Posts Tagged ‘backyard’

Nature Journal

Our oldest gardener will start Kindergarten in August.  To continue to develop her handwriting skills this summer we are starting a nature journal project.  Our first assignment was to make the journal!  So, I purchased a basic writing fundamentals notebook by Mead. 

We then talked about decorating the cover with things that remind us of Florida living.  We gathered last year’s nature magazines and a couple pairs of scissors, and started looking for anything related to Florida nature and wildlife.  I also helped her cut out the letters for the words Nature Journal.

We then talked about other materials we could use on our journal cover. I’m a huge fan of mixed media art, so I always try to remind her of non-traditional art supplies.  Shells, sand and other backyard finds were mentioned for our Florida themed cover.  We drew lines with glue and then went out to the sand box and dumped sand on them. 

We even placed three pieces of the Southern Slash Pine on the cover: pine bark, pine needles and pieces of a pine cone.

After our gardener was happy with its appearance and everything had completely dried, I sealed the cover with polyurethane to help it last through the summer.

Our First Journal Entry: 6/01/11

What she observed while taking a nature walk at dusk…

…a dark blue sky, two frogs and a bat (picture of sky and bat).

Journal Entry Two: 6/04/11

Take the camera and find something to take a picture of in the backyard. (Boy was she in for a treat)!

She found a Painted Lady Butterfly with a slightly injured wing. It sat quiet drinking on the lantana while she took a few (good) pictures.  As we were looking at the wing injury the butterfly flew up & landed on her tummy. She squealed with delight but held perfectly still!


Our little gardener has been super excited to WRITE in her journal and can’t wait for her next assignment!

Happy Summer! 

Butterfly Release

On Mother’s Day our Painted Lady Butterflies were ready to be released.  We had lived with 10 of them for weeks, taking them to show n tell and moving them into their butterfly nets to wait for their completed transformation.  Raising them with my children each spring is always the neatest thing. We learn something new each time!  

This year we could see the chrysalis change so clearly. We would know which ones were going to hatch next.   One morning as we were eating breakfast, we had the opportunity to literally watch one come out of its chrysalis.  My oldest couldn’t believe how little & wet looking the wings were & then how quickly they opened & dried.  We never seem to grow tired of the miracle of life!


April Garden Update

The garden is in full swing this month!  We are enjoying daily fresh radishes, lettuce & carrots!  We have green tomatoes on our plants, something that is somewhat of an accomplishment because I have horrible luck with growing tomatoes.

Early sunflowers & marigolds are blooming for our pollinators & we have been starting new seeds almost every chance we get.  Leeks are just sprouting & we are waiting on more basil, sunflowers & onions to sprout.

I walked to a local farmers market last week & came home with more than just fresh collard greens.  These herbs (basil & Vicky’s plant) followed me home as well. :) We replanted them in these homemade chalkboard pots. The little gardeners loved helping me mark them. :)

Eggplant & green pepper plants are getting big in the garden & we look forward to their first blooms! Something has been munching on them a little but this is something that comes with sustainable gardening & I think they will be just fine.

Earlier this month we read a great post by The Gardening Mom on our Facebook feed about making a home for the frogs & toads in the garden!  We gave it a try last weekend & are still hoping for a new residence to move in! :)

Happy Gardening!!!

Eggs in the Backyard?!

Our Great Grandma leaves right down the road from us. She is the only family we have in town.  Last week she called to report a duck nest in her backyard!  I was so excited to share the news with my little gardeners!  Of course they wanted to go over to Nanny’s house right away. Luckily mother duck was away so I could get this picture. 

Research tells us we could have baby Muscovy ducklings in another month or so, if they survive all of nature’s challenges, and the rocks that mother duck as put in the nest?!  How exciting would it be for my little ones to see this backyard miracle come to life!?

Happy Spring!

Our Garden Party

Last week one of our little gardeners turned 5 years of age. We celebrated the big event with two small garden themed parties!  We decided on two parties, as we feel smaller groups offer more learning and interaction for party goers.  Check out our previous post for all the fun gardening party preparations.  The parties were held two days in a row. The first one was 4 and 5 year old girls. The second was co-ed 4 and 5 year olds.  And of course a few younger siblings attended both parties.

Once all our guests arrived we put on our gardening aprons (that were part of the party favors) and headed outside!  We first talked about the garden and tried to name the things we could see, eat, smell, etc.  We also investigated the compost bins and what was inside.   Then we started picking!   

Our garden had enough produce at the time for everyone to pick one or two things. So at both parties we picked onions, radishes and carrots. I loved seeing the kids’ faces when I pulled up the first carrot! At the first party we ate lettuce leaves right off the plant. One child did it with me, one licked it and we all laughed.

