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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A rodent saga - a tail from last summer.

I found this post unpublished when I was going through the archives.  It is too good of a story NOT to tell, and it gives you a very good picture of what my life can sometimes be like here at Goodness Grows Farm.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, Erik always seems to come out on top in situations, and I always seem to get the short end of the stick.  The sad part is that prior to meeting Erik, I was always of the "glass half empty" attitude.  Life with him, while maybe hasn't completely made me a "glass half full" kind of girl, I'm definitely moved to a "glass 1/4 full" attitude.  

A perfect example of why I'm not a total optimist can be read below.  After reading it, I think I will have to post a couple other stories about my mishaps here at Goodness Grows Farm.  One involves living with a well - stay tuned for that one!

June 2008:
Many of you are aware that we have had a terrible problem with a specific rodent. I'm not going to name the specific species in case there are lovers of that animal, or PETA, or even the PA Game Commission in my audience. This animal species is making a HUGE mess in my attic - scattering insulation and their waste all over my storage containers. Everytime we would enter the attic, we would see these animals scurry around. It freaked me out and I would not go in the attic without Erik. This was somewhat a problem as I was needing to get up there and sort through clothing for the kids. I attempted to go up there myself one day and 4 of them crawled over my head on the ridge!

That was the last straw so I made Erik put two large rat traps up there. I knew there was at least 4 of them up there but never expected the results we had! We ended up trapping 11 in our traps! This brings our total to 12 - but let me tell you about the 12th one!

It was a Friday night. We had gotten home from supper at Bill & Shelly's. We were having a special evening with Aunt Cathie (Bill's sister from Seattle) and Jim McKinnis & his family. We had a lovely visit, the children all got along well and we had gotten our brood to bed. Erik & I were watching TV when Erik sprang out of his recliner and yelled, "I just saw a rodent!" I thought he was joking (I have long suspected they have traveled the house through the chimney, but had only one instance where it was evident). He jumped up and tried to chase it but it escaped into our laundry room. After a few minutes, Erik came out and said I was going to have to help him.

To give you a visual, our laundry/bath is small. To the right is Erik's toilet & shower, to the left is the washer & dryer in between is the walkway to the back door. Oh, did I mention that there is also tons & tons of laundry!

I made Erik wait while I located and put on sweatpants, t-shirt and his old crocs.  We head into the laundry room, brooms in hand.  The rodent is behind the toilet, Erik begins moving things and it jumps - nay, it FLIES across the room onto and behind the washing machine.  We move the washer and dryer and it crawls up the wall, across the ceiling and down the other side to hide behind the toilet again.  We re-dig the toilet out because at this point, we had moved all the dirty laundry, washer and dryer over to the toilet side of the room.  At some point, we even brought our Australian Shepherd, Maverick, into the room because he is great at catching moles, mice and rats, but the room was too small and cluttered for him to be effective.  He basically laid down on the floor and whined because he couldn't get at his prey.

Our laundry/mud/bathroom is only about 8 feet wide and only 6 feet deep?  Between the toilet and the washer there is only about 4 feet of space - we are basically sliding things back and forth to no avail.  We repeat this process several times, almost catching the dratted rodent.  On our next to last attempt, Erik almost catches it by covering his hand in a plastic grocery bag and reaching into the corner to grab it.  He is closing is fingers around it when WHOOSH - it takes off again, jumping over the dryer, flying towards my face and RUNS ACROSS MY FOOT! I scream as I see the furry creature heading towards my face and I jerk my body as I feel furry feet and small claws poke through the holes in the Crocs I am wearing.  As I jerk,  I slide out of the Croc, twisting my left foot.  At the time I thought I had hurt my ankle - I had heard a crack, felt some pain, but adrenaline must have taken over because I then grabbed the broom, found the rodent hiding in the corner behind the toilet and like a starving contestant on Survivor, my instincts took over because I speared that little rodent with my broom.  

Erik yells, "Did you get it? Did you get it?  Jennie!  Quit!  You are getting blood on my baseboard!"

