Sunday, December 27, 2009

My geekfest weekend

So how's your weekend been? Mine's been quite nice. Carla and the boys took a little trip to visit her Mom down at Coronach while I stayed home to look after the cattle and pets. So it's been quiet around here. And thanks to my sister needing work done on her laptop and Space (the Canadian sci-fi channel) showing all the Star Trek movies this weekend it's been a geekfest for me!

Saturday I sat down with the laptop in front of the TV to watch a day's worth of movies starring the original Star Trek series cast. This ailing laptop is a big HP machine. After Staples failed to fix an overheating problem my sister discovered the machine wouldn't boot anymore. Her husband cleaned it out himself but it still refused to boot. Being the 'computer guy' of the family, it often falls to me to try to fix things. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint) I'm more of a Mac and Linux guy. I don't do Windows much.
This laptop had XP Pro installed and couldn't find "NTLDR" so I knew it was a boot problem. Now was it just Windows or the drive? I booted off the XP CD and tried to repair the master boot record and boot sector but got nowhere. Next was an attempt at a reinstall.

Now it appeared that a reinstall might work. The CD booted and began the process by copying the install files to the hard drive. Unfortunately when it came time to reboot to continue the setup the computer would reboot before Windows would finish loading. I tried this twice and got the same result. Now what...

I have a copy of the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Maybe it would work. So I boot that DVD and begin trying to install Win7. can't even see the drive. I'm beginning to suspect the drive is screwed and order a new one online just in case.

My next try is trying to boot my Linux disks. These fail, too, but I sometimes get an error message that I search for online. I try again with a Kubuntu 7.10 disk and add the 'noapic' option to the kernel boot options and the disk boots. Well, let's try an install. It works! I get a working Linux install that boots perfectly off the hard disk! The only problem I have is I can't get wireless networking to work. I know this is an older version of Kubuntu so I setup a download of the 9.10 version and go and visit my dad up in the care home in Central Butte.

When I get back the download is done and I perform an install of Kubuntu 9.10 using the same option as before. I download packages for the wireless networking and get it and running! This is when I call it a day and just relax with my Trek movies and some Christmas goodies.

The next day I work on getting the right software packages installed so my sister can do what she needs to do with the laptop (which is really just getting Firefox installed so she can Facebook right, sis?). Using the package management software on Ubuntu machines makes software installation pretty easy. There's very little of the dependency hell we used to experience in the old days. So while I watched the TNG cast in their movies, I fine-tuned the laptop and wrote out a page of things to help my sister get up to speed with Linux.

So I'm pretty happy that I was able to fix the laptop and just as pleased that it was Linux that came to the rescue. Perhaps if I knew Windows better I might have been able to work out why Windows failed in this case but having been a Linux enthusiast since 1997 I just know it better. If the hard drive keeps running happily I'll put the replacement I ordered into an external case for backup purposes. We should probably clone the laptop drive just in case.

Anyway, that's how I spent my weekend. It made for an enjoyable weekend for a geek like me! :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is unschooling in our future?

Lately I've begun to think that we need to consider altering our homeschool method. Mitchell has little enthusiasm for any kind of school work and doesn't seem to want to put any effort into it. It's really quite frustrating to have to struggle for an hour to get through something that should take 20 minutes if he just tried. Lately Carla has taken over some of it and gotten some better results with getting him to do his math worksheets. Perhaps shaking things up a bit might help - a different teacher (mom), some different content.

But it got me thinking that maybe he's not suited to what I was trying to do. When I thought about it Mitchell might have a more comfortable learning environment, that being home instead of at public school, but maybe not a more comfortable learning style. Am I doing a little too much "school at home"? Would he do better following his own learning path? Could that even mean unschooling? Mitchell is quite intelligent and reads above his grade level. He can even tell you which aircraft have variable-geometry wings. He just hates having to do learn what I tell him he has to learn.

Right now it seems the boys prefer to just play computer games or watch TV. They do enjoy going outside to play when it's nice outside. But when I suggest doing some homeschool work all I hear is whining and it's the same battle every day. We had a lot of time off from schoolwork during October and November but I am fearing that that ruined things rather than helped. We got out of our groove.

Anyway, for now Carla will be able to help out more now that she doesn't have as many shifts at the gas station in the next little while, and I plan to start teaching some different things in the hopes that Mitchell will take more interest in his work. But at the upcoming convention I plan to attend the workshop on unschooling and perhaps take some ideas home that may help us out. And if anyone reading this has any ideas, please share!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SHBE convention details

A couple of days ago we got the registration form and information regarding the upcoming Saskatchewan Home Based Educators convention. It takes place February 19 and 20, 2010 and this year it's in Regina at the University of Regina.

Last year's keynote speaker, Dr. Brian Ray, was an excellent choice as last year we took in the conference as homeschool newbies. In fact we hadn't actually made the choice to homeschool until the drive home from Saskatoon last February. Dr. Ray's studies had shown that anyone could successfully homeschool their children. As one-step-beyond-newbies this year, this year's speaker Andrew Pudewa will give us some guidance in writing, something we can apply directly in our lessons at home. I know we could definitely use some help here as Mitchell is a reluctant writer.

Mr. Pudewa is the director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He's also a father of seven homeschooled children. He will be giving two keynote sessons and leading five workshops over the weekend. I've picked out a couple of the workshops to attend, "Reaching the Reluctant Writer" and "Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day". With three active boys at home I know we really, really need that last one!

The other workshops cover a wide range of topics of course. We have a couple by the HSLDA. There's three lifestyle workshops - health/nutrition, budget, inspirational (I assume that's nonsecular). And for workshops more directly related to homeschooling, there's one on teaching gifted children, one on unschooling and a couple on homeschooling issues that are somewhat related "Why Aren't They Learning" and "Stress Free Homeschooling". There is also a "Teen Convention" with its own set of workshops and activities.

Now that we know what to look for we also plan to take more advantage of the used book sale this year. I plan to make a list of what to look for, unlike last year when I wandered around clueless. I plan to make some changes in math for sure and am tossing around ideas in my head regarding ELA as well. The exhibit hall is obviously a must-see as well. And since a lot of exhibitors give special convention pricing it's a good place to stock up on curriculum, too.

Something really nice to see during convention is the Homeschool Completion Ceremony. Grad for homeschoolers! I'm hoping someday my three boys will be up on stage for this.

Convention registration costs $85CDN for one adult and $135 for an adult couple. Teens are $35. Friday supper and Saturday lunch are included for that price. A number of hotels are giving special rates to those attending the convention as well. Hopefully this year Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be staying at our hotel like he was last year so that we can check in at a decent time. It was cool to see him, though. Unfortunately he had to turn down a request to say a few words at the conference.

