A new breed

IMG_9893On September 2, 2015 we welcomed the first of a new breed here to our funny farm….baby guinea-shire hogs! We bred the mama berkshire to a guinea hog, both heritage breeds renown for their taste. Both these mamas delivered within minutes of each other, and practically right on top of each other, despite the fact that we had prepared nice farrowing sheds for them with fresh hay. IMG_9895Whatever, pigs will be pigs. Aren’t these little guys cute?! We never tire of seeing new life here on the farm. Coincidentally we have also taken our first hog to be processed by a USDA certified facility and will soon have farm fresh heritage pork for sale to the public!

Chooks

So local friends, come on out and support the kids! Susie has free-range eggs for $2.50 a dozen and Charlotte has fresh cut flowers for $.25 a piece.

So local friends, come on out and support the kids! Susie has free-range eggs for $2.50 a dozen and Charlotte has fresh cut flowers for $.25 a piece.

Remember that cute little egg hut that sits at the end of our driveway? Well, keeping it stocked is proving harder than we thought! We have a waiting list of people wanting eggs from us. With 45 chickens of various ages, I thought we’d have plenty to share. But lately I’ve been caught without breakfast grub, because we have sold all of our eggs! So I found a farm in McKenzie that was selling 3 month old pullets (girl chickens that are not yet laying) for a reasonable price.IMG_9811 While not the prettiest chicken you ever laid eyes on, these girls are a cross-breed between Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rock, both good laying breeds. They should begin laying eggs in the next couple of weeks.

We tagged their legs so we can tell which are the youngest chicks in our flock when it comes time to cull the old hens.

We tagged their legs so we can tell which are the youngest chicks in our flock when it comes time to cull the old hens.

We are all about customer satisfaction here at the Funny Farm. Oh yeah, and about eating a farm fresh breakfast everyday ourselves, as well!IMG_9816

And so it begins…

IMG_9759We won’t start school until the middle of September, but we have been getting ready for it! The kids are super excited to start and so am I. Something new we are doing this year is making “homeschool binders”. I am terrible at record keeping, never had to in Illinois. And I have a terrible memory. And some of my kids thrive on routing and knowing “what’s next?”. So this year, the front of their binder has their name and grade and they got to decorate them (or not) as they desired. IMG_9764On the back cover is a fun little sheet called “about me”. Little ones get to draw a picture of themselves and their family and answer questions like “what I want to be when I grow up” and “I love…” and “I don’t like….”.IMG_9761 The big kids have different information about them. Favorite Bible verse, activity, book, etc. 7 fun facts about myself. I think these pages will be so much fun to look back on in the years to come. We think we will always remember that Charlotte hates spiders and loves horses, but we may forget when she is all grown up. Now, we can look back and remember.IMG_9765 Inside, will be dividers with chore charts, schedules, daily work lists, book reports, and any papers that need to be handed it or corrected. I am terrible at correcting the kids’ work, so maybe this will make it a bit easier, having it all in one place.IMG_9786These checklists are very basic and loosely formed. I might break out in hives if I feel boxed into an actual schedule! IMG_9785 I am acutely aware of the fact, though, that it is much more fun to make a schedule than keep a schedule. More fun to make a binder, than keep up with grading and checking off work in the binder. More fun to plan the school year, than actually do the school work. But these binders have been a fun start to what I hope will be a fun year!

Katie was excited to think she might get a "grade" for the first time ever. I told her it would only be an E for excellent, or R for redo. Bah! She wants grades!! A, B, C, D, F!

Katie was excited to think she might get a “grade” for the first time ever. I told her it would only be an E for excellent, or R for redo. Bah! She wants grades!! A, B, C, D, F!

Smart Sinners

Are we raising smart sinners?  Do we think good parenting in = good kids out? Do we rely on a “12- step method” to salvation, instead of leaving it to the Lord?

Not usually a fan of “grace-based parenting” as presented by mainstream Christian media. This is the best talk I’ve heard in a long time.

