Saturday, May 30, 2015

Potato planter

I am a big fan of Pinterest and find so many ideas there. One thing I had been meaning to try was a potato tower but I kept forgetting to pick up the wire. My potatoes were ready to go and I looked around for something to plant them in and decided to try a garbage can. I drilled large holes around the edge in rows. I drilled some small drainage holes in the very bottom. I made a nest with straw in the bottom and up the sides and  arranged the potatoes around the outside with their sprouts facing the side. I watered them and then added another layer of dirt with straw around the edge and more potatoes. I kept doing this until I reached the top where I covered the dirt with straw. I drilled some big holes in the lid and rested it on the top upside down to allow rain to collect and run in. 
I'm hoping this works and the garbage can can easily be stored and reused next year.

Moments captured on our little farm


I never had much interest in bees, to be honest. I knew they did good work and were declining in numbers and I did my best to restrain from swatting them away and if they came in the house I'd catch and release them outside. That was it, I'm embarrassed to say. When we moved to our little farm, a friend mentioned her dream of beekeeping and the next thing we were researching and ordering our bees. We have 2 hives in the back corner of the field and it only took 5 minutes of having them there to get me hooked!! I could sit and watch them all day. I've planted bee favoured plants and waited until the dandelions seeded before cutting the grass so they could benefit from the early pollen. I've watched them arriving at the hive with pollen of yellow, orange, white and most recently, bright red. I've watched them working gathering pollen. I've watched them fight off intruders at the hive entrance, bring out their dead bees and tenderly nestle them in the grass. Inspecting the hives is a whole other level of fascination. The volume of buzzing is incredible, the activity inside is so purposeful. I've seen capped brood, larvae wriggling, honey glistening and assorted colours of pollen neatly deposited like a version of connect four. I've tasted their honey and I've thanked them for their work. 
I am a beekeeper
I am hooked on bees

Ways to help bees:
Don't kill them!
Plant things they enjoy (see below)
Consider leaving some 'weeds' they seem to be attracted to.
Become a beekeeper!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Busy day on the farm

I was up early and outside long before the kids.this morning. I fed the pigs, mended a fence and made a start on sorting some junk left by the previous owners. It was so peaceful out there with just the birds for company. Anyone who knows me well, knows I am not a fan of country music but as I was getting things done I heard myself starting to compose a (terrible) country song....

I've moved to the country
Left my high tech house behind
Got muddy boots before breakfast
Pigs and chickens on my mind....

I saw this as a sign to move back into town ASAP!!!

We've had amazing weather this week and it has been really interesting watching the property spring to life. The birds are frisky, we have a snake (mr slithers), he likes to hang out below our living room window in the sun. Today we saw a weasel run into the barn where we have also seen voles scurrying. Lots of Hostas are unfurling and the trees are budding. A giant willow behind the shed has a yellow haze so I know it's waking up too.

Today the pigs were able to go outside. We don't know for sure but suspect they have never been outside except for when being transported. We reinforced some fence and added some more where there were spaces and today was to be the big day.
We opened the barn door and then their stall door and they were very confused. Nelly found a patch of their pellet food that had been spilled on the floor and she was content to just stand there and eat it but we called her and shook the food box and she came to the barn door, blinking in the bright sunlight. Out she came and instantly began chewing the grass and oinking. Zeke took more persuading with some food as a lure. Once outside, he wasn't as sure and stayed by Nelly.
It didn't take long for them to start exploring and although they were both unsure of the soft unpredictable ground, their tails were wagging like crazy and it was obvious they were having a blast. A short while ago I opened the barn door and they happily trotted in for their dinner. They are going to sleep well tonight. Tired little piggies.

This farm life is awesome but I still draw the line at country music!!

Having iPhoto issues but I'll add pictures as soon as I'm able

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remember me?

So much has changed since I was last here - we're all older and more pets joined the family but the biggest change has been our home. We left our contemporary sub division home and bought an old farmhouse on 3 acres. The house needs a lot of work, mostly cosmetic but a few big ugly jobs too.
A week after we moved in, we adopted 2 pot bellied pigs from our local humane society.  We named them Nelly and Zeke. They are siblings. They have been with us a month now. Initially they lived in our run down sun room but are now in our barn. Prior to their 6 week stay at the humane society (in separate dog rooms) they had lived in someone's basement. In the next day or so they will finally be able to spend time outside. We just have to secure one last piece of fence. I can't wait to see them rooting around in the grass and enjoying a mud puddle or two!!

Pics to follow....

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A big break and a big change

It's been sometime since I was last here and all has been well for us all. We enjoyed a visit from my parents and a great summer going with the flow. I had planned to keep up with some semi formal school work over the summer but it didn't quite happen although T2 and I read a lot of chapter books and enjoyed bonding with our new pets. Henry, an unwanted African pigmy hedgehog joined our family on Mother's day and the day before T2 turned eight she became the proud owner of two female guinea pigs she named Belle and Chime - also unwanted pets that we found at the humane society. They are just lovely and we enjoy their whooping and purring.

