Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Building a Bat Box

I hope you didn't open this post hoping to learn how to build a bat box.  I couldn't tell you.  You can google "How to make a bat box" and you will find plans and detailed instructions.  I'm going to write about our experience building one and hopefully inspire someone out there to make their own.  We made one this year for my mom's birthday. 

Day One

My job was to decorate the front of the bat box.  I toyed with several phrases and finally decided on "Tina's Bat Bed and Breakfast."  This seemingly simple decision would end up causing my near nervous breakdown.  I purchased a wood burning tool at Micheal's because it appeared to be a fun (and easy) way to make a beautiful box.  I forgot to buy stencils, so I made my own by printing out letters and punching holes in them.  I recommend driving back to Michael's to buy stencils.  Oliver helped me pencil out my design.     

Glenn was busy outside sawing groves into the wood facing the inside of the house.  Bats need the groves so they can grab on and climb into the box.  He set up his circular saw to create the groves.

I began the slow process of wood burning.  Since Glenn and I were working with dangerous tools, we put Pearl in a motorized vehicle and made sure Oliver kept her out of the street.  Children can really slow down the creative process, so they have to learn to fend for themselves at a young age.

I imagined the wood giving way to the burning tool like butter.  I discovered wood is hard to burn in some places and easy to burn in other places.  My goal was to finish my job on day one, but only made it through one bat. 

It took so long, Pearl can now drive on her own.
Day Two

Oliver was busy, so Pumpkin filled in as the babysitter.  Glenn finished up cutting the sides and top of the bat box.

Days Three, Four , Five and Six

After I put the kids to bed on day three, I pulled out my board and began working.  I finished another bat and began weeping about the adorable phrase I chose for the box.  Each night, I struggled through a couple of words before I would give up, cursing at the wood or screaming, "My arm Glenn!  My arm!  I'm going to die!"  My mom gave me life, so I found the strength to carry on until I reached the final "T."

We have to paint our nearly complete bat house after the Christmas break.  My mom was very happy to receive her bat box for her birthday.  In summary: use a circular saw, buy stencils, pick one bat or a short phrase for the box, buy a motorized vehicle for your toddler and help your local bat population by building your own box! 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Card Outtakes

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is dress my kids in nice clothes and take them outside to try and get the perfect Christmas card picture.  The hardest part is picking out just one picture.  Generally all of the "no" pictures go into a folder never to be seen again.  This year I decided to publish the cute, funny and imperfect pictures from this year's sessions (Glenn didn't like my favorites from session one so we had two!).

So many of the pictures captured the love that Oliver and Pearl have for each other.  I nixed these sweet pictures because the kids weren't facing the camera.

Glenn thought we should have one of the pets in the card this year.  Pumpkin was featured in our card a couple of years ago, so we thought it would be nice to include Lotta.  Lotta really wants to eat our cat, Otter.    Otter decided to tease Lotta and walk by the photo shoot meowing.  Here we almost got a good shot, then Otter caused Lotta to jump up and knock the kids off of her.

Again, Otter disrupted this perfect scene.  All eyes are on him!

Not Christmas card worthy, but sometimes I love the "set up" pictures when I am checking the light.  Pearl is having a nice talk with Lotta in this picture.

Here are a few more of my favorites.  I hope those of you who receive our card this year agree with our final pick.  And if you are not on our list, but would like to be, please send me your address!  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Short and Tragic Life of Sophia S. Mouse

I have done stupid things in the name of helping an animal in the past.  Most of my mistakes have a happy ending.  Once, when I was working for a cat clinic in San Diego someone dropped a kitten off in a box on the clinic's front porch.  I opened the box and found a tiny kitten with deformed eyelids.  The veterinarian I worked for told me the kitten had probably been burned by a horrible person.  I called the news and ended up telling the kitten's sad tale that night during the six o'clock news hour.  The news segment had people outraged at such cruelty.  Phone calls came pouring in the clinic the next day.  One phone call was from a very annoyed veterinary ophthalmologist who informed me the kitten had a fairly common birth defect of the eyelid.  After people were done being angry with me, the kitten (Mr. Magoo) received free eye surgery and a wonderful new home.

I have yet to find the silver lining in the sad tale I am about to tell.  Glenn stepped on a nest of three mice last Saturday while building an enclosure for the goats.  A mother mouse and one of her babies scurried away.  One baby received the brunt of Glenn's boot and lay in the dirt, too injured to move.  Glenn called me and Oliver up to the wood pile to check on the mouse.  There we found Sophia and decided to take her inside.
Sophia's mouth was filled with sand and her nose was bloody.  I told Oliver I didn't know what to feed a baby mouse.  He suggested, "Your milk and cheese!"  I cleaned out the mouse's mouth and read online that human formula is often used to supplement abandoned mice.  I took Oliver's suggestion and pumped some milk into a syringe.  To my surprise, Sophia drank my milk and seemed to perk up.  We fed her every couple of hours and kept her warm.  We didn't expect her to make it over night, but she seemed even healthier in the morning.  I guess because I was keeping her alive with my own milk, I started to become very attached to dear Sophia.

