Monthly Archives: May 2013

Farming Ugly! Farmers Taking Care of the Land

Farmers used to hitch up the horses and plow the ground for planting each spring.  Ground that had laid dormant all winter was turned over for that fresh-earth smell and dark brown fields that set off the bright green of new leaves and azure spring sky.  Its such a pretty picture!  This is the field in front of our house.  Not so pretty.  In fact, you could say that this is farming ugly!

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {}

“Farming ugly” is a phrase coined 25-30 years ago when agriculturalists discovered no-till farming.  Instead of breaking up the ground into pretty fields farmers learned to plant into the ground just as they had left it in the fall.  Corn is planted into bean stubble, beans are planted through corn stalks.  This prevents soil erosion.

Farm Ugly!  How farmers are taking care of the land.  {}

Here you see what might be confused for wheat or grass; its actually rye.  We planted rye on several fields this year to act as a cover crop.  Some homeowners might plant grass seed each fall to prevent weeds from growing in the empty spaces on their lawn.  This is the same idea.  Weeds can’t grow where the rye is and the roots hold the soil in place until the soybeans grow big enough to do that job themselves.  When its time to plant the tractor and drill just run right over the rye, smashing it and allowing the dead plants to decompose into rich top soil farmers prize.

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {}

The great thing about rye is it also has a natural toxicity that kills some new weeds that might like to find a home in our fields.  The bad thing is, this is really farming ugly!

Farm Ugly!  How farmers are taking care of the land.  {}

These are the marks from the drill. The seeds are dropped in these trenches.

A few days ago I was perusing the Internet when I came across a controversial food article.  Many of the comments left to the writer were furious; not at the author, not at the blog, but at farmers!  One in particular struck me because “Kevin” stated emphatically that big farmers don’t take care of the soil.  It made me wonder– did Kevin know a lot of large-scale farmers?   Did he watch them purposefully destroy the earth from his front porch or was he generalizing “Big” as “bad” with nothing but a “feeling” and some YouTube videos?

I bet you’d be surprised at how many BIG farmers really do care about the land.

After all, it belongs to us!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bonus: Plant Projects for Mom :-)

You saw what my kiddos have been busy with in the Plant Thematic Unit, but I’ve been testing my green thumb too!  I’m a big believer in using thematic units because they work for kids across a wide range of abilities, including siblings in a homeschool family.  So I’m sharing some of the projects I’ve been working on as classroom enrichment, extensions for older siblings, or fun projects for mom!

Fairy garden in the dinning room!   {}

This bird cage came from Hobby Lobby (please note: everything in my life seems to come from Hobby Lobby!)  Last year I saw fairy gardens at Graber Greenhouse in Jamesport, MO and I knew as soon as I saw the bird house it was the perfect!  So I found one of those plastic things you put under a plant pot to catch the excess water (what is that?), some tiny plants, and fairy paraphernalia and assembled this vignette while the kids “helped.”

A Fairy garden inside a bird house  {}

You could have lots of fun building your own fairy items (or shopping on Amazon!), you could write a story, or you could follow Anna’s lead and dance around the house like a fairy for a week.

Live centerpiece  {}

Brett helped me with this “art” project.  The box is a shadow frame (Hobby Lobby) we turned upside down so the glass is on the bottom.  Using 4″ square pots Brett and I could arrange and rearrange the succulents to our heart’s content.  I  wanted to hang this on the wall, like I’d seen all over the internet.  BUT… it  is heavy!  So I think I’ll use it as table décor.

Moss basket

This planter is a cheapie basket (NOT from Hobby Lobby, but I’m sure you can find one there.) and moss paper (Hobby Lobby!  Look by the floral foam.)  wrapped around with string.  You’ll need to choose a basket with a large enough weave to fit a large darning needle through the spaces.  Hot glue helps too!  The basket came with a plastic liner but you could probably line the basket with plastic yourself too.  Then you just need soil and plants!

And finally,

Create your own moss wall art with this tutorial {}

This is more of that moss paper (heart!), a simple frame and piece of foam board.  All from Hobby Lobby.  They should be paying me for this post.

