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. :)