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.

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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!