Family Adventures


Every year, our little town celebrates the harvest with a fall festival.  We went for the first time, which turned out to be a great way to see some of the local artisans and get to know a little more about our city and county.  The kids enjoyed the parade.

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One of the MANY floats.

One of the MANY floats.

After the parade, there were lots of things to do, including a chance for the children to squirt a fire hose.

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They also got to look around inside a fire engine.

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After a good day at the festival, we all headed home, worn out and with smiles on our faces!

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JR got to act like a little prince recently–or at least as close as he’ll probably ever come to doing so.  Nana, my mom, came to stay for a while, in part because she had plans to attend a wedding in Chicago anyway.  My cousin was getting married, and since our extended family on that side is quite small, she wanted to support him.  I was unable to leave the farm for the 2 days it would take, so instead, the parents of the groom (my mom’s brother and sister-and-law) granted permission for her to bring JR as her date.  They had met him in the past, and knew he could be trusted to behave.  That fact sure makes this mama proud!

Mind you, this was a VERY formal wedding and reception event.  Except for the flower girl and ring bearer, he was the only child in attendance.  We had to go shopping the week before for a suit and nice shoes for him.  Boy, he did turn out sharp looking, though!

A personal moment of reflection......ok, ok, he's probably wondering whether jumping into the pool would be worth the trouble he'd be in afterward!

A personal moment of reflection……ok, ok, he’s probably wondering whether jumping into the pool would be worth the trouble he’d be in afterward!

Unfortunately, Nana didn’t get many photos, and none of him with the bride and groom.  Nonetheless, here’s a few memories of the day….

JR with Uncle S (my brother) and Nana

JR with Uncle S (my brother) and Nana

JR with Uncle S and Aunt P

JR with Uncle S and Aunt P

My little prince.

My little prince.

After the wedding and reception, Nana and JR went to a hotel for the night, and the next morning, Nana decided to splurge on a day together.  She took him to the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago, to the aquarium, and to the dinosaur park.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you'll never get the country out of my boy!

You can take the boy out of the country, but you’ll never get the country out of my boy!  Here he is in his normal “cowboy” attire outside the Brookfield Zoo.

He loved seeing the dolphin performance at the aquarium.

He loved seeing the dolphin performance at the aquarium.

His favorite, by far, though, was the dinosaur exhibit.  He loved all those life-sized dino's, particularly the robotic ones.

His favorite, by far, though, was the dinosaur exhibit. He loved all those life-sized dino’s, particularly the robotic ones.

Being goofy.

Being goofy.

Taking a breather....

Taking a breather….

...though I think Nana was the one that was really worn out by the end of the day!

…though I think Nana was the one that was really worn out by the end of the day!

JR had an amazing time.  He felt so grown up eating at a formal reception, then having a whole day by himself with Nana.  He still talks about the dinosaurs.  I fear Nana may have set a pretty high standard for how to spend one-on-one time together!

After all the work I’ve been doing around here, it was high time to have some fun with the kiddos.  We decided to head to the fair.  It was a small town fair, so I was actually disappointed that there was almost nothing going on.  Most of the animals had already been taken home to avoid the severe heat wave, and most of the exhibits had already been judged and taken down.  In fact, the whole fair was exactly one block long, with the carnival at one end, and the cattle barn at the other.

The fair.  Yep.  That's it.

The fair. Yep. That’s it.

The carnival rides didn’t even start until later in the evening.  So, we spent several hours just walking around, letting the kids play and goof off a bit, got some horrible fair food for dinner, and found a petting zoo of farm animals.  The kids loved petting on those critters so much, a passer-by would’ve never guessed they live on a farm.

R with a sheep.

R with a sheep.

N admiring a pig.

N admiring a pig.

Finally, the carnival opened.  There were only about 8 rides to choose from, and the younger children could only do about 6 of those.  Nonetheless, we decided to splurge and try to make a memorable evening, so I got all the kids the “ride-all-you-want” arm bands.  And boy, did they ever!  We jumped from one ride to the next to the next and back again.  Thankfully, small fairs mean short lines at the rides, so there were few waits longer than 2 minutes.  They must have ridden their 2 favorites almost a dozen times.

