Category Archives: Animal Science

Dan Nicholas Park

                                          Family Adventure During Christmas Break

I am still recovering from an emergency C section.  But six weeks being stuck in the house is all I can take.  The doctor told me not to drive, not to lift, and to have very limited activity for six weeks to allow my incisions to heal.  I am feeling stronger with each passing day, though severely sleep deprived with a newborn.  I have been out only a couple of times since our baby was born, and sitting inside all this time  is enough to drive me crazy!  

I really wanted to get out and see something special during the Christmas Break.  The company my husband works for shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Years Day, and it is so nice to have him home with us and spend extra quality time around these two holidays as a family.   

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to learn about natural science and history through hands on exploration of the world we live in.  This turns into fun family adventures exploring places all around us.  So yesterday, we went 0n a little day trip to explore the Charlotte, NC area with our children.  Let me tell you the truth: two and a half hours, one way, is a long drive with a van full of kids ages 6 weeks, 3 , 4, 6, 9, and 11.   Whew!  But we survived, we explored, we had fun, and the drive was worth it.


We drove to High Rock Lake in Salisbury, just east of Charlotte.   High Rock Lake is a 15,000 acre reservior of water located on the Yadkin River.  We just got a glimpse of the lake though, because we spent all of our time at an amazing place near the lake called Dan Nicholas Park. 

Dan Nicholas Park hosts accommodations that cover 450 acres.   What a family fun place to visit!   There is so much to see and do, you can easily spend a whole day or a whole week enjoying this place.   This is a great place to visit for a family, homeschool, field trips, and just  fun educational adventures!

Plan to spend at least several hours enjoying this family friendly place.   There is plenty of parking, paved walking paths, clean bathrooms, and concessions.  There is an 80 site camp ground that is open year around, if you want to plan to stay overnight or longer.  The camp ground has tent space, RV space, and cabins.  There are full accommodations and a nice lake to enjoy.  You can read here , and also read here about their campground.   
There are both “free” and “not free” things to do at this park.  If you want to do several things on your visit, you can buy a multi pass and save a few bucks too.  However, several things are seasonal, such as the train and carousel rides and the water plaza, so be sure to check with the park for dates and times. 

FREE Activity

Play on the playgrounds 

Trees to climb

Tennis Courts
Volley Ball courts
Nature Center 

Water Plaza (wading and fun spraying)
Picnic Areas

NOT FREE Activity

Petting Zoo $1
Train Ride $1
Carousel Ride $1
Fishing $1 for resident $2 for non-resident
Paddle Boats $
Miniature Golf $2
Gem Mine $7
Rowan Wildlife Adventures Zoo $0.50 for kids 10 and under, $1 for anyone over age 10
        At the zoo we enjoyed seeing and learning about 
        Eagles, Black Bears, Red Wolves, Bob Cats, White Tailed Deer, Raccoons, 
        Various species of  Hawks, Owls, Wild Turkeys, and more…

Several pictures I took at the zoo did not turn out.  I was carrying the baby, and taking pictures with one hand and holding the baby with the other, and several of my pictures blurred.  I won’t torture you with posting too many fuzzy pictures, but the experience was really nice anyway.  Also, the zoo encourages the public to come during feeding times and they offer special learning programs too.

Because of the winter season, some attractions were closed, and we did not have enough time to enjoy all the ones that were open.  Things we did at the park on this trip were: play on the playgrounds, climb trees, go for a walk, Wildlife Adventures Zoo,
and the Nature Center.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying Dan Nicholas Park and we will definitely plan a future trip to explore more.   We also plan to go back and explore High Rock Lake and several little towns around it.  

Lots more learning and family adventures await!

This post will be linked up with
 No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
Raising Homemakers
ABC and 123

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NC Mountain State Fair Turkey Show

The kids worked really hard to care for their turkeys and present them in the NC Mountain State Fair this year.  I was really proud of them and all they learned.  They worked together as a team doing chores, and raised eight turkeys from day old poults.  They learned about animal science, business and marketing, responsibility, and lots of hard work in the process. 

If you would like to see some of what they did to raise their birds and get ready for the fair, please read here .  If you want to see how they learned about showmanship and how to show their birds you can read here .   You can find all our 4H related stories here .   

There were five rounds of hens shown, and five rounds of toms shown in the Youth Market Turkey Show.  For each round of judging, 10 kids with 10 similar weight turkeys would enter the judging ring, so that is about 50 hens, and 50 toms, were shown in the show.  Each kid was expected to show a hen and a tom in the show.

From getting the birds to the show, setting up their pens, waiting for the show to start, and showing the birds, it was an all day event.  We started around 8 in the morning, and finished around 5 in the evening. 


You enter the ring with your turkey and sit on a hay bale.  You are supposed to hold your turkey by the legs until the judge comes over to you.  Your position around the ring is based on the weight of your bird, with the lightest at the beginning and the heaviest in each round at the end.

The judge looked over the health and presentation of each bird (feathers, feet, head, eyes, breast, etc.), ask the kids questions about the bird (breed, age), and how they raised it (type of pen, feed, exercise, etc.), and feel its breast and legs. After comparing all the birds in the round, he would score the birds (first, second, third, and so on).  If you took first place in one of the rounds, you would have the chance to compete for the Grand Champion spot in the last round.

Our 11 year old son took second place with his hen turkey.

Our eight year old son placed 7th with his hen turkey.

Our six year old son took 6th place with his hen turkey.

The hen turkey my younger son showed was pretty calm for him in the show ring.  But the tom was a different story. 

Here, my six year old son is showing his tom and was scared and trying not to cry as his turkey was kicking his legs and trying to escape during the judging.  He could barely hold his strong legs and was afraid of his sharp claws.  Dad had gotten a deep cut on his hand from the claws just minutes before the tom show started, it bled badly and was painful, and this really scared him. For the hen show, the judging team allowed the parents to sit close by and help the youngest kids hold the bird if needed.  But for the tom show, they asked the parents to let the kids show the birds on their own, rather than have the parents help hold the birds.  He was just petrified.  Dad was worried about him to, given the wound that had just occurred and knowing how strong and dangerous a tom turkey can be.

