Category Archives: Nature

Garden Challenge Planting The Garden

Garden Challenge

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of activity in our home, as the weather has transitioned from winter into spring.  We are having the most beautiful spring days here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

We are participating in the Homeschool Village’s Garden Challenge and also doing a Garden Unit Study too.   The Garden Challenge is a four month challenge to get homeschool families involved in learning about gardening.

Anyone can participate in the garden challenge, and it doesn’t matter how simple or elaborate your garden is.  The point is to just learn something and share about it.  It can be something as simple as a container in the window,  a hanging basket in a window, a container on the patio, a flower box, a full scale garden, raised garden beds, or whatever you want to do.


Our Gardens Of The Past

I have always loved gardening.  As a child growing up in Kansas, we had many gardens, both at my parents home and at my grandparents home.  I remember an acre garden near the house, and a five acre garden at the bottom of the hill for sweet corn and melons.  We grew so many potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, corn, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, cabbage, and tomatoes that we always had plenty leftover until the next garden harvest the next year.  We had plenty of fruit and nut trees too, including peach, pear, cherry, apple, almond, pecan, walnut, and hickory nuts.  The growing and harvest season was always very busy.

My dad loved the garden.  He would grow a surplus to sell at local markets.  A few years ago, when he died, we found hundreds of receipts of bushels of produce he had sold at the markets that season.  Most of it he grew himself in large gardens.  But he also knew how to buy bushels of produce at wholesale, and resell it too.

When I was newly married, my dad helped my husband and me put in a large garden in our yard in Kansas. He came for a two week visit and we had the best time together.  He would get up with the sunrise and go out and weed the garden before the heat of the day.  On a walk, one afternoon, he showed me some “weeds” that he called part of God’s garden.  I specifically remember him pointing out wild mustard, dandelions, and poke or dock.  He said his parents loved to cook these with bacon and they were some of grandpa’s favorite food.  I did remember grandma making wilted greens for grandpa with bacon.  I never tasted it though.  As a kid, I did not eat cooked greens.  But as an adult, I have drank dandelion tea, and I do enjoy turnip greens too.

When we moved to Indiana, my husband helped me put in an even bigger garden and we learned about organic gardening.  An elderly neighbor used to work for the Organic Gardening Magazine.  He gave me lots of old issues and spent many hours teaching me.  He gave me starts of many plants I had never grown before.  Things like elephant ear garlic, horse radish, tobacco, spider plant, mosquito plant, and more.  These plants were amazing to grow in the garden to help reduce bugs, and I never had a prettier garden thanks to him.  He taught me to mulch the whole garden with newspaper and grass clippings.  They helped keep the soil moist in the summer, reduce weeds, and as they bio degraded, the soil was enriched with lots of nutrients.

A few years later, I moved to our first farm in Indiana and had a bigger garden.   Soon I moved to a bigger farm, and built a bigger garden, and lots of flower and herb beds and a small orchard.  My husband also planted an acre of sweet corn and pumpkins for us to sell.   He planted five acres of alfalfa orchard grass hay and it provided us with four cuttings a year.  Our cattle used the rest of the acreage, though we also harvested grass hay off the cattle pasture too.  We were surrounded by 400 acres of highly productive farm ground owned by a neighbor.  Indiana has a lot of rainfall and a lot of top soil.  We often seen our neighbor’s field corn get eight to ten feet tall with huge yields per acre.  It was just a good place to farm and raise produce.

During this time I also spent a lot of time with Amish women in their beautiful gardens and learned so much.  I was able to hire an Amish helper named Sarah, to help me with my garden chores as I was producing enough for our family and plenty to sell.  With my Sarah’s assistance, we harvested many bushels of produce, canned, froze, dried, and so on, as we worked together to put up the harvest before it could spoil.  She worked like lightning.  I will always treasure those years we spent together working the garden and the harvest together.

My last years of gardening in Indiana, became a year around project and I had spent many hours in that same garden for 8 years.  It was a labor of love in building up the soil with composted leaves and grass clippings, composted cow & horse manure,  ashes from the fireplace, and composted hay.  The garden was rich and full of life.  It must have had over a foot deep of rich soil.  It grew the best potatoes, and squash and sweet corn.  It produced plentiful carrots, radishes, beets, onions, peppers, herbs, and tomatoes.  It was a great garden spot!

