Saturday, April 28, 2007

finishing up chicken week

We wound down our week with another trip back to the children's museum yesterday (dragging along some of our other homeschooling friends too!). Their resident rooster was crowing up a storm (J's crowing back at him in this photo), which led to a nice discussion on the difference between roosters and hens, and how our hens' eggs can't hatch into chicks because we don't have a rooster, so they can't be fertilized. The rooster did a bang-up job reminding us all as to why we DON'T have a rooster. NOISY!!
We also visited with the stuffed rooster that sits on top of the find-the-eggs chicken coop display/game in the farm room. The kids discovered that if you reach into certain spots in the coop, a recording of a rooster crowing or a hen clucking gets set off. Needless to say, there was a LOT of noise in the farm room yesterday!
And of course the kids had to get in on the action and "be" chickens and roosters too. Poor Zoo Boy got left out of photos on this trip because my camera battery died.

While we were at the museum, in addition to playing for quite awhile in the farm room, the kids and I also spent quite a bit of time reading books in the animal room. This museum has such a great, laid-back attitude, and plenty of room for spreading out and getting comfy, we just all made ourselves at home on the floor in a corner of the animal room and dove into the pile of books on the shelf there. We read about the various animals on display, running to their cages to peek in and talk about what the book said about them, and crawling around pretending WE were the animals. Lots of fun! We also got to meet the museum's female Ball Python (we met the male on Tuesday when we were there) during a short "meet an animal" program they held while we were there. Such a wonderful museum, I'm so happy to have finally "discovered" it! Made for a lot of fun and learning on a rainy afternoon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

it's all about the chicks

Something I was doing on my other blog before I started writing here was to post weekly about what we're working on with homeschooling, which books we were reading, etc. I would like to try to continue that tradition here. We generally base our homeschooling week around a basic theme -- I (or occasionally the kids) choose a topic and then select some books/stories to support that topic, and then choose activities that go along with the theme. Some weeks have more specific topics (like this week), some are more general (like "spring").

This week it's all about the chicks.

So the first photo is our chicks as of today. They're about a week old, have "real" feathers on their wings and tails, but still are covered with soft fuzzy red down on the rest of their bodies and heads. They're already twice the size they were when I brought them home 4 days ago. They need a heat lamp (producing that reddish glow behind them) to keep them warm, and between that and the fact they they need to be draft-free for the next 6 weeks or so, our laundry room (which is where they are currently living) is a fairly stuffy, uncomfortable place to be right now. So our visits to see them are breif, but frequent -- Zoo Boy likes to check on them several times a day to make sure they have fresh food and water, and to count them and make sure they are all there. In a more natural setting, their mother would keep them warm by "brooding" them under her wings/body.
One of the books we're reading this week is Where Do Chicks Come From?, by Amy E. Sklansky, illustrated by Pam Paparone. This is one of the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science series. (In this photo, the boys are putting on a bit of a play about the development of a chick inside the egg, based on the illustrations of the book -- something they very much enjoy doing with our books.) For the most part I like the series because the Stage 1 books are geared towards preschoolers and kindergarteners, so the material is easily understandable by my kids, and there are fun activity/experiment suggestions at the end of the story that are also quite age-appropriate. There is a LOT of information provided in these books, which is both a blessing and a curse. I like it because it answers questions about the world and the way things work, and my kids always have tons of questions, so that makes my job of finding answer pretty easy. I dislike it because there is no sense of wonder or imagination in these books -- pretty much a just-the-facts-ma'am sort of thing. So when we read one of these books, I make sure we balance it with a more fanciful book on the same topic. In this case, that book is Daisy Comes Home, by Jan Brett (my favorite children's Author/Illustrator). This story has everything I love about Jan's books -- an enchanting tale with a bit of a moral, set in an exotic land (China in this case), with plenty of local culture, and lush illustrations. A definite must-read (and a book I very much would like to add to our own personal library).

