Monday, June 30, 2008

Peep & Coo.

We have been watching Peep and Coo every day. It has been exciting to see them go from tiny things to fluffy feathered squabs, perching, and cleaning, and flapping. We knew it was almost time as they have been at the edge of their nest and exercising their wings for a few days.

This morning I saw that one dove was on the deck. We tip-toed out and the boys watched the bird for awhile, and excitedly witnessed the first big flight! We discovered the other dove was in our bushes which is a nice secure spot.

For most of the day the doves sat under the bushes - and the boys visited often.

This evening, they flew up into the tree and are perched there close together now. I don't think they are yet able to fly back into their nest - it is between some gazebo bars and under the canopy...but I think they will be safe tonight. Both parent doves came back throughout the day to feed them, and one is in the tree with them now. What an exciting day!

Strawberry Picking!

This year strawberry season came very late. With all of the late frosts, major storms and flooding, our CSA had only a portion of their strawberry fields make it through. Sunday was our CSA u-pick - and it was surprisingly a cool and windy day. That meant happy boys (and no mosquitoes)!

I am not sure why, but last year our u-pick was TOUGH - literally hundreds of stinging nettles, rashes up our arms, and the boys giving up to sit at the side and watch. Perhaps due to the straw mulch or cooler temps, there were really no weeds this year. It was pleasant and the boys could help - and we didn't need to wear our gloves! Very nice.

The boys spent part of the time helping, and part of the time at the end of our row snuggling under the blanket to warm up. It felt more like October than almost July!

We brought home just over 20 pounds of strawberries. We spent the rest of the day rinsing, cutting, prepping, storing. We made 10 pints of freezer jam, 5 quarts of chunky desert topping (great over pancakes or pound cake), and put 10 1-gallon bags of strawberries in our freezer for baking/smoothies. We also have a few pounds from our CSA box this week for fresh eating. Yum!

A lot of work, but well worth it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

CSA Season.

The boys enjoy being able to get out of the car to go in and pick up our CSA share each week. There is a giant walk in cooler, a big chalkboard, massive washing basins, lots of 'stuff', and of course water runoff (meaning: mud) and big farm equipment parked near the outbuilding. They had a special treat this week as they were chatting with the lady who helps everyone get what they need...and she even walked out with them and let them climb up into the cab of an old tractor. They were in heaven!

Each week we take a photo of our CSA box and post it to our food blog. We have some fun kid friendly recipes planned when we get our flats of strawberries too - yum!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's that time again.

Like clockwork after all of the rain and flooding we had - swarms descending the moment you breathe or move or step outside. My yard is covered in lemon balm, we have netting on our gazebo, and there is no standing water (and the bird bath gets refreshed & a vegetable based mosquito spray daily) - yet we cannot step outside without being devoured. We went out to pick veggies quickly from our garden for dinner (forget about watering anything - too many mosquitoes!) and were swarmed. I had the fan blowing and a spray bottle of water mixed with a heavy dose of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and sprayed every mosquito I saw as the boys played on the deck a bit, but we were still forced inside. Eek!

Time for this again::

Bzzz, Bzzz!: Mosquitoes in Your Backyard by Nancy Loewen

Well, maybe that and some full body netting!

Note: I received emails asking about good natural repellents. Here are just a few:

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
Bite Blocker
Bug Ban
Herbal Armor

We also plan to make some special candles for outside using our beeswax - citronella is a known repellent, but there are also other oils such as geranium, thyme, clove, and eucalyptus which would make great bug candles!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

sun prints.

A few times a year we make sun prints. It is interesting to see how slowly/quickly the sensitive paper develops the image based on the amount of sunlight and time of year. For the winter solstice, our sun prints which used what light came in through our windows took many minutes to develop. For the summer solstice last week, it was VERY fast. One of the challenges with making sun prints "fun" for the boys is finding something to DO with the prints after. They LOVE making them, but the actual process takes only minutes. This time around we made them into artwork...both interesting and creative!

First the boys picked their items and placed them on the paper (they chose flowers, herbs, and leaves). We went into the sun, and the boys held the tray still as it exposed fully in the sunshine.

When done, we rinsed them in cool water for a few minutes and then let them dry. They like watching it go from a positive to a negative image.

We end up with these cool bold blue sun prints. The boys wanted to 'do' something with them, so they glued them onto card stock and embellished them with different botanical paper shapes that they picked out.

