabbits, who got all the sunshine they wanted.  Their immune systems were unbeatable.  By putting them into a dark barn, their immunity went down and made it more difficult to fight viruses.  Most barn-rabbitries use preventative antibiotics in the rabbits’ water to account for the decreased immunity.  We refuse to do that, however.  Thus, we wound up losing a rabbit.  The realization pushed me to get them out of the barn though.  While S was here for Thanksgiving, we worked on a new, more permanent, outdoor design.

The tricky thing about our property is that it basically consists of hills.  Every surface has some degree of slope.  It is also very hot in the summer here–like rabbit-killing heat and humidity.  I had to figure out what areas were sufficiently shaded for those hot days, where they would be safe from predators and goats, but the dogs could still have access to guard them, etc.  We really wanted both cages and a rabbit play yard, similar to what we had back in CO, but with a few modifications.  I decided on a slope that ran along a fence line.  It is tucked up nicely between a big silver maple and a couple of shady pine trees, so they get a good bit of morning sun, but well shaded from hot afternoon sun in the summer.  They get more sun for heat in the winter since the deciduous maple loses all its leaves.  It was a location I discovered I really didn’t use for anything, had no foot traffic so it wouldn’t be in the way, but was convenient and easily accessed.  Aesthetics mean a lot to me, too, and frankly, there just isn’t much you can do to make rabbit cages pretty!  In this spot, however, if built low enough, the entire rabbit cage and yard setup was pretty well hidden away from the main entrance behind what will eventually be a rose or vine covered fence.  The only downside was the slope, which drops about 18 inches every 8 feet.  Nonetheless, the decision was made, S agreed, and the work began.

First, S built a simple frame to hold the 30″ deep x 48″ long x 18″tall wire cages I built earlier this year.

A cage, complete with nest box for shelter.

A cage, complete with nest box for shelter.

Due to the slope and the fact we want separate yards for rabbit trios this go around, he had to build 2 separate frames, each holding 3 cages.


Next, he had to install the frame and cages such that they were low enough to not be seen over the fence, but high enough that we could easily rake under them.  For the most part, this worked, though the upper cages are pretty close to the ground due to the slope.


The left side shows the high end, where the cage sits roughly 18 inches off the ground. The right side doesn’t have the cage installed yet, but based on the side board (far right) you can see that the cage will sit only about 6 inches off the ground at it’s lowest point.

Because of the fact manure builds up on any solid surface the cages rest on, we decided to forego solid surfaces this time, and try wire as the support system.  I could only find 14 gauge in my area, so we tried that.  I am already seeing some bowing on the bottom of the cages though, so we will be swapping that for a thicker gauge that can be tightened more securely.  The wire runs through support beams which limits bounce and flexion, but the beams themselves are not contacting the rabbit cages, so hopefully the wire will prevent any manure buildup.

Look closely here, and you can see the eye hooks positioned on the side board, with the support wire running through them.

Look closely here, and you can see the eye hooks positioned on the side board, with the support wire running through them.

In addition, to prevent rabbits digging out of the yard once they are able to run in more of a colony situation, we laid 2×4 landscape fence on the ground before installing the cage frames, then cut holes in the wire above the pre-dug holes where the frame posts would go.  This prevented the extra work of cutting the wire to fit around the posts as we laid it–a potentially difficult job at best (you can see this in the above photos). I attached the ground wire to the main 2×4 perimeter fence with hog rings.

The cages are set about 3 feet from the perimeter fence so we can easily walk behind them for any reason.  Although you can't see it due to the bottom board, the ground fence is attached to the vertical perimeter fence with hog rings.

The cages are set about 3 feet from the perimeter fence so we can easily walk behind them for any reason. Although you can’t see it due to the bottom board, the ground fence is attached to the vertical perimeter fence with hog rings.

We will finish the yard area later, but this gives us our start.  To give you an idea, though, we will have a perimeter fence line around the rabbit yard, possibly lay some dirt over the ground fence, and allow grass to grow up to supplement their diet.  We will also have in-ground nest boxes and centrally located feeding stations similar to what we had in CO.   Because we will have multiple yards, though, rabbits can be matched up and separated into groups so all get sufficient exercise.


I’ll keep you posted as this project progresses.  We only have a temporary roof on now (ran out of time before S left), and a few other tweaks we have mind.  Right now, though, I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to have those bunnies back outside where they are happier and healthier, AND I get my barn stall back to use for other purposes!


I was recently honored to be contacted via e-mail by blog reader asking if I would accept the “Very Inspiring Blogger” award.  It totally made my day that a reader found some inspiration in these pages of randomness, also known as the story of my life.  I humbly and gratefully accept:


What was very honoring is that he wanted me to accept, even after I confessed I was unable to fulfill all the normal terms of a blog award in a timely manner, but I promised to do what I can:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

2. Display the award on your post

3 List the award rules so your nominees will know what to do.

4. State 7 things about yourself.

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award, as you are able.  (I can’t fulfill this one, as I don’t even follow 15 blogs!  I’m sure I’ll add blogs over time, though.)

7. Proudly display the award logo (or buttons) to your blog.

I feel terrible that he nominated me for this award almost 2 weeks ago, and I am only just now posting it.  Better late than never, right?  In any case, I guess I have to tell you seven things about myself that you may or may not already know…..hmmm…..

