The Most Precious Natural Resource At The Ranch Pen

 

The news headlines scream disaster and death at us every day, breathing worry and distress in our faces–even in Oklahoma with the horrible beheading (I can hardly bear to write the word) of that poor woman in Moore last week. I am not a preacher, but as an ultra-conservative Christian woman, I strain the events around me through the truth of my Bible and find hope in Jesus.

This week, I attended an event with my daughters-in-law, grandkids, and their homeschoolers’ group sponsored by the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service), which is a division of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The NRCS  was established in the Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s to help farmers and ranchers preserve their land that was blowing away because of poor farming practices in an extended drought. Today, the NRCS still helps farmers and ranchers manage and conserve their farm and grass lands, soil, and water. Our county NRCS agents have worked with Gramps and I on our farming/ranching operation many times over the years with sound advice (most of the agents are farmers or ranchers themselves) and cost-sharing grants to drill wells and plant grass on erosion-prone crop ground.

The NRCS event was aimed at third grade age kids. Several of the nearby public schools had bussed students to the outdoor classroom the NRCS had set up near a lake. They had also accommodated the home school group’s third graders. What they may not have known is, in the homeschooling world, if the third grader goes, so does the fifth grader, the first grader, mom, the baby, and maybe even grandma. Another thing they may not have known is home schooled kids learn hands-on. Everything their mothers/teachers do is an educational experience, so at each learning station, the kids mobbed the teachers, getting up in their business with their hands all over everything and asking rapid-fire questions.

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At learning station one, an NRCS agent talked to the kids about land and water conservation, cutting up an apple representing the earth until only a tiny sliver remained to show the portion of land on earth able to produce crops. He also ended up showing the kids that one drop of water out of all the water on earth was the share of water in Oklahoma.

Gun safety

Gun safety at learning station two

The little girl at the left knew so much about guns she could have taught a hunter’s safety course. The grandkids, Roper, Ladybug, and Blondie are spellbound by guns, too. I think the game warden was somewhat taken aback by the gun knowledge in the group.

Station Three--hides and skulls

Station Three–skins and skulls

The skins and skulls station was a big hit with the kids. The instructor showed them a lot of hides from different animals native to Oklahoma and had them guess which animal each of the skulls had once belonged to. They learned about predators and prey, carnivores and omnivores. All of the kids felt their own canine teeth to make sure they were predators. Many of them also had varmint hunting stories to share with the instructor.

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Station Four was all about pollinators native to Oklahoma. The teacher was a biologist whose job was managing the grasslands in that area, so he knew a lot about the plant, insect, and animal life.

Even though I don’t have a picture of this one, Station Five was all about soil, which I found fascinating since we make our living from it. I’m not sure the kids were as interested, but they did like the NRCS agent’s hydraulic core sample machine mounted on the side of his pickup. He pulled a soil sample from about five feet down in the ground. Four-year-old Grandson, Git R Done, told his dad later that he learned dirt was actually soil.

Station Six--Quail mamgement

Station Six–This lady taught quail management

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Playing a wildlife management game–some kids are quail, some predators

Station Six was about quail management and how overpopulation of any one species can be detrimental. Nature has a way of evening the balance of everything which the instructor attempted to show through a game involving more quail than predators, then more predators than quail. The game was complete mayhem, but they all seemed to enjoy it. (Except, possibly, the teacher.)

Ladybug eating the lesson on wetlands

Ladybug eating the lesson on wetlands

 

Station Seven was a lesson about wetlands (rare in western Oklahoma these days) and their importance. The teacher asked the kids to tell her some of the animal life found in wetlands. The kids ventured a lot of guesses which included sharks and crocodiles, but the cutest one was from three-year-old Ladybug: Mermaids. The teacher then used a layer of chocolate cereal to represent the lower soil layer, chocolate pudding the mud, blue cool-whip the water, pretzel stick cattails, and then green sugar duckweed–the ecosystem of the wetlands. Then she gave a cup of the lesson to each kid to eat. Very clever.

Station Eight was taught by a park ranger. She was really good with the kids and taught them how to respect national park lands. Then she used pictures of animals to teach them the difference between domesticated animals and wildlife. I don’t have a picture of Station Eight since the temperature had risen to near one-hundred degrees and everybody was tired and ready to go home, including the oldest lady in the group (moi).

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a little cutie whose name I don’t know and grandkids Git R Done, Ladybug, and Roper

And the last picture–hope for the future in our most precious natural resource: Our kids.

