Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life in General

Our summer was HOT like most in the southeast. Hottest year on record. My garden was the pits because I just couldn't make myself go out there in that weather to weed. I didn't bother taking any pictures. It still looks like a bit of a jungle out there. In time, I'll get it back under control again.

We adopted two sibling puppies from a friend who saved them from a neighbor. (long story) They are a mix of chihuahua, pug and dachshund. Ours both have curly tails. Tigger's dog is named Odie and my little female is Blossom. I have to get some better photos of them so I can show them off. I forgot how expensive it is getting a dog. Sheesh!

Due to the immense amount of rain earlier in the year, our basement carpet started growing mold. We ripped it out and now are planning a major remodel down there. We are going to add a bathroom down there since we live with only one right now. I'm tired of waiting for my turn. Some people take all their library books in with them and it can be a long wait. We managed to get a bunch of free supplies but to save money we have to spend a lot of time in the next year working on this project. I foresee the King having to forfeit a fun vacation to work on the house this coming year. But it will all be worth it in the end. I hope. I'm living with almost 500 sq feet less space. It's cramping my style.

Currently we are preparing for a week long camping trip in Virginia. We will spend several days in D.C. doing the typical tourist thing. I'm sure I'll have photos when we get back. It's about the usual time where I start freaking out about all that needs to be done. I have to get my meal plan together and start gathering supplies. We are taking an extra friend with us so I just purchased a small tent that all 3 boys could sleep in. That means the big tent is for the King and I and the supplies. Yeah!

The school year, such as it is right now, is in full force. All co-op activities (drama, ASL, athletics, field trips, etc) are humming along. Both boys are now also taking art classes. Tigger is enthralled with it. Pooh informed me "I'll still do art if you want me to, Mom." So, he's still doing art. ;D

Oh! Pooh's voice has changed!!! I keep freaking out thinking "Who's voice is that?" Oh yeah. That would be my son. LOL He also discovered he is growing armpit hair. We are discovering he needs to be more vigilant with the deodorant. Yikes. I mentioned shaving to him one time (the mini mustache is on it's way) and can tell he's nervous about the prospect. He's already thinking he may cut himself. We'll be working through that one.

I can't think of anything else major right now. I'm sure I will as soon as this posts, but I'll leave that for another day. I'll catch up again soon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lego Beatles

This last year Pooh has gotten really into listening to the Beatles. Evidently Tigger got into it too for a while so he's recreated them here for you-Lego style. :D It comes complete with the guy up front filming them for a video, aka Steve the cameraman. "He has a little mustache." says Tigger.

Love Ringo's drums!

Tigger no longer likes the Beatles but Pooh still loves singing along. Tigger is more into folksy banjo playing country songs now. Hey! It beats those annoying kids' cd's that make you want to pull out your eyelashes!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Raising Monarchs Part 2 (Heavy on Photos)

This was one of my most exciting nature experiences!!! I FINALLY got to see a butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis. I have raised numerous butterflies--painted ladies, black and tiger swallowtails. But this is the first time I've seen one in the process of coming out. Soooo, I took a lot of photos. ;D However, I'll spare you the minute details and give you the highlights.

When you are waiting for the chrysalis, you have to check it constantly because once it's ready, it's ready. I saw that ours had gotten dark and then noticed that I could see some faint color of the wings. So I brought it outside onto the front porch and we enjoyed the process.

Tigger got as close as he could. Once it starts emerging you realize that the chrysalis has gotten completely transparent and the darkness you saw was the butterfly.

The emergence happens pretty rapidly.

Once it's out it has to take it's time allowing the wings to fill with blood which puffs them out into what we're used to seeing.

The upside down photo--in an effort to get a shot between the wings. Didn't work but still neat.

So how many legs does a butterfly have? It's an insect right? So it should be 6. And it is. However, I could never see two of the six and here it explains why. (3rd paragraph under the adult section)
See the two black circles on the lower wings? That indicates this is a male. The female doesn't have those black circles.
More info and photos of the monarch can be found here.

We thoroughly enjoyed this experience raising a different kind of butterfly. With our kit, we received some seeds of the perennial milkweed plant so I'm hoping next year to get some of those plants going. One of my landscaping goals is to provide food and habitat for various wildlife. The milkweed plant is a host plant for the monarch. We already grow dill which is a host plant for the swallowtails. And passionflower vines which are the hosts for the gulf fritillary.