Our Current Garden

I have missed my garden since moving to North Carolina.  And I have been faced with gardening challenges I have not had to face before.  The first year here we rented a house from February to May, then moved back to Indiana for June, July, and part of August, then back to North Carolina the end of August.  And I was pregnant with our 5th child.  Whew!  In August, we rented a house and were not able to use the yard, so the following spring I bought a few planter boxes to put on the patio.  The next year we were finally living in our own house in North Carolina, but realizing we were dealing with a very hard red clay, difficult to get grass to grow and very difficult to get a garden to grow.  Also dealing with much less rainfall in NC compared to IN, and the entire south was in a major drought that has lasted for several years.  So there is a huge learning curve, as I adjust to this new environment with new challenges, despite our past garden success.  It is like learning from ground zero all over again.  As we were having trouble with the yard, we decide to begin our garden with two raised beds, and then build on each year as we could afford to expand.

Our current garden consists of two raised beds that are 4 feet x 8 feet, two raised beds that are 2 feet x 4 feet, and four planter boxes that are 1 foot x 4 feet.  When we are able, we plan to expand our raised beds, and get a tiller and make a large garden bed too.  We have lived in this house for 1 1/2 year and we are making progress on the yard and garden one small step at a time.

So we are starting our second summer with our raised garden beds, and our third year with our smaller planter boxes.  The first step this spring was to weed all the boxes.  This seemed like a huge task, as everything had to be pulled by hand.  When we had large garden beds, it is easy to run a tiller or weeder or hoe over everything.  But, in small raised beds and planter boxes, there is no room for these tools and the work is mostly done by hand.

If you would like to read another “weeding” story about our planter boxes, please see the link here.

We saved some of our weeds for a science experiment you can read about here.

The raised beds are 8 feet x 4 feet.  They are divided in half.  Each time we finished weeding a 4 x 4 section, we added in some additional top soil and peat moss to raise the dirt level back up.  Peat moss is very helpful in keeping the soil most, but not too moist.  It helps slow down some of the water loss in the summer too.

These bags of top soil cost $1 for 40lbs at the local home improvement store.  We added one bag on for each 4 x 4 section.   The organic peat moss was $11 for 3 cubic feet. We used this also in all the planter boxes too.  So we had about $20 dollars invested in topping off all the garden beds and planter boxes this spring.

This was a great family project.  Dad helped us too when he got home from work.

After the peat moss and top soil were added to the boxes, the children mixed them all together.  This was a great sensory experience.  The dirt and peat moss had a fresh smell and it was cool to the touch.

My daughter pretended she was mixing up ingredients for a chocolate cake.  She loves to stir.

Then the children worked together to plant the beds.  They started with the small raised beds.

Working carefully so as not to disturb the roots, they put each tender plant into the soil.  This was a good opportunity to see how the whole plant lives above and below the soil level.

They made some patterns with flower colors, and varieties too.

The 2 x 4 garden beds were filled with petunias, snap dragons, and sweet potatoes.  These will look lovely in the coming months and draw bees, butterflies, and humming birds to pollinate our garden.  Then in the fall we will harvest the sweet potatoes.

The 1 x 4 planter boxes were weeded and filled with rosemary, chives, oregano, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, bee balm, sweet mint,  yarrow, and more herbs.  I love growing herbs for special teas, cooking, and medicinal purposes.   The boxes were also planted with lettuce, and pansies and other flowers.  One planter is full of strawberries too.

To get a jump start on the growing season, and hopefully beat some of the garden pests, I decided to go with started plants this year.  In the past, I grew our garden from both seeds, and plants I started.  We also bought started tomatoes at the local Amish greenhouse and usually planted about 35 to 50 of these each year.    But this time, being pregnant and feeling like I need to simplify and use the resources available to me, I went with started plants from Lowes.  I have some seeds leftover from last year, and I will plant those in the next week or two.

I saved seed to from a few plants from last year’s garden too, including zenias, cucumbers, and pumpkin.  So I am looking forward to planting these with the children and seeing these seeds germinate and replicate the plants the children and I tended last year.  This will be a good hands on lesson to tie together how produce reproduces year after year.

We filled the raised bed gardens with cabbage, red onions, sweet white onions, sweet yellow onions, cucumbers, summer squash, bell peppers, jalapenio peppers, spinach, lettuce, two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and two non-heirloom varieties, dill, cilantro, sage, and a few things I think I am forgetting.  There was also some volunteer cucumber plants starting to grow from seed left over in the bed from last year and a lovely kale that had over wintered and is now blooming too.

I hope to plant some white potatoes yet this spring too.   I found potato grow bags at a gardeners store and hope to purchase some yet for this growing season.  I have tried methods of growing potatoes in rows in the garden (my favorite way, but you need lots of space which I don’t have just yet), in old tires, flower beds, and even a five gallon bucket before.  Potatoes are just fun to grow, and delicious to eat.   I love harvesting potatoes with my children.  If we don’t get them this spring, then there is always next year.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing with you our gardening learning adventure.  We are currently learning about soil and water PH  and doing lots of experiments we will share with you soon.  We also have started plants indoors in the window for several experiments too.  So stay tuned for lots more gardening science stories.

