Friday, 24 January 2014

January 2014: Blueberries and Native Animal Visits

Monday 20th - Sunday 26th January, 2014

Our simple yarn Blueberry Gnome who helped us with our stories this week 


Here we are at the end of what feels like a long, tiring week. A wonderful fun-filled week mostly, but at the end of it, we are all feeling a little tuckered out! 

We started this week with a bit of an upset tummy bug, which is always an unfortunate way to start a week. Monday and most of Tuesday we spent resting and reading. And boy, did we read! After a very successful (and in hindsight, very timely!) Sunday afternoon trip to the Huonville tip shop we had of lots of wonderful books to read through, and we made the most of them over the next few days. 


We also pulled out a few of our favourite books to read and reread this week, including the much loved 'Peter in Blueberry Land', which the boys both practically know by heart. It also flowed well with our learning: the last two weeks we have looked at flowers, insects and pollination, and this next 2 weeks we are learning more about berries and fruiting plants.

And what a way to learn about fruit! 

We spent a wonderful family day on Saturday picking well over 12 kg of organic cherries from a friend’s overgrown, neglected old cherry orchard down the road from us. What a wonderful discovery this was! Abandoned orchards have the most romantic feel, except for all of the thorny brambles, that is :D 





When we’d picked (and eaten!) our fill, we laid down in the shade of the orchard rows and relaxed, enjoying the warm breeze and dappled sunlight filtering through the tall, unpruned trees. We wandered down by the river that boardered the property and paddled our hot feet in the cool running water, each of the children trying to outdo the other splashing ever larger rocks into the water. It was a delightful, and entirely unplanned day spent in the lovely company of good friends. Those kind of days are the best :)

On Wednesday, we met another friend, and together picked 7 kg of organic blueberries from a local blueberry farm. What a lovely way to spend a sunshiny day! Our freezers are full of the sweetest, most delicious plump berries, although I think that was the combined mummy effort, as I’m pretty sure the boys ate almost all of the blueberries they picked, in-between playing ‘pirates’  in the trees on the farm!

We spoke to the farmer and discovered that he also grows late season strawberries which fruit after the blueberries have finished, so we plan to visit again in a month or so! 



Buckets of fresh, organic blueberries. Yum!
All week we have been eating our spoils. We have consumed fresh, ripe blueberries by the handful, for breakfast, lunch and tea; baked with blueberries; made smoothies; and added them to everything we could think of. We've even given some away, and we still have another 3 kilos in the freezer which we’ll continue to enjoy long after blueberry season is over. 


{ Handwork }

We also had some science fun, experimenting with blueberry pigment by painting and fabric dyeing. We talked about natural dyes made from bark, berries and vegetables and we looked at some jungle-berry dyed clothes and jungle-vine bags I had brought back from remote tribal areas of Laos on our last visit 6 years ago. 

The boys both had a lot of fun mooshing up berries, straining the liquid and then using the syrupy dye to paint and dye cloth. The best bit of all was that the “paint" was 100% edible, and delicious! :) Mousey Brown said he’d like to try dyeing some finger knitting yarn with natural dyes, so that will be a project we will plan to do soon together.





Painting and Leaf Pressing
Experimental Fabric Dyeing.
Edible Paints! Yum!

{ Nature Walks }

On Thursday, we walked through the bush to pick Native Currants, which grow well in the bush here. The berries are quite large this year, perhaps because of the mild, wet Spring weather we had. As we picked and nibbled, we discussed which native animals ate the berries and trimmed the bushes, because undoubtedly something does. The Native Currant bushes are really quite spiky but even still, they all look like oddly shaped topiary. We guessed it is probably the Pademelons and Bennett's Wallabies keeping the currants trimmed.

And we’ve certainly had a few weeks of funny native animal antics up here. 


Last week, a Brush-tail Possum  was stuck inside on the windowsill above my cooktop, in the middle of the day! I had to call my husband home from work to help me remove him. Brushie removal is a two person job! 


On Tuesday, we discovered an Eastern Quoll in the chook house by the back door when we went to collect the eggs that morning (thankfully all chooks are accounted for, despite being totally unaware of the danger!). We have had regular visits from a very cheeky Currawong who has been flying inside to peck apples from the fruit bowl on the dining table;  and a few weeks ago, we woke one morning to discover a Little Pygmy Possum inside nibbling on the Chistmas Tree! 



