Tag Archives: animals

Living Treasures Animal Park





While Molly and Rusty were hiking with the school’s Adventure Club, Tyler, Ozzie and I went on an adventure of our own.

Just down the road from McConnells Mill State Park is Living Treasures Animal Park. This park has a special place in my heart, as it is home to so many sweet memories. Our first visit here was with Gracie as a baby. We have visited it with my sister and her kids, my parents, my brother, my grandfather and many friends. Over the years we have created many sweet memories at this special place, and Thursday we created a few more.

It has been over a year since we visited Living Treasures. We were long overdue for a trip to our favorite animal park. Having just the little boys with me afforded me the opportunity to spend some special one on one time with the two youngest and give them the chance to create some special memories together as brothers.


We arrived as the doors opened and I bought animal feed for both boys to feed the animals. The fun thing about this park is the many opportunities to interact with all the animals more intimately than you can at a zoo.


The animals that you can pet and feed by hand include deer, cattle, alpaca, goats, and the giraffes.


The giraffes are some of our favorite friends at Living Treasures.


Currently there is a new addition in the giraffe house. Baby Calvin, a one month old calf, was recently born at Living Treasures weighing in at 145 pounds and standing 6’3″tall. He is now making daily appearances with mama a few times a day.


What a doll he was!

Bigger animals are fed through feeding tubes that drop their treats into a food dish that they eagerly wait beside, hoping for a handout. This system allows kids to interact with the animals up close without the risk of losing fingers.


The monkeys and apes at Living Treasures are fed with a bucket system. Visitors can place carrots or special monkey pellets in a bucket attached to a chain, and the monkeys can pull the bucket to the cage and fish out their treats.


Other animals, like the alligators, can only been viewed from a safe distance away.


 Two of our favorite exhibits in the park were the aviary, where guests are invited to feed the birds, and the petting zoo, where the goats and baby animals are housed.

At the aviary the boys had a wonderful time feeding their bright, feathered friends. Never have we experienced that level of interest from the birds. Being the first visitors of the day paid off, as the birds all had empty stomachs and were eager to eat. The result reminded me of a certain Alfred Hitchcock classic.


It made for a lot of squeals and giggles, and some awesome photo opportunities.




We experienced a different sort of swarm when we entered the petting zoo area to feed the goats. They too acted as though they hadn’t been fed in months and were all over the boys and their buckets.





The best part of visiting this area of Living Treasures, however, is the baby animals. Here we were able to feed and pet two baby camels, and various baby cattle. Oh, how sweet they were. Oh, how tempted I was to smuggle one home!


Especially this sweet thing, that looks like a hoofed version of a Basset Hound.

There were also a few baby pot belly pigs that reminded us of our own Pot Belly Pig, Harley D. Hog, when we first brought him home as a bottle fed baby.


All too soon, it was time to leave and pick up the other kids from their Adventure Club outing. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to create some special memories with my two youngest.

It is a day I will treasure.



Fort Worth Stockyards


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Fort Worth, Texas is known as the City of Cowboys. One of the most popular things for families to do is spend a day at the Fort Worth Stockyards. With its brick lined streets, historic buildings, a weekly rodeo and twice daily cattle drive, this is the place where tourists come to experience the American West.

And this is where we spent the day on Wednesday.

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When we asked for suggestions of something fun to do with the kids in the Dallas, Texas area a friend suggested the Fort Worth Stockyards. I looked into it and knew at once that it was a must-see stop on our Texas journey.

The girls were excited to have an excuse to pull their cowboy hats out again.

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We arrived and easily found parking near the end of Exchange Ave. Tyler loved the parking payment system at the Stockyards that involved pushing your folded dollar bills in the slot that corresponded to your parking spot. I’ve never seen a system quite like it.

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Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where a helpful young lady gave us the low down on the Fort Worth Stockyards. She explained the cattle drive, including what time to line up along the road and the best spots to stand to best see the longhorn cattle (and view them from the shade. A key tip in the 100 degree heat!). She also went over the various activities available and her recommendations for the best BBQ joint in town. All were helpful tips that helped structure our day and determine what we ended up seeing and doing.

