Archive for August, 2009

A Cow in the Van?!

August 31, 2009

Why of course, when that’s the only means of transportation you have!

One year, the dairy where I buy my bull calves called.  Julie had a bull calf for us and I was so excited because we ‘d been waiting for one and it had been a long time.  I went to get him and he settled in right away.

Julie called me again the next night and said, “I have a proposition for you….”

Beware the propositions!!  I reluctantly said,  “Okay?”  She proceeded to tell me that they’d had a pair of twins born, a bull and a heifer.  When a heifer is born with a bull, the heifer is sterile.  They wouldn’t be able to use her at the dairy.  The twins were born a month early, Julie said, and they weren’t sure they would make it.  Julie told me, “John and I said if anyone could keep them alive it would be you.”  And I was sucker enough to fall for that line!

Because they weren’t sure if they would live, Julie said they would give the calves to us.  I went to pick them up.  They were a little smaller but not by much!  We fed them goats milk and they grew quickly.  We never did have any problems with them.  Now we had 3 calves and I couldn’t feed that many for 18 months.  We had another friend with some acreage and they were looking to try and raise their own meat.  I told them I would sell the heifer, Riberta, to them once she was weaned, if they were interested.

They were excited about the deal because when they got her, they wouldn’t have to mess with the bottle and she could go right to pasture.

The day came when it was time to take Riberta over to our friend’s place.  They only live about 8 minutes from us (my kids have timed it) so it’s not far.  But it’s far when you don’t have a trailer.  Dave had to go into work and I was on my own with the kids to get this calf over to the other place.  These are the times you’re either  really glad you taught your kids deductive reasoning or you’re kicking yourself that they can intelligently work through a problem.

My thought was to tie her up in the back of the truck and  away we would go!  Simple, easy, no muss, no fuss!

“No way!” my kids said.  First of all, she weighed a couple hundred pounds by now and a  lot of it was leg – how were we going to “just lift her into the back” of the truck?  And, the back of the truck was a little high…

Secondly, you had to be 18 to ride in the back of the truck. (This is the down side of multiple kids trying to get their licenses and actually reading the whole driving manual!)  I was the only one home over 18 and I had to drive.

Thirdly, who was going to hold her down if she got “wild”  in the back of the truck!?  Okay, the possibility did exist that she could flip a kid over the side of the truck …

So what were we going to do!?  I glanced over at our 12 passenger van and the kids followed my eyes.

“Mom!! Dad will shoot you if you put that calf in the back of the van!!”

“Well, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.  How else are we going to get this calf over there?”

They all stood there shaking their heads…and I really don’t know why.  I’ve done crazier things than this and they should know me by now!

“Look”, I said matter-of-factly, trying to convince them this was a great idea, “if we put sheets on the back of the seat and on the floor, I know it will be fine.  Just pray she doesn’t poop in the van.”

“Mooooooom!  If we do this, it’s because you told us to.  We told you not to cuz Dad wouldn’t like it!”


“Okay, I’ll take the blame on this one.  Now grab some blankets and sheets and let’s get her in the van.”

It was so simple!  Riberta jumped right in, well, sort of , with a little help from the kids. 🙂  And, she wasn’t too smooshed.  Yes, this plan was going to work and since it was only 8 minutes, Dave might never know.  Of course, that would be highly unlikely with all these kids as witnesses!

So off we went….and so did Riberta.

We were hardly out of our road when the kids started sniffing, long and loud sniffs.  Then, “Ohhhhh Mom!!!  That smell!!  Can’t you smell that!?  It reeks!”  At which point they began to open the van windows, shoving their noses into the air , gasping for breath.

“Mom,I think she farted!”  “No way, it has to be more than that!  It smells too bad!”

I asked the kids to look and see.  “Mom, I can’t see the ground – she’s taking up all the room back here but man, does it stink!!”

The gagging and surmising of what we were going to find back there continued until we reached our destination…

Riberta could see out of the back window and seemed to be enjoying her ride.  She was a Holstein, black and white.  I looked out my side mirror and noticed a car traveling very close to me – umm, I think we could call it tailgating.  There was a woman driving who kept straining to see over her steering wheel.  I didn’t think there was any law about transporting calves in vans and my kids didn’t mention any.  What was she looking at any way?  Hadn’t she ever seen a cow in the back of van before?  For pete’s sake, we lived in the country, didn’t we?