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Later, there was a demolition derby, which I enjoy.  I had told the kids about it, and they wanted to watch, so we headed over to the grandstands.  For the next hour, we watched cars bash into each other, and tried to predict who would be the last one running.  When one car suddenly burst into flames, the kids were just mesmerized and thrilled to watch the firefighters douse it.  We saw so many radiators (I guess?) burst, that the smoke from the hood didn’t faze them by the end.

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After the demo derby, it was back to the carnival for more rides.  Finally, around 9, I dragged them away, exhausted but still high on good times.  They were all smiles and chatter as we drove home.  They all got to bed late and we slept in a little this morning, but it truly was a great evening together.

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Last week, JR experienced his first, big, “big boy” adventure, independent of the rest of us.  He attended an all-day day camp, where he got to learn all about life in the 1830’s.  Living in IL, Abraham Lincoln is a big theme around here.  As a result, JR has always enjoyed studying him during our homeschool lessons.  We thought it would be a neat experience for him to learn more, hands on.

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Each day, he went to camp where they played games and did crafts common in the 1830’s.  They learned historical facts, and were continually quizzed.  They shot muskets (I never got to do that in Day Camp!), practiced team work, often necessary for survival in that time, and learned the dialects of that time.  On Friday, all the kids had to dress like they were from the 1830’s (clothing was provided).  Friday afternoon, parents were invited to watch a series of educational skits.  The kids didn’t get much practice, so they had to read the dialogues, but it was neat to see JR get up in a front of a group of people and do something:

http://youtu.be/XB1o5DP4PYQ

I have to admit, it was strange not having my little man around all day, knowing he was getting big enough to be off doing his own thing.  Suffice it to say, he had an absolute blast, and is already hoping he can go again next year.

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In an effort to learn all we could about horse-powered farming and horse-drawn farm implements, we recently attended Horse Progress Days in Arcola, IL.  It is an annual event, but it is in a different state each year, hitting IL only once every 6-8 years.  I couldn’t pass it up!!

Out of respect for the Amish, we didn’t take a lot of photos.  The Amish don’t appreciate being photographed, and because this is an Amish-hosted event, at an Amish farm, in an Amish community, there are LOTS of Amish folk around.  It’s nearly impossible to take a photo without getting close-ups of Amish. There were also a lot of Mennonites, and I wasn’t sure what their feelings were regarding photography.

In any case, we did get a few.  I wish we had a gotten a photo of the horse-and-carriage parking area. There had to have been well over 100. Of course, as we drove in, the kiddos were fascinated by all the horse-drawn Amish buggies we passed–most on their way to the event.  When we arrived, there was a designated field, complete with hitching rails and water troughs for the horses and buggies to park, an area just for bicycles, and another field for cars and trucks.  It didn’t end there, though.  As we emerged from our van, a huge wagon drawn by a team of draft mules pulled up and offered us a ride.  We couldn’t resist.  We hopped on, and enjoyed our ride to the main event.  Of course, with my big mouth and the way I have of sticking my foot deep into it, I fear I managed to thoroughly insult the mules before we arrived.  I really didn’t mean to, I just don’t like mules, and S and I got into a conversation with the Mennonites riding along with us (who also had a preference for horses).  Oh well.

When we got there, the main form of transport and kiddo activities around the event was all horse, pony, or miniature-driven wagons.

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There was a petting zoo.  Although there were some cute little critters, the owner (a commercial business hired for the event) had a too-skinny black bear, and an even thinner lion and cougar tightly confined into cramped cages for people to look at.  I hate seeing wildlife confined like that.

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Then there was the main event.  We missed the horse pull competitions, and didn’t really care about all the field plowing and cultivating demos.  We did make sure to attend the hay-making demo, though, as that will be our first big job with our horse.

A team of Belgians pulling a forecart, attached to a hay rake of some sort.

A team of Belgians pulling a forecart, attached to a hay rake of some sort.

It was a rather warm day, so we treated ourselves to some fresh, homemade ice cream.

Kiddos watching the ice cream being made.

Kiddos watching the ice cream being made.

An antique, gas-powered, John Deere ice cream maker.

An antique, gas-powered, John Deere ice cream maker.

Trust me, it was DELICIOUS!

Trust me, it was DELICIOUS!

