Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

For a few months now, I’ve been participating in the Preparedness Challenge. For my birthday, my mom and dad gave me a weather radio at the suggestion of my sister.  It’s wonderful!

The weather radio set and ready to receive alerts:
advisories, watches, and warnings.

My sister has a weather radio, and has called me when there have been some serious and dangerous weather headed towards the farm.

Most recently, she called as a tornado was spotted about ten miles from here. None of the outdoor sirens worked that day in the county/town, so unless you had a weather radio you  would not have known that the tornado was headed for the town. (It was a beautiful, sunny day – not at all typical of tornado weather).

The weather radio is a plug-in model with a battery back-up. In addition to being able to listen to the current conditions for one’s area, the weather radio can be programmed with up to nine different counties.

I programmed seven of the counties to the northwest, west, and southwest since this is the direction from which the storms would come.

To listen to weather conditions at any time,
the “weather” button is pressed once.

So far, the weather radio has alerted us about severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, and windstorms in excess of 80 mph (enough to topple a tree). No tornado yet…but I’m quite content not seeing and hearing that alert on the weather radio!


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This week was a good one to do the Outdoor Hour Challenge’s Spring Series #2 Spring Weather Observation since there has been a variety of weather:  warm (in the 60s) and cold (in the 30s); rainy, snowy, and no precipitation; and windy and calm. 

As with other posts:

Bold Typeface – is from the Handbook of Nature Study website where the Outdoor Hour Challenges are found.
Italic Typeface – is used for quotes from The Handbook of Nature Study book.
Regular Typeface – reflects my words.

Inside Preparation Work:

Read pages 851-854 in the Handbook of Nature Study. This section is not exactly about weather, but it ties in nicely with some springtime observations of the sun and its path. You might like to construct the Shadow Stick (page 852 #13) and make observations over the next few weeks and months with your children.

We ended up not doing this because for the majority of the week the weather has not been sunny.  However, it does sound like it would be interesting to do, so we will revisit making a shadow stick during the summer when there are more sunny days.

At the very least, look up your sunrise and sunset times to calculate how much daylight you have now that it is spring in your area.

There’s an interesting website that will create calendars with different information that you want that relates to the times of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, and moonsets as well as other items that you can select for a personal calendar.  We found it interesting to compare the length of daylight and how much it had increased over a period of one month (1 hour and 27 minutes for our town). 

Look in the section “The Relations of the Sun to the Earth” for this week’s reading.

Outdoor Hour Time:

Your Outdoor Hour time this week can be spent making observations about the weather. Enjoy whatever spring weather you are currently experiencing and spend 15 minutes outside looking at the sky, clouds, wind in the trees, dew on the grass, mud puddles after a rain, or whatever else you can experience in your part of the world.

Bailey (the pony) joined Sophia, Olivia, and I
on our nature walk this week.

A few things that we observed on our nature walk that didn’t relate to weather or clouds were: (1) a robin sitting on her nest; (2) male and female pussy willow plants growing near the pond; and (3) perennials growing in the garden.

A robin sitting in her nest in the oak tree.
I was able to see her build part of her nest
when I was on another nature walk.

The other thing we noticed is that the male pussy willows have moved from the catkin to the pollen stage, and now onto yet another stage. 

Male pussy willow that has been through the
catkin and pollen stages. It’s in a third stage now.

In willow trees, male catkins grow on one tree, and different-looking female catkins grow on another.

Female pussy willow. 
The plant has more delicate leaves and
doesn’t produce the catkins (as does the male pussy willow).

According to the Naturalist’s Almanac, “When bees first start looking for food in the spring, they head straight for the willow trees because willows are among the earliest pollen and nectar producers. The hungry bees gather some pollen from the male trees and then visit the female trees for nectar. The bees pollinate the willows unwittingly while they themselves are gathering food.”

After we were done with the walk, we took a quick look at the garden to see how the perennials are coming along.  The rhubarb has grown quite a bit in a few days.

The rhubarb is growing quickly. 

The raspberries are growing leaves (both the cultivated domestic kind as well as the wild kind), the strawberries are coming up, and the catnip had plenty of leaves so the girls could both pick some of it for the cats to enjoy.

