Tag Archives: Science

Herbs & Veggies

Our vegetable gardening began in 2007 with one small raised bed and has expanded every year since then.  Our current garden is about 100 square feet and we have some planters around the yard too.

The types of vegetables we grow each year changes because we like to experiment with new ones.  Three years ago we began to include herbs in our garden too.  In the fall we had dug up the herbs, put them in pots and brought them in the house for the winter.  We got to enjoy them for a few more months but they didn’t survive until spring.

Since then we have discovered that some herbs are perennials – I didn’t know that when we dug them out of the garden.  Remember, I was learning about gardening too – I thought all our ‘crops’ were annuals.

So, last year when we planted our new herbs, I made a point of keeping the tags and noting which ones we should expect to return in the spring.  The oregano has returned and is doing well so far;

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I’m unsure about the garden sage.  It doesn’t look great but it has some new leaves and branches.  I started trimming off the dried branches from last year but it looks like the new growth is coming from the old branches so I’m afraid to trim any more in case I kill it;

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The lemon balm and the rosemary showed absolutely no signs of life.  We have since planted replacements for these two.  We also added some mint and thyme.  Every time we discuss the various scents the most common reaction is ‘Mmmm, smells minty’.  I figured maybe for comparison we needed something that actually was ‘minty’.  The thyme elicited an enthusiastic response as the four-year-old ran around the yard cheering ‘Woo hoo, we’re growing a time machine!’

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We’ve got the mandatory beans and tomatoes and this year we’re going to try two types of carrots.  We’re also trying something else new.  We have a subscription to the community supported agriculture program at Wild Earth Farms.  This will give us the opportunity to try a much greater variety of produce than we could ever grow ourselves. We’re also hoping to arrange a field trip to see the farm too.

We just received our first farm share which contained fresh oregano, thyme, green onions, swiss chard, and kale.  We examined and tasted a little of everything;

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The kale was a different type than the kale we grew a couple years back.  We immediately noticed that this kale had no holes in it.  Most of the kale we grew got eaten by something other than us.  This kale was beautiful and tasty;

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We headed outside to compare the thyme and oregano from the farm with the ones in our garden.  The children got distracted by some critters they found in the garden and had to go make homes for them instead;

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Yet another fun activity with garden ‘produce’.

Trimming Trees

One day last week as I was helping to get the toddlers dressed to go outside I told the preschoolers to put on their boots.  They looked at me and in unison asked “Are we going for a walk?”

They know the routine.  We get dressed at the front door because there is more room there but we carry our boots to the back door to go outside to play.  We only put our boots on at the front door if we are going out the front to go for a walk.

They sounded a little disappointed.  They look forward to playing in the yard and sometimes the toddlers walk so slowly that we run out of time to play.  I reassured them that we were just walking around the block and would come in the back yard to play.

There was something on the street that I thought they would like to see.  I had noticed the ‘No Parking – Street Work’ signs the day before and now the trucks were down at the end of the block.

We went out on the step;

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“What are they doing?” the children asked.

“Trimming the trees” I replied.

“Can we go watch them?”

“Yes, but not to close.”  We talked about the warning signs;

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We discussed the things we saw and heard.  The equipment was very loud.  I explained that it was easier to trim the trees in the winter when there were no leaves and the trees were dormant.  One child expressed concern that the workers would cut down ‘all the trees and we’ll have none left’.  Awww.

We walked around to the back yard to play.  I was hoping that by the time we came back inside the workers would have moved farther down the street and the children would be able to watch some more from the playroom window.

By lunchtime the trucks had only moved slightly closer – they didn’t appear to be making much progress.  I figured at this rate they wouldn’t reach my house until the middle of nap time – grrrr.

Actually, they never did come further down the street.  I wondered why.

The school bus dropped off the older children and then had to back down the street to leave because the trucks were still blocking the road.  That’s when we noticed this;

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That’s some MAJOR trimming.  Luckily they only cut down the one tree and not all of them.  We still have some left – for now.

The Forgotten Activity

During the bitterly cold period when our outdoor time was limited I decided to bring a little ‘Spring Time’ into our indoor environment. We started with a small planter and added rocks for drainage;

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The soil was next – so smooth and soft compared to those rocks;

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Grass seeds are prickly;

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We pushed them down into the soil;

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We added a little water and then I placed the planter on a shelf in the sunroom – out of reach of the cats.

And then we forgot about it.

Seriously!  The weather warmed up and we spent many hours outdoors playing in the snow.  We got busy and completely forgot about this activity until one day when my husband asked “What are you planning to do with that grass?”

?!?!?!

I quickly brought the planter down so the children could see and feel;

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Even when we forgot to watch Mother Nature was busy doing her job 🙂

Painted Snow

We’ve got a perfect amount of snow in the yard – enough so we can make piles and sculp and climb but not so much that we don’t have any open space left.  During our daily outdoor play time the preschoolers have packed well-defined trails through the yard.

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The school age children rarely have enough time to play outdoors and they had not been out in the yard since the snow began to accumulate.  They were amazed – they are taller now.  They don’t have to step up onto the logs (can’t find some of the logs). Sitting on the benches is a different experience too.