So if you're reading this and you're a homeschooler in Saskatchewan I hope you can attend. It's a great time and you can learn so much. Seeya there!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

My obligatory H1N1 post

Hey folks. I'm spending a quiet evening watching teevee and surfing around on the netbook. I've been watching some Aussie V8 Supercar racing I downloaded a while back. Speedchannel used to carry these races in the winter but don't any more so I had to find some torrents to download. It's really fantastic racing.

Anyway while sitting here I got to thinking I should write up a blog post about my thoughts on having our family vaccinated for H1N1. Up until a week ago it really wasn't possible anyway because the province of Saskatchewan was only vaccinating health workers and those with higher health risks. But a week ago they opened it up to the general public finally so I started thinking about it more.

I think Carla is the most exposed to infection of all of us due to her work at the gas station and Canada Post. She deals with the public and handles money and mail. In our discussions we've agreed that she could probably use the vaccination more than the rest of us, but for now she's uncertain about whether she would bother getting it.

The kids are not exposed very much being homeschooled now. Public school used to mean Mitchell was brining home a new cold or flu every couple of weeks. Thank goodness that's not happening now. Gymnastics finished last week and won't start again until February so they that's a little less exposure.

What about me? Well, I'm a hermit at heart and tend to stay home most of the time. I get into the city now and then but that's about it. Our family doesn't go out very often for social reasons. It's seven miles to town and there's not much there anyway. So we tend to just stay home.

So I guess what I'm saying is that we really don't feel the need to vaccinate ourselves. Even if we did get H1N1 it appears it's not much different than getting the regular flu. I even heard someone say their doctor told them the same thing. So far in Saskatchewan 12 people have died from H1N1 and all have had an underlying health issue. So I feel rather safe due to our lifestyle and overall health.

By the way, we do have our children vaccinated for the usual diseases through our provinces public health system. We've just never bothered with the annual flu shots. We're exposed to so many germs around the farm that there's probably little that could knock us down anyway!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Perhaps a breakthrough?

If you've read a previous post you know we've been super-ultra-mega busy around the farm the past busy that homeschool has kind of been pushed aside. Sometimes we go a week between lessons and even then it might be just a short lesson. A couple of days ago Mitchell asked if we were doing homeschool that day. I told him that we had to go haul bales with the semi for another farmer. So he said "We should do homeschool tomorrow."

Now, this is a kid that at times gets rather mad if I tell him it's time to do homeschool work. And if I suggest he could go back to public school he says no to that, too. Might this mean that his attitude is changing? I hope so.

But when we did do some lessons today he wasn't so happy to maybe he's just being a typical 7-year old boy.

A step in getting away from BellTV

Back in the spring I bought myself a refurbished Mac Mini from the online Apple Store. It's a great little machine with a 1.8Ghz Core 2 Duo, a couple of gigs of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. I put together an external hard drive with a 500GB Hitachi drive and a MacAlly case to plug into the Mini's FireWire port. I've used it since then as my main machine...until last week.

I watch a fair amount of video on it, like YouTube or other goodies I've downloaded. So I got to thinking that it couldn't be too hard to hook this computer up to our 42" Samsung plasma TV in the living room. So I did! It was really quite simple. I just needed a DVI-HDMI adapter and HDMI cable to get the video into the TV, and an audio cable with a 1/8" stereo plug on one end and dual RCA on the other to take the audio to the TV. The Mini, which is running MacOS 10.5.8 (Leopard), required no tweaking and treated the Samsung as just another monitor.

I recently discovered the joys of Miro, an application that can make use of RSS feeds of shows to automatically download new episodes of almost anything. It's available at Using a list from I was able to add shows like NCIS, Mythbusters and V. I even have a feed of classic cartoons for the kids. Of course it can also get online-only things like shows from Revision3 such as Techzilla. There's also hundreds of feeds to access at Much of it is in HD even!

One can watch videos in Miro, but most of the time I just use FrontRow, an app that comes with Leopard. It makes for a nice full-screen menu system that gives you access to all the content on your Mac. I've even used it to watch DVDs I've ripped to the drive and I've been downloading Australian V8 Supercar races to watch since Speed Channel no longer carries those. Carla has also enjoyed being able to use iTunes on the Mini to play her music through the stereo (which is hooked to the TV of course).

My main goal here is to try to get away from satellite TV subscriptions, which keep going up in price but which don't really cater to our families viewing habits. For the most part we don't watch regular network TV. We despise so-called reality shows. For me sometime like Survivorman is what reality TV should be, not Survivor. If I can get what I want online, why should I pay BellTV? So far we're still subscribing but hopefully not for long. Our internet access is only a 1Mb satellite connection which seems to work fairly well so far, but it's kept pretty busy downloading our shows. Hopefully someday something better will come along but for now it's this or dialup!

Now off to watch some quality TV on the Mini! The kids can't wait for Alf to finish downloading!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Help, I haven't fallen but I don't want to get up!

Well, friends, it's the beginning of November. The weather is pretty decent the past couple of days. Not that crappy weather has slowed things down either. October and November are proving to be the most exhausting months for our family this year.

I guess it kind of started a month ago when a fellow employee of Carla's at the gas station had some health problems and has been off work. The other workers are picking up the extra shifts, which means mostly Carla because she's the only part-timer with the time to take extra shifts. We're happy for the extra money but since she already has a second job she's pretty much working full-time now.

That leaves me with the kids a lot more which has presented some issues. We recently added to our livestock. A few weeks ago we got ourselves a miniature goat. It's a cute little African Pygmy nanny, about three or four years old and really just a pet (for now). Last week at an exotic livestock auction we bought 16 layer hens and two Dexter miniature cows (not too small, about 3/4 size I'd say). We're milking one of the Dexters, too. That's twice a day, around 9am and 5pm. They've been a bit nervous so I've tried to avoid having the boys around when I'm working with them. I almost got my nose broken a couple of days ago when one of the cows hit a steel gate and the top bar hit me in the nose where my glasses sit. There was some blood but it turned out alright. Carla was there luckily and checked me out. I held a tissue on the cut while one nostril bled for a while, then I got back to milking. But as you can see it's sometimes better if the kids are off playing by themselves while I work with the cows.

At the same time as dealing with our new animals, I've been trying to get my other work done as well as get in some work for our neighbor. That's mostly been hauling bales with the semi, cleaning out some barns with the skidsteer, or helping with cattle. I had my mom out to watch the kids on Saturday so I could finally do some of my own corral cleaning. Today they rode around with me while I fixed some fences. Carla's home most of the day tomorrow so I hope to be back in the skidsteer cleaning corrals and barns again, both mine and the neighbor's. At least it's dried out a bit. One day last week I had to give up cleaning barns at the neighbors because even the skidsteer couldn't get around after some rain and snow made the ground too sloppy.

