Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Every Friday starting on July 1st through the middle of August, there’s a Smart Summer Challenge going on at Pink and Green Mama,  Naturally Educational, and Teach Mama.  The goal is to do daily educational (yet fun) activities with your children. 

As the challenge says, “The learning activity can be as simple as reading a book, or doing a simple science experiment, or as involved as packing up the crew and visiting a museum or hiking your local park. It’s as involved as you want it to be, and our focus is to help parents realize the important role they play in helping their kids avoid the summer learning slump.”

They have daily suggestions for ideas if you need inspiration, and each ties into a weekly theme.  This week, the theme was “You are on the Map.” 

During the past week we did the following activities:
Sunday – Did 4-H projects for the county fair.  Both the girls finished their embroidery projects – Olivia made an embroidered pillowcase and wall hanging; and Sophia made an embroidered stuffed dog.
Olivia’s embroidered elephant.

Olivia embroidered the first letter of her name
as well as flowers, leaves, and vines.

At 8 and 10 years old respectively they’ve been doing embroidery for a few years now and enjoy it.

Today’s map location:  home (to do the project).  Embroidery, itself, though is believed to have originated in the Orient and Middle East at about the same time. Chinese embroidery dates back to at least 6,000 BC. (Source)

Monday – Olivia learned to do papercutting with an exacto knife for one of her 4-H projects.  This was a challenging project because the knife has to be held a certain way in order for it to cut properly.  After cutting the image of the horse, she layered black and blue paper behind the cut-out sections to create the picture.

This is the paper cutting that Olivia made. 
She cut the image out of white paper with a knife and
then punched holes with a paper punch along the top and bottom.
She put black paper behind the horse and
then blue paper behind the entire picture.

Sophia spent the majority of the day preparing food for her 4-H demonstration about using herbs in cooking/baking, medicines, and personal care products.

Sophia doing a 4-H demonstration about herbs.
She showed how to make cucumber-basil-ginger herbal water,
sage tea, and lavender spray. In addition to these items,
the club members and parents could sample
chocolate chip mint cookies and iced mint tea.
All the herbs used were from our garden.
Both the girls did a demonstration in front of about a dozen people on Monday night. 

Olivia loves to do puzzles, so she did a demonstration titled
“How to Eat a Puzzle.”
She showed the 4-H members and parents how to make
a puzzle sandwich, and then
invited them to eat their first puzzle piece. 
Puzzle sandwich that Olivia and I made together.

They will do the same demonstration at the County Fair on July 13th.

We also visited two farms where 4-H members live.  One had rabbits, horses, dogs, and cats.  The 4-H member focused on sharing information about her rabbits and showing them at the fair.

The girls listening to a presentation about rabbits.
Rabbits are on their list of animals they’d love to have.

The other place we visited was a dairy farm.  The girls both learned a lot about raising and showing dairy cows; and now want to do the dairy project. 

Olivia is taking a look at a three-year old cow.
They would start out with a spring calf to show next year (one that is born in March-May 2012; and show it in July 2012).
This is the size calf that the girls would work with:
about 100 or so pounds.  Not the huge 1,500+ pound ones.
Today’s map location:  three different rural towns in Minnesota (including home).  Olivia’s paper cutting projects has ties to China.  More information about paper cutting is HERE. 4-H began in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio.  More information about 4-H is HERE.
Tuesday – The girls enjoyed having two friends over.  They introduced them to Bailey and Hoss (the pony and miniature horse), played a game, climbed trees, had a picnic in the fort, and searched for and found lots of frogs and toads. 
In the afternoon and evening, we spent time reading.  One of the books we read was Arabian Nights: Three Tales by Deborah Nourse Lattimore.
Today’s map location:  Today was spent at home.  One of the stories we read takes place in ancient Cathay (known today as China). The other stories were set in fictional locations.
Wednesday – We picked strawberries at a nearby patch and learned about strawberries.

Sophia holding some strawberries that she picked.

