Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brave Knights in the Storm

AMID threats of horrible weather, we decided to face the dragon and go ahead with our Michaelmas celebration. One by one, families arrived in wellies and raincoats and children were directed to a huge cauldron of steaming golden liquid to dye their silk capes, scarves and sashes. We held circle in a covered outdoor area then split the children into two groups for an age-appropriate Michaelmas story. Then we all met up again in the backyard for a rainy day dragon hunt. A fun game had around twenty children chasing a green-draped Thomas, who led them into the neighborhood park where the children ran about searching for dragon tears. Back at the house, a feast of dragon bread, soups and other homemade goodies awaited to warm up the soggy but happy small knights.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Energy Hike

A good friend has an amazing ability to connect with all things around her, so we were excited when she invited us to experience the energy of trees with her and her children. At a nearby state park, we first met a giant hollowed out tree. Then Emma was invited to seek out a tree which spoke to her. We concentrated and tried to feel its energy. I won't say that I had a deep conversation with the tree - my skill in this area is evidently underdeveloped.

However, the outing was definitely thought-provoking and there was a deep feeling of peace as we stood in the middle of the forest, fully focused on the life all around us.

I was also reminded of a book we've enjoyed: Meeting Trees by Scott Russell Sanders, where a boy learns about the characteristics of trees as he takes a walk with his father.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Tadpole Release

SEVERAL months ago, the children and I came across tadpoles during a walk by the river, and brought some home with us. The kitchen sideboard was the only Alexander-proof place for our open-topped aquarium... until he learned how to climb on a stool. Then the tadpoles endured a rigourous training in evasive action. The predator could strike at any time, and their only hope lay in the predator's mother catching him on the sideboard. A few months down the road, each time we returned home, we checked anxiously to make sure the tadpoles hadn't set off on the great escape. They all had four legs, and the tails of two of them were getting smaller and smaller. It was time to take them home. So we trekked to the stream where we had found them, said thank you for allowing us to watch them grow, then said goodbye. They didn't swim at all at first, and I was concerned we had released them to their doom, but after a short walk we returned and found them happily paddling about.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hummingbird Heaven

WE'VE had a hummingbird feeder up all summer, but only noticed a hummingbird once. However, on a hike by the river this week we had a wonderful surprise. We passed by a man taking picture upon picture, seemingly of the bushes above a rather unappetizing looking bog. He showed us how the bushes and trees here were full of ruby throated hummingbirds! I couldn't zoom in far enough with our camera, but if you look closely in the picture you can just see one perching on a branch.

Some hummingbird facts:
  • The extremely short legs of the ruby-throated hummingbird prevent it from walking or hopping. The best it can do is shuffle along a perch.

  • It beats its wings 53 times per second.

  • They build their 2" wide nests directly on top of a branch, using spider web threads to hold them together.

  • The oldest known ruby-throated hummingbird was over 9 years old.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caterpillar Discoveries

WHAT an amazing diversity of caterpillars we've seen recently! If you ever want to send a family into a frenzy, put an interesting caterpillar close by. Emma goes running for our caterpillar field guide. Alexander runs to investigate, wants to pick it up, squeeze it, check out its underside, put it in his pocket or sometimes make it a bed. I run to gently guide this inquisitiveness into more caterpillar-friendly activities. When reassured that our little friend is safe, I run to get the camera. Come back, take photos, look it up in the book and ... well sometimes find out that the little friend is actually ravishing my vegetables and kinda sorta wish I hadn't got to Alexander in time. Now how to remove the offending creature without sending very confusing messages to the children....?

Shown are a salt marsh caterpillar on ironweed (seen close to river) and a tobacco horn worm on my tomatoes! The size is not due only to perspective; the caterpillar was actually about 4" long. It sat on one tomato plant for about four days before mysteriously disappearing (not by me - it really did disappear). It was so well disguised, it looked exactly like a curled up leaf.

Friday, September 10, 2010


WELL I thought we had picked enough apples to last us a lifetime. (We certainly picked enough for me to carry once the little ones grew tired of carrying their own sack.) But after making some jars of apple butter, a crumble or two, apple sauce and our favourite - apple leather - I found myself going to the farmer's market and having to buy apples from - horror - Washington State!! Not that there's anything wrong with Washington State, just that it's an awfully long way from here, when there are orchards right here in Georgia. Maybe we'll squeeze in another day trip to an orchard before the season's over.

Way up high in the apple tree
Two little apples smiled at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down came the apples... mmh were they good!