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Thar’s B’ars in Them Thar Hills

Several months ago my middle son came running in saying he had seen a bear in the neighbor’s woods.  We didn’t know whether to believe him or chalk it up to an over active imagination.   He is the one though that if there is a snake nearby he will see it.  My oldest daughter went out with him carrying the camera to get a picture of this bear.  Before long they came back and both reported having seen the bear but he was too far away for the camera to pick him up.  Then throughout the day they saw him several times.  I had injured my foot and was unable to traipse around outside very well.  The bear did not seem intimidated by the humans watching him and even was brave enough to come closer to the barn later in the day.

Since bears don’t live in this part of Alabama:

“Black bears in Alabama are primarily limited to Baldwin, Mobile, and Washington counties.  Reports of bears have been confirmed in several northeast counties but are suspected of being transient bears from other southeastern states.”

http://www.outdooralabama.com/watchable-wildlife/what/mammals/Carnivores/bb.cfm

I called a couple of the neighbors to let them know about it. After the kids had seen the bear for the fourth time that day, near our property, I decided to call the Alabama Fish and Wildlife to report it.  The Game Warden came out and my son showed him where he had first seen the bear and the area where they had both seen him.  No evidence was found, of course.  Too many leaves for footprints.  But it began to rain in earnest after being a misty day so the hunt for the bear was cut short.  Essentially we got the impression that either we were mistaken about the bear or that it was just traveling thorough.  Not a big deal. Heard how some folks erroneously report things such as black wolves or cougars.  But of course, cougars aren’t around because if they were they would be getting hit by cars like they are in Florida.

We found footprints and much more evidence (scat, trees scratched and down) over the next few days.  The bear was also seen in our pasture a couple of times shortly thereafter.  But the Pyrs also saw the bear and gave it a furious chase.  Since then we haven’t ‘seen’ the bear in our property but it likes the neighbor’s and has been seen and heard several times since then over there.  It sounds like an elephant walking through the woods.  After it was obvious the bear was sticking around and we had evidence, I called the Alabama Fish and Wildlife again to update.  “The State Biologist will give me a call.”  So far several months later I have yet to receive that call.

One neighbor has told us she has since both seen the bear and had troubles with the bear and garbage cans.  Turns out the bear hauled her garbage can, the large rural dumpster can, to the edge of the woods.  Another time a bag of garbage was carried to the middle of a field.

Here is a picture of one very large bear foot.  This is 9 inches long and 6 inches across.  We got this at the fence area where the bear was coming into our property.

 

 


A game camera failed to get any pictures of the bear.  Nor have we have succeeded in getting pictures.  No one has seen the bear when they have the camera.  The joke is the safest way to be in the woods or on the mountain is to carry the camera.  Once my son and daughter were together and they had the camera.  For a short bit my son walked on ahead with the camera while his sister was behind him some.  She ran up on the bear up close and personal but of course no camera.  The bear had moved on by the time my son returned to her.

Now we have seen multiple bears and cubs so there is definitely a reproducing population of bears NOT LIVING in this area of Alabama. {sarcasm}

I had started this post back in January but was hoping to get a picture of the bear that doesn’t live in Alabama but alas I think the bear is laughing at us.  But that’s OK because bears in Alabama are old news ……….!


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Lee

Church cook out plans were cancelled for Monday due to the impending tropical depression Lee that was scheduled to bring us 5 inches of rain and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. So instead of cooking out we started the day with just lazing around the house listening to the rain. But it rained and rained and then poured and poured. Soon the wind picked up and was sure looking like it was higher than 25 miles per hour. The wind intensity just kept picking up and was getting dangerous. Mid-afternoon we heard a big bang which we recognized as a tree falling.  A couple of us went in the back yard looking for what had fallen but the wind and rain drove us back inside.  We did see that Snowy, the llama, was trucking it from the woods in the pasture to the barn in the storm.  The llamas don’t mind lying in the woods in the rain but obviously something had spooked him.

Later I walked by the front den window and thought around that tree by the driveway sure is getting bushy.  But I was busy ….  Turns out that tree by the driveway had fallen into the edge of the driveway missing the van by a few feet.  I was seeing the top of the tree!