We also went to a buffalo farm and were so excited to see lots of young ones in the pasture.

Buffalo in the pasture.

In the late afternoon, we had a backyard picnic while enjoying the sounds of nature.  The strawberries and picnic tied into our on-going nature study that we do (we try to do at least one nature study per week using the Handbook of Nature Study).

Having a picnic on the deck.

Today’s map location:  two small towns in Minnesota (one for the patch and picnic; and the other for the buffalo farm.

In addition, we can add Brittany, France (where the garden strawberry was first bred) to the places we “visited” this week.  The garden strawberry is a cross between two varieties – one from North America and the othe from Chili.  The former is noted for its flavor while the latter was noted for its larger size.

For the American bison (also known as the American buffalo), the location is North America.  At one time, their range was roughly a triangle between the Great Bear Lake in Canada’s far northwest, south to the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo León, and east along the western boundary of the Appalachian Mountains. Due to commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century, the bison nearly went extinct. Today, buffalo can be found in reserves, on farms, and a few national parks.

Thursday – Sophia had a harp lesson in the morning; we went to the library to return some books and check out more books; and learned about Vietnam a bit in the afternoon.  We are finishing up our multi-year around-the-world geography study. 

Some of the postage stamps from Vietnam that
Sophia has in her geography book.

We skipped ahead from U to W back when Prince William and Princess Catherine were married (since Prince William’s mother was from Wales)…and then continued on with X, Y, and Z (Mexico – since no countries in the world start with the letter X; Yemen; and Zambia). 

Realized we didn’t do V…so we began learning about Vietnam today. 

Today’s map location:  two cities and one rural town in Minnesota for the harp lesson, library, and at-home study.  We also learned about Vietnam today…so we “traveled” back to the east.

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Welcome to the fourth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

During the past week we’ve had temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s – very unusual for this time of year…even for Minnesota.  Trying to stay cool this week wasn’t a problem…it was trying to stay dry with all the rain and thunderstorms. 
So, we ended up doing what we do on some of the hottest days of summer: we stayed inside where it was a comfortable 68-70 degrees.  Thinking of the traditional ways to stay cool on hot days (e.g., playing at the beach, running through the sprinkler) didn’t sound interesting to the girls when it was 59 degrees and overcast outside.
Here are some ways that we stay cool…even when the temperatures aren’t over 100 degrees like they were a few weeks ago:
Visited the zoo, conservatory, and Japanese gardens – alternating between being inside (with air conditioning) and outdoors (in the “heat”)
The day we visited the zoo, there were many volunteers who had hands-on learning stations and stations where there were small animals that you could see close up.  We were very excited to see the new area for the polar bears – 15 year old brothers. 
One of the polar bears enjoying being outside.
The zoo also is holding thee polar bears from the Minot zoo since there is flooding in the area.  They are quarantined for 30 days, and then they will see if the Minot zoo can take them back (if it isn’t damaged) or if the bears will be able to be let outside.  We’re going to check the zoo again in a few weeks and see if there will be more polar bears out. It’d be nice to see them.
Since I homeschool the girls year round (with a modified schedule during the summer), the zoo was a wonderful way to learn about animals and plants.
Olivia listening to a volunteer talk about the
gecko he was holding.
This was inside near the tropical exhibit.
After spending some time inside seeing a quail, tortoise, and other small animals, amphibians, and reptiles, we headed back outside to walk through the Japanese garden.

Then we finished the day by heading back inside to the conservatory and the summer flower display.  It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!

Overlooking the summer flowers in the conservatory
under the glass ceiling.  The fragrance from the flowers
could be smelled even before entering the room. 
The flowers were so beautiful – the lilies and roses were very fragrant, and seem to invite visitors in to enjoy the flowers.  Many of the flowers seemed to be so large for their type – particularly the lilies and hibiscus.
This hibiscus was at least 5-6″ wide. 
The plant was covered with beautiful flowers
just like this one.
Ate cool dishes (rather than hot ones)
Even though it hasn’t been particularly hot recently, one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer is by eating “lighter” or “cooler” dishes.  Making salads with fresh, organic vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways to cook on hot days. 

