Friday, December 30, 2011

Farm Chores

I must tell you - I am very muddy right now.  Although the sun is shining (and it feels like a miracle) it is still mucky in the extreme.  I scraped out the worst of it from the sheep pen, just inside the gate.  I let Minnie and her two lambs out on the front lawn to experience grass for the first time since the lambing.  I castrated the ram lamb, gave him a tetanus shot, and filed his teeth just in case that is why she is less inclined to let him nurse than his sister. 

He is peppy and his mouth is warm, but he isn't thriving as well as his sister, but Minnie isn't completely rejecting him, so I just thought I would try.  I have been holding her in a head lock and holding up her front leg to let him nurse frequently throughout the day, and he's worked out a system of nursing from behind her, stealth style.  She does get upset if I take him, so it's not a totally lost cause. 

My paint horse is suffering a massive abcess, which seems to have broken out the bottom at the point of the frog.  His sole is soft and peeling, so I wrapped that with layers of gauze pad soaked in betadine, vet wrap, and duct tape.  Two months of steady rain in the 2+ inches a day level hasn't done him any good.  He's out in the yard, too - where it is softer. 

I have a feeling we're in for a drought.  We usually have a drier period in January, but the 1998 drought which lasted four months is still in our memories.  Whenever you have an especially wet late Fall, it seems there is an especially high possibility of drought.  We're in a lot better shape compared to 1998.  At that time, we still lived in the cabin.  Our third child was a baby and the cabin was pretty open to the elements, no insulation.  When it was 42 degrees outside, it was 42 degrees inside, too.  I would get up to nurse him and I could see my breath.  We only had a 2300 gallon water tank.  We were conserving a lot and having to haul water in clean rubber rubbish cans bought for that purpose several times a week, just to have water for the horses and to bathe.  We have 10,000 gallons of capacity, but we have bigger kids, more animals, more toilets.  I am looking forward to being able to feed without having to be splashed in mud and for Ohia's feet to have a chance to heal, but extreme conservation doesn't sound like fun - at least we're all at school 11 hours a day. 

I talked to a local mechanic and his wife about trading me raising and processing a number of meat chickens for them in return for a brake job on our son's car.  She said she would help me with the processing since we're both newbies at it and she wants to learn, but she's never raised chicks, and I have, so that would be a good trade.  I figure I will give 50 a go and give her half.  The estimate for the parts and labor was about $250, I think, so that would mean $10 a chicken...that would cover the price of chicks, electricity, starter crumble, and the time to care for and process them.  I will definitely need our husbands to work together to make a whizbang plucker! 

We had a houseful last night.  The usual kids, old friends of my two older kids - all of them except my son have graduated.  Most of them are in local universities, but one was on the mainland, so that was cool to talk to him about that.  It warmed my heart to hear one of them say, "This feels like home.  It feels good to be here, again."  I had kind of a rough day, yesterday, so that just made my morning.  And the wonderful byproduct of one of these movie nights is the fact that the kids burn all the boxes and burnables to make a "bonfire".  It isn't a chore if your friends are around to help, it seems. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Minnie Finally Did It

The babies are here!  I actually was able to watch this time.  I went out to do an evening check at about 8:30 and found her with two little feet and nose emerging.  I ran in to get my youngest and we were able to watch her deliver a smallish ram lamb and a large-ish ewe lamb.  I had to clear the nose of the ewe lamb because the sac was still covering her nose, but other than that, all was well. 

In a switch from previous lambs, the white one is the ram and the black one is the ewe.  I'll need to castrate the ram lamb pretty soon here - he is related to every single ewe on the place.  It's a bummer, because I would like more of the white colored lambs.  They do look like Elvis' get; I'd rather hoped Spot caught her before he died. 

I will post pictures later - it is pouring down rain and I don't want to bring the camera out into it. 

Today is one of my kids' birthday - so we have a house full - have to check on the home fries in the oven and attempt to dislodge the cake rounds from their pans.  I am good with bread and terrible with cake.  Rather depressing. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Really, Rain, Rain Go Away

or at least, take a small break.  We had over 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The 5 inch rain gauge was overflowing, so I don't have any idea of how much over it actually was.  I guess I need to get one of those 10 inch gauges. 