Like any great hero after a bloody and long battle, I threw down my broom and limped out of the mud/laundry/bathroom into the family room to rest and tend to my wounds.    I left my trusty sidekick to clean up the stinkin' mess we made, not only with the rodent, but all of the appliances and laundry.

I started to feel my foot throbbing - it was pretty sore, but nothing I really felt anxious about.  Out of the blue, I recounted a story to Erik about a time when my childhood best friend, Keely, was visiting me one summer at my Seven Fields townhouse, and we had taken a walk.  We were going through the neighborhood and I had slipped off the edge of a sidewalk and hurt my foot.  At the time I thought nothing of it, we finished our walk, got gussied up and went out for dinner, and as I stood up after dinner to walk to the car, I could barely put weight on my foot.  Poor petite little Keely had to let me use her as a crutch as we made our way out to the car and back to my townhouse.  I crawled up the steps to the first floor, and onto the loveseat.  Keely, a chiropractor, felt my foot and said it was too swollen for her to figure out what was wrong, so she made me soak my foot in an ice bath.  I am a horrible patient, and I think Keely may have been ready to smack me in the head with the ice bucket if I asked her one more time, "Do you think I should go to the ER?"  Then crying, "I don't want to go the ER!"  The ice bath was possibly the worst experience of my life.  I had to submerge my foot in a bucket full of ice water on and off all night long.  In the morning, the foot was sore, but I could walk easily on it and there seemed to be no lasting damage.  But I never forgot that ice bath.  

It was almost like that recalling that story was a premonition.  Erik and I finally made it up to bed that night and I fell asleep pretty easily.  About an hour into my sleep, I started having weird dreams.  Then, I started getting cold (mind you, it was a HOT summer night) and restless.  I tried getting up to go to the bathroom and as I stepped down onto the floor, I knew right away that if I put weight on my foot, I would die!

Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I couldn't put weight on my foot.  I crawled on my hands and knees into the bathroom, splashed myself with cold water and took a look at my foot - the same foot I had injured in my youth in the story that I had recounted to Erik earlier that night. It was swollen, but I couldn't really see anything else wrong with it.  I thought, I'll just go back to bed and sleep it off.  Well, after that, my foot throbbed in pain.  I couldn't sleep and all of a sudden, I was shivering so much I was shaking.  I added a fleece robe to my summer pajamas and pulled the comforter up over me.  Still no warmth.  I would fall asleep slightly and have crazy dreams and wake up, still shivering.  Finally, when my teeth were literally chattering, I woke Erik.  Erik is one of the fortunate souls that once he is asleep, he wakes for nothing.  He was a little groggy and didn't understand what was going on - I think he may have mumbled something about wearing warmer clothes to bed and turning off the AC unit in the window, but I smacked him awake by telling him I thought I may need to go to the ER because that rodent had broken my foot.  He said, "Calm down.  We're farm people and we don't go to no ER for a painin' foot.  Suck it up, Buttercup!  You're a farmer's wife now!"  

So, he really didn't say that.  Instead, I told him of my foot pain and the shivering and while not exactly super empathetic, he came with me downstairs to help me.  He did even offer to take me to the ER if that's what I thought I needed, but I told him "let's wait."   I slid down the steps on my butt (relieved that we hadn't carpeted the steps).  Erik asked what I thought I needed, I told him some Tylenol, a drink, and gulp an ICE BATH for my foot.  I dunked my foot into that ice bath all night long. Ten minutes in, 20 minutes out.   It was the second worst experience of my life.  Even worse than going through natural child birth TWICE.  Childbirth was nothing compared to forcing yourself to put your foot in FREEZING cold water and keeping it submerged.  It was complete torture.  I subjected myself to it as long as I could through the night and eventually, my chills and chattering subsided and I was able to sleep.  The next morning, my foot was sore, it was still difficult to walk on it, but it was much, much better.

So, what exactly is the moral of this story? 

Call an licensed and trained professional to take care of any rodent problem you may be experiencing.  And if you can't afford one - I am available.  I am not licensed or "trained", but as you can see, I'm highly efficient and I get results.  