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all while you listen to this one gifted man singing, I have decided to follow Jesus.

[youtube.com/watch?v=RPBCwMf0TjQ]

Springtime and Resurrection Gardens

The Nephew working up my garden spot

The Nephew working up my garden spot

Oh, goodness sakes. I can hardly wait to get out and kick around in that good dirt. I’m blocking from my mind right now last summer’s miserable three months of 100* heat and NO TOMATOES.

ahmmmmmm…

Okay, I’ve erased my memory–not a hard task at my age–and I’ll just tear into the garden planting expecting great harvests of taters, onions, squash, cantaloupes, okra (or okry as real Southerners call it,) and of course, tomatoes. There isn’t any reason to plant sweet corn here because our hot winds blow the pollen away and after months of babying, I find cobs with only a lonely kernel here and there. So very vexing.

In preparation for Good Friday next week, the grandkids and the nieces planted Resurrection Gardens as shown below from the super nifty homeschool blog Homeschool Creations. This is a great opportunity for discussion and giving young children a better understanding of the resurrection of Christ.

Gramps and I grow wheat, so I just trotted out to the grain bin and dumped out the seeds I needed into a bucket, but if you have to go looking for wheat berries at a health food store you might not have time to grow lush wheat grass by Good Friday. It’s worth trying, however. I think you could even use fast sprouting bean or pea seeds. Or pile rocks over the ‘tomb’. (That would be more accurate anyway.)

From Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations:

Resurrection Garden Tutorial 2

I know there are so many ideas floating around for Resurrection Gardens, and our kids have been so excited to put ours together this year.  The Resurrection Garden is a hands-on reminder of what Easter is really about ~ a visual reminder of the tomb and all that it signifies!

For our Resurrection Garden, we used wheat grass and the results were so much faster than using grass seed {only 2 days!!}. I first tried growing wheat grass {sprouted wheat berries, or grain that is used to make bread} last year, and it was so simple and more lush than standard grass seed! Thanks to a great Easter Grass tutorial from my friend Amanda, it seemed to be the way to go for our Resurrection Garden as well.

How to Make a Resurrection Garden

If you’d like to make your own Resurrection Garden using wheat grass, you’ll need to grab just a few supplies, several that can be found outside.

  • Potting soil
  • A large pot base {I picked up a clay base at Walmart}
  • a small pot {to use as a tomb}
  • wheat berries ~ can be found at many whole food stores {see tip below}
  • a rock to cover the mouth of the tomb
  • small stones/pebbles, if desired
  • spray bottle
  • sticks and string to make crosses {we’re adding ours on Good Friday}
  • large pot {optional}

Quick tip: We grind our own wheat, so I had wheat berries on hand to use. If you don’t have any, you should be able to find some at your local whole foods store ~ or bug a friend who grinds her own wheat! 🙂

Resurrection Garden-2

1. Soak the wheat berries in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will help the wheat berries to sprout quickly!

Resurrection Garden-1

2. Lay your small pot on its side and fill the large pot base with soil. Arrange the pieces of your Resurrection Garden as you would like ~ stones for a pathway and any other decorations you desire {moss, flowers, etc…}.

Resurrection Garden-3

3. Gently place the soaked wheat berries on top of the soil, where you would like the grass to grow. Using the spray bottle, spritz the wheat berries thoroughly!

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4. Once the wheat berries have been spritzed well, cover the tray to create a ‘greenhouse’ of sorts. I used a large pot as a dome to keep the moisture inside. Spritz every few hours {well, other than overnight!}.

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5. Watch for sprouts! We placed our wheat berries around 6pm at night and when we took the top off the next morning at 7am, they had already started sprouting! You can now remove the cover off and have your kids spritz it throughout the day ~ keep it moist!

Here’s a look at the fast progress of the wheat grass on the morning of Day 2:

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The morning of Day 3:

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This is the morning of Day 5:

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On Good Friday we’re going to add three crosses to the garden and roll the stone over the opening of the tomb {and perhaps have the kids find one that is a wee bit smaller!}.

The kids have really enjoyed putting the together and seeing the grass grow so quickly. It’s been a GREAT visual reminder as well for the Easter season.

