Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Huntley Meadows

The day began with a magical cardinal trapped in our porch.  Inspiring us to seek out bird watching spots.

Who knew that Northern VA houses a magical vine forest?

With a floor of ferns and a canopy of birds.

According to the website:
Huntley Meadows lies in a wet lowland that was carved out by an ancient meander of the Potomac River. The resulting freshwater wetland is one of the rarest habitats left in Fairfax County. Acre for acre, a healthy wetland supports more life than almost any other habitat. Wetlands also purify polluted waters and control the destructive power of floods and storms

A collection of box turtles sun bathing on drift wood.

An enormous snapping turtle soaking in the muddy water.

Our first real tadpole spotting experience.  Can you see the tadpoles?  They wiggle their tales and rest in the mud.
A girl with butterfly wings on, totting a little pink purse, and taking an imaginary call from grandma on her cell phone.

We walked for a mile and a half.

Then back at the Visitor's Center...

lots of buttons to push.

Creatures to see.

Horns to wear.

Books to read.  (I let them take them home).  Who can say no to The Very Hungry Caterpillar w/ reusable stickers, and A Nest Full of Eggs stage 1 science book.

Then we flew back to our nest.  Two tuckered out little chicks still wanted to read their books at home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Claude Moore Park

I guess we've taken an Unschooling turn.  And I'm loving it.  Another drizzly spring day and a surprising gem of hands-on child wonder.  Lately, our days together reflect themes of interest from the morning, day before, or a spontaneous moment.   
The kids wanted to check out the Farm Museum so we drove to Claude Moore Park, home of the Heritage Farm Museum.  Also the spot where we celebrated Kaio's 4 year birthday party.  We loved the birthday party: milk a cow, ride a race horse, play in an old fashioned general store...  The kids had a blast.  

 These Loudoun people have been hiding their toys from us.  I tried to find the farm museum by memory and accidentally turned down the wrong road.  We ended up close to the Claude Moore Visitor Center, separated from the farm museum by a service vehicle road.  I parked so we could walk it.  First we went inside the visitor center. Who knew it holds a room full of hands-on nature toys and exhibits?!   
It's a playground of diversity and sensory experiences!  The kids explored for an hour at least.  So much to see and touch: native species turtle shells, two live turtles, sculls, bones, feathers, teeth, and seeds.  

Play dough to press into animal track molds. The kids guessed what type of animals made the tracks.

Lincoln logs to build a house.

Butterfly wings that stay still long enough to inspect.

They have various books to read about bird species.  Coloring pages.  Fishing gear.

Isn't it curious how un-popular things are when they are free?  We were the only people there!?  I mean, I would pay for something this cool.  But we didn't have to.  It's free!  or, um, paid for by tax dollars or something.  Enjoy it people!  It's there.  So much fun for the kids.

After stimulating their minds into exhaustion, we parked in the screened in patio to eat our sandwiches.  The patio overlooks a dozen bird feeders = eating lunch and bird watching.

Following lunch we took a stroll to one of the lakes in the park.  A couple dudes were fishing (which you can do at Claude Moore).  The kids wanted to stick around and see what fishing is about.  One dude even caught a fish!

Overall 10 on a scale of 10.  I raise my blueberry kombucha high in the sky in salute of this wonderful park.  I'm sure we'll be back again this year.

Since our visit, Kaio's been saying things like, "No I don't want to wear my shoes.  I want to make tracks with my feet and toes."  and, "Deer skeletons grow up to be dinosaur skeletons."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Kiss

Yes, I will be showing this to all his girlfriends

only 4 and already so charming

Only 2 and such presence

And here's mine.

Rally for Food and Farm Freedom

For the past year and half, the FDA has conducted an undercover sting operation on dairy farmer Dan Allgyer and his loyal private buying club customers. In response to this affront of our freedoms, the buying club he services and people around the country organized a rally in support of Dan and other farmers targeted by the FDA.  Details on the event and future actions: www.grassfedonthehill.com

We participated  in the rally last Monday, May 16th.  
It was a beautiful spring day.  My kids love visiting Capitol Hill.  And so does Bessy, who had to cross several checkpoints, I presume to  ensure she was not a Trojan cow.

The Raw milk flowed for sampling but I'm pretty sure that most everyone there was familiar with the nectar.  My kids savored it and turned into little riot grrls and boys in training.  

