30 April 2016

Wilderness Hotel

Our camp set up.
For Jack's birthday weekend, we were going to go to a fun-looking amusement park a few hours away from us, but with rain guaranteed in the forecast to the south, we did the next best thing: went camping.
Jack set up his trusty hammock. His Eagle Scout knot tying skills don't disappoint!
Now that we have our new car, we had plenty of space in the back to really jam pack it full of the comforts of home--I brought a fouton mattress, a hide-a-bed mattress, the tent, blankets, food, folding chairs...the works! I love camping, but if I'm going to go, I might as well be comfortable, right? It's like our very own hotel out in the wilderness (maybe we'll start referring to camping as staying in the wilderness hotel).
Going for a walk to the park after dinner.
Sometimes we go all wild and crazy while camping--going fishing, swimming or on looooong canoe trips, but this time, we kept it simple. After setting up camp, we had a hot meal and meandered around to go play at the parks and stretch our legs. Temperature-wise, the weather was perfect but since it had just rained buckets (or leeches, haha), it was a bit soggy in spots. We did our best to avoid stepping in the mud, but...
Daddy pushing them around on the tire swing.
...Kate took a running jump...
Why so sad, Kate?
...and fell right in the mud.
Cold and wet.
 Sure she could clear the spot, Evelyn actually went back to the same mud puddle to show us all she could fly over it. Well...
Cold and wet, too.
...she slipped and fell, too. Almost half of us retreated back to the tent with soggy, wet hind ends.
The sun went down quickly and everyone got into their jammies while Jack stoked the fire for some s'mores. It didn't take long to gobble down the marshmallows and then, we sent everyone off to bed. It took the kids a little while to settle and fall asleep--something about camping wears them out, but makes them too wired to rest. Once they did, it was a quiet night, listening to a few early crickets and spotting some pre-summer lightning bugs.
Everyone get a good night's rest?
Other than the rain that showed up unexpectedly, Henry getting clotheslined by Raven and slipping in the mud, it was a pretty fun first-of-the-season campout and hopefully one of many!
Waiting for dinner to cook.

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28 April 2016

Raining Leeches

Watch out, Evelyn!
We've been enjoying some impressive spring thunderstorms that have helped the grass green up and scared the dog out of her wits. The one last night has taken the cake though: it rained leeches.
Apprehensive at first, then fascinating.
We walked Evelyn out to the bus while our car was being worked on in the shop, around the puddles and to the end of the driveway. It didn't take long to notice the long, black thing wriggling in the shallow water wasn't your run-of-the-mill earthworm. I took a closer look and there was no mistaking a giant leech wriggling around.
Claire investigating if we had any more in the murky puddles.
Most likely, it was washed in from one of the ponds or creeks around us, but wherever it came from, it was a little unnerving that a bloodsucking parasite--and one so BIG--was hanging around. The girls usually aren't skittish, but when I told them what leaches ate, everyone took a step back.
Uh, I think it's figuring out how to escape. I'm just going to put the lid on...
I sent Claire inside to get a jar and she came back with the smallest one she could find (why does she always do that when we're going to catch a creepy bug?!?) and we caught that yucky thing, as proof that it really was what we claimed it was. Its fate still hasn't been decided...Jack want to feed it to his aquaponics fish, I told him it's big enough that it would probably suck a fish dry, the chickens might know what to do with it...all I do know is that it's not going to be catch and release.

Sorry, leech. But not really.

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25 April 2016

Ear Fungus

Finding some new mushrooms.
While taking a stroll around the property, Jack discovered a new kind of fungus we'd never seen before. It's brown, rubbery, filled with jelly-like meat and is shaped like a human ear. Apparently they're known as jelly ear fungus and are edible, though not particularly delectable.
Knowing Jack, once he figured out what kind of mushroom it was (and seeing the body part resemblance) he plucked it off and stuck it in his ear.
Like his new ear?
Jack: always good for a laugh!

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23 April 2016

Plane Pull

The 30 ton plane all the teams pulled!
 A few weeks ago, Jack signed up to participate in a plane pull to raise money for the Indiana Make a Wish Foundation through Rolls Royce. It sounded like it'd be a fun day, though, honestly, we've never been to one and didn't quite know what to expect.
High-fiving the lady on the stilts.
Since the event was to raise money for seriously- and terminally-ill children who are to receive a special, memorable gift (like meeting their favorite baseball team or going to Disney World), the entire morning was chalked full of activities for kids. The girls had their faces painted and got balloon animals, watched jugglers, dancers, clowns, people on stilts and toured several airplanes parked outside the hanger.
A princess and two colorful kitties.
They had costume contests and congratulated teams that were able to raise the most money, then the pulling started.
Evelyn high-fiving some famous Indianapolis Colts football player...(not real big football fans here, haha).
Each team had to pull a thirty ton plane fifteen feet using a tug-o-war type rope. The trick was to get it started quickly and pull all the way to the end. Though Jack's team wasn't dressed in anything special and probably appeared unassuming, but wow! They drug that plane in the fastest time of all forty-five teams--in a little over seven seconds!
Walking over to take their turn.