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Okay, thanks so much to Homeschool Creations and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Phillips, Craig and Dean doin’ Crucified With Christ

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

*And a very happy birthday  to the youngest niece on her 11th birthday tomorrow! May all your wildest dreams come true, dear Tess. 🙂

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Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part ll

Buzzard and Bugs Bunny Cartoon

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Langston Hughes

For those of you who might have missed the riveting previous installment of Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams, here’s the link. Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part l Be sure and watch the Starburst commercial, it’s kind of disclaimer in case I start boring you to death. (Or boring you back to death, as the case may be. I’m not sure who or what all reads these posts.)

We ended Part l with the unfortunate demise of my first characters, Rory and Kate. They ended up in the trash can of my writing dreams because I married Gramps when I was sixteen and barely out of diapers. (He wasn’t called Gramps then or I might not’ve had sense enough to marry him. Sixteen-year-old girls can be so shallow.)

At any rate, he was (and still is) my dashing soul mate and we happily dove off the cliff of love into the rapids of experience.

Cliff_Jumping_by_KatieMoyle
Photo by KatieMoyle
Ah, experience. So needful for good writing.

A year later, we two added a little child to make three and most of the writing I did went like this:

Dear Grandma, Thank you for the baby stroller and the twenty dollars…
Dear Electric and Gas Company, We will have the money by the end of the week, please don’t shut us off…
The rest of my writing was in the form of lesson assignments while I finished highschool in my own special ed classes. Sort of like Abe Lincoln. Without the beard. Or the super intelligence.At eighteen, I looked forward to the birth of baby #2 and also received my diploma in the mail, probably while I was feeding my yearling son pureed carrots. He was a difficult child and I expect if I hunted up my diploma, orange blow-by would speckle the semi-expensive paper.

A couple years after that, I wrote my name on a line with Gramps’ and we bought our first little mountain rancho, ten acres and a house from which sheep had been evicted. Son #3 promptly made his appearance. A few months later, I rocked my twenty-first birthday with my three little kids–aged three and under–aided by koolaid and party hats.

Live a real life

All that while, I did almost no writing, but Gramps and I lived a real life while we traveled around and he made money to pay for our rancho. And while I tried to keep my babies and toddlers from self-destruction, I read.

I inhaled books like air, reading most genres except horror–although the book Treblinka about the Nazi death camp certainly qualifies–and cereal boxes. I read my Bible whenever I got a quiet minute. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot while rocking a baby in Colorado. Ernest Hemingway’s  For whom the Bell Tolls while rocking a baby in North Carolina. I even slogged through Tolstoy’s War and Peace a few hours at a time from a curb beside a playground in Illinois.

And, unbeknownst even to myself, my next characters had begun to stir in the womb of my brains…

Finally, I’m not qualified to give writing instruction, but this is my advice to anyone who desires to write:

  • Read voraciously.
  • Get out there and live a real life. Live a life you don’t need to be ashamed of when you’re dyin’, but take chances. Do things. Don’t live a virtual reality through your electronics else you might not have much to write about. We’ve all got electronics. None of us have your particular experiences.
  • Consider homeschooling your kids. By the time you complete each grade four times, or fifteen–depending on the number of offspring–you will have a good grasp of the english language. That helps with the grammar and sentence structure. As you can see. By my sentence fragments.
  • And last, but not least, learn to laugh at yourself first. If you don’t, somebody’ll beat you to it.

Anyway, if you got this far, God bless you for your endurance and now just sit back and enjoy The Isaacs doin’ The Lowest Valley.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

*A special thanks to Son #2 for the heads up on James Wesley‘s super good song and video.

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Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part l

Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part lll

Does Siri Have a Long Afro?

siri

siri (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

As promised last post, I conducted a very kinda scientific survey to determine how many people–homeschooled or publicly educated–actually know the definition of bootless as Shakespeare used it in Sonnet 29.

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate…

Confronted with this massive undertaking, I first cast my brains back against the wall of science class to see if something stuck. Sure enough, the approximately one-hundred-year-old ghost of science class past, Mr. Emrick, raised a bony finger and told me to set up a control.

(I looked around the empty prairie surrounding my house and then at my iphone.) Ah, Siri, my personal guru.

To ascertain whether Siri was the perfect control, I asked her where she was educated and she didn’t know what I was talking about. She qualified as perfectly clueless neutral.

Then without further ado, I began to climb the mountain of rusting junk out there behind the barn where Siri lives at the summit, hidden by a cloud.
(I stepped up on the bed of the 1990 dodge feed truck, relieved of some of its tires) Oh, man, I was so excited to meet Siri face to face. She was probably a beautiful black lady with a long afro. (I puffed higher) Wow. It was a lot farther to the top of that mountain of junk than I thought. (I stopped to pant) At last, I pulled myself over top of the1963 grain truck–

Was somebody kidding me? That summit cloud wasn’t cooling mist. It was dust. I couldn’t see a thing. What a big hoax.

