Monday, September 19, 2016

Time is Zooming Along

Last week, Bethany and Elijah had to take an Accuplacer exam so they could get college credit for 3 of their high school classes they are taking on-line.
Elijah at the 4H fair dog show.

Not a big deal.

Bethany this summer at the 4H fair fashion show.

Just an early drive into town to drop them off at the
University to take said test.

Not a big deal.


It hit me....

They are taking this test because they are getting closer and closer to graduating high school and entering that new stage of life -- college.

What?  How?  When?

Yeah, time really does fly when you have kids.

That whole adage "they grow up so fast." is no joke.  They REALLY do grow up fast.

I've known this.  We have 6 kids, after all.  It's not like this is my first rodeo.

Jacob has already spread his wings and gone off to college - rarely returning to the nest.

But.... this day.... it struck me just how quickly it all goes.

2 years.  24 months.  104 weeks.  730 days.  That SEEMS like a long time.

However, those that are parents, know just how short that time really is.

Life continues to happen in those 2 years. School; housework; chores; work; activities; travel; sleep; illnesses; camps; projects; visits; vacation; church - it all just keeps going.  Soon, those 2 years turn into 1.5 years.  Then a year.  Then 6 months and you think.... where did the time go?  What am I going to do?  I have SO much more I want to teach them; do with them; tell them; show them.

Yet, time doesn't cease or even slow down for that matter.

It doesn't care about your feelings; fears; the fact you simply want it to stop -- if only just for a while.

It just keep ticking along.

               Second by second.
                            Minute by minute.
                                         Hour by hour.
                                                  Week by week.
                                                            Month by month.
                                                                       Year by year.
                              seemingly out of nowhere, you are moving yet another child (or two) into the college dorms.

Broadsided by the reality that your little girl; your little boy is now an adult.  Moving on to the next stage of life.


Yes, time really is zooming along.  Our two high schoolers will be heading off to college in no time at all.  That means our little girls will be entering Jr High then High School in close to the same short timeframe.

It won't be long as these three littles will also be striking out on their own.  Say it isn't so.
Even though we still have 10 more years with our youngest - that time too - will slip away in a heartbeat.

One day I'll be thinking about and possibly writing a post about our LAST child heading off to college.  How the time with her was so, so short.

Remember those months, weeks, days that just tick away?  Yeah, that's happening as I type.

It's hard to believe that the day will come when all these precious gifts we call children will be on their own.  Out from under our wings. (Insert nostalgic tears here)

For now, I'm just going to embrace today.

I'm going to try to remember how quickly the time goes and therefore enjoy the moments I have left with the 5 children that are still living full time at home.

To talk and listen more. 
To laugh and play often.  
To teach and encourage daily.
To smile and hug as much as I can.

Time is ticking away.  They won't stay home forever.

As they shouldn't.

But, they ARE here now.  For that I am grateful.  With that I will take full advantage of the time I do have with them and teach them, guide them, love them.

With all I have to offer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rarely a Dull Moment

As many may recall, the past week greeted us with many wildlife adventures.

We noticed the new rabbit hutch was having visitors that destroyed the bags of sunflower seeds we have in a cage for the bunnies' consumption; stealing as many as they could through the wire bars.

We then had more visitors knocking over the chicken run fencing and getting into the chicken feed.

We quickly discovered it was a young black bear.


That same night a skunk snuck it's way into our fenced yard and sprayed our poor pup, Titus.


After a call to the game warden resulted in no action, I made the decision to move the younger hens into the older hens enclosed chicken run and coop.  The larger coop is much more predator proof.  I was initially waiting to move the younger hens until one of two things happened.  1) I was able to expand the current coop to make it larger to fit more birds or 2) We butchered the older hens that were no longer laying eggs.

Neither event had happened, but... I was fearful that our young hens would be a snack for our visiting black bear if I didn't take action right away.

The next night we had a reprieve and nothing was bothered.  Figures - now that we had made the hard introduction of all the chickens, nothing came to bother our little set up.

The day after that -- not so much.

My assumption was the bear had returned to get more chicken feed and possibly some chickens.

But... the camera showed a different culprit this time.

I guess you could say it was still a bear.  I believe this little guy is part of the bear family, but not quite the threat that a big black bear poses.  Just as destructive, though.