Using her little prehensile tail.
Back to the bush you go, Little Pygmy Possum.

The Tasmanian Pygmy Possum is a wonderfully interesting little marsupial. They are the world’s smallest possum, reaching only 5-6cm when fully grown. They use strips of bark to construct dome-like nests in tree in the hollows of old trees and logs. 


Pygmy Possums feed on insects, spiders, small lizards, berries, nectar and pollen from Banksia and eucalyptus. Another fascinating thing we’ve learned about them, is that they are one of the few Australian native animals to have the ability to enter a hibernation-like state called torpor. Unlike true hibernation, Pygmy Possums only enter torpor for a few days at a time when the outside temperature drops below about 6 degrees Celsius. 


Fellow Tasmanians, I’d highly recommend ‘Tasmanian Mammals - A Field Guide’ written by Dave Watts, published by Peregrine Press. I bought my copy years ago from The Wilderness Society shop and we regularly refer to it. 


~

{ Summer Circle Time }

Opening Verses
Good morning dear earth
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear trees
and flowers, every one.
Good morning dear animals
and birds in the tree
Good morning to you
Good morning to me

* * * * * * * *

Come out, come out this sunny day 
The fields are sweet with new mown hay
The birds are singing loud and clear 
For summer time once more is here

So bring your rakes and come and play 
And toss and tumble in the hay 
The sweet wild roses softly blow 
All pink and white the roses grow 

The nodding daisies in the grass 
Lift up their heads to hear you pass
Upon this happy, sunny day 
When you come out to make the hay.



* * * * * * * *

If I were a Farmer (Action Song)
If I were a farmer, a farmer, a farmer.
If I were a farmer, what would I do?
I would feed the hungry chickens/milk the cows each morning… etc. 
That’s what I’d do!

* * * * * * * *

Snakes!
Long green snakes in the grass are we,
Our tail is far away,
We wriggle and wriggle and twist and turn
As in and out we sway.

* * * * * * * *

Fingerplay:
This is a house for a robin
(make a nest with hands)

This is a hive for a bee
(two fists together to make a hive)

This is a hole for a bunny
(thumbs and pointers on both hands to make hole)

And this is a house for me!
(Arms and hands form roof overhead) 

* * * * * * * *

Pygmy Possum:
Here is a tree-hole.
(Bend fingers on one hand) 
Inside is a Possum.
(Put thumb inside fingers.)
See she comes out
(Pop out thumb)
When Banksia blossoms. 

She stays out all summer 
In sunshine and heat. 
She hunts in the bush 
(Mimic picking and eating berries)
For berries to eat. 

When snow starts to fall. 
(fingers fluttering moving side to side)
She hurries inside
(Bend fingers of one hand)
her warm little home
And there she will hide. 
(Put thumb inside fingers.)

Snow covers the ground 
(Place one hand over the other.)
Like a fluffy white rug. 
Inside Possum sleeps 
(pretend to be sleeping)
All cozy and snug.

* * * * * * * *

Strawberry Verse 
Found a strawberry,
Ripe, red strawberry,
That was growing in the sun.
Then I washed it,
And I ate it,
And I picked another one!

* * * * * * * *

Blueberry Verse 
Blueberry, blueberry, how do you grow?
With sun and water, don't you know.
First blooms a flower that looks so sweet,
then grows a blueberry, a tasty treat!


* * * * * * * *


The Cherry Tree (Fingerplay)
I found a little cherry stone,
(make a circle with the fingers of one hand)
I put it in the ground
(mime dropping a seed inside the circle).
And when I came to look at it,
A tiny shoot I found
(slowly push an index finger up through the circle)

The shoot grew up and up each day, and soon became a tree;
(bring hand and arm up through the circle and then splay fingers like branches)
I picked the rosy cherries then, and ate them for my tea!
(pretend to pick a cherry off each finger and pop cherries in mouth)


* * * * * * * *













Wednesday, 22 January 2014

January 2014: Bees, Flowers, and Prayer Flags

Monday 6th - Sunday 19th January, 2014


My plan is to blog once a week (she says writing up her third blog post in almost as many days), but since we’ve been “home-schooling” for a few weeks now, I’ve a few posts I wanted to catch up on before I feel like I can move into the blogging present. 

