Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fun Things From Our Backyard: Some "Other" Fun Garden Helpers...

You all know about my two completely adorable and wonderful garden helpers, but I wanted to show you some of my other helpers that don't get as much recognition around the garden, but I still value :)

At the top of my list?  Ladybugs!  I love ladybugs!  Not only are they super cute, but they also will quickly take care of any aphid problems one might have and make sure they don't return.  Thankfully, they LOVE living in my corn and I found lots and lots of them the other day.

I even found a red one with no spots and a black one with a red spot!  So much variety in one cute little bug...

Next up, lizards.  I know, most ladies don't love lizards, but these have been working hard around the clock to make sure the other bugs in my garden don't go crazy.  I was worried they would take out the ladybugs too, but that hasn't been much of a problem, it seems.  I think a Texas Spiny mama must have had some babies close by because they started out little and have gotten progressively bigger and there are always a few each time I go out there...

This Green Anole is a new addition to our backyard and I'm not sure where it came from, but he is certainly welcome also.  It particularly enjoys living in our peas.  I also saw him trying to impress a lady friend the other day, so I'm guessing we'll have more at some point.

I suppose this last one doesn't quite qualify as a garden helper, but I do love to check on him/her periodically throughout the day and see how big it has gotten.  This is the same Black Swallowtail caterpillar I wrote about in my last update, he's getting huge!  I really hope he makes his chrysallis somewhere close by and I can find it, but these caterpillars are apparently known for going far away to do that, so I'm not holding out a lot of hope.

What's missing?  The honeybees...I have had them in past years and we even had some this winter hanging around our rosemary, but it's been a long time since I've seen any and they are very dearly missed.  I sure hope some find us soon!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spring 2015 Garden Update

Happy Spring Garden as it was two minutes ago...

I don't know about you, but we here in Central Texas have had unseasonably rainy and somewhat cool weather, which has made for a super happy Spring garden.  I have only gone out to water it once or twice because of all the rain we have had...I am so thankful!!  I have found myself regretting that I didn't plant more!  Anyway, I figured it was probably time for an update since everything looks quite a bit different than it did the last time I posted.

 LittleBear checking out the height of the corn only two weeks ago.  Today, the tallest stalks are taller than I am!

Looking up to the tallest stalk of corn... 

I had to build a fence with my extra tomato cages because on a really windy day, they would all blow over.  Good thing I didn't plant any tomatoes this year!

  Corn blossoms!!!

So, far I have harvested two HUGE zucchini and there seem to be lots more on the way, which gets LadyBear excited as it was her request to plant zucchini in the first place (though I'll admit it's a favorite of mine).

Happy LadyBear with her second huge zucchini! 

I haven't seen many pollinators around, so I've been trying to pollinate them myself with a dry paintbrush, which seems to be working ok, but I sure do miss the honeybees :(

 Green beans I harvested this morning alone!

The asparagus patch seems to be really happy, which in turn makes me really happy as asparagus is one of my absolute favorite veggies.  Each of the crowns have now sent out three or four shoots, which I am again letting go to fern this year, so hopefully I will have a bigger harvest next year.

 It's an asparagus!!!

Here's the whole patch along with some other shots of what we have growing:

 Asparagus patch

 My unintentionally planted melon, happily growing up around a tomato cage (my attempt to keep things tidy)...

 Baby melon!

 LadyBear's carrots with LittleBear's peas in the background and the melon plant to the left...

Another zucchini on the way!! 

 Green beans!

 Corn vs. Zucchini

 LittleBear's peas...

And lest you think I'm this great gardener with a prosperous green thumb, here's a picture of my sweet bell peppers and basil patch...

 Just keepin' it real...

Um, yeah, majorly disappointing.  Some of the lemon basil came up, but none of the sweet bell peppers or the sweet basil came, which means I need to go buy some transplants in order to get my homemade pesto sauce quota for the year done.  I have no clue what happened there... oh well!

 I had no idea that fennel flowers could be different colors from the same plant!  How neat!

Our butterfly garden has it's first resident of the Spring!  This is a black swallowtail caterpillar that showed up yesterday and has already doubled in size.  We hope he stays around for a while!!

 Welcome to our garden!!!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five In A Row: Owl Moon

This week we enjoyed reading an old favorite of the kids and mine, Owl Moon.  This book is about a child and their dad who go owling in the woods at night looking for a Great Horned Owl.  It's a great story and one that all three of us enjoyed each time we sat down to read it.

Because several of our books talk about being brave this week, we went back to our character quality of Courageous for Bible/Character Qualities.  This is one I don't feel we can emphasize too much in our house, in particular.  For Math, we continued with Math-U-See Alpha and we also continued with Explode the Code Book 3 for Language Arts.  Handwriting was also covered by sheets from our Memoria Press Copybook 1 and extra sheets I found on Pinterest.

For Social Studies, we talked about respecting nature and exploring/enjoying it, but also taking care of it.  I don't think these concepts really sunk in very far, but at least it was something.  I want my kids to love this world and be good caretakers of it as well.

For Science, we talked about Owls and what makes them different from other birds.  My five year old boy LOVED hearing about how owls regurgitate the parts of their food that they can't digest into pellets and could not believe that I didn't order one for us to dissect (maybe another time son...).  We also talked about the moon a lot and reviewed our phases of the moon, adding in waxing and waning terminology.  My kids love hearing about the moon!!!

