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Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh, the things you hear at the family reunion!

When I married Hubby, I was not aware that I was also saying "I Do" to at least three family picnics every summer.  Thankfully, I'm good with names, a blessed by-product of five years of teaching 130 kids per year.  Another coping mechanism I have found is to dress my kids in coordinating outfits.  Our family color is red.  All three kids are dressed in red and that makes them easy to find.

Last weekend kicked off the 2012 picnic season.  And there were two nuggets of conversation I'd like to share from Picnic #1:

1.  I was walking to our cooler to get my dishes when I passed two ladies visiting.  One of them said something to the other that ended with my husband's name.  Naturally, my ears perked up, my radar was on.  The other lady (who is, not only the wife of a large conventional farmer, but the mother of a large conventional farmer) responded "He's farming.  He does a different kind of farming...the kind that makes money....sustainable...yes, sustainable farming."

And I need to tell you that while we have given farm tours the past two years for family, this particular branch of the family tree has never been to our farm.  They have never eaten our food.  But they live in the area and I'm sure have heard about what we're doing.  Probably in the context of, "Do you know what they're doing NOW?"

Someone asked me recently if our neighbors farm like we do.  Nope.  Then they asked what our neighbors think of us.  That we're lunatics with a hobby farm.  Because in a culture of "get big or get out", we've gotten small and in.  

The fact that this woman not only knew we were sustainable farmers, but characterized it as "the kind that makes money" makes my heart sing!!

2.  I was visiting with a fellow mom of young ones, sharing our stories.  She asked what my husband did (apparently this is a hot topic at his family reunions...see, we're lunatics!) and I told her what we had on the pasture right now.  She said, "Oh wow!  Would it be OK to come visit sometime?  I've been wanting my son to see some real farm animals but I don't know any farmers where I could do that."

What you need to know is that this woman spent 3 years working at our state's department of agriculture.  She worked at the ag department and she didn't know ANY farmers she could take her son  to.  This blows my mind!  How can you work for the government agency that is specifically directed to farmers and farms and you don't know a farm you could take your child??  There are two plausible scenarios:  either she knows a lot of farmers, but she wouldn't take her son to any of them OR she worked in the government agency specifically tasked with farmers and she didn't know any of them.

I'm not sure which one concerns me more...

On the drive home, Hubby suggested we have her family out right before the next picnic and then SHE can tell everyone what it is we really do!  (And it's ideas like that that make me happy I married him, even with the three family picnic minimum...)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kids In The Kitchen

One of my many passions is kids having meaningful work.  Our children have been helping us from the time they could walk.  For example, Kiddo3 is almost 18 months old and her one job each day is to help empty the dishwasher.  It's her favorite thing to do and we channel that love into something that is meaningful and helpful to our family.  

Now, does she empty it and put all the dishes away in the right place in less than 2 minutes.

No ma'am, she does not.  She lovingly takes each and every piece of silverware out of the basket and walks it over to me as I stand in front of the silverware drawer.  This takes at least 8 minutes, and we haven't even gotten to the glasses yet!  But, she is doing something she enjoys and its helpful for me.

This past weekend, Kiddo1 helped me make a dessert for a family picnic (more on that tomorrow).  She placed the cookies on the bottom of the pan.  Then she cut up six bananas and placed them on the cookies.  I was mixing up the pudding filling and then she placed the cookies on top.
Yes, she is using a sharp chopping knife.  But she is under direct supervision and was properly instructed in how to cut bananas.  This is something that kids can do that is helpful and meaningful.

 See that look of pride?  She knows without me even telling her that what she did REALLY WAS helpful.  
And that is why I am passionate about kids having meaningful work.

What have you done with kids (yours or some you've rented - like neighbors or nieces or nephews) to encourage meaningful work?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Double Edged Sword

As I firmly believe in sharing our successes and failures...here's a problem we're dealing with right now:  
Egg Eating Hens and Broody Hens

First, the egg eaters.  Every once in a while we have a hen that will accidently break an egg and they will eat egg and shell.  This lets them discover what we already know...their eggs are delicious!  And that can lead to habitual egg eating.  We don't often have this problem and the remedy is quick.
It starts with a single peck!

We put two golf balls in each nest box and collect the eggs three times a day, rather than just two.  The golf balls are the same weight as eggs and are hard.  So if a hen is looking for an egg snack, they are foiled.  And this works wonders!  We had an egg eater or two causing trouble, added the golf balls and it stopped the next day.