When I went out to check the camera, once again, the fencing around the little chicken coop had been toppled.  This time it wasn't disassembled though.  Simply knocked to the ground.

I was so very glad I had moved the young chickens into the larger coop a couple days prior, as this particular visitor had managed to open the nesting box door where the hens always slept at night when abiding in the small coop.  Had we not moved them - they could have all been killed by our unwelcome guest.

Here he is.  Also posing for his picture before continuing his mission of destruction and feeding.

Posing for his pictures before climbing up and over the fence.

Climbing back out of the fenced area.
I guess he knocked the fence over as he worked on getting the door of the nesting box opened.

I guess I made the best decision when we plopped our young chickens into the older hens coop.  Each night they are all tucked away in a mostly predator proof house where they sleep safe and sound.  Of course, if that young bear brings his friends, there's no guarantee our little coop will stand a chance, but... for now... all is well on our mini-mountian-menagerie and all of our domestic critters seem to be safe from the wild critters.

As our cousin said on my Facebook post - Never a dull moment.

Rarely anyway.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Always Something Exciting

Over the last several days, since we built our new, improved, bigger rabbit hutch and moved the rabbits into it.... we noticed 'signs' of critters coming to visit.  We assumed it was a raccoon b/c it was stealing hay and sunflower seeds from inside the hutch and leaving little 'packages' behind as it left.  (The hutch door had not been attached yet.)

Nothing else was really being bothered.

Due to this intruder, I worked to get the door on the hutch to prevent said critter from continuing to wreak havoc inside the hutch with the rabbits' food.  I had put the hay and sunflower seeds inside an unused cage, but our visitor was pulling the bags apart and spilling the seeds all over the floor of the cage.  My hope was the critter would realize it couldn't get anymore seeds and move on.

Naivety on my part.

The next morning, the younger chickens' fence that encloses their run was knocked down and partially disassembled while their food was tipped over, emptied, and eaten.  (Yes, we should have brought it into the house, but sometimes that step gets forgotten as the kids tuck in the animals at night.)


Seemed a bit extreme for a raccoon, but... I know they can be quite destructive.

In addition, as we opened the rabbit hutch to feed the rabbits, 2 of the cages were on the floor that had previously been perched atop a larger cage.  Initially I wondered if they just 'hopped around a lot' and bounced themselves off the larger cage.  Seemed possible, but not super likely.

While putting the fence back up, the kids noticed a large pile of scat.
Any scat experts want to take a guess at what
animal may have left this lovely present?
I have my guesses.

It could have been raccoon. But, if it were raccoon, it was from the BIGGEST raccoon in history.  That scat was a good silver dollar size in diameter.  If not bigger.  It also had remnants of what looked like grain in it.


A friend let me borrow a couple wildlife cameras to place out near our coop/hutch to see what was actually messing with our chickens and rabbits.

The next morning I went out to investigate.  I couldn't wait to retrieve the cameras and download any pics it might have taken.  My curiosity was getting the best of me.

As I stepped out into the yard, it was obvious the chicken fence was once again pulled apart and tossed to the ground.  Would a raccoon really pull the fence down like that or just go over it????  I wasn't ready to make a conclusive decision.

Fixing the fence was top priority.

Accomplishing that, I then grabbed the cameras and headed inside.  I pulled out the sim cards and put them in my computer.

The first camera obviously took a few photos, but they were all washed out and just white light.

The second camera had quite a few similar photos, but one photo caught our little culprit red handed.

Here he is.

A young black bear getting ready to pull down and toss aside the fencing that surrounds
 our younger hens coop and run area.  
A young black bear!

Looks like he paused mid-tearing down of the fence to have his picture taken doesn't it?

My assumption now in regards to the rabbit cages being plopped on the floor was the young bear pushing upon the hutch in an attempt to topple it, thinking THAT would allow him back at those yummy sunflower seeds.  Obviously purely conjecture, but... seems more likely than the bunnies making their own cages fall seeing as they've been placed on top of other cages since we've owned them.

He's apparently been visiting and snacking on our chicken feed nightly. I think the raccoons leaked the information that seeds and hay and other yummy goods were easy pickings at the Williams' homestead.

Hence every critter in the neighborhood is showing up.

Did I mention that last night - before bed - skunks infiltrated the back yard and sprayed poor Titus?

Yep, I'm convinced the word is out that OUR house is the place to be.

