Monday, July 29, 2019

Nature Delights

I was so excited the other morning to see this little gem climbing all over my peppermint by the duck pen (Do you see him?).  It is so exciting when I see a healthy ecosystem growing around us in our garden and yard.  I really love growing apple mint in the garden because the ladybugs LOVE it!  I get to see them in the nymph stage as well as plenty of adults.  When the apple mint flowers out it also draws a lot of other beneficial insects including the parasitic wasps that keep tomato hornworms and other types of caterpillars at bay.

I've also seen a lot of toads, frogs and a few snakes (generally we have the rat snakes around the garden and chicken coop).  It's nice to know that these critters have a home in our garden area.  The healthier the ecosystem the better things will work, especially in the garden!

Rosie and Rowdy at approximately 14 wks old now

The ducks continue to grow and young Rowdy is becoming quite handsome.  He is finally starting to get some of his adult colorings.  He has a way to go, but he is definitely maturing.

So handsome!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Teenagers Are Growing!

The baby chicks in the red coop are growing!  They are considered teenagers at this point and look like miniature chickens, so cute!  I'm pretty sure I have at least 2 pullets at this point and am hoping that the lighter one is also a pullet though I suspect it is a cockerel.  The 4th one is definitely a cockerel.  He has had quite a prominent comb from the beginning and it is only getting bigger!

They are pretty skittish since they don't get a lot of handling from anyone and Junior, the rooster in that coop has been harassing them pretty bad lately.  I am anxious to see what the one definite cockerel will feather out to look like.  He has slightly feathered legs like a Maran but he still seems to be all black with no highlights.  Time will tell.  

For now, I will enjoy their cuteness and hope for more pullets. They do seem to hang together pretty well which is nice when they are being picked on.  They seem to help each other out for the most part and get along pretty well as a small group.

Friday, July 19, 2019

USA Activity Bundle Pack REVIEW

I've reviewed for Crafty Classroom before so I was excited to try out their USA Activity Bundle Pack.  You can buy these downloadable pdf books individually or buy them as the Bundle Pack.  The Bundle Pack has two options for purchase.  You can purchase either the Homeschool license (can print for your family only) or the Classroom license (for classrooms and co-ops).  I received a link for a free download of the Bundle Pack.  I printed the pages out in both color and black and white as appropriate for the pages and then used my binding machine to create the three books.  The three books included in this bundle are the U.S.A. State-by-State Activity Notebook, U.S.A. State Bird Art Cards, and U.S.A. 50 State Mazes.  It has been a crazy summer so we did our best to complete some pages in two of the books and will continue to use these resources throughout our summer and into the fall to complete the books.

The U.S.A. Sate-by-State Activity Notebook consists of one page per state that includes information such as state flag, where it is on the map, abbreviation, state number, nickname, state flower, state bird, facts and notes, and a blank state shape to draw in the capital, rivers, lakes, and mountains.  Since Little Bug is going into first grade this fall we kept it simple and I just had her color the flag, bird, and flower.  I helped her fill out the other facts on the page and we left the state shape blank for now.  I will have her fill that out in the future.  The author recommends the book The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide to use with this notebook.  Since Little Bug is enjoying this notebook I decided to order that book and found a good used copy that I ordered online (not here yet). This notebook will make such a nice personalized reference book for her future studies.

I also really like that at the end of this Notebook there are two printable games to play.  One is Bingo USA and the other is Roll Across America.  The Bingo game is pretty self-explanatory and comes with instructions.  You can print the cards out on cardstock and laminate them (which is what we will do). You can use pennies as markers and you simply call out the state or capital (they will have to know which state the capital goes to since only states on are on the bingo card) until someone gets a BINGO.  The Roll Across America is easily printed out in color on one sheet of paper.  You will need a die and game markers (beans, pennies, jelly beans, whatever works for players!).  Instructions are included how to play.

Bingo USA game card

Roll Across America game board

The U.S.A. 50 State Mazes book is cute and fun but a little challenging for Little Bug right now.  She LOVES puzzles and mazes but gets easily frustrated.  She gave it a good try and I know she will get better at it!  The mazes are in the shape of the individual states.

