Tuesday, December 30

2008 is almost done

I think I have a new New Years tradition figured out... see, I have 10 rabbits waiting to be skinned at this moment, and each of them takes about 30 minutes to skin, and 15 to 20 minutes to butcher. What if we got everyone involved and saw who could do the most work with the fewest mistakes. That would be fun! (?)

The MN Trapper's Association midwinter meeting is this weekend. I will let you guys know how that goes. Due to the lack of demand for fur at this time by fur buyers and countries that are our primary consumers of wild fur, mainly Russia and China, and the global economy at this time, I am not going to sell my fur. There are plenty of people selling more than enough fur to cover the current demand, and the more extra unused fur there is, the lower prices will be. I think I would do better to wait to sell fur until things start improving so that the prices will go up again. Until then, I am donating my fur to the Tanned Fur Project in MN to help educate people about trapping and go to scholarships that the MTA gives.

I saw something interesting the other day in a trapping book I got for Christmas. It had fur prices back in 1925 and they look very similar to what most people are getting today. The dollar now has 1/12 of the value it had in 1925. This means that most of the fur has dropped in value to 1/12 or even a smaller fraction of what it was worth back when we had a local market, when we had more people in the United States who were willing to make garments out of American fur, and when there weren't a bunch of bunny huggers crying about the animals as if they were little people in furry little jumpsuits.
Muskrat: $1.50 for large
Skunk: $3.00 for large
Possum: $1.25
Large mink: $10.00
Small mink: $6.00
Raccoon: $7.00
Otter: $30.00
Northern beaver blanket: $20.00
Red Fox: $8 to $12
Gray Fox: $2
Fisher: $75
Marten: $25
Weasel: $1.50
Coyote: $7

Here are fur prices as they were expected for this fall/winter. It turns out most of these prices were wishful thinking as nobody is willing to pay these prices the way the economy is looking.
BEAVER: Best at $45
MUSKRAT: $4 or slightly better.
WILD MINK: $16 to $18
RED FOX: $22 to $24
RACCOON: $22 to $24;
COYOTE: $20 to $24.

Here is what I have observed people getting for the furs not mentioned above.
Skunk: $4
Possum: $1 (although I have heard rumors of them getting up to $60, I don't believe them.)
Otter: $30
Gray fox: $10
Fisher: $35
Marten: $40-$45
Weasel: $3

A lot of those 1925 prices are looking really appealing right about now. I was born a century too late.

I will apply for the MN Conservation Corps this year, and applications are coming out in the next few days so I'm really excited about that. If I go, then I will be busy for 8 weeks of the summer fixing up state parks and things like that. I will be pretty busy when I am finished, but I think I will be able to go to the MN Trapper's Association Rendezvous next summer since it will be around August 14th and hopefully MCC will be out by then.

I'm looking forward to getting my driver's license this year. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to get my license while I am in MCC, so if I want to drive myself to the Rendezvous this summer, I will need to take my tests for that on the first Thursday that I am out of MCC before I go to the Rendezvous, so I will be in a hurry!

Friday, December 26

A Minnesota Christmas Season

Around here, we encourage the kids to shovel snow for fun. This little girl went out in her blanket sleeper, wearing her mom's stylish scarf, just so she could shovel. We now have a big snow pile at the bottom of our back steps which will remain until sometime next May, but if she continues to enjoy shoveling, it's well worth it.
I have reached the point where I no longer need to control every aspect of the decorating. This year, the family adorned the tree without me. For smiles like that, it's totally worth it.
That got Lynae in a festive mood, so she modeled some clothes she received in a package from Grandma Martin.
One day this month, the roads were particularly treacherous. I sent Toby to take pictures of the drama outside our door. I'm not sure why he inserted himself in this picture, but his expression just invites speculation, doesn't it?
Christmas morning. What a thing! The children dug into their stockings long before we started opening gifts. One of the first presents Grace opened contained these beautiful hair clips. She doesn't need a mirror to perfect this style! And just look at that face... wanna guess how much sugar she's had?
When she lost her other front tooth a few days ago, you know what song we taught her...

Toby and Lynae received a joint gift. "Uh... Mom, it's Norton Utilities. Isn't Norton that stuff you'll never put on any of our computers?"
"Oh, whew! It's just the box. Look at these amazingly awesome compasses we got instead!"
Here's our ragtag bunch at the end of the day. This picture tells a dozen stories, not all of them blogworthy. But get a load of that weird patch on Mike aka Camo Boy's head.
That's not Photoshop, folks. It's Curad.

Let me back up, just for a sec. For many years, the unique nature of our family has required that we take a break in the middle of opening Christmas gifts. But we're making progress. This year when things were getting out of hand I mentioned taking a break, but we recovered (snicker) and kept going.

Five minutes later, Lynae brought over a gift for her and me and began to open it. As she did, Michael darted away. A split second later, I heard a thud in the next room. Mike aka The Storyteller came back, holding his head. "Ow, ow. I was just walking along, and I bumped into something." Uh-huh... turns out, in that split second he ran through the dining room, around the corner, through the foyer, and up the stairs, where he slipped and hit his head on the newel.

We then took a 10 minute break while we cleaned up the blood trail, assessed the damage, and ran through the likely scenario if we drove him to the ER, got the 2-3 stitches in his forehead, and returned home to the rest of Christmas. Then I replayed in my mind the portion of the drive where I second guess my decision to make the trip to the ER, stop speeding, and wonder if I should turn around and get out the butterfly bandages instead. (For the locals: It starts at the cemetery on 43 and ends at Two Sons Road, by which time I have cell reception and have gotten necessary assurance from my dear husband that we are, indeed, doing the right thing.)

We've gone in about a half dozen times over the years. Each time, the doctor agrees it's an "iffy" sort of wound, but it's good that we came in for this reason or that (or that or that). Today, we decided that this was one wound that would do just as well with home care as it would with stitches. Sure, stitches might leave a less noticeable scar. But on the forehead of a rough and tumble young man, a scar does not seem inappropriate. So I patched the boy up, and covered it all with a honkin' bandage.

We returned to the living room to continue opening gifts. Lynae finished unwrapping the book we'd received: Natural First Aid. How timely is that?! I quickly checked the Table of Contents for anything glaringly appropriate... ah! The Recovery Position! Turning to page 18, I was able to see that Michael had naturally chosen to lie on the floor in a very similar position. We adjusted him to match the illustration, and then were able to carry on with the rest of the gift opening.

As you can see from the photo above, he is recovering nicely. Well, we don't know about the dreaded scar yet. But I'm sure he'll be fine. Heck, even with that bandage, he looks better than some of us at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

I hope your Christmas was full of blessings.

I will be spending the next week preparing for a fresh start with the new year. My shopping list includes Hefty bags for the clutter we've been overlooking that's got to go. The dusting that's been put off for too long (you know, in those rooms that didn't get the Christmas makeover) can now take place -- tissues have been restocked.

And I have a great blog entry in the works, chock full of pictures.

By the way, Ree's Christmas Rum Cake... yum. Just thought you should know.

Wednesday, December 17


Well, it's that time of year when the weather turns cold, road conditions get bad, and everyone is out and about. With parties to attend, gifts to buy and wrap, treats to make, and decorations to hang, most people have little time left to spend enjoying a mug of hot chocolate as they watch the snow fall. Many people become so involved with commercial things that they don't enjoy what we naturally have.

Sayings like ''Merry Christmas'' and ''Peace on earth'' are written and said everywhere, but although it might be merry, Christmas is anything but peaceful.

And on the day after Christmas, people flood the stores to find bargains. By New Years Eve, we have become so cranky and exhausted that we don't bother staying up 'til midnight, unless we have to.

And then comes February, when everybody gets cabin fever, and wishes it was Spring. The holidays are over and there isn't anything to look forward to.

So I would encourage you to go sit down near a window with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snow. If it's not snowing, put out some seed and watch the birds. Just take some time to relax and think. It will be worth it.