Compost; chicken feed; sunflower seeds; not to mention chickens and rabbits are free for the taking.  

(Even when we take in the actual feeders, there's always spilled food on the ground - from both the chickens themselves and the kids as they transport food, not to mention scraps that the chickens don't fully ingest before retiring for the night.)

Gotta love mountain life.

Oh wait.

I DO love mountain life.

Now to figure out how to rid our little corner of the mountain of these little pesky pests -- at least for a short while.

I know it won't take long and they'll all return - looking for a handout and a warm place to sleep.  Seems under our house, shed, and porches are prime critter realty locations around these parts.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

School Begins - Again.

I couldn't believe summer was coming to an end.

4H fair was complete.

Vacation was over.

Only a week between all the fun activities and school beginning.

That week flew by.

Our books had arrived during fair week and I managed to get everything organized and unpacked during our many trips home to pick up and drop off animals.

We continue to utilize the Wyoming Virtual Academy as our 'homeschooling' choice.  Therefore our K12 school books and supplies always arrive a few short weeks prior to the start of the official school year.

A little excitement filled the air -- especially from Selah.  She was chomping at the bit to get back into her 2nd grade school books.

The other children -- well, we'll just say they weren't QUITE as thrilled about the lazy days of summer coming to and end and the timetabled days of school to begin.

Mama?  The teacher?  Her excitement was probably a rung below the bulk of the children in regards  to leaving the carefree summer days behind to begin the early start, pre-planned school days.

Summer had just gone by too fast.  There was so much I still wanted and needed to accomplish.  So many 'plans' and projects I thought about but never implemented and now? Now my days would be filled with planning, teaching, grading, and supervising school of multiple grades.

Don't get me wrong - I'm so blessed to be able to teach our children at home, but like most other teachers I know, I like the slower pace of summer -- even though they really aren't that carefree as we have such busy schedules, but .... yet .... it's different.

More relaxed.

Maybe it's simply the fact our schedule is less .... scheduled over the summer.

We can sleep in.

Move slow.

Lounge longer.

Read, play, go for a walk, ride bikes, handle bunnies, clean, cook, draw, go camping, build things -- all at a leisurely pace.  All on our own timing.  To some degree.

Even the many activities we are involved with feel like they are more 'optional'.

Once school starts that all changes.

Now?  Now we are on the 'school' schedule.

No longer our 'own'.

Nothing is 'optional'.  It's rather mandatory, really.  It is school after all.  Kids do need to learn and part of that is DOING the schoolwork.

Crazy talk, I tell ya.  But.... it is what it is.  I guess that's why it seems so daunting at times.  There's no 'out'; no option to just 'skip' the whole shebang and have fun day in and day out.

Despite the less than riveting desire to begin, the start of this new school year has been going quite well.

Another pretty easy first week.  Two years running, actually.  No significant glitches in computers.  No major meltdowns over subject matter.  No additional gray hair formation for mom.  (Well, not that I've noticed, anyway. ):-)


The house is a mess, but meals are being prepared.

The laundry is behind, but classes are in session.

The groceries need put away, but the children are learning.

Each year it seems to get easier.

More routine.

More fluid.

(I guess it should, seeing as how we've been at this homeschooling thing for 15 years now.  It's about time it's gotten easier.)  :-)

Only 2 more years with Bethany and Elijah.  I'm trying to enjoy each moment.  Knowing the 'first' day of school for them is coming to a close.  A new chapter will soon begin.

So, despite missing the laxidazical time of summer - I'm embracing ALL the days I have with my wonderful children.

It goes so fast.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Sweet Spirit

As we celebrate Charity turning 9 years old this week, I couldn't help but admire her sweet spirit.  To be reminded of her caring style.  To observe her thoughtfulness; her quiet nature; her introspective ways.

My sweet adventurous girl turning 9.
Watching Charity grow and mature has been such a blessing.

I know it's been hard for her this past year to be the 'only one' of the three littles to NOT have T1D; celiac; Hashimoto's disease.   I believe in my heart she's glad she doesn't, but I also see how sometimes she feels left out.  Not as special.  To be the only one NOT getting personal attention for pump changes; juices for low blood sugars; snacks before bed to keep her blood sugar stable; unique foods that don't contain gluten.

Yet, I watch her.

She cares for her sisters.

She helps Selah check her blood sugar - even though Selah doesn't 'need' the help.