Below is a recipe that I made this week that we all enjoyed (except Olivia who doesn’t like spicy food).  It is from Ross Turnbull, Executive Chef at the Princeville Resort (on the island of Kauai in Hawaii).  It isn’t a salad, but it reminded me of a place that gets hot (Hawaii) and the lighter, “cooler” fare they serve during the hot months.

Pineapple Salsa.
Pineapple Salsa


2 Cups diced fresh Maui gold pineapple
1/2 Cup fine diced red bell pepper
1/2 Cup fine diced red onion
1/2 Cup fine sliced scallions
Pinch fine chopped habanero pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl and allow to marinate one hour before serving.

Drink lots of water and fresh lemonade to stay hydrated
I’ve made quite a few beverages during the past week – all with lemon in them:  honey gingered lemonade; cranberry lemonade; watermelon lemonade; and rhubarb strawberry slush. 

Out of the beverages, the favorite one was rhubarb strawberry slush that used rhubarb from the garden and strawberries that we picked at a local berry patch. 

Below is a picture and recipe for the Rhubarb Strawberry Slush that we enjoyed. What I like about this is that the frozen rhubarb-strawberry juice can be frozen and used anytime throughout the summer – particularly the very hot days when a refreshing beverage would be needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slush

(Taste of Home magazine)
Makes 22 Servings/Prep: 40 minutes + freezing


8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened strawberries
3 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1/2 cup lemon juice
11 cups ginger ale, chilled
Rhubarb curls, optional


In a Dutch oven, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar,and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Press through a sieve; discard pulp. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice until dissolved. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze, stirring occasionally, until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: I froze the liquid in a 9″x13″ pan.  After it froze, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit.  Then,  I cut it into 24 pieces.  Next, I placed the pieces onto a cookie sheet and re-freeze.  At this point, they were placed into plastic bags and kept in the freezer to use for individual servings.

To use frozen rhubarb mixture: In a punch bowl or several pitchers, combine equal amounts of rhubarb mixture and ginger ale. Or for one serving, combine 1/2 cup rhubarb mixture and 1/2 cup ginger ale in a glass. Garnish with rhubarb curls if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 22 servings (1 cup each).

Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Set up a birdbath

Birds enjoy taking a quick dip on a warm day just as children do.  Either use a birdbath that’s available at a local store or make your own by inverting a garbage can lid in a base of flat stones or bricks.  Fill it with some water and a few small rocks (for a landing place).

The birdbath is near a birdfeeder (with seed) and hummingbird feeder.
There’s a bird drinking water from the birdbath, and
a robin in the background in the flower garden (it has a small pond in it).

The birdbath is near the hummingbird feeder and birdhouse that the wrens are using, so we can watch and hear the birds.  The baby wrens were born within the past couple of weeks, and both wren parents are flying back and forth non-stop to find tiny insects and worms to feed the babies. 

Now it’s your turn!  What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  5 Kids and a Dog explains:

The word “homeschooling” can cover so many things. From teaching and learning, to home skills and life skills, and everything in between. Homeschool families are very busy people! It’s not about staying home, although we try to do that so we get our school work done, but it’s about raising well-rounded kids who grow into well-rounded adults. It means phonics lessons and sports and music and languages and climbing trees and jumping in puddles.

Since we can talk about everything from the Alphabet to Zoology, The ABC’s of Homeschooling was born. Please join in each week as we cover a new letter, and link up together to go through the ABC’s!

Since I just found out about the series, I’m grouping the first eight weeks together.  Here’s what each letter of the alphabet so far looks like with our homeschool:

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter A ….is for Animals.  Having two dogs, five cats, a pony, and miniature horse provide lots of opportunities to learn about animals. The girls not only can learn about their similarities and differences, but also take responsibility for their daily needs and health care.

