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?

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