We ate a leisurely supper of hot dogs grilled on an indoor grill.  The power had flickered off and on several times but it had come back within about five minutes each time.  We were praying the power would stay on but were surprised it hadn’t been lost yet.  About 7:30 the power went off and we all just sat around the table silently praying it would come back on.  It didn’t. 🙁  So within 10 minutes we were all in the basement bailing and hauling water from the sump pump drain well.  Sump pumps work well to keep basements dry but not when the power goes out.  Our pump had been pumping all day long.  Now we had to get the water out ourselves.

At the peak of the rain it took two people bailing and three children hauling 5 gallons of water up the stairs and out the garage door.  Running as well as they could.  By 9:00 PM the kids were teasing, “Now should we call the pastor?”  See last thing he had said Sunday was call if anyone needed help due to the impending storm.  But honestly it was too dangerous to have anyone out driving in that weather.  Also turns out that they couldn’t have gotten here because so many trees were down on our road and all the main roads.  We finally got to a point where one person could bail and then one person would haul a couple of buckets then we would swap out.  That allowed about a ten to fifteen minute break between haulings for a chance to catch your breath.

Around 11:00 PM the rain slowed enough so that there was a longer break.  One or two could keep up with the water bailing and hauling.  Those that needed to go to work the next day went to bed ready to relieve those up if needed.  Those of us who would be home kept the water at bay.  Bailing continued until my husband came home the next morning with a rented generator from Home Depot.  That was around 9:30 AM.  Our power was restored at 12:40 PM which was nice since some are still without power. 🙁

I had an extra concern throughout the night beyond water and trees.  We were incubating eggs for some friends.  The eggs were due to hatch on Wednesday but the storm was Monday.  When the power went out the incubator quickly started to loose temperature.  Mr. IT has a battery backup for his computer which we were able to plug the incubator up to.  So the incubator is moved to the Battery backup unit and plugged up.  The readout says 77 minutes.  That is all the time it will run the incubator.  Better than nothing.  It actually seemed that the backup lasted much longer than 77 minutes.  At least it lasted until we weren’t all running a hundred miles an hour.  But even the battery backup died.  🙁  Now what?  I wrapped the incubator up with towels and blankets.  Our remote temperature readout showed the temperature dropping steadily.  Eggs should stay between 99 degrees and 100 degrees and they are very sensitive to cold and heat.  The eggs got below 95 degrees and I knew I would have to do something else.

My idea was to use tea light candles to keep the eggs warm.  The incubator the eggs were in was too small for a candle to burn in it.  So I moved the eggs to a larger homemade Styrofoam ice chest incubator.  It was taller and would not be as expensive to lose if the candle damaged it.  So began the experiment of incubating with candles.  Shortly after I put the eggs in the homemade incubator I heard a chirp.  🙂  Wow, at least one was still alive even though they were 91 degrees by this point.  There were no pips, but you can hear chicks chirp once they break through the air sac in preparation for hatching.  One candle raised the temperature but very slowly.  Too slowly.  So I had to add another.  Chicks breathe through the eggshell and candles use oxygen also.  Once the candle went out from an apparent lack of oxygen.  So I had to adjust and keep the lid vented enough to allow oxygen and yet not too much to let all the heat out.  I don’t recommend incubating eggs for 21 days with candles!  It takes too much attention.  It was light candles, vent, blow out candles, relight candles, replace burnt out candles, add humidity, etc.  the whole time.  Wouldn’t have worked but for the fact that I had to be up all night anyway to bail and haul water.  All through the night though that one chick would chirp at me.  Chirping because it was cold, chirping because it was too hot, chirp, chirp, chirp.  Helped keep me awake because honestly if I sat down I would have dozed off right away.  At least I knew there was one chick alive and so I wasn’t wasting my time. 🙂  But the temperature fluctuated from 90 degrees to 104 degrees.