Sunday, December 14

Snowed in

We're getting a "blizzard" today... I don't suspect it will amount to much this far south of the lake, but we'll see. Loren has made it into work for the night and will stay until the roads are clear. The snow will be followed by some Minnesota cold. I thank God that we're as prepared as can be to stay safe and cozy here at home.

I've got one sick child all bundled up and sleeping it off in the other room. Hopefully we won't pass the germs around with the Christmas cheer.

Now it's time to shut down the computers, put on some Christmas music, clean the house, and make some goodies. Fun!

Thursday, December 11

I feel so special!

We have a pileated woodpecker who has included our place as part of his hangout. Actually, we probably have a pair. I just haven't seen them together yet.

This picture shows how much bigger they are than downy woodpeckers.

Tuesday, December 9

Long ago and far away

In a state called Kentucky, there lived a little family of four. There was Mom, Dad, Toby, Lynae. Mom and Dad wanted their son and daughter to have some more siblings, so one day, they all sat down in the living room and discussed foster care.
''It might just be for a little while, or they might stay with us forever.'' said Mom, ''Either way, you would have someone else to play with all the time.''
''You mean we could like, go to the post office with them, and play outside with them, and stuff?'' asked Toby.
''Yup, sure could!'' said Dad, who had been sitting quietly.
''Yeah!'' said Lynae, '' That would be cool, cuz' then I could be a big sister!'' who was the baby of the family.
So the next two years were full of classes and exams and paperwork, until finally one day they received a call from a social worker. A half hour later a car came rolling down the driveway, and the social worker and a little boy got out. The social worker proceeded to take a baby boy out and talk to Mom while Toby and Lynae showed the toddler all around the house.

Since that day, we took in their little sister (who was born after the boys came to us), adopted all three, and hauled them up to Minnesota. The novelty of being a big sister has worn off, and I sometimes find myself wondering what it would have been like if we hadn't adopted, but I love all three of my little siblings more than ever, and find it hard to believe that they've been a part of the family for over seven years already.

Saturday, December 6

Back in business

This is a picture of a pine marten. I got it off Google. You will want to look back at this picture if you have never seen a pine marten before.
I have not been blogging too much recently because I've been on Trap Talk. Where friends hang out and talk about stuff. Well, as some of my readers may have guessed, I put some stuff in my profile when I logged in. One of the things I put in my profile was that I do some taxidermy. And since this is a place where trappers hang out, there were some people needing some taxidermy done.

So a few weeks ago I started getting customers. My first one came in the mail yesterday. It is a beautiful pine marten from Alaska. So as soon as I get the supplies I need, I will be mounting it in my new fur room.

Pyrex explosion

I just heard a loud noise in my oven. The Pyrex pan I had supper in was broken into dozens of pieces. Thankfully, I was cooking large items and not a casserole or something, which would be even messier to clean up!

I'm also thankful that tonight, I did something I NEVER do: I prepared two chicken dishes for supper. So we will still be able to eat a hearty meal. I even wondered, as I prepared them, why I was doing such a strange thing (for me). I'm so glad I followed the urging of the Holy Spirit!

Sunday, November 30

Toby jammin' Part 2

I think this is my current favorite. I know when I was younger, the kind of love this song is about is exactly what I needed... and Loren was strong enough to give it to me. And then came Toby, making it all even sweeter. But enough sappiness... enjoy.

Toby jammin'


Saturday, November 29

Hey, God, thanks for that 2x4

I've known for nearly three years that Jon would be getting braces for a tooth that hasn't come down. He's supposed to get them put on next Tuesday.

Honestly, we deal with emotional fallout from so many unusual things, we often find it best to be matter-of-fact about all that we can. Braces turned out to be one of those things. We briefly discussed it during our last appointment, and then moved on to something else. I'm such a lousy mom. Thanksgiving night we were playing Apples to Apples, and he played his "braces" card for the word "awful". He mentioned that on the card, it says he can't eat corn on the cob, which is one of his favorite foods. (I didn't know that, either... it seems to me they're ALL his favorite.) DUH, ya think he might actually have thoughts and feelings on the subject of braces? Unfortunately, in his communication with me these past few weeks, those thoughts and feelings took a back burner to his hatred of me and the rules of this house and how I discipline his sister unfairly and why I should stop feeding him and why the heck do I keep him around, anyway, besides the fact that I love him? I did well to remain calm and continue loving him and feeding him and disciplining his sister, not once stopping to discuss braces.

, it finally hit me that I should maybe look into what he can and can't eat, hygiene issues, etc.

Now I feel sorry for the little guy. Some of his stocking stuffers will need to change. And I'm guessing he's going to be pretty sore for a while, and may not be up for the big day of shopping and errands we have planned for Tuesday.

I'm thankful that God hit me with this ahead of time, so I can at least be a little prepared. And maybe the last-minute sympathy is a good thing, too. I just hope it doesn't mean I'm as lousy a mom to him as I sometimes think I am.

Catching weasels.

This is me with my first two weasels of the season. I caught them in the same day. As you can see, the one on the right is a lot bigger than the one on the left. They were so different in size, the small one stretched shorter than most small weasels do, even on a slender stretcher, while the large one stretched longer than most large ones do on a wide stretcher.

Friday, November 28

I'm glad it's almost over

Just as I thought, there's a good reason why I don't normally blog every day. In this season of life, I don't have much to say. I know enough about my beliefs and opinions to recognize those with which I agree or disagree, for the most part. But it seems that thoughts of my own are hard to grab onto.

I chalk it up to stress and mental atrophy, mostly. The real question is whether it concerns me enough to change it. The answer that occurs to me first is that I've got more pressing problems. But if I'm not a thinker, how do I expect to deal with those problems?

Then again, I'm often told I think too much.


I'm glad November is nearly over.

Thursday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a wonderful day, full of awareness of the blessings that surround you.

Wednesday, November 26

It's beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving

Pies are done.
Rolls are rising.
Mashed potatoes and butternut squash are ready.
Cranberry sauce looks gorgeous.

I must admit, even though I've been making mashed potatoes for 17 years, I couldn't resist the urge to stop halfway through mashing and find out how Ree makes 'em. I don't know what I did before finding her... I do know cooking wasn't nearly so fun.

As an added bonus on the ta-da list, my first Etsy order is in the mail.

After rebooting the laundry and getting out the special holiday dishes, I'll be kicking back with a bottle glass of white zin and watching a video.

Tuesday, November 25

Time to bake the pies

I should've been baking pies earlier. Instead, I was playing computer games:

The Eyeballing Game
Fantastic Contraption

Plus I spent far too much time on Facebook.

Time to go make apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies, and maybe some rolls, too. Good thing I got a nap!

Monday, November 24

A real, live cake wreck!

We've started cruising the bakery corner when we get our groceries, now that we've discovered the hilarity of Cake Wrecks. Tonight we found one so deliciously awful, Lynae just had to run out to the truck for her camera.

Comment away... you know you want to!

Sunday, November 23

Thanks to God

Here is a lovely old hymn we sang in church this morning. You can listen to the melody at cyberhymnal.

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide.
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side.
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall.
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul.

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny.
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply.
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair.
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare.

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain.
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain.
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee.
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity.

Saturday, November 22

No snappy title

I am totally beat. We got all but one of the Christmas packages ready to tape up and ship out. I have the Thanksgiving dinner plan ready, and the shopping list is on the table. The turkey is thawing.

Loren and the kids rearranged one of the rooms upstairs and hooked up the spare computer. Now the kids will have an extra work station.

Somehow, those things consumed our entire day. I think we're all ready for bed... a little early for some of us.

Friday, November 21

What a hoot!

I guess you've probably seen the video of Sarah Palin being interviewed in front of the turkeys being slaughtered... that's what I call keeping it real! I hope the viewers who were shocked are vegetarians.