Nene, in her favorite pink poke-a-dot dress, got singled out and interviewed by the press.  She just stood there silently sipping her milk while they asked her questions.  Kaio came over and started babbling about his toy car being fast.

I did not lug a stroller with us.  We do not have a double stroller (used to have a sit and stand but i sold it), and when i bring the single stroller, they tend to fight over it.  Plus, I'm a fan of travelling light.  My kids are pretty good walkers, so I let them be free and tire themselves out.  Kaio helps corall Nene.  They hold hands when walking in crowed areas or across streets.  Kaio got tired in the sun and asked for me to carry him for a block.  Otherwise, they did great.

So, my ultra conservative husband pointed out that our Rally was on Fox.  I just love it when conservative and liberal causes intersect.  I also love the guest's argument, "We can buy raw fish, raw meat, why not raw milk?"  Check out the Freedom watch segment:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"So we getting some honey!?" my capricious neighbor hollered from her screened in porch.  A widower with tacky home decorations and way too many potted plants in big ugly pots, she often says odd things that don't really make sense.  She's unpredictable, so I did not know how she'd react to the bees.  For this reason, I neglected to mention to her or ask her blessing for the hive.

She must have seen us dressed in bee suits fumbling through installing the 3lb package of Georgian bees,  My friend came over to help out.  Mari declared a couple months ago that he was already stretched too thin and would not be taking the lead on the bee keeping hobby.  That was a little frustrating since we had enrolled in the Intro to Beekeeping class together, and it looked to me like he was wussing out.  To his credit, he has helped a bunch, I've just had to orchestrate and manage.  like always :).  That's what wifes do right?

I'm always fashionably unprepared, and today was no different.  The bees arrived and I realized we had no veils, no hive tools,  no smoker, no bee brush or spray bottle for syrup water.  I abhor buying specialty appliances and tools for things.  I'll ghetto rig it whenever possible.  But, once faced with the little buggers, I started to freak out a bit.

The pick up was 8am on a rainy Mother's Day at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly.  Dane had driven over a hundred 3lb boxes of bees up from Georgia in two hitched U-Haul trailers all night long.  The arrival date had changed 4 times due to weather.
"Welcome to the world of farming."  They said.  "Nature cannot be counted on to make a deadline."

I stopped at a hardware store on the way home from the pickup and grabbed a spray bottle and some cement bricks for the hive to stand on.  The checkout was super long and the woman next to me in line inquired about my project.  She was astounded that I had a box of bees sitting in the back seat of my car.  Before she checked out she said, "Well I'm glad the line was so long so I got to hear about your bee story."

Our hive came unassembled from Beethinking in Portland and is made from sustainably harvested cedar.  The cedar deters ants.  Warre hives, also called the People's Hive, are uncommon in the US.   News of their successes has not made it mainstream yet.  We don't know anyone else with a Warre.  My mentor suggested I become the official Warre expert of the DC area.  I never shy from the exotic and smart, that's just my style.  Most people build them from scratch as plans are available for free and in the book Beekeeping for All by Abbe Emile Warre.  We lack wood working equipment, so I decided to buy the hive precut, at least this first one.

My mentor loaned me his veils and one jacket.  That southed my nerves a bit.  I have some mosquito netting and was planning on making a veil, but borrowing a professional one is even better. We made a bee brush out of long grass and used a screw driver in place of a hive tool.   I stopped at Petco and picked up oat hay to fill the quilt box above the hive.  This box keeps the bees warmer during the winter and also sucks moisture out of the hive (a distinguishing feature of the Warre).

It was trippy to pour bees out of their box into the hive.  Overall easier than I anticipated.  But certainly a trip.  There were many bees remaining stubbornly in the box.  Our solution: I held the box over the hive while my friend smacked the top of it to dislodge the puppies from the walls.  Shake shake shake, and they fell in the hive with their sisters.  I had wanted to film it but we didn't have enough hands.

I checked on them before dusk and most of the bees had left the box and entered into their hive.  I'm crossing my fingers that it works out and they like their new home.  Sometimes bees will swarm to scope out more hospitable conditions elsewhere if they do not take to the hive or queen.

The kids have been strong supporters of our new pets.  They watched the populating of the hive from our screened in porch.  We've been acting out the bee lifecycle at home: building comb, propolizing the walls of the hive, pollinating flowers, bringing pollen back to the hive on our thighs and making honey.  Everyone is excited, even our crazy neighbor!

