31 July 2014

Wombat Defence

Wombat defences

All we need is some ingenuity
Filling the wombat hole with bricks and stones is on thing, but we needed more to stop a wombat dedicated on his mission of making a new nest.
Opa looked around his "treasure trove" in the garage and came out with some steel used for strengthening concrete in trenches.  These were then cut into lengths and then bent so they would fit between the supports for our under-house storage and go into the ground some distance too.
So far so good.  The Wombat hasn't been back yet.  But it's still early days.  We'll see how well our wombat defences hold up if the wombat gets really determined!

28 July 2014

A Little Bit Of Kindling

Just a little bit of kindling
Once more it is cooling down in the evenings so we need to light the fire. "I think we need a bit of kindling," I said to James.
He gathered up Rose, Martin and Zach and they went for a walk among the nearby trees.
Eucalyptus/gum trees are notorious for dropping leaves, twigs and branches all year round making a superb fire hazard around their bases. This works out fine during Winter when we can perform this community service, reducing the local fire hazard whilst gaining kindling to start our fires.  Dried gum tree branches are great for starting fires.
A short time later they returned and showed me their "little bit of kindling".
"Yep," I said, "That should do the trick."

Wombats!

Water Pump covered by soil

A good start to a wombat hole
Last night a wombat decided he had found the perfect place for a new hole.  Unfortunately it was under our house.
Zach discovered the new hole early in the morning with lots of fresh dirt and called over Martin so they could play in it together.  Then Rose popped over to see what they were doing and realised this large hole under the house needed some adult attention and called Opa.
The wombat had dug around 6 foot into the dirt around the foundations of one end of our house.  The pump for our water was covered - which is not good.  James did mention the pump sounded funny when he had a shower this morning. Being covered in dirt does that kind of thing.
So we have now filled in the hole with a variety of bricks and stones and put up a strong mesh to make the whole process more of a challenge.
We have lots of wombats in our area.  They are nocturnal and like going from point A to point B.  If something is in the way, they just dig under or around it and continue on their nightly trek. Often you can see old houses in wombat areas with collapsed corners as their foundations have been dug away.
This is just one of those benefits of living in the country.

27 July 2014

Eric's First Car

Just like a First Car is supposed to be
Now that he has his driving licence, Eric needed something to drive.  By a great stroke of fortune, a relative of a friend had upgraded her car and was able to sell Eric her old one for only $450!  It is roadworthy and runs well. The paintwork may not be premium but who cares? It is a first car and no finance was needed. Well done Eric.
But cars come with other costs.
Insurance (3rd party which covers damage to other vehicles and property) costs about $300 a year.
Registration and compulsory insurance (which covers damage to other people) will probably come in at around $900 a year.
And then general maintenance and other running costs.  Luckily he is a clever fellow and has a knowledgable Opa and father of a friend who can help him with car maintenance.
Now he can be free (er).

23 July 2014

Another one through!

Done!
Eric has passed his driving test and now has his P (Probationary) plates.  He has now gained another independence step, freeing him from the vagaries of public transport.  At least that will be the case when he gets his own car.
In Australia, learner drivers need to pass a knowledge test, then accumulate 120 hours of driving experience (including 20 hours of night time driving) over a minimum of 12 months and then pass a driving test with close to 100% success.
The resulting Red P plate has some limitations, moving to the green P plate after at least a year and then finally a full license at a minimum of a year again.  So from the time of passing the Learner Driver test, it is at least 3 years before you become a fully licensed driver.
We have two children through so far.  The next is about to take his test and then we have another 15 or so years of learner driving as we go through the remaining 5 children.
I am very glad that Lana's father is around to help with the driving load!
Well done Eric!

17 May 2014

Autumn is colourful

It's raining leaves
We only have a limited number of trees that act as seasons signposts, where Red and Orange mean slow down and Green means go outside.
So we get to enjoy the leaves changing colour and yelling to all of us that the great season of Autumn has arrived. I took this photo of Rose playing with the leaves at the local shop. Less than a week later all the leaves are gone. No more playing with the leaves.
When Rose was born almost ten years ago this time was Spring, with all the trees bursting with new green life and the weather warming up. She doesn't remember, other than through our photos, but we still remember the great time we had living in Georgia.

25 April 2014

Grandparents are awesome 2

"Look Pirate Tough - Close enough"
Unfortunately we only see my parents a couple of times a year as we live quite a distance away from them.  This distance has been shrunk since getting Mum an iPad so now we can share videos and photos and even Skype between visits.
Mum is a great seamstress.  Recently the younger boys wanted pirate outfits.  With little more than their rough measurements and some movie pirates on which to base costumes, Mum created some great outfits.
This photo is of the boys playing in the Pirate costumes.  "Look Pirate Tough" I asked the boys so we could show off the costumes.
They struck this pose.  I shrugged and said "Close enough".
When a parcel arrives from Grandma the recipients take as little time as possible to access the goodies inside and test them out.
Considering the new word of approval, cries of "Awesome" follow their revelation of the box's contents.

