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Archive for the ‘farm animals’ Category

As a homeschooler, this “end of school” time of year feels stranger each year the children get older.  What is it we are ending?  Are we going to stop learning and reading for the summer?  Of course not.  We will put aside formal math lessons, history lessons and other curricula that is more “schoolish.”  We are all hooked on reading aloud (almost done with Tolkein’s four books, I hope they remember it because I’m not doing it again!)  so we’ll keep that up.   So much of what we do is related to learning (just like in all educated families – homeschooling or not) that the line called “school” is getting more fuzzy for us.  We don’t have the dramatic transition that school families do.  Most of our friends are not homeschoolers (there aren’t many around here), and most of my kid’s friends go to school.  My friends who send their children to school have shared that they are relieved school is over, now they can relax from the schlepping, homework and busyness that surround it.

Since we school at home, what is defined as “schoolwork” and what is a really fun project (like my daughter learning to design and sew 18th century costumes for her doll) is something we are sorting out.  If I call it “school” I get groans, if I say, let’s learn about the stars this summer and go to a planetarium – I get excitement.   For us, I guess summer is more of a fading of some formal studies in favor of projects and spending more time outside with the animals, farm and garden chores, an occasional camp for the kids and a family vacation trip thrown in somewhere.

Still, my kids want some of the same rituals school kids have.  Since the school kids around here all have a “last day of school” party,  I bought a box of Lucky Charms cereal (probably the 2nd time that sugar “breakfast” aka dessert has been in our house) to celebrate.  For our school party, the kids inhaled the evil cereal, we picked more snow peas, played with chicks and gave Flynn (my much fawned over horse baby) a bath.

He's white! It will last about 15 minutes.

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The snow peas are in.  We try to eat them as fast as they grow but we are woefully falling behind.  We’ve eaten them everyday, sometimes for lunch and dinner.  I even went out this morning and ate some for breakfast!  This is the way it is with a garden, you eat what’s in season.  I remember laughing about Barbara Kingsolver’s stories of endless, unavoidable zucchini in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.   We’ve tried freezing snow peas in the past and it’s just disappointing so we would rather share them and turn green eating them.   While the garden is in we sacrifice variety for fresh homegrown vegetables.  It’s an easy trade-off.    My son is amazed at the value of a package of seeds.  “So, it only cost $2.00 to buy all the seeds to grow all these plants and all these snow peas?!”  Even though there is some work involved, a vegetable garden really is the ultimate bargain in so many ways.  If you don’t have much space, the book Square Foot Gardening is a wonderful system.  Keep it small and grow only things you love to eat.

Fresh and just barely done.

Here’s a simple favorite with snow peas:

Heat a wok to medium and put a dash of olive oil in it.  Throw in a bunch of snow peas in and toss constantly until they are a bright, uniform green.  Salt lightly or use a dash of Braggs liquid aminos and enjoy!

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They are here!  About 26 chicks hatched over the last week and what fun to see all the different colors and guess their parents from our flock of about 25 hens and 2 roosters.  The children have named many of them, from Bonnie to Vivian.  We had a very successful hatch and now know that testing the thermometer against others is critical!   We hatched as many blue and green eggs as we could, those are the chicks with “fat faces.”  They have a lot of plumage which makes them look chubby.  Rather than blather on though, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking…

Resting in between squirming, such hard work!

Stretching for the first time

Tuck fighting his instincts

So many breeds, so many colors!

Curly getting hypnotized

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Decisions reflect how we see ourselves.  The decisions we make tell volumes about us.  I bought a horse six years ago that turned out not to be a good match for me temperament wise.  I worked with her, hired trainers, read books, asked people’s advice, etc., etc.  I was told she would settle down when she got older, that she just needed more ground work and other well intentioned advice.  I thought about selling her and moving on time after time but always seemed to find a way to talk myself out of it (by trusting someone else’s advice).  All the time I really didn’t enjoy her much of the time and never took her anywhere to do anything.

Finally, a few months ago (with my husband’s no nonsense counsel) I declared that I was done with trying.  I was going to look for a calm, smart, willing horse.   After scanning hundreds of email ads, talking with people and visiting some horses, I found Flynn last week.  I had thoroughly checked out his breeding and history and when I met him I had a great gut feel about him.   I was still anxious about my judgment though, after all, I had made the decision to get the mare.  I called my husband and blathered on excitedly cautious about this and that and his good points and his liabilities and he said with characteristic simplicity, “Just buy him.”  I will always remember how he cut through my jumble of fear and excitement with that simple statement.  I whooped and hollered and bought him.

Now that I’ve had Flynn for a week, I can’t believe I put up with the mare for six years.  At only 4 years old, he is calm, tractable and all around a pleasure to be with and learn with.   Why did it take me so long?  To use an acronym a client once shared with me, it’s an AFGO (Another F____  Growth Opportunity).   It made me aware of how we sometimes make decisions and tolerate things for not very good reasons.  Pay attention to your decisions, what you tolerate and what it says about you.

