Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Demolition

Saturday morning a notice went out on Freecycle offering the wood, metal roofing, and loose hay from an old barn that was to be torn down. With several outbuildings on the to do list, we were soon headed across the river to a nearby town with my parents, two vehicles and two trailers to haul stuff in.

There was one other taker on the offer who arrived before we did. She wanted to build a small garden shed, so we worked out what she needed to salvage, and the rest was ours for the taking. First we went through the contents of the building. Mom found a decent porch swing and some other things. I found some old jars, including half gallon canning jars. There also was a whole box of unused jelly jars!

Next was the loose hay in the loft. What a messy, stinky job! Papaw would rake the hay down and Tim would shove it in the end of the cattle rack while Mamaw and I tried to stuff it in as much as we could. Eventually we gave up and let Papaw and Tim handle it.

The hay is old. There probably isn't much nutrition left in it, but it will make great bedding or filler. They baled it yesterday and it made 20 bales. They went back and got the rest, which filled the cattle rack again. The second trip yielded 26 bales.

Next the men (and my little man) headed to the roof to remove the metal sheets. They ripped off and Mamaw and I stacked them in the trailer. The other people were there also working on taking the siding boards off the one wall.

After the roofing was all off, the guys knocked out all the boards that the roof was attached too. Again Mamaw and I stacked. Next came the notched rafters. Four were given to the other people for their building and the rest were loaded on top of the roofing in the trailer.

The younger kids helped some and played in the yard. There was also a box of books leftover from a yard sale. Lydia spent a lot of time reading those herself, and reading to Nolan and Vivian.

We worked about six hours, and were just about at our quitting point when the owner offered to buy us dinner. Gratefully we accepted and he went to town and brought back pizza and pop. While he was gone we cleaned up the area a bit, and he returned to find us all sprawled out in the grass exhausted. This picture was taken when we were almost to calling it a day.

The process seems very simple as I type about it. In reality, it was a lot of hard exhausting work. We all are still dragging from the hours of physical labor put in that day. There still is a lot of barn to tear down yet, but all those materials will be put to use in new buildings here. The hard work will save a ton of money. Now to find another day and the energy to go do it again!

Monday, September 22, 2008

When you can't play...read!

Kellen bought a Nintendo 64 game system (our first) about a year ago, and I was concerned about the battle it would become with Kellen. It has been no battle with Kellen, but Nolan well it is a different story. 

The kid is infatuated with Nintendo. He doesn't care if he is playing. He is just as happy to watch Kellen play. When they figure out a new trick or how to get to the next Zelda level, Nolan wants to call Tim at work to tell him about it. He tries to tell me about it, but has figured out I am basically clueless. Our donkeys are already named after Mario characters, Luigi and Daisy, and now Nolan wants to name our new cat Toon Link. 

Since school is in and the new TV rules are in place, the Nintendo does not even come on most days. That hasn't stopped Nolan though. He may not be able to play the games, or even watch Kellen play the games, but he can read about the games. 

His new thing is to get the booklets that come with the games out to read. Well, not really read, but to look through. He will spend a good hour pouring through the little booklet. He will show Kellen the pictures and  give his interpretation of what those pictures mean. He gets so excited. (Kellen in typical big brother fashion is not impressed.)

I don't know whether to be happy he is looking at a book (of sorts) for so long or be frustrated that I can't get his mind off Nintendo!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boys will be boys

The boys have found a new form of entertainment. This kept them busy for hours yesterday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

T.V. Time Rules

Back to school is an adjust whether your children go to school or you homeschool. This fall we've fallen back into the book routine fairly smoothly. What has been a little rocky is TV time.

We don't watch a lot of TV, even in the summer, but I am a little more generous with TV time in the summer heat than I am during the school year. When we started back to the books Kellen (10) and Lydia (6) fell easily into the routine of no TV until school is done and we've eaten lunch. Nolan (4) was not so compliant.

Every morning the first thing he would ask me was to play Nintendo. When that answer was no he would ask to watch TV. When that answer was no he would ask to watch a movie. When that answer was no he would give up, for about an hour, and then we would go through the whole process again. I thought I was going to lose my mind! (or throttle the kid) Finally after a few weeks he got it through his head that the darned TV was not coming on for any purpose until after lunch. Then began the next phase of the battle.

