Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big Ol' Bugs

Earlier this summer the boys and I took advantage of a special event at a local Nature Center. My parents had bought us a membership this year and we have enjoyed attending some special members-only events. This event was all about insects. There is a temporary exhibit of huge wooden insect sculptures in the woods. On the day we went the boys each got a map and we hiked out and found all the insects. They also got backpacks and were able to fill them with tons of buggy goodies. There was also a great spread of catered food, much of it "bug"-themed. It was wonderful to spend some time together outside. We are excited for another members-only event in August about bees.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Father's Day Surprise

For Father's Day I surprised DH (and the boys) by planning a 30 minute plane ride. A nearby airport had a special deal going on that made it pretty reasonable. DH only knew he had to set aside a few hours but didn't have any idea what we were doing. He and the boys had a great time. The pilot flew over our house and hometown. The boys were excited to see their pool in the backyard with a raft still floating in it. My little guy also thought he saw our chickens out in the yard. I am glad they had fun. I would have joined them but the plane would only take 3 passengers. Maybe next time.............

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Vacation

In June we took a road trip to Michigan to see our niece graduate from high school. This was the longest car trip we've ever attempted with kids and it went really well. We had invested in a dual-screen car DVD player which helped a lot. We also broke up the 12 hour trip over two days. On the way out we stopped in Chicago and went to the Field Museum to see Sue (the t-rex) and all the other great exhibits. What a fantastic museum! We loved it. Sue and the story behind her are really amazing.

On the way back we stopped at a beach on Lake Michigan so the boys could play in the sand and water. They loved it!

We are thinking now that we may be brave enough to try some longer road trips in the future. Now that the boys are older (almost 9 and 5) it is much easier. I'd love any great road trip ideas any of you have to share. So post a comment with your words of wisdom.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Memorial Day 5 Mile Run

A big accomplishment for me this spring was completing my first road race. On Memorial Day I ran a 5 mile race. It is the first race I've ever done (not counting the 3-legged races I got stuck doing in every elementary track meet) and my goal was just to finish. I am happy to say I ran every step of the race. It was a pretty hilly course, but I really paced myself well and ran pretty comfortably the whole time. I had never run that far before the race but I believed I could and so I did. I have found that running takes more mental strength than physical strength. When your body tells you it wants to quit you just have to be mentally tough and tell it to "Shut up and keep going." That's what has worked well for me, anyway.

Thanks, Justin, for taking the photo shown below. It is nice to have some action shots of my first race. I have continued my running throughout the summer although I've moved back inside to the treadmill these last few weeks because it has been SO hot and humid. I am hoping to do a few races this fall. My two boys also ran their first race on Memorial Day, completing the 1/4 mile Fun Run. So we all have matching t-shirts and can look back and say we all ran our first race on the same day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Au revoir, Arthur!

In other chicken news of the year, we regretfully had to part ways with our rooster, Arthur, in May. As you can see, he had grown up to be a fine and beautiful rooster. However, he became very aggressive this spring with my husband and the boys. It got to the point where no one (except me) could go into the chicken yard without being attacked by him. It was a real dilemma because neither DH or I wanted to end his life, but the boys couldn't even go outside and enjoy the hens because of Arthur. So........a friend of ours ended up taking him off our hands because his rooster had been killed by a fox and he wanted another one. On Mother's Day we loaded Arthur up and took him to his new home. He was happy there for a few weeks, but ultimately fell prey to the same fox that took his predecessor. We'll always remember Arthur fondly. But it's been nice to just have our four friendly hens and not have to worry about rooster attacks.

In the photo below Arthur is trying to attack DH's shoe. (DH tried so hard to make friends with Arthur but Arthur was having none of it. I guess in Arthur's mind there could only be one rooster in the flock. Since Arthur never attacked me I joked that he thought of me as one of his "girls.")

Monday, July 26, 2010

Incubating Eggs

Another exciting event in early May was incubating eggs in my Montessori preschool classroom. My assistant, Miss Melissa, loaned us her egg incubator and I brought several fertilized eggs from our flock and another assistant, Miss Carla, brought some fertilized bantam eggs from her flock. I think we had about 19 eggs in all and if I remember correctly 11 hatched. Below you can see them in the incubator. It was awesome to actually be able to see them hatch. So amazing! The Xs on the shells are so I knew which side was which. The eggs have to be turned about 3 times a day and marking them helps keep track of that.

The babies stayed in the incubator for a few hours to dry off.

Then they were moved into a tub in my office with a heat lamp. They stayed at school for a few days so all the children could hold them and look at them. Then they moved to Miss Carla's house where they have made their permanent home.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Coleman Montana 8

I did get a tent for Mother's Day. I love it! It is the Coleman Montana 8. It is HUGE. It's "footprint" (isn't that cool that I know the technical "tenty" term for it) is 16 feet by 7 feet. I think it's about 7 feet high in the center too. We have not yet camped anywhere other than our own backyard in it. Maybe we never will. We have 2 acres and DH and I think our backyard is better than any campsite we could find. No annoying ding-dongs camping 15 feet away and easy access to the bathroom and anything you forgot to bring!! Our oldest son overheard me saying that our backyard was better than any campground and was quick to point out that our backyard does not have a.) a lake or b.) hiking trails. True that. However, we could always drive to the lake or hiking trails then come home at the end of the day!

