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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wonder-full Wednesday {nesting}

Perfectly knit together to provide shelter and warmth.
A swirl of nature's handiwork and resourcefulness.

It looks double-layered, like two nests in one, with a deep bed inside.

We think it belongs to a sparrow and wonder whether another nest was stolen
to form its foundation.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strange days indeed -or- how we learned about the birds and the bees from a pair of lizards

We have one of these--a tinier than a tic-tac green anole egg that Sally proudly deposited front and center in the tank two weeks after this happened with Lightning (yes, they are named after Cars)...

After all the time we've had these two, we didn't think this was on their radar, but my son is soon to be the caretaker of bunches of wee little green anoles, according to our field guide.  Apparently, two weeks after mating, the female will lay one or two eggs, every two weeks, until she has a full clutch of about TEN. 

We've removed the egg and put it in a separate tank so the tiny baby won't be mistaken for a cricket
when it hatches.

Lightning, the lizard king, then decided to shed his skin.  Lovely.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Garden Gone Wild

   Our garden is doing it's own thing right now, with very little attention from us.  We've had too much packed into too little time, and the garden seems to be thriving on neglect.  The parsley, I've been told, is in its year to seed, and it is reaching heights like Jack's beanstalk.  We have oregano infiltrating every spare spot it can find, petunias pouring out, and bean vines growing wherever they want.

   Exciting finds today were a shiny green tomato, bushels of beans, and flowering pumpkins and cucumbers.  We also have some tiny carrot plants, sunflower stalks, and sturdy-looking pepper plants.  The garden is completely random, which suits us just fine.  It's fun to see changes and growth, and my little garden helper still loves to go out and check on its progress every day.

{Linking up with the Garden Party.}

Friday, May 18, 2012

Endangered Species Day Giveaway

   To celebrate Endangered Species Day, my boys and I read these two fantastic books from Sylvan-Dell. Turtle Summer is the companion story to Mary Alice Monroe's Swimming Lessons. Turtle Summer is the journal the young mother writes for her daughter in the novel. It is a scrapbook of the nesting habits of loggerhead sea turtles, and contains beautiful photographs, not only of this miracle of nature, but also of the surrounding sea island life. Beginning with the mother turtle digging a nest and laying her eggs, the story continues to give a wealth of information about turtle conservation and turtle habits. The author's love and respect for nature are evident:  (Continue reading and enter to win...)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lesson Plans: Chicken Ways

   Our chicks are growing by the minute.  It seems like there is a visible change in their development every morning and evening.  Their tail feathers and wing feathers are growing, and they are getting taller,  They can stretch their necks up and reach the top of the tank if they stand on the food tray.  If we leave the top off the tank when we change the water, they can jump up to the edge and hop out.  The yellow one is bigger than the other two, and he(?) seems to be the dominant one in the bunch.  Their feet are so funny--they are too big for their bodies and look like they are made out of rubber, but when they sit on our hands, their feet are soft and warm. 

   All of the chicks are very sociable, and when we talk to them or approach the tank, they run to get as close to us as they can, and they jump up and down trying to get to us.  They enjoy being held, and the boys made them a "playpen" by cutting the sides off two large cardboard boxes and taping them together to make a fence, then we put a paper tablecloth left over from a birthday party on the floor inside the pen, and let them run around.  So far, our cats are not interested in being around them when they are out, and our dog acts like he's afraid of them!

   Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study has a section on chicks, and it includes some wonderful information for turning a study of chicks into a lesson.  She writes about the "chicken ways," describing how to teach children the "details" of chicks, from the egg tooth and downy feathers, to the ways they eat, sleep, and communicate.  There is also a discussion on the differences between chickens and "perching birds."  I read this section first, and then I talked about it with my boys and read passages to them.  We looked at our chicks and observed the details Anna Comstock wrote about.  I followed the prompts in the book to ask the boys questions about their observations of the chicks and about what they remember from our visit to the farm where we got the eggs.  If you haven't seen this book, it is a wonderful resource for science and nature study and is a complete field guide as well.  I have used it countless times since we began our homeschool journey, and it has become one of my go-to resources.  It has a place on our bookshelves, but it is usually out on my desk or on the table being used.  No matter what grade your children are in, this book makes a great starting point for science, covering teaching methods for nature study, animals, plants, earth, and sky.  The internet archive has the book free online.  (It is over 850 pages long, so beware before you start to print it.) 