After we had our fill of the event, an Amish guy I have been conversing with on the phone (yes, some are allowed to have phones in their businesses or at the end of their driveways) got to meet, and he gave us directions (Amish style, since everything is traveled by horse and buggy) to go visit a Jersey heifer we are looking to buy.  We got to go see her and see how she looked.    I loved driving through all the Amish farms.  It is such peaceful, beautiful country.  I could totally live there!

Then, it was off to grab a bite of dinner.  No where sounded better than a good Amish-made meal at Yoder’s Kitchen.

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Finally, we headed home.  I think every child but JR slept the whole way.  All in all, a really good day!

We’ve arrived!  After many years of waiting, wondering, studying homesteading, preparing the farm, we finally made it!  I cannot express to you how wonderful it feels.  As you read, we had a few unwelcome adventures along the way.  There’s nothing like a leaking fuel line, an unexpected layover at a small-town repair shop, on a hot day with a trailer full of overheating livestock from a cold climate, and a loose and stubborn chicken running around a parking lot , being chased down by 2 kids and 2 helpful truckers, to get the blood pressure up a bit!  I drove the truck and trailer, and a girl-friend drove my minivan with the kiddos.  She was such a God-send through the whole ordeal, and for the whole week after!  What should have been about a 15-18 hour trip turned into a 22 hour trip.   We arrived at almost 2 in the morning, got the kids in bed and began unloading animals.  We had to walk each of the goats, dogs, and donkeys about 200 feet from the trailer to the barn, through the tall hay field.  The tall grass was so foreign to them, not a single animal attempted to take a bite!  They didn’t know what to think of this stuff brushing against their bellies!  Oh, what an adventure that day was!!

While Will, our resident house pet knows and seems to enjoy the place, he doesn’t leave the front porch much.

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The other animals, to the contrary, are still trying to figure out this place.  Some seem to think they have died and gone to a heaven far beyond anything they could have dreamed of, while others are still trying to figure out whether they are in heaven or some kind of purgatory.

Honey bees:  definitely think they've died and gone to heaven!  I've never seen such full pollen sacs on the workers' legs, and when we checked today, the queen has gone crazy laying eggs.  The workers are building up honey and pollen stores, and are so content foraging, they showed no signs of aggression as we inspected the hive today.

Honey bees: definitely think they’ve died and gone to heaven! I’ve never seen such full pollen sacs on the workers’ legs, and when we checked today, the queen has gone crazy laying eggs. The workers are building up honey and pollen stores, and are so content foraging, they showed no signs of aggression as we inspected the hive today.

When we first arrived, the chickens weren’t quite sure what to think.  Until today, they were living in the stock trailer, using it as a makeshift coop until we could get theirs’ finished.  Notice the rabbit cages are also still in there, until we get a permanent area set up.

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It took a couple of days for the hens to learn to go INTO the trailer at night, rather than hide out UNDER it.  It also meant that M has stayed busy hunting eggs when they decide to lay in the grass or under the trailer, rather than in the makeshift nestboxes we put in the trailer.

Look closely, they're under there, enjoying the shade.

Look closely, they’re under there, enjoying the shade.

Hens foraging the hay field.  They have definitely decided they are in hen heaven!  Their feed consumption has dropped by half I think, and their crops are always stuffed with bugs, seeds, and whatever other treats they are finding out there.  Our egg yolks have already turned a bold orange color from all the greens they are consuming.

Hens foraging the hay field. They have definitely decided they are in hen heaven! Their feed consumption has dropped by half I think, and their crops are always stuffed with bugs, seeds, and whatever other treats they are finding out there. Our egg yolks have already turned a bold orange color from all the greens they are consuming.

The donkeys aren’t sure what to think.  Probably depends on what time of day you ask them.  Most of the day, they hang out in their spacious stall together.  I added a few toys to keep them entertained.  In the late afternoon, they get to go out to the trimmed pasture as we wean them on to the rich grass here.  As long as the grass is short, they enjoy it, but if you ask them to go into the longer field grass, they get pretty nervous.  They don’t seem to realize it is food as well.  In addition, the bugs are driving them batty.  I have had to start using a bug repellent ointment in their long ears due to all the bites they were receiving.  After a few hours in the buggy, humid outdoors, they are usually standing at the barn doors waiting eagerly for me to let them back in to their cool, bug free stall.

