Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014

Some amazing things happened this weekend. But first, I will bore you with the activities of two weeks ago.

We started our Saturday with a t-ball game (Go Mud Dogs!), then a few errands, which of course included a stop at Southern States. Not to do anything to stir status quo, we bought more vegetables that we had time to plant. This season, Ghon started many of the vegetables from seeds in little peat pots. The peas did well, the peppers did OK, the broccoli was already in the ground. Watermelon, cantaloupe, and squashes were ready to plant.

So we bought several more pepper plants, some eggplant, tomatillo, pumpkins, and another watermelon, you know, just to be safe.

I wish I had more pictures to share of the day. Since I ruined my camera last year, largely in part I believe to taking the camera into the garden, and I didn’t have good pockets, I left it in the car.

Oh, the pictures I could have had.

The rain started far off in the distance. Then, it was a few miles down the road. I went to the local gas station to get diesel for Daniel who was re-tiling the garden. I pumped gasoline into a truck, dry, under a canopy. I pumped diesel in the rain. Back at the farm, it wasn’t raining.

So the planting started.

Then the rain started.

At first it was a light, intermittent rain. Then it was a steadier, light rain. And we kept planting. The plants had to get in the ground. I went to the truck, grabbed a trash bag and turned it into a poncho to keep me somewhat dry. Genevieve wanted a bag, so I found a large plastic grocery bag, made a head hole and had her loop her arms through the handles.

The planting continued. Pea plant after pea plant. The raindrops fell. Harder and larger. And larger, and more of it. Water was running off my baseball hat. My face was soaked, and I could barely see.

Another pea plant.

Ghon finally yelled to give up.

He’d been trying to plant corn.

We all ran to the house. The boys, who had no trash bag protection, rung the water from their shirts. Genevieve’s pigtails stuck to the side of her head and dripped. I was seeing out of one eye and my hat, dripping. We took Genevieve’s shirt off too.

Ghon to tried start a fire in the fireplace. Tried. The lighter had been outside and was too wet.

With no fire and three-quarters of the family shirtless, we wandered the house, discussing potential layouts and the kids trying to lay claim to rooms.

Once the rain died down, we headed back outside. We played with the goats and attempted to plant more corn, but the field was just too wet.

Dora, Dave, Jonathan and Genevieve

A man and his goat....

Homeward bound!

By Sunday, things dried out a bit. The kids and I headed to the farm in the late afternoon to get back to planting.

Garden planting wore me out that day. First, I finished the freaking peas. Then, all the other seedlings.

When planting watermelon, zucchini and squash, you have to plant them in a mound of dirt. This means you have to make a mound of dirt.

After the fiasco the day before, I couldn’t find a hoe anywhere. I had to resort to trying to rake together a mound of dirt with a rake. I kept yelling about my missing hoe.

A bit later. Jonathan can running, “MOM! I found your hoe!”

I was all over the double entendre that day. Kept making me laugh. Sometimes, it’s the simple things.

Over and over, rake and hoe the dirt, into a mound, the length of the garden. The entire length of the garden. Up and down, up and down planting.

Wash, rinse, repeat for row two. But my hoe broke. I was back to rake city.

The entire length of the garden. Up and down, up and down planting.

I planted 100 yards of watermelon.

I planted 100 yards of squash and zucchini.

I relaxed by mowing the grass after I was done planting. I enjoy driving the tractor around the yard, towing Genevieve behind me. And now that I know how to drive the tractor - I'm not dependent on Ghon to do it!

Once Ghon arrived, it was back to planting. He planted a row of sweet potatoes and regular white potatoes. Completely thrown off by the light in the sky, we quickly realized it was way past the kid's bedtime, we hadn't had dinner, and Ghon invented a new way to plant the taters. We had to dig some up, and replant as the sun quickly fell. We finally left about 9pm. Weekend over. Exhausted. Garden planted. Yea!

Fast forward two weeks... Memorial Day weekend! Ghon actually had off work two of the three days, so we were hoping to get a lot of work done.

We always hope.

When we are working at the farm, I always try to make sure the kids keep a hat on. There are too many bugs, especially ticks, at the farm and with short hair on Jonathan and Genevieve's fair hair and skin, I try to keep their heads and faces protected. Jonathan is getting better about keeping his hat on, and Genevieve is still hit or miss.

For the past few weeks, Jonathan has been asking for a farm hat. He loves wearing his overalls to work at the farm, and his designated farm boots. He wanted a straw hat, specifically, and one that looked like our friend Daniel's hat.

