Saturday, May 30, 2009

Make a Camp Stool

If you can find three stout sticks, you can make your own camp stool. Tie them together around the middle with strong rope, but not too tight.

Now set up the stool like an "x" with the third leg of the stool crossing the "x" in the middle.

Sit on the "x" with the top of the third leg behind your back. Sit down cautiously. The stool will sink down low, but it should keep you dry on wet leaves. Any three stout sticks will do. You can even do this with three baseball bats at the next Little League game.

This idea is from Steven Caney's "Play Book."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weaving With Children

Start with a basketful of woolen yarns in colors you love. All these yarns are a bit thick to make the weaving work up quickly. We spun and dyed most of them at home.

Now you are going to make a loom out of a meat tray. Get a clean, unused one from the butcher. A grown-up is going to set this loom up. She is using a knife and a little measuring template to make 8 notches in one end of the meat tray.

Now notch the other end in the same way. You can make sure the notches on the other end are lined up evenly by using a ruler.

Letting the end of your warp hang down the back of the loom, start to wind back and forth across the notches, from end to end.

Once you have wrapped the 8 warp threads, pull the end across the back, leaving enough to tie to the beginning end of the yarn, and cut it. Tie a knot.

Begin to weave. Whenever you begin a new color, you weave a little bit of the end in.

Now weave over and under, over and under. This grown-up is weaving with a little ball of yarn, but many children will find it much easier to hold the end of the yarn (not too long a piece,) and pull it all through. After you weave a row, scrunch it down a little bit with your fingers. This is called beating.

You can assist a really tiny weaver by weaving a ruler through, and propping up the threads the warp goes under. Then the tiny weaver doesn't have to do the over-under motion.

You can also beat a freshly woven row with the ruler.

You can change colors as much as you want. Just be sure to weave in the ends a little bit.

If you don't have a meat tray and you are ready to start weaving right now, corrugated cardboard works fine, too. Here is a child weaving. The meat tray is a little easier to work with, though, because it creates a space for the child's fingers under the warp threads.

When the weaving is as long as you want it, snip the warp threads in the back.

Tie each two together in a square knot, to keep the weaving from unraveling.

What are you going to make? An itty-bitty dollhouse rug? A keychain decoration to hang on your backpack? A blanket for a little toy horse?

Thank you, Wendy Paradiso, for the meat tray idea.

The Fresh Air Fund

What are you going to do this summer? Blow dandelion down, go barefoot in the grass, swim, build sand castles, catch lightning bugs, pick strawberries, climb trees? Consider sharing the fun with an inner city child by donating to the Fresh Air Fund or becoming a host family. Click on the link in the upper right column for more information.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eat Your Flowers

As you know from my posting called "Eat Your Weeds," viola are edible. In that posting I made a salad using dandelion greens and sweet violet. This salad has many homegrown things: viola and johnny-jump-up, micro-greens (lettuce mix I sprinkled in my tomato pots,) arugula, opal basil, mint, parsley, tiny baby lettuce and fennel thinnings from the vegetable patch, and a few things from the store: peach, avocado, and almond. With homemade vinaigrette, it is the essence of spring flavor.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Cottontail Rabbit

Do you see this wee little baby of the woods? He is a cottontail rabbit, and when he heard us walking by on the path, he became very still, and blended in with the leaves. He was in the shadowiest place around. I had to lighten this photograph a lot to make him visible to you. We didn't get close. We didn't want to scare him.

Would you like to learn about the cottontail rabbit? I got interested in learning about cottontail rabbits in 1983, and made a little poster about them.

And now, for a closer look at the cottontail rabbit.

Just before her babies are born, the doe, (the mother,) makes a warm nest for them. She digs a round, shallow hole on top of the ground, and lines it with soft, dry grass and fur which she has plucked from her belly.

As soon as the babies are born, the doe leaves them, hiding them beneath a covering of grass and fur. She returns to feed them when the sun goes down, and again when the sun comes up. The babies are called kits.

Cottontail rabbits are born blind and hairless, but they grow very quickly. Within a week, their eyes begin to open, and they nearly double in weight. After two weeks, the babies have a full coat of hair.

The babies start to hop out of the nest. They do not go far, and the doe is always nearby. To build up their strength, they hop around playfully.

They also start to nibble grass and herbs.

After only three weeks, the doe is preparing a nest for new babies, and the little rabbits must go out on their own.

Rabbits like to hide in brush piles, tall grass, or honeysuckle, and along fence rails. By instinct, a rabbit knows when its fur will blend into the background, and when an enemy approaches, it will "freeze" and keep still until the danger is gone, just like the little rabbit we saw in the woods.

Rabbits have many enemies. They are hunted by weasels, bobcats, badgers, birds, cats, dogs, and people. The fox is the rabbit's worst enemy.

If a rabbit cannot hide and an enemy sees it, the cottontail quickly bounds away.

During the summer, food is plentiful for the rabbit. It eats young shoots, grass, fruit which has fallen from trees, and berries. If you have a vegetable garden, you may have a visit from a rabbit.

During the winter, food is scarce, so the rabbit eats bark, twigs, and buds.

In the snow, you can always tell where a rabbit has been.

Copyright 2009 Elizabeth F. Curtin

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make Yogurt

Homemade yogurt is delicious. It is so mild that your children may even eat it without any sweetener. And if your child is lactose intolerant, like mine, you will be making the only yogurt your child can eat.

