Tag Archives: animals


My brother-in-law brought over a special surprise for Lily on her birthday. He had found a praying mantis on his grill, and thought Lily would like to see it. Both Lily and Emmy were fascinating by their uncle’s find!

We took the praying mantis into our butterfly garden, and let it crawl out of the container by itself.


Carefully, and almost gingerly, the praying mantis climbed out of its jail. Within seconds, I believe I saw it grab a little snack with its intimidating claws.


The praying mantis slowly but surely kept moving. It was retreating to a safe place; a place where a predator would not be able to see it.


And that was the last I saw of the praying mantis.


Two Coyotes

Training to walk 39 miles takes a large part of the day.* Ed and I often trained in shifts, since Lily and Emmy could walk far, but not as far as we wanted to walk. One chilly spring day we all really pushed to walk 12 miles, and that was a little too much for the girls. (And almost too much for me and Ed!)

One Saturday last spring Ed walked a few miles while I took the girls to piano lessons. That afternoon, we walked with the girls in the forest preserve along the Des Plaines River. It was a beautiful spring day; the trees had tiny green leaves and the forest floor was covered with flowers.

Spring violets

I don’t remember how many miles we walked that day, but when we got to the parking lot, I decided that Ed could drive the girls home, and I could walk the rest of the way to get in about 3 more miles. We figured it should only take me about an hour to walk home, and we said our goodbyes, along with plans to pick up Chinese food for dinner so that I wouldn’t have to cook!

Ready to enjoy my solitary walking time, I started off on the path and opened up a granola bar for a snack. I took one bite…and saw two coyotes on the side of the path ahead of me. The darker coyote stayed to the side, unsure of what to do. I wrapped up my remaining granola bar and froze, unsure of what to do. The lighter colored coyote started loping on the path toward me. He seemed very sure of himself! I wondered; did he want my granola bar? How close was he going to get? Should I start making some noise?

As soon as he crossed a small bridge that went over a shallow gully, he dashed back into the forest and disappeared. His black companion decided the bridge was not for her, and she crossed the path right where she was and soon followed after him.**

I breathed a sigh of relief, continued on my way while eating the rest of my granola bar, and made it home in about an hour, just as anticipated and without any further excitement.


*Ed and I were training for the Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer, which we completed in June.

**I have no idea what the sex of the coyotes were. Assigning one as male and the other as female just made sense.



Once, I Loved a Dog {Spin Cycle}

Once, I had a dog.

Wait…that wasn’t me.

That was my old boyfriend. He had a dog, a dog named Josie.

Josie was a black and white medium sized dog. She couldn’t live with Boyfriend, because his apartment didn’t allow pets. She lived behind the shed of a friend’s house. Every day, Boyfriend visited Josie and made sure she had enough food and water. Sometimes he would hide some cash wrapped in foil in the bag of dog food for his friend. The friend didn’t want his wife to know he was borrowing money from Boyfriend.

On the weekends, Boyfriend would take Josie to an open field. There, he would throw a frisbee for her to catch. When I was with Boyfriend, I would tag along. I gave Josie lots of pats, belly rubs and kisses. She was a good dog.

About a year into our relationship, Boyfriend was able to buy a small house. Now Josie could live with him. Sometimes, I waited for Boyfriend at the house when he was working. Then Josie and I would play together. I would throw a tennis ball from the bedroom to the living room and she would chase the ball and bring it back. She sat next to me and kept me company while I watched TV on the old couch as I waited for Boyfriend.

Josie was a great dog.

After Boyfriend and I broke up, I missed him, and I missed Josie. I missed petting her long fur and looking into her dark eyes. I missed playing catch with her. I missed her warm and open companionship. Her faithfulness. Her loyalty.

I wondered if she missed me, too.

I never wondered if Josie loved me. I never wondered if I said the wrong thing to her, or if I did something to make her mad. In Josie’s eyes, I could do no wrong. She was such a sweet dog.

I used to joke that I missed Josie more than I missed Boyfriend, but in the end, that might have been true. Boyfriend and I broke up over 15 years ago and I never saw Josie again. Maybe it was better this way. Even though Josie is probably no longer around, at least I have good memories of her jumping up to catch that frisbee.

She caught it almost every single time.