Partial sample of state maze page

The U.S.A. State Bird Art Cards is another fun activity book.  You can print the pages on card stock to be cut out or do like we did and just print out on paper and assemble into a book.  I will print them on cardstock in the future because I think it would be nice to cut out and laminate the pictures of the birds that she colors.  Each page also includes matching cards that can be cut out and laminated for a fun matching game (another game Little Bug loves to play).  Notice there is room under the sample picture on each page for copy work or fun facts about the bird.  I chose to have Little Bug do some copy work.

There is room under the picture on the left for copy work or fun facts

Sample art card from State Bird Book

Sample matching cards to be cut out for a matching game

For the State Bird book, the author also recommends using the book United Tweets of America for fun facts about each of the birds featured.  Again, we like the book well enough that I decided to order this one too.  Little Bug will be so excited when it arrives!

There is plenty of work to stretch into a semester or year depending on how you chose to use this.  We like the books and she is having fun.  We give the USA Activity Bundle Pack by Crafty Classroom a thumbs up.

You can connect with The Crafty Classroom on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.  Be sure to not only check out what my fellow Crew members have to say about this bundle but also about other wonderful resources available from Crafty Classroom by clicking on the graphic link below.  Have fun!

Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Simply Music REVIEW

I took piano for about 10 years MANY years ago.  I have wanted to work with my kids on piano lessons but it just hasn't happened.  I was happy to give the Music & Creativity - Foundation Course by Simply Music a try.  It seemed to be the perfect thing to work on with my 1st-grade daughter.  She was excited to get started!  The Foundation Course is a FREE online program.  No credit card or payment necessary.  You simply visit their page and register for the course.  Everything you need is right there.  You have immediate access once you register (did I mention for FREE?!).  You are provided with simple video lessons in addition to supporting documents that include:
  • Reference Book (pdf file)
  • Practice Pad (a paper copy of keyboard to practice on when you are away from home or do not have access to your piano or keyboard) - pdf file
  • Soundtracks (downloadable zip file)
  • Music and The Art of Long-Term Relationships (pdf file)

It was easy to print the pages and I bound them with my binding machine to keep them neat and all together for easy reference and reading.  The Foundation Reference book includes the supporting information for the songs you learn including words to the songs, finger sequencing, and chords.  The printable practice pad is printed into 3 sections that you can tape or glue together to create a "portable" keyboard to practice on.  There is artwork you can print out for the cover and song list for a CD case for the downloadable soundtracks.  I haven't made a CD copy of mine yet since we just use the files from my computer but this allows you to listen to them on a CD player if you choose to do that.  In the Music and The Art of Long-Term Relationships resource, he explains "The Relationship Conversation" that is necessary to establish a long-term commitment to music.  What it takes to "stick with it" and not just let your learning fade away.  A foundation of discipline, practice, and compassion develops into time and patience to continue your music relationship.  "Simply Music's fundamental premise is that everyone, without exception, is deeply, naturally and profoundly musical." (p. 21 Music and The Art of Long-Term Relationships)

Reference downloads (pdf) and soundtracks

There are 19 lessons plus the Quickstart lesson.  You can begin your lessons with the Quickstart lesson or with Lesson 1.  The lessons are generally short videos 5-10 minutes long.  Neil is in front of his piano as he shows you what he is doing and why.  He spent 25 years developing this program.  Basically, he is teaching you your fingering and showing you techniques to get your fingers moving and flowing.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Neil teaches you "one bite at a time" to get you to your end results.  We are not too far into the program since we are taking it slow.  I want her to enjoy and have fun with this.  I don't want to lose her or cause her to look at it as work or something she "has" to do.  I want her to keep wanting to do it.

Short video lessons

Online lesson page

In the Long-Term Relationships reference book, Neil challenges you (the teacher/parent) to think differently about teaching music.  He breaks it into two distinct parts, "Method" and "Relationship."  He explains what he means and how it works in the reference book.  He asks us to change our "conversation" and not just chalk any failure up to "it just isn't for me" or "I just don't have what it takes."  I like what he says about this and how he challenges us to think differently.  I also like the technique he uses to just dive in and play.  He teaches you a basic foundation that can carry you into much deeper musical skills.  I know how to read music but this program is not about reading music.  It is about learning about your keyboard and how to make your fingers sing.  It allows you and/or your student to begin playing right away and getting quick results that transfer into excitement and a desire to continue to learn more to improve your technique and play more.

