Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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!

          

Anniversary Nature Ride

I wanted to share some of our anniversary boat ride this year.  On May 7th, I celebrated my wedding anniversary.  My husband took me out on a nature boat ride for the day (the little gardeners went to the babysitter)!  We spent most of the day on Strickland Creek up in the Tomoka River Basin on the East Coast of Central Florida.  This is how I see (and love) natural Florida in May!

85 degrees outside and not a cloud in the sky. 

Though you can’t see it here, the water was so clear you could see the bottom and all the fish. 

See what happened when we threw the cast net. Thousands of Menhaden were schooling in the creek.

White Mushrooms and yellow wild flowers grow on this fallen river palm. There were also white butterflies everywhere!

    

We stopped and ate lunch on the bank where the creek meets the river. We played with crabs and jellies before heading back.

  

Unfortunately the creek was full of the invasive Australian spotted jellyfish.  This one was about the size of a dinner plate.  They are mildly venomous and pose no threat to humans.  I believe the commercial fishermen don’t like them in their nets. Some can weigh up to 25 pounds.  I think the biggest concern with these invasive creatures is they are eating fish eggs and larvae. They can affect our fish reproduction levels and the balance of our ecosystem.

 

Mud Fiddler Crabs are all along the sandy dirt banks of the creek (and most of the river). They are very common & I think they are hard to catch. ;)

 

Of course, I love any kind of wood. This Cypress tree lays on the side of the bank…but look it’s not dead.

 

 We caught and released several different species of fish while on the creek: red fish, catfish, trout and drum.  These pictures are of a young red fish too small to keep but very unusual.  Most red fish have a couple spots. This one had a total of 29 spots!

I had to save the BEST part of the boat ride for last…

We had the opportunity to ride with a manatee for a little while! I kept telling my husband, “Remember look for manatees. I want to try to see one before this trip is over.”  I was delighted when one came up to the boat and rode next to us. It is always so exciting!

Evening Bug Hunt

While dinner was cooking this evening, I headed out to the garden with my little gardeners. Tonight we had decided on a bug hunt for the last thirty minutes of day light.  With hundreds of love bugs flying all around us we investigated our little garden. Peeping under leaves & looking closely at the soil, we finally spotted some action!

My oldest gardener had decided to pick another purple dragon carrot, which was okay since we were having them for dinner. It would be just another to add to the salad.  After she pulled it up, we saw a little praying mantis!  As soon as we identified it & began following it, we watched a Southern Toad eat it!!!  Then the toad ate a few love bugs!  

My little gardeners were delighted to witness this activity.  While we waited for our dinner, we watched the toad eat his supper. We were a bit sad for the praying mantis, since we don’t often see one in the garden, but my oldest gardener reminded us that they eat ladybugs (& we love ladybugs).

We then carried the Prince of the Garden to the throne we had previously created for him. (I had to keep him safe from the little wild gardener along the way).  After several attempts to escape his toad castle, we let him get back to eating those love bugs.

It is amazing what a few minutes of nature will bring us.

Happy Gardening! 

Psst – here’s a great link for identifying frogs & toads in Florida!

http://www.wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/frogstoads/

Gardening Play with Palm Bark

While taking a scroll through the neighborhood we came across this palm bark piece, from a Queen Anne Palm, and the following conversation took place:

My oldest gardener: “Wow mom, love the shape of this tree bark, wish we could take it home.”

Mom: “We can.”

Oldest gardener: “We can?”

Mom: “Of course.” and onto the stroller went the large piece of palm bark.

Little gardener riding in the stroller: “Yeeaahh!”

After getting it home, we pretended it was a cruise ship for bugs taking a journey through the rain forest.  We sailed it across the ocean grass, then pretended it was a canoe on the Suwannee river taking fairies to a secret palace.  After a week or so of turning it into a new backyard toy we decided it was time to make it part of the garden.

We decorated the outside of the tree bark with non-toxic paints!

