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A Very Educational Field Trip

We drove 200 miles and through 5 counties on Friday.
The first stop was Helen Keller's birthplace and childhood home in Tuscumbia.
Once a 600 acre estate, 10 acres acres remain with the estate.  
Probably most people in the state of Alabama would recognize this statue.  
Jenna was thrilled that there was Braille on so many displays.
Helen at the well pump; it was her "light bulb" moment that started her on the path to being the most educated deaf-blind person of her time.  And here's the real well pump.
Then on to Wheeler Dam, stopping for a few minutes to show the kids the big lock doors and explain how it works.  The dam is 72 feet high and 6,342 across, creating a reservoir that covers the Muscle Shoals rock formation that had blocked navigation of the Tennessee River.

It has 11 hydroelectric generators, and the two locks raise and lower boats and barges and average of 53 feet.  It is one of 9 reservoirs that creates a stairway of navigable water from Knoxville, TN to Paducah, KY.
The winter and summer water levels can only vary by 5.5 feet--which blows my mind.   Part of DH's job at the control center is regulating the water levels for all the AL Power dams, there are many government regulations on how much water, when to move the water, and so forth.
Wheeler dam is owned by TVA power, and they do not give tours.  Next summer DH hopes to give us a tour of an AL Power dam, and watch some barges go through the lock.  When DH worked at a dam, the big kids would go quite often, but the dam where he worked did not have a lock. 
Then on to Joe Wheeler State Park Resort.  There are portions of the park's 2,550 acres on each side of the TN river, which can make it very confusing. (Translation: we got lost a few times.)
There we saw The Columbus Foundation's Nina and Pinta replicas.
These are the most historically accurate replicas of the Nina and Pinta ever built.  If I remember correctly, they took over 2 years to build, by craftsmen in Brazil, using only hand tools.
It was shocking to see the actual size, and amazing that the original small ships went back and forth to Spain.
The replicas now tour parts of the east coast shipping loop, for people like us to enjoy and learn about.
I just realized we did not get any pictures inside the ships =(.

Dec

December 1st and I still have Geraniums, strange, strange weather.
After not seeing a drop of rain for months, and having a record breaking drought, we got 3.67" in 48 hours.
There were straight line winds in the area, and tornadoes 30 min. to an hour away.


The next morning we had these beautiful layers of fog across the farm.  The pictures don't do it justice, it was really pretty.

Waid had laser surgery on his right eye last week.  Even with his shunt, the eye still makes to much fluid.  The lasers "kill" the liquid producing cells, the doctor has to get enough to get the pressure down, but killing too many cells would result in loosing the eye.  He is seeing as he did before the surgery, as best as we can tell.
He goes back next week to see what his pressure reading is.  

He made a colony of origami penguins the other day, and had fun with them all day long.

Lucy Wild had a calf on the 1st.  Lucy is our least tame cow (hence the last name "Wild") , so we couldn't get close for many pictures.
At first Lucy walked off and left the calf (who still doesn't have a name).  It was starting to shiver and I was trying to wipe it down.  The slimey stuff is almost impossible to get off.

Lucy did come back an lick her clean, the rough tongue does the trick!

Another birthday

Kristen is 25!!  Doesn't that sound soooo old!?
Emmi wanted to make brownie/clown cones for Kristen.
Emmi baked the brownies (shown underneath the ice cream), 
and bought supplies with her own money.  A couple of clowns looked pretty good.
Then there's always one in the group......
that can't follow directions, and just dumps tons of junk on their creation.
We had our Thanksgiving early, since DH has to work.  No big kids were able to make it.
We ate (and are still eating) the most amazing locally grown 16lb turkey EVER!!
We have discovered the secret combination----brine at least 12 hours, cook breast down, low and slow, overnight at 170 degrees--
-you're welcome.
Of course there had to be drama---the sink stopped up.
Turns out it wasn't just the sink, but the pipe that takes our gray water out to one of the ponds.
Although DH and Wes spent hours working, and under the house investigating, I'm thankful this happened before DH's next stretch of work days.

Guess where we went...

the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
Our credit union has a good grades program for kids.
So, since last fall, the kids have been taking their report cards in to get $5 deposited to their accounts.
They saved enough money for a 1 year pass to the Space and Rocket Center.
For larger families, it is usually the same price, or cheaper, 
to get a 1 year pass, than paying for just one day.
In this case, it was the exact same price, and now we can go back again!
The size of the rockets, boosters, etc., is simply amazing.

Next time we plan to take a picnic, and stay longer.
We have another field trip coming up in a few weeks---stay tuned!

A love-hate relationship


In order to get REAL, amazing, out of this world bacon, we must raise pigs.
Lately they have been escape artists. 
 It's been very frustrating, and of course, they never escape at a convenient time. 
On this day, it was while DH was at work.

See the gate on the far left, that's to the orchard, where the pigs were running free.
We had to get them through that gate, and the one shown between the cows and the pigs.  
Four crazy pigs, compounded by 11 beef cows who were wanting the food bucket that we were shaking to get those pigs to follow us.  Then, across the dairy cow's pasture, and into the pig pen.
They had not been escaping from the actual pig pen, but when they were out in the pasture.  
Later the same day, they broke out of the back of their "house" in the pig pen.  So when DH is not home, my repairs look like this:
Zip ties, and pieces of electrical wire to be used as twisty-ties are my friends. 
 I'm pretty handy with T-post pounder-in-the-ground-thingy too. 
 At least my cheesecake survived the drama of the day.
DH has now bought a stronger electric fence zapper thing, and all is well in pig world.
Counting down the days to bacon, unfortunately, it's about 100 days.
Waid had a birthday last week, but I did not get a single good picture.
He has another eye surgery next week.
Lastly, we picked the last of the watermelons---on November 11th--crazy weather!!!!
Earlier this week we had the pleasure of meeting the woman whose father built our house!
She is 80, (does not look it!!) and was 3 months old when her family moved in.
We were excited to learn more history of the house, and stories about her family.
A few years ago her daughter commissioned a water color artist to create a painting.
 The artist used various photos they had. She had told me about the painting in one of our phone conversations.  When she arrived carrying the painting, I thought she had brought it to show me.
I was wrong; they had contacted the artist to make a copy for our family!!

We were overwhelmed with their thoughtfulness and generosity.
I can't wait to shop for a frame!

 The rest of our week was pretty normal.
Cute animals galore.
Elizabeth has a heart on her head!
These bunnies are about 2 weeks old.
This one is adorable, with his black spot.
We spent most of the day today adding another strand of barbed wire to a fence, 
and tightening up the other wires.
Our pigs escaped into the neighboring pasture yesterday, 
so this job moved to the top of the list.
After living here 2 years and 2 months, I have now seen the back fence to the property.
DH had previously just pointed across the creek and into the woods to show me the back property line, now I have actually been there.

When we got back up to the house, Floyd and Elizabeth were discovered lounging by the mulch pile, which is NOT in their pasture....more escapees.
We walked around their pasture two times, and still cannot figure out how they escaped!
Luckily they didn't run off!