Tag Archives: Native Plants

Our Garden Grows

The past two summers were very wet.  Plenty of rain meant we never needed to water our garden.  This year has been hot and sunny and the children are thrilled that we have had to water the garden every day. It is still very dry — we need some rain.

The prairie plants on the hill don’t seem to mind the heat and lack of water — being native to this climate they are resilient.  There is a stranger by the hill too;

Probably a weed or wildflower (same thing ?) but I like it so it stays.  Leave a comment if you know what it is.

In the garden, the spelt, triticale and wheat were planted close together and even though we have nametags in the ground we can’t really tell them apart;

The kamut was planted on the other side — I  think it is my favourite of the grains.  It is much larger than the other similar kinds.

The oats seem to be doing very well too but as one of our new type of plant we have nothing to compare it to;

The soybeans are new to us too and I wasn’t sure if they were healthy but they are just beginning to produce some ‘fruit’;

I think the swiss chard looks great! These were leftover seeds from last year when our swiss chard drowned and didn’t produce anything edible.

The broccoli has replaced the kale from past years and proves to be a favorite for the cabbage worms/butterflies;

There are many tomatoes hidden deep inside the dense foilage;

And two purple jalapeno peppers;

And even some Bolivian Rainbow peppers which we moved here from our indoor garden.  These plants were started way back in January and were the only survivors of the white fly infestation;

The corn is much shorter than last year — only about three feet tall so far — but we are hopeful;

We’ve even got some moonbeam squash starting to grow.  Last year it was late September before this happened and it was too cold to grow any more;

The cucumber plants are nearing the top of the trellis;

But the winner of the battle for garden space must go to the zucchini;

I keep cutting them back so they don’t overshadow everything else.  If all the flowers become actual zucchinis we will have hundreds of them.  Therefore I’ve been encouraging the children to eat zucchini flowers — which most of them are eager to do;

Bugs

I think most children are fascinated by insects, worms, spiders and the like.  In my experience, those who are fearful or disgusted by these creatures have been taught to do so.

Having walking stick insects in our science area has given us the opportunity to study these insects up close on a regular basis.  We have experienced their entire life cycle from egg to adult.  We’ve watched them hatch and seen them grow each time they moult.

They have provided a chance for even the most timid amongst us to view  insect life.  These are not a species that is native to our part of the world so we keep them safely contained.

I will admit that I do not like all creepy crawlies – centipedes for example will have me moving very quickly in the opposite direction.  If I do stay put I realize that they are moving quickly away from me too.

I make it a goal to ensure that I learn something about each new creature I meet and I encourage the children to do the same. Bugguide.net has been a tremendous resource for us when we find something new.

Even if we are fearful or disturbed by them we try not harm them.  Instead, we discover their purpose and if we don’t like them we learn how to avoid them or discourage them from being in our part of the environment.

There are a few insects and spiders that I like to handle but mostly I prefer to just observe them.  However, some of the children seek out these critters and enjoy all contact with them.

Others prefer to keep their distance and choose to simply watch the others interact.  Eventually even these apprehensive children may attempt to overcome their fear and willingly venture forward.

Together we determine which ones are the ‘good bugs’ – the ones we want to have near by.  We learn ways to dissuade those that are harmful and attract those that are beneficial.  This year the addition of several native prairie plants has provided an enticing habitat for many bees and butterflies that we welcome in our garden.

No matter how small we learn to understand differences, acknowledge values, and work together and find ways to co-exist peacefully in the world we share.

The History of Our Yard

Fourteen years ago when I first opened my childcare home this was what the backyard play area looked like;

There was also a ‘deck’ area – old pallets covered in plywood – that is not visible in the above photo.  You may also notice the lack of soft surface under the play structure but the cribbing is there because adding pea gravel under the play structure was something I had to do for licensing.

Back then my view of outdoor play was essentially unstructured, high energy, physical activity.  My own children had played here – two of them are in this picture.  They usually played outside by themselves for hours.  I rarely ventured out with them until ‘supervised outdoor play’ became part of my childcare program.  Then I regularly watched the children play – and I was afraid.

Seven years ago my yard looked like this;

There was a large deck area with riding toys and space to play organized games.  There were no toys in the gravel area – just the climbers. After all, someone might trip over a toy if it was buried in the gravel.  It was here in this playground that we had the only injury that required medical attention.  I pondered over the question on the incident report “Was there anything you could have done to prevent this injury?”   I had been three feet from the child that fell from a two foot high platform onto twelve inches of pea gravel.  Maybe I shouldn’t let them play outside.

