Lessons in Fleabane

April 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Book - Wildflowers Of TexasMy favorite thing about homeschooling is hitting the books and walking in the woods.  All of our lessons involve those two things in some combination or another and it’s so invigorating.  Fresh air, sunshine, open spaces, trees, and good books – I don’t understand how I learned anything in any other fashion.

With spring upon us, we’ve been going headlong into Wildflowers of Texas.

We love this book.

This book has already enabled us to identify Bull Thistles (& Yellow Thistles), Herbertia, and a number of other plants we’ve seen popping up along the trails in the last month.  We like taking the book with us, so if the little girl has a question we can pull out the book right away and discover its name.  The flowers are sectioned off by color to make it easy to do quickly.

This weekend, we identified Philadelphia Fleabane, which apparently is an edible weed.  Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, every part of this plant can be made into teas and poultices.  Today, we made tea out of the flowers (making it from the root is more traditional, but the flowers work for a quick tea).

P1010739So on our trail walk today, we collected fleabane flowers.  (Kiddo likes to pick them anyway, so if we’re collecting flower baskets, I’d like to get good use out of them.)

There are a whole host of lessons that come into foraging.  Identify the plant, spell the name of the plant – with a three year old we get to talk about phonics and how the ‘ph’ in Philadelphia makes the same sound as the ‘f’ in Fleabane.  I wonder if in the long run the F sounds will always bring to mind images of white sunflower-like-daisy flowers and the smell of fresh, nearly summer tea.

We learned that “fleabane” is a common name for Erigeron and is part of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family.

P1010741  Once home, another science lesson ensues.  Boiling water on the stove.  After all, boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid with occurs when heat is applied.  We get to discuss the words ‘rapid’ and ‘vaporization.’  Rapid ties into our synonyms lesson (from the Bryan P. Collins’ Words are Categorical series that we’ve been reading since birth.)  Kiddo’s eyes light up when she sees the water get hot enough to cause steam and bubbles.

P1010742We’ve used the strainers before, and the measuring cups, but becoming a pro in the kitchen is something to strive for daily.  Making tea this way is the perfect opportunity to practice reading our measurements and understanding what those mean… two cups, one cup, half cup, etc.  Understanding these concepts visually before setting fractions in front of them when they’re older is essential, I think.  Plus, there are some practical life skills gained from knowing how to make fresh food from fresh sources.

P1010743 I also like her growing up knowing that food has purpose beyond pleasure and satisfaction.  This tea, for instance, has very little flavor.  It is a bit floral, obviously, having been made from flowers, but without honey tastes a bit like fancy water.

It is a natural insecticide but is edible.  You can treat headaches with it as well as inflammations of the nose and throat.  It cleanses the kidneys and can aid against gout.  Be warned, like chamomile and licorice root, fleabane tea made from the roots can induce miscarriages and was commonly used for menstrual issues and birth control by Native American tribes.  Now, we’re diving into history…

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The picture came out a little blurry.  But now, we’re enjoying our tea and a game of Name That Continent.

Happy Earth Day.

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Saving Green on Earth Day

April 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

In honor of Earth Day, Money-fax commissioned me to write an Earth Day article.  Please follow the link and read it:

“Save Green While Going Green on Earth Day”

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And The Tour Goes On

April 21, 2014 at 7:00 pm (Events) (, , , , )

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Update from the road by S. Smith:

And The Tour Goes On.

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Oh The Holidays of April…

April 20, 2014 at 11:12 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

4-20, Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, Spring Equinox, Earth Day (on the 22nd)… so many things to celebrate.  Today, we hid from them all and took to the woods after doing some spring cleaning and moving of furniture.

So as we practiced the catechism (“Who made you?” “God made me.” “What else did God make?” “All things.”  And so on), we gathered wildflowers in an ‘Easter’ basket and frolicked in the sunshine.

It looked a bit like this:

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This time in the woods was refreshing, as always.  And much needed after the exciting week we had.  All day yesterday I was out celebrating Earth Day with S. Smith on her last day in Houston, while kiddo was with her Grandmom dyeing Easter eggs (a tradition I can only get behind because I love eating hard boiled eggs).

Below are pictures from the Earth Day Celebration Seed Savers Signings at HPB Humble and then HPB Montrose.

