Posts Tagged With: science

Farmers Taking Care of the Land

It’s true.  Farmers haven’t always done the best job taking care of the land.  Generally not on purpose, but because we didn’t always know what was the best way.  But we have learned SO MUCH in the last hundred, fifty, and even five years.  Modern farmers are getting better and better at taking care of the land everyday!

Farmers taking care of the land {}

Terraces have been a big part of taking care of the land on our farm.  Here in northern Missouri the hills can be quite rolling, thunderstorms can be very severe, and ditches, gullies, and streams abound!  Terraces are rows of dirt made around the shape of a hill that stop the soil from being washed away.  In the above photo you can see the terrace lines through the snow.  They are made with a bulldozer, which carefully pushed the dirt into a pattern designed just for that field. It costs a lot to build new terraces, but they should last more than 20 years, making them a good investment for our future.

Farmers taking care of the land {}

When the bulldozer is gone, however, the field is sometimes left in poor shape.  The heavy equipment crushes the dirt and leaves deep tracks.  Seeds can’t grow well in the hard, uneven dirt, so something has to be done.  That’s when Daddy (and Anna!) pull out this strange contraption.  Its a field cultivator.  The arrow shaped pieces of metal in the front stir up the soil and the spikes in the back smooth it out, ready for tiny seeds!

Farmers taking care of the land {}

I took these pictures, however, because this is a sight you won’t see often on our farm.  A field cultivator leaves the soil nice and smooth, but it also leaves it loose and ready to wash away in the next thunderstorm.  Once the seeds begin to grow their roots will help hold the dirt in place, preventing washouts, but for a few months this ground is vulnerable.  We only use the field cultivator when it is truly necessary and then we only use it exactly where we need it.

Farmers taking care of the land {}

Here you can see the tractor driving on the top of the dirt mound with the cultivator repairing the ground on both sides.  You can also see that Daddy and Anna are driving only on the terraces, not the whole field.

Spring (should it ever bother to arrive) is a time for lots of dirt work.  Follow us here on Daddy’s Tractor to see more of what farmers are learning about taking care of the land!

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

A Farm Lesson Plan; Who Grew My Soup

One of the great things about winter is going to farm conferences.  A few weeks ago we attended the MO Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher conference.  Daddy and I learned lots from our seminars and speakers, but Brett probably had the most fun ;-).   He was finally old enough to join the grade school kids at the children’s seminars, provided by the Promotion and Education committee, directed by Diane Olson, Barbra Wilson, and Terribeth Spargo.  They came up with this fun farm lesson plan and Brett loved it.

The activities were based on the book, Who Grew My Soup, by Tom Darbyshire.

Who Grew My Soup, a Farm Lesson plan

Its a silly story with hilarious illustrations that look like something you’d create with an app on your iPad.  Basically this kid decides he’s not eating his healthy soup until he knows what’s in it.  So, because isn’t this what happens every time you declare war on vegetables, a hot air balloon (actually tomato) swoops down and carries him off to the fields where the soup was grown.

Farm Lesson Plan, Who Grew My Soup

Next they had the kids sort plastic food by plant part.  For example, the tomatoes in the soup are the fruit of plant, but carrots are the roots and corn and peas are the seeds.  This chart can get you started if you’re stuck with that one!

Farm Lesson Plan, Parts of the Plant we use for food

The kids also got to vote on their favorite kind of soup.  This, of course, would be a great thing to graph.  If we had more people (one hurdle for homeschooling!) I wanted to make a “live” graph where everyone used an actual can of soup to represent their vote and stack them on the floor as a bar graph.  If you try it, send me a picture please :-).

They ended the seminar by making their own Who Grew My Soup Mix.