Garden Update 8-30-15

IMG_9801This week we pulled up the dent corn patch. These stalks came out surprisingly easily. Usually pulling up corn is a daunting task, so we went in mentally prepared for a challenge. But perhaps because it was so dried out (?) it pulled out of the ground fairly easily. IMG_9800We saved the best, tallest stalks for fall decorating and fed the rest to the pigs. They seemed to love it. IMG_9805Corn is a very heavy feeder and I didn’t want to leave the ground depleted, so we cleaned out the chicken roost area as well. Chickens poop a LOT when they sleep, I guess, because this area was full of chicken manure. IMG_9806Mixed with the sawdust that we lay on the floor, it makes a fantastic amendment for the garden soil. So after shovelling up this great, used bedding we raked it over the newly cleared area in the garden.

Our favorite garden helper!

Our favorite garden helper!

We will be adding fresh woodchips later today. Soon it will be all ready for more fall planting. IMG_9807

Cleaning beeswax

What a mess. It can’t go down the drain, so most of the work has to be done outside. And any dishes it touches will be ruined. It is impossible to get wax off of bowls and utensils. Before you can extract honey from the frames, the wax cappings must be cut off. So these wax cappings are full of sticky honey. First, the cappings need to be squeezed to get most of the honey out. Some people just let the cappings sit in the drainer overnight or for a couple days. Some people are more impatient and squeeze and squeeze all that sticky goodness out.IMG_9742Next, I soaked the sticky cappings in a bucket of water. I rinsed them and changed the water once.IMG_9753 People say that water is excellent for making beer because it is so sweet. Smells like mead. Maybe we’ll give that a try sometime!IMG_9754 After those two soakings, I rinsed off the cappings one last time with the shower sprayer on the hose. It goes much smoother if you have a cute little helper who wants to touch everything and carry everything herself!IMG_9755

 

Then I filled a “wax designated” pan with about 1 in of water. Place a screen or rack of some sort over the pan and place a paper towel on top of that. The screen or rack is simply to support the towel. The paper towel will filter all the impurities out of the wax. When the wax drips through the towel it will float and harden in the water below. The water makes it super easy to lift the wax out of the pan, once it cools. I tried to use my sun oven, but I didn’t have a pan small enough to fit in there. So I put it all in my oven, at 200 degrees.IMG_9767It will be impossible to get the wax off that rack, and I regret using it. I guess it will go with the rest of my “wax designated” pile of dishes. All the cappings didn’t fit on the paper towel at first, but as the wax melted, I kept adding more and more of them. I let it cool overnight without touching it (except for one curious child’s finger, ahem!). I lifted it out of the water and broke it into pieces to fit into a bag before I remembered to take pictures!IMG_9768The paper towel I used to filter was full of black sticky stuff, including some bee legs and wings. It would be fabulous for the compost pile or to bury in the garden. I will use this beeswax for lip balm, lotions, soap and homemade deodorant. It is worth it’s weight in gold!

Symbiosis

Def: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association.

Rabbits make poop. Yes, they do. And lots of it. I have put fresh rabbit manure in the garden, but it seems to sprout lots of little weeds. So I have decided to raise worms below my rabbits. Worms love rabbit poop. In fact, rabbit manure has been referred to as “worm candy”. And after the worms digest that manure, leaving me their fabulous “castings” aka worm poop, I won’t have to worry about it sprouting weeds in the garden. At first Jeremie and I couldn’t decide what to build the worm bins out of. I wanted wood, lined with plastic. But Jeremie thought termites and moisture would be a problem. IMG_9775 But we have lots of these water tanks laying around and Tommy and Katie cut three of them in half for me. Then I filled them with peat moss, sawdust and rabbit manure. Because my breeding stock of rabbits are raised in hanging cages, their poop will fall into these vermicomposting bins, feeding what I hope to be a growing population of worms. I have extracted promises from the kids that they will harvest the compost from the bins for me, because I am afraid to touch worms. Even with gloves on. I don’t think I’ve ever touched a worm in my life, and I don’t intend to start now. Benja laughs and me and says, “Mom, you’re funny.  You’re scared of everything.” Yep, that’s what I have children for. To get the frogs, snakes and wiggly worms for me that I’m scared of! After moistening the bedding down, I will be bringing home some red wrigglers from our worm farmer friend. Hopefully they will like their new digs! IMG_9776