Homeschooling has been kinda getting put aside more often so we can get work done. I had kind of expected this, though, which is why I started early (August 17 I think). I briefly entertained the thought of having some to do in the semi since it has a big sleeper cab but two of the three boys spend most of their time up front fighting over who sits in the passenger seat while the other is quietly sitting in the back watching the portable DVD player. There wouldn't be much hope of getting much work done if I brought school work along. I was happy to get peace and quiet, rare as that was. But once winter sets in and all I have to do is feed and milk cows I hope to catch up. I think in the grand scheme of things I'm not too far behind. I even got an hour or so in with Mitchell today after lunch. Having seen a copy of the Chaplin School newsletter we found he's keeping pace in Math which was a relief as that's what gave us the most problems earlier. As November is here I'm going to try and get something together for Remembrance Day so the boys can learn a bit about what it means. It's an important day to me and I hope it will be for them, too. So still plenty of work to do!

As the old saying goes, you can rest when you're dead. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homeschool School Photos

Well, it's that time of year when schools all over do the school photo thing (well, I think it's around now...). Despite the fact we're homeschoolers we're allowed to take part in the public school photo thing, but we thought why don't we just make our own?

A few years ago while I was on my training course to get my Class 1A drivers license Carla took some really good photos of the boys on a nice fall day. After lunch today she pulled out her fancy new camera and headed out with the boys to try to get some nice shots suitable for hanging up on the wall to replace those aging 2006 photos. The boys have grown up a little since then!

As you can see in the "class photo" above, there were a few other customers trying to steal the limelight. They were a bit of a help by distracting the boys from the camera. By the time everyone was starting to get cold they had quite a few nice shots, both as a group and individually. Thank goodness for digital cameras. It's not hard to shoot a lot of photos to get one good one when shooting kids.

To have a look at a few more shots of our boys head on over to Carla's Flickr page. Let her know what you think!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Letter writing as a homeschool activity

Last week Mitchell got a pleasant surprise. He got mail! His former school's secretary sent him a letter! She had asked our permission of course and realizing the value of letter writing we agreed. Mrs. Gleim was always a good friend to the kids of Chaplin School.

It was a nice little two or three page letter, printed so that a seven year old could read it talking about the usual things that a seven year old boy would talk about. Mitchell was very happy to get it and read it several times. I think he's excited to have a penpal. Remember those? I had a few when I was young, too. If I remember correctly I wrote to people from Singapore, Australia, Germany and England. I remember how happy I was to get real letters in the mail.

So today Carla helped Mitchell get started on his reply while I was out working. I think he's about half done. There are a number of important things he'll be learning and practicing when writing his letter. He'll be learning a bit about formatting a letter of course. He'll be practicing punctuation and sentence structure. He'll be learning how to compose his thoughts and how to put those thoughts down on paper. He'll also be practicing his printing skills. He's had a bit of trouble in that lately and have had him practicing that a bit more, too. I'm not sure he could even read his own writing sometimes.

I think it's important to learn how to write by hand. It's an exercise of the mind in so many ways. And practically, one doesn't need electicity to power a pen and paper. When the electromagnetic pulse comes and wipes out our electronic gadgets (which I will admit I'm addicted to as much as my kids are) that's what we'll be left with!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Front summer to winter in the blink of an eye

September is long gone and October is starting to show it's teeth in Saskatchewan. September was a very warm month for us. Many communities set record highs several days in a row in mid-month. I recall seeing a 32C the odd time and a couple of towns hit 34-35C. David Philips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, said on the news at the end of the month that September could turn out to be the warmest month of the year for Saskatchewan, the first time that has ever happened. It's no surprise because most the year was much colder than normal. The grass really didn't start growing until about mid-May.

But now it's October and we're getting arctic weather pushing down. Last night we had our first real hard frost. When I got up at 7am it was -6C. When I went out at 8am to start the semi truck I had to give it a shot of ether (starting fluid) to get it started. She was a bit stiff! At least I didn't have to worry about muddy trails because the mud was all frozen!

At lunch time I had to take the boys into Moose Jaw as Mitchell had his first swimming lessons with fellow homeschoolers. The weather was cool, but not too bad. We did some shopping and then went to swimming lessons. After lessons we went to Dairy Queen for a snack. Blizzards are yummy but only if you eat them and not drive them. That's what we hit about halfway home.

Moose Jaw is about 60 miles away from our farm. We saw the odd little snow flurry in the first half of the trip home but I'd say around Mortlach we were well into the snow storm. We got past Parkbeg and headed down Secretan Hill and that's where I started to get nervous. It was starting to stick to the highway. As I went back up the other side I felt the van wiggle slightly. Now there are some ruts in the highway and it was quite windy out so it might not have been slippery but I backed off anyway, from about 100kph (which was down from the 110kph I was doing when I left Moose Jaw) to about 60 by the time I got through the twisties which weave through the hills around Secretan area. Once I was out of that I sped up a bit, maybe 80-90 until I got to Chaplin. It wasn't sticking on the highway quite as bad here, but we're lucky to have a gravel road from Chaplin to the farm which I took. Yeah, it's muddy but it's not going to be nearly as slippery as a slushy highway!

Anyway, we're home safe and sound and I'm curled up by the warm glow of my computer monitor with Rush pounding from the speakers. Life is good. :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gettin' there

Well, I thought this would be a good time for an update on how our homeschool is going. It's been a while since I filled you all in.

We've been at this almost six weeks now. At first we went fairly steady. That was for about two weeks. It's been a bit more intermittent since due to farm work but we still manage to fit in a few learning sessions every week. Sometimes I can fit in a whole morning, sometimes I get in an hour.

Lately Mitchell has been working on adding and subtracting larger numbers and we've just introduced working with numbers that require tens to or from the ones column. Mitchell is starting to be able to do simple calculations in his head. Progress in math? Imagine that!

ELA has us working on nouns and adjectives, various vowel sounds (as well as the various 'y' sounds) and combination sounds (such as 'ck' as in 'sock'). We studied the book "A Tree Is Nice" and we read the Dr. Suess book "There's No Place Like Space" just for fun.

In science we've just finished a unit on life cycles where Mitchell learned about the life cycles of mammals, insects and plants, and learned about marsupials, too. He's going to grow some pea plants to see the life cycle of that plant. I guess he kinda saw that in the garden this year anyhow, but why not get up close and personal with a pea plant?

In our social studies class we're learning about Canada. We're exploring it's various geographical and political regions. Mitchell can name almost all the provinces and territories on an unlabeled map. He's only having a little trouble remembering the various smaller maritime provinces (like most of us did when we first learned them). We've also been learning how to use a map generally.

