Thursday, 31 July 2008

Felt butterflies and butterfly story

We had the unexpected pleasure of looking after one of Hermione's friends for most of the day today while her mum took care of her poorly brother. Consequently we didn't do as much in the way of butterfly stuff as I had planned - but that's ok - it just means I've chilled tonight as I've still got stuff in the pipeline for tomorrow.

Felted butterflies. We felted a very thin layer of wool and then attached it to some backing card.

We enjoyed a butterfly story which I found on Google. Author unknown.

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it had and it could go no further.

Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we went through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


At the beginning of summer we decided to look out for butterfly eggs which we could observe hatching into caterpillars, turning into chrysalis and emerging as butterflies. We made a butterfly hotel from a shoe box and very close weave transparent fabric. We watched out in the nettles (a favourite habitat apparently) and in the veg patch. Nothing. Not a sign of an egg, caterpillar or butterfly. We had almost given up hope when on Sunday I decided to pick, blanch and freeze more broccoli and there we had it - caterpillar and eggs on the broccoli!

Amidst much excitement we found the special observation equipment which we acquired on Freecycle since making our own hotel. We furnished it and popped in the eggs, small caterpillar and some fresh broccoli leaves.

Now, three days on, there is no sign of the eggs, there are however a couple more caterpillars and the small green one now looks big and brown. Very exciting stuff!

I hope to rustle up a few butterfly activities over the next few days and only hope that all goes to plan with the caterpillars we have. I'm giving them fresh greenery every day, making sure the soil in the bottom is moist but not too moist. I'd hate them to come to any harm because of our observations. My only other worry is that I'm possibly giving them too much greenery and we won't be able to actually see anything when it happens. I know, I know, the concerns of a woman who just doesn't get out often enough *grin*.

Edited to add I've just finished Googling butterflies and thought that since it's not long gone 9.00 I might pop out and spend an hour in my patch - but it's almost dark! Don't blink or you might just miss British summer time *sigh*.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Pumpkin pollination

Not only did Hermione complete her Horizon Math book which she has been working on since April today, I also figured out the problem with my withering pumpkins and have hopefully solved it.

I assumed that all the tinkering seed producers do would result in vegetables which don't have to be manually pollinated, but perhaps that isn't the case - perhaps my pumpkins only grow to the size of a golf ball and whither because they haven't been pollinated. On close inspection it's easy to see distinct male and female flowers.

I picked the male flowers and did the necessaries - I think. Only time will tell. The children were intrigued and I felt that I could come much closer to the crunch with pumpkins than I have with frogs, hens or humans in the past.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Unplugged Project - flat

The theme for this weeks Unplugged Project was flat.

I know it's a bit of a tenuous link but we decided to press some flowers - they will be very flat in a week or so.

We marvelled at the old ones we found in the press. Some were paper thin and really fragile yet still held a lot of their colour. Beautiful.

Both of the children were really enthusiastic and the smell of sweet peas in the kitchen was fabulous as they arranged them between the sheets of card and blotting paper.

The press we used was mine as a child. It's just one of those wonderful timeless things, although I was thinking today that it is perhaps time I invested in some fresh blotting paper.

While on the subject of flowers, I thought I'd give an update on our rose oil making efforts. Well, the results were not like an essential oil I would expect to buy in the shop but still very pleasant nonetheless. The oil has tiny particles of petal in and judging by the look of it I fear it would go rancid quite quickly unlike oils I have bought. The smell is also not so pungent as I imagine the 'proper' one to be, but it is still very heady and decadent when used as a body oil. I'd certainly do it again although I'd possibly look into ways of refining it a little more.

Oh and by the way the heatwave appears to be over but the ice lolly fest continues.

Banana, spinach and crystal mana.

Honeydew melon with a swirl of raspberry.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Happy heatwave to you!

It's 25 degrees in the shade for the third day in a row here and we're all enjoying the sunshine.

Playing in the paddling pool.

Enjoying the view.

Enjoying ice lollies, (two at a time), - banana and beetroot.

Courgettes marinading in olive oil, lemon juice and herbs ready for the barbecue later.

Watching cherries ripen in the sunshine.

I hope the sun is shining on you too today. Enjoy!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Weaver fish

We joined six other local home ed families for a day at the beach today. The weather was glorious and all went well apart from one of the children in the group being bitten by a weaver fish. We thought it was a jelly fish sting but thankfully the first aid people identified it and treated it appropriately.

When we got home we looked up weaver fish on Google Images and were surprised to find they look like this -

I hope I never stumble across one when paddling!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Rainbow Chard and weaving

Months ago when I was pondering what to grow this year I said I was going to grow rainbow chard in the hope that the brightly coloured stems would entice the children into eating them. Well, it's worked. Hermione is a great fan now. She headed off to home ed group with this bag of goodies this morning - all fresh from the patch.