After the judge checked the tom over, they allowed the him to let the turkey stand while the judge made his decisions. (several of the younger kids were allowed to let their birds stand).

My eight year old was not a bit afraid, and held the tom turkey’s legs with one hand while the judge was finishing up at this point.

All three of the boys and their tom turkeys did well. 

The six year old took 6th place with his tom, the eight year old took 3rd place with his tom, and the eleven year old took 7th place with his tom.  Sorry I don’t have a picture of them holding their toms with their ribbons, but as the day went on, it became more difficult to get pictures because the room was full of dust making it hard for the camera to get a good photo, and my toddlers were out of patience.  Many times I just sat the camera down and missed some photo opportunities.

All of our turkeys were donated to the Mana Food Bank following the show.  The birds will go to feed the hungry for Thanksgiving meals.

The kids who won Grand Champion and Reserve Champion received really nice prizes.
The winning Grand Prize Hen received an $800 cash prize and the runner up a $400 cash prize.
The winning Grand Prize Tom received an $800 cash prize and the runner up a $400 cash prize.

That is a great thing about participating in programs like this, if you win the top spot, you also win a nice cash prize you can set aside to help with college, or future endeavors. 

Though this is our first year, and we did not win any top spots, there is always the chance to try again next year.  Many of the kids in this program have shown for several years to reach these goals of Grand Champion.  With lots of hard work and tweaking your methods of raising your birds, you just might place in the top spot someday.  It is a worth while goal, and a great program for kids.

This post will be linked with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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Bye Bye Bunny

            Saying Goodbye To A Pet

Saying “Goodbye” to a beloved pet can be a difficult for children.  Depending on the circumstances, whether the pet is given away or dies suddenly, children can have a range of responses.  But parents can help the process of grieving and acceptance go easier for the child.  

We have given away, and sold, many animals in the past.  We used to live on a farm, and though we had lots of animals, some of them in particular were “extra special”.  If an animal died suddenly, it was hard for the children, and for us parents, to deal with.   Also, the children would always become quite attached to our bottle fed goats, calves, our horse, our dog, kittens, our beloved turkey, and special favorite chickens.  Selling them or giving them away was a sad time for everyone.   It has been 3 years since we said goodbye to our farm animals, and though the children have moved on for the most part, our whole family still grieves the loss from time to time.

We currently have dogs and a bunny rabbit.  Having a pet to care for is a really good experience for the whole family.  It teaches many life skills.  It teaches responsibility.  It also helps with character development.  There is a lot about animal science, and life in general, that children can learn when it is hands on, and observations are daily and more real to everyday life. Having a pet to care for daily really helps children understand this much better. 

About six months ago, we sold a year old puppy dog to someone who just happened by and asked if we would sell one of our dogs.   The kids did not have time to process what was happening, and after the puppy was gone, it was very sad for the children.  They grieved for weeks.  In many ways it brought back the pain of saying goodbye to their animals on the farm.  It was hardest on our oldest son, and for several days, he cried quite often over it.  For the past year, he had walked the dog twice a day, fed it, watered it, and taught it to play fetch.  It was special to him, and somewhere along the way it became “his” dog.  Even though we kept in touch with the new dog owner, and got several updates on how the dog adjusted to his new family, it was still hard for my son to move beyond his grief. 

I realized I did not handle this situation as well as I could have.  I did not prepare the children for the emotions they would feel and go through.  This sale happened fairly suddenly for him, even though they knew all along that we would sell the puppies, they had become attached and loved their dear pets, and needed more time to know who was buying the dog and have a chance to say goodbye ahead of time.  So learning from experience, I decided I would go slower if we sold more puppies, and I would try to help the children process their feelings and information as much as they can ahead of time.

Our family recently made the decision to give away a beloved pet, our bunny rabbit.  This could have been traumatic for the kids.  Thank God for time, and for learning from past experiences.  It went much better than when we sold the puppy dog.  

We decided to give away our bunny rabbit for several reasons.   First, we only had a small cage for the bunny rabbit.  We kept it in the living room.  And being in the living room, he was right in the middle of life everyday.  The kids observed his habits, how he ate, drank, slept, pottied, etc. daily.  The observed his feet, his movements, his curiosity, etc. daily too.  He was a daily companion and soft and cuddly to pet his fur.

He was well cared for.  They fed and watered him everyday. 

He often needed his small cage cleaned, or it would make the living room smell unpleasant. (I am pregnant and the smell would sometimes just make me avoid the living room altogether, though it did not seem to bother the others).

When it was time to clean his cage, we would take him outside and let him hop around in a small dog fence.  The kids would take turns getting in the pen with him and petting him.  Then we would wash out his cage and re-bed it with new bedding, and bring it back inside. 

Overtime, we came to the conclusion that we should find a new home for the bunny for several reasons.  The cost of caring for the bunny, buying a constant supply of feed, hay, rabbit chews, and new bedding, was something we decided was not in our budget.  Another factor for our decision was the small cage it lived in.  We had hoped to buy or build the bunny a larger cage, and be able to keep the bunny outside, but that did not happen and we did not see it happening anytime soon.

Another local homeschool family was looking for a bunny rabbit to give their son for his birthday.  They already had a huge multi-story pen outdoors just waiting for the right bunny to call it home.  Their son is a teenager and wanted to raise rabbits.  This seemed like a good place for our bunny to go and live and make another child, actually several children in their family, a good pet.  


We discussed this with our kids for about two weeks while the other family processed also whether or not they wanted our bunny.  When they made their decision that they wanted this rabbit for sure, our children were well informed of what was going to take place and had plenty of time to process the information. 