Especially if threatened with the consequence of an ice bath.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First day at Nana's

We left Butler today for a visit to my hometown of Curwensville. Erik took Walker & Maggie to work with him again today and then we met up at Walker's favorite restaurant, Pizza Hut, and ate lunch together then loaded up the kids for the 2 hour drive. Maggie fell asleep almost instantly but Walker spent the two hours coloring and asking me every two minutes "are we almost to Nana's?" For some reason I decided to take a different exit this time and as we drove through the mountains near Rockton, the Mountain Laurel was in full bloom. It is just amazing to see - as far as you can see through the forest it is beautiful pink Mountain Laurel. I'd forgotten how plentiful it is here. I wish we could plant it at our place, but I"m sure that since it is a member of the Rhododendron family, it is toxic to our goats. Bummer.

We visited with my mom & sister most of the evening and went to my Uncle David's to jump on the trampoline. Walker loved it and was very daring - Maggie wasn't sure about it and made me sit with her on it while Walker jumped. She kept giggling that forceful giggle of "I think I might like this but I'm also scared and I don't know whether to laugh or cry!"

I got everyone bathed and to bed and just went to check on them and Maggie May is still awake. As proud of the fact we are that Maggie is our best at going to bed, we may have set ourselves up for failure b/c she has a super hard time falling asleep outside of her room.

Hopefully everyone will have a good night's sleep. I know I'm going to need it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A typical morning

, originally uploaded by Jenniferschwalm.

This is how we typically spend our mornings. I try to get some stuff done upstairs (or sleep in a little extra) while they watch PBS - Curious George or Clifford. Walker usually is the one watching, Maggie & Will usually play with toys on the bed.

Today was a rough day. I had trouble falling asleep last night - probably too much iced tea and the fact that sometimes my mind doesn't want to shut down for bed. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a "thump" then pitter patter of tiny feet and the click click of the door handle being twisted. Maggie May had climbed out of bed and was heading to ours. I intercepted her at the door and whispered, "Maggie, big girls sleep in their bedrooms by themselves." Maggie prides herself on being a "big gurl" (she changes the vowel sound when she says girl) and I knew she would respond well to hearing what is expected of a big girl. She settled back in easily and as I tried to quietly slide into bed, I saw our little ground hog poke his head up over the crib rail.

I haven't had the inclination to move Will over to share with Walker even though Maggie was sharing with Walker by 6 months. Will has only been a difficult baby in the sleep area. He is very attached to nursing and I struggled to get him to sleep through the night. We were doing so well, then recently, maybe partly to his recent change of eating habits, he has started waking in the middle of the night. I wonder if it is also partly due to sharing with us and hearing our movements - Erik's snoring - at night and waking up. He had one of those nights last night and I tried to nurse him back to sleep but he kept waking up. So in desperation for sleep, at 2:30 in the morning, I took Will for a six mile drive through Jefferson Township. I saw TONS of raccoons and even a few white tailed deer. It was actually a very peaceful ride and when we got home I left Will in his infant carrier, set it on the floor and collapsed on the couch. It wouldn't have been such a big deal, but I had to be up at what I consider super early to help out a friend with something. I was afraid I wouldn't wake up in time, so I set the timer on the oven to go off - and it worked great!

I was unable to have the children with me today while I helped my friend so Erik took the older two to work with him. Around noon when I was finished, I called him to see if they wanted picked up from the job site and Maggie got on the phone and told me, "No, Momma, work wif dada. Mulch." Of course Walker had no interest in coming home - he really loves to work so I picked Will up from our dear neighbor, Donna's house, and we had the day to ourselves.

Will was making the most fabulous faces and noises today. He has discovered raspberries and loves to blow them on your neck or arm - mostly my shoulder since my summer attire usually consists of tank tops. He was so much fun. We sat on the floor and he crawled and climbed all over me. He has learned how to respond with the game, "How big are you?" and he lifts just one arm up, palm facing up to the sky and we respond, " Sooooo Big!" He laughs and giggles. He's so ticklish too - I love to "crawl" my fingers up his legs to his neck and give him a tickle. He squishes his neck into my hand and giggles so adorably. It's so amazing.