I’ve been thinking about what I want this blog to be. Mostly it will be a weekly roundup of some of the things we’ve been learning, a few of our favourite songs, verses and finger-plays, and the adventures we’ve had. I’m not going to make it too personal; it won’t be a journal. I’d quite like to do that, I love reading those kinds of blogs, but I’m also conscious that people other than myself may read it :D and I guess I kinda feel strangely self-conscious about that. I may occasionally throw in the odd tutorial if the mood takes me. I guess, like our year of home-learning, well see how it evolves. 

So, catching up on the last few weeks…

We’ve been talking a lot about Summer, flowers, and insects, particularly bees, over the last few weeks. 'Celebrating Summer With Small Children' is a lovely article, well worth reading. We’ve spent a lot of time in the veggie patch observing which insects like to visit the flowering parsley, coriander, basil and fennel. 

Lying in the summer grass

The lazy days so quickly pass.

I watch the bugs and slugs and flowers,

Often it seems for hours and hours..

We’ve noticed which bees like to visit the white pea flowers, and which ones like to visit the pink and purple pea flowers. We bought some honeycomb to eat, rolled beeswax candles, and baked honey cookies. We counted how many sides honeycomb hexagons have and enjoyed a number of rhymes and finger plays about bees in our morning Circle Time.

What do you suppose? 
A bee sat on my nose!
Then what do you think? 
He gave a little wink and said:
“I beg your pardon, 
I thought you were the garden!
We are fortunate to have a working display hive down the road from us, and the lovely staff spoke to us all about the life of bees, how honey is made, and the role of the queen bee, all while we watched the busy bees at work! We were able to taste different honey made from different flower nectar. 

We’ve spent warm, sunny mornings in the garden picking strawberries and cherries, blueberries and currants straight from the bush. We’ve noticed the different shapes of the vegetable, berry and herb flowers, and we got out the flower-press to press pansies, violets and dandelions.

~
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass,
’till the children come to play.”

O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls,
and my hair grows long and white.”

And what do you do when your hair grows white,
and the children come to play?
“They take me in their dimpled hands,
and blow my hair away!”
~

We have been following along with the Summer unit of the Waldorf Essentials curriculum this month, and I've also incorporated a number of ideas for celebrating Summer from Waldorfy blogs and sites. I've noticed many of the stories, songs and activities are based on the experience of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere; and up here, there isn’t an oak tree, a forest, a squirrel, or a meadow in sight! But there is bush; lots and lots of bush, as far as the eye can see.


So, we’ve been on lots of short bush-walks on our property, observing the subtle changes in the Australian bush at this time of year, while keeping one eye out for big, fat tiger-snakes sunning themselves on old logs, of course! Incidentally, we’ve only found a large spotted mountain skink and one grumpy, pregnant blue-tongued lizard this week, and she gave us quite an impressive hiss and blue tongue show!


Green Flax Lilly Berries 
We noticed the little Emperor Gum moth grubs on the eucalyptus; the dragonflies and damselflies flitting to and fro; the beautiful white Tea-tree blossom blooming so heavily this year, and the little green (inedible!) berries appearing on the Flax Lilly where the pretty purple and yellow flowers were in Spring.

We also found some tiny, strange looking dirt ‘tubes', obviously made by some sort of insect, perhaps a native wasp? We will be observing these closely over the next few weeks to see if we can spot whose homes these are.



And while the stories from Northern Hemisphere curriculums are sweet and somewhat nostalgic to those of us who've spent time in these far off lands, rather than use the stories verbatim, I’ve been adapting them to suit our experience of Summer in the Tasmanian bush. We’ve had stories of spiders and snakes; and of echidnas, possums, eagles and quolls. 
Stories of the wattle, tea tree and gum. 


This is the world my two little bush babies understand.


~

Last Sunday, we sat down as a family and made our own set of prayer flags. Most people will have seen Tibetan Prayer Flags around. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom; silent prayers, blessings spoken on the breath of nature.

Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolises a welcoming of life's changes and a realisation that we are part of a greater ongoing cycle. Whilst we ourselves aren’t Buddhist, or Tibetan, I felt these were sentiments that we could appreciate in our family.

Repurposed cotton flour bags
I have been stockpiling Kialla Organic Flour bags over years of sourdough baking and it was lovely to finally find a use for them. I cut them roughly to size and then soaked them in water. We painted them together, kind of like wet-on-wet fabric painting. We consciously chose to use non-permanent paints so that in the wind and rain and weather, these flags will fray and fade, reminding us that nothing is permanent in this life.
Freshly painted flags, drying in the sun.
We discussed what we thought were important prayers and blessings for our family and for our community: prayers for health, peace, contentment, and love, among others. We wrote these blessing on each flag, choosing our words mindfully. I then sewed them together with an piece of bias binding I found in my ‘useful box’. They were then ready to hang!




I love being able to see them fluttering about in the summer breeze; sometimes just a gentle ripple, sometimes flapping wildly in the gusty mountain wind. Often times during the day, I find myself looking up and noticing the ‘right’ flag just when I need it most: the prayer for Patience in those challenging moments; Peace when I’m letting anxieties creep in; Contentment when I feel things are not enough, or I am not enough. I’m so glad we did this as a family this year and I’m looking forward to seeing them fade and fray and carry their blessings on the wind.


~

{ Summer Circle-Time }

Opening Verse
Good morning dear earth
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear trees
and flowers, every one.
Good morning dear animals
and birds in the tree
Good morning to you
Good morning to me

* * * * * * * *

Summer (Verse)
Come out, come out this sunny day
The fields are sweet with new mown hay
The birds are singing loud and clear
For summer time once more is here
So bring your rakes and come and play
And toss and tumble in the hay
The sweet wild roses softly blow
All pink and white the roses grow
The nodding daisies in the grass
Lift up their heads to hear you pass
Upon this happy, sunny day
When you come out to make the hay.



* * * * * * * *

If I were a Farmer (Action Song)
If I were a farmer, a farmer, a farmer.
If I were a farmer, what would I do?
I would feed the hungry chickens/milk the cows each morning… etc.
That’s what I’d do!

* * * * * * * *

Snakes!
Long green snakes in the grass are we,
Our tail is far away,
We wriggle and wriggle and twist and turn
As in and out we sway.

* * * * * * * *

Fingerplay:
This is a house for a robin
(make a nest with hands)
This is a hive for a bee
(two fists together to make a hive)
This is a hole for a bunny
(thumbs and pointers on both hands to make hole)
And this is a house for me!
(Arms and hands form roof overhead)

* * * * * * * *

O Dandelion
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass, ’till the children come to play.”
O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls, and my hair grows long and white.”
And what do you do when your hair grows white, and the children come to play?
“They take me in their dimpled hands, and blow my hair away!”

* * * * * * * *

Butterfly Song
Flutter, flutter butterfly
Floating high up in the sky
Floating by for all to see
Floating by so merrily
Bye, Bye, butterfly!

* * * * * * * *

Butterfly Game
Dancing among the flowers with dainty painted wings
Flits the golden butterfly, joy to my heart she brings
Stopping only for a rest to sip the morning dew
Then flits and flutters off again
Butterfly, I can't catch you!
(Children sit in a circle with hands held up and cupped on top of head acting as flowers. Butterfly dances inside the circle, flitting in and out of the space between seated children. Butterfly stops behind one child in circle for a rest, bends, and sips dew by tickling a flower in the child's palms. Flower child jumps up and chases butterfly back to his place, then becomes the next butterfly. Repeat game with new butterfly.)

* * * * * * * *

Here is a beehive (action rhyme)
Here is a beehive
But where are the bees?
Hiding away where nobody sees!
See them come crawling out of their hive:
1,2,3,4,5!
Bzzzzzzzzzzz

* * * * * * * *

What do you suppose? (action rhyme)
What do you suppose? 
A bee sat on my nose!
Then what do you think? 
He gave a little wink and said:
“I beg your pardon, 
I thought you were the garden!”

* * * * * * * *

Little Bees
Little bees work very hard,
making golden honey. 
Taking nectar from the flowers,
when the days are sunny.


~