Monday, December 11, 2006


Tangerine and Tulip bath balms
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what has been keeping me busy

Well, the days seem to be flying and here it is already December 11. Ben wrote his board examination on the 7th and now it feels wonderful to know he has more of his evenings free as he doesn't have to do intensive studying anymore. He is on anesthesiology rotation right now and had lunch around 3:30 after they came out of surgery. Hopefully he'll be home on time for supper - although that means I should probably be working on supper as it is 4:36 right now. :)
It has been very lovely weather here and was in the mid 50's yesterday. We went to a lake and walked around it, and I remembered how out of breath I get at this stage - at least I am much more active than when I was pregnant with Emily. The little fellow (Ben says it is a boy) is very active at night and early morning when I'm trying to sleep and has been causing me a lot of pain in my back, which the chiropractor will hopefully be able to help ease on Wednesday when we go.
I have an appointment in Fargo to have my picture and fingerprints taken for an extended temporary visa, which is also Wednesday, but we are going to try to do it in Des Moines as we don't know how we would get all the way to Fargo. So WEdnesday will be busy as Ben just has the morning off and they were hesitant to let him have that much off as it is.
I have had a few orders for some of the hand lotions, bath bombs (typo in the picture), udder salve, boo boo balm and bath salts I've been making, so with Emily's help distributing things all over, I've been very busy trying to keep the house clean while making up orders. Our digital camera died while I was taking pictures of the products so I didn't get all of them, but here are some of the ones I finished. My favorite scent so far is Blackberry sage, and those who get gifts from me will notice there is a lot of Blackberry sage going on :). I also sell massage melts, lip balm, and a few other things, so if anybody is interested, send me an e-mail and I'll send you a brochure. These are all products my "allergic to life" (or shampoo, hand lotion, soap, dish soap, laundry soap, perfume, etc) skin can tolerate - that is how I got into making them. I can't use traditional lotions, creams or products, so decided to make my own and eliminate the cheap fillers, by-products and preservatives and have something that actually is healthy for your skin. :) I'm also quite anti petrolatum so none of the products have any carcinogens like that in them!!
It is getting dark and started to rain, so I'd better run out and get my pile of things from the shed recovered.
Signing off
Heather and Emily (who has her own keyboard and types beside me while I type)

4 ounces boo boo balm
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4 ounces udder salve
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8 ounces Balsam Peru bath salts
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8 ounces of blackberry sage bath salts
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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Home Home on the Range