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We found the Visitor’s Center to be a worthwhile stop before beginning our day at the Stockyards.

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It  had the added appeal of giant misting fans out front…another huge perk in the 100+ degree heat.

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Our first stop was the Cattle Pen Maze. It too was recommended by my friend. The cost was $6.00/ child but ended up being one of the highlights of our day at the Stockyards. The kids each received a ticket that was marked with their starting time. They then had to race the clock, seeking out the four hidden stations to punch their card, before finding their way out of the maze.

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It proved to be far more challenging than they thought it would be.

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There was a covered observation deck that extended above the maze, allowing us to look down at our kids and watch them scramble through the blind twists and turns of the maze.

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Rusty was the first one to find the four punch stations and get out of the maze. He did it in 10 minutes.

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Grace was next with a time of 13 minutes.

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Molly came in third with a final time of 16 minutes,

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And Tyler brought up the rear with a time of 20 minutes. I will say, though, that Tyler lost time because of his kind heart and willingness to backtrack and help a lost mother find her way through the maze.

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Then we walked over to the petting zoo. At $2.00/person this was a fun and affordable experience for all of us animal lovers. Once again, for the second day in a row, Molly got her goat fix and loved it.

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Tyler also LOVED feeding the goats and sheep.

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Rusty made a special friend while we were there.

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We all enjoyed this nice little petting zoo.

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Then it was time to get in position for the cattle drive.

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“The Old West comes to life before your eyes during the Fort Worth Herd’s twice-daily cattle drive. Genuine Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards national Historic District every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Every detail of the cattle drive—from the saddles and chaps to the boots and hats – is authentic and historically true.”

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It was incredible to see these iconic Texan Longhorn cattle up close as they walked down the main street of town.

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What a thrill!

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It was the highlight of the day for me!

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After the cattle drive we had fun exploring the stockyards and seeing the pens where the Longhorns are held,

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And catching a glimpse of the cowboys at work.

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We also stopped in Billy Bob’s- The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.


This 6000 person capacity nightclub is open during the day for families who want to grab a bite to eat or buy a Fort Worth souvenir. It was fun to check out the bull riding ring and the huge nightclub that becomes a line dancing haven when the sun goes down.

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I best this place gets crazy at night!

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We didn’t eat at Billy Bob’s, but walked over to Risky’s Bar-B-Q instead, as suggested by our new friend at the Visitor’s Center.

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Toby, Rusty and I followed the recommendation of the waiter and ordered the specialty: Beef Bar-B-Q ribs. The girls ordered the brisket sandwiches.

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The ribs were incredible, made all the tastier by their awesome sauce.

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We ended our day at the Stockyards with a little shopping at Stockyards Station,

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and some horseback riding…

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Hang on kiddos! Those are some wild stallions!

Next stop: San Antonio, Texas


Oklahoma City Zoo


The next stop on our journey towards Texas took us to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

We woke early this morning for a quick “fill-up” at the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast before we were on the road again. From Springfield, Missouri we had a  4 hour stretch of road to drive before reaching Oklahoma City…the next stop on our itinerary. We left by 8:00am with the goal of reaching Oklahoma City by noon.

When researching things to see and do in Oklahoma City we had a few options. I really wanted to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial which stands in remembrance of those whose lives were lost in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, but felt that given everyone’s emotional state it was probably too heavy a place at this time, so instead we decided to spend the day at the zoo.

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After reading many reviews online I was excited to explore this zoo that received high accolades for their affordable price and awesome exhibits.

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We arrived to find the zoo empty. We had the place to ourselves, which was shocking given the fact it was the summer season. Our “out-of-town visitor” status soon became apparent when we realized that the locals, who are more familiar with Oklahoma City summer temperatures, were all home enjoying their air conditioning.

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But we didn’t let the 97 degree heat (103 degree heat index) dampen our day…although it did dampen our shirts!