We moved Will into Walker's room tonight. Hopefully we will all get a peaceful nights sleep. I am planning on heading out to my moms house tomorrow afternoon during nap time and we're going to stay there through the weekend. It should be an interesting trip. We're celebrating my sister Erin's 26th birthday! Details to follow . . .

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mr. Independent

, originally uploaded by Jenniferschwalm.

Here's the photo I mentioned of Walker making his own PB & J. Sorry if you are offended by the fact that my children choose to run around most of the day in various states of undress. I promise I dress them appropriately every morning. Unfortunately, I am lucky if they are still in clothing by the time we get downstairs.

Yet another reason why we don't live on a cul-de-sac!

Today was a day! I came downstairs to a quiet house after putting away laundry and discover Maggie's little hair bands dumped all over the floor. Because they are hazardous to Will, I make the children come over to clean them up. I reach to pick up a handful and see a clump of hair. Somehow, Walker mysteriously got a chunk of hair cut from his head. He says Maggie did it, but she says, "No, no, no Momma, Maggie not do it."

I honestly do not know who to believe. Regardless, I now have to find somewhere to get Walker in for a haircut. Curly hair can hide a lot, but it's not a miracle cure! Walker does not like this idea because any time spent away from his daily schedule of play or working with dad is not his idea of fun. He asked me if I would cut it again. After his shower tonight, I did realize that if we comb his hair the right way, it will cover the fact it had been chopped.

Walker has recently started trying to lie in order to escape consequences. Maggie has been doing it since birth it seems. Is that a girl/boy thing or just their nature? Who to believe? I have to say, that I do lean towards believing the culprit was Maggie May. She has a fascination with scissors and cut her own hair on Saturday night. She saw me give Walker a hair cut a week ago and has been obsessed ever since. My fault. I need to learn that my children are very visual learners and when they see Erik or I do anything, if they think it is in their capabilities, they try to do it themselves. A positive and negative trait at the same time. I marvel at how smart they are and how inventive. I absolutely know my children are the type that if I put the cookie jar on top of the refrigerator, they will be the ones pulling out drawers, stacking chairs and whatever else they find to get to the top to get those cookies. I'll be lucky if they don't put me in an early grave.

It won't be long before Will is following in their footsteps either. He's already motoring around the house like a champ. In fact, I'm a little worried because just a few minutes ago, he managed to push himself into an A-frame position with his bum in the air and hands and feet planted on the floor. Isn't that a sign of a beginner walker? Will is also talking a lot more now too. He is sitting here telling me stories. He's got a gravelly voice so when he "talks" he sounds like an old man. Too cute.

Maggie held firm all day and completely denies ever touching Walker's hair. At least she's consistent, right. I hope that someday I'll manage to turn her perseverance to the forces of good rather than "evil." I've said from the start with her that I've got my hands full - it is becoming more and more apparent every day. The dilemma is that she is stubborn, obstinate and conniving, yet, she is also sweet, loving and forgiving. She adores her brothers - she calls Walker "brubby" and affectionately calls her baby brother, "Willie James." She has an adorable little lisp so when she says "Willie James" it sounds like, "Wiyee Dames." How can I resist that?

Walker is really starting to turn into a boy rather than a "little" boy. You can see on his face the way he is problem solving - he still sticks out his tongue just a bit in the corner when he has a problem to solve. He's also getting an independent streak. He wants to do things by himself. If you visit my Flickr page (see link on the left) somewhere in that album is a picture of him and Maggie in the kitchen and he is making PB&J sandwiches for the both of them. He was so proud that he could make it himself. He's got the sweetest nature for the most part, but he does not like to be controlled. I can relate to that a lot.

I really love seeing their personalities develop and grow right before my eyes. How amazing! I hope that through this journal you all will get a feel for how they are growing too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our new playhouse

, originally uploaded by Jenniferschwalm.