She punches in the numbers on Selah's pump - even though Selah could do so herself.

She gets things for Trinity even if Trinity is fine and could walk over and get it on her own.

She carries a special bag of juice for her sisters and her dad on vacation -- even though she will not be drinking them.

She does some of the chores on her own as the girls have to eat because their blood sugars are low; or change their pumps since their insulin reservoir is empty.

She reads aloud to Selah - simply because she can.
Decorating cakes.

She works hard at all she does.

Making a nesting box for her rabbit.
Caring.  Loving.  Serving.


She's our 'loner' girl at times.  Just like her big brother Elijah.

Two peas in a pod, those two.

So much alike in so many ways.

Their learning styles mimic one another.  They have similar personality traits.  They are both introverts.  Lovers of animals - of all kinds.  They both make 'piles' on their desks that drives their mama mad.  A little clumsy to boot.  (Charity a bit less so.)  Quiet, yet observant.  Meek, yet fierce when it counts.  Loving beyond measure.  Compassionate and passionate.  Both wearing their hearts upon their sleeves, often.

Loving on a burrow.
Snuggling her bunny.

I see her.

Her loving ways.  Her gentle heart.  Her sweet spirit.
Holding her favorite chicken.

She loves her family.  Cares for her friends.  Adores God's creatures.  Loves her Savior.

We called her the chick whisperer.
Bottle feeding baby goats.

Her first rabbit show.

Lounging with her old pup!

She enjoys the little things.

                    Pretty rocks.
                    Weeds that flower.
                    Feathers from a bird found on the ground.
                    Moths and butterflies.

I'm so very grateful to be her mom.  To watch her grow and flourish.  To see her spirit soar.

I pray her sweetness continues to grow with her.  That her kindness and lovingness never wanes.

As we celebrate this precious life, I give thanks to God for allowing ME - meager old me - to be her MAMA!
Woodworking projects with mom.

To care for her.

To guide her.

To protect her.

To mold her.

To help her be all she's meant to be.

Our sweet, vibrant, talented, young lady - Charity!

That captivating smile!

One of a kind.

Such a joyful little girl.
Our precious little girl.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Daughter's Wisdom

In the last several years, I've had the privilege to watch as Bethany has gained wisdom and insight about life.

She's always been a smart girl.  She admittedly isn't a 'lover of learning' like her brothers, but none-the-less.... very intelligent.

Just lately she's made several comments that have shown she's listening.


                                            Gaining wisdom.


She's had several 'crushes' through the years -- nothing overtly serious as we have chosen to travel the 'no dating until ready for marriage' road with our kiddos, but... she is a typical teenager and does find members of the opposite sex attractive and interesting.

Along with crushes on boys, we are astutely aware she's had boys have crushes on her as well.

Some a bit more obvious than others. Some just in passing.  Yet, all have impacted her emotionally to some degree or another.

These crushes have taught her a lot without being overly intimate.  They've opened up doors for discussion.  Observation.  Insight.

She's learned that putting your heart out there - even if only a little bit, opens it up to heartbreak.

She's learned that friendship is key.

She's learned that her heart, her emotions, her feelings are important.

She once said to me, "I think my feelings for X have waned.  I realized he is only interested in me when no one else is peeking his interest, and I'm worth more than that.  I don't want to be someone's 'fall back girl'."


Where did such astuteness come from?  I'm not sure I was that sensible at 14, 16, 18 even 20 years of age.

I'm glad she's realized how important she is.  That God created her in HIS image and she is the daughter of THE King and as such, she is worth WAY more than being the 'fall back girl' or the 'part time girl'.

You go girl!

We've also raised our boys to protect and provide for their sisters, me, other girls in their circle of interaction, and one day their own wives.   Part of that is doing the hard tasks. Carrying the heavy stuff.  Taking the bulk of the load in more physical situations.

My perceptive young lady has taken note.

Another comment she made, that again, made my heart swell, was "I don't think guys realize we girls are watching.  We watch what they do.  How hard they work.  If they help and protect.  How kind or unkind they are to others.  I don't think they understand that we aren't going to want to marry the ones that DON'T do those things.  The ones that pick on others."

Be still my heart.

She's got it.  She's on the right track.

She's not just looking for a handsome face; a strong body; a hefty pocket book -- she's interested in character; integrity; a man after God's own heart.