Second, broody hens.  We raise heritage breed hens for a variety of reasons:
1.  They are larger bodied and that allows them to keep warmer in the winter and the decrease in body weight each time they lay an egg.  This is more natural and is not as hard on the hen as one that would be a smaller body type.

2.  They are much more aggressive foragers and we need chickens who will utilize our grass.

3.  Heritage breeds are much more calm than the hyped-up "race car" hybrid chickens.  

But when we use heritage breeds, they come with a downside.  And that downside is broodiness.  Broodiness is the desire of a chicken to sit on a nest for the purpose of incubating eggs.  And since we don't need our hens to hatch eggs, this has been a bit of a problem with 5 of our hens.  This trait of broodiness is not expressed equally in all hens.  Some are much more broody than others.

So what do these broody hens do?

They sit in the nest boxes all day and night.  They don't lay eggs.  They just sit there.  And take up the space that the hens who would like to lay eggs want to use.

Normally, the cure for broody hens is to remove the eggs often.  But we have the golf balls in the nests...

Do you see the problem??

We have 5 hens who sit in nest boxes all day, every day and they're trying to hatch golf balls!!

It would be frustrating, but when you're dealing with an animal that has a brain smaller than a pea, you have to cut them some slack.  They are operating by instinct.  Now we learn how to best use that instinct.

These 5 hens are getting picked on by the hens who want to lay their eggs in the nest boxes.  To get them to vacate the nest box, the non-broody hens will peck at the head feathers of the broody hens.

(Don't worry, those feathers will grow back quickly and she'll be back to looking like a non-broody hen.)
 

We've spent a great deal of time reading about broodiness.  Hens are the most broody before the summer solstice and since that happened last week, we're hoping to see some reduction in the broodiness of these 5 hens.

As always, we are reading and learning and refining our management of these marvelous birds.  One of the selection criteria for future laying hens is their degree of broodiness.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit

Doesn't everyone eat jam from nose to chin?


And do their rabbit's hair before they go to church?

Oh, maybe that's just my girls then...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pigs, they're still here!

After the less than ideal start to our pastured pig operation.  Things have gone pretty well so far.  (Not that I'm ready to share exactly how we do things, because we're still figuring that out.)  I just wanted to let you know that they are still here!

Here's the herd gathered around the water cooler.

This is one of our best pigs, a beautiful Duroc/Old Spot gilt.  We are thinking about keeping her for breeding.  Hubby says, "Look at that side.  That's a lot of bacon."  But I argue, "If we keep her we'll have 10 times the bacon!"  We don't have to make that decision now.  But we have named her (and we have a pretty strict rule about not naming things that we eat).  I'd like to introduce....
Patsy Swine

 This is the friendliest pig, we just refer to him as Big Barrow, which isn't so much a name as it is a physical descriptor...so I think we'll be OK.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pastured Eggs: More than you thought possible

In my last chicken post there was some discussion about the logistics of raising chickens that I'd like to touch on.  

First, the aspect of large numbers and bird safety.  This past week we combined our laying flock of 55 Black Australorp hens who are a year old with the 120 new pullets that are a mixed bag of Barred Rock, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameracaunas.  It's always a little dicey combining groups of chickens.  Have you heard the term "pecking order"?  All livestock establish a pecking order but chickens are the worst.  I joke with Hubby that they are worse than junior high girls!


There are a few things we did to ease this transition:  
1.  We moved the pullets into the hens.  This is important so that the hens are in their home where they are comfortable and they will keep laying.

2.  They have plenty of space to move away from one another if tensions get out of hand.

3.  Feeders and waterers are placed all around the fenced pasture so that the hens can't "defend" them and keep the little ones away.

Here is the whole group.  The pen in the middle is a range shelter completely covered in tin and with the wire removed from the front and next boxes on either side.  They can go in for shade or to keep dry, if they want.


The chickens are fenced in with electrified poultry netting from Premier.  This keeps the chickens in and the predators out.  Every time you lose an animal to a predator, it's operator error.  That's a hard thing for us humans to admit:  that we did something wrong that caused this.  We have a lot of predator pressure.  Just last night I laid in bed and listened to the coyotes howl across the lake.  Hubby has gone out when we've heard them on this side to make sure things were secure.


If you did the math from above, this fall we'll have 175 chickens laying eggs.  If 2/3 of them lay an egg every day, that's about 116 eggs per day (about 9 dozen).  Currently, we sell our eggs for $3 per dozen.  That's $27 per day, and just under $10,000 per year.  Our favorite farm, Polyface Farms, sells about $300,000 worth of eggs per year on this same production model.  Our chickens require about a half hour of work every morning and 20 minutes every evening.  I spend 15 minutes washing and packing eggs per day.  So, for just over an hours worth of work...that's pretty good money!

