Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's ON!!

I spotted a ground hog today. In my yard. Going under the Groundhog Love Shack (more commonly known as our shed). Seriously!?! The games have begun. Me against the groundhog. They have a terrible history of mowing down my garden in short order and if there's anything that can irritate me quite like that...well...I don't know what it is. So, what shall it be? A motion sensing sprinkler? A Bear Grylls-inspired snare? Razor wire? Specially trained attack chickens? Ground hog burritos???? Time shall tell...

And speaking of animals (aren't my transitions oh-so-smooth...ha!) James has always been fascinated by snares and wants to catch an animal. A month ago he made a clever squirrel snare, making a wire loop and putting peanut butter and Craisins in it. He rigged it up in such a way that the loop was nearly invisible and right along the path a squirrel would take down a branch. The squirrel took the snacks, but left the snare. James was miffed. This week, he rigged up a little rabbit trap. We have a rabbit we call our 'pet' because it sits in the same exact place in the yard every day. I don't know why he wants to catch it or what he would do if he did. I think it is more of a challenge for him. He dug out one of the termite traps the previous owners had installed. It left behind a narrow hole about 10 inches deep. He laid a cloth napkin over it and made a trip wire out of a piece of twine and two twigs. His idea was that the rabbit would run along, perhaps attracted to the lovely pumpkins printed on the napkin, and then couldn't proceed past the trip wire. It would thus step on the napkin and fall through into the hole. Never mind that the hole was sized more toward a small mouse, or realistically a few over sized crickets. But I've got to hand it to him! He is clever, and determined. I hope someday he catches something someday.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The kids and I went to Lancaster today in honor of James' spring break. We picked up Aunt Sally and went to a few places. I am happy to say that I came home with some fabric, a whole bunch of flax seed, spices and 50 pound bags of oats and whole wheat flour. Yay!! Who gets excited about that stuff? Me! We came back and ate lunch at Aunt Sally's. She managed to send them home with more candy than I care to think about, which is now stashed away in the cabinet. We didn't see a whole lot of Amish activity today...perhaps they were having a convention somewhere? Do Amish convene? Hmm. On the way home, traffic was a breeze. That is, until exactly 6 miles from our exit on the turnpike. Then it became a parking lot. It was not stop and go. It was stop. For 35+ minutes. Ugh. Fortunately we had hit the library yesterday and stocked up on movies. That DVD player comes in handy sometimes! So I put in a movie and the kids were reasonably entertained. It may have also had something to do with being tired and coming off a sugar high. When things finally got moving (there was an accident a few miles ahead) every lane but ours moved. I waited thinking someone was turning their car back on or something. Well, I'll take 'or something' for $400 Alex, because the lady 3 cars ahead of us was completely zonked out, catching flies. People were honking and she kept on sleeping. I have to wonder how long it took her as cars passed her on either side. I am sure she felt super when she finally came to, parked in the middle lane of the turnpike with traffic buzzing around her. Talk about a power nap!!

P.S. I just looked up the accident. It was SEVEN cars! Fortunately there were only minor injuries. A ladder fell off a truck, and the accident shut the turnpike down for miles.

A Day In The Life

Last week James came in and declared that they were having 'the most fun ever!' When your kids tell you that, you've really got to wonder...what the heck are they doing????? Well, in this particular case they had made a leash for a chicken. They were having a grand old time. The chicken was not. She would panic and run. The handy little slip knot James tied would cinch up around her neck and she would have to slow down. Poor girl. I told James he could only walk her a short distance IF he ran along side her so she didn't get choked. Then we let her go  back to doing what chickens do best: scratching.

P.S. These pictures pretty much sum up Katie. She's a nut.

P.P.S. This was on a day where I did NOT sanction her outfit. I try to give the girl a free day every now and again, and boy does she take some fashion liberties. I'm all for artistic licence but when she ends up looking like one of the Olsen twins after a 3 day bender I must draw the line.

In other news, here is the Challah that I made. Ain't it purdy? It turned out really good, and made delicious french toast!

And speaking of purdy, behold: aftermath of an eye appointment. Creeeeeeeepy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I figured out how to put pictures on the new laptop! So now I shall bombard you with random pictures and their corresponding commentary.