Thursday, November 20

I took the plunge

I opened a modest little Etsy shop. There's a new section for it on the left side of the blog.



Truth has always been and will always be very important. Without truth, one can gain neither trust nor respect. That is why it is important for parents to teach their children well, and children are to listen to their parents. If either party fails to do their part, the child will be like a rotten tomato that nobody wants.

I have been teaching the little kids history this year, and am amazed at how consistently the prophets in the Old Testament were right. What if his prophets hadn't always told the truth?
What if God wasn't always right? We would be like a bunch of sheep wandering around in the desert looking for water. We wouldn't be able to gain anything from life because we would be living in lies. If such was to happen now, we would surely feel cheated.

It is true that we are sinners from the start and that it is in our nature to lie, but we have the opportunity to be rescued from our sin, and we can trust that the one that offers that freedom will never give up on us, even when we screw up. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't it great that God is patient enough to teach us? If that's not love, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, November 19

Table time

We've been doing table time for the past week. Rather than pretend this isn't happening and everything is wonderful or at least normal at my house, I've decided to give you a peek at my reality.

We've had a string of sneaky and destructive behaviors which have resulted in the kids needing more direct supervision than usual. I will not spell it out in detail, but they included markers, cough drops, the pantry, bits of the dining room table, and more lies than I can count. Normal children do these things, yes. But the malicious intent and remorseless response of children with attachment disorder and fetal alcohol exposure are not normal. These children are at risk of escalating their behaviors to nightmarish levels. And children whose behaviors are that deviant or aggressive do not belong in a typical home environment. Yes, these are the very sort of children who sometimes go on to harm themselves or others, even becoming the ones you read about and just cannot comprehend. There, but for the grace of God, go we.

Imperfect as my methods may be, I believe it is my job to protect these children from their own lack of conscience by reducing their opportunities to engage in behaviors for which the consequences are harsher than they can handle. And of course I must also protect my children from each other when the need arises.

We don't have nearly enough functioning alarms in the house to adequately help with that right now. I need to know where the children are at all times, because lately, if they cannot see me, they will almost inevitably do something they shouldn't. Because the children feed on each other's attitudes and behaviors, I also need to limit their opportunities to interact with each other in secret.

And so we spend time at the table. There, they receive instruction from their parents, learn God's Word, do school work, eat, drink, and listen to music. Bathroom visits are supervised, and there are breaks for physical activity.

It is not all fun and games. Michael wore out his pencil earlier. I have a pencil box full of replacements. Instead of asking for another pencil, he had a tantrum, ruining both pencil and paper. It took him an hour of encouragement to find a better solution and some exercise time to finally calm down and ask for another pencil.

I've had to change my routine a little to make this work. Getting a shower, working on the other side of the wall in the kitchen, rebooting laundry... all of these require help and creativity. I'm grateful that the rest of the tag team is pretty reliable. And thankfully, I've had plenty of work to do which could be done in the dining room like labeling soap, addressing Christmas cards, tweaking computers, and placing online orders.

I don't know how long we will be at the table. I'm waiting for a change in attitude, a softening of their hearts, at least a hint of "calm submission," as Cesar Milan would say (regarding dogs, but it’s helpful in children as well), that lets me know they're ready to play in the next room or do their chores without inevitable disaster. I have hope that we will get back to that point. I pray that none of us completely loses our sanity in the meantime.

Monday, November 17

Words Mean Things

That's a little Rush-ism with which I completely agree. But society is not on the same page regarding meanings of words such as agenda, victory, torture, colored, marriage, even Christian:

...it’s only a name, not an especially complimentary one, a name that believers picked up in Antioch, and I wonder if we aren’t fighting the wrong battle when we try to proclaim who is or isn’t entitled to be called a Christian. Perhaps believers could save some time and animosity, and be able to move on to more important things, if we just ceded the name to anyone who wanted it and called ourselves something else. Brother Dave Black says that he only introduces himself as a follower of Jesus anymore, and that simple phrase gets right to the heart of what I think of as the Christian life.

Rick Saenz has more on the subject.

Sunday, November 16


Long day.
Lots of tears.
Stuck between operating systems.
Lots of cellophane.
And puzzles.
Tough on a frazzled mind.
Nothing is as it should be.
Except that God is still on the throne.
And it's snowing.

I'll be glad to see Monday.

"Distance" revisited by the guy who hasn't been here for a while...

Well, I can't add too much to what Lynae said, but there was another part of the conversation, that was kinda funny but really helped the point I think. We were talking, as you know, about nursing homes. I said "You can just imagine Grandma from The Waltons in a nursing home. She'd last... what, a day there? Then she'd walk home all the way from Charlottesville." That's probably exactly what she would do too.

Mom was driving around on the dirt roads outside town, and helping me find places to trap. We would stop every now and then to look around. One of those times, I got out to look around and found that another trapper was already there, so I looked at the tag, and I happen to know this trapper. He is one of Mr. M's friends, Mr. B. About half an hour later, I was looking at another spot, and guess who drove right by: Mr. M and Mr. B. That was neat. I need to give Mr. M a call now!

I drove Mom to and through Duluth last night. That was exciting. Didn't even get in an accident, or even close to one. Didn't get lost either, or forget a turn, or anything like that. That was kinda fun.

Saturday, November 15

I'm here

Just got home from an evening out in time to vote "present." Now I get to play detective, then tech support. THEN it will be bedtime.

Friday, November 14

I think I made a young man's day

Since we moved here, Toby has been looking for a bit of space where he could spread out his trapping and taxidermy stuff. He’s been processing animals on whatever bit of surface he could find that was out of my way, which I appreciate, but boy, it’s been tough for him. And he’s been drying pelts in the basement, but now that we have turtles and a freezer and our main wood stove down there, well, sometimes his stuff was still in the way.

An addition was built onto the house not long after it was built. As a result, there’s a little, cave-like room at the back of the basement about the size of a large walk-in closet. It’s not as warm as the rest of the basement, but it is well lit. And this afternoon, I realized it would make the perfect spot for Toby to work! I gave him permission to set up down there, and Loren found him a good-sized work table to use. The joists already have plenty of nails for hanging pelts and a skinning gambrel. Now he’ll have a place for all his tools and a radio, and he’ll be able to hear me when I call him for lunch.

I think he’s thrilled to have his own space. I'm glad I thought of it.


A while back I volunteered at a nursing home to entertain the people living there. I made a few acquaintances and enjoyed going, but always felt as though something wasn't right. Everyone seemed sad except the nurses, and I always felt awkward because I was so happy.

A couple of days ago, I sat down in the spare room to listen to Toby play his guitar. When he finished the song he was playing, he put down his guitar and sat down. We started talking and came upon the subject of nursing homes.

''Lynae, how were you able to be happy when you went to volunteer?'' Toby asked. ''Well, I knew that my job was to be cheerful, and cheerful I was.'' I answered. ''But there was so much sadness, how did you not see that?''
''I saw it and felt it, but I knew that if I couldn't be happy then surely I couldn't cheer someone else up. One thing is for sure, no matter what happens, we can't let Mom and Dad live in a nursing home. They would hate it, and every day I would feel as though I'd failed them. They belong here, and if they ever have to be assisted in living, It'll be our duty to take them in.''

I hope that we will never have to be separated like that. I would never want to be so far away that I can't be there for my parents, and hope that distance never holds me back when my family needs me.

Thursday, November 13


So now the auto industry wants in on the bailout plan. If my husband wants to put his tax money toward a failing auto industry, I think he should at least get an auto out of the deal.

Just imagine the financial sacrifices our new President and Congress might require us to make if we are to fund the bailouts of all sorts of failing companies. It's already beyond ridiculous, even before the auto makers get their share.

