Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brown Thrashers.

A few weeks ago, i noticed a peculiar bird hopping in and out of one of the bushes on our front hill. It was acting very secretive and it was difficult to get a good look at it. After looking through my bird book, i though that i had a Wood thrush. i peeked inside the bush and saw the beginnings of a nest. So we left it alone for a few days, but came back to check on it now and again.

We were pretty exited when we peeked in and saw a mama bird peeking back out at us. i immediately noticed the yellow eyes, and started thinking maybe this wasn't a Wood Thrush after all...but instead a Brown Thrasher. We've never seen these at our house/feeders so that was pretty exciting.

The nest is so far into the bush that i cannot see what is going on with the nest. i have to shove the camera in and snap a couple pictures. Then take the camera out and see what is going on in there. One morning when i noticed that both mama and papa bird were hanging out in my peach tree, i tip toed over to the nest and snapped this picture. The eggs are speckled with red/brown. This confirms that indeed have a nest of Brown thrashers, and not Wood thrush who have blue eggs.

While mama bird sits on her nest, this papa bird is always standing guard. He never strays too far from the nest. He sounds a warning if we get too close, and in the evening he serenades us with his beautiful song. Brown thrashers mimic other birds, similar to a mocking bird. Their song is distinguishable because they repeat each note 2 times.

Recently i noticed both mama and papa have been out more, so i shoved my camera into the bush to see what was happening with the nest. i was super happy to see these 4 baby birds with mouths open waiting for a their meal. i think when i moved the branches aside they thought i was mama coming in with a worm.

My kids have been super excited to see the baby birds, and are getting quite good at recognizing some of the birds that frequent our feeders.

While looking up a bit of info on the Brown Thrashers we learned that it is the Georgia State bird!! Just for fun we found some Brown Thrasher Printable Coloring pages here and here. We also found an interactive Brown Thrasher coloring page here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chantilly Bluegrass Festival.

This weekend is the official beginning of our summer vacation. i really wanted to do something fun to kick it off and decided to take the kids to the First Annual Bluegrass and BBQ festival at Chantilly Farm.
The festival is brand new, so i knew it would be small and was comfortable taking the kids by myself, unlike some of the bigger events like Floydfest. i also like supporting the community in these types of events and festivals, especially when they are just starting out.

The festival grounds were beautiful! It was really a nice area for a music festival. With lots of open space, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. The stage was perfect for the event. They had a dancing platform set up for clogging. The first performers were children from the Floyd Music school. It was really neat to see many local children we know perform. Three kids from my son's karate class are also involved with the music school. So it was neat for him to see them up on stage.

There was free face painting for the kids, and a very nice man (dressed as a clown, Eek!) making balloon animals. :) Lots of local vendors, handcrafters and artists. We did our part to support the food vendors. We enjoyed homemade ice cream, kettle corn and fresh squeezed lemonade with fresh strawberries. :) We also packed our own lunches, and brought plenty of snacks. There were lots of food options for those who didn't.

i admit, my kids didn't enjoy sitting in the hot sun listening to the music. So we spent a good deal of time wandering. i was a bit disappointed that festival was advertised as having lots of kids activities...but their really wasn't much for the kids...except running wild across the festival grounds. The Roanoke Kite company brought kites to demonstrate, but the kids were not allowed to fly them. There was a fenced off area with a sign that said "Kids Area" but apparently the person incharge of the kids activities failed to show up, at least that is what we were told. So the area was empty, and there was no real activities for the kids. We were not looking for much, just some swings..maybe a sandbox or a few arts and crafts. We would have normally brought some things like bubbles or coloring books...but because i had seen so much emphasis on 'kid activities and games for the kids' we didn't.

It wasn't until an awesome woman showed up with a bunch of hula hoops, that my kids stopped complaining and started having fun. This gave me the chance to sit back and enjoy the music.

Sage was too small for the hula hoops, which were water weighted...but still found a way to have fun with them.

My boy has a natural talent for hula hopping! i was very impressed. It was his first time hula hopping, and he quickly mastered one hula hoop and moved on to two!

There were lots of amazing artists, and i wish we had some extra money to spend. We enjoyed checking out work from many local artists and crafters like Thomas Baldwin Violins and Phelps Pottery.

This woodworker was giving demonstrations of his carving. He started off using a chainsaw, it was pretty neat.