September rolled around and I couldn't quite figure out my plan for school. I knew the kids would remain home but I felt that after three years I still hadn't quite nailed it. I had tried school at home, work boxes and assorted other styles which all had their pros and cons and none of which seemed quite right even when combined in part. G and I set up free online courses for t1 through various universities finding some really interesting courses that would provide certification of participation which we figured couldn't hurt his high school portfolio ( technically he is grade 8 but we decided to pick and choose based on interest rather than any grade 8 guidelines). We also set up both kids on CTC math  and I am really pleased with it. It is simple, no characters or distracting graphics just a simple lesson followed by questions. You can choose the pass grade, certificates can be earned and weekly reports are emailed to parents. If you call there are special rates for homeschoolers and for one price you can have several kids using it.

We were getting stuff done and then a few days ago it just came to me. T2 is a nature girl and an arty crafter. I decided to base all her school work on nature (except math which will be involved but I want to be sure she has that well covered) and she can tie in as much art as she wants. We will cover history through reading and crafts and most everything else will be nature based. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I know we will both enjoy this approach. So there shall be plenty of nature journaling and studying - even more than usual. Each day she is drawing some thing nature related on a calendar which she is very eager to do each morning and she plans ahead and is excited when she has decided what will be the next picture. We already attend a local nature group and through talking with the leader who is amazing, we have a couple more nature groups to check out as well as a drop in nature hike and birding group.

T1 is covered by the CTC math, the university courses and reading and is doing well. He is especially enjoying a food science course although it makes him hungry and as a 13 year old boy he is already eating constantly!!! He has matured a lot recently and is interested in his health and appearance which has led to him working out at the Y three times a week which he is really enjoying and he is challenging himself. This is amazing as he, like so many kids with Asperger's, has preferred a very sedentary lifestyle in recent years.

Today T2 and I went on a nature walk around our pond. It has been a while since we were last there and it looks very different now the trees are bare and the quiet from the lack of birds but it wasfar from  dull, we found lots of interesting things and I only almost fell on my butt in the mud. My flailing windmill arms saved me from totally wiping out but it was a close call for a second or two!

Our nature walk - we helped send the fairy-like milkweed seeds on their way by launching them into the wind, watching them dance out of sight

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nature Girl

T2 loves nature and wanted to show other kids how cool nature is by making some videos. Here are two she made this evening about the frog and toad eggs in the pond behind out house. I had never seen toad eggs before.

 Close up of the eggs




Monday, April 15, 2013

Sponge dolls by T2

T2 loves making sponge dolls and she wanted to make a video so other kids could see how easy and fun they are to make.

Fun with money, addition and making change

This morning while T1 was still in teenage dreamland T2 and I got started on an activity. I cut out pictures of groceries and their prices from our weekly flyers. T2 sorted them into categories and we made a catalog. We filled our toy cash register with Canadian play money and I saved some for me and I would tell T2 what I wanted to buy and she would find it in the catalog, enter the price and tell me my total. Then I would pay and we would figure out the change she owed me. It was a great learning activity. T2 was amazed how quickly groceries add up!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crafts and activities with boxes

T2 loves boxes. One particular grocery store near us has boxes for people to carry their groceries out in and she often requests we go there to get some. She stands pondering which would be perfect for her project and then once we get home she sets to work, usually only needing help with cutting through the thick cardboard. Today T2 made a home for her new turtle that she got for Easter and she wanted to share what she did to give ideas to other kids : )

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Diver in a bottle

Today we did a fun experiment which demonstrates how applying external pressure to a container it increases the density of the object within it causing it to sink.

First we filled an empty plastic pop bottle (small) with water almost to the top. We dropped paper clips into the bottle. Next we taped a small magnet to a Styrofoam packing 'peanut' and screwed the lid back on the bottle.

We wanted to make the 'diver' go down to the bottom and retrieve the paperclips. How would we do this? By squeezing the bottle and holding it squeezed this increases the pressure and forces the diver down to the bottom. When you release the bottle the diver returns to the surface bringing with it paperclips attached to the magnet.

Here G demonstrates quite theatrically for us!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday science-fest

I spent some time on the weekend while I was fighting some cooties and feeling achey and lethargic scouring our science books to plan what science we would do this week. Two books I really love are

I gathered supplies - lots of them

The first one we tried was 'Ice Cloud' from Science Rocks. We haven't observed the results yet so I'll wait and add that one tomorrow.

Our next one was from the same book called 'liquid layers' . We poured water dyed with food colouring, oil and molasses into a glass and dropped in small objects of varying weights, gave it a good stir to mix the liquids and set it aside for the suggested 30 minutes. Tick tock, tick tock. Thirty minutes later our liquids were still mixed and had not separated by density as they should have.  The oil had separated but the molasses and water still seemed a bit confused and it was hard to see if all the objects were on the bottom or somewhere in the darkness of the water/molasses mixture. We got on with our next experiments and then the day got busy and we haven't looked at them again but will tomorrow.