Jonathan has really taken a shine to Daniel, and often asks to do things like he does. Once or twice, I've heard him refer to his pretend friend named Daniel. Friday evening, we were out getting stuff for Saturday, and I found straw hats. We picked out the black rimmed hat, and I had to reassure Jonathan that Daniel's hat was probably black, not blue.

After his morning baseball game, Jonathan, Genevieve and I headed home for a quick lunch and to change before heading to the farm. Ghon was already in the woods working on splitting wood he'd cut previously.

Ready to work at the farm!

We had plans to head to a friend's house early in the afternoon to pick up more wood. They'd had several trees down in their yard and had cut the wood to length, but with no fireplace, didn't have a need for the wood. We'd gathered about half earlier in the week, and were heading back to get the rest Saturday. I did a little work around the yard, prepping for yard work and pulling together a trash run while the kids played.

We've been collecting rain water in the buckets to use later to put our fires. Genevieve first turned it into a fishing hole, and Jonathan later joined her.

Caught a big one!

Jonathan loves driving our lawn tractor, and the kids now take great pleasure in pointing out orange tractors whenever they seem them on the road. They can't quite say the brand name right, so Ghon has been taking full advantage of having them say it as more of a battle cry when mowing grass, or a password to drive.

How do you say Husqvarna?

*For the record, yes, my child is wearing sunscreen. He was hot, from playing, not burned.

Once the wood was collected from our friends' house, it of course had to be unloaded. Jonathan is a great helper about 95% of the time. He was determined to help unload the truck. He'd help load it, of course he should unload! He went up in the truck, and I snapped a few pics, then went closer to help and watch him. I was so nervous watching him climb on the logs - wobbling, shifting, and moving under his feet. However, little did I know, he had protection. If you believe orbs are spirits, look at the orbs following him.

Can you see them? I count four. One at the brake light, one on him, one between him and Ghon and one by the back tire.
Same - four orbs, but the one by the brake light and tire have moved.

I showed these pictures to Ghon later, as I certainly did not see them when I took the pictures. Not likely to be dust, and based on the time of day and our location, Ghon ruled out sunspots. Freaky. Anyhow, back to the wood. Over the course of two days, we brought home a good bit of wood.

All the free wood. Pile to split, pile to stack.
And an orb is still there - near the back door to the workshop.
After the truck was unloaded, Ghon was headed back up the hill to bring down all the wood he'd split. We divided the troops, with the boys headed to the top of the hill and the girls staying to cut grass. While I hooked the trailer up to the lawn tractor and got to mowing the front yard with Genevieve in tow, Ghon and Jonathan headed up the hill. At the last second, I asked Ghon to take my camera with him.

But first, let's take a selfie!

Time check on the phone with my boys - turned selfie!
I knew to expect trouble when I took the camera an hour later and Ghon said to Jonathan, "Hold on, mom's going to get angry with me." He let Jonathan run the wood splitter. Seriously?

When I was instructed how to use it, I can't begin to guess how many times I was reminded of where to not put my hands. How the wood could pop. How strong the machine was. Deep breath...he was here, fine, with all his fingers and his eyesight.

Working the splitter.
Two more orbs protecting him.
Successful split!
Oh, but wait, there's video.  But you'll have to turn your head or screen sideways - Ghon didn't realize my camera doesn't change video orientation.

Good thing he's usually pretty smart. Jonathan that is, not Ghon. :)

Good job, Daddy. Make him pose for a picture for me!
They split a little then loaded up some wood before heading down the hill. Ghon had been smoking a brisket and ribs for lunch, and it was getting close to dinner time. But before dinner - it was time to socialize the goats. Dora and Dave weren't very socialized as young kids, so they are often pretty nervous around us and are not easily approachable. Dora is getting better, but Dave is still hesitant. What can you expect though after what happened to Dave?

 With grand idea of taking the goats for a walk, Ghon had to capture them to get them to come out of their pen. Once out, they wanted to run the other way. We resorted to holding them and petting for a while.

Genevieve giving Dave a little love.
Dave taking in some snuggles with Miss BJ.
I sat on the ground and pet Dora for a while, and Genevieve sat right with me.

After almost an hour of goat time, we sent them back to their yard, got the fire roaring and had dinner.

I always think of Where the Wild Things Are when I see Jonathan in this picture. And look, more orbs!
We invited Daniel over for dinner. The kids were excited, and even more so when rather than walking over, Daniel drove his tractor. We told Daniel about how much Jonathan was looking up to him, and Jonathan couldn't wait to show him his hat. After they compared the features and benefits of a wide brimmed hat, they let me snap this picture.

