Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden Happenings

I need about twenty synonyms for "Garden Update" to use as titles for these posts.  Unfortunately, I'm just not witty when it comes to things like that.  Especially at 4pm on a Thursday.

First up, squash patch.  We've lost one plant to vine borers, but the others are holding out pretty well.  There are smaller plants in other parts of the garden as well.
Bell pepper bed.  Notice the red pepper peaking out at the end!  These plants are producing really well, the peppers just aren't quite ripe yet.
Two beds of black eyed peas thoroughly enjoying the hot, dry weather we've been having:
Roma tomatoes are starting to turn!!  You'll notice the blight on the leaves (those yellow spots).  The blight is getting worse and worse, so I'm anxious for the tomatoes to ripen and get them off the plants while I still have the blight somewhat under control
The banana peppers are producing a little too well.  The plants are so heavy with fruit, they're being pulled over 
I am seeing a few of these nasty little buggers.  Thankfully there haven't been a lot and they're mostly sticking to the jalapenos and leaving the tomatoes alone.  I think the neem oil I've been spraying has kept them under control because usually we have a lot of trouble with these.  They are baby leaffooted bugs and they wreak havoc on tomato plants around here.  They are sucking bugs and will damage the fruit wherever they pierce it (pictures of a damaged tomato along with more information at that link)
Our chickens are growing well and happy.  One of the turkeys met its fate last weekend.  We should have waited longer, there wasn't as much meat as we expected once it was all done.  The chickens aren't producing eggs yet, it will probably take a few more weeks. 
All in all, things are looking up!  It won't really count for much until we really start harvesting, but everything is definitely looking better than it did a few weeks ago!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Ovies

Sierra participates in a local youth theater troupe.  At the end of the year, they have a banquet and present Ovation Awards, fondly called "The Ovies", their version of Oscars.  Honestly, Sierra's only 7 and this is her first year, so I may have pretty much ignored all of the information coming out about the Ovies at first.  I mean, the majority of the troupe is made up of older kids.  They cover up to age 18 with a handful of adults also participating to fill out older roles in the plays.  So I was thinking Sierra, being one of the youngest participants, could just skip the night and never know the difference. 

Thank goodness, I finally decided to email the director and ask him about it.  He said we definitely needed to come.  It turns out Sierra was nominated in three different categories: acting debut; individual performance in an ensemble role and most memorable line. She didn't actually win any of those.  She DID win the trophy for outstanding junior repertory member (the 9 and under group).  She also won a staff select award.  If I understand correctly, this was a pretty big deal and she's the youngest person to ever win one of these.  She won a medal for this award and also got a copy of the staff member's presentation of why she deserved it:
"This year, one person really caught my eye.  As many of you know, whenever we have a major production, it is required that the actors and actresses come to at least one of the work days.  This person came to the work days very eager to work.  Age and size prevented this person from doing the work some of the others were doing, but that did not stop the enthusiasm.  I remember one of the days I was working on the window for the front.  I asked this person to help me color in the poster I was working on.  I am  not sure what was bigger, her eyes or the smile on her face that went from ear to ear, despite missing a few front teeth.  After that, every time she saw me working on things for the window, she asked if she could help.  Whenever I see her, she always has a huge smile on her face, making me want to smile too even if I did not feel like smiling.  The only time I remember not seeing a smile on her face was when she played the Prince and yelled at everyone, "Will you jerks knock it off?! I'm trying to sleep!" Thank you for making me want to smile."
Incidentally, that line was also the one that won her a nomination.  I can't tell you how many people stopped us to talk about that line during rehearsals.  Everyone LOVED how she delivered it and she did a great job of keeping a straight face (the play was a comedy and that line got a LOT of laughs from the audience). 

I'm so proud of her for not only tackling the acting roles she has, but also to hear that she stands out for having a good attitude and bringing some joy to someone's day.  Because we homeschool, I try to stay in the background as much as possible with outside activities.  I want them to have a chance to interact with people and participate in activities without me right there since they are already with me so much of the day.  With theater in particular, Sierra has been completely on her own.  After initially checking everything out to be sure she'd be safe, we have dropped her off for every class, rehearsal, work day and production.  She has been on her own, without us there reminding her of manners or guiding her in what to do.  She's made her own choices, taken responsibility for knowing when she needs to be at the theater (and reminding us to take her) and she has clearly shined.  So proud of our little actress both for what she's learned on the stage and how she's handled herself off the stage!
  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hey! Got Hay?

