Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I took a few extra seconds to grab just a couple of pictures at work today. We begin in the dark:
An hour later I've finished milking the first 21. The last three get milked separately because they are still in colostrum. Its about 7 a.m. I'm standing in the parlor pit, looking out, a reverse view of the dark one above. Cleaning all the manure you see on the ground is something I'll do later---likely, the last thing before I leave. Manure is a low priority behind feeding, cleaning, and training heifers.
Here is beautiful baby Gorgeous, in the middle, with two of her hutch mates waiting for me to bring them warm milk from their mamas. They can all drink from their own nipple buckets, except that new girl on the far left. She still gets a bottle. She's only two days old.
These are 25 yearling heifers. Sometimes I get to drive that golf cart amongst them, delivering grain. When that happens they get very excited, because they know I have their grain but also because the golf cart is super weird to them. They hop and buck all around me, like popcorn swarming.
This is 112. We're training her to walk through the milking parlor without feeling afraid. She has yet to set one hoof inside. Today was her first day to try. I tied her there, set some grain down as an enticement, and moved far back to let her get used to the door way, the sloping floor, the presence of walls, rails, and a roof. Having older cows come back in through the out door helped her relax. I'm sorry I haven't memorized her name yet. She's due to calve in a few weeks for the first time.
"You want me to do what now?"
 A reassuring kiss from a friend is helpful.
 "I promise, its really okay. That step isn't nearly so far down as it looks."
 Well, maybe tomorrow.... Good first try, girl!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I stood in the dark outside the creamery with the phone and said to my boss, "Glory had her baby, they're safe, I'll start milking the mamas." Later my boss showed up in the dairy parlor and said, "You said Glory had her baby. But you didn't tell me that little heifer calf is SO CUTE!" I doubt this job ever gets too old. Everyday is something new. Today, Glory's little spotted calf. We moved her to the hutches with the other calves in a garden cart.

This afternoon my daughter made dinner, my son figured out how to replace our front door knob, and I swept out our house--with all the windows and doors open. Its sixty two degrees and there is a significant amount of snow on the ground. I've never seen that before.

I spent the afternoon wondering what kinds of things are most important to learn. So many kids graduate from high school without the slightest clue how to do real things: use a knife, cook a meal, fix broken things, harvest food, manage money, speak their mind, know their hearts...

Monday, February 17, 2014

 Truth! The Big Lie About Student Achievement ~Monica Bauer

"The Big Lie is all about extrinsic motivation; getting the grade to prove something to somebody else. Grades become stand-ins for self-worth. Everything we know about teaching and learning revolves around this one true thing: real education only occurs with intrinsic motivation, a desire to learn just because of a student's passion for the subject. Everything else is crap that lives in a student's brain just barely long enough to pass a test."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

There was an unexpected newborn heifer calf standing among all the Big Mommies in the barn when I flipped on the light out there at 5 a.m. today. Got to lift and carry my first calf. Always wondered if I could do that. Turns out, I can.

Gave my goaty girls their CDT shots and brand new collars today. They took it well and they look spiffing. I always feel afraid to give shots. Its always so much easier than I remember. Clove is bagging up fast.

Fear of giving shots kept me from going for a nursing degree. How sad is that? If I'd gotten a nursing degree, it would have been a Masters of Midwifery. Held back by THE EASIEST THING.

H spent 4 hours volunteering with an organization that refurbishes computer parts into new computers for kids living in poverty. He felt unqualified to do more than clean screens. So that's what he offered to do and he was pretty bored the whole time. Next time I bet he chooses more interesting tasks. Yeah, it will require some training. But all the interesting stuff in life always does.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I'm reading my way through all four of John Green's novels. Which feels important and timely, as the mother of unschooling teenagers.

From Paper Towns

"It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined."

"But imagining being someone else, or the world being something else, is the only way in. It is the machine that kills fascists."
We just had a big snow storm. Ice was forecast, and I prepared for ice, but we didn't see much of that and never lost power. Finally, the snow I promised my little children when we moved back here from Texas, arrived! And the kids, 7 years older now, were....kinda "meh." They played in some snow. They did a little sledding. Mostly, they ate and slept and spent their days doing what they normally do---reading, talking to friends online, playing games, helping around the house. R made cookies and special chocolates for Valentines Day. H helped his Dad built the goats a new stanchion. The stanchion, just in time because I need a way to restrain the mama goats for their vaccinations and hoof trims, which we need to do before their kids begin arriving. In the next few weeks, I think.
Note to self: need gloves and boots for kids and Dad. How can a mini-farm be lacking boots?! Also, its okay to go ahead and dump the extra 200 gallons of water stashed all over the house in case of power loss. Temps forecast in the 60s for later this week.

I had to climb a high fence with a power drill and some baling twine to secure plywood over the top rails at work last week. Sitting up there, making extra shelter for the calves in case of ice, it occurred to me: I love my job. Earlier that same day, I got one foot stuck between five panicked pigs. That's not a good situation, but even in that moment, it occurred to me how much I love my job. Its dirty dangerous gorgeous fun hard work. Calving season has started. Spring is on the way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

H decided to build himself a weight bench. Found the plans, researched the materials, and built that thang. Very cool. Weigh to go! (ha, sorry)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I'm two thirds of the way through "The Fault in Our Stars." This morning my husband had to grab a feed bucket and sort of pour me into it so he could carry me safely to a different place on the couch.