1.  I have been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 4 years old.  You may know that one, but the fact is, I am very blessed by the fact that God has allowed me to break every single statistic out there, as, after 29 years, I have absolutely no complications, and am perfectly healthy.  I actually HAVE gone into mild renal failure (kidney) twice in past years, but as I learned to better control my diabetes and diet, God healed me completely both times.

2.  I wrote a book.  Long time readers and friends know that one already, but hey, I might as well get a little publicity after #1. It’s called “Diabetes: Overcome Your Fears,” and is very reasonably priced on  It is an easy read, and chock full of all the info I have learned about controlling diabetes and health over the years.  In fact, since I know you are now jumping at the chance to own your very own copy, here is the direct link:  After you read it, please be kind enough to leave a feedback comment on  If you want a signed, personalized copy, message me here.  It’s the same price plus a couple bucks shipping.

3.  I used to train horses for the mounted police department.  I worked with both the Maryland-National Capital Park Police as a trainer, and I was a rider with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Mounted Posse.  Pretty cool to have the honor of riding my own personally trained horse through the fairgrounds, streets, and shopping districts of Los Angeles County, CA!

4.  My biggest weakness is patience.  God blessed me with 5 beautiful and amazing children and then called me to homeschool, and I have often wondered why he chose to do either.  I certainly don’t feel I extend the patience I should, and feel so unworthy when people accuse me of being a patient person.

5.  Just a few short years ago, we were a typical American family.  Yup, we ate at restaurants regularly, had only a pet cat and dog, watched television daily, didn’t know anything about eating natural, grass-fed, or organic, and by all accounts, were just normal, every-day “city-folk.”  In fact, I really didn’t even know HOW to cook decent food, and I didn’t know know the difference between an artichoke and asparagus.  This blog chronicles our journey.

6.  We don’t own a television.  When JR was a toddler, we tossed the tube, and have never regretted it!  We do use pre-approved, commercial-less Netflix on the computer occasionally, I confess.  It is probably wrong how much I enjoy it when TV, cable, or satellite salesman call me or stop me in the stores to try to get me to sign on.  I LOVE to stop them dead in their tracks with a simple “Don’t waste your time; I don’t own a television.”  It leaves them speechless and stunned every time.

7.  We don’t own a cell phone and I’ve never texted in my life.  I LOVE not being tied to a phone.  I am totally ok with letting my home voicemail answer calls, and then returning them when I have a better time to focus.  We DO, however, have a Tracfone–a pre-paid emergency phone, essentially.  It’s a totally basic flip phone with no internet connections or photo storage (to my knowledge), but something we can carry with us for babysitters, travels, or safety.

OK, guess that’s it for now.  Thank you kindly, again, Belmont Rooster!

Straw has become one of my favorite insulators in winter.  Our neighbor in CO had a straw-bale house covered in stucco, which was surprisingly cozy.  We use loose straw for the rabbits to nestle into in freezing weather and to line the nest boxes prior to kindling in cold weather.  We use loose straw to add traction in areas prone to icing, and we layer it thick in the  more open-air shelters for the larger stock.  It is my favorite material (other than natural pasture grass) for birthing of larger stock.

This season, I took it a step further.  Our pigs were slower growing than we anticipated, so we had to carry them into cold weather.  The only problem was that they were still out on the forest lot (now void of foliage and, thus, shelter), and I had no shelter for them.  So, I ran to the store, bought some rebar pound-in posts, a few bales of straw, and assembled a nice, cozy shelter for them one afternoon.  I had some scrap lumber and some leftover roofing material from other projects, which became a quick roof.  It ain’t purty, but it sure works!!  It could easily be made prettier with some trimming and a little more attention to detail, but I really wasn’t worried about it this year.  I was more concerned with whether the pigs would tear it down by the next day.


After assembly of the bales with 2 high and about 2 wide (lengthwise), I drove the rebar down into the bales and further into the ground to stabilize the structure a bit.  Finally, I stuffed the inside with lots of thick loose straw for them to bed into, and VOILA!  Perfect hog hut!


About 3 weeks ago, it finally got cold enough I had to move their drinking water bucket inside the hut.  I was absolutely shocked how warm and cozy it was when I crawled in there.  We have only had the water bucket freeze twice so far–and both times the temperatures were well into the low 20’s before the metal nipple froze up a bit.  The water itself has yet to freeze.


I will note that I have been surprised the pigs haven’t bothered the bales at all, and they have been using the shelter for almost 2 months now.  They don’t soil in it at all, so it is perfectly clean on the inside even now.  Finally, I put about a full bale worth of loose straw inside the shelter when I assembled it, and they have kept it surprisingly fluffed up as they burrow down and make nests for themselves.

In summary, economically, it wasn’t the cheapest route, as I could have easily used scrap lumber to build a shelter for much cheaper.  However, it was by far a warmer option, and I didn’t have time for actual construction.  I am hoping though, that the investment will pay off in the meat they put on, rather than having to use excess energy just to stay warm.  I was hoping to get a photo of the girls inside for you, but that just isn’t going to happen.  No matter how sneaky I am, they seem to sense me coming and I rarely get within 100 yards before they are at the fenceline hoping I come baring feed.