   In addition to the handbook, we have visited our local feed and seed store a few times to get chick starter feed, and have ended up spending a half hour each time talking to the knowledgeable staff and farmers who stop in.  The boys have loved visiting the baby chicks, turkeys, ducks, and mama cat and kittens who inhabit this wonderland, and we have brought home some vegetable plants for our garden.  These visits have become weekly field trips.  We bought a couple of hobby farm magazines with articles on chickens to learn more about taking good care of our little chicky-babies.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

"The older we grow the more precious become the recollections of childhood's days, especially our memories of mother.  Her love and care halo her memory with a brighter radiance, for we have discovered that nowhere else in the world is such loving self-sacrifice to be found; her counsels and instructions appeal to us with greater force that when we received them because our knowledge of the world and our experience of life have proved their worth." -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, May 12, 2012

DIY: For Mother's Day

   One of my favorite bloggers posted instructions for these Mother's Day memory boxes, and the boys and I made some for the grandmas.  We found some fabric paper and cardboard recipe boxes at Hobby Lobby and printed out Cathe's ready-to-use cards.  I cut the fabric papers and did the exacto-knife cutting, but the boys sanded, painted on the Mod Podge, measured and cut printed paper to mount the cards on, and  inked the edges of the cards before gluing them on.  We finished them off with brass charms from my scrapbooking stash.  Our boxes came with dividers, so we are separating the cards behind them.  The hardest part of the project was covering the boxes with the fabric, but they could have easily been painted.  Otherwise, this was a doable project for even my youngest.

   The boys are filling out the first card for each box with their 10 favorite things about Grandma (tea parties, "kid's club" in the back yard, and playing "Mrs. T's Restaurant,") and their 10 favorite things about Granny (playing Sorry and pick-up sticks, her macaroni and cheese, and her banana pudding.)   We hope they will enjoy filling out cards and filling their boxes with memories, and that they will share them with us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our Chicken Week

One week old.
They all still have an egg tooth which you can see at the tip of the beak.
This is supposed to fall off or be reabsorbed after a couple of weeks.

Our set up is pretty simple.  We began with a huge warming light from the feed store which was way too big and heated the entire room.  We ended up getting a reptile light from the pet store with a 75 watt heating bulb.  We have the thermometer from the incubator inside the tank to keep an eye on the temperature, which we have read should stay around 95 degrees for the first week or so.  The chicks can huddle under the light if they are cold, but they also have an area outside this "comfort zone" where they can move if they are too warm.  We are using pine shavings to line the bottom of our large tank, and there is plenty of room for a feeder and a waterer.  For obvious reasons, we have a wire mesh top on the tank, and we just rest the light on top.  There is no smell at all from the chicks or the tank, and they have been very easy to take care of so far.  We noticed that they get a bit of water and then look up, and we found out that chickens have to stretch their heads up to let water drain down their throat instead of swallowing.

When the chicks get tired, they lay down and fall asleep almost instantly. 
Whenever we see them sleeping, we look closely to see if they are breathing! 
They look dead when they sleep, because they sprawl out and lay their heads down. 
This is my son's cockatiel Pigwidgeon.  She doesn't sleep like this.
 She sits on her perch and closes her eyes without laying her head down.
 Chickens sleep like dogs or cats.
The chicks love to sit under the heat lamp, but they also love to jump, scratch in the litter, peck, stretch, and sleep. 
The first chick to hatch peeped loudly all afternoon until the second chick joined him in the tank. 
Since then, all of them peep very softly and quietly.
 We think they are calmer when they aren't alone.

