Early March Snow is Fun for Everybody

March 5th, 2008

After an amazingly warm weekend, we were hit by 5+ inches of snow. Made for an interesting day, especially watching the animals.

Many birds hung around the feeders through the storm, especially the litttle Juncos.

Juncos at the feeder during snowfall

The snowfall covered the barn quickly.

Country barn after snowfall

A flock of Robins perched around the trees, looking out of place with the ground covered in snow.

Robin perched in tree during snowstorm

And I learned something new about Robins. Several of them flew in and out of this Juniper tree eating the juniper berries. Who knew?

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Thankful Days in Autumn

November 22nd, 2007

     What is Autumn if not for playing in the leaves!  Remember leaf piles, and jumping in them?  The other day we raked a pile and jumped and played… the dogs too.  It wasn’t our “Official Annual Leaf Pile Party” but rather siezing the day!  It was such a warm and beautiful afternoon…. just perfect for playing outside.

The young one rakes leaves in a pile with help from the yellow lab.

 Young boy raking leaves - November in Missouri

Running and jumping in leaf piles is my favorite… or hiding in them.  And of course grabbing a big armful and throwing them in the air is always fun!

 Making leaf piles is great fun!

The dogs would not be left out of the fun… the Lab and Basset Hound chased each other around the grass and leaves.  They were cute to watch… a grumpy ‘ole Basset and a year-old Lab.  You can guess who was doing most of the running!

Labrador and Basset Hound playing - Dogs love to play in leaves too!

We also got in a full afternoon of retriever work with the lab.  He did very well this day, and finally settled in the grass for a break.  I think he’s happiest when he can run and run… the signature tongue-hanging-out-the-side-of-the-mouth says it all.

The Yellow Labrador is happy!

     And today of course is a day to be thankful for so many things…  Some of us will spend time with family and friends, and others in quiet reflection.  However you spend the day,  I hope it finds you well.  

A Season for Doing

November 3rd, 2007

      We awoke before dawn yesterday to a frosty landscape with the temperature right around freezing.  Most of the plants look fine however, the cold wasn’t long enough to really snap them for the season. Never fear, it’s coming!  But it was cold enough for thermals and sweaters, the young one saying “Brrrr!” while waiting for the bus.   I’ve seen the Juncos back from the north this week, darting around the shrubery, hopping in the grass.  They are near where the feeder goes in winter, as if saying, “Hey!  We’re ready for some birdseed!”  

     The weekend promises to be sunny and warm, and I wish I could get outside more this week.  There’s firewood to stack, barn and garage to clean, motors to winterize, hoses and tools to put away- so much more needs accomplished.   Alas I have several papers and projects due for grad school that will take every bit of my attention.  And the cub scouts- I almost forgot.  My writings here on Fox Haven will probably slow a bit more as well, but I feel like I’m wasting the season, arrgh!   Hopefully next weekend I will make an annual pilgrimage to deer camp with some friends to the northern part of the state.  Mostly it’s a bunch of good ‘ole guys sitting around a fire at night, swapping stories of youth and the day’s hunt.  In so many parts of the country this is a season of harvest and friendship.

The good ‘ole man Basset Hound is snuggling for warmth in the plants on a sunny hillside.   

The Basset Hound snuggles in the leaves for warmth on a frosty morning

I found the most delightful surprise in the garden the other day… in our little pot of strawberry plants were two juicy berries ready to eat!  I didn’t know they could grow fruit this long into the fall season…  I ate one, and it was delicious.  After giving one to the young boy, he rode away on his bicycle saying “Ummm… sweet!”

Two juicy little strawberries - a November surprise

Homework, Kids and Basset Hounds

October 8th, 2007

I am continually amazed at the requirements and expectations that schools have for children… especially the younger children!  We are of course the proud parents of a seven year-old first grader.  We went through an interesting Kindergarten experience last year involving tests, assessments and grades, but thankfully- no homework.   And he “graduated” with flying colors.

That has changed since he is now in first grade.  Now he has classwork, homework and many other assessments throughout the week.  The school system seems to pride itself on finding ways to measure children of course.  But it’s not infallible.  We received a “notice to serve” recently that our child was recommended for “accelerated reading,” which of course means remedial reading.  I was amazed since he was already reading above grade level, and after volunteering in his class the previous year it seemed he was well above the average.  So after writing a letter outlining my concerns (I didn’t want him missing other aspects of class if his reading was fine), it seems the teachers and principal were agreed with me (this time!).  And it seems the statewide assessment that was given the previous year didn’t really assess anything about reading in Kindergarten-  he wasn’t paying enough attention at the time for them to have any real idea about his reading progress, and they sent the assessment in without being completed…

In short, he’s doing very well and reading like crazy now.  But I must say the homework aspect scares the heck out of me.   Jeff Opdyke at the Wall Street Journal has written an honest appraisal of How Homework is Hurting Our Family.  If that is any indication of things to come then something will have to change.   Maybe we’ll cruise through it without the same stress and impact on the family.  Maybe our son will love the homework he brings home each day as he does now.  Maybe it just won’t be an issue.  But I kind of doubt it.  And I’m a little more concerned about my own response, because I don’t want him to end up as a lonely homeschooled kid! :)    How did you handle the homework your kids faced at school?  I’d love to know…

I couldn’t write something without a picture to go with it of course, so here’s the picture for today- an over-loved, under-worked Basset Hound named Justin!  He’s about as carefree as dogs come, and gets his homework done on time every single day!

Running Basset Hound

And if you don’t believe me, just ask him.  But watch out for that nose… it’s dangerous!

Smiling Basset Hound

Basset Hound Sunrise and Dam Thoughts

September 17th, 2007

   This morning I thought I had a nice picture of the sun coming up.  A little hound dog came running across the viewfinder as I took the picture. He likes to spend his morning running hither and yon, with his nose-to-the-ground most of the time.

The ˜ole Basset runs across the field at sunrise


     Pablo had me thinking about pond and lake dams.  I don’t know much about engineering them, or why they are constructed in various ways. Wider would seem to be better…   But I wandered around this morning, and thought I’d get a larger perspective.  I came to the conclusion that I truly cannot imagine trying to manually cut grass on a dam that is much steeper than this.  If it doesn’t wear you out completely, then you risk brief periods of starving the machine’s engine of oil.  I use a DR Brush Mower, and while it handles our dam slope okay (still wants to roll over), it sometimes coughs and sputters and is a real bear to maneuver.  The lightest machine you can find with enough horsepower and cutting strength would be ideal.  There are also some really cool machines that will cut up to 34 degree slopes, but kind of pricey unless you have enough work for it over time.  A hand-held brush cutter also works pretty good, but takes a while.  And by the way, good cleated boots or soccer cleats are really helpful!   I think my real solution is for the day we finally have some goats.  I’m just going to stake a couple out in the middle of the dam and let them at it. :)

An overall view of the pond and dam

If you’re building a farm pond or small lake, a wider dam and shallower engineered slope may make it much easier to maintain over time.

Slope of dam and golf cart

Another view of dam slope and golf cart

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