Hermione's first completed weaving project. A miniature rug.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Making a splash

We visited our new city swimming pool this morning. During it's first week it only costs 5p per person to swim. It has received a lot of hype in the local press but at the risk of sounding like a whinger I'm going to say it was awful - even at the bargain price of 5p! After finally managing to get through a ridiculous bar coded barrier system we finally arrived in a freezing cold pool where the shallowest area was 0.8 metres - not much good for weeny people!

Back at home we soaked up the sunshine while splashing in our own pool - a lot less stressful.

While the children splashed I cut, blanched a froze a mountain of broccoli. The patch looks quite bare now but I've lots of sprouting broccoli seedlings coming on which will soon take the place of what was cut today.

Oh, I almost forgot to say, we managed to squeeze in a bit of work on fractions and plurals in between splashes. Plodding along, getting where we need to be in true tortoise fashion right now. Just right for sunny days!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Lightwater Valley and Railway Museum

We're not long since back from a lovely couple of days in York. We were in two minds about going with things being as they are right here now, but it had been booked for a long while so we decided to go anyway. I'm glad we made the effort. It was good fun.

Yesterday we spent most of the day at Lightwater Valley. Craig and Hermione love it there. Real thrill seekers they are! Miles and myself prefer to watch from the sidelines. We spent most of the day going round and round on the carousel while Craig and Hermione hunted out all the white knuckle rides she met the height restrictions for.

After Lightwater Valley it was off to our hotel in the centre of York. It was just a cheap deal at the Travel Lodge - basic but adequate. Actually it felt quite luxurious after our last trip away in the tent!

Checking out the view from the window.

The view wasn't that bad.

We fell in with the doors at the National Railway Museum (after waiting outside in a que for it to open for ten minutes) today. I had high expectations after hearing a lot about it. It was good. We spent going on three hours there and all had a great time. Whether I would go to York especially is another thing though. We don't have a particular interest in trains and we do have lots of great 'hands on' museums really close to home. Still, I'm pleased we went along even if only to see what it's all about.

It's lovely to go away but it's even better to come home. Although they had a great time I think the kids were glad to be back too. I like the fact that even when pinned against the fun and excitement of a holiday, the usual day to day stuff at home still holds great appeal.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Owl Moon and concert update

We looked at Owl Moon by Jane Yolen this week. It's a Five In a Row text with lots of scope for exploration but I'm afraid we just scratched the surface really.

The book tells the story of a little boy who goes out late at night with his father to watch owls for the first time. Not a huge amount of text and certainly no plot as such - but lots of beautiful illustrations and scope for discussions.

This is what we did in connection with the story.

We made a list of all of the different birds we could think of.

We talked about nocturnal animals and listed the ones we could think of.

We talked about why the boy had not been owl watching prior to that time. Sometimes we need to learn self restraint before we can do things - we need to be able to do less in order to do more at times.

Not all decisions about whether or not we can do things are just down to maturity. Some things are dictated by law such as driving a vehicle, getting married, buying alcohol and voting, (big discussion about what voting means and how in some parts of the world certain groups are not permitted to vote).

When the boy saw the owl he stared at it for 'one minute, two minutes or even a hundred minutes'. We talked about how some experiences can seem to distort time. We converted one hundred minutes to hours and minutes - then did lots more of those conversions.

Some of the illustrations in the book are from a birds eye view. We talked about this and Hermione plans on drawing a birds eye view of our neighbourhood - but hasn't gotten around to doing it yet.

Last nights concert was great. Hermione was one of the youngest participants but the age range probably went up to mid seventies. The music was good and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I think Nana summed it up when she said they are a lovely bunch of people who take their music very seriously, but don't take themselves too seriously.

On the concert programme there was mention of a kinder group. I'm going to investigate this when the summer break is over and see if it is something Miles could be involved in. I would really like to take up the violin again too. I played it for years when I was younger and would like to start over. I'd like it so much if we all played an instrument. I have visions of Von Trapp moments, music by the fireplace, rosy cheeks and mince pies - but then I've always been a dreamer *grin*.

Friday, 18 July 2008


Had a lovely day at the museum with the children today but back home reality strikes. Still waiting to hear from insurance companies. Still having that feeling of watching our lives being carelessly passed from office to office like a tennis ball.

A SoulCollage by Meg Frost entitled 'Critic' and described as such - I Am your mental abuser. I make you fall in the depths where light cannot penetrate, the deepest dungeon of your soul.

I feel really tormented and terrified right now. I just hope this awful wait will be over soon.

Hermione is playing her clarinet in a concert tonight. I only wish we weren't hanging under this awful cloud and could give one hundred percent to the moment.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Felt pockets

A couple of felt pockets we made using the 'wet felting' technique at art group this week.

Sadly this art group is stopping soon. Although it's not been going long we'll really miss it. It's been good fun and we've learned some great new crafting skills.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Patch today

Broccoli, spinach and even the odd potato.

Cabbage, lettuce and more stray potatoes

Broad beans, chard and nasturtiums.

Courgettes cloaked in fleece to try to stop rot and slugs.

Feathery fennel and poppies.

I had plans this year. I was going to be organised and methodical. There was going to be structure and order. Ho hum, I can always try that approach again next year...