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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Family paintings

I've been wanting to do a family art project for a long time. I don't care about the end result as much as I care about the fun experience and memory for the children. I'd hang up the piece just so they could remember the activity, regardless of how it turned out.

Our first group painting was an easy beginning project, Jackson Pollock style.

The investment was very small. I took an old crib sheet and cut the elastics off. This made a perfect canvas. It was large enough for people to move around and dance while they paint, but small enough that their short arms could reach the middle. The children swept the patio and we laid the sheet down, weighting the edges with rocks and bricks.

The paints were old leftovers from my ancient craft box. These were colors I never used in the 5 years I had them. Why would I have them if I didn't buy them for a project? We bought a huge bin of paint at a garage sale for five dollars when we lived in Rexburg. I used them for random projects over the years, but it's really time to clean them out and stop lugging them around with us. These are the cheap craft paints that are less than $1 per bottle.

We poured the paints into old condiment containers that were destined for the trash. Those didn't work as well as I'd hoped, so we resorted to just squirting the paint straight from the original bottles.

We turned on really loud fast-paced music (Lazytown soundtracks) and danced in circles around the canvas splattering paint. The children all had a blast laughing and dancing to the beat.

Sarah had been very dubious about a painting made without paintbrushes when I explained the concept to her at the beginning. She didn't want to participate originally, but joined in after seeing the fun everyone was having. At the end of the session she exclaimed, "This is so FUN! When do we get to do the next one?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

She's kindled!

One of our does finally kindled! We're so excited! We've been trying to breed her for months. It was such a delightful surprise to have it finally work! We counted five kits, all healthy and strong by all appearances. Rabbits have a high infant mortality rate, so I don't know how many we'll have left in a month, but we're delighted to at least have had a full term pregnancy. Sarah and Matthew were so excited to go outside a peep at the little babies. They've promised to tiptoe and whisper whenever they're near the "maternity ward".

I can't remember if I posted anything about the hutch...I don't think I did. Nathan designed a two-level rabbit hutch that's self-cleaning so we don't have to deal with cleaning out rabbit pans. We built it together in the evenings after work from the minute he came home until it was too dark to see. After that we'd finally eat dinner. :) It was so fun to work as a family on this project.

The wood we built it with was free as well. I found someone in our neighborhood replacing a wood fence, so we loaded the van with all the good pickets and posts and used those for the construction of the hutch. The children picked out the hutch door handles from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. They had so much fun digging through bins of cabinet handles looking for the best ones. Sarah's rabbit was the pregnant one, so she picked a handle with a blue heart so the rabbit family would have the prettiest apartment in the hutch.

The hutch works so well and I never notice any 'off' smells since the dropping all fall to the leaves underneath and start to compost right away. The rabbits seem quite content there. Nathan designed it so the enclosed 'apartments' are all together on the inside and only divided by chicken wire instead of wood. This way the rabbits can share body heat in the winter.

Gardening Festival and Keyhole gardening

The weather is beautiful and we've been working in the garden a lot lately. We attended a Passion for Plants festival on Saturday. This was so much fun! It's a free festival to educate the public about gardening. The Master Gardener Association had 20 booths set up with a variety of educational resources, such as beneficial bugs in Texas, planting calendars, collecting rainwater, homemade container gardens, etc. Each booth you visited gave you a sticker for learning something. For every 4 stickers collected, you could choose a plant to keep. Since we have a 5 person family, each booth gave us 5 stickers. It was so fun to pick out plants to take home! We collected 3 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 3 sweet peppers, fennel, spearmint, sage and parsley. This was so perfect since we were going to buy tomatoes and peppers this week anyway. I was so delighted with our 'prizes'. The booths had really good handouts available, so I collected most of them. I'm teaching a gardening class to our Sustainable Living group in April, so the handouts are very appreciated. I won't have to type anything up myself now.

The children had so much fun at the festival learning about good and bad bugs. The gardener would show them a large picture of a bug and ask if it was god or bad. Each time they knew the answer they'd get a piece of candy. They were so delighted. There were also free snacks provided, so they thought that was pretty fun. Most of the time they played with Nathan at the playground while I went around to the tables.

Sarah has been such a help in the garden. She's becoming a very hard worker and we're so proud of her. Last week we went to a cemetery in Austin to collect a load of limestone rocks for building a wall in our garden. She worked just as long as Nathan and I did, and did it so cheerfully. We loaded the van with as many rocks as it could carry....and it ended up being too much for it to carry. The payload capacity was exceeded, so the van tires started having problems before we even left the cemetery, so we unloaded teh biggest boulder and small other rocks and very very carefully came home, praying the entire way that we'd be safe. The van is apparently fine now, but unfortunately we'll have to procure a truck to do the next load. That's a bummer, because I was so excited to finish the project in one week.

We're making a raised garden called a keyhole garden. It's space-efficient and conserves water well. They're built in Africa in many places and I really liked the entire approach. The biggest reason we chose this plan was for the space efficiency. We had a small garden and we needed to maximize the parts the get adequate sun. Normally they're just built on top of whatever ground it's being built on, but our garden soil is very nice and we didn't want it to be wasted under everything else and being compacts in the pathways. We've been improving that soil for years and it's perfect for a vegetable garden. Dirt is also really expensive to buy. We had plenty of good dirt right there in the garden, so I dug up the top 8 inches of the entire garden and moved it so we could fill the raised bed with it.

Any time we disturb the garden bed, we remove any bad grubs we find. It's like a game for Sarah and Matthew to see who can find the most grubs. Sarah thinks it's so fantastic each time she finds one, and she picks them up with her bare hands! She gets so delighted as if she's just found a treasure, then she feeds the grub to the chickens. The biggest grub she found was the same length and width as my thumb! It surprises me how Sarah is growing...she's very much a lady indoors. She insists on wearing dresses everyday and loves jewelry, doing hair and makeup, etc. Shes' also particular about manners. When she's outside, it's a whole new story. She loves getting muddy and sh'ell make mud creations every day with the boys. She'll also make colossal batches of mud and leaf soup-- they call it Chicken soup because they think the chickens like to eat it. It was so weird watching her collect grubs in a dress. I'm pleased that she's not afraid to enjoy life and get dirty. She's a complete tom boy one minute, a prim lady the next. She has the best of both worlds I think.

Then we built a stone wall...right now it's about 18 inches high. Sarah did such a great job unloading the stones. The wall is only half done...we're waiting to get logistics arranged for collecting he next batch of rocks. I hate waiting.....I want to plant things today.