Those of you who know my bright determined child may guess at what happened next. He would scarf down lunch, declare, "I am done," and ask to play Nintendo. I'd set the timer and let him play. Immediately after his time was up he'd ask for a snack. UGH! A few days of making him wait for a snack fixed that problem. He decided he better slow down and eat a better lunch. But still our TV time rules were not working.

Even after Nolan finally got in the routine, the TV was driving me crazy. The problem is there are four kids. Each of them want their TV time, and of course all the others want to watch while someone else is getting their time. So the TV was on basically all afternoon, and I was constantly hearing bickering about whose turn it was to pick. I tried getting them to agree on something, but with two boys and two girls ranging from 2 to 10 it can be a little difficult to find something everyone likes. Nothing was working for me.

Then I happened across something in a book I was reading that made a light go off. Why does each kid get to pick something each day? Why not give each kid a day that is theirs? Aha!

So we started the new TV rules. We rotate days for who gets to pick what is on for the allotted time for TV. I didn't assign specific days since we aren't always home on the same days and weekends don't count.

This is our second week for it, and it is working like a charm. The kids keep track of whose day it is, and I've yet to hear any arguing or complaining about what the person picks. They know how much time they have and plan accordingly to watch the shows or play the games that they really want to.

Last year TV time during the school year wasn't a problem. This year it has been an adjustment. I guess it is growing pains that come with the kids getting older. Rotating the days each child gets to pick what to watch has saved a lot of bickering, and cut back on the amount of time the TV is on. It is working for me!

Works for Me Wednesday: find more ideas and tips.
Photo credit: P. Costa

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Telling it like it is (photo added)

The other day Lydia spent a good portion of the day over at Mamaw's house. When she came home I waste teasing her about being gone so long, and asked her why she liked Mamaw's house better than home. She didn't miss a beat, and informed me, "Because Mamaw's house is clean." Ouch!

Yesterday I was out feeding the pigs and Vivian was standing in the driveway near me. She had found the spray end of a backpack water toy that we have. She was using it as a microphone and singing her little heart out. I couldn't exactly make out the words, but she was sure into her singing. She was swaying and dancing to her own music. I smiled at her and asked if she were singing me a song. She gave me a look that pretty much implied that I was out of my mind. Then she tells me, "No, sing piggies." Now I know where I rank.

This morning Vivian decided to serenade the pigs again. I had to add a picture!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On the job training, again.

Our ram is a big old boy. He is tough, and has a tendency to be a bully. He isn't exactly mean, but he will push you around. He has sent Papaw, Tim and I all flying a time or two. His favorite target once was Billy Bob, the goat. Billy was pretty young when we got him and the ram was the boss.

We separated them, and during that time Billy grew up. He still isn't as big as the ram, but he has a large set of horns that more than compensate for the body size difference. The last time they got together, while we were moving some animals to a different pasture, Billy got the better of the ram. He gave him a couple of good scrapes and small punctures. We put bag balm on the sores, and other than the ram being a bit more humble for a few days, he was just fine.

The ram's latest tangle we suspect was with a deer about a week ago. He had two puncture wounds, one on his front leg and the other about mid abdomen. We covered them with bag balm and didn't think anything else about it.

About mid week I noticed he wasn't acting quite himself. He stayed in the barn a lot, and wasn't waiting at the gate to plow me over at feeding time. It was very hot this week, and he has behaved similarly in the heat before. I didn't think much of it, and was happy to not have to fight him to feed the sheep.

Then yesterday he came out for feed while I was still there. I noticed that the wound on his abdomen looked black and not healed, and he stunk. Not your normal sheep stink, but a rotten stink. I tried to look at the wound. It wasn't easy to hold him and look at it, so I decided to wait until Tim was home to help, but I supected fly strike.

I knew sheep were susceptible to fly strike. I had read a bit about it when we were deciding about docking the lambs tails. The problem is that I had only read about it in conjunction with tails and flies laying eggs in manure that could accumulate on the fleece. I never even thought about it being a problem elsewhere.

