Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Changing seasons

This year we made the decision to send our oldest, our seven year old boy, to a private school part time.  For a proud homeschooler, it was not an easy decision.  And I have to admit, it's a decision my husband is still not very happy about.  It was really all my idea.

I love homeschooling, but there were challenges.  My son was not reading at the level I thought he should and I was at a loss as to how to improve it.  I read blogs, books, had him read for professionals and prayed.  Most of the homeschooling advice I got was to just wait it out because boys read later than girls.  But I couldn't do that.  

We are very fortunate in my area to have a wonderful new christian school that uses the classical method.  It's not a Charlotte Mason type school like Ambleside in San Angelo or Fredricksburg, but I think the classical method is the next best thing.  I really felt like God was leading me at least visit with the school head mistress.  Amazingly, she was open to letting our son attend part time.  In other words, he would go there three days a week and the rest of the week I would do school with him at home.  I thought it was an amazing opportunity to have the best of both worlds - private school and homeschool

My husband is beginning to come around.  It is a logistical nightmare to get him to school, even for three days a week.  Plus, he loves having his kids around full time.  As do I.  And I really believe homeschooling is the fabulous education if you do it right.  For us, it has been a blessing.  I wouldn't trade learning at home in a nurturing environment for anything.  I would never do this if it was full time or if it was public school, at least not at an early age.

I have to say though, after a few months of doing both private school and homeschooling, my son is flourishing.  His reading has improved dramatically.  I think it has a lot to do with reading in front of other kids.  Since he is of a competitive nature, reading in front of others who read well makes him try harder.  That may not work with some kids, but it works with him.  And he loves his school and his teacher and they really love him.  We went to our first parent/teacher conference last week and his teacher told us that she had been praying for him.  I was so touched.  I can't imagine hearing those words from a teacher when I was in school!

He actually wanted to wear this tie to his first day of school.

I pray that the school continues to let us go part time and that my other children will have the opportunity to go there.  That will give my children the chance to experience learning at home and still have a private christian school education. It's in God's hands, but I am so thankful.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Monarch Invasion

After the longest, hottest, burnt to a crisp, dry summer in history, I was shocked that we had the largest influx of Monarch migration that I've seen since being at the ranch.  It seems every other form of wildlife has suffered greatly because of the drought, but the Monarch swarm was bigger than ever!  

The kids loved walking through the trees, surrounded by butterflies.  We have them every year, but not in the abundance we've seen this year.  I know they're just moving through, but they brought us a little hope that not all is lost in this parched land.

My own little butterflies enjoyed climbing the trees to try and touch  the monarchs.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RANCH KIDS ON A MISSION Junior Ranger Day - Ft. Davis National Historic Site

Here we are back at the fort again and this time we're here for Junior Ranger Day and we've brought along a friend.  We're so excited to be back after having so much fun a the fort's Frontier Christmas.  The first thing we did is sign in and they even gave us bandanas to wear!

We were given an introduction to the Fort and then they showed us the barricks where the enlisted men lived.  The men slept in cots with wool blankets.  They played games in their spare time and cleaned their weapons.

One of the brave Buffalo Soldiers explaining the interesting history of the Buffalo Soldiers at Ft. Davis
the names of the enlisted men still hang on their beds
The card table where the men played cards
Then we split in to two groups and the girls went one way and the boys went the other.  Girls went to the beautiful cotton wood trees and made handmade dolls, learned songs and made other crafts.
The staff were very nice to help me make my doll.  They have alot of pretty fabric to choose from.
Look at the pretty doll my friend made

The boys learned how to hold their rifles, shoot the canon and build a tent to sleep in.

Later on, the girls also got to learn how to hold and shoot weapons. 

Then everyone was taken to the kitchen and the nice ladies showed us how they made homemade ice cream by kicking around a can with milk and cream in it.  Afterwards, we even got to eat the ice cream!

