Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monarch Watch

We have been given the privilege of helping raise Monarch butterflies. As a volunteer naturalist at Runge Nature Center I am helping foster these caterpillars into adulthood so that next month, at the Conservation Kids Club program (of which Aidan is a faithful member), the kids can help tag and release the butterflies before they migrate to Mexico. We picked up the larvae this past week and our job is to keep them stocked with milkweed leaves, clean the frass (otherwise known as poop) out of their container and mist them with water from time to time. We have four containers with anywhere from 2-6 caterpillars inside. This picture shows the biggest ones and they continue to grow everyday. And the bigger they get, the more they eat.

We have decided to keep a daily log in order to better monitor their growth, eating habits and overall antics. Aidan and I talk together about what we see and then I have him dictate to me what to record in our journal. The first day he learned to proper use of the word approximately and went on to use it numerous times in his descriptions.

So far, so good. No casualties and no big surprises. We are excited to witness the chrysalis stage and then, ultimately, the full grown butterflies. When they emerge from their chrysalis' we will take them back to the nature center where they will be kept until their release date. If you are interested in learning more about these wonderful creatures and more about what we are doing, check out Monarch Watch.

My little Wolf Cub

Well, we attended the first gathering of Cub Scout Pack 316 this past week and Aidan hasn't put down his Wolf Handbook since. Everyday, he studies it diligently, discovering something new that he can learn or master. I'm sure that once he realizes that he can earn badges for all that he's reading about, we'll have to fashion him a vest to display the multitude of patches he will acquire. He just seems like that kind of a guy.
I still think I'm the most excited about this whole Boy Scout endeavor. Ever since I birthed two boys, I have imagined them growing up to be model citizens, both earning their Eagle Scout awards and going on to other recognitions of merit. No pressure or anything! Really though, it is more about the experience of scouting that I was, and still am, excited about.
I was a Girl Scout for twelve years and although, in the "girl world of public school" it wasn't exactly the coolest thing in the world to be (especially in high school), I didn't care because the experience afforded me the opportunity to camp a lot, which I loved. I learned a lot of great skills through scouting. I especially loved when the brothers and dads of fellow girl scouts would come along on camping trips and teach us things from the boy scout handbook. What a score that was! We felt like we were getting a back door invitation to the world of boys and men and we loved it! The best example of this was when we went cave camping. Kudos to the parents who thought it would be a good idea to take 12-15 fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls into a dark, damp cave to sleep on top of rock for two nights. Sounds like a blast, huh? We hiked through the cave on Saturday, fording streams and scaling muddy rock faces. It was only after we were done, on the brink of exhaustion and travel worn, that we learned that the guides had mistakenly taken us on the "Advanced" trail. Just the week before, they had hosted some Boy Scouts and they were taken on the easier trail! Talk about a sense of victory for us. Our parents (mine of whom had gallantly volunteered to be chaperones on this infamous cave camping trip and of whom I am still in awe) were none too pleased to learn that little piece of information. Albeit, everyone was incredibly proud of us.
Anyway, this is what I am looking forward to with our boys.

Beulah girl

How can you not love that face, right? That's what I'm realizing as we struggle through these first few months of puppyhood. I swear, I was ready to send her back just two weeks ago. Which went against everything I believe in regarding dogs and "rescuing" and all that jazz. All I knew was that I was about to lose my mind and I didn't see how that was going to be worth it in the long run. I mean, what good is a cute dog if you don't have the mental functioning to care for it, let alone love it? Plus, I don't think my family would have liked having to visit me in the crazy house.
Well, I'm happy to say that we're turning a corner. I think it's a combination of Beulah getting older and me reading everything that I can get my hands on. My latest discovery is The Dog Whisperer, with whom I am completely entranced and intrigued. Cesar Millan is unlike anyone I've ever known or read about and his way with dogs is truly, nothing less than, magical. His whole concept of "calm-assertive energy" being what really drives the relationship between you and your dog has totally revolutionized how I now interact with Beulah. And I'm slowly seeing a difference.
It doesn't hurt that at our last vet visit, the vet told us that if we could just hang in there, persevere, and keep doing what we are already doing, we'll see results. She was the second person to say that she thought we had a really "remarkable" dog. Please, let it be so!!!
At least for the moment she has the look down pat.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Umm, a slight change of plans...

Well, for lack of a better way of saying it...

We chickened out!

As the hour approached and when it came down to doing the dirty deed (how's that for alliteration?) we very quietly and simply wait a little longer. Actually, it wasn't exactly that smooth of a landing. There was a bit more conversation between John and me regarding the specifics of how all of this was going to go down and as a result of that "configuring" we both shared our apprehensions about trying to do this on our own. John asked me to email, again, the family that I had communicated with a month or two ago. Back then, when we were looking at the inevitable need to butcher soon, I put out a question to my homeschool group asking if anyone had any experience with butchering chickens. I, happily, received several responses from families, all of whom had their own methods and various tricks of the trade. Some of these were more antiquated than others and as I shared them with John, he became more resolved to this on his own.

