Thursday, June 25, 2009

She's Riding a Horse!

Catherine's two weeks of riding lessons are almost up. The lady who's teaching her kindly sent along some pictures. I don't really know anything about riding but I don't think she looks to bad in the saddle.

Of course she's got to pay for these lessons somehow so when she's not riding she's grooming the horse, cleaning tack or doing her favourite job (and I am not kidding), mucking out the stall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Excellent Text for the Safe Use and Storage of Firearms

Yesterday I took a drive into town and went to the local community college to register for a firearms safety course on the weekend. This course is mandatory in Canada if you want to get your FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate). Without an FAC you can't use a firearm or even so much as purchase a box of shotgun cartridges. In a country where gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, that seems like a reasonable and sensible measure to me.

Anyway, I showed a proper ID, paid my $50 and was given a textbook to study before the weekend. Good. Although I'm not uncomfortable around guns and there were always rifles and shotguns in the houses I grew up in I'm miserably naive when it comes to how a gun actually works. Having something to study would let me attend the course without feeling like a complete newbie.

Last night I started studying. Chapter 1 contained a short history of firearms starting with the invention of gunpowder and canons. Canons? Why on earth do I need to know about canons? Well, because all guns are basically miniature canons and understanding how a canon fires is an excellent first step for the noob on understanding firearms in general. The text then built on that by explaining how different muzzleloaders worked. An interesting step because it took me a step away from the canon but gave me a greater understanding of primers and there importance to firing a projectile. Finally it explained modern firearms where the primer has moved to the shell or cartridge and I had a real if basic understanding of how a gun works. Nifty.

The whole text, or as much as I read (I'm 4 of 9 chapters in) seems to build knowledge like this. After understanding how a gun works you learn basic safety procedures which makes so much more sense when you understand what exactly is happening in the barrel of a gun. The next chapter deals with ammunition and that again builds on the knowledge of the first two chapters.

All the text is clear and easy to read. All important points are repeated again and again but in different fonts or contexts so that you memorize it but don't skim over it. The illustrations are fantastic and perfectly illustrate the concepts (like the danger of using the wrong size cartridge in a specific shotgun). The review questions at the end of each chapter test the knowledge you should have gained by reading the chapter but also stuff the wasn't specifically covered but, given some knowledge, a person should able to reason out. The Appendices are invaluable and contain among other things a glossary of terms and legal definitions related to firearms legislation. And best of all it's an easy read of 270 pages.

Why isn't that what all textbooks are like?

If anyone is interested or curious I did find a PDF version of the text available for free download here. It looks like an older version then the one I have but it still seems to contain all the excellent information for anyone who's interested.

EDIT: I just found a way for anyone to download the more recent version if they want. It's just a matter of filling out a form here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Get Pi

I've never liked Pi. In school I was told that it was 3.14 and I remembered after school that it had something to do with circles and that it went on forever but there my understanding ended and I was lost.

Until recently when I decided to do a bit of reading and saw Pi expressed not as 3.14 but as 22/7.

Wait a minute. 22/7? With the circumference as the numerator and the diameter as the denominator?! You mean all this time Pi was just a freaking ratio that expressed how big the circumference was in relation to the diameter of any given circle?!?! And THAT'S why you'll get the circumference if you multiply the diameter by 3.14?!?!?

Holy crap! In an instant I understood what 6 years of junior high and high school and 35 years of living hadn't helped me understand just by seeing Pi in fraction form rather then decimal form. All those time when Pi was just presented as 3.14, when stupid news stories went gaga over the discovery of the next digit in the sequence or mathematicians sighed over the beauty of it's irrationality and all the romance and affection glossed over the fact that all a person needed to know about Pi was that it was a constant ratio. 22/7. Period.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here's Our Black Bear

I'm not convinced this is the guy we saw a couple of weeks back. This guy seems smaller. It was at around 6:45 am when I heard something banging about on the porch off the master bath. Then the dog started growling at the french doors. I figured it was a raccoon but when I looked out I saw the bear dragging off a Rubbermaid container we were using to hold birdseed a few weeks back. I opened the window and yelled at him (or her I suppose) but it only scooted as far as the treeline. I snapped a couple of pictures then cursed and grabbed a metal mixing bowl and a spoon and went out the master bath porch to make noise.

