These Boots!

Have you heard the song, “These Boots are Made for Walking” sung by Nancy Sinatra, 1966?

That is what our now, two year old thinks about the birthday present her oldest brother and his family gave her – A pair of bright pink croc boots.

She absolutely adores them. For starters, she can put them on herself. She may have them on the wrong feet, but it doesn’t stop her! What could be better?[Continue Reading]

Mouse Trap = Victory!

For those of you who have not had personal experience with the item pictured above, specifically, the mouse trap, more power to you!

We, on the other hand, know the joy of hearing the quiet but telling “click” which signals victory! I love a movie line from Galaxy Quest spoken by Fred after he blows up the rock monster, “It’s the little things in life!”

While living in the country has distinct advantages, one problem is the mice. Being surrounded by cultivated fields, in an older rental house, which does not seal well, we periodically have mice problems. They especially seek shelter after the farmers plow and harvest. (I’m sorry girls – I told the world our secret problem!)

If you have never had the pleasure of setting a mouse trap, the first step is to smear peanut butter on the plastic cheese piece. I don’t know who thought of making a plastic swiss cheese piece – they obviously have never tried to catch a mouse! Mice are not stupid. They know real food and real food smells. So, after experimenting, the mice here in west Texas prefer peanut butter and the plastic swiss cheese piece is where you put it.

After the trap is baited, you very carefully pull the wire thing, that looks like a squared off u, back and latch it with the staight piece of wire. It can be a painful operation if it “clicks” on your finger. Even if it doesn’t “click” on your finger, it scares you half to death! It always amazes me how my fear of the “click” is so disproportional to the pain it actually inflicts!

Once the trap is set, you VERY gently place it in a high traffic area. High traffic, that is, for mice, not people. How do you know where the high traffic area is? You will know by the droppings they leave behind – which is probably how you knew you had mice in the first place. Otherwise, VERY gently place it where you think they are, and … wait. We normally set ours at night because that is when they seem to visit.

To date, our record is 6 mice caught in our kitchen in one evening!

It’s the little things!

Rain, Rain and More Rain!

Finally back to the land of the living! Our internet was knocked out by the thunderstorms which included rain, thunder, lightening and hail. This year we have had 36 inches of rain! That is three times the normal yearly rainfall! Four and a half inches fell in one night. Now, this would not be a big deal in lower Alabama, but here in west Texas, it is a major problem. Streets were flooded and just plain messy. Many crops have been hurt or destroyed.

Most of the chickens were huddled together in the cow palace. But, one, it seemed, needed some time out with its beak to the fence! I think a better time could have been picked. She must have decided so also, because not long after this picture was taken, she too ran for the safety of the cow palace.

The hail was the worst. Had it happened a couple of weeks earlier, we probably would have lost our grapes. By the time the storm was over, the ground was almost covered with pieces of hail ranging in size from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in diameter.

The saddest thing, though, was the next day driving around while on an errand. The farmers around us had dug peanuts the week before and they were laying on top of the ground drying. Now, being so wet, the peanuts must dry quick enough so as not to rot and be a total loss.

The cotton was much the same story. If it had already been sprayed with a defoliant, much of the cotton bolls were lost in the hail. If it had not been sprayed, some of the cotton had weeped out of the boll, had mud splashed up on it, or had the possibility of being stained by the plant itself from all the water. Any of these sceneries bring a considerably lower prices to the farmer.

While we only lost about 1/3 of the foliage from the vines, others lost so much more. It is a stark reminder of how truly temporal this world and the things in it are if we set our hopes upon it.

The Beauty of the Rainbow

13 “I set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.

14 And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud,

15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.”     Genesis 9:13

Engagement Announced!

Our oldest daughter is engaged! We knew it was coming and were not surprised but are certainly pleased. I feel like the Lord has answered our prayers in sending her a godly young man. The official proposal (with ring) was October 4th.

