Category Archives: Education

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication #2

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 26, 2017

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Entomoligists:
– Joseph the Bug Hunter (JBH)
– Jacob the Bug Whacker (JBW)
– Melissa (Mom)

Report on 1st Experiment:
The beetles in the bug house are not as destructive as we predicted. It is possible that we have disturbed their behavior patterns by taking them out of their natural environment.

But I suspect something more diabolical.

They are up to something. I just know it.

New Observations:
– With high winds in the early afternoon, subjects behaved as they do in early morning and twilight hours. They were hanging on tight to their green victims, but they did not flee when approached.
– They are moving onto the blackberry leaves in force. I find more congregating there everyday.
– There are no Japanese beetles on the blanket of mint growing on the vineyard floor. Is the scent too strong?

They are increasing in number and becoming more destructive by the day. We must figure out how to stop them before it’s too late.

Experiment #2:
In further studying natural methods of disposing of the revolting beasts, we have decided to strategically place containers of drowned beetles around the perimeter of the most attacked areas of the homestead.

Other beetle battlers have reported success with this method. Apparently, the smell of rotting beetle bodies deters others from coming into the area of destruction.

Results pending. (I’ll believe it when I see it.)

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication #1

Operation Japanese Beetle Eradication (JBE)
Date: June 23, 2017

Entomoligists:
– Joseph
– Jacob
– Melissa

Subject of Study:
Japanese beetles aka Revolting Beasts

Appearance:
– Six legs
– Oval in shape, 1/3-1/2 inches
– Metallic green with coppery brown leaf covers
– Five patches of white hair on each side of the abdomen and 1 patch on the lower abdomen

Life cycle and Known Facts:
– Egg, grub, and adult stages.
– From early June to late July they emerge from the soil as pupa, become fully grown adults and begin their attack.
– They have an 8 week lifecycle during which they are laying eggs every day.
– The females live for a couple of weeks feeding on trees, shrubs and roses in the morning.
– They hide during mid-day and return to the desecrated plants in the afternoon.
– At this time, they carry out their true objective: they lay more eggs.
– They leave their scent on the leaves they eat as if to tell their cronies “this is a good spot”.

Observations:
– The beetles seem to be sleeping during twilight and the early morning hours.
– Cool rainy weather makes them lazy and depressed.
– In extreme winds, they have a tighter grip on the leaves they are desecrating.
– They are beginning to go after the early fruit as well as the bright green leaves.
– They love roses and are VERY fond of hardy kiwi and grape leaves.
– They are starting to attack blackberry, seaberry, aronia, cherry, blueberry and raspberry leaves.
– They seem to enjoy healthy plants as they are leaving the unhealthy ones alone.

Experiment #1:
– I caught four of the fiends and put them in my son’s bug house for observation.
– In this first experiment, we will make note of how long it takes 4 beetles to devour a leaf.

Results pending.

Counting Change

Ray and I like to let our spare change pile up on the dresser.

We have containers for quarters, nickels, pre-1982 pennies and everything else and we always say we’ll sort it later…which means we will get to it anywhere between a week and 6 months later.

The last time we did a big sort, Ray had the boys help. He talked to him about each coin and told them how many quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies it takes to make a dollar. At the end of the sorting, the boys each got a Sacajawea dollar for their piggy banks.

That was 6 months ago.

Last week, we decided it was past time to sort change. I wanted the boys to help me again, so I looked for a fun printable/activity on Pinterest. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I made my own.

Make a Dollar from Change.

First, I talked to the boys about each coin. I asked them who the president was on each coin, which side was ‘heads’ and which ‘tails’ and talked to them about why some of the coins had ridges…something we had just learned when we read The Tuttle Twins and the Creature from Jekyll Island.

Then, we talked about how many of each coin it took to make a dollar. I handed out the printable I had made and told them if they made a dollar with each coin, they could keep all the change for their piggy banks.

They loved it. They learned and they made a little money for helping me.

Jake was tired of counting change by the time he got to the nickel page, but Joe plugged right along until he’d completed all four sheets.

 

 

 

 

Milkweed and Mistakes

I have a confession to make. A rather embarrassing oversight on my part.

I had thought all the milkweed was gone.

Whenever I went out to the pasture, I searched and searched with no luck.

Turns out, I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

It wasn’t until Joe, my sweet 6-year-old boy pointed it out that I realized I’d missed it.

“Here’s the milkweed!” he shouted.