But then we found ourselves at the kitchen table last night, beginning to put the finishing touches on our "conversation about butchering the chickens ourselves". After a bit of posturing, on both of our parts, we found ourselves confessing to each other our fears, concerns, apprehensions and overall questions about how EXACTLY this was all going to go down.

And basically, we balked.
I emailed one of the families about their availability in the next week or two and we, thankfully, took a deep breath.

Now, some may say all sorts of things to this turn of events.
"You wimps!"
"Not cut out for farm life, huh?"
"You talk all big but really..."

And perhaps there would be some truth to those comments. But, I choose to think of it as a healthy dose of humility.
We don't really know what we are doing, as far as butchering chickens goes, and to push forward with airs that we (or one of us, at least) do...well, it is kind of presumptuous.
There is most definitely a place for submission and instruction in all of this and we certainly won't be any worse for the wear if we admit to that.

So, I don't have a gruesome tale to tell you today, or pictures to illustrate the dirty deed. But I do have a beautiful weekend waiting for me and I have to say, I'm glad it doesn't involve dead chickens.

Oh, and also...
I'm really doing a good job of not saying, "I told you so!"

Talk about humility.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Catch up time

August on a friend's zip line.

"Mr. Meanie" who will be one of the first roosters to be butchered.

One morning's harvest.

A sampling of our refrigerator pickles that are threatening to take over our kitchen!

Our living room could now be dubbed Lego Land after Aidan's 7th birthday. The boys spend hours (I'm not exaggerating!) constructing all varieties of vehicles, space ships, houses, weapons, you name it. It is so fun to watch them create endlessly.

Aidan is now officially an independent reader. Why I ever worried about him, I'll never know. He loves to read the comics in the paper everyday and he pours over history and story books by the dozens. My challenge now is to provide him with a rich and varied selection of materials from which to choose.

Aidan and I share a birthday kiss. It really is something special to share your birthday with your first born. What a gift, the day that he was born and every year thereafter!!!

This is Beulah. We drove to the ends of the earth to get her for free. Her dad was an Australian Shepherd and her mom was a Beagle-mix. She is absolutely adorable and she is absolutely more work than I EVER imagined. Half of why I haven't blogged this summer is because of the immense amount of time I spend making sure that she isn't peeing in the house, sneaking into a room where she doesn't belong or biting holes in my pant legs as I walk about minding my own business. It has been an intense month and I'm still praying that it will all be worth it in the end. When she is calm and sweet and loving, I get a foretaste of glory divine, when she is all that I wanted in a dog. In the meantime, I'm really trying not to curse more than ten times a day.

We've been busy this summer and thus there has been very little blogging on my part. What with chickens, a new puppy, a garden that won't stop and all of the other things that make summer "summer" I've simply put this to the wayside. But life is full and good and tiring and challenging and I want to write about all of that. I'm trying to figure out how to make use of my very early rising to care for the chickens and Beulah dog, as that seems a logical time and space within which to write. But it's hard.
And then we will be starting to reintroduce "school" to our daily routine soon so...
you see what happens.
I will do my best.

Time to do the deed

Well, tomorrow is going to be butchering day. We've managed to find other things to do the last several weekends and we've also had some disagreement over how to do this, exactly. I wanted to get help, seeing as we've never done this before and have only read about the mechanics of the job. One thing that I've learned about myself is that I really benefit from seeing something done, rather than just reading about it. That became very evident when I was apprenticing to be a midwife. I had read tons on the subject of childbirth and could spit out at you a multitude of facts, but as far as the application of those truths, well, it took my apprentice work to really put roots on my shoots.
But John approaches projects differently. He learns by doing it himself. The end result, with all of its correct, and incorrect, maneuvers serve to shape how he'll do things from then on. It's almost like he purposely enrolls himself in the school of hard knocks. Maybe he just likes a good story, I don't know. Me, on the other hand, Mrs. Follow the Rules and try do it perfectly from the beginning, balks at this approach. We've had some terse conversations on the subject, talking round and round about the best way to do this--similar to the way that our roosters hop around in a ring as they challenge each other but not quite as entertaining.
Finally, when I realized how very important it seemed to John to do this himself, I relented. What's the worst that could happen, really? We will have a big nasty mess on our hands whether we are by ourselves or not, we will have to pluck a gazillion chicken feathers regardless... truly, what's the worse that could happen?
I can actually think of a lot of bad things that could happen but because John might read this and I don't want to insult his manhood, I'll just let them go. Besides, someone needs to worry about all of the worst case scenarios in order to keep them from happening, right? Worrying is one of my gifts.
I really want to document this experience, almost in a photojournalistic kind of way, but I'm not sure how I'm going to justify not helping at all in order to get the right shot. We'll just have to see what happens.
I'll keep you posted....