Not to mention the amazing job they do at eating weeds, trimming alfalfa, eating bugs and applying natural fertilizer rich in nitrogen!

The second point from the last post is that everyone should have chickens.  I'm serious.  Certainly every farm, but also town folks.  Many municipalities allow chickens as long as you don't have a rooster.  Think of the fun you would have with five of these beauties in your backyard? 
Ameracauna pullet in front, Silver Laced Wyandotte behind her, and Barred Rocks in the back.

 Because chickens are omnivores, they would mow your lawn, provide natural bug control, consume all your kitchen scraps and you could compost their manure AND get eggs!!  It's a win-win!

If more people raised chickens, we wouldn't need large factory confinement egg facilities at all.

And, as my friend from sailorssmallfarm pointed out, if we ate less processed foods like cake mixes, we wouldn't need as many eggs.  Did you know there's powdered egg in salad dressings?  Did you know that they use all the broken eggs in powdered eggs?


 And, a personal note...

Ameracaunas are not a standardized breed.  That means that there is a LOT of variation from chicken to chicken which is exciting for someone like me who likes a lot of diversity.

This is my favorite chicken, Cleopatra.


She is fierce and gorgeous and utterly wonderful.  And the only chicken who is named.  She is definitely the queen of the pasture.  And she'll lay blue-green eggs.  I can't wait!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

How does your garden grow?

I have good news, and I have bad news.  Which one do you want first?

Good news it is.

I love happy accidents!!  Last year I planted broccoli raab on the enthusiasm and encouragement of my dear friend, Carol.  Before we could eat even one plant, the heat wave struck and it all bolted to yellow flowers.  I was devastated but didn't till them up.  

The other day I was tilling in the evening through the green bean patch and saw what looked like a bunch of wild mustard.  What?  Where did I get wild mustard?  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of weeds, Canadian Thistle at the top of the hit list, but I don't have a problem with wild mustard.  So this puzzled me as a tilled.  

Tilling is wonderfully mindless task in which to ponder the appearance of a LOT of wild mustard in your green bean patch.  Until you hit a rock and it throws the tiller right into your solar plexus and you double over gasping for breath...

But that doesn't happen to me...it happened to a friend, yeah, that's right, a friend.

Then, it dawned on me that the broccoli raab had indeed gone to seed and had pleasantly reseeded itself where I had planted the green beans!  It's already forming little heads and we'll have some in a week or two!  I just LOVE happy accidents.

Provider green bean in the lower left corner, broccoli raab in the upper middle and right side.

Now, for the bad news.

Anyone recognize these tracks?  

If you guessed white tailed deer you would be correct.  But this is not a contest where you want to win.  No, siree.  This deer (coming and going, according to the tracks) has been frequenting my sweet corn patch.  I've never had this trouble before, but I guess she's desperate.  We're surrounded by GMO corn and the deer don't touch that stuff around here.  So they're all headed to my sweet corn.  (Which begs the question, if the deer won't eat it...should you?) 

Deer nibbles.  But this one was lucky, she left it in the ground!

There are a lot of corn plants missing out there with holes in the ground where she (or he, I should discriminate) have ripped the whole plant out!  And the damage isn't limited to the corn.  Oh no.  All the melons, pumpkins, and squash are gone as well.  Some tasty tidbit for Bambi and his parents.

We're leaving the corn that's there and planting another patch and replanting the melons, pumpkins and squash.  And we're hoping for a late frost...

My only consolation is that she'll be back this fall and I have a Hubby with a rifle and a gratis deer tag...


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We sheared our sheep

When we first got our Icelandic sheep, the ewes had not been shorn in over a year.  Icelandics should be shorn twice a year, spring and fall.  The fall fleece is more valuable because, by being on grass, it in generally cleaner and in better condition than a spring fleece that had been on straw and had hay in it during the winter.

These girls were carrying quite a bit of extra weight!  And we couldn't really tell what they looked like under all that wool.  Did they have a lot of muscle?  Were they deep bodied?  Skin and bones from nursing lambs on just grass?  


On Friday we had them sheared.  

And we got to see what was under all that wool.  To say I was happy would be an understatement, I was ecstatic!  Look at that long side, deep body, wide leg, and width over her top.  And she is in excellent condition for raising two big ram lambs.  She's built like a steel vault.  Trust me, I had to lift her into the back of our pickup!  