As usual, we loved our time at Fort Davis!  The people that work there are so nice and helpful and we learn so many interesting things!  It makes us appreciate how easy it is for us to live here now thanks to the sacrifices the early settlers made at the fort.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day in Rural America - 4th of July in Ft. Davis Texas

Patriotism is still alive in rural America folks!  In fact, few places in the United States showcase the resilience of the American Spirit more than this small little town.  It was only a few months ago that Ft. Davis was ravaged by a wildfire that burned 314,000 acres.  Many families lost their homes.   Ranchers lost valuable grassland already devastated by drought, livestock were lost and hundreds burned, fences were burned to the ground.  Most ranchers had to sell off what cattle they had left because they had no where to put them. 
photo by Carolyn Nored Miller

During the wildfire, this small town did what other small towns like Joplin, small towns in the South and in Minot, North Dakota have done - they banded together and took care of each other.  Ranchers and cowboys fought their own fires beside the volunteer fire department and Foresty Service, they looked for each other's cattle and lended what little land they had left to pasture cattle for those that had lost everything.  Neighbours took in those that had lost their homes, restaurants shut down to donate their time and their food to feed the hungry, churches opened up to serve first responders meals and volunteers poured in immediately to assist in distributing resources. 

This weekend, Ft. Davis was ready for a celebration.  The town was determined to show it's true colors and red, white and blue were displayed everywhere.  And thank God, people showed up.  Hundreds of people from all over the state came to celebrate the 4th with the townspeople.  The parade seemed even larger this year.  Several long time residents had their family reunions and were in the parade, the Prude Ranch summer camp kids filled flatbed trailers, the Ft. Davis National historic site Buffalo Soldiers marched, the Martinez family rode their horses, the Baize family rode side saddle, and anybody with a four wheeler or a dune buggy roared loudly down the parade route. 

Every type of law enforcement or civic organization imaginable was represented from the Sheriff's Department, the Fire Department, EMS and Border Patrol.  Apparently, the only rule is that there are no rules and anyone with a siren can be in the parade.

After the parade, people gathered around the courthouse lawn (the only green patch of grass anywhere in the tri-county area, by the way)  and enjoyed a very eclectic array of culinary choices from food vendors.  You could find anything from the 4H crew selling BBQ, Menudo to Turkey Legs and Shrimp on a Stick.  Of course there were the wide assortment of booths selling everything from lavender ice cream to handmade rocking chairs.  We even had a barbershop quartet serenading people.  And at the historic Ft. Davis National Bank they had a bank robbery re-enactment for those that wanted to see the mayor, local pastors and other townspeople, dress up and shoot each other.

Ft. Davis Methodist Church Float
My two year old melted down about half way through the festivities and so we didn't stay for the shoot out or the street dance that evening.  The kids were actually on a float this year instead of watching from the side lines so we left the ranch early to be at the parade route in time.  I'm glad they had the chance to be in the parade for once, but it's also nice to sit in your lawn chair and get pegged in the head with candy by kids that don't know how to throw, while watching all of the interesting characters go by. 

So if  you ever want something different to do for the 4th of July, and you feel like driving a long way to Far West Texas to a little town in the mountains called Ft. Davis, please do.  It will be worth the drive.  They'll probably even put you in the parade!

The Patriot and Rooster Cogburn - can you get any more American that that?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Couponing for Country Girls

Are you one of the millions like me and others that have become addicted to coupons after watching TLC's 'Extreme Couponing'?  Have you thought to yourself, "I can totally do that!  I would love to pay $2.00 for $600 worth of groceries too!"

My couponing transformation has shocked a few of my friends and family because I'm not known to be what you'd call 'thrifty'.  As one of my bff's said, "aren't you the girl who spent more on a dress for my wedding at that Japanese boutique in NYC than I did on my wedding dress?"  But as I say time and time again, 'I'm a shell of my former self'.  For instance, this morning I got up extra early to hang around Facebook waiting on a Bounty coupon.  Pathetic. 

Saving a lot of money by couponing is a great goal if you live in the suburbs, but if you live in a rural community, on a farm or ranch, then its a little harder to do.

And here's why

1.  Small town grocery stores are much more expensive that large super market chains.  I'm a big believer in shopping local, especially when your local grocery store contributes so much to the community and hires alot of local people, but items at our local grocery store are at least $1.00 per expensive than at stores in larger communities.  If you use your coupons you may end up paying the same price as you would at a large store so it's still worth it to use coupons.  I generally save about $10 on small shopping trips.

