Coloring on the River

While spending the day on the river, I brought along these very cool eco friendly crayons I purchased on Etsy.

Earth Grown Crayons are hand-made from soy wax. Crayons are 100% biodegradable and eco friendly and safe for young artists. Soy is pesticide and herbicide free, and contains no genetically modified material. Tinted with nontoxic pigments, each set is shaped in a design that celebrates one of earth’s treasures.  I selected the fish set for my little girls.

While on our day long boating adventure, we decided to picnic on one of the Intracoastal islands.  After lunch, I brought out the crayons to surprise the girls.  When they asked for paper I told them we were going to draw on nature today. We ventured off into the woods to find some nice pieces of palm bark and wood branches to color. 

While my husband fished and I read a field guide on identifying mushrooms, the girls colored on nature for hours!!!

     

When it was time to go home, we left the colored wood collection for the fairies. The little ones believe they would come dance around them at dark. :)

It was nice to know the cute crayons were both safe for the girls and the environment.

July’s Garden Outlook

Summer in our Florida garden is full of humidity, heat, bugs & thunderstorms.  Our sunflowers have completed their growing cycles, but they were still beautiful on their way to seed.

   

There is still an abundance of eggplant in the garden. I’ve been chatting on our facebook page about how to cook them & my followers have given me some awesome recipe suggestions!

Our tomatoes, green peppers, okra & squash have all either been defeated by disease & bugs or have completed their growing cycles.   However, the parsley, sage, oregano & comfy herbs are doing quite well. Here is some potted Italian parsley that has been delicious to cook with this summer.

Pineapple mint is also on its way out.  The blooms are beautiful though. I will need to dry some for my winter teas soon. 

Afternoon thunderstorms are frequent now. My avocado plants are loving this tropical weather pattern!

Can’t have too many thunderstorms without seeing a rainbow!

The swamp lilies are next in line to bloom in the backyard. I love their white blooms in the summertime!

Happy Gardening!

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!

          

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!