While our little abode is only a 12 by 58 foot trailer, it is still home and it is so good to be back amongst our own things after 4 more weeks on the road. I finally got the floor clean enough to be washed after piling things on it for a week, and now my kitchen counter, freezer and dining room table are piled 2 feet high with things from the floor that have to be sorted out - but at least I have a clean kitchen floor ;)
Our neighbor moved out of her trailer permanantly yesterday and was carrying two new heaters to take out when she asked me if I could use some heaters. I was rather excited as before we left for Wyoming I had been pricing heaters for use in little areas of the trailer as in order to heat the bedroom to a decent temperature, the living room and kitchen overheat. They ended up being more than I wanted to spend, so I told Ben I would wait and here we got 2 lovely ones from our neighbor. She gave me permission to snoop through her tool shed as she was leaving everything in it, so I brought back all sorts of "treasures". I've been wanting a matt for in front of the door and she had a brand new rose matt (I'm sure Ben would have something to say about the decor if he wasn't too tired to notice after school), several clocks, new paint brushes and rollers galore (they are expensive when you are painting!), a craft cart which I'd been wanting for my business supplies, a lovely Holly wreath that I hung on our porch (Ben loves wreaths), 2 electric fans that work perfectly(now I can pass along our metal ones that don't turn off unless you unplug them), and a variety of odds and ends for decorating and gardening. I also got a few garden plaques that were small and fit in the front flower bed nicely.
The dogs haven't been outside yet and are giving me very very forlorn looks. But it is -3F and my hair is wet and my cough gets worse in the cold weather, PLUS Benski accumulated all of the coats from the house in the van last night as he would run to the van, get in, overheat, take the coat off, run back to the house without a coat on and then grab another one. Emily is driving Tia crazy as she loves to use Tia as a backrest while she types on her little keyboard and Tia gets tired of it. Right now she is getting Tia to lift a front paw so she can trim nails and Tia is about ready to leap up. Tia is finally recovering from her bout of "sickness" (the most polite way to say it), after sneaking 2 homemade loaves of french bread off the counter while Ben and I were out for 10 minutes. She can't handle any grain at all without getting sick, and this was a lot of grain. So I spent a lot of time rushing her outside yesterday and cleaning up messes when we didn't make it outside fast enough.
Mocha is enduring trailer life again, although if she could speak I'm sure she'd say she wanted to go back to the t-shirt warmth of Stegman's Isaiah building where she could lounge in front of the wood stove all day and bask in 90F weather. Now she curls up in a tiny ball in our 55-60F and looks very unhappy because I'm not giving her an egg and cat food to eat but making her eat the dog's raw food. I would have thought she'd love the ground chicken and such, but she thinks it is rather uncivilized.
Frank is not with us this time, as the morning we left ND, he disappeared completely. We had just seen him an hour before, but with 11 pairs of eyes he was no where to be seen. Finally we decided Mocha would be a good enough mouser and took off, only to get a phone call 3 hours later from Anna, saying Frank had shown up in the walkway and was looking very pleased with himself to have gotten out of a 12 hour drive. Frank does NOT like travelling whereas Mocha purrs and rubs and loves every part of it.
Benski is on Small Animal Medicine and had a long day yesterday, being in the clinic from 7:30 til just after midnight. He never came home for lunch or supper, and around 10 I went to bed, to be startled by a phone call from him asking if I could pick him up and take him out for a wee bite before he finished up his mile high paperwork. So Emily and I quickly changed and warmed up the van to take him out and then he dropped us off a little while later and took the van back so he would have a vehicle to get home with in case it stormed. He's enjoying it and learning lots, but nobody likes those kind of hours and not eating.
He goes to write his boards next Wednesday I believe and is remarkably calm and unstressed about it. I figure it must be because he realizes he can't hope to review 8 years of schooling in the short time he has to study, and if he doesn't know it at this point, nothing he reads or studies will help him pass the test next week.
Emily learned some words including "HoT" (emphasis on the Tuh) and "uppp" (Emphasis on the puh) Upp means she wants you to pick her up, help her get something, bring something down or pretty much anything else. She also is getting 5 molars and is awfully happy about it all considering the pain it is probably causing her
I'd better take the poor dogs outside before it gets much later.
Signing off Heather