Farm Lesson Plan, make your own soup

1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas (green and yellow if possible)
1/2 cup lentils (red and green for variety)
1/2 rice (white or brown but NOT instant)
1 cup tri-colored spiral pasta

Directions for Mix
Layer these ingredients in the order given into a 1 quart canning jar.  Pack each layer in place before adding the next ingredient.  Attach a gift tag with the following:

Soup Recipe
1 jar Who Grew My Soup mix
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Remove pasta from mix and set aside.  Place the remaining soup mix in a large soup pot.  Add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 45 minutes.  Add pasta and ground beef and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Thanks so much to the P&E committee for such a fun seminar.  Especially when it comes to farm lessons, Brett prefers to learn from someone other than mom :-).  I mean really, what does she know about soup?!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Baby Chick Theme Unit

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Monday morning I realized we needed to started getting ready for our baby chicks, and hey! why not learn about chicks for school too?!  So that morning I scrambled about for a few minutes (thanks Google and Pinterest!) and came up with this baby chick theme unit!

The best resource I found was this one from Missouri Farm Bureau.  It is an online Egg to Chick Web Quest which shows pictures of chicks developing in the egg!  It also had a chart to fill out, which Brett loved doing since we printed pics from one of their links instead of drawing.  He loves glue, drawing– not so much.

baby chick theme unit worksheet

The Web Quest also provided an egg to print and label, which Brett did with a bit of help.

Baby Chick theme unit worksheet baby chick theme unit worksheet

Sorry about that last photo.  Please excuse the mom in me…

We also made chick cookies.

baby chick theme unit

We discussed “habitat” and what a baby chick needed to survive.  We set up a real brooder, but you could easily make a “brooder” in a shoebox!

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

We watched many YouTube videos of chicks, chicks hatching, eggs incubating, and whatever else YouTube provided.  Seriously though, who videos some of this stuff?  You can watch OUR chick video we made last year– it really is stupendous 😉

I found this pic on Pinterest with no valid link, so if it belongs to you let me know and I’ll give credit where credit is due :-).  We haven’t made ours yet; hopefully we’ll get it done today!

Baby chick theme unit life cycle

This baby chick craft from Rockabye Butterfly also looks like fun, but alas, Brett isn’t into art and doesn’t want to make crafts.  But I’ll post it cause I really want to make one!

baby chick theme unit craft

We also wrote in our journal, checked out chick books from the library, colored a Little Red Hen page, and welcomed real baby chicks!  So overall the thrown together baby chick theme unit turned out to be one of Brett’s favorites.  Go figure, right?!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

History of Agriculture Theme Unit

One of the best things about homeschooling is choosing to study what you like!  We recently completed a theme unit on the history of agriculture.  If this sounds like fun to you, here ya go!



The American Family Farm by Joan Anderson

Farming Then and Now by Katie Roden

Pictures from the Farm by JC Allen and Son, Inc. (Brett loved this one!)

Case Photographic History by April Halberstadt

The Big Book of Tractors by John Deere

Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm by Billy Steers (and other Tractor Mac books)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder, Chapters 10 &11

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Keep a vocabulary list of all the new words you learn

Brainstorm facts you’ve learned about farming; choose one to write in your journal

Explore the poem “One for the Mouse, one for the crow, one to rot, one to grow”

Pretend you are living on a family farm __ years ago.  Write a letter to someone telling them about your day.


Create a timeline of farm history (We started about 1800.).  Add to it through the unit.  These ready-made timelines were great resources!

“Plant” (glue) ears of corn in numerical order.  For older students, plant numbers by 2s, 5s, etc. or backwards.

Use this website from to learn how many miles a man walked to plant one acre, how much a plow cost and billions of other math facts from the 19th Century!

Use the “one for the mouse” poem to do a little hands-on subtraction

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Try this experiment to learn why rubber tires were a great improvement over horses hooves and steel wheels.

Experiment with tying straw sheaves.  If you don’t have straw large weeds from the side of  the road will work as well.  Will your sheaves protect the straw from the rain?

Make a farm diorama with a shoe box, clay, plastic toy cowboys and horses (can you figure out a way to dress your cowboys to look like farmers?), and any other things you can imagine!

Social Studies

Try sowing seeds yourself.  Grass seed is a great choice.

Use a hand grinder to grind wheat.