Meeting Gretel on Pick Up Day
Sophia and Olivia ready to take Gretel home on her adoption day. 
Gretel is about 3 months old in this picture.

We also take field trips to extend learning about animals we have as well as ones that we have read about in books.

Girls by a Clydesdale Baby and Adult
The girls by a foal and adult Clysdale horse.
The foal is taller than Olivia’s miniature horse.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter B

….is for Butterflies. The girls have raised butterflies for several years now by finding monarch caterpillars in the backyard and pastures.  They feed them indoors and then watch the transformation process.  At the end, they release the butterflies. 

Girls in Awe as Monarch Flies Away
The clarity of this picture isn’t great,
but the expressions on the girls’ faces show the
amazement and awe they felt when they saw the butterfly
fly right in front of them.

In the fall, the girls spread milkweed seeds throughout the farm so the monarchs that return in the spring and summer have food to eat.

Floating Milkweed
Sophia spreading milkweed seeds in the south pasture.
The wind is carrying the seeds off to new locations.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter C …. is for China.  Both the girls were born in China.  Sophia was adopted at 11 months old, and Olivia was adopted at 10 months old.  Their birthdays and adoption days are celebrated by integrating Chinese customs, food, and gifts into these special days.

Girls Looking at Chinese Items
Sophia showing some of the items she has
that are from China to other homeschoolers.

This past year, we celebrated Chinese New Year by making Nian-Gao – Chinese New Year Cake. The recipe was in the back of the book The Runaway Rice Cake which I read to the girls prior to the cake-making activity.

Pouring Oil in Bowl
The girls making Nian-Gao for
Chinese New Year.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter D … is for Dance. Each of the girls took dance lessons through the Minnesota Dance Theater when they were younger.  Although this isn’t something that they’ve chosen to pursue, they enjoyed dancing at the time. 

Homeschooling gives the girls an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different subjects which they can choose to learn about in depth…or simply be content with learning a bit about the subject/activity and moving on to learn something else.

Sophia during the performance
Sophia at the dance recital at Minnesota Dance Theater
at the end of a dance camp.
Olivia Spinning in Costume
The girls enjoy dancing to music at home.
Olivia often will dance to piano music that Sophia or I play.
Lion Dance with 2 Lions
The girls watched a Chinese Lion Dance
at a summer festival. 
It was the highlight of the day for them.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter E …is for Experiments.  The girls both enjoy science, particularly when there is an experiment or hands-on activity that relates to the subject they are learning. 

Olivia Learning About Vocal Cords
Olivia learning about vocal cords.
Sophia learning about volcanoes.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter F

…is for Field Trips. An important part of homeschooling is being away from home and learning at different locations throughout the local area or even short day/multi-day trips. 

The girls both enjoy seeing and interacting with animals.  One summer, the Minnesota Zoo had a special African animal exhibit.  There was an opportunity to feed the giraffes.  It is a memory that is vividly etched in both girls’ memories.

Olivia Feeding Giraffe
Olivia feeding a giraffe.

We also regularly attend the Minnesota Orchestra’s student performances that are held throughout the school year. 

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Sophia and Olivia at the Minnesota Orchestra.

We have been able to take some multi-day trips during the past few years thanks to my parents.  In exchange for driving them (since both no longer can drive), they have given the girls and I an opportunity to travel to places that have provided wonderful learning experiences.

Girls by Tulips
The girls by hundreds of tulips in Pella, Iowa.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter G …is for Geography.  For several years, the girls have been doing an ABC journey around the world.  I picked a different country for them to learn about for each letter of the alphabet (with the exception of “X” which no country begins with…they learned about MeXico instead). 

Sophia in Kimono with Outstretched Arms
Sophia showing the back of a kimono.
The girls studying about Japan and enjoyed learning about the country.
The kimono is from my friend, Yoshiko, who lives in Osaka.