When my husband got home the next morning with the generator I moved the eggs back to the good incubator and to the garage to plug it up.  It took a little while for the cold incubator to begin to maintain a normal temperature.  But even then the chick still chirped away.  Once the power was back on, the incubator was moved back to its normal place with less flucuation with exterior temperature.  Late in the afternoon on Tuesday the chirping chick pipped.  🙂  By Wednesday morning he hatched.  A big yellow Araucana chick.  Our friends were hoping for a white chick to replace another lost white chicken.  Yellow chicks usually turn out to be white chickens.  But surprise another chick hatches.  That makes two that survived!

By Thursday morning five total chicks had hatched out of a possible 10.  These eggs were green and hard to candle due to the dark shell.  I had suspected there were two duds or infertile eggs from the beginning but I wasn’t sure.  Since the temperature, humidity and moving could all affect hatching I thought we would have lost some if not all the chicks.  But I checked the non-hatching eggs and all five non-hatching eggs were duds. 🙂  They look just like a regular egg insides with no development.  So we succeeded in not losing a single chick. 🙂

So meet Lee:

 

I’m afraid he will be a loud mouth rooster.  But he did well keeping me paying attention to a seemingly lost cause.

All five chicks are healthy and are doing well.  Two have slightly curled toes which could be genetic or from the incubator temperature fluctuations but we know how to fix that. 🙂

We did lose 15 trees and several are on the fences. We lost the tree beside the driveway which is a large dogwood.  We called that the hummingbird tree.  It has every year contained hummingbird nests and the pair usually hatch out two clutches a summer.  Needless to say the hummingbirds aren’t happy.  Nor are we.  The hummingbirds come on the porch and just fuss and fuss like they think we can come fix it.  It does work for refilling the hummingbird feeder but the tree is a different matter.

I lost my computer due it’s own issues combined with a lack of power.  Finally this morning it did turn on again but not sure for how long.

The van developed issues due to trying to power the sump pump through a large inverter or because we used the headlights to light up the garage so long.  The low beam headlights don’t work but the high beam does.  ???  (Update:  Both low beam bulbs blew at the same time.  Even the repair shop was surprised for two to blow at the same time.)

Our area had 12.38 inches of rain officially and up to 50 mile per hour winds so we are glad to see tropical depression Lee go away.  Lee, the chick, will go to his home tonight along with all his siblings.

 


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An Unproductive Homeschool Day ?

We homeschool pretty much year round.  Our homeschooling is a part of our life.  School doesn’t end and then life begins, we live life and school happens as a part of the process.  However, as the mom there will be times where I will say “Monday we are going to get more serious about the schoolwork.”  Well, yesterday that was the intention.  Everyone was going to do their school more by the schedule and we were going to get lots accomplished.  Well, anyone who has homeschooled long enough knows how well that happened.  Things began accumulating before the kids were even up and add in that mom had a headache and didn’t feel well.

I won’t bore you with the details but time kept clicking away as things were dealt with as they came up.  But at 3:00 I looked at the clock and was shocked.  Three o’clock !!!!  And here we had to leave at 5:15 for a meeting!  Where did the day go?  As “drill Sergeant” moma starts to get this homeschool thing going, I actually notice what is going on in the home.

Oldest daughter is outside weeding the goldfish pond flower beds even as hot and humid as it was.

Middle son was in the garage working on his chicken tractor for his newest chicks he has hatched in the incubator.

Youngest daughter was playing her violin, without being told!

Baby Boy was sitting in his room reading a book.

Mom was in the middle of washing sheets.

So what if the Botany book didn’t get read, one daughter knows the weeds from the plants better than her old moma does.

So what if the fractions didn’t get done, one son is using them with the tape measure outside.

So what if the language arts didn’t get done, one daughter is actually practicing on her own without being told.  Something that never happened a couple of years ago enough so that I’ve thought about ending lessons for those who didn’t love it.

So what if the phonics worksheet didn’t get done, baby boy is reading and doing it because he enjoys it.