Moss framed art {}

This requires math, which makes it the perfect project for a student who thinks they are making art. 😉  First, design a stencil.  Nothing too complicated because you will trace, cut and glue this many times!  Trace the stencil onto the back of the moss paper and cut. Over and over.  I recommend watching a movie.

Moss framed art  {}

Then create a grid on your foam board.  Get a rough idea of how far apart you want to space them and lightly mark the middle.  Measure the distance between the center of two stencils so you’ll know how far apart to make your lines.  Do the same thing with the offset lines.  You’ll have two sets of grid marks, because of the offset lines. Do check it to make sure the math matches up with your eye.

moss framed art  {}

Then remove the paper backing from the moss and hot glue to the foam board.  I suggest using a high temp glue gun.  Trim the edges as necessary.  Carefully erase the grid lines.  Remove the glass from your frame if desired and put in your beautiful creation!

Plants never looked better!

Categories: Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Plant Thematic Unit

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

Many of you said last month’s Insect Unit was oodles of fun, so today I’m sharing the Plant Thematic Unit we’ve been exploring .   It was perfect for homeschool since we are spending lots of time in the garden anyway, but its also the fun kind of unit I would have used as a kindergarten teacher to get us through the end of the school year or for summer school!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

After reading about what plants need, this experiment was to observe what happens when you take something away.  I bought a four-pack of flowers, cut them apart and Brett labeled them.  Plant 1 was our control, Plant 2 we took away sunlight by placing it in a shoebox, Plant 3 we took away carbon dioxide (we called it “air”) by zipping it in a plastic bag, Plant 4 we took away water.  Then we used these pages Plant Need Experiment Plants Need Experiment 2 to record.  It worked pretty well, but the only thing that died in the ziplock bag was the flower part, so make sure your plant has one 😉

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

Of course we used play dough to learn plant parts!  In addition to leaves, Brett also added a stigma and stamen after I took this picture, which could enrich this idea for older children, depending on how complex they made their models.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

Understanding plant parts led us to a project learning about the parts of the plant we eat.  I divided a paper plate into six sections.  Next we cut out the center circle from Plant Parts We Eat and attached it with a brad. Then we cut pictures from garden magazines. (For free catalogs try Gurney’s, Jung’s, Burpee, or Johnny’s.  They do take a few weeks to arrive.  You could also print the picture of food from the Who Grew My Soup post.)  The kiddos matched up the food to the plant part and glued.  This became a center activity because the brad allowed the circle to spin and become a puzzle over and over!

Make your own root viewer {}

We found this root viewer at Wal-Mart, but after opening it I think you could make one of your own by filling a quart jar with potting soil, placing seeds 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the jar, and covering outside of the jar with black construction paper and a rubber band (they need dark to grow).  Simple and cheaper!

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

Since lap books are our new favorite thing I created a foldable book to review plant parts and what plants need.  Print this Plants Have Plants Need chart and glue it onto construction paper if you like.  These Plants Have Plants Need labels can be cut out and glued into place on the flaps.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

Also for the lap book (or center) we made a flower petal math game.  I used an advertisement refrigerator magnets to make the circle for the center and covered it with contact paper.  Then I cut flower petals from cardstock and added snips of magnets.  Anna made patterns or used a wipe-off marker to write the number of petals I put on her flower.  Brett got two colors of petals and had to write addition problems with the marker.

Plant Thematic unit with activities, lapbooks, centers, and printables  {}

To observe how seeds begin to grow we traced bean seeds and then allowed them to soak in water for a few hours.  When we came back we could clearly see how the seeds had swelled and the outer paper-y layer was peeling back!

And since I was unexpectedly promoted to Sunday School teacher during this unit, here’s a bonus activity I did for church.  My poor kids had way too much “plant” that week, but it was last minute!