My husband and I did get out of the rain yesterday, because we headed over to Kona to Costco, but it was voggy and overcast, but it was warm and dry.  We talked on the 5 hour round trip about concentrating on more food self-sufficiency.  We both grew up in suburban areas, but I am more ready to start processing our own live stock, so I told him I would like to start with meat chickens and get serious about finding a butcher for our larger animals (I don't have anywhere to hang or age a 150 lb sheep).  It will be my job to do the first batch of chickens, I am sure. 

I would like to get some milk animals, too.  The sheep didn't work out in that department and they wouldn't give that much in any case.  I would love to have a Dexter cow, but goats are much more affordable and easier to immediately house.  The weekly shopping I do, outside of the every three month staples (50lb sacks of flour, big box store sized oil, etc), is mostly dairy products: butter, milk, cheese.  We bake our own bread and grow most of our vegetables.  I do buy apples, which don't grow here easily and, one of my last suburban holdouts, cereal.  Having our own milk and cheese, after a learning curve, would save me quite a lot, even taking feed and animal care into account. 

To help afford these plans (including better fencing), I am applying for online tutoring jobs to do at night.  Unfortunately, our bills reflect a two-income past, and we're working on a one-income present, so to move forward (or even to make it right now) I need a bit more.  Frankly, I am tired just thinking about working another 10-15 hours a week, plus learning to milk and make cheese, but needs must.  Now that I am over the worst of the adjustment (I hope) at my new job, hopefully, I will be able to be more active in the greenhouse and with the animals.  I have let too many things slide. 

I am guessing we've had close to 100 inches of rain in the past 2+ months, so at least I can cut myself some slack for the outdoor garden, but I have no excuse for the greenhouse! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mystery Seeds

I have a big plastic bag of seed packets.  I guess it got moved around some, and there was a handful of mystery seeds on the bottom which had fallen out of their labeled packets.  They weren't that mysterious - some kind of green, some kind of squash, and some kind of pepper, but since I have a few different varieties of each of those categories, that was as close as I got.

I planted some outside, where they will probably drown, but it was worth a try.  I planted the rest in newly cleared greenhouse pots with compost added to the homemade potting soil.  I will just have to see what comes up.

While digging in the garden in a desultory and exploratory way between rain showers, I discovered a large purple sweet potato!  I was pretty happy about that.  I found one lonely snap bean on the one half drowned snap bean vine, and pulled quite a few turnips.  Looks like an unusual stir fry for dinner tonight.  I will have to do more exploratory, careful digging in the sweet potatoes.  I am not ready to dig up the whole bunch and replant the slips, but it might be worth a little check around for more tubers.

It rained so constantly and in such high volume yesterday that we didn't let any of the animals out.  They were quite happy to run out the gate this morning.  The sheep didn't even bother to investigate the horse stall for dropped hay cubes.  The rain has been so pounding hard on our metal roofing that it is quite hard to sleep, so I am dragging around, starting chores and wandering to another one before I am completely done - kind of like that fog I remember from being pregnant - when I would walk into a room and forget why.  It's drier today - I hope it stays that way tonight, so I can sleep!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm cold...

Don't all of you who live up north laugh at me (well, you can laugh, but behind your computer screens ;) ). It's raining again and it is dark and chilly. 

But on the good side - Vacation is finally here.  We had a lovely ceremony at school today with everyone in their dress uniforms, got out of school early, and came on home.  Monday is shopping day, but shopping is in the opposite direction from home, so we didn't go.  Shopping means feed, mostly, and a little milk and cheese, sometimes some fruit, but not much else.  Sometimes I will buy English muffins, if they are on sale, and if I was lazy the day before - like I was yesterday.

I ended up making six jars of lemon marmalade, but didn't bake and didn't start any seeds. 

It's so unpleasant, even our animals who are seasoned rainforest dwellers don't want to go out.  Everyone is holed up in their respective stalls and shelters.  Sounds like a good idea.  I am glad to be home. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Plans for the Day

I am soooo tired.  I always get this way at the end of a grading term; if it weren't the week before Christmas, I would love to sleep for most of the next week.  We do have one more half day of school tomorrow, anyway.  No sleeping for me.  We went to church last night, so I did sleep in today. 

Besides sleeping until I feel more human, I like to get deep cleaning done during school breaks.  Fortunately, this break, I have a motivated almost 14 year old to help.  He wants to earn money for a new desktop computer, so he sorted and bagged the recyclables, and as I write is scrubbing the siding on the house.  We've had so much rain that the dogs have been living on the deck and they rub on the white siding - it looks grimy.  There is some mold to deal with, too.  He wants to do the windows and the screens, too.  Hallelujah for capitalism.  It occurs to me that the reluctance to clean the bathroom for the common weal and the zeal to scrub the side of a whole house after 3 feet of rain is an object lesson in the relative merits of socialism and capitalism. 