Actually, let me oversimplify my take on the situation: I think these companies should be left to face the consequences of their mismanagement of resources and the reality of the current markets. In their places would rise up new, innovative business models and modern technologies. The failure of the auto industry as we know it might be the fastest track to alternative-fueled vehicles. I also believe Ron Paul is right about this:

We have to understand that an economic correction needs to take place and the only way out of the coming recession is to go through it. Efforts to avoid it can only prolong it.
I find it curious that he did not get the Republican nomination. But God knows the future of this country, and has put people in place who will take us in that direction. Lord, have mercy on us in our decline.

Wednesday, November 12

Have y'all MET my husband??

One day I was at work when the new guy came in to get his schedule. He was all smiley and bouncy and friendly -- a lot like Skippy Handelman on Family Ties. I couldn't help but smile at such goofiness. As we got to know each other, I found out his roommate had warned him that I was bad news. (Yeah, we still haven't figured that out.) Personally, I think that's what made Loren want to hang out with me. Before I knew it, we were friends. Everyone told me we'd make a great couple. But c'mon, Skippy? My new line was, "He's great, but we'll never be more than friends."

Famous last words.
Some of you may not know that after we'd been married a few years, we separated. The only reason we didn't file for a divorce was because we couldn't afford to. I thank God that we didn't. After two years of separation, I realized that I couldn't give up on my best friend. I prayed that God would help me love Loren the way a wife should love her husband. I knew I couldn't learn to do that without divine help. But of course, with God, all things are possible. Several weeks later, we were back together. And that, my friends, was over 11 years ago.
So I haven't been smiling this whole time, but I must say that Loren and God have done a lot to help me put on a more cheerful countenance. Now the grump only makes an occasional appearance, for old times' sake. (No comment, kids!)

Tuesday, November 11

Bet you can't smile

When I was a girl, I was known for being quite the grump. I often heard that if I continued to frown, my face would freeze that way. When my parents had finally had enough of my frowning, they'd say, "Bet you can't smile." That always worked... for about three seconds.
Oh sure, I had plenty to be miserable about. My parents favored my perfect little brother. I was only the second smartest kid in my class. I had allergies, chronic bad hair, and I was short and skinny (I know, go figure!).

When told that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, I was quick to point out that it's less important how many muscles are used than how strong those muscles are. And my smiling muscles weren't interested in a workout.
When I got a job in a fast food restaurant, the stakes were higher. I had several write-ups in my file for not being pleasant to the customers. I could be polite, but smile at them? Just because they were there? Nope. Couldn't do it. Wouldn't do it. Especially in the mornings.

And then, one day when I was 19 years old, I changed. I began to smile. Willingly. I couldn't help myself. Check in tomorrow and find out why.

And Justin, you have to actually go to the blog this time.

Monday, November 10

Christmas portraits

Today was The Day.

How long do you think it takes to get five children to smile normal smiles at the same time?

It took too long for one little guy. He ran out of smiles after a while, and decided he'd prefer this look instead.

I think it's rather plain, myself.

We'll have to see what else we can come up with.

Sunday, November 9


We ended up staying home from church with a sick kiddo today. As always, it was nice to sing and study as a family. We read from 1 Timothy 1, which includes the following verses:

5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
It is easy to see that in the people around us, but if we're honest, we can often see it in ourselves as well. Ouch.

While the family played a game of Axis & Allies this afternoon, I did a bit more Christmas shopping online. All I had left was the hard stuff. I'm glad to be done with that! It's been a pretty quiet weekend, so hopefully we'll all be ready to face the rest of the week with enthusiasm.

I read today that Obama plans to use executive orders to get things done quickly when he takes office. It has always concerned me how easily Presidents can use that power, and how difficult it is for Congress to reverse an executive order. I hope he's not too quick to go after the freedom we have left.

Yesterday I came across something Toby had written to an online acquaintance which warmed my heart, and he's given me permission to share it with you.
I don't want to change anyone, especially someone I want to marry. Her parents will have raised her the way they feel is best, and I can get me a woman who believes the same as I do. Not only will that make less work for me, it will also help make sure I'm not enemies with my in laws, if you know what I mean.
I wish I'd been that mature when I got married.

Toby just submitted his first quarterly column for the state trapping organization's newsletter. I think he's going to have a lot of fun writing for them. He's also found another publication looking for trapping stories and is planning to send them something, too. God is so good, putting these opportunities in his path.

He is also good to let me enjoy watching my children become adults even more than I enjoyed them being little. Yes, I remember it fondly. But I wouldn't go back for anything. My goal was to raise adults, and the purpose of each day was to get them to this point and beyond, covered with the fingerprints of God. And regardless of my feelings, remembering that purpose gives me the courage to continue on with the younger children on the rough days. Not my will, but Thine be done.

Saturday, November 8

Snuggle time

Today is a bit chilly, and the snow is flying. Loren is on his way to work soon. It's a great day for finishing laundry (as if that's ever finished at our house) and snuggling in for a long winter's nap. Tonight we will have some homegrown chicken and Ree's Creamy Herbed Potatoes. We'll also watch a video to supplement our study of Early Renaissance art. Then we'll get everyone cleaned up for church (and possibly Christmas pictures) tomorrow.

What kind of weekend activities do you have in mind?

Friday, November 7

That's what I'm sayin'!

Conservatives Lost More Than An Election
by Chuck Baldwin
November 7, 2008

That Barack Obama trounced John McCain last Tuesday should have surprised no one. In fact, in this column, weeks ago, I stated emphatically that John McCain could no more beat Barack Obama than Bob Dole could beat Bill Clinton. He didn't. (Hence a vote for John McCain was a "wasted" vote, was it not?) I also predicted that Obama would win with an electoral landslide. He did. The real story, however, is not how Barack Obama defeated John McCain. The real story is how John McCain defeated America's conservatives.

For all intents and purposes, conservatism--as a national movement--is completely and thoroughly dead. Barack Obama did not destroy it, however. It was George W. Bush and John McCain who destroyed conservatism in America.

Soon after G.W. Bush was elected, it quickly became obvious he was no conservative. On the contrary, George Bush has forever established himself as a Big-Government, warmongering, internationalist neocon. Making matters worse was the way Bush presented himself as a conservative Christian. In fact, Bush's portrayal of himself as a conservative Christian paved the way for the betrayal and ultimate destruction of conservatism (something I also predicted years ago). And the greatest tragedy of this deception is the way that Christian conservatives so thoroughly (and stupidly) swallowed the whole Bush/McCain neocon agenda.

For example, Bush and his fellow neocons like to categorize and promote themselves as being "pro-life," but they have no hesitation or reservation about killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in reckless and unconstitutional foreign wars. By the same token, how many unborn babies were saved by six years of all three branches of the federal government being under the control of these "pro-life" neocons? Not one! Ask the more than eight million unborn babies who were killed in their mothers' wombs during the last eight years how "pro-life" George W. Bush and John McCain are.

As a result of this insanely inconsistent and pixilated punditry, millions of Americans now laugh at the very notion of "pro-life" conservatism. Bush and McCain have made a mockery of the very term.

Consider, too, the way Bush and McCain have allowed the international bankers on Wall Street to bilk America's taxpayers out of trillions of dollars. Yes, I know Obama also supported the Wall Street bailout, but it was the Republican Party that controlled the White House for the last eight years and the entire federal government for six out of the last eight years. In fact, the GOP has won seven out of the previous ten Presidential elections. They have controlled Supreme Court appointments for the past thirty-plus years. They have appointed the majority of Treasury secretaries and Federal Reserve chairmen. They have presided over the greatest trade imbalances, the biggest deficits, the biggest spending increases, and now the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.

Again, the American people look at these so-called "conservatives" and laugh. No wonder such a sizeable majority of voters yawned when John McCain tried to scare them by accusing Barack Obama of being a "big taxer." How can one possibly scare people with a charge like that after the GOP has made a total mockery of fiscal conservatism? That's like trying to scare someone coming out from a swim in the Gulf of Mexico with a squirt gun.