'Crystal Creations' also from Science rocks was next. We filled jars with hot water, almost to the top and added 1 tablespoon of powdered alum to each jar and stirred. Next we each took a paper clip and pulled it open to form a kind of S shape. Using cut up pipe cleaners we made snow flakes by twisting the pieces around one another. Then we hooked one end of the paperclip over a pencil and hooked the other end onto our snow flakes. By resting the pencil across the top of the jar the snowflake was able to be suspended without touching the sides (this will spoil the results) and allowed it to be submerged in the water. Tomorrow we should see crystals formed on the pipe cleaners, if only diamonds were so easy and fast to create!!! The alum we had is from I don't even know what maybe a play dough recipe or something from forever ago - I'm not sure if its age will affect the outcome.

Our final experiment was to discover how dense objects are (once again from Science Rocks). the concept was a little over T2's head but she enjoyed it all the same. T1 fully understood it.

First we needed a 2 litre plastic pop bottle. I had asked G when he went to the store to buy any kind of pop as long as it was 2ltr. It was some awful cheap stuff that we poured away after a quick taste to confirm that it was nasty stuff! The bottle was perfect - it's cheapness made it easier to work with than I think a popular brand of pop would come in.

We had to cut the top half of the bottle off and we tossed that in the recycling. Then we made a hole (the bottle was flimsy enough that I used a paper hole punch) maybe an inch from the top of that section. Then we secured half a drinking straw in that hole with modelling clay to seal the hole (actually we used that tacky stuff to stick posters to walls because thats all we had. It worked fine).
 Next we needed some household objects that were small enough to fit in the bottle half. We chose rocks, toys, kitchen supplies.

Next you need to fill the bottle half with water, with a container under the straw. Keep filling until water flows through the straw, then stop. Wait until the water stops flowing and dump that on a plant or somewhere. put the container back beneath the straw. (you need to do this between each object to make sure the water level is corrected).

Next weigh an object. We used a post office scale because thats what we had and it's good for light items.

We noted the weight on a piece of paper. Next we carefully dropped the item in the water. The item displaced the water which over flowed through the straw into the empty container. Our straw should have been angled slightly more downward but it wouldn't seal well and this was the best we could manage without any leaks.

When it stopped flowing we poured the over flow water into a measuring device more suited to small quantities. Then we noted the volume of displaced water.

To find the density of an object all you need to do is divide the mass (previously noted weight) by the volume (the displaced water just measured).

I cut the video off before we calculated the actual density by mistake - oops!

A lesson for Mom

Soooo we are on a bit of a science kick right now and I see so many experiments in books and online that I want to do them all!

On Pinterest I saw a colour mixing experiment that I knew we had to do. I gathered the materials and we set to work. I only looked at the picture and figured it was easy enough. I did not read the instructions - MISTAKE! I saw the finished result and without thinking I put water in all three of the glasses for each colour mix, added one primary colour of food colouring to each of the outside glasses (correct) and used strips of paper towel to connect the outer glasses with the centre one - correct. We watched in anticipation as the paper towel absorbed the coloured water and crept up the paper towel where it eventually met the clear water that had travelled up from the central glass. The colour stopped travelling. I didn't see what was so obvious. After some times had passed, we ditched the paper towel strips replacing them with coffee filter strips. Same thing happened (of course), then I replaced the coffee filter strips with tissue strips and yes of course the same thing happened. I was getting kind of miffed then it dawned on me and I felt so silly. I dumped the water from the central glass of each set and replaced the tissue with fresh paper towel strips and within a very short time the experiment worked. The paper towel absorbed the coloured water and transferred it to the empty glass where upon the 2 primary colours mixed and we cheered!!

Here's one of our pretty but failed attempts.....

and sometime later our successful experiment in absorption and colour mixing

Our orange didn't come out great because we ran out of yellow food colouring but it was definitely a red-orange 

 The purple was awesome but my lighting wasn't!

This is my favourite picture because it was actually working!!!!!

Lesson learned - I will read instructions next time!!!

Sunday Science Steve Spangler style

I had seen a Steve Spangler video a while ago of an experiment I wanted to try. I think it was this video...

Then I stumbled upon the experiment via Pinterest on an awesome blog called Ordinary Life Magic.

On Sunday after dinner we gave it a go. All you need to do are grab some tea bags and cut the top off, empty the tea, stand the empty bag on a plate, light it and watch to see convection currents at work. Just in case keep some water close by for safety.

 It was so much fun!

Mommy brag

T2 started ice skating in December. She had been a couple of times last season but didn't enjoy it at all. Our local homeschool group has a skating session once a week in our town which costs $5 per family per season (Oct-March) which is an amazing deal. When we first went T2 was falling down every two seconds and kind of running clip clip clop. We decided not to sign her up for lessons because she didn't seem to want them and also the homeschool skate is very quiet and everyone is really respectful of the little ones and beginners. I don't skate so she needed to feel comfortable going on by herself with her friends. I knew the bigger kids would help her if needed - they rock! Anyway fast forward a few weeks and she is doing so great and loves it! I am so proud of her enthusiasm and perseverance. Here she is (white coat, bright pink pants)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pioneers part 2

We enjoyed our trip to Crawford Lake, some corn grinding and exploring the long houses and their contents.