Since I couldn't find any other chicken-related books that I liked, I chose as our third book (we always read 3 books every evening during our Family Story Time before bed) Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. It's a lovely rhyme about the homes that various animals have, and I tied it into the chick theme by discussing chicken homes (coops). We've been having as much coop fun this week as we've been having chicken fun. The kids have also used the illustrations in this book as a springboard for pretend play and acting out skits about various kinds of animal homes.
Speaking of which, here's J at the chicken coop at the children's museum yesterday, playing a game of find-the-egg by reaching under the chickens. This nest box system is a lot fancier than the one we have in our real-life chicken coop -- ours is a homemade row of wooden boxes. And generally we don't have to actually reach under chickens to collect the eggs -- usually our chickens just lay their eggs and go back to ranging about the farm. Regardless, collecting the eggs is always one of my kids' favorite chores to do here on our farm.

Also at the museum yesterday, Zoo Boy dressed up like a chicken when he visited the coop. He pretended to be a hen looking for a nest box to lay his egg in. He let out a pretty convincing "ba-GUCK!" as he layed his imaginary egg, too!

Other chicken activities planned for this week: An experiment to discover why a hen doesn't break an egg when she sits on it -- the darned things are pretty strong, so strong in fact that you can't break it when squeezing it (when held in the palm of your hand and squeezed with the same hand). Egg races (rolling hard-boiled eggs with your nose across the room -- it's impossible to roll an egg straight!). Cooking eggs by various methods (and exploring the anatomy of an egg at the same time). Dyeing hardboiled eggs, using crayons to draw a design first. And as a special treat on Friday Night (Family Movie Night), we'll rent Chicken Little. I'm sure other thing will come up as we go along too -- they always do!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

museum fun

Today we went to an animal program organized by the local homeschooling cooperative at a nearby (well, relatively speaking) children's museum. We'd not been to the museum before, though I can't say exactly why -- just hadn't gotten around to it yet, I guess. But I'm SO glad we went today. The program was on vertibrates (animals with backbones) and included a lot of hands-on materials, including live animals, so in consideration of not scaring any of them, I didn't take any photos of the actual presentation. But the kids loved it and spent quite a bit of time in the live animal exhibit area of the museum afterwards (seen in this first photo).
There are several rooms in the museum, one is set up like a barn and barnyard and there are lots of farm activities to participate in. One of the first things my kids were attracted to was the pulley system set up to move vegetables, eggs, etc from the floor of the barn up to the loft. There was a really cute "farm stand" with lots of plastic produce to pretend selling and buying.

There was also this great plastic cow, with a "realistic" milking system. Zoo Boy is trying out his milking skills here in this photo. Actually, he initially squatted down to milk, but on seeing him, J ran and fetched him this stool, saying "don't you know, you need a milking stool?" to which Zoo Boy exclaimed "oh yeah, I forgot". My farm boys!

By far their favorite part of the visit was the large variety of dress-up costumes available, representing just about every farm animal and farm person imaginable. Here J dresses up as a chicken while visiting the "chicken coop" area (where kids are encouraged to reach under the stuffed animal hens to look for eggs).

Here Zoo Boy is dressed up like a duck.

The museum was a huge hit with the kids, and I basically had to drag them out of there hours after the program we had gone to was over. Great spaces and materials for imaginative play, not only in the "farm" room, but in a room that focuses on Transportation as well. I bought a family membership on the way out -- I'm always looking for good places to visit on a rainy day, and this one is going at the top of my list!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

recycled fencing

To the left is a picture of our barnyard, taken this evening.

This is the project that I mentioned yesterday -- replacing our paddock fencing (which was wire cattle panels prior to yesterday) with wood board fence, which happen to be recycled sheep herding panels. These old oak boards have now been twice recycled by us, so given the strong recycling theme, I thought that it would be appropriate to post about this project today, Earth Day.

We originally came into these boards when we were invited to help take down and remove an old barn in exchange for as many of the boards as we wanted to keep. We jumped at the chance -- there's nothing quite like old, weathered wood boards! And these were beauties -- well, those that were long enough after cutting off the rotten ends to use. Not quite enough to construct a building from. But plenty to build a set of wooden fence panels to use in my dog training business.

