“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Autumn Fly-By

Yesterday afternoon, as I was cleaning the pasture and visiting with the pigs,

and horses...

Hubbs was busy flying his drone and getting some video of Autumn in our neck of the woods.
As you will see, the colors of Autumn have barely touched us.
That's quite unusual for the beginning of November!

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Toddler Time At The Farm

Happy Halloween from all of us wild ones, here on the farm!!

We are all partied out!

Yesterday was our party day here on the farm,
and this picture just about sums up my day...

It was a wonderful day!
With spectacular weather as a backdrop,
I spent the day with six toddlers and their mommies.

We visited the animals...

handing out treats along the way...

I'm not sure who had more treats, the pigs, or this one...

We gathered eggs...

and took turns...

and just generally had the most fun day ever!

All six had a little ride (or sit) on Red.

Mackenzie is quite comfortable around the horses and wanted no one to hold her.

Most of the kiddos didn't know each other but became fast friends.
The Moms brought favorite foods for the little ones' lunch,
and I made lunch for the Moms.

By the end of the day, each toddler had hugs for their new friends and their Moms as well.
And I'm pretty sure most of them were asleep before hitting the end of our lane!

Chester was in heaven... with so many little faces to lick.

This Grammie had the best day ever... with lots of hugs from six adorable littles!

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Some Days Pass Too Quickly

Yesterday passed like a speeding locomotive.
We had signed up for a seminar at PSU (an hour's drive), 
so I had an entire's day worth of work to get finished before noon.
It was also farrier day,
so while Jack attended to the ponies and the farrier 
(and I am told that everyone behaved themselves, thankfully)

I went out early for morning chores,
and found the crazy biker chicks in their usual roosting spot -

up in the tree above their yard.

So far, it seems to be a safe spot,

but I cannot imagine why they wouldn't rather be inside a warm house
on cold, rainy nights.
Except for this reason....


While Hubbs stayed outside with the farrier,
I stayed in the house and cooked.
I braised a whole chicken to make chicken salad for today's visitors.
(We are having toddler time on the farm today and I am making lunch for the Mums.)
I also made a huge pot of root stew for last night's dinner and put it in the crockpot
to finish simmering.
(I use bison cubes and make stew with carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes,
onions and peas... comfort food for a chilly, damp Autumn day.)
And baked and decorated these shortbread cookies - the perfect treat for Toddlers.
(These are seriously easy to...

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When The Cat's Away...

To some, a rainy Autumn weekend might mean boredom.
To me?
Pure bliss!
Even though we try to live a slow and purposeful life, 
there are days that sweep us away in a flurry of activity.
And while social events and family fun is always wonderful,
there are times when a good rainy weekend at home with nothing on the calendar
is heavenly.

Life on the farm has taught us how important it is to take advantage of the gifts
of every type of day.

It has taught us the importance of seasons,
of sun and rain,
of ebb and flow,
of work and rest,
of fellowship and solitude.

For, without one, it's hard to appreciate the other.

The cat was away this weekend.
Hubbs headed north to visit with his parents,
while I stayed home and tended to the farm.
While the cat was away, this mousie did play!

Being alone has a way of opening one up to all that is around.
The sights, the sounds, the smells.
Solitude and silence make us more aware of that which is outside of ourselves,
if we quiet our brains, as well.
Think less... and experience more.

It rained a bit this weekend, as predicted.
Luckily, though, there seemed to be breaks in the rain at the times that I went outside for animal chores.
I love these times.
I love quietly...

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Getting Our Ducks In A Row

I try to keep my ducks in order,
but chaos seems to be more the way of the world,
doesn't it?

Seriously, though, these seven Muscovy ducks are the embodiment of chaos.

Oh, how I wish I could turn back the hands-of-time to the day
when seven adolescent ducks came home to live at the barn.
My only wish is that I had known at the time that those adorable,
fluffy, multi-colored ducklings were going to grow up to be 
these red, wrinkly-faced, testosterone-driven, barn-pooping, chaos-causing quackers!