Donkeys:  Too short to see over the rails!

Donkeys: Too short to see over the rails!

 

Dogs:  Totally in heaven here!  As soon as I let them out every morning, they run and romp and chase each other until they are almost overheated.  The fighting has decreased significantly, and even then, it is typically only when I put them back into the stall together at night.

Dogs: Totally in heaven here! As soon as I let them out every morning, they run and romp and chase each other until they are almost overheated. The fighting has decreased significantly, and even then, it is typically only when I put them back into the stall together at night.  The only problem so far is that my white dogs have turned a clay-orange color since we are in the midst of a very wet, muddy spell here. 

Like the donkeys, the goats’ thoughts seem to vary with the time of day.  At night, or when the donkeys are out, the goats are stuck inside a stall/alley area.  They have plenty of room, but get very bored.  Latte tends to bully Joy to no end during those times (hence the reason I allow them 2 areas to roam).

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Mocha and Caramel, growing as fast as IL weeds, and drinking almost a gallon a day of Latte's milk!

Mocha and Caramel, growing as fast as IL weeds free-choice nursing on almost a gallon a day of Latte’s milk!

The girls are definitely in caprine heaven when we turn them out.  They run and leap and romp almost as much as the dogs at first.  They have also worked up to staying out for about 8 hours a day now, and seem to be thriving.

The girls are definitely in caprine heaven when we turn them out. They run and leap and romp almost as much as the dogs at first. They have also worked up to staying out for about 8 hours a day now, and seem to be thriving.

The only issue the goats have had is that the stress of the move combined with the heavy milking from Joy and Latte caused them both to drop a lot of weight.  To make matters worse, none of the goats were eating their portions of grain like they used to.  As a result, I was forced to purchase my first non-organic feed in the form of Calf-Manna.  This is a product that contains a load of B vitamins that work to stimulate the appetite, as well as high carbs to help with weight gain.  Despite the non-organic nature, it is a pretty good product for such issues.  It works.  Faith is due to deliver next week, so I am eager to see how that goes.  She also shrunk in size SIGNIFICANTLY, but I can’t tell if she has lost weight, if the baby shifted, or what happened there.

We also have 3 new faces around the farm.  Two days after our arrival, my friend and I were working on cleaning out the barn when we saw several mice run out of their hiding spaces. The next morning, I called the local small-town animal shelter and told him I was in need of some barn cats.  I told him I would take ferals or otherwise unadoptables, but couldn’t pay a lot of money in adoption fees since they were destined to be barn cats and I had no idea if they would stick around.  He told me to come on over for a visit.  M and I went over, and came home with 3 new kitties.  The added bonus is that all 3 are SOOOO sweet and lovable!  It’s a bit hard to milk with a kitty intent on helping, but we are getting by.

Sarah

Sarah

Shadow, testing out the new hen nesting boxes we were working on.

Shadow, testing out the new hen nesting boxes we were working on.

Katie

Katie

A few other random Red Gate Farm happenings, and some of the projects that have kept us busy this week (in addition to the normal unpacking associated with a move):

My first hay!  My friend and I cut it with a scythe, raked it and fluffed it for 3 days while it dried, and then S helped me get it into the barn for storage.  It isn't much at around 150 pounds, but I'm pretty proud of it, and the animals seem to approve.

My first hay! My friend and I cut it with a scythe, raked it and fluffed it for 3 days while it dried, and then S helped me get it into the barn for storage. It isn’t much at around 150 pounds, but I’m pretty proud of it, and the animals seem to approve.

S and JR working on the chicken coop.

S and JR working on the chicken coop.

The hay field, desperately needing cut, but the weather won't cooperate.

The hay field, desperately needing cut, but the weather won’t cooperate.

My garden!  I built the square foot garden boxes and planted the seed while I was here in March.  Many of the seeds sprouted!  We are already eating radishes, and looking forward to harvests of sunflowers, spinach, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, kohlrabi, corn, and more!  There are plenty of squares that didn't grow, so I have ordered plant starts from Azure Standard to fill the gaps.