The kids also enjoyed the hay ride, and the weather was absolutely perfect for the festival. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was a really nice little festival, with a great family feel. i'm looking forward to seeing what other festivals and events they have in the future.

You can get more info about Chantilly Festival Farm on their blog, and on facebook.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coffee Filter Poppies .

In my last post, i mentioned that my poppies are blooming and the petals remind me of coffee filters. So Yesterday, Sage and i came up some really easy Coffee filter Poppies.

We decided to make simple poppies. We used
coffee filters
food coloring + water
black buttons
green pipe cleaners
and some sticks for added support.

i had considered making the centers a bit more detailed...with black construction paper behind the buttons, embroidery thread over pink buttons...but decided simple was best for Sage. After you make a few of these, you could easily make them more detailed if you really wanted to.

We've had thunderstorms the last couple days, so i apologize for my bad pictures. We depend mainly on the sun through sky lights for natural lighting, so when it is overcast my house is a bit like a cave. lol.

First thing you want to do, is get your petals ready for dying. We used bleached coffee filters. Fold in half, and pinch the center with one hand.

then using your other hand, scrunch and twist. You can't really do this wrong.

Once you have a bunch twisted, prepare your dye bath. We used about 1/2 cup water and 5-6 drops of red food coloring. Our flowers turned out a salmon color. You could get a more intense or lighter pink by adjusting the amount of food coloring you add. Dip each twisted coffee filter into the dye so it is saturated, then set them to dry (do not untwist yet). If you place them outside in the sun they will dry pretty quickly, if you dry them inside it may take a few hours.

Okay, don't laugh at my illustration. i couldn't get a good picture to show how to put them together, it's super easy but when i write it out it sound confusing. So hopefully this picture will help a little.
Once they are dry open them up. Stack two coffee filters on top of each other, and place a large black button in the center. Take your pipe cleaner and go through the back of the two filters, through one of the button holes, back through the other button hole and through the back of the coffee filter again (make different holes this time). Pull it tight against the button, and then twist the two pipe cleaner ends together.

The pipe cleaner isn't strong enough to hold up the flowers, so i picked up a couple thin sticks from the yard, and wrapped the pipe cleaner around it for support.

That's it! Your done! Make several and place them in a vase. You can play around with different shades of pink or red, use different colored buttons, use more coffee filter/petals to create different flowers...and just have fun! Younger kids will probably have a bit of trouble threading the button, but they can scrunch the petals and help to dye them. Older kids can make these with very little help.

For some more Coffee Filter flower inspiration check out The beautiful rainbow tie-dyed looking flowers over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree!! Also these fun ones using washable markers over at DLTK's crafts!
If you are really up for a challenge..check out these!! Wow!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weekend magic

This weekend we stayed at home. We didn't really do anything all that that special, and yet the weekend was very special..and full of fun, laughter and a bit of magic.

The kids are really getting into the finger knitting, and we've been coming up with some pretty cool things to do with all that knitting. i'll post about it later.

My poppies finally opened up. These are such gorgeous flowers!! The flower heads measure about 6-8 inches across! The petals remind me of coffee filters! i bet we could come up with a pretty fun Poppy craft using coffee filters. i think we'll work on that today. :)

My irises are in full bloom as well! i have irises in lots of colors, but these Japanese iris are my favorites.

Kids enjoyed a water balloon fight to help with the heat. We had thundershowers off and on, making it really humid in between.

With our low flow well, we can not run a sprinkler or fill up a big pool. So water balloons have to suffice. Kids got completely soaked, and there were lots and lots of smiles.

i managed to spot this very rare Rainbow Tailed Raccoon. It growled at me and ran off.

i caught another glimpse of it, hopping across tree stumps later in the day. :)

Also spotted a gnome in the garden.

Sunday we wrapped up our weekend with an after dinner walk down to the creek. The sun was just beginning to set, and it made for a cool and peaceful walk. We skipped stones and listened to the water rush past. Truly a wonderful weekend. i hope that yours was full of just as much fun and a bit of magic. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lazy Bones Photography- Winner announced!!

The first winner of the Lazy Bones Photography did not respond, so i picked a new winner!! The new giveaway winner is......