Flowing with milk and honey

That’s the Funny Farm… a veritable Promised Land! Well, some of the time, at least. And I guess it depends on your perspective. But today was, without a doubt, one of the most exciting days we’ve had on the farm in a while. Harvesting honey!IMG_9707 We waited all year. Watched the bees busily working in the garden. Listened to the steady drone coming from the hive. Fall is a risky time to harvest the honey because if you take too much, the bees will starve over the winter. Or you have to feed them sugar water. Neither of which we’d like to see happen. So we were conservative in the number of frames we brought in to extract honey from, making sure to leave enough for the hard little workers to feast on all winter long. We didn’t take any from Tommy’s hive. Instead leaving them all the fruits of their summer labor. When it is better established, we can begin harvesting from that hive as well.IMG_9731 I had lots of helpers, which was good because my hands were sticky from the get-go. Susie and Jimmy were the main operators of the two frame extractor. Look at all that beautiful wax!IMG_9735 After filtering the honey twice it was ready to be bottled.IMG_9738 In the end we got about 4 1/2 gallons of honey. It is very dark, much darker than I’m used to. And definitely sweet! That amount should be plenty to see us through til late spring next year, when we can harvest again.IMG_9748

Garden Update 8-23-15

IMG_9777My August garden. I’ve planted rows of beets, carrots, lettuces, spinach, kale, kahlrabi, chard, cabbage and broccoli, and winter peas.IMG_9778Last cukes. IMG_9779One of only two melons we hope to enjoy. IMG_9781Cheery peppers! Not too much going on this week. Busy picking and canning tomatoes and beans….still.

Teaching Tips for Tots to Teens

So many homeschoolers fear the high school years. Fear leaving a gap in their children’s education. Fear teaching the “tough subjects” like physics and chemistry. I have not graduated any students yet, so take my advice with a grain of salt, for what it’s worth. But I submit that the key to teaching teens doesn’t start in 9th grade. It starts in the early, early years. So I’ve come up with some general tips for engaging little ones, that will bear rewards far into the teen years.

  • Be excited about “their” world. If you are genuinely excited about things that interest your 4 year old, they will naturally assume you are excited about things that interest them at 14, a time when parents beg to be let into their “teen’s world”.
  • Look them in the eye when they speak to you. Children have a keen sense of when you are not really paying attention. And soon, all too soon, they will stop clamoring for your attention.
  • smile at them.
  • listen attentively to their stories. Yes, even the ones that go on and on. Someday they will be relating stories of their lives to you, not endless stories of their make-believe world.
  • make yourself available. Kids tend to share stuff spontaneously, not during a scheduled “talk-time”
  • Be present. I am one who loves to read during lunch. But I find that is a great time for listening to and engaging the kids. When I’m with them, I try to be with them.
  • Don’t fill their time with busy-ness. Let them be free to be creative. To find ways to fill their own time. To explore their own interests.
  • Don’t run a taxi service. This is a hard one when you are parenting older children and younger children. I don’t want my little ones growing up in the back of a van. So even though I need to transport my older kids to music classes and different activities, I try to make sure I’m not employed by Molly’s Taxi Service.
  • Listen more. Talk less. Don’t lecture til their eyes glaze over. Or they will become used to tuning you out.
  • Have good books available, but don’t let them live in books. This is a controversial thing to say in homeschooling circles. I don’t want my kids reading all the time. I want them out, engaging in real life. Trying new things. Discovering things for themselves. Books can be a wonderful catalyst for the imagination, but I can see that they can be a crutch as well. IMG_1561

So that’s it, guys. All the wisdom I have to offer. I really believe that habits formed in the early years follow children into the teen years. Good relationships. Good communication. Mutual respect. An avid interest in each others lives and activities. My older kids are self motivated, so interested in the world and activity around them, I couldn’t stop them from learning That doesn’t look the same for every child though. Some eat up textbooks and request study material for birthdays. Some are inventors with shelves and tables full of motors, batteries, and wire. Some are inventors in the kitchen. Some love to hang around the adults, soaking up wisdom and knowledge. Some ask endless questions. This year we are tackling chemistry, the constituion, geometry and greek. The kids’ minds are like huge sponges, waiting to be saturated with information. IMG_4498