Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Basement floods suck, any way you slice it.

In the category of Stuff That Sucks, last Saturday produced the record one day rainfall for the day in May, and our basement flooded. Kate and I had gone to church early to speak about fostering and adopting kids, and (fortunately) had left the kids at home. On the way home, I got panicked phone calls from both Brianna and Devin to tell us the basement was full of water.

We raced home to find the kids all barefoot in the water, bailing it as fast as they could into buckets. We got three wetvacs going (I had to go buy two more), and after a few hours got the water down to the point where I could see it bubbling _vigorously_ through a chip in the concrete.

We have a lot of springs on our little farm, and my immediate reaction was that the water table had filled up because of the record rain, and we'd sprung a spring in our basement. Aside from the alliteration, this did not seem to be a good scenario any way I looked at it.

To cut a long story short, in the fullness of time, we came to understand that the problem was not so much that the water table had filled up because of the record rains, but rather that the _sump_ had filled up. It turns out that our builder had never connected the sump pump to the electricity, and when he finished the basement five years ago, his guys had simply put a nice hardwood floor over the whole pump.

In other words, the pump had _never_ operated, and this was just the first time we had enough rain that it mattered.

Subsequently, the pump was plugged in, and is pumping lots of water away from our basement, and all is now well from that perspective. Oh, and the ducks (we have new ducks) love it.

The question now is whether or not we have water under our basement hardwood floors.

The first moron^H^H^H^H^H water-mitigation expert that visited us assured us that we would have to get everything out of the basement, rip up the floors, rip out all the walls, put all the mattresses and clothes into a drying facility, and move into a hotel within three days, or we'd all start getting sick from mold. He also assured us that although the water appeared to be clear and clean, it would have leeched mercury from the soil, and that the house would now be full of mercury.

Now, I don't claim to be a water removal expert, but it's not my first rodeo, and I can spot someone trying to scare me pretty quickly, so we're ignoring him while we get second and third opinions.

We may well have to get everything out of the basement and pull up some of the floor boards, but I seriously doubt the bit about the drying facility, and I doubt we have to pull up everything. Time will tell.
This will be a busy week.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Slightly sad story, but with an upside.

(By way of background, Isaiah is our kid that we rescued from Liberia. He was thirteen when we got him, and had never been to school, so he tested at grade 1.8. Last year, we managed to get him into JobCorps, where he is learning a trade _and_ getting his GED. He is flourishing. On his first visit home, last year, he said "Dad, it's like you've been preparing me for this for the last three years. Everything is all about discipline, attitude, work ethic and respect." This weekend, Isaiah came home for a quick visit, and we drove him back this afternoon) I felt a little bit sorry for Isaiah today. During the afternoon's conversation, he told us that some of his friends at JobCorps said he "wasn't black enough." We were with some friends at the time, and that was summarily and appropriately handled, but then, when we were driving him back to JobCorps, I put Louis Armstrong's Wonderful World on the car stereo. I put it on quietly, so as not to disturb Isaiah and Dustin and Devin's ability to listen to their iPods, but Isaiah asked me to turn it up, explaining that he didn't get a chance to hear music like that any more, and that all he heard at JobCorps was rap. So that was all a bit sad, but the upside is that he is 2nd in charge of his room, and is a "silver" level student. He is really close to "gold" level, and he thinks the only thing stopping him attaining Gold (which implies many more privileges) is that he needs to stick to his studies a bit more. All his teachers tell him the same thing. This is, of course, the hardest stuff for him, but we have told him that it will get easier, the more he does. And, on top of all that, he found a $20 note, and his "friends" wanted him to just spend it. He probably could have, with no repercussions, but he insisted on giving it back to the kid that lost it. We can all be proud of him. Please consider helping us crowd-source our book about his life at Thanks in advance, Roger

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Life on the farm

A couple of quick vids of daily life on the farm.

Here are the ducks, ripping and tearing in the shore break (well, it's the closest they have to a shore break, anyway)

Here are the chickens lining up for dinner.

And the ducks

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tales of Ripsticks and Halloween

Jada, one of my twelve year old twins, rarely asks for anything, but for the last three or four months, she has been pleading for me to buy her a particular halloween costume.

It was only $20, but when you have eight kids at home, $20 for one person can easily turn into $20 for _each_ person (the well, _she_ got this, so can't I have that?-syndrome), so I've been trying to avoid the issue by using all the common parental tricks. I've tried ignoring it. I've tried diverting with cunning questions like "So, how was school today?" I've tried suggesting tasty alternatives such as "Why don't all we go out to dinner instead of trick or treating this year?"

They all work a bit, but before long the conversation comes back to the costume.

Oddly enough, the other twelve year old, Alexis, has been asking for a rip-stick skateboard for about the same length of time. We have a zip line in the side paddock, and, so far, touch wood, we have only had two physics lessons (things to do with gravity and Newton's First Law) from the zip line, and it was Alexis both times. You can imagine that I'm reluctant to tempt fate with a skateboard with only two wheels, but she's been every bit as determined as Jada.

I have been resisting heroically, but the tipping point was reached a couple of days ago when their mother was in Nashville pitching songs, and I had to accompany them both to a well-child doctor's visit. As fathers do, I was teasing them all the way there, telling them they'd probably be getting a needle, all the while thinking it'd be blood pressure, temperature-taking, and a pat on the head.