They beat out firefighters and Minions (and even some of the crazy purple Minions), lawyers who mistakenly came in slippery loafers (whoops...big mistake!), Purdue students, football players, the Avengers, the Incredipulls...
Look at that time!
So many clowns!
 ...a group of Where's Waldos?...
I found Waldo!
 ...and a bunch of mini plane captains. Seriously, a bunch of kids were able to pull that plane!
Those kids were CUTE!
The top five teams were then brought back to have a final stand off with a first place prize of a round trip plane ticket. There was a lot at stake! Since Rolls Royce was the fastest overall, they chose to pull last. All of the teams put in a fantastic effort and when it came down to it...
...they came in second place by less than half a second. The team still won a nice gift card to a steakhouse and had a fun time raising money for a good cause.

And in the end, the kids who will be blessed by everyone's efforts were the ones who truly won.

Go Team Rolls Royce!

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21 April 2016

Queen Bee

The hive entrance dusted with yellow dandelion pollen.
Jack can't help himself. He's obsessed. With bees. Really, it's not all that bad because when all is said and done, we get jars and jars of sweet, sticky honey with relatively little work on our part This year is the first year we've successfully kept a hive alive through the winter (hooray!), in part, because they're stock from a local swarm that showed up last summer. They were able to keep those horrible wasps at bay and with some help from Jack, who raided our sugar supply to make sure they had plenty of food through the colder months, they endured winter without any trouble. Now they're flourishing and working like crazy to gather up the bountiful pollen and nectar.
Jack can't help himself. He ordered more bees...
But one hive isn't enough. Jack's been studying up and carefully observing the bees, eventually deciding to split the hives because everyone knows, two is better than one.
The workers making a queen cell.
He donned his bee suit, calmed them with some smoke and split the hive, crossing his fingers that the queen had stayed with the original hive and that the workers at the new hive would make some queen cells. Jack checked and sure enough, the workers had started raising a few of the larva to be queens by feeding them more than everyone else. If eating extra is all it takes to be a queen bee, then sign me up!
The queen and a few loyal subjects, stuck inside a box plugged with candy. That's right: she has to eat her way out!
But, it still would have taken about a month for a queen to be raised and start laying eggs, so Jack ordered a queen bee from a nearby extension office. She took a little trip in the mail and once she arrived, Jack took her out to the hive where we hoped she'd be accepted.
Can you see the queen box?
The workers in the new hive immediately crawled all over the box, excited to have a new queen to worship and direct the work. When she chews her way out of her candy prison, she'll be ready to be doted upon.

Those queen bees really have it made!

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19 April 2016

A Long Way

Since Stoney has lived in our backyard, first in Iowa and now (sometimes literally) in Indiana, he has come a long way with his fears. He used to spook at strollers, kites, umbrellas, kids giving each other piggy back rides, poultry...and now he barely bats an eye at them.
Of course, except towards the rooster. Everyone has strong feelings about him.

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17 April 2016

Slice of Heaven

We've been ready to put in a garden for a while but with all this April Fool's spring weather we've been having, Mother Nature obviously wasn't. So, we waited until a day after Indiana's official frost date before putting in the plants and seeds.
One of our favorite places!
Luckily for us, there's an awesome nursery just a few miles from us and we're all practically kids in a candy store. There are thousands of plants in their giant greenhouse and it's a treat to walk up and down the aisles, choosing what was going in this year. We picked out our vegetables, let the girls all choose a flower to plant in a pot and headed back home.
Kate putting in a cabbage.
We waited for the sun to start going down (and still managed to get a tad sunburned) and hurried to put everything in. After experimenting a bit the last few years, this year we settled on tomatoes, onions, cabbage Brussels sprouts, green beans, peanuts, red and green bell peppers, poblano peppers, serano peppers, banana peppers, butternut squash, cucumbers, acorn squash and peas. There are still potatoes, sunflowers, sweet corn, popcorn, pie pumpkins and wildflowers to put in, but those'll be a pretty quick chore if we do it together.
And of course, being the big boy he is, Henry is all about helping.
Thankfully, some plants have been taking care of themselves. The garlic and chives we put in a few years ago have heartily come back and the lettuce and jalapeno peppers are doing nicely in the aquaponics tank.
Watering her violas.
The flowers were the last to be put in and even though they won't provide food, they sure make a house look welcome and beautiful. We ended the evening of hard work with popsicles (and trying not to laugh too hard when Henry couldn't quite understand the concept of waiting his turn).
In a few months, we'll be fighting back weeds, mosquitoes and blistering heat which is why I probably enjoy planting the garden so much--it's like working in Eden when the weeds are practically non-existent, the bugs haven't hatched yet and the weather's beautiful. That's the kind off tending and tilling the earth that makes me grateful we live on our own slice of heaven.

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15 April 2016

Cute Chicks

Licorice has her game face on.
Guess who's broody again! This good little mother hen (the girls call her Licorice ) has decided the weather is good enough to sit on a clutch of eggs in an attempt to hatch out some chicks. So far, at least one is her egg, but she's borrowed five others from her nestmates, so there's a potential to have six different mixes of chicks. Plus, we'll be sticking some fertilized blue Easter Egger eggs under her once we get our hands on some.

Twenty-one days and counting to cute chicks!

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