Flynn, my new love

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Well after three weeks of turning our eggs and hopeful anticipation of many fuzzy chicks to play with, we hatched one.  Yes, you read right, 36 eggs and one baby!  So the children and I used the failure as a science project.  We hypothesized that perhaps the thermometer that came with our new incubator was inaccurate.  We gathered five thermometers from around the farm and put them in the incubator and found that the one we used was 5 degrees too cool.  So we believe that we cooked our chicks.  When we thought we had them at 99.5, they were actually at about 105 degrees.  We can’t figure out how we have one live chick that survived this sauna.  He was our biggest egg which led to more theories.  Here is a picture of “Buddy” as my son named him, I think “Miracle” is more fitting.  He shivers quite a bit and seems to like being right under the heat lamp, hmmm.

Buddy the Wonder Chick

We think his Dad is “Officer” and his Mom is “Triple Time Cuteness:”

Dad, our sweetest rooster named "Officer"

Mom, "Triple Time Cuteness," an Araucana who lays olive green eggs

This weekend we will test our hypothesis by putting a batch of fresh eggs in the incubator with a new, tested thermometer.  So back to waiting anxiously for three more weeks!

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It’s our third year incubating eggs.  It is a miracle that I can’t get over.  We put these tiny eggs, which can sit for a week or more after they are laid, into a warm (99.5 degrees) and humid place for three weeks and they turn into birds!  Nobody is feeding them, they just sit there and grow, all we do is turn them a few times a day.  I find that astonishing.  I used to think that the yolk became the chick and wouldn’t eat them as a child.  Now I know that the yolk is what the chick absorbs for fuel it’s last few days in the shell.  That’s why chicks can be mailed soon after they are born with no food or water across the country (we got our first batch from McMurray Hatchery in Iowa).  So while we don’t need anymore chickens (28 or so is enough) we can’t help but hatch more.  The fun of trying to guess who the mom and dad are (we have about 16 varieties who all look different), holding those fuzz balls, naming each and every one – we can’t resist.  Plus the reality is that many will not make it to adulthood (foxes, hawk, dogs, etc).  So, as crazy as it is, we have about 38 eggs in the incubator this time, all “due” the 25th of April or so.  Look for fuzzy chick photos in my next post!

More of what we don't need but can't resist

I guess I’m egg crazy, I even think the egg itself, the pink,terracotta, blue, olive and turquoise tones they have are gorgeous:

A bowl of beauty

Here’s a low fat egg fritata we eat about once a week:

Healthy Egg Fritata:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Crack 4 eggs and 8 egg whites into a bowl

Add about a 1/2 cup milk

Add any variety and combination of vegetables you have on hand, I’ve tried:

chopped roasted red peppers, olives, zucchini,

chopped mushrooms, broccolli, green onions

sometimes I add chopped ham

add your vegetables to egg mixture, season with salt and pepper and any herbs you like

Pour in large tart pan or pie plate.

Bake for about 40 minutes, testing for doneness in middle. Can be served with green or red salsa.

Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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The peas and tomatoes are sprouting!  We put the same seeds in the same soil and give them the same conditions but some come up sooner than others.  I began wondering about that and then noticed that within a few days they all catch up with each other and the seedlings are generally the same height.  It reminded me of some advice a school headmaster gave me years ago when I worried that my children weren’t reading much at the ages of 6, 7 and 8.  He said that if all the right reading conditions were in place (parents modeling reading, plenty of good books in the home, continued support and instruction) children will catch up and be reading fluently later on.  I still worried and bought every phonics/reading program known to man.  Now, it has happened.  All that worry for naught, they are reading beautifully now, they just got there with time and the right conditions.

The peas are up and smiling!

When you home school you feel totally responsible for every success and failure in your children’s learning.  As the children get older (now 9 and 12) though, we am working to increasingly shift the responsibility for their education to them.  I realized that until I decided to “own” my education, I didn’t really learn much or retain it.  We have conversations with the kids now about what is an education, who is it for, why have one?  It has awakened in all of us the fact that we are all responsible for our own learning, that seems obvious as I write it but I don’t think I previously owned my education the way I do now.   I have discovered a great resource and inspiration for this in the Thomas Jefferson Education Consortium, www.tjed.org.

So while my children are happily reading, I have more time to try new recipes with all the eggs we find in the hen house everyday.  One of our recent favorites is simple crepes filled with just about anything.

Healthyish Crepes

Put a large saute pan on your burner on medium low to heat up.  Put the following in a blender or vitamix:

4 eggs (you can substitute 2 egg whites for each egg to cut down on yolks)

1 cup lowfat milk

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

Blend all the ingredients and then spray your warmed up pan with cooking spray and pour a little less than 1/3 cup mix on the pan.  This is the tricky part, immediately swirl the pan to spread out the mix in a thin layer all over the bottom of the pan.  In about 40 seconds or when the top looks dry, flip it and you are done it about 20 more seconds.  We have them plain or with maple syrup or Nutella or jam or whatever you’d like to try.

Yummy crepes, enjoy!

Great to take to someone’s house with bananas and Nutella in them!

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