Those sheep herding panels have seen plenty of use since then, they've been put up, taken down, stacked for storage, used for temprorary pens, you name it. But the past couple of years we've decided that we've gotten a bit weary of lugging those heavy oak panels hither and yon, and have decided to build a set of lighter weight panels. But what to do with the old panels which, though definitely starting to show some wear and tear, still look pretty darned good, and are appealingly rustic looking.

The answer was obvious. This weekend we replaced the wire cattle panels that comprised our pony paddock fencing with the wooden panels. It was a breeze -- the panels were the same size as the post spacing, as though they were made for just that (not by coincidence -- we try to keep all of our fence post spacing the same for consistancy sake) -- all it took was a few nails per panel, and voila! "New" paddock fencing, and a great new look for our barnyard.

We even recycled the wire cattle panels (can you tell we're really big on reusing things?) in another fencing project. This is at least the 5th time these panels have been reused -- when we have a new fencing need, we use them temporarily while we're waiting for a more permanent solution to arise. Here's a photo of The Map Man tying the panel into place to patch a hole in the fence left by the removal of the temporary pony shelter that we'd put up (and took down this weekend) for the new pony who didn't work out. What's he tying it in with? Why, something recycled of course! That's baling twine off the hay bale we opened up for the sheep this weekend. Nothing gets used only once around here.

Happy Earth Day to you all!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

spring finally found us

Spring finally found it's way to New England. It was a glorious day, and we did our best to take advantage of it!

We started the day with a surprise I brought home from the grain store -- 6 Rhode Island Red chicks. The kids were, of course, thrilled. And Zoo Boy says that our hens were excited too, when he told them about the new babies, although the babies have to live in the house with us for the next couple of months until they are big enough to move to the coop.

After getting our chicks settled into their new digs (the bottom half of a dog crate in the laundry room), we headed outdoors, where Zoo Boy took time to smell the flowers.

The Map Man got himself busy with a couple projects, one of which (pictured here) deserves it's own blog entry, so look for more photos and the story about our "new" paddock fencing in the next day or two. (The fact that it's NOT new is what makes it noteworthy -- in fact, it's older than we are....)

J decided to spend the bulk of the afternoon in a tree, the same way I spend many afternoons myself when I was a child. We're blessed to live in a situation that allows our kids to have the same sorts of freedom to explore that we had when we were kids. I know how rare that sort of thing is these days, and it's certainly not something that we take for granted.

Zoo Boy "pitches" in with the chicken coop cleaning -- he looks pretty good with that pitchfork, don't you think?

Friday, April 20, 2007

the tooth fairy

We've had quite a few visits from the Tooth Fairy around here lately. The teeth that have for months been teetering on the brink of falling from J's head finally did it -- first he lost a bottom tooth a week or two ago, suprising us all as his top ones were MUCH looser. Then one of the top front ones came out at breakfast one morning. And given that the one next to it (over which his adult tooth has been steadily growing in over the past month or two) was really only being held in at this point by the one that had fallen out, it was no suprise that it too fell out that same day.

At $1 a pop, the boy is getting rich quickly!

What happened to the bottom tooth was a big mystery -- all we know was that it was there when I brushed his teeth that morning, and was missing when The Map Man brushed them that evening. J suggested that it might be in the dining room, leading us to believe that it probably came out while he was eating dinner, so a grand hunt ensued to find the missing tooth. To no avail. We thought perhaps he was mistaken and it fell out elsewhere, but a quick scouring of the house didn't turn up anything. (Well, no teeth anyway, scouring the house always turns up a few surprises here and there!)

A very discouraged J headed to bed that night with no envelope to put under his pillow. The Map Man reassured him that the Tooth Fairy is pretty good at finding lost teeth, so he probably didn't have anything to worry about.

Sure enough, that Tooth Fairy worked her magic. In the morning J found a dollar under his pillow along with a very neatly printed note that read:

Dear J, I found your tooth in the dining room. Here is your dollar. I just love collecting teeth! I hear you have more loose teeth. I will be back to get them when they come out. From, The Tooth Fairy

Needless to say, J was thrilled that his inability to find the fallen tooth didn't affect the financial outcome, and he read the note to everyone he saw.

True to her word, the Tooth Fairy came back the night his other two fell out, and left him two dollars. He was pretty matter-of-fact about it, quickly wisking the dollars from under his pillow into his piggy bank.