This lady followed us almost the whole way there.  I think she was still shaking her head when she turned.

Finally, we made it to our friend’s place.  We all were a little scared of what we would find when we opened the back of the van.  We slowly cracked open the door.  Yep, she had pooped all over the back of the van.   And, of course, when we loaded her, she moved the sheet some and pooped right on the van carpet – and not just once!

Kerri did have some heavy duty carpet cleaner and I scrubbed and scrubbed.   It cleaned up good as new!  No one would ever suspect that we had transported a cow in the back of our van – unless my kids were around to tell the tale!

I imagined what it would have been for Riberta that night in the barn with the other animals.  You know how it is at parties where people are just meeting one another and trying to make a good impression by “one upping” each other?

Well, I suspect there may have been some of that happening…

“So, you, new girl.  I notice you have a nice nylon halter on your face.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you my leather one with the shiny silver on it!”

“Nice looking legs and all, but it’s too bad you don’t have wings like me and can fly to the top of the fence.”

“How’d you get here?  We all came in an old two horse trailer – nothing beats that kind of traveling!”

And little Riberta, chewing her cud, looks up at the horses, the chickens, and the goats.  With those big black eyes and longs lashes, she blinks a few times and pauses…”Well ya’ll, I rode in the back of a Chevy 12 passenger van and stood on carpet the whole way here.”


“So, why do you homeschool?”

August 27, 2009

I’m often asked why we decided to homeschool.  My first answer is usually…

“Well, with this many kids, there was no way I could get everyone dressed, fed, and out the door with a lunch to catch a bus on time!”

I have my degree in Speech Education.  I went to public school until 9th grade and then 2 different christian schools for the rest of high school.  There were 9 in my graduating class!  Hey – I was in the top 10% of my school!!

Dave was in public school all the way through.

I did some student teaching during my senior year of college at a public school.  Before Dave and I were married, I did substitute teaching in the public schools in NH.  These 2 experiences began to put real doubts in my mind about our public school system.

We lived in CA when Catherine, our eldest, was born.  Dave and I were visiting with some of our college professors and one of them asked if we’d given any thought to her future education.  I said sure.  Since I was a highschool teacher and had worked with Junior highers, I definitely wanted to homeschool during the Jr. High years because they were just nasty!

Our Prof challenged me – “You realize that the Elementary years are the most impressionable and those are the years they spend all day with the same teacher.  So whatever his or her values are, that’s what your child will be hearing and embracing for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 8 months out of the year.”

Wow!  I’d never thought of it like that!  It scared me just a little because I remembered some of the teachers I’d had in Elementary school.  I started to re-think when I would homeschool.

Poor Catherine.  She was the first to enter our homeschool.  I’d been to the homeschool seminars, I’d looked through tons of material, I talked with other homeschool moms, I was trained in the public school format for teaching and I was ready.  I bought Catherine a desk and chair.  I had the alphabet taped to the wall. I had my lesson plans all written out and she was going to be reading and  finished with Kindergarten in no time if we kept on schedule!

Our first day: the special “school outfit”, the nutritious breakfast, the thorough, minute by minute lesson plan, the new pencil box complete with sharpened pencils and unbroken  crayons.  I was ready….now teach!  And I did, in perfect public school style, and Catherine was in tears and hated school by the end of the first hour!!!

Great – now what.  This was my first lesson of many, many, many, in flexibility and adjustments.  And thus began my journey of homeschooling.  It’s been 16 years (ahhg! I’m not old enough to have been teaching that long!) and I will start my 17th in two weeks.  I’m still adjusting!

Each child is so different and their learning styles and interests are quite varied.  My teaching style has not changed much – I’m not a good elementary teacher.  I consider it a huge accomplishment  when my kids learn to read and do long division.  I’ve learned to expect the tears – we’ll get through with perseverance!

When people asked us if we were going to school through high school, our answer was always the same.  One year at a time and then re-evaluation.   There was only one time that I seriously considered sending one of my kids to public school.  I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to teach this child!  My mother-in-law has been a huge resource for me.  She’s a child psychologist and was a counselor in the Portland school system for 30 years.  Even she was in agreement to send this child to school.  But there was something in me to keep trying.  Through many tears and frustrations (these were mine! ) we made it!  Had this child been in a public or private school, she most assuredly would have been labeled and that would have only added to the issues we were working through.

