Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pottering About the Garden...

We have had the most lovely days this past week. The sun has been shining, the sky's mostly blue and temperatures warming up - although not quite warm enough for me to go without a sweater.

With such lovely weather I have spent lots of time in the garden - which is really great for my garden as it was looking sorely neglected!

All the vegetable patches are now weed free. I moved this rather run-down but rustic little bird feeder to the corner of one of the beds and have planted sweet-peas around it's base. The idea is (all going well) that the sweet-peas will climb and trail over it in the summer.

I did some potting on...

Potato's have all been planted in growing bags. I much prefer growing potato's this way as it makes harvesting them so much easier. This year I have planted some teasels and foxgloves in my veggie beds which are doing really well - I love the idea of flowers and vegetables all mixed up together.

I finally got around to planting up some late spring pots and moving some small shrubs from the garden that were not doing very well into pots.

...and succumbed to my local garden centres tempting special offer on pansy's. I now have pots and pots of pansy's on the patio and found these two colourful pots in the shed which I potted up.l

Aren't they just so bright and cheery? I love them :)

Yarn Along :: Knit 1, Pray 1

A quick nip in today to join in with Ginny's Yarn Along.

I have started a sweet little jacket for Baby Emily. She has now had her second in-utero blood transfusion and her mum has had cortisone injections to help develop Baby Emily's lungs. So far so good. The doctors are hoping to do one more transfusion next week and then deliver her two weeks after that. This means that at best she will be delivered at 32 weeks. We continue to pray for her safety and keep hope that she will be okay.

Reading: I have just finished off a Hamish Macbeth mystery by M.C Beaton. These books make for very light and fun reading - just what is needed for a bit of holiday reading :o)

Monday, April 14, 2014

OHC - Spring Cattail

Nature Study is a wonderfully fluid, ever growing wealth of knowledge to be had if you are care enough and are observant in your daily living.

 One of the areas in our nature study that I have wanted to tackle is a year-long study. For some reason {and this is my ordered, box ticking self coming to the fore here} I had it in my head that we had to start a year-long study at a certain time. As I looked over this months challenges I saw that one of the focus areas is the cattail. Barb has also used this as a year long study so I thought that it would be a great time to start our year-long study with this.

I printed out my notes and did my reading ready to embark on our study. Then we went out for our walk to 'begin' our study. Now this is where my first comment of the post comes in, because it dawned on me as we were looking at and discussing the cattails along the side of our local pond, that we have already started year-long studies on lots of things, Cattails or Reedmace as it is known here in England being one of them.

You see as we move through the year with our nature studies, observing and discussing many things that we see and find on our walks, we have began observations and forming connections without even being aware of it. In fact tracing it back we began this study at the end of last summer! Here's how our walk panned out last week...

We set out to observe the spring cattail... {incidentally, this plant is known as Reedmace (older British texts), Cattail (mainly in American English)  or Bulrush (British English), however the term 'bulrush' is not completely accurate as the true Bulrush is actually another species altogether, that being the Scirpus lacustris. Reedmace and Cattatil are of the Typha genus}

We found lots of lovely examples of what the Cattail looks like in spring. New green growth is coming up and last years growth is brown and dying back. 

The cattail flowers are no longer firm and brown as we observed in late last summer...

Cattail in August 2013
Instead the long stalks are dry and tired and the heads are fluffy and rather scraggy. they have passed their prime for sure...

The Spring Cattail challenge is to learn about this plants habitat and to observe it's leaves.

We spoke of where we found the Cattail, that it enjoys having it's feet in marshland or dipping into the banks of the ponds or along the side of streams.

We observed the leaves, how they were arranged and how they supported the long flower spikes.

We recalled things that we already know about the plant, how the female flower heads pop open and allow the wind to disperse it's fine downy seed. We regretted that we had not been down here to see that happen last year and resolved to keep a close eye on the Cattail this season.

We wondered at the uses of the Cattail and upon reading up on it a bit discovered that the following:

*It is on of the best bioremediation (water filtering plants) on earth.
* the pulp of the common cattail can be used to make rayon, a semi-synthetic fiber
*pollen from cattails is used in firework production
*immature male flowers are considered a delicacy
* The whole plant: roots, young shoots, stems, flower spike, seed and pollen are edible apparently (although I'm not rushing to test this one out :o)
* You can use this plant for thatching

The list goes on and on. It is an incredibly useful plant for us as well as for the environment.

There is clearly  much more to learn and observe about this plant. I for one am looking forward to a whole year of close observation of the Cattail :o)

If you are keen to embark on your own year-long cattail study, pop over to Barb's Handbook of Nature study website.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Planning Our Nature Study with the OHC Newsletter

I have to say that over the winter our nature study seemed to take a bit of a back seat. I was just so uninspired! The weather was wet - which I can handle, but along with the wet came hurricane-force winds - which I can't handle. So allot more time was spent indoors - which is unusual for us - but, that's the way it was :o)

However - spring is here! Yay! and with it a new enthusiasm for nature study. So I thought that perhaps a short post on how I use Barbs OHC newsletter to prepare our nature study lessons would be worth a look at. I for one am always interested in how other homeschooling mums go about planning. {Barb has very generously offered every reader a free copy of her monthly newsletter this month. You usually have to subscribe to her blog in order to receive it - which is free anyway, but if you have not yet subscribed why not download this months newsletter and see what it is all about}

Once Barb sends out the blog post which has the link to the newsletter attached for her subscribers, I print off the page which outlines the months challenges as well as all the actual challenges that she links to within her blog.

I then grab my copy of The Handbook of Nature Study and any other field guides that pertain to the topics. Because we live in England there are a few things that are different, but I have discovered that often there are closely related species to the U.S ones that we can focus on. For example the Chickadee is a close relative of the Coal Tit etc...

I then start reading through the challenge to get a feel for what we will be doing. I read the pages that are recommended in the challenge to that I am familiar with our focus area. If we have already covered a topic - for instance this months newsletter has a dandelion study that we have already done, I will choose another spring flower to look at. In this months case I have chosen the Cowslip. I could not find the Cowslip in the Handbook and that's where my field guide comes in. Cowslips are found in Europe and Asia so it is not a native plant to the U.S. However it is part of the Primrose family which can be found in the U.S - see? Connections!

 I make notes as I read. Things I want to bring to attention while on our walk, facts to slip into conversation etc. I might find a YouTube video that would compliment the lesson. You can check out our 'Fern' study and 'Great British Weather' study to see an example of this.

 I do all this planning at the beginning of the month for all challenges. This way I can just pick up my notes on our nature study day and off we go :o) 

This month my planning has me all excited about making our OHC time a priority. We have enjoyed two walks so far this week - which I will be sharing with you next week :o), but for now I will be on my merry way. The sun is shining (a rare occurrence this week) so I am keen to get out and feel it's warm rays on my face :o)

Have a lovely weekend and I'll see you back here very soon.