When we studied about Sweden, there were many local opportunities and historical sites which related to Swedish immigration and pioneers.  We used the Kirsten books (of the American Girl series) as a literature base, and supplementing it with hands-on activities in many different areas.

Olivia with Swedish Braided Bread She Made
Olivia learned to make braided bread;
and, in the process, learned how to braid.
She was proud how her bread turned out.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter H … is for History. The curriculum I have been using for the past few years (Sonlight) has a wonderful history focus.  The “living books” (versus textbooks) that relate to history make the subject come alive, and have much more of a lasting impact on the girls. 

To supplement what we read, we also take field trips to museums and living history organizations. 

Obstacle Course at Fort Snelling
The girls pretending they are soldiers during WWII.
They are at a Homeschool Day event at  Fort Snelling.

The girls enjoy cooking, so sometimes history and cooking/home economics can be connected.

Making Homemade Peanut Butter
The girls making peanut butter after
learning about George Washington Carver.

Sophia with Fossil Sandwich
Sophia making a “fossil” sandwich
when she was learning about fossils.

We have read the entire American Girl series now which helped the girls learn about American history from the 1700s to 1970s.  After completing that series, we moved onto the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Olivia took a class at the homeschool co-op that focused on the Little House series.  She was able to do her first play during the class.  Her role was “Christy Kennedy” in “On the Banks of Plum Creek” (a Laura Ingalls Wilder story).

The costume she’s wearing was made by a seamstress who I hired many years ago when I did a farm/art camp for kids. The seamstress created costumes for kids to wear that represented a variety of times in history (from the mid-1800s to 1970s).

Olivia Listening in Play
Olivia in her first play based on the book
“On the Banks of Plum Creek.”

ABCs of Homeschooling

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The girls continued with the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge by volunteering and doing a variety of different activities. 
First, they brought the newspapers they cut for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  The WRC will use the newspapers that are cut to a specific size to line the cages for the orphaned and injured animals that they will start receiving in April.
Sophia and Olivia outside the Wildlife Resource Center with
two bags of cut newspapers.

The girls and one of the WRC staff inside the building.
The walls had interesting pictures of the WRC’s work
with helping animals.
On Sunday, Olivia sang in the children’s choir at church.  Sophia was not feeling well (after being sick for many days), so she was unable to sing at the service.
Olivia in the front row singing (she’s the one to the far right).

Another way the girls helped was at home when the new refrigerator was delivered.  Since the items in the refrigerator could not be unloaded until the last minute, they helped unload all the food as well as clean off the sides and front of the refrigerator that had their artwork and magnets.

Refrigerator before the girls unloaded it.

It was nice to go through each of the items on the counter and only put the food back that we would eat and that was good for us. This effort was part of Project Simplify which was a five-week project that tackled some of the more challenging areas of one’s home.

The new refrigerator in much better shape!

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For the 14th week of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I’m reading a book aloud to the girls called Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson.  The short description on the cover says, “Being an account of certain episodes in the career of Paul Revere, Esq., as revealed by his horse.” 

The back of the book describes Mr. Revere and I:  “Paul Revere didn’t make his famous midnight ride alone. Meet a patriot unlike any other: Scheherazade, the mare who doesn’t mind mentioning she was once the fastest and most admired horse in the King’s army. But on arrival in America, ‘Sherry’ is quickly let down by her British rider and recruited by Sam Adams to join the Sons of Liberty.

“Before long, she finds herself teamed with Raul Revere to play a key-if unnoticed-role in the American Revolution. Full of wit and wisdom, this beloved classic presents an unforgettable view to the birth of a nation-straight from the horse’s mouth!”

Mr. Revere and I provides a deeper look at Paul Revere – including his skills and personal life.  He is noted for his work as a silversmith and being a good family man…not for his horsemanship.  He sacrificed many basic physical comforts and much of his homelife to help the Sons of Liberty; and was the courier to other colonies on political missions.

