Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cluck and Quack Happenings: Around the Coop

Feathers are flying everywhere! It's been a rough fall for our hens - both chicken and duck - as they're all going through their first molts. Still. ::sigh::

Each year, sometime in the fall, chickens and ducks lose some, most or all their feathers and replace that with new ones. It's a protein-zapping process that ends egg laying for months. The hens haven't laid a single egg since early September! And 2 weeks ago the ducks stopped.

I've had to buy STORE eggs! Can you imagine?! ::sigh::

Otherwise all the girls are doing their thing and settling in for the colder winter months.

The chickens forage for bits of something or another under the fallen leaves. What they find, I do not know! ::wink:: They've been finding cozy patches of warm sunlight near the trees to nap or dust bathe in pine needles. But you won't see them outside the covered fun if there's even a smidgen of snow on the ground.

And the ducks waddle out to the icy brook to swim and forage, preening afterwards. Poor Olive is still coughing occasionally and has a dry-sounding quack despite her round of antibiotics and now VetRx. But she is alert and active and definitely enjoys her dried mealworms.

With the colder weather here and the snow coming, White Pine and I wrapped up the run with plastic sheeting a month or so ago. Transparent plastic sheeting, which you can get get Lowe's or Home Depot, is wonderful for letting in sunlight but keeping out snow, freezing rain and chilly breezes. And we don't have to get into the run and shovel out mountains of snow through the season! 

To give them some added insulation and warmth, I've been adding dry, fallen leaves to the run. We have an abundance of leaves and they make great bedding! Not only do they provide some insulation against the cold ground, but the hens can scratch through it for exercise, searching for scratch grains or mealworms we randomly throw in. And they'll decompose with "flock fertilizer" easily through the winter months and can be raked out and added to the garden or simply left in the run.

We've begun "deep litter" inside the coop. Our coop does not have electricity as we believe its better to keep things as "au natural" as possible (while still protecting our flock) and so it's unheated. "Deep litter" is a method of allowing straw to compost inside the coop over the winter, releasing warmth in the process, and in the spring providing seasoned fertilizer for the garden. (Read more about "deep litter" on Fresh Eggs Daily.) Believe it or not, done right, "deep litter" isn't smelly at all.

Now, if only they would stay laying eggs again! ::sigh::

The Chicken Chick

ETA: Guess what? I was surprised and excited to see our FIRST EGG since molting started this morning on the coop floor!

Surprise! We Dropped Goodies Off!

Merry Christmas!

One of our favorite family traditions is to bake, make and decorate a bunch of homemade sweets to give to friends and neighbors.

This year Sugar Maple chose our sweet treats from my Pinterest boards. (Don't you love Pinterest?)  And on today we spent the morning baking.

A perfect way to enjoy a fun time with my saplings and make something to surprise our neighbors and friends with!

Sweet Treats Menu
(Click on the name to see sources and recipes)
Hot Cocoa Packets with Candy Cane-Chocolate Stirrers

Why yes, there is a lot of chocolate in that menu! ::grin::

Once all those sweets were cooled, cut and decorated, we divided them onto sturdy, Christmas tree themed paper plates, wrapped them in plastic wrap, added homemade Christmas tree Paint Chip tags, and delivered them to some wonderful people.

Now, I know the picture doesn't show our great treats well, but with a hustle and bustle of getting everything baked, decorated, cut, and wrapped, I forgot to take photos!

The saplings love dropping off the plates and seeing the excitement from our neighbors and friends. A very special way to spread holiday fun!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mt. Boom Erupts!

Have you ever build and "erupted" a volcano model with your kids? It's a blast! (Pun intended! ::wink::) To end our volcano unit study, we did just this activity!

With chicken wire and a plastic test tube, Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir created just the right volcano shape for our model, and then placed in on an unused Pizza Hut pizza box.

Stripe Decided the Box and Volcano Were HERS for Awhile

Now, they wanted something much, much bigger, but where would we store it?

Then they did the ooey, gooey part of adding strips of newspaper dipped in a flour, vinegar, glue, and water paste to cover the chicken wire. (While searching for wallpaper paste at Walmart, a man told me just to mix up that concoction and it would work just as well, and since I never did find wallpaper paste...) Being tactile sensitive, Balsam Fir wasn't too sure about this part, but eventually he got "gooey-fied" too. And our volcano started to LOOK like a mountain!