24 April 2014

The games kids play

A Horse Walking on a Motorbike
Over the years we have collected quite a bit of Lego. In early days we found much of it at Garage or Yard sales, especially in more affluent suburbs where the best stuff was for sale.
8 children and many years later and we have quite a collection.  A young lad popped over the other day and his jaw dropped when he saw the lego in the play room.
Today Clare decided to make a game using Lego, applying many of her experiences with her brothers and wargaming.
An example of one of the rules is:
"If you roll a 1 or a 2 the Lego person goes through a normal life. If you roll a 3 or 4 your Lego person is a detective and you have to solve a mystery.  If you roll a 5 or 6 an Alien comes to Earth and you have to find it."

The Lego Table
Clare came into the study and started explaining the game to Lana.  I was working at my computer and only part listening until I heard the rule, "and a horse walking on a motorbike".
I turned and asked, "How does that work?"
Then I had the rule explained more clearly as, "I worked out how fast you can go on a horse, walking or on a motorbike."
That made much more sense.

The children all had a great game, using imagination with the assistance of Lego and dice.  Great!

Grandparents are awesome

The wheels of the bus go round and round
Grandparents are awesome
It is a great benefit having Lana's parents living with us.  It is not for baby sitting as the children either come with us or the older children can do the job.  It is for the benefit of just being there.
The children all remember wandering across to Grandma and Opa's place for morning tea - basically a biscuit or lolly and a cup of milk. They have all helped in the garden or carrying various tools or otherwise "helping" in various household tasks.  Sometimes we get complaints of a bit too much "help".
Yesterday Opa was going for a walk with Zach, Martin and Rose.  Martin and Rose ran ahead while Zach stayed behind and held onto Opa's hand.  He looked up at Opa and said, "I like you Opa.  You and Grandma. Awesome."
Now that is what I call positive reinforcement.

Rose and Zach were helping Opa pack their bus for their weekend trip. Opa walked around the corner of the bus, out of direct sight.
Zach paused and said, "Dammit.  We lost him."
A few steps later and they caught up with him.

18 April 2014

Passion Plays are great ways to commemorate Good Friday

James and Peter waiting for the play to begin
Good Friday is the day we join in the Passion Play celebrated at The Pauline Fathers Monastery at Penrose Park, NSW, Australia.
It is worth the drive (about 1 hour from the outskirts of Sydney or 90 minutes from Canberra) to take part in the recreation of the Passion of Christ, from the events of Holy Thursday night through to Jesus' death and burial.
Rose, Clare and a friend ready to play the wailing women.
As the weather today was perfect there was somewhere around 7,000 or more people watching and praying as the play proceeded from the front gate through to the grotto on the 100 acre property.
The best part about the Passion Play is it works on all five senses.  You see the actors playing all the roles, you hear not only the words, but also the murmurs of the crowd and props such as weapons and armour.  You smell the dust and people around you and feel the sun above and ground beneath as you follow the scenes and also feel the bumps and crush of the crowd at pivotal points. And lastly you can taste the air and remember the hunger on this day of fasting.
Combined with the prayer and reflection, you get a more immersive exposure to the story of Christ's passion.
That's a lot of people

Another memorable part is the worldwide collection of languages and nationalities making up the crowd. We become pretty used to the worldwide or universal nature of the Church, but a visitor attending his first play mentioned to me how the diversity really hit home the worldwide nature of Catholicism.
The actors are sourced from local homeschooling families and youth groups from the various parishes run by the Pauline Fathers in Sydney.  The costumes and sets improve each year, building on what came before.  The passion play that was part of World Youth Day provided a gift of the costumes they used to the organisers of the Pauline Fathers' play.
Jesus during the Last Supper

At the start of the long road to the crucifixion

Along the road with one of the thieves following

9 April 2014

Calling each other names

A posed shot
Lana was on the phone.
So Rose came up to Ariel and stood there waiting.
Ariel raised her eyebrow in inquiry.
"I'm waiting for Zach and Martin because there has been name calling," Rose said.
Once the boys turned up Ariel asked "What happened?"
Rose said "Zach called Martin Ramsbottom."
Ariel paused, wondering how to respond.
"And then Martin called Zach Zee," Rose continued.
We have a pretty strict policy against name calling and come down pretty hard on breaches of the peace.
Rose said, "And then Martin hid behind one of the flags with clear [safety] glasses and Zach patted him on the nose."
Such tragedy!  Such abuse! How does one respond to such cruelty?
"Don't hit each other.  Don't call names. Go away and play."
"Okay," the boys said and went and played.