Maybe it was more productive than I thought. 🙂

 


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A New Pyr Puppy

We have a new Great Pyrenees puppy.  We just got her Monday.  She is 10 weeks old and already too heavy to carry.  She is an all white Pyr instead of the more typical badger coloration.  Most people think all Pyrs are white because that is the color most often pictured in books.  I’ve had to explain before that no my puppies aren’t mutts because they have spots.  Just like Dalmatian puppies aren’t mutts because they don’t have spots! 🙂

The breeder was helpful and kept the puppy until she was 10 weeks old even though some of the pups were sold and gone as early as 4 weeks.  Don’t believe folks when they say you need to get a puppy really early for it to bond with you.  You want to get a dog, not a dog that thinks it is a human.  Dogs that think they are human will treat humans like they would another dog.  This can mean bossing, dominance, biting and eventually lead to a dangerous situation.

Anyway, the puppy stayed with it’s mom right along with the goats until 10 weeks old.  The moma dog then was able to do the big training for us.  If you ever watch a good moma dog training older puppies you would know what I mean.  There will be growling, nipping and scruff shakes when the puppy is too rough, bossy or not staying in the peeking order.  When with goats the moma dog will keep the puppy from rough housing too much and from chasing the kids.  So now we have a puppy who understands submission, discipline and that it doesn’t rule the roost (or barn yard).  When grown the puppy should be the boss over the animals it needs to learn that it isn’t top dog but humans are.  I’m the top dog around here (farm wise) and dominance is not allowed over people of any size.

So far everything has gone very well.  Except naming!  We still don’t have a name for her. 🙁  But we will sometime, plus a dozen nicknames.

The first night she spent in a large 10 x 10 dog kennel with a young goat due to be weaned.  The puppy did great and didn’t even cry until around 5:30 the next morning.  Now the goat did cry for moma.  Last night the same goat spent the night with the puppy and I didn’t even hear a maa until around 6:30.  The puppy never a whimper.  During the day the puppy is allowed free supervised time in the barn yard as much as possible.  When the puppy is in the kennel during the day a different selection of goats are rotated through.  Playing and rough housing are discouraged.  Not that the pup would do too much damage now, but habits start young (just like with children).  A hundred pounds of rough housing dog could kill a young kid.

 

We are introducing chickens gradually.  While the puppy came from a farm with chickens none were free range chickens so that is a new experience.  No chasing or pouncing on chickens is allowed.  Thus all interactions are supervised closely for now.

Contrary to some opinions Guardian dogs don’t have to be ignored.  They need to be trust worthy with people and especially children.  We don’t live in a remote area where rustlers are stealing animals.  Even a trusty worthy Pyr will guard the place from visitors up to no good.  We handle the puppy, walk the puppy on a leash and socialize it well.  Most handling is done in the barn area though and we aren’t bringing it to the house to play.

Training a new puppy takes lots of work but it is worth it to have a well trained dog that you can trust.

My only complaint about her so far is that she likes to sit in her water. 🙁  So the fresh bath didn’t last long.  But at least heatstroke risk is minimal since it has been upper 90’s for almost 3 weeks now with no real rain.  Pyrs are smart.

 

So I guess this will be the regular appearance. Wet and muddy. 🙁   Well at least she is red like all the other “white” animals here, she fits in well.

 


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You a Quitter or Godly?

Last night we were playing a game of horseshoes.  You know that simple little game, easily played by all ages.  However, for some reason none of us could score.  It was ridiculous how long it took for the first person to get even get the first point.  The enthusiasm for the game quickly dwindled.  🙁  I have always tried to teach the children to finish what they start, especially in relation to games.  Nothing more frustrating than to be in the middle of a game and have the one losing decide to quit because they are bored or found some other reason to back out.

So after a while of playing my husband declared one more round would be the end for him.  He finished his round and then went to sit on the porch stairs to watch the rest of the game.  The baby (6 year old) looked at his dad and said:

I’m not a quitter; I’m going to be a godly man!”

What !?!

Where did he get that idea?

But we couldn’t help it, we laughed and laughed.  Dad will be getting teased for quite some time as to whether he is a quitter or a godly man.

Thankfully the baby isn’t a separatist.  He sat beside his dad while waiting for his turn and said “I can still sit beside you.”

Some of us worked hard at being “godly” we continued on until it was so dark we couldn’t even see where the horseshoes landed.  No one could even make it to five points which was the lowered ending goal.  🙁   Thankfully, a baby goat started screaming and we had to end the game to find out what was wrong.  Nothing.  But it served as a good excuse to end the game and not be “ungodly“.