What more could a mom wish for?

It's been neat over the years to watch her develop such keen circumspection.

Now we'll continue praying she finds a Godly man who is worthy of her heart.  Who fulfills the requirements this sage young woman is setting forth.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Diabetes Report Card?

As a mom to 2 with type 1 diabetes and the wife of an adult with T1D, I have grown to know the A1C as a 'report card' of sorts.

As we battle this disease day in, day out - part of that battle is attempting to keep blood glucose levels in a 'target' range.  For all three of our T1D's that target is now 80-120.

I can honestly say we struggle to stay in that small window most of the time.  We are usually pretty thrilled to see 80-150.

Those times that their numbers dip lower - 70's, 60's, 50's, occasionally 40's, and even more rare - 30's - it's scary.  Heart racing, we scramble for juice, candy, fast acting carbs of whatever kind we can grab to have them ingest.

Then the high numbers.  200's, 300's, and the occasional 400's reminds us just how precarious this battle is.

When I see those high numbers, my heart sinks.  What long term damage is being done?  How long till those numbers come back to more acceptable ranges?

We give insulin to correct these highs, but then we worry -- how low will they go?  Did we give too much?  Too little?  Always, we correct then wait.  Instead of ebbing down, sometimes, we watch the number tick up, up, up.  What?  How?  Unfortunately, when that happens we just.
We can't give more insulin for fear of numbers bottoming out.  However, as we wait, and watch the number clicking higher and higher, the fear of DKA enters our minds.   How far will they go?  How long do we wait to try something else?  More insulin?  A run around the block?  A gallon of water?  A trip to the ER?  It's a tightrope walk and you just hope the net below will catch them.

When we experience these dips and soars, I can't help but think of the coming a1c count.

Will it be high?


It's like our diabetes report card.

How are we doing keeping blood glucose numbers 'in range'?

In the diabetes world, it's all too common to see people cheer or wail in response to the a1c result given at the endocrinologist appointment every 3 months.

I know.

             I've done both.

But.... it's important to remember..... that a1c?


Yes, it gives fabulous, helpful information, but..... 

It doesn't define you --- as the parent of a type 1 diabetic or as a person living with diabetes.

It's a TOOL!

I'm grateful that our endocrinologist doesn't harp on the a1c. Does she encourage us to keep it in healthy levels?  Certainly.

Does she berate us when it's a little higher than it should be?  NEVER!

She reminds me that it's a number.  

She reminds me that we are battling an impossible, always changing, unfair war.

She reminds me how volatile this disease can be.

She reminds me how wonderful the girls are doing overall, despite a number that shows a little too high.

Will I lift up my voice in triumph when the girls numbers are in range?  You bet I will.

It is a goal.  We celebrate when we meet goals.

Yet, I'm striving to not beat myself up or freak out when that number isn't quite what we'd like to see.

This report card doesn't define how I am as a parent of children with type 1 diabetes; how I am as a wife to a T1D; how our girls and Techno are at living life with this disease.

It simply helps us attempt to make better choices, make changes with insulin/carb ratios, pay attention to how varying situations effect blood glucose levels and then make plans to counter those things.

Although we often fear and fret over what the A1C 'report card' is going to announce, we put more emphasis on how well our girls are doing at life in general.

Now, to keep this mindset as we approach our next endocrinology appointment.

That's the trick.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dog Training (or the lack thereof)

I titled this post Dog Training (or the lack thereof), but really it's just a way to showcase our cute little Titus.  He's a bit over a year old now.  We are beginning to think he might be just about done growing.  He didn't get quite as big as we expected, but boy is he stronger and faster than we ever expected.  Although our efforts in training were not as accomplished as I'd hoped, we love this little ball of fur and I'm pretty sure no one would give him up for anything.  (Well, almost no one.)  :-)

Look at that sweet face!  Nothing but a lovable
puff ball.  Or so we thought.

When I convinced Techno to get a puppy, I promised him the kids and I would take 'full charge' of him.

We never anticipated Titus.

(Whom we all agreed 
right away  
should have been named

He loved to chew on stuffed toys.....
and hands..... and feet..... and legs...... and......

As a wee tike all he did was bite and jump.

Literally..... ALL he did.

Nothing was safe when Titus was around.
But boy was he cute.

If you bent down to pet him - chomp, chomp, bite.  Your hand was mauled.