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why we travel

This will have to be quick as Emily fell asleep and I have a million things to clean up outside before the predicted sleet and snow arrive.
A question from Sherri prompted me to write why we were travelling so much. We aren't actually moving permanantly as much as just travelling - our home base right now is in our trailer in Iowa.
In your last year of Veterinary School you can "specialize" somewhat, by choosing which "block" you want to take for your last year. You can take Small Animal, Equine, Production animal Medicine, or Food Animal. The Small Animal people have a list of required courses they have to take, which are usually in 2 week blocks. Things like Small Animal Internal Medicine, Dermatology, Opthamology, Small Animal Surgery etc. They are kept pretty busy in the vet school hospital and clinics. Equine are also fairly busy here as the school sees a lot of horses. The production Animal Medicine and Food Animal Medicine people have a disadvantage because Iowa State does not see a lot of the cases they need for experience - ie. working with cows, sheep, pigs etc. So in order for those taking Production Animal Medicine in their last year to get the experience they need, they are allowed to take "preceptorships" or "externships" for credit in 2 week blocks at different clinics around the world. The Small Animal and Equine people are allowed also, but they have so many required courses that they don't have as much time to get away to do preceptorships. Ben wanted to get more experience with cow/calf operations as well as learning how to do better ultrasounding for pregnancy checking, embryo transfer and so on, so found clinics in South Dakota, Manitoba, Wyoming, and Nebraska that specialize in these things and then he got approval from the vet school to get credit for going to these clinics.
So, in May, he went up to do Embryo Transfer with a clinic in Manitoba for 2 weeks, then we came back to Iowa for an elective he had signed up for called Dermatology. He then did a required course through the university (clinical pathology and microbiology), then we took 2 weeks off to go to British Columbia with my family. July we were back here in Iowa at the university and he took 2 weeks of another required course (can't remember which one) and his required 4 weeks of Intensive Care/Emergency work done in the emergency clinic at the university. When that was done, we travelled out to South Dakota for 2 weeks to visit a practice that does a lot of Embryo sexing for cow/calf producers, then we went down to Nebraska for 2 weeks to another veterinary clinic that does a lot of work with feedlots and large producers. We went back to North Dakota for a week at labor day and then were back down at the vet school in October for Ben to take 2 more required courses, namely Public Health and Necropsy. Those were 2 weeks each and then we travelled to Wyoming to visit another clinic. After 2 weeks there, Ben took 2 weeks off for Thanksgiving and we are back in Iowa at our trailer for Ben to take an elective of Small Animal Internal Medicine and then we have required courses til January 29th (Anesthesiology and Radiology). He has 4 weeks of Production Animal Medicine here at the University, then 2 weeks to take an elective or another preceptorship before we head up to North Dakota to take a preceptorship during the first 2 weeks of April.
Clear as mud?? Yes, it is confusing to all of us. *G*
I'd better go
Signing off
Heather, Ben who didn't come home for lunch and must be starving, Emily who is sound asleep, Tia who is very sick from scarfing down two homemade loaves of French bread while we were away from home!!! (BAD DOG), Becky who wishes she could have had some bread, Mocha who is cold and lonely after living with Stegmans for 2 months and having a warm fireheated stove to sit by, and no goodbyes from Frank as he is still in North Dakota after disappearing the morning we were leaving to go to Iowa and only reappearing after we were 3 hours down the road.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Phew it's hot in there!!
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Peek a boo - happy smile
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Poor Papa got sick overnight and had unfortunately been gone all day at school writing his final exam for necropsy. He came home feeling miserable and Emily was all excited because he was home and was following him everywhere. He was steaming to sooth his throat and she decided it looked like a good idea and is sitting in his lap.
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I was busy cleaning everything up and putting odds and ends in boxes, and she found a little box and was putting things in. Actually, no she emptied that one as you can see from the picture where at the end of the trailer there is a little pile of books on the floor. WHat a helper!
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The suitcases got rained on, so here they are in a bedroom drying out. She decided it would be a great place to play in.
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Emily fell asleep while reading Dairy Herd management - her favorite magazine because it is full of cows.
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Emily rather likes that we have a bed in the living room now (I'm cleaning out the rooms very prematurely and slowly hauling everything back to north Dakota - plus it is cheaper to heat this trailer in the winter if I close the rooms down :)
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Here is a bettter picture of the "almond" colour after
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We've been busy repainting everything in the house and this shows the before (ignore the mess please as I had to move everything to one wall while painting) and after. Before is straight ahead and on the right wall (the ivy trim I had primed over so it was lighter).
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Emily just sitting in the leaves
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Papa and Emily out raking leaves the week we got back home
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We have a child who gets very bored in the van when driving. IF she finds something to play with or pick at, she can be busy forever. I found a broken toenail on her big toe and pointed it out and she was inspecting it. :)
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

