Thursday, September 23, 2010


How many animals do you need before you can say that you have a petting zoo? I think we're there now. Dog, cats, fish, caterpillars (for the time being), snake, and now...bunnies.

Charlock, or Charlie, is a Chestnut buck and about a year old. Violet is an 8 month old Black Otter doe. They are both Netherland Dwarf  rabbits, the smallest of the recognized rabbit breeds (only 2 pounds as adults). They are a breeding pair, matched to balance out the other's weaknesses. Be sure to stay tuned to see how all that works out. = :) 
I'm not even sure which direction I want to go with this venture at this point, but it will likely involve baby bunnies. It is my intention to go to the ARBA show in Bloomington this weekend and come home with at least two more rabbits. I do not have the funds (or the justification) to purchase expensive pedigreed stock. However, you can start your own line. Sounds like a great educational project to me. The girls will learn about genetics without even realizing it.

In spite of bringing them home last night in a horrific thunderstorm and trying to get them settled in the middle of the flashing and crashing, they both fared well through the night. Charlie is a sweetheart, and Violet seems calm, but curious and outgoing.

Many of the breeders name their rabbits (at least the ones they keep) according to a theme. We've decided to use Wildflowers to name  our bunnies. Violets need no explanation, but this is Charlock. It is in the Mustard family. The funniest name we've seen is a 2# buck named Terminator. Somebody has been watching too much Monty Python.

Oh, and for those of you who are connecting the fact that we also own a snake--your fears are unwarrented.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Banded Garden Spider

This is a Banded Garden Spider, or Argiope Trifasciata. It is related to the Black and Yellow Argiopes (Writing spiders) that I posted about HERE. Out of more than 30 of the argiopes that I've found in my yard, only two of them are this type. They are just as common as the black and yellow kind (just not in my yard), but I think the metallic silver on their backs makes them way cooler.

We're protecting (that means I told the kids to leave them alone) about half a dozen garden spider egg sacks. While I wouldn't want one crawling down my shirt, fearing and destroying them is irrational. They're great at pest control. I didn't have to spray for Japanese beetles this year because of them.

*On the butterfly front--The Black Swallowtails that we have been waiting for seem to have stalled out. It has been more than 3 weeks now. That means one of two things. Either this generation will overwinter and not emerge until spring, or we've had catastrophic caterpillar failure. Which would be very sad. I'm going to give them a few more days and then find cold storage for them, just in case.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Log Pile

Getting ready for a letterboxing event in October. Over the weekend, I put together 20 logbooks. Paper is cut for more, but my hand was too sore to squeeze the hole punch any more, so the rest will have to wait.

I've been carving like mad too, but I can't exactly show you the stamps yet, now can I? None of the boxes can remain permanently, so I will be able to post pictures later. I will tell you this: I probably will not be carving any more horses for a very long time. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010


Gross-out potential ahead. Proceed at your own stomach's risk. You've been warned.
The first time we fed Kernel, our corn snake, I couldn't  help but laugh. He's still only as thick as my little finger, and his supper was bigger than his head. It wasn't a problem. Did you know that snakes can dislocate their jaw in order to swallow something really big? And still breathe while they are doing it? Yep.

I'll never forget our 11 year old daughter giving a long, drawn out "Thaaat's sooo groooossss!", all while her face kept moving closer and closer to the glass in order to see better.

Wanna see? Yeah, I knew it.

How to eat something bigger than your head:

Open Wide....


Now spend the next three days sleeping it off.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Portrait of a Newborn

Portrait stamps are difficult, there is no question about it; but there are several things that can make it even more difficult.
  • Teeth--I don't care who the carver is, I have never seen teeth done well.
  • Familiarity with the subject--Carving a stranger is harder than carving someone you know (okay, that sounds weird). Knowing a person's expressions and personality helps in determining what is important in an image.
  • Potential for offense--If you carve the image of a jellyfish, it's not likely to walk off in a huff if you botch the job. Carve your Mother in Law, though, and you'd better get it right.
  • Babies--even the babies themselves aren't familiar with their own expressions, so how can anyone else be? Add to that their rapidly changing bodies and you have a conundrum in short order. And of course, hands are so very key to a baby's expressions--and we know how easy they are to carve, right?
Now that I've pointed out how hard portraits stamps are, it's going to sound obnoxiously self serving to say that I am very pleased with how this stamp turned out. But I am enormously happy (and relieved) with the results, in spite of how intimidated I felt in the beginning. I think I will always feel that way about such personal images.

I'll let you know what Mom thinks when she gets it.

Monday, September 13, 2010


On Friday, we officially kicked off our school year with a huge field trip. And I mean huge in every way. We drove to Indiana with my parents (Hi, Grammy and Grampy!) and went to Fair Oaks Farm. Fair Oaks is one of the largest dairy farms in the US. I am still trying to process the scale of the things we saw. Here are some of the highlights:
  • We saw two calves being born. Hands down, this was the coolest part of the day. After the first birth (which was a little difficult), it was wonderful to go back in the barn and see both Mom and baby doing well. I would have put that little boy (he only weighed 60#) in the back of my van and brought him home if they had let me.
  • We toured the facility in a climate controlled, bio-secure, luxury bus.
  • We saw the "Dairy-go-round" carousel where they milk the cows 3 times a day.
  • We learned how milk, cheese, and ice cream are made--and sampled some of each.
  • We learned how the farm takes the manure and turns it into electricity to power their facilities. Yes, way. (or maybe I should say Whey.)
A little dairy farm math, or Cowculating, if you'll indulge me:
  • FOF has 30,000 cows. 3,000 each on ten separate farms.
  • They own 25,000 acres of land. 20% of that land is preserved in forests, streams and unfarmed buffer zones to support wildlife and prevent erosion.
  • They have 80 some births a day. Boys are sold, girls stay (and are kept within the same herd for their entire life).
  • Each milking cow produces up to 10 gallons of milk per day. I forget the exact numbers, but that's around 20,000 gallons every day (not all of them are producing milk all the time).
  • Each cow eats up to 100 pounds of food and drinks up to 30 gallons of water per day.
  • Each cow also produces (and you knew this was coming) up to 150 pounds of waste per day. About 60% of that is liquid. Which means, with 30,000 cows, the farm processes 1.6 million pounds of manure every day. I promise, I will never complain about cat boxes again. This was also where I stopped wanting to bring that little cow home with me.
There is a lot more, but at this point my brain starts hurting. If you are ever near Fair Oaks, I would highly recommend a visit. But maybe not with really little kids (below 1st grade). The birthings are...well, births. Exhilarating, but messy. Use your discretion. The place is very kid friendly, but you should know that you never come in direct contact with any of the animals. That is for the cows' protection (and yours), but if you're expecting a petting zoo, it could be a little disappointing (we knew, so it was okay). The information comes at you pretty fast, and much of it would be over the little ones heads. Oh, and if you have kids with sensory issues, you might want to skip the 4D mooovie (sorry).

How about some pics? I'll warn was not our best photography day. It's hard to take pictures through glass, and of perpetually moving children.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tats for Two

In spite of the seeming inactivity around here, we have been busy. On top of letterboxing, carving, volunteering, mowing, school planning and such, I have also been tatting my little paddy paws off.

This piece is for my cousin, who just gave birth to a long awaited first child, and baby girl. Since I'm pretty sure she is unaware of this blog, I doubt she'll see it before it arrives. The doily measures just under 6" and is made using beautiful hand dyed thread by YarnPlayer. YarnPlayer has a tatting blog with links to her Etsy store HERE. The thread is a 30 weight called Garden Afternoon. The colors are so vibrant, it makes me want to lick it. Don't worry--I've resisted so far. It only took between 9 and 10 hours, so my speed is certainly improving. The pattern is from the book A New Twist on Tatting, by Catherine Austin. It is pattern 34. I have been checking tatting books out from the library to evaluate them before I add them to my wish list.

This piece, which I'm dubbing "Spearmint" until something more original strikes me, is 4 1/2 " and is made with a 30 weight variegated Lizette thread. The pattern can be found under the free patterns tab on Jon's Thread Escapade blog. It is the Magic Moment Snowflake. I have no specific plans for it, except to squirrel it away for Christmas.

I am learning to read different types of patterns, and have also discovered that patterns calling for 2 shuttles can still be tatted with a single needle. I also snapped a needle in half. I guess that means my hands are getting stronger, huh?