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Ever Have Days Like This?

Have you ever had days like this chick?

He spent most of the day trying to hatch.

But he seemed to have issues.  🙁   Don’t we all.

After a long time of spinning around in circles and beginning to get tired, I went ahead and helped him out.  Should have taken a video!

Sometimes my day seems like I’m just spinning around in circles and can’t see where I’m going.

Sometimes you just gotta ask for help. 😉


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New Meets Newest

The new farm residents got to meet the newest farm residents yesterday evening.

Lady surprised us by having her babies in the wooded area of the pasture.  Usually our baby goats are all born in the barn.  If the pattern holds the remaining nannies will kid within the week also.  So lots of babies to care for and lots of milking to do.  Oh, my aching hands and back!  But hopefully some good yogurt. 🙂


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A Great Great Pyrenees

We lost a great dog last week, our Great Pyrenees Sierra.  We got her when she was about 8 weeks old shortly after moving to the farm.  I had never even seen a Great Pyrenees prior to searching for one.  All I knew about them was from pictures and reading.  Even after all my years of working in Veterinary Medicine and in clinics I had never met a Great Pyrenees.  Yet that is what I set out to find in the summer of 2001.

See as soon as we were moved in here the children were begging for animals for the farm.  What good is a large barn without animals?  So within a month of getting settled in we headed to a local sale barn to see about getting a goat.  We couldn’t afford much nor could it be big due to the fact we had to transport it in a pet carrier.   😀   That was a big field trip for the kids and I.  We decided on a little female goat that was probably around 4 months old at the most.  Then I must bid for the goat at the auction.  That is interesting!  The kids were strictly told to sit on their hands – no bidding against moma or raising the bid needlessly.  We got the goat for 25 dollars!  I think the men took pity on me being the one female there with four young children in tow.  As I stood in line to pay an older gentleman informed me that I got his goat he brought in and she was part “Fainting Goat.”  That was a good thing to know when she fell out in the barn yard the next morning!  So after reading everything I could about Fainting Goats I knew we needed a Guardian Dog.   Great Pyrenees were the breed I decided upon.  The kids, of course, were thrilled about getting a dog too.

We found a huge female eight week old puppy not too far from us and thus began our farming with Fainting Goats and Great Pyrenees Guardian Dogs.  (Her puppy pictures must be before the digital camera age.)  I read lots about the breed and training them for being a guardian.  Thankfully I’ve had dogs and had trained a German Shepherd into higher levels of obedience before.  Contrary to some advice, I did not leave the dog with the goats (we added more soon) and limit handling the dog.  My children were more important than the goats and my goal was to train the dog to be good with people and still protect the goats.   No guardian dog here was going to be allowed to be aggressive to humans, children or even other pet dogs.  We took that dog around with us everywhere as a puppy.  Parks, shopping centers, hiking, anywhere we could for good socialization.  But between times she was with the goats and chickens and learning how to treat them.  It worked out well.  She turned into an excellent guardian and yet was still trust worthy with visitors even small children.   We’ve only had one young goat disappear here and that was when Sierra was a puppy and not in the pasture full time.

Great Pyrenees have been my favorite breed so far but honestly they aren’t right for everybody.  First of all they are BIG.  They have house shaking barks.  (Better than a yippy bark to me) They bark alot.  They shed profusely.  We joke that we could make another couple of dogs just from the shed hair.  They bark alot.  They hate being inside a house or confined at night.  They want to roam the property and guard all night.  They sleep all day.  They don’t obey well, they are smarter than their owners and know it, at least that is what they think.  They bark alot.  They come when called unless something more important comes along.  They bark alot.