Melanie said... 38

She enjoys baking (I chose that because we share it)

Congratulations! i will send you an email later today. You will have 48 hours to respond to my email or a new winner will be chosen! Thank you all who entered!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rainbow Sprites Spring Mobile

A few months ago, i came across a blog post (i can't remember where..sorry!) about Rainbow Angel kits and turning them into a mobile.

i can not remember the name of the blog, but you can find the Rainbow Angel kits at several different places online, including Bella Luna Toys and A Toy Garden.
i knew immediately that i wanted to make these to replace our winter snowflake mobile. They are very easy to make, and make a really wonderful spring/summer mobile.

Of course, you do not have to buy the kits if you have wool roving available. i have a nice selection of roving and was pleased to find enough of each color to make a rainbow. i think the kits only make 6 colors, but i had enough shades of wool to make 9 colors. i used a deep red, red-orange, orange, yellow, bright green, dark green, blue-green, blue, violet and dark purple. You can make yours with more or less colors.

i thought i'd give you a basic tutorial on making the angels/sprite/ fairies what ever you want to call them. You are going to start with a bit of wool and some cotton string. i don't measure any of this out, i just grab a chunk and go. You'll need a bit of the white for the wings. Then split your colored wool into two pieces, like above. You need a piece of the arms, and a piece for the body.

Cut a piece of cotton string about 2- 2 1/2 foot long. Fold your big piece of roving in half, and tie the string a little ways down over the fold to create the head. Leave about a 3 inch tail on one end of the string, and leave the other end long. i like to needle felt the head just a little to make it appear more round.

Take your smaller piece of roving and tie a not on each end. i try to make it a loose knot, so it kind of looks like hands. i don't pull it really tight.

Then i place the arms between the layers of roving.

Take your long piece of string, and wrap it across the chest in a criss-cross manner. i go over the right shoulder under the left arm, around the neck, then under the left arm and over the right shoulder and around the waist. Then i repeat it. Did that make sense?

Tying the string to the 3 inch tail in back. When your done it should look like this.

Now flip it over and center your white wool on the knot in the back. Tie in place. Use your fingers to fluff and shape the wings a bit.

Now you can clip off the excess string from the tail, but keep the long string to attach your fairy to the mobile.

Repeat this process with each of your roving colors to create a rainbow assortment of fairy sprites. Now you can create your mobile!

For my mobile i used a piece of twisted grapevine, and spaced my sprites about 3" apart along the grape vine, and tied each one so the sprite hung about 2-3" lower than the one before to create the lovely descending spiral.

If you have any questions feel free to ask! These are very easy to make, but i fear i may have complicated them in my attempt to explain the process. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Novica Review- Fair Trade

Novica is one of the leading fair trade artisan websites. They work with National Geographic to give talented artisans around the world a place to express their artistic talents and provide access to the world market.

i have always been drawn to unique artwork and clothing from other countries. However, once i became aware that many times artists are not paid a fair wage for the product i became hesitant to buy many imports.

Novica provides fair trade products made by artisans around the globe. They want you to know who you're buying from, to feel an attachment to the product, and to the hands that created it. One of my favorite features on the Novica site is that there is an artist story at the bottom of every product. So, you can see the artists who are actually making the items. When you purchase an item from Novica, an artisan card is included with each item.

i really enjoyed browsing the Unique Gifts section. Novica has put together a versatile collection of hand-crafted treasures from artists around the world ranging from silver jewelry for him and her to Eco-Friendly gifts. The Eco friendly selection includes items that are sustainable and natural as well as items made from recycled or reclaimed materials.

Novica also has an extensive jewelry collection, featuring beautiful handcrafted Sterling Silver Jewelry, precious gemstone necklaces, and earrings.

Don't know what to give a special someone? The Unique Gift section has gift ideas for everyone; Anniversary gifts, Corporate gifts, Gifts for Animal lovers, and more. You can shop buy price range, by region, by category, and by individual artist. Their original and unique gift ideas will make it easy to find the perfect gift!

Another interesting feature on the Novica site is the Novica Live. NOVICA Live is bringing handcrafted items into homes across the nation, creating a unique, interactive shopping experience through fun, lively home parties. For those of you who enjoy sharing handcrafted fair trade products with your friends you can sign up to host a Novica party and help spread the word, and benefit the lives of many more artisans.

i really love what Novica has created. It is a wonderful online marketplace that bridges the gap and brings all of these unique artisan treasures together in one place for an easy shopping experience. You can feel good about your purchases, and feel connected with the artists whom your purchase is helping.