Plant more wildflower areas everyone! The bees and butterflies really need it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Raising Monarchs Part 1

I already blogged about our visit to the butterfly farm here. A couple weeks after the visit we picked up our 'butterfly kit' which was a tropical milkweed plant that had two tiny monarch eggs on it. I didn't get any good photos of the caterpillars devouring the first plant. I had to buy a 2nd plant just for them to have enough food!

These pictures are of the 1st butterfly that emerged from it's chrysalis.

Tigger helped me take it outside and it hung around for a few minutes before going off on it's life adventure.

Next up is our most exciting release!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grandfather Mtn & Gem Mining

In early May some in our homeschool group took a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. We made it a camping trip which was 'interesting'. And only 'interesting' because of the conditions of the campground. I've never been to a group campsite before but from that experience, I don't plan on repeating it anytime soon. I much prefer the individual sites with a little privacy and room.

We did enjoy each other's company though and the activities were a blast. We hiked a trail at Grandfather Mountain and below you will see a bunch of the kids making the adults nervous by hanging out close to the 'edges'.

This trail leads you to a lookout where you can see the grandfather. It's due to the mountain looking like an old man's face as if he's lying on his back.

Too bad I didn't seem to get a picture of it. It was a windy day but thankfully not too windy. We were able to go out on the hanging bridge. That'll scare the pants off anyone who has a problem with heights as you travel across a bridge one mile high. I just didn't look down. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I crouched as I walked across. I didn't want any part of my body above the railings. You know, in case some strong gust of wind came along, picked me up and threw me off. You think about things like that when you're up there.

On a different day we made it to a gem mine. You just can't visit the mountains of NC without hitting a gem mine. The boys were enthralled finding their 'treasure'! I can see the lure of this cheap pastime. Well, it's cheap if you don't actually do anything with your stones. LOL I found a nice hunk of ruby but I didn't have it cut. Maybe for my 25th wedding anniversary or something?

You can tell here who was pretty intense. Tigger didn't let up until every last scrap of sand was sifted through. I helped Pooh make it through his bucket. He did a lot better than I thought he would. And once he started finding some gems, he was happy.
You can see the flow of water was coming along at a nice clip. It kept our work area clean so we could see what we were looking for.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Butterfly Farm

A perfect day for a spring trip to a butterfly farm! The weather was gorgeous! This trip was in the beginning of April.

This young lady gave a wonderful presentation about butterflies. It was kid friendly and yet we all learned things we didn't know before. Tigger looks less than thrilled but he did have a good time!. LOL

Here he is again with a smile. Once we went into the butterfly pavillion (I'll call it that-I can't remember what they called it.) all the kids were given a piece of cotton soaked with sugar water. that way the butterflies would be interested and land onto their hands for a nice long drink. As you can see, the main attraction was the monarch.

Pooh raised his hand and volunteered for this demonstration. He did a really great job even though he got a little embarrassed by the time it was all over with. See the ears on the knees-that's where the butterflies hear. The taste buds are on the feet. The noses are on top of the head. It's all topsy-turvy from what we are! That was cool to learn.
In another post, I'll provide some photos of the butterflies we purchased and raised from this farm. It was exciting!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Lazy 5

In April our homeschool group took a trip to The Lazy 5 Ranch in North Carolina. It's an amazing, independently owned ranch that keeps all kinds of animals that you don't see very often. The best part is that you get up close. They offer a drive-thru service--that is, you use your own vehicle and stay on marked paths and the animals will come to you to be fed. OR you can join one of the wagon rides, which is what we did. This is our 2nd trip there and I would go back again. The best experience is seeing babies in the spring and having the water buffalo stick out it's big, long tongue for a taste of feed.

Tigger and the water buffalo.

The best way to feed these guys is to drop the food in. The driver gives you instructions as you go along.

Pooh was so happy to feed the giraffe. You have to stand up in the back of the wagon to feed them over the fence they're in.

They also have a walk thru zoo area. You can see deer, sheep, goats, wallabies, lemurs (and their babies--too cute!) and all kinds of birds too. Plan on an hour for the wagon ride, another hour to do the walk thru zoo area and however much time you think you may need for the little kids to play on the huge wooden ship play structure. It's very, very dusty and you'll be out in the open. Either spring or fall would be excellent times to go--spring is my favorite since you get the opportunity to see any babies that have been born. We saw some type of antelope baby that had been born that morning. The last time we went there were more than a dozen pot bellied pig babies running around. THAT was a scream!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Whole Lotta Frog-Lovin' Goin' On!