This is EXACTLY what I had dreamed about when I made the deal for these sheep.  They have never been fed grain in their lives.  Just grass.  And they are doing that well.  This flies in the face of all the conventional sheep raising literature and practices I was taught...and I LOVE IT!!

The farmer who was hosting the sheep shearer commented as they were being sheared, "Oh, so they'll be lambing in a couple of weeks?"  Since our ewes were in such good condition, he figured they were GOING to lamb.  "No sir, they all have lambs on.  The youngest is over 6 weeks old."  Having raised conventional sheep the conventional way, I knew exactly where he was coming from.  There is no way these ewes should look that good.  But they do and I'm so excited!

Speaking of that young lamb who joined us on Mother's day...
Here he is at two days old with is wooly mama.

And here he is today with his shorn mama!




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit

Kiddo1 has two pails of flowers that she is in charge of watering on our porch with her little watering can.


The other night Kiddo2 said, "I want to go outside and watch her spill water!"

Monday, June 18, 2012

When you don't have a local hatchery


We've got 243 (as of this morning) Red Rangers in the brooder.  Why such an odd number and why is it "as of this morning"?  We were shipped 260 chicks the day they were hatched which was Wednesday.  Which means they should come on Thursday morning.  SHOULD, being the operative word.  This time they did not, which is not good.

All of our chicks come from a hatchery in Iowa.  When I was a kid, we would load up in the car and go to Minot (just over an hour away) and bring home our chicks from the hatchery.  They've been closed for quite a few years now and we have no hatcheries in our entire state.  Thus, we're forced to have our birds shipped to us.

We use Hoover's Hatchery in Rudd, IA and they are absolutely wonderful!  They know our operation, they know our schedule and they always make it work for us.  They hatch chicks very early Wednesday morning and load them on an airplane and send them out.  Chicks are remarkable little creatures:  just before they hatch, they suck their yolk sack into their bellies and that sustains them for 48 hours.  They don't need food or water during that time.  Now, the sooner you can get them into 90 degree warmth with food and water, the better.

When we get chicks on Thursday mornings, we rarely lose any.  Less than 3% is our average.  But if they don't come until Friday, it's much higher.  Those chicks have spent an extra 24+ hours in a shipping facility, on a place or truck, exposed to drafts and more hours of stress.  Those extra hours are a LOT for those little guys to take!  

Last year, one batch of our chicks was shipped in a cold, rainy spell and we lost 40% of them.  I called Hoovers on a Saturday morning and spoke to a real person about it.  This had NEVER happened to us before!  She said they were getting a lot of reports of loss because of the weather and they would replace the chicks we lost.  AWESOME!

It's dangerous having your production system depend on the postal service.  Just one day makes a HUGE difference!  And, often postal workers aren't trained to handle chicks.  The first batch we ever ordered, the lady at the post office called and said, "You've got a box of chickens here.  Should I just set them out on the porch and you can pick them up?"  YIKES!  No way!  They need to stay inside, and even then, 70 degrees is too cool.

Anyone want to start a local hatchery?  I'll be your first customer.




Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Dad,

Dear Dad,

It's my first father's day without a father.  Oh, how I miss you.  There are so many things I long to tell you.  Like:

1.  Your grandson doesn't say the word "other", he says "yudder".  You would laugh so hard at him when he says, "I need a YUDDER cookie, Papa!" we would have seen your missing tooth.  I miss seeing you laugh like that.

2.  Your older granddaughter leads our goat to the milk stand, just like your older daughter did.  You would be so proud.

3.  Speaking of that goat, she looks and acts just like Alfred.  You would smile and shake your head...and then take her for a drive in the cab of the pickup with her ears flopping in the breeze.

4.  Your younger granddaughter loves to sit in recliners and snuggle.  You would have held her and played with her toes and she would have giggled.

5.  Your grandson loves to ride tractors and knows the names of all of them.  You would have burst your buttons that he knew the little A was a Farmall.  He also calls his overalls "shoulder britches", just like you.

6.  Your grandson has a widow's peak, just like you did when you had hair.  His does not have the big curl on top, however.

7.  We sheared our sheep on Friday and they look just like the Carson ewes.  No one else knows what that means.

8.  You would have said the clerk at the store the other day "had an IQ about room temperature".

9.  I found a letter you wrote me by hand when I went to state FFA convention one year.  It included the phrases, "There's no one here to run the 720." and "We had salmon loaf, wish you were here."  I miss your dry-as-the-Sahara humor.

