Category: Southwestern US

Fall, First-Graders, and Fowl

By , October 15, 2012 10:35 am

Fall has arrived.  The leaves were lovely but most have now dropped. The air is cooler, and everywhere there is that wonderful fall aroma of roasting green chiles (one of my favorite sensory experiences here in the Southwestern United States).  My children are eagerly awaiting Halloween.  They are debating costume choices and strategically planning their trick-or-treat route.  My class just enjoyed a muddy, blustery trip to our local pumpkin farm and returned with many lovely round pumpkins

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I have been missing the blog and hope to be back in a few months with some more frequent posts about some fun things I have discovered for my class and for home.  In the meantime I must content myself with this quick, little check-in.

At school this year,  I took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to move up to teaching the Lower Elementary Montessori class.  This older age group (7 to 9 year-olds) have such excitement and enthusiasm for learning. I enjoyed my little ones last year (3 to 6 year-olds), but this year I find I can go into more depth with the material and the children are of course more capable of independent work.  So far I am delighted with my new adventure!

At home we recently moved into a house on more land with a barn and no golf course behind us! That means no 4AM lawn mowers, no rude golfers searching the back yard for lost balls, and most importantly, no “homeowners’ association”  … which means we finally have some chickens!  Chickens are a new experience for us, but we just love our two very friendly and hilarious hens!  The fresh eggs are a nice gift also.

Once my Lower Elementary training course is over in February, I would really love to make more frequent appearances here.  I have found so many wonderful ideas and resources on the internet and via my coworkers, that I really would love to “pay it forward” and share them here for all to borrow.  Perhaps someone will stumble upon the very idea that they are looking for and will have a better day because of it!

~Happy Fall (or Spring, depending on where you live) to all!~

 

 

Spring!

By , May 16, 2010 6:51 pm

What a glorious sunny, warm (but not too warm) day it was in Arizona’s mountains today. Finally we had our first real late-spring day!  It might be the last for a while judging by the forecast of cooler temperatures and yet more unbelievably strong winds again for this week.

The sun was gently warm, its blue sky background scattered with just enough gentle puffy white clouds for interest. Leaves are emerging on trees, but not yet on the Gambel Oaks. Stems are greening up and little leaf buds are miraculously presenting themselves on plants that look deader than dead.

Encouraged by the relief from the strong spring gales and finally warm air, I decided to take the Big Frost Gamble and join the throngs headed for the nursery.  Somehow I resisted the temptation to buy everything green and flowery and bought only the necessary plants  – but I know I’ll be back!

My 9 year-old and I spent a lovely day planting pots and window boxes while my husband washed cars (his number two favorite hobby after cleaning garages). My 7 year-old son made a mess map in the mud with a hose, forming lakes, islands, peninsulas and bays, each with its own name. My 4 year-old went to the park with her best friend and best friend’s mom to feed ducks and play on the play-ground.

It was a fine unplugged day!

Fall

By , October 8, 2009 9:23 am

Fall is here again. The air is cooler, the light whiter, the maple that I planted last year for some fall color is doing its job well. What little monsoon rain we had this summer (hardly any) is now gone for good and I am watering with a hose to keep things alive until the first snow.

The husky perfume of green chilis tumbling in their roaster fills the air outside of our little local grocery. Pumpkins are appearing everywhere, as are spooky decorations from early and eager Halloweeners.

The now frosty night air smells of pinyon and cedar smoke. The stars shine brighter and the Milky Way is visible between the tall pines like a sparkling river.

The children are eager for snow and skiing and the imminent winter closure of the golf course behind our house. This vast expanse will become their winter playground for nature exploring, chilly hikes followed by hot chocolate, sledding, snowmen, and frisbee games with the dog.

Although not a natural baker, even I begin to dream of pumpkin bread, muffins and homemade caraway rolls.

Can you tell that fall is my favorite season?

3rd Annual Rock Flipping Day Results

By , September 20, 2009 9:48 pm

We all had a lovely time flipping rocks this morning for the 3rd Annual International Rock Flipping Day!  Honestly, I could not have imagined that rock flipping could be so interesting, but my children, my husband and I all had the best time wandering around flipping rocks (and putting them carefully back of course).