If you tried to 'correct' him - nip, chomp, nibble, snap.

He so wanted Apollos to love and play with him.

When he came in the house - chew, chaw.

If you went out to the backyard - munch.

Even his leash became a tug of war/chew toy.

When the girls tried to play with him - crunch.

When the kids walked him - jump, nip, snap, jump.

Towels weren't even safe.  :-)

It was tiring.

It was painful.

It was annoying.

But just look at that little face.
How could anyone stay mad at THAT face?

Yet, he was adorable.  Darling really.

He was so stinkin' clumsy and cute.  He'd attempt to hop up on to the couch only to face plant in front of it on the floor.  He'd skid and slide like Bambi on ice trying to chase the girls, the cat, Apollos.  He'd grab ANYTHING to tug and chew. Blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, the leg of your pants.  Everything was fair game. So he thought.

He grew by leaps and bounds, but he was still cute.
He was still bite-y too.

We attempted to get him to stop, but nothing really worked.

Car rides used to scare him.
He would sniff and snuggle Elijah's neck and ear
to comfort himself. It was so sweet.

We tried the 'this is a chew toy, not our hand approach......'

We tried the 'ignore him when he bites approach......'

We tried the 'hold his mouth closed until he submits approach.......'

Selah loved that he was 'her size' and she could cuddle him.
Notice the blanket under her?  I'm almost positive
he was trying to maul it while she hugged him.
We tried the 'rolled up newspaper to the snout approach......'

The latter was the most effective, but it got to the point we felt that was ALL we were doing.

Wapping this poor little (well he was never all that little) pup on the nose to get him NOT to bite us continually.

He just can't understand why we have a pen of birds in the
backyard next to his fenced yard.  He REALLY wants
to get at them.  Not thinking he'll be a guard dog for our hens.
It was like a perpetual game of 'whack a mole' or in this case, 'whack a Titus'.

Another approach that had some effect was grabbing the scruff of his neck.  However, it only worked for those that were a little bigger, stronger.  His scruff is pretty large; furry; and hard to grasp.  It doesn't phase him unless you can give it a little tug to get his attention.  (Just like his mama would do had he been raised by her.)

Granted, as he grew, his biting slowly began to subside.  However, IT...... TOOK....... MONTHS!!

I think all the biting made it challenging to do much else with him.

Potty training him was another less than glorious adventure.

It took longer than expected and he tended to pee whenever we let him IN the house. Sorta like when newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  Well, Titus had his indoors/outdoors mixed up.

It was exhausting and very frustrating.

Eventually, that too subsided.

He's also a high strung sort.  We believe he has some guard dog genes and possibly some herding dog genes. Add those together and it makes for quite an interesting personality.  He'll chase and nip your heals but at the same time guard you will his last breath from any threat.
He loves to burrow his snout in the snow.
Throwing chunks of ice into the air to chase.

Lots of energy.  Lots of barking.  Pretty much lots of just about everything.

He got himself 'stuck' under one of the school chairs.
Yes, while stuck, he thought it a grand plan to gnaw
on said chair.  Sigh.

Still... he's super sweet.

Even a little timid.

Yes, the cat can and does chase him
off the couch and through the house.

He wants to be loved on..... but in "HIS" own way.

He thinks he's a lap-guard dog.  He'll climb up in my lap but straddle himself over me to keep others from getting to close.  He still nibbles hands and arms, but not in a 'mean' or hurtful way.  Love nibbles, if you will.  I think it's because he was taken from his mama so young.  It's his own weird way of showing affection.

He usually hangs out wherever we tend to be when he's inside.

I often joke he has a complex.  He'll bark like he's going to rip you apart, but when it comes down to it, he's just a big scaredy cat.  (Which is evident in how the cat rules the roost).  Yet, we aren't willing to test this theory when it comes to strangers approaching the house or the kids. We keep him under tight control behind the fence of on his leash until he realizes the individual isn't a real menace.

He is learning.  He even does courses in dog training.

We didn't do much right when it came to training Titus. I know he had a lot more potential than what we ended up training into him.  He's a smart dog.  A quick learner.

Too bad his owners weren't quite as intelligent when it came to puppy raising.

Here's hoping we can continue teaching him.  Molding him.  Making him the kind of dog others want to be around.
Kisses for one of his girls.

Amazing how much training a puppy is similar to training children.