Now I just have to get the 12 year old wanting something, and she can take care of the inside of the house...hmmmm....too bad she is a contented little soul who'd rather have time with her family.  In fact, in true Tom Sawyer fashion, I just noticed that she is out there helping her brother with the chore.  She helped him with the recyclables, too, now that I think about it.  She just wants to be where things are happening. 

Well, maybe not....she just came in and said, "Are you sure this job is only worth $20?"  I went out to try scrub some of the griminess and revised my work estimate up quite a lot.  They'll be out there for hours.  Sounds like her brother cut her a deal.  Smooth operator - she helped him with the recyclables (and easy fast job) for free to show him how much more fun it was to work with a partner. 

I plan to do my usual Sunday baking and to make lemon guava marmalade today.  Marmalade is a long process - not just the water bath canning, but also the whole cutting the lemons and cooking down of the marmalade.  While it is simmering, I might be able to get out into the greenhouse and get some seeds started.  I just pulled out a lot of old stuff, mostly tomatoes and eggplants and peppers.  I saved the tops and suckers from what was still green on the tomatoes and replanted those.  I need to repot some parsley and some jalapenos.  I can pull some taro and the turnips, but that might wait until Tuesday. 

I have to iron dress uniforms for tomorrow and do the usual Sunday laundry.  I should get to work instead of writing about it, for sure! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Sadly, not lambs - I don't know how I got her due date so wrong, and why she has to walk around looking imminently due, but that's how it goes.  Someday, soon, we'll have lambs - there are definitely at least two in there.  Minnie is enormous! I could feel what felt like hard little heads on each side of her last night, squirming around in there. 

The babies I am all excited about are the pumpkins.  I planted kabocha seeds eons ago, but since we've gotten over 2 feet of rain in the last couple of weeks (not even counting the month before that), I haven't been expecting any good results.  However, as I went out to peruse the garden, I saw little golf ball sized pumpkins.  I hope they don't rot - it should be drying up, sooner or later. 

We've had so much rain that trees are sagging on the side of the highway.  Even at school, one of the trees in a decorative island is falling - it isn't even on a hill.  The ground got so soggy, the roots just pulled right up.  The broccoli and chard bed is just gone - a river appears to have run through it.  The herbs, lettuce, and turnips are loving it.  The carrots are gone, but that was as sheep thing, not a rain thing. 

The sheep (as mentioned in an earlier blog) are looking like moldy cheese, and the hens look bedraggled and have almost stopped laying.  My clothes take five days to dry on the line under the deck and the Christmas cookies turn soggy almost immediately (at least the cut outs).  

Usually, though, we tend to have a bit of a dry spell, even a drought, in late December and January.  I am looking forward to it - not water catchment restrictions, but some sunshine and drier conditions would be lovely. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helicopter Mom Debate

My 17 year old says I am a helicopter mom.  (He did apologize for going a little far in that particular rant, but didn't retract the term).  I find myself feeling a combination of emotions - to some degree, really deep down, I find the whole argument absolutely hilarious, but at the same time there are closer to the surface layers of pain and well, irritation.  (If you looked on the darned website yourself, I wouldn't HAVE TO). 

So, anyway, me being me, I actually searched the web and found a quiz to reassure myself that I am not, in fact, a helicopter mom.  According to the College Board, I should "Stay The Course", because I am striking a balance between involvement and letting my child put his own foot in it and figure it out. 

Maybe I should print that result out, so I can wave it triumphantly in the young man's face?  Nah, probably not. 

Three more work days until Christmas Break.  I am sure the deep-down layer that finds all of this teenaged angst excruciatingly funny will come to the fore - once my finals are graded and I close up my office for the two week holiday.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Standing Up

When I texted the following story to my friend on Oahu, all she said was, "Wow!  So not you!" 

Yesterday, I was shopping at Target for a Secret Santa gift for work.  When my youngest and I came out of the store, there was a family sitting on a bench outside of the store - a mom and dad and five teeny tiny beautiful children.  Dad was scolding - at first I thought he was scolding the kids to get them ready to walk around in Target - 5 kids under 6 or so can use reminders about how to behave sometimes. Then he started with the obscenities and I realized he was berating his wife. 

