Monday, April 4, 2016

outside the house—at the brooklyn botanical garden

Last week I accompanied my husband on a work trip to NYC.  I had never been there before and it was a lot of fun!  (But boy are my legs and feet still sore from all the walking I did!!!)

While I was there I took a trip out to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to see the early spring blooms.  They are known for their beautiful cherry blossom display in the spring which is undoubtedly quite amazing…however, there were only a few trees in bloom when I was there so I’ll have to take their word for it.  I enjoyed the visit, though I have to say there are gardens much closer to home that I find more visit-worthy. 

Nothing is really blooming here in MN yet (except a few lone crocuses) so it was really nice to see some more color in the landscape!


Blooming cherry trees in their Japanese garden.



The most dramatic part of the garden right now were the magnolias.  Some of the flowers were almost as big as my hand!



I took these pictures on my phone and they just do not do it justice! 



I thought these muscari among the hyacinths were so charming:


But my favorite part of the garden:  the hellebores (Lenten rose).  Each one was different than the next, and each was beautiful in it’s own way which made you want to lift every one to look inside.


All in all, I really enjoyed my visit and I got a much needed spring garden fix for a few weeks until mine starts blooming!

Friday, March 4, 2016

first peek at the spring bulbs

Last fall I planted about 500 bulbs, mostly daffodils, in various places on our property.  Guess what I found when I was out and about looking around in the flower beds!! 


Yep, little daffodil shoots braving the still snow-covered world.  I just cannot wait to see the riot of color as they come up and bloom!  I have actually forgotten all the places I planted these, so it will be a bit of a surprise even for me!  I will keep you updated. 

It also looks like, for the first time ever, I will get some hellebore (Lenten rose) flowers this year!  Little fat buds are on their way up. 


Thursday, February 18, 2016

growing winter greens for the chickens


During the summer our small flock of chickens is free-range, eating all sorts of bugs and greens they find throughout our property, along with regular feed.  That all changes here where the ground is frozen and snow covered most of the winter.  The yolks of their eggs become a light yellow rather than that deep rich orange and I’m sure their general health is slightly less good as well, even though we give them a good feed and a supplemental seed/grain block to pick on. 

I heard about growing winter greens for your chickens last year from a friend when it was almost spring, so I decided this year to try it out.  I have two florescent light ballasts set up in the basement for seed starting, and since I leave them there year round I decided to put them to use.  I got a bag of oats from our local feed store co-op, spread them thickly in seed trays, and soaked them in water for a couple of days. 


Then I drained them, covered them with plastic wrap (my seed tray covers are still put away—need to dig those out!), and put them under the florescent lights in the basement. 


Within a day or two, little white roots start to grow,


and then the greens start to come up.  Once the greens are a few inches tall, I put the whole tray in the chicken pen and let them at it.  I usually have a couple of trays going at once so they get a fairly steady diet. 


They love it!  They get in there scratching and pecking, yum yum! 



It is pretty easy (only takes a few minutes of time once you have the set-up!) and it makes me happy to give them some nice healthy greens in the middle of winter! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Grow Your Own Garden; a book review

If your love of gardening exceeds your gardening budget (um, what gardener doesn’t have this problem?!), you have plants you love and want more of them, you would like to dabble in plant breeding, or you have perennials you *should* divide but you just don’t know how to do it…this book is for you! 


Grow Your Own Garden, by Carol Klein

British gardeners will probably have heard of Carol Klein, but for those who have not…she is a long time gardener and owns a plant business in Devon, England.  She is a regular on the British gardening series Gardener’s World and other garden-related shows like Carol’s Garden Odyssey and Life in a Cottage Garden (my favorite!)..  She has a very effusive and enthusiastic personality and isn’t afraid to get her hands in the dirt which makes her really fun to watch!


My husband bought this book for me for Christmas and I love it!   She describes the different methods of propagating plants in a way that is easy to understand, and details those methods with lots of pictures so even beginners will know what to do (love the pictures!  so fun to look at in darkest January…). 


I have been trying my hand at taking various cuttings over the past two years with varying levels of success and I’m still very much a novice so this should be really helpful.  She goes into how to multiply many different types of bulbs, how to take root cuttings, saving and planting seeds, dividing difficult plants, selectively breeding plants to make new variations, and on and on.  It really covers it all, at least all that home gardeners will probably need. 


