Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sheep can be Annoying

Especially when you separate an in-heat ewe (too young to breed) to a small pasture with a few other sheep, but no ram.  And you're sick.  And she screams all day long, right in your window. 

That's it for me today. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


On Friday, my last period of the day was being a bit more obstreperous than normal.  Part of that is this class has its own challenges, and part of it was me telling them that I am the second teacher of theirs who is taking a different position on November 5.  The kids who came up from the elementary through the middle school have had teachers leave mid-year every year since 5th grade - I imagine they're sick of it, and I do feel bad about it. 

The one girl in the class asked if I like teaching.  I was in the middle of telling her that, yes, I did very much - when another student said, "It must drive you nuts when students don't do their work."  (He is a student who doesn't do his work).  I told him, "Nope.  I just press 'F' on the keyboard. It's your work, and your grade." 

That isn't strictly true, but it had the desired shock effect - all my young men who waste a lot of time every class and avoid work like it hurts - well, they finished the job at hand. 

It got me thinking about independence.  There are two major competing trends in education right now.  One of them is the philosophy that every student learns differently, so it's a teachers job to teach each kid in a way they can learn - if there are 25 different kids learning 25 different ways, that's 25 different ways to teach every thing every day.  It's called differentiation.  The other is that teachers should be judged on the performance of their kids. 

I agree with differentiation (that acknowledgment of different ways to learn, different strengths) but I think that my job is to help kids discover what their strengths and styles are and help them to make their own adjustments, their own scaffolding, to learn.  If you want to measure my teaching, don't use a single standardized (non-differentiated) test and then blame me for not differentiating, but, instead, measure if my students are more independent learners, if they've made strides in scaffolding for themselves. 

I do actually differentiate all the time.  I try to give students as much autonomy and choice over how they learn what I have to teach them - to the point of irritating teachers who are a lot more traditional.  And I LOVE "edtech", using technology in education.  It takes a lot of the same skills to write out, storyboard, shoot, and produce a movie that it does to write an essay, and it's a lot more fun.  I know my kids are writing a lot more than my more traditional counterparts, by and large, and they're a lot more invested because the product is a lot more public.  But, it isn't my job to do the work for them.  As adolescents, they need to start investing themselves in their work, because in a few short years, they will be on their own. 

It's kind of how I feel about politics, too.  I can either sit around and expect the government to differentiate for me to the point that I have very little responsibility and very little invested, or I can do it myself.  Now, I am not as independent as I would like, but it's a goal.  It's a lot of work, too.  I am not gifted in handiwork.  It takes me a lot longer to do things that involve building or putting things together, so if something like that needs to get done, it's going to take me a long time - much longer than the average person, and triple the time (if not more) than a person gifted in that area.  If a student doesn't have a quick memory or doesn't read quickly - they will have to take longer, use annotation methods - it's just the same as my lack of handiwork skills. 

There are times, paradoxically, that independence takes a group.  In our family, my daughter makes better cakes than me, but she can't make frosting to save her life.  So when it's a birthday, she makes the cake, I make the frosting.  The Bible talks about different gifts and talents - so that is part of the equation, too.  So, on that note, it is a good thing my husband is good at those handiwork things, or our farm would be full of my ramshackle building attempts rather than the lovely sturdy structures he makes.  So, I have to say, independence also means doing for yourselves a family group or a community - its a measure of self-investment, pride, hard work. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Planting and Black Plastic Mulch

We've been giving the Things outings.  They get popped in the taro patch if we're working in the greenhouse or garden and are within direct line of sight, and they've been let out into the larger sheep pen from their little stall.  They're still too dumb - I mean, inexperienced - to find shade when it's hot, so they can't be left long.  I had to wet down Thing 2 and stick his nose in a bucket of water after just 15 minutes in the sun.

The Things' outings, plus the lovely weather, has inspired me to put in all the rest of the sweet potato slips and to put black plastic over the manured garden to kill some of the weed seeds that blew into our compost pile - and to keep both chickens and Mellie (who dearly loves to dig holes) out of the area.  Mr De put the coffee trees in bigger pots -they're too small to put directly in the ground and planted a few pot bound things we had hanging out at the side of the house - two gardenias and a rosemary.  I have always wanted gardenia right next to the house where the smell will waft up to our bedroom windows, and he so kindly obliged me.  That corner of the house takes the brunt of the trade wind rains, so maybe having some shrubbery will protect the house a bit.