Before we were through, we made sure to water all the plants with a gentle mist from our sprinkler.  I think getting wet was the funniest part of the whole day.   Like eating a delicious desert and sharing a good story at the end of a satisfying meal.  The “work” was through and it was time to get silly.

The children loved playing in the homemade “rain”.

In addition to their plants, the children were soaked from head to toe.

How do you teach your children about gardening, growing food, growing flowers, etc.?  Be sure to share your stories with us in the comment section below.    Thank you.

This post will be linked to:
The Garden Challenge
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards

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Garden Weed Science

We have been doing lots of different scientific garden investigations as part of our garden unit.

Today is all about observing weeds growing in our planter boxes.

This is a fun hands on opportunity to teach several plant science concepts.

We pulled two types of weeds from the planter boxes.   We saved some for a science experiment, a clump of grass and a broad leaf weed, I assumed was a young dandelion, but I did not check to make sure.  I do wish I had set out a book with pictures for the children to identify this weed.  But I forgot.

We set these weeds out on a table outside for further investigating after our weeding project was through.  If you would like to read about our weeding project, read the article posted here.

We discussed how grass in a yard is not considered a weed.  But grass in our garden is a weed.  A weed is a plant we don’t want to grow in our garden.  It competes with our other plants for nutrients, water, space, and sunshine.  So we remove weeds from the garden.

We soaked the smaller broad leaf weed in a glass of water.

Then laid the plant on a paper plate to dry a little in the sun.

Once some of the water dried from the root, we could see there was one long thick central root, with lots of small hairlike roots coming from it.

This root system was very different from the roots on the clump of grass.

Next we put the clump of grass into a bowl.  We tried to shake off as much dirt from the roots as possible.

But the dirt still clung inside the root tangle.  The roots provided a net for the dirt, and it was very hard to pull any more out.

Next, we rinsed the roots in water to remove the rest of the dirt.

This revealed a whole bunch of roots we could not see before.

After rinsing the dirt off, we took a closer look at the roots.  They were like thick hair.  Soon the children realized there was more than one grass plant in this clump.  The oldest took his tools and carefully began to separate each system of roots and plants.

He separated out 11 different grass plants with their own set of roots.  Each root system was made up of lots of long, thin roots that joined at the base of the plant, but were totally separate from each other.

He also cut a stem of grass open to see what was inside.  He described what he found inside as a thick juice, and the stem was kind of like a hollow straw.

We talked about how this juice was from water and minerals in the soil, taken up by the roots, then moves up through the stem to feed the plant.  Kind of how people drink through a straw to drink up a milk shake.  The plant is using the stem to drink up nutrition (minerals) and water.

This was a great garden investigation today.

The children learned a great deal about what weeds are, what roots look like, and their function.  They were able pull the weeds from the soil with the whole plant in tact.  Then they were able to compare the root systems from two different plants.  Finally they observed the evidence of liquid inside the plant that showed them that the roots draw in water and nutrients from the soil for the plant to live.

How do you teach your kids about weeds, plants, and roots?  Leave us a comment.  Thanks.

This post will be linked up with
The Garden Challenge
No Time For Flash  Cards
Science Sunday

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Garden Challenge Weeding Planter Boxes

Today’s garden activities included weeding this planter box, and learning about two types of plants.

In the process of today’s activities, the children are also learning about annual and perennial plants.

Annual plants last for one year or one growing season.

Perennial plants return year after year.

I asked the children to come and see what lived in this box.   They looked at each plant growing in the box.

I told them that one of plants in the box was supposed to be there and one was not.  We were going to remove the one that did not belong.

Can you find the treasure hidden amongst the grass?

They looked all around, pushing the grass to the side.  Finally they found the plants that belonged.

We quickly got to work pulling out the unwanted clumps of grass from the planter box.  Dad had seeded the yard last fall, and some of his grass seed sprayed into the planter boxes.  It grew very nicely in there over winter and this spring, but it was just about to choke out the plants that were supposed to be in the box.  So its stay was not welcome anymore.

Did you figure out the perinial plants that belonged yet?  It is strawberries.

Three years ago, we started strawberries in this box.  We rented a house and we were not supposed to touch the yard.  We missed our garden from the farm so much.  So we got these planter boxes and set them on the patio.  We grew our garden in four boxes that year.

We planted a mixture of annuals and perennial.  We had combinations of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
We had one box full of strawberries and flowers.  One full of herbs and sweet potatoes.  One with tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers.  And the last one had lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs, and flowers.

Our garden boxes that year mostly provided us with fresh salads, culinary herbs for cooking and making fresh herb teas, gifts for neighbors, and lots of fun to care for them as we lived in a tiny little house after having just left our farm.  These boxes provided a way for us to get our hands dirty so to speak.