Olivia picking catnip for the cats to enjoy (which they did!).

Suggested Observations

Have your children describe any clouds they see in the sky.

These clouds were moving in from the west.  The girls described the clouds as “white” and “fluffy.”  They noticed that the entire sky was not covered, and that the blue sky was showing (quite a change from the morning sky which was completely overcast, gray, and very dismal as it rained heavily for most of the day).

A bright sky and bright, white clouds
moving over the farm from the west.

Notice how hard the wind is blowing by how things are moving: leaves rustling, trees bending, etc.

There were little ripples in the pond, but the trees were not moving much.  There have been much stronger (and scarier) winds here…this one was a pleasant, mild one.

There was a slight breeze, but it was warm enough
so the girls quickly took off their jackets.  

Notice the wind’s direction. Where is it coming from?

The girls faced in the direction that the wind was blowing, and determined it was coming from the south. 

The girls and Bailey are walking towards the
south part of the pasture.  Notice the puddles…there’s
quite a bit of standing water after a day of heavy rain.

Describe the temperature of the air and/or look it up on a thermometer.

It was 54 degrees around 4:15-4:30 p.m.  It was comfortable weather to be outside and do a nature study.  However, it was about 11 degrees colder than yesterday afternoon at about the same time.

54 degrees means no coats and
almost “shorts weather” in Minnesota.

Notice any precipitation that you may have this week: sprinkles, rain, mist, sleet, snow, fog, hail.

There’s been quite a bit of precipitation this week: sprinkles, rain, sleet, and snow.  The pond has fluctuated a bit with its depth and size, but seems to be of some depth which is nice.  There were two ducks swimming in the pond in the late-afternoon.  This is a special treat because the pond usually isn’t that deep for waterfowl to swim in – even at this time of the year.

The girls standing in one of the many puddles in the pasture. 
The water in the puddles is quite murky. It may be because
the grass hasn’t grown in much yet and
there’s quite a bit of dirt showing still.

As we were exploring the pond area, a sudden movement on the ground startled us.  We looked down to spot a frog.  It let us look at it for a rather long time before hopping off to the southwest pasture.

Northern Leopard Frog by the pond in pasture.

We were surprised at how large this frog is – many of the ones that we see here are rather small (an inch or two in length).  They can grow to be 2″-3.5″.

According to the Minnesota DNR site, “The leopard frog is called that because it is spotted, like a leopard. This was once the most widespread frog species in North America. But since the 1960s, its population here and throughout the United States has declined.”

The DNR site continues, “Minnesota’s leopard frog has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Red-leg disease, pollution, pesticides and the loss of wetlands and other habitat are the main reasons. Leopard frogs are harvested for bait and for use in biology laboratories.”

If you made a Shadow Stick, make sure you spend one day marking the board every half hour from 9 AM to 3 PM. This experiment will need to be repeated again in June, September, and December if possible. (see page 852 #13)

We didn’t make a shadow stick because almost every day this week it seems like it has been either raining, sleeting, or a raining/snowing combination. We will make one to use in June, September, December, and March.

Follow-Up Activity:

Be sure to complete your Seasonal Weather notebook page. If you completed previous weather notebook pages, pull those out and compare the scenes you recorded in Autumn and/or Winter. Note that your days should be getting longer and any other differences you can find between the observations made in the past and now.

The girls and I each did an entry in our nature journals.  In addition to what is shown below, each journal will include at least a couple of photographs from today’s nature study to add a different visual element to the entry as well as bring back memories of the time spent outside together learning about nature.

Olivia’s nature journal.
Sophia’s nature journal.

Sophia also did a second page in her journal listing some of the things she saw and heard during her time outside. 

Sophia’s list of things she saw and heard.

Some of the 26 items on her list included: green grass, mushrooms, moss, a bird house, a baby pine tree,bird calls, the dogs, the sun, and chimes. 

My journal entry.

Extra Information on Clouds

If you observed any clouds, you might like to download this lesson plan and cloud identifier activity for your children. This is a handy tool to use in cloud identification.