I wanted the freedom to go on field trips, to stay longer on a subject that caught their fancy and I didn’t want a system to dictate when my child had to be in school.  Dave and I are fairly entrepreneurial and I wanted my kids to have the opportunity to have their own businesses and pursue interests that might not fit into a typical school schedule.

It’s funny.  As I start to list the reasons why we homeschool, my head is flooded with memories that substantiate our decisions.  Each year we did re-evaluate and each year we were more convinced that we needed to keep them home.  One of our philosophies is to give a lot of opportunities and experiences to our children, especially in an area where they’ve shown some interest or aptitude.  They are all so individual in their talents and giftedness.  This has worked well for us and our three eldest knew what they wanted to pursue early in high school or before. This fall, Catherine will be entering her senior year as a Nursing Major and Lauren is in her second year of Education.

I realize this is a cursory overview of why we have homeschooled for so many years.  I’ve been a part of co-ops, I’ve taught in co-ops; I’ve been a part of support groups, I’ve organized and led support groups.  I’ve done a strict curriculum and I’ve done the salad bar approach – a little of this and a little of that!  I’ve had great seasons and some that were not so great. I’ve homeschooled in 3 different states, each with their own regulations.  I have auditory learners, visual learners, tactile learners; I have some kids who are self-motivated and others who are “mom-motivated”.  But mostly through it all, I know I have learned so much more  than I ever taught!

Will we continue to homeschool?  I will this year and then we’ll re-evaluate.  Remember, one year at a time!

Bobcat Fast Food

August 21, 2009

I know I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t come from farming heritage and I especially want  you to remember this fact when I tell you this story. 🙂

We were living in CA, in Monterey County.  We lived on 2 acres of land, 1 of which was useable.  One of the first farm animals that we purchased was chickens.  They came to us in the mail and we were enthralled with these little fuzzy creatures!  We spent countless hours holding them, observing them, playing with them, etc.

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Then they moved into the pullet stage and they weren’t quite so cuddly anymore and it was time to move them out of the house.

Lauren (9 years old) was our “chicken girl”.  Each child had claimed a particular farm animal and she very much wanted to be in charge of the chickens.  She took her job seriously and saw to their every need.  We converted an old tool shed on the property into a hen house with an enclosed chicken yard.  The hen house was great but I’d also read about “free-range” chickens and I loved the thought of chickens running around the yard.


So, we let them out of the hen house during the day and locked them up at night.  We’d seen huge raccoons and possums and other critters that would love to “taste” our chickens.  We also had a young Bobcat that would slink around our home at dusk.  He was beautiful and I’d never had so much wildlife this close by.


One day, the kids were in the school room doing school.  All was quiet and peaceful and I was doing work in the kitchen.  All of a sudden, Catherine and Lauren both came running into the kitchen.  Catherine was full of exuberance and excitement and Lauren was devastated and in tears!!

“Girls!  What in the world has happened?!”

They both started to speak at the same time but Catherine’s voice won out.

“Mom, it was the coolest thing!  We were sitting at our desks doing our work and watching the chickens in the yard.  All of a sudden, that Bobcat came racing through and snatched up one of the chickens and ran off!!  I’ve never seen anything like that before!”

As she paused for breath, Lauren began with tears running down her cheeks…

“Mom, that stupid Bobcat came out of nowhere and grabbed one of MY chickens and ran off with it!!  I know he’s going to eat it!!”

Hmmmm, think fast.  I held Lauren and consoled her while I gave Catherine the “mother eyes” that said, “I understand your excitement but for the sake of your sister, maybe you should tone it down a smidge.”  She ran off to tell the others while I talked with Lauren.

Tough lesson learned:  it doesn’t matter if the books say an animal is “nocturnal and only hunts at night.”  When they’re hungry, they don’t care what time of day it is!  They’re opportunists and when the opportunity is there, they take it, even if it’s a chicken that belongs to a sweet little girl.

After that, we locked the chickens back up during the day unless we were outside to keep an eye on them.  We even had a freind bring over her dogs so they could “mark” our property.


It wasn’t long after this “fast food” incident that Lauren went out to do something at the chicken house.  When she came back in, she was worked up and rather indignant.

“Mommy, that bobcat was back.  He was right by my chicken house and had one of my chickens in his mouth!”

“You’re kidding?!  Well, do you want me to go out there and do something?”

“Oh no, I already took care of him.”