A year later we bought a home with a big yard and now can garden as much as we want.  But these boxes stand as a reminder of the year we made a planter box garden.  Some of the plants still return three years later, such as these strawberries.  There is also one with yarrow and some other herbs that return.  These plants that return year after year are perennials.

It is so much fun for the children to discover the world around them.  Here my eight year old son is pulling the weeds from around the strawberry plants.

We saved some of the weeds we pulled from the boxes for a science experiment.  We examined the plants, shook off the excess soil from the roots, rinsed the roots in water, and took a close look at them.  Our science experiment using these weeds will be posted here.

We will show you how the finished boxes look in a story posted here.

After weeding, we turned the dirt in the boxes.  Next we topped off the existing soil with a little more dirt.  Then we re-planted several of the boxes with more annuals and perennials.  They look beautiful and the children are so pleased with their accomplishments.

One box remained for strawberries and flowers.  Two boxes are full of herbs, lettuce, and flowers.  And one other box is full of flowers.   These will be lovely all summer long.  The box in the bottom of the picture is full of pansy’s planted by my three year old daughter.  She was so proud of “her” box.  The box that is just above the bottom box has a large yarrow plant that you can see on one side in this picture.  It is now three years old and looks lovely.

Do you have any plants that return each year?  What ways have you taught your kids about annual plants and perennial plants?   Please leave us a comment.  Thanks.

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
The Garden Challenge
The Handbook Of Nature Study
We Play

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Garden Challenge and Preschool Printables

Have you wanted a fun way to teach Gardening to your kids?  Maybe you would like to learn more about it yourself?  Come along and join us on a garden adventure to learn about how to grow a garden.

HSV Garden Challenge

You might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to live on a farm to have a garden.    There are lots of places we can grow things.  You can have a garden right on your window sill.  If you only have a patio or balcony, you can grow garden plants right in flower pots.  If you have a small yard, you can grow a few plants in a spot out in the open, or choose a more hidden location near a building.  If you really have a knack and desire for gardening though, you can really get creative and grow plants all over the place.  I have seen folks grow cucumbers around their mailbox even!

If you don’t have room for a garden, a fun thing to do with your kids is to join a CSA and visit the farm and see how the produce is grown and harvested.  Usually a CSA will have a box of produce for you to pick up every week of the growing season.  This would be great exposure for the children to see how the garden changes and what it produces as the season goes along, not to mention the delicious produce you will have to use for the week.  If you would like to know more about CSA’s in your local area, check the Local Harvest website at
http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

I love to garden!  For many years, (most of them before the past five years) my life revolved around my gardens.  From planning in the winter, to prepping, planting, weeding, and caring during the spring and early summer to bountiful harvests in the summer and fall.  Top it off with canning, dehydrating, growing in a hoop house or on the window sill in winter, sprouting, and gift giving, and your gardening can be year around pleasure.

But moving away from my farm, renting a house where the yard was off limits (no kidding you could use the house but the “association” owns the yard, that was a bad choice for a country girl like me to live) , and gardening while pregnant, and with toddlers, then buying a house where the yard is pure red clay and doesn’t want to grow anything green, I have been faced with a wide range of challenges.

Today’s post is about including my kids in planning a garden and learning about gardens for this year’s growing season.  My childrens ages are 2, 3, 6, 8, and 10.  We will be reading books, reviewing some videos, using seed catalogs, preparing our garden plans, prepping our garden boxes, planting, tending and watering, and hopefully harvesting something this year.

In addition to the above mentioned activities, we have lots of other activities planned.

For my younger children, we will also do some fun preschool type activities.  We plan to make a garden
activity bin, printables, role playing, and more.

For my older children, we will apply some hands on science in this learning adventure.   I will post
website links for you in upcoming articles as they are posted.   We have a garden adventure science kit
too that helps point out specific science lessons related to gardening.  Most of these you will be able to
repeat yourself with out the science kit.  So stay tuned and we will show you step by step what we are
doing.

Here are just a few of the supplies I have been gathering up that we will be using.

We are joining up with a fun learning adventure at the Homeschool Village.  Lots of families will be linking up once a month to share what they have been doing and learning during the month that relates to gardens.   This challenge will run from March through July.

Please join us too!  The garden challenge is open to everyone.  No garden necessary!  You can grow in a container on the window sill if need by.  Don’t worry about it.   The point is to have fun learning something knew about growing things.  What better way to get your kids involved in some fun learning adventures and possibly grow something yummy to enjoy in the process.

Find all the details about the Garden Challenge and the link ups at the Homeschool Village website:

http://www.thehomeschoolvillage.com/2011/03/hsv-garden-challenge-qa.html

Want some fun printables to do with your tots, prek, and kindergarten learners with a garden theme?

Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations has some wonderful free printables, and a garden learning unit, that go along with this learning adventure just perfectly!  Click here for the printables:

Garden Preschool Printables Pack

Itsy Bitsy Learners has also made a Printable Garden Pack.

We acquired these planting boxes to sit on top of our red clay yard.  The yard is so hard, it doesn’t even want to grow grass, though a few patches have managed to grow.  The children had fun helping me follow the directions to assemble our boxes.  We got some in black, and some in green that can hold a netting or cloth over the top if needed.

 
 

Then we added our top soil, sand, compost, and lime to fill our boxes with a growing medium, that hopefully is better suited than our red clay for growing a garden.

Stay tuned for more gardening adventures with Weiser Academy!!!


This post will be linked up at
Science Sunday
Link and Learn
We Play
Homeschool Village
 

 

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Snow Science The Rate Of Snow Melt


HOW FAST DOES SNOW MELT?

For this experiment our second and fourth graders measured the rate of snow melting in jars, inside our house that was 67 degrees fahrenheit.

Have the children make a hypothesis about how fast snow melts inside your house, how fast it melts if it has salt mixed in, how fast it melts with water mixed in. 

Conduct an experiment to test their theory/hypothesis.

You will need three clean quart jars.
Snow.
Measuring Cup.
Tablespoon.
Sea Salt.
Thermomotor.
Measuring Stick.
Watch to keep time.
Towel.
Pencil and paper to record your observations.  I made a printout for this experiment for the children to fill in.



Collect your snow and bring it inside.



It also helps to have some great assistants!



Fill your jars with snow.



Mark or label your jars with numbers 1, 2, and 3.

Measure the height of the snow in each jar.  Be sure they are identical to start your experiment.



Record your measurements.

Take the temperature of each jar of snow. 

Record your measurements.

Now you are ready to add the other ingredients.

Into jar 1, add 3 tablespoons of salt.
Into jar 2 add 1/4 cup water.
Put nothing into jar 3, as it is your control.



Continue to take measurements every 30 minutes for the next four hours.  Some surprising temperature readings were 7 and 3 degrees below zero.  I did not expect the snow to be that cold.   (Ok, the waiting part is boring to wait for the clock to change over each time.  Perhaps a game of checkers will distract the mind from the torture.)



Each time you will remeasure the height of the snow, the height of the water or melted snow rising in the bottom of your jars, and take the snow’s temperature for each jar.  Record the time of each measurement.



Finally write out your observations and conclusion to your experiment.



We found the snow with the salt melted the fastest.  The snow in the control melted the next fastest.  But the snow that had the water added melted the slowest.  The water seemed to keep the temperature colder and slightly protected the snow from melting as quick as the other jars.

There was still a small bit, maybe a teaspoon, of ice in the cold water in each jar the following morning.   The cold water continued to help insulate it and keep it from melting completely for several hours.



This post will be linked up at

Science Sunday

Elementary Roundup




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Hot Springs North Carolina


Family Outing to Hot Springs North Carolina.

It was another beautiful day on January 30th, 2011.  The weather warmed to 69 degrees in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the sun shown brightly.  We spent the day driving around Hendersonville, NC then Fairview, North Carolina, then Asheville, North Carolina, and then a one hour trip from Asheville up to Hot Springs, North Carolina. 



View Larger Map


We meandered through lots of mountains and it was truly a beautiful day.  The tip tops of many of the mountains were covered in snow.  But the lower elevations were very clear, with only a few patches of snow remaining on some of the northern slopes.

Hot Springs North Carolina sits at approximately 1334 feet elevation in a low lying river bed between the mountains.  Several surrounding mountains rise above 4,000 feet elevation.   If you would like to read more about some of the Appalacian Trail near Hot Springs, and hiking information read here .

Here is a beautiful mountain stream we stopped at.



Two things that amaze me about mountain streams and mountain river water.  It is always freezing cold.  And it is always crystal clear.



We found this stream that was damned up and then went under buildings before joining the Laurel river.



I am not sure why they didn’t build in another location.  But they didn’t, instead they built right ontop of this lovely stream that empties into the Laurel river.



It is strange that they would want to build right on top of it.



The majority of driving from Asheville to Hot Springs is fairly easy going.  Not to many switch backs.  There are a few steep grades, but not to many.  I personally do not like some of the mountain driving.  Up and down and round and round tends to make me and several of my children car sick.  I am glad my husband did the driving on this trip, as he does for most of our family outings.

This is one of the better trips to take.  Over all, it is a pleasant drive.



There is one general section of very steep grade, so take that section slow. 



Coming down out of the mountains from the south east, this is the first sight you see of Hot Springs, NC.  It is the French Broad River.

The signs say the area was settled around the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.



Just as you get into town, there is a wonderful train bridge set up for foot traffic.