They then punched the ends with a big puncher and strung them together ~ but they would also make great cards or look nice in a frame.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Farm Day.

Today was chicken day at a friends farm. While there, the boys were able to run and play, visit the laying chickens and ducks (and experience their first broody hens!), see the pigs, and chat with the cows over a neighbors fence. They love it there - they can run and play and roam and breathe and see the animals and would spend all day in the hen house if they could! It was even more fun because a friend was there at the same time we were - three boys, three times the fun.

After awhile we went next door to the organic farm for a farm tour. The farm is on beautiful land surrounded by rolling hills, prairie and lots of trees. The farmer took us for a tour of the different beds and hoop houses, letting the boys pick some strawberries on their way by. We then walked up the hill to see everything from asparagus and rhubarb to tomatoes, broccoli, snap peas, beets and kohlrabi.

I am always amazed at how much food can be produced in so little space and how healthy and natural organic farms feel. I love walking through fields and down rows and smelling the earth and seeing so much life and growth. We all had a nice time being out walking around the farm and learning about the processes used there.

On the way back down, the farmer said he had a surprise for the boys, and zipped down the hill as we waited. He had turned on the well pump for the irrigation system (usually needed only a few times each season), and the boys knelt down to feel the coldness enter the pipes along the ground, and then we watched as the sprinklers slowly pressurized and began to spray. It was just starting to get really hot, so the cool mist felt great. Well, it did to the adults. The boys, funny enough, went very close to see the water, so when the lines pressurized and the water burst out, the mist covered them. You would think that a giant misty sprinkler on a hot day would be a blast, but those little guys ran at breakneck speed all the way back to us, the three year old making a face the whole way! Funny!

We all walked back to the cars, and the boys played some more as we all chatted. We picked up a huge bag of fresh herbs to go with the chicken - so much that I put some in the dehydrator tonight to dry. The whole house is filled with the smell of drying herbs. Mmmm. A great end to a nice day!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Many of you asked what the boys named the little doves (who are growing so FAST!). After careful deliberation, they decided to name them Peep and Coo.

Peep and Coo are silent so far - but I'm sure they will live up to their names as they get bigger!

Here they are having breakfast. The boys have loved watching the doves eat - it is so interesting to see the adult shake and wiggle to generate the milk, before both little doves crane their necks up to drink from the mouth!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Arrivals.

Introducing two new arrivals...

Very tiny and very cute!

Good reading.

We love books in this house. We visit the library a few times a week, and I am addicted to the online library system which connects the small library we visit to the 65 or so libraries in the entire system - I love being able to put things on hold, having a queue always going, and just having a big pile of books waiting for us when we visit.

Here are just a few of our favorites this week::

the urban homestead
by kelly coyne and erik knutzen

This is a great book. It has everything in it - gardening (anywhere), composting, fermenting, canning, using rain barrels and/or greywater, non-toxic cleaners, raising chickens, generating your own power, urban foraging...the list goes on and on. It is a small book, but it is comprehensive and while I am familiar with everything in the book, I enjoyed reading tips that apply specifically to urban/neighborhood/square foot challenged spaces. The authors have a great blog too...

i love dirt!
by jennifer ward

We spend a lot of time outdoors, exploring and observing nature. What I like about the book is that it is full of simple ideas which are organized seasonally. The writing is very lyrical and positive, and the ideas seem to fit our rhythm. All are nice reminders to slow down, look around, and enjoy the little things. Slug trails, moon shadows, rock hunting, mud puddles. All good.

grow it, cook it. simple gardening projects and delicious recipes.
DK book

This book was a nice surprise - I always check out new books on this subject to see what is out there and look for ideas, and this book has a bit of everything. Yes, it is about gardening for kids, and has recipes using home grown goodies for kids to make. But the book also has interesting info and projects such as making compost - as well as fun crafts like making plant markers or a seed organizer box. The recipes look good too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The boys miss Monkey. A lot. But they also feel bad for Dax, who has been a best friend to Monkey for over 15 years. Dax is super needy the past few days. And at night when we are all in bed, she howls through the house. Sweet kitty. So, the boys wanted to be sure that she got some attention on this blog too.

So, this is Dax. Her nickname is Poopie. Or, as the boys also now call her, Poopalicious. She is almost 16 years old. She is super snuggly. She likes to sneak outside and eat grass whenever the boys leave the screen open (which is often). She loves to watch birds from the window - especially Dover. She is extremely opinionated and chatty. She likes to sleep on legs.

