Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The farm truck needs new spark plugs and some work done on the heater. Looks like it could be a good time for some father/son bonding.

Reach down in there...

and you will find the spark plug
Clean, new, and shiny spark plugs: good. Dirty, old, and corroded spark plugs: bad.
The comparison
When it comes to cars and trucks and tractors and mowers and trailers and any machinery that moves, shakes, turns, grinds, chops, rolls, bales, threshes, plants, or harvests, Pancho is the one to ask for help if it isn't working.

Hey guys, nice work. Thank you for keeping the truck in good shape :)

Meet The Flickers

I am so grateful to live on a farm with an abundance of wildlife. Birds flit about chirping and collecting food from flowers and the feeder. The squirrels gather acorns. The deer quietly graze in the fields. The Northern Flicker perches under the eaves above our bedrooms and uses its beak like a hammer BANG BANG BANG!!!!!! This just won't do.

My method of getting rid of the flicker is not long term, and really just a way of hoping the problem will go away by itself. I usually run out behind the house and scare it away. On my way I pass my sleeping guard dog that fearlessly protects us from coyotes, opossums, rattlesnakes, wild boar, etc, but completely ignores the bird that wants to move into our house. This last time I knew we were in trouble because I saw not one but two flickers.

The other day after the flicker(s) woke up the kids (again) I decided to take this more seriously. I got a sheet of mesh wire, wire cutters, and a heavy duty stapler from the barn. Next thing you know I am up on a ladder trying to staple the mesh wire to cover the eaves where the flicker has been chipping the wood away. This area just happens to be at the highest point of the house. To the gals out there who have used a heavy duty stapler while standing at the top of a ladder, holding mesh wire above your head with one hand and trying to staple it with the other, my hat is off to you. I am sure the flicker was enjoying every minute of it.

Mesh wire under eaves
The wire worked for a day or two, but because I only covered the peak area of the eaves, the flicker moved to the next available area to start again. I decided to look online at what we could do about this. I am grateful that I easily found this site online with suggestions for keeping flickers from damaging and/or drumming on your home. I also learned that the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects Northern Flickers.

Sheets visually block the area the flickers are attracted to
The next stage in our flicker prevention has been successful so far. This time when my husband was home I asked him to help - and thankfully he did the ladder/stapler part. We covered the eaves completely with the mesh wire, and then we hung some sheets from the edge of the roof, visually blocking the area that the flickers were attracted to. Fortunately this part of the house faces the hillside, so the sheets aren't too much of an eyesore. The site also recommended stapling large, rubber spiders in the vicinity of the area the birds are attracted to. I made a mental note to pick some up next time I am at Halloween City.

Krazy for Kapla

After a long hiatus we have been building with Kapla blocks again. The box of blocks surfaced when my son cleaned out and re-arranged his room. Oh look! The Kapla blocks!!!

Tall Tower

A pumpkin (with an angel)
How is it that something that seems so simple could be so fun, interesting, challenging and with seemingly limitless possibilities? I find it to be meditative too :)

I think I will call this one 'Life'

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Acorn Season

For those of you living near oak trees, you will know it is acorn season. We are fortunate enough to live under some incredibly beautiful oaks. In general the trees will produce large crops of acorns every other year (they are alternate bearing). This is a big crop year. The acorns fall onto our metal roof with a large 'bang'! For the first time since living here we have actually been hit by falling acorns, my daughter in the shoulder, and yours truly was hit in the head. It hurts!

Of course there are many good things about acorns - they are food for many of our animal friends, they grow into trees, and if they are prepared correctly, they can be used for food by humans. We are collecting some to make acorn bread with. We did this many years ago when my son was about 2 years old and he absolutely loved the bread, so I am looking forward to trying it again. Right now we are collecting as many acorns as we can and storing them in the barn until winter break when we will start processing them.

We have a tree that usually produces some large acorns, and this year is no exception. Below is a photo of what could be the largest valley oak acorn we have ever seen around here. I didn't put anything for scale, but it measures 2 3/8" long and 1 1/8" wide! The cap is 1 1/2" wide.