Sierra had theater class tonight. You never know what you're gonna get on theater night. Today it was singing at the top of her lungs while riding her bike up and down the street. She was so thrilled with her little homophone usage and insisted that I take a video. And upload it. And put it on the blog. Then she added "and take care of any firewalls and stuff so EVERYONE can see it!"

Yeah, not so sure about that, but here's her video. Maybe she'll win an Oscar one day and some talk show host will surprise her with this

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wildlife

We are still seeing lots of wildlife in the garden when we're out there.  I'm not sure if this is different or if I just haven't paid enough attention before. 

A few days ago, I got these pictures of some of the things we saw.  First up is something that I thought looked interesting, but I had no earthly idea what it was.  Thanks to our local agrilife extension, I now know it's a robber fly.  It's a mostly beneficial insect that preys on things like grasshoppers and leaf hoppers.  It will also eat other beneficial insects, so that's a little bit of a downside, but we have so many bad bugs this year, I'm betting these guys are good to have around.


This one was hanging out on one of the garden bed frames.  I'm not sure what it is and haven't had any luck finding it in identification guides.  It's got back legs similar to a cricket, but it was kind of flying a little bit too.  The wings were purple and the rest of its body looked black.  Any ideas?


This next one, I'm really mad over.  We noticed it flying around the garden and with the bright orange, it stood out.  We didn't know what it was though.  I took a picture and let it fly away.  It wasn't until later that I found out it's the adult form of a squash vine borer!  I had no idea this is what they grew up to look like!  We battle vine borers every year on the squash, so I'm pretty frustrated I let this one live to lay more eggs.  Vine borers lay eggs at the base of a plant and the larva chew their way into the stem and then crawl up the middle, hollowing it out.  Obviously, the plant usually dies.  Now that I know the adults are around, I made sure to spray some neem oil at the base of my squash vines the next time I sprayed. 

Here's a tiny toad Josh found when he was working out there one day:

Later in the week, I came across this ribbon snake in the squash patch.  See him hiding?  He was about 2 feet long.  They are non-venomous; eat slugs, snails and small mice and do what they can to stay away from people, so he got to stay.  I pointed him out to the girls with a reminder to wear to their shoes and stay away from all snakes (we also have copperheads in this area, our neighbor killed one that was in our yard not too long ago)


We've had lots these hawks flying around lately.  They're called Mississippi Kites and from what I can find, it seems they're probably migrating through.

As usual, we've had some human wildlife around too.  Sedona had been begging for "carrot muffins" for weeks, so we finally let her go through the garden bed and pull some of the carrots:


I also came across this that I thought was pretty neat.  This was in an area where the girls are always digging a hole, or a trench, or building a house, or who knows what else.  This is Sedona's hand print and I thought it was pretty neat she figured out how to do this and left it there.

Inside the house, Secora is still finding places to hide.  I'm pretty sure this is part of the sensory issues that also keep her from eating or sleeping well.  She says "hidey hole, hidey hole" and gets herself into a blocked off corner, or behind the couch.  Yesterday, it was a kitchen cabinet

Eventually we turned it into a game of peak-a-boo and she was happy to come out and play again though
I'm excited another weekend is almost here!  Looking forward to more time in the garden, finally laying drip line in the 2 garden beds that don't have any yet, and keeping an eye out for more wildlife!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

3...2...1...

We had a bit of excitement in our town this morning!  There is an old building that has been sitting empty and run down in a prominent spot for a long time.  It has finally been demolished and the last of the skeleton was done away with by implosion.  Lots of people came out to watch it happen, including us.  Here are the pictures:














Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spring Rainbows

We're still going through Sedona's pre-k spring unit a little at a time.  Today she colored this worksheet I made:

(you can download a copy here if you want one)

Then we made up a rainbow drink I saw on pinterest.  The pin just linked to a picture on a website with no directions, so I was flying blind a little bit.  I bought cherry, orange, lemonade, lime, blue raspberry and grape kool-aid packets.  The idea is to make ice cubes from each flavor, put them in a glass in order, then pour sprite over the top.  To help my colors stay separate, I wanted each kool-aid flavor to be a different density, so each flavor got a different amount of sugar:
Grape: 1 1/4c sugar
Blue Raspberry: 1 1/8c sugar
Lime: 1c sugar
Lemonade: 7/8c sugar
Orange: 3/4c sugar
Cherry: 5/8c sugar

I also added a little yellow food coloring to the lemonade, but I went overboard and it's a little too close to the orange color.  Oh well, ya win some, ya lose some!! 