Watch the archival footage on these John Deere DVDs. CombinesTractors

Field Trip!  The best part of homeschooling– right?!  Visit Missouri Town, an Amish community, or similar location

History of Agriculture Theme Unit


Make a collage of seeds

Design a piece of machinery the could help farmers.  Use food boxes, paper towel tubes, brads, yarn, whatever!

Roll toy tractors in (washable) paint and create prints


The Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:5-8

Other Internet Resources

Country Life vs. City Life from Home School Year Blog

Farm Theme Pinterest board

Fun on the Farm by Fabulous in First Blog

Counting 1-5 Grain Bins from Hands On: As We Grow Blog

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pumpkin Theme Ideas for Pre-school and Kindergarten

Pumpkin puzzle for pumpkin theme ideas

You may have read about the visitors to our farm a few weeks ago.  You may not have the opportunity to ride on a combine during harvest, but almost anyone can visit and farm this time of year!  Pumpkin patches abound with great opportunities for everyone to see bits and pieces of farm life.  And since we just did a homeschool unit about fall for my preschooler and kindergartener, here are some pumpkin theme ideas for you to use– and hopefully you can visit a pumpkin patch as well!

Of course, cutting open a pumpkin and playing with the seeds are a must.  But instead of carving a face, try these math and science ideas instead.

Clean the seeds, layer them on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt, and roast at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Eat and enjoy!

Pumpkin seeds, idea for pumpkin theme unit

OR put the seeds in a plastic tub and let the kiddos squeeze and squish the squash 😉

Make a pumpkin puzzle!  We tried a few different designs and the best puzzles were pumpkins cut in horizontal “slices.”  For older kids talk about how puzzle pieces lock together and have them help design the puzzle.  For little ones just cut simple waves around the pumpkin to be used like stacking rings.

Pumpkin puzzle, pumpkin theme ideas

Design a pumpkin patch of your own.  We made fall leaves with my cricut, added a variety of pretty pumpkins, painted pumpkin leaves and vines, added a plastic rake from our summer sand toys, and talked about the pumpkin life cycle.

Pumpkin patch, pumpkin theme ideas

And speaking of pumpkin life cycles, we designed our own pumpkin life cycle chart with a paper plate, a seed, and tissue paper flowers.

Throw bean bags into a pumpkin.

Make a pumpkin smoothie.

And then when you are done with the pumpkins, place pieces in a plastic tub (you’ll want a lid for this one!) and watch the pumpkin decompose.  We journaled about our observations in our science journal.

Observe pumpkin decay, pumpkin theme idea

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Green Farming (with red!)

On our farm we drive red equipment, but on Wednesday of this week our family learned a bit more about going green.  Environmentally speaking :-).

Tractors, combines, sprayers, and other farm equipment are powered by diesel engines and engines create two things– basically dirt and gas.  Companies who build these tractors and such have been working hard to make engines much cleaner.  Check out the picture below.  The red box shows how much pollution was created by a tractor in 1996.  The blue box shows how much pollution is created by engines built in 2011.  The green represents the changes that will be in place just two years from now in 2014.

Green Farming (with red!)

You can see how much progress has been made!

Of course, not everyone solves problems in the same way.  Our red equipment is made by a company called Case IH, but I bet you’ve heard of another company called John Deere.  Deere and Case both have found ways to lower the amount of pollution, but the methods are very different!  If you’d like to learn more about these methods check out this Case website and watch their video.

Categories: Science, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Straw or Hay?

Last week I showed you boys picking up straw bales in the wheat field, but do you know what straw is?  Or how it is different from hay?  Before we begin, take a moment to create a hypothesis.  That crazy word actually means “educated guess.”  It is not a wild a crazy guess.  For example, it would be a bit silly for you to guess that straw bales are moon dust and hay is fairy dust.  Definitely not right.  But you do know a few things you could use to base your guess on.  You know it probably has to do with farming.  Yes, that is broad, but it would certainly eliminate moon and fairy dust.  You know straw has to do with a wheat field too.  That narrows it down a lot.  And you might know a few things I haven’t told you, like who eats hay or how your neighbor uses straw.  Now, using that information try to create an educated guess about what hay and straw are.