Lawson isn’t attempting to be meticulously accurate in Mr. Revere and I.  His aim is to write an entertaining story that will bring a human historical figure to life. Aimed at young readers (though equally enjoyed by adults), Mr. Revere and I is an easy and enjoyable introduction to American studies.

One of the early parts of the book that stood out was the description of the unsanitary long-distance transportation of horses via boat over the ocean which was a surprise to the girls and me.

“We were quartered in the hold of an extremely old and leaky vessel misnamed the Glorious. There was no light and less air. Our hay was moldy, the grain mildewed and weevily, the water unspeakable. Rats were everywhere; they ate the food from under our very noses, they nibbled at our hoofs, they made sleep impossible. Our stalls were never cleaned, and of course currying and brushing were unheard-of.

“Our grooms occupied the deck above us and a worse lot could scarce be imagined. They had been plucked from the gaols and prisons to fill out our ranks and fought and caroused unceasingly. Ajax and I were fortunate, for the thug assigned to us had been in prison for horse stealing, so at least he knew something of horses, and we fared a bit better than our less lucky companions.”

This entire section of the book about the ocean transport of animals, was quite informative and certainly an aspect of which very little is written. Mr. Revere and I provides a memorable – and sobering – perspective about how animals were treated and the conditions that they had to endure on their journey to the New World. 

I am in the middle of reading the book to Sophia and Oliva and should have it done by the end of the week.  However, if the beginning of the book is any indication of our interest in it, I may be done reading it in a few days.  It is a book worth reading – even as an adult…particularly if the book isn’t one that was required reading during your elementary school years.

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This is the second month that the Unique Women in Business team on Etsy has done a blog hop.  This month’s theme is Spring. 

Some of my first thoughts when I think of the signs of spring in Minnesota are:

– the geese and other migratory birds returning

Girls Walking Towards Geese
Sophia and Olivia trying to get a
closer view of the geese

– sprouts of bright green grass emerging from the ground and freshly-plowed pastures

On a Walk in the Pasture
Olivia (and Sophia in the background)
on an early-spring walk in a near-by cornfield

– buds appearing on trees

Northern Magnolia Buds
Buds on the northern magnolia tree

– beautiful flowers

Yellow Tulips
Tulips in spring

– rainbows after nourishing spring rainfalls

Full Rainbow
Full rainbow in Duluth (Minnesota)

I enjoy seeing rainbows in the spring.  There’s something that’s so uplifting about them that represents the return of goodness and happiness (like the sun after the rain). 

As one of Harvest Moon by Hand’s customers recently said, “…There is always something good in bad situations! Your rainbows remind me of that…after the storm a rainbow will appear!”

So, to celebrate spring, I made two rainbow window stars.  The points of each star are individually folded multiple times.  Then, each point is glued together to reveal a pattern.

Two Rainbow Window Stars

The rainbow mandala (on the left hand side) is folded 9 times per point.  With 16 points, it takes 144 folds to make the design.

Rainbow Mandala
Rainbow mandala

The rainbow star with floral center (on the right hand side in the picture above) has 19 folds per point.  With 8 points, that’s 152 folds to make this star.

Spring Rainbow Star
Rainbow star with floral center

To see the different rainbow items that are available in Harvest Moon by Hand’s shop, please click HERE.
There are many great blogs to visit on the UWIB Blog Hop.  To see how others have interpreted the spring theme, please take a look at the participating blogs below:

Rita Wetzel http://ritascreativenest.com/

Jenn Nolda http://brynnsbeautifulbows.blogspot.com/

Ann Rinkenberger http://harvestmoonbyhand.blogspot.com/ (You are here right now)

Robin Koehler http://www.nestlingsbyrobin.blogspot.com/

Linda Reynolds http://bellalindadesigns.net/

Audrey Fetterhoff http://audreygardenlady.blogspot.com/

Birgitte Hendricks http://sewdanish.blogspot.com/

Wendy Kelly http://blog.vintageday.com/

Janet Bocciardi http://www.honeyfromthebee.com/

Linda Stranger http://capecodjewel.blogspot.com/

Karen Terry-McDuffie http://jmjcreations.blogspot.com/

Judy Woodley http://wellspringcreations.blogspot.com/

Trudy Miller http://mommagoddesstreasures.blogspot.com/

Cory Trusty http://aquarianbath.blogspot.com/

Nancy Pace http://nancyswildwirejewelry.blogspot.com/

Lois Stifel http://foxygknits.com/

Jenn Brockman http://alexshares.com/

If you would like to check out UWIB’s bog, please click HERE.

