Not exactly the Birthday Present I was hoping for.

This morning, around 11, the phone rang.

About two weeks ago, I went into the dermatologist to have a spot on the back of my hand removed. The doctor said it was just a wart, but said she'd call with a confirmation in ten days to a week.

No big deal. Until this morning.

Turns out the spot on my hand wasn't a wart. It was squamous-cell carcinoma. And the Doctor could work me in today. The surgeon needed to meet me/ take a look at my hand. Could I be there ASAP?

A couple hours later, I met the surgeon, scheduled the surgery, got a HUGE packet of pre-op paperwork, and left with instructions to have a full check-up with my primary doctor no more than two weeks before the surgery date.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I really don't want this present.


9/11: This is What They Do. This is Who They Are.

In light of the "refugee" "crisis", I think people need to see this.
This is what they did to the World Trade Center. This is what they want to do to America. 


Experiments: Tree Hay

We're trying a new experiment, something we first heard about on the BBC show Tudor Monastery Farm. In one of the episodes (the first one is at the link--there are 6 episodes total, plus a special) they talked about making tree hay.

What is tree hay? In Britain, up until about 100 or so years ago, instead of growing grass for hay in pastures, certain types of fast growing and nutritious trees (poplar, hazel, willow, etc) were grown in rows. They were trimmed down (coppiced or pollarded) each fall, the trimmings were dried, tied in bundles and stacked to be stored as hay. Tree hay was less susceptible to loss from an unexpected rainstorm, unlike grass hay (very important in a rainy climate.) Making hay from trees also left the limited amount of arable land open for planting other crops. Tree hay fell out of fashion when mechanization became widely available.

Here in these united States, with our vast acreages, tree hay never caught on.  We've always had lots of open spaces for pastures...so the story goes.

That's not our story here on our farm. We don't have lots of space for pastures. We have 6/10 of an acre to work with (the remaining 10 acres are steep, treed hillside. We have other plans for that.) On that 6/10 of an acre, we have to fit in our house, greenhouse, woodshed, barn, garage, guest house, shop, chicken coops (2), orchard, garden area, and two barnyard areas for 4 goats and two pigs. Not a lot of spare room.

BUT! Along our western property line, there was room to plant a row of trees!  Me being me, I started researching.

The best information I could find gave the following yields: One tree produces 8-10 bundles of branches, 3' long and 2' around (called faggots). One faggot is supposed to feed one cow for one day. So, figure roughly one tree per week per cow. I've always heard the rule of thumb is 4 to 5 goats is equal to one cow (regarding amount of feed needed.) So one tree should feed 4 goats for one week, all things being equal. I multiplied from there (6 months/26 weeks of winter when stored hay is needed=30 trees for 4 goats), tucked in a comfortable margin of error (double the 30 trees for kids, herd expansion, and bad harvest years), and came up with 60 trees.

I chose willow trees to plant. Willows are an extremely useful plant. I figured that even if the tree hay didn't work out, I could use branches for basketry, decorations, or fencing. Willows are also useful in folk medicine (asprin!), making rooting compound for seedlings, and can even feed bees! There were no drainages, water lines or foundations (ours or our neighbor's) anywhere near the property line, so that was all good (willows have spreading root systems and can cause trouble if planted near water lines or structures.) As an added bonus, the prevailing winds come from that side of the property, so the willows should work as a windbreak, too.

We ordered 60 willows  last month and planted them in one long row down our property line. All but a couple are doing well and already putting out leaves. In spring, we'll replace any that didn't make it through the winter. Next August or September, we'll do our first tree hay harvest.


Home schooling

Last week, I took the girls in for their new-school-year haircuts.

A. (the hairstylist) runs her own one-person salon, mainly so she can have her three-year-old daughter with her while she works. We got to talking while she was cutting Giselle and Arabella's hair, about preschool, public schools, private schools, and home schooling.

A's daughter is in a (private) local half-day preschool a couple of days each week, at the cost of about $100/month. A's fairly happy with the preschool her daughter is attending, but keeps hearing horror stories from friends and relatives about the publicly-funded preschools, as well as the public grade schools. And she's worried, as good mothers tend to do.