homestead poultry nutrition

This is a post that I made in response to a friend's blog regarding poultry nutrition. I decided to put it on my blog in case any of the rest of you would be interested in it.
I raised both Cornish cross broilers and dual purpose chickens (Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Black Australorp, RIR, Ameraucana etc) for meat for the years we were on the farm, and it was growing problems that spurred me to find out why they weren’t growing, and how I could formulate a diet that would fulfill all of their needs without turning to a commercial feed. There is no animal alive that can be raised on a mono diet of only one ingredient such as flax screenings – imagine if our Mothers raised us on a diet of rice alone? ;) I don’t think it is outside a homesteader/self sufficiency mentality to research and formulate a home feed based on what an animal’s growth requirements are any more than it is wrong to research and correct the imbalances in our garden soil to produce the best garden crops.
It isn't that Cornish broilers were bred to be fed commercial feeds: a huge % of people out there raising pastured poultry (myself included for 5 years), raised them on non commercial feeds right from day one. If you add the proper amount of amino acid rich feeds and protein (I used excess milk made into cultured yogurt, alfalfa, field peas, young grass etc), they will grow properly because they are receiving the amino acids required for maximum muscle growth. The birds are only limited by the amino acid and protein deficient feeds they are fed, not strictly because of their genetics. Purchasing supposed dual purpose birds will not guarantee happiness or success either – the dual purpose birds of nowadays are not the same as what our grandparents raised. Dual purpose birds are genetically bred to have less meat and more eggs than birds of 75 years ago. Our grandparents had 2-3lb chickens and were happy to get 100-150 eggs a year out of their chickens. My Buff Orpingtons would lay a good 250-300 eggs a year which is double what the scrawny birds my grandparents raised could produce even on commercial feeds and this is because the breeding poultry houses are producing animal’s acceptable to modern home egg raisers. On the wrong feeds, modern dual purpose chickens will have restricted growth also, but because they are bred more for egg production than meat, you will not notice the amino acid/protein deficient feeds having an impact on them, UNTIL they get to egg laying age and don’t lay high numbers of eggs. Dual purpose Buff Orpingtons are probably 1/2 the size on twice the feed, but would only dress out to 2lbs at most at the same age as a Cornish broiler. Animals, humans and otherwise require protein and amino acids to build muscle. Cornish broilers on a dry weight basis are more than 65% protein when mature, so if they aren't given the protein/amino acids to build muscle they will not grow. As a side note, there is some research that indicates that in broilers, lysine requirements may actually be higher for optimum breast meat development than what was originally recommended for optimum growth or weight gain. This would help explain the “scrawny breast meat” on most home raised chickens and turkeys.
Many homesteaders that I have talked to have made the mistake of assuming that all protein sources are equal, meaning that a monogastric animal should be able to be raised using a single ingredient as a food source. The problem with this thinking is that all protein sources are not created equal and actually feeding too much or not enough of a single protein source can produce major deficiencies resulting in poor feed efficiency, growth characteristics and reproductive performance. The reason for all this gets back to the biochemistry of protein metabolism. Protein is comprised of chains of different amino acids, that are liberated during digestion. Different protein sources have variable relative concentrations of different amino acids. Amino acids are grouped into two categories known as essential and non essential. Non essential amino acids are those the body can make in sufficient amounts as long as the appropriate starting compounds are available. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be synthesized in adequate amounts to meet growth and maintenance requirements. There are 22 amino acids commonly found in feed ingredients and 11 of the 22 are referred to as essential amino acids and must be provided in most diets. This is where the problem of mono ingredient feeding arises. Different animals require different concentrations of individual amino acids for specific purposes (ie. A chicken laying eggs requires different relative levels compared to a pig putting on weight for slaughter). Lysine, methionine and tryptophan are the three most critical amino acids in poultry diets. Deficiencies or imbalances of these amino acids, leads to a significant loss in efficiency. To get around these problems, nutritionists formulate diets from a variety of sources to meet the amino acid needs of poultry, because as we implied above, there is no single ingredient that includes all the essential amino acids for growth. The feeds they use are what is known as complimentary proteins. An example is the use of corn which is a poor lysine source but an adequate methionine source, and soybean meal which is low in methionine and high in lysine. Either fed by itself is deficient and would not allow optimal health and growth, but when they are combined they provide a more balanced diet of lysine and methionine. But my argument here is only applicable to protein requirements: there are a whole host of other nutrients such as minerals, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins that need to be in proper balance for optimum health. This may all sound terribly complicated, but I’m not trying to overwhelm you. Neither am I suggesting that the only way to solve the problems I’ve raised is to go with commercial feeds or a professional nutritionist. What I hope to communicate is that through a basic knowledge of nutritional requirements of animals and potential sources of those nutrients, even homesteaders without advanced nutritional training can balance diets to produce healthful, high quality, sustainable, cost effective food products. I think a major error is made when we assume that living off the land in a simple fashion means that we must be content with inferior quality.
Enough soap boxing and back to my personal experiences. I “got away” with a lot more with my Cornish cross because I provided their requirements in the form of sunflower seeds, alfalfa, field peas, cultured milk, sprouts, young grass and herbs for proteins/amino acids, fats and a variety of vitamins and minerals; a variety of grains for carbohydrate, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus etc, and free range, pens moved 2x a day, or fresh greens cut daily to balance the rest of their diet, because admittedly, when animals in general have access to good quality feeds and forages, they do tend to balance their diets. The moment we pull them from an environment in which they get to choose their diet, (assuming the appropriate nutrient sources are available in “free range”/greens/insects etc), we have to more closely manage what they eat if we want anything more than scrawny, tough, unhealthy, poor quality animals.
Raising dual purpose breeds for meat and chicks may seem to be the epitome of self sufficiency (the reason I got into them :), but it is far more expensive, more work AND requires more chickens than for egg laying purposes alone. If you raise your own grains, each dual purpose rooster will require 2-3x the amount of feed per lb of meat produced which means growing 2-3x the amount of grain per bird. Then you must raise 2x the amount of birds to get the same amount of meat you would from a broiler so in essence you will be raising 6x the amount of grain. At some point you will either have very inbred animals or you will need a lot more chickens and roosters to raise separate lines so you can breed them purposefully without inbreeding. Because you will need at least 2x the amount of dual purpose roosters for eating as you would cornish cross, you will need a lot of hens to produce and hatch the eggs for chicks. Then when you aren't hatching chicks you have a lot of egg layers that are producing more eggs than you need and requiring a lot more feed than for self sufficiency alone. If your goal is to provide for you and your family’s needs (ie. Self sufficiency), then producing a surplus of a non preservable commodity during most of the year (with its accompanying inflated requirements for inputs), is neither cost effective nor efficient. All of this helps to explain why my grandparents and their generation did not actually raise chickens for meat the way most people think they did. Grandpa had a home flock and stewed the old hens that were not laying well or were eating their own eggs. They didn’t roast the stringy 3 year old hens, but made them into soup and would butcher the excess roosters a couple times a year when company came. The rest of the time they ate pork or beef they produced: they did not raise dual purpose birds to eat chicken 1/3 of the year. They raised hens for eggs and butchered the excess. I don’t think they would have been any more happy with the results of trying to raise dual purpose birds for supplementing their diet than most homesteaders are.
So you may be asking what I am trying to convince you of. For the record, let me say that whether we choose to purchase genetically modified, ping pong head with no brains on a basketball sized body, Cornish cross chickens for the most efficient and cost effective meat; or poor feed converting, egg producing, less efficient meat, more cost, but make us feel good about feeling self sufficient chickens, is a purely personal choice and doesn’t matter at all to me who has done both at the same time. :) In the end, both these types of birds are produced by the same industry and regardless of what we purchase, we are contributing to the same producer’s pockets. The major point of this is that there probably aren’t any completely dual purpose birds and either egg layers or meat birds can produce disappointing results if they are fed unbalanced diets.
Signing off,
Heather for sunflower seed eating Emily, M and M snacking Benski and dogs locked in the bedroom to keep me from going crazy with their begging