My garden! I built the square foot garden boxes and planted the seed while I was here in March. Many of the seeds sprouted! We are already eating radishes, and looking forward to harvests of sunflowers, spinach, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, kohlrabi, corn, and more! There are plenty of squares that didn’t grow, so I have ordered plant starts from Azure Standard to fill the gaps.  We also plan to expand on these beds quite a bit. 

Chicken coop got finished today!  I will have better photos later.

Chicken coop got finished today! I will have better photos later.

Fruit in the orchard.  Some of the trees seem to be having a problem -- blight maybe?--so I treated with some copper sulfate.  Oh, how we would all love to eat our own fruit this year!!

Fruit in the orchard. Some of the trees seem to be having a problem — blight or leaf curl maybe?–so I treated with some copper sulfate. Oh, how we would all love to eat our own fruit this year!!

Iris, peaking over the gate into the front of the barn.  She likes to know what's going on at all times.

Iris, peaking over the gate into the front of the barn. She likes to know what’s going on at all times.

That’s it for now!  I’ll post more as I have time.  Tons of work to do around here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Labor Day, we decided to surprise the older children.  The night before, I set warm clothes out for them to wear (it is the high-plains of Colorado, after all), and S woke them bright and early on the big day.  He didn’t tell them why, only to get ready and quickly eat breakfast.  Of course, seeing as how our children are all early risers, and since they all share rooms (boys in one room, girls in another), an early morning for 2 kids means an early morning for mommy and all the other kids too!  In any case, S loaded JR and M into the van, headed out just around sunrise, and arrived at the Hot Air Balloon Festival just as the winds kicked up (a bad thing).  First, they had to find parking, and being the cheapskates frugal people we are, S decided to park in the closest “FREE” parking spot he could find.  That meant they all had to walk about a half mile or so to get to the festival.  The winds delayed the balloon launch for about half an hour, during which time, S, JR, and M got to strike up a conversation with a balloon owner and learn all about hot air balloons.

Warming up the balloon apparatus.

JR and M with a balloon basket behind them.

Finally, the first of 2 launches started, and JR and M absolutely loved it!  First, they sent up a lead balloon, to test the wind speeds, and demonstrate what pilots were supposed to do with their balloons.  The lead balloon is the Red, White, and Blue one in the next photo.

Inflating a balloon.

http://youtu.be/_FwEozP_h2w

Colorful balloons

Smokey the Bear balloon

A sky full of balloons

One of the events of the day is for the balloon pilots to compete by taking a very controlled dip-and-drag of their basket through the lake.

http://youtu.be/8D3-8gEDPb8

After they tired of watching balloons, the “free” festival got a little costly as S splurged to let the kids play some of the activities provided.  It was a date, though, and I think these hard-working, homeschooling farm kids are totally worth a little fun!

M in the hamster ball

You can see M struggling trying her very best to race the ball across the field in this video:

http://youtu.be/hAJfGBaTJao

Then, you can see the bouncy house fun.  Note that the bouncy houses were placed in such a way that the kids could use easily-accessible entrances on some, and then just bounce over the tops to get to others.  The funny thing in this video is that M had no problem bouncing over.  JR, on the other hand…..well…..you can see for yourself.  Poor kid!

http://youtu.be/UB0zWH8cl98

Fun Day!  Mommy and the littles just might have to go next time.  Do you think S would race me in the hamster balls?

It’s Rodeo Season!!

You can take the girl out of the country, but you definitely can’t take the country out of the girl.  I can’t help it, but I LOVE a good rodeo.  Always have, probably always will!!  I love seeing the skill of some of the cowboys; I love looking for mistakes by the riders to try to learn from them; I love watching a bronc or bull attempt to get revenge; I love the clowns, the half-time shows, and so on.  You also won’t find a better back-drop than the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo!

It just happens, we live near the home of the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo, which is a qualifier for the National Rodeo Championships.  Our main announcer is one of the top in the nation, having announced the Las Vegas finals many times, and his clown partners are great at keeping the crowd engaged.  In fact, during a downtime moment this year, the rather large (in all directions) clown accepted a dare to go crowd-surfing!  I think everyone was in shock , and I’m not sure which caused more surprise– that he actually did it, or that the crowd was actually able to keep him “afloat” and moving!  I’m sure it helped that the surfing crowd happened to be several hundred Air Force Academy cadets attending the rodeo, but still, it was highly entertaining and equally impressive!

