Monday, October 27, 2014

Sumac Lemonade

On our nature walk the other day, Alex and I foraged some sumac berries.  According to my wild edibles book, we could make a sumac lemonade from them.
 These are most likely Staghorn Sumacs, and although we are technically beyond the 'prime harvesting' season, we decided to give it a good try.  I'm glad we did!  They were delicious!

After consulting both my book and this website, we decided to just infuse the berries in cold water.  Alex and I took turns hand 'bruising' (smushing) the berries and then we let them sit for the duration of our morning excursion (about 45 minutes).

Strain with a cheesecloth and voila!  Sumac Lemonade.  I tried it straight up and enjoyed the tart berry taste.  The kids definitely preferred a spoonful of sugar in theirs.
 I think if we harvested closer to 'prime time', we'd get a much deeper pink color.....we were pretty conservative with our 'bruising' as well.  The taste is reminscent of rosehips-- lots of vitamin C!



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vera Visits

We had an overnight visitor in the form of an adorable 3 month old Baby Vera.  The kids were very helpful (Justin even volunteered to feed her....he changed his mind after she started kicking and fussing in his lap, but it's the thought that counts, right?).  Kolachi continues to amaze me with her innate sense of family/pack.  She jumped into her role as Nana-Dog immediately, and even gave an extra-intimidating stink-eye to a random person and dog that approached the stroller when we were all out on a walk together.

Both kids were very cooperative when it came to bedtime routines being a little 'off'.  Since there were three children and only one Mama, they both understood that the Baby needing to be fed trumped their storytime.  It was only a short while ago that I had an infant, but I still can't believe how much work goes into them!  Auntie Carrie and Uncle Sam are very, very, very busy people!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Exploring Sunfish Lake Park

My intrepid explorer and I  (and our adventurous pup) dropped Justin off at Farm School today and went to find an adventure of our own.  We decided to visit our favorite sledding site (Sunfish Lake Park in Lake Elmo) to see what it looked like during the fall.  Even though there were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, we didn't find anyone else there!
 
We started off with a good tramp.
 And some deep, deep sniffs!
 Sometimes tramping and sniffing uncover new friends--
   Then Alex decided she wanted to draw some sumac berries.
 "I will wait patiently for you to be done.  Sort of.  If you count wandering aimlessly and wanting to follow every scent trail I come across as waiting."
 Nature observations are a huge part of our curriculum.  It's amazing what a kid-directed science class will uncover.  We discovered that sumac berries are edible (if they're the red kind), and we foraged for a few bunches.  Tomorrow we'll soak them and make what is described as a 'pink lemonade' in our wild edibles book.  Updates to come!
 Oh-- by the way, my nature trekker also lost another tooth last night.  Check out that jack-o-lantern smile, just in time for Halloween!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rock Tumbling Results

Take a gander at these true 'gems'!

Granite from the beaches of Lake Superior-  Justin calls these the Dalmatian rocks.

Lake Superior Agates!  I am so excited to tumble our next batch.  The patterns in these are absolutely amazing-
 
Some of the provided 'gems' in the rock tumbling kit.  This was a LONG process, but it was immensely rewarding.  Now Alex is trying to figure out which ones she wants to make into jewelry!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Alex's Big Race

We headed down to Des Moines this weekend for the IMT Des Moines Half-Marathon.  The big event was on Sunday, but Alex signed up for her OWN run on Saturday morning.  The Kids Run was slated for 9am, so, of course, we got there at 8am to make sure we were in the right place at the right time. 

This instance of being chronically early, however, DID pay off.  We managed to nab a much-coveted photo with Spike (The Drake University Bulldog) and walk down to the race with him!

Alex waited patiently for her heat to begin.  We had discussed race strategy beforehand, and I told her to not shoot out of the gate like a cannon, even if the other kids did.  She was to pace herself and finish strong!.....This was when I thought she was running a full mile.  Little did I know that the race was only 1/4 mile long!  She paced herself beautifully, however, and was a little surprised and disappointed when all of a sudden it was over.


She was cheered on by her adoring fan base.
And earned a quite hefty bronze medal!

 
And a HUGE hug from a very proud Daddy! 
 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Interstate State Park- Scrambling and Potholes

We've posted about our past visits to this great state park (2011, 2013) , but today we met up with our Homeschool Group to take part in a guided tour of the potholes.  The naturalist that led the group was absolutely fantastic-- she was engaging and informative without being overwhelmed by the huge age span of our group! 
 

