Saturday, January 9, 2010

Here's the Mail

With the road plowed, the mail came today!  I don't at all mind being snowed in for awhile, but for some reason, the thought of no mail for several days at a stretch makes me feel lonely.  I was so happy to see our mailman's truck pull into the end of the drive, retrieve our outgoing letters, and fill our box with several days' worth of mail before making his "U" turn and heading back to town.  (We're the last place on his route.)

So...did we get anything wonderful?  Yes!  Among the bills and junk mail, we got the local town's paper, which usually comes on Thursdays.  We received the Nebraska Dairy Goat Association newsletter, which is always a very fun read.  And...we got a package I ordered.  There were a few fun things for our daughter's upcoming birthday, and there was a little treat for me:  Sara Evans Greatest Hits  So many songs that I enjoy!  I listened to it the rest of the afternoon and made the kids dance with me.  Even though I didn't spend too much time outside today (it was -17F when we did morning chores!), I still got in my 10,000+ steps, so thank you very much, Sara!

For dinner this evening, I helped the kids make individual pizzas.  We forgot to prick the dough before baking it, though, and we ended up making the most perfect pocket breat ever!  It turned out much nicer than my usual pita bread recipe.  If only I followed a recipe for making pizza dough, I'd know what to do the next time I want pita bread.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Enough snow already!

The plow made it through today, so we can go somewhere tomorrow if we'd like.  I don't think we'll actually go anywhere until Sunday Mass, but it's nice to know the option is there!

Just how much snow do we have around here?'s the goat pen:

You can see where the goats walked right out of the pen.  I don't blame them!  Their little goat hut is completely buried.

Behind this drift is the pen where the Jacob rams used to stay:

The rams have a new pen.  The goats could have a new pen, too, but they're very particular about which pens they'll actually stay in.  The little Pygmy goat, Mary, is extremely clever about opening latches.  The two Saanens, Diamond and Ruby, are much better about staying where they're supposed to stay.  They will, however, follow their friend Mary right out a gate because -- after all -- it's not their fault if it was opened for them, right?  They currently have decided to hang out by the hay bale next to the new ram pen and share water with the Jersey heifer we're milking.

It's been a bit challenging to keep everyone warm and fed and watered with the cold temps and all this snow, but I'm so proud of my boys for doing an amazing job with their chores.  I'm thankful we have plenty of hay and feed and were able to get to everything when we needed it.  I'm also very happy my husband was snowed in with us instead of away at work.  He got to help milk the cow a little more often than he'd like, but he's the fastest milker on the place, and it sure was appreciated on these cold days!

I'm going to go make a cup of tea, grab a few of the gardening catalogs that have been stacking up, curl up in some blankets, and dream of spring.

Getting a Little Owly

Today, we took a break from our regularly scheduled science curriculum to get a little owly.

First, we read this great book about owls:

All About Owls by Jim Arnosky is a great introductory book about owls.  It gives clear, concise information about owls.  The illustrations are engaging and accurate.  It's written so that it appealed to all my kids -- ages 3 to 12 (and I enjoyed it, too).

After reading the book, we had a great discussion about owls we've seen and heard around our homestead and in the area before getting to the really good stuff!  The three oldest boys dissected owl pellets. 

This is what Josiah's owl pellet looked like when he first began to carefully peel away the fur, feathers, and vegetable matter:

Joey took apart his pellet very carefully and methodically.  He first found a mouse skull and then began to get excited when another skull seemed to be emerging.

Joey uncovered a mouse and a small bird.  He theorized that perhaps this owl had raided a bird nest and eaten a baby bird or two.  Besides the skulls, he found a very interesting collection of bones!

Elijah loved taking apart the pellet.  True to his nature, he found joy in every moment of the process.

He was so thrilled to find not one -- but two!! -- mouse skeletons inside his pellet.  Here are a few pieces including the skulls:

It was interesting to see that the mice had orangish teeth like a beavers.

Noah dug right into his pellet...

...and found a fairly large bird!  Here's the bird's skull:

It was exciting when he found the bird's clavicle ("wishbone") intact.  Since I'd made chicken soup, I had a chicken's clavicle set aside for wishing, so we were able to compare sizes.

Lilli enjoyed the book very much and would have liked to dissect her own pellet.  It was a grave oversight on Mom's part not to have gotten her one.  She did enjoy watching her brothers dissect pellets and kept herself busy practicing letters in a sand tray while they worked.  Matthias was napping while we did this activity, or he would have been happily flinging sand everywhere!

The boys all thought this was a really fun and interesting activity, and the bones of the prey have been carefully saved in a small tin for further study.  Tomorrow, we'll spend some time looking up more information on owls, and the boys will each get to choose whether they'd like to write a report or make a poster detailing what they've learned.  I printed out 2010 calendars for them that feature pictures of twelve different owls from 2010 "Hooters" Calendar, and we're going to use the pictures to make a set of laminated owl cards that we can use to practice identification and to play games to help us remember the different varieties of owls. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Poem for Mom

On the Death of the Beloved

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives,
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of color.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was alive, awake, complete.

We look toward each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

John O'Donohue

Happy New Year!

"Be always at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors,
and let each New Year find you a better man."
~Benjamin Franklin