Jonathan and his pal Daniel, with matching hats!
The rest of the evening was filled with yelling and screaming kids and stories by the fire.

Ghon, Jonathan, Genevieve and Daniel, hanging out by the fire. I love Genevieve's silhouette.
Family selfie by the fire!
I had started to feel sick that evening. I packed up the kids close to 10, got them home, showered and in bed. By 11, I was in bed and miserable. Ghon came home around midnight. By 3am we were both sick - disgusting stomach bug going around. It laid me out most of Sunday. Ghon went to work, but came home and took a 2 hour nap. Thank goodness it was only a 24 hour thing - as we were back at it on Monday.

After eating slightly more than nothing Sunday, we headed out to breakfast Monday to a local dive with Pop, where Ghon had almost one of everything on the menu. Properly fueled, we were off to Southern States for baby chick food and over to Lowes.

Lowes didn't have what we needed, so we still gave them $100 and took some stuff we didn't really need.

Jonathan: Master cart navigator. Genevieve: Keeper of more tomato plants and edamame.
I considered planting some flowers at the house. I have hesitated in doing any major landscaping until we do final work on the porch area and keep moving out rose of sharon bushes. The kids have been after me to get flowers, so today, we did.
What a gentleman!
Two flats and three more for good measure.
And we still made room for Genevieve!
Loaded up with plant food and more plants, our next stop was grocery shopping. I whizzed through the store with Genevieve, while Ghon and Jonathan ran off to do their own shopping. While Genevieve and I gathered exciting things like eggs and milk, the boys picked up new fishing poles and night crawlers for some fishing later in the day.

The kids and I dropped Ghon off at the farm so he could finish pulling the wood off the hill while the kids and I unloaded groceries, made lunch and got dressed in our farm clothes. Then it was back to work. More grass mowing, more planting vegetables and screaming "don't step on the plants!" I need to rope off each garden row so the kids know where to walk, and where NOT to walk. I convinced Ghon to till a strip along the driveway for me where some plants once were and the rose of sharon removed last summer.

Hauling flowers to the new flower bed.
Once done, the kids helped me lay out the planting pattern for the flowers. Anything to reinforce colors for Genevieve and the mathematical concept of patterns for them both! Ghon worked on a raised bed garden near the chicken run while I planted the flowers. After a few minutes, as he was picking up old bags of mulch to use as dirt, I heard him say "Oh, Hi little friend!"

Snake. I could tell by his voice.

I asked if it was Slick. No. Was it a cousin? No. Any relative? No. Then when I sent the kids to see the snake, he denied seeing one.


A minute later he pulled out the garter snake for the kids to see. After hearing some oohs and ahhs, my considerate children yell, "Mom! Mommy! Look! Do you want to see him too?" No thanks. I'm fine. But I still had to take pictures.

Petting the snake. I took pictures.
Snake. Yuck.
Jonathan had a turn holding the snake.
After the photo shoot, they took the snake to the garden so it could eat the bad garden bugs. And they named the snake, Jim Bob.

Next up, doing a little chicken coop cleanup. About a month ago, before we got rid of our roosters, we had a hen get super broody. We let her sit on the eggs for a bit, then it was to late not to let her. The kids found out she was sitting on the eggs and also encouraged us to wait. Sure enough, chick hatched about two weeks go. Ghon brought the baby chick out, so the kids of course spent time loving and squeezing it.

So soft, so sweet!
Lovin' on the baby chicken!
Before long, it was finally time. Jonathan had been begging all day to go fishing. Ghon prepped the rods, left Genevieve and I with the chickie and off they went, across the road to the pond at Daniel’s house.

Ready to go fishing!
For about the next hour, the boys fished, and the girls mowed the far field by the orchard. The little chick was quite nimble and kept jumping out of the large container it was in and walking around. I was afraid to leave it alone, and not knowing what Ghon’s plans were for her next shelter, we took the chick with us. I sat her in a bucket, and put Genevieve in charge of holding the bucket for the tractor ride.

When the boys came back, I asked Jonathan if he’d caught anything. He shook his head no. He looked sad, but not defeated. I had given Ghon my camera, so I started flipping through my pictures.

Just keep fishing, fishing, fishing...
Waiting for a bite!
Wait, what’s this! A fish! The little man tricked me! I asked him if he had, and he started laughing then got excited and told me about his catch. He was so happy!

His first catch! How awesome!
One more scenic shot

It was a long weekend. Well, duh, it was three days long. We were all tired – but had a great time. While getting the kids into bed Monday, I asked Genevieve what the best part of her day was. She said the farm. And shopping. And the chickie. Jonathan’s response? Fishing. And the farm. It will be good to be there always.