The kids and I did some cleaning and now I am paying bills; we'll head to 6 pm Mass, where we'll see our moved-out son, and that will be the end of the weekend.  I was thinking it was Saturday, because basically, I slept yesterday- I was sicker than I thought, I guess - and I was wondering why everyone was driving on a Saturday morning, dressed like they were going to church while I was on my walk.  Then it dawned on me - uh, yeah, it's Sunday.  Well, that was fast.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lamb Update

I had a moment yesterday morning when I was worried about Thing 1.  He was not terribly hungry and seemed shivery - but only after he'd eaten.  But last night, they both ate very well and they were bouncy and playful early this morning. 

I have to give a lot of credit to my husband, who has gotten really good at feeding without all the undue spilling and waste of formula that seems to accompany my feeding efforts.  He figured out which of the Spring lambs would do best as companions to the babies and made a soft warm place for them (although Oreo, one of Ellie's triplets, kept trying to usurp the place - that turned out okay, because she seems to be taking a shine to the Things and that will give them someone to cuddle with).  It's good for her, too, because she has always been a bit standoffish with the flock and the only one she'd sleep near was Audrey. Maybe the Things smell a little like her? 

My son has a big race today - the district championships.  I really wish I could go with the team, but I have an important meeting after work.  He's really gotten stronger in the last couple of weeks.  His last mile time was 5:49 and he said he didn't even feel tired.  That's a good thing, because the freshman five mile run is coming up in a few weeks and if he sticks with his goal of beating his older brother's everything over the next few years, he'll need to place in the top 3 for the boys.  Good luck, because this class has some speedy kāne.  In fact, I have a strong hope the team will be the first to qualify for the State meet as a team - that won't affect my son, but it still would be cool - 16 or so of them came in under 19 minutes for their last 3 mile time trial.  I wish I could run that fast.  I really do.  Only God knows why I wish that, at my age, and never having been particularly fast - but I do.  It would be amazing. 

My seedlings are coming up in the greenhouse - I will need to really go out and water tonight - I just realized I haven't been out there since Audrey went down.  Uh oh.  So many things to remember all the time. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bottle Lambs

I have read in several places that bottle lambs are an unfortunate certainty if you have enough lambings to rack up the numbers.  It is our turn to bottle feed lambs. 

Audrey died last night, probably of milk fever.  I gave her calcium, but I don't think I got it there in time.  I didn't see the message on my phone for several hours which told me that my husband found her down and I had to wait for lunch to go home.  I don't feel confident to do the IV administration, so I had to do the subcutaneous injection route.  It didn't work, which is a bummer - from our original flock, we only have Elvis left, which is sad. 

And now, I have two ram lambs to feed.  So far, they aren't liking the bottle, so we've been syringe feeding them.  I am going to try a different nipple style tonight, after I visit the store; gosh, I hope they get the hang of it, because syringes are a pain in the butt and take such a long time.  The night feedings are going to kill me.  I got up at 3:00 am today and I am feeling it, for sure.  Just in case, I will also pick up some more big oral dose syringes because the little 3 tsp ones are ridiculous.  You still have to slowly drip milk in, but at least you don't have to stop and refill every few seconds. 

I know people do this, but I have to admit I am feeling a little overwhelmed by it - like I am doomed to failure and these little guys will starve.  It's a pretty uncomfortable feeling.  When we had to feed Buddy, he was a little older and he could still sneak in and get some milk from Minnie.  These two are completely dependent on us. 

The other issue is how to integrate them with the flock - they're our only lambs right now, and today would be the day I would let them out in the big pasture with their mamma - only they don't have a mamma now.  I can't let them out in 5 acres with a big flock all alone!  And if we keep them confined, how will the flock accept them later? 

I guess you learn as you go. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Chores

It's the most amazing day outside, but I decided that, beyond hanging laundry, checking on lambs (and picking grass for mama), a little bit of work in the greenhouse, I need to do a lot of baking and clean floors. 

Currently rising in the kitchen are two pans of dill bread (made with dill seeds from my garden) and a big batch of cinnamon rolls.  My 14 year old complains we don't have food - what we don't have is microwavable, individually wrapped, preservative laden convenience food.  I figure if I put a bunch of cinnamon rolls and pancakes in the freezer, he will at least have something to grab without complaining. 

I also have a crock pot full of my own chicken with some vegetables from the Farmer's Market.  Unfortunately, my tender-hearted youngest saw the hen and knew it was ours - so it will be tough getting her to eat it.  I wish I'd been able to sneak it by her. 

