Archive for the 'nature' Category

Growing Science

You’ll recall (if you’re one of my ten readers) that I did a little tutorial on how to make a six-page book a couple of weeks ago and promised that I would show you how we used them recently.  So, here it is!

First we set up a little science experiment about growing seeds based on this fabulous pinterest pin and this blog entry from the Artful Child.  We talked about what we thought seeds needed to grow (sunshine, dirt, water, etc.) and then we placed wet paper towels on contact paper (you could use ziplock bags in this step instead), placed pea and sunflower seeds on the towels, then closed up the contact paper, labelled them, and carefully taped them with packing tape onto the window.  We made sure that the tape went all the way around so that no water leaked out of the seed packs.

Then we talked about what a hypothesis is (thank you Dinosaur Train for teaching Clara this for me!) and came up with one about what would happen to our seeds.


Then we drew pictures of what our seeds looked like at the beginning of the experiment.

And we looked at them and drew them a few times before we took them down and planted them in our garden.

Here’s what they looked like when we decided to plant them!

We decided that while the plants did not make it “all the way to the top,” they were going to keep growing, so we would continue to check our hypothesis as they grow.


Birdseed Ornaments

I’ve been saving this project up since I saw it on Dandee in July!  I love it!  Super easy, super cute, and with a purpose.  We made birdseed ornaments to hang outside last week.  Some of them we gave away at Thanksgiving and some of them we’re giving as presents for Christmas.  They are easy, and cute.  They would also be awesome to make if you were going to do some tree decorating outside a la The Night Tree by Eve Bunting (a FABULOUS Christmas book if anyone is interested).

The afternoon that we made these was dark as night despite the 3:00 pm time, so I apologize for the dark pictures.  I actually waited until we went to Central Oregon to take the above picture because I knew that we would have better weather than anything I was going to get at home.


The recipe for these is super easy.  The kids pretty much did all of it except for a few stirs by me to get the very bottom mixed in.

We mixed together:
3/4 C. flour
1/2 C. water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 TBS corn syrup
(This makes a really, quite incredible glue. I’ve been considering how to use it for other applications ever since.)

Then we added 4 C. of bird seed. I just got mine in bulk at Winco (really, it was the leftover birdseed from this project this summer).


Once that was mixed into the “glue,” we used our hands and spoons to place the birdseed into cookie cutters, filling them to the top, then pressing them down to get rid of any air holes. Then we carefully push the birdseed down and pulled the cookie cutter up. The birdseed at this point was super-duper sticky. Drew (my nephew) refused to continue because it was too “dirty.” I had to bring out a bowl of water to rinse hands off when they got caked. We also found that if we rinsed the cutters between uses the birdseed cane out a lot easier. We placed them on silpat sheets as we worked and then added cut straws to each to make a hole in them for the twine.

We let them dry overnight and they ended up being impressively hard. One batch of birdseed mix made about fifteen ornaments for us.  We tied twine on each one (because that’s what we had on hand), but raffia would also be pretty, I think. Then we hung them up for our birdie friends during our Thanksgiving feast at Grandma’s.

Autumn Leaf Lanterns

What do you do on a boring morning full of rain, before its time to go to the swimming pool?  Well, you figure out what to make with the leaves that you picked up the day before and placed neatly under a giant cookbook (Best Recipe, in case you were wondering). Clara helped me place leaves on waxed paper, then we put a sheet on top, ironed over it (with a thin rag in between the iron and the wax), taped them around a pint-sized mason jar, popped in an Ikea tea candle (100 for $3!), and there you have it!

Clara has been obsessed with the dark, lately. Its dark when she wakes up –way too early– and its dark when she goes to bed after months of her not experiencing the dark anywhere besides her bed. So these were great fun to watch flickering during dinner last night!

Outdoor time: Scavenger Hunt!

I always wanted to do a full blown, drive around town in your car with all your best buddies and find a huge list of fun stuff, trying to beat another team to the finish line scavenger hunt as a kid.  I never got to.  Maybe I’ll have to organizeone some day.  But I did organize an easy version for little kids that will get them outside and learning about some to flora in an area as well as landmarks that you can choose. I did this scavenger hunt for camp when we took a couple of Clara’s friends (and their parents) up to camp for a night and had a blast. Besides boating and playing in the ball box and running around and having a campfire, this preschooler sized photo scavenger hunt was a hit. You could easily do it for your backyard or neighborhood!

Scavenger hunt card (right to left, top to bottom): Hemlock cone, salmonberry, foxglove, Douglas Fir cone, the Huckleberry bush, the bell, sword fern, creek rocks

I made one scavenger hunt card for each kid and put them on cardstock and covered them with contact paper in the hopes that we could use them every year at camp for at least a few years.  Then we set out to find all of the objects on the card.  And they did it!  We had to help a little bit by getting them in the right area and then asking them if they saw anything that looked like something on their list, but overall they did great.  They also ate a ton of salmonberries and huckleberries.  We ended finding the rocks by the creek and spending some time throwing them in the creek, but had to stop after some head-rock collison near misses.  But, this was a totally easy and fun time.  I didn’t get any pictures from the actual scavenger hunt, but here’s a cute one of all three kids in a hammock in the forest.  Fun times!