The bridge was built for train traffic in 1910.  It was replaced by a newer bridge that is still used.  The current tracks sit about 20 feet or so from the old bridge.



The children are able to see a great deal of the engineering of this bridge.  The floor of the bridge is wood.  The sides and frame is steel.



The Spring Creek flows underneath.  There is a strong smell of sulfur in the air.



On the bridge, we met another family with four children.  I asked if they were local and she said yes.  I asked where the hot springs were as we had come to see them.  She seemed surprised by my question and said the hot springs were owned by the spa on the other side of the tracks.  They had built hot tubs around them and you couldn’t use them without paying for the visit and needed to make an appointment.  Wow, was I disappointed to hear that.  She said we could get near the spa by parking near the river, but we wouldn’t be able to see the hot springs without reservations at the spa.

So on her suggestion, we took the children to the river at Hot Springs instead of the “spa”. 



This is the French Broad Rive.  This beautiful river is wide and shallow and it criss crosses its way through the Blue Ridge mountains of North Caroina and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.   The water was icy cold and crystal clear.





The waters splashed against the shore in waves.  The waves just seemed to roll right up to you.  This was exciting.



We found lots of sea shells, minnows, beautiful rocks, a crawfish or crawdad skeleton, and many more treasures as those waves would roll in and out along the shoreline.







On this mountain, above the river, and not far from the hot springs, I found strange rock formations that were not on the other mountains.  Lots of rocks seem to rise high and twist out of the ground, spiral like on this mountain.   In the photo they kind of look like tree trunks, but really they are spiral shaped colums of rocks.  One of the locals told us that you can follow a trail to “lovers leap” on the side of this mountain.  You can read more about “lovers leap” at the hiking link mentioned above.  There are also several campgrounds all around the bottom and through out the area.



Lots of neat discoveries……..



Leftover seed pods…



Rocks that resemble eggs, rocks that are smooth and marbled, and more seed pods.  The seed pods looked like small canoes.  My son wanted to bring a few home to build a diorama.



More odd rock formations were near the hot springs spa.  These clusters of rocks seem to rise out of the ground, in an upward push from the middle.  The middle makes a deep circle, like a crater from a volcano.  Trees were growing on top of some of the rocks.



We stopped in a small local store to use the bathroom and get a snack before leaving town.  They had some brochures from the Hot Springs Spa and I picked one up to read.  Tickets range in price from $12 to $40 per hour during the day and $30 to $50 during the evening.  They also had several additional fees ranging from $40 upto $115 if you want a message or other spa treatments to go along with your dip in the hot springs.  They also have overnight accomodations ranging in price from $145 to $200 for a room or from $45 up to $200 for camping or house rentals.  The hot spring mineral water has an average temperature of 102 degrees farenheit.  The brochure says you will feel rejuvinated after 1 hour by the setting and the water.

We journied home at sunset.  The sun was going down behind the mountains at around 5pm.  Mountains and mountains, in every direction, as far as they eye can see.



We will go back and do the “spa” things and see the hot springs someday. Lord willing.  

It seems sad that someone (the spa) has taken over and owns such a special natural piece of the world, and this amazing creation is not able to be shared freely by all.  So many families with kids obviously do not get to enjoy seeing the springs because of how they require reservations through the spa.  It would be very expensive for our family of seven, to get to do that.  

But even without seeing the hot springs, today was fun and filled with lots of discoveries, and wonderful family memories.






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Snow Sensory Discovery Bin


We have been observing our winter weather and landscape here in mountains of North Carolina.  Though most of our observations have been outside, our recent snow fall has provided us with some fun indoor winter sensory activities.

Just look at those faces.  Can’t you just feel their anticipation?
 


They are so excited that we are building this winter snow bin. 

It is a sensory discovery bin filled with props for a winter wonderland adventure on top, and hidden treasures to find down below. 

How COOL!   (pun intended)

I was laying in bed last night thinking about how I could build the kids a winter discovery bin with cotton balls and such, and decided why don’t I just bring the snow into the house.  There is so much we can study and learn from our snow “school work”. 

Yeah, its a little cold on the fingers, but again, we are talking about sensory folks.  Snow = cold, wet, messy, very messy.  And did I mention cold?  But not too cold, as my daughter enjoyed playing in this snow bin in her summer shorts!

So I searched the toys and crafts and dumped out a deep storage bin and here is what I came up with.

Into a plastic bin/box we put glass square and round beads/rocks in shades of blue, aqua, and clear.  This kind of represented frozen water iceberg under the snow.   Then we added some plastic snow men, penguins, bears, deer, plastic rocks, etc.   Disclaimer: The stuffed animals were not harmed during the filming of this and were not added to the bin.  Hee Hee Hee Haw!!!!