2.  It is a long way to cheap.  My nearest Walmart, Target or large supermarket chain is 3 hours away from the ranch so I have to figure in the high cost of gas into the savings equation.  Carpooling with a girlfriend is your best bet.

And that is why I love Dollar General. I know, I know, some of you are shaking your heads, but in my little town we have the Neiman Marcus of all Dollar Generals. And I did a price comparison with WalMart the last time I was in the city, and Dollar General is cheaper. (on the items I purchased at least) Granted, you can't find everything there, but that is where I buy all of my household cleaning supplies, paper products, cereal and diapers.

3.  If you don't cook alot of processed or convenience food then you're not going to find alot of coupons.  I have yet to find many coupons for flour, sugar, eggs and other basic necessities.  And meat!  Not alot of meat coupons.  We're blessed to have free beef on the ranch, but I also like to cook chicken and pork and pork.

There's a ton of deli coupons for sausage, hot dogs and sandwich meat, but if you stay away from foods with alot of nitrates then you're out of luck.  And forget about finding healthy, organic alternatives from brands like Natures Path, etc.  (if I"m wrong and you have info on alternative brands that I should know about please, please correct me b/c I'd love to know)

4.  Unless you have access to large volume newspapers, coupons are hard to come by.  That is why I print most of mine, which means you have to sign up for every internet offer, website and facebook page.  You also have to factor in the cost of printing in to your savings equation.  Therefore, I have found my favorite source for coupons is :

Please visit their site.  You can pick and choose from their large data base of coupons and they will clip them for you and mail them to you at a rate of about .08 per coupon.  So instead of saving $1.00 you might only save .92 but still!  It beats paying and average of $6.00 a week for Sunday papers to find coupons.  And you can order multiple coupons for the same items.

How to start

Get a coupon organizer.  I bought this one from Target the last time I was in the city. 

it's hard to get a decent photo of anything without my silly kitty sticking her nose in it
You can also buy them off of  Don't go hog wild and buy one of those massive binders just yet, until you know your commitment level. 

Get a group of girls together to carpool with and maybe swap coupons when you have too many of one kind of coupon. 

Join sites such as (they have a great toolbar that prints coupons),,,,, and I know there are many more.  Alot of these sites have the same coupons but sometimes you get lucky.  And sign up on your favorite manufacturers sites. 

If you cloth diaper, make everything from scratch and use only natural cleaning products, God Bless you! but you are not going to get alot out of couponing.  In fact, one thing I noticed from watching Extreme Couponing is the amount of junk people bought.  One lady bought like 24 cases of soft drinks and 50 bags of chips and candy.  Well, who cares if you save $200 if it ends up killing you!

Here are a couple of tips

Don't try to use your coupons on a shopping trip with your kids because its very frustrating to flip through your coupon book, double check your prices and keep an eye on your little ones at the same time.

Resist the urge to buy stuff you don't need or would never use just because you have a coupon for it.  I'm still wondering what I'm going to do with the 4 bottles of chocolate syrup I bought last week. 

But you could also use this as a great ministry for your community, church or local food bank.  Maybe you don't have kids in diapers, but since diaper coupons are readily available you could stockpile diapers and donate them. 

Couponing is labor intensive to a degree, but anytime I can save money on a grocery bill it's a good day.  The last time I drove 3 hours to the nearest city with my massive, well planned grocery list I ended up saving $60 on top of factoring in what it would have cost me to shop at our local store.  After I factored in gas and the price of coupons, I saved quite a bit of money.  Next time I plan on carpooling with friends and saving even more.

So if you're even remotely interested in couponing, but you don't know where to start and the long dirt road seems endless, I say go for it! The worst that could happen is you're stuck with a coupon book and a case of chocolate syrup.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Remembering Cody

Today snuck up on me for the first time in 18 years.  Usually, I know it's coming for weeks to come.  I feel it in my muscle memory and it haunts my self conscience.  But this year, I remembered it only when someone said the date and I said to myself, "hmm, what is today, besides the day before Fathers Day?"  I should have remember and terrified I realized that the time had finally come that I would forget the day my only sibling was killed. 