I walked past them, but stopped and muttered, "I can't let this one go. This is not right."  Being basically non-confrontational, I decided I would go into the store and find a security guard.  But when I walked by that mother and saw her crying, I stopped instead and asked her if she was okay.  She was embarrassed, I know, but it gave Dad a chance to take a breath. 

I told him that I had four kids and I remember how hard it was to go shopping with a bunch of tiny kids.  That my daughter and I would be so very happy to help them do their shopping.  He told me his wife had hit the curb with the cart and all the kids fell.  I looked at them: no one was bleeding or crying. He must have seen my glance, because he said, "Well, no harm was done." 

"I am glad," I said, "But your language was pretty strong there and you seem upset.  Take a breath."  He did seem calmer, but I hope I didn't cause more trouble for his wife later.  He thanked me and I went into the car and shook.   I really don't like confrontations.  At the very least, they could go home and talk about that nosy old woman (they were pretty darned young)  and find someone else to blame instead of each other.... 

In the meantime, Adobe products are kicking my behind.  I am trying to make e-Learning modules to post on our server and the Presenter ones are so boring, so I am making trying to make content on some of the Creative Suite products.  It's uphill going and my head hurts.  It's kind of like my farm - I have all these visions of where I want to be, but it is the learning curve that hurts. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moldy Sheep

and moldy clothes, and moldy towels.... life in a rainforest...

We had a fairly dry year.  It wasn't a drought year, but it was relatively sunny.  Well, our fourth quarter is determined to catch up to the average annual rainfall.  Minnie is actually moldy.  I don't know if they other sheep are moldy, because they are black, but Minnie has a distinctly green cast to her wooly winter coat.  She is also still pregnant, but that is another story. 

The yard is mud with a few grass roots floating on top.  No matter how much bedding I throw into the stalls, it is wet and soggy the next day.  I do have to say, though, the sweet potatoes, turnips and collards are loving it - I can't tell you about the kale and the carrots, because the sheep got out into the yard and my carrots and kale are history. The pasture is probably pretty swampy, so I don't blame them - and it is possible the rain is shorting out the electric fence. 

On Saturday night, my youngest marched in a light parade.  It poured the whole time - poured like buckets being poured on the kids.  We met her at the end of the parade route, marveling that she hadn't been electrocuted by the battery operated string of lights draped around each band member (just kidding).  It was something she will probably remember for life.  The gas station convenience store at the end of the route was doing a brisk business in hot chocolate and coffee, because, for Hawaii, it was quite cold. 

On Sunday, I made 20 dozen cookies.  The kids and a friend decorated the gingerbread and sugar cookies and got a little silly with some of the leftover dough - making a foot long free form gingerbread man/alien.  I also made a triple batch of a stuff chocolate cookie dough and made three varieties of thumbprint cookies.  I filled some with white chocolate and peppermint bits, some with a peanut butter mix and peanut butter/chocolate frosting, and some with maraschino cherries and chocolate cherry frosting.  Oh, and I made a huge batch of ginger cookies.  I'd never made these before, but they were quite nice.

I gave a plate away to the friend to take home to her family and once I get some holiday cookie tins, I plan to bring some to school for my co-workers.  I believe the youngest girl brought some to her teachers today.  There is still gingerbread and sugar cookie dough in the fridge for rolling out and decorating later. 

The tree was decorated and we had our usual pupu decorating dinner.  It was very nice - much better than the last couple of years when everyone was exhausted and irritable and I ended up decorating mostly by myself.  I think it was doing the cookies and the decorating on the same day - that was the difference. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It happens at this time of the year.  It isn't even close to what happens in May when the clock is counting down to graduation and finals and Summer break, but there is a mini-meltdown as the semester end finals start coming closer.  Everyone's temperament gets that little bit more peppery - maybe that's why peppermint is such a favorite at Christmas?  (Okay, bad joke). 

I am definitely getting snappy. 

My final is done and ready to go.  I even copied the thing.  It's 7 pages long - 30 vocabulary words, 8 grammar exercises, 4 short character analyses, and one three paragraph essay.  I had them take another non-fiction online test today because I didn't reserve the computers for next week.  I took the test - it took me 20 minutes, but I (obviously, since I wrote it) know the answers and write quickly.  So I figure 2 hours is plenty of time.  You'd think I would just feel ready - and not just cranky. 

I will definitely have to do something different and productive this weekend so that I can reset my brain before heading into next week. 