Then there was the pathetic attempt by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to scare gun owners regarding an Obama White House. Remember that John McCain is the same guy that the NRA rightly condemned for proposing his blatantly unconstitutional McCain/Feingold bill. McCain is also the same guy that tried to close down gun shows. He even made a personal campaign appearance for a pro-gun control liberal in the State of Oregon a few short years ago. In fact, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) gave McCain a grade of "F" for his dismal record on Second Amendment issues. Once again, Chicken Little-style paranoia over Barack Obama rang hollow when the alternative was someone as liberal as John McCain.

But the worst calamity of this election was the way conservatives--especially Christian conservatives--surrendered their principles for the sake of political partisanship. The James Dobsons of this country should hang their heads in shame! Not only did they lose an election, they lost their integrity!

In South Carolina, for example, pro-life Christians and conservatives had an opportunity to vote for a principled conservative-constitutionalist for the U.S. Senate. He is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and pro-traditional marriage. He believes in securing our borders against illegal immigration. He is against the bailout for the Wall Street banksters. His conservative credentials are unassailable. But the vast majority of Christian conservatives (including those at Bob Jones University) voted for his liberal opponent instead.

The man that the vast majority of Christian conservatives voted for in South Carolina is a Big-Government neocon. He supported the bailout of the Wall Street banksters. He is a rabid supporter of granting amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. In fact, this man has a conservative rating of only 29% in the current Freedom Index of the New American Magazine.

Why did Christian conservatives support the liberal neocon and not the solid pro-life conservative? Because the conservative ran as a Democrat and the neocon is a Republican. I'm talking about the race between Bob Conley and Lindsey Graham, of course.

Had South Carolina's pastors, Christians, evangelicals, and pro-life conservatives voted for Bob Conley, he would be the new senator-elect from that state. In fact, Bob was so conservative that the Democratic leadership in South Carolina endorsed the Republican, Lindsey Graham! No matter. A majority of evangelical Christians in South Carolina stupidly rejected Bob Conley and voted for Graham.

Across the country, rather than stand on principle, hundreds of thousands of pastors, Christians, and pro-life conservatives capitulated and groveled before John McCain's neocon agenda. In doing so, they forfeited any claim to truth, and they abandoned any and all fidelity to constitutional government. They should rip the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of their Bibles. They should never again tell their children, parishioners, and radio audiences the importance of standing for truth and principle. They have made a mockery of Christian virtue. No wonder a majority of the voting electorate laughs at us Christians. No wonder the GOP crashed and burned last Tuesday.

Again, it wasn't Barack Obama who destroyed conservatism; it was George W. Bush, John McCain, and the millions of evangelical Christians who supported them. And until conservatives find their backbone and their convictions, they deserve to remain a burnt-out, has-been political force. They have no one to blame but themselves.

And since it is unlikely that the Republican Party has enough sense to understand any of this and will, therefore, do little to reestablish genuine conservative principles, it is probably best to just go ahead and bury the scoundrels now and move on to something else. Without a sincere commitment to constitutional government, the GOP has no justifiable reason to ever govern again. Therefore, put a fork in them. They are done. Let a new entity arise from the ashes: one that will stand for something more than just "the lesser of two evils." As we say in the South, That dog just won't hunt anymore.

This column is archived as http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/c2008/cbarchive_20081107.html

Thursday, November 6

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Wednesday, November 5

Autumn pics

Trapper guy doing his thing
It worked!
Enjoying autumn's last hurrah
We really made the most of it - there will be plenty of November 5ths with snow on the ground, I'm sure.
I'm not kidding! We spent several hours outside today. Little work got done, but we made memories.

Tuesday, November 4

Wrapping things up

It was another warm and beautiful day today. We spent most of it working outside. We mulched the strawberries, built a garlic bed and got that planted, removed a problematic plum tree, built and filled a compost bin, and insulated the eaves of the chicken coop. The firewood has been re-covered, hopefully well enough that the tarps will stay put now. Lynae took care of the peonies and roses, so they're ready for winter. And we got another bushel of apples picked.

We could still transplant some daffodils, but that doesn't tend to make it to the top of the to-do list in the fall, especially when it's rainy like it's been this year.

I think we're ready for the possibility of snow this weekend. Time to get the house back in order and start holiday preparations!

Monday, November 3

November 3rd

This morning it was warm and sunny out when Jon and I left to see the orthodontist. Halfway there, the weather turned cold and foggy. I felt bad for Jon, who didn't have a jacket, so I left mine in the truck as we ran errands. We were glad to get back home, where it was actually 30 degrees warmer. It was an amazingly wonderful day for working outside, so Grace and I took a nap, of course.

Jon goes back in a month to get braces. I wonder how that will affect him, and whether he will destroy them. It would be nice if he didn't, considering what we'll be paying.

This evening we enjoyed a cookout in the back yard. The little kids were Union and Confederate soldiers. They built a tent and were all set to sleep out there tonight. It got pretty windy, though, and I didn't want their tent to fall on them, so I made them come inside. I'm such a mean mom!

When is the last time you had fun doing something simple?

Sunday, November 2


I'm in shock.

Jon is doing jumping jacks because he was distracting the other kids while they cleaned up the kitchen. Normally, jumping jacks are done with lots of whining and crying, and sometimes even with complaining and arguing.

Not tonight. Tonight, he's smiling and laughing. I just asked him, "What's up with that?" He said, "I don't know. I just feel good." PRAISE THE LIVING GOD!!

Not so long ago, it was rare to even see Jon smile. I'm happy to report that, while we still have plenty of issues to deal with, he does smile from time to time. And tomorrow morning, we will start on the journey to improve the appearance of that precious smile. We have a consultation with an orthodontist about the front tooth that still hasn't come in.

But for tonight, we'll keep the smiles going with some Wallace and Gromit.

Saturday, November 1

Happy NaBloPoMo!

November is National Blog Posting Month. I have committed myself to writing 30 posts in the next 30 days. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I'm not even sure I can have 30 coherent thoughts in 30 days.

Yeah, I've got nothin'. It could be a long month.

So... have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I think I'm almost finished. My biggest challenge will be helping the kids buy for each other. They already drew names. This year they'll be buying secondhand. Taking five kids shopping separately, or figuring out how to do it in fewer than five trips, can get a little crazy. Eliminating the element of surprise might make it easier, or it might make it even more difficult. Either way, the kids have a blast coming up with thoughtful gifts for one another.

Ready for Election Day? We mail in our ballots, so Loren and I have already voted. It's nice to be able to research the candidates and issues and vote without time pressure. Unfortunately, I've missed more than one election in the past because the day just got away from me. It will be interesting to see how this Presidential Drama plays out, won't it? It's the Most Important Election of Our Time. As was each one before it.

Thursday, October 30


I have always enjoyed poetry, and can thank my dad for introducing me to it; for it was he that would always read it to us whenever we had a power outage(a family tradition that lives to this day). As I have grown older, I too have started reading on those bleak occasions, and decidedly enjoy the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his book of selected poems is very special to me.

My favorite poems by him are as follows:

  • Paul Revere's Ride
  • Catawba Wine
  • It is not always May
  • Excelsior
  • Christmas Bells
  • The Rainy Day
I will now leave you with an excerpt from 'It is not always May'.
Maiden, that read'st this simple rhyme,
Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay;
Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime,
For oh, it is not always May!

Enjoy the Spring of Love and Youth,
To some good angel leave the rest;
For time will teach thee soon the truth,
There are no birds in last year's nest!

Wednesday, October 29


If you are planning to vote for a candidate based on gender, skin color, astrological sign, or some other silly thing, do the nation a favor and stay home. Voting is a responsibility in the same way as jury duty. It should be taken seriously. Imagine a jury deciding someone is guilty because of the way he looks or sounds, regardless of the evidence. Yes, it happens. And it's wrong. We don't support that kind of judgment in a courtroom. We shouldn't support it in the voting booth, either.

The Constitution has put limits on our government, without which we would not enjoy the freedoms we do in the United States. If we squander our voting privilege and support candidates who do not uphold our Constitution, we will find ourselves on a slippery slope to the loss of much of what has made this country great. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to choose well. Please, don't let them down.