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Luckily there were water misters and industrial fans sprinkled throughout the zoo.

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Each cooling spot became an oasis for these “desert travelers.”

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The nice thing about visiting Oklahoma City Zoo in July is that you have the place to yourself. There were no lines and no fellow visitors to maneuver around.

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We were so impressed with this zoo. They had such a fun variety of species that we hadn’t seen in other zoos, particularly in the reptile house and the aviary.

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Some of our favorite exhibits included:

The Pygmy Hippo:

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The Galapagos Tortoise:

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The Elephants:

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The Tiger:

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But the best exhibit, hands down, were the Gorillas.

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We spent the longest part of our day sitting at this window, interacting with this amazing group of Gorillas.

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There was a beautiful Silverback, a few female Gorillas and two babies. There was a four year old male named, “Liom,” and a two year old female named, “Rubi.”

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And they were hilarious to watch!

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It was just like we were watching preschool siblings.

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Rubi killed us. She is just starting to interact with the public and spent much of her time at the window interacting with us.

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We died when she ran along the window with her tongue to the glass, licking it all the way to the other side.

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Both babies would follow the big silverback anytime he would move across the yard, but unlike her big brother that moved in a straight line from point A to point B, Rubi would spin like a two year old doing pirouettes across the living room.

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Then she’d tip over and roll on her back when she got too dizzy.

We could have stayed there all day!

The thing that really set this zoo apart from its counterparts was the staff. We were amazed by the amount of staff that were positioned at the various exhibits around the zoo to answer the visitor’s questions and educate the public on each animal. With so few visitors, it was like having our own private, backlot tour of the zoo. They were all so informative and it greatly enhanced the experience to have an employee who personally works with the animal, telling us about that animal and answering any questions we had. It was so much more engaging than simply reading plaques on the sides of exhibits.

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There were also employees stationed at the intersections of the various sections of the zoo to direct you to your destination if you were turned around, to inquire if you needed anything, and to remind visitors to drink  water.

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The staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo was amazing!

Although we really enjoyed all the cool exotic critters, my kids were inevitably drawn to the farm animals that were so familiar. There was a nice little petting zoo area where the kids could brush goats, sheep and miniature donkeys.

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Molly, my goat whisperer, was in heaven.

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Tyler also really enjoyed the lake where you could purchase a handful of fish feed for a quarter and feed the catfish, ducks and turtles that congregated at the edge of the dock.

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The heat was intense enough that Toby indulged in a way we don’t normally, at places like the zoo, and bought everyone ice cream cones. They tasted so good. I don’t know if it was especially good ice cream or if it just tasted exceptionally good because we were so hot. Either way, our cones were delicious!

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We stayed until 4:30 pm and then drove over to Five Below. Toby’s uncle, Dave, lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and manages the Five Below store there. Since he was working, and couldn’t meet us at the zoo, we decided to come to him.

It was so great to see him and catch up, even if just for a short time.

He generously gave the kids each $5.00 to purchase a souvenir. The kids loved it, and it was so sweet of Dave.

Grace bought a cute hat, Molly purchased a new backpack, and both boys picked a Heliball after Dave told them it was the coolest toy they sold in his store.

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He was right! The boys have had a blast with their new toys. Thank you, Dave!

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It was a very hot, but VERY FUN day, in Oklahoma City.

Next Stop: Ft. Worth, Texas.




Penguins and Sharks and Seals…Oh My!


Yesterday we woke up to a forecast of 90% chance of rain and a high of 55 degrees…a little to chilly for a beach day, even for Tyler and Ozzie!

So we decided to head 15 minutes north to Point Pleasant Beach.

In researching fun things to do in the area I stumbled across another blogger’s review of Jenkinson’s Aquarium, located right along the boardwalk of Point Pleasant beach. The cost was very reasonable, the reviews were great, and since all my kids love any experience involving animals or wildlife we thought it would be a fun, (warm) way to spend the day.


And we weren’t disappointed!


