Tag Archives: Seasons

Spring 2016

There is a thin layer of snow on the front sidewalk but I am stubbornly refusing to go sweep it off.  The temperature display on the weather station reads ‘0’ degrees at 6am so I am confident the sidewalk snow will melt soon – the snow on the steps has already melted.  Yesterday morning when we went out to play there was no snow anywhere in my back yard and there was a collective “Awww, there’s no snow” 😦 from the children so I’m certain this recent snowfall is Mother Nature’s response to that lament.

I like winter too and this past (present?) winter has been quite pleasant.  There have been a few indoor issues with running across the playroom and jumping in and out of the nature area.  I’ve tried several indirect measures to curb the reckless behaviour – most had limited effect but this has been quite successful;

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These cardboard circles used to be attached to the loft for toy storage but we no longer have the loft – of course I kept these ‘just in case’ I found another use for them… 🙂  The smaller children enjoy using the ‘tunnels’.  The school age children and I can step over.  Either way it slows down traffic – like the pot holes on the street.

Speaking of cardboard tubes, I can’t believe we still have these ‘binoculars’ made from plastic wrap tubes and tape;

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I quickly put them together for some toddlers who wanted them for a dramatic play activity they were engaged in two years ago!  I never expected them to stay in the playroom for more than a day or two but they are just as popular as ever and they haven’t been damaged yet.  I’ve considered making, or having the children make more, fancier ones but no one is really interested so these ones stay.  The current group likes to lay on the floor in the nature area and use them to look for butterflies and birds in the trees.

Another constant in the playroom is these eggs in this pot;

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Upon entering the playroom one of the toddlers will place these eggs in this pot and set it on the counter.  If at any point someone else moves the pot, puts other food in the pot, or puts the eggs is a different pot there will be a scuffle.  I can’t explain it but it has been like this every day for months now.  No one ever actually plays with the eggs in the pot and the toddlers will happily put them away at clean up time but they MUST be on the counter like this during play time.

However, there have been several complaints that I have not yet taken down the Easter decorations;

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Honestly, I’m happy leaving them up as ‘Spring’ decorations.  I have many window clings for Fall, Halloween, Christmas, Winter, Valentines, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter but for the period between Easter and Fall all I have are butterflies.  Butterflies are nice but I’d like to have some variation over the 5 month Spring/Summer period.  Flowers or birds would be nice.

Yes, there is snow on the ground – again – but summer is coming.  Check out our seedlings;

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We’ve started our peppers, corn and several types of squash.  The corn surprised us – we don’t usually plant corn but we found an old package of corn seeds in our seed collection – we were not certain they would grow.  I don’t usually buy seeds – most of our garden plants are grown from seeds we collect from our garden or produce from the store or CSA box.  Our peas and beans will be planted directly in the garden outside but it is too early yet – we’ve tried digging in the soil every time the snow melts but the ground is still frozen.  Some of us are very eager for Spring to arrive.

 

 

Bridges

I like to provide plenty of opportunities for the children to explore nature.  Even though we are near downtown and there are many major roadways we still manage to find nature in the city. We go on many, sometimes lengthy, hikes around the neighbourhood in all types of weather. On our last post storm adventure the toddlers walked 4.4 km in search of puddles to splash in – we traced our route on Google Pedometer when we returned.

If I was the only one choosing destinations we would always be hiking through forests but the children often have other interests and I let them lead.  One of their favourite destinations is the river – particularly watching it from the middle of the nearby bridge.  We often go up one side of the bridge, stop in the middle to watch the river flow away and then hike down to the corner so we can cross the street at the intersection before heading back down the other side of the bridge to watch the river flow towards us.

We see the changes in the river as the ice begins to form in the fall and as it breaks up in the spring.  The children notice – and express concern over the things we see floating down the river.  Sometimes they prefer to sit on the hill in the park to watch the river – the ‘stuff’ in the water is less noticeable from there.  It is also much quieter without the all the traffic noise from vehicles on the bridge.