A popular book around here lately has been Serina's First Flight: A Tooth Fairy's Tale, by Suanne Kelley Kopald. It has all the makings of a good fairy tale -- adventure, whimsy, a villainous sorceress, a group of stallwart helpers, a best friend, and, of course, fairies. A big thumbs up from the kids.

One more loose tooth to go this round (that other bottom tooth is loose). Of interesting note, his first two teeth (on the bottom) came out within a couple weeks of each other back in January of 2006. So it's been almost a year and a half between then and now. Not sure if that's "normal" or not, the dentist didn't seem too concerned. But it seems like he's "caught up" now in any case with this storm of falling teeth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

winning and the wisdom of children

Zoo Boy has recently had a preoccupation with winning. Or, more accurately, NOT winning. As in, to quote him, "I like to win, but when I play games with people I NEVER win, so I don't want to play games with people." This from a boy who both ADORES playing games, and who in general abhors playing by himself. Needless to say, this has weighed heavily on his, and hence my, mind -- how to play games and be with people yet avoid not winning.

A couple months ago, I bought a small supply of cooperative games by Family Pastimes to avert this sort of problem. They've been stashed away in my 'secret closet' (I'll have to blog about the secret closet at some point, but for now let's just say the closet itself is no secret, but what is in it IS, and it's padlocked to keep it that way), awaiting the right opportunity to emerge and delight. In thinking over Zoo Boy's recent dilemna with winning/not winning, I made a mental note to include "introduce new game" on the list of things to do today. Especially since twice yesterday he decline playing games (Chutes and Ladders and Cranium Cariboo) with J and me, choosing just to watch instead, with a sighed "I would never win, so I don't want to play".

But as it turns out, I never did have to unlock the secret closet this morning. Instead, the kids found their own solution to the competition problem. Above, you can see what they came up with. Using the Cranium Cariboo game set, they made up their own game, in which they worked as a team to dig up buried treasure. The "key" to unlocking the treasure compartments became a "shovel" in their imaginations, and they "dug up" the cards telling them which compartment to open, Zoo Boy working the "shovel" and J turning up the cards as he "dug". Mostly J let Zoo Boy do the work, serving as a combination coach and cheerleader. And in the end, when they'd uncovered all the treasure and opened the treasure chest, they celebrated with a victorious "we won!!" together.

I snapped my photo and got out of the way as they joyfully played another round of their game. The wisdom of children will never cease to amaze me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

the pooches

Since I've already introduced our old Vizsla, Devon, I figured I may as well introduce the rest of the canine crew, so I took a few quick pics while we were out playing with them this afternoon.

This first picture is of J playing with our three Smooth Collies. They're the same breed as the "Lassie" type Rough Collie, just a different coat type (Smooth= short-haired = a lot less grooming!). From left to right is our 4 month old sable and white male pup, our 5 year old tri-colored female (and J's best buddy), and our 18 month old blue merle female. All three of these dogs are very closely related, from a good line of working Collies. These are the dogs that I personally am most vested in, and most of my training efforts are focused on them. They are not dissappointing me!

Here is the Collie that started it all for me. He's 10 1/2 years old now, and getting a bit long-in-the-tooth, so to speak, but he's a grand old dog. It's no wonder I fell in love with the breed after working with him. He's been retired for a couple of years now, and is more than happy to let the youngsters do the farm work. He spends most of the day lying on "his rock", a good vantage point from which to keep a watchful eye over the entire farm.

Here's my small diversion. This cute little thing is our 3 year old Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) girl. She's a pretty good little sheepdog, too. I don't spend as much time working with her as I probably should, but she still gets enough work to earn her a spot in the "fab four", as I refer to the 4 dogs I am currently actively training.

And here's Teak. He's a 4 year old smooth-coated Border Collie, from a truly outstanding working lineage. I really should place this dog, as I've decided not to work him -- the amount of effort versus the quality of what I'm getting in return on investing time in him isn't worth it for me right now. Maybe if I had less "stuff" going on in my life. He COULD be a really great working dog. But I just don't have the time or energy for him. However, he's a wonderfully tolerant, mellow house dog, and just great with the kids and the other dogs, so I've found it hard to part with him. I placed him once, but he came back after experiencing problems in his new home. He's a complex dog, not for everyone -- he's very protective of his property and family, and that's what got him in trouble in his other home. But I have to believe there is the perfect home for him out there somewhere. I just have to get to the point where I can bring myself to look for it.