There you go.  Sibling rivalry at its worst!
(Previous Sibling Rivalry posts are here)

5 April 2014

David's Easy Muesli Bars

Too tempting not to try
This tasty treat is based on a recipe found somewhere and perfected with endless experiments and taste tests. It only takes about 15 minutes to make, let cool and then cut into slices.  The recipe is very forgiving.  Throw in whatever is on hand that sounds nice and then glue it together with the goo.
Easy Peasy.

Ingredients

Dry Bits
1 cup toasted muesli or rolled oats
3 cups Rice Bubbles/Rice Krispies
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup Dried fruit bits (we throw in even more)

Goo mix
125g (4.5oz) butter
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (normal or raw sugar)

Chuck all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
Melt goo mix in saucepan.
Bring to boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes until the goo is caramel like.  The longer you simmer, the chewier it gets.  Just don't let it burn on the bottom of the pan.
Throw gooey stuff into the bowl and mix thoroughly, ensuring everything gets well gooed.
Press into greased (or non stick) lamington tin (20  x 30cm/8in x 12in)  and refrigerate.
Pretty soon it can be cut into bars. A tray should make about 36 bars.

Options:
Use Tropical muesli to get a wide variety of fruits and stuff.
Add in finely cut apricots, dried apples and currants/sultanas for added chew. We usually add about 1 to 2 cups of various fruit medley, etc.
Use more honey and peanut butter for extra chew.

1 April 2014

The city is very interesting

There are a lot of cars in the city
Yesterday Clare came with me as I visited a few clients then did some wholesale shopping for our shop.  This meant waking at 5:30am to leave by 6:00pm so we could get to the first client at around 8:00am.
"It's so dark!" Clare commented as we left, using a torch (flashlight) to get to the car.
"There's a lot of cars going to the city," said Clare and was amazed as the kilometres sped by and more and more cars continued to join us until we were surrounded by cars.  Luckily traffic flowed pretty well today, but it was still a 2.25 hour drive.
"Ooh!" she said as the lift went up 6 floors and "Oh!" as it slowed down.  "Elevators are cool,"
She read her books pretty quickly while I helped my clients and then she tagged along as I finished up.  A couple of the employees said to each other, "We better watch our language as David's daughter is here!"
"The buildings are really tall and way too close together!" she noticed.
The second client and the wholesale businesses were near the airport, so plenty of planes were visible reasonably close. "They're so close.  Planes are cool."
I have been assisting the second client for almost 20 years so we are on pretty familiar ground.  He said to Clare as we were leaving, "Thank you Clare.  You did a great job."
All in all it was a good day having Clare come along spending a day with Dad. This goes down under "Work Experience" or "Field Trip" in our homeschool diary.
Many of the people we encountered asked "No school today?" to which we promptly answered, "We homeschool.  This is a field trip."

31 March 2014

Not Pedalling Not Riding

A Team Effort
"Dad, can we show you something outside?" said Martin when I was home earlier than usual on a beautiful sunny afternoon in the last days of daylight saving.
"What are you going to show me?" I asked, as I have to make it worthwhile.
"Zach and me and his bike," he replied.
"What's so special?" I enquired.
"Zach's not pedalling and I'm not riding it." he explained in his own unique fashion.
I sat back and pondered how one could achieve this fine double negative and went out to see what they were doing.
Zach was on the seat with his legs in the air and Martin was pulling on the rope attached to the bike's handlebars.
So Martin did provide an accurate description after all.  The bike is about 30 years old and the old brittle plastic is not strong enough for older children so this is their solution so they could both play with it.
"But I had to do most of the work," added Martin as I am typing this.

30 March 2014

Dressmaking - Starting Small

A matching full summer outfit - in miniature
Clare and Rose wanted to buy some American Girl dolls and the various accessories.
Although Clare has earned the money working in our shop, the cost to purchase and ship to Australia was exorbitant. Clare was willing but our parental veto was invoked.
Although disappointed, Clare accepted the decision.  A short time later Aldi was selling 18" dolls for $25 with a starting outfit.  Deal!
Now it was a matter of dresses and accessories.
Both grandmothers are very good seamstresses and Lana has the skills too. So this has provided a great opportunity for Clare to learn the skills doing something she wants to do.
We purchased some doll patterns for very reasonable prices (some Free) from You Can Make This and with some initial tutoring from Lana, Clare has been quite busy.
YouTube has also been handy with instructions for making shoes.  This photo shows her first attempt at shoes and her first dress from the patterns she purchased.
Based on this method of dressmaking, for the cost the one American Girl doll we will have quite a wardrobe of clothes and accessories!
Now all this sewing is done after "Schoolwork" and on the weekends.  Because this isn't schoolwork, but fun!