If I had had that knowledge when they arrived,
they most definitely would have become pond ducks, rather than barn ducks.

Our runner ducks are delightful.

They roam all over the farm, 
in a somewhat orderly fashion,
like big-billed penguins without their tuxedos.

They fill their day with all sorts of merriment as they run here and there,
in search of tasty morsels.

The Muscovy ducks, also roam the farm-
much more slowly, however.
They emerge from their hut every morning and spread their wings...
shaking off the stiffness of the previous night's roosting.
Then two or three of them take to the air
on a perimeter flight around the farm.
They quietly circle the farm about fifty feet in the air,
their wings "fluff,...

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Winter's Early Arrival

We awoke to our first snowy morning on Saturday.

It snowed for about 15 minutes and lasted just a few minutes longer,

but it was enough to give us a taste of the winter to come.

We winterized the water buckets, hooking them up to electricity to keep them from freezing,
as the past few mornings have been in the 20's.
The rest of the weekend was clear and cold... perfectly wintery.

I spent Saturday cooking and baking, as Sunday was planned as a family day.

Three of our kids, and their families spent Sunday on the farm.
I was in heaven... surrounded by my favorite littles!

I love days like these... they feel like holidays, without the fuss.

The kids love to spend time around the animals

and are always eager to come help with farm chores.

We sat by the fire (first fire in the fireplace for this year),
we played play doh and put puzzles together,
and ate a big meal late afternoon...
Lasagne soup, mini meatball grinders and roasted vegetables.
Cuppy-cakes for dessert!

Then afterward, we all went out to the big yard by the barn to play.

Tyler loves soccer and loves playing with his aunt, his mom and his uncles.

Annie gets so excited when everyone plays soccer, and joins in the game.

Chester and...

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Country Life

I love country life.
There is no place in this entire world that I would rather be
but right where I am right now.

Since ten years ago, when we left the suburbs for full-time farm living,
I have never once looked back and missed suburbia.
From the moment that my feet landed on farm soil,
I felt like I was home:
exactly where I was always meant to be.
And that's a really great feeling!

One of my favorite things is running errands and driving through the countryside.

Yesterday, I had to have new tires put on my car.
We try to use local businesses whenever possible.
This is our tire shop...
(on the left)

I love these rural scenes,
and this slower-paced rural life.

Having spent the first half of my life in such a different environment,
has, perhaps, given me a much deeper appreciation for this quiet, country life.

Besides having tires put on my car, 
we spent much of yesterday running necessary errands:
 to the produce market for veggies (now that our garden is winterized),
and to the feed store for animal feed.

 Once home, I spent a little time just taking photos around the farm,
getting used to a new camera.

You see, while we were in Africa there was never a minute when my camera 
was not on me.

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Sam's Story

If you have traveled this road with us since the beginning, 
you may remember the story of how Brown Sammie came to live on the farm.
If not, this is your chance.
Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee... this is quite the story.

Sam had his humble beginnings in a rescue in Charlotte, North Carolina,
about ten years ago.
He had been found, along with his brother, wandering in the woods outside of the city.

At the time, our two boys, Andy and Ryan were living together in Charlotte.
Andy, having graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering was working for an industrial mixing manufacturer in Charlotte.
 Ryan, who had graduated from PSU with a degree in industrial psychology and supply chain,
 had also found a job in Charlotte and relocated from Pennsylvania.
New to Charlotte, Ryan moved in with Andy who had bought a townhouse just outside the city.
Naturally, a dog was the next logical step.

Enter Sammie.

Andy found Sammie at a shelter and the two became fast friends.

House training progressed well with one set-back.
Sammie had a bad case of separation anxiety and ate his way out of his crate.
After that, they boys tried keeping Sam in his room with a baby gate.
Easily scaled, the baby gate...