She has always been the baby. The youngest of three cats. Now she is an only cat. But she is getting a lot of attention and love.

Monday, June 16, 2008


A 'finally feels like summer' weekend! We had warmth and sun, and of course wind and rain. We took advantage when the sun was out and played in the pool and camped in the backyard.

Swimming and lounging at the pool.
A decided it was time to swim with his face underwater and eyes open. So he did. A lot. Wow!

Ice cream and camping in the backyard.
Our yard is so small our regular family tent will not even fit in it! So we now have a smaller 3 person dome tent for backyard camping or short trips.

And, since it seems to be never ending, more rain...which is of course more fun in a tent!

Thank you for all the kind words about Monkey. We miss her.

Friday, June 13, 2008


April 1993 - June 13, 2008

Monkey came to live with me on my college graduation day - a gift. She was such a tiny kitten! She was so full of love and energy - she shied from strangers, but always had her favorite people. Monkey lived all around the US. Illinois, New Mexico, Florida, Wisconsin. When the boys came she was already an older kitty - and preferred to visit from a distance at first, but warmed up to their attention and allowed them more touch and snuggles. She liked to spend every evening curled up on a blanket on my lap as I worked on my computer.

The past few weeks her illness (cancer) started really affecting her, and this week had been having a hard time breathing and moving and stopped eating. The boys have been talking to her, caring for her, and giving her lots of love. Today was our day to say goodbye.

We said our goodbyes, gave treats and snuggles, told her stories, and sang her soft songs. She is very missed by all of us, especially the two little boys who loved her so dearly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


We have had so much more rain today (many inches)...and once again tornadoes throughout the area. What a June.

One of A's favorite things to do lately is watch and identify birds. Our neighborhood has been so full of birds this year and watching so many right from our own porch has sparked a big interest which is carrying over to birdwatching on our walks/hikes as well. He wants to know about their eggs, nests, songs, what they eat and if they migrate. We have found so many great resources which are good for kids ... books, sticker books, bird watching logs, bird song Cd's, and some great websites and birding blogs. Here are just a few of our current favorites:

Backyard Birds of Summer by Carol Lerner

Beginning Birdwatcher's Book: With 48 Stickers

This is a favorite because it is a birdwatching log for kids. You see a bird, you place the sticker, read about the bird, and can add notes about where you saw it.

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song

This is a digital audio book - you look up the bird, and then play its song - or vice versa - so you can instantly match a sound with a bird.

Birds, Nests and Eggs, by Mel Boring

We have so many great birding books right now (we have several in our sidebar reading lists), but have found we are also visiting some great birding websites and blogs to find out more about what we see (or hope to see). Here are just a few:

Mike's Wisconsin Birding & Digiscoping Blog

American Birding Association

10,000 Birds

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

And when Dover's eggs hatch we will reach a whole new level of birdwatching!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blue skies.

Sun! Blue skies! Warmth! Breezy! Put the plans aside. A day like this after so much rain is a day to be enjoyed. We spent the morning on the deck to let the yard dry out in the sun. It is a cozy spot with the gazebo giving us shade. The boys happily drew and wrote on the chalkboard, read books, told each other elaborate stories, cooed at the bird, played in the sandbox, and made up funny games.

I love sitting on the deck, reading a book or sketching while the boys play, drinking obscene amounts of espresso, watching the birds (while the boys add a sticker in their book for each bird they have seen), and listening to one of my playlists on the iPod speakers.

This afternoon after the yard dried a bit, we walked through to look at everything more closely. While there is some damage, it is not bad. Some hail damage to the swiss chard and cabbage. A few plants bent over a bit - but not broken. My bed with root veggies is covered in mud and holey, but overall it will survive. The water drained and dried with all the wind and sun today, so that helped a lot! And not surprisingly, one plus from all the rain is that things grew a LOT over a few days.

One of the beds yesterday - what was flat now has sinkholes from rain overflow:
Today - dirty and some hail damage, but still there!

And-------- raspberries!

In the afternoon I weeded and cleaned up the beds as the boys played in the grass...tag (well, I was "it" many times too!), hide and seek, fishing, truck races, bubbles...and they put on a special "play" for me. A "synchronized swimming" (!) skit. Many times. So interesting to see where imagination leads! And so great to be outside on such a nice day.