Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nature Moment of the Week...

     Look at all those goslings!  These canadian geese passed just a few feet from where we were playing in the river.  I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but it's hard to hold a camera and a slippery toddler who wants to catch a "duck".

Dyeing Silks

     To me, the very thought of paying twelve dollars for a play silk is insane, especially when it is so much cheaper and fun to dye your own.  I recently had my nieces over so that they could all experience the fun of dyeing their own play silks.  (Or scarves, in the case of my older nieces, who have out grown play silks) They all wanted to do tie dye as oppose to doing it all one color.  I wasn't sure at first how tie dyeing would work with cool-aid dye, but they turned out beautiful, and each one is as unique as the girl that made it.  This had to be the yummiest smelling project I ever did.  I just could not convince the girls that the unsweetened cool-aid with vinegar was not good to taste. 
     I mixed three or two packets of cool-aid in just a little bit of hot water, to try to get the darkest colors possible.  Since the scarves were only dipped, and did not soak, they were not dark, but were bright enough.
     Everyone had their own method for dipping and tying.  I was pretty sure Anna's first scarf was going to turn out mud colored, since she just kept dipping, and dipping, but it turned out a lovely burnt orange.

     As you can see, the results were varied, but all were beautiful.
     And they made great capes!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tree Lapbook

     Anna is going to be doing lapbooks this summer for her more in depth nature studies.  She will still be keeping a nature journal, but lapbooks are just so much fun.  I can imagine for some children they would be torturous, but Anna is very crafty and creative, so lapbooks are a great fit for her.  In fact, she has retained the information she learned through making her first lapbook so well, that I have decided to incorporate them into many of our school subjects next year. 
     Here are a few pictures of her tree lapbook.
The cover


      She has now turned into a little tree conservationist.  We were driving by a place in town where they are grading the land to build a couple of new stores, and Anna was horrified to see the woods that had been there completely gone.   She said, "I know they have to have space, but did they have to cut down all the trees?"  Good question.


 Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green;

 The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

Making Paper the Quick and Easy Way

     I discovered this way of making paper a little while back when I was teaching my co-op nature class.  I wanted the kids to make paper as an activity to go along with our wasp study, but I couldn't find any tutorials that didn't require hours of time and lot's of equipment.  That was until I discovered the tin can method.  You can turn out little circles of paper in just a few minutes, and I didn't have to buy or make any special equipment.  We had so much fun making this in class, that I decided to incorporate it into Anna's tree lapbook. 

All you need is :
1. Two tin cans, (or a tin can and a yogurt container, as is the case here) with one of the cans having it's bottom cut out.
2. A blender.
3. Window screen.
4. An embroidery hoop.
5. Several rags or hand towels
6. Scrap paper
It was actually all those little bits of paper left over from cutting out the mini books, that gave me the idea of making paper for her lapbook.
     After you have all your supplies, start ripping up the paper into little bits, and then let them soak for a few minutes.  Dump the water and the paper into the blender, and blend until it looks like sludge.  Set your embroidery hoop with the screen in it, on top of the yogurt container, and then put your bottomless can on top of that.  Lift up the can when the water has mostly drained out, and it looks gelatinous.
Press the water out with a rag, and then remove the screen.  If the paper wants to stick to the screen, just press some more water out. 

 Lay the paper on another rag or paper towel, and press some more.  That's it!  This project is so easy, that Anna was able to do it almost entirely by herself.  She made  a few different colors, and even experimented by putting leaves in the mix. 

Here are some of the paper circles finished, and drying in the sun.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Experimenting with dye