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Brown Sammie is photogenic.
And cooperative.
Of all the dogs we have had, he seems to understand the value of posing for the camera.
And here he is: with his "innocent" look.

Then, a paw comes into the photo,
obviously trying to push Sammie aside.

"My turn!" says Chester.
"What paw?"

All three... such loves.

Annie is not much for posing, but since I asked,
she begrudgingly obliged.
(Note lack of smile.)

Finally, late yesterday afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun made a weak attempt at shining,
as it neared the horizon.

I let the horses out in the front pasture for a couple of hours.
As they trotted through the gate,
hooves went slipping and sliding on soggy ground.

What a bedraggled group of equines.
Especially this one:

He truly looks as though no one loves him.

As soon as everyone dries out,
a good grooming is in order.
To attempt it when they look this bad...
would be like putting lipstick on a pig.

You know, come to think of it...
MaryAnn might look quite nice with a little lipstick!

Yesterday morning I noticed this wooly fellow by the front of the barn.
By late afternoon, he had crawled the whole way back the aisle towards the feed room.
According to the Farmer's Almanac, the amount of black on...

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How We Spent A Rainy Monday

Yesterday morning,
we were greeted at the chicken house by a bevy of hens
who looked as though they had spent the night 
"wasted away again...."
in Margaritaville.

You'd think that these crazy chickens would learn.
It was 40 degrees and steadily raining...
which, to Jack and I, ranks a "9" on the dismal scale.
(Wind would bump it up to a "10.")

Not only did they stay out all night,
but in true morning-after form,
one of them laid an egg while perched 8 feet or more up in the tree.

Luckily, wet ground is soft ground - and the egg, though tiny, was intact.
I am guessing that the hen in question was quietly trying to pass a little gas...
and was quite surprised when an egg hit the ground.
Had she been entirely sober, she might have been mortified
as her gal-pals cackled uproariously.

After a solid 16 hours of rain, the farm is more mud than not.

 (Almost) Everyone stayed in yesterday.

If you asked the horses, they might complain that days like that are boring.

However, if you ask me, or the ducks,
we will tell you that a rainy day is a gift.

Appreciative of the extra time without outdoor chores,
I spent the rainy hours working in my sewing room.
I finished the first of a pair of Nordic mittens and...

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Sweet Serenity

There is something about seeing this whole group 

out in the front pasture together,
that makes my heart sing.

They are all so cute and so very sweet,
and amazingly tolerant of each other.

Normally, I put them out in shifts:
equines in one shift,
pigs and sheep in another.

Sometimes I put the donkeys out with the pigs and sheep.

Yesterday I opened up the pasture gates and let the horses out with everyone else...
and waited...
and watched.

Luckily, everyone was peacefully just nibbling away, minding their own business.
That is, until the pigs decided that they needed more from the relationships
than just a distant friendship.

No, Ginger and MaryAnn decided they needed to get very very close
to all of the horses.

 Pigs:  "Hi there, you like me, don't you???"

Horses:  "Meh!"

At which point, instead of waiting to hear the horses say,
"No, not really!",
I decided to bring the pigs and sheep into their own yard for safekeeping.
Why tempt fate?
I am not one to ever take chances with my animals.

Everything is always wonderful... until it's not... and that's the part I try to avoid!

Ten peaceful minutes together was enough for me,
and the pigs and sheep were more than happy to come into their yard 
for a Ritz...

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A Hike to The Stream

With the mercury reaching 70 yesterday,
it was the perfect time to take a walk in the woods.

There's something about the sound of dry leaves crunching beneath your feet,

and the moist smell of leaf decay that feeds my soul.

We headed out the side of our house,

past the woodshed
(that Jack has spent the past two months filling for the winter).

We try to augment our heat with wood in the fireplace, as our fireplace is equipped
with a mechanism that burns all of the particulate matter in the smoke...
making what goes up the chimney much cleaner.
This fireplace puts out a good number of BTU's and really helps to cut down
our electricity usage.
Sorry... I digressed... back to the walk....

