Wonderful Wednesday – Planting a Veggie Garden

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Every spring, I buy some vegetable plants and start another garden in my 4’x8′ enclosed patch in the backyard. The whole thing started when my son was one. I felt inspired to teach him where foods come from. He is six years old now.

I have learned a thing or two every year from working in the garden. About gardening and, also, about my own character. Lately, about homeschooling, too.

This year, I have already gleaned two lessons:

1. Don’t (trans)plant too early. We planted our veggie garden in mid-April. A week later, hail and snow killed it, even though we covered it with a sheet. When it’s cold, it’s cold.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Roses

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The Outdoor Hour Challenge last Friday was about earth worms. Hmmm… I don’t want to go there. I chose roses instead because, well, they have inundated my life in the last seven days.

Our rose bushes have exploded. Then, my husband came home with yellow roses, too.

My husband and I are celebrating our ninth anniversary tomorrow. He brought me a dozen yellow roses and a card.

Yellow roses, baby breath

Bouquet of yellow roses and baby’s breath my husband brought me for our ninth anniversary

He said we already have a garden full of pink roses. And, we do.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Irises

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The Outdoor Hour Challenge last Friday was about snakes. We will keep it in mind, should we ever run into a snake. I am not necessarily scared of or grossed out by snakes, but I would not want to seek them out either.

So, instead, I chose a subject that is closer to my heart and my house – the iris. Another name for it is, of course, fleur-de-lys (also spelled fleur-de-lis), which translates to flower of lily. The word iris means rainbow in Greek – because the flower comes in so many colors.

White and purple iris flower

Iris in my garden

We live in a home built by my husband’s grandparents. We remodeled it and its garden during our first year of marriage, before moving in.

We kept some of the plants and trees, which had been planted by my husband’s grandmother. Among them, a patch of iris plants – white and purple and perfect in every way. This is the time of the year they are in full bloom.

We enjoy these flowers for their sheer beauty, as well as for the memory of our children’s great-grandmother, although neither I nor the children ever got to meet her. To bring it all full-circle, my mom re-planted some of the irises along our driveway last year, when she came to visit.

A symbol of French royalty since Clovis, the iris can be found on coats of arms throughout France and England. Apparently, English kings wanted to show their claim to France by putting an iris onto their coat of arms.

The fleur-de-lys survives as a symbol on some coats of arms today, like those of the King of Spain, the Duke of Luxembourg and the House of Bourbon. Incidentally, Queen Anne of Romania belongs to the House of Bourbon.

White and purple irises

Irises in our garden

They say French kings received an iris instead of a scepter during their coronation ceremony. As such, it is a symbol of perfection, light and life.

Anna Comstock says the iris contains a great lesson for all of us “because nothing in it is what it seems.” The pistil looks like leaves, the leaves look like stems and the petals hide under the sepals. Somehow this arrangement creates perfect tunnels for bees to do their work.

The fleur-de-lis is the national flower of France. It is also the state flower of Tennessee, where I live. Two hours away from my home, in Greeneville, TN, they have an annual Iris Festival. In fact, it is this weekend, should you want to go.

For other Wonderful Wednesday nature study posts, click here.

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Wonderful Wednesday – Cat Nature Study

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We have a cat and we study it almost every day by virtue of sharing our lives with him. The kids have learned how to feed him. They are not coordinated enough to pour water in his bowl. Or, at least, my fear of spills will not allow me to allow them that chore yet. The kids also open the door for the cat to go in and out of the house.

Large male tabby cat

Our 18-lb, 10-year-old male cat, Izzy

Our cat lost its mommy in a storm and stumbled upon somebody’s porch. That somebody knew somebody who knew my husband was a cat lover. My husband took the kitten in and called him Izzy.

One year later, I came along. I am not particularly fond of cats. In fact, I am allergic to cat dander.

My first thought when I saw Izzy was, “I need to tolerate this one.” But I did more than tolerate him. One afternoon, as I was sitting on the couch in the living room, Izzy walked over to me and got into my lap. He started purring and suckling on my pant leg. He thought I was his mommy. He left a wet spot on my pant leg and won me over.

I have written two books about him, but never edited them properly. I had children instead.

We took some magnifying glasses to Izzy’s fur for this particular cat nature study. My son noticed a dried leaf shaped as letter “P” caught in Izzy’s fur. He did not need a magnifying glass for that. With all the catkins outside, our cat is bound to pick up some.

Children observing cat with magnifying glasses

My children observing our cat, Izzy

We made two notebooking pages about Izzy. I gave my daughter a simple blank piece of paper and we glued the cat study topper from the Outdoor Hour Challenge May newsletter. For my son, I printed out the mammal notebooking page from the same blog. I filled both of them out as we talked about cats. My children are still too young to write themselves.