Monday, April 9, 2007

egg hunt(s)

The only really unusual things about having so many Easter pictures to share is that, well, we're not a Christian family, so we don't really celebrate Easter! But both The Map Man and I were raised Christians, and of both of our families are Christian (we're the only heathens in the lot....), so sometimes it's just easier to go with the flow. And heck, what's not to like about hunting for brightly colored eggs and eating a lot of chocolate!

So here's a photo series of our weekend activities. On Saturday we had an egg hunt at The Map Man's parents' house (first photo) and a big dinner, which was very yummy.

Then we had an egg hunt at our house on Sunday morning (because that's what the kids were apparently expecting -- fortunately, I was prepared just in case!).

Then the kids ate a lot of chocolate for breakfast. Fortunately, nobody had to be taken to the hospital in a diabetic coma. It's amazing the quantity of chocolate a child can consume and still live....

And then we went up to my parents' for dinner, which was also very yummy. Mom had baskets for the kids loaded with candy and toys and treats and insanity.

And then we had another egg hunt, because you just can't collect enough plastic eggs on a freezing cold weekend in April.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

barefoot in the chicken coop

We were out doing barn chores the other day. The way it usually works is that the kids basically keep themselves entertained while I work my butt off cleaning stalls, scooping poop, feeding critters, etc. There's a couple things they help me out with, but pretty much I just let them enjoy themselves (things get done quicker that way anyway!). Besides, there'll be plenty of time as they grow up to work THEIR butts off.

Anyway, this particular day was no different, other than it being pretty cold considering the fact that it's supposed to be spring. The mud was as deep as usual for this time of year, so the kids were in boots. And as usual, the kids were having a pretty good time chasing the chickens.

About those chickens -- Zoo Boy has long called them "Ghana Chickens" (taking a stab in the dark at how "Ghana" might be spelled, incidentally). I asked him at some point last year what made a chicken a"Ghana Chicken", and he explained that it was a chicken that liked to be chased. I doubted sincerely at the time that our chickens actually ENJOYED being chased, but I've since changed my mind -- if the kids decide to go climb trees rather than chase chickens, the chickens actually seek them out and roost up in the trees with them. So I guess they really ARE Ghana Chickens.

In any case, on this day, the chickens had the kids' full attention, so I left them to their fun and tended to my scooping duties in the pony pasture. I could hear their laughing and bits of conversation, mostly revolving around some aspect of chicken life. At some point I tossed a glance in their direction. That's when I noticed their boots were off. And their socks.

I read somewhere once that kids who are exposed to lots of germs when they are little are healthier than kids that live in obsessively clean, sterile environments. I always figured, if that's true, my kids are probably the healthiest kids on earth. It's a thought I clung to while trying to dismiss the feeling of slight nausea at the site of them barefoot in about the dirtiest place on the entire farm.

I kept my cool (being the totally cool country mom I am), and asked what made them take their boots off. The reason had something to do with a piece of hay inside that was tickling them. Which made me ponder what was more uncomfortable, a piece of hay in your boots or chicken poop between your toes? On a freezing cold day, no less.

I had them sit on a tire in the barnyard and went back to the chicken coop to retreive the boots. It was easy to find them, they were on the floor in the middle of the coop. But I couldn't seem to locate the socks. I looked inside the coop, I looked outside the coop, I dug around a bit in the hay, I couldn't find the socks. Just as I was about to ask the kids where they left them, I noticed a glimmer of white coming from the nest boxes. There was a white sock in each nest box, like some sort of weird, deflated, fuzzy eggs.

I wonder what those Ghana Chickens were thinking....

Saturday, April 7, 2007

why can't we all just get along?

She looks so cute and innocent, doesn't she?