They had to wait 3 long, long days for it to completely dry before painting it and adding an "environment" of PASTA trees.

But before we could create some eruptions, White Pine decided to place Opal by the volcano and call her "Duckzilla". :sigh:: ::grin:: 

And finally, the eruptions!

Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir loved mixing together household chemicals to create a lava flow! It's a great introduction to our next science topic: chemistry! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's a Wrap! Session 2 Week 6 - Let the Holidays Begin

In My Life This Week
Poor Sugar Maple woke up Monday morning with a sore throat and coughing. She spent the day in bed watching Netflix movies on my Kindle, reading or napping. Fortunately she felt better after a couple of days and it doesn't seem like she shared with the rest of us. Yet.

What We're Cooking
French Fried Onion Meatloaf from Tilly's Nest! Meatloaf is such an easy dish to prepare, but it's also "blah". Adding dried onions and cheese chunks sure spruced it up for us! 

Homeschool High School
White Pine assembled some really cool DNA strands from colored construction paper that represented guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine nucleotides for a Genetics "modeling" lab. All those G, A, T, and Cs! But mostly he spent the week finishing up his learning goals for English and Algebra.

White Pine and His Paper DNA Models

Dumas Persuasive Paper, Conrad Author's Profile and Approach Paper, Algebra: Solving for N, Biology: Genetics (DNA/RNA)

Homeschool Elementary
We wrapped up our volcano unit study. Sugar Maple and Balsam Fir put together their lapbooks, reviewed volcanoes and the rock cycle on StudyJams, and made an erupting volcano model. Don't forget to click here to see the creation of our volcano and 2 ways to make "lava" eruptions! Balsam Fir was SUPER DUPER excited with Mt. Boom!

Top L. to R. Front Page of Lapbook and Back Page of Lapbook. Bottom L. to R. Center
Section with Flap up and Center Section with Flap Down

We finished a tad bit of SOTW on Ancient Greece: Minoans, Mycenaeans, Dorians. And, ahem, watched "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief". It's about mythology, right? ::wink::

Sugar Maple's Accomplishments
The Story of Helen Keller (Hickok), Personal Letter, Creative Writing, Writing Process, Idioms, Cursive, Volcanoes, Word Processing, Ancient Greece, Mapwork, Band Practice, Pasta Ornaments

Balsam Fir's Accomplishments
Little Bear (Minarkik), Creative Writing Notebook (Complete Sentences/Main Idea), Handwriting, Rounding Up, Subtraction with Borrowing, Volcanoes, Ancient Greece, Mapwork

For the Love of Books
With the movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" coming out soon - or did it release already ::laugh:: - Blue Spruce dug up his copy of the book and I started reading it to the saplings. None of the saplings nor myself have read this book so it's a new "adventure" for us. Have you read it? I'm still undecided as to whether it's a good read ALOUD book or not.

With Our Hands
Fiori Pasta Snowflake Ornaments from Katy Elliot! Using pasta and Tacky Glue, we created snowflake shapes and let them dry. After 2-3 light coats of white spray paint, we "painted" them with Tacky Glue and covered them with silver glitter. Sparkly!

Sugar Maple Making Fiori Pasta Snowflake Ornaments

Places We Went and People We Saw
☃ Library (SM) ☃ Scouts (All) ☃ Band Concert (SM) ☃ Girl Scout Nursing Home Singalong and Holiday Party (SM) ☃ Boy Scout Camp In (WP) ☃

Helpful Homeschool Hint
Having maps for Geography is a great resource to have! Not only do we label places and landforms, but we also jot down historical notes. Tying events to places can be a very powerful learning tool! Education Place has some great, but simple outline maps to print out for free! 

Around the 'Net
☃ Advent Christmas Lanterns from The Tiger Chronicles
☃ Gift Boxes and Envelope Templates to Print Out and Assemble from Katilbalina
☃ Printable Paper Grinch from The Flying Dachshund

Well, that's a wrap! I've got a few more posts lined up for December so don't forget to come back. Linking up to these fun blog hops! Click over and check them out! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Homegrown Learnershttp:// Homeschool Hop ButtonDown Home Blog Hop

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's a Wrap! Session 2 Week 5 - Countdown to the Holidays

In My Life This Week
A peak at winter! A fine, dusty snow fell all day Saturday. Balsam Fir was quite excited to see snow! Accumulations were only about an inch before the temperature warmed up and freezing rain fell early Sunday morning. I had a slippery walk to the chicken and duck coop. And then it turned to rain and Autumn again took winter's place. For now.