Sunday, October 26


Last night after showers, I decided that I wanted to curl Grace's hair. After making sure it was okay with her I put it up in ponytail holders and told her not to take them out. This being the first time she had gotten her hair curled, she was very careful not to touch them. This morning I took them out, straightened her hair and took some pictures. Here are our favorite ones.

Thursday, October 23

Growing up

This past week, someone from our church came over to see if Toby would be willing to shovel her porch for her this winter. Because he has a fairly busy winter ahead of him, and because I love shoveling snow, she offered the job to me, and I readily accepted. It was then that I realized that I am growing up very quickly.

Of course, I have always known that I am always growing and learning, but the job offer put an emphasis on how far I've come in the journey of life. It seems like yesterday that I was one of the little kids running around playing kick-the-can with friends, and now my friends and I are all grown up.

I have always enjoyed thinking about being all grown up, but now I am trying to enjoy my childhood to the fullest while I can.

Monday, October 20

My finger is better

The other night I asked Mom to take my stitches out. That was good, now my finger can move freely in every possible direction again. I enjoy not having stitches. I thought I was happy when my ear stitches came out last year, but that was nothing compared to this.

Yesterday afternoon Lynae and I went to Sandstone shooting range and shot the 22. We learned a lot about the gun. We also learned that Lynae is a much better shot than I am. She said I'm just as good, but that's just because she didn't want me to feel too bad. Well, if I was shooting at a deer 100 yards away in real life with open sights, I could still get a pretty lethal shot at it. I would do much better with a scope, and we had a scope, but it broke. It probably broke when we were moving it, probably hit a speed bump a little too fast and the scope broke then.

Tuesday, October 14


Autumn has always given me mixed feelings. I always dislike it because it is cold, rainy, and it's when everything dies or goes away. I have always liked it because it's when the leaves turn red, it's when we get to make yummy canned food from our garden, and it's when we start school.

Sunday, October 12

Saw a coot last night

I was driving everyone to Moose Lake to get some groceries, and right as I was turning into the parking lot, a coot ran out into the street and almost got hit. That was pretty cool. I had never seen one alive, but I saw it and said right away "Ho, ho, it's a coot!"

On Wednesday morning, I was assigned a task to be completed by Wednesday afternoon. That was to cut the zip tie holding the new measuring spoons together, because it was so tight. Well, I decided to use my handy dandy pocket knife, and I started cutting. I really can identify my target before I hit it, but it slipped and my knife went deep into my finger. After pulling my knife out of its new sheath, I exclaimed, "doggone it!", and waited to see if it would bleed. It took it about 20 seconds, and then it started to bleed really bad. I calmly asked to use the bathroom asap, and asked Mom to help me get a bandaid on. Well, this wasn't a bandaid wound, it was more serious. I mean, just about clear to the bone. Mom took me to Moose Lake to get stitches. I got four lovely stitches in my finger. But the tranquility wouldn't last.
(Creepy music here)
You see, the night before last, I lost a suture in my deep sleep. No kidding. It came untied and slipped out silently into the mysterious land of the runaway sutures. When I awoke, I exclaimed "Good grief!" in horror. Well, at least I was not in pain. All was well, just not perfect. But last night in Moose Lake, we were playing at the park, and my skin stretched a little too much and started to bleed. I put a bandaid on when we got home, and now everything is better again.

Thursday, October 9


We have a lot of apples right now. Why? Well, first off, we have a lot of apple trees. A lot is, in this case quite a lot! Also, a lot of our trees produced this year. ( In this last sentence, the word lot isn't as much as it was in the one before it.) To give you a clue what I mean here, We have 2 bushel baskets plus a tray full of apples all just waiting to get processed.

By processed I mean cooked up and turned into applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple butter. Apple butter is great on toast, biscuits, and pancakes, and it actually smells like fall. Seriously, it smells like apples and cinnamon and tastes even better. Homemade applesauce is great with just about everything and is much better than store bought, and apple pie filling is just amazingly yummy.

To process all of these apples we will need several things as listed below.

  • Time; you shouldn't ever start a big job in the kitchen when in a time crunch.
  • Helpers; doing this job (or any other big job) without helpers must be a disaster.
  • A good attitude; it is better to let the apples sit and rot than it is to divvy 'em up with a bad attitude.
  • A plan; you should always have a plan before you start, otherwise you'll end up in tears over what to do.
  • Tools; first you will need something to cut the apples up with. If you have an apple peeler/corer/slicer, use that. If you don't, either get one or a knife and a peeler. You will also need a big container like a crock pot or large large pan depending on your cooking method.
  • Apples; duh!
Once we have all the items necessary, we just start cutting, and are able to fill the giant crock pot (which holds about a bushel) and clean everything up in about an hour. Then we just let that cook with some water and spices for a day or however long it takes to get to desired mushiness. Then we mash it well and can it, and voila, homemade yummyness.

Monday, October 6

It seems I talk too much, y'all.

I've often thought that I could never write a book. It would end up as a pamphlet. Since I was 14, I've found that if I say too much, most of what I say either misrepresents the truth or doesn't make sense, and often gets me into trouble. It's better to keep it short and simple.

I'm not a good conversationalist. I can listen, but often struggle to come up with something to say. Oh, I'll think of lots of things to say, but my internal editor decides against actually saying much of it aloud. The result is awkward silence. And who likes that?

In the interest of letting people here get to know me, I've worked at using a little of what I learned in the South and sharing a bit about myself when people ask. But using a Southern style doesn't work in the North. People here don't want to open up about themselves, nor do they want to hear details about me. Here, succinct is good. In fact, I'm sure this is where I learned it originally. I can be succinct in conversation, I just have to set aside what little training I did pick up in Kentucky.

I wonder if there's a middle ground, say, in Illinois or Indiana, where I'd fit right in?

Friday, October 3

My legs are done

For the day. Don't worry, I'm not that old. I walked to Deep Rock, and I mowed a lot of lawn. We pretty much emptied the garden. I chased the school bus. I sang. Now for the details. (In chronological order.)

I started by taking Grace to Deep Rock. We made a deal, that I would carry the gas can there to get filled, and she would carry it back, full. She liked the idea, and so I handed her the gas can. Reread the last few sentences. Then, we walked to Deep Rock. I bought the gas and gave Grace the gas can. The guys at Deep Rock were not impressed. "Ho, so she gets to do the heavy lifting while you sit back." "Ah, so that's how these brothers operate, eh?"

Then I mowed the lawn. Nothing interesting there. Just a little note to you people in the neighborhood who don't tell me that you're reading my blog, who think, "When's that boy gonna mow his lawn?", that I have, and you should come see it.

The garden was really the easy part. We just demolished what was dead, and then demolished what wasn't, and then threw the demolition leftovers at the chickens. They ate what they wanted to, and left for tomorrow what they didn't want to eat.

Now things get interesting. See, the school bus was leaving the street that somehow is partly in our lawn, (less for me to mow), and I thought, "Hey, life is short, and I'm bored. Who's on that bus anyway?", and almost as if I had lost control of my legs, ran after that school bus. I kept up with it for about 20 yards, and then I got bored again. Bus drivers don't really like it when you follow them, so I stopped and ran back to wherever I had come from.

The singing wasn't that good in my opinion. Just a song by Everyday Sunday, and little bits of a Family Force Five song. I know, really bad.

Thursday, October 2

I dreamed I was back in high school

This morning I dreamed I was in high school. I was wandering the halls, with no clue what classes I was supposed to have been in for the past several weeks. I went to the office, and they said I was only scheduled for one class... Books. (?) But they wouldn't let me leave after that class, because the policy was that no one could leave early.

I told them I was going to talk my mom into homeschooling me, because that was a ridiculous waste of time. Then I went home and did try to talk her into it. She didn't think she was up to it. So I told her I could basically homeschool myself, as I was already teaching my own kids.