It was the most amazing frog show I'd ever seen. I felt as if I was at the edge of the Nile River right before God sent the 2nd plague to the Egyptians. LOL Ok, really, most of these are toads but still. This is also something I photographed at the end of March. I took close to 60 photos so be thankful I've only chosen my top 10 to share. ;D

The noise from all of these guys was pretty loud. I'd never been able to just sit and watch how they make their calls before.

Notice the color variations. From the sound of it, they were mostly all American Toads.

All that is, except for a few very shy Bullfrogs. I was barely able to get their photos. As soon as I moved in their direction, they went in hiding. The mating toads could have cared less who was around.

The amount of eggs in the water was stunning. Masses and masses of strings of them. If people ate these like they do caviar, we could have done a really good business. :P

Hanging out waiting for his chance at a female.

This just gives you a little idea of the orgy we watched going on.

These guys were not only wrapped in eggs, we actually saw the eggs spurting out. Like I said-Amazing!

With an older cousin's help, Tigger got brave enough to start catching them.

The Toad Whisperer.

We saw several 'fights' over females too. The males who are on the female must defend their position by kicking.
I think I'm going to put a reminder on my calendar to head to the same spot next spring for another show! Waaaaay more interesting than TV!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Still Alive and Kickin'! & Early Spring Bees

We're still here puttering around in our busy lives. I have pictures of some of the activities we've been involved with and will get them on here little by little.

Here's me trying to photo the bees in our patch of clover back at the end of March. I let it get nice and bushy every year before the first mowing so that the early bees have plenty of food source. Part of my 'save the whales' personality coming out. And the fact that we're always the last people to pull out the mower around here. ;D The bees were hard to photograph but at least you get some nice close ups of the clover. LOL

There is a bee in this picture. Can you see it?

This one is much better. At least you can find the bee.

My humongous patch of clover. Told ya I provided lots of food.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Look at the post I found hiding as a draft! LOL I must have started this in March before spring activities took over my life. We really had fun with this study of the forsythia bush. Most of you probably already know how this works---you take some cuttings of a bush that flowers in the spring and then you 'force' them. That just basically means they are 'forced' to bloom before their natural time. This happens because our homes are warmer than the outside environment they've been in for so long.

Pooh's drawing is insightful as usual. The forsythia buds point downward. Once they start to open, you notice how the greenery heads upward and the bloom continues in a downward direction.

Here you can see more how from the one bud area, one bloom and one stalk of greenery develops.

One of the best things to cheer you on a cold winter day is to look at some yellow blooms.
This is definitely something we'll do again. It's easy, lasts quite a while and provides excellent observation opportunities. Put it on your calendars now to try in late February. That should work for most climates.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Exercise Habit--A Habit for Mom

You can see that I worked on this habit last year here. My friend and I did pretty well. I think we managed to keep walking together for about 3-4 months before our lives took over and it no longer worked.

I still have the goal of getting into shape. Last year's summer hike up a mountain really drove home the point of how out of shape I've allowed myself to become. (As if the weight isn't enough. Sigh.) I also have a strong history on my mother's side of diabetes. Which is pretty much a bummer of a disease and one to be avoided if at all possible.

I once owned a treadmill. Sold it to my neighbor. LOL I tried to like walking on it, I really did. I would listen to music. I watched TV. I varied the pace. It still bored me to tears. Five minutes into it I'd be thinking, "Oh darn! How much longer do I have to do this???" I love to walk, just not on a treadmill. (Does anyone else have a problem walking in a straight line? I didn't realize that I did until I walked on a treadmill. I kept having to adjust to account for the width of the belt.) Walking outside is the best. However, I live on a main rode which means I have to drive to the only real place around here to walk. Guess what that is? A 1/3 mile circle track. Yep, more boredom. The interesting places, and ones where you don't have to worry about being kidnapped from, are a 20 minute ride away. Then I would have to plan around the weather. You can see where that was going...

Ok. So. Next idea. Workout at home with exercise DVD's. I have VHS tapes too. Like Richard Simmons. LOL Hey, don't knock it! It really works for some people. I also have Pilates, Salsa Cardio and Walk Away the Pounds. This for me is one step up from the boredom of walking on a treadmill or in circles. My problem with it is that I can't exercise first thing in the morning like that. I need warm up time. The King and I were trying to get up together at about 6am to exercise together, but I would do about 20 minutes and try to head back to bed. I wasn't motivated to do it in the evenings either. Don't I sound like a big baby?

I know what you're thinking. Excuses, excuses. Well, yes, but it was all part of my challenge. They keep saying you have to find what works for you.