On top of this we added lots of snow.  Then made a winter scene with some plastic pine trees, deer, plastic rocks and real rocks, plastic bushes, snowmen, penguins, and a hunter.

Didn’t my 2nd grader do an awesome job helping set this up?  He is a great assistant!



On the kitchen floor, we laid out a blanket and set the snow bin on it.   Here the kids could play in their winter wonderland with all the props, and I didn’t have to worry about the mess.

Then we created a story to enjoy our winter scene.  They imagined “the deer were looking for something to eat, when a hunter came along and found them in the woods.  The deer climbed the rocks and up the mountain to safety behind a high pine tree way up on a cliff.  Then the hunter went looking for more animals and came upon a great big mammoth.  But he knew not to kill the mammoth, so he let him go.  The hunter was bored, and made a snowman, and then sat down and ate some snow soup with his animal friends.”



After their fun on the first level they were ready to go to work hunting for buried treasures in the iceberg.   (Yeah, I know, we should have buried the mammoth in the melting iceberg for a discussion on fossils, extinction, and global warming, but he has some electronic gizmo inside and we couldn’t let him get very wet.  Plus that is more of a discussion for the older kids.  So the mammoth stayed dry and alive on top of the snow).
 


I gave them some measuring scoops, recycled plastic fruit cups, and a large bowl,  and they went to work.



If you could call it work.  They laughed and giggled all the way through until the last object was found.



When they were done with their sensory bin, the older boys wanted to play in it too.  Some activities with them included more imaginative play, but also measuring and counting scoops of snow and talking about compaction, melting, temperature, and more.  

So we put in more snow and animals and recreated the hunting scene for them.  This time the deer wasn’t so lucky to escape the wise hunter who had learned from his earlier mistakes.  He ate dinner that night and went to bed with a full stomache.  Made jerky with the leftovers.  Hee Hee Hee Haw!  Snort!  Ha ha ha!  Ok sorry about that, but kids are just so funny! 

The kids all had a really good time.



Finally, our kindergartner took advantage of the used, melting, sloshy snow bin, and built a snowman.



He packed the melting snow into snow balls, and used broken crayons for the eyes and nose.  He put craft sticks in for the arms and stuck on some yellow buttons.   He used the hunters hat for the snowman’s hat.  He said the hunter had forgot his hat when he took off chasing the deer.    

When he was done playing with it, he stuck the snowman outside on the front porch.  It stayed frozen just like the day he made it for three days.  He enjoyed checking on it to see how long it took to melt.

He did a great job!



Clean up was much easier than I thought.  The blanket went into the dryer for a few minutes.  The toys in the bowl, and the bin, dried on a towel for a little bit before being put away for next time. 

Easy, fun, learning adventure, and free!

How are your kids exploring the winter?  Do your kids enjoy using sensory and discovery bins?  Please leave us a comment below and share what you are working on with your kids.


This post will be linked up with
 
ABC 123

No Time For Flash Cards

Tot School

Preschool and 5K too

Play Academy

We Play

Best Toys For Toddlers

RedTedArt


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Snow Day

We had a winter storm two nights ago.  Woke up that morning to 10 inches of snow on the ground.  This is our second big snow storm of the season.  The last snow was on Christmas Day.  Since then, we have had some really nice weather.  The snow was all gone between these two storms. 



We live near Hendersonville, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is beautiful here year around.  But, everything closes down due to the snow.  Curvy, narrow, mountain roads are not safe to travel on during these storms.  Elevations can change by a thousand feet quickly in a short distance on these roads.  Where we are at, it is about 2500 feet elevation.  But all around us it goes from 1,000 feet to 4,000 feet in any direction. 

My husband got up early and shoveled the sidewalk and cleared off his personal truck.  It has four wheel drive.  The company work truck, which he normally drives to work, is only a two wheel drive. 

He started his truck 15 minutes before leaving to be sure it was warmed up.  As he was headed out the door, my husband’s work called, and said they weren’t working due to the weather.  They are a construction company, and when the weather is this bad, it brings everything to a stand still.   But he had lots to do, and decided to take the four wheel drive truck in to the office anyway, and get some paperwork done.  He is managing seven projects right now, and the paperwork can build up fast.   Later he told me he was glad he went in, and between the snow holding up construction, and a quiet office, he was able to get everything done.

Driving his own truck to work was also a good excuse to get to play in the snow, big boy style, with the four wheel drive.

But my van isn’t so easy to get around and the kids and I stayed put.  My van seemed to almost disappear in the snow.



My boys couldn’t wait to get outside and shovel some snow into a tall pile. They said they were building a snow fort.  This sure was handy to clear the driveway.  This was their idea, I came outside to find them busy (clearing the driveway) building their snow fort.