   

Then we filled it with gardening soil.

We planted green onion seeds & watered them.

In the days that followed, the washable paints started to fade.

But we have onion sprouts & the little gardeners are excited to check on their new garden container each day!

Happy Gardening Play!

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!

Spring Garden Update

Well, spring is flying by here in Florida. The weather is back in the upper 80s and the mosquitoes are back biting again. We sure didn’t miss them.  I’ve had to adjust the garden’s water to help the new sprouts deal with the humidity and heat.  A few more months and it will be too hot for most of the veggies currently in the garden. 

Tomato blooms are appearing daily on our four Celebrity tomato plants.

Our Teddy Bear Sunflowers, which we planted from seeds, are now about a foot tall and showing us the first signs of future blooms. Two even survived a recent transplant!

Strawberries have been plentiful on the plants, but have been eaten by little critters before they are ripe enough for harvest. 

Our Pineapple mint has been plentiful. We have been harvesting it left and right for teas, salads & other yummy creations.

We finally got some parsley to sprout and look forward to more fresh herbs for cooking.

We have also transplanted more French Marigolds in our raised beds. This is the first year we have started them from seeds and have been very happy with our results!

One of the great things about nature is it’s always teaching us something, if we are paying attention.  I disgarded some dried up marigolds last fall. I simply tossed the dead plants into an area full of banana trees.  To my surprise I have wild marigolds in the banana trees this season!  How cute! 

Other gardening notes… our composting is doing lovely with the return of the heat.  I should have a new batch in just another week or so. We have also added organic blood meal & organic fertilizer to the garden to help boost spring time production!

Happy Gardening!

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!!!!!!

 

Painting for Spring

This week we found ourselves trying to stay warm indoors. Since we couldn’t get outside to play & work in the garden, we brought the garden inside (well via some painting).

In preparing for spring we had ordered our seeds online a few weeks ago & upon arriving in the mail my little gardener was very curious about the new seed packets. When she found out one of the packets were Purple Dragon Carrots, carrots that were purple on the outside & orange on the inside, she was more than delighted!!! She wanted to know where I had gotten them, how long before we could plant them, how many days would it take to grow them & what would they would taste?! After telling her to slow down, I answered all her questions.  :)    

Earlier in the day before the seeds arrived, we had been learning about sequences & the order of things in our home & in our world.  My little gardener wanted to know what the sequence of the purple carrots would be & I told her to think about it & to tell me what it would be. She went to her arts & crafts table & came back and asked for five pieces of paper & something to draw with. I smiled & dug out the paint (her favorite) & she drew the sequence of our purple dragon carrots for me!  I love how she ended the sequence with the carrots on the dinner plate, such an important part of the relationship we have with the earth & the food we eat. Our lesson even got mommy excited about the purple dragon carrots. :)

Happy Gardening!

Purple Dragon Carrot Info (I will report & post pictures in the spring garden)
Gloriously sweet with the richest, most intense purple color.
Slice it, shred it, love it. This gloriously sweet carrot is the richest, most intense purple. We love to make a cool summer carrot salad of yellow, orange and purple varieties, delicious and a treat for the eyes. Carrot aficionados (and who isn’t) will delight in this unique, yet tasty, variety with its purple skin and light yellow core. 65-70 days.
Product Details
Sun: Full Sun 
Height: 4-8  inches
Spread:3  inches
Days to Maturity: 65-70  days

taken from: http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/carrots/carrot-purple-dragon-prod000637.html?catId=2009&trail=

Back to Nature (pt 2)

I forgot about some nature shots on my camera. I had to share the last photos of the hot humid days of summer.  The season is starting to change & the sprouts in the Fall garden are in perfect time!

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Back to Nature

With Florida’s heat & humidity at its worse, we have been limiting our nature loving to non-physical activities…like photography!  I love the challenge of a moving bumble bee & feel photography gives us another avenue to respect & interact with this beautiful planet.

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