10.  There are so many, many times I want to pick up the phone to tell you something and wait to hear you say, "Yeeeaaaahhhhh..."  Thank you for always listening, Dad, and letting me talk.

Oh Dad, I love you very much.
Always,
Annie

Friday, June 15, 2012

I made some mittens!

As a young girl, my grandma taught me all the crochet stitches.  What she did not teach me was how to read a pattern.  So, while I could make a mighty nifty potholder, that was about it.

Then my dear friend and crochet tutor taught me how to read a pattern back in January, and I had been cranking out baby hats like a woman possessed.  However, there are only so many baby hats a woman without babies currently in her home really needs.  

On to a new project.  

I started these mittens on my trip to Washington DC back in March and worked on them whenever I had "travel time".  My handwork bag goes with me in every vehicle!  And I get a lot of projects done that way.


Hubby tried them on and wants a pair of gloves and a matching hat.

I should count it as a huge success that he's making requests, right?? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Factory vs. Family Farms & Enriched Colony Cages

Factory farms vs. Family farms.  You hear those terms a lot in production agriculture.  There are marches on Washington to "Save The Family Farm".  Nobody wants to be a factory farm.  Many in the industrial agriculture complex label themselves as family farms, but they are indeed, factory farms.  Our state touts itself as having only family farms because we have an anti-corporate farming law.  Which means that corporations can't own farms, but families can have factory farms.

A customer of ours recently told me about the conversation she had with her mother.  Our customer shared that she was buying eggs from a local farm.  Her mother said, "Oh, I'm buy eggs from a farm too!"  And went and showed her the carton from her fridge.  It said:
Sparboe Farms - Family Owned since 1954
This woman was convinced that because it said "family" and "farm" that it was just a small farm down the road.  And marketing directors sigh in satisfaction because another customer has fallen for their ruse.  

On our trip to fetch our heifer, Hubby and I drove past a Sparboe Farms facility.  I use the word facility because it most certainly was not a farm.  There was a large warehouse-type building with semi-trucks backed up to loading docks.  And there were 11 egg laying facilities.  Completely enclosed, no natural light, no fresh air, cages stacked upon one another, 6-9 hens per cage factory confinement houses.  The only way you knew they were laying barns and not just storage buildings was the small grain bins on the side of each one.  Without those grain bins, it could have been a FedEx shipping facility...that's how much it looked like a "farm".  

"But that's not what I see on their commercials on TV!"  No, it sure isn't.  Because if you saw what it actually looked like, you would never eat their eggs.

You may have heard the big shake-up in the egg industry is the agreement between UEP (United Egg Producers) and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) to mandate the removal of colony cages from their egg laying facilities and replacing them with enriched colony cages.  The industry touts this as a huge step for the humane treatment of laying hens.  I don't care what name you put on it, a cage is a cage is a cage.  

Here are the problems with enriched colony cages:  
1.  They are not requiring them to have next boxes.  Hens love to make a nest!  They will fuss and preen and arrange the hay until everything is just so.  And then she lays her egg.  It's completely and totally instinctual and amazing to watch.  Even if they have a nest box, it will have an astro-turf-like pad in it.  Not real hay or straw.

2.  Even in the enriched colony cages, hens do not have enough room to fully extend their wings both horizontally and vertically.  Lots of room here for stretching and running and pecking and sunbathing.  Did you know chickens sunbathe?  They do and it's really funny to watch.

3.  Hens also love to dust bathe.  It's very important in their preening ritual, both mentally and physiologically.  Even enriched cages do not require a dust bath for the hens.  

4.  Neither standard cages nor enriched colony cages require a roost or perch for the hens.  Some of our hens roost on top of the shelter and some prefer to snuggle together under the shelter.  At sundown, all the hens find their sleeping spot for the night.  

As farmers trying to raise animals in the most natural way possible, I was excited to hear the first word of improvements to factory egg production.  But then I heard the details and (to quote my dad) "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!"  You can't put a chicken in a cage and call it a good cage.  It's still a cage.  

You can produce eggs on a large scale that is chicken-honoring and land-healing.  But when the industry is locked into the production model that says cages must be used, then that's all they can see.

My definition of factory farms and family farms goes a little deeper than the graphic on the carton...





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's Not a Tumor!