At the second party we had more time to play in the garden, so we had the children plant okra seeds. I chose okra seeds because they are dark in color and a good size for the children’s small hands.  It is also something that if by chance sprouted, it would be in season.  They were able to plant more than one seed, which I think they enjoyed.  One or two wouldn’t have been enough. They enjoyed digging the holes much as they did planting and covering them up.  Of course we got out a huge watering can and took turns watering the seeds.

We also had time for each child to harvest a lettuce head.  The children snapped off the roots and threw them in the compost bin.  At the end of the party I sent the heads of lettuce home with the parents. I loved how each kid was so proud they had pulled it right out of the ground and given it to their parents to take home.  

Other fun backyard activities were the bean bag toss game, the sandbox and the bounce house. The bean bag toss was a big hit at the second party. Winners took home colorful packs of tomato, pepper and onion seeds.  The sandbox was a big hit with the younger children. We hid toy butterflies in it for them to dig and find.

After all the gardening and outdoor fun, the kids had worked up an appetite. At the first party we headed inside for drinks and healthy snacks.  Afterwards, instead of cake or cupcakes, we all sat down and made mud pudding!  Each child got a “flowering pot” or small clear green bowl. They scooped mud (chocolate pudding), dirt (crushed chocolate cookies) and worms (gummy) into their flowering pot.  Each child was then given a sprig of fresh cut pineapple mint to stick into their mud creation. Of course I had a bite of the mint to show the girls that it was yummy.  They all giggled and started in on the yummy mud.

At the second party we opted for a sunflower cupcake.  I totally took the idea from Martha Stewart Living Special Gardening Issue, March 2011.  We made cupcakes & decorated them with plain orange and yellow icing.  We placed a bowl of dark colored fruit (blueberries, blackberries, grapes) on a table and then surrounded it with the cupcakes. We added a stem and some leaves to finish it off.

I know by my daughter’s actions that she had a wonderful time at each party. Each offered a different chance to learn about the outdoors with her friends. Though gifts were discouraged, we did receive them (and are thankful).  Some gave thought to our garden theme and we had to include them in this post…

Handmade Childs Gardening Apron that was embroidered with the birthday girl’s name. The gift included gardening tools, matching gloves, a hand painted watering can and even a ladybug knee pad. Awesome!

An outdoor memory book was given with markers, stickers and other scrapbooking supplies. It is designed to help record outdoor adventures. We will use it to describe what we see, hear and smell. There are places for us to tuck nature treasures into keepsake pockets. It even has an easel on the back cover, where you can stand it up to display your photos and work. We will really enjoy this book in the coming months!

We are almost done writing all our thank you cards. And as I look back at the parties I have to smile. I didn’t have much time to take pictures but I really enjoyed working with all the kids in the garden. One child at each party enjoyed the garden more than the others. They asked a million questions and even stayed at the garden after all the kids had left.  I may never get another request for a garden themed birthday but if I do I will be thrilled.

Happy Gardening… and LOOK the children’s okra seed sprouts are already sprouting!!!!!!


Reading in the Garden

Since our Florida weather has warmed up we have taken learning outdoors!

Last month our Rock Bluff Garden gave us some left over pieces of azek.  Azek is a PVC material that is waterproof and great for outdoor uses. Our Rock Bluff gardeners used it to build their floating river garden boxes. We decided to use some of the pieces as garden markers! 

First we painted the azek pieces with chalk board paint and after they dried, we stuck them in the garden!  Our little gardener is learning how to read, so now the azek markers are helping her read outside! We use chalk to write words & messages to the garden.  We like to secretly change the marker to surprise the little one with new words each week.

 So far we have used the markers to help teach the following words:

  • Grow
  • Water
  • Keep Out
  • Garden
  • Rain
  • Eat Me!

Of course the markers could be used for traditional purposes, like marking seedlings & identifying crops. All around, this is just a great way to keep this material out of the landfill!

Happy (Learning and) Gardening!

February Garden Update

We’ve been busy bees: planting seeds, harvesting fresh vegetables, composting, and eating!  Life in the garden has been fabulous.

Here’s an update in pictures…

We also planted the following seeds over the weekend… my little gardeners can’t wait for the sunflowers & carrots to sprout!

Radish (Champion)

Sweet Pepper (Big Dipper)

Sunflowers (Teddy Bear)

Eggplant (Black Beauty)

Carrots (Purple Dragon)

Spring is almost here! Happy Gardening!

backyard obstacles

Okay so this post doesn’t have too much to do with gardening but it did happen in my backyard & I was so surprised by all the things it taught my daughter so I wanted to share!