Isn't it fascinating (sad) that most of us break our hearts and even ruin large swaths of our lives over our own false internal narrative to ourselves? Lost over things that are not true.

Interesting: both Christmas books involve unanticipated Nazis.

I never noticed how many friends I have that can be identified by two concurrent initials.

Remember last year when Dear Girl got to ride in a hot air balloon? A couple of days ago we were browsing her pictures together and she shared some new images she took from the balloon basket that day. The last one gives me the quitchies:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My son surrounded by his sister and her friends at a dance party. 
Their friends are the nicest funnest group of teenagers I've ever met.
They are, all of them, good people. And its fun to see all of them being them.
The first weekly teen afternoon hangout was last week and it went well. Before I set them all free I reminded them that packs of teenagers make adults nervous and they should behave accordingly. That nervous adults will simply call the police if they sense trouble, and that if the teens found themselves with nowhere to hang out they should walk to the park and loiter there. Because that's what parks are for. It went well. I think they all had fun. They caused no trouble. We've entered the realm of a lot more freedom. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Oh I get in snits, alright. It happens from time to time. Generally as a result of overwhelming psychic pain---my own, which of course shines with the intensity of the sun in my own personal psychic pain galaxy. But also, that of the people I love. And there's been a lot of it going around lately.*

I asked a dear friend who is so wise, to recommend a book for my daughter for Christmas. Santa likes to give each of my kids a book each year. My friend suggested John Green's "The Fault In Our Stars." But I decided against it. (What Santa gave my daughter instead is wholly inappropriate and wrong. It sits unread on a shelf, which is appropriate.) "The Fault" deals with issues of mortality and cancer. I had a brush with cancer last year and thought the topic might not convey proper holiday cheer. Of course, I was wrong and my daughter and my wise friend were completely right. Dear Girl bought the book two weeks ago because, as she said, "I've been hearing GREAT things about this." Indeed. 

The book Santa bought for my son for Christmas, "Different Seasons" by Stephen King, was the right and the wrong choice. I thought I'd read the whole book. Not so. I'd read the famous stories, but not the other two. When he finished, I picked it up.  And so discovered my ability to pick the wrong book, to not convey proper holiday cheer, apparently borders on genius. Anyone ever read "Apt Pupil"? I can't believe I gave that book to my son as a gift. (My Darling, I'm so very very VERY sorry.) Its the most disturbing story I've ever read. Reading all of it was the least I could do for my son, to not leave him alone there. So I read it. May I never read such ghastliness in fictional form again. Realistic horror of the spirit is not my favorite genre. 

In the same spirit of shared burdens and willingness to move with my kids through all things dark and difficult, I asked to read "The Fault" next. I'm 100 pages in. Its brilliant. Its searing. Its truthful to a rare extreme. A paragraph in the second chapter nearly caused me to gasp and sob on the floor of the waiting room at the orthodontist yesterday. Of all the characters and all their individual constellations of pain, right now the Dad is the one who breaks my heart most. But I'm sure that may change as we go along.
I told my husband, last night, that I feel mushy inside and too tender. He asked what I need and I said I need to be carried gently in cupped hands. I think that's all we can do for each other---cup our hands to help each other land softly. Love each others children. Read each others stories. Listen carefully, walk together, try to remember compassion. Forget. Try again, better this time. And for myself, blow off all housework as long as possible. My daughter just asked me to please do a load of laundry. Time to get over my snit and back to work. Right after I finish this novel...

*If your name is indicated by two concurrent initials and you worry about this exact thing--friends picking up your own psychic radiation--please know I carry yours lightly, as something held in a turtle shell or the spaces between dandelion thistles. Which is not to say your heart has no radiant pain, but only, it isn't a burden. And, compared to other suns in other galaxies around me, is not as dire as some. Which is a sad sort of good news that I dearly hope continues to be true for you for a very long time.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I always prick up my ears when I hear veteran unschooling moms talk about what and how their kids handled the high school years:

 ...2 of mine took a few classes, but K and J never set foot in a high school class. I let them choose. S did an online program - Keystone and then American School, earned an actual diploma - by 14. School sort of bored them, the teachers telling them things instead of the method they were used to -teaching themselves. I know plenty of unschooled kids who entered high school without having ever done any organized "learning", one girl I know entered high school knowing the equivalent of about 4th grade math, but despite that handicap caught up within a few months and graduated with honors. Most homeschoolers I know, regardless of teaching method, know how to teach themselves and find the lecturing of a teacher boring but adapt fine. High school isn't that hard, and the maturity of kids makes it easier to catch up than say, being 6 and trying to learn to read. I read somewhere that you could be totally illiterate at 20 and be able to learn everything in a high school curriculum in 2 years or less. ~ Doc