Instead, I saw a hawk on Spanish dagger, my little boy walked by me in his cowboy hat, I heard the jiggling of my husbands spurs and in the background I heard someone playing Tejano music.  Clearly Cody came back to me in a very peaceful way and not in the sudden, grief filled explosion of the first ten years after he was gone. 

He has almost been gone as long as he was alive and that also brings a certain sadness.  Sometimes it feels like a hundred years ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday.  I know as an old woman I will still remember his smile and all of our wonderful times together and yet it feels so good not to constantly relive the pain of the loss, but to celebrate that he was here at all.

Remembering Cody
Cody at two years old

our first trip to a mall to see Santa

Cody at eight years old

His ninth birthday

Cody at eighteen years old

His side kick Cowboy

On a rodeo trip to Montana and Wyoming

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is your faithfullness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him.  - Lamentations 3:17

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Okay...the abyss still has me...

I just thought I was back.  It wasn't really a technical abyss I was in after all, but more of a spiritual, physical and mental abyss.  I've told those of you before that have read my blog that springtime is not the best of times for me.  Here on top of the rocky mesa the wind blows hard and non stop for months.  That, coupled with almost 8 months of no rain and then one of the largest wildfires in Texas history, has made me a little blah.  Oh, and my garden has failed miserably!  My husband gets a bit irritated that I keep pumping money into a futile obsession, but he has no idea how much gardening means to me.  Gardening makes me happy. When it doesn't work because of high winds, a drought, plagues of grasshoppers and roaming varmints, I'm drawn in to a bit of a depression. 

This is what most of the Davis Mountains area of Texas looks like now

This is why I haven't even stepped foot in to this blog in months.  I don't have really have anything fun or inspirational to say and no one wants to log on to a Debbie Downer blog and read some housewife whining.  But I am failing miserably at Everything.  I've even ditched homeschooling so that my kids can go part time to the private school in town.  Yes, I'm willing to drive an hour each way so that my kids can actually learn something from someone else other than me!  If I can't grow tomatoes, then how in the world can someone expect me to teach my children to read.

I know so many of you also struggle with the same feelings of inadequacy.  Those feelings seem to come with the territory if you're putting alot of effort in to being a good wife and mother.  It would be easier to be one of those moms who sit their kids down in front of Sponge Bob with some Doritos and a Mountain Dew while you smoked and watched soaps in your bedroom (not that there's anything wrong with that).  But if you're putting 100 percent in to your family, it's easy to put too much pressure on yourself.  Ask any homeschooling mother about pressure....

But I love my blogging community.  Sometimes I need to be the one that finds inspiration in another's words and I need to take a rest from my own expectations.  I've had to admit to myself lately that it is hard to be so remote, even though I'm probably more prepared for this life than most.  It is hard to home school, even though I absolutely love it.  And it is hard to have a garden in the desert when the devil birds are stalking your squash seedlings and the javelinas eat your tomato plants.  I just keep praying and remembering...

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

(if I had a picture of a cute fuzzy kitten I would put it here)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The long walk back from the abyss

For people who want to live 'off the grid', I say come live at my house.  I'm not even near a grid. 

The last few months have been a struggle to maintain this blog.  I might as well be Amish, with as much access to water, electricity and technology as I've had.  But now our phone and Internet is working, we have water and electricity and unless a wildfire wipes us out because it's so darned dry around here, life should return to normal.  Whatever normal is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hiking with family

It is remarkably warm here at the ranch in contrast to the sub zero temps we had almost two weeks ago.  Typical of this area, we go from ten to 80 degrees in a very short time.  But I'm not complaining because we had a very mild winter compared to most people in the U.S.

Now the water problems are slowly being repaired, my house is returning to normal and the sunshine beckons us outdoors.  I've spent so much time trying to dig out of the piles of laundry and dishes left over from going without water in the house that I was really getting cabin fever.  So when we had our first warm day that wasn't windy (those days are few and far between February - May) our family decided to go arrowhead hunting for the first time in almost a year. 

