Sunday, June 28, 2015

Little Classes in My Home and Our Backyard Farm

Last week began a series of little classes I am offering in my old daycare space to children in town and in my neighborhood.  Nature Detectives is VERY full and each week we focus on a new subject of learning about nature.  Last week was The Sun and Sundials to celebrate the Summer Solstice. It was so nice to have neighborhood children walking to my house and friends of mine dropping off their children to spend the morning learning with us.
 We made pretty woven suns in miniature format from the tutorial in our Midsummer Festival E-Book (by the way, there is a SALE right now for only two more days!)

We also played fun nature games and made pocket sundials.
 The class is so big I employed my teenager to help as well as my friend who does the outdoor programs with me through Park and Rec.  It is so nice to have such a big response so soon... but it was also a lot of prepping and difficult to find enough activities to keep the children engaged for the full two hours.

 We also made simple paper plate sundials and tested them outdoors.  
My little Nature Detectives!  It's so funny how big my own daughters are compared to these children now. They are still willing participants in all of my classes but it's pretty obvious they are growing up and away from our Little Acorn days. 
 I also held my first Learn to Crochet class with a small group of girls last week.

Crochet is NOT easy to teach but once they mastered how to hold the yarn and hook, they were able to learn the chain stitch and made a VERY long chain that we turned into necklaces and belts. 

Tomorrow is week two of both classes.  I worked hard tonight preparing in advance and hope it goes ok.  
I also have a Mommy and Me Learn to Crochet Class starting on Thursday night. That should be really fun.  

In between, I've been working in the garden a lot.  

The chicks are getting SO big and they LOVE it when I take them into the garden to free range.  I let the bunny out too and it's so cute to see them all in there together. 

I think I may have two roosters though. They are still too young to know for sure but their combs are huge compared to their same breed sister and it's pretty obvious there is a distinct difference in the way they look, their size and also the noise they make. We will have to see how it all works out but I won't be keeping roosters... so we may be down to only 6 chickens. I knew I should have gotten more! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Learning Together in Nature

This little video says it all.. this is exactly why I love doing what I do so much.  It was taken the very last day of the Forest Preschool session and is such a beautiful memory for me to capture. 

 I love that the weather is warm and we can be outside so much again.  School is still in session until Thursday but the girls have been enjoying playing in the back woods, in the garden area and in our pool after school each day.  It makes striving for media-free more realistic in our home when the weather is nice like this.  Those very cold nasty winters are hard to handle sometimes.

One of the wonderful parts about running outdoor programs in town is that my own children get to come to work with me.  I take Maia and Bree to Nature Club on Saturdays with me and I love being able to share these outdoor learning moments together and still help provide for my family financially. 

 We did so many fun things together in both the forest preschool and nature club programs.  We learned about life cycles, went on fun scavenger hunts.. leaf hunts...

Played outside with new friends in the fresh air for hours...

Collected some bugs, climbed some trees... 

 Found some cool discoveries... 

Identified trees

by sorting and analyzing their leaves and looking up which species they came from.

It's been busy... and fun... and soon I will be starting new classes in my home such as Nature Detectives where we will make sundials, dissect owl pellets, learn about metamorphosis and create a weather watcher.  I also will be teaching a learning to crochet class and a waldorf friends class for smaller children.  

I'm excited about the great response to these programs in town and I'm also trying to keep my online writing active as well as the photo contests and newsletters for Little Acorn Learning and my e-book sales.  I've been working on my new website for over a year now but have not been able to put the hours into it that I need to launch.  It's busy but I've missed focusing on my work this way and as long as I can keep a good routine in place, I think I will be able to create some balance.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Adventures in Backyard Homesteading - Raising Chickens

The time has finally come! I've wanted chickens for so many years and finally they are here!  I did a lot of research and chose very carefully.  We have eight baby chicks that we ordered from along with a beautiful chicken coop that was expensive but will really keep them warm and dry during our very cold winters and is set up with electricity.

It is amazing to me that these babies come to you straight in a box that you pick up from the post office!

Here is the coop. I just love the color and design.  It is Amish made.

We had to put it on wheels to get it to the back garden. What a job that was!... 

We are putting the coop and building the run behind the playset and next to our garden. We also moved Jellybean's hutch into the garden itself. I sometimes let her hop around the garden when I am there. She has, however, gotten away on me twice when I wasn't looking so I am extra careful now and will also be adding another layer of fencing. Building the run and setting up the coop is going to be another huge job. We have to level the land and put hardware cloth under the run so predators don't dig up and get the chickens.

I tried to do a lot of research and choose breeds that are cold hardy for our freezing winters and also lay well. I also chose chickens that tended to make good pets and had more relaxed temperaments. 

We chose two Australorps which we have named Laverne and Shirley thanks to a friend's suggestion on Facebook.  Australorps are excellent layers and produce light brown eggs on an average of 5 eggs per week. They are usually calm and sweet.
These two are Rhode Island Reds.  They lay an average of 5 eggs per week and are great in the cold. We named these Freckles and Sunshine. My cat when I was a little girl was named Sunshine. It was nice that my daughters just so happened to choose that name.

I also chose two Buff Orpingtons which do not lay as well (average 3 eggs per week) but make excellent chicken pets as they are usually very friendly and calm.  They are also good in the winters.  We named these two Pocahontas and Coconut. 
This pretty chick is a White Leghorn that has been named Snowball.  They lay very large white eggs and will be the only chicken we have that will give white eggs.  They are sometimes known to be a little nervous and active but we will see because this one right now seems to be the most shy of our babies. 
And this... is Noodle.  Maia picked this one out online and named it herself. It is a Dominique chicken and because they are not often chosen they are called to be endangered. It lays about 3 eggs per week and is really beautiful when it gets bigger with black and white specks.

I have tried to explain to the girls that they must try their best not to get too attached to the chickens because it is a reality that we could lose a few to sickness or predators no matter how careful we are. 

I even considered not naming them to help with this but that idea didn't last long.  And, both Maia and Bree have grown very fond of "their" chicken.
Maia with Noodle
Bree with Coconut
The girls just love them so much.  They come running in the door after school begging to go play with the chickens. I'm glad they are showing such an interest as it will help the chickens to get used to being handled.  We have even slowly introduced Caicos to them...

While Caicos is not very good with strange humans that come to our house, she is more tolerant than I've ever expected when it comes to bunnies and chickens. I will not trust her alone with them and I did notice she was licking her lips :) but my hope is that while the chickens are safe in their run, she will be able to calmly lay nearby and protect them.

Oh and I've found another great use for the chicken coop!  It's a great place to put wild children in when you need a break ;)