Tag Archives: Science and Sensory

Squash

I love how many different types of squash we get in our CSA share from Wild Earth Farms.

15-10-squash01Each fall we collect some of the seeds from each of the different types of squash and try to grow our own plants in the spring.  We can usually manage to get them to sprout and sometimes even move them to the outdoor garden but beyond that we haven’t been very successful.

The squash we get from the farm is very interesting. There are so many different sizes, shapes and colours.  The textures of the stem, skin and innards are all so fascinating.

15-10-squash02We compare the weight of the various sizes;

15-10-squash03And of course we taste them too.  All the muffin, cake and loaf recipes made with squash are very popular.  The savory items are more challenging.  Still, we try.  They may never become permanent menu items but it is always fun to see what we can do with all our squash.

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Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili

1 medium red onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• salt and pepper
• 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
• 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
• 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
• 1 medium squash, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
• sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and tortilla chips, for serving

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, squash, and 1 cup water. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.

Mushrooms & Fungi

There is some kind of fungi that is growing on one of the old maple tree slices in the yard;

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Its texture has attracted the children’s attention all summer.  It is fairly solid – like rubber – but it also has soft ‘fur’.

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I know nothing about mushrooms and fungi except that I like eating the ones I buy from the store.  The ones that sprout up in our garden every year I think are gross, ugly, and possibly poisonous.

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I once asked an experienced gardener what I should do about the mushrooms.  They looked somewhat confused and said I was lucky to have them.  Mushrooms would only grow in healthy soil and probably liked that I use only compost and no chemicals in our garden.

I still think they are ugly.

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Luckily most of them are only there for a day or two.  They sprout up, turn black, and then disintegrate back into the soil.  They are usually so fragile that picking them is nearly impossible.

I always tell the children the mushrooms are not edible even though they grow in our garden.  I probably don’t have to worry about them eating the garden mushrooms – none of the children will eat store bought mushrooms either.  Actually, now that I think about it, maybe they don’t eat store bought mushrooms because I keep telling them not to eat the garden mushrooms.

Last week we found a mushroom in the garden that I thought was much nicer than the ones we usually see.  It was quite solid and I was able to pick it.  I brought it inside for ‘science’.

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I also cut off a piece of the maple stump fungi for comparison.  It was surprisingly difficult to cut and I had to try several different tools before I could hack off a piece.

The toddlers were very excited as they gathered around the table.  They love the magnifying glasses.  They each had one – it is very important to have the same number of magnifying glasses as there are toddlers – they don’t like to share.

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There were not enough pieces of mushroom and fungi for all the children to have a piece of each.  That didn’t matter because the children had no interest in looking at the mushrooms or fungi.

They did spend nearly 30 minutes using the magnifying glasses to look at everything other than the items on the tray – and several times they asked when the ‘Fun Guy’ was going to arrive.

That’s what happens when you try to have science class for toddlers.

Surprise!

Sometimes the things that we do here don’t go the way we expected.  These surprises often end up creating even more interest than the ‘proper’ result would have.  For example, we planted sunflowers in the pots by the fence.  They were slow to start growing during the cool spring/summer but one of them has managed to grow taller than the fence;

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So far it is just a ‘sunflower plant‘ without an actual flower but its neighbour has a flower – you have to look closer to see it;

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We’ve had many discussions about ‘tall’ and ‘small’.  Our beans have created a lot of interest too.  There are so many of them in the garden;

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But look – over by the neighbour’s garage, there is something tall growing in the blue barrel with the carrots;

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Yes, the carrots look unhappy – they need some water.  We only planted carrot seeds in this barrel, what is that other plant?  It is taller than the roof of the garage.  Look closer;

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BEANS!  We didn’t plant any here – we assume this plant grew from one of the ‘loose parts’ beans we played with  last fall/winter.

We cut down all the sweet grass in the garden.  It is drying on the upper deck and smells wonderful.  Haven’t yet decided what we’re going to do with it all.

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But wait, now there is more sweet grass growing in the garden!

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We didn’t expect that.  Maybe the recent rain rejuvenated it.  We were invigorated by the rain too.  Some couldn’t resist taking off their shoes to experience the sensation of bare feet on the wet deck/grass;

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Notice her little friend?  Mister Slug rode around on her foot for most of the morning.  Every time he escaped fell off she carefully placed him back on the amusement park ride for another trip around the yard.

We also hoped the rain would help clean off some of the goop we created last month.  It is somewhat softer now but still very sticky and difficult to remove from surfaces;

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However, it seems to be a fabulous crack filler on the old logs;

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Surprise!

Mud Day 2013

I just spent the entire three day long weekend ‘celebrating’ Canada Day by rebuilding and reorganizing some of my kitchen cupboards.  The whole project actually took much longer than I expected and there was no time for any computer work.

I only have four days of ‘work’ left before my ‘vacation’ when we will tackle the major project.  I don’t anticipate much time for computer work then either so I simply must get in a few pictures from last week’s International Mud Day.

I loved that the school-age children were here for mud day this year.  We started with a bin full of dirt and we added some water.  Some of the the children were a little unsure about the activity – only one chose to watch instead of joining in.

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Mixing the dirt and water together and then using the strainers to try to separate them again

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The school aged children were the first to move on to other activities – they miss the opportunity to play here when they are in school for so much of the day and there were other things they wanted to do.  Of course first there was some more excitement about using the hose to wash off the mud.

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The preschoolers stayed and played in the mud for nearly an hour more – definately not going to wait until 2014 before we do this again. 🙂

Keeping Busy

We’ve been keeping busy.

Some of the children have done lacing activities many times but for the toddlers this was new and exciting;

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Making designs with bags of coloured gel was a new experience for all of us;

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In the playroom the boxes and ponies were used for chariot races;

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It was part of a ‘video game’ dramatic play activity that the preschoolers created. They used this ‘timer’;

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Tasks had to be completed before the spinner reached the bottom of the track.

They used this set-up to control the action – ‘press B to jump’, ‘press C to crawl’ etc.

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This has been an ongoing activity that has evolved throughout the last month.  I’ve enjoyed watching the preschoolers play and develop more elements to their game.

We are still enjoying all the snow outside – running, jumping and climbing everyday.  My husband cleared the snow off the roof of the shed and completely buried the garden path.  I spent several days trying to dig it out again;

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Even with help from the children this project is not yet complete;

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We’ve run out of good places to move the snow to.  Besides, the children have decided that they like using this spot as the ‘booth’ for their restaurant;

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Next week is Spring Break.  As much as we’re enjoying our time indoors and outside in the snow I’m eager for ‘real’ spring.  I have several projects planned but the snow need to go before work can begin.  I wanted an early Spring.

Keeping busy is hard sometimes when Mother Nature has other plans.