If I get done with the baking, pancake making, and floors, I might pull Gibby out again.  We are going to the 6 pm Mass tonight, though, which is a good 40 minute drive away, so it will depend on the timing.   I would love to go for a long, not so fast walk today, but that will be a timing issue as well.  My left foot has a bit of swelling over the metatarsals, although it isn't really sore.  I did feel minor soreness while running.  I think maybe I had my shoes laced too tightly.  I have funky, high arches, so I have to take a long time to up my mileage or my speed. 

Basically, that's my Sunday.  What did you folks do?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gibby's Work

Okay, so I am trying to get Gibby to lunge.  This is a really hard thing without a round pen.  Today, I actually had my niece on him, my daughter walking next to his head and me holding a lunge line.  He did that but he was pretty wigged out by the whole thing. 

I tried a couple of different bits on him, but the shanked bit just freaked him out.  I think someone did a number on him with a bit like that.  He got very frightened and wanted to charge around.  I just went ahead and put the copper snaffle back on his bridle.  I could almost hear him thinking, "Wow, someone listened to me."  He tried hard today.  It was a good day.

The kids had some activities today.  We dropped our son off at school to catch the bus to a special XC practice, drove to town to drop off our daughter for her fundraiser, and then we went to run.  I ran a 5 k in 30 minutes.  It might have even been less, but my only watch was a regular analog watch and I forgot to look at the seconds.  This was my goal time when I started running a few months ago, and I reached it faster than I expected.  I hope to get even faster by December, when I want to run a race with a friend. 

The sweet potato slips I put in the random piles of compost (around the ti, near the greenhouse) are really flourishing, which is nice to see.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 (temporarily named lambs) are doing well, too.  One of them is a bit more tentative than the other, but, in general, they are well.  I think Audrey is relieved she had twins this time - much easier to keep track of than triplets.  I think one of her daughter's from the earlier birth is missing her.  She always liked to sleep right next to Audrey and now I have Audrey in the lamb pen.  It's been so sunny - the seeds I planted in the greenhouse are already sprouting.  It's good to be getting back on track with the garden and the greenhouse.  I hope that this coming year will have a better mix of sun and rain - instead of the basically unrelentingly poor weather we've had up her for the last 12 months.  Almost nothing grew for so long. 

What's weird, weather-wise, is that the two flowering cherry trees down in Mountain View are starting to put out flowers - which is not supposed to happen until March.  I think the trees felt like I do - summer felt like a slightly warmer winter and this finally feels like summer.  I hope that doesn't hurt the trees, because the relative cold is coming soon. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lots of Work Going On While I Am At Work

 Sorry - this is the old camera, but my husband took lots of pictures of the work he's been doing around the place while I am teaching.....  He made this temporary corridor to get the sheep from the pasture to the kalo patch - and he layered lots of compost on my garden. 
 Play barn and garden. 
 Play barn again. 
 Better picture of all that lovely compost! 

 This is the pasture side of the barn and satellite dish turned coop - it's a drainage problem.  A few days with sun and he can dig it out and improve the drainage.  I hope it works! 

From the front of the barn. 
 Audrey and the new babies. 
 New driveway into the pasture!
 Gibby!  Nice to see him curious instead of panicking. 
 Muddy mess being transformed. 

 Even though it's blurry, I like this picture of GIbby. 

Audrey and ?  and ?  - any suggestions for names.  
 The gang's all here. 
 Where's my food? 
 Fence again. 
The papaya is bearing more fruit.  Yum! 

New Lambs and Whine about Rural Highways

We had an eventful day yesterday.  Just about the time we were leaving school last night, there was a terrible accident near our home - which meant that we were stuck in the car on the road for 2 hours.  There are no alternative routes to my house, just the highway, so when they close it, we're stuck.  This has happened before when a pole fell down due to soft ground from tons of rain.  This time it was a fatal accident. 

At just about the same time as the accident, my husband was searching our pasture for Audrey who didn't come in with the other sheep.  Sure enough, she'd had her lambs back there and decided not to come in.  It's a pain (as all of you who have had to carry lambs at ewe nose height know) to get them in...why ewes can't look up to see lambs is a mystery. 

I love that Audrey is such a good mama.  By the time I did get home (at 8 pm - over 2 hours after I left work), she'd settled in with them.  They were strong, nursing well, and all I had to do was dip those umbilical cords and make sure she got some extra feed and water with electrolytes.  They are two unrelievedly black ram lambs - a bummer on both the color and the gender - I would have loved two more ewes.  

Speaking of ram lambs, I checked my records, and I didn't make a mistake on the two ram lambs from spring.  I didn't castrate Buddy because I thought he was going to die (he's the one that got sick) and I did castrate Koa - he's still castrated, but he has some other sort of swelling on his abdomen.  I wonder if he is cryptorchid - but he doesn't seem to be in pain and he's growing well. I just have to make sure I do a good job with these two.

Today is a treat.  The weather, so far, is lovely, and NO ONE has practice!  I am going home to ride after work and looking forward to it mightily.  I will have to work through lunch to get the stuff done that I promised myself to do in order to do so, but it will be worth it.  I can ride, check out the lambs with light other than the tack room light and a small flashlight, and make a proper dinner. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


No, that's not a cleaner way to swear - although, that has possibilities.  I will need to practice. 

We had approximately 25 cu yards (or more) of finished compost made from yard waste, sheep, chicken, and horse manure and it was causing a water flow problem.  It's now mostly gone - distributed under bananas, around ti, around roses, and in layered in the garden, as well as mixed up in potting mix for the greenhouse.  Pretty exciting stuff!

I have so many sweet potato slips - I have planted them around the ti and in random spots where a pile got clumped.  I still have a large number to get in the ground.  Good think I love both sweet potatoes and their stir-fried leaves.   

We've been having the most dry days in a row we've had for an entire year.  It feels like the summer we really didn't have, at least up my house - which makes being at work a little harder than it usually is - I want to plant things!  Good thing I mostly love my job! 

On that note, one of my student's asked me if I missed school during break.  I had to answer, "Yes," although there was more to that answer - I also loved seeing my oldest child and my parents and getting on the horse, and getting the greenhouse cleaned out.  The student said, "I knew you missed it!" which makes me think I am doing a good job of transmitting some of my excitement about reading and writing to the kids - now if only it rubs off. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

In the Greenhouse

Today was a day to work out in the greenhouse.  I pulled out all the plants, topped off all the pots with a mix of potting soil, compost, and coffee grounds.  I planted three kinds of tomatoes (might be too late in the year, but worth a try), bok choy, three kinds of basil, winter squash, lettuce, and cucumbers (also late in the year). 

I planted sweet potato slips under the ti leaves and in the pile of compost left over from the potting pile dumped by my husband.  There are still quite a lot of slips to plant, but we're not quite done with layering the compost on the outside garden. 

One of the Buff Orpingtons is standing on one leg.  I can't really see anything wrong with her leg - no sores, swellings, or breaks, but the ewe's not limping anymore.  Odd. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Near Death Experience

Well, not really - I didn't see any lights or actually have a physical brush with death. 

Kind of disappointed in myself that my almost last words were "Holy" and an obscenity.  My husband says I should be happy that at least I got the Holy in there. 

I picked up my niece who is on an exchange with our local university this semester and was driving her up the mountain to ride Gibby this afternoon.  Two cars were turning right onto a road and decided to drive on the shoulder which obstructed the view of the truck who wished to make a left turn onto the highway.  As I passed the cars which were on the shoulder, the truck pulled out right in front of me.  I had no time to brake, so I swerved (while saying my almost last words).  Tires squealing, I thought I would lose control of the car, but I swerved back into my proper lane.  If there'd been an oncoming car, I would have had to run right into the truck, but thankfully, there wasn't. 

Since my car is so small, I think my front end would have gone under the big pick-up and my niece and I would have been killed.  Even the airbags wouldn't have helped. If I'd been driving our SUV, I would have for sure hit him - the smaller car has great maneuverability - but we wouldn't have died.  I guess I am glad I had the maneuverable car because we got to come home and ride.

Riding is always important - and it took my mind right off the near car accident. 

Gibby did well - he's really stiff on the right, so we worked on circles (my niece and my daughter who are novice riders) and side passes (me).  I found that it isn't the mounting that he minds, it's the person stepping in the stirrups.  When I gave the girls a leg up, he did great.  He knew the rain was coming and started getting a little antsy after 90 minutes (walking pretty much exclusively) in the arena. 

I spent the first few days of my school break on Oahu.  I had a follow-up with the breast care center and I got to see my daughter and my parents and a few friends who live in my hometown.  I also walked/ran 20 miles over three days - 10 in just one of the days.  It started me thinking about trying a marathon.  One of the friends I saw has run in over 30 marathons - as well as had a marathon battle with an inherited kidney disease and cancer.  She's always been an inspiration - and ever since I saw her run a marathon when we were in middle school, I have wanted to do just one.  It will take me a long, long, long time to finish, but at least it will be a goal I accomplished. 

Maybe I will do it.