Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

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!

Garden Update: 6.21.11

Happy First Day of Summer!

My little piece of paradise. :)

It feels like 98 degrees in the garden this afternoon.  It’s been HOT and we’ve had a lot of smoke from the area wildfires on top of the heat.  We have managed to get out in the garden a little bit though!  The Organicide spray is helping with whatever wilt or bacteria was taking over the garden. We lost the okra & peppers but everything else is looking much better! 

We harvested the first of our eggplants & the garden is full of the color purple!

Our two Celebrity tomato bushes have been producing more tomatoes than we know what to do with! I’ve been giving them to friends and neighbors, and even tried making my own sauce in the Crockpot with some of them.

There are more green tomatoes on the plants too.   I will have to look into more ways of saving & using them.  We’ve had tomatoes with almost every meal this week! hehe

This is how big just one tomato plant has gotten. It has to be at least six feet tall and six feet wide! It is funny how I have failed at growing them for years & then this year has been a stellar crop.

Even the basil is looking good this week. It is something that is hard to grow in humid Florida summers, since it is prone to wilt & disease.  It has been a delicious addition to our meals!

I am also happy to report that my avocado plants have recovered. They weren’t getting enough sun & were getting too much water. Now they are looking much healthier & getting big for the containers!

We are looking forward to the break the vegetable gardens give us in July. We have plans to close the composer & solarize the soil once the current veggies finish their cycles.  

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! 

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!!!!!!

 

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!

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