“Yep, when I saw him, I got angry and remembered when he ran off with my other chicken. I yelled at him but he didn’t move.  So I grabbed the rake and ran after him screaming and yelling.  He dropped the chicken and  ran away.”

“Lauren, you do realize he’s a wild animal and if he wanted to, he could really hurt you.”

“Well, yeah Mom, but he was after my chickens and he already got one.  I wasn’t about to let him have another one!”

Lauren was my quiet child, the peace-maker, the comforter.  She never got riled or worked up over anything.  And now she was chasing a bobcat with a rake?!  Yep, she was the right one to put in charge of the chickens!  She was taking her job very seriously.  However, after I praised her for her courage, I did suggest that she come in and get me or dad if that ever happened again…

We didn’t see much of that bobcat afterwards.  I’m sure his mom had warned him, “Stay away from all crazed humans carrying rakes – you never know what they might do!”

Now that Lauren's in college, she's no longer in charge of the chickens...but I still wouldn't want to be the animal that tried to hurt her chickens!

Now that Lauren's in college, she's no longer in charge of the chickens...but I still wouldn't want to be the animal that tried to hurt her chickens when she is around!

Homesteading Tweezers – Part 2

August 17, 2009

I told you that there would be more uses for my tweezers and sure enough, it happened!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend was over visiting the farm.  She was up by the goat yard and noticed a small feathery lump on the ground making a lot of noise!  She looked to see and it was a baby bird.  She picked it up and came to me.

I knew exactly where the nest was because I had been watching the baby birds as they grew.  I knew they were getting to full size and this little one must have flunked flight school this particular day.  I went to get the ladder to put him back in the nest but his determination to keep up with the rest of his siblings kept dumping him back onto the ground again.

This little Fox Sparrow was determined to fly and wouldn't stay in his nest!

This little Fox Sparrow was determined to fly and wouldn't stay in his nest!

If I left him there, either the dogs or the cats would find him first and they would think nothing of gobbling up this tasty treat – feathers and all!  Megan was with us and was all excited about trying to keep him alive.  Leigh gave him the name “Spike” and Megan decided on the food of choice.  After all, she’d done all that research for the baby Swallows who had been only a couple of hours old.  This bird was much bigger and could eat much “bigger” food!

He was named Bob - we were guessing on gender.

He was named Spike - we were guessing on gender.

We had some great worms right near where we were standing – big, fat, slimy ones.  Just the kind birds love!  Leigh’s enthusiasm did not match mine at all.  I chided her, “This is not about you and what you like, it’s all about the baby bird you found!”

She looked at me sheepishly, “Well, then, can I use your tweezers?”

I was dumbfounded!  How dare she ask me to use my personal, eyebrow-plucking tweezers!  She knew that story about Colonel and the tick removals and yet she still had the audacity to ask to use them!  Leigh had that impish grin that quite clearly was saying, “This is not about you and what you like, it’s all about the baby bird that I found!”

I relented and had Megan go and retrieve the tweezers while I hunted for worms.  It’s one thing to get worm slime all over your fingers, but for pete’s sake, I certainly wouldn’t purposely put that slime on anything I used so close to my face!!  Ugh!

I found some good sized worms and told Leigh, “Here, I’ll hold Spike and you break them apart so they’re baby bite sized!”  She wouldn’t even take the worm from my hand!!  A farm girl she was not 🙂   Though not my favorite activity, I did pull apart that worm into tiny pieces.  I handed one to Leigh and she dropped it, again and again.  She just couldn’t get past the goo!

So, Megan fed the baby bird…

This is Megan's hand holding the worm...

This is Megan's hand holding the worm...

Leigh took the tweezers, my tweezers, and picked up the next piece of worm.  Man!  Worm guts all over my tweezers!  But Spike didn’t care how dinner was served, he opened up that little beak and down it went!

After Spike’s little belly was full, we had to find a place to keep him where he could be safe from other critters.  I had some old bird cages on the front porch for decoration but they were still in good use.  Leigh assured Spike everything would be okay…

"Don't mind those 5 cats and 4 dogs- you'll be safe in this antique, old, flimsy bird cage...I'm not sure Bob was buying it!

"Don't mind those 5 cats and 4 dogs- you'll be safe in this antique, old, flimsy bird cage...I'm not sure Spike was buying it!

