Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Can’t Really Be Happening

Just had a couple & real estate agent use coercion to try to extort money from us in a real estate transaction. That has to be illegal, right? Any real estate pros or lawyers out there that can clarify for me?

Essentially they refused to close on the date we requested. They stated we could a) close one week early, b) close three weeks later or c) close on the date we requested if we paid them $10,000.

Friday, June 29, 2012

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

My world at the moment can only be described as chaotic. My daughter’s wedding was this past weekend. The event was lovely and a good time was had by all.


However, the person in charge of my life, who I realize is SO not me, decided a wedding wasn’t enough stress. So behind the scenes, while the wedding bells were ringing, we also held four or five showings on the house, negotiated multiple offers and I have been scouring the countryside for a place to live ever since.

I think my blood pressure is a little elevated this week.

Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m working.

In the early morning, as I walk from the welcome center to the barn, I hear the birds chirping and the bottle babies asking each other if it is time to eat. The smell of alfalfa hay and manure greets me at the 150 year-old barn doors. I put Miss V. on the milking stand and the orphan boar goats under her. While they nurse, I open the gates to let everyone else out into the pasture. Then I sit beside Miss V. and lean my head on her side while I finish milking her. She’s warm and her breathing rhythmic. From here I see the sun glistening on the grass while I watch the lambs race and the goat kids climb. I can actually feel my blood pressure return to normal.


Thank God I’m working.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flat Stanley

We wanted a donkey to help guard the sheep and goats at Conner Prairie. It couldn’t be just a regular donkey though and it couldn’t just be a mini donkey. We wanted a BABY mini donkey. I find it hard to believe that anything in this world could be cuter than a baby mini donkey. So we are trying one on for size and deciding if we’re going to keep him.

Like most babies, he likes to take frequent naps.


At only two weeks old he’s already figured out where the best napping places are.


His mother would prefer he didn’t. “Son, you’re never going to get a full-time job here if you just lie around looking dead,” she said.


“But Momma, I don’t wanna,”  he said.

“Get up. No son of mine is going to be a lazy bum.”


“But Momma, the sheep get to lie down.”

“Are you a sheep? No. Now look alive.”


“But Momma…”

“You’re lucky I don’t have thumbs or I’d spit polish that crazy hair of yours.”

“But Momma…”

So what do you think, is he cute enough to keep?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Plot Thickens

You know that part in a movie where the sweet and innocent character you’ve been feeling sorry for suddenly reveals themselves as the villain?


I think maybe I’m being played.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Celebrity Duck Rehab - Continued

Mr. Duck has made great strides since the last episode of Celebrity Duck Rehab.  According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Indian Runner ducks are great foragers. Having been raised a child star, Mr. Duck hadn’t even stepped foot inside a grocery store, let alone done any actual foraging for himself. I am happy to report that after some scratch-grains-served-under-water therapy he’s now quite adept at foraging both under water and above ground. You can see him here doing his best anteater impersonation.


We have also been working diligently on his social skills, given that it was his lack thereof that got him suspended. The chickens come to visit him often.

“They’re eating my grain. I don’t want them eating my grain,” he said.

“But, Mr. Duck, they are your guests. You remember how you are supposed to treat guests, right? You follow their lead and assist them however you can.”


“Hello, the best grains are at the bottom of the pan. Go ahead, stick you’re head in there,” he said.


“Mr. Duck! She’s a chicken, she’ll drown!”


“Oops, my bad,” said Mr. Duck sarcastically.

I don’t think his therapy is quite complete. Perhaps another month.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Beautiful Barn Babies

There are so many babies at work it can be hard to keep up with. We actually keep a white board that lists all of them and their date of birth.

This Shorthorn heifer calf was born June 1st.


These Alpine/Oberhasli buck kids were born early Tuesday morning.


According to the board the Horned Dorset twins are a couple weeks old now.


And this one, er, um, wait a minute.  “Hey guys, this one’s not on the board, does it even belong to us?”


“I don’t see a manual for it either.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No Greater Love

I started working at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park this spring. Having been born and raised on a farm, knowledgeable about spinning and weaving, and being passionate about living history it seemed the perfect fit for me. I thought it might allow me an opportunity to fulfill my desire to preserve a little of our farming heritage that is rapidly disappearing from today’s society by teaching others.

I also thought it would be a good learning experience for me; Conner Prairie is home to many rare breeds that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to work with, as I can’t exactly just walk out and pick up a pair of oxen or working steers at my local farm auction. Even if I could, I wouldn’t know how to work them.  I used that excuse to easily justify my one hour commute to and from work.

The Animal Encounters barn is set up as a nursery of sorts where guests can interact with baby animals and their mothers up close and personal. It is our job as animal specialists to help facilitate that encounter and provide the guests with knowledge about the animals and their different breeds. Our goal is always to make a meaningful connection with our guests, that’s why most of us work there, we love to watch what we call the “ah-ha” moments. However, on the really busy school field-trip days,  it is sometimes difficult as the human kids are in and out of the building so quickly it is hard to have much of a conversation. We figure if we get a few sentences out while they are petting and walking at the same time, they are at least learning something. We estimate we talk to about eight kids a minute.