You may have noticed in yesterday's video that there was a rectangular, green field very 
close to our house.
This field lies at the foot of a trail through the woods next to our house and acts as a buffer
to the neighboring farm with a stream running alongside.

It's a favorite hiking place for the dogs and us,
not to mention, a favorite hunting place for the dogs.

The Jack Russel terrier in Chester really shows as he sticks his head and shoulders
down this groundhog hole.

We wanted to place a few game cameras next to...

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Frost on The Pumpkins!!

It took weeks, but Autumn has finally arrived...
and it may have left already and been replaced by winter!

It was 37 degrees yesterday morning when I went out to do chores.
During the afternoon I received a weather alert on my phone
warning of a freeze during the night.
Looks like two little piggies will have a heat lamp on for the night.

Freezing nights belong to winter!

Because I know that weather like this will be certain death for summer's flowers,
I took a moment to photograph the remaining colors of summer
so that I can commit them to memory for the grey months ahead.


Profusion Zinnias

Cock's comb

more Zinnias...

Dahlias....oh, how I love dahlias!


Soak in the color, for I believe it will very soon be gone.

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day.
The temperatures eventually reached the mid-fifties.
I am in heaven when the thermometer begins to fall.
I love cold, crisp days!

Its was the perfect Autumn day... filled with errands...
stocking up on feed, pine shavings...
a trip to the local produce stand for fall veggies...
and a trip to the local auto parts store for a new belt for the hay elevator.
I try, whenever possible, to be self sufficient...
so, yesterday's goal was to buy and...

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Morning Magic

Mornings are a special time at the barn...
especially when witnessed before the sun comes up.
With the sun rising over the pastures,
the dark of night is magically transformed by a technicolor sky.

After a night of slumber, the animals are ready for their breakfast.

The horses and donkeys go out to pasture.
The ducks emerge from their yard...
greeting the day with flapping wings.

The turkeys emerge in their own style... as graceful as a 30 pound bird can be!

The rest of the animals wait patiently for their food, fresh water, and housecleaning.

Each day, though different... begins the same...
regardless of the weather or whatever is happening in the rest of the world.
In this little corner of the world the rhythm remains constant.
And there is a comfort in this.

Once the morning chores are finished, I head home for a little breakfast with Hubbs.
Hubbs' farm activities have been quite curtailed since his foot surgery,
so my morning chores are done solitary.
And though I love his company...
I also love the peace and solitude of doing chores by myself.
It's a chance to commune with nature and with our animals...

a time that is so very special to me.

Later in the morning, I head back out to bring in...

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Bad To The Wishbone

We've kept chickens for many years, now.
And through the years we've had many breeds of chickens.

It wasn't until this year, however, that we had funky chickens.
Yes, we have five funky chickens right now...
five Silver Spangled Hamburgs...
five hellions.

I call them The Dots... that is, Dorothy Hamburg and her four sisters... quintuplets.

I thought, when I placed my order for chicks, that I would get the usual
brown layer package that I always order.
(Well ordered, pleasant, rule-following hens...you know the kind.)

I must have had a small stroke as I placed the order...
and ordered something completely different...
because what I got is the craziest,
rag-tag bunch of chickens that you could ever ask for.

This group doesn't believe in rules.
No boundaries... no curfews... no rules.

When we first moved this new group of young hens into the large
chicken yard (which is flanked by two large houses)...
these crazy Dots decided they were not sleeping in the houses with the others.
Nightly, we would have to shoo them from the branches of the willow tree
that rises above the chicken yard.

And then we would have to chase them down and catch them in order to 
get them safely tucked inside their houses for...

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A Full Weekend, As Promised

We enjoyed our first official Autumn weekend...
with temperatures in the low 40's during the night and 50's during the day.
It was wonderful!
We've waited so long to finally get Autumn weather...
and so have the animals.

