Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend hiking

With spring here, we are spending much of our time outside. We love to hike in the woods and go down to the creek to play. We love to explore, look for salamanders under the rocks, identify new wildflowers, chase butterflies and just enjoy our time together.

This weekend it was really warm and we spent it cooling off in the creek.
Sequoia never noticed this huge black snake that was laying right across our path. He almost stepped on it's head and never even saw it. Thank goodness it was only a black snake! i yelled at him, and then of course had to take a picture. :) If you click the picture you can see it better.

It's a harmless black rat snake, around 4 1/2 feet long. It hung out and let me snap it's picture a few time, and then we went on our way. i've been told by the locals that Black snakes keep the Rattlesnakes away, so i don't mind seeing these guys around our yard and woods.

The kids were eager to get to the creek. We started off just getting our toes a little wet.

Then we jumped right in.

The water was cold, but felt great!
Sequoia was practicing his 'water bending'. He is a big Avatar (cartoon) fan.

i love coming down here in the spring, before the weeds have really grown up too much. There are wildflowers everywhere. These trillium have just started blooming, the area is covered in star chickweed, anemones, bluettes and bloodroot. The skunk cabbage and mayapples are up, and i am always on the look out for lady slippers which i've been told sometimes grow around the creek. You can see a few more wildflower pictures on my nature page. i've been trying to keep it updated.

Spring always flies by too fast for me. Our days are filled with picnics in the yard, bonfires at night, hiking, splashing, growing and exploring...leaving no rock unturned. We love these days of playing in the sun, digging in the dirt and listening to the music of the whip-poor-wills, bobwhites and spring peepers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Early spring harvest

This year, i am feeling a little behind on planting. i have in my cold crops, and am working on getting the rest planted this week. Some kind of critter came along and skeletized all of my broccoli and most of my kale, so i feel like i'm having to start over on those. However, we have already begun harvesting some early spring veggies.

The spinach planted last fall, is really taking off again and still producing incredibly well. i have also planted a spring crop on the edge of the small garden. My lettuces were put in a little late, but are coming up well. It will still be another week or so before i can start picking it.

Sage loves to help in the garden, and is always eager to help me.

fresh organic homegrown spinach is yummy!

We did picked our morels, and are really hoping that they spored and will come back again next year. Although with morels, there is just no guarantee.

So far this spring we have already harvested over 1 lbs of rhubarb and a little over 1/2 lbs of asparagus. The asparagus is just getting started, and it looks like we are going to get a pretty good crop. It's amazing how fast it grows! It can jump up several inches in a day.

This is only the beginning of the season, but i am already looking very forward to future harvests and homegrown meals.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mysterious Morels.

About 8 years ago we stumbled upon a morel patch while hiking in the woods. It was the first time we had found them, and extremely excited by our find. Every year after that we would return to the same area and look for them again. We have not found any the last couple years, and it seems that our favorite 'spot' has dried up.

Morels are interesting things. They literally pop out of the ground overnight, and are extremely hard to find...even for the most seasoned hunter. i find that the best way to find them, is to stop looking. Seriously. Seems like every time we go morel hunting, the morels are only found once we officially 'give up' and admit defeat. It is only once we stop looking, that the morels seem to appear as if by magic.

Yesterday Kenan was inside working on the computer, and so i took the opportunity to take a walk alone in the woods. i was not Morel hunting, if fact is has been so chilly the last couple of days that it never even occurred to me that they might be out. Instead i was looking for the Mayapples, bluetts and the trillium. i was looking for any other wildflowers that might be popping up right now. On my way back from my hike, i stopped by Sequoia's fort to check on it and add a couple more sticks. (it's still standing!) Then i wandered through the edge of the yard, where i'm to creating a music fairy garden, we have lots of kid sized toadstools made from pizza and pie plates and metal bowls...painted red with white spots, that the kids love to bang on and create music. i stopped there to transfer some moss from the woods and to see if the Lilly of the Valley, which mysteriously appeared last year, was coming up again (it is).

