Monday, December 19, 2011

Catching Mabel

Despite all my best efforts, sometimes the animals still get through the fence.  When a fifteen hundred pound jersey cow decides the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, not much is going to keep her in.  So when Mabel decided she wanted a night out with the girls (the neighboring rancher's cows), she just plowed right over the fence.  Luckily, my neighbor, being a  neighborly sort of person, called me and asked if I had a cow and informed me that she was out with his cows.  I searched my entire property and no Mabel.  So I drove over to where he said he saw her, but no Mabel.  I stopped the car and got out and walked the area, finding no trace of her.  I shook the can of 4way grain that I had with me.  Still no luck.  I listened hard, but it was so windy I couldn't even hear the sound of the jeep's engine fifty feet away from me.  Night was  coming on, so I drove around the area in a two mile radius, but no Mabel.  With heavy heart, I went home.  Maybe I could find her in the morning, just past dawn, before the wind came up again.  I prayed she would stay put with my neighbor's cows and not go wandering off with a range herd.  I might never see her again.

After a fitful sleep, I got up and brewed some coffee, gathering lead ropes, halter, grain buckets and some muffins for breakfast.  As soon as the sun peeked over the hills, I got the boy up and threw his clothes over his jammies.  No wind yet, so once again we started with the "point last seen", and there she was, big as a dairy cow, grazing in the middle of my neighbor's field.  I shook the grain bucket and called her name and Marvelous Mabel, who can hear two oat groats rubbing against each other ten acres away and come running, TURNED HER BACK ON ME!!  I walked up to her and hooked up the lead rope and showed her the bucket.  She obligingly stuck her snout in and came up with a mouthful of grain.  I got back into the jeep, holding the lead rope, and coaxed her this way, all the way out to the road, at which point she jerked away from me and ran back across the field into the trees.

Resigned to my fate, I locked up the jeep, got the grain bucket, an extra satchel of grain and the milking halter and hoofed it after her, my son following with an extra lead rope and yet another satchel of grain.  It didn't take long for us to catch up to Mabel and her friends.  The friends ran and hid, but Mabel came for the grain. I slipped the milking halter over her head, with its training chain, and let her get a couple mouthfuls of 4way.  Then we began the one mile trek home.  Mabel only tried to sneak away twice, but the training chain gave her a gentle reminder to stay on course.  Thankfully, it was not as slow-going as I thought it would be, and we got Mabel back into the barn without further incident.  After a ten minute break and some refreshment, we headed back for the jeep.  Without Mabel in tow, the hike was much shorter, and we were back home in time to wash up and go to church.  Lessons learned?  Always keep your cows bred.  Do not let a cow in heat out to graze - especially if your fence needs reinforcing!  Check your fence lines regularly and repair!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Reports

This year we are learning how to do book reports.  Now that third grade homesteader can read quite well, he    can pick out some of his own books at the library.  After our friend and former librarian gave him "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", there has been no stopping him.  Thank you for the genius of Jeff Kinney, in writing his series of graphic novels for elementary age boys.  My older sons did not start reading for pleasure until they were ages 10 and 12, respectively.  And what got them going?  Harry Potter, and Goosebumps.  Never underestimate the power of children's literature.  

Our lesson plans from Catholic Heritage Curriculum provide 3 basic formats to use for book reports - written, oral and hands-on.  For starters we are using the fill-in-the-blank form provided for a beginner's written report.  By the end of the year, the goal is to have him use the decorative lined papers and completely write out his entire report, including narrative detail (why not shoot for the stars?!).  

The oral report format also has simple guidelines for my beginner, with the goal of a dramatic presentation or speech by year's end (no problem there).

The hands-on report format is the most loosely structured, and potentially most creative.  Students are encouraged to use their imagination in creating a project which will tell the story or a part of the story in their chosen book.  Suggestions are:  make a shadow box, a model of part of the story, a storyboard, illustrated story book for a younger sibling or friend, puppet show, etc.  (This could be really fun!!)

I like the variety of choices for book reports that Catholic Heritage Curriculum offers to my 8 year old son.  I see each format helping him to hone his communication skills, written and verbal, in practical ways.  At the same time, he is encouraged to focus on what he is reading, in order to retain the content and relay it to his audience - his family.