You can imagine my horror when I discovered they would have to have not one, but _three_, injections. My beautiful, precious, breakable little ballerinas would have _three_ needles!

Of course, I switched immediately from teasing-father mode to highly-protective-father mode.

"Ok, girls. This might sting a little bit, but it has to be done. And you can hold my hand, if you want to. If it hurts, just squeeze."

And in an attempt to brighten their outlook, as the doctor walked in, I said "And the doctor said that you could each have an ice cream!"

Our excellent pediatrician, who has been looking after them since they were pathetic, sick, tiny, premie babies, picked up on it at once, saying "Yes, you can.", and then ever so helpfully added "Is there anything else you want? Shoes? Clothes?"

Naturally, Jada instantly answered "My costume!!", and Alexis said "My Ripstick!!"

There's no disgrace in admitting defeat, especially when it is by daughters, so I quietly said "Ok."

"Really??", they chorused.


Followed by lots of things like "Yay!", and "I love you daddy!", and even, "I love the doctors!"

All was then well until we went to get the costume yesterday. When we got home, and Jada tried it on, she realized that the wig was extra. "It's just $10, daddy."


Like most families, we live on a budget, so if I was to be strictly fair, and spend $30 on each kid, we're now talking $240, but I quickly conceived a cunning plan. The costume plus the wig would be about $30. The Ripstick was $29.50. I could satisfy the twelve year olds, for about equal money, and if anyone else complained, I could call it a compensation for getting three needles each. Brilliant, right?

Off we went to Walmart, grabbed some pizza for dinner, a few odds and ends, and the Ripstick, and stood in line with the Walmartians for what seemed like hours. I went to pay the bill, and discovered that Alexis had picked up a $60 Ripstick, instead of the agreed $30 one. I sighed once more, and quietly paid the bill, and we headed off to Party City to get the $10 wig, which turned out to be $16. Now if I'm going to be fair, I'm up for about $500!


Never-the-less, we're home, and the costume looks great, and we're riding the Ripstick without testing Newtonion laws, and everyone has accepted the three-needles explanation.

I'm probably not going to be fair.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Goats have more than one use

With eight kids at home, we perpetually have a "house full", but at the moment, we're uber-full. Ben and Victoria, and their three kids, and their dog, had to move out of their house after a burst water pipe revealed the existence of the dreaded Black Mold, many Brown Recluse spiders, and an infestation of mice in the walls.

For a while there, we were anxiously scanning the skies for the Fourth Horseman, but all has turned out mostly well, and they've moved in with us until they find a new spot.

Last night, we got an extra grand-dog for the night, as one of the grown kids was having a night out, and she needed a dog-sitter. Just to add to the ambiance, this dog is in season, so our three males have been especially entertaining all night.

It now starts to get a little tricky, however, as tonight, we're expecting a couple from Australia, Ron and Adriana, to arrive and stay for the week. That'll give us a mere seventeen in the house.

You might think we're crowded, but our house is a bit like the Tardis, and is bigger on the inside than the outside, plus ... we have a barn, and our seventeen year old boys graciously vacated their rooms to our guests, in favor of barn-camping. (Lest you feel too sorry for them, the barn is air-conditioned, and has a bathroom and a mini kitchen, and I always buy them some extra goodies, like chips and cookies and tea, so they're making out like bandits)

My boys are awesome teenagers, and only have one real failing, which is they are really hard to get out of bed in the morning. It's the old "I just can't go to sleep at night because I'm not tired" and "I can't get up in the morning because I'm just too tired" thing. They sleep through their alarms. They sleep through their phones ringing. One morning we forgot to disarm the security system, and opened the back door, thereby setting off said alarm, and they slept through that, which is easy 120 decibels.

The only downside, therefore, to them sleeping in the barn is the difficulty of getting them up. I usually have to make three or four trips, spread over an hour to finally shake them loose, or I have to concede, and just let them sleep.

This morning, however, I had a cunning idea.

I walked in the barn and said "Gentlemen, it is time to get up. I am only going to say this once, but if I have to come back this morning, I'm going to let the goats into the barn."

Devin said "Oh crap!"

Dustin just said "Uh", but within a few minutes, both were upstairs, quietly eating breakfast. I said "Boys, I think I might be onto something here."

Dustin looked at me and said "Dad, it just shows that we trust you."

Goats are really useful animals.

Friday, October 5, 2012

More Mildred Mallard

This is nothing special, but is just to provide a small update on our Mildred, here is a photo of her on her nest. Now that fall is arriving, she's a little easier to see...

She stays there most of the day, and when she gets up to feed, she covers the eggs so they're a bit harder to see...

Poor Mildred still tries to be friends with the pekings, but as you can see here, they couldn't care less.

But they are not above sharing a snack with her at night.

Just another day at the farm. :-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The school of hard knocks is the best teacher

A couple of weeks ago, my very beautiful nine year old walked past me while I was hosing chicken poop off the front verandah. It was a warm, fall day, and she was in shorts, and some of life's temptations are simply too much for a mere human to resist. She learned to be wary of fathers with hoses.

This evening, I was cleaning out the Tiger Shark (pool cleaning device), again with a hose, when one of my seventeen year old young men walked down the back stairs, just a few feet from me.

I looked at him, and he looked at me. Evil thoughts flashed through my mind, but he said "Waaaait a minute!", and accelerated out of range before I could redirect the hose.

This just proves that experience is the best teacher after all.