Thursday, November 25, 2010

Quiet Pastures

And just like that, my whole world has changed....

I wake up, look out the kitchen window, and there are my cows, standing in front of the barn, waiting for their winter hay.  The ground is covered by about two inches of snow now.  Not much grass left poking through.  The air is cool.  There isn't much romping around going on out there these days.  They're quiet and patient and waiting to eat.  Standing in the hay zone, waiting for hay to arrive.  Where they will stand eating for the rest of the day.

But wait...  Why am I looking at cows?  Since when are they not chased off to wait their turn?  Oh...

Goliath died.  We went out one morning to do chores, and he was laying down.  Goliath has been a difficult horse for some time.  He had string halt.  Special diet.  Always a fight to keep weight on him.  He laid there looking at us sorrowfully.  We tried our best to get him on his feet.  He wouldn't budge.  Hubby finally said it was time to let him go.  Put him out of his misery.
Goliath, last fall.

That was about two months ago.

Goliath was hubby's favourite.  He only worked with Blondie once this year.  He gets frustrated with the actual work involved with working with horses.  I mean, he can work with them.  They are amazing animals.  But a days work with the Belgiums yields so much less than a days work with equipment.  And hubby is not home very many days.  There is always more work to do than he has time for.
Blondie.  The working girl.

Bella has never been worked here.  Hubby harnessed her once, in the beginning, and she didn't cooperate.  Since he was just learning, and Blondie was more cooperative, and then later, Goliath was such a pro- he never got back around to Bella.  She was #1's 'pony' for a year or so.  It was amazing to watch them run barrels.  But her wide girth was hard on his small legs.  When we bought more riding horses he lost interest in riding her.  She was only taken out of the pasture for deworming and ferrier this year.
Bella.  The REALLY big pony.

And along came winter.  Our hay guy has had some medical issues.  Our winter hay hasn't arrived.  He's not ready to do a days work loading, transporting, unloading hay.  He's been bringing us two bales, twice a week in his pick up truck.  The herd plows through that in no time.  We've been supplementing with our small square bales- the goat hay.

And the whole thing got me thinking.  And we discussed it.  And it was time to move on.

Thunder sold first.  He was the little pony stallion that we bought for #2 in the spring.  He was a sweet heart, but easily distracted by the girls.  If no one was in heat, he was a joy.  But with 5 mares around, he seemed to have more fussy days than good days.  And rather than being fun, it all seemed like a lot of work to #2, when it was much easier to grab Tori or Sugar and go for a ride.

Bella and Blondie went on Monday.  It was hard to let them go.  They've been a part of our family for so long.  But it was time.

Along with the girls went our future in sustainable farming.  Sort of.  We had dreams of harvesting our own hay, plowing our fields, growing our oats, harvesting our oats...  with horse power.  Without relying on fossil fuels.  The thing is, we were using massive fossil fuels to feed them.  Buying hay from another farmer.  Transporting it here.  Moving the bales with the tractor.  And all for a dream.  We're no way near ready to harvest anything.  I now know better than to start plowing.  We're still working on grass management to feed the crew through the summer.  We have many fences to build.  It all seems kind of crazy when you consider the relief our whole system will have by not having them here now.  Maybe some day we'll be ready to work with horses.  But right now it's kind of bass ackwards.

The hardest part is looking out the window first thing in the morning.  And missing their huge bodies watching the house.

There are new watchers now.

And I will adjust.  But it will take time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back to School

So, how about a homeschool post, lol.  Winter is coming!  It really is.  One of these days I'm going to wake up in the morning to two feet of snow, and the sun is not going to come out and melt it all away.  One of these days.  It really is going to happen!

 One of the things I have always loved best about homeschooling is the freedom to work on our own schedule.  We don't have to do school from 9-3.  We don't have to do school from Monday to Friday.  And we don't have to do school from September to June.  If we want to do school in our jammies sprawled out on the living room floor at midnight on a Sunday- it's allowed!  It's encouraged!  It's preferred!

  Well, by most of us anyway.  We do have one weird little morning person here, but the rest of us are night owls.