Now, baby birds have to be fed about every 20 minutes between sunrise and sunset.  Leigh fed the baby Sparrow one more time.  Oh, not only did she use my tweezers, she also used my kitchen knife and cutting board!!!  She wasn’t about to pull apart that worm.  I’m telling you, the things I put up with for the sake of these little wild creatures!

Leigh's using MY tweezers to feed Spike so she wouldn't get worm slime on her hands!

Leigh's using MY tweezers to feed Spike so she wouldn't get worm slime on her hands!

Bob's spacious accommodations for the evening.

Spike's spacious accommodations for the evening.

Complete with a Lamb's Ear lined plastic bowl for his "nest"

Complete with a Lamb's Ear lined plastic bowl for his "nest"

Could Canning Peaches Get Any More Difficult?!

August 13, 2009

It’s time for a history lesson regarding my side of the family – from my perspective (that’s the disclaimer in case any of my extended family reads this blog!)

My mother, and I love her dearly,  has the same affection for cooking that I do – it’s nonexistent!  As kids, we used to tease her about having a very close relationship with Betty Crocker.  She bought all her prepackaged food items.  We ate a lot of Hamburger Helper – a marvelous invention, according to my mom.  There were 4 of us kids, 2 girls then 2 boys.  Volume was more important than quality because there were always extra kids at the dinner table.

I also didn’t grow up near relatives. We always seemed to be a few states away.  Therefore, I never learned the typical “Grandma hand-me-downs” like food preservation.  Although, I’m not sure how much food preservation my Grandma did either!

So, canning and pressure cooking were a great unknown to me.  I was intrigued by the process of putting up food for the winter and began to explore this new territory.  I had a friend who always canned peaches each year in Seattle and I asked her how it was done.  She gave me the overview and I purchased a Ball Canning book and a canner.

My second child was born July 5 and that’s also the month that peaches came into season.  Not to be slowed down by a new baby, after all the pioneer women weren’t, I forged ahead and bought A LOT of peaches.  I planned out the day and the preparation necessary.

Everything in place in the kitchen, put Catherine down for a nap, nurse Lauren and tuck her into the blanket on the floor in the kitchen, and in no time I should have all my new canning jars filled with the beautiful, peachy glow of canned peaches.  I had wonderful visions in my head of how this would all look lined up on the shelf.

Okay, here’s the reality…

The kids were great and followed the schedule.  However, the peaches did not!  I started into the box, hand peeling each peach.  By the time I was ready to fill the jars with the syrup, the liquid had cooled and I had to heat it all over again.  My friend said getting the peaches ready for the jars was fast, painless, a joy, so fulfilling…I was experiencing nothing of this.  It was taking me forever and Catherine’s nap time was almost over and Lauren was beginning to stir for another feeding.  For anyone who’s canned peaches, you understand how hard it is to find a place to stop during the whole process.  The peaches begin to turn a nasty shade of brown, then the syrup cools and everything is so sticky that it’s best to keep going to avoid all the extra clean up.

After a couple of hours, I’d only made a small dent in the boxes of peaches I’d purchased.  I just knew as soon as Catherine (2 years old), saw what I was doing, she was going to want to “help” and I wasn’t confident enough in my canning skills to allow that this time.  A small panic began to swell and I peeled even faster, hoping and praying today would be the day my two girls would sleep longer.

I’d finally filled enough jars to put into the canner.  I set the timer and was furiously working on the second set of jars…juice running down my arms, peels stuck  all over the sink and surrounding area, sticky syrup dribbled on the counter and equipment and me.  But I was into a rhythm and then the unthinkable happened…

Nope, the girls who were both up by now, were being angels and Catherine was “taking care of baby.”  Nope, no one knocked at my door.     In July, on a calm summer day, the electricity went out!!!  Unbelievable!  I would never get these stupid peaches finished!  By now, all the glamour and nostalgia of putting up my own food was gone.  I was in the middle of a huge mess with a toddler and a newborn, the canner was close to being finished with my first batch of jars and now, no electricity.  How do you figure processing time with a power outage in the middle?!

So, with that homesteading spirit, I did what any woman in my position would do….you thought I was going to say cry didn’t you!

Nope, I just kept going and finished filling the rest of the jars.  Eventually, the power came back on and I completed the task of canning all those peaches.  There was a great sense of satisfaction seeing all those jars lined up on the shelf after the kitchen was cleaned and everything put back in order.  This had been a lot of work…  more than I had anticipated.

