Life on the Farm


Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered RAVELRY.com and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!

Trail5

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.

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We watched Marley & Me last night.   Found it a little amusing. 😉

Legend is on strike.  With Lacey gone he isn’t enjoying being an only dog.  It’s made him a lonely dog.  And so he spends his day lying outside the door.  With the death of two chickens, dh has decided he really should be kenneled when we’re not there to watch him, Lacey or no Lacey.

Well, that’s fine.  He WAS content to stay in said kennel while Lacey was there.  But since she’s not, he doesn’t find it convenient to be kenneled.  So, he gets out.

Three days ago he broke the door off of the kennel.  It’s no easy feat as it’s a huge 8 x 14 kennel and 6′ tall.  He has an attached indoor kennel as well, but he’s focusing his attention on the outside.  We reattached it.

This AFTER he has learned to open the latch with his mouth.  We fixed that by putting a padlock (unlocked) through the hole of the latch.

Two days ago he found by throwing his weight against one side, he could force the tubing apart and escape where the kennel opens into the indoor kennel.   We fixed that.

Yesterday we took the kids out for Chinese for Father’s Day.  Legend had had free run of the farm all day since we were home and we kenneled him before we left.  We came home to an overjoyed Legend, just tickled to see us.  He met  us at the van door.  That’s right.  He escaped.  We looked the kennel over and couldn’t find the escape route.  Finally it occurred to us, the latch was too high!  He had pushed and pushed ’til he could just barely get out the bottom of the door.   Mark fixed that.

We kenneled him for the night.  Half way through the night we heard Legend chasing after something.  He had escaped.

We didn’t figure out how until this morning.  Remember, we latch the latch of the kennel.  Then we feed a padlock through the hole so he can’t lift the latch.

He got the padlock out of the hole.

But WAIT!

THAT isn’t the funny part.  Oh no.  Sweet dog that he is, or show off, whichever…  He actually brought the padlock up to the house and laid it on our front step of the porch.  I’m NOT kidding.

DH & I walk out the door this AM and there sits Legend.  And there sits the padlock.

I can honestly say I’ve NEVER met a dog like Legend.  He is the children’s faithful companion wherever they go outside.  They can trip on him, fall on him, lay next to him, and he is ever patient and ever sweet.  Legend is many things, but one thing he apparently is not?  Dumb.  And he also seems to have quite a sense of humor.

Okay!  I’m a little behind….  I’ve had a few friends, and you know who you are, that have been hasslin’ me about joining Facebook.    With this strange amount of clicks coming mysteriously from Facebook yesterday,  I did it.  I caved.   I joined.

And of course then I had to peek at all of our old friends and aquaintances from high school.  It’s so ODD to see them as grown-ups.  And to be honest with you, I don’t think I really realized that *I* am now thirty-something.  Granted, the massive number of children should have clued me into it, but I’m telling you I don’t feel older than, what?  Twenty-two, twenty-three?   Of course, this could explain my paranoia that most doctors I see this day didn’t in fact go to college but are little Doogie Howsers straight from high school.

So, our farm has experienced a massacre of epidemic proportions.  I only wish I was kidding.  We keep our dogs kenneled when we are not outside with them.  Granted, we’re outside almost constantly, but it keeps everything safe and them under control and well behaved.  We do this because they are dogs, and because they are walking death.  Legend has a special affinity for chickens and Lacey will kill anything.   The other morning we awoke to two loose dogs and a dead hen pheasant.  I can’t tell how frustrating that was…. Knowing they probably dragged her off of a nest of eggs.

Then, tragedy hit.  Lacey got out of the kennel.  The kennel we’ve zip-stripped about every 2.5 inches.   First thing in the morning she killed a broiler chicken.  She followed that up by finding her way into my rabbit colony.  Please don’t try to picture it… It was ugly.  She killed 15 baby rabbits before we found her.

