Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wood Shop

WHAT better way to spend a rainy Saturday than exploring a real working wood shop? Along with two friends, Emma and Alexander looked at the different types of wood, played with scraps and dug around in huge mounds of sawdust. The adults got lessons in machine sawing and sanding. I made three trees to go with our stable/farm setup and Thomas made a rocket. We've had fun finishing off the sanding by hand, and will oil our creations next.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Toadstool Heaven

IT was hard to believe that Georgia has been in an official drought for much of the last ten years, given the monumental flooding that occured here last week. Though many farms in the state have suffered catastrophic damage, there is one crop that has flourished in the wet ground. 'Shrooms!

Hearing about a particularly fungus-filled area, we went to check it out. And really - wow! There were red ones, yellow ones, brown ones and white, smooth and speckled, 'mushroom'-shaped and the flat kind growing out of trees, tiny little bobbles and huge great fungi. I had warned Emma that I wanted to photograph fungi, but they didn't hold her interest quite as long as mine, and she soon sighed: "Mama, you don't have to take a picture of every one."

So what exactly is a toadstool and what is a mushroom? Both terms have been used for centuries and never clearly defined. Now, 'toadstool' usually refers to an inedible or poisonous cap-and-gill-shaped fungus, and mushroom an edible one - though this is by no means official. The word 'toadstool' may be connected to some kinds of poisonous toad, (one school holds that toads made mushrooms poisonous by sitting on them. Now that's something you don't see very often.) It has also been suggested that the word derives phonetically from the German word 'Todesstuhl' (literally 'death chair'). Either way, we were just there to look at them - we weren't planning on testing any poison theories.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Apple Pickin'

NOTHING tastes as good as a fruit you've just picked off the tree. Our first visit to an apple orchard was an exciting discovery of all kinds of apple varieties you can't find at the supermarket. We picked Arkansaw Black, Golden, Cameo, Rome Beauty, Honey Crisp and Mutsu. The children were delighted to have so many apples within reach - Emma was able to pick many at her own height (they were dwarf trees), and Alexander just had a field day with windfalls.

We came home with a 1/2 bushel of crunchy goodness. Luckily I found this site with all kinds of apple recipes.

(sung to tune of "Frere Jacques")

Picking apples, picking apples
One by one, one by one
Put them in a basket, put them in a basket
Oh what fun! Oh what fun!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Magic Forest

OVER the summer, we've spent many a lazy afternoon working and playing in what's become known as "The Magic Forest". This is a small wooded area at the back of our back garden which has been adopted by children and gnomes.

Like other forests, it is constantly evolving. The toddler-sized obstacle course was long ago moved around to challenge longer legs and greater balance. When we discovered a stash of tree trunks across town, we made a few trips and now have a table and chairs as well as various stepping stones, benches, a hammering table and whatever else the game requires on any given day. One afternoon was spent moving a little house into position, and 'landscaping' around it. Another making a simple rope swing.

Emma likes to play homeowner and designates me as the gardener. She finds this a good arrangement, as she is then at liberty to drink tea and mustard soup (her recipe, usually made from sand) while I carry out whatever maintenance is required. Now and again she gives me advice, or even deigns to help on occasion. This week I was needed to fix some holes in the roof of her fort, which was a good use for pruned branches. Wisteria vines are especially great for fort building, as they are like rope! Alexander takes on various roles in the game, usually involving sticks in his hand, dirt all over and some object in his mouth.

Just in case the gnomes get lost, we thought perhaps the Magic Forest should have a sign, which kept us occupied another afternoon. (Actually two - one to paint the sign, the next to scrub paint from the patio.) I wonder what the forest will look like next year?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remember September

AS summer gives way to early autumn, we set about updating our nature table with an apple theme. The tree was a collection of twigs that we decorated with felt leaves. The apples we made by wet-felting small balls of green and red wool. (Alexander found a new method for this - apparently saliva works as well as soap to aid the felting process.)

A painting of an apple orchard and needle-felted rabbit finished the scene, which I'm sure will be added to with various treasures found on walks throughout the month.

We found some great apple books at the library, including The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson, and The Apple King by Francesca Bosca, which I will bring to Emma's pre-school as a puppet story.

Finally, we learnt a new song for the month:

Remember September
by Marlys Swinger
(in Sing Through The Seasons)

Remember September; Before she said goodbye
She told the youngest robins the way they ought to fly.
Around the mountain's shoulder she spread a gypsy shawl,
And sent a breeze among the trees to sing about the fall.

Remember September; Before she went away
She taught the cricket fiddlers the proper tunes to play,
She gave a modest maple a dress of red and gold
And showed a mouse a little house to keep him from the cold.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Garden

TIME to say adieu to our first successful little garden plot. The tomato and squash plants returned to the earth by way of the compost heap, which, we were delighted to discover, had actually yielded some useable compost! This we used to prepare the bed for autumn plantings, and Emma and I had lots of fun choosing seedlings and seeds at our favourite gardening shop. We planted dandelion, green and red kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts transplants; then turnip, golden and red beets, rapini and spinach from seed. It has been fun to watch the seeds sprout and produce tiny leaflets just four days after planting (pictured are turnip seedlings); however, something has been gnawing mercilessly with equal speed on the larger plants' leaves. Not sure what kind of animal is responsible, but I dare say a little fence wouldn't go amiss.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crossing The Bridge

IN the same week that Emma began pre-school, we were priviliged to witness a rite of passage for two friends. Our Waldorf group held a Rose Ceremony, in which children passing from early to middle childhood receive a flower from another child to welcome them to the world of academic learning. The ceremony began with an opening song, then all the children were invited to take a seat on a mat in front of the bridge, beautifully decorated with hand-dyed fabric. After a lovely story about children coming down to the earth and growing in love and learning, the two rising first graders were invited to the bridge to receive their posies. We then all followed the honourees across the bridge to the playground, where a special feast was waiting.