Rainbow Mandala
Rainbow mandala that I colored with
Prismacolor color pencils
A thought to leave you with from an unknown source…
May there always be work for your hands to do,
May your purse always carry a shilling or two,
May the sun always play on your window pane,
May a rainbow chase after each spot of rain,
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
May your heart be filled with gladness and cheer you.

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This week for part of our homeschooling science lessons/nature study, we are focusing on mammals.  The Outdoor Hour Challenge website has a series of Outdoor Hour Challenges for the Winter Series.  We did two different challenges this week since there is some overlap:  #9 Mammals and #45 Squirrels. 

First, we did the activities for mammals.  (Text in bold typeface is from the Handbook of Nature Study website; text in italics are quotes from the book Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock); and text in plain/standard type are my words.)

1. Keep a record of animal tracks you have observed in the snow or mud. Record your findings in your nature journal along with a drawing, the date, the weather, the time of day, and the type of animal if you have identified it at this time.

Today we observed several wild animals tracks in the snow (which is melting quite a bit with the warmer temperature today) including: rabbits, squirrels, and variety of birds.

Rabbit tracks in the woods next to the driveway.

2. Compare a dog’s and a cat’s footprints in the snow or mud.

This was fun for the girls to do.  Sophia brought Shadow outside and made some paw prints in the snow.

Sophia helping Shadow make paw prints.

Olivia made sure that the dogs didn’t interfere with the paw-printing process:

Olivia holding arrows in her hands
to make sure the dogs don’t interfere with
the paw-printing process.

Once the girls had the cat paw prints done, they compared the difference between the cat, dog, and rabbit tracks.  It was interesting to see them all side-by-side.

Different paw prints/tracks:  rabbit (left), cat (top right),
and dog (bottom right).

3. Research an animal that hibernates and record what you learn in your nature notebook. You can also sketch your animal and what its tracks look like.

We didn’t do this yet, but will at some point soon.

Just a tawny glimmer, a dash of red and gray,
Was it a flitting shadow, or a sunbeam gone astray!
It glances up a tree trunk, and a pair of bright eyes glow
Where a little spy in ambush is measuring his foe.
I hear a mocking chuckle, then wrathful, he grows bold
And stays his pressing business to scold and scold and scold.
~ Handbook of Nature Study

Next, we moved onto activities that focused on squirrels. 

1. Read pages 233-237 in the Handbook of Nature Study. Use your highlighter to mark the sections with facts you can share with your children. There are plenty of observation suggestions in Lesson 57 on pages 236 and 237. Keep these ideas in mind as you take your nature walk this week.

“The squirrel’s legs are short because he is essentially a climber rather than a runner; the hips are very strong, which insures his power as a jumper, and his leaps are truly remarkable.”

Squirrel running away with a
sunflower seed in its mouth.

“The squirrel has two pairs of gnawing teeth which are very long and strong, as in all rodents, and he needs to keep busy gnawing hard things with them, or they will grow so long that he cannot use them at all and will starve to death.”

“During the winter, the red squirrel does not remain at home except in the coldest weather, when he lies cozily with his tail wrapped around him like a fur neck-piece to keep him warm.”

Squirrel in the woods by the driveway.

“He has no cheek pouches like a chipmunk, but he can carry corn and other grain.”

“In winter, he feeds on nuts, buds, and cones…he will take a cone apart, tearing off the scales and leaving them in a heap while searching for seeds.”

Scraps from pinecones and gnawed pinecone cores
left by squirrels at the base of a tree.