Although we don't have a health class, Mitchell has also taken an interest in a book about the human body for kids. He's spent a fair amount of time looking at it by himself and asking questions. I don't know if there's an invisible switch that's been flipped in me but I notice these child directed learning moments (did I just invent an acronym? CDLMs?) more often and pay more attention to them.

Matthew and Michael have been doing some work, too. I've been working on getting them to learn their alphabet and numbers, which includes learning how to write them. So we've also been working on how to write their names. I've also done a very small amount of basic math with them. They've recieved some homework from their speech therapist and we've been doing that, too. That's mostly been about learning bigger/smaller, full/empty, etc. They also take part in extra activities like when we went for a walk to look at different kinds of seeds in the trees and grass. They all do art projects together, too. The last project was leaf rubbing. Yes, of course, those pictures are hanging in the kitchen!

How about extra curricular activities? The boys are two weeks into their fall gymnastics session. And starting October 8, Mitchell's in swimming lessons with other homeschool kids in Moose Jaw. He gets a one-hour lesson once a week for five weeks for $25. Good deal! And best of all we can finally meet some other homeschool families!

I've been considering moving our 'classroom' upstairs, too. Lately we've been doing more of our work on the main floor (and sometimes Mitchell takes it to his room upstairs, too). Some of you have seen our little classroom in the basement. It's a nice cozy corner sometimes, but also a bit of a dungeon. But to do that I have to find a spot for stories our materials. Piling it in various corners isn't the greatest idea. And where do I put the whiteboard and maps? Oh well, we'll get it figured out.

So how do I feel about our progress? Well, I think we're coming along fine. There's time's I've felt a bit disappointed that I can't fit in classes more regularly but I know I can make it up on weekends and holidays. And I know that we're getting more learning done in the shorter periods we're working than the boys would get at school anyway. Besides the boys are spending more 'quality' time with me, too, if having them fighting over the front passenger seat of the semi is considered quality time! But seriously there was a day last week that I took them out with me to finish baling a field of straw and we saw a moose wandering up the field so we followed it a little way and had a good look at it. Moose are kind of rare around our farm, although not so rare in other areas of this region of Saskatchewan. There's a family of them about 15 miles south of our farm apparently. But this is only the second one I've ever seen. We all thought it was pretty cool!

So ya...homeschool's going matter where it's taking place!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ready to work! (I hope!)

Last winter after becoming dissatisfied with farming as a career I sold of a couple of quarters of land. Carla and I had a business plan in mind but that dream had to be let go, too, after some things beyond our control made that proposition a little too risky. Instead I bought myself the toy pictured which is a 2003 Caterpillar 246 skid steer loader. My idea is to pick up some work with it to make up for the money I wasn't making farming my land. I made sure I didn't borrow any money to get into this business, spending only what I got for the sale of my land. Debt scares me these days. This machine cost me around $24,000 with a little more than 900 hours on the hourmeter. Fairly low for its age.

Anyway, this machine came with a straight bucket only so at a Richie Brothers auction I picked up a hay spear (for picking up large round bales) and the manure grapple pictured, which I'm hoping will be the core of my business. A couple of years ago I rented a Bobcat S185 and quite enjoyed operating it cleaning my own corrals and barns so I have a bit of experience running these kind of machines. This one is even better than the Bobcat as the Cat doesn't require the use of pedals to operated the loader and bucket. It's all on joysticks. The left stick controls movement forward, back, left and right. The right stick controls the loader and bucket. Each stick also has a switch to control extra hydraulic attachments. In this case the right stick's switch controls the claw on the grapple. Another bonus is that I have heat and air conditioning. Yes, I'm a big suck! I need my air and heat!

Of course I had to get a trailer to haul this thing around. Carla and I went to a farm auction that had a used Dumenceau 8-1/2x20 gooseneck triaxle flatdeck on offer. It was in average condition, nothing special but quite usable. It sold for $9500! And no, not to me! It definitely wasn't worth that kind of money to me. So we made our way back into Swift Current and visited JayDee AgTech, a dealer for Trailtech trailers (and obviously John Deere farm equipment!). Anyway, we left there towing a shiney brand new Trailtech 8-1/2x20 gooseneck tandem axle flatdeck and it only cost us $8800 taxes included! Yeah, it's got one less axle but even with two I've got plenty of capacity to carry the Cat. My neighbor has actually borrowed the trailer a lot to haul stuff so it's obviously a hit with him!

I also have a set of brand new tires on the Cat. The ones that came with it had very little traction in wet manure. It's possible to get tracks that fit over the tires but they're very expensive - $3500 for one set I saw advertised in the Western Producer newspaper. I checked into chains but Brake and Drive in SC quoted me well over $1000 which seemed odd because I've seen them online for a lot less, but I didn't feel like ordering from the US. Anyway, I got a set of Trelleburgs from Fountain Tire in SC with an extra wide sidewall to protect the rims and spent just over $900. No fussing with chains and they seem to perform quite well in my own barnyard after some testing today.

Anyway, what it all comes down to is that this coming Monday I have my first "official" job cleaning corrals for Hughes Farms south of Chaplin. Hopefully I've worked out all the kinks at home and have a good, trouble-free day!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Road safety matters

A number of recent incidents on the highway around this part of the world have me thinking about why some motorists aren't taking more care out there.

The first one I'll deal with is seat belt usage. There have been two single-vehicle rollovers this week, one of which killed a two-year-old girl who was allowed to sleep in the back of a vehicle without a car seat. Nobody else in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt either.

Less than 24 hours later another vehicle rolled when the driver fell asleep at the wheel in the middle of the night. Nobody was killed but at least one passenger was ejected from the vehicle because, again, they weren't wearing seatbelts.

I'm a racing fan. I see drivers walk away from horrendous crashes because of the safety equipment which obviously includes seat belts. An airbag won't do you much good when you are ejected from the vehicle and it rolls over you.

The second issue I want to deal with is respecting heavy trucks on the road. It seems like every few weeks I hear on the radio about an accident involving semi trucks. And guess what. It's almost always some dumbass has attempted to cross the highway without looking and is killed when his vehicle is struck by a truck. It happened again today at Moose Jaw. It's almost as suicidal as trying to beat a train at a railroad crossing. I drive a truck sometimes myself and sometimes weigh as much as 50,000 pounds with a load of hay. I've come over a hill to see cows on the road and luckily had the distance to get slowed down and stopped but it sure scared the crap out of me. Now imagine my brother-in-law who pulls Super-B grain trailers for a living with a gross weight of 120,000 pounds comes across someone attempting to cross the highway immediately in front of him. What's he going to do? He's going to spend the rest of his life reliving that nightmare that 'someone' gave him. Thankfully that hasn't happened to him and I sure hope it never does.