Two years ago, we had moved the laying hens out to pasture and I went to check them before nightfall, after Hubby and done evening chores and fed them.  When a sat down on the grass to watch them forage I noticed that one of them had a large lump on her right side.  (Like the chicken on the left)  
I thought, "Oh no, this one must have an abscess or a tumor!"  And I watched the other hens.  And they ALL had abscesses or tumors!  Before I went running to Hubby about the plague that had struck our flock, I decided to sit and watch a bit longer.  How strange that all the hens would have large growths on the exact same spot!

Then it came to me.  Those weren't tumors!  They were crops filled with grass and bug and grain!  Good grief.  After butchering a couple hundred chickens the year before, you'd think I'd remember my chicken anatomy!  The crop is a thin sack where the chickens store their foodstuffs before it enters the gizzard (stomach) where it it ground and then passed through their digestive tract.

Now we joke, "Look a tumor!"

We moved 250 Cornish Cross broilers out to the pasture.  Two pens of 65 and two pens of 60 chicks.  Each pen is 12 feet x 10 feet and 2 feet high.  


This is where they will spend the remaining 5 weeks of their lives.  They move every day to fresh ground, away from their droppings and onto new green growing plants.

Why move the chickens in these portable pens?  Why not just let them free range?

Two reasons:
First, we have a lot of predators:  coyote, raccoon, skunk, mink, weasel, stray cats and dogs, and even our own dog.  We have fended off attacks from raccoons, but we have lost chicks to coyotes (when a raccoon pulled off the netting) and a weasel killed a whole pen in one night (they kill for sport).  Thankfully there were only 25 chicks in that pen!  
The new pens (with netting reinforcement) have so-far been predator proof.  If we just let them free range, they'd all be gone before our customers would get any of them!

Second, Cornish Cross broilers are notoriously lazy.  If they could lay between the feeder and the waterer (see below) all day, they would.  
Moving them to fresh ground every day makes them exercise and walk.  It also reduces disease because they are never living on their poop.  And they get fresh green growing plants, bugs, and the occasional frog!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit

Oh what a beautiful morning
Oh what a beautiful day
I've got a wonderful feeling
Everything's going my way.



That's our view from "the office"...how's yours?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Father of the Year

After their naps, Kiddo1 looked out the window and said, "Wind, Mama!  I see wind!  Can we PLEASE fly my kite?"

I said, "Ask your dad."

Hubby agreed that it looked like a perfect day to try out the new kite.  He showed the kids how it went together.  This is not just a cheap plastic kite.  Oh no, this is 6 feet of nylon kite powerhouse!


Hubby got it up in the air with much cheering from his adoring fans.

Really, REALLY up in the air!

Look at that kite!

Then he turned the handle over to Kiddo1.

 Who was in love!

She danced and swirled and flew that kite!  Giggling and laughing all the while.

Then, disaster struck.

Her brother was going to have a turn.  Hubby coached him on using two hands and warned him it would pull a little bit, but not to let go.  Kiddo2 held it when it pulled once, but let it go the second time.

I'll repeat, LET IT GO!  We all gasped as the kite took off in the wind.  It sailed away over the lake.  The handle kept bouncing in the water and slowed it down.  The kite plunged onto the surface of the lake and floated there.

Kiddo2 turned to his sister and said multiple times, "I'm sorry I lost your kite.  I'm sorry I lost your kite."  

Kiddo1 was sobbing and very distraught.

It broke her parents' hearts!  Hubby looked at me and said, "Well, should we try and go after it?"  It was an accident, it wasn't done deliberately so we decided that we should try and save the beloved (and awesome) kite.

Hubby drug out the kayak and belted on his life jacket.  He was on a rescue mission!!

Kiddo1 watched him go and then started crying anew.  "Dad is going away just like Pa in our book.  He is going to be gone for three days and he didn't take any crackers or candy!"  (We had just finished reading On The Banks of Plum Creek where Pa Ingalls is caught in a three day blizzard and the only thing he has to eat are the Christmas candy and oyster crackers.)


I assured her that Dad was not going to be gone three days and we could stay right there and watch him.

So we settled in to watch the dramatic rescue.

"What's Daddy doing?  Mama, Mama!!"

HE GOT IT!!

There was much rejoicing!  Kiddo2 apologized again (again, totally un-prompted) and Kiddo1 hugged him and said, "It's OK!  Daddy saved it!"

And that, my friends, is my father of the year nomination.  I don't know a lot of dads who would take their kids kite-flying.  And I certainly don't know of any others who would paddle a kayak out to almost the other side of the lake to fetch the errant kite.

As Kiddo1 put it, "Daddy is SO great!"