That's our new pony. Er, um, WAS our new pony. She left our farm yesterday, headed towards another new home. She's a really wonderful little horse, who really adored me and the kids, and really HATED (with a burning passion) our little Shetland Pony. She wasn't too fond of my mare, either, but then again, the feeling was obviously quite mutual, and my mare chose to just stay away -- far, far away -- from her. But the little guy just wouldn't take no for an answer, and insisted on trying to approach her at every opportunity. So we kept them seperated for the past month, hoping they'd work it out eventually. And he did his darndest to -- he was as cute as he can be (which is pretty amazingly cute). Yet her response was increasing aggitation -- she kicked at him (via the fence) at every opportunity. The final straw came when she put a hole through the side of her temporary shelter in the wee hours of the morning this past week. For her own safety, and that of our other ponies, we had to find her a new place to live.

Fortunately, our farrier (a person who trims horse feet for a living) had another client whose older gelding was in mourning over the loss of their pony this past winter. She was anxious to give our pony a good home with plenty of love, attention, and less annoying companionship than a pint-sized naive pony boy drooling over the fence at her.

We are all pretty broken-hearted, she's such an easy horse to love, and we all shed some tears over her leaving. Well, all except for my mare, who was doing the happy dance of victory as the horse trailer pulled away. If a horse could smile, her grin would have been ear to ear. I told her to keep smiling -- this means that she's going to have to suck it up and let the kids ride her.

Friday, April 6, 2007

happy birthday, old girl

Yesterday was our Devon's 15th birthday. Devon is a Vizsla -- a medium-sized hunting dog, of which we've had several. Prior to moving to our farm 11 years ago, this was the breed of dog that suited us best -- two youngish married folks with no kids and lots of time for hiking and hunting and otherwise spending time in the outdoors. We didn't start getting Collies until we got sheep. And we didn't start having kids for several more years.

15 is a pretty momentous age to reach for a dog -- most don't. So of course we had a party! We went to Devon's breeders house and celebrated with her brother (on the left) and sister (in the middle). Her brother is from the same litter as Devon, her sister is actually older, from the previous litter. (Devon is on the right in this photo.) These are the last of the siblings, the others have all passed away, though most lived to ripe old ages themselves.

Here are the cakes! The one in the upper left corner is a special dog cake that Devon's breeder made for the birthday pups. The other two were for the humans at the party (which, with the young dogs out playing in the yard, were vastly outnumbered by Vizslas, or Vizslak which is the proper Hungarian plural for Vizsla).

Devon thought the dog cake was just delicious. It was a big hit with all the canine party-goers.

After all that partying, there's nothing left to do but take a nap! Here Devon (in the back) and her sister share a bed.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

lambing season

Actually, this is a little late for us, we usually lamb mid-February thru mid-March, but it was a weird winter. Other sheep farmers I've spoken to have said the same, nobody's having a particulary great lambing year. I had hoped the ewes that are lambing now would have been bred by our good brown ram, Hershey, but I can tell by the lambing dates (and the colors of the lambs!) that they were bred by our black clean-up ram Eko. (It's hard to keep a mature ram safely on the premesis, so we remove him once we know the ewes have been bred, then keep a ram lamb or two in with the ewes in case their breedings to the ram don't work, so we still get lambs, even if they're not of the genetics we prefer.)

The first photo is our 3 year old ewe Nilla and her day-old twin ram lambs, Gaius and Helo. We use a theme for naming our sheep each year -- the year Nilla was born it was flavors (Nilla is short for Vanilla). This year we're using names from the cable TV series Battlestar Galactica, which The Map Man and I are a bit obsessed with watching on DVD at the moment.

Two more of this year's lambs, twins out of our best ewe, Freckles. On the left is a ewe lamb named Kara, on the right is a ram lamb (who will become our new flock ram) Apollo. These babies were sired by Hershey, you can see how different they look from Nilla's lambs. They were born mid-February, and are about 6 weeks old in this photo.

Here's a soon-to-lamb 5 year old ewe named Buttercup. These are Katahdin sheep, which are a "hair breed" of sheep -- that means that they don't grow wool, but rather have a coat of hair like a deer. The breed was developed in Maine on Mount Katahdin (hence the name). We can tell that Buttercup is getting close to lambing by her very swollen udder and the way her back has "hollowed out" as her big pregnant belly has dropped in preparation for giving birth.