We have to take the ranch dune buggy to the area we like to hike.  And when I say 'hike' let me clarify my version of hiking.  It really means walking on big rocks.  We live in terrain that is hard to really go hiking in because we're surrounded by things that will poke, cut or bite you. 

This will be the first time to take the Punkin since she has really started walking and it will be good to get her out in the rocks and get her used to it.  I have always carried her in a backpack,  but now that she is two she will be able to get around with her brother and sister, who navigate the rocks like little Auodads. 
Punkin is not as excited about walking around by herself as I thought she would be.  The grass is really high.

Thankfully her big sister likes to hold her hand and walk with her.  She loves to be a little mommy.  She babies Punkin more than any of us.

My son is little too adventurous and so most of my time was spent making sure he didn't fall and break his arm.  Our dog Diego never leaves his side.

We're only out and hour or two before someone starts crying for a diaper change, a snack or because one of them finally falls in to a cactus.  Daddy has taken all the whining he can stand and waits patiently in the dune buggy.

Now that Mommy has been outside to get her much needed Vitamin D, I feel much better.  Sometimes it just takes a little sunshine and exercise.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bad Mommy Days

Sometimes I have a bad Mommy day.  There's nothing else I can do that sufficiently explains why everything just goes wrong inside this house.  I can blame it on all different kinds of factors, but sometimes...its just me. 

As anyone that knows me can tell you, I have the patience of Job.  I seldom lose my temper. However, I feel like I am at maximum capacity today.  The deep freeze of the millennium has left us without water for almost two weeks.  Apparently the freeze burnt a pump out and although we had water, it was nary a trickle and I couldn't wash dishes, do laundry or take a bath for over a week.  You can imagine the pile up that has occurred in a house with three small children and a working man.

This is unusual for this part of Texas and even more frustrating, it was unaccompanied by any type of moisture, which we desperately need.  Apparently, according to the older folks in town, this has not happened since 1962, a tale that has now local folklore because all of the women who told me about this also remember their husbands being out for days busting up frozen water troughs while they stayed home giving spit baths to their own children.  Of course, dishwashers and washing machines were still a bit of a luxury and they weren't smack down crazy trying to figure out what to do with themselves without these appliances.  I thumb through my mother in law's grandmothers journal trying to find some reference to how she handled something like this but....she had people!  I don't.  I AM the people.

I haven't mopped the floors, the towels lie molding in the corner, no one has clean sheets, dishes pile up in the sink still swimming in their pre super bowl glory, and laundry is stacked up in piles waiting to be put away as I've loaded and, then unloaded them after two hour round trips to town to wash. 

Anyway.... back to the reason I'm so grouchy.  I'm frustrated and overwhelmed and I'm projecting this on to my children.  The chaos is everywhere and I think chaos is breeding chaos like jackrabbits around here.  Not to mention all three of the children are sick which makes them whiny and temperamental.  It's a trifecta of craziness!  So apparently all of the habit training Charlotte Mason talked about is out the window!  No one is cleaning up after themselves, there's UFC fight championships being  held over stuffed animals, the littlest scrape sends them over into full throttle breakdowns, the baby keeps getting into markers and using them for makeup, school doesn't get started until 9 a.m. and even when it starts it just stalls.....and I find myself whirling through the house yelling like a character out of some Edward Albee play.

When children sense frustration, instability and chaos, it makes them nervous and when they're nervous they take it out on each other, you and the living room furniture.  Slowly but surely, you have to redirect their energies to something productive and then get back on a schedule.  I have to calm down.    I've resorted to using my Mary Poppins voice.  I don't really mean anything I say with my Mary Poppins voice, but it's like being a greeter at the Gap, eventually you'll start believing yourself and the mood is changed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ten Days of Charlotte Mason with

I sometimes have a hard time explaining our homeschooling method, the Charlotte Mason philosophy, to people who are interested in how we teach our children.  I say it's a philosophy because it's not a curriculum but a way of life. 

Cindy, at is hosting Ten Days of Charlotte Mason, sponsored by Heart of the Matter's blog hop.  She is doing a wonderful job of explaining the intricacies of the Charlotte Mason method and explaining key points of the method such as narration, living books, copy work, artists and composers and nature study.  So if you can, join us for a great discussion!