The kicker of this story is, I went to my friend a few days later after I’d had a chance to recoup from this peach ordeal and told her my whole experience.  I explained how I had carefully peeled each peach.  It  was here that she looked at me funny.  I said, “What?”

“You mean to tell me you hand peeled each peach?”

“Yes, you told me I needed to take off the skins before I put them in the jars.”

“Well, yes, but didn’t you put them in hot water first?”

“Noooo, does that make a difference?”

For those of you who can peaches, you’re smiling now and shaking your head and possibly feeling a little bit of sympathy for me and my ignorance.  For those who have never canned peaches, let me give you this little tidbit of advice before you attempt to can peaches.  It will save you hours of work.  If you heat a pot of water to almost boiling and put your peaches in the water for a minute or less, then take the peaches and put them in cold water, the skins practically fall off!  It’s fast and easy… and fun 🙂   (My kids now love this part of doing peaches.)

And I ask you, if you wouldn’t mind, to share any canning wisdom/experiences to help those who are venturing into this aspect of homesteading.  Secretly, I’m hoping there are more tips out there that I don’t know yet!   Oft times, experience is more valuable than book learning 🙂


Except for what we ate, these four boxes equal one bushel of peaches.

Except for what we ate, these four boxes equal one bushel of peaches.


Peaches in very hot water (water bath).  This is the step I wasn't aware of my first time!

Peaches in very hot water (water bath). This is the step I wasn't aware of my first time!


After the peach has been in the cold water, pinch the skin to start the peeling.  This is the part I didn't know about!

After the peach has been in the cold water, pinch the skin to start the peeling.


The skin slips right off!

The skin slips right off!


Occasionally you'll have to cut out a bad spot.

Occasionally you'll have to cut out a bad spot.


Peeled Peaches in no time at all!

Peeled peaches in no time at all!


The assembly table

The assembly table


Cut the peaches and put in the canning jars

Cut the peaches and put the slices in the canning jars


Light syrup to put into each jar of peaches

Light syrup to put into each jar of peaches


Pouring hot syrup into each jar

Pouring hot syrup into each jar


It's important to get the air bubbles out of each jar before putting them in the canner

It's important to get the air bubbles out of each jar before putting them in the canner. Put on the lids and secure with the rings.


The jars in the canner

The jars in the canner


Ready for the shelf!

Ready for the shelf!

CPR for Sheep

August 10, 2009

I must say, animals are a huge part of homesteading.  They provide hours of entertainment and some of  heartache.  We’ve had our share of deaths here at the farm, an incredible time of learning for my kids.

However, we’ve also had many successes, near death experiences coming back to life!  Those are worth remembering…

I thought I’d share one of our first “near deaths” with you.

We moved here to the farm in December of 2002.  This was the second move we’d made in a December.  Please hear me on this, I don’t recommend this month at all.  There are 11 other months that are much more favorable.  Moving in December kinda messes up the holidays!

Anyway, we bought our first animal in January.  I told you I was ready to go!  It was Sage, our Shetland sheep.  She was a “bummer” lamb.  She’d been rejected by her mom and had to be bottle fed.  A lot of farmers don’t want to mess with bottles because it’s so time consuming and milk replacer is expensive.  Well, I was looking for those bottle babies.  I had 6 children, 12 hands, that were eager and ready to hold that bottle!

Sheep are herd animals so I needed another one.  This was my intellectual argument to Dave.  Sure we had a baby goat but it wasn’t a sheep.  Sage needed one of her own kind.  Of course, I didn’t mention that the goat was a herd animal also and…  see where I’m going with this and why the animals multiply so quickly?

Sage, the first farm animal we owned at the Lazy B Farm

Sage, the first farm animal we owned at the Lazy B Farm



Soon we found another farmer who had Romney sheep and she had a “bummer” lamb also.  This lamb was pure white and the typical picture of an Easter lamb.  


Did I mention yet that I’d never raised  sheep before?  Had only read books on raising sheep?  Am impulsive and tend to jump right in…with both feet?

Buttercup was doing so well.  And then Victoria went up to the barn one morning to feed her.  She found Buttercup dead in the stall, her belly as big as a basketball.  Bloat.  I didn’t know it could happen on the bottle…

I quickly called the lady whom I’d bought her from.  I confessed what had happened and that I had mended my ways.  Thankfully she had another one available – the twin of Buttercup.  Their mother was blind and did okay taking care of them but it would be best to take the lamb away.  I went to pick the baby up, much wiser this time about bottle feeding lambs.  We named her Rosie.