Please take a moment when you head out to do up your seat belt and those of your children. And when you come to that intersection, take an extra look before you cross.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Fun And Frivolity of Canning

Well, I think we're starting to see the end of our canning for this year. There's still a four liter pail of juice extracted from apples to turn into jelly but that won't be too hard. It's sitting in the fridge waiting for another day to deal with. Today I did up a pail of chokecherry juice and made six jars of jelly and three of syrup (all pint jars).

I've always struggled with making chokecherry jelly, but I learned this year I probably wasn't boiling it long enough. There are some recipes that say boil hard one minute. Uh-uh. No way. Won't work for me. Carla asked a few people this year that are boiling 15 to 30 minutes. So I tried 30. Yay! It worked! Went back to 20 and ended up with thick syrup again. Now this is with liquid pectin. We got a slightly different recipe that uses pectin crystals and after 30 minutes of boiling, I ended up with some sugar crystals in the jelly so my next batch went back to 20 minutes. I'll hope it's better.

Carla's also made some dill pickles with 20 pounds of cucumbers she got from the Hutterites at the farmers' market last week (from my brother-in-law's sister as a matter of fact). Some were jarred in quart sealers but she also made a batch just in pails. She got this recipe from my sister who made up a batch in a plastic cat litter pail (so of course I had to bug my sister about getting the litter box recipe). We haven't tried them yet, but the kids love pickles and have been bugging us to try them.

But the biggest canning issue this year has been the demise of Carla's beloved smooth-top stove. I was sterilizing jars one morning and heard a funny noise. Wasn't sure what it was...maybe just a jar with a snap lid sealing? Anyway when Carla got home from work I went baling. Later she sent me a text message saying "OMG the stove top is cracked!" Luckily this was already a 15-year-old stove but it still worked fine (well, except for the oven light but that's nothing). Guess how much to fix it. No, higher...Keep going...Right, $500! So we decided to get a new stove. For $699 plus tax (regular $849) we got a new Kenmore with coil burners since we're not giving up the canning. It was probably the heat and/or the weight of the large canner that cracked the smooth-top, something that will not affect the traditional coil burners. Plus the oven is bigger, which might be a bonus sometimes.

Hopefully we can get 15 years and more out of this stove. We replaced the dishwasher this year, too, so hopefully that's all for now! Having cloth-diapered all the kids, I ended up having to replace some plastic couplers on the washing machine between the motor and transmission several times over the years and it's kept going. Crossing my fingers!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Carla's Photographic Fun

Carla's turning into quite the photography enthusiast lately. She's always had an interest in it and for the past few years has used a Kodak Z740. It's a five megapixel device that resides somewhere between the simple point-and-shoot and the DSLR. She's taken lots of good shots with it. But we recently invested in a real DSLR, a Canon Rebel XS, a ten megapixel camera with an 18-55mm lens.

Carla studied long and hard before choosing the XS. She did a lot of research online getting reviews and specifications. At first she fell in love with the Nikon D60 after looking at one at Wells Camera and Sound in Moose Jaw. One of the things shes looking for is faster focus and shooting and the D60 was far faster than the old Kodak. But then she held the Canon XSi at Walmart and she forgot all about the Nikon. It slipped into her hands perfectly and just "felt" right.

So she spent the next few days studying the differences between the XSi and the XS. While the XSi had 12 megapixels and the XS 10, some reviews claimed the XS experienced less noise at higher ISOs, less red eye and fewer blurred shots. Plus it's cheaper! It sounded like a good camera for a novice photographer. It shoots blazingly fast, which was the main reason for a new one.

She ordered online from Henry's, a shop in Toronto and had the camera a few days later. She also ordered a Lowepro backback that can swivel around to lay horizontally in front of you for easy access to equipment. Carla almost looks like a pro with all this gear! It might be a while before she gets it but she's now lusting after a long zoom lens. Let's learn to use the camera first, 'kay? She's joined a Rebel Yahoo group for hints and tips and loves hanging out there now.

For those that would like to see some of her work, she's set up a Flikr page:

I can't wait to get my paws on it next time I go to the races or air show. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If it ain't broke you're not trying hard enough

I remember hearing or reading that saying somewhere. Maybe it was a bumper sticker. If it's true, I must be trying real hard because I've got broken equipment all over this farm. Last Thursday night around 10:45pm I broke the other axle on the baler. I had a shop in Swift Current make me a new one but it wasn't ready until Monday. So over the weekend I started swathing an oat field that I'll be baling, too. Well, I broke a canvas drive roller on there! It's getting to the point I just want it to be winter so I'm not working in the field breaking stuff!

Anyway, the baler's fixed and I've done a couple of night baling sessions because it's been hot again. Hopefully this evening after supper (and after it cools off a bit) I'll get the swather fixed and finish cutting that oat field. Then I'll hop up on the baler tractor and bale the first bit of that field that I cut a few days ago. At least being a cultivated field it will be a whole hell of a lot smoother than that old hay field I just finished. No wonder I'm breaking stuff! I'm going to have to break up a few old hay fields and start fresh. Gophers, moles and badgers do not make for smooth hay fields.

Oh, and to make matters worse we're having a problem with the hard drive in our BEV (or BellTV now I guess) PVR. I suspect corruption because we've lost a lot of recorded programming lately. Maybe this weekend when Carla's working I'll pull the drive and reformat. I had to replace the drive a year or two ago and still have the instructions on how to remarry a virgin drive to the 5900 reciever. This is almost more important than fixing the farm equipment. Must have PVR!

I must say I have a lot more fun digging in the guts of computers and satellite recievers than I do turning into a greaseball fixing my farm equipment. Sometimes Carla wants me to put lotion on her feet. I think "Ick." Didn't my hands feel like this a few hours ago...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Math Mayhem

Well, it's been a fun and exciting and frustrating week of homeschooling. Yep, all that rolled into one. I love seeing my kids happily learning something new. I love to see the joy of accomplishment. It's not always that much fun trying to keep three young boys on task. I'm sure those of you with several young children know exactly what I'm talking about.

But the past couple of days the biggest problem I'm having is getting Mitchell to work through his math problems. I helped him often enough with math homework from public school last year to know that he knows what to and how to do it. This year it's like he's afraid to try even the simplest problems. At first it seemed like he was just being distracted by what Matthew and Michael were doing (which is their preschool level worksheets usually). Today we worked alone and I could see it was more than that. He really didn't want to do it. We took a break from it and moved onto some science stuff (marsupials!) and some online animations of thunderstorms. Then we came back to math and I "talked him down" by offering to reward him with some big red check marks in his work book if he just tried. I told him that I didn't care if he got the problems wrong or not. That got him started so we finished one page then we moved onto an earlier page where we'd really run into a roadblock. This page had four small sets of problems (10 total) and I promised one check mark for each section he finished. He breezed through them with minimal fuss with only one error I think. Good job Mitchell!