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lunch is almost here and I want to start some pizza dough, so I'll sign off for now
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We left the cats in ND the whole time as we didn't figure it would be nice for them to have to travel that much and came back to dead mice and mice "evidence" everywhere which is very annoying. So I had to empty the cutlery drawers, rewash all the dishtowels etc (they eat hunks out of them!) and still have a few cupboards to clean out. It is like spring/fall cleaning every time we leave as I have to clean and wash it all. Our biggest news would be that we are expecting another little one in the middle of February. I've been much healthier this time, although am suffering the same aches and pains as I had before.
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I was tickled pink to see the tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, acorn squash and butternut had done well and we have a lot of stuff in the garden still. My herbs look a little worse for wear from the frost, but they are still usable.
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We spent 3 weeks in Ashley before heading down to Nebraska for another 2 weeks and then back to North Dakota for a week where we got a horrible stomach flu, and then back to Iowa for 4 weeks. We brought home two garbage bags of apples and have made 7 pints applesauce, 5 pints apple butter, 14 pints crab apple jelly, 28 quarts apple juice and 50 cups of frozen chopped apples. I still have half a container of apples to use for more juice and jelly and then will finally be done
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We are finally home after 7 weeks on the road. We went to North Dakota for a few days, up to Saskatchewan to pick up another load (the farm sold the week before), and then back down to North Dakota for one day to unload, breed a heifer and then head down to Ashley, ND
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well, this is rather embarassing, but I don't for the life of me know what our password is to sign into the website for writing, so will have to write through our picasa photo site as I can just send stuff to the website that way. :)
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Sunday, August 06, 2006