On the day the other family was to pick up the rabbit, we took him outside and placed him in the small dog pen in the grass.  Each of the children took turns climbing in the pen with him and holding him, petting him, and saying goodbye.  No one was rushed.  It was a slow process and the kids could take as long as they needed.   Even three of our neighbor kids came over to say goodbye too.

Finally, when they were ready, they came out of
the pen and played with their neighbor friends until the other family arrived to take the rabbit home with them. 

They said goodbye one more time, and it was over.  They had time to process their emotions, and though it was sad, there were no surprises.  Acceptance came much easier this time.

“Bye Bye Bunny.”

How do you help your child say goodbye to a beloved pet?  Leave a comment below, thank you.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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Animal Care With 4H Turkeys

Three of our five kids are showing turkeys in the WNC Mountain State Fair this year.  This is a little introduction to what they have been learning caring for their birds.

Some wonderful folks in the Banyard Bandits 4H club are sharing their pens with us.  We currently live in a subdivision and cannot keep farm animals.   When we lived on the farm, we had large pens out on pasture where are animals were able to have free range grass and insects.  But now we live in a subdivision and we don’t have the resources we once had.  We are so thankful the 4H club offers this as it has allowed our kids to participate in raising animals without having to have the full resources and responsibilities of having a farm.

My 8 year old son wishes the turkeys could stay babies forever because they are much calmer and easier to hold than the grown turkeys.  I am sure he feels this way about lots of animals: puppies, cats, etc.  Animals do seem cuter when they are babies.

Each of the children learned how to pick up and carefully hold the baby turkeys.

Next, they learned about daily care of the birds.  The birds need a clean and safe pen to live in.   They need it clean to prevent disease, and they need it safe to prevent predators from killing and eating them.

The kids have their birds in four pens.  Each pen is made of concrete and is open with wire fencing on two sides, the top and the front.  The birds have a heat lamp to keep them warm while they are little, and a roost to get them up off the ground.  They have a natural instinct to want to roost up off the ground at night.

Here the children are removing the soiled wood shavings the birds have pooped on.

Once they get the pen cleaned, they apply new clean wood shavings to the floor.  The pens need cleaned and re-bedded about once a week.

Each day the waterers need removed and cleaned.  The waterers will grow algae if not kept clean and this can make the birds sick.

This is one of my favorite photos.  My 6 year old son’s arms were not long enough to reach deep into the bag without his head and neck going in to the bag also.   He was really proud of learning to do a good job and fill the feeders carefully without spilling the feed.

Each feeder is cleaned and re-filled each day.  Sometimes if they are not too dirty, just a few shavings may need removed and then you can re-use any feed left.  Other times, if the feed is unsalvageable, then you need to dump what is left and re-fill the feeders.  These red feeders were used when the birds were small, but once they were big, the feeders were changed to feeder on the wall that doesn’t get dirty.

Many days the kids worked together as a team to accomplish the chores. 

Even the younger two children have been able to participate.  I love this!  I don’t want any of the children to be left out, and I want all of them to learn things together. 

The younger children often work as a team too on the job that fits their abilities.  They think they have the greatest job anyway of re-filling the waterers.  I think they are right.

No job is too big or too small.  Here the youngest is learning how to open and close the gate while the older ones go in and out.

The birds are more of a challenge to hold as they get bigger.  Here the four year old is seeing just how much the birds have grown and how much heavier they are.  She needs dad’s help to hold the weight of the birds as they get bigger.

The 11 year old is always holding a bird.  He was like this when we lived on the farm too.  He would hold chickens, sheep, and goats all day if you let him.  Even though it has been three years since we left the farm, it seems to be a deep rooted part of him to nurture and care for animals.

The turkeys keep getting bigger and bigger everyday.

It is only a month longer until the kids will show their turkeys in the WNC Mountain State Fair.  They are so excited and learning
so much about responsibility, animal science and husbandry, and working together.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to do a turkey unit study with the kids and learn more about animal husbandry to expand on their learning.  They will also make a 4H project record book of their learning experience.

The kids are really looking forward to showing their animals in the fair.  In addition to the turkeys, the oldest son is also showing a goat.  He has been hard at work with dad going to the goat workshops and learning all he can.  The rest of the family has not gone with them to this and I don’t have any pictures of the him with the goats to share with you at this time.  Perhaps I can convince dad to take the camera along to the workshop tonight and capture some photos of what our son is learning.

Be sure to check out all of our 4H learning adventures listed here .

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers

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Showmanship Clinic with 4H

Today our family attended the 4H Showmanship Clinic at the WNC Ag Center. 

Check in started around 8:15 am and the clinic began around 9am.   


The show room is set up in a U shape.  At the top of the U the animals are brought in from various holding stalls from another area.  The children can walk the animals being shown around the U shaped ring.  There are bleachers all around that also are in the shape of the U so everyone can see what is happening in the show ring.

The kids were really excited to see many of our homeschool friends who are also in 4H.

As more friends arrived, they were filled with excitement and anticipation about what was going to happen in the show ring. 

The kids spent the morning learning from experienced 4H’ers the proper way to:
clean and groom the animal before the show (what type of soap, oils, vaseline, sprays, water temp, frequency to bath, paper towels, electric trimmers, feet trimmers, etc.),  things to know about the animals such as breed, birthday, sex, standards, body parts, feed components and percentages of fat, fiber and protein, proper raising practices, vaccinations,  how to handle the animal in the show ring (where to place their legs, how to hold their head, how to walk and lead them, or drive them, how to face the judge and keep the animal between you and the judge at all times), etc.

First the children learned about showing sheep.

They learned how to get the sheep up onto a grooming stand and what equipment is used to prepare the animal for the show.

Next they learned about showing dairy cows.  This is a Brown Swiss dairy cow (but it is smokey grey not brown).

