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Homeschooling is always full of surprises. This morning after breakfast, the kids had a little bit of free time before lessons, while they were waiting for me to finish something I was doing on the computer. While most of the kids were playing with the baby or dragging out every blanket in the house, Andrew, our oldest at age 11, decided to write some poetry.

I was quite surprised, since I never taught him to write poetry. In fact, we don’t really do any type of formal grammar lessons at all, except for the little bit that is included in his Latin lessons; we instead focus mainly on reading good literature, both aloud and each child on their own. We do plan to get to the more formal grammar lessons someday, lest you should think that I just don’t care about grammar at all, but, with several children to teach I have chosen to put off some of the more detailed lessons until more of the children are old enough to grasp them.

I was even more surprised after I read the poem. I thought that it was fairly good for a first venture. So, for anyone who is interested, here are the verses.

The Apple and the Blueberry
by Andrew H. Meng

How do you do Mr. Blueberry, Mr. Blueberry
How do you do in these days?
How do you do when the fruit grows ripe and
the harvest is near?
How do you do when the river is clear and
the garden is fair?

I do very well Mr. Apple, Mr. Apple
I do very well in these days.
I do very well when the fruit grows ripe and
the harvest is near.
I do very well when the river is clear and
the garden is fair.

He was definitely paying attention when we read all of those nursery rhymes when he was little.

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Last year my mom passed on some nice decorative curtain brackets with all the requisite hardware, and I bought some coffee-colored curtains in hopes that we could block out some of the intense sunlight and heat coming through our bedroom during the day. I never got around to putting them up, and upon experiencing our first 80 degree day yesterday, I remembered this project. Problem is, I’ve never put up curtains, save for a very easy tension-rod setup in the kitchen. So I’m reading a tutorial and I think I’ve got it, except there’s one very tempting shortcut I wonder if I could get away with. There are already rather large holes someone before us used for installing their curtain brackets. I was planning to take the screws I have to Home Depot, get some plastic wall anchors that fit, and put them in the existing holes. But there is only one hole on each side of the windows, not two aligned vertically, as my how-to articles say I need and like my brackets allow for.

If I already had an awl (whatever that is) or a drill, I’d go ahead and make new holes for the wall anchors. But I don’t, and I was sorta hoping not to have to buy one. Can I get away with either a) letting the brackets rest on only one screw or b) using something else to create a hole in the wall? I’m thinking probably not. If it came to it I guess I could borrow a neighbor’s drill. . .

Post-Home Depot Update:

Good news and bad news. Bad news is, as always, I made the guys at Home Depot laugh. I mentioned how the previous renter’s holes in the wall were still there, and wondered if I could just scoot my drywall anchors in there? To which came chuckles, and something like “No way, and you should really spackle and —– them before long.” I forget what the second term was. I vaguely know what spackling is. Anyway, the GOOD news is that I got my drywall anchors, and I *don’t* need a drill to get them in! So I will make two new holes on each side of each window and hopefully have our curtains up today! Next project will be to find a nice duvet cover, because part of what made me wait so long to do this is the horrendous fact that our summer comforter is also dark brown. I like being reminded of coffee, and I like certain shades of brown, but moderation in everything. . .

Bill had to kill our rooster yesterday. He’s never had any problems with him, but Brownie and I did. Our rooster was a beautiful Buff Orpington and he didn’t like Brownie. She’s our favorite hen. She’s the only Speckled Sussex we have left now. Our other hens are New Hampshires and one is a Buff. Brownie was born with one crooked toe on each foot but she manages to walk and roost just fine. I read that a too cool incubation temperature can cause this deformity. She’s more of a loner than the other hens. I was hoping that Brownie might go broody and raise up a brood of chicks to hang out with, but she hasn’t so far.

Last fall, Rosy our dog and I were returning from a walk and walked past the rooster with his hens. We were all on a narrow road that leads back to our house and the hens were scratching around there. He must have felt threatened and thought I was going to hurt his hens . He came at me suddenly. I had to pick up a big stick to fend him off. My husband takes care of the chickens, so since he wasn’t used to me I didn’t blame the rooster too much for being protective.

The poor chickens have spent much of the winter confined to their small yard because we’ve had so much snow. Since it’s melted, they’ve enjoyed running free and finding bugs to eat and have been rewarding us with lots of eggs. I went up to the hen house the week before last to take some straw to the nest boxes and our rooster came running after me. I hit him enough to break two sticks on him but he still kept coming at me. I got a bigger one that wouldn’t break but he had given up the chase. I made a point of feeding him with Bill there the next day trying to make friends. I later went out to weed the strawberries but I took the broom along just in case. While I was weeding, he was scratching around with his hens seemingly minding his own business, then he’d come at me, flying like roosters do when they want to fight. I would stand my ground and hit him with the broom to fend him off, but he was determined and kept coming back for another attack, After several more times, I gave up and went inside fuming. I didn’t want to hit him hard enough to “teach him a lesson” and make him afraid of me. I read some good advice on the Homesteading forum. If you have a mean rooster, send him to freezer camp.

Last week he jumped on Brownie for no reason and left her head bald and bloody. Then after she had healed a bit and scabbed over he’d peck her head again . She was afraid to go in the hen house one night because he was on the other side of the door ready to attack her. Yesterday morning he went after her again and left her head a bloody mess. That was the last straw. He was in the Crock Pot that night.

So I’m starting another science project to incubate some eggs. I found out that the hens will still lay fertilized eggs for a week to ten days after being with a rooster. I made a homemade incubator from a Styrofoam cooler that came with Omaha Steaks we’d gotten as a gift. My incubator doesn’t have a fan or anything fancy and it loses a lot of heat whenever I open it up. I cut a window in the top and put a piece of glass in it so I can see the thermometer inside. I used a drop cord for the light, hanging it from the top and put in a 15 wt bulb. I placed a tomato sauce can inside the cooler to surround the light. I punched holes in the sides and top of the cooler for ventilation. There are two pyrex custard dishes with water inside to provide moisture. I’ve never done this before, but we did have broody hens at my parents farm. They made it look so easy. I hope that some will hatch. I’ve been testing it, poking bigger holes in it trying to get the temperature regulated. Tonight it’s staying close to 100 degrees, which is within the range I’m aiming for. If the temperature stays pretty constant tonight and tomorrow, I might put in some eggs tomorrow.
Brownie is now our happiest hen. Her wounds are healing. She’s been singing a lot today. Maybe we can raise up a nice rooster just for her.

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