The Squatch takes his marshmallows very seriously. You can just see the gleam in his eye.

Katie trying to roast her marshmallow just so. Unlike James and I, she doesn't like hers burnt.

Marshmallow aftermath

Our Swedish Candle log...pretty nifty, huh? We've had two fires with it so far and there is enough left to have one more.

Eggs! The white one is a store egg, the far left is an egg from one of our new chickens that hasn't figured out how to increase the size yet. The two on the right are the monster eggs some of our champion chickens lay. The far right egg is from Big Martha, who has laid big eggs from the very beginning. No wonder she is the one to make the most noise when she lays an egg!

And here is the purse I knitted! See Grandma? I did it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Your Handy Dandy Reference Guide

Yesterday at the farm I was privy to some rather amusing conversations about farm stuff. One of the conversations was regarding the differences between bulls, steers, and oxen. One member of the conversation was sure that castration would stop the steers from growing. In order that you don't end up sounding like a goofball in times like these, here is a handy dandy reference guide to the nuances of farm animal classifications. I'm sure you're dying to know.

The Cow

Bull: a male cow
Heifer: a young female cow (before having a calf)
Steer: a male cow that has had his dangling bits removed
Cow: generic term, but also refers to a female cow that has calved
Ox: a steer of any breed that has been trained to work

The Chicken

Rooster: a male chicken
Capon: a castrated male rooster (you have to wonder who ever got the idea to do that to a rooster anyway...)
Pullet: a young female chicken
Hen: a female chicken

The Pig

Boar: a male pig
Sow: a female pig that has had a litter
Piglet: a very young pig, before being weaned (I just learned this one...even though the pigs at the farm are little, they are weaned and 10-12 weeks old, therefore qualifying as 'pigs'

Which reminds me...when we were in college we used to occasionally eat at a place called the "Pork Barrel Cafe" which was in a double wide trailer and wallpapered with newspaper clippings about pigs. It was a classy joint. Amazingly, there were actually separate bathrooms for men and women. I say amazingly, because we are talking about a place whose menus are supplied in a magic marker scrawled school folder. The signs on the doors differentiated between 'Boars' and 'Sows'. On one visit, we saw two women who had no doubt stopped to fill up at the 'Last Chance Gas Station' before heading out into the wilds of Utah. The women stood in front of the doors, trying to determine which door they should use: boars or sows?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


We had hatchery this morning and it was cold, again! I am hoping that spring weather will arrive, and stay, very soon. This week is 'New Faces' week at the farm. The pigs arrived, the chicks came in the mail, and a new team of oxen arrived from Maine. The oxen are 5 years old and named Jim and John. Except...with a 'Maine' John is pronounced 'Jawwwwn'. Apparently he will only respond to that particular pronunciation. Today our job was to help with the school programs and we taught the kids about carding wool. They also got to see a sheep being sheared the old fashioned way (with hand shears). And the best part of the day was seeing a lamb that had JUST been born seconds before. We made it there just as the lamb had dropped. Unfortunately our kids were back in their class, but us moms enjoyed the miracle of it all. The lamb laid still for what seemed like too long, but then started to stir. The poor mama was tired out, but she eventually got herself up and took care of her little baby girl. As it worked out, one of the school groups was getting the sheep spiel when the sheep gave birth behind the woman speaking. She said she wasn't sure what to do, because she didn't want the kids to think it was a bad thing, but she knew that some people would be upset. In the end, she just rolled with it. She said she would be sure to get a few angry letters, as they have in the past, by angry parents. But seriously!? Why would that be upsetting? I would have loved if my kids had been able to see it happen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