We used to raise Jersey dairy cows as well as beef cattle on our farm in Indiana.  A Jersey looks very similar to this Brown Swiss breed except that the Jersey is brown and a little smaller.

Next the kids learned about showing turkeys and chickens.   These turkeys are Bronze turkeys. 

We used to raise Bronze, Royal Palm, and Bourbon turkeys on our farm in Indiana. 

These turkeys still have a month of growing to do before they will be ready for the fair.  

Three of our kids are showing turkeys at the upcoming fair, and this turkey demonstration seemed the most exciting to me.  These young ladies doing the demonstration went through each item on the table that is needed to care for the birds. 

I have been around livestock shows and seen cows and goats washed and dried and their feet shined, etc.  But I never would have guessed you would put vaseline on birds legs to soften them, and baby oil on their beak and feet to make them shine.  Or use a hair dryer on the birds to dry and lightly fluff their feathers before the show.  I learned a lot of new information during this demonstration.

The girls giving the demonstration have been showing turkeys in the fair for 4 years and they worked very well with them.

They actually gave one of the birds a bath to show how to properly clean the bird and get it ready for the show.

They had three wash tubs set up.  One was for use with a clear natural soap, and the other two tubs were for rinsing the soap off the bird.

Then they dried the bird off with a towel.

Next, they demonstrated how to carry the bird upside down holding its legs and to stand holding the bird for the judge.  She would cross the birds legs and demonstrate how to turn the bird around too.

Finally, she showed the kids how to hold the bird while sitting down for the judge to observe the bird in this position.

The next animal to learn to show was the meat goat.  This is a Boer goat, a breed well known for its meat production. 

We used to raise Boer goats, Boer-Nubian crosses, as well as several pure bred dairy goat breeds on our farm in Indiana.  We love goats.  Our oldest son will be showing a goat, in addition to a turkey, in the NC Mountain State Fair in September.

This young man showed the kids several tools he uses to take care of his goats and prepare them for showing.  After giving his goat a bath, instead of using a hair dryer, he uses this air blower, you can see on the left side of the table.

After discussing how to clean the goat, and things to know for the judges questions, he brought in some helpers and demonstrated walking some goats around the show ring.

Next into the show ring were the pigs. 

The pigs are much more challenging to get them to do what you want in the ring.  Instead of walking them with a collar, you drive them by touching the back of their front leg with a prodding stick.  This makes them move forward and in the general direction you want them to go.

The final animal in the ring today was a beautiful beef cow.  This is the Angus breed and she looked about a year and a half old. 

This breed is another favorite of mine.  We raised Angus cattle for meat production on our farm in Indiana and sold the meat in our country farm store. 

Unfortunately, I had to step out about 1/2 way through the beef cow demonstration.  This little guy is two years old, and he couldn’t sit still any longer.  We had to go walk the stairs, bounce, jump, and move so he could get his energy out.

All of the young people who gave demonstrations at the showmanship clinic today did a great job and it was obvious that each of them knew their animals well.   Toward the end of their presentation, each one asked questions of the audience to see what the kids remembered, and gave out gifts to kids who answered the questions correctly.  My oldest son won a small bird waterer for answering one of the questions about caring for turkeys.

After the showmanship demonstrations, the WNC Ag Center fed us lunch of BBQ meats (turkey, pork, and beef), hot dogs, baked beans, coleslaw, dessert, and a variety of drinks. 

Then they held a drawing and gave away several tee shirts, hoof shine spray, and other items for the kids holding the winning tickets.

After the drawing they also gave out a gift package to every 4H kid.  The gave them a 5 gallon bucket, feed bowl, water bowl, a feed scoop, and a hat. 

My three 4H’ers were so excited to get their buckets of animal care goodies. 

Thanks to Tractor Supply, Farm Bural, and  WNC Ag Center for sponsoring such a fun and informative learning experience for these kids.

If you would like to learn more about 4H  and showmanship, here are some links where you can get more information:


WNC Ag Center


Example of Showmanship Contest

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers

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Animal Care With 4H Pigs

My children are in 4H.  They are part of a couple of 4H clubs.  One club specializes in learning about raising various farm animals.  We joined the club about seven months ago, and so far the kids have been in workshops learning about chickens, turkeys, cows, goats, pigs, and sheep, and have been to several farms.  They also participated in a chicken hatching project.

The kids chose to raise turkeys to show in the fair this year.  I posted a story a while back about the chickens.  You can read all our 4H stories here  and will post a story soon about the turkeys.

But along side the turkeys that our children are raising, are these curious pigs that some of the other children in our 4H club are raising to show in the upcoming fair too.  My children are learning about pigs even as they care for their turkeys. 

Basic care of the pigs my children have learned:
feeding and watering
providing a safe pen and special fencing from predators
providing water and mud to play in
providing shade

Additional “pig” things the children did not see were castrating, tagging, and vaccines.  (However, they did help castrate, dehorn, trim hooves, and vaccinate goats).

These pigs have this wonderful hog house and shaded arbor in their large pen.   Their feeders are housed in this hog house and the pigs just eat whenever they are hungry. 

The pigs root around in the dirt and mud looking for roots and insects to eat too.  Pigs will eat just about anything.  They even forage through poop to find undigested food to re-use/re-eat.

Their fence is made of welded panels, and has a secondary fence of electric fence to keep the pigs and predators from climbing on the fence. 

The two year old learned real fast that when we say “don’t touch the fence because it will shock your hand”, it really does shock your hand.  Why is it that kids want to push the limits and learn it for themselves instead of taking your word for it?

The pigs love bathing in muddy water and in mud.  Here they climbed into a water trough to soak in the muddy water.  We watched several pigs repeat this same bath and the kids thought it was hilarious to take a bath to get muddy instead of taking a bath to get clean.

Pigs like to coat their bodies and faces in mud, to keep the sun from burning their skin.  They have a natural instinct to wear sunblock.