I did! I joined a gym. AND I'm taking group classes. What's weird is that I would mainly classify myself as an introvert. However, the classes are motivating for me. Go figure. I've done Zumba, Dance Fusion, Muscle Pump and I even tried a Hip Hop class! They all work for me. Well, except the Hip Hop stuff but that was mainly because the teacher didn't know her two new dances so there was no sweating that went on. I sweat easily so that should tell ya why it didn't work. I also tried a spin class. Which was a lesson in pain. Not in the legs. In the butt. Who knew there are little bony areas under all that fat that will hurt for 3 days straight after sitting on a little tiny, black cycle seat??? The instructor told me that you eventually get used to it. I'm thinking there are a lot more fun things that don't require that much getting used to. Sheesh!!! Anyway, I've been going about 2-3 times a week. Some are 9:30am classes and some are in the evenings. I have a place to go that stays warm and is pretty much always open. The boys have a daycare room to watch some TV in. (They are the big kids in there. All the other kids are toddlers and it's so funny to see them in there with all the little ones.) And best of all? It doesn't bore me to tears!!!

I know a bunch of health gurus are telling people that there are all kinds of stuff you can do without joining a gym. There's walking, dvds, soup can workouts (not eating them-lifting them), playing with your kids, etc. Somehow, I just don't think that's cutting it for a lot of people out there. We need more motivation. We need to see other people doing what we're doing. People more coordinated, people less coordinated. People skinnier, people not skinnier. So, if you're like me and need group effort, a gym is a good place to be. One bonus is that I know several other people that go there. Sometimes they are even in a class with me. Bonus!!! Plus, it makes me accountable. If they don't see me at a class that I'm normally at, they ask me if I'm ok.

Current exercise habit begun on January 29th. Six weeks and counting...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's Growing Around Here

First I have to say that this year's greenhouse didn't produce much. I kept fighting whiteflies and the really awful aphid. A ladybug would have had a heyday in there if I could have found one. They literally suck the life out of the plants. I did get a few miniature size peppers and I have a couple of tomatoes coming, but that's about it.

See what I'm talking about? The pepper is still alive and growing a new leaf here and there, but it's pretty much just a waste of space. A big clean out is coming soon...

However, I haven't given up. I've planted quite a few seeds that are for this years garden and some of them are doing well. I think it helps that we've had some days reach close to 70 and that means I can open the door for ventilation. I'm hoping an early spring bug will find the smorgasbord and move in. So far the praying mantis sac that's in there still hasn't hatched.

Ok, so here's some of what I've planted: zinnias, chard, kale, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, various flowers, huckleberries, ground cherries.

This is a tray of mostly flowers on the left side. You can see the calendula is up. On the right is I think are various things: Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, Nasturtium, and the peppers/eggplants.

One success are the two cucumbers plants that survived their battle with the aphids. They are sporting some baby cukes! So exciting!!!

Here are the zinnias. There are doing ok. However, you can probably see that in the same tray there are a couple of 'cabbage' plants that just can't get a break. Again-aphid attack.

In the outside world of growing...There has been mostly just pruning going on. I have pruned my grape vines (hopefully the right way!), my rose bushes, my rose of sharon and my butterfly bushes.

I cut back the butterfly bushes more severely this time. They had grown to over 12 feet tall and were blocking sunlight from my little green arborvitaes. They were actually hanging over the fence into the driveway at one point this summer! You can already see how there is new growth coming. I may eventually replace most of these with blueberry bushes. We'll see.

Hark! What grows there? It is my garlic. Garlic is very hardy and survives the snow. I hope this spring isn't too wet though. Last spring's wet weather rotted some of the bulbs.
In the above picture you may also be able to see the seed papers I put down. I think I laid down about six of them. I'm not going back out there to count right now. It's only 6:30am!!! Anyway, these are papers I made in December watching TV with the family. They appear to work great! I went to check a couple of days ago and the radishes have popped up. I think I saw one little lettuce plant up already too. Beside the papers, I sprinkled some turnip seeds and those are very small but coming. I need to check everything later today. When the sun is up! LOL

I really recommend the seed papers. They were pretty easy to make and super easy to put down. You just smooth out the soil, put down your paper and cover it lightly with a bit of soil and straw. That's basically just to hold it down. You can already see how the paper is disintegrating from the weather and the effects of being in the soil. It's wonderful in that the seeds are already spaced correctly and they don't go anywhere when it rains or you water! That is fabulous!!!

The growing chores are just beginning. I have tons of transplanting to get done and even more outside work to do. This week I'm concentrating on getting control of my house and then I'll be back out there. Come on, everyone. It's Garden Report time!