I used whole lactaid milk, and plain Stoneyfield Farms yogurt for the starter. Of course you can use lowfat or skim milk, but I like the richness of the whole milk. Your starter needs to have live yogurt cultures, and Stoneyfield Farms has several different types of yogurt cultures in the mix.

Pour 4 cups of milk into a microwavable dish. I heat the milk for about 8 minutes. You don't want it to boil, you want it to almost boil. When it is done you will see tiny bubbles around the edge. Keep an eye on it. Your microwave may be stronger or weaker than mine.

It is normal if it forms a skin on top. You can remove the skin if you want.

Now you have to wait for the yogurt to cool down. You are going to be adding live bacteria to the milk, and if it is too hot, it will kill them. I put a dab of milk on my wrist to test it. If it feels like a nice warm bath, (not tepid,) it is ready.

While it is cooling, measure out two tablespoons of the yogurt starter.

Once you have cooled the milk enough, add a little of it to the starter and mix until smooth.

Now stir your culture into the milk.

Time to incubate. There are many ways to incubate the yogurt. One easy way is to warm up the oven to about 100 degrees, turn off the heat, turn on the oven light, and leave your yogurt to incubate for about 12 hours. Then you don't have to babysit it. You can make the yogurt at breakfast time and have it for dessert that night. Or, start it before you go to bed for breakfast the next day. My favorite method, if I am going to be home for a while, is to set my oven on the bread proofing setting. Other methods I have heard about: if you are in a hurry, you can cover it and wrap it in a blanket and leave it on low on a heating pad for a few hours, (don't leave the heating pad unattended;) or put it in a really nice warm furnace room, covered and wrapped up; or cover and wrap it in clean towels and put it in a cooler with a pot of hot water. But try not to agitate it while it is incubating. It will be thick when it is ready, though not as thick as commercial yogurt. If you see some golden liquid, that is the whey, which you may simply pour off or mix in. If the yogurt is too mild for your taste, incubate it longer until it is as tart as you like it.

This child likes delicious homemade yogurt with a spoonful of homemade raspberry jam.

My Name Is Lucy

My name is Lucy, and Beth finished making me yesterday. I am swinging in the hammock. I don't like to rock gently, I like to go high! And when I pump on the swings in the playground I go as high as I can. I want to touch the clouds! But if I can't touch the clouds, I'll settle for the leaves in the trees. I stretch to touch them with my toes!

Higher, Lucy, higher!

Lucy went into my online doll store yesterday. Click on the title above the photo, "My Name Is Lucy," and you can visit the store.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zibby Gets Stuck in a Tree

It was a beautiful sunny day, and as soon as the children got home from school they ran outside to play.

Zibby wanted to climb the hawthorne tree.

That was not the Pirate's idea of fun. He liked to keep his feet close to the ground.

But Zibby loved to climb trees. She loved, loved, loved to climb trees, the higher the better.

So she climbed,

and climbed,

and climbed.

She loved it up high. She could see everything going on in the neighborhood.

"Hurry up, Slowpoke," she called down to the Pirate.

The Pirate was not in a hurry. He wanted to be careful and watch his step, so he took his time.

Suddenly, Zibby slipped and lost her footing.

She screamed and wrapped her arms around a thick branch.

Mugwort stuck his head out of a flower plant to see what was happening.

"Zibby!" called out the Pirate. "Are you okay?"

"No," whimpered Zibby. "I'm scared I'm going to fall." Zibby was hiding her face on the branch and hanging on for dear life.

The Pirate looked up at Zibby. She was very high in the tree, higher than the Pirate had ever climbed. But Zibby was his best friend and she needed his help.

"Hang on, Zibby!" he called out. "I'm coming!"

The Pirate slowly climbed and climbed. Zibby was crying.

"It's okay, Zibby!" said the Pirate. "I'm almost there!"

The Pirate's heart was pounding.

"Zibby," said the Pirate. "Look, I made it." But Zibby wouldn't look. She was too scared. She was shaking and still hiding her face in the branch.

"It's nice up here, Zibby!" said the Pirate, nervously looking around. "I can see everything!"

Zibby peeked.

They could see Little Theo giving the Sea Captain a little ride.

They could see Mama Oaktree hanging clothes on the line while her baby watched from his walnut chair.

They could see Truffles and Nibbles setting up a picnic.

They could see some animal ears sticking out of the flower garden.

They could see Punkin and her little sister Pinny building a fort out of sticks.

They could see Grandpa Bear taking a beautiful golden pie out of the oven. They didn't see the Monkey Twins until they noticed that some of the children were playing Duck, Duck, Goose.

Zibby and the Pirate loved to play Duck, Duck, Goose.

Zibby smiled and lifted her head.

"Let's climb down," she said.

So they climbed down. The Pirate helped Zibby find good places to put her feet until she started to feel normal again. Then she began to climb down in a hurry.

Soon they were down and they ran to join the game. The Pirate had been brave. He had climbed higher than he ever had before to help his friend. His feet were on solid ground now. He was going to play Duck, Duck, Goose with Zibby and his other friends. He had many reasons to be happy and proud.

Copyright 2009 Elizabeth F. Curtin

Mama Oaktree and her baby were made from a kit by Sally Mavor, author of "Felt Wee Folk," one of my favorite books. Sally Mavor's studio website is: