Friday, May 29, 2009

Potato (Lasagna gardening) update

As part of the From Seeds to Harvest gardening challenge, I've been posting about our potatoes, among other things.

Our recycled potatoes, planted lasagna garden style, appear to be growing well. Two weeks ago we only had a couple plants up. Now they all seem to be growing and we're ready to add more straw to them.

We've since added another section using seed potatoes we purchased, which are under the fresh straw but not up yet. My best friend gave us her leftover seed potatoes the other day so we are adding a third section of potatoes. I really hope this method works well.

Last night, this is what the first plant to pop up through the straw looked like. Quite a difference in two weeks!

You can follow other gardening adventures at Teaching Good Things.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

My favorite gardening tool

Can you see the grin on her face?

Of course she's happy. She's been dying to use my flame burner...for ages.

I like to wilt all the leaves when I torch. Following her dad's instructions, she pointed at the base of the plant before squeezing the handle to blast it.

The idea is to heat the water in the plant so hot that it damages the cells. It's not only fairly effective, it's lots of fun!

A lot of things aren't killed with the first try. I'm currently trying to eradicate some daylilies and tall phlox. I've torched them 4 or 5 times this spring and they just. won't. die. I'm not giving up, though. I have too much fun trying.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

This month our small, literature based co-op read the young reader's version of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

We decided we wanted to do a service project as our activity for our day together so we worked at a homeless shelter in Flint.

We were divided into groups and assigned different areas to work. I went with Julianne and two of the other kids to clean upstairs.

Julianne and her friend Molly cleaned out the cleaning closet. The girls emptied the room first, then started cleaning. Julianne spent quite a bit of time scrubbing the deep sink and when she was finished, wondered aloud if it had made any difference. Molly wiped down the shelves, then wiped the walls as high as she could reach.

I helped one of the guys clean out the linen storage closet/room. Poor Chris was stuck working with all girls but he worked really hard and didn't quit or complain. He emptied the room by himself while the man from the shelter talked to me, then he rolled up 15-20 sleeping bags and folded linens.

I wiped down the shelves in the linen room but I had a hard time reaching the high shelves. I moved on to wiping the stair railings while Chris finished the linen room.

Julianne wiped the walls a little higher than Molly was able to, then worked on vacuuming the room.

The kids vacuumed the hallways after they finished the rooms we cleaned. By then, it was time for lunch so after we ate, we joined the rest of the group to sort clothing.

Allison was part of this group. They emptied bags of clothing, sorted it by size, then placed it in the appropriate area in the clothing room. This table was empty when they quit for the day.

It was hot, smelly work but working with friends made it enjoyable.
As we cleaned and sorted, we realized that there is a terrible lack of undergarments and socks available to the needy. We've been brainstorming ways that we can help with that problem. Julianne spoke with our youth pastor about organizing a sock/underwear drive at our church and we're still thinking about other ideas.
These are basics that I take for granted and it was eye-opening to see the complete absence of these items as we sorted clothes. I know I have passed by great deals on these things in the past because they weren't the sizes my family needs. As my budget allows, I won't be passing them by again.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For Kathy

Julianne wondered if I was going to write a haiku for Kathy's birthday. I hadn't really considered it but came up with a few in her honor:

It's your special day
Happy Birthday to Kathy
Hope it's all you want.

Did you hear the news?
Kathy is celebrating
another new year.

Now that you have heard,
join me in wishing her a
very special day!

Kathy is a great wife, mom, aunt, and sister-in-love. Due to scheduling, and more car issues, I'm not sure when we'll be able to see her so I'm sending her our family's best wishes for the happiest of birthdays. We love you, Kathy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Signs of progress

Remember our recycled potato experiment? This is an update for the From Seeds to Harvest Gardening Challenge going on at Teaching Good Things.

Clarence read a book called Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza earlier this spring. He used that method to plant the leftovers of last fall's harvest of potatoes that had sprouted.

It's been almost three weeks since then and last night I counted two different plants poking up through the straw. (That's just one in the pic.) It's looking promising!

He tried to get the tiller started last night and it seems to be having major problems. We may be doing more lasagna gardening that we originally planned if we can't till.

Clarence is also giving me almost daily reports on his orange pepper plants. He has a little pepper on one that seems to grow noticeably each day. He's very excited about them! I'll try to get updated pics of them for next week.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We are leaving for the state homeschool convention. I'll see you all Sunday or Monday!
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Plant markers

My best friend's birthday is tomorrow. She often invites us to share her birthday with her by making us dinner. Yeah, it is pretty nice.