We had a crazy week, so we didn't get any art done, but we did have a really fun food project reviewing the phases of the moon with...Moon pies!!!  We have done this before with oreo cookies, but this was better for sure.  The kids and I loved it!!  I will totally do this again, just for fun :)

So that was our week with Owl Moon!

Resources and printable sheets I used for Owl Moon can be found at:
My Five In A Row Pinterest Board

Go Along books we used for Owl Moon (* indicate ones we especially liked):
*Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
*Good-night Owl by Pat Hutchins
*Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (LadyBear's personal favorite)
*Owls by Gail Gibbons
*So That's How the Moon Changes Shape by Allan Fowler
*Owls: Birds of the Night by Emily Sollinger
*Owls by Tom Jackson
*On the Moon by Anna Milbourne and Benji Davies
*What Is The Moon Like by Franklyn M. Branley
*The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
*What the Sun Sees/What the Moon Sees by Nancy Tafuri
*Moon (Eyewitness Books) by Jacqueline Mitton
The Moon by Carmen Bredeson
I Want to be an Astronaut by Byron Barton

Our story disc in Northern New England, which is a popular area on our map!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five In A Row: Miss Rumphius

This week, we read a book that I really enjoy and the kids seemed to as well, called Miss Rumphius. Because Daddy had Good Friday and the Monday following Easter off (hooray!), we decided to take two weeks to cover Miss Rumphius because there were going to be two shorter weeks and I didn't want to short-change either this book or the one we are reading next.  It worked out well!

We loved this book!  And I personally enjoyed applying it to where we currently live in Central Texas.  Not having grown up here, I know very little of Texas history and this gave me a chance to learn alongside the kids :)  Plus, who doesn't love wildflowers!?  

So here's what the week looked like...For Bible/Character building, we talked about being creative and what that means.  We read the Value of Creativity and talked about different ways we can be creative throughout our days.

LadyBear and her four-pawed assistant workin' on their creativity...

For Math, we did start Math-U-See Alpha and did a mixture of sheets each day from lessons 6 and 7, which went well.  For Language Arts, each day we did Explode the Code Book 3 lesson 4 and for Handwriting, we continued each day with the Memoria Press Copybook 1 and we did some Miss Rumphius copy work that I found through Pinterest. 


For Social Studies we talked about Texas and the fact that the state flower is the Bluebonnet, which is a Lupine.  We read a lot about bluebonnets specifically and also Texas history. 

These are such a beautiful state flower to have!

We also talked about what we can do to make the world more beautiful, like Miss Rumphius.  We also read a great book about LadyBird Johnson and her contribution to making our country more beautiful.  I REALLY wanted to work in a field trip to the LadyBird Johnson National Wildflower Center, which is about two hours away from us (and super close to our cousins!), but time and budget didn't really allow for that.  We'll definitely visit another time!

I chose to smile and use kind words more.  LittleBear was inspired and chose to draw pictures for people, help, give kisses and hugs.  

For Science, we talked about seeds and how they grow and move around.  We compared seeds from different plants side-by-side and even looked at the different kinds of Lupines from our Seed Catalog. 

Comparing Seeds...

Gettin' silly with the seed catalog...

We also talked about the parts of a plant, the parts of a flower, and how pollination happens, as well as discussions about wildflowers, particularly the ones native to Central Texas.  

 Some seeds stick to things to move around!

Last week we planted seeds in our garden and this week they started to sprout, so we went out each day and watched our little plants grow, which was really fun.  

Peas and Carrots!!

Thankfully, it's also the season where Texas families go out and take Bluebonnet pictures, so we also got to touch, smell and see how beautiful Lupines really make the world!  LittleBear has already decided that we are planting as many bluebonnets as we can in our backyard this coming Fall for next Spring.  I love that idea!

LittleBear and LadyBear exploring... 

For Art, we did a dot art project and made our own bluebonnets.  LittleBear worked really hard on his and was super proud of it.  LadyBear enjoyed it too.  

LittleBear working on his lupine art picture...

It was a great couple of weeks and we learned a ton!  The kids also get super excited whenever we are driving around and they see the wildflowers, which is definitely fun.  

Resources and printable sheets I used for Miss Rumphius can be found at:
My Five In A Row Pinterest Board

Go Along books we used for Miss Rumphius (* indicate the ones we especially liked):
Central Texas Wildflowers leaflet by Steven Schwartzman
*Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt
*A Child's History of Texas by Sarah Jackson
*It's Bluebonnet Time by Lucas Miller
*I Spy in the Texas Sky by Deborah Ousley Kadair
*Bluebonnet of the Hill Country by Mary Brooke Casad
Bluebonnet at the Texas State Capitol by Mary Brooke Casad
*Bluebonnets for Lucinda by Frances Clarke Sayers
*L is for Lone Star (A Texas Alphabet) by Carol Crane
*Texas (Eyewitness Books) by Simon Adams & David Murdoch
*Check It Out by Gail Gibbons
*The Value of Creativity by Ann Donegan Johnson
*Texas Wildflower Portraits by Lou Ellen O'Kennon
Texas (State Shapes) by Erik Brown
The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie DePaola
ABC's of Texas Wildflowers by Glenna Gardiner Grimmer
Texas Gardening Wildflowers by McMillen's Publishing

The book doesn't specifically say where it takes place, but it's generally agreed upon to be Maine.  However, our story disks for New England are so plentiful that Maine can no longer be seen, so we put the disk over the part of the country where we live :)