Lacey is going to a new home.  My mind is absolutely made up.  When they learned to open the kennel, we began to padlock it.  We’ve done our best but it’s time to admit defeat.  You can’t take an animal that’s been bred for a few thousand years to dig into tunnels and drag out rodents to leave the rabbits alone.  As this was the 21st rabbit she’s killed this year, I give up.  Grandpa picked her up last night.  She’s going to his farm, to replace a little terrier that died four years ago.  He only started talking about getting a new terrier this winter, so this works out beautifully.  She dig and chase to her heart’s content and not have to be kenneled ever.  Legend, without the instigator, should do okay.  We’re going to start chicken training today with him as I was just told he wiped out the Little Red Hen.  This truly was the biggest tragedy of all.

Lizzie and Little Red Hen

Lizzie and Little Red Hen

Lizzie loved the Little Red Hen.  Yes, I know, function… They’re supposed to be for meat, eggs, et cetera and we shouldn’t be attached to them.  It doesn’t work that way.  Lizzie’s little eyes are all red and puffy.  She admitted she might love it even more than Angel.  And the litter that Lacey killed?  Every last one of the entire litter?  Opal’s.  My favorite.  The little calico bunny.

I feel like quitting on days like today.  I’m really NOT a warm, fuzzy, animal lover.  I promise.  I have a heart of stone… kind of.   But I really did love that little calico bunny.  Sigh.

The good news is Legend is less distracted for now.   Lacey may come back after she’s fallen into good graces.  And if we decide to move the bunnies into hutches for their safety.  And this too shall pass……..

OUR chirping birds! Our little chickies have decided to come a day early!

Video added!  I’m so sorry it’s not clear and well lit, but I don’t dare take the lid off and mess with the humidity!  Our last hatch we lost a LOT of chicks to lost humidity!  Enjoy!

Was the nest of bunnies yesterday Opal’s & Butterscotch’s?  Or just Butterscotch’s?

The answer – all those babies were just Butterscotch’s!  I’m pretty shocked myself.  She was a little doe and I would have never guessed it.  I recounted last night and we only had eight.  Then recounted again and had seven!  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  Two of them had crawled right out of the teepee.  We found them burrowed off elsewhere.

So, how did we figure out the mystery?  We found Opal’s nest of babies waiting for us this morning.  There may be 9 or they may be 10.  We won’t know for a while as she actually attacked me during the counting.  I have a scratch to prove it.  I’m a little happy though to see such a good protective mama!  Good litters!

Also, found this quote today on the Tapestry forum as I read through their Philosophy of Education for the various ages and stages of our children.  It so completely encompassed what I’ve been seeking for a while and I pray I’m not overstepping my boundaries when I say this is confirmation of our choice to go with Tapestry.

Qupte taken directly from Tapestry of Grace:

“The Rhetoric Stage (high schoolers)

Philosophy of Education: The High School Years

The High School years have been pure joy to me! If you knew me better, you’d know what an Act of God that statement represents!

At first, I must admit that I was terrified and rebellious. I did not want to home school High School. The prospect overwhelmed me. I was not strong in math, and had four younger students as well. But, when I submitted to the Lord’s plan in my life, He graciously led me, step by step, down a wonder-ful path.

I have come to see that parents who give way to fear and decide to put their children in schools purely because of a lack of confidence really miss a special chance to finish the job they started and enjoy the sweet fruit of fellowship with their teens.

Now, I have the privilege to share with you in fulfillment of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

I am certain that if you are in faith that God desires you to home school your High School aged children that He will provide all you need, no matter how inadequate you may feel today. Humility is a great starting place, and this curriculum is a part of His provision!”

Well, I don’t know if I can give the colony the credit or not, but we have another successful litter!  For those keeping score that’s 0/3 successful litters and 0/10 live babies out of our previous hutch system vs. 2/2 – 14/16 babies still alive in our colony system.

It’s getting pretty exciting here.  Chocolate Fudge a.k.a Fluffy a.k.a whatever name they call her on any given day gave birth on Sunday morning.  She attempted to bury a dead kit on Tuesday and successfully buried her entire litter.  We dug them out and all were fine except the dead kit and one other that was squished in the burial process.  We removed the dead kits and she resumed caring for them.  They are all adorable, although I’m a bit sad that it was the two chocolate buns that died.

Tiramisu gave birth this morning to seven healthy kits.  It appears we have a white, two solid blacks, one solid brown, and three broken (speckled) babies.   She is doing a WONDERFUL job of caring for them and the nest is really beautiful.  I’ll post pictures of it soon.