The children ran through our yard and the woods by our house searching for perfect rocks:

We learned that our rocks here are quite beautiful, very volcanic and full of holes:

This one actually showed a distinct lava flow pattern on it:

Under our rocks we discovered:

Mold:

A small mushroom that grew up in the shade of two tightly stacked rocks:

A baby centipede  -  a teeny tiny yellow thread with lots of legs.  I apologize for the bad picture, but much of what we found was very small and hard to photograph:

Strange white beetles with legs and antennae, barely the size of a grain of rice:

The much expected “Rollie Pollies”  or Pill Bugs, but these guys were whiter than we had ever seen before:

Ants, LOTS of ants and eggs.  Much to our surprise we found that ants don’t just live underground, but actually use the holes in our volcanic rocks as homes and nurseries!

You can even see little dots inside the ant eggs in this photo, Each collection of eggs seemed to have a “nurse ant” to go with it:

A peanut that had been buried (and probably forgotten) by a squirrel – round thing in the middle of the photo:

A small cricket:

Mystery eggs? Not ant eggs and about the size of small beads. Any ideas?

A spider on a pretty rock.  Can you see it?:

What did you find under rocks where you live? Email Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta with a link to your post, or upload your photos to the Flickr International Rock Flipping Day Group.

I will post our feather Unplugged Project and the Linky tomorrow afternoon or evening.

Hope to see you then!

PS. Thank you Susannah for our Junior Rock Flipping Badge.  The kids will be excited about this tomorrow morning!

An Ugly Christmas Tree

By , December 18, 2008 9:47 pm
This entry is part 20 of 21 in the series Unplug Your Holidays

I have been feeling very un-bloggy lately, hence my silence.  Do I really have anything interesting to say?  Does anyone care?  Is it worth my precious time writing?  Hmmm….  Big questions.

So please excuse my absence, but let me talk now about our Christmas tree.  It is ugly, yet beautiful.  Humble, yet profound.

First a bit of background on my eternal Christmas tree angst.  I have always hated the thought of cutting down a living tree to decorate my house for a few weeks and then toss out (even if recycled into mulch).  If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a tree at all.  But the tree, and all the ornaments that are rediscovered year after year, are so much a fun and memorable part of a child’s Christmas, that I hate to deny them that.

Yes, we could decorate a ficus, but the idea of singing carols and sipping cocoa around the Christmas Ficus just doesn’t have the same cozy appeal to it.  And since I am the kiss of death for houseplants, I’d simply be substituting a fir tree death sentence for that of a ficus.

I have done living trees before and then planted them in the yard (when I had a yard that was not packed full of pine trees already).  That was lovely, but they can only be inside for a few days, are heavy, and here – pine trees grow like weeds.  No room for more!

For the last 6 years I have had an artificial tree.  It was easy, three pieces to put together and lights already on it, but Christmas seems artificial enough to me in so many ways, without a fake tree too.  Plus, it always felt kind of nasty to touch and probably oozed all kinds of chemicals.  Not very Christmassy.

This year I came up with what I think is the perfect solution, for us anyway.  We have so many trees on our property and, as I said above, Ponderosa pines literally grow like weeds here.  After a good rain, hundreds of seedlings miraculously appear as you can see in this picture:

Despite my aversion to tree cutting, we are in desperate need of thinning a bit.  Fire safety is a HUGE issue here, especially after our close call in 2002.  Plus, the smaller trees sap the meager nutrients and scarce water from the more mature trees leaving them tall, but thin and sickly looking.

I don’t want to get into a forest management lecture or debate here, but the truth is that we really need to take out some of the smaller trees that are growing close to the larger ones before a fire does it for us.

So, with that in mind, I had the idea to cut a small one down and make it our Christmas tree.  It would eventually be cut anyhow, but at least this way it would go in a blaze of richly adorned glory and be much enjoyed and remembered.

We picked a thin one growing near a mature one and all went out to “help” my husband with the cutting. Despite a bad back and even worse weather that day, he got it done.

Then, “we,” as in my husband – under my direction – cut it in half.  The original tree was only about three inches in diameter but probably 16 feet tall with all the branches at the top.  We ended up with an 8 foot tall tree that fits nicely in our tall living room.

It was so thin and light that the kids were able to carry it into the house themselves.

The cats thought it was wonderful having their very own tree lying in the middle of the front entryway.

Here is the final result:

It is rather a spindly, thin, pathetic tree, but Ponderosas don’t have a very thick array of branches, especially when young.

However, as my daughter said:  “This is my favorite tree ever because you can see the ornaments!”  Yes, you can.

This is my favorite tree ever because, although it may not be perfect, we chose it and cut it ourselves, gave it a “new life,” and it cost no money!

I don’t want a perfect Christmas, I just want one the the children will remember fondly, and I hope that they might remember this.

(You can read more about Christmas tree options here: The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma)

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