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There’s more celebrating to be had.  S.Smith will be touring San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas before she heads back to Oregon; and HPB Humble will be giving away reusable bags to the first 25 customers Tuesday morning.  Next Saturday (HPB Humble) there will also be a seed presentation by the Mercer Arboretum volunteers!

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Earth Day Reading With Little People

April 17, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo

Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun.  Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week.  Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.

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Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books.  We love these.  They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal.  Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best.  (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)

Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.  It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.

Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening.  Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden.  It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.

That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us.  It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.

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When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.

P1010629Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend.  The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.

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GreenGreenerGreenest – Earth Day Every Day Part Five

April 17, 2014 at 2:45 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

GreenGreenerGreenestTitle: Green Greener Greenest

Author: Lori Bongiorno

Publisher: Perigee (Penguin)

Genre: Nature/Organic Living

Length: 310 pages

Written by a journalist and freelance writer, GreenGreenerGreenest is a concise but thorough way to get up to date information and advice on how to handle the green movement in your life.

This is a handy reference book that should be on the shelf of every self-proclaimed hippie, home owner, or human being.  Yes, it’s that useful and that important.

There’s so much information out there about how to live an eco-friendly life, and so many opinions on which way is correct.  GreenGreenerGreenest takes all the advice, all the information, and categorizes it for you so you can select which option works for your life and budget.  It helps people see clear cut options for how to go as green as you can in every area of your existence without shaming you for not being able to do it perfectly in all of them.  Sometimes going green is what you can afford, sometimes being greenest is easiest, either way Bongiorno helps clear the red tape of confusion and spells out what is what.

There are a lot of things discussed that I already knew about, things I thought everyone probably knows.  But there are twice as many things that I read that I had never given a second thought to.  For instance, I had no idea you could get reusable menstrual pads, not sure why it didn’t occur to me, but it didn’t.  It’s the greener option.  (Green being using chlorine free and chemical free ones made by companies like Seventh Generation.)  My response to that was similar to my response to Merriweather of Foraging Texas cooking June bugs for breakfast – I’m not that hippie yet.  Bongiorno makes me feel like that’s ok.  I can choose a greenest option in another category to make up for it.

Which I do in my house, little did I know.  We have ripped out all our carpets and have concrete flooring.  Mostly because we’re poor and concrete floors are cheap – your foundation is already there whether you like it or not.  I already knew carpets weren’t the best for your health (dust, dust mites, allergens, dirt, overall ick), but I hadn’t thought of it as “green” living.  We live with area rugs we can remove from the house to clean.  Area rugs last longer and keep you healthier… and apparently is better for the environment as most carpeting is made with petroleum products.

Food and Beverages, Personal Care, Babies and Children, Transportation, and more, Bongiorno covers it all, and provides links and websites when helpful.  Love it.

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Photograph by Joel Robison

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S. Smith Book Signing – Earth Day Every Day Part Four

April 17, 2014 at 12:18 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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The Half Price Books Clear Lake store was a lovely host today for S. Smith’s first signing of her Texas Earth Day Tour.

The weather was gorgeous, a little chilly for we Texans, but quite beautiful.  A great day for an author from Oregon to set up shop in Houston.

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Last night, in preparation, I made seedling cupcakes. Yet another great Pinterest idea that the Texas humidity took a toll on. The fondant sort of got floppy the warmer it got throughout the day, and the green sort of melted a bit. But over all, I’m pleased with my first try.

We met new readers today, and enjoyed chatting with the customers in the store. Of course, the first and most common questions was, “What are the books about?”

If you’re stumbling across my blog for the first time, Seed Savers is a young adult series about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal.  So naturally, an underground organization is created to keep the art and know how of gardening alive.  It’s good garden sense mixed with the danger and adventure of kids on the run from the government entities hunting them down.

There are three books in publication that Sandy is signing and selling right now, but the series is set to be five volumes long.  The story is pretty epic, in my opinion, as you can tell if you read through all the past Seed Savers posts featured on this blog.  I adore this woman and all her work, and I hope that everyone who purchased her book today feels the same way when they’re done reading.

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S. Smith will be at Good Books in the Woods Friday night and then at Half Price Books Humble 1-3 pm and HPB Montrose 6-9 pm on Saturday.  If you missed today’s signing, please make time to see S. Smith at the other Houston stores before she flits off to Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.  The author is from Oregon so this very well might be a once in a lifetime opportunity!