It was on one of those days last week that I was standing next to our Shorthorn heifer calf when a developmentally disabled young man calmly approached me. He knelt with me next to her as I explained that she was a calf. While all the chaos continued to swirl around us, he slowly outstretched the most gentle hands I’ve ever witnessed. He cupped her face, drawing his cheek to her forehead, as he did so he softly whispered, “I love you calf.”

I wept.

I wept, because I immediately realized that I had just witnessed the purest form of love known to man.

He couldn’t have touched my heart any more if he had reached his hand right inside my chest.  It was beautiful. It was powerful. It was beyond words.


As you can imagine, since Conner Prairie is a non-profit organization, the salary for this position isn’t exactly stellar. I joke that with the price of gasoline this summer, I’m hovering somewhere above breaking even. After an experience like that though, it became clear that I’ll have to work there until a ripe old age to repay them for allowing me the opportunity to do this job.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Square Peg: A Story About Overcoming Adversity

After walking down the steps of the church basement, the preschool teacher pulled me aside and said, “We need to talk.”  The little parochial school was host to about thirty 3 and 4 year-olds. That particular day while twenty-nine other children played happily in the finger paint, my son shrieked at the touch of the paint, hid like a turtle under a desk with his hoodie up over his head, and refused to come out for the rest of the day. That, combined with the fact that he tended to vibrate and literally bounce off walls, suggested to the preschool teacher that Aaron was not her average student. He was a square peg and they only had round holes, she didn’t know what to do with him.

Over the next four years a series of teachers, physicians and so-called experts were brought in. They all had an opinion on what caused all this odd behavior, as did every person I met on the street. They gave us diagnosis after diagnosis, but I always knew they were wrong. Finally, the summer after third grade we met a doctor who recognized immediately what was going on. Her own daughter had been dealing with sensory issues and had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. There was nothing “wrong” with my son, he just didn’t fit a one-size-fits-all education system. Particularly since the grade school he attended was built with an open classroom concept, meaning there were no permanent walls or doors. Every sound in one end of the building could be heard at the other. For a child with souped-up hearing it was an awful lot like daily torture.

I consumed every book and webpage about the subject at the time, hoping to figure out what to do to help him. The school did their best to try to accommodate, even assigning him a full-time aide, but the school had never worked with a student like Aaron and the whole concept of public school goes against everything a child with sensory issues needs. We spent four or five hours a night trying to complete homework since he couldn’t focus enough in the classroom to finish assignments. He was miserable, I was miserable, it wasn’t working.

Finally, during one of the regular meetings with the school staff, it came up that the teacher had been physically forcing him to make eye-contact with her every morning before entering the classroom. The very thing you should NOT do to an Asperger child. She should have known, she was given an information packet at the beginning of the year. Clearly she’d never bothered to read any of that information packet. I made the decision right then and there to homeschool from that point forward. If I couldn’t get one grade school teacher to understand or care about what he needed, there was no way six or more each semester at the high school would either.

The decision wasn’t a popular one. Teachers, administrators, family, friends and physicians all thought I was making a huge mistake. I wasn’t even sure it would work myself, but I knew sending him to torture every day wasn’t worth it. We spent the first six months just decompressing from all the stress he had been under, while I compiled a curriculum to meet his specific learning style. When we finally sat down to get started it became clear that during all the years he was in school he always thought he was supposed to know the answers ahead of time. He never once realized he was there to learn them. No wonder he was stressed out!

We read books. Lots of books. Real books, not textbooks. We studied history, in order, following a timeline (a novel concept to education in Indiana.) We joined other homeschoolers for socialization, for field trips, and moral support. We visited museums. He joined a blacksmith association, took fencing lessons and basically immersed himself in whatever subject he felt like studying.

It was the best decision I ever made.

Then the day came when he wanted to study things I couldn’t help him with. He wanted to study Criminal Justice. At the same time, the local high school started allowing homeschoolers to take classes ala carte. They offered dual-credit courses in Criminal Justice, however students were required to be full-time students. I was very reluctant at first. We faced many of the same issues we had the first time around with the public education system, but this time he was determined. He knew what he wanted and knew just because the teachers and administrators didn’t think he could do it, didn’t mean that it was true.


He was still a square peg, they still only had round holes, and there were still plenty of hurdles to face daily. The system in Indiana teaches to the test and while he knows the information, he simply doesn’t test well. Everything he wanted for the future hinged on that test. They strung him along for what seemed like forever and we didn’t even know for sure if he would until two days before, but he graduated last night.


During the ceremony the faculty recognized all the students that had signed up to join the military; the crowd giving a standing ovation. Aaron wasn’t included because even though it has been his life-long dream to join, he couldn’t sign up without knowing if he was getting a diploma or not. When we asked him on the way home how he felt about that he said, “I thought what the crowd did was awesome. It didn’t bother me not to be included, it just wasn’t my time to shine.”

The thing he doesn’t realize is that he has been shining all his life. Louis Kossuth once said, “It is the surmounting of difficulties that makes heroes.” I’ve never known anyone who has had to surmount more difficulties to receive an education than my son. As far as I am concerned, he already is a hero.