The local Christian private school tuition is about $500/month. A. and her husband can't afford that, even though they both work. She absolutely does not want to send her daughter to the local public school. She's hoping to snag one of the limited spaces available in a Jesuit-run tuition-free private school two towns over. She'd prefer to home school, but doesn't see how she can, since she works five to six days each week.

Which got me thinking.

I know, KNOW, for a FACT that A. is not the only mother who would love to home school their children, but can't because they have to work. They don't want to be forced to send their children to public school and can't afford a private one. They want what is best for their children, and increasingly, home schooling looks like it. But in order to survive financially, they have to work.

My thought is: There are home school co-ops, where lots of home schooling families get together ever so often and have communal classes in science/art/writing/etc. Why can't the same idea extend to families where the parent(s) work and therefore aren't available to home school?

If 3 or 4 or even 5 families got together, they could mesh their days off to home school. For example, if family #1 has/can get Mondays and Thursdays off, then on Mondays and/or Thursdays, the parent(s) of that family oversees the home schooling for all the kids in the group. Then family #2 takes Tues, Family #3 takes Wednesday, and so on. Depending on the hours required to meet the work schedules of the parents, the kids may be able to get their state-required school hours in less than the standard 5 days. (And if the school days end up being Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon, oh well.)

The parents of the individual children would still be able to choose the curriculum they feel is best for their children, would still be involved in their schooling, and would still be able to work to support their family.

A co-home-schooling model like this would also provide socialization for the children. And there would be a better chance that weak spots in a child's learning would be addressed. For example, if  Parent #3 is a Math whiz who is weak at Science, while Parent #1 rocks at English but doesn't understand Math, and Parent #2 knows Science backward and forward but is clueless in English, in a co-schooling group, the children would have ready access to more varied knowledge. (Think: built-in tutoring)

In my mind, home schooling this way would have all the benefits of a private school without the high tuition costs, the benefits of the public schools without the uncontrolled social/moral/peer pressure costs, and the benefits of homeschooling without the socialization and teacher-limitation costs. All that would be needed would be some sort of meet-up-type website, where families could post their available days, general location, and any other requirements that are important (Religion/learning disabilities/health issues/etc.)

Anyway, that's my thought on the matter. If anyone reading this thinks this might be a good idea, feel free to run with it.


Obama: Electric Rates Will Necessarily Skyrocket

...But no one ever talks about the collateral expenses.

This post is not (directly) about our current electric bill, the jobs lost to the oft-denied but obvious War on Coal, the unsecured national power grid, or even a screed about fracking. No, this post is about our washing machine.

Our washer has finally died.

It is a front-loader, bought mainly because of its low-water requirements. (We're on a well. A shallow well. With a 40 gallon holding tank. And our septic system is elderly, to say the least. We don't have an automatic dishwasher, either, because of this.) Which means, of course, that the washer has more computer chips than Carter has pills.

Computer chips fry easily.

On July 31st, our local (coal-fired) power plant was shut down permanently by the pen-and-phone-authorized EPA. We now get our power from a (coal-fired) power plant somewhere in the panhandle of WV. Supposedly, doing this is somehow going to save the polar bears.

If someone can explain the logic of this to me, please do.

ANYway, since we were switched over to the WV plant, we have had constant flickers and surges in our electricity. Call them rolling several-second brown-outs. The lights dim. The air conditioner falters. The electric stove has issues (I'll be writing another post on our up-coming solution to that problem.)

And best of all (sarc/), the power fluctuations have managed, in the space of 7 days, to fry the computer chips that run our washing machine.

I see no point in replacing our front-loader with another ($500) front-loader, just to have the same problem. Good money after bad. (If you need a more in-depth explanation of this concept, see: Politicians.) Laundromats are...not truly an option (have you BEEN to a laundromat lately?! SCARY!!) So my solution is...

This wringer bucket and this plunger.

This is the United States of America, circa 2015.