During the beautiful summer weather we have been venturing further away – our longest hike this summer was 7.8 km.   On many of our longer walks we have gone to ‘the other bridge’ – which is actually TWO bridges  – bonus.  Even though it takes longer to get there there are two reasons we love to visit this bridge.  First, the children get really excited as we approach the bridges.

20150825_095622It is here that they begin calling out “Echo, Echo where are you Echo?” Their excitement and volume increases dramatically when we are directly under the big bridge.  Here the echo is fabulous and they can see the little bridge too!

20150825_095826The little bridge is for pedestrians only so it is much quieter than the busy bridge we usually visit and it doesn’t shake when big trucks pass over.  That feature of the old bridge is a little scary for some of the toddlers.  There are also several lookout points on this bridge – of course our favouite one is right at the top in the middle of the bridge.

20150825_095930As we head to the top of the bridge we stop to look at the boat, our shadows, and today there is a fisherman too;

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At the lookout point the children may spend as long as they want watching the river.  On this particular day they were looking for submarines and unicorns.  Rivers and bridges are magical places. 🙂

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Water Day

Every summer I schedule at least one ‘Water Day’.  Of course water play is not limited to just Water Day.  Water is one of the ‘loose parts’ that is seasonally available through spring thaw, rain, and water collected in the rain barrel.   Some of the children choose to incorporate water into all their daily outdoor play activities whenever possible.

However, Water Day is never a spontaneous activity – it requires planning, plenty of set-up time, and the right weather conditions – hot enough so soaked children do not get a chill.  On Water Day there is water everywhere in the yard which actually makes it a little difficult for me to take pictures but I still try.  Here are a some that I took on our most recent Water Day.

The water table;

15-07-water01  The rivers/water ways;

15-07-water02 15-07-water03 15-07-water04The bins;

15-07-water05 15-07-water06 15-07-water07And above us the mister hose covers the yard ensuring no one can avoid getting at least a little wet;

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The Summer Yard

So, I was looking through my ‘Blog pics’ directory – the place where I store the pictures I plan to use in blog posts – and realized I had taken a lot of pictures of the yard space but had never written a post about last summer’s yard renovation.  A mid-winter post about the summer yard might be just what we need 🙂

It was back in 2013 that I first wrote about the plans  to move the fence that separates the gravel area and the parking area.  You can read more about those plans here.  We didn’t have enough time that summer to complete that renovation so it was slated for summer 2014 instead.  This is a ‘before’ photo taken from above;

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And this is an overhead view of the yard after the fence was moved;

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It is a little difficult to see but we lost a small triangle section of the gravel area on the left side of the picture but gained the same amount of space near the lane past the neighbour’s garage – where the tipi is now.  This extra space allows us to see what is going on outside the yard which was nearly impossible when the fence ended at the corner of the garage and our van parked perpendicular to the lane.

Here’s the view as you come down the steps from the house to the deck;

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As I walk across the grass area and look left toward the garden;

 

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and right toward the covered seating area;

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Walk through the covered seating area and enter the gravel area looking towards the right side of the hill;

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Then look through the gravel area to the left of the hill towards the corner of that used to be playspace alongside the carport;

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Now in the gravel area looking back toward the house and deck – here you can see the old water barrels which have been re-purposed to store the loose parts;

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Turn around and look toward the ‘new’ playspace past the hill where the tipi is now;

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This is the most popular space.  Even in winter the tipi is the favourite sit spot – as snow is cleared from the parking area it is piled behind the tipi making it a cozy little spot;

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We love our outdoor play space in every season.

A Glimmer of Hope

We love outdoor play – in all types of weather – but this has been a very, very long winter.  On the positive side, this slow-to-warm-up spring has allowed the snow in the yard to melt without creating huge puddles of water.  Soaking wet children cannot stay outside in cool temperatures.