Another plus of the rodeo for our family is the “mutton-bustin’!”  JR and M have been planning the mutton bustin’ ride for almost a year.  The day before, M began to get cold-feet, unsure what it would feel like to ride a sheep.  So, I gave her permission to attempt to ride our biggest Alpine doe, Latte’.  What a hilarious site that was!!  Of course Latte’ is quite a bit smaller than the rodeo sheep, and quite a bit slipperier (I can’t believe that word was actually listed in spell-check!).  M mounted, I let go, Latte’ looked over her shoulder, drifted sideways slowly as M’s weight pulled her, and then she just stopped.  Not much of a ride.  So, M got off, repositioned and re-mounted, and Latte’ just stood there.  Finally, I got a bucket of grain and shook it, which caused Latte’ to slowly walk toward me.   It wasn’t much of a ride, but it gave M the confidence she needed to go for it.  The following videos are JR and M’s official mutton-bustin’ ride.  JR almost qualified for the final rounds, but then got beat out by a girl (don’t tell him I admitted that!).  M didn’t have much of a chance, seeing as how she was expecting a ride similar to Latte’s, and got something more like a bucking bronc!  Here are a couple of videos:

http://youtu.be/cErX_WxfH_I

http://youtu.be/tzQZvh-qF7o

I couldn’t let S off too easy though.  So, I bribed him to ride the mechanical bull.  He did, and if I can be biased, I would say he did quite well!  Most riders that day got slung off or got too weak to hold on any longer after 30 seconds or so, but S held on, kept his legs forward and seat down, and stayed on for quite a ride!  Unfortunately, the control-man started him off pretty slow, so his leg muscles fatigued by the time the bull really got going.  Then, just as the goin’ got good, wouldn’t you know my camera card filled up from the videos of the day, just before he fell off!  The fall was impressive though, as his legs got weak, lost their grip, slipped back a bit too far, and just then the bull spun around, slinging him right off.  I was thoroughly entertained, even if it was at my dear hubby’s expense!

http://youtu.be/wuAxT52MDW0

As if all that wasn’t fun enough, we wound up waiting too long to buy our tickets, so buy the time I got around to purchasing them, the only ones left in a group that would suit our family were front-row box seats in the center of the arena, or the very back nose-bleed section.  We decided to splurge a little and go for the box seats, which were awesome!!  The kids (and me) were so excited when the animals would race by, as we could have reached out and touched them (we didn’t though).  There was more than one occasion when I pulled a kid closer to me as a crazed animal ran straight towards our box (I’ve seen far too many horror stories on the news!).  Here’s a few other random shots of the day:

At over 7000 ft. elevation, the sun can get pretty intense, even if the actual temps aren’t that high. As a result, everyone piled into the back of the van to seek some shade during our lunch-time picnic.

The Colorado Springs zoo had an educational booth at the rodeo, where the kids got to pet a baby porcupine, feel different wild animal furs, and learn about several types of animals.

 

Playing with a python at the zoo booth.

A cute little cowboy at the rodeo. A can’t remember going 2 years ago, so this was like his first time, and I think he loved it.

 

Over the last year, life just seemed to get busier with each passing month instead of slowing down.  Between raising 5 children, homeschooling, preparing for fall semester, dealing with A’s appointments and therapies, hosting the organic foods co-op for our area, organizing an organic animal feeds bulk-sharing program, teaching several animal-harvesting classes, and trying to run the farm, it all culminated with our two recent Farm Day’s that we hosted.  Fun as it all has been, we were truly exhausted.  S and I talked, and decided that it was time we re-prioritize, and have some genuine family fun for a while!  We looked for ways to cut back our work load so we could just enjoy life for a while.  After much deliberation, prayer, and discussion, I sold Bell, my Kinder doe.  It still breaks my heart, but I have peace that we made a good decision.  That means one less goat to milk (the other 2 are providing more than twice what our two does last year did–and more than enough for us), one less goat to feed in our hay crisis, and one less goat to clean up after.  Another HUGE project we recently accomplished was to have our “slash” (the dead branches on the trees and fallen organic litter on the ground) cleaned up.  The wildfires helped make this a priority.  The only problem is, in CO, you aren’t allowed to burn organic trash like this, so it has to be manually cut, gathered, collected, and hauled off.  It was a huge job, so, because of S’s incredibly limited time, we decided to hire the job done–an incredibly wise choice, if I may say so!!  With this job completed, S felt more free to have a little fun with us.  Before we move next year particularly, we wanted to be able to enjoy the beautiful state of CO and see some of what she has to offer.