This privately owned aquarium was smaller than what you would see associated with a larger zoo or what you might find in a big city, but it was beautifully and skillfully put together. The displays were arranged artfully, making the most of the small space they had to work with. It was amazing the amount there was to see but the tanks were arranged in a way that it didn’t feel crowded or sterile. The entire building was really a feast for the eyes and so well done.


We arrived at 11:00 am, just as the African penguins were being fed. They were such a kick to watch with their bigger than life personalities. The trainer was feeding them a bucket of small fish which they swarmed around her to receive. Then she pulled a small squid out of the bucket and it was like watching a momma try to feed her toddlers broccoli. They would run up to her, beaks open, eager for a bite…until they saw the squid. Then they would shake their heads with a firm “no” and run away from her. It was quite comical to watch. In the end she couldn’t convince any of the penguins to give the squid a try and it ended up back in her bucket.



Each of the penguins were sporting fancy bracelets, like the ones we used to make with plastic cord and pony beads in middle school. The trainer explained they were for identification so visitors could learn each penguin’s name and a little about them. Hanging beside the exhibit was a tv screen, flashing pictures and bracelet codes for each penguin. I thought this was a fun tool for visitor interaction.

On the first floor were the large tanks, housing the bigger fish. There was a large freshwater tank, a shark tank, and a smaller saltwater fish tank. All the tanks had seating in front of them, allowing visitors to just sit and observe. We could have all sat and watched the fish for hours, but were maneuvering around 200 kindergarteners who were all there for an end of the year school trip. The benefit to shadowing these dozens of groups, however, was the great informative information we could glean from the tour guides by listening in.


All the kids were enthralled, but none more than Tyler who LOVES fish. Today he is with Toby on a special father/son deep sea charter fishing excursion, so yesterday his question, as we walked through the aquarium, was “So, do you think we will see one of those, Dad?”


One of our favorite characters in the big tank was this silly puffer fish that could not get enough of Miss Grace. He kept circling back around to swim past Gracie’s head and when he did he would press against the glass like a little kid smooshing their face against a window trying to get a better look. It was so funny and it was hard to walk away! We could have watched him for hours.


In the center of the first floor sat a pirate ship and a surrounding pier that was home to small tanks of fish and a running stream to house various turtles. It was such a beautiful exhibit to walk through and the kids had fun watching the turtles swim.


The second floor of the aquarium was where the smaller tanks were located.


It was here that Molly found a tank of her favorite sea creatures…jellyfish!


And we had the unique experience of watching Nautilus being fed. Although a relative to the octopus, these animals are unlike any other I have ever seen. They basically float around, moving in reverse, and seem to struggle seeking out the food the trainer drops in the tank because she hand fed each critter. It was fascinating to watch as I have never seen these guys up close before.


It was up on the second floor that we found the touch tank. Although after seeing “Finding Dory” I find myself looking at touch tanks in a whole new way, as I remember  that humorous scene from the movie when all the animals retreated in fear as little fingers moved in from above.


In this touch tank we were able to touch a sea star, sea urchins, sea snails, horseshoe crabs and sting rays.


Ozzie found it fascinating to learn a bit more about horseshoe crabs like the one  we saw at the beach.


And of course the sting rays are always the biggest hit in any touch tank with their outgoing personalities and cheerful waves as they swim by.


We ended our day at Jenkinson’s Aquarium with the seal feeding. At this aquarium they have one seal by the name of LuSeal, who was rescued after being injured off the coast. It is unknown whether her injuries were sustained by a passing motor boat or a shark but after rehabilitation her remaining injury is blindness in both eyes, which is why she lives at the aquarium rather than being released back into the wild.


For feeding time LuSeal showed off her “tricks” for the crowd as the trainer explained the work they do with LuSeal. She explained that every “trick” LuSeal is taught are behaviors natural to seals and beneficial for her care by the trainers or the vet that cares for her. She is never trained to do anything that she wouldn’t do in the wild. (For example: balance a ball on her nose)


We were amazed at how well LuSeal maneuvers around, using only her whiskers for spatial reference and the sound of the trainer’s voice as cues.