We've been using Miquon for math, by the way. We had looked at Saxon and Singapore and thought Miquon might be a happy medium between the repetitiveness (so we've heard) of Saxon and the more advanced level of Singapore. We have the counting rods but Mitchell seems to have trouble wrapping his head around how to use them usually and prefers to count on a ruler or his fingers. That's fine, as long as he finds a way to solve his problems I'm happy. I think the biggest problem is confidence and initiative. Perhaps I'll continue with rewarding effort and hope for the best as we move along.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And two days later...

Anyone else out there like Whitesnake? Listening to 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' from "Live: In The Still Of The Night".

As most of you, or some of you, or you over there know we began homeschooling the three Ms yesterday and now we've been through two sessions. We've had our ups and downs but overall I'd say we're doing well and enjoying ourselves. I've covered all our subjects so far.

ELA we're doing pretty well with and moving along nicely. Math is still an exercise in patience for Mitchell but with some calm coaching and encouragement he easily works out his problems with Cuisinaire rods or fingers. It's just a matter of getting him to try.

Science has been fun. We're learning about lifecycles of animals and plants and we're in the process of cutting open peas after a period of time soaking in water to see them germinate. Social has us studying Canada and maps. We had a good start on that but Mitchell had a little meltdown and I knew it was time to pack it up and go look at our peas instead. Then it was lunchtime!

Matthew and Michael have been working on coloring and gluing alphabet and number worksheets. I'm also having them work on spelling their names. Michael is doing pretty well with these projects. Matthew needs some practice with printing his letters so I had Carla print off a bunch of worsheets for tracing letters.

I would say I've learned a couple of things myself the past couple of days. First is that it's a challenge to work with all the boys together. The first day I didn't have enough for M&M to do while I helped Mitchell, the second I had enough but they required more attention than I expected so I found myself working with all three boys and once. Mitchell is easily distracted, too.

The second thing I learned is that I'm trying to fit too much into a morning. I'm going to have to cut back my expectations and perhaps just do two subjects instead of three. If I have time for extra, great. If not, there's time tomorrow. Or maybe do some kind of project in the afternoon. We'll see what we have time for. I know the first hour we do well, so maybe I'll save that for what we really need to get done and leave hour three for fun stuff that doesn't matter so much.

Anyway, I'd just like to say I'm having fun learning along with the three Ms. And special thanks to my "staff" Carla for finding online worksheets and the copying services! I can compile a Linux kernel but I'd be lost on the multi-function printer. :)

I'll send you out with "In The Still Of The Night" that interlude...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Grand Adventure Begins

Tomorrow morning, if all goes according to plan, we will begin our journey in homeschooling. I spent an hour last night going over books and making a bit of a lesson plan and having Carla copy worksheets. I know, I know...the best laid plans of mice and men...but as I just wrote on the SecHS forums, as a newbie I feel some comfort in having a plan.

I'm going to start with ELA from LLAL (the Red Book for Grade 2). This course is nice in that it's an all-in-one ELA curriculum and nicely broken down into days. It even has us cutting out stuff on the first day so that should be fun for Mitchell. All my boys love to cut stuff up.

Next up is Science. We'll be studying life cycles first with Evan-Moor's Daily Science and Read and Understand Science. I've also got some pages marked in the Giant Science Resource Book and Usborne encyclopedia to fit in with the first two exercises.

I'm going to finish the day with Math from our Miquon books. This is a very hands-on course. I think Mitchell is good at math, but lacks patience staring at books and worksheets. Miquon has the Cuisenaire rods to play with so maybe that will help him visualize problems better, plus I'm going to start a little back into the Grade 1 stuff. It's worth a try anyway.

Matthew and Michael will be starting with coloring some alphabet worksheets. We'll start with "A" tomorrow and do some A words on the whiteboard. I also plan to let them play with the Cuisenaire rods. I hope to get some basic math in with them soon. Matthew tends to be several months behind Michael developmentally (both physically and academically) despite them being twins so it will be a learning experience for me as well as them this school year just trying to find what works for them.

I'm getting excited about starting our homeschooling and the boys are, too. They've been asking for a while when we can start and that day is almost here! Yay!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I sold my pride and joy

Today is a sad day. Well, sort of anyway. I sold my old 1980 Chevy Camaro today. It was about time though. I hadn't had it registered since November, 2000 and usually only started it once a year or so. It wasn't in great shape anymore. The body itself was pretty good, but the paint was awful. The interior wasn't much better, with the headliner having fallen off. But I still loved it.

I'd had the car since 1989 and used it to run back and forth to university in Saskatoon. After I gave up on that enterprise two years later my sister used it for the one year she tried university. It only had a little 3.8L V6 engine so it did pretty well on gas. I guess it would have been around 1994 I changed that to a 5.0L (305 cu. in.) from a 1984 Chevy truck. Now it had a bit of power!

It was a fun cruising car. I loved how I was almost sitting on the floor. It didn't have a great stereo but it had a reasonable Pioneer cassette deck and speakers, two 6x9s on the back deck and two 5-inch round speakers in the doors. I later put on a used Pioneer amp and a 10-inch subwoofer. We were rockin'!

I courted Carla with that car, too. It made a few trips to Regina in 2000 to visit her and I recall one rather hot afternoon baking on the way home while Carla slept in the passenger seat. Did I mention it didn't have air conditioning? But we had fun. Unfortunately that was the last year I used it regularily.

Now it's no longer going to sit and rot. A young fellow from Waldeck has bought to use as a project car for his autobody class at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School. I'm glad it's going toward someone's education and hopefully someday I'll see it on the street again looking like a brand new car.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The bussing mess for Chaplin kids.

Carla was talking to one of the bus drivers for Chaplin School tonight. It sounds like the new routes are a real mess. By the way, Carla herself drove a school bus for a few years so she knows something about it. Anyway it turns out Ross will essentially be running his route twice every morning. His first trip south will be to pick up the older kids. He then meets the bus headed to Mortlach at Valjean. He then heads back south to start picking up little kids. He works his way north of Valjean, then to Chaplin, and even up north of Chaplin.

There's a bus running from up north of Chaplin, too, but Michelle's job is to pick up the high school kids in Chaplin. She's the bus stopping at Valjean to pick up Ross's high school kids, then motoring east on the Trans-Canada to get them to Mortlach.

Living where we do, seven miles west of Chaplin and the only family with school age kids out west, if Mitchell was attending it would add at least 20 minutes to somebody's route. Thank goodness he's attending M3 Homeschool this fall!