Plus, did I mention the beautiful pictures??? 


There’s a whole lot of snow outside, so nothing better on a winter day than to look at colorful gardening books and plan the year ahead!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

january—homeschool fun in our house for the winter days

If homeschooling’s not an interest, come back another day this week…I’m going to do a book review of a gardening book I got for Christmas written by a well-known British gardener.

Oh, January. 

Those who have homeschooled know that it precedes what is known as the most challenging month of the school year—February; and by token of that, it has it’s own challenges.  It is always nice to get back into a schedule after Christmas vacation, but after that (and especially if you are in a cold climate and if a virus is going around) it gets kind of blah.  The walls start closing in.  It’s a good time to re-evaluate what you are doing and either change that up now (if it needs it) or plan ahead for next year, or just try to preempt February by coming up with some fun stuff ahead of time!  I thought I’d share some things that are working well for us this year, and some things the kids love to do that are educational as well.  (FYI my kids are 2nd grade down to preschool this year.)  All links are to Amazon but I am not an affiliate. 

Song School Latin

Oh my goodness, my kids love this.  They call it “Latin Monkey” and while they aren’t learning anything very rigorous, this is exactly what we needed to dip our toes into Latin this year with a 2nd grader and a pre-K’er.  We have the workbook, CD, and DVD (don’t see a need to get the teacher’s manual) and I’m so glad I went with the DVD option as my kids love to watch the weekly lesson (and it gives me a bit of a break too from having to teach every subject completely).  My kids are often singing the songs that are on the CD too.  Latin is probably their favorite subject all because of this.  My 2nd grader does the stuff in the workbook but my 5 year old just watches the DVD and sings the songs as he doesn’t read or write well yet. 

Snap Circuits


I actually picked our set up at a garage sale for a song (brand new!) and for “E” week we learned about electricity and the older kids got to experiment with our snap circuit set, which they really enjoyed.  Our set didn’t come with a manual but we found all the diagrams for making the various electrical circuits (lights, whistles, alarms, fans) on an online manual.



Again, something I found at a garage sale before I even knew what they actually were (and how expensive they were at retail price!).  The kids, especially our 3 year old, always ask if they can play magnets.  Our sets have geometric shapes and magnetic rods and balls which you connect to build structures. They are pretty neat, I even I enjoy occasionally building something with them when the kids are playing.  They are a great tool to learn about magnetism and some basic hands-on engineering.  The magnetic balls might be a choking/swallowing hazard if you have little ones in the house who are that way inclined, just FYI. 

Brambly Hedge Books


We are loving these books.  I actually bought the hardcover book with all the books in it.  It is reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s drawing style with amazing little pictures of the mice’s little rooms underground or in stumps.  My kids get so immersed in looking at all the details, and the stories themselves are very cute too!

Story of the World CDs


You can just get the books of this history series too and read aloud for the younger ones, but this year we got the CD set for the first volume of this (Ancient Times) and the kids like to listen to it over and over.  I knew it was sinking in when our 5 year old son knew how to find Troy on a map and even called one his siblings Amenhotep.  :P  I have the activity book too and we’ve built a ziggurat out of legos and made the Nile delta with playdoh, among other fun things like salt dough clay tablets, etc.  I have heard “things” about some of the later books (inaccuracy/ bias)  so you may want to check those out before using. 

New Stove

Ok, this is just for laughs…but we bought a new stove at the beginning of January since the old one went kaput and the huge box it came in has give the children hours of entertainment when school itself is over.  Maybe not worth the cost of the stove, but a happy outcome.  :)  We are also refrigerator shopping so maybe they will get an even bigger box soon! 

Easy Grammar


Our 2nd grader may not love this every day, but these little daily grammar reviews make life so easy for me!  She does one page a day (four problems) and so far in 2nd grade they have been introducing and reviewing parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence combining.  It should only take a few minutes for an independent and older student, but it does take us longer at this age.  However, it sets my mind at ease knowing she is building those important grammar skills each day! 

Ok, I went.  Now your turn…any tips for February??