At the end of her meal she opened wide for her daily teeth brushing, something they do after each meal to prevent gum disease. I couldn’t help but point out to Tyler how willingly and happily she gets her teeth brushed without fighting…hmm!


We had so much fun at Jenkinson’s aquarium and highly recommend it to anyone in the Jersey area. It is small but beautifully done and well worth the price…

especially on a cold, grey day.


Molly, Grace, Rusty and Toby…Can you spot him?

Jenkinson’s Aquarium, thanks for the fun day!


The Cone is Back!


Just when we thought we were free from the terror of a Great Dane encased in a hard plastic cone…

Just when the other dogs quit cowering in fear at Olive’s entrance into the room…

Just as the cuts on our arms and legs began to scab over…

Just when we finally threw that sad excuse of a cone into the trash,

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the adventure begins again.

For the THIRD time!

We arrived home on Wednesday evening, following two fun-filled days at Kalahari. We were greeted by enthusiastic, happy dogs who were glad to see us.


All was good.


All was well.



*cue scary music*

We open the door to find this!


Blood everywhere.

Olive was let outside for a few minutes and in that time, in the midst of her leaps of joy and pirouettes of happiness, she somehow injured herself. And I mean REALLY injured herself.

We opened the door to find our front porch looking like a scene from The Walking Dead.

Undeterred by the gushing wounds on two of her feet, she continued to bounce around with 100-pound-puppy energy, quickly coating the porch, us, and herself with blood.

It was at this point Molly pondered out loud, as she ran to the medicine cabinet for bandages, “I wonder what it would be like to just have a normal, boring day around here.”

But, alas, nothing is ever simple, uneventful, or boring at Patchwork Farm.

No, everyday is an adventure…whether we want it to be or not. 😉

Thus began adventure # 786,901 at Patchwork Farm: “The day the cone returned!”

It took all the older kids to hold Olive down so that Toby and I could inspect the damage. When the blood kept soaking through the pressure dressings we put on her ankles, we knew the situation exceeded our level of expertise and it was back to the vet for another overnighter for Olive.

She is earning her frequent flyer miles at Rainbow Vet, and we are personally funding our veterinarian’s next European vacation! Ugh.

We were able to pick up Olive the next day. After walking the entire yard we still have no idea what she ran through that tore her up so badly that she needed to get staples in her legs,

But the end result was minor surgery, boxing gloves for paws, and the return of “The Cone.”


She is now on “bed rest” once again-

“And it is SO MUCH FUN!!” I scream with a manic grin.

She also can’t get her bandages wet for 10 days, a challenging feat living in Western Pennsylvania, so she was sent home from the vet with little plastic galoshes that must be tied onto her feet every time she goes outside.

Moving with the grace of a newborn giraffe, she struggles to move through the yard hampered by boxing glove feet, covered in stiff plastic bags.


She has adapted by learning to walk on her tip toes, quite reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote sneaking up on the Road Runner.

It is quite comical to watch,

but the return of the “cone of shame” is not so comical.

We are all suffering from this latest Olive adventure…

Olive is feeling the pain of her most recent injury in her feet.

The kids are feeling the bruising pain of collisions with the “cone of shame” on their arms and legs.

And Toby is feeling the piercing financial pain of Great Dane ownership in his wallet.

Can someone pass me an aspirin?


Olive is Free!


Olive is free!

Oh, what a ride it was from day 1 of surgery #1 to day 10 following surgery #2. Her cone of shame did a fair amount of damage to home, other pets, and the human members of our home before she was finally set free.

You can get a fair idea of how hard she was running into everyone and everything by the sad state of her cone on the final day of confinement before she was set free:

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But we are happy to report that she is free,

she is healing…

And slowly, but surely,

So are we!