A few minutes before we started to head indoors,
the sun began to shine and try to move from behind the clouds.
Another view of the clouds – a bit more
to the northwest than the previous picture.

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With the tornado and thunderstorm season right around the corner, I wanted to be a bit more prepared this year. Homestead Revival is hosting a weekly Preparedness Challenge.  During Week 3, I ordered some books from the library about planning ahead and self-sufficiency. 

One of the books that I read and was very impressed with is called Just in Case – How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens by Kathy Harrison.  The book is packed with so many helpful tips and ideas for any individual or family to apply to their life/lives. 

One of the first ideas she presents is to assess your home’s safety.  There are only a few questions, but they are ones that are so important to take the time to answer.

The other idea that I thought is a good one is creating a Preparedness Notebook.  Below are the key points that the author makes in the book.

My goal is to get the Preparedness Notebook done this weekend; and determine if there are any improvements that need to be made to the home to make it safer. 

To make your own card catalog cards, go HERE.

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Outside my window…it’s dark, but I can hear the frogs chirping loudly in the pond.  They emerged from their hiberation a couple of days ago.

I am thinking…about my mom who was just taken to the hospital at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday night.  She was unable to stand and was feeling light-headed.  Her blood sugar was high, but not at an unreasonable level (she has diabetes).

I am thankful for…being able to live in the country where it is peaceful and quiet.

From the kitchen…took a break from cooking today since I cooked and baked for most of Saturday. 

I am wearing…pajamas (since it’s 9:20 p.m.).

I am creating…several window stars for customers tomorrow.  Had several orders come in over the weekend which was nice!

I am going…to the homeschool conference in less than two weeks now, and am very excited about attending the workshops and getting curricula for next year.

I am reading…a book called “Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder.”

I am hoping…that after tomorrow’s rain and snow that there will be no more precipitation for awhile.  The pastures are flooded in many areas, and it’s challenging for the horses.

I am hearing…the frogs still chirping away. I enjoy hearing that sound each spring…there’s something relaxing and comforting about the “music” that nature makes.

Around the house…I’m continuing to clean and organize different areas.  Worked on my desk today and am so happy with how clean it is now!

One of my favorite things…is the show “Secret Millionaire.”  I don’t watch much television, but this is one show that I make the time for.  It’s so inspiring seeing people give away large sums of money to those helping people in need and/or individuals who are facing a challenge.

A few plans for the rest of the week….teaching the girls; attending a dance performance at the Ordway (for students during the day); setting goals for the girls’ 2011-12 school year and determining what I want them to learn; preparing for the homeschool conference by determining what I already have and don’t need to purchase and what I do need to purchase for next year; plan the vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens; and continue working on cleaning the home.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…

Apple Blossom - Close Up

This is an apple blossom that was on one of the trees last year.  It’s hard to believe that in about a month or so, the trees will be covered again with pretty flowers like this one!
Hop on over to the Simple Womans Daybook  and join in!

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For the past week and a half, we have been trying to do the Outdoor Hour Challenge’s Signs of Spring Bonus Challenge. This has been rather difficult to do because it hasn’t felt like spring here, even though it started on March 20th.  For many of the first days of spring so far, the ground has been covered with snow.

Nonetheless, each time we’ve been out, we’ve tried to find some signs of spring.  Here’s what we found so far:

Melting ice on the pond. 
The girls enjoy using poles to crack the ice and watch the water.
They also see how deep the water is with the poles.
(Photo taken on March 27th.)
Moss in one of the pastures.
(Photo taken on March 30th.)
Warmer temperatures – too hot to wear heavy jackets.
Being able to draw in the snow with bare fingers!
(Photo taken on March 30th.)
Buds on a tree.
(Photo taken on March 30th.)
Finding interesting things on the ground when the snow melts.
The girls are holding some of the many pheasant feathers they found
in the woods in the northwest corner of the farm.
(Photo taken on March 30th.)

Some other things we noticed that didn’t get photographed:  the first robin (March 30th), a migratory bird that Olivia and I had never seen before (March 30th), the frogs chirping and singing in the pond (April 1st).  The temperatures are now, on the average, in the 40s with some days in the low 50s.