(she was playing with my empty spice bottles and eating cucumbers which ended up on the floor)
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Boy was she ever busy playing for hours with them. (The mess on the floor was due to me canning and her helping by unloading boxes with things in them)
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I was trying to take a picture of her playing with the dog leashes.
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Papa dressed her up in overalls to look like a "farm girl"
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Another picture of her sundress - she was chasing the cat
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My wheel of fortune model with my pressure canner somebody gave to me
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I was making a roast chicken with veggies and dropped the cabbage (in the bag) on the floor. I sent Emily over to pick it up and bring it back, and she did it and then dropped the bag and it fell out. Now she is pulling leaves off for me. (what a helper)
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Emily enjoying an oyster and cracker with her Papa (definitely not my genes!)
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Showing me her new hat
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Emily had a large piece of Tin foil that I had on some pan. Ben decided to form it into a hat
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Little cutie in a sundress
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Emily was having great fun pretending to be afraid of the door. She'd walk over to it and I'd say, "Oh no, somebody's coming" and she'd come running back to stand by Ben and then look at the door.
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Ben busy on the computer waiting for his next hourly rounds
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A sweet little Arabian foal
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For a few nights last week, Emily and I went and joined Ben in Large Animal ICU. We usually stayed till 3-4AM and watched him do his rounds every hour. Here he is walking a 2200 lb percheron named Krystal
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She's been walking for about 2 weeks now.
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One of her favorite places to play is under the table
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playing with a very patient TIa
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Little smartipants figured out how to climb onto the chair, turned around, crossed her legs and propped her arm on the cat in a very adorable way.
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Some of the harvest from my little 8x8 garden. I made 8 pints of corn relish and have a double batch of salsa simmering on the stove right now. Boy does that smell bring back wonderful memories!!
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Saturday, August 05, 2006


Her mulched tomatoes
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My favorite picture of my Mom's flower beds that border the garden. She doesn't think she has a green thumb for flowers, but I think this looks right out of a flower magazine. I love the hops/vine covered trellis on the right!
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I just had to send some pictures of my Mom's garden that she took in June/early July. I love her roof top pictures and her orderly garden that seems to produce soo much for them!
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Monday, July 24, 2006


She was climbing over Tia and kind of fell over.
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She learned how to use her sippy cup and is looking adorable out the corner
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Emily is a ham when there is a camera - I can't take pictures unless I'm fast as she crawls to me as soon as she sees the camera is out
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Emily finishing a cookie and losing her pants
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Emily talking to Tia.
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Here is a picture of us travelling - Mocha was trying to convince Emily to let her sleep in the car seat with her.
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Here was the living room/dining room of the place we stayed at
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Here is the waterfall when they let the water out
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Here is the waterfall before they let the water out of the pool up above
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Here we are coming up to the hotsprings.
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