I recently bought a few white silk scarfs for my nieces and Anna to dye with cool aid, and whereas cool aid is bright, quick, and easy, it's a little too bright, quick, and easy to be much fun. At least for me. So I started thinking about natural dyes, and what readily available materiel I could use to make my own dyes. I did some research on the Internet, and soon found out that there is a lot more to creating "fast" natural dyes than finding a plant that could possibly be staining.   For instance, with the exception of indigo, natural dyes have to be treated with a mordant in order to make them permanent.  Most mordants are pretty yucky stuff, and I really wouldn't want my kids chewing on it.   Another thing to consider is that things do not always make the color you think it would.  Beets do not make a beautiful bright pink like you think they should.  You also have to know if something is "light fast" or not.  Apparently poke berries are not, so there's another bright pink out the window.  You can also get drastically different colors, depending on what mordant you use.  My idea of using something that I could obtain my self to use as a dye, was starting to seem impossible.  That is until I remembered I could get a dye, complete with mordant, strait from the tap.   Ferrous sulfate or iron, is a mordant that is used to darken or "sadden" colors.  My well water is full of iron, and of course with iron comes rust.  It stains everything, much to my continual irritation.  But, if it stains everything that I don't want it to, maybe it could stain something I did want. 
So I filled a pot with water, and set it over my stove to get hot. When the water is cold it looks clear, but as soon as it gets hot, it almost magically turns orange.  At this point I put the scarf in. 
After about thirty minutes the scarf was peach, and the water was nearly clear again. I wanted it darker, so I put fresh water in the pot and repeated the process.
After about an hour, the scarf was a dark peach, and it didn't seem like it was going to get any darker.  I liked the color, but I felt that after it dried it would be very close to my skin color, and I wanted something more vibrant. 
I was hesitant about adding anything natural, since I know first hand how iron can suddenly turn something black, so I played it safe and added a packet of red cool aid.  It was a bright fun color, but I was having way too much fun to stop there.  I decided to dull the color a little, since it was a little too, I don't know, "cool-aidish".  I added some black coffee, and that had the desired effect.
This is the scarf dried and finished.  It is more pink than the picture shows, and when you hold it up to the light, it has a gold undertone, probably due to the rusty first coat.     It was a fun experiment, and has got me wanting to try out all sorts of dye stuffs.  For instance, there is a young walnut tree that overhangs our property, and I have heard that walnut bark can make a green dye.  I think learning about natural dye would make a great school project for an older child.  There is so much chemistry involved in dye making.   One thing I though was interesting was how the little polyester tag stayed bright white throughout the whole dyeing process. 



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking for a Cure for Boredom

     Lately I've been hearing a lot of, "Mommy, I'm bored."  And while I strongly believe that creativity blossoms out of boredom... Still, I know that there can be precious little for Anna to do around here sometimes. 
Last night, in desperation for something to do, I taped numbers on the kitchen floor in order to make a hop-scotch game.  Anna said, "Now all we need is a bean bag for it."  A bean bag is a cinch to make, so I thought I would make up a few, then create something more permanent to do with them.  ( The blue letters on my kitchen floor are nice in all, but I don't think they'll become a permanent feature.)

So today I conquered my fear of power tools, in order to make this bean bag toss board.  There are some power tools I don't mind using, such as the electric drill; but anything to do with a saw I usually leave to my husband.  However, he has been working to much lately that he is never hear long enough to do anything but sleep, so if I was going to get this done any time soon, I needed to do it myself.  I used a jig saw to cut out the circle and trim one side, and as it turns out, the jig saw is very easy to use.  It kind of reminded me of using a sewing machine. 
     All the materials were stuff that we had on hand.  I didn't buy anything for this project, which makes it my favorite kind.  The board is about 20" by 30", it has a bag on the back to catch the bean bags, and a carrying handle. 
     I am finding out that I have terrible hand eye coordination.  Anna can beat me hands down.  This is probably why I never played any sports.  Of course, she thinks it's just hilarious how awful I am. 

Close Incounter with a Wren

     While I was walking by my garden today, I kept hearing this CHEEP! CHEEP! really close by.  I was looking for was making the sound, when suddenly a little bird flew right past my foot.  I didn't get a chance to see what it was, but then a few seconds later I heard it again, still close by.  This time I found it sitting in my plum tree.  A little baby wren.  I called for Anna to, " Come out quick!", and we both were able to get very close to this tiny little bird. At one point it decided to fly out of the tree, but still unsure of it's wings, it landed on Anna's head!  She didn't even flinch, but stood perfectly still until it flew away.  I probably would have screamed if it had landed on my head, but Anna handled it much better.  Needless to say, that made her day.
     After that, I decided I needed my camera, and managed to take a few pics as we followed it on it's unsteady adventures.
     Isn't it just precious? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Late Spring, and All That Comes With It

     I have been spending a lot of time outside lately, planting shrubs, staining cabinents, and what not.  It's lovely being able to enjoy this beautiful weather and increasingly longer days.  I see the school bus pass by after we have been working and playing outside for hours, and think, "What a pity."  It would be so sad to have to miss out on lovely spring days.
     During school time today I thought it would be good to spruce up our nature table, and make it look a little more like outside.   It had been looking pretty shabby, with Anna adding some stuff to it that I would really have prefered left outside, and Samuel making sure to sprinkle dirt everywhere and rearange the rocks daily.  He loves rocks more than any toy. 
     The play silk that I had been using on it has long since been returned to the play room, so I desided to do without a cloth.  All our flowers are pink and purple right now- very girly.   I love my irises.
     All this extra sunlight has it's down side too.  The twins wake up at the crack of dawn, no matter what time that may be.  Lately it's been 6:00.  Not being a morning person, it has really started wearing me down. I have set a 10:00 bed time for myself, in the hopes that if I can get eight hours of sleep, I will start feeling a little less dead and on edge.   Maybe this morning will be overcast.  One can always hope.