Every 4th of July since my husband & I got married we have a party.  Adults only party, no children or dogs allowed. We act like were in college again & have a wonderful time every year!  This year 5 couples got together for two days. We had a lot of good laughs (& drinks) but one of my favorite things we did was an obstacle course.  I am the organizer of the group & therefore the party planner each year. I suggested the obstacle course idea & it went over like a flop. “We are going to do WHAT?!” “I don’t know about that!” Blah blah blah was all I heard.  I have met resistance from this crowd before so it didn’t stop me.  After setting up the course & telling them I even had a real prize for the winning couple, I finally got the group to agree to participate.  Of course, everyone laughed & enjoyed themselves. I even had a few request for us to have one every 4th of July party from now on (and we probably will)!

Here are the specifics of the course:

The couples had to decide who is going to be blindfolded & who isn‘t.  The blind partner will run the course, the one with vision will verbally tell the other one what to do (no touching, no hand holding, etc.).  While going through the course my husband would distract them by throwing water balloons & shooting silly string. Of course, all the men elected to run the course & the women told them what to do. :)  My husband also ran the course at the end so all was fair & everyone could return the water balloons & silly string distraction on him too!

Station #1:

Enter bounce house with 99 plastic balls inside. Find the one with a quarter taped to it. Give the ball to your partner.

Station #2:

Find four bugs in the mud & rinse them off & give them to your partner. Since there is down time in the garden right now I dug up the richest thickest soil I could find.  It was deceivingly hard to find the bug.

Station #3:   


Go to the cooler & get a beer. Chug it & then wave an American flag & say the pledge of allegiance. I will note here that we were responsible enough to stop throwing water balloons while they were chugging the beers.

Station #4

Jump into an oversized kitty pool & find the letters U, S, A. Once you give all three letters to your partner time will be stopped & recorded.

Our winners Matt & Malisa (Time: 1:47.52)

What my daughter learned…
After getting a 48 hour break from our children, my oldest came home to investigate what remained of the obstacle course.  I had left everything as it was after the race (minus the beer chugging station) because she had been so interested in our pre-party planning.  Of course we let her run the course.  The best part is what followed when we started to clean up:

  • We turned the bounce house clean up into a game.  She cleaned up all 99 balls for us & had a blast doing it.
  • The water balloon pieces were everywhere… we decided to give her a penny for every piece she picked up.  She was a little sad when I only gave her two quarters & two pennies after all her hard work, but it was a great lesson in earning money! She thought picking up the all 52 balloon pieces would make her enough money to by a new toy she wants (a toy that costs $50). Since then she wants to do chores around the house for pennies all the time because she’s on a mission to buy that toy! Love it!
  • Our daughter wasn’t so happy about the mud on her bugs but she got over it when I told her each bug had made her additional nickel for their participant in the obstacle course. ;) 
  • Then she helped me collect & dry all the letters from the pool. We tried to name all the words we could think of that started with different letters that we picked up.  In a flash the letters were picked up & we were laughing & sounding like a Dr. Seuss book trying to make up words for q & x.

It felt like play & the obstacle course was all cleaned up!  Our daughter had a great lesson in making money & hard work & we had a wonderful weekend with our friends! Happy 4th of July!


Limewhat?  Our Flagler Beach backyard gardener has a limequat tree in her garden.  I’m not familiar with this fruit so I did a little research…

Limequat is a citrus tree that resulted from the cross of key limes & kumquats. I found it interesting that there are three different cultivars of limequats: Eustis (most common), Tavares & Lakeland.  All named after Florida cities!  U.S. limequats are grown in Florida, California & Texas.   They are typically in season in the fall & winter.

 The fruit is small, oval, greenish yellow & contains seeds. It has sweet tasting skin & a bitter sweet pulp that makes it similar to limes. Limequats can be eaten whole or for juice.  Their rind is also great for flavoring dishes & drinks!  Here’s a yummy recipe Anna uses when her limequats are ripe & ready for harvest:

Limequat Bars
Prep Time: 15 Minutes 
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 
Servings: 36

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar 
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened (I used Earth Balance) 
6 eggs
1 3/4 cups white sugar 
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 cup limequat juice 
3 drops yellow food coloring 
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
2. Combine the flour, 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, and butter. Pat dough into prepared pan. 
3. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until slightly golden. While the crust is baking, whisk together eggs, white sugar, flour, yellow food coloring, and lemon juice until frothy. Pour this lemon mixture over the hot crust.
4. Return to the preheated oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into squares.


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