So, a little explanation first for non homeschoolers.  There are three general types of homeschoolers.
1) school at home.  Where the classroom is kind of recreated at the kitchen table.
2) unschoolers.  Where the classroom doesn't exist, and the child follows his own interests, learning through life experiences.
3) eclectic.  Where the classroom shows up occasionally, or for certain subjects, but a lot is still done through life experiences.

We are eclectic.  We do math and English at the kitchen table on a pretty regular basis through the snowy season.  The kids use work books.  I teach.  They do spelling lists & tests.

We have, from time to time over the years, found some good science work books.  I've printed some online health units.  We have some geography work books that we started last year but never finished, too.  Those get tossed out now and again, and we do a unit study on the subject at hand.  They're not a part of the daily routine.

We watch a lot of TV.  Which is kind of funny, considering there are a whole host of homeschoolers who don't own tvs, or only use them for videos...  We watch a lot of TV.  Since my big kids were little, and totally hooked on Bill Nye the Science Guy & The Magic School Bus.  Two awesome shows, that as a mom, and their teacher, I had a really hard time telling them to turn off the TV to come do their school work.  As they got older, they really got into Myth Busters, and documentaries.  And there are few historical movies that I myself can easily walk away from, even though I know they've been Hollywoodized...  My kids, of course, figured out early how to use that against me (we started out school at home).  They figured out that as long as they kept the tv on the Discovery Channel, or the History Channel, that mom was likely to leave them be.

We also love, love, love computers.  I am a total addict myself.  In the early years we tried to keep it schooly.  They had questions.  The internet had answers.  We looked up all kinds of stuff, from Alcatraz to Komodo dragons.  We bought educational software.  Jump Start Explorers was a family favourite.  #1 & #2 Were about 7 & 8, playing a jump start game, when they asked me to teach them long division.  They had to get the answers right to progress in the game, so we got out the white board, I gave them a quick lesson, and they spent the afternoon between the white board and the computer.

We love field trips.  When we lived down south we had memberships to the Children's Museum & the Ontario Science Centre.  We took day trips to all of the local small town museums.  We went to a lot of Touring Players shows.  We met up with other homeschoolers for Science Club, day trips to police stations, fire departments, pioneer villages.  There were three large, active home school groups there, with all kinds of events & activities going on.

We learned how to do things differently.  Our Geography 'class' was a World Map on one wall, and a map of Canada on another wall.  We watched a lot of tv.  and movies.  I may have mentioned that already.  When the kids watched Lilo & Stitch, we went to the world map & found Hawaii.  When we watched The Amazing Race, we went to the world map and followed their travels.  When we watched Survivor, we went to the world map and found New Guinea.  When we watched the news, we went to the Canada map and found that town.

Phys. Ed.  Farm kids.  Enough said?  They have played some organized sports- baseball & soccer.  They have sports night at cadets, and lots of marching.  But mostly they are just healthy, active farm boys.  They play outside.  They run through fields.  They shovel manure.  They carry firewood.  They ride horses.

Art has ranged from simple crayons & paper, to painting rooms & buildings.  From crafts made with paper & glue, to crafts made with wood & nails.  From the recycling bin treasures to the expensive art supplies.

And we talk a lot.  About everything.  All the time.

The unschooly stuff doesn't stop outside of 'school hours'.  They keep learning, asking questions, watching tv, using the internet.  #2 reads for pleasure.  #1 listens to audio books for pleasure.  They make stuff because it's fun for them.  It doesn't stop because it's 3:45.  It doesn't stop because it's August.  It's a life style.

So, when I say 'back to school', it's the work books I'm talking about.  Two hours a day for 6 months is plenty of time for a year's worth of school.

We start when the snow starts.  I am a hermit.  I hate to go outside in the snow and cold unless it's absolutely necessary.  So I work my ass off from spring to fall.  When the snow comes, I stay indoors.  I do school with the kids.  We play board games.  We watch movies.  We curl up with a blanket & a good book in front of the fire.

I am ready for winter.  We are done this years chores.  We've got a head start on next spring's chores.  I am ready for winter.  I am ready for a good book and a warm fire.