And finally, here are some of our yearlings (last year's lambs). All were sired by Hershey, so they are 1/2 siblings of Kara and Apollo (you can see the resemblence). Last year's theme was the TV series LOST, so we have Kate, Claire, Jack, Charlie, Sawyer, Sun and Anna Lucia. The two ram lambs we kept for clean-up breeding from last year were Eko and Jin, but they have since left our farm.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


I wasn't sure that was the word I was looking for. So I went to my handy-dandy Random House Dictionary to look it up, and their definition of adversity is "adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity".

Yup, that's the word I want!

Our lives this week were defintely marked by calamity. And since I have neither the desire nor the energy to move from this seat any time soon, I will write about it in detail, so that you too can share in the calamity. With illustrations, because somehow that makes it feel like the content is more blog-worthy. Even though, let's face it, I'll be lucky if anyone is still reading by the end....

The first photo is just my kids playing. Cute, eh? They were the cute part of the week, pretty much the ONLY cute part of the week. The non-adversity. Or would it be unadversity? How about cuteversity?

But anyway, about that adversity:

First, The Map Man (shown here during less traumatic times) got sick. With Pneumonia, of course, because if it was just a cold or the flu, it would totally suck, but it wouldn't be adversity. The stressful thing about Pneumonia is that it can kill you. So even though The Map Man wasn't anywhere near the verge of death (tho he probably felt like he was for a couple days there...), the POSSIBILITY of it turning into something much, much more dire loomed constantly, and made me order him to his sick bed for the week while I took care of all of the animal feeding and poop scooping and water hauling and stall mucking and chicken-coop cleaning and other big-burly-man-type jobs. (Mind you, in general I handle at least half of that stuff anyway, despite not being a big burly man, or even a big burly woman....)

Which would have been just fine, except then:

I threw my back out. Oh, I've got a history of back trouble in my lower back. But this wasn't in my lower back, it was in my mid-back. You know, just the place that carrying a bucket full of water puts a strain on. A brand new area to experience the sort of pain that only comes with messing with the spinal column.

Of course, I did this on the FIRST DAY that The Map Man took to his sick bed. Because if I'd waited until he was better, that would have been far less inconvenient and adverse and, what was that word? Oh yes. That would have contributed far less to the CALAMITY of the situation.

Things like this bring you to a quick tally of your friends. And then the sad discovery that, while I have many good friends, the ones that are the sorts of friends that would come over and haul 18 buckets of water out to my barn all live over an hour away (many of them STATES away) or have equally bad backs.

The second sad discovery was that, although the last time I hurt my back we talked PASSIONATELY and FREQUENTLY about replacing our old, worn-out sliding glass door that leads to the dog yard with something that works with a nob and a fraction of the effort to open and close, we never actually DID replace it.

Needless to say, I'm not really in any better shape today than I was 6 days ago when I first hurt my back, because I've been opening and closing that door dozens of times and hauling 18 buckets of water out to the barn daily.

Meanwhile, I still had those two cute kids from the first photo to look after and keep out of their father's hair, plus all of the household crap that generally has to be dealt with on a weekly basis (and which I normally can count on The Map Man to carry his share of). Oh yeah, and that pesky job thing, you know, the one where I take time away from my family for meager wages. Though it was fortunately a "lite" week on the work front for me. It still sucked.

Plus, to add a cherry to the top of this sundae-of-misery, we got bloodwork results back on our little Shetland Pony, which confirmed that he's as sick as we think he is. Which meant more visits from vets and other associated equine professionals, more bills (ugh), and more stress.

Needless to say, those cute kids didn't get much in the way of organized homeschooling this week. We were purely on survival mode around here. I think I actually let them eat potato chips and pretzels for lunch one day....

So maybe adversity wasn't really the word I was looking for. Maybe it was great-big-whine-fest. Or Pity Party. Or oh-woe-is-me-has-there-ever-been-a-more-pitiful-family.

Good news, I suppose, is that this week is bound to be better. Right? Right? RIGHT??!! Hello, is this thing on???