Growing Up

I raised pigs for several years growing up.  My dad loved farming and especially loved pig farming.  I enjoyed farming too, but not so much farming pigs.   We had 350 head of hogs in the early 80’s and it was a big job for my brother, sister, and for me to take care of. 

I know that my dad enjoyed raising hogs in part because they were an inexpensive source of food, had large litters, and were quick to raise to send to market.  Compared to a cow, pigs offered a short return on your investment.   Cows are expensive to buy, and could take up to five years to get your investment back.   The cow needs to be about 2 years old to breed her.  Then it takes 10 months for her to calf.  If she is a dairy cow, then you start milking her everyday twice a day.  If she is a beef cow, you might leave her calf on to nurse for 4 to six months.  Then the calf needs lots of green grass and hay every day.   Many farmers also feed the calf grain everyday.   It could take18 months to butcher a male calf, or  24 months to raise a female calf until it is ready to breed.  It is a slow process.

When it comes to pigs, multiplication is definitely the word.  One mama sow can easily have 12 to14 baby piglets or more.  We almost always averaged 14 babies per litter.  And the sow can have babies three times a year.   You can market her piglets at any time.  They are typically weaned by two months of age.  There are weight categories that bring high dollar per pound too.  So for my dad, it was a no brainer.  Raising pigs on an 80 acre piece of land, had unlimited potential.  We had a small herd of cows, and a very large herd of pigs.

My dad drove a semi truck cross country and was typically gone for 3 weeks at a time.  So it was up to us kids to keep the farm running smoothly until his return.  He was home for 2 or 3 days, and we would mend fences, and do big jobs while he was home, like butcher a hog for the freezer, castrate the young males, or haul a bunch to market.  Then dad was back on the road again.

While dad was away, we fed and watered the animals twice a day.  The animals in the barn also had their pens cleaned and re-bedded twice a day.  We had to walk the fence line twice a day and check that no pigs had escaped.   Once a week, I drove a tractor and wagon to town and filled a large water barrel with 2,000+ gallons of water.  Then I drove it back to the farm and filled a cistern just up the hill from the barn.  Both the animals and my family used the water.  The water was pumped from the cistern with a simple syphon pump and then gravity helped it build pressure as it flowed down hill to the location we were using it.

Once a week, we also went to town and filled the back of our pickup truck with feed for the animals.  We went to a grain elevator and had them ground corn and a vitamin supplement together to make the feed.  We totally filled the truck bed with this and then covered it with a large tarp.  Once we got home, we unloaded the truck with feed buckets and shovels.  My brother would climb into the large hog feeders, and my sister and I would work the loose ground feed in the truck into buckets and hand them to my brother to be dumped.  Any feed we did not put in the feeders, we stored in the barn in 55 gallon drums, to feed other animals that did not have the automatic feeders.  

Every morning chores started by 4:30 am and again by 4:30 pm in the barn.  I woke every morning, put on my chore clothes, grabbed a flash light and a milk pail and was out the door.   At least once or twice a week,  I was greeted by a racoon or a possum trying to eat the feed we
stored in the barn.  My brother usually killed the animal that had crawled down into the 55 gallon drums we stored the feed in.  More than once I was almost bitten by these critters gorging themselves in our storage bins. 

Life was hard.  Let me repeat that.  LIFE WAS HARD!  Besides taking care of the pigs, we also cared for beef cows, milked a cow, raised chickens for meat and eggs, raised a few rabbits, lots of cats, and a dog.  We also raised two huge gardens which we canned and froze the harvest that wasn’t eaten right away, raised fields of wheat for grain and straw, and we raised hay for animal feed.  Three times a year we baled hay and loaded it on wagons, then unloaded it in the barn.  Once a year we planted wheat, harvested wheat, and baled wheat straw.  Along with the hay for feed, we stored the bales of straw in the barn and used it for animal bedding.   It was a lot of chores, twice a day everyday.  When we got back inside, and after our school work was done, we had inside chores to do too.  Make the meal, set table, wash dishes by hand, clean floors, wash laundry, hang laundry on the clothes line, fold and put away laundry, dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms, etc.  

It amazes me when I hear kids complain they have it hard just because they are asked to step away from the computer and set the table or sweep the floor.  If they only knew what it really means to have it hard, they wouldn’t complain.  Instead, we spoil our kids with TV, computers, and toys.  Yes, I am guilty of doing this too.  My kids knew life on the farm until 2008.  They were young, but they loved the farm.   But by any measure, they barely had chores.  They gathered eggs and filled the chicken waterers and fed the dog and cats.  My husband and I did all of the other chores in addition to running our business too.  Neither of us wanted the children to know the heavy burden of chores that we ourselves knew as young people.  We also watched our Amish friends and neighbors whose children bore the majority of the chores on the farms.  Amish children’s lives resemble very closely the way my life was during part of my childhood.  I am sure this is one of the many reasons the Amish people were such a special population for us to minister too.   But this also just reinforced for us, that though there is some value in having farm chores while raising children, there is a line where the amount of work should not be excessive.  There needs to be a healthy balance. 

Now, in our subdivision home, our kids take care of our dogs (feeding, watering, and walking) and a rabbit.  They also have daily household chores of laundry, vaccuming, and setting the table.  Occasionally they help sweep the kitchen floor and do dishes.  They are getting older now, and we are in the process of establishing more chores and routine, but given my own past of feeling over burdened as a kid, and over the years seeing Amish children who spend 95% of their lives working the chores, I have been reluctant to pile on too much. 

I am looking forward to implementing a new chore system and having the children helping more with dishes, as I am in my seventh month of pregnancy and needing the additional help.  My dishwasher broke a year ago, and I have not had the money yet to replace it.  So it is a lot of work to wash dishes by hand for 7 family members.   The kids dread dishes and I struggle to ask them or make them do it.  Isn’t that sad?  If the dishwasher was working, I would expect them to take on this chore.  But with it broke, and washing for this many people, I have hesitated to implement this.   I recently read an article that having two of them who are squabbling wash the dishes together as a team is beneficial for several reasons.   I plan to implement this on the next squabble too.