L. to R. The ducks swimming hole among the evergreens, an icy imprint of shovels left on the
ground overnight, and ice-coated spruce needles

What We're Cooking
Yummy, cheesy Lasagna Soup from A Farmgirl's Dabbles with some homemade crusty French bread. But the saplings didn't help me with this one. ::sigh:: Sometimes I should cook, right? 

Homeschool High School
Labs, labs, labs! I finally got the supplies White Pine needed to complete his labs, so he spent the week completing 4 Biology labs. He moved onto Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I've never read this book and by the moans from White Pine I think I'll skip it. ::wink:: And he'll skip the 2nd Conrad book in his Honors English unit. I think it's a GOOD THING to experience challenging literature, but the frustration doesn't have to continue through a 2nd book. And he wrapped up his 2 modules for Grammar on clauses and predicates and World History for this session. What didn't happen was Algebra! Guess who's doing a lot of Math next week??

Heart of Darkness (Conrad), Dumas Approach Paper, Dumas Persausive Paper, Grammar Module 2, Meiosis Modeling Lab, Cell Growth Lab, Genetic Modeling Lab, pH and Fermentation Lab,  Genes, Biology Coloring Book, South America History, Culture and Religion

Homeschool Elementary
Nicole at Journey to Excellence shared her favorite resource, StudyJams, last week, and wouldn't you know it - they had VOLCANOES and the ROCK CYCLE. So, we started our week off with a StudyJams review before studying rock forms and filling out mini books, learning about plates and the Ring of Fire, and watching "Mount St. Helens: Back from the Dead" and "Ring of Ring" on Netflix. And we started to create a volcano model out of a plastic bottle, flour-vinegar paste, strips of newspaper, and chicken wire. Our unit study should wrap-up early next week!

Did you know that Nebuchadnezzar (NEH buh kud NEH zer) created the Hanging Garden of Babylon for his Persian wife Amytis (uh MYE tis) around 650BC to ensure that Babylon wasn't attacked by Persia? Yeah, me either! ::laugh:: 

Sugar Maple's Accomplishments
Black Beauty (Sewell), Venn Diagrams, Comparing Two and More than Two with -er and -est, Sequential Spelling Day 25-26, Cursive, Decimal Points on a Number Line, Centimeter Scale to Tenths, Roman Numerals, Type of Volcanoes, Plate Tectonics, Ring of Fire, Rock Cycle, Nebuchadnezzar and Amytis, 

Balsam Fir's Accomplishments
Henry and Mudge and Annie's Perfect Pet, Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend, Creative Writing Notebook, Handwriting, Addition with Carrying, Number Estimation, Type of Volcanoes, Plate Tectonics, Ring of Fire, Rock Cycle, Nebuchadnezzar and Amythis, 750 Piece Puzzle

For the Love of Books
Some afternoons we settled down with mugs of Hot Cocoa and I would read books to the saplings.  Winter just seems like the perfect time for this! What was their favorite? The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks (Rosenstock)! We read about Teedie and Johnnie camping out in Yosemite and how it inspired Teedie to create natural, protected spots in the US. We didn't view these, but Netflix has a documentary series called "Ken Burns: The National Parks: America's Best Idea" that would go perfectly with this book. Such stunning pictures of our natural parks with rich historical narration!

With Our Hands
How could we not do something Christmas-y! Our handicraft this week was Paint Chip Christmas Tree ornaments. (Pinterest photo here but link no longer valid). 

Field Trip Fun
On Wednesday, the Saplings and I went to the Public Theatre with some other homeschoolers and enjoyed an adapted version of "A Christmas Carol". This play was performed by 6 players and a fiddler for a new twist on a classic. I'm amazed at how much the saplings are enjoying music and play performances this year!