I went out there late this morning only to find Opal making a grand nest for her babies.  We expect them today or tomorrow.  Butterscotch is also expecting today or tomorrow.  Unfortunately, she’s young and seems to be pulling hair randomly all over the colony pen.  Hopefully she’ll find a special spot for her little ones as well.

The young does are incredibly curious about the nests.  Opal and Tira are very defensive of their area, while Fluffy is definitely not.  But she’s such a space cadet anyway.  I barely hold on hope that she’ll raise all seven of them.   I’ll try to post pictures today or tomorrow.  It’s been incredibly exciting around here with 16 new buns and expecting more.  We found a few Monarch eggs yesterday plus one teeny tiny catepillar… How fun!  Incubator hatching is expected to take place on Sunday and I’ll try to post pictures of that as well.  So far it appears 34/37 eggs have survived to Day 17.

New update:  We caught Butterscotch giving birth in Opal’s nest.  There are two separate bundles of buns in the nest – one group of 6 and one group of 4.  The question is – same Mama or different Mama?  Opal and Butterscotch are NOT happy at having the same nest and are fighting.  I don’t know if Opal gave birth in there before Butterscotch or if she just wants her nest back.  Butterscotch we literally SAW giving birth to babies, so we know at least some of them are hers.

Pictures of the colony and rabbit teepees.

Colony eating greens.

Colony eating greens.

Junior does checking out the new digs.

Junior does checking out the new digs.

Tiramisu's Burrow

Tiramisu's Burrow

Above you can see how Tira enclosed her teepee.  She has filled in the front and left the back open.  Inside her burrow the entire front is filled in.  But within the middle is a bundle of fur, and if you notice, there is a lot of BROWN fur.  She doesn’t have brown hair so she’s been stealing fur from other mamas.

Inside - There are 7 babies in there!

Inside - There are 7 babies in there!

Fluffy's Nest 'O Buns

Fluffy's Nest 'O Buns

Fluffy's Mini Me

Fluffy's Mini Me

In December we bought three rabbits with high hopes of being overrun by bunnies.  We were warned that we’d have “bunnies coming out of our ears” but, no such luck.  As a matter of fact, our first litter ended up with one eaten bun (by the mama) and the rest not being taken care of and dying.  The second litter, only three, were attacked by the mama.  The third pregnancy ended up being a false pregnancy.  And then due to an unforeseen event, the girls leaving the hutches open and a dog attack by Legend and Lacey, we lost our Fudge (dark brown doe) a week before we expected her second litter.

Needless to say, here we sit six months later, with our NON prolific bunnies, and no babies yet… Until this morning!

Approximately three weeks ago, we decided to let all of our does live together in a colony setting.  Supposedly it’s less stressful and more natural.   We felt the advantages were two-fold.  The first being just one set of chores – fill one water, one feed trough, and you’re done.  For nine rabbits, one set of chores vs. filling nine water bottles, nine food bowls, et cetera is just a huge perk.  The second perk was completely unexpected and that is, rabbits PLAY!  Who knew?  They groom each other, they fight, they play, and they explore.  Rabbits love platforms, they love to dig through material, they’re just happy, lazy bunnies.   The downside is, of course, now they feel so much more like pets than food.

DH built a nesting box two weeks ago and a ton of baby “tents” for the does this weekend, plus a platform for playing.  The does spent last night building nests of grass and alfalfa, digging out chips, and generally making themselves comfortable.  And this morning?  Well, we were thanked with our first successful litter!  They’ve got round little tums, which shows Mom is feeding them.  They’re well covered, nice and warm in their well built nest.  Could it be?  Finally?  Our first successful litter.  I hardly dared to stick my hand in the nest, but from what I could tell, the count stands at seven.  I wanted so badly to check out their colors, but resisted!  We’ll see in about a week or so when they start poking heads out of the nest.  As for Mama, we treated her with a bit of clover and dandelion greens.  (And, yes, our rabbits are used to greens – it won’t make them ill.)  We’re expecting three more litters this week and if all goes well I’m chalking it up to the colony setting!

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