Everyone spent even the sunniest part of the day basking in the cool air.

It's the greenest October that I can remember... no leaves have begun to change yet...
with the exception of this one large shrub near the old log cabin.

Our weekend was chock-full, as planned.
Hubbs had a little foot surgery on Friday and that went well.
He is out of commission for a while... until he can comfortably put a shoe on.
He's using the time to catch up on his reading and his life-long education.

Saturday morning I spent the morning at Tyler's soccer game and then took him shopping
for books as promised.
He has become a voracious reader... and as long as he has a book,
he avoids "screen time".
So... we bought books! (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series books)

This boy is my sweetheart.  He plays soccer with so much heart and soul...
so different from the days of "crazy legs".

I spent Saturday afternoon working outside in the garden,
and cleaning the pastures... with lots of company.

While out in the...

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Lazing and Grazing

Cool, sunny Autumn afternoons...
perfect for lazin'...

and grazing'...

Will you just look at that sky!

The horses are so happy at this time of year... no heat, no bugs.

Isn't he just the cutest little horse ever?
And those eyes...

Of course they still have to wear their grazing muzzles...

but they are actually quite used to them.
No complaints are offered when getting dressed to go out to pasture.

As for those doing the lazing'...
Sammie has relaxation down to an art form...

He stays like this until he hears someone having fun...
then he jumps in the game.
This is called conserving one's energy until something better comes along.

As for Chester...
he is not much of a napper.
He spends his time with his radar detectors at full attention...

just in case anyone signals him.

With ears like those, he can hear what's happening two counties away!

Chester has become the perfect farm dog.
He never strays, but spends his outdoor time adventuring close to wherever we are.
He's super loving and very enthusiastic.
He's a great watch dog... with only one vice...

He just cannot hold his licker!


It's that time of year...
time to post our skunk kit.

Autumn and Spring seem to be big skunk...

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The Wide-ettes

When a day begins like this...
you know it is going to be just perfect!

Yesterday was just that... perfect.

I headed out at sunrise and walked all of the horses up to the upper pasture...
where they stayed until mid-afternoon...
with grazing muzzles as everyone is a little chubby right now.
I'd rather they go into winter a little chubby... 
(emphasis on the word "little".)

What a breathtaking scene as I walked with horses in each hand.

The donkeys spent a couple hours in the front pasture with the sheep and pigs...
while I finished working around the barn.

Bringing the donkeys back into the dry lot was complicated by a porcine princess
who refused to leave the dry lot.

I knew that if I went out into the pasture, she would follow me.

The front pasture needed a good cleaning, 
so rather than drive the gator, 
I took a muck bucket on a cart and set out on foot.
It's much easier to find pig poop when on foot...
and let me tell you... these girls are great poopers!

In no rush... I took my time and visited with the pigs and sheep.

By the time I finished and headed back up to the barn, the donkeys
were voicing their displeasure at the absence of the horses
(who were still in the upper pastures).


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Getting Cozy With Autumn

There's something wonderful about Autumn!

To me, it's the time of year when I concentrate more on homey things...
logs on the fire, soup in the kettle, wool on the needles, etc.
It's my favorite time of year for indoor activities... 
Spring, of course, is my favorite for outdoor activities.
Winter... not bad at all.
(If we could take away the proliferation of flying insects who love to invade my personal space and the intense humid heat... it would rank equal to winter.)
That about sums up the seasons for me.

Meanwhile, here on the farm... everything remains strangely green...
except for that which perished at the hand of this past weeks' killing frosts.

And though the foliage is wilted, the purple beauty berries are spectacular in the afternoon sun.

Bright sunny days with cold crisp winds have helped to keep the midges (gnats) away...

a welcomed relief for everyone... two legged and four!

It seems we all have a little something to crow about these days!

Our newest crazy chickens have begun to lay.
Each day we get a lovely assortment of colorful eggs...