Yesterday the gravel area was almost dry and there are just a few patches of stubborn snow left.  We checked out the visible soil in the garden and on the hill;

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Close inspection resulted in the discovery of some very tiny bits of new growth.  Baby plants – how exciting! There is some Yarrow – always the first one to show up here;

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And even more exciting is this one;

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It is growing where the Prairie Coneflower used to be.  The coneflower didn’t grow last year – I thought it may have died.

There are also some tiny sprouts of Giant Hyssop but the pictures were too blurry.

We can’t wait to go out today and see if the sprouts are bigger or if there are some more.  There is finally a glimmer of hope that this long winter may be over soon.

 

Saying Goodbye – For Now

I opened my front door and thought ‘What a beautiful sunny day’  – but wait, it is cloudy.  “Why does it seem so bright on such a cloudy day?”

I looked again.  Autumn seems to have arrived suddenly and winter is on its way.  The Elm trees that shade my yard have lost all their leaves.   The foliage usually blocks my view of the sky from here but now that the branches are bare the light comes through even on such a cloudy day.

A thick blanket of leaves covers the garden so I can barely see the gravel path.  Sigh.  Good-bye my friends.  Sleep well.

Back in March I wrote a brief history of my front yard garden and my plans to redo the whole garden.  You can read about it here.  Then in May I continued the saga as I began to create the space to plant my prairie garden.   I planned to write another chapter once the plants were in the ground but I never got around to it.

So here is the ‘before’ picture I took of my front yard;

This was taken in May as we began taking apart the old steps to make room for the expanded garden space.  You may notice that these old garden beds contain mainly day lilies along with a few other plants that had managed to survive.

The steps and sidewalk were then relocated to the far left side of the landing and a bench was added so we could sit and enjoy the new garden.  I left that big bush under the window (I don’t know what kind it is) and the Hosta which seemed happy this year.  All the other plants were dug up and most of the gravel was replaced with more soil.

Then I planted the seedlings from the shade garden kit that I purchased from Prairie Flora.  The plants include:

I’ll admit that at first the garden looked rather sparse.  There were a few casualties over the summer – mostly due to the neighbourhood cats who decided I had built the world’s greatest litterbox 😦

Some of the young plants grew much quicker than I anticipated.  Many even produced flowers – something I didn’t expect them to do in their first year.  I know that all these plants  were busy putting down strong roots to support them for years to come.

By September the garden looked like this;

In this view you can see some of the sticks I put in the soil to deter the nasty cats;

Yes, as I look at the thick blanket of leaves that now covers my prairie garden, I am a little sad.  As these young plants prepare for the long cold winter ahead I will say good-bye, for now.  I’ll see you again in the spring – stronger and more beautiful than ever.

Winter Science

Yesterday was February 1st and according to the weather station in my back yard it was +2 degrees Celsius. Not officially spring yet and but most of the surfaces looked like this;

The baby and I were watching some of the children ‘digging for worms’;

Apparently the springlike weather has them itching to get into the garden.  On the other side of the yard the children were singing a made up song about ‘doing science’ so I went to check it out.

After asking them a few questions I determined that they had removed a large chunk of ice from the wok and discovered that there had been water below it.  They had added some snow to the water — I assumed it was the beginning of their familiar ‘soup making’ activity — but I was wrong.

They explained that they were doing science — trying to ‘fix the ice’.  They moved the wok to the bench area and sat down.  Then they waited, staring silently at the wok;

I mistakingly assumed that they were trying to melt the slush that they had created so that they would again have water in the bottom of the wok.  I asked if they had moved it into the sunny spot to make it melt faster.

The snort and accompanying look of exasperation led me to believe that I was way off the mark so I asked her what she was trying to do.

‘Make more ice’ was her answer.  ‘Maybe it needs more snow’ she sighed and began adding some more.

The frustration was obvious as she watched the snow transform to more slush.  She declared the experiment to be a failure and went to play tag instead.

Sometimes even in winter you cannot make ice but the experiment is not necessarily over.  We left the slush in the wok — there may be a part two to winter science.