Places We Went and People We Saw
☃ Scouts (All) ☃ Basketball (SM/WP) ☃ Play (All) ☃ Clarinet/Band (SM) ☃ 

Helpful Homeschool Hint
My favorite resource this week is: ESL Writing Wizard's Writing Workbooks. Each 10 page D'Nealian or Zaner-Bloser handwriting booklet has a specific theme. Perfect for combining handwriting with other subjects. Free!

Around the 'Net
Paper Plate Snowman Garland
Paper Santa Countdown to Christmas Beard
Popsicle Stick Christmas Tree Ornaments

Well, that's a wrap! Only 1 more week before we take our holiday break! As always, linking up to these great blog hops. Why not click on over and join in the fun! Have an awesome week!

Favorite Resource This WeekHomegrown Learnershttp:// Homeschool Hop ButtonDown Home Blog Hop

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Take a Hike! Bald Pate Mountain

There's nothing like taking a hike when it's a brisk 24 degrees. ::shiver:: But why not, right? 

We bundled up in hats, mittens, wool socks, and hooded sweatshirts, grabbed our backpacks, made a quick stop at the store for lunch fixings, and headed to Bald Pate Mountain Preserve.

Bald Pate Mountain Preserve has 486 acres of forests, meadows and granite cliffs, and a 1150 foot mountain summit. There are 6.7 miles of interconnected easy-to-moderate trails for hikers and skiers.

From the parking lot, we headed straight down the Bob Chase trail by the kiosk toward the summit (.8 mi). Here, we walked along a wide, root-riddled path with crumbling, frozen ground and lots and lots of brown, crunchy beech leaves. We could hear Black Crows over head and occasional chattering of squirrels. (Well, when the Saplings weren't making up new lyrics for "Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer" using "hamburgers" as the topic. Yep! That's my happy bunch! ::laugh::) The trail was an easygoing ascent through forest.

L. to R. (Top): Lots and lots of brown beech leaves and a moss-covered tree stump. L. to. R.
(Bottom): A mountain view and the sign for the summit

The view from the summit was beautiful! Lakes, mountains and forest for as far as the eye could see. The sky was winter-blue with lots of wispy clouds. But it was breezy and the cold air chilled us to the bone, so we had a quick lunch of granola bars, hard-boiled eggs and chocolate wafer cookies while exploring the top, and then we hiked on.

The Summit! Top to Bottom: Dedication plaque, Sugar Maple on a tree, a lake, and the Saplings.

We decided to head down the Pate Trail, thinking that it would be a quick one (.1 mi). How wrong we were! ::wink:: If only I had brought along our topographical map! (Hiking Hint: Having a trail map, particularly one with topographical information (elevation gain) , is very helpful in planning appropriate paths to follow with kids or for your physical condition.)  Soon after starting, we saw another sign, and we wondered what we would experience on this trail.

My legs are still achy 6 hours later from this one! Phew!  The steep grade descent, all the granite boulders scattered everywhere and a layer of slippery beech leaves and pine needles made for a slow, careful trek. Balsam Fir thought it was a blast to slide down the leaves and needles like a water slide though. (I hope his sweatpants come clean!) Sugar Maple loved the challenge of jumping from rock-to-rock. But White Pine and I were more worried about carefully choosing our path and not sliding down the hillside.  (Hiking Hint: Wearing good hiking boots help with terrain "grip" and ankle support,  making hiking safer.)  My Saplings exclaimed, "Best trail ever!" Of course! ::wink::

L. to R./Top to Bottom: That's the trail marker and trail among the boulders, Sugar Maple and
White Pine slip-sliding down, a Puff Ball mushroom, a sheer cliff, and Sugar Maple and
Balsam Fir on top of a boulder.

This trail ended and we turned left onto the South Face Loop Trail (.7 mi) towards the summit once again. There were switchbacks here and there, but also steep sections. Sugar Maple spotted a couple different old scat deposits  - Don't you look for poo on hikes? ::wink:: - and we're guessing that they were deer and either fox or coyote. (I'll spare you the photos though unless...) We were dragging and rested for 15 minutes on the summit before heading back down Bob Chase (.8mi) to the kiosk.

Balsam Fir taking a break

We only scratched the surface of the trails available at Bald Pate Mountain Preserve. We'll return again in the spring and see what else there is to explore. But in the meantime, we ended our hike with some mint hot chocolate from Dunkin' Donuts to warm up. Ahhh!