This year, I have not used a light to extend their daylight hours.
We are only getting 10 to 12 eggs daily...
and that is plenty...

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The Last Harvest

Yesterday was a beautiful Autumn day...
bright sunshine with cold wind... 
crisp and dry.
(dry is something we've not experienced much in the past few months)

Our little people spent the day on the farm...
breakfast through late afternoon.

Easton is obsessed with the gator.
Just mention the word gator ,
and he heads towards the door nodding his head affirmatively.

Mackenzie, now 3, is a riot.

Oh, the things that come out of her mouth.
As I walk towards the gator, where the two of them are sitting waiting for me...
she looks at me and says,
"Leave us alone, we're going to Costco!"

We spent a part of the morning in the garden.
I had noticed that the frost had finished off the sweet potato vines,
and decided to harvest the potatoes.

While the kids played in the playhouse, 
and the dogs wrestled on the ground...

I pulled the vines and uncovered the sweets.

Probably because of all the rain...
we have grown record-breaking potatoes this year.
They are massive... one is enough to feed a family of six!

This is not an optical illusion... they are actually that big!

By the time I had finished, I had enough to feed a small army.
Several of them are as large as the two above.

The kids eagerly helped...

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Garden Surprises

You might look at this photo and think it was taken months ago...

as green is the predominant color and small remnants of summer remain.
This was yesterday.

And though it seemed that Autumn would never arrive...
it has indeed.

A morning like yesterday- starting chores beneath a silvery moon- 
with 30 degree winds nipping at your nose...
might make you believe that winter has chosen an early arrival.

By mid-day, though it is clear that this is not winter...
just a mixed-up Autumn... who cannot make up his mind
whether he wants to stay or go.

He's not unpacked his suitcase yet... his colorful wardrobe
remains hidden from us.

I had two surprises yesterday when I went to the garden to work on cleaning up the 
raised beds.
First... I found this note attached to the garden message board...

It read:

Sure enough, Minerva was gone... no longer standing at her post
in the midst of the raised beds.
No longer was she keeping watch... discouraging pests
from stealing the produce.

It's understandable. 
She's a warm weather gal... the hotter the better, actually.
She had a tough summer... working through weeks of rain and humidity.
I'm sure she will enjoy drying out a bit on the other side of the globe.
She's assured...

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Treasure Hunting

Spectacular Autumn continues...

and I am as happy as this gal!

I took a trip off the farm yesterday morning through the countryside
in search of treasure.
I was hoping to find something big to place on the center of my
dining room table for seasonal decorating.
We have a rather large table, and most centerpieces are swallowed up by it.

I travelled through the rolling ridges and valleys of our local countryside...
(still so green!)

and stopped in at some of my favorite antique markets.

Along the way I saw this guy...
a Gypsy Vanner (my all-time favorite horse crush).
These are the horses that the Gypsies used to have to pull their wagons.

In my dreams I own a horse like this and the wagon as well.
And in my dreams we travel the countryside from small town to small town...
adventure and adventure.
(A girl can dream!)
In my dreams, though, my horse looks like this...

My trip was successful.
I found this rusty old iron pig trough, and it's the perfect size for our table.

My pumpkin collection fits perfectly!

My other goal was to find something for displaying dried hydrangea.
I have several bushes that are loaded with dried or drying blossoms.

I love bringing them inside to enjoy throughout the winter.

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The Safari Formula

From what I could gather, most safari companies operate
in a similar manner.
We were lucky in that the two safari companies that we dealt with were small and
specialized in intimate groups.
Our daily excursions were limited to just the four of us... Jack and I, and Jack's sister, Becky, 
and her hubby Rob.