Sunday School lesson comparing faith to a seed {}

We compared faith to a seed, planted in our hearts.  Just like seeds need sunlight, air, and water our faith needs things to grow.  We brainstormed ideas and they drew three they like on the rain drops; things like praying, obeying parents, going to church, reading Scriptures.  Or you could just make the mobile with no pics at all :-).

And last but not least, no unit is complete without snacks!

Plant Thematic unit snack idea {}

This is “dirt” pudding; chocolate pudding mixed with crushed Oreos and layered with a few gummy worms.  Sooooooo educational!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

What I Now Know About Goats

.Bottle-fed baby goats join us on the farm!  {}

Okay, so we’ll just start with the fact that I know I’m crazy.  Because if the 33 laying hens, 5 banty hens, 3 cats and a dog weren’t enough work, I’ve really gone and done it.  I’ve added 2 bottle-fed diary goats.

Bottle-fed baby goats join us on the farm!  {}

Currently I’m waffling between thrilled and overwhelmed.  We’ve already discussed crazy.  I’d thought about goats.  I’d pondered the value of goats’ milk.  I’d even vaguely planned for goats.  In a theoretical kind of way.  But then there they were and I was bringing them home in a box that just happened to be in the back of my van.


They are one and two-week old Nubian dairy goats, meaning that in another year or so (maybe two years if they don’t grow fast enough for breeding this fall) they will be ready to be milked.  But for now we had to run around to get milk for them and bottles and the whole bit.  I spent some time this morning searching and researching and this is what I now know about goats.

The the best milk-replacer available within a 30 mile radius is Doe’s Match by Land O Lakes– don’t they make butter?  Goats need mother’s milk for at least the first day, but after that you can give them milk replacer for any of several reasons; mine was to create friendly goats.  Oh, and I don’t have a mama goat 😉  The kids should be fed 15-25% of their body weight in ounces of formula.  The only way to weigh a goat on a bathroom scale is to weigh yourself, pick up the goat, weigh again and subtract.  Goats getting less milk will switch to grain and hay quicker and be easier to wean, goats receiving more milk will grow faster.  I’m going for grow faster, since these were late-season kids and I’d like to breed them sooner rather than later. The milk replacer in the bottle should be just like human baby milk, warm enough so you can’t feel it on your wrist.


Horns can be problematic for domestic goats, since they catch in everything!  De-budding within two weeks, or as soon as you can feel a pea-shaped bump, is painful, but quickly over and is much more humane than allowing them to be caught in a fence by their horns all day.  And my most important lesson was to make a friend in the goat world who will help me de-bud these little does tomorrow and has already offered to come help me any time I get in over my head.  Thanks goodness farmers seem to love helping others do what they do!

Bottle-fed baby goats join us on the farm!  {}

And although family and friends who have known me for years will be shocked to learn I’ve adopted goats, few will be surprised that matching pink and purple collars were priorities, as was finding ideal names.  Ms. purple collar with more white on her backside is Fanny Price.  The gal with the pink collar and more brown towards the end is Harriet Smith.  (Characters from Mansfield Park and Emma, both by Jane Austen.)  I thought Fanny and Harriet were good goat names and it leaves me Lizzie, Elinor, and Maryanne from Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility for the lambs.  🙂

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, Mo

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, Mo {}

Its not Pennsylvania, but we live near a quaint little Amish community in Jamesport, MO.  We generally go a couple of times each year and stop by the bakery more often than that ;-).  I love the greenhouses, Brett enjoys catching glimpses of men farming by hand and Anna likes the horses.  Everybody likes the park!  I grew up just 10 minutes away, so we’ve had time to explore most of the businesses and pick our favorites.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, Mo {}

And this is hands down our favorite!  Anna’s Bakery makes fresh doughnuts every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon on busy tourist days.  You’ve got to get there early to get one, but if you miss them everything else is delicious too.  We went after our lunch this time, so we had sugar cookies right out of the oven.  The. best. cookies.  Ever.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, Mo {}

Doesn’t it just make you hungry 🙂  This store is one of few actually owned by an Amish family.