Actually, the children probably wouldn’t have argued if I had decided to ban outdoor play from the program.  They didn’t like to play out here for long.  Often it took only about 15 minutes before someone asked if it was time to go inside yet.  I took a long look at the outdoor play space and started to see everything that was ‘missing’.  All the things they liked to do inside that they couldn’t do outside – and I’m not talking about TV and video games.

This is my yard today;

Places to climb and crawl;

Places to balance, jump and explore;

Places for science experiments and imagination;

Places for art, music, and sharing stories with friends;

And so much more.  It is a lot like indoors – only better.  Now we can’t wait to go outside.

Free & Loose

I planned to write a post first thing this morning before the children arrived but somebody desperately needed attention and so I abandoned my computer and paperwork.  Seriously – who could resist?

So now I have to spend my evening at the computer and hope that cat doesn’t show up again. 🙂

I’m an advocate of loose parts but I also need to be organized and sometimes those two things collide.  In the gravel area of the yard there are sticks and pipes, pinecones and pieces of bark, scraps of wood and other miscellaneous things.

Toys and other equipment are stored in bins in the deck box or the shed and brought out when needed.  The loose parts are always out – loose – hence the name.  This ever-changing supply of random items is strewn about the yard and sometimes makes it difficult to walk.

I find myself wandering around making arbitrary piles of unused things to get them out of the way and create walkways. I can’t really ask the children to ‘clean up’ because this stuff doesn’t have a spot where it belongs and besides, the mess is not bothering them.

Then, last weekend, as we were working on various projects outside my husband asks ‘What are you going to do with this?’ Oooh, I had forgotten about ‘that’ – A modular plastic cube thing that we picked up at the last Giveaway Weekend event.  I think it was supposed to be a desk at one time but I just thought the cubes might come in handy for something, sometime.  Until I could of a good use we just put them in the crawlspace and they’ve been there all winter.  Until now when I did this;

I don’t expect the children to keep it all neat and organized like this.  They will be free to move the pieces around the yard as they please.  Build with them. Dig with them. Whatever they need or want them for. But we can also put them somewhere when they are not being used and that will make me happy.  And maybe the children will like it too because the next time they are working on a building project and someone says ‘We need another small pipe’ they’ll know where to look first.

Interestingly though, when the children went out on Monday, the squeal and exclamation “Come. Look what happened – it’s amazing!” didn’t refer to my weekend organization.  It was in reference to the growth of the native plants on the hill.

Yes, Mother Nature is amazing.  That’s why we help her out by recycling. This weekend is another Giveaway Weekend.  I wonder what we might find.

A Taste of Summer

Yesterday none of the school age children had classes so everyone was here for the full day and the weather was amazing.  The weather channel reported a high of 17° C but with the sunshine the thermometer in my back yard registered 22° C – beautiful. We spent all morning outside.

As usual there was a lot of ‘cooking’ going on since collecting items and making concoctions are very popular activities.  It was one of those days that I wish I had brought the video camera out since the ‘action’ is missing from the still photos.  The camera and I both have slow reaction times so what shows up in the pictures isn’t always what I was trying to capture. I spent a considerable amount of time observing the process involved in adding ingredients to this pot.

Fine motor skills were enhanced as pebbles were dropped one by one through the tube and into the pot.  It took more trial and error and a little frustration to discover why the ones placed in the bottom of the tube didn’t come out the top.

I miss the liquid component that we had in the concoctions this spring as the snow melted. I’m working on a plan to relocate one of the rain barrels to the gravel area so we can have a regular water supply.  I just have to move a couple of the big planters first.  Unfortunately I know from experience that the only thing harder than lifting them is sliding them through pea gravel and creating massive ridges. 🙂

While we were out in the yard we cleaned up the garden area a little and picked some weeds.  We found some plants that we couldn’t identify – probably weeds since there shouldn’t be any perennials planted here – but we thought were pretty so we left them to grow more. On the hill the Yarrow and the Giant Hyssop are beginning to sprout.  I am so excited that they seem to be off to a great start.  I’ve managed to kill off many other plants even though I’d been told that they could survive in difficult situations.  Now I’m a believer in the power of native plants. Of course we also engaged in some great gross motor activities outside too.  Running and jumping, ball games, hide and seek and tag.  My son joined us for a while and practiced some more Parkour moves and balance games.  While he tried to balancing on a piece of pipe one of the preschoolers observed and then modified the activity to suit his comfort level. Today it is raining and there is a winter storm warning.  Some of the highways have been closed due to ice and snow.  We will remain optimistic.  We have had a taste of summer and we know it will be here – eventually.