Friday, May 2, 2014

We did what?

What an interesting few days, the kind where memories are made!

Thursday was Bring Your Child to Work Day at my office. Normally, a child can't even think about stepping foot in my office. Jonathan has been asking to visit my office for a long time. After years of not having a program, this year, we finally had a scheduled program.

Our day started with Jonathan obtaining his very own badge and lanyard that had his name on it. He was delighted! After check in, and dropping off our things at my office, we headed to the main event area. We listened to a short welcome from our division VP, and hit a variety of activity stations. Jonathan learned about the census, had his fingerprints taken, learned about centrifugal force, manned a robot, built a robot finger and had a lesson in structural engineering. The highlight of the day however was the video and presentation by former astronaut Rick Hieb.

Jonathan and astronaut Rick Hieb

After the video, Mr. Hieb signed photos for all the children in attendance. Jonathan brought along a book about space which Mr. Hieb also signed. After the first round of signatures, Jonathan asked if he would sign a picture for his father and sister, which he did.

After the astronaut highlights, Jonathan scored extra cookies in the cafeteria for looking so sharp. I had to do a little work in the afternoon. He made himself comfortable for a while, found cupcakes in the community kitchen, then played hide and seek with a co-worker's daughter that came to work.

While Jonathan and I were at work, Ghon had the day off and decided to have a daddy-daughter day, or their own version of bring your child to work day. They started their day with breakfast and a trip to Lowes.

According to Ghon, he was looking at some other plants, and Genevieve grabbed her own flat bed cart and started loading blueberry bushes and plum trees, pushing it herself and telling him "they needed them."

Of course he bought them.

They also said goodbye to Telescope Head and Jackass. Roosters are just mean, and after the smaller rooster, Jackass (no, the kids do not know him by this name), attacked Genevieve, and I attacked him back, I told Ghon they had to go. The only cool thing about a rooster is hearing their crow, but they are just downright mean. He posted on a local farm group on Facebook that they were free to any home, and they were picked up that afternoon.

Note 1: Genevieve was not hurt by the rooster attack. He charged her from behind and pecked at her thigh, no marks left.
Note 2: I do not know if the rooster was hurt. I was holding an empty bucket, and despite my usual poor hand/eye coordination, whacked that rooster straight across the run when he came at Genevieve.
Note 3: Our homeowners insurance does not cover chicken attacks. I had to sign a waiver noting this. Ironic that Jackass sealed his fate after I signed the waiver? Brandi, if you are reading this, take note - Telescope Head and Jackass are gone. :)

After saying good riddance to the roosters, Ghon and Genevieve did a little planting in the garden then started making the goats a jungle gym.

Genevieve checking out the stairs.

Dora was brave enough to test it out right away.

Ghon had a doctor appointment in Frederick, so at the end of the day, the four of us met up for dinner then I brought the kids home.

Daddy and his Punkie

Friday was a riot. Daycare was closed and Jonathan's school had a half day. The kids and I had a relaxing morning while Ghon headed to the farm to work. After Genevieve and I dropped Jonathan off at school, we headed to the store to buy snacks for his t-ball game the next day. After, we met up with Ghon at Meadows Farms. We purchased most of the trees for the orchard there last year, and they have a one year guarantee. Of the roughly 20 trees we have, only four seem not to have survived the winter. Two were from the nursery, so Ghon dug them up to return/exchange them.

He ended up getting three new trees, in addition to the two Genevieve picked out the day before. Two are a new tree variety that will actually bear fruit this year. They are both apple trees - can't wait to see the fruit this year.

Genevieve wanted to help push the cart with the new trees.

After our quick outing, Genevieve and I had to head back home to get Jonathan from the school bus. We headed home, changed into farm clothes and tried to beat the rain to do some garden planting.

We failed. Miserably.

Donning our work clothes, rain coats, and Genevieve toting her bumbrella (not a typo), we planted a few remaining broccoli plants that Genevieve and Ghon hadn't finished the day before. The rain got harder as we finished and we all decided to quit. I helped Ghon cover the lawn tractor, got the kids in the car, and we headed home. Home is only 6 minutes. It was a very wet 6 minutes.

Of course there are no pictures. My camera would have been drenched from the monsoon that hit. Our clothes were soaked, our shoes covered in mud. I had a hat on, and it was so wet it was dripping. Not a drip here and a drop there, it was dripping.

The kids thought it was quite amusing that I had them strip down at the landing as they walked in the house. Everything was soaked, right on down to the undies! It was time to change into comfy clothes for the rest of the evening.