And speaking of hungry, there are two restaurants we love.  The first is the Country Cupboard and its owned by my childhood neighbors!  It has country charm and country-sized portions!

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, Mo {}

The other restaurant we like is the Dutch Pantry.  Its owned by Mennonites and has lots of great home cooked food, homemade ice cream, and PIE!!

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

The Dutch Pantry is on the square, which makes for convenient shopping of the stores on the main street.  There are lots of antique shops and tourist-y stores.  Its a nice place to browse if you’ve got time and no young children!

A mile or so outside of town is the H&M bulk food and grocery store.  I like to get my baking supplies here.  I buy honey in gallon containers, yeast in one pound packages and jar lids for canning. They’ve also got mixes, many sprinkles, a whole aisle of candy, and some Amish-type foods like beet-pickled eggs.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

This store is grouped with a few others, Countryside Bakery behind and the Fabric Barn across the parking lot.  It also has hitching posts for the horse and buggies that come shopping.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

Anna loves the horses.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

You’ll also see other animals as you drive about, like these ponies, plus the more usual cows, sheep, hogs, etc.


And of course there are the buggies.  Buggies are a pretty normal sight, but this?  This was a first for us.


I really have no clue.  The driver was sitting inside that… shed.  With a pony and a gas can on the back.  And being pulled by four horses, which you generally don’t see on the streets in town.

We didn’t stop this last time around, so no pics, but JAM furniture is a great carpentry shop.  They sell everything from jewelry boxes to swing sets shaped like Noah’s ark.  And they’ll let you play on them!  Some day I want Adirondack chairs from them and a hope chest for my daughter when she’s older 🙂

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

Graber Greenhouse is usually the reason for our trip.  They have a HUGE greenhouse and sell stuff I’ve not been able to find elsewhere.  This year I bought the makings of a fairy garden  to fit inside a bird house that decorates my dinning room.  In the fall they sell THE BEST apple cider.

  A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

This is the park, which is other family members’ reason for going!  Its a very nice one, especially as small towns go and has a restored log cabin on the grounds.

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

But the cabin has no slides, so you may not be interested ;-).

A day in Amish country, Jamesport, MO {}

Its also fun to see the homes and farms that belong to the Amish community.  Look close at the top and bottom photo and you’ll notice the lack of electric or phone lines going into the homes and the addition of hitching posts and buggies.  If you can ignore all the cars, its a bit like visiting a farm 100 years ago!

Categories: Animals, Family | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Spring Field Work = Happy Plants

We have been busy the last week trying to get lots of spring field work done before the storm.  Not the thunderstorm or rain storm or even hail storm, but a snow storm!


Observe: Tuesday– Thursday

Besides putting seeds in the ground there is a lot of field work to do in the spring.

Spring time on the farm! {}

Admittedly, driving chickens around on a toy tractor isn’t one of them…  But it made me laugh!

Actually this week Daddy hired a local cooperative to come spread plant food on several of our fields.

Spring time on the farm! {}

This three-wheeled contraption spreads phosphorous, potassium and a little bit of nitrogen on fields that will grow soybeans.  Soybeans, like all plants, need nutrients from the soil.  We try to help them out as best we can by leaving corn stalks and other dead plant matter in the soil to break down into food, but they also like the extra snack the fertilizer provides them!

Spring time on the farm! {}

From this view you can see small bits flying through the air.  (Look close!)  There is a wheel at the base of the truck’s bed that spins.  As a chain pulls the N,P, &K (those are the chemical expressions for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) down, the wheel spins and sends the plant food all across the field! In this photo you also see what looks like tall grass.  That’s rye and Daddy planted it last fall so it could be more food for this year’s plants, as well as keep the weeds to a minimum.  He’s so innovative ;-).

Spring time on the farm! {}

The cooperative (know by farmers as the co-op, which gets confusing if you’re a homeschool family also participating in a co-op!!) also sends out a guy in a semi truck full of more N,P, & K.  When the spreader is empty it drives over, the guys swing the auger out over the spreader and fills the tank again.

We’re all about happy plants :-).

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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