Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Bird Watching -Outdoor Play Party April 25th 2014

With the greatly improved weather, we've been out on our bikes almost every day. We live on a road where a busy day is maybe 5 cars, three of whom are lost, so it's a great place to be. However, this is also our first year to be here at this time, and we are discovering all sorts of birds that we didn't know lived here! Inevitably our bike rides turn into bird watching.

spring bird watching
This post may contain affiliate links for products or books that we love.
All the bird photos here were taken by my very talented 21 year old K. All the grainy photos of people and bicycles can be blamed on me!

spring bike riding

spring bike riding

spring bike riding

myrtle warbler
Myrtle Warbler


Slate-coloured Junco
Slate-coloured Junco

Swallow (not a barn swallow, but we haven't had time to look it up yet)

Sparrow Hawk
We've seen this called both a Sparrow Hawk and a Merlin. Does anyone know which is right?

Don't forget to check out the posts by my cohosts for the Outdoor Play Party!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cooking with kids: Rosemary and Lemon Pork Stew from Portugal

This month, Around the World in 12 Dishes headed to Portugal! We looked through a ton of recipes, drooling all the way, and finally settled on this rosemary and lemon pork stew because we had all the ingredients on hand. Are we ever glad that we did!

cooking with kids Portugal

Cut up boneless pork chops into bite-sized pieces ( I did this part, since I didn't want D handling raw pork). Shake them up in a bag with seasonings and flour:
cooking with kids Portugal
Take a quick break to sweep up the flour that escaped during the enthusiastic shaking.

Brown them in olive oil. Then add your mushrooms and sliced onion and saute for 5 more minutes.
cooking with kids portugal
Having a big brother who will hold the pot still for you is a big plus.

cooking with kids portugal

cooking with kids portugal

Stir in the wine and seasonings. Enthuse about your "cooking lesson". Try to convince Mom to let you try the wine.
cooking with kids portugal

Cover the pot and let it cook on low for an hour, then uncover and raise the heat about halfway for another 15 minutes or so. Make sure that you ask every 5 minutes whether it's time to eat yet.
cooking with kids portugal

Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro. Dive into your food!
cooking with kids Portugal

Eat, and wish you'd made a whole lot more.

You can download your free printable Portugal passport and placemat, too!

Make sure you check out the other delicious Portuguese recipes from my co-hosts:Adventures In Mommydom, Afterschool for Smarty Pants, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Maroc Mama, Glittering Muffins, Kid World Citizen, Mermaids' Makings, and The Mommy Talks.

Link up your recipes and crafts from Portugal below!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What is soil? Science experiments and activities for kids on Saturday Science!

Welcome to this week's Saturday Science link-up! The co-hosts for this are Little Bins For Little Hands, Lemon Lime Adventures, Stir The Wonder, Suzy Homeschooler, The Joys of Boys, P Is For Preschooler, and myself!

This week, we took a look at Case 2 in the free curriculum The Great Plant Escape, and learned lots about soil.

soil experiments and activities for kids
This post may contain affiliate links for books and products that we love.

First, I showed him how much of the total Earth actually grows all the food that humans and animals are dependent on. We took a kiwi (we were out of apples!) and cut it into quarters.
illustrating the earth's usable surface

We took away 3/4 to represent the water on the earth's surface.

We cut the remaining quarter in half again and took away one of the eights to represent the part of the land that is unusable for human habitation.
illustrating the earth's usable surface

The remaining eighth, we cut into 4 pieces and took away three of them to represent areas unsuitable for growing food, because of poor soil or other factors such as development.

illustrating the earth's usable surface

The last tiny 1/32 of the kiwi, we peeled and I explained to D that this teeny piece of peel represents the area of land available in total that the entire earth depends upon for growing food. Mind-boggling, isn't it?
illustrating the earth's usable surface

Next, we looked at what makes up soil itself. We learned that soil is made up of rock particles, water, air and organic matter such as decaying leaves. We learned that soil scientists describe soil types by texture...clay, sandy, loamy, and so on. If it's too high in one component, it can affect the ability to grow life properly because it might not drain properly or contain enough nutrition to help plants grow. The combination of different sizes of the particles make a big difference too.

Think of the sizes this way:
soil particles visual image

We can finally get some dirt up out of the ground, so we got a handful and examined it. Good soil will squish together in your hand but can be crumbled again afterwards, and you should be able to see pieces of plant matter in it. If it won't hold together in the first place when you squeeze it, or will clump but not crumble, you need to make some additions to make it workable.
testing our soil

testing our soil

D's conclusion was that our soil looks pretty good for growing plants, but it could maybe use some extra drainage in the parts of our land that have slate slabs not far under the surface.

I reminded D of our discussion about what plants require to grow, then we read that the three nutrients plants need from soil are nitrogen (for leaf growth and dark green colour), phosphorous (which encourages plant cell division so they grow flowers, roots, and seeds), and potassium, which helps protect plants from disease and is needed to make chorophyll. I knew that D had understood when he compared it to getting the vitamins you need out of food in humans.

There's a lot more to learn, so we'll share the next part in another post soon.

I also found a fantastic resource for my US readers from Nutrients For Life.  They will send you, free, a homeschool curriculum for elementary level,middle school level, or high school,with fertilizer samples, lesson plans, and more. Julie, their education specialist, was good enough to send me pdf versions of the curriculum so I could look it over before sharing with you, and it is so well put together that M, 13 has asked to try it out. There are even tests included if you need to grade for your state.

Saturday Science Blog Hop 2
Don't miss the great science posts from my co-hosts:

Air Pressure from Suzy Homeschooler
Preschool Books about Recycling from Stir the Wonder
Engineering Egg Drop Project from Lemon Lime Adventures

Link up your science posts below! We read and pin them all.
Linky code: April 19th

Friday, April 18, 2014

10 Books About Seeds

With all the seedlings in sunny windows inside our house, and garden boxes being built outside, seeds have been a big topic here. I've made a list of the ten best books about seeds that we've read in case anyone else is looking too.
10 books about seeds
This post contains affiliate links for books that we loved.

1. We have owned How A Seed Grows since my 21 year old was younger, and it has been the #1 hit with each of my children. Highly recommended!

2. From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons. If it's one of her books, you can't go wrong!

3. Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move is a great kid-level look at seed dispersal. It can be hard to get hold of new, but it's worth it to get even a used copy.

4. The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A book about how living things grow. Adult level science explained in a way that kids can really grasp it.

5. One Bean. The illustrations alone make this book worth reading. Luckily, the science it contains is well explained too!

6. A Packet of Seeds. This one is fiction, a pretty and charming story about a child on the prairie in pioneer times, who wants to grow flowers to make their mother feel happy again. It was a lovely read!

7. Glenna's Seeds. A random act of kindness transforms an entire
neighbourhood, starting with a packet of seeds. This may now be one of my all-time top children's fiction....really a feel-good story!

8. Miss Rumphius. Another story that all my children (biological and daycare!) have loved. How can they resist a tale of making the world more beautiful?

9. Ten Seeds A counting book with a wonderful nature study approach!

10. Jack's Garden This story is told on the frame of "the house that Jack built" but with a garden theme. Kids love chanting along and remembering the previous page! The illustrations are super appealing, too.

Any other books you'd add to the list? Share in the comments!
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