Valley oak acorns
We included some of our regular 'large' acorns in the photo for scale. Thank you oaks :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tae Kwon Do

My son has been taking Tae Kwon Do classes for about six months. He has passed through white, orange, yellow, and camouflage belts and is currently a green belt. We usually stay and watch the classes and now my daughter and I are thinking of starting Tae Kwon Do also. Our plan is to start as soon as soccer season is over (just a week away). We can't wait!

He has been to a few tournaments already. At the tournament they are grouped according to sex, age, and belt and tested on form, sparring, weapons form, sparring with weapons, and more. Each student can choose which categories they want to test in. My son tested recently on form, sparring, and weapons form. He placed silver medal in all three categories! Proud mama here :)

Tae Kwon Do sparring

Post-it Power

Yes, Post-its are good for reminders, but they can be useful in other ways. Say, for instance, you want to play 'library' and you need to write and stamp on the title page of a book. A Post-it works perfectly for 'checking out' books to library patrons, and when the game is over, take the Post-it out and your book can go right back onto your home bookshelf.

We have also used them in map games, which the kids love. We have a world map/U.S. map and a map of Mexico in our living room and I will name a place, and they will try to find it. Then I will name a place and they will try to find it. Over and over and over. They do not tire of this game. What also happens here is we might start to talk about some of the places we are finding (like the Mexican state of Tabasco), or we start finding places we heard about or are reading about and were wondering where they were. Writing locations for the kids to find on the map on Post-it notes and then handing the kids each a few is good so that each of them have their own locations to find. Sometimes they will get upset if the location they are looking for is given away by another person (such as a sibling). Once they find the spot on the map, they can put the Post-it there. 

I cut up some Post-its into strips to do this for Mexican states. This was the only way to stick the Post-its on the map and still be able to see the other states.

La ventana is Spanish for 'window'

We have also tried learning Spanish vocabulary this way. I will write a few basic words in Spanish onto some Post-it notes and the kids will run around the house looking for those places to put the Post-its (door, window, bedroom, bathroom, etc). After a week or so I will take the Post-its down and see if anyone wants to try to find the places again. If you come to our house you will see Post-its with Spanish words stuck on places here and there :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Gift of Service

We are so grateful to be a part of a vibrant community and we really enjoy taking part in and helping make local events happen. In the past couple of months we have been involved in library fundraisers, helping with the local Halloween party and...

AYSO soccer

Library puppet show

                                                                    Harvest festival
                                                                     Contra dance

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nature Photography

The other day we went out to the creek to get some fresh air and to see if it had risen from the recent rains. We were almost there when we decided to turn back to get our cameras - the day was so beautiful and the scenery was amazing.

We wound up stopping at a few spots along the creek and taking photos at each one. We observed large fish in deep pools in the creek - something we can't see in the summer because the water is not clear then, and because the creek level is so high. We kept our eyes out for bald eagles in trees along the creek thinking they might take advantage of the clear water and try to catch some fish, but we did not see any. We did get some very nice photos, however.

Lil' Farm Stand

We had a great pumpkin patch this year and the kids were excited to try out their own farm stand. We got ready ahead of time by harvesting and painting signs.

Then on Sunday morning we headed out to set up the stand...

There were pie pumpkins, giant Cinderella pumpkins, and, of course, jack o' lanterns. The prices were pretty great for organic and locally grown, with top notch customer service too. It turned out to be a good day and many customers were hoping to see us next year. Thanks to Mother Earth for the beautiful squash bounty and Papa Pancho for the great idea.

Raptor Center visit

We recently had the chance to visit a raptor center. This facility accepts injured or sick birds of prey and cares for them until they can be released. If they cannot be released, they are kept and cared for. What a wonderful time we had! The docents were very well informed and thorough, and our tour of the birds was unforgettable. We saw real golden eagles, different types of owls, hawks, and kestrels.

Their little museum had some great displays including a quiz to see if you could recognize feathers of certain raptors, and glasses that showed how large our eyes would be in relation to our head - if we were owls :)