Oh, well, since I was there already…

“Siri? Do you have a beautiful Afro?”

“This is about you, not me, Danni,” she said

“Then tell me what you look like, please.”

“Shiny,” she said.

“How old are you?”

“I don’t see why that should matter,” was Siri’s stiff reply.

(Mmhmm…I decided not to ask her how much she weighed.)

“Well, then, what does bootless mean?”

“Let me think about that…” she said. “This might answer your question.”

Shiny Siri beamed her info screen through the cloud of dust. Bootless appeared to be an english adjective meaning unproductive of success, consisting of eight letters and hyphenated thus: boot-less. Siri included a handy chart indicating the peak usage times of the word. Bootless usage took a big spike during 1550-1600 A.D., give or take some years. Another small spike occurred in the late 1800’s.

Hmm. Why would that be…?

Okay, I see hands literally shooting up all over the place out there.

(Oh, man. He’s aways got his hand up in the air…)

“Gramps, why don’t you give somebody else a chance once in a while?”

“Because I know the answer this time. When the American West was settled in the 1800’s, the native tribes commonly practiced takin’ a man’s boots so he had to walk barefoot over anthills, and cactus, and stuff. Bootless.”

“That’s ridiculous. Put your hand down. I need to move along to my very kinda scientific survey.”

My survey consisted of twelve people:

7 Homeschooled

3 Publicly Educated

2 Homeschooled/Publicly Educated

From the Homeschooled group, I had 2 correct answers and one almost right answer from my six-year-old granddaughter, code name: Blondie.

From the Publicly Educated group, I had some good guesses, but no banana.

From the Homeschooled/Publicly Educated group, again, good guesses, but no bananas there, either.

Watch Christian comedian Tim Hawkin’s take on homeschooling.

But, what do y’all think?

  • Do these scientific results blow your minds?
  • Are bananas really good for you, or are they just a big hoax, too?
  • Could Gramps walk barefoot over anthills without further ado?
  • And finally (whispering so Siri can’t hear) is Google Search better than Siri, and does he have a long Afro?

Leave your answers in the comment box and enjoy Tim Hawkins doing my personal favorite of his songs, Hey There Delilah. Until next time, God bless.

Shakespeare and the Drought Map

And…I see all y’all out there scratching your heads and going, “Eh? What in the world has Shakespeare got to do with the drought, or really anything at all? The dude’s been dead for, like, a million years.”

Well, let’s get to it.

ShakespeareSonnet 29

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least.

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

–William Shakespeare

Yes, we are in the dark red area

Yes, we are in the dark red area

The drought map above paints a pretty good picture of our weather situation these past few years. Probably all us farmers and ranchers in the dark red areas have, at times, felt as though we were troubling a deaf heaven with our bootless cries. But then, when we look around and see how we’re blessed, we remember heaven’s not deaf and it’ll open to us again someday. We’re one day closer to that Big Rain.

And that, dear friends, is what Shakespeare has to do with the drought map–

Okay, I see hands raised  all over out there in the dark red areas.

(Oh, boy, here we go.) “Yes, Gramps. What is it?”

“What happened to his boots, anyhow?”

“Well, for pity’s sake. Were you homeschooled, or something?”

Sorry, we’re all out of time for questions.

But what do y’all think?

  • Is Shakespeare awesome or what ?
  • Will the heavens in Oklahoma open again?
  • Do any of you publicly educated people know why Shakespeare would be bootless?
  • How about you homeschoolers? (And does your mom teacher still have to tell you to brush your teeth? Oh, my, goodness, she does, doesn’t she? You get in there right now and brush your teeth. Is she gonna have to tell you every, tiny, little thing to do all your life…?)

(Taking some deep breaths) Okay, I can see we have a real problem here, so I’ll conduct a scientific study to see how publicly educated people stack up against the homeschoolers on defining “bootless.”

I’ll start by contacting homeschooled Son 1, Son 2, and Son 3. (Oh, man…What if they don’t know the answer? That would make me look like an idiot as a mom teacher  blogger. Maybe I should call and tip them–No, Danni! Must not cheat on a scientific study…)

You may answer any, or all, of these pressing questions in the box below.

Join me next time when I’ll publish my honest to goodness findings. Until then God bless all y’all.