When I woke up, I actually reminded myself that I'm done with school. What a hoot!

(Apparently, this is what happens when I watch The Office, miss my planned trip to the library, talk to my mom, and forget to submit the proper homeschool paperwork on time.)

Sunday, September 28

First week of school

Hooray! School is done for the week. It was a bit of a stretch to do five days worth of school because we had to all go to the dentist, the eye doctor, and Wally-World on the same day and so we couldn't get any school done that day... And the day after that we were all recovering from our town day, so we didn't get much done that day either. But overall it went very well. We all did well and got a lot done.

If anyone is worried about socialization and life skills, please let me put your mind at ease. As for life skills, we stacked firewood, harvested and jellied our homegrown grapes, and harvested our garden.
As for socializing, I went over to Mrs. J's house to give her some homemade soup and bread since she hasn't been feeling well lately. We had a wonderful time, and we talked for about 2 1/2 hours.

Well, we have more school tomorrow, so that's all for now.

Friday, September 26

What I've been thinking about

  • soap - I've made some that I don't like, and I need to make more soon
  • asbestos - wondering where all it is in my house and to what extent it will affect my life
  • American government - what was, and is, and is to come
  • grape jelly - how fun it was to make and what colors different grapes make
  • eyeglasses - thankful we can afford them for three kids
  • orthodontics - hoping we can afford that for the one who needs it
  • tomatoes - wondering if I've got enough ripe to make canning worthwhile
  • winter - excited and nervous about that, but planning to enjoy the heck out of autumn in the meantime
  • sleep - when I'll get some (uninterrupted)
  • pain - the weird pain, the unidentified pain, the emotional pain, the dog's pain, and how to end or at least ignore it
  • telephones - hating them but trying to be grateful for their usefulness anyway
  • marriage - loving it, hoping my kids will too

Monday, September 22

I won the Essay contest!

There was an essay contest on a trapping forum I'm on, and there were about 40 or 50 entries. Of them I won first place! Here's a list of the prizes I won
First Place
One Pair New Red Wing Boots-Obviously in your size(TommyBoy)
One Dozen New Victor 1.5 Softcatch(Anonymous)
$25 MTP Gift Certificate(Tim and Nancy Caven)
Mink, Muskrat, and Raccoon Trapping DVD(Paul Dobbins)
3-Lil Griz Getters
3-MB 550 RC
3-MB 450 FH
4oz Forgets ProCoon
4oz Dobbins Purrfect
4oz Lenons Super Range Fox All Call
2-110 conis(Anonymous)
1 Doz Snares-Made Legal for your area(Dead Coyote)
2oz Homemade Coon Lure(Cody17)
One Bottle Undertaker Lure(barewire)
2 Jars-Smoked Salmon/Shellfish Bait(B.Roberts)
One Bottle Big Bear Coon LDC(B.Roberts)
Chain Gambrel(Anonymous)
Critter Carrier(Anonymous)
Flagging Tape(Anonymous)
2 Awesome Weasel Boxes/Including Traps(Ace Trapper)

Here's my entry:

My name is Toby Armstrong and I’m 15 years old. This will be my second year trapping. Nobody in my immediate family besides me hunts or traps, and I just got my dad hooked on fishing. I live in northern Pine County Minnesota with my 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and 2 parents. (The perfect family?)

When the seasons ended earlier this year, I was discouraged because I hadn’t caught anything of value except weasels. I had been targeting bobcat, mink, raccoon, and otter, but hadn’t caught any. I decided to spend the next several months learning about the animals, and the trapping laws in Minnesota. I purchased books, borrowed books, and went to several demos on trapping, and watched animals in the wild, and wrote down everything I learned. I subscribed to Trapper & Predator Caller, Trapper’s World, and Fur-Fish-Game. I wanted to learn everything I could about the animals.

I tuned up all my supplies, and bought what I needed. I now have several lures and baits where I had none last year; I don’t doubt that was a large contributing factor to my lack of success last year. I dyed all my traps and made sure they work smoothly. I made several weasel boxes. I did several hours worth of scouting, and all with the limited transportation of a bike. I found several locations I plan to set this fall.

I made many snares this summer, complete with swivels. I also made wooden stretchers for rabbits. I did some ADC trapping for my family who had some skunks eating the eggs in the chicken coop.

Because of all my expenses this year, many of which were startup costs, I would like really like to catch a bobcat. I have found several ideal spots to trap them. I will also be targeting mink raccoon, otter, weasels, rabbits, and fisher.

My goal this fall is to catch 20 rabbits (that’s the limit), 5 mink, 2 otter, 5 raccoons, a bobcat, a fisher, and 10 weasels.

I plan to skin and stretch all my pelts myself, and ship them to a Canadian auction house. Any money I make will go toward a trapping truck. I think I want a Ranger, a Colorado, or a Silverado, but I’m not sure yet. Anything will beat riding a bike all winter long.

This coming January at the Minnesota Trapper’s Association winter meeting, I plan to take an instructor course so that I can help people learn about trapping.

Somewhere in the middle of all my planning for this season, I was given the Minnesota Junior Trapper of the Year Award. Boy was I surprised!

Due to my fairly tight budget, I am only a member of Fur Takers of America, National Trappers Association, Minnesota Trappers Association, National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, and Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. I have also written a letter to the USFWS concerning the "Core Lynx Zone" which is now an hour north of me. I told them the facts and asked that they remove lynx from the endangered species list and drop the "Core Lynx Zone" idea, since it doesn't work and costs the government money anyway. I also sold 120 raffle tickets for the MN Trappers Association, which went toward youth education.

I would like to thank Andy, Tracy, James, BuckNE, Hupurest, LT GREY, baseline, Paul, kirk, anonymous, Cody, barewire, Wayne Derrick, Troy McDaniel, Tommyboy, Tim and Nancy Caven, B. Roberts, Ace Trapper, M. Howard, and Dead Coyote, for their help and contributions. I would also like to thank all the people who have helped me to become the person I am, the wildlife that is kind enough to step in my ill concealed trap, and God who gave us the animals and dominion over them, and who made them smart enough to bug us but dumb enough to catch. And of course I would also like to thank all the organizations out there who defend my rights and fight for trapping, even if I’m not a member yet. I’m working on it!

Toby Armstrong Esq.
Member of MN Trapper's Association, Fur Takers of America, National Trapper's Association, NRA, Ducks Unlimited, and MN Deer Hunter's Association.

I'm so excited!

First day of school

As the experts would say, "Today things went better than expected..." Yeah, it really did. It really wasn't too hard. I had to read, and take a test, and do a small experiment. But that wasn't really that bad. To help us learn from the Bible verse we're memorizing, Mom did something I didn't really expect. I really want to blog about it, but she said no. Sounds ominous, huh?

Friday, September 19

Friday Five

From Donna at Quiet Life

1.Of television programs that aired before you were born, what’s your favorite?

The Prisoner
2.What person of historical significance was from your neighborhood or city?
Ralph Plaisted, the first person to reach the North Pole by snowmobile
3.What’s a story that’s often been told about someone in your family in the years before you came along?
All the stories that come to mind are far too unpleasant to be shared here
4.Which of previous generations’ dumb mistakes (in deed or thought) baffles you the most?
Outrage against returning Vietnam vets
5.What aspect of life in the good old days would you love to see a return to?
The expectation of personal responsibility

Thursday, September 18

More exhausted ramblings

Butchered the chickens today. Totally worn out, but glad to have them in the freezer.

The freezer, by the way, has a new outlet in the basement. The electricians came by yesterday and fixed us all up. I'll be calling them again sometime, I think. Just a hunch.

