Thursday, April 28, 2011


The weather outside has been frightful! COLD! We have been cozy inside, busily crafting and making, drinking warm lemonade, baking things. Trying to keep warm and energize ourselves even in the face of dark wet days and freezing temps.

I am behind on garden planting because it has been so freakishly cold. I broke down and transplanted out a few flats that just couldn't stay in their small trays any longer. That cleared more lighting space for some extra flats of greens. If it is going to be this cold outside, then I am going to garden INside.

We have several trays of microgreens and lettuces about ready to harvest. They have grown under the grow lights for a few weeks. This includes mixes of spinach, arugula, chard, mustard, endive, mizuna, mache, radicchio, red leaf, beets, radish and a few other extras. They are fantastic tossed with fresh sprouts and a home made ginger sesame dressing. YUM.

I also have many trays of things I started which I usually direct sow but with the temps am holding off on (I tried some things, but no germination). If I get a few weeks inside I can have a head start when it finally warms up!

The tomatoes and peppers are getting bigger and today I potted them up - soon they will be window sitters too and make way for cucumber, melon and squash flats.

Trays of herbs are growing - and 30 or so seedlings from the trays that couldn't go outside had a change of plans and have now been potted and reside on my windowsills, to live until the sunshine and warmth come. It is nice to have fresh herbs - they are not huge yet, but big enough to snip leaves for dinner.

I plan to keep starting trays of greens every week. If predictions are right we will have an unusually cold May too - and I will have fresh herbs and home grown salads anyway. So there, spring. Or whatever you call yourself (insert loud raspberry).


Sunday, April 24, 2011

exploration baskets.

The boys found some goodies in their baskets today that drove us to the local pond. Walking sticks, nets, magnifying glasses, nature notebooks, guide books, sunprint paper and more were tucked into baskets to celebrate getting OUTSIDE again this spring.

We have all been a bit under the weather, but wanted to get some sunshine and fresh air after many days of cold and wet.

We wandered where the boys could test their new walking sticks as well as practice cast and use their new nets on ... frogs? Fish? Nets are fun for exploring and observation, before letting things go.

There is not much green around here with our really late spring ... trees are mostly bare, fields are brown, and the only green is the bit of grass. So being right by the water was nice. Tufts of neon green and the ridiculously loud singing of the frogs! Woo hoo!

The boys found their favorite spot to cast and hang out. Of course it is the steepest spot of the whole pond area, and within minutes of me taking these photos,

in fact in about 1.3 seconds from here, A slid down the gravel hill while trying to get some algae in his net and SPLASH!!!!! Brrrrrrrrr!!! A doesn't much like wearing cold soaked algae coated shoes (I had extra clothes so he could change out of soaked slimy pants, but not shoes), so we headed home after a bit. ;)

We have many more pond adventures to come, I'm sure! We have some more cold and rainy days heading our way, but we are happy after having some sunshine. And we have have a few baskets of goodies when the sun returns.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

what a difference a year makes.

The photo above is from April 19, 2010.

The photo above is April 19, 2011.



Need I say more?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


You might have noticed we like games. Card games, board games, dice games, math games, strategy games, role playing games. We spend time every week at the table as a family with something happening. One of the games A got for his birthday last month is a game called Camp.

It is nice because it has 4 levels of questions/play, so each person can play at their level, from young child (says ages 4 & up) to adult. It is a board game where you move along the squares, but it also has multiple choice questions to answer - all related to nature, environmental issues, etc. A question at level one might be "What is a male deer called?" and the level four "Which of these trees is a gymnosperm?

It even has a little secret decoder to confirm the correct answer (which 6 year olds MUST be in control of at all times). It also has fun fact cards to read aloud when you land on certain spots - like "Nocturnal insects are attracted to light, a response called phototaxis" and "Emus can't walk backwards." (Yep, lots of giggling.)

The board game itself can go quickly, but we usually will play 4 or 5 games at a time. My guys want to keep playing over and over and over just to read the cards! And talk nature facts trash at each other. Of course.

It is nice to find a game that is nature based like this -- my guys have memorized a few of their other games in this vein like the naturalist bingo games and earthopoly which they really enjoyed for a long while. This gives another whole big stack of information and with all the levels I can't see them memorizing the entire set of cards for awhile - and when they do, there is even a booster pack you can get with a new set of questions!

Did you know a group of owls is called a parliament? Or that a chicken can't swallow while it's upside down? Lots of fun!


Monday, April 18, 2011

home weekending.

I think (?) we are in the final stretch of cold, snowy, wet weekends. It is so nice to snuggle up at home together, knowing soon we will be in the intense minute by minute of summer. I even enjoy the snowflakes. The long slow goodbye.