However…. well, wait.  Let me explain what the books say.  When you bring a new animal onto your farm, they highly recommend that you quarantine your new animal just to make sure they’re disease free before you release them into the rest of your herd.  Okay, that made sense.

However, this was a baby lamb who had just come from a large herd, lots of playmates and sleeping buddies.  But I did just as the book said, I separated Rosie from the other babies- two goats (remember, goats are herd animals!) and 1 lamb.  We’d just had company show up at the farm and we were in the driveway talking with them.  All of a sudden, I heard this banging and scraping on metal. Sometimes, the baby goats would climb on the metal feeder trying to play “King of the Mountain.”  The noise kept going and I asked Victoria if she would go check in the barn to see what was going on.

Victoria came running out yelling hysterically.  (Don’t forget, she’s the one that found the other lamb dead with a distended belly- -a little unnerving for a kid.)

“Mom!!!  Rosie’s dying!!  Rosie’s dying!!!”

Panic gripped me and I ran to the barn as fast as I could.  I would NOT let another lamb die and I was determined.  I found Rosie in her little stall on her back with legs flailing against the metal siding of the barn.  She wasn’t breathing.  I grabbed her up and started to rub her vigorously, all the time saying, “Come on baby, just breathe!”  Rubbing wasn’t working, she still wasn’t breathing.  I banged on her chest hoping for that one big breath…nothing.

I’ve been a life guard, I’ve had CPR training and that was the next thought that came to mind.  “Cyndi – breathe for her!”

I was still cradling Rosie in my arms.  I put my hand over her nose and put my mouth over hers.  

I tell you, when that “mothering instinct” kicks in, we’ll do just about anything, huh?!  I took a deep breath and blew into her mouth.  I began to rub her chest again.  Nothing.  One more time I covered her nose,  put my mouth over hers and blew.

Rosie took a BIG breath and started to bleat.  HOORAY!!  I was so shaky!  I cuddled her and cooed over her, thankful she’d been spared.

The other babies meandered back into the barn.  We’d chased them out when all the commotion began.  I put Rosie down and chucked the book knowledge.  The others came up to her and nosed her a bit as if to say, “Hey, wanna play with us?”   

Rosie followed right behind them out into the yard as if nothing had ever happened!

I just shook my head and walked back to Dave and our company, my legs a little bit like noodles.  I told  the whole story and then asked Dave if he would give me a big ol’ kiss for saving the lamb!!  He said not until I washed my lips with soap, lots of soap …and scrubbed with a bristle brush!!  Man, what kind of gratitude is that? 🙂


Rosie is the one n the front.  She and I share a special bond...and spit!

Rosie is the one in the front. She and I share a special bond...and spit!

Homesteading – Herbs

August 6, 2009

I’ve always loved the out of doors.  I remember the home we lived in in Connecticut.  It was on the outskirts of town and across the street from woods, my woods!  I remember sneaking off so my younger siblings wouldn’t follow me.  I’d find my hide away by a pine tree whose limbs hung over a gently babbling brook.  I loved sitting there…listening to all the sounds, daydreaming.  I would dream of living in the wilderness of Colorado and living off the land, making it on my own and the animals were my friends!  I was about 9/10 years old and even then my heart yearned for the outdoors.

It’s no wonder to me, that when I had children, that desire found it’s way to the surface again.  I couldn’t wait to have my children discover the wonders and awesomeness of nature.  Of course, living in  a sub-division in Seattle had its limitations, so I did all I could to bring nature to them.

I think one of my most significant decisions was making a choice to grow herbs and to use them.  I’d had a friend who had her baby at home and her mid-wife used all kinds of herbs during the pregnancy and delivery.  I was fascinated with this initial introduction to herbs!



Dave made the decision to start his own recording studio, which meant we were going to be self-employed.  I was pregnant with #4.  We didn’t have any medical insurance and I realized how critical it was for me to be proactive in keeping my kids healthy and out of the Drs. office.  (I’m not fond of doctors on the whole, so this was an easy decision.)


I’d been reading and studying about herbs.  One day, Dave came down with an ailment (a rather embarrassing one – kept running to the bathroom!)  I looked for a remedy in my handy-dandy herb book.  Lucky for him, I had what they suggested!  I brought it to Dave and he kept kidding me about the voodoo medicine.  I said, “Just try it and let’s see what happens!”  Finally he consented…. and it worked!  I was a believer and Dave?  Well, let’s just say he was  a little less skeptical!  To this day, however, he still refers to it all as the voodoo medicine 🙂

Pansies - they're edible and adorable!