Since our son-in-law-to-be had never seen Father of the Bride with Steve Martin, we watched it together (muting a couple of scenes for the younger children) the following weekend. If you have ever seen the movie, you will remember it is told from the father’s perspective. George (Steve Martin) and Nina’s (Diane Keaton) daughter Annie had returned from studying in Rome for the summer. At dinner that evening, she announces she met a man in Rome and they were to be married. George’s expressions as he remembers Annie as a pig-tailed little girl are priceless.

Our pig-tailed little girl certainly has grown up into a godly, beautiful lady. OK, I realize that I am bragging but she is my daughter and, after all, aren’t mothers allowed to that every now and then?

Planning is well underway as the tentative date is January 15, 2011. She has already found a dress. I am not at liberty to disclose details as they might fall into the wrong hands! But, I will say, it is white and I had to choke back tears several times as she tried on different dresses. She is definitely not that pig-tailed little girl in my memories any longer.

The day spent dress hunting really impressed upon me the privilege of motherhood. As a mother, you pray, seek the Lord as you go through the daily routine of life, teach, comfort and the list goes on. Sometimes in the throes of daily life, it is easy to lose focus. I mean to lose sight of what is most important – our children themselves – and not just the “list” that must get done.

In the blink of an eye, you turn around, they are grown and leaving home. Whatever the path the Lord has for them, be it marriage or career, our time with them is so short. Make the most of it!

Aglianico Harvest

The Aglianico grapes are off  the vines and at the winery. Everyone is breathing a big sigh of relief!

Friday we did our final machine harvest of the year, the Aglianico – our latest ripening variety. The day began with the bins being delivered at 2 am. John and the boys met the trucker at the vineyard to unload them. The actual harvest began between 5:30  and 6 am. It is amazing how different the vineyard looks and feels in the light of the stars. It would have been romantic if there were not so much work to be done!

I won’t bore you with the technicalities again – you can read “Our First Machine Harvest” for a few more details. I would like to show some pictures though, so you can see the difference between harvesting in the dark and in the daylight.

Our oldest son drove the harvester again and this is the beautiful view from the top.

Hopefully you can see the grapes dropping from the arm into the chase trailer.

I would love to share with you the sweet flavor of the Aglianico grapes. The brix on these reached 25 meaning they are at 25% sugar – that means, they are wonderfully sweet!

Once the harvest was complete, the bins were loaded into the truck which has returned from another vineyard’s harvest.

There were some precarious moments with the loading, a couple of “almost” mishaps, but thankfully, no bins were lost and no serious injuries sustained.

As you can see, John is very serious minded while moving and loading the bins. Each bin can hold up to 1400lbs so there is a lot of danger.

There was also much speculation as to the total ton-age we were shipping off. We ended up with 14.5 tons which is very good for third leaf vines.

As I watched the truck pull away, I was reminded of a children’s book I have read so many times, “Follow That Truck”. The book follows different trucks, from log to milk trucks, on their journey from picking up the raw product to delivering the sell-able goods. I wanted to follow that truck! Instead, we celebrated by making (and eating) doughnuts!

Fresh Flowers

I just love having fresh flowers on our dining table. What I don’t love? The price!

Roses and especially yellow ones are my absolute favorite. When living in Alabama, I had several rose bushes including yellow ones. Unfortunately, the humidity made spraying for insects and mildews mandatory. I was not always consistent with spraying, so, while we had some roses, I finally decided they were too much trouble.

My answer: Zinnias.

Zinnias are a flower which grow with very little care and the more you cut the blooms, the more they bloom. And, they will keep blooming until the freeze kills them. What more could you ask for in a flower? They also come in many colors including yellow, red and orange. I have found that the seeds from Wal-mart grow just as well as those from more expensive nurseries.

If you like fresh flowers and do not have a green thumb, give zinnias a try. They really are an underrated flower.

Plumbing in Progress

Work on the house continues between harvest and vineyard work. John has been working on the plumbing that exits the house to the septic tank. The PVC is measured, cut, glued, fit together and voilà!