It would also help if my ewe would deliver her lamb(s) easily, without needing help, and if (s)he/they nurse well and without worries. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting for the Other Shoe

When I watch the news, it seems like we're collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop.  There are some truly terrible things that could happen with the worldwide economy and with politics.  Since I have a wise father who watches markets, I may have been hearing about this before the economy hit the skids in 2008 which to some degree dragged it our further. I think people who homestead or approximate as closely as they can (like me) have this collective sense and the urge to act on it. 

In some odd way, the wait is dragging in itself - not that I wish any kind of expanded societal collapse on anyone, but this constant feeling of watching the danger come closer and closer in slow motion isn't fun either.  It is especially frustrating when I feel that I personally am not doing enough for my family.  Yes, I have a greenhouse and a garden and sheep (lawn mowers who are potentially food), but it doesn't feel like enough. 

I do tend to get a bit urgent about things (like my post yesterday on schools), so I am trying to keep things in perspective.  I can do what I can do.  There has been so much rain, the outside garden is doing what it is doing.  I could do more in the greenhouse, for sure, but I also have to parent my kids and teach other people's kids - and that means grading at night or helping kids with homework, or going to band concerts (one more tonight) and sporting events. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Things that Really Bother Me in Schools:

Teachers who say they do not have time….to calibrate, to discuss, to read, to do the work required by student-involved assessment. 

Anyone who says….but we’ve never/always done it that way….

Students who say…. The teacher (feel free to insert insulting epithet) gave me a bad grade….

Anyone who says….I didn’t understand, but I sure wasn’t going to ask questions….

Teachers who say….the kids are just lazy….

Parents/Students/Administrators/Media who say….the teachers are just lazy….

Anyone who says….well, our kids are just not as able as those kids in that other school….. 

Teachers who say…. Well, it’s the parents: they just don’t care. 

Parents who say….Well, it’s the teachers: they just don’t care.

Students who say… Well, I just don’t care.  

Yes, you do.  We all care.  

No one deliberately sets out to fail.  No one wants to do a bad job.  It is never all someone else’s fault, and there is always something we can do about it.  Not “someone”, “we” – we can do something about it.  We need to ask the hard questions.  We need to be willing to work in other ways than what we may expect.  We need to – all of us – put out the effort we would want for someone to put out for us. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Status Quo and Sheep

No lambs, but lots of rain, therefore status quo maintained. 

I am glad I am not Minnie.  She is obviously ready to pop and grunts when getting up and laying down.

The sheep are winning the fence wars again (we keep adding strands/bamboo, and it works for a little while, then they figure out a new way out).  The seem to like purple sweet potato leaves ....but they are leaving the turnips, carrots, and pumpkins alone, at least - and the other sweet potato variant, too. They love naval orange leaves, but leave the other citrus alone.  They love ti leaves above all else, apparently - the ti plants they can reach are nubs; fortunately, we have some ti that are well over their heads. 

We're just lucky it's only the internal fencing they want to challenge.  They haven't figured out the hog wire which runs our perimeter.    Thank goodness! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tiring Day

Somehow sitting in a room with a bunch of teachers is so much harder than sitting in a room with a bunch of kids.  You wouldn't think it would be like that, but it is.  We had a workshop today.  It was on a subject I have had LOTS of training on in the last decade, but it is always good to revisit important topics.  However, assessment is a huge elephant in the room for lots of teachers and it actually turned out to be not the most pleasant of days.   The food was good, though....

We are having dry weather after all that rain, so I am hoping that I can get some more seeds in the ground.  It is possible it is going to be fairly dry for the next month or so, because we tend to have drier - even drought - conditions in December-January.  Our rainforest weather is different than most of the rest of the state where December is the rainy month. I also want to get my Christmas decorations up, because I really love Christmas.  I know this is supposed to be Advent, and I do try not to overdo, but just having that tree up helps me prepare my heart for this special feast day. 

Minnie is still pregnant, or was still as of this morning.  I can't ask my husband to go out and check because the ram got him bad a few days ago, and he is hobbling.  Finally, my husband is talking about taking Elvis down to process - we just can't have him here anymore.  Although 80% of the time he is fairly innocuous, that 20% he is being aggressive is not worth it - plus he is related to all but one of the ewes at this point.

I have to admit that I am absolutely wiped and I know this isn't my most scintillating blog post.  Just didn't want to get out of practice...  Maybe I will have something more important to say later.