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Meeting S. Smith – Earth Day Every Day Part Three

April 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I couldn’t have had a more perfect day.  It all started with an amarP1010596yllis bloom opening and an email.  S. Smith had arrived in Houston and was looking to hang out before her first Half Price Books signing tomorrow.

Today I finally had the pleasure of meeting S. Smith, the author of the Seed Savers series.  I never thought this day would actually come, as I am a book reviewer in Texas and she is a young adult fiction writer from Oregon.  But lo and behold! She had a reason to come down south and booked a Texas Earth Day tour starting with Houston.

I was delighted that she wanted to go for a walk in the woods by our house.  It was a joy picking along the trails, chatting, with my daughter and her husband in tow.  We talked about the difference in the woods of Texas from where she lives in the Northwest.

Below, kiddo, Sandy, and her husband stopped for a rest on a fallen log.

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Sandy will be at the Half Price Books in Clear Lake tomorrow from 1-4 pm, Good Books in the Woods on Friday evening, Half Price Books Humble on Saturday from 1-3 pm, and the Montrose HPB store that evening from 6-9 pm.  Her books are works of fiction for young adults about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal, a fitting discussion topic for an Earth Day celebration.

 

 

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Literary Journal Monday – Earth Day, Every Day Part Two

April 15, 2014 at 12:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Blackwood 1It’s April, it’s spring time, it’s RAINING! To bring May flowers, of course.  So, I jumped head first into an April 1968 edition of Blackwood’s Magazine, more specifically, Roy Neal Williams’ Mushroom Weather.

I’ve never heard of Roy Neal Williams before today, but I definitely can say I’ll remember him.  His memoir about his grandmother and their adventures foraging in the woods for mushrooms with his german shepherd mix, Shep, is right up my alley.  His prose is nice and playful, easy to get right in step with the spring time atmosphere he is describing from his childhood.

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The time spent in the woods and the property with his grandmother is looked back upon so fondly.  I hope that my daughter remembers her time with me in the woods as well.  And I like his grandmother,

“She stopped and looked at the flowers.  All was quiet.  There was only the sound of the water as it rushed along its way, cutting round stones and making miniature waterfalls from a flat rock or a fallen limb.  An occasional bird would chime in and, in the distance, we could hear Shep yelp now and then.”

He explains how they collected mushrooms, morel mushrooms, and then took them home and soaked them in preparation to eat the next day.  As he slept that night he would dream of the delicious dish that awaited him the following day.

The forager in me couldn’t help but come home and search the web for images of these tasty treats.  Below is a picture of morel mushrooms that serves as a link to the Morel Mushroom Hunting Club.  How exciting – and odd – is that?

morels

 

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Earth Day Every Day 2014 – Part One

April 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Spring time… the sun is out, the animals are about, it’s time for spring cleaning and for our family to start hitting the trails every day again. It also means April is here, and so my environmental awareness is in high gear. Earth Day and Arbor Day means Earth Day events at the bookstores and local libraries. It also means I start seeing my favorite color (green) plastered all over displays, and books with pretty leafy covers come out of the woodwork.  Thus begins the Earth Day reading highlight reel.

The Green BookTitle: The Green Book

Authors: Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen

Publisher: Three Rivers Press

Genre: Nature – Environmental Conservation & Protection

Length: 201 pages

This is a handy little book that is easy to read and full of celebrity pep talks for going green. The writers have pointed out a lot of easy to remember ways to readjust your existing lifestyle to recycle more and waste less. I liked it.

It was published in 2007, so some of the information feels a little outdated.  It also gets a little repetitive for those who have the ability to apply one concept to multiple aspects of their life, but it’s a good little book nonetheless.

My favorite tidbit from this book – being a cyclist – is this:

“Try to recycle your old bicycle tires and inner tubes instead of throwing them away. You’ll prevent about two pounds of rubber from being landfilled and may help provide materials for a new handbag, a pair of hiking boots, or even a bike path itself. If one in fourteen American cyclists were to recycle his or her bicycle tires each year, the rubber saved could pave the current route of the Tour de France.”

Worth checking out from the library or downloading to an e-reader.  The only time I could see wanting a physical copy would be for your child’s library – and even the authors think you should buy these books used.

joel-robinson-surreal-photography-7This photograph is a Joel Robison piece.  I love all his work, it has been awhile since I’ve shared it, though.  However, some of his earthy pieces seem extremely appropriate this time of year as we’re reminded to enjoy our world and treat it kindly.  Click the image to visit his blog.

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