In that moment our bear had changed from being some majestic representative of the natural word around us to a 200 lb rat.

I banged on the bowl and he ran. Still cursing I trudged out, in slippers and housecoat, to grab the container and drag it back to the house. I think I have overcome any lingering fear of bears.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We Have Horses...And More

Well, not us but the new neighbours across the road. Ever since we first moved in the gossip on this country road has been about how the other new folks were going to move their horses in. The new neighbours moved in at the end of April and have been working steady on getting up fencing and a horse shelter. Yesterday they brought up their horses. Catherine couldn't wipe the smile off her face.

But it wasn't just horses. We have a hummingbird feeder stuck to the front window and yesterday a coupe of males were fighting over it when one thumped himself on the glass. Catherine and I ran out to find him sitting on a fold-out chair. While he recovered we watched and got closer to a hummingbird (without looking through a pane of glass) then we ever have before.

Then last night we were at the Girl Guides closing ceremony and on a window outside the school were two of the largest moths I have ever seen. One of the girls snapped a photo on her cell phone so hopefully I'll get a picture to post but when I held my hand up for scale I realized one was almost the size of my hand. It's abdomen was as thick as my thumb. Wait a second, I just did some googling for "large moth" and lookee what it turned up (from this site):

It's a Cecropia moth, a gorgeous insect and the largest moth we have in Nova Scotia. The one in the photo is about the same size as the bigger of the two moths we saw.

What a day, eh? Except it wasn't over. On the way home we saw an Osprey, our provincial bird and, excuse me for my bias, a more impressive site then the Bald Eagles that are common around here.

I have been thinking that it's where we live that's been the reason for our increased sightings of wildlife but I'm beginning to think that's not the whole story. After all, the osprey and moth were nowhere near the house. I think what's actually going on is that we're all more aware then we used to. We're walking around with our heads up and our eyes open. We've seen the rewards that a little attention to detail can result in here at the house and so we're carrying that attitude with us and beginning to notice all the wonderful stuff even the oldest and most ordinary of our regular haunts can hold.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling!

I'm late with this post but Dana was right on time with her edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling!

Finally, Pictures of the House

I finally took some pictures of the new house (click on them for a more detailed view). I'll do a series of blog posts for you all. First up is the outside.

The front of the house:

As you can see I'm in the process of weeding the gardens. I've also planted some more seeds and bulbs to fill it in a bit more and plan to pick up some ground cover. But heck, look at those hostas! I have never had a garden like that with such big, beautiful plants. And everything seemed to come out a little early as well which leads me to think we have a bit of a micro-climate with this property.

The shingles are all cedar so I'm sort of planning to not paint them anymore and let them silver and blacken - a look I always loved and one that's sort of a classic Nova Scotia thing.

Here's the back:

The honeysuckle vine is climbing the porch off my master bath. Can you believe it? My own porch? Further on you can see the french doors off the dining room. It's there we watch the birds, deer and bear from. There's a ledger board installed for a big deck off the back but we're in no hurry to get that down anytime soon.

The pond:

You can see Catherine trying to catch frogs on the far side. It's pretty big, eh? We've also seen a turtle in the pond and in the evening the speckled trout in the pond leap out to catch the black flies and insects that gather above the pond's surface. We plan to build a little mini-wharf with a ladder for swimming and hope to pick up a little peddle boat at some point.