Our days were structured like this:

5:15 AM wake up call 
(a gentle African voice outside our tent would say "Good morning! It's time to wake up!")
5:30 Breakfast
(toast done over an open fire, porridge, cereal, tea, coffee)
6:00 leave for morning safari
(we normally did either a walking or driving safari at this time of day)
Morning safaris yielded sighting such as these....



herds of zebra....

birds, birds, birds...
the birds of Africa deserve their own post.

elephant traffic jams...

so comical to watch!

giraffes in the mist...
(don't worry... we got very close to many... more pictures coming!)

fresh tracks from the previous night...

10:30 return to camp for showers
11:30 lunch
12:00 noon to 3:30 PM free time
(time to read, write, sleep, etc.  
This is the time of least activity for the animals... they avoid the high heat of the afternoon hours...
and most days it...

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Out Of Africa...

Two weeks ago, when we left the farm and began our journey to Africa,
we knew it would be the adventure of a lifetime.
We were not disappointed.
Actually, we were clueless as to just how much of an adventure was awaiting us.

The travel was long... a nineteen hour flight to Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia...
followed by a five hour drive into the wilderness of Kafue National Park...
a park the size of Massachusetts in the heart of Zambia.
Zambia is a country without infrastructure once out of the city... so much of our drive
was on a one lane dusty, dirt road.

As our driver crept along the winding, rutty, dirt road,
I couldn't help but notice the battalion of tsetse flies accompanying our vehicle.
We were without air-conditioning and the air was stifling...
but the flies made opening the car windows out of the question.

By the time we reached camp, most of the flies had been left behind,
and the stragglers were quickly taken care of by a spray can of "Doom"...
harmless to humans, but doom to the flies.

We were greeted with smiles and cool damp cloths to wipe the dust and sweat away-
then quickly shown the camp that would be home for the next few days.

Our accommodations were basic and lovely.

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Hippos, Giraffes and Lions, Oh My....

Our first week was split between two camps owned by the same safari company.
The first on the edge of a dry lagoon,
(it was dry season...otherwise it would have been full of water)
the second on the edge of a huge grass Savanah. (this place deserves its own post)
Towards the end of the first week...
we were used to the nightly sounds of Africa by this time...
the bird songs, the monkeys, the alarm calls from antelope, the grunts and munching of hippos
and elephants, the growls of leopards passing through camp.
But... early one morning I awoke to a different sound...
it was a low, guttural grunting growl...
and within minutes it was followed by the sound of soft, solid footsteps,
jogging past our tent.
I knew it was a cat... a very large cat.
I shared my experience with our guide at breakfast and before you knew it,
we all quickly jumped in the safari vehicle and set off to search for the owner of that growl.

Guides are so very good at knowing where to look...

and there he was...


To explain what one feels when coming face to face with such fierce beauty...
I would have to say awe, fear, and an incredible desire to hop out and pet the beast.
Thankfully common sense rules, and that...

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African Babies

It fascinates me to watch how different species nurture their young.
Baboon babies were all over the place...
hanging onto their mothers.

For the first couple of months, the babies cling to the front of their mothers...
never far away from their source of nourishment and safety.

After a couple months, they ride upon their mother's back down next to her tail.

Vervet monkeys do the same.

It's not uncommon to see a couple of baboons fighting over a youngster.
Mommas have to carefully watch over their young, or others in the troop
will steal them... and then a screaming match ensues.
Occasionally, the youngster will become the center of a tug-of-war match.
Somehow, they survive their childhood... as was evidenced by no shortage of baboons!

If only I could say the same for Egyptian goslings...

They, unfortunately become easy prey for African fish eagles, who swoop down and
swipe them away, out from under their parents' watchful eyes.

We saw several zebra babies.

This particular one was about 2 months old.

Hippo babies were usually in the water with the rest of their pod and could only be
identified by their smaller head.
We were lucky enough to see this mother and calf on the banks of the river as we...

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Walking Safari

One of the more interesting parts of our trip was our walking safaris.
I have to admit, I found them just a little un-nerving...
not actually frightening...
but I will admit there was always a thought looming in my mind that
danger could possibly lurk around every "corner" or bush!