This year, that isn't going to work. Clarence and I are heading to our state homeschool convention and they had the audacity to schedule it on Cinda's birthday. Believe it or not, Cinda didn't accept my invitation to attend with us. I guess she isn't interested in homeschooling her cat. She might regret that someday.

A couple weeks ago, I saw some cute plant markers that I was sure Cinda would enjoy. Since she's an avid gardener, and has decorated a room in a garden theme, I was pretty sure she would like these and find a way to use them either inside or outside.

The hardest part of making these was finding the clear marbles. The first three places I tried only had the ones with an iridescent finish. Walmart had the plain, clear ones.

I don't think they're a terribly useful size, as plant markers go, but they're so cute I didn't care.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New to me

My Oster mixer, a wedding gift from my coworkers almost 21 years ago, is on its last leg. I still use it regularly but I have to stand right in front of it, ready to hit the "off" button if it starts squealing. I've found I can dial back the speed and, when I turn it back on, it works without the noise. It takes forever to knead dough at the lower speed, so I'm saving for a new mixer.

Last year, I went to Kathy's to help make pizza dough for Victoria's open house. I borrowed Mom's Kitchen Aid to use along side Kathy's. On the very first batch, Mom's mixer started making noises that made me decide I wasn't going to chance using it. Several years ago Mom had to have a gear replaced in it and I was afraid it was going again. We muddled through with Kathy's mixer, letting it rest after a while to cool down. Yes, we made that much dough.

When I returned Mom's mixer to her, I asked her if she'd been having any trouble. She hadn't and, as she continued to use it, the noise never happened again.

She must have been a little concerned though. She started watching for sales on the new 6-quart Kitchen Aid mixers. She managed to find one several months ago on sale, plus used some sort of coupon. She snagged a really good deal and was excited to have the bigger model. She offered me her old one (since I'm the only family member without one) but I declined, remembering the noise and thinking I'd just have two mixers almost ready to die.

Then I read The Parson's Wife's blog back in March. Her hubby ordered, and installed, a new gear for her mixer. I told Clarence I was sorry I hadn't taken Mom's mixer after all. I knew he'd be able to fix it as long as we could get parts and Shawn was nice enough to link to the site where her husband found the part.

I thought Mom had already donated her mixer somewhere until she mentioned it on Mother's Day. She was getting things together for a rummage sale at her church and the mixer was on the list to go. We brought it home with us instead.

I fully expected to be ordering the gear once I used it for bread but I've already made 100% whole wheat bread in it and it didn't so much as whimper.

I'm still saving for the Electrolux I've been eyeing, but I am very thankful to have such a nice mixer in the meantime. Thanks, Mom!
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Making a cloud

We didn't get around to this project last week for Science so I made sure we got to it today.

I like this science way better than any I ever had in school. I wish I had discovered this curriculum a few years ago, as I think it is geared for students Allison's age and younger. I find we can move through the material pretty quickly, due to their ages, yet they retain it so well that I don't feel bad about using a "younger" curriculum. For that matter, I can't believe how much I learn from this elementary course.

To make a cloud: Heat water, pour into jar. Light a match and throw it into the jar. Slap a baggie of ice cubes over the top of the jar.


If your baggie seals the top edge of the jar pretty well, you'll get clouds in the jar. If you've got air leaks, the clouds don't stay in the jar. Ask me how I know this.

We still have one more project to make up from last week. We have to make ice cream in a baggie. I know, I know, it's a tough job teaching these kids but someone's gotta do it. Told you it was way better than when we were in school.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Crazy hats

Clarence's mom invited the girls and me to her church's Mother-Daughter Banquet. The theme was crazy hats.

She told me the theme several days ago so that we could work on putting something together if we wanted to. I intended to mention it to the girls but managed to forget until late on Wednesday. Following my lead, they promptly forgot, too.

Friday, it finally occurred to me once again.

Allison had this Red-Hat-Lady hat from Halloween a couple years ago. She decided to embellish it, I think because all her cowgirl hats are looking pretty crushed and rumpled and this one wasn't. So what's an 11 year old to do to make a "red hat" into something more age appropriate? Why, crochet carnations to add to the purple flowers, of course (including a lime green one this picture doesn't show). I encouraged her to put the carnations on top of the hat but she thought that made it look like she had colored brains up there. My response? "Well, that'd be crazy, for sure!"

Julianne's problem was that she didn't have any hats that fit. "No problem", she says, "I'll just make one".
I laughed and said "Today? You're gonna make a hat, decorate it, and have it ready to wear tomorrow?"

Why did I ever doubt?

I think she looks so 70's in it and she loves the 70's look, so I'm wondering if this hat will be making encore appearances.