  • James had his very first field trip today: to a nearby middle school for their production of 'Beauty and the Beast'. I can't wait to hear how it went.
  • Jeff started studying for his PE exam. In October. That makes me a study widow for a while. I going to try to get a lot of sewing done, and start a new painting.
  • I am almost done with my painting. I finished my class last night, and only have a few things to do on my painting in order to fine tune it. Taking this class was SO much fun, even if I felt like an elder compared to the whipper-snappers in my class.
  • Tyler and Katie spent the morning going between their pretend 'doctor's office' and their beach/ocean set up. They put band aids on their stuffed animals and gave them 'medicine'. Then they got into their swimming gear, goggles and beach hats and went 'swimming'. That is one activity they love to do and every few weeks they get into playing it again. It's pretty cute!
  • I have realized that I am a new recipe fiend. I try several new recipes each week. This weekend I made Challah bread and it came out good. It was the prettiest bread I've ever made with all the braiding. We used it to make French toast, which the kids made sure was Dad's french toast, and not mine. I get no respect around here. But alas, Jeff's French Toast is not only the best thing he makes, it is the ONLY thing he makes. I think James ate 4 or 5 big slices.
  • And last but not least...Grandma....this one's for you! I have taken up knitting again! Poor Grandma tried hard to teach me how to knit. I couldn't figure out how to cast on or off, and I was painfully slow. I made a scarf when James was little and it took me a year to do. I wouldn't have attempted it again if not for all the neat knit and crochet things I see around the web and friends who egged me on encouraged me. I tried it again a few weeks ago and am making a purse for Katie. I have purse part done, and I am working on the strap now. I will put a picture up when it is done, and it won't be a year from now!

Friday, March 15, 2013


James' new thing is to spell out conversations with me. He is very good at spelling and he can spell quick! He will spell out whole sentences for me like 'Can I have more peas please?' or 'Tyler is being a pest.' I spell my response and we go back and forth, spelling as we go. Jeff was amazed the first time heard it. Sometimes we try to test him by giving him big or tricky words, but often he gets even those right. The boy can spell k-n-i-f-e without skipping a beat. I am glad that he is getting a good handle on spelling now, so that later in life he can articulate himself without using spell check and text lingo. And in other educational news....Tyler has apparently been paying attention to all the practice we've been doing around here. He keeps saying things like 'Hey! Chocolate starts with chocolate chips!' And 'owl starts with orange!'

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Today Tyler, Katie and I started the Hatchery program, which is similar to Farm Hands. Tyler had trouble adjusting to me leaving, which is kind of unusual because he is my most adventurous kid. He had some problems at church recently, but he said it was because another kid was always mean to him, and now that his favorite teacher is back, he has been fine. So...I am praying that he will adjust without any issues. Today, the kids got to learn about maple sugaring. They made their own spiles out of staghorn sumac and helped their teacher make pancakes which they ate with syrup made right on the farm. Us moms were put to work! It was like boot camp compared to Saturdays. First we had to push the old manure spreader across the barn yard, where we later got it stuck in the mud. Good thing the workhorses were nearby! Most of the women shoveled manure in from the sheep barn. The mama sheep are getting ready for lambing. Just yesterday, the first twin lambs of the season were born. To say they were adorable would be an understatement! They were so tiny. Another mom and I got barn duty, cleaning out stalls and getting ready for the school groups. I also had to patrol the barn for what was termed "Modern Crapola." So I trolled around for McDonalds cups, plastic buckets and florescent bailing twine. Can't have that in a 1910 barn! The end result of this is that I am very tired and probably very stinky. I ran this morning too, and that is adding to the ambiance...ha!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thanks, Dad

First of all, I would like to announce that I am typing this on a fancy new laptop named Violet. Jeff bought me a fancy new touch-screen laptop and we shall see if I can figure out how to work it the thing before my children graduate from high school. The reason her name is Violet is because I had to choose a name and a color for it and the art nerd in me flared up.  Alas, that is not what I am here to ramble about. On to more interesting subjects!