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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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The Homestead Revival is having an interesting weekly blog hop called the Preparedness Challenge.  With the recent disaster in Japan, it is a timely challenge to think about what would happen if a natural disaster happened in your own area.

After a major disaster, the usual services we take for granted, such as running water, refrigeration, and telephones, may be unavailable. Experts recommend that you should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days.

Spring in Minnesota marks the start of tornado season.  During the past couple of years, there have been some major storms and tornadoes that we’ve been through or to which we’ve been very close. 

Olivia Montague and Cats in Basement During Hail Storm and Nearby Tornado
In the basement during the 2008 tornado.
The house had some damage and needed a new roof and siding.
About 10 minutes south of here, over 50 homes were destroyed
and a child died…many more people were injured.

So, this week, for the Preparedness Challenge, I looked at last week’s participants and one of them, Falling Like Rain, had a list of items for an emergency kit.  I thought this would be a good starting point and give me something to assemble over the next month. 

I’ve modified it to fit our needs, and marked the items with an * for what I already have on hand. Although I may have some of the items on the list (e.g., food, first aid kit) they aren’t yet set aside specifically for the emergency kit, so until that is done, I won’t mark the item on the list with a *.

At-Home Emergency Kit

A large, watertight container to hold everything (it’s recommended to store the kit in an easily accessible location. One idea was to put everything in a large, plastic garbage can with a lid and wheels so it can be moved easily)

Canned fruit* (canned peaches and pears in jars from Summer 2010)
Peanut Butter
Jam* (homemade jam in jars)
Low-salt crackers
Canned soup
Canned meat
Canned juice
Non-fat dried milk
Dried Fruit
Hard Candy
Allergy medicine
Copies of important documents
Paper plates
Disposable cups
Disposable silverware
Napkins/Paper Towels
Toilet Paper
First Aid Kit (see section below for more information about contents in a First Aid Kit)
Sun Screen
Manual Can Opener
Clothes and Rain Gear for each person
Heavy Work Gloves
Disposable camera (for recording damage)
Unscented liquid household bleach
Hand Sanitizer
Feminine Hygiene Products
Plastic Sheeting
Duct Tape
Utility Knife
Sleeping Bags
Heavy Duty Plastic Bags
Plastic Bucket
Bungee Cords
Battery Operated Radio/Batteries
Phone that plugs directly into the outlet (not cordless)
Dust Masks
Permanent marker, paper and tape (to leave a note if you decide to evacuate)
Wet Wipes
Disinfectant (spray, wipes)
Items for pets and horses/livestock (see section below for information about pets)

Notes regarding food: 

– Mark a rotation date on any food container that does not already have an expiration date on the package.

– Most canned foods can safely be stored for at least 18 months. Low acid foods like meat products, fruits or vegetables will normally last at least 2 years. Use dry products, like boxed cereal, crackers, cookies, dried milk or dried fruit within six months.

– After a power outage, refrigerated food will stay cold longer if you keep the door closed. Food should generally be consumed within 4 hours. Food in the freezer will normally remain safe for 2 days.

Go-Bags (one per person)

Backpack to hold it all
Flashlight and Glo-Stick/Batteries
Dust Masks
Pocket Knife
Change of clothes/hat/rain gear
Local Map
Water/Food (see above)
Permanent marker, paper, tape
Photos of family members (in case you are separated)
Lists – emergency point of contact numbers
Identification and list of any allergies
Copy of health insurance cards
Small First Aid Kit
Small Sewing Kit
Toothbrush and Paste
Extra Keys (house, car)
Small books, games or puzzles
Hand towel
Wet Wipes
Mylar Blanket
Sun Screen
Camping Utensils (spoon, fork, knife)

This week for the Preparedness Challenge, I also read about water.  There have been many times over the years when we have been without water – due to the electricity being out (after a storm) or the time that my brother and I accidently hit the water line when trying to install a water line from the outdoor well to the barn. 

Going without water for a week was a huge challenge, but thankfully a neighbor was gracious enough to allow me to get containers of water and take a shower as needed. 