This is Foghorn Leghorn.

This is Bucky.

This is Bucky's wing.
 All of the chicks are getting wing feathers, and they look longer from morning to night. 
They are growing really fast.

This is Amadeus.
He was the first chick to hatch, the one who peeped so loudly the first day.
We played Mozart on the boombox
to calm him down. 

These are Amadeus' wrinkly feet on my wrinkly fingers.

Chick bottoms are so cute--they look like little cottony puff balls. 
Amadeus has some tiny tail feathers starting.

(Photos courtesy of Will Campbell)

{I'm linking up with "Hello Monday"}

Friday, May 4, 2012

Monthly Beginnings

Our calendar is a magnetic one from "Melissa & Doug."

   My youngest checks his calendar every day and counts down to events both big and small, from "how many more days" until a birthday or holiday, to "how many more days" to art class.  He is learning so many skills from his wall calendar, and he looks forward to changing it from month to month.  I will place the number one on the correct space for him and tell him how many days are in that month, then he figures out where all the rest of the numbers go.   We talk about the season we are in, what the name of the new month is, and which holidays and special events will be coming up.  He searches through the month tiles and finds the correct one with a little bit of help, like "find the months that start with M," "Now find the one with three letters."  His favorite part is looking through the holiday tiles and finding how many "special" days he can mark.   

   Setting up the calendar each month has become a ritual, and in the process, we are discovering cultural holidays, learning language arts and math skills, and discussing science and nature when we add in tiles to mark rainy or snowy days or changes in the seasons.  It usually leads to us wanting to "find out more" and then looking for books to answer our questions, and it always leads to memories in the making.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Eggs...

Discovery learning--both by them and by us.

   Chick number 2 hatched last night around 11:30, and the last one hatched in the wee hours.  We discovered it at 7:00 this morning, and it was still a little wet.  The boys are thrilled that it is yellow.  This process has been such a learning experience for us all, and I will be sharing some things we are discovering along the way.


   When we candled the eggs last week, we saw faint veins inside the shells.  Once the chick were out, we noticed some remnants of those inside the shells  along with some goo that resembles slightly scrambled eggs.  There is also a rubbery membrane lining the shell, and as the chicks hatched, they each pulled a line of this down, like opening a zipper.  First there was the "pip" hole, then after several hours, the "zipper" would open.  The chicks seemed to gain leverage as the eggs rocked and wobbled, and soon the eggs began to stretch open and closed.  As the chicks pushed, they gained a little bit more of a separation each time, until the eggs suddenly popped open.   The first chick fell right out as soon as the egg opened up, and the second one opened the top of the egg like a door and rested before squirming out.  The second egg is still very intact, and the two pieces are attached pretty securely, while the other two are in separate pieces.  (We think this chick will be more of a neat freak.)

   Before the chicks hatched, we wondered if the color of the eggs indicated anything about the color of the chicks.  The first chick to hatch is mostly black with a yellow butt--its egg is in the lower right and is the lightest in color.  The second egg, in the lower left, is a little darker brown, and that chick is black with a yellow neck, chest, and butt, and a few yellow splotches on its wings and face.  The darkest "chocolate milk" colored egg at the top held the completely yellow chick. 

   Another thing my boys have discovered is that chicken babies are different from other types of bird babies in being able to walk around, groom themselves, and eat and drink on their own right away.  The parents don't have to be around to feed them or show them how to fend for themselves like other bird parents have to do.  

   We will be looking for some answers as we go along, and I'll share our journey with you.


   Two more books I'd like to share:

Of course, we had to read this one last night!

Beautiful illustrations--tells all about egg fertilization. (There is one page with an evolutionist statement--I just read this to my kids this way, "Some people believe that 'chickens evolved from...' but I believe that God created chickens."  Whenever I encounter something like this in a book with my kids, I either say something like that or simply skip the sentence or section altogether.  I try to use it as an opportunity for teaching and discussion.  This is still an excellent resource otherwise.)