What a rush.  One step closer to self sufficiency.  Urban homesteading alive and well.  My coworker and cube mate thinks that we deserve a show on TLC.  Thad be cooool...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Elusive Dual Nap

yeah, I've got problems, but one of the few things working out well in this house is nap time. I've got dual napping in the bag. I insist. Through creativity, persistence and faith (in the nap), I've been able to make it happen day after day. Much to the benefit of all our peace of mind!

Faith. You have to believe in the nap. It helped knowing my kids were napping at daycare, as do all the kids there.  Sure it is easier with the peer pressure, but not impossible to make it happen in your house.  The first few days I started taking care of them during the week I could not get them to nap.  I went and asked their daycare owner if they still slept during the day!  Once she confirmed that they did, my faith in the nap was born. This is critical. I may have been convinced into believing they were not 'nappers' otherwise.

Persistence. If one of them gets out of bed, I will physically pick them up and put them back in bed, repeatedly, until they tire. I have not had to do this often, because they learned. They need to stay in bed during rest time. I do so gently, lovingly, and firmly. No anger involved. "Come on, head on the pillow."

Creativity. Getting the kids into their room and their bed takes some freestyling. If they are playing or transitioning from lunch, sometimes they do not want to stop and rest. Just the word, "nap" and they balk, "No!" So it takes some mommy magic to make it happen. Like, "grab on to the mommy train, all aboard, next stop your room." or sometimes I take Nene first and then Kaio follows on his own. Or, 'I'm going to catch the little fishes and put them on my boat." Lately the bed has been anything from a boat to a castle to a mountain cave (where we hide under the covers together).

We have a space heater fan that I turn on for some white noise. Close the curtains or put blankets over the windows. Hand them each a book of their choise to read.

I used to stay in the room with them, reading a book until they fell asleep. Being careful not to make eye contact. I don't usually get them things like water if they ask. I do let them get out of bed to go potty.

But lately the kids needed a change of scenery and we now nap in my room. We all get in bed together, read Peter Pan, and then drift off to sleep. That has been the routine for the last two weeks. Today they were hyped up after a long walk with other kids, so even after reading Peter Pan, they wanted to play. I just kept placing them back in bed and hugging them. At first they thought it was funny, but then they slowed and shut their eyes. I Surrounded by love, I always wake up after a couple winks, quietly sneak out of bed, close the door and go off for me-time in the kitchen. Me-time: indulge in coffee, chocolate, facebook, prep dinner, or do some work stuff. It's lovely to have moments of peace to catch my breath alone.
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Innovative and Silly

I had tried everything in the book:  "Ok guys in 10 minutes it is going to be bath time...Ok which one do you want a bath or go to bed?... Ok do you want a bath or a shower?... Ok come on lets take a bubble bath!"

Nothing had worked to get them in to the tub.  Especially Kaio hates baths.

They pretty much ignored me and continued playing rambunctious in their room.  Kaio took four containers of sample size wall paint, stacked them, and carried them on a tray to me: a birthday cake.  They sang me happy birthday, which I have to say was the dearest, cutest of the cute.  Nene, 2, fumbled through the words, and Kaio, 4, kept the tune.  I blew out the pretend birthday cake feeling very appreciated. Not my birthday by the way.

Time for a Party!  How about a pool party?  Do you guys want a pool party?
"Yes, Yes!"

Let's get our bathing suits on and go swimming in the pool!

So they put on their bathing suits and hopped in the bath.

Finally!  Success!  They got into the bath without a fight.
Day visit to the Zoo, he made saw some bigger kids climbing this tree and had to try it.  he made it by the way

She's been having so much fun in her "New" dresses

Easter egg hunt and balloon clowns

me and Nene, looking older ever year. sigh.

my first attempt making homemade chocolate for Easter.  She liked it.

Nene found a paint set in the trunk.  The calm after the storm over sharing the paint. I usually let them work things out themselves.

not exactly how you use a 

in the Obama pose

Excited about the school bus.  He's so big!

painting the grave of our first baby quail casualty.  A learning lesson for us all. 

So determined, and barefoot.

relaxing on the jungle gym

She loves sitting in the spot in the yard where the grass grows tall and lots of dandelions grow wild

picking dogwood flowers

little hippy

fig tree I planted last year looks promising!

Love that they play together :)


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