I gazed at it and felt an overwhelming sense of…embarrassment. Or maybe shame is a better word.

You see, I had seen this plant before.

In the vineyard.

In the fedge, and all over the pasture and swales.

In short, I’d seen it everywhere.

I just didn’t recognize it for what it was.

I’d been searching for the tall plant with the big pods, not these little guys. I didn’t stop to think what these might be…I just pulled them.

Sure, I left them alone when they weren’t in the middle of a path or smack in the center of the yard. The leaves are smooth and kind of pretty and I thought they looked nice mixed in with all the other greenery.

But I ruthlessly pulled all the others.

I felt really bad that I’d not recognized this plant for what it was. So I did a few Google searches to see what the life cycle of the milkweed is.

I learned that the life cycle from seed to flower is actually about 3 years. And guess what? The young plants don’t look a whole lot like milkweed. In fact, the very first “common mistake” listed is…

Not recognizing the small plant for what it really is- Milkweed!

I felt a little bit better after that.

Until I remembered that my 6-year-old recognized the plant for what it was.

Boy was my face red!

Life Skills

For the past couple of weeks, Joe has been asking if he could learn how to start a fire. My first reaction was to say “maybe when you are a bit older”.

But I then I thought, he’s curious and interested so why not now?

He’ll learn more and retain the information better. And, he’ll learn the safe and correct way to start a campfire. 

Away from buildings, with water handy and the safe guidance of daddy.

Last night, Ray gave Joe and Jake their first lesson in building a fire.

He explained the why and patiently answered questions.

He guided them and he reinforced being safe at every turn.

He quizzed them throughout the process to make sure they had listened and understood both the dangers and reasons behind the safety guidelines.

He also explained what a fire needs. Air, heat and fuel.

I enjoyed watching him teach a lesson. The boys might have learned how to build and create fire from me or someone else, but watching them work with Ray and listening carefully to every word was amazing.

He was patient and the boys had fun.

They learn by doing and they were so proud of the end result of the lesson.

“Look at the fire we built!”

When the fire was roaring and ready, we all sat around the fire while the boys roasted marshmallows for us.

The boys could not stop smiling.

Fire play is so fun
With Daddy to guide the boys
Eyes bright and amazed

A Frog’s Life

One cold, windy and sunny day, Joe got up and wanted to grow some frogs.

“Mom, can we collect some tadpoles from the pond and grow our own frogs?”

High off the success of hatching our own eggs, we put are mud boots on, grabbed a glass jar and trekked out to the pond to collect a few tadpoles.

“We might not see many since it’s so cold,” I told Joe.

We saw just a few more than I thought we would.

“Our pond is going to have all these frogs!?”

“Well, not all of them will make it,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” Joe said. “Predators.”

Joe wanted to collect a jar-full, but I convinced him that we should start with 5.

He dipped the jar into the shallow end and carefully lifted it out.

We ended up with 10.

The boys wanted to rush back inside and put them in the fish tank. I wasn’t so sure that Bubbles and Fannytail would appreciate that, so we went in and researched how to care for tadpoles.

We picked a shallow container and covered the bottom with gravel. Jake picked out a few bigger rocks for when the tadpoles grow into froglets.

Then we filled it about halfway up with some of our filtered water and poured the 10 tadpoles into their new home.

A couple of the sites we looked at said that they would eat fish food. Since we already had it on hand, that is what we sprinkled in for now. It’s not an ideal diet for frogs, so I ordered some frog food.

It takes 12-16 weeks for the tadpoles to develop into frogs. We are not sure how old these little guys are so we may see frogs sooner…or later.

Tadpoles in a jar
Metamorphose into frogs
In a month or 4

Trampoline Lessons

Joe found a beetle today while we were woodchipping the garden.

It was huge.

It was shiny.

It was making a weird noise…a cross between a hiss and a squeak.

Joe and Jake both thought it was cool.

I thought it was creepy and wanted to feed it to the chicks.

“I wonder what it eats,” said Joe as he put it in his bug house.

“We found it in the wood pile so let’s put some wood in,” said Jake.

I watched them work together, putting wood chips, grass and dirt in.

“What kind of beetle do you think it is?” I asked them.

They didn’t have any guesses, so Joe and I went inside to get a few bug books. The boys both wanted to “do research” on the trampoline so we climbed on with the books and the bug house and started looking for a match.

The beetle was hard to see, so of course Joe needed to take it out.