Here are just a few of our recent fun times, in addition to some of the other posts you will soon read:

My mom saw how badly S and I needed some couple-time, so she gifted us a voucher to go take rock climbing lessons, and then play on the indoor climbing walls.  As it turned out, S and I were the only attendees that day, so we got personalized instruction, and then got to spend a couple hours climbing.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take many photos, as while one of climbed, the other was holding the rope from the ground to keep them safe.  The ground person can’t take their eyes off the climber, and more importantly, they can’t take their hands of the rope–to take photos for example.  I talked the instructor into taking a couple for us instead.

S getting harnessed up and receiving some instruction prior to his climb.

Me climbing the wall.

S climbing a rather challenging wall. I only made it about half way up this one, when my muscles started quivering so badly I couldn’t hold on any longer. Muscle fatigue happens very quickly!!

Remember that portable baptistry we used for JR’s recent baptism?  S volunteered to store it for the church since they don’t have room, and we couldn’t bear the thought of just dumping all that precious water after the single baptism.  Thus, we temporarily decided to re-commission the baptistry as a swimming pool for the kids.  And boy, did they have a great time!!  They were able to swim for a couple of afternoons, until the water became dirty enough that we could justify using it to water the plants instead, and then put the baptistry in our garage storage.

 

A few other random photos and activities of the last few weeks:

Push-up time! N figured out a way to keep his workout pretty low-key!

Bath time for the littles. It’s their favorite activity, I think!

 

A little evening family worship time. R is starting to enjoy the singing time, and is also starting to sing to her own tune!

You can’t have fun without a little donkey love on occasion!! Asha, the foal is getting big, and we are all having a blast working with her.

 

We recently tried our first, healthy, “green” smoothie, which consisted of a mixture of water, kale, and several types of fruit. It was, surprisingly, pretty good, despite how it looks, but I think R enjoyed it more than anyone!

18-month-old R having fun at the park.

 

M trying to give R a bike lesson. Guess it’s time to get a new tricycle for R, seeing as how our last one finally died!

Stay tuned for more of our recent fun!

If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you are aware that our middle son, A, has some challenges.  The problem is, we don’t yet know what the problem is or how to deal with it.  As a result of the medical journey we’ve been on, A is undergoing a serial casting process for physical therapy, to re-stretch his leg muscles and tendons that had contracted for some unknown reason.  He has now stretched from -3* to 17*, with the ultimate goal of 20*.  We are almost there.  At that point, (probably about a month from now) he will most likely be put in AFO’s (leg braces)  to keep him stretched until we find a cause, or until he can maintain the stretch on his own.

In addition, this past week, A and I found ourselves admitted into the hospital for a greatly anticipated, long-awaited test.  We were scheduled for a 3 day/2 night video EEG test, to find the severity of what was believed to be seizures discovered during a short-term EEG test about 2 months ago.  We got to Denver Children’s hospital around 10:30 in the morning, and were eventually seen by an EEG tech who got A all wired up. 

First, the tech had to measure and mark the appropriate locations for the sensors.  A was content to lay there and watch a movie. 

Next, she applied the sensors with a terribly smelly glue.  There were around 24 sensors on his head, and 2 on his chest to monitor heart rate.

To prevent him messsing with them, she then covered the sensors in cotton and a gauze head-wrap.  The wires were zipped into a sheath of fabric, and the box that the wires connected to was placed into a kid-sized backpack.  This allowed A to move around the room.  Of course, it wasn’t really that simple.  A was also on video camera for the duration to see if he did anything that could be physically seen while having a seizure.  This meant that, although he was free to get up and move, I had to try to keep him in a specific location for as long as possible so the camera could see him.  And the docs wanted him to watch as little TV as possible, so his day would be as normal as possible–except of course that he had a head covered in sensors and his day was confined to a 10×10 foot space.  Normal?  Right! 