Since we live outside the city limits, the septic system is one of the few aspects of the house which must be inspected. After meeting with an installer, who did the equivalent of a perk test, John has gone to work designing. Having done the same on our house in Alabama, it should go faster this time, right?

After the design is complete (and harvest is over), we will rent a backhoe to dig the field lines and hole for the septic tank.

We are planning to do our final machine harvest on Friday morning. Hopefully, after that, we will be able to devote more time to the house. Our goal is to move in by Christmas – of this year!

The White Board

Organizing home education for multiple children can certainly be challenging.

“How do you manage with so many and get it all done?”

This is a question I get frequently. I know it can be overwhelming so I thought I would share one of my favorite tools – a 5ft x 6ft dry erase, white board. This board was on the bid lot at John’s former company which means they were ready to throw it away! While there is nothing wrong with it, they had no further use for it. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” certainly is true! This board now holds a prominent place in our home.

The board is divided into sections for each child with their name at the top. These divisions are made with a Sharpie permanent marker that will not wipe off but can be washed off. There is also a blank section for notes, numbers and whatever. Inside each section, the child’s subjects are listed along with their chores, brushing of teeth and musical instruments to be practised. These are also written in permanent marker.

How does this help? In the morning, each item to be completed that day is marked with a dash (-) using a dry erase marker. As the child completes a task, he/she marks through the dash forming a plus (+) sign.

The board provides an easy way for me, John and the children to see what has and has not been completed.

What I have seen work the best through the years, with different families, is to have the involvement of both parents – not just the mother. Living in Alabama, John would mark the board before leaving for work. Upon returning home in the evening, he could quickly see if someone had not completed their work and responsibilities. The children were accountable to him which seemed to give them a greater sense of urgency to finish everything “before daddy got home”. With our lifestyle change, John is in and out throughout the day and he helps encourage and motivate.

Home educating is a lifestyle. A very rewarding lifestyle. After all that goes into raising and training before the age 3 (sleepless nights, potty training…), why should I allow someone else the joy of teaching my children to discover the wonders of God’s world?

Squiggles

I would like to introduce you to a new member of our family. Her name is Squiggles and she is a Pembroke welsh corgi. If you have been stopping by for a while, you will remember that we have 2 corgis, Sophie (a tri colored) and Scruggs (a red and white). They had a litter of puppies born Aug. 4 which had 3 males and 1 female. Squiggles is that female and the only red and white like her father. With Sophie almost 8 yrs old, I would really like to have one of her puppies when she is gone. That is a sad thought because she is such a good companion. After tangling with a coyote several months ago though, she has really aged. So, as of this writing, we are keeping Squiggles.

Like all puppies, she loves to play. That looks like a chicken feather in her mouth and it is. But, she did not kill the chicken or even pluck it. The feather was just in the yard and she found it because after all, it was a toy waiting to be played with!

She is almost 8 wks old and already has a personality like her mother. When she does not like something, she pouts. Sounds like children doesn’t it?

I started crate training her. Crate Training is a great way to housebreak a dog. Once trustworthy, we get rid of the crate. To start, you need a crate just large enough to give the puppy room to turn around in and sleep comfortably. Dogs do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep. If the crate is too large, and ours is, I put a box at the back to make the puppy area smaller and as the puppy grows I simply decrease the box size. As long as you are playing with or monitoring the puppy, she can stay out of the crate. The crate is her bed and where she sleeps. You need to be disciplined to take her out at regular intervals for a bathroom visit. (Again, sounds like children and potty training!) If she has an accident, she goes in the crate. (This does not sound like child training – I don’t  use a crate for them!)

Saturday was Squiggles first day of crate training and she did not like being put in the crate. She whinied and complained while we were eating breakfast. We even moved the crate so she could see and be near us during breakfast. The whining continued. Finally, she quieted down and we looked to see why. She had turned, with her back to us, wiggled her head between the box and crate, pouting! I think I need a different box.

Dogs can certainly have funny personalities – just like people!.