Outdoor time: fishing!


I have always loved summer the best. Winter I am happiest when just sitting next to a wood stove reading. Fall just stinks because of all the leaves to rake, though I do love pumpkin. Spring is just a crazy monstrosity of indecisiveness makes me feel out of sorts. But summer. Ahhh, summer. I love it. Especially August. And not just because I’m an August baby, but because I truly love the weather, the freedom, and time outside everyday.

I was reading a couple of weeks ago about all of the wonderful benefits that simply playing outdoors can have for kids. Kids today get an average of four to seven minutes of unstructured outdoor play a day. That’s minutes, mind you. There are no video games eating up my kids’ time, but we do watch about an hour of TV a day, and I am loath to play outside in the rain and cold. I have made it my mission this month however, to start a series of outdoor play blogs. It is my hope that I can incorporate at least an hour of outdoor play time into my day for the kids EVERY day. Rain or shine. Year round. Not only do I think that this will be good for my kids, but it will also be good for me. I’ll get more exercise, feel less seasonally affected, and hopefully be a more rounded, albeit muddy, momma. So, this month our blogs will feature exclusively outdoor activities. First up, fishing!

Did you know that in Oregon, kids under 12 fish free? Its true! And you can help your kids fish as long as you are not fishing yourself! I always loved fishing when I was a kid. My dad remembers it as time spent untangling lines, but I clearly remember fishing off our boat and scooping a struggling, wet, slimy trout out of the water in a green net. I also remember that I never had a problem putting a worm on my hook, but my little sister always had daddy do it for her. But I digress. I bought Clara a kiddie, princess fishing pole for $10 at Fred Meyer and we finally had an opportunity to use it this past week at Lake Billy Chinook on vacation. We fished off the beach using extra hot dogs cut into little bits.



This was a good lesson in patience, although momma is such a good fisher-person that within thirty minutes we had caught and released three small-mouth bass. The last one unfortunately swallowed the hook and I had to cut the line. After that Clara got bored with fixing it with a new hook and ran off to swim, also a great outdoor activity. We will definitely be fishing again soon!

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned at Camp Silver Creek

1)  Be crazy and silly for no reason… its super fun!  At camp, people will do anything that they are asked to do (well, within reason)… men dressing up as girls, campers singing for their mail, having to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself, grown-ups eating with no hands, whole groups of people blindly sitting on wet sponges, whole cabins running around in painted cardboard armor… That’s what makes camp fun!

2)  Good will always win out over evil… at least in Camp games where you can see a white horse (ridden by a woman in a wedding dress) being chased at a gallop across a field by a band of black horses and their evil riders?  The evil-doers are always overcome by the good campers.

3)  When you’re really tired and feel like you just can’t go on… keep going and jump in the lake.  You’ll feel better afterward. That’s what you’re supposed to do after a good long overnight hike… Shelburg falls anyone?

4)  When in doubt, eat more bacon.  ‘Nough said.

5)  A bit of paint will change anyone into an alien, Hogwarts student, carnival freak… pretty much anything they might want to be.

6)  Swimming can and should happen any time of day, multiple times a day.

7)  Places that seem scary at night most certainly are the coolest places ever in the daytime… besides, they filmed Star Wars there and the Ewoks loved it.


8)  If you need a little quiet time, arts and crafts will always be there for you.


9)  Life is nothing without someone to give your magic penny to.

10)  While it seems that everything changes, really, everything stays exactly the same and we are the ones who are changing.  Silver Creek, with its lack of electricity and technology, classic games and activities, and beautiful, timeless forest is the epitome of this.  There are few places left where we can go and truly understand this today, and I, for one, am grateful to have this experience every year.

Seedlings already??!

I just returned from a warm, sunny paradise to snow.  Boo!  But, it has made me start thinking about summer.  Mostly this is in the form of why can’t it be warm right now?  But, I have also started to think about my little garden and I’m thinking I better get a move on or I won’t be able to start my seeds!!  Burpee’s zone finder claims that in zone 8, my first frost free day is sometime around mid-April (although it was closer to June last year because of Juneuary), so that means I have six weeks or so to get some seedlings sprouted!  Ack!  How did this creep up on me?  

So, what am I thinking of planting? Well, Burpee has this little bunch of seeds that looks quite promising and are all things that I was planning to plant.  I’m not sure about saving $650 dollars, but its a nice thing to think.  I would have to work a bit harder at canning, freezing, and harvesting than I have been to save that much. Plus we’d probably have to have a larger garden and eat more veggies in the winter. Here’s a picture show of what I hope will spring up in my garden. Plus we always have raspberries and blueberries. Yum!

I was also thinking of maybe planting some artichokes. I know that I probably wouldn’t get any this year, but does anyone know anything about growing them in this area? How much sun do they really need? The spot that I would love to put them in isn’t in full sun. How do they winter? Do I have to do anything special for them?

Ahh. I can’t wait for it to be summer and I’ll be sitting in my backyard harvesting all of my goodies, lounging on a lawn chair. In the meantime, I’m wearing fur slippers and a sweater.