Easter at the Homestead

Last weekend we headed to Ohio.
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Since we had spent Easter day with Toby’s family, this was our second Easter celebration…this time with my parents.
We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. It was a perfect spring day. Between the bright blue sky, kelly green grass, and purple violets, the Homestead was alive with color.
Much of the day was spent outside enjoying this ideal spring day.
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For lunch we enjoyed a picnic lunch of subs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pickled watermelon rinds.
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The animals gathered at the fence to watch us eat. Perhaps they were hoping someone might toss them a roll. 🙂
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It is funny to see how alive and engaged the critters become when they see the kids arrive.
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After lunch we participated in a new Easter tradition, something we had never heard of before. This Easter tradition was introduced to us by my soon-to-be sister from Texas. Upon hearing that my poor, Pennsylvania children had never experienced cascarones before (a Easter tradition in Texas) she sent a package as a gift. “What are cascarones,” you ask:
“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti. Cascarones are common through Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined making them a popular Easter tradition.

Popular for generations as an Easter tradition in the Southwest, they are now making a splash elsewhere in the United States.”

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She explained to my mom how they work and that getting hit with a cascarone is supposed to bring good luck.


So we tapped into our very shallow, pretty much non-existent Latin roots and grabbed an egg.

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What fun they were!!

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I think we have established a new Easter tradition, although Tyler suggested that next year we just use regular eggs.


It could be fun. Messy, but fun. 😉

After our cascarones battle it was time to switch gears from Easter to birthdays, as we planned to take advantage of having everyone gathered, so as to celebrate Ozzie’s and Molly’s birthdays.

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Life has gotten busier in recent years and the added distance between our homes (2 1/2 hours as opposed to 1) makes getting together a bit tougher, so we have begun clumping birthdays and celebrating 3 months of birthdays in one sitting.

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Both kids were tickled pink to receive such perfect, thoughtful, creative gifts from my parents.

Ozzie received two new puzzles and a deck of John Deere playing cards. They couldn’t have picked a better gift for my puzzle loving boy!

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Molly received a Ukulele…an adorable Ukulele! She has been talking about wanting to learn to play the Ukulele and Mimi and Pop Pop heard her wish and granted it.

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Mom even had special Easter treats for Toby and I.

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It was very thoughtful!

The remainder of the day was spent soaking up the sunshine, enjoying birthday root beer floats, and playing Frisbee as a family.

How blessed we are!

Olive the other Reindeer



Olive our Great Dane pup is growing by leaps and bounds. She now outweighs half the family, is as tall as Toby when she is standing on her back legs, takes up the entire couch when she is stretched out, and can reach the countertop with all four feet on the ground…

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which has led to a new level of puppy proofing,


And she is not even 10 months old!

With this incredible 9 month long growth spurt comes a lot of feeding (8 cups a day/ spread over three servings) Toby recently repurposed an old bench that had lost its seat, into a new feeding area for our tall girl.

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But even with all the unique challenges of owning a Great Dane, the dividends are huge. Since we brought home Olive, Tyler is a different child. We were led to adopt Olive as a therapy tool for Tyler, our youngest son who suffers from PTSD due to early childhood trauma. He was in a bad place and couldn’t sleep at night because of the paralyzing fear he had that his birth father was going to find him and kill him. He needed to feel safe. He needed a furry companion that he felt could protect him from his worst nightmare which led us to find the biggest, and yet gentlest/most tolerant breed of dog we could. We needed a gentle giant to serve as Tyler’s support dog.

Since Olive moved in Tyler has become a different child.

Olive has not only grown physically in the time we have had her but she has also grown in her ability to obey and follow commands thanks to obedience class. We knew it was important with a dog that big, that we establish control and teach good manners as soon as possible. It is one thing to have a naughty 8 pound Yorkie that jumps up on you, but quite different to have a naughty, 150 pound goliath try to climb up your leg.


Olive has now completed three levels of training and begins the advanced class this week. Rusty has stepped up as the primary trainer who works with Olive in her classes and at home. We found Tyler’s energy, coupled with Olives distractibility, a bad fit for obedience class. Rusty’s calm, but strong presence, is a much better fit.


Olive loves class and looks forward to playtime with her four footed friends, especially Rebel, a German Shorthaired Pointer, who is her best friend.

