March 31, 2011

The Desktop Apprentice

This is my new favorite homeschool helper. I got it from Staples using my teacher coupons.

I use each side for a different subject. One side has all of my teacher guides for the different levels of math.

Then I have Grammar, Science, and History.

The inside has various supplies and things I usually need in the day (like lotion, chapstick, and ponytail bands).


March 30, 2011

Butterfly Kits Part 2

We are finding that the re-birth of the butterfly isn't exactly a beautiful or clean process. Butterflies pass what is called meconium after they emerge. It's the leftover tissue that they didn't need for their transformation. It looks quite a bit like blood, and was very alarming for boys who've been tending them since caterpillars.

The butterflies drink from either the sliced oranges or the flower that has a mixture of sugar and water dropped onto it.

We still find the process to be awe inspiring and miraculous. After I took these pictures another butterfly emerged. There are 2 chrysalises left. We are waiting with baited breath to see if we actually get 5 healthy butterflies.


March 29, 2011

Sk8ter Bois

♫♪♫♪ He was a skater boi
She said see ya later boi
He wasn't good enough for her
Now he's a superstar
Slammin on his guitar ♫♪♫♪


March 25, 2011

Butterfly Kits

These are a lot of fun. You buy a kit in the store (we bought ours at Lowes) and then order your caterpillars online using the code in the box.

We've been studying biology this year. So I thought this would be a fun lesson in life cycles.


March 24, 2011

Common Gray Treefrog

We had a visitor on our back porch this morning. We were moving the deck furniture around to do school outside. We found this guy on the back of one of the chairs.

We love identifying new visitors (poor unlucky sucker that he is). We went to the Frogs and Toads of NC website. It's my favorite because it also has a link to a sound file to listen to all the frog calls.

We put him in a glass jar (no lid) to be able to study his underside. He really didn't like it.

This helped us identify him. The boys identified him as a tree frog by his feet.

He has a yellow/orange color concealed in the folds of his legs.

We decided he was a Common Gray Tree Frog (which are apparently not so common in NC) We've been listening to the frogs in the evenings and couldn't identify the sound. After seeing this little guy and listening to the audio clip, we are sure that's what we've been hearing. We are also located pretty close to the shaded areas on the map.

When we were done with his initial examination, we set him out in the sun to watch his behavior. He has a really cool pattern that looks like his own foot on his back. Also, I'm pretty sure he's giving us the finger.

The pencil is to help gauge his size.

Also of note: when Jeremiah rubbed his back, he shot urine at him. He is definitely flipping us the bird.


March 23, 2011


Or "the keeping of worms".

I turned the bucket upside down and put the lid (also upside down) on top. I drilled through both. Then I did the same thing with my 2nd bucket, only I used the lid that already had holes as a template. This way all of my holes line up. I reserved the lid to the second bucket as my top cover (no holes).

As I fill the bottom bucket with bedding (paper and cardboard) and food (scraps from my kitchen) my worms will work it all into compost. When they've filled the bucket to the lid, I'll start putting food in the top bucket. The worms will migrate through my holes (that I lined up with the bottom of the bucket) and move into the top.

Then I'll remove my lovely compost from the bottom bucket and put it around my plants. Then what was my top bucket will go to the bottom, and we start all over.

That all works well if I don't manage to kill the worms first.


March 21, 2011

Herb Bed

So about my herb bed. It's a simple child's sandbox. All my kids have outgrown any use for it. So I drilled drain holes into the bottom. After I filled it with soil, sand, and compost, I marked off where I wanted to plant my seeds.

Here is my rough sketch of what I planted:

In the "dump truck" part of the toy, I again drilled holes and filled it with soil. I picked up a rosemary seedling from the garden center. I'm told Rosemary grows to be quite big, so I expect to need to transplant it into a bigger pot in the future. But for now, I think it makes my herb bed pretty.

The pot is going to be some flowers to hopefully attract the good insects to my garden.


Bucket Garden

It's spring! That means putting in my garden. I'm so excited! This year I'm expanding our garden. I would like to do more, but I'm very limited by space.

To the far left there are 2 rows of 3 buckets. Those are my corn. I'm experimenting this year. I'm hoping to learn enough to get a nice crop next year!

The bucket at the bottom of the above picture is a pepper plant.

Behind the corn are gray buckets for cucumber plants.

The sandbox is my herb bed. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. I'll create a new post and tell you what exactly I'm growing.

Last, behind the the sandbox is a bucket for carrots, 4 tomato plants, and I have a sweet pepper plant to the right (out of frame).

The nice thing about container gardening, is that I can plant first, and decide where the sun hits best later. After watching the plants for a few days I have come to the conclusion that I should move my corn buckets.


March 18, 2011

Bunny Condo

Poor Princess Pepper was sadly in need of a larger cage. Since I've been working she's have very little time in her playpen for exercise.

However bunny cages can be very expensive. Especially when you need multiple layers for vertical jumping and room enough to stretch out. I came across this website for the Bunny Condo.

I was intrigued by how simple the supplies were. The plans seemed easy enough. I had no idea just how easy!

Leon and I made our condo in about 2 days. There were several moments of trial and error. My first attempt went exactly by the plans on the website. It was HUGE! Way bigger than anything I needed. I bought 2 large packs of storage cubes. Turns out this set would be more than enough:

I purchased it at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $20.

All of the grids are attached with 8" zip ties. 

This is the cage when we were almost done. We still needed to trim out the bottom (so bunny makes less mess with bunny berries and hay) and add plywood to the top shelf. I used one of the grid squares to make the shelf then I drilled holes into the plywood and attached it to the shelf with zip ties. My bunny weighs less than 3lbs so this was more then enough support.

You can see the door swings open. We also left a top piece hinged so that we can reach in from the top of her cage.

Some other things in the cage with her:

  • litter box (yes she's fully trained)
  • a box to chew
  • a tunnel (larges pvc pipe I could find) 
  • some dangly bells (I usually find nice ones in the bird section of the pet store - just make sure there aren't any plastic pieces that could choke her). She likes to shake them and make them ring.
  • large water bottle (bunnies drink a large amount of water)
  • salt and mineral licks (one of each hung from the top shelf)
  • food bowl
  • plenty of hay (we give her a large handful a day)

Other things I'd like to add/change are a hidey-home and a larger tunnel (she can get through the one I have, but I think a larger one would suit her better.


March 17, 2011

Happy St.. Patrick's Day

We had Irish Beef Stew from Simply Recipes


* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/4 pounds well-marbled chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 6 large garlic cloves, minced
* 6 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
* I cup of Guinness beer
* 1 cup of fine red wine
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 tablespoon dried thyme
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
* 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
* Salt and Pepper
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1 Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt the beef pieces. Working in batches if necessary, add the beef (do not crowd the pan, or the meat will steam and not brown) and cook, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over. Continue to cook in this manner until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

2 While the meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the beef stew in step one has simmered for one hour.

3 Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Transfer stew to serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)

Serves 4 to 6.

It was incredibly rich and delicious!

We followed it with a simple (though rather sad looking) poke cake.