Three Girl Pile-Up

…adventures of our homeschooling family

Month: April, 2009

Potions!

Potion-making is a popular pastime around here.  Often it is simple mixtures of water and various found nature items; other times it’s more of a chemistry project.  This time, I collected a number of favorite potion-making supplies:

  • baking soda
  • sequins (left over from another project)
  • vinegar
  • a bouquet of flowers picked from our yard
  • squirt bottles of liquid soap (next time I think I’d dilute this)
  • cabbage water (red cabbage simmered in water until most of the color is gone)

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Cabbage water is the new and most thrilling ingredient.  Turns out that it is a natural pH indicator, so it changes colors depending on the mixture.  Add an acid, it turns pink; add a base, it turns green.  Very exciting.

Also, the kids love the real scientific glassware, which I picked up at The Scrap Exchange, a local “creative re-use center.”

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The mess from this is always more than I anticipate–even when working outside–but the utter and total glee from the girls is entirely worth it.  The baking soda-vinegar reaction just doesn’t get boring.  Plus they spin wonderful tales about fairies and potions and magical remedies while they’re playing.

Next time, though, I may reconsider the sequins.  Easier to clean up than glitter, but I’m still finding them everywhere, I swear.

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Digging in the dirt

I’m not the only one who’s been digging in the dirt lately.

Something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while is setting up a dirt digging area in the yard.  Both of the girls love to dig, and it’s hard for Anna to resist digging in the vegetable garden.  And I thought the girls would enjoy having their own spot for digging.  The result was a cleared area in the trees that I surrounded by leftover landscaping rocks.

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Maggie tells me that she’s digging a swimming pool.  I  mentioned that it might be a bit muddy, but she was not deterred.  “I’m sure I can figure something out, ” she assured me.

Anna, meanwhile, found another corner for digging.  Our yard is bordered by a creek on one side and a drainage ditch/tributary on the other, and this is a favorite spot.  The ditch is now dried up, but still a great place for playing.

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There was some making of stew, digging for rocks, and then throwing said rocks into the one remaining pool of water.

A good time was had by all.

The Sunflower House–Part 2

I only have a few minutes to post (my poor neglected blog!), but I wanted to share this update on our sunflower house.  Thanks to a lot of digging this week (my oh my the sod was tenacious), the sunflower house is ready to plant.

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I started with Sharon Lovejoy’s directions in Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots, adapting them somewhat.  First, I went ahead and cleared the grass from the whole area; in this mild winter climate, the grass is very vigorous, so I figured I’d really need to clear it out so we wouldn’t need a machete to get inside.  I surrounded the outside edge with some black plastic before I put the straw mulch down.  Then, instead of digging a trench, I put down a layer of newspaper, and covered it with several inches of compost.  This is the strategy I’ve used in most of our garden so far, and it’s worked well.

The next step is to actually get the seeds in the ground, as well as spreading mulch over the inside of the house.  I want to use something more inviting (and less pokey) than straw–hay maybe?  Anyone have ideas?

The best part of the project has been the “help” I’ve been getting from Anna.  She has loved digging in the dirt alongside me, mainly rescuing worms and putting them together in one place so that they would have company.  Unfortunately I don’t have a single picture of this, as I was dirty and therefore cameraless as all that worm action was taking place.

Now, since I’m a glutton for punishment I can’t resist expanding the garden, I’ve spread out more plastic to fill in the gaps between the sunflower house and the rest of the vegetable beds.  Hopefully the hot sunny weather this week will bake all that grass into submission.

Hello, summer!

And so it begins.

We went strawberry picking on Monday at Vollmer Farm, a local organic pick-your-own strawberry farm.  It was kind of chilly and rainy, but we braved the weather for the promise of friends and endless buckets of berries.  We were rewarded in spades, with bellies full of strawberries, lots to bring home, and a fun day with friends.

Somehow I have not a single picture of anyone picking berries or even the fields of berries themselves.  Let’s blame it on the drizzle and the thrill of just being in a field of fruit for the first time this year.  In spite of the weather, it truly felt like the beginning of summer…the first cycle of bountiful seasonal produce, eating until we can’t eat any more, putting up as much as we can manage.

Maggie was very clear about her plan for the strawberries.  She picked a bucket-full (about 6 pounds), and made sure that I put those aside for making her very own jam.  Well, actually, her plan had been to eat that first bucket and then pick another, but her enthusiasm for huge amounts of berries outlasted her energy for picking.  So I handed her a bucket she could eat out of, and put aside “her” berries for making jam.

I hadn’t really planned ahead–this was a rather spontaneous outing–so I was glad to get home and find all the supplies we needed on hand.  It was late in the afternoon before we got organized for jamming, and Maggie settled in to get the fruit ready.  She was determined that she would do it all herself.  She even tried some fancy techniques to move things along more quickly.

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Meanwhile, I did a little of the non-food preparation…collecting jam jars and lids,  putting water in the canning kettle,  etc.  As well as prepping trays of berries for freezing.

As I have said before, the actual making of jam is not that complicated, but it is very hot and needs to be somewhat quick.  Maggie and I talked over the steps before we started, and she plunged right in.  When I started to explain what a rolling boil was, she cut me off and did the explaining herself.  So there was heating and stirring and timing and finally some ladling–

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(and yes, she is in different clothes now…we did the actually cooking and canning right before bed.)

I did my best to step back and keep my hands to myself.  In order to get it done quickly, we worked together on the wiping of the jars and securing of the lids; Maggie was frustrated at first that she wasn’t doing it ALL herself, but seemed mollified when I told her that canning was really something best done together, with everyone helping out.  Always a fan of teamwork, Maggie seemed to buy this.  And was still able to feel like this was special jam that “I made all by myself!”

The jars are still lined up on the counter, awaiting their own Maggie-made labels.  They will say, she tells me, “Maggie’s Hand-picked Strawberry Jam.”

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So while we are still in the throes of emptying last summer’s bounty from the pantry and freezer, the first new goodies of 2009 have been added.  Hooray!

Whew!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here.  On top of trying to fit in my regular work, I had a speaking engagement at a local midwifery conference.  Plus we’ve wrapped up a 2-1/2 month long visit with my parents, and they flew out on Wednesday; we were busy cramming in extra face time before they left, as well as helping them get packed up.  And this weekend was the La Leche League of North Carolina annual conference–thankfully just down the road in Raleigh, but it still made for a very full weekend.

I have pictures of us working in the garden–the asparagus went in last week–and Steve and the girls are making great progress on the tree house.  We have been sneaking in crafting and projects, and I’ve been back on a roll knitting.  But I’m going to take a little blogging break this week, to help pull all of us away from the ominpresent computer screen and to just get back into a groove together.

Back soon!