The boys seem to realize this inside-ness is not going to last forever, and busily fill the time with games, projects, crafts, drawing, and everything they can think of. They help in the kitchen, the knead and roll dough, they chop and stir.

They scour books for science projects we can work on together, or pull out costumes and props for shows or story lines. Piles of books on side tables. Displays of the latest LEGO creations. Fleeces and hats and boots still by the front door for bike rides in the alley.

And a few mutant scar-faced bunnies.

Just a little more home weekending. Which is a good thing.

But I'm almost ready.


Sunday, April 17, 2011


It snowed for hours yesterday, froze last night, and snow is coming again tonight. But it doesn't matter. It is April, it is Wisconsin, and it is Spring. Which means that beauty comes with a toughness to endure this weather. It isn't big and flashy yet - that will come - but it is there if you get close and pay attention. And it is glorious.

"April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

(bushes, raspberry shoots, rhubarb, lovage, lilacs)


Friday, April 15, 2011

indoor fun.

We were planning on going to watch a high school age robotics competition at UW Madison today - but the weather was just blech. Really really cold, raining, wind advisory windy. None of us really felt like walking through all of that from parking garage to far away buildings. So, we had a family vote - and after lunch we hit the road for some indoor fun instead. Mini Golf!

We had the place practically all to ourselves (spring break around here is next week). It is a great spot - with water features & traps, boats, slides, blacklights, basketball, stairs, ramps, tunnels -- all in a Madison theme.

We played golf followed by some skeeball and air hockey. We then grabbed a snack and sat at the window in the cafe to watch the crazy adults who were trying to play mini golf OUTSIDE in 40ยบ weather. In the rain. With 35+ mile per hour winds. Yep. Only in Wisconsin.

Even Brice had some sliding action. Woo hoo! Perfect for a dark cold Friday.

Happy weekending everyone!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

eggheads, revisited.

There are some 'traditions' the boys leave behind, growing out of without a single glance. And then they sometimes surprise me - why haven't we done X yet? The eggheads is one of those things. They made them each spring for years - with wheatgrass - and this year they asked why we were not making eggheads? I had no idea we needed to do that again. So we did!

This year we put a twist on it. They wanted to try something other than wheatgrass, and they liked the name of the "wrinkled crinkled cress".

We pulled the biggest eggshells out of our collection (we save them to crush for the garden). The boys painted them - we used red and blue metallic acrylic paints. They painted faces on them, and then drew over that with a metallic marker.

They spooned a little potting soil in there, added a sprinkling of seeds, and watered.

The first few days we kept the egg tray holding them inside a large baggie - just misting water inside to keep them moist. Once they started to sprout, we took them out and the boys put the tray in a sunny window.

They have been growing steadily. With so little soil and a sunny window they need watering and/or misting really regularly or they wilt (and we add a little kelp fertilizer in with the water every few days), but they grow and grow and look very cute. We'll see how big the cress gets, and if that is enough soil for it to do OK for a while. It will be fun if the 'hair' gets huge and wavy!

I can see why they didn't want to let this one go yet!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

garden markers.

I must admit that at 6 & 8 the boys are not always interested in mom crafts. They LOVE watercolor painting, drawing comics, woodworking, tools, paper airplanes, building things...but 'lets make some garden markers!' Um, not really. So I usually get supplies for things that I know we need, but keep it simple and just ... start. Somebody comes over to help. Somebody picks up the supplies and starts doing it too. Every time.

I needed some garden markers. Not as much for the traditional plants that are very easy to recognize, but for the medicinal herbs that seem to always look like the odd 'weeds' growing thanks to the resident chipmunk burying all the bird seed throughout the beds. So markers keep me from pulling it all until it is big enough to recognize.

My first thoughts are *always* elaborate, but really, it is a garden marker. I found some shaped wooden sticks which had enough room to write on. Perfect. I always have indoor/outdoor acrylic paints. I always want to reach for the neutral colors but remind myself I won't find them once the plants start growing if they are not BRIGHT!!! So we painted bright cheery colors as a base layer.

Once dry, I wrote in perm. metallic marker right on the stick. And then painted over with a coat of water based varnish (test it first on your metallic marker to be sure they are OK together and don't smear). Really easy. Really quick. They look good. The boys helped happily (and giggled HYS-SOP, HYS-SOP, HYS-SOP over and over and over and over!). And they were quick and inexpensive enough that I won't care if I lose a few in the garden this summer!

And of course since the paints were out...the boys were on a roll with their own creations! That involved hiccups and other bodily sounds. ;)