Second Blooming

Link up your post here or at my co-host Gretchen’s: Are you a dog person or a cat person? Use the hashtag #SpinCycle when you promote your post!

Please be kind and visit our Spinners; come back next Monday for next week’s prompt!


A Visit to the Gould Family Farm

At the end of March, I had the opportunity to visit the Gould Family hog farm. I’m part of the Illinois Field Mom program through IL Farm Families, which takes suburban moms like me out of the city and into the country to talk to real farmers.

The Gould farm is family owned. The hog operation is a “farrow to wean” which means that the Goulds specialize in artificial insemination, gestation (pregnancy) and farrowing (birthing). The piglets stay on the Goulds’ farm until they are weaned, and then they are transported to a nursery on another farm. They retain ownership of the pigs until they are sold to Hormel and used as pork.

Gould Farm also grows corn, soybeans and wheat. The manure collected from the pigs is used as fertilizer in the fields. The corn and soybeans are then used to feed the hogs. Our visit focused primarily on the hog side of the farm.  As I show you some pictures from my visit, I’m going to imagine some questions you might ask if you were looking over my shoulder.

holding piglet
This little piglet is only two days old.

Why are you wearing gloves, a hair net and coveralls?

What you can’t see in the picture is that I’m also wearing plastic boots over my shoes, and I walked through disinfectant before I entered the hog barn! It’s all part of biosecurity precautions that most hog farms use to prevent the spread of disease between herds. Piglets, just like newborn babies, are more susceptible to diseases. Right now, farmers are being cautious because of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). This virus can sweep through a farm and devastate the herd.

These precautions are not just for visitors. Farm Mom Kate Hagenbuch showers every time she enters her pig barns, and then changes into clean clothes that are kept inside the barn. When new female pigs (gilts) are brought to the farm, they are quarantined for two weeks before joining the rest of the herd.

nursing piglets

Why is the mother pig separated from her babies with those metal bars?

At this point in the sow’s life, she is in a farrowing room. There are a few reasons for those bars. The mother pig is able to stand, sit, and lie down to nurse her piglets, and the likelihood that she will accidentally lie down on one of her babies, crushing it, is greatly reduced. Sadly, it still happens occasionally. The piglets are free to move around the mother. The sow has access to her own food and water 24 hours a day, and her health is individually monitored. This arrangement also allows mothers who have a small litter to have piglets placed with her from a larger litter. If a sow has up to 20 piglets, that mother might not have enough milk for all the piglets. An average sized litter, or parity, is about 13 piglets.

piglets (2)

What about the lack of exercise? How does that affect the health of the sow?

The Goulds have been hog farmers for a long time, and their pigs weren’t always kept in this way. They have observed hog behavior for many years. Domestic pigs are not very active to begin with, and in a larger pen, the mother pig would probably lie down in the same spot until it was feeding time. Pigs form hierarchical societies, and at feeding time, the senior sows would fight with lesser pigs if they were together in the same pen. Farrowing stalls help protect sows from more aggressive members of the herd. More information about individual housing versus group housing is available at PorkCares.

two piglets

The piglets are so cute! Didn’t you just want to take one home with you?

I did! The piglet I held was so sweet! However, there is a reason 48 pigs were used in the filming of the movie Babe. Baby pigs grow fast! At the age of three weeks, they are weaned and sent to a nursery at another farm. In just six months, they are about 270 pounds and are ready to be sold to market. These little piglets are specially bred to be long and lean and provide a consistent pork product for consumers.

sow and piglets

These are just some of the things I learned during my farm visit with the Field Moms. If you have other questions, please ask in the comments below and I’ll answer the best I can, or connect you with someone who can answer your question. Many thanks to the Gould family for hosting us on their farm, to Farm Moms Kate Hagenbuch and Pam Jansson for answering all our questions, and to Illinois Farm Families and the IL Pork Producers Association for providing this opportunity!


P.S. I participate as an IL Field Mom under my real name, Christa Grabske. Thank you for following along!

Your Spin Cycle Prompt {week of 4/7}

On the Spin Cycle this week:

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Are you both?

Are you neither?

Or are you a different kind of animal person?

You do not need to have a pet to answer this question! We only have Stripe…does that make me a fish person?

Cutest fish EVER!

Link up your post here or at my co-host Gretchen’s any day this week, and then come back on Friday to find out what kind of person I am!

Second Blooming


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