I am amazed at how much she is learning and how well the classes are working…

for the most part.

But every now and then Olive gets herself in trouble.

For example…

Saturday morning we woke to the clip clopping of feet on the roof above our head.

Our first thought was “Tyler!”

After a quick peek in his bedroom to find him still asleep,

Our next thought was, “Goats!”

It has happened before…


What we never expected when we stepped out the front door was to look up and see this:

It wasn’t the pawing of Dasher, Dancer, or Vixen…

No, it was Olive, the other reindeer!

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Being the owners of an under one-year-old Great Dane is a dichotomy. She has the appearance of a full grown dog. She is as tall as a small pony. But she has the enthusiasm, curiosity, lack of common sense, and klutziness of the puppy she really is. It is a dangerous combination and many a breakable has been destroyed inside the house because of this  combination of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with her complete lack of understanding of how big she really is.

She has gotten “stuck” in many sticky situations as a result, and this morning was a prime example of that.

Near the back of our house the distance between the ground and roofline in significantly shorter than in the front of the house, which means a determined little boy, a pair of climbing goats, or a tall Great Dane in pursuit of a cat can, if they are motivated enough, climb onto the roof.

It appears this is what happened on Saturday morning. Olive, in pursuit of the cat, followed Stripy up onto the roof and then discovered it was a jolly, good place to play. She ran, frolicked and barked, delighted by this grand adventure until mean old Toby made her come back down to earth.

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What a goofy girl she is!

Olive, down girl! Down!

What’s Up, Buttercup?


In addition to Olive, our new 10 week old Great Dane puppy, we have a few more new additions at Patchwork Farm.


Buttercup, one of our farmyard chickens, is a broody little Momma. She loves babies and loves being a Mommy, so she has this habit of hiding her eggs from us. Instead of laying in the same area as the other chickens she finds hidden corners to build a nest, and lays a clutch of eggs, with the intention of hatching them.

So what do I mean by “broody?”

Broody Hens:

A broody hen of any breed can be used to hatch eggs and raise chicks from other hens of any breeds.

  • A broody will sit on any eggs, whether or not they are fertile and regardless of who laid them. To gather a suitable clutch of eggs, she will not only lay her own eggs but may roll other hens’ eggs into her nest.
  • While a hen is brooding, you can remove daily any extra eggs she gathers into her clutch. Drawing pencil “equator” lines around the eggs you want her to brood will help with identification.
  • A setting hen will usually leave the nest at least once a day to eat, drink, and defecate. The eggs are not in danger of cooling off too much during a normal foray into the coop or run.
  • Typically, chicken eggs hatch about 21 days from the beginning of incubation or nesting by a broody hen. A few days early or late is not unusual, and some breeds lean toward earlier or later hatches.
  • If a broody hen has pushed an egg out of the nest, she probably knows something is not right with that egg or embryo.


For those that are unfamiliar with the workings of chicken laying…I know I was before we got chickens 7 years ago…here is the scoop:

A young, healthy chicken lays an average of an egg per day. Which means you could in theory get a dozen eggs per day if you have 12 chickens. That is not always the case. Other factors like amount of daylight, weather, age of the chicken, and nutrition come into play but it is a good average.

A grown chicken lays an egg per day whether you own a rooster (a male chicken) or not.


The ladies will lay regardless of whether the egg has been fertilized by a male or not. If you do have a rooster there is no obvious differences in a fertilized egg verses an unfertilized egg when they are collected daily and put in the fridge. There is no difference in the look, texture, or taste and it matters not whether your omelet contains a fertilized egg or an unfertilized one.

Here are some other fun egg facts:

Double eggs or “egg in an egg” are created when an egg with a shell is encased by the next egg in the oviduct and a shell is produced over the outer egg as well.

  • Double yolkers may have a normal amount of egg white with two or more yolks. The egg may be unusually large.

Contrary to what some believe the yolk is not an undeveloped baby chick. It is actually the nutrients that the chick would feed on as it developed in the shell, if the egg was fertilized.