Torina has been writing about FASD. It looks like that's what we're up against... definitely with Jon, probably with Mike as well. Looks like what I need to do is figure out how to accept that what I've seen as "won't" is probably "can't". That just seems so... hopeless. I don't know what to do with that. What do you do with a child who can't learn math, can't show remorse, can't keep his pants dry, can't learn cause and effect, can't follow a simple routine after weeks or months or years of repetition? How do you prepare such a child for independence as an adult? Or how do you come to terms with the fact that there will be no independent adulthood, only the continued destruction and forgetting and apathy?

Enough about that for now.

Soon we will be cooking applesauce and apple butter nearly every night. That will smell wonderful.

Sometime between recovering from butchering and starting the apple marathon, I still have two batches of soap to make. That will be a fun diversion.

We officially start school on Monday. I've got lesson plans for all five kiddos for the next two weeks. I'm looking forward to some new stuff we have lined up for this year. Maybe I'll remember to share about that sometime soon.

Monday, September 15

Fun, fun, fun!

I just ordered our anniversary gift -- tickets to see Terry Fator in December. That man is so talented! I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 9

Ramblings of an exhausted woman

I need to find a competent plumber. Right away. When we tried to fix a leak in the bathroom, I think we made it worse. Or it could be that my heightened awareness of it made it seem more urgent. Either way, we did all we could and were unable to fix it. The plumber we've had out here in the past will not be invited to return. Hopefully I can find someone else.

The good news is that the tub will probably NOT fall through the floor into the basement.

The bad news is that if we ever have to reach the pipes under the bathroom, well, it will be very difficult. And it had better not happen on a day when I'm particularly emotional, like today.

Dear readers, I am so thankful for my husband. When I came to him on the verge of sobbing uncontrollably and asked if he would take me away, he dropped everything and took me to dinner. And "everything" in this case was taking Gracie down to the basement to hook up the stovepipe so we could be warm and cozy. I am also thankful for my children, who can stay home and handle things when we go out, even on short notice.

Speaking of warm and cozy, between the time I post this and the time you read it, we will probably have a frost. I guess it's right on time, though I wouldn't have minded a few extra days to mentally prepare.

Then again, I think my mental faculties are booked this week. I have a whole list of phone calls to make, appointments to remember, door prizes to assemble, and company coming (gasp). Most days this week, there's stuff happening at specific times. Man, that's tough. And I bet it sounds ridiculous, too. What does it say about my life that I can wake up prepared for someone to take two hours to sweep the floor or drop everything to go rescue a chicken, but I get stressed out trying to remember that I have to have my roaster at the church by noon on Saturday? And that's WITH it written down.

Must. Sleep. Now.

Saturday, September 6

A busy week under the pines

The weather cooled down a few days ago, so we headed outside to get some work done. The firewood is being stacked, grass is being cut (including areas we let grow through the summer), and the chicken coop is being insulated. Some of the kids are being a huge help, and others are finding themselves with special jobs created just for them and their 'tudes. Grace has worked so hard helping me stack wood, she wore her gloves right out. And she's as pleased about that as I am.

We also charted all our apple trees and tested the apples from each, taking photos as we went. Eventually, I'd like to know what kinds of apples we have growing here. We counted 30 live trees. I don't think the ones we planted made it. And I know we had a few more last year, so I'm wondering if we missed a few that aren't producing this year. We do have 25 fruit-bearing trees right now. Looks like we'll be busy for quite a while!

We got some rain this afternoon, so we headed inside to work. We cleared a lot of scary stuff out of the basement. It looks SO much better! There's still more work to be done down there, but it's not scary anymore. I really wish I'd taken a before picture so I could share with you the huge difference we made today.

In the morning, part of the fam will be heading to church for a ministry opportunity. I will be among those staying home and sleeping in.

I might go clothes shopping for the kids in the afternoon, since one of the other things we've accomplished this week is the seasonal changing out of clothing. (sigh) We're still at the point where most of Toby's outgrown clothes end up in Jon's bin, but Jon is growing slowly and tears or eats his clothes anyway, so he's got lots of nice clothes but nothing that fits him, and Michael's bin is empty because he tears or eats his clothes, too, and gets so very little handed down to him anyway. You'd think I didn't feed these boys, for all the sleeves, collars, and buttons they've chewed apart. Jeans always end up with shredded knees, of course. And jammies just get torn up for the heck of it. It no longer surprises me to see one of the boys come down the stairs in the morning with a gaping hole in his jammies.

Enough about that. It's depressing to still be dealing with it. Oh, but in case you're wondering, I make them mend their clothes. I do, however, throw out the nasty stuff at the end of the season. This is why Michael only has 3 pairs of pants right now -- two pairs of church pants and one pair of town pants. But really, I don't want to talk about it anymore. I also don't want to talk about the fact that Saturday is his 8th birthday. I'm not ready to have a good attitude about it.

Anyway, we pulled the a/c unit out of the bedroom window today. I think we had it in for about 6 weeks. That's just right, in my opinion.

I've been enjoying picking ripe tomatoes from the garden lately! Last year, I don't know if even one full-sized tomato ripened before the frost. Most of them ripened on the windowsill. The little cherry tomatoes hardly count. They're like the cockroaches of the garden -- they're taking over and there's no stopping them. They're taking their tomato cages with them, too. It's really quite a sight. I may need to tie them down before they scale the fence. But not until I've had a good night's sleep.

Monday, September 1

Great start to the week

Yesterday I was playing my guitar at the park. Trying to see if Mom could still hear me screaming "I'm Not Alright" from the house where she was taking a nap. I had taken the boys over to the park, but they weren't playing. They were waiting for the kids with the ATV to come freewheeling by so they could chase the ATV. Well, like I was saying, I was playing my guitar, and a man with a van came and asked me if there was a water fountain nearby. I told him that there was a pump, and so he filled up his water carrier. I quietly began playing "I've Always Loved You" by Third Day, but I wasn't singing it because I had forgotten the lyrics. He asked me who the song was by, and said it sounded like Third Day. Then he got out his guitar and we jammed together for a minute or two, and exchanged chords, and then he left.

Today I went haying again. This time I left early in the morning, and came back around noon with my paycheck. Now I can get some chest waders.

This evening I went to the city fire hall for a meeting. I was there to hear about next year's picnic. Next thing I knew, I was volunteering to help with the fire department's construction job.

Note to Bloglines readers

I put together a new blog header. Go TO the blog so you can see it!

Saturday, August 30

Now there's a visual!

Lynae let me know this morning that, as homeschool families go, we are not particularly musical. Because, she said, "We don't go scampering across the countryside, singing and playing our cellos."

Monday, August 25

The Merc saves the day

Today I decided I should get some licenses before I actually need them. So I went to the DNR office to get my licenses. Did you know that they don't even sell licenses at the DNR office? It seems like the DNR office would be the natural place to get a license, but apparently not. So I thought about where I could definitely get a license or two. A little voice inside me whispered, "They've got everything at The Merc." Of course. I couldn't lose. So I went to The Merc, where I got my Jr. Trapping License and my Youth Firearms Deer License and tag. When I got them, I noticed that they already had all my personal information on them. Wow. That's kind of scary.

I can play "Never Going Back to OK" on my guitar. It's a fun song by The Afters. I like to fingerpick it, because it's fun to take a rock song and sing it like a rock song but play it like a folk song. Heh heh.

Sunday, August 24


I had a wonderful time at camp. I went to Laurentian Environmental Center up by Virginia, MN. It was the first all girls session that they had ever had, and I expected only about 5 girls to come. Boy, was I surprised! There were 16 girls total. I quickly made friends with three of them and we decided to be together as much as possible. (That was really easy because we were often divided into groups of 4.) We called ourselves the klutzes because we were all rather clumsy and all forgot to bring something.
My friends blowing on the fire that we started.

I forgot to bring my camera to range day, but while we practiced target shooting, my friends were able to get some pictures of me. Here, Miss Stacy is helping me get good aim.
We also got to shoot some arrows at 3D targets. I was shooting at this coyote.
I also got to climb the 32 ft. climbing wall.
We only got a little bit of lounge time, so we usually rested.

Here are some amazing mounts.More camp friends.