“When making a jump from tree to tree, he flattens himself as widely as possible and his tail is held somewhat curved, but on a level with the body.”

“The tracks are paired and those of the large five-toed hind feet are always in front.”

Here is an additional fact sheet on squirrels:


And here:


2. Supplemental reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Stories 4-6. Take a few minutes after reading each story to have your child narrate to you some interesting points from the story. Use the illustrations on pages 30, 36, and 41 of the book to get the narration going if they are having trouble getting started.

I have a copy of this book and began reading it earlier this fall.  For some reason, I didn’t continue reading it.  Don’t know why…the girls enjoy the stories in the book.  Anyway, I read “Chatterer and Happy Jack Join,” “The Squirrels of the Trees,” and “Striped Chipmunk and His Cousins.” 

3. Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors on a nature walk. As you walk, discuss where you might find a squirrel in your neighborhood. Remind your child where a squirrel lives and what it eats. If you know you have a squirrel in your yard or at your local park, take along some nuts or seeds to put out and observe the squirrel eating. Never feed a squirrel by hand. Don’t worry if you cannot observe a squirrel this week. Enjoy your outdoor time and observe any mammals that you come into contact with during your walk.

I’ve been waiting to do the nature walk until the weather was warmer (there was another series of cold days with snow and ice).  Today was – as Olivia said – “a glorious day.”  It was…for us and the wildlife. 

We filled all the bird feeders and within five minutes of coming inside, taking our coats and boots off, and walking to the living room, there were more than a dozen birds outside at the feeders.  We were amazed at how quickly they came.  It was as if they were waiting for us to fill the feeders.

Olivia got a bit closer to examine
the tracks in the snow.

As we walked around the front yard, Sophia was excited to discover that an animal had brought over a stash of berries from the tree and were eating them under the pine tree.  After she pointed that out, we found several more areas where the red berries were brought and eaten.

Sophia examining the berries brought by
an animal to an area by the pine tree.
The girls are measuring the distance between the tracks
(one set is by Olivia’s feet and the other by her elbow).
We were excited to see some of the trees having buds.  Spring is definitely right around the corner now!
Buds on the northern magnolia plant
which has beautiful white flowers in the spring.

4. For your nature journal you can write out your observations from your squirrel watching. Use the observation suggestions for ideas to include in your entry: describe the color of the fur, how the eyes are placed, what do the paws look like, how does the squirrel climb up and down a tree, the sound the squirrel makes as he expresses himself, show the tracks that the squirrel makes in the snow.

As I was looking at learning activities that can be done that relate to squirrels, I came across another homeschooling mother who did the challenge and had some great ideas.  One of the activities that we thought would be interesting was to make a “Squirrel Buffet” – basically, an experiment to find out what squirrels will eat.

Squirrel Buffet.

We filled a 12-compartment egg carton with 12 different items; and a 6-compartment egg carton with the same items that were in compartments 1-6 of the larger carton. 

Olivia with her squirrel buffet.

We included:

1. Dried cherries.
2. Coconut.
3. Goldfinch food.
4. Raw sunflower seeds.
5. Wheat thins.
6. Shell corn.
7. Homemade granola.
8. Dates.
9. Raisins.
10. Chex mix.
11. Dreid apples.
12. Applesauce cake with frosting.

We’ll take a look each day to see how much and what type of food is eaten by the squirrels (and perhaps rabbits and birds).

Here’s where I saw the idea for the squirrel buffet: http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com/2009/10/nature-explorers-squirrels.html.

Sophia by her squirrel feeder and
corncob pathways she made. 
Sophia spent time creating multiple pathways that led to her squirrel buffet.  The pathways each have shell corn in them to entice the squirrels to the buffet.  In front of the buffet is the squirrel feeder that the girls built earlier in the winter.  Olivia spent some time putting new corncobs on it since they corn was eaten off the other ones that were on it.
Olivia putting new corncobs on the squirrel feeder.

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