The last thing a safari company wants is to lose one of its guests,
so they make walking safaris as safe as they can.
An armed scout leads the way, followed by a guide,
then a handful of guests and another guide at the rear.

You are instructed to quietly walk single file...
with additional instructions as to what to do if you encounter a lion, a leopard,
an elephant or a hippo.
The idea of running into any of those made me just a little nervous.
Luckily, the only one of those that we encountered were elephants...
and our scout saw them long before they perceived us as a threat.
We gave them wide berth and safely found our way out of their sight.

A walking safari gives you the opportunity to see all that you wouldn't see
in a vehicle....
animal tracks, insects, plants, dung, skeletons, etc.

A hippo tusk...

Elephant tracks...

Hippo tracks...

Lion dung...

hyena dung...

The guides are well versed in all these areas and are a...

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Things Africa Taught Us

I wanted to share a video with you that was done by our first safari company.
It will give you a good idea what we experienced while there.

While seeing wild and unusual animals is definitely an exciting part of a trip to Africa,
for me it was so much more.
It gave me a chance to think about how interconnected all of the different species
on this earth are.
Each day illustrated how delicate the balance is between everything in nature.

Sometimes we think about our earth and its inhabitants as if it is "us" and "them"...
when in reality, it is everything all together...
interdependent... interconnected... in one great big web of symbiosis.

There were so many illustrations of this interconnectedness that we saw along the way.
For example...

This particular fig tree grows the most unusual fruit along it's trunk and main branches.
Atypically, the flower of the tree is contained within the fruit.
In order for the flower to be pollenated, a very special species of wasp
invades each fruit, laying its egg within the fruit and pollinating the flower while it is inside.
The larvae then develops within the fruit.
The tree needs the wasp and the wasp needs the tree -
two totally different types of species...

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The Busanga Plains

Of all the varied species that we saw in Africa...
none were more prevalent than the grazers.

Impala and antelope-type animals were everywhere...
especially on the plains.

The second stop of our journey took us to a bush camp that was a little more
primitive than the other two camps.
Don't get me wrong... though our accommodations were not as fancy as the other two camps,
 they were still quite lovely.

No electricity, no running water, no phone...
and yet, there was always a bucket of fresh well water for drinking and hygiene...
and bucket showers when we needed them.

The "lodge" was a tree house...

and meals were served right on the edge of the savannah...
where the woodlands meet the Busanga Plains.
I haven't mentioned it before, but the meals were fabulous.
The first safari company had a Cordon Bleu-trained chef create their menu.
It was chock full of vegetables and beans and quinoa and salads with just small portions of meat...
exactly how we like to eat.
Desserts were lovely... small... again, just perfect.

We spent a couple days exploring the wildlife of the plains by safari vehicle.
(I'll mention here that we had two flat tires and one broken fuel line during these two days...
which only...

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Learning To Love Rainy Days

We awoke to pouring rain yesterday.
This seems to be the norm, anymore.
By late morning we had received an inch.

Needless to say, everyone was happy staying indoors.
I have learned to love rainy days... out of necessity!

During a late morning break in the showers, I threw on my muck boots...

and headed to the barn with the dogs in tow.

We all needed to get out of the house...
even if just for a little while.

I stopped by the barn ducks' house to check for eggs.
The runners and Muscovies have the run of the farm... and oh are they
taking advantage of it!

They've been gifting us 2 or 3 eggs each day.
(Wonderful for baking!)

For the past few summers, I have attempted to grow an archway of vines
over the walkway to the greenhouse.
Metal livestock panels can be easily formed into an arch and staked into place.
I planted morning glories and moonflowers at the base of each side.

This year, with the abundant rainfall, the archway is lush with greenery and flowers.
White moonflowers that bloom in the evening and lovely blue morning glories
that open with the morning sun.
Tyler, when he spent last weekend with us, remarked at how
all the leaves are shaped like hearts.

The garden archway that I planted with...

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