Neil's 4 goals to encouraging music as a lifelong companion include (p. 28):
  1. Experience music as a natural self-expression
  2. Play a huge repertoire
  3. Develop the ability to self-generate
  4. Have a highly positive, self-affirming experience throughout
He goes on to explain the six components of all long-term relationships. It's a wonderful reference book that will get you thinking differently to enhance your success in your musical endeavor.

I have to say, that from my experience as a child, I have more memories and have still retained (after 45 years!!!) a song I first learned when I first learned to play the piano.  I had a teacher that I believe encompassed many of Neil's passions.  She got me playing before she locked me into all the technicalities of note reading, etc.  I loved to play when she was my teacher and I loved what I learned.  Later I had a teacher that "taught by the book" and I hated it and quickly lost my interest in my lessons and music. I hope to have a better outcome with this program and my 1st grader.  So far we are progressing slowly, but we are having fun.

I like the technique and philosophy behind the Music & Creativity - Foundation Course by Simply Music.  As an adult, I have taken a course similar that taught me chords but no note reading.  It really gives you a lot of freedom in your playing and you have a lot of fun and quick results.  Especially since this program is free, you really have nothing to lose in giving it a try.  I personally recommend it and would love to hear how it works for you if you give it a try.

You can connect with Simply Music on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and YOUTUBE.

Be sure to check out the other reviews from my fellow Crew members by clicking on the graphic link below.  Give it a try, you might just awaken that music bug within you!

Learn to Play the Piano with Music & Creativity - Foundation Course {Simply Music Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sad Day on the Homestead

Sometimes when reality hits it's just not fun. We have been having some scorching hot days with heavy humidity lately and it can take its toll on the chickens.  They don't tend to do well in excessive heat and the effects are cumulative.  You have a hot day here and there and they have a chance to recover.  Too many hot days in a row and you might experience some problems.  We've had hotter days in past years, but this year I had a couple hens that just couldn't take the heat.

Dee Dee is one of our hatches from last year so she is barely over a year old, but something happened.  I'm not sure why, but the heat got her.  She was actually recovering but still couldn't walk well and we decided to cull her. It's often hard for me to keep reminding myself that our chickens are livestock for the most part and not pets.  But I do tend to get attached to most of them and Sam does still have a few "pets."  It was a hard but necessary decision to cull her and another hen that was on the cull list for some time now.

In addition to these two losses, Sam finally agreed to let us cull his beloved rooster Cedric.  He has been crippled for several years now (he was 5 1/2 years old) and has just continually deteriorated in his ability to get around.  He recently got hit with fly strike and it was horrible.  We doctored him and he recovered, but his inability to get around well would just set him up for it to probably happen again.  it was hard for all of us because he was a pet and a VERY special rooster.  Best one ever.

Such a fighter. Best rooster ever.  Rest in peace sweet boy.

Homesteading and farming are not for the faint of heart.  Lots can happen and hard decisions are often needed to be made.  Losses happen and heartache ensues.  You pick yourself up and move on.  Lessons are learned and hope ensues.  What hard things have you had to deal with?  What challenges are you facing this year/season?  Praying that you too can find hope in your situation.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Garden Challenges

The garden is coming along ok these days.  We have officially hit summer and the heat is definitely on!  Gone are the spoiled days of mild weather with rain just when we needed it.  I've only had to water once until now.  Looking at the temps over the next 10 days it looks like the heat is only going to get worse.  Not only are the temps high (90s and higher) but the humidity is astronomical so our "feel like" temps are pushing 100 degrees and higher.  Gonna be needing to do some watering for sure!

Corn, cantaloupe, dill, and cucumbers

I also have had some sort of blight or fungus on my tomato plants so that has not been fun.  I'm trying an organic method that involves hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.  I will let you know how that turns out.  I'm hopeful and have applied 3 rounds of the hydrogen peroxide so far and will follow up with baking soda treatment tomorrow.

Cucumbers growing on back chicken yard fence

The cucumbers are taking off like crazy and doing quite well.  The strawberries are starting to regenerate too so hopefully we will have a really good crop again next year.  My rhubarb transplants are also taking off well so there should be some nice crops of rhubarb in our future!

As in the past, the corn did not germinate well and only ONE of the bean plants germinated!  I will still need to try to replant those.  Hopefully, I'll remember to update on those too. The weeds took over again and we are still working on getting caught back up on that.  

How is your garden growing?  Hope you are enjoying your summer.  May you be blessed.

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