Mimi found this playhouse at an Amish benefit Auction near Fredonia on Saturday. It was a steal according to several of the bidders at the auction. We're thankful that the auction benefitted an Amish school. If you are ever looking for something like this, wooden furniture or farm supplies, call my mother-in-law and ask her to watch for it at one of those auctions. She goes almost every weekend and she finds great deals! Tell her how much you are willing to spend on something and she'll try to get it for you! Thanks Mimi!

The Playhouse arrives!

I suppose it's silly to blog again on the same day, but we had an exciting evening - Erik & his dad managed to get the playhouse off the trailer - with much difficulty and MacGuyver like skill from Erik, and the children celebrated gleefully!

Erik managed to pull the playhouse up the steep bank and back it up to the general area of where I want the playhouse to permanently rest. Since his skid loader is still on a job site, Erik thought he would use the old pine tree as an anchor, then drive the trailer out from under the house. After a few moments, we realized this was not going to happen so he attempted several other counter-measures to no avail. Somehow though, Erik & Papa Ralph managed to get that playhouse off the trailer and now Walker and Maggie are thrilled. Walker cermoniously used the keys to unlock the front door and he & Maggie ran into the space touching the walls and making plans. Walker said he liked the smell of the wood - a trait he must have gotten from me - I love the smell of fresh cut wood - must be from my childhood and being at the Lumber Yard.

The playhouse came from an Amish auction and the seller threw in two hanging baskets for the front porch and Maggie & Walker couldn't wait to water their flowers. They are so cute at how thrilled they are over the playhouse and the possibilities it brings to our yard. I am thrilled that we now have an outdoor space to store the extra stuff in the winter, but most of all I am excited to watch them play in their playhouse the way my sisters and I did in ours over 25 years ago. I suppose playing "Little House on The Prairie" is out, but I'm sure they will come up with fun and imaginative things to play on their own.

Well, I'm off to hide the keys to the playhouse - Walker is a little too excited about the locking door and I'm a little afraid of what might happen if he gets his hands on them.



I've been reading other blogs lately and decided it was really something I should do to keep family and friends outside of our little 40 acres updated on our lives. I also thought it would be a great way to journal our life here at Goodness Grows Farm - you know - something to show the kiddos someday. Let the adventures begin!

It's Father's day here and Erik & the "big" children are out at the goat barn. One of our nanny goats we've affectionately named "Tank" keeps escaping. Erik is stumped at how she is escaping. I just think she is pushing against the gate hard enough to squeeze through. Goats must be like cats in that if they can fit their head through an opening, their entire body will fit through it. It is a riduculously annoying feature.

What's new around here? Not much. Summer is in full swing now - Erik is busy with the landscaping and the farm. I am busy keeping the children busy - I must remember to be sure to use two different terms - "children" will describe our human children and "kid" will refer to our goat babies. Forgive me if I forget to use the distinctions - I will rely on your common sense to differentiate between the two should I forget.

Anyhoo - it has been very hot & humid the last week - humid to a distraction! Friday (the 13th) we went to the local water hole to swim. Of course, true to my luck, we were there only an hour when the skies opened up and started raining. The nice lady refunded our money so we would come back. The children LOVE the kiddie pool they have. It is really a lovely pool for us to go to. Today is much less humid after yesterdays downpours.

Yesterday was an exciting day for us - Mimi found a playhouse for the children at an Amish auction and Erik borrowed a large trailer and went North to pick it up. It is still on the trailer now waiting for the ground to dry up so we can attempt to put it where I want it. Of course, I can't just pick a nice easy place - Erik will have to use the skid loader to haul it up the hill to the "play area" that we have created just outside of the sunroom. Walker was so excited. He drove up with his dad to get it and came back to town with Mimi and told me excitedly, "And it even has a lock on the door!" He's very into locks and creating privacy. He's started banning Maggie May from his room. I think it is more about the pleasure he gets from banning her, hearing her cry, then he generously allows her entrance into his room. Of course, Drama Queen Maggie can't let a minute go by without having some attention from her "brubby."

Little Willie J has started crawling and is ALL OVER THE PLACE!!! In fact, he is stuck under my chair now. And he is whimpering which indicates he is ready to eat and take a nap. Which means this first blog is done. Yay!