That is not all that is coming up. i found morels.

First one....

....then two, then three. i ran in to tell Kenan (whom i knew would share my enthusiam), and together we found a number four!

i brought Sequoia out to show him, and he found five, six and seven.
When i checked on them this morning, i found number eight.

We've haven't picked any yet, hoping they will grow a bit bigger. We will leave a few so that they can spore and hopefully come up next year...although with morels you never can tell. There is something rather special and magical about having them pop up right in the yard, in our magical fairy garden. Morels are considered a delicacy by many. They are good. i like to eat them, but the fun is really in finding them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mei Li and Baby Goats

i finally finished the doll i have been working on for the last month. This is Mei Li and she was a custom order for a local women. She was looking for a handmade doll to give to a friend who just recently adopted a baby girl from China. This doll was really fun to make, although quite a challenge as well. If you click her picture, it will take you to my craft blog where you can see a few more pictures of her as well, as pictures of the other dolls i am currently working on.

Once i finished the doll, we decided to hand deliver it, which was really just an excuse to visit Jo's farm. The last time we visited she had two Dwarf Nigerian goats, and a Jersey cow. Since then, she has added a pair of Alpaca and two baby goats. The Dwarf Nigerian are the type of goats that we are planning to get as well. They are really small, so they do not require a ton of space, but produce quite a bit of milk for their size. They are also super adorable.

This is the littlest baby, Moo Su she is 6 weeks old and smaller than my cats. Sage completely fell in love with her and tried to carry her around.

Moo su seemed just as interested in Sage and kept trying to suck on her earlobes and nibble her hair.

When we first got there, the Alpaca had come right up to the fence and let us pet them. They were a bit skittish, but very curious of us. Of course, once i went back and got my camera they were already bored with us and had wandered off.

Until we get our own goats, it's nice to have a place just a few miles up the road to come and play.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trip to the City.

Every great once in a while, we decide to venture out of the woods and take a trip into the city. This weekend we decided to head to Roanoke, which we only do a few times a year.

Our first stop was the Science Museum of Western Virginia located in the Center in the Square. The Roanoke museum isn't really that impressive, but we purchased the Annual membership for $55, which is part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program. The program gives free/discounted membership to all participating museums. During the summer, we love to take day trips or weekend trips to visit participating museums in the area. A few of our favorites are Sciworks in Winston Salem, NC and the Museum of Life Science in Durham, NC. The Natural Science center of Greensboro will probably be our next Museum trip, it wasn't a participent when we had our last membership, but is included now. We have never been to it, but have heard that it is really a great museum.

The Roanoke's Museum is very small, but does have a lot of hands on stuff for the kids.

This area was new, they now have an exhibit where you can touch horseshoe crabs. There was also a small aquarium with pretty fish in it.

The kids really enjoyed the Kapla blocks display. Although the blocks were very simple, there was so much you could do with them. They had several books set out that showed amazing designs and really creative things you could do with them. It was great watching the kids build with them.

The Virginia Tech Entomology students were doing a bug demostration while we were there. They had lots of creepy crawlies. Being bug enthusiests, we really enjoyed the demostration. Both Sequoia and i touched the giant hissing coachroaches, and Sequoia really enjoyed looking at the different bugs under the microscope.

Although the museum is small, we all had a really good time. Sequoia and Kenan both had a lot of fun on the Flight Simulater and Sage seemed to love everything.

After leaving the museum we took a walk through the Farmers Market. Roanoke really has a nice farmer's market, although it isn't really obvious from this picture. They had tons of produce, and vegetable plants as well as many local artisans. i always love to wander through the Farmer's market, and although i have no desire to ever live in a city again...i do miss having a local farmer's market.

After wandering through the city, we decided to stop for a picnic lunch at the Salem Duck pond, also called Lake Spring Park. This was the view from our picnic.

We walked the path around the ponds and enjoyed seeing all the ducks and geese.

From there we headed on to Blacksburg's Caboose park. It is a really awesome playground, with three separate play areas. We started off on this giant wooden Imagination station. This was a lot of fun for everyone.