I tried nonchalantly scoot away when it crawled its way toward me making its weird hiss/squeak.

We looked through all of the insect books and came to the conclusion that Joe had found a female stag beetle.

“Are you sure it’s a stag beetle?” I asked Joe.

“Yep. See, it has the same spikeys on its legs.”

He turned it upside down and touched its back leg causing another hiss/squeak fit.

I tried to get the crazy sound on video, but it would not cooperate so I found a YouTube video of a stag beetle making the same sound.

The boys played with it for a little while longer while I watched on.

When they got bored with it, they put it back in the bug house and put the bug house on the picnic table.

I gathered up the books and told them I was going to go inside and fix dinner.

“Ok, could you take the bughouse in with you? I want to keep an eye on the beetle.”

Gulp.

Bugs in the garden
Learning on the trampoline
Beetles in the house

Hard at Work

The tomatoes I started are leaning…actually, they are bending over in the pots. Rather than transplant them yet again, we planted them in the kitchen garden today.

The boys were a big help. They love to plant, dig for worms and play in the dirt. This was also an excellent opportunity to talk about life-cycles and the importance of healthy soil.

Science outside today!

Jake found a bunch of worms and wanted to build a worm home and keep them…inside.

We talked about how worms are a sign that the soil is healthy. Worms break up the soil so the roots can grow and their castings are a great fertilizer.

“What are castings?” asked Joe.

“Basically, worm poo.”

As you can imagine, that got a few giggles.

At least 5 worms were in every shovelful of rich, black dirt. The squirmy, wiggly worms told the story of the chickens scratching and fertilizing their way through the garden.

Both boys worked hard at digging their holes. Joe planted two peppers and Jake and I planted three tomatoes.

I pulled the squash arch out and put it closer to the deck this year. I also lined out my paths and will come back over the cardboard with wood chips once the ground dries out a bit.

This is our garden so far. Doesn’t look like much does it? A few chives, some tomatoes, two lovage and a couple of pepper plants. We’ll plant more next week, and the week after.

By June, this space will be lush and green and, with any luck, starting to produce.

 

 

 

 

Hatching Our Own: Step 1

This week, we will start incubating the fertilized eggs we’ve been collecting.

Pecky and 5 hens have been separated for just 2 weeks. We gave them about a week to get settled and then started to collect the eggs for incubation rather than eating.

wp-1488219109756.jpg

Once we have 12 and I’ve tested the incubator, we will be ready to start the process.

wp-1488218029962.jpg

The incubator I ordered holds 9-12 eggs, automatically turns the eggs and keeps the temperature and humidity at the right spot…at least that is what is advertised. I’ll have to report back on the success.

The boys and I are very excited to get this started. Every time I collect the eggs from “Pecky’s Girls”, they ask if there are baby chicks in them yet.

We’ve talked about the life-cycle of a chicken, but we will delve deeper as we go through the process.

Pecky and his girls
Separated from the flock
A science project

Seed Starting: A Lesson

It’s that time again.

The time we flip through catalogs filled with seeds.

The time we inventory our seeds.

The time we start our seeds.

This year, I decided to turn the process into a lesson for the boys.

They were eager to help.

First, we created our mix. I added some vermiculite to a commercial seed starter to make sure the soil was extra loose.

At this point, I will not put fertilizer in with the seeds. The potting mix is already balanced with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium so I will wait until we transplant to the garden to add the extra boost to the soil.

wp-1487018350840.jpg

Then we talked about the three main requirements for growing healthy plants.

“What do seeds need boys?”

“Water!” said Jake.

“Sunlight!” said Joe.

“And air!” I added.

Next, we filled our containers with the mix.

wp-1487006383054.jpg

When it came time to put the seeds in, the boys had almost lost interest. It took them quite a bit of time to fill the seed containers with soil, so I really couldn’t blame them. They each plopped a few seeds in and then went to play.

I finished sowing the seeds, watered them and covered the whole container with plastic wrap to keep the moisture and warmth in and encourage germination.

We put the tray in the schoolroom so we can watch them and water them. The windows are south facing and we get a lot of sunlight pouring through so it really is the perfect place.

wp-1487006383057.jpg

Finally, while the boys sat down to watch an episode of Wild Kratts, I grabbed my coffee and started looking through my catalogs once again.

Now that I’ve inventoried what we have, I’ll be ordering what is missing…and what looks good too.

wp-1487006383058.jpg

Starting seeds with kids
Exciting, joyous and fun
Learning for us all