The backyard:
See the feeder? The first time I saw the black bear he was scooting between it and the house towards the woods. The second time we all saw it and it was sauntering across the lawn between the woods and the feeder. We got an absolutely beautiful view. But he was a timid soul and ran with either a dog bark or a yell from us. The feeder is also where we've been watching a large variety birds including purple and gold finches, warblers, sparrows, red polls, grackles, mourning doves, red wings blackbirds, evening grossbeaks and more. This winter our deer would come out to feed on the parsnip pile a few feet this side of the tree line. We've also had the usual squirrels and chipmunks. And all of it we can watch while sitting at our table.

If, in the backyard shot, you turned around 180 degrees you'd see this view, the land above the pond:

There's a big patch of rhubarb there and I'm thinking that would be the perfect place for a shade garden. The path goes down to a beautiful little frog pond that's on our neighbours property but the kids have permission to visit.

Here's the view from our front porch:
*sigh* I couldn't get the view out of my mind the whole time we were waiting for the sale on this house to close.

So there's the outside. I'll post some picture of the inside next.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Migraines? Me? Who knew?!

That's right. I've suffered from migraines for years and never had a clue. How is that possible you ask? Well, it takes a misunderstanding about migraines and a great lack of self-unawareness but I assure you, it's certainly possible.

A few weeks ago I was at the eye doctor for a routine check up and after he assured me that I still have my much-prized 20/20 vision he asked me if I had any other concerns. I told him that on occasion my vision temporarily goes funny. Not blurry but rather patchy so that I only see things in bits and pieces. It's very disorienting. He asked if those times were accompanied by headaches. Not that I remembered. Nausea? No. Exhaustion? Maybe.

So he told me that what I described was a classic ocular migraine. The vision troubles were the classic auras people with migraines experience. Apparently some people can have migraines with no pain.

Well shoot. I thought migraines were headaches, horrible, debilitating headaches but still, bascially headaches.

So today I got up. I was feeling okay, just a little tired. I went and got some breakfast and wouldn't you know it, my vision goes wonky. Ah! Here's my painless migraine coming on. But it wasn't. Painless that is. Within 30 minutes that aura was gone but a headache had started and I wobbled off to the bedroom to grab an ibuprofen, close the curtains and have a nap.

Lying there in the bed I realized how familiar it felt. I'm not exactly sure how the auras and the nap-requiring headaches got separated in memory but despite what I told my eye doctor those vision problems often do in fact come with headaches, exhaustion and nausea and a few other classic symptoms of migraines. My best guess is that the headaches and exhaustion became so commonplace and expected that I hadn't committed honest thought to them for ages. I really do have the auras without the pain at times so I suppose I'd must have dismissed the idea that they were somehow related.

So I have migraines. And I have the nifty aura phase that lets me know a headache is on it's way.

And so why didn't I, even without the auras, ever think my headaches might be migraines? Because they're mild to moderate and most of all, familiar. Sometimes they just slow me down. Occasionally they send me to bed for a couple of hours while the ibuprofen kicks in but most of all, having dealt with them, I guess I never thought they were painful enough. The migraine sufferers I knew in real life really suffered. They spent days or even weeks in horrible pain no medicine could help. I looked at what I dealt with and could see no comparison.

But now, after going through a day with my eyes open I'm amazed at just how ordinary and textbook a migraine case I am. I can Google signs and symptoms and there I am on every page.

And I'm absolutely thrilled. I've been dogged by these symptoms for years and always thought they were no big deal and I had to slog through a day anyway, pushing myself to get things done even though all I wanted to do was curl up in the dark. Now I have a magical word that, when I say it, makes my husband tuck me into bed and send the children outside or to the basement. And when I crawl out of bed and wander out to join the family they don't expect anything from me for the rest of the day and just let me sit back and do nothing until my head is right, my weakness gone and the colour has returned to my face.

Migraine. I don't think a diagnoses has given me such relief and peace since I was told I had ADD.