I did more research and read that a nursing mother mouse will often nurse abandoned pups.  I wanted so much to see Sophia curled up against a mother mouse, rather than curled up alone in Oliver's sock.  Oliver, Pearl and I went to a local pet store on Sunday to try and find a mother for Sophia.  On the way we saw a double rainbow and thought it was a good omen.  We found several mice working as wet nurses at the pet store.  We took home a pretty mouse we named Rainbow.  
I cautiously introduced Rainbow to Sophia.  All seemed well and Rainbow even let Sophia nurse.  My heart was full as I went to bed because Sophia was being cared for by an experienced mother.

Throughout the night, Rainbow was a caring, nurturing mother.  Glenn checked on the pair at 6:30 in the morning and found Rainbow grooming Sophia.  Then at 7:30, I walked in to the bathroom to find a scene so horrific, it made the face removal scene in The Silence of the Lambs seem like a comedy.  I found Rainbow cleaning her bloody whiskers, standing over the back half of Sophia's body.  SHE ATE MY BABY.  

I kept thinking, a good person would keep Rainbow and give her a good home.  Then I would walk over and look at Rainbow and relive the terrible scene.  I knew I couldn't keep her and accept the fact that she had eaten my adoptive child.  I drove back to the pet store with a pit in my stomach and returned her to the life of a wet nurse.  

I guess not all stories have a happy ending.  As my husband says, "You save a cat, it eats a lot of mice; you save a mouse it gets eaten by a mouse."  So true and so wise.  There are lessons to be learned at every turn.   

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Goat Babies Coming in April!

Leche started crying last night like she was ill.  My mom kept going out to the pasture to check on her, thinking something was seriously wrong.  This morning we saw her out in the middle of the pasture shaking her tail with vigor.  Banjo's stench was floating all the way down to the front pasture and it was driving Leche to the brink.  We debated for a few hours this morning and then decided to let Banjo and Leche have an afternoon together.

Leche was not shy about her desire for Banjo.  She threw herself at him.

Banjo in turn sprayed his face with urine.  Leche watched and found it strangely erotic.

After a few minutes of courting, copulation began with a bang.  Pearl was quite concerned about Leche.  She has a healthy fear of Banjo.

Thirty minutes later, the mating extravaganza was over.  The happy couple nuzzled each other as Pearl feed the other goats.  

The due date is April 18!  We are hoping for some girls this year.  Job well done Leche and Banjo!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heritage Turkey, Anyone?

As Thanksgiving approaches, many people are thinking about what to make for dinner.  Many of our friends will go to the grocery store to buy a Butterball turkey from one of the factory farms.  The big-breasted, fatty turkeys are cheap.  If one takes a moment to imagine the lives of those turkeys, he or she would reconsider having a Butterball as the centerpiece of a very special meal.  This year, we will be eating one of our own heritage chickens raised in our backyard instead.

Next year, we have decided we want to raise our own turkey dinner and we want to extend that opportunity to our family, friends and neighbors as well.  Glenn will be placing an order with Porter's Rare Heritage Turkeys this week.  The poults will arrive on our farm in late May, and will be ready to eat during the holiday season.  We will raise the turkeys with kindness and respect.  They will be free to eat a normal turkey diet (bugs, mice, plants and anything else they forage) and will be supplemented with local feed.

How can you get involved?

1.  Email us at beneficialbee@gmail.com to let us know if you would like to purchase a turkey (please let us know ASAP!).  We are ordering:

Tiger Bronze

and Sweetgrass.
2.  If you give us a ten dollar deposit on your turkey, we will sell you a turkey for $6/pound in November.  The turkeys will be between 15 to 30 pounds.  Your turkey will arrive ready to put in the oven.

3.  Please visit your turkey!  We think this is a great opportunity for children (and adults) to learn about where their food comes from.  Turkeys are really friendly and children (and adults) love to hear their gobbling sounds.  Oh, and pony rides are free, too.

4.  Any turkeys not claimed will be sold at $7-8/pound in November and December.

Next year, consider helping out a local, family-owned farm, keeping rare turkey breeds from going extinct and sticking it to the "man."  Or buy a store turkey....
Thank you to PETA for the image.  I decided not to show the video.  I think you all get the point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Get Rich Quick: Become a Farmer

Just follow these 11 easy steps to find out how to "make it" as a farmer.

1.  Start with a shipment of heritage chicks.

2.  Build them a luxurious house with a large outside enclosure.

3.  Purchase an incubator.

4.  Wait until the chickens are old enough to produce fertile eggs (six months), then collect eggs over a period of seven days.

5.  Watch, wait and pray for three weeks.

6.  Entertain your kids for hours observing chicks hatching out of eggs.

7.  Start to panic after 24 hours and open the box to remove chicks (it smelled really bad in there).  Discover several hours later that you killed the remaining six chicks in their eggs by altering the humidity too much during the move.

8.  Enjoy the chicks for an evening, then drive them to a farm in the morning.  Comfort your weeping children.

9.  Introduce the chicks to hundreds of Cornish Cross chickens (who will grow large very quickly, but will never be able to fly or walk correctly).    

10.  Check out their future home.  Our heritage Delaware chickens will lead a happy pasture-raised life on this farm.

11.  Collect your check for 22 dollars.  Pray that people at farmer's market will be interested in paying more money for heritage chicken meat so you can start the process all over again in a few months.

We may see our first profits in 2014!  At that time we will start looking into buying our second home in Italy.