We told Clarence he was going to love his mom's hat. He knew then that there must be a chicken on it.

I was seated next to this nice lady at the banquet. She didn't wear her hat the whole time, which was probably good. If I had remembered the words to the VeggieTales Viking song, I might have started singing it. Can you believe she won the prize for the ugliest hat? Me, either. I thought it was a hoot!
Happy Mother's Day!
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Pink and Blue

Although each flower of these forget-me-nots is tiny, they bloom so profusely that I can see them from my kitchen window-over 15 yards away.

This bleeding heart surprises me every spring.

It goes from brown, dead leftovers from the prior year to green and blooming almost overnight. Not really, but once I see it starting to emerge from the ground, it doesn't take more than a couple weeks to be three feet tall and covered with blossoms.
I'm so happy to see these flowers each spring. It's still too soon to plant anything outside, since we haven't reached our frost-free date yet, and that makes these all the more special.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's a special day

Happy Nurses Day to my best friend and Aunt Sharon, as well as any other nurses out there.

When Mom was so ill, I was thankful for the care she received from so many wonderful nurses. Aunt Sharon and my friend both helped our family with medical questions during that time, too. Nurses are a special blessing to those in need so if you know any, please remember to wish them a Happy Nurses Day today.

Today is also a special day for a couple members of our family.

Happy Birthday wishes to our niece Lauren and to our brother-in-law, Bruce, who share their special day.

I'm not going to be able to see Lauren or Bruce today but I'm hoping they both have a wonderful day today.

(And I'm sure that this year, Bruce is going to be so surprised by his gift!)
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Orange Pepper Plants

This is a planter Clarence made out of a 2 liter pop bottle.

He read about them somewhere but couldn't find any pictures so he had to figure it out for himself. He cut the bottle in half, using the top to plant and the bottom to water. You probably can't see it, but there is an opening for putting water into the reservoir cut into the side.

This is an orange pepper plant he started from seed I ordered from ebay. It's starting to flower already.

He keeps the bottle planters in boxes because the plants don't like the sun shining on their roots. Until today, these have been growing in a south-facing window, not the greenhouse.
I'm excited that these plants are doing so well. I can't wait to have fresh peppers early in the season.
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Balloons and silver linings

We had a lovely visit with our friends on Friday, then got up early to head to Indianapolis for the regional Bible quiz. This year there were teams from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin competing.
Before we got to our friends' house on Friday, the van coolant level had gotten low enough to trigger a warning message. Clarence filled up with gas and topped off the coolant.
The coolant level warning came on again Saturday morning, just outside of Indy. We pulled over and he poured in the rest of the jug of coolant. He thought we probably needed to change the water pump. On a Saturday. In an unfamiliar city. Far from home.

Just after that, Julianne noticed a bunch of hot air balloons in the sky. They were just specks but we continued to get closer to them as we drove to our destination.

This isn't even half of the balloons we could see. Allison counted at least 26.

Once safely at the church, Clarence found some of the locals and started asking about repair shops or parts stores. A couple of them made some calls and located a shop that could do the repair. Then one particular man gave us the directions and said he'd pick Clarence up so he wouldn't have to miss all the quizzes.

The van was fixed by mid-afternoon. The bill was more than I'd like (as always) but I am so thankful that things worked out so well. Although our day started out kind of cloudy, there were definite silver linings:

  • We didn't get stranded on the side of the road
  • We were able to make it to our destination, then to the repair shop, without running out of coolant and doing major damage to something else.
  • The people from the area were more than helpful. The calls, the ride offers, the clear directions in an unfamiliar city were all a big help.
  • The repair shop was open on Saturday, could fit us in, could get the necessary parts, and completed the work fairly quickly.
  • We saw the biggest group of balloons I think I've ever seen at once.
  • Our girls did well in their quizzes.
Neither of them made it to individual finals but they brought home a second place trophy as a team. They lost one quiz by one question and won the rest. They both quizzed out several times, too.
We aren't planning to attend Nationals this year so this was their final quiz. We're very proud of the year they've had quizzing on the book of Luke.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

And now the white trilliums...

Clarence was kind enough to run out this morning and snap a picture of some of our white trilliums for me.

I thought they'd be open already but perhaps yesterday's monsoon-like weather delayed them a bit.

Thankfully, Julianne has some nice shots from a couple years ago so all is not lost.

Julianne loves to take flower pictures. Don't you just love a little surprise like catching this bug crawling inside the bloom?

We are headed to Indiana this morning. We will go to Shipshewana, then visit some friends overnight. Tomorrow morning we will continue on to Bible Quiz regionals.

I'll see you all Sunday or Monday.

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