Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peep, peep.

Every once in a while, one of our hens disappears. Sometimes they are gone for good, having become a meal for some local predator, and other times they reappear from a secret hiding place with a brood of cute fluffy chicks. i just happened to find this missing hen, Sunny, setting on a clutch of eggs in the weeds around our compost bin. She was sitting on a ton of eggs!

i knew that she wasn't big enough to hatch that many eggs, so i pulled a few and stuck them under another hen who has been broody for almost two months now. Poor Peepers had been setting without any eggs for so long she must really want to be a mama!

Her eggs were the first to hatch.

When i went down to check on Sunny, she only had one chick out of her clutch hatch. When i checked a bit later i found that she had abandoned the nest. We had gotten a ton of rain during the weekend, and i was worried about them setting out. So i moved the eggs into the coop, where it was dryer and put her and her chick back in there with them and she again began to set.

The kids love to see the new peeps. So, not long after that, we went back to check on her to see if there were any new hatchlings. This is what we saw.

As i was snapping pictures of the hatching chick, a peck hole appeared in the egg next to it, and we heard the faint, 'peep, peep' of a new tiny peep trying to break out. Such an amazing sight to witness.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Floydfest 8 Revival

This year, we were blessed with free tickets to Floydfest. This local music festival has grown immensely over the last 8 years. We attended the festival the first few years as vendors, and haven't been in a couple of years. It was amazing to see how far it has come, and the progression of it all. It is truly a wonderful festival for people of all ages.

There are 7 stages around the festival grounds providing a variety of live music all day, and sometimes late into the night. There is a dance pavilion, and many free workshops offered including yoga, belly dance, juggling, hooping, drumming, Tai Quan Do and much more!

The festival grounds are absolutely beautiful! There are fountains and ponds, herb gardens and wildflowers everywhere. Not to mention, the natural beauty of the area. The festival is located just off the Blue ridge parkway, there are mountains and rolling hills surrounding the a festival grounds, woods to camp in and wild blackberries all along the trail to Global Village. Truly the best festival venue we've ever been to.

This year there was a small petting zoo in the Children's Universe. There was a camel, llamas and donkey. We loved the camel, and Sage spent quite a bit of time petting it and chatting with it.

One of my favorite parts of the festival is the Children's parade. The dress up tent is opened up, and all the kids chose or create costumes. The adults hold flags, balloons, hola hoops and other props and we all march along the festival grounds.

This year, right before the parade the sky opened up and the rain poured down! It was brief, but intense with thunder and lightening. We all huddled under the tent at the Kids stage waiting for it to pass. As soon as it ended a huge rainbow broke out over the Main stage.

The kids parade began, and we enjoyed the music of Donna the Buffalo while the parade marched on.

The kids universe offered all kinds of fun activities for the kids. The have a swing set, and giant wooden ship play structure. A large covered sandbox area, arts and crafts workshops, the dress up tent and the stage area with all kinds of workshops.

Sequoia really enjoyed the jugglers workshop, and Tai Quan Do workshop. The instructor was really good with the kids, he taught them a punch technique and then each child got to break a board a half with their punch. Sequoia was very pleased with himself, he broke the board on his first chop.

Sage loved the dress up tent, and chose several extremely amusing outfits through out the weekend. You can see more of our weekend in our Floydfest photo Album.

By the end of each evening the kids were wiped out!

Blues Traveler was the only band we actually sat through the whole set. The kids were passed out on our blanket, and we sat under the stars and enjoyed the music. It was awesome!

Sunday afternoon, the sky suddenly turned black and it quite obvious something nasty was on it's way. We packed up the tent, and headed to the shuttles as quickly as possible, but didn't make it. The rain came down hard and we got completely drenched. We returned wet, exhausted, but happy.

To see more Floydfest photos, and get a better feel for the entire festival (rather than just the Children's Universe) check out these amazing photos by Richard Cox photography. His pictures really seem to capture the beauty and energy of the festival.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Munching, crunching caterpillars.

Earlier this week, we took a walk up the road to go berry picking. However we came home with more than blackberries. We stopped to look at a patch of milkweed that was in full bloom, and Sequoia quickly spotted the first monarch caterpillar, and not long after that we spotted another. So we gathered them up and brought them home. In the wild only 1 out of every 10 monarch caterpillars survive to adulthood, because of the many predators and the lack of milkweed which is the monarch caterpillars only food source.

We gather, raise and release these caterpillars almost every year. Last year was the first year we didn't, because the county mowers mowed down the entire patch of milkweed before we could find/collect the caterpillars. We gathered milkweed seeds and have helped to plant and spread them around the edge of our woods and yard.