Looking back it seems silly that I wouldn't see that there is a connection. Blow flies like sheep. An open wound is a warm moist place perfect for laying their eggs. Well, duh! But that seems to be how we learn things around here, a little at a time, putting bits and pieces of knowledge together. On the job training you could say. I know this is part of the learning curve with animals, but every time something happens I feel so bad.

If you're squeamish you may want to skip ahead to "SAFE NOW."

When Tim got home we went out to look at the ram. The wound looked to be the size of a quarter, so we didn't expect cleaning him up would take long. Tim pulled back on the wound, which in fact was nothing but black rotted flesh, to expose it and found it full of maggots. I couldn't look, but the smell was awful.

He started scraping them out and just kept finding that the wound and the maggots went deeper and longer along the rams abdomen. Tim trimmed back fleece and dead skin, scraped out maggots and poured on peroxide or alcohol for about an hour and half while I tried to keep the ram still. We were all exhausted by the time we were done.


The ram is left with a gaping wound about four inches long. We debated stitching him and tried to find information on the internet, but with no luck. Most of what I found addressed pets, (This can affect almost any animal, but sheep are the host of choice for the fly.) or for commercial farming, not for homesteaders.

We think we got all of the problem out, but are opting to keep the wound open and clean it out several times a day with antiseptic just be safe. The ram was given a dose of penicillin and we removed him from the pasture and barn. We tied him out and are moving him around the yard to keep a closer eye on him and to give him a cleaner place to lie down. We also gave him a good spraying of fly spray to try to keep the flies away.

He seems perfectly happy and is eating, and hopefully headed for a full recovery. From other accounts I read about in severe cases (I can't imagine what that would look like.) the animal is listless and lethargic. It will kill them and it is best to put them down. This was bad enough. I am glad to have caught when we did, though I wish I had paid closer attention earlier.

Lessons learned from this on the job training session:

1. Fly strike can happen at any weak point on the sheep.
2. Fly strike can affect other animals.
3. I need to pay more attention when an animal has a wound or is not quite acting like their normal self.

These are hard lessons to learn.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Save the Bees

Yesterday we went on a field trip to Stiltner's Apiary. The kids enjoyed it, especially the taste testing. I found it fascinating. Mr. Stiltner has raised bees for a long time, and works for the State Agriculture Department. He knows his stuff.

He walked us through part of his bees. He keeps millions (literally) of bees. He explained some cross breeding projects he is currently working on, and showed us the process used to get the honey. All along the way giving lots of interesting tidbits and facts about bees. I learned a lot.

The Africanization of bees.
I didn't even know there was such a thing, or that it was a problem. Basically African bees are very aggressive toward people and other bees. They also are genetically dominate. His bees are very gentle, and his cross breeding project is an attempt to get a hardy, productive and gentle bee suited for West Virginia. He suggested that those who want to start with bees do not order queens from Florida or California because they are likely to be Africanized there.

The demise of the bees.
He recommended a National Geographic production about bees. Another mom at the field trip said that PBS also recently showed it. I don't know the exact title.

You may have heard about the great numbers of bees that are dying for reasons scientists can't explain. According to the film, if the current loss rate continues there will be no honey bees by 2035. If you've seen the animated Bee Movie, you know what happens when the honey bees stop working, plants stop producing our food.

Health Benefits of Honey
I know that honey is supposed to be a healthier sweetener, but am not very educated on the subject. A couple of things he mentioned on the field trip caught my interest.

Honey can help those with allergies, but not any honey will do. You need to eat honey that was made locally or at least in a place with similar vegetation. Honey produced far from you was made with pollens that you don't encounter, and therefore won't help your allergies. Makes sense doesn't it?

According to Mr. Stiltner honey that is mass produced has little more health benefit than sugar. The processing it goes through kills all the good stuff. Ever microwaved your honey after it crystallized? That is a no no too. It kills the good stuff. Warm it up with hot water or in a sunny window.

The glue like substance the bees use in the hive is like penicillin. In fact, it is nicknamed Russian penicillin and has been traditionally used to treat illness.

Papaw has mentioned getting bees several times. While I've always thought it was a good idea, this field trip has piqued my interest. Time to do some more research and move bees up on the want list. The other project that has been mentioned latley is maple syrup. Mmmm.... it is going to be sweet around here!