My dad...he has bestowed upon us various gifts, such as a demented sense of humor and a love of learning (Mom had a lot to do with that too). I have also inherited his squarish hands and obnoxious nose-blowing sound effects. But the thing I am here to talk about today is history, as it relates to every dang landmark from here to California. You see, I have this strange propensity for blurting out every bit of history I know about a place, mostly while we are driving. A short road trip might include commentary about the house that 'stored fabric for the soldier's coats during the Revolutionary War' and the parking lot that 'used to be a pig farm'. Half the time, I am not even sure how I know the things I do. I suspect that years of reading everything in sight, even down to the ingredients on the shampoo bottle, have something to do with it. It wasn't until a few months ago, when we went to the Farm Show with my parents, that I realized I got this from Dad. As we drove, he pointed out an apartment high rise that he remembered driving past in the 60's when going to visit his Grandparents. He remembered where they parked when Mom had her exam, and various other tidbits along the turnpike. I found it to be quite amusing that this is some sort of inherited I can blame some of my weirdness on Dad! he, he! Fast forward to last week, Jeff and I went down to the city to hang out with my bro and his wife. Nate began to launch into the history of his neighborhood, telling us which famous people lived on his street (Grace Kelly) and how his apartment building used to be a bar, and how there is a hidden hatch to the basement under his carpet. And I had to laugh. I also had to inform Nate that we both have the same trait, inherited from Dad. So if you ever need to know what really did happen on this sight in 1798, what color that house used to be painted back in 1953, or just exactly which tree it was that George Washington stuck his bubble gum to on that fateful Christmas Eve just before he crossed the icy river and tromped into modern day Trenton, NJ to defeat the Hessians, you know who to ask!

Thursday, March 07, 2013


I was helping Katie clean her room the other day. Amongst all the craft shrapnel lying about, I found the toes of two of her fluffy socks. I was not a happy camper and I asked her who cut the toes off those socks. She looked at me ever so matter of factly, and said 'I did. I was making gloves.' Of course. I tried to stay serious but I couldn't. In the end, I told her that it was very clever to try and make gloves out of fuzzy socks. (I think she was going for finger-less gloves like Grammy's) However, from now on, no cutting up clothes or sheets, etc. for craft purposes unless otherwise sanctioned.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

James' Dr. Seuss Hat

James' class recently had a Dr. Seuss party in honor of Reading Day. The teacher sent a note that the kids could wear Dr. Seuss gear if they had it, but not to go out and buy it. Just a week ago, they had the 100th day of school and were supposed to dress up as 100 year olds. I had tried to find a wig or an old man hat for him to wear, but the thrift store was sadly picked over. In the end, he chose to wear Grandpa Cheyney's suspenders and a bandana in his pocket. The rest of his class went all out, and I think he wished he had a better costume. This time around, I was determined the poor kid not feel shamed! After he went to bed I made him a Dr. Seuss hat wrangled together using felt, scratch paper and his head circumference. I was happily surprised that it fit him perfectly! He woke up the next morning, saw it and was thrilled! Which is good, considering I spent an hour on something he will probably never wear again. I am sure the other two will get good use out of it when they get into school too.

Katie's Artwork

Here is a painting Katie made a while ago. I finally found a frame for it and got it painted. I love having her artwork hanging on the wall!

Monday, March 04, 2013

And I Thought Of You...

First of all, I would like to note that we have been written up for the second time in the Grand Junction, Colorado newspaper...and both times were NOT in the Blotter. It's a family first! My friend Erin writes a Home and Garden column and she is doing an Apocalypse Pantry Challenge, inspired by our hurricane survival tactics. They are going to see how long they can last eating from their pantry. My bet was originally 5 weeks, but after hearing of her husband's propensity to hoard cereal and their vast collection of pasta, I think I might extend my wager. And all of this kinda-sorta ties in to my main post today, and that is the things people associate with us. Whenever someone says 'I saw ________ and I thought of you' it is NEVER something like:

  • I saw this nice documentary about normal people who buy their eggs at the store and let their kids eat school lunch and I thought of you...
  • I saw puppies and unicorns and I thought of you....
  • I read this neat article about Mr. Rodgers and I thought about you....
It goes more like this:

  • I saw this survival show where they made pickled reindeer hearts with homemade vinegar and I thought of you....
  • I read an article about this freak who keeps chickens in a Winnebago and I thought of you....
  • I saw some gold-dipped chicken talons and I thought of you....
  • I saw a crocheted chicken hat and I thought of you....
  • I watched Bear Grylls eat the kidneys from a live Water Buffalo and I thought of you....
  • I saw where someone sewed themselves a 12 person tent entirely out of recycled umbrellas and I thought of you....
Are you seeing a trend here? I have pretty much settled in my mind that I am a freak of nature, and I am OK with that. Besides, if things get ugly Jeff can build our own power plant in the backyard, I can have a big garden and we can make Possum and Squirrel Gumbo over an open fire.