Some stories about Sierra from my files (I’ll add to this over time):

That puppy! We came home from errands and found her playing around with a dead chicken. After all this time she kills a chicken while I’m not around to intervene! She was getting so good though. I fussed and yelled at that dog, told her she was a bad, bad dog …. Then we go up to the barn to see what else she has done. In a closed stall we find blood and an almost dead chicken? A closed stall? How did she do that? Oh, no. Roosters! Turns out both were roosters and they had obviously been fighting. I guess the dead rooster must have left the stall and later died. Sierra had an already dead chicken. Later we learn that guardian dogs will often clean up dead animals in order to not attract more predictors. Normally though Sierra over the years would place a dead animal at a particular spot in the front barnyard. Everything from dead possums, to miscarried baby goats, to large rodents would be placed here for us to see.  I guess she learned not to clean them up any more. 😉

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We were still working on training Sierra as a young but huge puppy. She barked alot especially at night. I’m a light sleeper so her barking bothered me more than others. One night she was barking so much that I tied her up on the far side of the house.  Maybe then I would get a good night’s sleep.  But the next morning Jupiter, the duck, was gone from the pond.  Our last duck. 🙁  Appears a coyote got the duck and just left a few feathers while I had the dog tied up.  I guess her barking does serve a purpose.  Now my oldest will never forget moma tied the dog and he lost his duck.  I’ve learned.

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Sierra is spending lots of time on the back porch with her first litter of puppies.  I happened to look outside towards the barn when I saw a large shadow cross the window.  A huge hawk swooped down to get a chicken.  I throw open the window and yell but there isn’t much else I can do.  Sierra hears the commotion and goes running toward the barn.  She is dribbling nursing puppies everywhere as she runs toward the barn. She is barking furiously trying to make her way toward the hawk with a grown chicken in its talons.  Thankfully the hawk was having trouble gaining altitude with a grown struggling chicken, me yelling at it, and Sierra barking and chasing it down.  About 20 feet up the hawk released the chicken and it fell to the ground with a sick thud.  Didn’t the hawk realize 20 feet up there wasn’t much we could do to stop it?  I didn’t think the chicken would survive.  It was still on the ground with little specks of blood on it’s beak and ear.  But alive!  We placed it in a darkened cage to watch it.  It survived and lived for several more years.  Its name was changed from Speckles to Hawky from that time on.

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The 8 year old said he saw Sierra with a yellow duck running to the pond and eating it.  Upon intensive questioning he said it was a big yellow duck with yellow feet and it had happened over an hour ago.  I was so mad – at him for waiting around about telling me, now it was dark, and Sierra for supposedly killing a duck.  But we don’t have any more ducks!?! (see above as to why) She had always been so good with our fowl and had only carried around ones that she found dead.  The next day I sent him to the pasture to look for any evidence.  I walked to the fence to watch him and between the barn and house where Sierra waits for treats I saw something strange.  When I got to it, I found a dead tiny brown baby goat.  It was all cleaned up but very small.   Sierra had brought it to the spot where she places thing for us to take care of.  Turns out the yellow duck was a very premature baby goat!  Upon further questioning he admitted that Sierra had carried the “Yellow Duck” into the middle of the goats (where she thought it belonged).  Her “eating it” must have been her cleaning the baby.  I am so glad I didn’t punish Sierra.

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One night Sierra was barking her bark. The “there is something to check out, won’t you people come see, I’m doing my job here” bark. I send the oldest with a flashlight to see what it is we must deal with. Turns out Sierra is barking over the pasture fence into the neighbor’s field at a huge oak tree. There is a large possum up in that tree with teeth showing and growling. That possum wasn’t on our property and she couldn’t get to it. We aren’t much for shooting animals unless there is a serious problem so we left the possum. It took a few commands to get Sierra to leave it and she wasn’t happy about it. She was miffed that we didn’t do our part. The next morning I went up to the barn and guess what? There in her “present” spot was the largest possum I’ve ever seen. How that dog convinced a possum to climb down from its perch, come back over a fence and come to her is beyond me. We joke that Sierra climbed the fence, climbed the tree and brought that possum back because we didn’t take care of it. That dog hated possums and I don’t blame her. I’ve been bitten by the petting zoo possum before when I worked there. They are mean.

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We lost Sierra at 10 years old to bone cancer. She developed a knot on her head back last Fall which was treated but never went away. It wasn’t until January that we received the diagnosis of Skull cancer. We were able to have a few more months with her never seeming to have problems beyond a large swelling on her head and inability to use her left eye.  But last week she took a turn for the worse.  🙁


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