Sadly, even though our school is still K-8, kids are still leaving in droves. Some are following older siblings to Mortlach, some families without older kids are sending them elsewhere anyway, and some have picked up the whole family and moved away. The last numbers I heard had 19 students left at Chaplin School. It's kind of sad really. The class of 1989, the year I graduated, had nine students. That seems like a lot now.

Chaplin School celebrated it's centennial this year. It could be closed before it's 101st birthday. So much for School of Opportunity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's in a name?

It's my understanding that some jurisdictions require a homeschool to have a name. And I'm sure some families like to name their homeschool anyway. Saskatchewan doesn't require a name but we've come up with a name anyway just for fun. We call our homeschool M3 Homeschool. It's quite simple really because our three boys' names all start with M: Mitchell, Matthew and Michael! 3M is already taken of course, although since we're not making adhesives we'd probably get away with using it. And M3 isn't too much different than M5 Industries, which is the business the Mythbusters work out of. Gotta love Adam and Jamie and the gang!

I'm not sure how we ended up naming all our boys with Ms. There are times it's a curse. It's not at all uncommon to go through all three names before you hit the right one for the child you're trying to talk to. Heck we even come up with combinations like Mithew and Machael. Maybe it would be easier if we just numbered them. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Mitchell!

Seven years ago today our firstborn arrived into the world! I remember that day very well. Mitchell didn't really want to get born that day!

Sometime between 7am and 8am Carla's water broke. Not much else happened but we toddled our way into Swift Current (a 50 minute drive) and checked into the hospital. We got settled into our labor room and waited.

And waited.

Obviously things weren't advancing too quickly. Carla's always suffered from a bit of high blood pressure and it was getting a little too high for the doctor's liking so he induced her with prosteglanden gel.

By the way, this is about the time we learned that the anaesthiologists were both on holidays. By unfortunate coincidence they happened to be married to each other. The nerve of some people! I realize some people prefer to go without the epidural but Carla had wanted it. Instead she got some Demerol which from her reaction during the next few hours didn't work too well at all.

Carla's labor went from pretty much nothing to full blast. I think I might still have bruises on my arm from where she was squeezing! Once she reached a suitable dilation we were taken to the delivery room. After some more pushing it became obvious Mitchell still didn't want to be born yet so the vacuum was attached to convince him it really was in his best interest to come on out!

So finally, at 1:52pm, 2002, Mitchell Ryan Candler arrived into the world!

And there was much rejoicing!

Happy Birthday, buddy! You've grown up so much!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

When to start?

Hello again friends and neighbors. I'm sitting here listening to Metallica's cover of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil" and wondering what to write about tonight. It's a great song by the way. Look it up.

Oh I know. How about I discuss when I plan to start homeschooling the three Ms. Mitchell turns seven on Tuesday and would be starting Grade 2 in a couple of weeks if he was returning to school, but he isn't so I really should start thinking about when to start this adventure.

Oh here's another great cover by Metallica. "Whiskey In the Jar" was done by Thin Lizzy back in the 70s and The Dubliners in the 60s. Metallica's version is pretty good, but I prefer the TL one.

Yeah, yeah, we'll get back on track here. Where was I now...oh yes, I'm considering starting homeschool instruction on August 17, a week from tomorrow. That's a week before the public school starts here. I'm looking to get an early start to allow for getting comfortable with our learning environment and materials. I guess I'm also expecting the unexpected and want to allow the time to adjust things.

I've also given thought to working six days a week, but I should add that I also only intend to do homeschool work in the morning unless we're on a roll on something. I have to think of the attention span of a seven year old. Come to think of it, though, I might consider doing hands-on projects in the afternoon when time allows. We might be able to keep attention on those.

Because Carla works on a rural mail route for a couple of hours weekday mornings, I'll be starting with the boys each morning, hopefully around 9am. Perhaps I'll give Matthew and Michael a preschool worksheet to start with and then begin with Mitchell on something. For some reason I always imagine starting with ELA. I don't know why. I'm a science and history geek myself so I'll definitely cover those, but may leave Math for Carla's return. Grade 2 Math shouldn't be a problem for me since I've always done well at it, too, but Carla's got more of a math history in her previous career and I do have to leave something for her to teach, don't I?

I would expect all three boys will do the hands-on stuff like science. Matthew and Michael won't need to do it but I'm sure they'd enjoy it and they will be that much more prepared when their turn comes for the real thing. Of course I would only expect Mitchell to do the written parts of those projects. We also plan to do some arts and crafts which they'll all participate in equally. Last week Carla spent some time in a Michael's store and picked up a bunch of stuff including a kids pottery wheel. That should be...interesting!

We've set up an area in the basement which will be our "home base" for schooling. There's a whiteboard, a couple of reclining chairs, three lap desks, some shelves for materials, and a rolling plastic cabinet with three drawers to keep our curriculum books dry in the event of a basement disaster! We also plan to keep Carla's old Apple G4 iBook laptop down there for looking up stuff on the internet. Arts and crafts will likely be upstairs projects though, close to the kitchen table and sink for cleaning up.

Anyway, I think it's time to end this and find something on teevee to watch...almost time for ST:TNG!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A guilty pleasure

I'm sitting here with Carla watching golf. It's Golf Channel's evening repeat of the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational PGA event. I'm not a golfer. I haven't held a club since a high school phys-ed class back in 1989. I used to ridicule golf because it wasn't violent enough. But at the ripe old age of 38 I'm starting to appreciate the skill involved I guess.

I'm not a big sports watcher anyway. I watch my F1 and sports car races and I watch Saskatchewan Roughrider football. Most stick and ball sports bore me though. I used to play hockey but can't watch it. NASCAR is auto racing but it's like watching cars go by on the highway until they have a big pileup with four laps to go. Australian V8 Supercars is what NASCAR should be. Now that's racing!

But yeah, golf is more entertaining these days. I think it was Sergio Garcia who's ball was tucked in beside a tree. He didn't have much room for a back swing but still managed to get the ball close to the pin. Pretty cool shot.

One rule change I thought of though would be to have a group all tee off at the same time and race down the course. First one to sink their ball wins that hole. Allow body checking. You could even have hockey referees running down the sidelines calling penalties!

Well, maybe not. I must be getting tired. Night, all!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Great Indoors

Anyone else out there think spending time outside is overrated? I'm just not a fan of hanging around on a patio or going for a walk. Maybe it helps if I'm doing something else while I'm outside. But add some heat and you can count me out. Maybe that's what really turns me off. Once the temperature gets into the mid-20s I really start to feel it. Am I just getting old?

I think the main reason I don't appreciate playing outside is because I work outside. Yeah, I often spend hours on end in a nice air-conditioned tractor cab, but I also use older equipment that breaks down often enough. Then I find myself greasy and sweaty and tired. When I get home finally the last place I want to be is outside again. I want to get cleaned up, get a cool drink and crash on the couch in front of the TV.