You can connect with Novica on Facebook, and also on Twitter. You can also visit the Keeper of the Arts section to watch videos of the individual artists.

Novica provided me with a gift card to review their store, but these opinions are 100% mine. i really feel like this is a great store that showcases the talents of these wonderful artists and provides a place to purchase fair trade, high quality items.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Around the garden

This week of cold rain has forced me to stay inside a bit. i spent most of last week outside working in the garden and flowerbeds. Still trying to get things planted, but finding it increasingly difficult with a very active 4 year old and a broken rototiller. My small front bed garden is planted with mainly cold crops, and it is all in and growing pretty well.
My main garden isn't planted yet, i'm still trying to work up the soil and get it prepped for planting. i have also been pulling weeds, digging up strawberries, raspberries and flowers that keep creeping into the main garden. i have to constantly remind myself that the locals don't put in their gardens until Memorial day...i still have time. i still feel very behind.

We've been harvesting asparagus for almost a month now. We are able to harvest enough for a meal about every 3-4 days. i'd like to put in more crowns so that we are harvesting more than that. This is a relatively new patch and we are still getting it established. Both of the kids absolutely love asparagus, Sage will even eat it raw right out of the garden.

Blueberries are just coming in, and it appears we are going to have a really nice crop! Blackberries and raspberries are flowering now, and am i already getting geared up for some jam making!

Peaches are just coming in as well, and i'm hoping i will have enough to can this year. Our main peach tree is 15+ years old, and is showing signs that it may not be with us much longer. Half of the tree did not leaf out or flower. After doing a bit of online research i was saddened to see that peach trees have a life expectancy of 10-20 years. Our peach tree was full grown when we moved here 11 years ago...so i'm guessing this may be it's last year. We do have a second tree that is producing now, so we will still have peaches just not the abundance we've had in the past.

Strawberries are just beginning to ripen. Earlier this spring i began moving them to a new bed, so i am not expecting a huge crop of these either. The chickens tend to get them before we do anyway, but they've now been moved to a area that can be better covered in poultry netting and maintained. Hopefully, they will establish themselves and next year i'll have a nice strawberry bed.

Delilah helping to prepare the tiered beds by weed-eating along the edges, and adding mature as she goes along. Afterwards, i use my grandmaw's hand plow to work it in the soil.

i was a bit late getting my potatoes in this year. Our rototiller broke, and i had to work up the patch using a hoe and a handplow. It was a huge amount of work, and i my arms were in horrible pain for a couple days afterwards. i planted around 30lbs of potato seed, with a bit of help from Miss Sage. Potatoes are just beginning to come up. i used all of our own seed potatoes this year (from last years crop) and am i hoping they will do well. Some are coming up quicker than others so time will tell. We usually have a good potoato crop that can last us through the winter into the spring.

Sugar snap peas are just beginning to come up too. When i planted these i staggered them, because i didn't have enough seeds to plant all the rows. So i have two outer rows that are about a foot tall, and the rest are 4-5" tall. i truly couldn't plant a straight row to save my life. :) i mulched between the rows with old hay, and the chickens immediately got in there and tore it up. So i had to replant quite a few peas that were damaged.

Chard is looking good. This is one we have been harvesting from. i had a few that over wintered, that i am letting go to seed. The rest that i planted are still quite small.

Broccoli is looking good, despite my crappy picture. We've had rain all week..and you can see the weeds popping up everywhere. i need to get more compost on these. They are covered in poultry netting to protect them from the chickens. i would really like to get some floating row covers to keep the cabbage whites from finding them.

Leaf lettuce is doing well. i have a few other varies planted, that are just beginning to come up.

Despite, not having my main garden planted yet. It hasn't stopped me from expanding again. i'm working up a new garden and am going to try growing corn here, which is something we have never had much luck with. Behind me, you can see a bit of green as the clover and timothy begins to come in. That will eventually be goat pasture.

i started our sweet potato slips inside a few couple weeks ago, and they are growing fast and leafing out. i am eager to get them in the ground. This is the first year that i've been able to start my own slips from last years potatoes, rather than purchase them. i'm really excited about that. The rain this week has made everything grow like crazy, and turn really green! i will have more garden updates soon.