We eventaully moved on to the other areas of the playground and left nothing unexplored! We played until we were exhausted. It was a great day for everyone, but we were all happy to return home to the quiet of the country.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fort Building and bonding time.

Sequoia has been asking for a fort or a tree house for quite some time. This past week, while my mom was visiting, seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to build a fort, and for a bit of one on one time. We found a good spot in the woods, at the edge of the yard. This little tree was permanently bent over, and made a great support frame for the beginnings of a fort.

So i admit, i know nothing about building a fort. We just started building. We found tall branches to lean against the center frame and tried to intertwine them a bit so they held each other up teepee style.

We got quite a bit done the first day. Setting up most of the framing and creating the space. Sequoia was very concerned about making the fort accommodating to any wildlife that may wander through. He added clumps of soft moss to the floor, and created a couple of bird perches along the walls.

It didn't take Sage long to find us, and her and Nana came over to help. It quickly became a family project.

Once we got the main frame put together, we began weaving sticks and grapevine horizontally through the branches to secure it more. A day or so after starting it we had some crazy wind come through late in the evening. i could hear in the night, and was a bit concerned about what we might find in the morning. After all the work we put into it, it would be a real bummer if the wind knocked it over. So i was pretty thrilled to see that the fort still standing the next morning. It has survived strong winds, and a week of rain as well.

It is a work in progress, we just keep adding more too it every time we are outside. i am going to gather some of the flexible green grape vine, and basket weave it through a bit more. It really turned out surprisingly well for my complete lack of fort building experience.

i have always wanted to build the kids a living playhouse, and so we are planning to plant some vines around the base of it. i'm not sure how well they will grow, as this area stays rather damp, and doesn't get a ton of sunlight. i'll have to do a bit of research to find out what we could grow to climb the sides of the fort. Virginia creeper may be our best candidate, as it already grows all through the woods and grows extremely fast. The vines will help to hold it all together, and the leaves will help to fill in the walls a bit more.

Building a simple fort is a great way to spark a child's imagination and creativity. Inside or outside, it can be lots of fun. On rainy days and in the winter, we've made our share of pillow and blanket forts. Kids just really love having their own special space where they can pretend and act out their adventures, or simply create a special retreat that they can call their own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In the Garden

i am way behind on posting again, so my next few post will be back dated. Kenan has been away for a week, for a Glass show in Las Vegas. My folks were here visiting, the last weekend of March and my mother stayed for a couple weeks to spend some time with the grand babies.

With spring here, we have all been extremely eager to get out in the garden and play. Unfortunately, for the past week we've had constant rain, and super cold temps and have been stuck inside cozied up with the woodstove again, waiting for the warm weather to return. Our frost free date isn't until Mother's day weekend, so i am trying to be patient and not begin planting too early. i put in some of our cold crops, and have a few seeds started inside. i held off putting in my peas, but will do that sometime this week.

Our spinach is loving the cold weather and still producing well. i have been harvesting some each night for dinner. i have lots of new spinach seedlings coming up, as well as kale, lettuce and chard. i started them all in a makeshift cold frame, which is basically just a raised bed with old window panes on top of them. It generates a lot of heat and keeps the soil moist and warm, and on sunny days i have to move the glass off the beds or the veggies will get too warm and sunscald. It's a great way to start seeds though, especially if you have limited space inside for seed trays. Once my plants get a little bigger, i can begin transplanting them.

The asparagus is just beginning to come up, one of the first veggies we harvest in the spring.

The rhubarb seemed to double in size overnight. We had a pretty hard frost, that shrived all the leaves. However, it bounced back pretty quickly once the sun came out. i'm looking forward to strawberry rhubarb pie.

Sage really enjoys helping in the garden and is a very enthusiastic helper! She's loves to shovel the compost and help spread it on all the beds. Sequoia asked for his own garden space this year, and has already started a list of everything he plans to grow. i am really looking forward to this growing season, in the garden and in each of us as well.