Thus, we did our best to improvise and settled in for the long stay.  A was entertained by the occasional cartoon:

Then he got to move over to the chair or sit on the floor where he could play with his Alfie robot or color:

Or he could move to the couch and look out the window.  Then, before the energy exploded out of his little body, he was given a boundary within which he could push the rolling tray table around–back and forth, back and forth, while mom placed bets on whether the dragging power cord trailing from his backpack, or my sanity, would snap first!

Of course, it wasn’t REALLY that simple.  Remember the fact that we do have 4 other young children?  S had to take off work for 2 days to take care of them during this hospital stay.  Well, as it happened, the night before we were scheduled to start, R wasn’t feeling well.  She was awake and crying the entire night.  I wound up taking her downstairs to the basement and “sleeping” with her on the futon so S could get some sleep and drive to Denver the next day.  I figured she must be teething, as she was very out of character for herself.  We were so tired from the long night, S and I both slept in, then, when we couldn’t sleep in any longer, we jumped out of bed, threw the kids together, did the farm chores, bundled the kiddos into the van, and headed to Denver.  Meanwhile, R was continuing to be cranky.  About 45 minutes into the drive, R angrily grabbed her socked foot, ripped her sock off and started crying.  Again.  I turned around and caught a glimpse of her bare foot….covered in ugly red and white blisters!  OH NO!!!!  I reached back and began frantically checking her body, not sure how we missed it when we dressed her that morning.  Her head, torso, arms, and legs were actually not too bad, having a few “bug bite” type bumps on them.  Her hands and feet, however, were covered in white-headed pimples, angry looking blisters, and just plain looked painful!  No wonder she was crying all night!!  (Though I don’t think they had developed the night before, I think their development is what made her so miserable.)  So, while S continued to drive, I called the nurse hotline to find out what to do.  After dropping us at the hospital (where I told the nurse, but we all knew we would be isolated in our room anyway), S took R in to the base clinic, where she was diagnosed with “Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.”  At least it wasn’t chicken pox, which is what I had feared.  As it turned out, A had gotten it several weeks ago, but it presented as a couple of unexplainable “bug bites” (we really don’t have any biting bugs in our area–especially this time of year) and disappeared within about 3 days.  Then, N and M likely got it, and complained only of a sore throat and mild fevers for about 24 hours. JR never complained of anything, then apparently R got it last.  This photo is not R, but one I found online that looked like her hands and feet….

So, as it turned out, I’m not sure who got the best end of those days–me stuck in the hospital room with A, or S stuck at home with a miserable, quarantined toddler.  The good news for R is that, like the others, she seems to have had a VERY mild case of it.  After what the pediatrician had prepared S for (which includes blisters throughout the intestinal tract and everywhere in the mouth as well), S took her home, gave her a thoroughly fermented kefir smoothie and some vitamin C, which seems to have prevented any intestinal problems.  Within 24 hours of the appearance of the blisters, they stopped developing, and now seem to be healing.  She never stopped eating or got bad diarrhea, and only missed sleep that one night.  The doc prescribed ibuprofen and tylenol on an as-needed basis, but S never even had to give it to her.  She is still a bit fussier than usual, and I suspect the blisters on her feet are a bit painful, but overall she seems to be on the mend.  We praise God for both the health of our children and the ability we have to feed them nutritiously in a way that encourages their healing. 

A on the other hand, was released from the hospital after only 24 hours.  The GREAT news is, they found no seizure activity.  The not so great news is that, since they found no seizure activity, we are still at square one of having no clue what is wrong with our child, only we have ruled out yet another possibility.  Next on the agenda is a follow-up appointment with the neurologist almost 2 months from now, a possible opthamology appointment to check on an eye problem he has begun complaining of, continued physical therapy, and the start of occupational therapy.  They are also considering sending us to a metabolic geneticist to look at some metabolic factors more in depth.  For now though, we’re starting to lean back on the in-utero drug theory–which still doesn’t explain the neurological regression of his body that has been happening.  At this point, only God knows what’s going on still, so we can only pray for wisdom in raising this child and trying to maintain the peace in our home with his continual antics. 

There is certainly never a dull moment in parenting this household!!

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