Sophia Drinking Tap Water
Sophia drinking water from a disposable cup.

Here’s some information about water that I thought is important.  It’s from the 72 Hours website.

In a disaster, water supplies may be cut off or contaminated. Store enough water for everyone in your family to last for at least 3 days.

Store one gallon of water per person, per day. Three gallons per person per day will give you enough to drink and for limited cooking and personal hygiene. Remember to plan for pets (and horses/livestock, in our case).

If you store tap water:

Tap water from a municipal water system can be safely stored without additional treatment.

Store water in food grade plastic containers, such as clean 2-liter soft drink bottles. Heavy duty, reusable plastic water containers are also available at sporting goods stores. Empty milk bottles are not recommended because their lids do not seal well and bottles may develop leaks.

Label and store in a cool, dark place.

Replace water at least once every six months.

If you buy commercially bottled “spring” or “drinking” water:

Keep water in its original container, and don’t re-store a bottle once it’s been opened.

Store in a cool, dark place.

If bottles are not marked with the manufacturer’s expiration date, label with the date and replace bottles at least once per year.

Treating Water after Disaster:

If you run out of stored drinking water, strain and treat water from your water heater or the toilet reservoir tank (except if you use toilet tank cleaners). Swimming pool or spa water should not be consumed but you can use it for flushing toilets or washing.

Treatment Process:

Strain any large particles of dirt by pouring the water through layers of paper towels or clean cloth. Next, purify the water one of two ways:

Boil – bring to a rolling boil and maintain for 3-5 minutes. After the water cools, pour it back and forth between two clean containers to add oxygen back; this will improve its taste.

Disinfect – If the water is clear, add 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water. If it is cloudy, add 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) per gallon. Make sure you are using regular bleach— 5.25% percent sodium hypochlorite— rather than the “ultra” or “color safe” bleaches. Shake or stir, then let stand 30 minutes. A slight chlorine taste and smell is normal.

Items for a First Aid Kit

Two pairs of disposable gloves
Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
Burn ointment
Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
Over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin or other pain reliever, laxative, anti-diarrhea medication
Prescription medications you take every day or frequently (e.g., asthma inhaler)
Prescribed medical supplies (e.g., nebulizer with albuterol sulfate).  Need to figure out how to use this when there’s no electricity since the nebulizer relies on electricity.

Plan for Pets in an Emergency Disaster

These ideas are from the 72 Hours website as well:

Keep a collar, current license, and up-to date ID tags on your pet at all times. Consider having your pet micro-chipped (both the dogs are micro-chipped, but the cats are not at this time).

Make sure your pet is comfortable being in a crate, box, cage, or carrier for transport.

Keep an updated list of trusted neighbors who could assist your animals in case of an emergency.

Make a Go-bag for each pet. Include:

Sturdy leashes and pet carriers. A pillowcase is a good option for transporting cats and other small animals (though each of the cats has her/his own transportation bin, in our case). Muzzles for dogs. Food, potable water, and medicine for at least one week.

Non-spill bowls, manual can opener, and plastic lid

Plastic bags, litter box, and litter

Recent photo of each pet

Names and phone numbers of your emergency contact, emergency veterinary hospitals, and animal shelters

Copy of your pet’s vaccination history and any medical problems

Portable fencing or baby gates

Remember that animals react differently under stress. Keep dogs securely leashed and transport cats in carriers or pillowcases.

If your pet is lost, contact the nearest animal shelter to report your pet missing. When it is safe, return to your neighborhood to search and distribute “Lost Pet” posters; include a current picture of your pet.

In the case of livestock/horses, it’s important to have enough feed and/or alfalfa on hand.  Extra bedding (straw or wood chips) should be stored in your barn. 

With regards to water, after experiencing multiple power outages and no water for extended periods of time, I have always kept the stocktanks, heated water buckets, or waterers full.  Especially if I hear about a major storm approaching, I make sure all the tanks are full. In that way, there is a good supply of water right on hand.

Having one Go-Bag per livestock species would be sufficient (e.g., a pack for horses, sheep, chickens). 

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