As I read the Handbook of Nature Study to prepare for this lesson, I was surprised to read the recommendation that we train cats not to hunt for birds. I would have thought that a naturalist would want a cat to follow its natural instincts no matter what those may be.

We have seen our cat hunt for mice. We have observed his fear the day after a black bear visited our yard. We have had to deal with putting away dead mice, moles and birds – always daddy’s job. We have had to brush his fur or put up with cat hair on our sofas. Sometimes, both.

I have sneezed many times not realizing I had just sat in our cat’s latest favorite spot.

When the vet diagnosed our cat as a diabetic last year, we could not put him to sleep. Instead, we chose to give him shots.

I do not know how I got the courage to give him his shots, but I did. The kids watched me and daddy as we administered the cat’s shots and were amazed by how passive the cat was. We were, too.

We also fed him less and let him go outside more. Exercise, a leaner diet, plus the insulin shots did the trick.

His blood sugar levels went back down and he did not act as sluggishly as before. He actually got better. The vet declared him healed.

All this to say, we love our cat and study him daily in our homeschool.

For other Wonderful Wednesday nature studies, please click here.

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Wonderful Wednesday – Apple Tree Study

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Inspired by the Handbook of Nature Study blog, we observe and study nature by following their weekly challenges. For the apple tree, we went a few streets over in our neighborhood to look more closely at a crab apple tree. I go by it every morning on my walks.

Then, we went to an apple orchard. We spent about 15 minutes observing the tree, its bark, leaves, dried up flowers, baby apples, areas where large branches had been cut, and overall looks. We noticed the bored holes, which could be the work of either a beetle or a wookpecker.

We also observed the surroundings: a bee gathering pollen from the carpet of yellow flowers under the apple tree, a small “area rug” of lavender flowers, the taller trees from across the street (not apple trees), the younger apple trees in another part of the orchard, the sky. We also made note of the weather: it was sunny, hot, and windy.

On the way back home, we ran an errand at the bank. My daughter asked me to get some hot chocolate, which our bank offers to their clients for free. Next to the hot chocolate machine was a large bowl of red apples. I got them an apple instead of hot chocolate. I could not have planned this better.

In the car, we listened to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – my daughter’s request. It has long been a favorite of mine and I play it often. She calls it “that other music, not Handel.”

When we got home, I glued the apple tree topper from the HNS April newsletter on a blank piece of paper, made some notes and had my daughter draw the apple tree. Such a peaceful homeschooling day. Nature soothes.

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Cattail Nature Study And A New Series

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Last week I came across a cattail nature study on the inspiring Handbook of Nature Study blog. It totally rekindled my desire for nature studies with my children. Now that nature seems more friendly, with rising temperatures, I feel ready to take them outside for observations of the natural world.

Boy with winter cattails

My son with a winter cattail

My husband helped me so much on this project. We live in the mountains. This is not Louisiana. I was positive we had no marsh lands and cattails in Gatlinburg. I was thinking I might have to drive one hour, to Knoxville, where they have a few lakes and ponds.

Then, as we drove back from church, my husband spotted cattails – five minutes from our house! We have been driving by that road every week and I never noticed cattails. That’s what nature study does for you. It improves your awareness of natural things.

I read the recommended pages from Handbook of Nature Study. I took a camera and not much else.

As it turned out, both my children slipped into the creek. But we had fun. I laughed it off and learned to bring a change of clothes next time, even if I think they will not follow me down there. Which, by the way, was the plan. Daddy said there might be snakes, so I was going to be the only one to go down to the creek and marsh land to collect a cattail.

Children playing by a creek

My children playing by the creek next to the cattails

We noticed the cattails were dried up and the fluff had completely exploded – winter cattails. Right in front of them, we noticed green stems and leaves – spring cattails. So we got two seasons in one visit. How cool is that?

Cattails in Gatlinburg

Spring and winter cattails along Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.

At home, I had them fill out a notebooking page by drawing. They are too young to be expected to write about the experience. I wrote a few things for them, but they enjoyed drawing the creek, the sky, and the cattails. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Cattail Notebooking Page

My son’s cattail notebooking page. He drew and I wrote.

We also found a nest of some sort in the ground. It felt pretty hard. It looks like the perfect home for a snake, don’t you think?

Snake hole around cattails

We found this on the ground around the cattails: a snake hole maybe?

This post is the first in a new series on Homeschool Ways, about our nature studies. We will call it Wonderful Wednesday because the natural world, God’s creation, is wonderful.

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