They are in the 4th grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten.  This was good practice for working together to accomplish a goal.  It was good motor practice too.  Young boys enjoy using their muscles and being active.  Thankfully, they had good eye hand coordination and as they flung the snow off the shovel, no one was hit.  But instead, they were concientous of each other and stuck to their plan to build this great monument of snow.



They had big ambitions and built it about 3 feet deep, 5 feet wide, and 15 feet long before they were to tired to do more.  They cleared the whole driveway.  This was at 9am.  Where does their “get up and go” come from?  I still hadn’t had my mocha latte yet.  Whew!



They tried snow balls, but the snow wouldn’t pack.  They had hoped to sled down the hill, but the snow was to powdery and they sank.



However, it was perfect for making snow angels.



After a couple of hours of play, everyone was frozen and came inside for hot chocolate, and warmed up in blankets on the couch.

When Dad came back home, it was time to go back out in the snow and play some more.  It had continued to snow all day, and now it was a wet snow coming down and that packed even better.



Daddy had his own ideas about sledding.  The powdery snow wasn’t going to spoil his fun, no way!  So he commenced to sled “Daddy Style.” 

A sled, a rope, and a lawnmower!



Have you ever seen Tim The Tool Man Taylor from the 1990’s sitcom?  He always had to UP Size everything, bigger drill, bigger boards, bigger nails, more power, bigger motor in the washing machine (bigger mess), etc.  Anyway, my husband and”Tim” have a few things in common, bigger is better.  He is a big kid himself. 



And in the kids eyes, he is a true HERO who saved the day!



What could be better? 

Flying on the sled, with dad at the throttle, and having fun with your family! 

Priceless.



Now this isn’t the first time he has pulled someone behind a moving vehical.  Once, when we were dating, I rode with him and his friends as they pulled each other behind a vehicle on the ice in Kansas.  They rode trash can lids as sleds, and hung onto a rope as they pulled each other across frozen ice and snow covered roads behind a truck.  (Disclaimer: Kids don’t try this at home, injury can occur).

Well, I too did some silly things in the snow as a kid.  One time, wearing house slippers, several friends and I took turns in a similar way.  We would “ski” in house slippers behind a four-wheeler going down the frozen road.  We had lots of fun, and got a few bruises when we would crash.  But still, lots of fun. 

You just don’t think about anything, but having fun, when it is a snow day. 


How did you and your family spend the winter’s SNOWY DAYS ?







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Winter Walk


I have a playful, but serious fellow in Kindergarten, and today he is on the hunt for something special. 

Things seem familiar, yet very different today.  He decided to investigate further.

A winter walk reveals a frozen world of new discoveries.




Where is all the color?  When he woke this morning, everything had turned white under 10 inches of soft snow. 

He listens as the snow crunches under his feet.  This sound is different than walking on grass through the yard.   Though the snow feels light, his boots feel heavy as he walks.

With little sister, who is in tot school, close behind, this wintery world is an interesting place.



He shows his sister the hard seed pods he found.  Being 3 years old, she is just amazed at this new landscape as he is. 



Though they have seen their surroundings daily, today in its new layers of white, it is even more fascinating.

As they walked through the yard and into neighboring lots, they found so many discoveries.

Here is a tree by the driveway, with little upside down seed heads near the trunk.  The snow has collected in the branches.



Here was a beautiful sight.  Layers upon layers of snow covered branches in a row of trees.



Snow balls, created by nature. 
Queen Anne’s Lace capturing all the snow it can hold. 
Snow ball fight anyone?  Though they are small, there are thousands of them in this field.  Surely in a battle, this little army would win.  Amazing.



Tall grass bending, and weighted down, with a coat of snow.



Bending, yet amazingly strong, and still able somehow to stand.



Amazing little snow stars collected on tiny flower heads.



The garden boxes are sleeping under a blanket of snow too.



Zinnia seed heads on top of stems, still standing straight and tall.  They are not yet ready to release their bounty of seeds they have kept tightly clutched since fall.  Just a few months ago, they displayed amazing colors.



Rose hips on a wild rose bush.  This is welcome food for the hungry birds, rabbits, and other wildlife that pass by here everyday.



Across the road, the tall trees look like feathers, as the snow softens their angles.



Next to the house, tender green grass is visible and was protected from the snow, but exposed to the cold.  But even still, in January, its greenness remains.



We looked for animal tracks, but didn’t discover any yet this morning.  Even the birds seemed to be hiding, quietly, somewhere out of sight. 

Everything is adjusting to this new change in our landscape, a brand new world, different yet familiar. 

I wonder what they will discover next?



What have your kids been discovering during the winter season?



This post will be linked up at

Tot Tuesdays

Handbook of Nature Study

ABC and 123

Childhood 101

Preschool Corner & 5k too



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