Here's a photo from inside. You can see how spacious it is. We can fit a queen-sized air mattress on each end with room for at least another 1 or 2 in the middle. I bought a patio rug that is intended for use outside RVs to put in the bottom so the floor is kind of carpeted. I haven't "glamped" it up any more than that, however.

Another great feature is the hinged door. Genius! You insert some poles into the door so it can be opened and closed just like any other door instead of having to zip and unzip. Love it!

I'll post more about our camping adventures when they happen.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Update on Square Foot Garden!

Many of you have been wondering about our success with the square-foot gardening method I wrote about in April. I am happy to say that we are having great luck. Below you can see a photo I just took in July after adding the vertical frames. For those of you who will wonder, the vertical frames were VERY easy to construct. We used some pieces of rebar and pounded them into the ground on the sides of the raised beds. I had 3/4 inch electrical conduit cut into 5 foot lengths (for the sides) and 4 foot lengths (for the tops) at Home Depot. The conduit was less than $2 per 10 foot length, very inexpensive. The corners are held together with connectors that can also be found in the electrical area of a hardware store. Those babies were over $4 apiece so that drove up the cost a bit. Luckily we won't ever have to build these again. They easily slip onto the rebar and can be slipped off and stored inside for the winter if needed. I used nylon garden mesh attached with zip ties for the netting. I couldn't find this large sized mesh locally and had to order it from Burpee. I have a ton left over. The zip ties were in the electrical section of Home Depot.

So far we have harvested broccoli (from plants), peas (from seed), green beans (from seed), onions (from sets), basil (from seed) and carrots (from seed). We have MANY green tomatoes on the vine and I am practically drooling over how awesome they will taste. We also have strawberries, cucumbers, mini pumpkins, gourds, radishes, and peppers planted. (And asparagus and lemon balm. The lemon balm is overtaking my youngest son's garden.) I am planning to move the strawberries to their own bed this fall and add more. You can see them taking over the front of the garden closest to the front in the photo above. We also planted marigolds, zinnias and four-o-clocks from seed. The zinnias did not do very well......only one grew. The marigolds are taking over my oldest son's can see them in the back left garden. I will probably plant a smaller variety next year.

Here is what I've learned: I will probably not do broccoli next year. We did have good luck with it and got several heads. However, the last head I brought in had a chubby green worm in it. I knew broccoli was prone to worms, but it really grossed me out. Also, I didn't realize how big each individual broccoli plant grows. The leaf-span was probably almost 2 feet which meant they were overshadowing the little pepper plants that were trying to grow nearby. We may try lettuce from seed again this fall when it cools off. I didn't have any luck with lettuce this spring. However, I was using old seed so that may have been the problem. The peas were SO good right from the garden..........I will definitely do them again and plant more next time. Below are a few photos I snapped recently.

Roma tomatoes............cannot WAIT to eat these!
 boys took marigolds very similar to this one to the fair this year.

Basil...........we had some of this in a pasta dish this week. It was awesome to go out and pick it right from the garden. It took 2 plantings of seed for me to get it to take off though. Not sure why.

Our green beans grew really well. I may even pull them now that they're mostly harvested and try for a second crop yet this year.

One last main reason for choosing this way of gardening was so I wouldn't have much weeding to do and I have to say that the weeding is VERY minimal. It's so easy to stay on top of it. I would love to add more beds for next year. I am planning to at least add a big bed of just strawberries. That will free up space in the other beds so I may not add any more vegetable beds until I go another year to see what grows well here.

4 Little Words...........

..........that brought me back from my long blog hiatus: WHOLE WHEAT CINNAMON ROLLS.
I knew when I snapped a photo of some cinnamon rolls yesterday that I was ready to start blogging again. I am sorry for not writing in so long. To be honest, I got mad at Blogger back around Mother's Day because I was trying to write a post about the tent I received and couldn't get my photos to upload. I tried again about a week later and still had no luck. So although I wasn't planning it, I ended up taking about a 3 month break from blogging. All is well here and a lot has been going on with us. I am planning to write a bunch of posts in the next week or two to update everyone about our summer. For now, I wanted to share a recipe I just tried for the first time that is FAB.U.LOUS. I have been up late for several nights working on things for school this fall. I was dinking around online the other night and stumbled across a blog called Finding Joy in My Kitchen. There are a lot of great recipes over there, but I could not get THIS ONE out of my head and ended up making it the very next day. This is a big deal for me because I have always been too intimidated to try cinnamon rolls. They seem very complicated and I can't even bake an apple pie that I like. What drew me to this recipe was that it looked easy and it used whole wheat flour instead of white which definitely ups the nutritional value. I am pleased to say that in not much more than 30 minutes start to finish I had some very yummy homemade cinnamon rolls. They truly represent the pinnacle of my culinary achievements to date. I did not add blueberries to mine since my oldest son nixed that idea when I asked him. These are really awesome rolls. I am going to make another batch soon and see how well they freeze. They would be great heated up for breakfast every morning. Yum-ola! feels good to be back. Please enjoy the two photos I took..........they were EASY to upload so I'll be posting again very SOON!

Before baking (above)

After baking (with icing drizzled on top)