Now, if only I can just get over how I dense I am for spending years not seeing something so damn obvious...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kids Have the Best Punchlines

About ten mintues ago Harry stomped up from the playroom after yelling at Catherine. I asked him what in the heck he was upset about.

"Catherine said there's a thing called Hi-purple-lee and I said there isn't!"

"Hi-purple-lee? Oh, do you mean hyperbole?"

"Yes! And she said it was a real thing but I know it isn't"

"Well, I think you're both right. It's not a real thing in the way a monster or a rock or a tree is. It's an idea."


"Yes, it's when you exaggerate something...Like if I said you're so skinny you could slip through a keyhole. I'm saying you're really skinny but you couldn't really fit through a keyhole, right?"

"Oh! And we're both right?"


"I'm going to tell Catherine."

And off he bounced to tell Catherine, leaving me to wonder how on earth they got started talking about hyperbole in the first place. Until I heard the following...

"Catherine! Mom said we were both right! So I wasn't wrong when I said I would die if I cleaned up the playroom!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ovid in Our Day

To say Catherine and I are enjoying Ovid is an understatement. I don't think I've ever read anything aloud as well as Metamorphoses and that's due to the fact that I don't think I've ever enjoyed reading anything aloud so much. Catherine is constantly interrupting with giggles or with connections to past Greek tales or Bible stories or even pop culture. She's also decided Metamophoses is almost as good as Harry Potter. High Praise indeed.

Last night we ended with the story of Echo and Narcissus and it was one of my favourite parts so far. The way Ovid built the story was marvelous. First the tale of Echo and then the framing of the story of Narcissus as the boy falling in love (real, passionate, sorrowful love - not simply self-absorption) with an echo of himself. The whole tale was a play on the idea of echoes. And Rolfe Humphries' language is marvelous. I was often stopping to reread a portion because I found something so thrilling or poignant that I had to hear it again.

I have to admit though, I was beginning to wonder how more conservative Christian parents would handle Ovid. I know he's required reading for many classical homeschoolers but he's so darn engaged with the sexual lives of those in the story and nothing is shied away from. Not Jove lusting after every pretty thing he sees, not Juno lusting after her brother/husband, not all the girls and boys lusting after Narcissus. Not that anything is vulgar but geez, this is passionate, earthy stuff that taps into exactly what lust feels like. I can see a lot of parents being downright uncomfortable with Metamorphoses.

Today we'll be taking some cues from Ovid and Catherine will be doing some cursive copywork:

...The South-wind came out streaming with dripping wings, and pitch-black darkness veiling his terrible countenance. His beard is heavy with rain-cloud, and his hoary locks a torrent, mists are his chaplet, and his wings and garments run with the rain.

After she's finished she'll read the excerpt to Harry and hopefully he'll help her come up with an image to draw that shows what the passage describes. If I want to dig into the passage more then we'll probably discuss the use of commas, the grammar and go through all the words to make sure she understands the meanings. I'm also thinking she may rewrite the passage somehow...By the end of it we'll probably have something similar to what we did with the LOTR ring poem last summer. Hopefully copying, deconstructing and playing with Ovid will be something we continue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Broadband is Coming!

I just learned that I will have high speed internet access by the end of this year! Our province had made it a matter of law a couple of years ago that every Nova Scotian have broadband access by the end of 2009. I'd sort of forgotten that.

Okay, high speed relative to what I have right now. At the old house I consistently got download speeds of close to 10 Mbps beating fellow geeks from places like Los Angeles and New York. The speed I'll have at the end of the year will top at 1.5 Mbps but that's better than both satellite and dial-up so that ain't too bad for a house out in the middle of nowhere.

But it won't be cable or DSL. How then do I get access?

Fixed wireless! It uses radio frequency transmissions and I will basically have to slap an antenna to the side of my house to get access to the internet. My inner geek is very curious because I'd never heard of this before. Apparently it's the thing for those of us in "rural or remote locations". Very neat stuff. I'm off to research it now!