It takes consistency and lots of love.  With both of those - things tend to turn out ok.  Maybe not perfect -- if you've met Titus you know that -- but.... still good.  We know we weren't as consistent with him as we needed to be, but we also know without a doubt just how much we love him.

A proud, strong pup.
He LOVED the dirt when we went camping.
He's not really quite this dark.


The kids adore him.

He's a great guard dog.  (Even if sometimes he's guarding us from a blowing leaf or the cackling hens.)  He's a wonderful companion.  He's our Titus!

Who wouldn't love this sweet little guy?

I'll call it a success for now with potential to be even better.  He's still a young dog and we are learning how to better train and encourage him to be the dog he was created to be.

Who could ask for more?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Adolescent Chicks

With so many other fun adventures, I have neglected updates regarding our chick raising expedition.

Not much had changed - other than the size of the chicks - for several weeks.

We had made our second brooder to help give them more space and......
                        they grew.

The plan was then to move them to our small chicken coop that we use as a 'broody box'.  Such a box is for hens that get 'protective' of the eggs in the nest box.  They start sitting on all the eggs, acting like they are going to hatch said eggs.  (Which can't happen since we have no rooster, but... the hens sometimes forget that minor point and still want babies of their very own.  I guess you could say once in a while their 'maternal clocks start ticking.')

Anyway, back to my point.

We had planned to put the chicks out into this mini-coop next to the larger run since they were growing by leaps and bounds to a) give them more space and b) allow them and the older hens to get acclimated to their new coop mates.

This plan kept getting postponed due to cold, cold temperatures and the occasional snowfall.

These chicks were very crowded.

They NEEDED to go into the bigger space.

But.... the weather kept waylaying our efforts.

Finally, the forecast showed no snow in the foreseeable future.  The nighttime temps were staying mostly above freezing.

I decided it was time to take the plunge.

All the 'baby chicks' in their new 'teenage' pad.

I altered the mini-coop as it had sustained some damage from wind knocking it over last fall.  Additionally I added a hook inside on the ceiling in order to hang a heat lamp that we could turn on at night to help them stay warmer - if the temps dipped too low - as they often do.

They look like 'regular grown' chickens,
just a slight bit smaller

We'd been allowing them to have some 'outdoor time' during the warmer days in prior weeks.  However, we would always bring them in at night due to the fact I hadn't yet fixed the enclosure area of the small coop that would allow them shelter and protection from the elements and predators.

Not to mention the below freezing temps we were still still experiencing here and there.
They are very curious whenever we come close.

Now that it was all shored up and the ramp was in place..... I felt it was high time for the teenage chickens to move to their new home and spend EVEN nights outside.

They enjoyed the dirt, grass, and extra space being outside in the small coop allotted them.

The older hens were quite interested in their new neighbors.

I'm glad they are comfortable in the
Silver Fox and Gold Fox (I think.)
I know it's Silver Fox, not so sure on the other.
They happily hop and climb on the ramp.

The first night we had to scoop them up and put them inside the enclosed section as they didn't realize THAT was the 'place to be' to sleep.  The second night only 1 bird needed to be placed in the box.

Guess they are learning.

Look at those huge feet.
I think she's giving me the 'stink eye'.

It's nice to have them OUT of the house and I think they are enjoying the more 'natural' habitat of soil and turf under their not-so-little feet.

I still can't get over how quickly they grew and how much they changed in just a few short months.

The next task will be building their more permanent coop and run and integrating the two flocks together.

Then, come fall.... more eggs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thriving Meal Worm Farm

It seems as though we are decent meal worm farmers.

Our little colony of darkling beetles, mealworms, and pupae are expanding and developing nicely.

It's been fascinating to watch the life cycle process.

We can't see the actual eggs on our egg cartons and paper towels that are in the beetle drawer, but we find lots and lots of new tiny mealworms plus our mealworm population continues to grow.

All the little meal worms once they hatch.

Daily we remove small to large handfuls of pupae from the mealworm tray to the pupae tray.  

Tons of pupae develop daily.
Eventually, as the beetles emerge, we have to transfer them back to the top drawer to begin the process all. over. again.  It takes the longest (so it seems) for the beetles to emerge.  We have a wide variety of stages so it's hard to tell exactly how long it takes, but we've gone a week or longer with NO beetles what-so-ever, yet we have pupae develop multiple times a day.  As I mentioned, we can't see the eggs.  Nor can we really tell when and how many of the tiny hatched worms fall into the worm tray on a regular basis.  They immediately burrow down into the oatmeal so we don't really know how often and quickly that process happens.  I can say, the worms seem to be multiplying quite quickly, though.