We met up and scrambled around for an hour or so.  There are many little potholes that can be found in the rocks up and around the visitor center.  Alex and Justin both practiced 'three point scrambling' (where they have to touch the rock with three points of their body at all time) and challenged themselves!  Justin, in particular, was very proud of his accomplishments.  It helps to have a bunch of bigger kids running around, awakening you to the possibilities of scaling rock walls! 
 
 
 

 
The tour started at 11:30, but by 12:00 or so, my kids were definitely feeling "peopled-out".  We're all true introverts, and while we enjoy the company of others, 35 kids and their adults were a bit draining to be around.  We quietly snuck out at an appropriate point of the lecture and had a few quiet moments on the trail back to the car.

Looking up from the bottom of a giant glacial pothole!

Fall is definitely here, and we are ENJOYING it!










 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Suite of the Bunny Gentlemen

Remember when I commented that those little wire hutches our rescue bunnies were in were temporary?  Well, they were less temporary than even I imagined.  GranMama had it in her heart to give our family an  early Christmas present-- two brand new bunny hutches.
I ordered them through amazonsmile (supporting our favorite charity- Human Outreach Project, of course) and they arrived at our doorstep a few weeks later.  I impressed my children (and my husband) by putting them together on my own --  I channeled a much younger stage-crew version of myself who loved power tools-- and then it was time to figure out the flooring and containment system.  I found these 'small' pet gates online as well.  They seem to be the perfect height to let bunnies wander and children step over to take care of said bunnies.  We had a full-size gate around their other hutches, and they were having 'problems' marking their territory because they took turns in the outside space.  That problem is solved!
The one note I have is that ever since moving into these new hutches, there has not been ONE SINGLE ACCIDENT!  These two have transitioned beautifully into house rabbits.  They use their litter boxes to urinate!  Yay!!!  I was nervous because the old hutches were wire-bottomed, and I was always cleaning up the little mats they sat on because they'd pee on them.  Poor guys.....now that they have a 'regular floor', they are really keeping themselves much cleaner!
So....a tour:

All of my hutch cleaning supplies are kept in a wicker chest in the hallway.  Hidden! 
 It also doubles as seating when one is watching the bunnies.
 You can see that the former library/art studio has been completely transformed into the Bunny Suite.  I'd still like to get rid of my red card catalog, but for not it works to store art supplies.
 If you look behind Victor's hutch, you can see a little bunny organization corner.  Below the wall shelf are our two steel containers:
Above the hay and litter is a shelf that I may have rehomed from the playroom.  We have our brushes, treats, vitamins and jars of wool that we are slowly collection.
 
 Next to the wall shelf is the perfect little hutch-cleaning broom and dustpan.  I picked it up in Sweden this summer and was imagining Justin using it to sweep up...I don't know...the table or something.  But it was really for our bunnies!!  While they pee in their litterboxes, the occasional pellet (or twenty) will roll around the hutch floor.  This makes it really easy to sweep them up into a bucket that we bring out to the garden as mulch!

Next to the wall shelf is our former hallway shelf that holds bunny enrichment materials and food.  On top is our little Waldorf bunny hutch with representatives of our family (the little girl is currently MIA, but we have one!).  Note the cat on the top of the hutch.  This is eerily accurate (see second photo in this post).
To personalize the hutches a bit, I bought two wooden plaques from Michaels and woodburned a scene onto each one of them.  This is Justin and Victor:
 And this is Alex and Basil:
 Inside the hutches you can see that there are two-levels attached by a ramp.  It took a couple of days for the bunnies to fully grasp the concept of 'going upstairs', but we'll find them there now and then.  They have a litter pan/bed in the little private room, as well as an enrichment toy hanging from the ceiling.  Basil seems to enjoy his little 'bed' area much more than Victor does...
 
 

 The fence that separates the two play areas is reinforced.  Despite being sweet and friendly to people (and even cats), these two can NOT be in the same area at the same time.  Because they are both unaltered males, there is some definite dominance issues they attempt to work out.  I made sure that they couldn't get to each other through this middle fence either.
Who?  Me?  Bite my brother????
 Enjoying a carrot.  They are both getting big and fluffy and I swear since we moved them into these hutches they're even friendlier than ever.  When we open the doors they hop right out into our laps.
 Justin will lay on the ground and Victor will come and investigate, 'tickling' him with little bunny whiskers.
I've bonded with these two and it's safe to say that they are a permanent part of the Marotz family!  Next up, learning to spin angora wool into yarn!