When I was talking to my neighbor about this once he said he's the exact same way. His wife would ask him to come on out to their deck for a while and he'd say "I just spent the day outside. Why would I want to sit out there?" It makes me wonder if I worked all day in an office if I'd appreciate the outdoors more.

Usually once a year I find myself moving equipment between fields and having to walk a mile back to the truck. And the past two years that day has been 37 degrees Celcius with a strong wind. It was like walking in a convection oven. I almost drained my water bottle by the time I got back to the truck 20 minutes later. People do this for fun?

No, thanks I'm going to stay on the couch with my iced tea!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mitchell's job

Back this spring we had a first-calf heifer decide she didn't want her calf (first-timers sometimes do that, perhaps they don't have the motherly instinct yet). We tried to catch her to put them together as sometimes if they spend some time confined together (a couple of days) they will bond and all will be well. Well, she didn't want to be caught. We got her close to the corral but no way was she going though the gate. Back over a fence she went and that was that. I decided if Mitchell would feed the calf he could keep it as his own to sell when it was big enough to market.

He named his calf BlueJay. I'm not sure why, but it's his calf, right? It's a male calf (with the appropriate work done to make it a steer). When the calf was smaller I'd make up a two-litre nursing bottle but now that it's bigger and the weather warmer I mix up more milk-replacer powder with more water to fill the calf's needs and that necessitates a nursing pail. That's a little too heavy for Mitchell to carry when it's full so I carry it down and start feeding until the weight goes down. Then Mitchell can hold the pail.

Mitchell enjoys feeding his calf (most of the time!) and Matthew and Michael enjoy tagging along to watch. They sometimes like to help by carrying the empty pail back to the house. Poor Matthew has trouble with an empty pail! A couple of days ago Michael wore sandals and experienced the misfortune of having the calf step on his foot when it stepped sideways. Ouch!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hanging out with Geddy, Alex and Neil.

For those curious about the previous post check out the Aug. 3 post on

Anyway, I'm sitting at my computer and listening to Rush's "Hemispheres" an 18-minute epic from the album of the same name. This song is a sequel to "Cygnus X-1" an 10 minute song from "A Farewell To Kings". I'd have to say that Rush's epic songs rank near the top of my list of favorites. There are quite a lot of them, too. The full "2112" (from, obviously, the album "2112" weighs in at 20 minutes. "Xanadu" and "The Camera Eye" are both 11 minutes long. "Natural Science" is nine minutes, as is the exquisite instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". There's over ninety minutes of music in just seven songs!

Speaking of instrumentals, how about we go over those. Neil writes some pretty deep lyrics which say a lot to me, but the guys in Rush are award winning musicians for a reason and sometimes it's nice to just sit back and enjoy the music. Although they don't write epics anymore they do still crank out those mighty instrumentals. Their latest disc "Snakes and Arrows" boasts two, "The Main Monkey Business" and my personal favorite of the two "Malignant Narcissism" (Geddy's bass really kicks ass in this one). Two from the '90s with whimsical titles are "Where's My Thing?" and "Leave That Thing Alone". And who can forget the classic "YYZ" from their classic album "Moving Pictures". You do know that's the airport code for Pearson International Airport in Toronto, don't you? And Neil plays those letters in Morse code at the beginning of the song! When the Foo Fighters played in Toronto on March 22, 2008 drummer Taylor Hawkins ended his drum solo by having Geddy and Alex join him for a suprise performance of "YYZ". I saw the YouTube video of it and must say it was a damn good performance!

Aw, well, I'll leave you with some meaningful lyrics from one of my all-time favorite Rush songs, "Entre Nous":

"...the spaces in between
leave room
for you and I to grow."

To help out someone in need.

Per tutti le informazioni
sulla "santa Acqua miracolosa guarigione"
Ivo Pignatti
Corso Giacomo Brodolini, 24
0381 83286

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Carla and the boys left for their vacation today. They're visiting her brother and his family in Coaldale, Alberta. It'll be a lot easier to catch up on my farm work while they are away since I won't need to come home to watch the kids which I do when Carla's working. Some things I can do with them, such as checking cows, but it's not a pleasant experience to spend too many hours with the three Ms in a tractor cab. One hour is usually fine but by the second hour somebody is ready to go home. Unfortunately I often have to spend a whole day out there so it's sometimes better just to stay home until Carla's done work. I often have plenty enough to do around the yard and shop. The boys can watch me or ride their bikes or play in the sandbox or even "help". And Dad can stay sane!

While the rest of the family is on vacation I'm having my staycation I guess. I don't mind going places with my family but I'm just as happy having quiet time at home tonight with my computers and the Roughriders on TV. And Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is on later. What more could a nerd like me ask for?

Where would I go if I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted to? I think the top of my list would be touring First World War battlefields in France and Belgium where Canadians fought. There's Vimy of course, but also Ypres (where Canadians stood up to one of the first gas attacks), Beaumont-Hamel (where the Newfoundlanders bravely went over the top and were slaughtered), Passchendaele (if Hell was cold and wet, it would look like Passchendaele in November 1917).

My second choice would be completely different but also in France. I'd love to attend the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the famous auto race. I love sports car racing and Le Mans has it all from the diesel-powered prototype monsters like the Audis and Peugots to the thunderous Corvettes and screaming Porsches. I'd love to be at the end of the Mulsanne straight at night watching the lights coming at me at over 300kph!

Anyway that's enough rambling for now. Time to see if the Riders can hang onto this lead tonight!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mobile kittens!

The kittens are starting to travel from their nest today. For the past little while Carla and I have had a couple of mother cats and their swarm of eleven baby kittens under our bed. They started in a couple of boxes but one kept dragging her babies into the other's box. The other started dragging babies under the bed. Now they're all there! But now that they're growing up and getting to know what their feet and legs are for, they're starting to appear just past the edge of the bed. It certainly makes it easier to play with them much to the boys' delight!

Will I ever get haying done?

Hi there. Dave here.

You know what boys and girls? I'm getting frustrated a little. I should be outside baling hay but last Saturday I broke an axle on my baler. It took until Tuesday to get a new one back on the baler. I did some hay cutting that day, then it rained again. I put the new axle on my baler Wednesday, but too wet to bale still. I got some bales made Thursday but it rained again that night just as I stepped out at 9:30pm to go do some night baling. I guess it didn't rain as much as I thought because the hay wasn't too wet by midmorning Friday so I made a few rounds until 12:30pm when showers stopped me again. Maybe, just maybe the wind today will dry things out quicker than expected so I can try night baling again.

Carla and the boys leave for a little road trip tomorrow. Hopefully while they're away I can get caught up. I sure hope so anyway. I'd for her to think I was slacking the whole time they're away!