Month: April 2012

Lettuce from the Garden, a special treat

The Rolling Acres Farm

It is certainly spring and summer vegetables are not too far away when we begin to harvest lettuce for our first salads of the season! You do not need much space to have enough lettuce for your salads for weeks! I have green leafy lettuce planted in a 1.5′ x 2′ rectangle and romaine lettuce planted in the same size of space. We use the cut and grow again method. What is this? Once the lettuce is 4″ tall, we cut down to 1″ just what we need for dinner. I work my way around the rectangle throughout the week. By the time I am at the end, there is usually more to cut in the oldest section. This can last for about 4-6 weeks.

To continue having lettuce throughout the summer, we plant little lettuce rectangles in succession and in different places around the garden. Usually every 3-4 weeks I throw out some more seed! This ensures fresh lettuce and money saved at the grocer!

Homeschool Co-op Field Trip: Blandy Experimental Farm

Homeschool Ideas

For our last field trip this year, we all met at Blandy Experimental Farm. The younger students did the Mammals class, while the older students did the Snake Savvy Course. My children were all in the mammals class, and we enjoyed learning about the “evidence” left behind by mammals, so we know they are present. We listened to sounds of animals, we felt animal fur, we looked at animal tracks, and we talked about “scat”, the scientific name for excrement left by an animal. After learning a bit and painting the feet you see to the left, we went on a nature hike to find the evidence of mammals. This was an excellent way to finish off the year and to remind our students of the first six weeks of science on animal life.

For parents who would like to continue with science throughout the summer, Blandy offers some wonderful options, including 4-5 day summer camps for only $100. These camps are open to homeschoolers!

*The picture to the left is of my children’s footprint molds. Here you can see two coyote feet and a woodchuck foot. The children were not particular about colors as you can see, too.

End of the Year Program at Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool Ideas

The end of the year program was a great success. It was festive and relaxed. The children had worked hard to memorize their poetry and this admittedly went much better than our play at Christmas. The hymns were sung in chorus with great vigor, and we ended with a raffle of all the materials left over this year. You did have to be present to win! It was great! I think the adults enjoyed this part more than the children…there was quite the chuckle that the art teacher got stuck with the colored sand.

The gift bags were filled with the children’s art and science supplies from the year as well as left over shared supplies that could be easily divided (colors, paper, etc.). The children thought the gift bags a special treat.

After refreshments and some brief conversations, we all went our separate ways. A wonderful first year!

Pruning Horehound in early spring

The Rolling Acres Farm

You might be asking yourself: What in the world is horehound? I thought the very same thing when I first started to experiment with herbs! This is a very sweet smelling and sweet tasting herb used in sweets, especially hard candies and cough drops. In the early spring, it grows at a rapid pace, so this is a good time to prune the plant before it takes up valuable garden space. No worries! You will be able to harvest a larger crop in the summer!

Simply hang-dry what you prune for future culinary projects.

When to harvest sage in early spring

The Rolling Acres Farm

If you are not vigilant in your garden, the time for harvesting sage can sneak up on you and pass you by! Once I see small buds starting to form atop my sage plants (as you can see in this picture if you look very closely), that is the time I harvest the first crop. I simply cut off the top 1/3 of the plant and dry the leaves.

This year I am letting this first harvest go, since I have so many leaves saved from last year. The blooms are nice in a garden with little else in bloom.

Simply hang-dry in a warm room with good air flow.

Remember: You can always harvest leaves on a need-to-have basis, so do not fear if your blooms have already come and gone!

Art and Science at Homeschool Co-op, Last Week!

Homeschool Ideas

Art: We finished our Virginia State Symbols books this week that were suggested by the Catholic Schoolhouse Art Curriculum and wrote our own Brown-Bear-esque story to go along with them. Here it is:

Cardinal, Cardinal, what do you see? I see a Hound Dog looking at me.
Hound Dog, Hound Dog, what do you see? I see a Dogwood looking at me.
Dogwood, Dogwood, what do you see? I see a Swallowtail looking at me.
Swallowtail, Swallowtail, what do you see? I see a child looking at me. 

Science: Magnetism
In science this week we wrapped up with magnetism. Thanks to the wonderful magnetism kit from Home Science Tools, we had much fun! The students were excited to see washers stick to one another, and we experimented how many we could attach with each of our different magnets. We made a make-shift compass using a magnet, floating disk, and a bowl of water, and we looked at how different ends of magnets attract and others repel. This was a great learning experience not only for the children, but for myself as well.

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Easy!

The Rolling Acres Farm

A dear friend gifted homemade vanilla extract to me a year or so ago, and I have since decided to give it a try. It truly is not difficult! You simply need some vanilla beans, which you can buy from Mountain Rose Herbs, and some liquor. In the picture here we are pouring Vodka over a vanilla bean. Let the liquor and vanilla bean sit for a few weeks or months, and voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract. If the Vodka does not produce as tasty an extract as we would like, we will then try Brandy and Rum.

If you tend to use a great amount of vanilla like we do, this would be an easy way to add yet another natural and homemade ingredient to your cooking!

A Cold-frame for Your Garden Saves Time and Worry

The Rolling Acres Farm

A few years ago, I built a cold-frame for my spring seedlings, and it has since become a mainstay in our garden. Yes, I built it myself, using a handsaw, screws, and a screwdriver!  In other words, you need not wait for your husband to do it if you are willing to put in the time. Better yet, if you have teenage sons, this would be a great project for them.

I loosely followed some instructions I found online, cutting corners where I needed to save money. In the end, we had the cold frame you see here. It is heavy and will not blow away. The angle of the sides allows for a fair amount of light, and we simply stapled an old, clear shower curtain to the top frames.

About $80 was spent in lumber, screws, and hardware, but the cold frame is still solid and in good condition 3 years later.

Here are our happy seedlings this spring. The plastic is on the ground to keep weeds down and some moisture around the pots. Watering the trays and allowing the water to seep up into the dirt seems to work better than spraying the plants with water.


A Lawnmower Picture for Grandpa

Homeschool Ideas

#2 is still going through the paper and drawing and drawing….and drawing! His practice is paying off, though! We had a play-date with another family, and what do you think caught my son’s attention? The lawnmower next door. When we returned home, he drew lawnmowers for at least 30 minutes, probably longer. Here is his first lawnmower picture!

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