We love watching the little caterpillers munch and crunch all day and night, until it is time to transform.

This fat little caterpillar has chosen this spot to rest. He spins some silk around his back feet, to secure himself.

Then he drops down into the familiar J shape. He remains still for many hours.

Then he begins to puff up, and straighten out. He skin splits, and he begins to wiggle.

and wiggle.

and wiggle.

Until he has has completely shed his skin. Then he rests.

At this point he is still very soft, but over the next hour his skin will begin to harden.

As the skin hardens and tightens, he begins to take on the familiar monarch chrysalis shape.

In the past our caterpillars have all shed their final skin during the night or early morning, and we've never witnessed the actual process. This was really amazing to watch, and both the kids were totally fascinated by it...and amused at the wiggling dance the caterpillar seemed to do in order to shed his skin completely. When it was over i printed up this coloring page that shows the entire transformation. Although we raise caterpillars every year, it never ceases to amaze us or seem any less magical.

We look forward to meeting these new butterflies when they finally emerge.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fairystone Park

During the summer we like to visit Fairy Stone Park. It is just down the mountain from us in Patrick county.
Fairy Stone State Park is the largest of Virginia's six original state parks and is home to the mysterious Fairy Stones. Fairy stones are staurolite, a combination of silica, iron and aluminum. Staurolite crystallizes at 60 or 90 degree angles, giving the stone it's cross-like structure. Found only in rocks once subjected to great heat and pressure, the mineral was formed long, long ago, during the rise of the Appalachian Mountains. (info taken from the Fairy stone website.) You can read about the Fairystone legend at the state park website.

We have never found a Fairy stone, but still enjoy swimming and hiking around the park.

The children swimming area is very shallow and has all kinds of fun toys to climb on. A giant frog, turtle, snake, beaver, logs and lily pads...a 'tree' fountain and a small 'log' water slide. Lots to keep the kids occupied, and lots of fun to be had. The beach in front of the swimming area is also full of fun things to climb on and play, although they tend to get really hot during the middle of the day.

This year we took a break from swimming to take a paddle boat (the type you peddle) around the lake. They also offer canoe and kayak rentals, water bikes, fishing boats and more.

It's really a gorgeous area, and we enjoyed the paddle boat. We saw a couple turtles sunning themselves on a long, and there were several beautiful dragonflies dancing around us.

Sequoia wanted to paddle, so i sat in the back with Sage.

i think Kenan did most of the paddling. :) It was really hot, and after our tour of the lake and dam, we were eager to get back into the water.

We always love coming here, and hope to make it back again before the summer is officially over.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Time to wake up, little swallowtail.

When we watched our caterpillar turn into it's chrysalis a few weeks ago, we explained to Sage that it would need to sleep for a while then it would wake up a butterfly. For the last week or so, Sage has been talking to our swallowtail chrysalis, telling it it's time to wake up. 'Wake up little butterfly, wake up!'

Yesterday morning when i glanced in at our chrysalis, i was surprised to see a butterfly! We completely missed watching it break out of the chrysalis.

He was already out and drying his wings.

So, we took him outside to release him.

He seemed quite fond of Sage, she liked him too.

Our beautiful swallowtail enjoying his first nectar feast among our flowers. He stuck around quite awhile hopping from flower to flower.

Good bye little butterfly!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Floyd Fandango

Summer is such a fun and busy time for us, i just can't keep up with this blog. So again, i am trying to play catch up, with a few back posts.

Fourth of July Weekend was spent at the Floyd Fandango Beer and Wine festival. This is a local event, located at the same beautiful grounds as the Floydfest. We were given weekend passes for volunteering a few hours time helping to park cars for Sequoia's School PTA.

Most of our time was spent here, at the Children's Universe. They had a nice area for the kids, with swing sets, a wooden ship play structure and large covered sandbox. The area was fenced in, so the parents could kick back and enjoy the music, while the kids played. We got to sample some beer and wine from the local breweries and wineries, and also enjoyed a Dogtown pizza made from local organic ingredients cooked on a traveling woodfired oven. Yum!

The kids played.

and played.

We brought bubbles and extra wands, which are always a big hit!

Sage loved the music, and stopped to shake her booty every now and again.

The kids couldn't resist rolling down this big grassy hill near the second stage. There lots of space for just running around and enjoying the atmosphere of the festival.

After leaving Fandango, we headed into Floyd to watch the fireworks at the annual 4th of July town celebration. It is your classic small town community celebration, sitting out on blankets at the high school grounds. Live music (provided by the local churches), food venders, face painting, games for the kids and of course fireworks.