Write it down in your science journal.  Even if the answer is different from your guess you can still learn things from your guess.




Straw is the stalk of the wheat.  The combine can cut the wheat close to the ground, sucking in lots of stalk, separating it from the grain, and spitting in out in rows behind the combine.   Then the stalks can be gathered up and pressed tight into bales by a machine like the one in the picture above.  This machine wraps a plastic rope around the bales, holding them together.


Hay, on the other hand, is cut grass.  And often not just any old grass, but certain types of grass, like alfalfa.  Farmers cut the grass when it is a few feet tall with a special mower.  The grass dries, becoming hay.  A tool called a rake is pulled behind the tractor and the grass is moved into neat rows.  Now the baler can scoop up the hay, just like it does straw, pressing it tight and wrapping it with twine.

Straw and Hay are also used for different purposes.  Since animals eat grass all summer, farmers feed them hay in the winter.  Using special grass like alfalfa helps keep cows, horses, sheep and goats healthy when the grass isn’t growing.  Straw is often used on construction sites to keep the dirt from washing away and to keep the lawn wet as new grass grows.  Have you seen it on the sides of a new highway project or in a newly constructed neighborhood?  Straw is also often used a bedding for animals to sleep on and you might lay straw in the rows of your garden to keep weeds from growing.

Compare this answer with the guess you wrote down in your journal.  How do they compare?  Did you learn anything new?

Categories: Science | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Super Simple Soil Experiment

If you didn’t see them last week, scroll down to Law of Supply and Demand Lesson Plan and check out the tires on the tractor, cart, and combine.

What do you think?  Pretty big, huh.  Well, today you will learn why farm equipment needs to have such large tires!

To begin, let’s try a super simple soil experiment.  You will need three things.

1.) Either some soil or sand

2.) Your finger

3.) Your hand

Like I said, super simple soil experiment.  Let’s start with the soil or sand.  All you need is a pile.  It can be in a pot, in the bag you bought it in, or in the sandbox, but you need a pile, not just the ground in your backyard.

Soil Science experiment

Next you need your finger.  Got it?  Good.  Poke your finger down into the soil.

soil experiment

Did your finger go down into the soil?  Unless your dirt is really a rock, your finger likely went in all the way.  Now, spread your fingers wide and place your whole hand on the soil.  Push down again.

soil experiment

Unless your soil is more like oozy mud, your hand probably made little more than a print.  Compare the two “holes” you made.  Do they look like mine?

soil experiment

Your finger made a much deeper hole, didn’t it.  And this hole was not made by taking soil out of the pile, but by pushing it in.  Soil being pushed down is called “compaction.”  Compacted soil is hard.  It has little room for air, water, or roots to grow.  Compaction is bad!

Unfortunately, compaction is also a reality.  Farmers must drive tractors, combines, sprayers, and other equipment over the ground.  So they have to do something about it.  Historically farmers have solved this problem by plowing their fields.  Horses pulled the first steel plows through the ground hundreds of years ago.  The metal knife cut into the ground, breaking the soil into pieces.  This helped with compaction, but can you guess what it hurt?  Erosion.  When the dark brown dirt was turned over and the seed bed was smooth even a small rain could wash away the soil into ditches, streams, and rivers.  Big rains could wash away entire portions of a field.

So today many farmers use a method called “no-till”.  Instead of plowing the ground farmers plant seeds into dirt that was left just as it was after last year’s crop was harvested.  Roots from the old plant hold the soil together, preventing erosion, BUT the soil was again compacted.

Engineers, Scientists, and others worked with equipment companies like Case IH and John Deere to make new tires that would cause less compaction.  They used the same idea you just did with your finger and hand.  Old tractor tires were small and thin, sort of like your finger.  New tractor tires are wide and gigantic, sort of like your open hand!  New tires were made of rubber, instead of steel and farmers often let some air out of the tires to make them squash even more, the way a balloon will squeeze flat when it is almost out of air.  Some tractors and combines even run on tracks, like a bulldozer, which lessens compaction even more.