29 March 2014

It's only for frogs

This is only for frogs.  Green frogs.
While rummaging around in my office Zach discovered this metal thing which is designed to connect a wall bracket to a Flat Screen TV.
"What do you have there, Zach?" I asked.
"It's for frogs," he answered. [Pronounced Fogs]
"Frogs?  How?" I asked and through a series of questions and answers provided to me with a very knowledgable air, I obtained the following explanation. (translated into English)
"It's for their hair. Frogs have green hair and this is used to cut their hair.  There aren't any around here but they live in water.  And frogs drink water too.  That's why we don't see frogs with much hair - only a little bit of hair - because of this thing."
There you go.  You learn something new every day.

25 March 2014

Preparing Dinner for today and tomorrow

Many hands make dinner work
As a family we enjoy the taste of home made crumbed chicken.  Remembering the story of the little red hen and the making of her bread, everyone gets to help.
Lana chops up dried bread in the food processor and then we mix in some pepper and basil and if - we feel up to it - grated lemon rind.  The children then line up for the manufacturing process.
Lana slices the chicken breast into thin pieces.
This goes to Zach (4) who coats it in plain (general purpose) flour.
Clare (13) then dunks it in an egg and milk mixture.
Martin (6) then coats the wet thing in the bread crumb mixture and adds it to the pile.
Meanwhile, Rose (9) and Peter (15) washed and cut up the potatoes that had been peeled by Clare.  Rose cut and peeled the carrots.
Once the potatoes, carrots and peas are boiled, Ariel (22) will assist with the frying of the chicken schnitzels in the electric fry pan.  James (17) and Peter will then help set the table that has been cleared by the other children.
After dinner, James and Peter will do the washup, with the younger ones filling or emptying the dishwasher as required.
So when people ask us "How do you cook for so many?" we can simply answer, "Together".
This really works well because we have the lifestyle that homeschooling allows.  We have no school homework or incessant "extra-curricular" activities to interrupt these life skills.
I think I will record this as today's "Home Economics" lesson.

23 March 2014

This many whiles

This many whiles
The children went outside to play in the beautiful sunshine. The initial decision was to go on the trampoline, but this changed to riding bikes.  This meant Zach was left out as he isn't up to bike riding speed yet.
So he came in upset and told Lana all about it.  Then he stopped and said, "Peter!" and ran off.
A short while Peter came in and explained what Zach had done.
Zach asked Peter, "Jump trampoline with me!"
Peter replied, "My feet hurt.  I've been working all day."
Zach raised his hand with spread fingers and said, "Only this many whiles."
So they went and played on the trampoline.  A very short while later, the others noticed the activity on the trampoline and soon they were all on the trampoline after all.
But only for a "while".

18 March 2014

It's show time

Clare's quilt
This time of year is Show Season and it is a very busy time for Lana and the girls. Although the boys used to put in some entries, the girls plan all year to put in entries and combined with Lana and her Mum we end up providing a reasonable share of the Pavilion entries at the local shows.
I put in my photographs for which I get some prizes, but Lana and the girls really collect the accolades.
This is especially true in the junior classes.  Over the years we have seen a steady drop in the number of junior entries.  Homeschoolers seem to represent over 75% of the entries, especially if you exclude the school entries which consist of 20 to 30 identical projects with minor variations to show each child's individuality.
It seems that young people are just not learning traditional crafts such as quilting, knitting, cooking, cross stitch, and so on. By young people I mean people our age and younger.  As the older contributors start getting past their ability to do as much crafty things, the number of entries steadily decreases.
This year we put in 39 entries in one show and 49 in the other main show.  That is a lot of work, but it is fine encouragement for Lana and the children to see their work put to the test and deemed worthy of praise.  It's not just me telling them it looks good.

17 March 2014

Just so helpful

Are you hungry?
Our cats enjoy having Opa and Grandma living with us.  We feed them 2 meals a day with just the basics. But the cats know if they look longingly at Opa or Grandma they get various bonus meals and special treats.
While Lana's parents are away travelling, the cats are missing on all the treats.  But lately we noticed the dry food was running out. After some investigation we realised that whenever the cats whined a little near Zach, he went to the dry food container and gave them more by filling up their bowl.  What they didn't eat, the birds came in and had their share.
No wonder we never knew where it was going as the bowls were always empty when we looked!  Wasn't he helpful?
So I thought I would take a photo of Zach and the cat for this article.  Have you ever tried getting a 4 year old and a cat to stay still long enough for a photo?