We layered the ice cubes in a glass with purple on bottom:
 Then we poured sprite over the top.  I would suggest pouring the sprite down the side of the glass so the colors don't "run down" and mix up as much.  Really though, it's super cool and exciting to a 4 year old no matter what it looks like at the end. 
The girls figured out they could move their straws to different parts of the drink and get the different flavors and I think they're looking forward to making up their own sprite flavors with the leftover ice cubes. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More Sight Word Worksheets

A lot of people have been interested in the sight word worksheets I made for Sedona a couple of months ago. I finally got around to putting together the second set, and made those available to you too! Like last time, the pdf files are on google docs and I believe it is possible to download them and just print the pages that you want. There are 32 pages in the set, representing 16 words. The first worksheet for each word has the letters in the cut and paste portion in order, the second worksheet has the letters scrambled.
I'm not planning to make any more of these worksheets for our use, but they're easy to do now that I have the templates made up, so if there are any special requests, let me know. I could do names too if you just message me on my facebook page with the name and your email address (to send you the pdf).

Just a reminder, there is more to these worksheets than reading practice. Coloring, writing, cutting and pasting are important skills too. Especially with the pre-K and Kindergarten kids, it's perfectly okay if they don't get the letters pasted in the right order. The process of learning to do work is important, let them have fun with it and enjoy it!

Without further adieu, here's your link to get the latest worksheets:
Sight Word Worksheets: Set 2

Friday, May 18, 2012

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

 Finally, a GOOD garden update!!!  We're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and just hoping it's not a train!

In the squash patch, a few zucchini are starting to peek out:
Some crookneck squash are starting to grow too:
Just in case you don't know, you can easily tell the difference between male and female flowers on these types of plants.  We have plenty of bees around this year, but in the past, I've sometimes taken a q-tip and "played bee" by swiping it inside the male flowers and then the female flowers each morning.  The females have a miniature fruit at the base of the flower right from the beginning:
The male flowers are just on stalks:
There weren't any female flowers open for me to take a picture of, but the inside of the flowers look very different too.  Once you know what you're looking at, you can easily tell the difference.  

While I was looking around at squash plants, I came across this chrysalis on the underside of one of the leaves.  It has the shape of a swallowtail butterfly, but it's smaller and upside down.  I haven't had any luck finding an identification for it online, so I left it.  Any ideas on what it is?
The girls found this guy:
He was so well camouflaged, I didn't believe it was a bug at first!  Sure enough, they reached for it and it did move.  Some sort of moth doing an excellent job pretending to be a dead leaf.

Unfortunately, we found some of these too:
That is a striped cucumber beetle.  Bad bug.  The adults munch on the plants, and the larva live in the soil and eat the roots of the plant.  The adults also carry diseases like wilt and pass them from plant to plant.  Since the adults fly quite well, this can be a big problem.   They come in the striped version pictured above and also this lovely spotted variety:
I set the girls loose with a small container of soapy water and had them pick off all the adults they could find.  I'll be spraying more neem oil this weekend and that will hopefully keep problems to a minimum.

Nearby, our sweet potatoes are starting put out leaves:

We've never grown sweet potatoes before, so we're not really sure how this is supposed to go and if they're doing well or not.  time will tell!

The black eyed peas we planted are really happy (and bug free!):
We'll be planting at least one more bed with black eyed peas, but this is where we started

The peppers are really happy.  The jalapenos are producing well:
And so are the banana peppers:

Even the bell peppers that got crushed by the tree branch a little while ago are doing well (after a little propping to help them stand upright again):
 The tomatoes are the happiest plants in the garden, which is a first.  They aren't fighting off bugs and there aren't major blight problems (I have been trimming affected leaves as necessary to keep it under control).  It's starting to look like a forest of tomato plants in some areas:
The roma tomatoes have set fruit and there are a lot of bunches quickly growing:
The homestead tomatoes are a little behind the romas, but they have set fruit too:

We also have several arkansas traveler tomato plants that are doing well.  They are a heat tolerant variety and will probably be a little later to produce.  We're just starting to see small flower buds form, but none that have opened up yet.

The beans are still happy in their hugelkultur bed.  It looks like we'll probably pick the first batch of green beans this weekend!
And the black beans are just as happy. I love their purple flowers!
Some of the carrots have shoulders starting to peek out.  I'm thinking we'll pull the first ones next week:
All in all, things are really looking up!  I really hope the tomatoes hold out and we are able to harvest a good crop from them.  That would definitely make up for the onion and potato disaster!

One last picture.  One of my buddies in pest control:


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