Our Dog, the Cat

It’s been cold, rainy, windy and generally nasty around here for the last several days, which has given very little to smile about. But who can’t smile at a dog who’s caught more mice in the last week than our barn cats have?

Wilbur has a great nose, and is a great digger. He unearthed and dispatched several moles this summer, and in the last few days has come up with two field mice. Just like a cat, he walks around with the mouse squirming in his mouth. Then he puts it down, watches it flop and stumble around, and plays with it until I approach. Then he picks the squirming, dog-spit-covered rodent back up, retreats a safe distance, and does the whole thing again. Eventually, he finishes the mouse off.

Now, if we could just get him to do his digging somewhere other than Mrs. Yeoman Farmer’s garden…

On Wheels

Homeschooling families are often asked “What do you do about sports?” It seems that this is the question we are asked second-most to all others. (Number One, of course, is “How are your kids learning to socialize with others?”)

We’ve consciously decided to avoid the typical team sports that involve shuttling kids all over creation to attend practices, games, and tournaments. Sure, baseball, hockey, football and soccer have value and can be quite healthy. But the schedules can consume enormous amounts of time that could be better spent with family; we’ve seen this happen to a number of our friends.

Just living on a farm, our kids get plenty of exercise. But they also participate in a relatively unusual sport. What this is, and how it came to be, is the focus of a fun article I just had published on MercatorNet. It begins like this:

If it’s true that an addict is the last to recognize his own addiction, that may be especially so when the compulsion is ostensibly healthy. But rock bottom is rock bottom, and mine came on November 20, 1999 — appropriately enough, near the lowest geographic point in North America, on one of the country’s most isolated roads.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

And for those who have been asking about my plans for a second novel, I do have a story in the works. The general plotline is inspired by the events recounted in this MercatorNet piece. I’ve finished a complete first draft, and the editor (and other initial readers) have sent me suggested changes. I am in the process of incorporating those edits now; I am hoping to have a final version for publication sometime next year.

In related news, my first novel, Passport, is now available in e-book format through the Amazon Kindle Store(for just $2.99). Also, Amazon has temporarily reduced the price for the print edition to $13.45; it can be found by clicking on the image below.

Protecting us from Ourselves

Hey, readers in Wisconsin: your state government is on the case, protecting you from any stupid decisions you might want to make about what you put into your own body. You know, like … raw milk.

N.B. this is a crackdown extending even to those who’ve organized their farm to sell ownership sales to those interested in obtaining raw milk. Selling shares has been an effective traditional means of circumventing prohibitions on raw milk sales. If I own a share in the cow, the milk from the cow is mine and I’m free to drink it. I’m not buying or selling the milk. Just drinking what came from this cow that I’m a part owner of.

It would be one thing if the state wanted to protect ignorant consumers who might accidentally grab unpasteurized milk from the shelf at the grocery store. But these farm share owners, by the nature of the trouble they’ve gone to, have demonstrated themselves to be about as highly aware of the risks and benefits of raw milk as it’s possible to be.

Raw milk has some pathogens which are potentially harmful if the milk isn’t handled correctly? Yeah, yeah. I know that. But I’m an adult, a thinking and reasoning subject, who has decided that this product’s benefits far outweigh any of those potential harms. And that this product is far superior to the chalk water that the dairy industry wants me to be stuck with.

Let’s hope that at some point, government at all levels will get out of our way and let us make nutritional decisions like the free adults we are.

Happy Endings

Living on a farm has its share disappointments … but the unexpected joys often greatly outweigh them. As we prepare for Fall, I wanted to share two happy follow-ups to stories detailed earlier this year.

First, remember the chicks that our Barred Rock mother hen hatched out in a dark corner of the barn? Of the eight original hatchlings, only one died along the way. We gave one to a friend, leaving six. When mother hen first let the chicks spread their wings and go their own way, I was admittedly a bit nervous. The chicks didn’t seem to have a clue as to what they should do without her leadership. I found myself going out to check on them several times a day, just to make sure they hadn’t done something stupid.

Happily, twelve weeks after hatching, all six have survived and are now large juveniles. They’ve continued to be a distinct community within our larger flock, roosting together on the fence that separates the kidding pen from the rest of the goats. Interestingly, it was the same pen in which their mother hatched them. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer they stick together; even during the day, they never tend to be far from each other as they forage across the property. Perhaps thanks to the upbringing their mother gave them, they seem to range much more widely and proactively than the other chickens. Here they were this morning (the sixth one is just out of the picture):

But, by far, the biggest and happiest success story is Puddles the Goat Kid. Rejected by her mother and nearly dead when we found her in the barn during a storm in March, longtime blog readers will recall how we revived her, bottle-fed her back to life, and then transitioned her to House Goat and finally Barn Goat. Well, Puddles is now a strong and healthy six-and-a-half month old member of the herd:

But she hasn’t forgotten her beginnings. Whenever I call her name, she immediately responds by standing up, nickering in a particular way, and running to greet me. She’s not the kind of annoying pet goat that follows humans everywhere. She’s definitely bonded with the other goats, and knows she’s a goat. But she also knows she’s the one and only … Puddles!