The beginning and the end.  The actual beetles emerge
but also start the process by laying the eggs.
I help with the process.  A little.

I'm happy to pick out the pupae and place them in the bottom drawer to continue their transformation into darkling beetles.  It's weird to feel them wiggle in your hand as you gather them up, but overall it's not too bad.

The mealworms themselves on the other hand, I just can't muster up the courage to pick them up. They squiggle and wiggle and crawl around and it just CREEPS ME OUT!!

Occasionally an egg hatches and the tiny worm doesn't drop down through the screen bottom into the mealworm drawer and develops right there with the beetles. This is a dangerous situation for that little mealworm as the beetles aren't afraid to eat their own.  As evidenced by the fact we've found many a headless beetle shell in the drawer.  IKK!

When we find a lone worm, we must move it to the next drawer.  I ALWAYS call the girls.  I just can't bring myself to pick those wormies up.  LOL!

Then there are the beetles. When they emerge from their pupae on the bottom, they too need to be transferred to the beetle tray so they don't begin eating all the non-transformed pupae.  That would kill out our farm pretty quickly.

Once again, I call Elijah or the girls to grab up those little creepy crawlies to put them where they belong.

Wimp. I know.

The pupae.
You can see the beetle
beginning to emerge.  Eyes,
legs forming. Cool huh?
Still, it's been fascinating to watch the life cycle in live action.

They actually are cute to watch. The beetles are nocturnal and come out in force once the sun begins to set.  I think cooler temps also lure them out as we've noticed now that it's 'summer like' that they come out as soon as the temps begin to drop a bit - even if it's not getting dark yet.  
Over time - a very short time -
they begin to gain color.

Once the beetles emerge they
are start almost white.

White, to tan, to red, to dark brown, to black.
I don't have a pic of a black beetle.
Guess I need to do that.
The worms are fascinating as they move around under the oatmeal and make it bubble and churn. They love bread and will eat through an end piece leaving just the 'hull' as a skeleton.  

The pupae - well, they don't do much until the beetle emerges. Go figure.  It is fascinating to watch how they squirm when you touch them or pick them up, however.  Occasionally you can even see them wriggle around in the oatmeal.  I swear they 'burrow' although I have no scientific proof of that.  I must admit, I had no idea the pupae would be so 'active' and fascinating.  

Learning experiences all around.  

Now to decide exactly WHAT the kids should do as their fair projects.

Have any ideas?  

              I'd love to hear them.  

One idea I considered for Charity was a 'life cycle of the darkling beetle'.  She'd actually 'pin up' the bodies of each stage.  The only one I wouldn't have a 'carcass' for is the egg.

((This was a grand idea until I learned it's 'against the rules' to use 
live animals in an indoor project, 
even if the animal (or insect in this case) is dead. 
Guess photographs will have to suffice.  
Doesn't have near the 'cool factor', but.... it is what it is))

Otherwise, I'm at a loss for inspiration.  

A molting mealworm beginning to form
into a pupae.
A beetle that got 'stuck' half way through
the transformation from pupae to beetle.
We also have 'examples' of partially molted mealworms; not quite emerged beetles; beetles w/not-fully-developed bodies or broken wings; pupae that 'dry up'; worms that don't fully pupate; pupae w/beetle legs and a beetle head, but a pupae body.

Basically mutant darkling beetles.

A fully developed beetle and one with wings not fully
formed and the pupae body still partially intact.
I'm sure we could could come up with a project showcasing those malformations somehow as well.

A bettle w/poorly formed wings.

A pupae molting it's mealworm skin.

If you are a 'bug whiz' and like making posters - give me a shout out and share your wonderful ideas. We could use all the innovation we can get.

I don't know how long we'll continue raising our mealworms.  If we'll just feed them all to the chickens once fair is over or if we'll continue expanding our farm and make it a long term adventure.  

The top side of the part pupa
part beetle.

Not even sure here.  Part pupae, part beetle.

It's not a difficult task, so we may give it a whirl.  

Could be a good money making opportunity for the kiddos.