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