Pansies - they're edible and adorable!



 I incorporated herbs into my gardens all around the house. I began making teas from the herbs I grew. I used the herbs to make gifts (a start-up business does not a millionaire make!), I used them in my cooking, I used them for medicinal purposes.  I never worried about my kids “tasting” them.  I also didn’t grow the ones that could be dangerous, like Foxglove.  I read books on herbs and loved the fact that so many varieties were perennials – they came back year after year.  Let’s face it, I was hooked!





When we lived in CA, we had Miner’s Lettuce growing all over.  We learned that the miners would make salads from this wild herb so we did too!  It was great and the kids really like it.  And yep, my kids have been known to eat flowers.  I’ve served flowers in salads, on desserts, and in punch.  Makes for a great conversation piece.





At a time when Health Care Insurance seems so unreliable and outrageously expensive, I’m still a huge proponent of herbs and their use.  They’re so multi-faceted and easy to grow!  By learning to use herbs and being proactive in taking care of my family’s health, I’m less dependent on the medical system of this country.  And right now, that seems like a very good “homestead” decision!

Cats Don’t Like Water!

August 3, 2009

There are some truths that are universal no matter what the circumstances.  One of them is the fact that cats don’t like water, no matter how wonderful and tolerant the cat may be!


Rascal as a kitten

Rascal as a kitten




I was folding clothes in the bedroom when Alexandra found me and asked, “Mom, do you see anything different?”

Having played this “game” before, I became very attentive to every detail on her person.  “Ummmm, your skirt is wet…how did your skirt get wet?”  She was very pleased that I had won this round!

Alexandra had discovered the rainwater left in the bed of Dave’s truck.  She was very excited about the possibility of “swimming” and had climbed into the bed of the truck to see what wondrous adventures awaited her.  Ali told me that she wanted Rascal, her cat, to share in this momentous occasion but she couldn’t find him.  I informed her that cats don’t like water and that I was fairly certain Rascal wouldn’t enjoy the water as much as she.

Alexandra, to the contrary, said, “Oh no, Mom.  He won’t mind, I just want to give him a bath!”


Rascal and Molly Rascal and Molly           “I’ll show you who’s boss!”




Her expectation of his submission to her wishes was well founded because this cat allowed her to do most anything.  Earlier in the day, Alexandra had wrapped Rascal tightly in a blanket and was carrying him around the house.  Rascal willingly allowed the “motherly caressing” to go on for some time.  Next, Alexandra had him in her room surrounded by a small fence she had made by attaching several foam crowns together.  There was Rascal, lying on his side, tail twitching furiously, but staying where Ali had put him.  When Alexandra went to get the camera, Rascal high-tailed it out of there, nowhere to be found!

Alexandra, in her all her exuberance, had shared with Megan the grand possibility of swimming in the bed of the truck and they both came and asked if they could play in the back of the truck.  (Country swimming at its finest!)

“Sure, just be careful.”

“Yes, Mom!”  and off they ran.  Last I knew, they were getting the hose to put more water in the bed to see how full they could get it before the water started to leak out.

After dinner, Megan and Alexandra ran back outside to play some more….

I came out shortly afterwards to finish weeding.  Megan was walking across the driveway with tears in her eyes and blood dripping down her chin to her shirt.  Alexandra was beside her looking very distraught.

“Honey, what happened to you?!”

“Well Mom, Ali handed the cat to me…”

Apparently, Alexandra had captured Rascal and convinced her older sister that it would be a good idea to give him a bath.  Ali handed Rascal up to Megan who was standing in the bed of the truck, in the water.  Megan said that as soon as the cat was in her arms, he realized his fate and fought to get down.  She tried to put him down over the edge of the truck.  Rascal, fearing he was going to be released into the lake of water, climbed up Megan’s chest and onto her face, scrambling to get away as fast as he could.  Rascal did succeed in his escape and Megan had the claw marks to show for it.

After some tears of pain from Megan, tears of remorse from Alexandra, and hugs of comfort and assurance from me, I gently reminded them both –  cats do not like water.  They both heartily agreed!


I am a cat...not a child's play toy!!

I am a cat...not a child's play toy!!