Farmers care about the earth and the soil on it because they understand how important healthy soil is to happy eating!  And who knows?  Maybe one day you will become a scientist and help create new technologies that will allow farmers to take even better care of our world!

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

Farm Bureau Event

It wasn’t quite what we envisioned, but “Where Does Your Pizza Come From?” event was lots of fun!  The last-minute rain sent us inside, but we ground wheat into flour, “made” pizza sauce, milked goats and learned about making cheese, pet chickens and a calf, planted seeds, learned about farm safety, and ate pizza!  Early’s Tractor in Cameron donated a remote control tractor and a barn set which were given away as prizes, and despite being literally blown away by it all, we had a lot of fun!

Here are the pictures from the event, as well as the questions from the game.  Do you know the answers?

1.) How many people does one farmer feed?

Farm Bureau event

2. What two states grow the most green peppers?

Farm Bureau event

3.) How long does it take a tomato plant to produce mature fruit?

Farm Bureau event

4.) How many states have cattle farms or ranches?

Farm Bureau event

5.) What is meat from a hog called?

Farm Bureau event

6.) What two kinds of wheat are usually used in pizza crust?

Farm Bureau event

7.) Beef is a great source of what three nutrients?

Farm Bureau event

8.) As a nation, how many acres of pizza does America consume in one day?

Stumped?  Here are the answers! 1.) One farmer feeds 155 people. 2.) California and Florida grow the most green peppers. 3.) It takes a tomato plant 75-85 days to become a mature plant. 4.) All 50 states produce beef. 5.) Meat from a hog (or pig) is called pork. 6.) Hard red spring wheat and Hard red winter wheat are primarily used in pizza crusts. 7.) Beef is a great source of “zip”– zinc, iron, and protein.  8.) Americans eat 100 acres of pizza each day!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Whole Wheat

It’s almost here!  This Saturday is our wheat harvest day– Where Does Your Pizza Come From?  I’m excited to announce some additions to our event.  Most importantly, free pizza will be served!  You may thank the Quad County Cattleman’s Association for their donation for beef pizzas, as well as Casey’s for a nice discount.  There will also be a raffle with several prizes, including a Case IH toy tractor!  Entry for the raffle will be a card to be filled out at each of the stations.  When a card shows you have been to each area it may be placed in the drawing– good luck!

Don’t forget to check in here for weather information!

To get you primed and ready for this weekend, here is a lesson on whole wheat!

A whole grain is just what it sounds like– all of the grain.  It can be a grain of wheat, oats, barley, or any cereal plant, but to call it whole grain means you do not remove part of the grain before you crack, roll, grind or eat it.

whole wheatA grain of whole wheat is similar to an egg.  It has a husk for a carton, bran for an eggshell, endosperm for egg whites, and germ for the yolk.  The husk must be removed, but the rest of the grain is important!  The bran (eggshell) has lots of fiber and makes you feel full!  Germ (yolk )has fiber and minerals, but is also full of complex carbs, protein, and essential fatty acids, and is an excellent source of vitamins B and E.  Endosperm (whites) is mostly carbs.  White flour is made of only endosperm.  This helps it last longer in your cabinet, but takes away the most healthy parts of the grain !  The great thing about keeping all of the grain is that when mixed with the endosperm, the germ and bran work with it to make a slow burning complex carb– very healthy!

The best way to enjoy it is to grind the whole wheat flour yourself!  Even flour labled “whole wheat” at the store can be missing some of the bran and most of the germ.  The bran and germ cause the flour to go bad sitting on the store shelf, so it sells better without them.  On our farm we use a mill and simply turn the knob any time we want fresh, whole wheat flour.  Watch and see!

To make bread from this freshly ground whole wheat flour go to for the book, No More Bricks.

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