The egg yolk or egg white may have red or brown specks in it. These “blood spots” and “meat spots” are harmless bits of tissue and are allowed in commercial Grade B eggs. If they look unappealing, the spots can be removed with a spoon or knife before cooking.

The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs.

And no, brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs.

If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose

It is the addition of heat through incubation or a sitting hen that causes the embryo to begin developing into a baby chick if it is a fertilized egg. This incubation period takes a little over 3 weeks.

Often with free range chicken (like ours) a hen will “disappear” for a period of time and then return with a parade of baby chicks following her, as was the case with Buttercup.

We have had chickens for years but this is the first time we have had a broody hen. We typically add chicks to the farm through mail order. They are overnighted through the postal service and we get a phone call from the postman to come pick up our noisy chicks when our chirping box arrives.

Having a hen sit and hatch new additions has been a fun change for us. It is neat to watch Momma take on the role of teacher and protector of the chicks as opposed to the artificial environment of raising the chicks in the basement under a heat lamp.


Buttercup is a good little Momma, herding her chicks around the farmyard with Gus, our Guinea fowl, who has taken on the role of protector and adoptive dad to the nine babies. It is so funny to see!


It is moments like this that make me feel so blessed to raise my own “chicks” on a farm where they can experience the most thrilling of nature’s wonders.


Llama Drama



For English Composition Rusty has been working on a personal memoir assignment. He chose to share the story of the day we adopted Obama the Llama. We have had fun looking back on that funny adventure. Here is his memoir:

“Life on our farm is always an adventure. We have had our share of crazy experiences with the animals that call Patchwork Farm home, but the one that takes the cake is the day we brought home our llama.

Near our home there is a weekly auction that takes place every Friday night. At this auction you can bid on everything from 20 pounds of strawberries to a used air conditioner, and everything in between. The biggest reason we go to Rogers auction is the animal auction. At Rogers we have bought chickens, rabbits, even the occasional goat. Never did I think we would buy a llama. It all happened when we showed up at the auction and there was a llama in the pen with the goats. He was tall, with long, white fur and a sloping big nose. My dad was instantly in love with the idea of having a llama. The thought of having a llama in the field to protect our herd of goats appealed to him. As we sat in the audience Dad was hoping that the llama would be a good price. At this point in the night I think my dad, in all his excitement, forgot we didn’t have a trailer with us. He raised his hand to bid and the auctioneer pointed to him and yelled “Sold!” We were now the owners of a llama.

Dad went to the front desk to pay his bill and then went into the barn to get our new llama. With a harness and a leash Dad walked the llama to our car. It was at this moment that he remembered that he didn’t drive his truck and trailer to the auction. We had actually come in the family station wagon. Rather than panic dad just said, “We will figure this out.”

We walked to the the car dragging a 300-pound llama by the leash. Dad had Mom hold the leash while he folded down the seats that the kids weren’t using, to make space for a 7-foot llama. It was now time to convince the llama to climb into the back of the station wagon. He found out llamas don’t like station wagons. They also don’t fold easily, but dad was persistent and with a tuck here and a fold here he managed to squish Obama the llama into our car.

Once he was in he was fine. His fluffy white body filled the back of the car and he rested his head on the back of the driver’s headrest. As we drove home cars passed us, slowing down to look closer or take a picture with their cellphone cameras. On our way home Dad decided to make one more stop at our local ice cream store so that everyone (except the llama) could enjoy an ice cream cone on the ride home. Everyone got out of the car to order their ice cream from the front window. As we were walking back to the car carrying our ice cream cones we passed a young boy who had stopped to stare in the window of our car. He was shocked and  shouted for everyone to hear “ Mom, they have a polar bear in their car!”

Obama made it home in one piece and enjoyed a long life at Patchwork Farm. He never again rode in the station wagon. Instead of cruising around town, his days were spent grazing in the fields. In the end it all worked out. The moral of the story is think before you act, especially if you are buying a llama.”