I hope to get a new chore chart hung up soon and implement a new and improved chore and reward system.  I have one in mind, but it takes ink to print and money and effort to laminate and cut apart, and then set it all up.  So it is on my to do list.  I plan to post a story soon about the system we currently use, even though I am not happy with it, and also post a story about the new chore system when I get it implemented.

My husband and I miss our farm we left in Indiana a couple of years ago to move to the mountains of North Carolina.    We raised cattle, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, cats and dogs.  We also raised a large garden and hay.  We sold our meat, eggs, produce and also organic groceries in a store we had on our farm.  Our oldest child is now 11 years old.  He was 8 years old when we moved.  We miss the benefits of living on a farm in regards to raising our children, raising fresh food, and enjoying the beauty of the farm we had.


Caring for animals is one of the reasons we were drawn to the 4H club that teaches how to raise farm animals.  I believe having chores, and also raising an animal, teaches so much more than just feeding and watering.   Having a responsibility and caring for an animal that depends on you is an important element in character development.  Raising a farm animal, and taking it to market for food (or to the fair), is an added bonus of learning about business and marketing and raising food.  These are such good qualities to learn. 

For example, look at King David in the bible.  He spent his youth caring for sheep. Eventually he cared for millions of people and his son Solomon became the richest and wisest king who ever lived.   Joseph was also raised as a shepard and learned the business side of farming too.  He went on to save two countries from starvation, cared for millions of people, and was the second most powerful man in the world during the time he lived.  Moses, went from being a prince and living in the Pharaoh’s palace, to raising sheep in the desert for 40 years before God used him to lead over millions of people out of Egypt and then help them survive another 40 years in the desert.  And the stories go on and on.  But raising animals had a huge impact on each of these amazing people’s character. 

We don’t have a farm any more, but 4H offers us an opportunity to give a piece of this training to our children.  Thankfully, we have some great volunteers in the 4H group, and they have let the children keep the animals at their place.  They have helped us by splitting some of the chores with the children too.  This has helped us as parents to be able to give this experience to the kids, but at the same time not feel over burdened by the constant load it requires to take care of a farm on a full time basis. 
I was the oldest child growing up, and the majority of the chores were my responsibility to be sure they were done, and done right.  I guess maybe that is why I didn’t enjoy caring for the pigs.  It was a huge job for a child.  They are very messy animals.  Some of our pigs would escape and it would take hours to catch them because sometimes they would travel all the way to a neighboring farm.  It was hard to move some of them to a different pen when it was time to breed them or sort them for market.  Some of them can be very stubborn and some can be dangerously mean.  Pigs are the happies
t covered in mud and they make the biggest messes with their poop.  The chore I hated the most was cleaning the poop out of their water troughs.  But the biggest reason I did not like raising pigs was the smell.  Yes the smell.  It never leaves.  And as a young teenage girl, with the smell of the farm lingering around and never being able to escape it, made me resent raising pigs.

But what I loved about raising pigs was watching the piglets from birth until they were grown.  They are so fun to watch.  They are full of mischief.  They run and play and are very curious about everything.  They squeal when they get into a predicament.  And they are funny!  I was the pig midwife on the farm.  I helped the sows during farrowing.  If they had trouble, I had to assist.  I also had to clean their farrowing pens twice a day.  It was a lot of work.  We usually had 12 sows farrowing at a time on our farm.  After farrowing, you had to make sure each piglet knew how to suckle at the teats to get milk.  If they couldn’t learn it, then they were bottle fed around the clock, another big responsibility.

My brother and I showed pigs in 4H.  This is when I really enjoyed raising our pigs the most.  Instead of just seeing myself as raising a large herd of random pigs,  I began to see the pigs as individuals with different personalities and special traits.   

I loved my 4H pigs, and especially loved a very special pig whom I spent a lot of time with.  I called her Mrs. Piggy.  She was a burnt red color on her back, with black spots on her white belly.  I chose her from birth and watched her grow into a 250 lb animal before fair time, but she was no-where near done growing by then.  Females, typically grow to 500 lb by the time they are mature and can continue to grow much larger.  Males, if allowed to grow, can easily reach over 1,200 lbs. 

Each day, when all the chores were done, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing with our 4H pigs.  We would often sit and rub their bellies just like a puppy dog.  We talked to them, sang to them, and trained them and this was a special time of learning and growing for of us. 

Even though I don’t want to farm pigs again, it is a part of my past and who I am.  I am glad I had the opportunity to learn this skill.  I am thankful 4H had a program then, and has one now that all children can experience raising animals.  I am glad my children are getting this wonderful learning opportunity.

Here are some websites to check out if you would like to learn more about raising pigs:

Basic 4H pig information

Swine Breeds with facts and pictures about them.

PBS The Joy Of Pigs Video

Pig Coloring Pages

Pig Coloring and Activities

Pig and Farm Animal Coloring Pages

Pig Coloring Page


Here are some websites to check out if you would like to learn more about 4H:

About 4H

Find a local 4H office, clubs, and support

This post will be linked up with:
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers

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Blue Footed Booby Unit Study Review

This past week, we had the opportunity to review the Curiosity Files Blue Footed Booby Unit Study published by The Old School House Magazine.

The Curiosity Files are a fun set of unit studies on all kinds of subjects.  The head scientist is a wacky science professor named Ana Lyze.  Click on the photo below to learn more about this wonderful series of unit studies.


The Blue Footed Booby Unit Study

Curiosity Files Blue Footed Booby is a 98 page unit study packed with history, biology, geography, math, writing, vocabulary, copywork, scripture, crafts, music, and lots of fun activities.  It has age appropriate learning and activities for elementary, junior, and senior high school.  The unit study is recommended for ages 8-and up. 

