Right on schedule, kid #4 is also beginning to learn basic deception. During a recent car journey, he decided that he’d had enough of being cooped up inside and shouted, “All done!” to indicate this. When a stop was not forthcoming, he shifted strategy to, “Poop! POOP!”, which had the desired result – nobody wants to be trapped in a confined space with an infant with a full nappy. As soon as the car drew to a halt, he perked up with an, “Ah, outside?” and, of course, there turned out to be no poop at all.

In WWOOFing activities for the past week or two, the major construction project that is the kids’ play structure continues and has now reached the stage where it needs more than one person to continue (i.e. some of the walls need holding up while supporting pieces of wood are bolted into place). As part of this general project, we are fencing in the front yard and thus creating a much-needed place where the kids can run around lightly supervised and not get into trouble with the road, dog, ditch, tractors, coyotes, doors, bears etc.

Hot on the heels of deception, kid #3 inadvertently picked up disrespect (though we are fairly certain that she didn’t know that that’s what she was doing). In her eagerness to show off a small scab on her middle finger (caused by said finger getting nipped in a door), she comprehensively flipped her grandmother, who had dropped in for a short visit, off. I was also given a short lesson in speaking clearly after dinner one day, when kid #3 enquired as to my activities:

Kid #3: John, what are you doing?
Me: I’m going to tidy up.
Kid #3: You’re going to tie me up?

We haven’t quite started spring planting yet here, but ground preparation and equipment maintenance is well under way (on organic farms, it’s better to wait for the first growth of weeds so they can be ploughed under and the actual crop gets a competitive advantage – chemical farms can just plant anytime and spray weedkiller). In preparation for some experimental crop combinations, I was given the opportunity to go out to the test field and take soil samples for pre-planting nutrient/mineral analysis – quite different from my usual forte of doing the actual analyses in the lab. I made a quick sampling plan, loaded up the quad and set out to mark the field divisions with stakes (there are four different areas to analyse). This would have been quite straightforward with a GPS system, but as we don’t have one I borrowed a measuring wheel and, driving the quad with one hand, leaned out to run it along the ground whilst riving in a roughly straight line. This worked pretty well until I hit a rock, which knocked the wheel out of my hand and under the quad (it still works, though there is a noticeable crack and the wheel is a bit more wobbly).

With the field mapped out, I turned to the actual sampling. We had decided upon ten samples per quadrant, and each quadrant was a little less than a quarter of a mile on each side (between 900 and 1100 feet), so I had quite a bit of in-field driving and stake-locating to do. I was using a hand auger about 8 " long to sample to a depth of 24 ", which would have been quite easy if the soil had not been almost 100 % clay – not only did clods of earth stick to the actual sample, but it was hard to pull up and rather difficult to remove the sample from the blades. What made the work truly awkward, though, was a constant light rain and wind – I was warm and dry thanks to appropriate clothing, but everything I was using instantly developed a thin layer of clay and became incredibly slippery. Fortunately, it does wash off.

Kid #4 has a few particular fascinations, one of which is opening and closing doors. This can sometimes lead to perilous situations, such as the time he was playing with the door to the deck, tried to walk down the stairs to the lawn and got his head stuck. These days, he never tires of playing with the chain-link fence gate to Kiska’s run, which of course has a self-closing latch. He therefore need to be closely supervised to prevent minor tantrums when he locks himself in/out and has to deal with both an immovable door and Kiska bounding all over him. I try and use these times to teach him how to ask for help politely, e.g.:

Kid #4: (shakes fence) ELLLP! OUUUT! (translation: Help! I want to come out!)
Me: Out, please!
Kid #4: (shakeshakeshake) AWEEEEESS! (translation: Please!)
Me: Out, please! (At this point, compassion usually prevails and he is released from his self-made prison)