Thanks to all the rain Friday, Jonathan's baseball game was cancelled on Saturday. Have no fear, we went to Taekwondo instead! After, we made a few quick stops, including a stop at the local farmer's market, then headed home to get into some farm clothes. We had a special mission to partake in.

When Ghon first decided to get Dave and Dora, I insisted that Dave be neutered. I honestly don't think we know enough about goats, but we are learning. The one thing I did know was that a girl goat and a boy goat can make baby goats. And I have no time for baby goats. Ghon found someone through a farming Facebook page to come and do the deed.

Now, let me educate you on goat neutering. It's not at all like neutering a dog or a cat. The process is called banding. Knowing next to nothing about goats, we did pick up a book and Ghon read about the process. It's simple, but being a male, Ghon couldn't handle it. Basically, you wrap a band around the testicles, which will eventually shrivel and fall off.

Ya still with me fellas?

You stick a band, around the testicles at the point they meet the body, then they swell for a few days, then shrink and fall off. The process takes about 6 weeks.

Had to repeat that in case it wasn't clear.

Of course, Ghon had to work Saturday, which left me in charge of goat chasing and assisting with the neutering. Which he thought was hilarious.

The kids and I did some of our normal Saturday activities in town, headed home to change into "farm" clothes, and back to the farm we went.

I told the kids we had to meet someone there who was going to help us take care of Dave. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain this procedure to Jonathan. Fortunately, kids remember things. Like the fact Dave had a little diarrhea when we got him. Once I mentioned someone was going to help him, Jonathan proclaimed, "Oh, they're going to help with his diarrhea?"

Lie? Don't lie? Lie? Don't lie?

My reply: "Well, maybe."

Fortunately, that sufficed and off they ran.to play

Not long after we arrived, Tim stopped by. I ran down the sechedule of events for Dave, and he asked if we needed help. Thank you!! I am not going to have to do this alone!

A few minutes later, Sherry arrived with her daughter. The kids ran off to play with each other, while the three adults headed into the goat pen.

It didn't take long to corner Dave, which I thought would be the hardest part. Tim got behind him and walked him toward Sherry and I. He ended up getting a little spooked and ran into a fence, and Sherry grabbed him right up. She showed me how to hold him, and I handed the camera to Tim to document the progress for Ghon.

I'll let the pictures do the talking now.

Lucky for Dave, he had a good set at his age. Sherry prepped the band on her tool and checked the angle/placement.

The rubber band is placed snug against Dave's tummy. The testicles will swell a bit, then slowly shrivel and fall off.

And men get all worked up over the idea of a vasectomy.

That was about 10 minutes start to finish, including catch time. It wasn't until a few hours later that Jonathan mentioned anything about it. He asked if that lady was going to cut off Dave's "wedgie." I assured him that the woman did not cut Dave, and he left it alone.

After Sherry and Tim left, the kids and I did a little farm work.

Raking out the chicken run

Add caption

Back to the chicken catching.

After catching the chicken, Jonathan started chasing them around. After several attempts of asking him to stop, and him not listening, I sent him out of the chicken run.

Real tears! This is what happens when you don't listen and have to leave the chickens.

I'm such a mean mommy.

Once Genevieve and I finished in the chicken run, we headed to the garden for more planting. On the way, I spotted this bird in the gutter.

I had minimal planting help. Jonathan planted 4-5 broccoli plants with me before joining Genevieve in an epic digging event!

First, a little worm play!

The hole he dug all by himself.

Genevieve switched quickly from holes to a dirt cake, then a big dirt birthday cake, complete with stick candles.

Just like a beach - buried alive!

I'm flying Mommy!

Dave neutered, chickens taken care of, plants planted, last stop, to feed the goats.

It's not just a jungle gym for goats, but kids too.

My sillies!

That was our weekend! Now that this has taken a week to write this post, here's a quick update on what's happened this week.

Now that the young chickens are running out and about, we have to make sure they go to bed every night to avoid night predators.  Ghon found two bodies Monday, one completely chewed on. We think these were from a hawk.

Tuesday night, Ghon headed down to close the door, as he hasn't completely figured out the new timer. He called me with "uh-oh."

He watched a chicken be carried out of the coop. By a skunk.

The fence around the yard needs a little re-securing I suppose, and we need to figure out the timer. Dang critters.

This weekend is the Apple Blossom Festival here in Winchester. It's a big deal, but we've always avoided as much as we could and are normally at a chili cook-off this weekend. The kids and I are going to hit up a few parades, a street festival and our favorite, fireworks!!