There is a recommended reading list, according to age level, for the library, but you can easily complete this study with the information provided in the unit and free resources available on-line.  There are numerous links to videos, websites, games, and more on-line too.

We started off our exploration with downloading and printing the unit study from The Old School House.  Next I hole punched the unit and placed it into a three ring binder to keep my self organized. 

You do not need to print the whole unit study.  You could easily do the unit study right on your computer, and just print off the worksheets when needed.  I printed the worksheets for the children, but I did print off the whole unit study for myself to work from (I guess I am still “oldschool” (needing a paper copy in hand) in some ways). 

We kept the unit study up on the computer too, and as we worked our way through, we clicked on various links to learn more.

What I Liked:

I was really impressed with how well the information was presented.  It is very well organized and easy to follow and learn from.  My children came away with a vast new knowledge about the Blue Footed Booby and their life on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

A few facts we learned:
            Life span of this bird is 17 years.
            Weight about 3 lbs and females are slightly larger than males.
            They only eat fish.
            Can dive for fish from 80 feet in the air.
            Raise 2 or 3 babies every nine months. Not seasonally. 
            Mate for life.
            And yes, their feet really are blue.

I used this unit study with my children ages 2, 3, 6, 8, and 10.  The 10 year old was able to do the whole study, the 6 and 8 year old did most of the study, however I did not have them complete some of the math, writing, and research worksheets that were designed for older students.  They were able to do many of the worksheets and crafts though, and kept plenty busy through-out this study.  The 2 and 3 year olds did the coloring pages, songs and dances, and crafts.

I liked that this study provided an answer key at the end of the study too.  This was very handy.  Very few unit studies that I have purchased in the past have had an answer key feature.  So this really adds to the quality of this product.   It is very well put together.

Not one thing in this unit was boring.  Instead, it was full of rich colorful pictures that really give you a sense of the subject.  It was full of scripture that proved God’s love and design in this amazing creature.  It was full of worksheets and activities to keep the children engaged in the learning process.  And it was able to be used with multiple ages and learning styles.  This is a great product!

My children also enjoyed playing the online games at interactive websites.

My children enjoyed the crafts and activities.  I will be sharing pictures and more about these activities, and post links here to them as I get the stories written and posted.  So be sure to check back with us in the near future and join us on our Blue Footed Booby adventure. 

Some of the things we made with this unit study: 
    Homemade Suet Feeders
    Completed Coloring Pages
    Made a time-line
    Labeled a World Map
    Created a Blue Footed Booby Habitat
    Created a Quill Pen
    Made a Blue Footed Booby Baby
    Created Blue Footed Booby Feet
    Completed a Lapbook
    Completed numerous worksheets in math, history, science, scripture,
    geography,writing, and copywork
    And so much more.

This unit study is provided in down-loadable format using free Adobe Reader.  The Blue Footed Booby Unit Study retails for $6.95 at The Old School House Magazine.   Also, many of the Curiosity Files products are currently on sale for $1 so be sure to stop over to the TOS store and check them out.


What I would like to see more of:

I liked everything about this unit st
udy.    I think it is very well done.  It was very easy to teach and learn along side the children.  Yes, momma learned a lot from this study too.

The unit clearly states it is for ages 8 and up, but if I could suggest anything,  I would like to see more preschool activities included. Or perhaps the writer could do a unit extension for their product for younger children.   

Homeschooling families don’t often have kids only 8 and up.  Many families trying to do unit studies find themselves in the midst of ages 12 and under (some families have one of every age 12 and under), and it would be great if families had more units like this one to share with all their children.  These families are trying to incorporate preschool, elementary, and highschool learning projects all in one day.  Unit studies can provide this opportunity for various ages to work together on the same subject or theme.  But we need more unit study manufactures to be aware that we need more units focused to meet the needs of the whole family.

In our family we do unit studies with various ages, and I would have liked to have seen more worksheets, games, and learning opportunities for preschoolers to participate with their older siblings. 

We came up with a few additional preschool level unit extensions to go with the Blue Footed Booby unit study for our younger children, in addition to the portions they participated in the activities mentioned above.  I will post links to what we did here, as soon as I have them written, so be sure to check back:

    Letter B for Booby Craft
    Booby Play dough
    Letter B for Booby Coloring Page 
    Booby Puzzle
    Booby Matching Game
    Egg Sort
    Galapagos Island Sensory Bin

Another thing I would really like to see incorporated is Life Skills Learning.  I really like to tie unit studies together with a practical life skill my children can carry on into their future.  Life skills cover many areas, but often cooking, sewing, engineering or building, hunting, growing, gardening, etc. 

A practical life skill my children could learn in this situation could be learning to fish, as the Blue Footed Booby survives by fishing.  Another skill might be caring for and feeding the young, the next generation.  Maybe camping in an open area, where you are exposed to wind, rain, sun, and other elements of nature, would be a wonderful example of how these birds survive on the island.  Another skill might be cooking the fish you caught.  Perhaps learning to swim and dive for objects would be another great way to tie in life skills with this unit.

This was a great unit study and I will definitely recommend this product to my friends and fellow homeschooling families.

Click here to learn more:
Are you supplying enough stimulus for your inquisitive children? Brand new unit study series for probing minds of all ages. Also designed with special needs learners in mind!

Be sure to check out the Old Schoolhouse Magazine for these and more wonderful products.

                            This product was provided to me free by The Old School House in exchange for an honest review.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Unit Study Link Up
The Happy Housewife Curriculum Review Roundup

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How To Hatch Chickens

Have you always wondered which came first?  The chicken or the egg?

I think it is facinating to learn about the chicken coming out of the egg.  And I am not the only one who is interested.  My children are facinated with the whole process too.  Hatching chicken eggs is a great experiment to do with your children at any age, young or old. 