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Yesterday I decided to bring out some liguid watercolor.  Our previous experiences with this product – which you can read about here – were somewhat disappoining.  However, on the white snow the watercolors are vivid.

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I was expecting the children to do more ‘art’ and create pictures with the paint.  Instead, they were more focused on ‘science’ using the liquid to make ice on the slope of the little hill so it was slipperier for sliding on.  They like to use the old cookie sheets for this;

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There was some more science going on in the corner of the yard too as two young girls dug a hole in which to mix their colours in;

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Then they mixed it up to create little clumps of coloured snow which they called ‘gems’.

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And of course the children saved all their running and jumping energy for when we came back inside 🙂

Pumpkin Pie

Early last week I cut our pumpkin in half and let the children remove the seeds and stringy inards;

I asked if any of them had ever tried roasted pumpkin seeds and if they would like to make some.  They were excited and then one of them eagerly announced that we would also be making some pumkin pie. Hmmm, I hadn’t planned on that.

We discussed the steps involved in making pumpkin pie and the children thought that it would take a very long time but they still wanted to try.  The first day though we just took out the seeds and roasted them;

We ate them for afternoon snack when the older children were back from school.  That evening I steamed the pumkin so the following day the children could work on preparing the pie filling.

They mashed the cooked pumkin;

then added some milk, eggs, and spices;

Eventually we had our finished product;

What a delicious end to a three day project.  We also have enough pumpkin puree in the freezer for future projects too 🙂

Trees

It started as a competition.  The school-age children were making pyramids with blocks.  The five of them were each building their own structure and they began bickering and complaining that there were not going to be enough blocks.

The arguing began to escalate and then one of the children suggested that they should combine all the blocks and work  together.  A few minutes later they announced that they had made a ‘tree’;

Later in the day, during quiet time there was another tree;

I was informed that this one was from ‘The Lorax’.  A detailed description and re-enactment of the story followed.

All this tree talk reminded me of the funky yellow thing we found at the park this past summer – I assumed it was some typed of fungi. It was growning on a tree and the children were fascinated;

Yesterday at circle time we looked at the trees in the nature guide, discussed their simalarities and differences and picked our favourites;

Then I read ‘Signs Along the River‘ by Kayo Robertson.  The children were getting restless so we went outside to run around and of course look at trees;

Later we looked through the items in our nature treasure box;

And sorted the items into two groups – ‘Parts of trees’ and ‘Not from trees’.

Trees (and children) are amazing.

Sow Bugs

Around here possibly the longest, most in depth topic of study has been sow bugs.  This is probably due to their abundance in our environment.  There are always some sow bugs wandering around in the basement bathroom – occasionally I have to go and find a child who has become engrossed in observing one and forgotten to return.  Periodically a sow bug finds its way into the main floor playroom – sometimes they have been aided by a two legged accomplice.  The majority of the sow bugs live outside in the yard where they belong – and are often collected to live in fancy homes that have been lovingly created for them.

We know a lot about them.  We know they are not insects – they fall in the crustacean family.  We know they are ‘good’ because they feed on dead plant matter and return nutrients to the soil – an important role in the environment. Generally they are accepted, respected and even adored but occasionally they are victims of misfortune.

Last week there had been some intermittent showers which made things in the yard damp.  Collecting the water that had accumulated in various containers was usually the focus of the children’s attention.  One child discovered that the bark that still remained on a few of the logs was now soft and not firmly attached.  It became a group project to remove as much of the bark as possible.  They used sticks as levers to pry the bark off;

There was a moment of stunned silence when the bark was removed and ‘hundreds’ of sow bugs scurried for cover.

Then the mob attacked: bashing bugs with sticks and stomping on them while repeatedly yelling ‘lemonade’. I don’t know why they chose to say ‘lemonade’ when their tone implied that they really meant ‘die, die, die’ except that lemonade sounded ‘nicer’. Then they did it again with another piece of bark;

I was a little perplexed.  The first time I thought maybe it was the surprise of seeing so many sow bugs moving quickly that prompted the attack but now the children were looking for them – expecting there to be sow bugs behind every piece of bark.  They were hunting and the massacres continued.

So I asked them why they suddenly did not like the sow bugs? What did the bugs do to deserve this attack?  The sow bugs had been minding their own business, doing their job, they posed no threat to anyone.

The children looked a little sheepish when I asked these questions.  None of the children answered but one began explaining why the bugs had been behind the bark.  “It is wet.  They like to live in wet places.  It was their home” All the children started picking up pieces of bark and looking for bugs;

One excitedly called the others over to see a ‘baby’ one they had found;

They now engaged in a search and rescue mission.  Locating sow bugs;

Carefully taking them to safe locations;

Reuniting ‘families’.

I’ll admit that I do not like to have sow bugs in my home.  I would not be comfortable having one crawl on me and I may inadvertently kill the odd one.  However, I understand their purpose in the world and I will defend their right to peacefully coexist with the rest of us.  I will stand up for them as I would for any other underdog.