Today we are honored with a guest post from Tracie Wallace of North Carolina Mountain Homeschoolers Coop.  We extend a warm welcome, as she shares about hatching chicken eggs and raising chickens.

Tracie has a passion for learning, and a love for teaching.  She and her husband homeschool three children.  She is also the Coordinator for the NCMountain Homeschool Coop and a member of Henderson County Homeschool Association.   

Tracie has a B.S. in Biology and did graduate course work in Spanish and French.   She is the Vice-Chair for Henderson County Extension Advisory Board.  She has been a part of 4-H for four years with her children, and the leader of the 4-H Wildcats club for three years.  Tracie started raising chickens three years ago with the 4-H Embryology program.  She says her love for chickens started as a science experiment with her children, and grew in to a life’s passion.

All About Hatching Chickens

                                                                            by Tracie Wallace

Hatching chickens has become an art at my house and it is addictive. There is nothing more amazing than watching that small miracle occur, and seeing a fluffy new friend emerge from the shell.


To hatch chickens, I recommend that you have a forced air incubator, with a fan.  If you only have a still air incubator, there are different specifications for temperatures using those.  You should set your incubator up at least 24 hours in advance of setting eggs.  You want to make sure that it is clean and maintains a temperature of 99.5 degrees F for several hours.  


Before you set the eggs, mark one side with an “o” and the other with an “x”, and use a pencil only.  This will help you keep track of which side should go up or down when you turn them.  You set your eggs and keep them still for 24 hours.  Then after the first day you will rotate them 3 times a day.  I usually make a simple spread sheet with boxes for the dates and times that the eggs are rotated.


The eggs will incubate for 21 days. Sometimes they may hatch early or late.  You will rotate until day 19 and then stop rotating them and let them sit still for the rest of the time.  I use a hygrometer to measure the humidity in the incubator.  I keep the humidity at 50-60% until the last 4 days, then I add water in jars to drive it up during the hatch.  The increase in humidity keeps the inside of the eggs moist while the chicks are hatching. This is important because drying can cause them to give up during the hatch.  If they get too much humidity prior to the hatch, they can get mushy chick syndrome where their gut is distended and bloated and the umbilicus will not heal properly.


Several days before the anticipated hatch, set up a brooder box.  For this I use a 80 gallon plastic storage tub.  I fill the bottom with newspaper, and then I add a layer of  Diatomaceous Earth (DE) on the news paper and then put a few inches of shavings on top.  You do not want to use fine shavings because the chicks will eat it instead of food and it isn’t good for a developing gut. I place a couple layers of paper towels down on top of the shavings.  The purpose for this is so that I can see that the chicks gut is working and they are putting something out. The first fecal matter will be green in color this is from the nutrients in the egg, then it will go to a clear liquid and then on to more normal looking materials as they eat.

For food, I use a high protein chick starter with 19% ground finely.  I get this locally at Southern States.  After two weeks, I go to a coarser grain, still a chick starter at Community Mill or TSC.  The DuMor will cause more odor, not sure why but it does.  You will want a small waterer also. In the ring of the water, place clean marbles.  The young chicks fall asleep randomly and if this happens while drinking, the marbles will keep them from submerging their beaks in the water and drowning.   

Place a light with a 90 Watt bulb just above the box and keep the temperature between 95-99 degrees F for the first week.  Then, each week raise the light enough to lower the temp by 5 degrees each week, until it is room temperature. At some point to keep the light closer to the box, you can change the light bulb to a lower wattage.


I clean my boxes weekly to keep down odor and germs.  By placing newspaper under the shavings, you can roll the shavings up to clear the box and reset it all.  I use DE each time, but I remove the paper towels after the first two days just after the hatch.  You can use small wooden blocks under the food and water containers to keep some shavings out, but as they learn to scratch this will be an ongoing cleaning effort.

The purpose for the DE is three-fold.  It is made of fossilized diatoms from the earth, usually mined around chalk/clay.  If ingested, it is a natural de-wormer, anti-parasitic agent.  If they dust bathe in it, it serves to get rid of chicken mites, which are natural on chickens and they are not harmful and do not bite humans. Third, the DE helps to sustain the odor in the brooder box and makes it a little more tolerable.

Back to the hatch -once the chicks start pipping, or breaking through the egg, they usually emerge and complete the hatch within 24 hours of breaking the surface.  They will rest after initial break through and before “zipping” the egg open.  This is amazing to watch and in a good hatch, you miss a lot of it because it goes quickly.  If a chicken starts pipping and does not continue, it can die because the down fluff will dry to the egg membrane and it will be painful to move in the egg.  


I have assisted hatches but it takes skill and patience.  If you do it wrong, the chick will die from blood loss.  There is a membrane around the chick, just like a human, only a chicken draws that membrane into it’s umbilicus as it hatches for nourishment.  If you rupture those vessels before they are dried, the chick could die from blood loss.  Once they hatch, wait until they are somewhat dry to place them in the brooder box and try to have at least two in there at a time.  They are flock animals and do tend to feel more comfortable in a group rather than alone.


A good healthy hatch is almost effortless and fun to watch.  After three days, the flight feathers will start to appear and you can guess at the gender.  Roos will generally have straight lined feathers, same length , and their tails are slow to emerge.  Hens will have flight feathers alternating in length and their tails will be a few days behind these flight feathers.  Hens tend to feather quickly.  Hold your chicks daily, as often as possible.  Once they feel loved, like any pet, they will tolerate being held as adults and be a lot friendlier.

I have hatched Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Silkies.  I chose these for temperament and tolerance to weather conditions where I live.  Good luck on your chicken journey, hope you have a clucking good time!

Have you tried hatching chicken eggs or raising chickens with your children?  Leave us a comment, and share your experience with us.  

Do you have egg or baby chick crafts you would like to share?  Leave us a comment too.  Thank you.

Don’t forget to read our other posts about eggs and chickens here.

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