Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All My Presidents

Late last week while we were studying Washington and Lincoln, one of my kindergartners asked  how many U.S. Presidents there have been. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did not know, but I told him we would find out. So today he and I went online and learned, as many of you already know,  that President Obama is our 44th president.  We discovered that the boy has been alive during two presidents. Looking back, I on the other hand have lived through eleven--- precisely one quarter of the forty-four. Now, there was a shocker! (And here I was wondering if I am actually old enough to be a grandmother to that baby that will arrive any day now!)

Along those same thoughts, a child brought me one of her  birthday cupcakes today. I told the class that she used to be in my kindergarten class and that today she is nine. One little guy asked, "How did she get to be so  old?" I replied that she has a birthday every year. He was astounded. "EVERY year??" I assured him it is so and I informed him that I got to be so old the very same way--by having a birthday every year. He was truly amazed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday: Metal Sculpture

I  don't know that it is supposed to be representative of something but someone spent some time welding it together and was obviously proud of the result.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ms Mismatch

I just got home and washed the public germs off my hands. I glanced in the mirror and...oh, good grief! My earrings don't match. Well, they almost do. They came on the same card from Target a few years back and they are both blue, but not the same blue.

Today, I have been to my school's annual carnival where I saw some former students and their parents for the first time in ages. I talked to other teachers and co-workers. I went to a few shops afterward. Did no one notice that my earrings did not match or were they unsure of  how to tell me?

It just makes me feel rather silly.
When I was younger, I used to aim for "pretty." Now I just aim for "well-groomed." Apparently, I missed the mark today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Three Trilliums From Our One Original

Our trillium has multiplied and is now three--with three leaves each.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Deer Me!

We were driving down a country road when B noticed some deer a ways down a clearing. We turned around and went back to see them. We counted eight together with the binoculars and then while we were watching, two more crossed behind us! Some of them were sizeable. This picture is of poor quality due to the poor light and distance between  us and the deer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carrot Top Tea

Our carrots have done very well this year---the best ever!
Today, I pulled up what appeared to be the current largest.

Looking at the beautiful tops, I began to wonder what could be done with them. It turns out they are completely edible and quite nutritious, though sometimes bitter. We were intrigued to find instructions online for making carrot top tea and decided to give it a go.

Simply add boiling water to the leaves. Let it steep until cool and refrigerate.

It made a pale green tea that was surprisingly tasty. I was expecting it to be somewhat bitter, but it was not. Carrot top tea is reportedly very good for the urinary track. On this, I have no remarks as I  have nothing to judge it on.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sweet Lesson of Making Sugar Cookies

Last week we made sugar cookies in my kindergarten class. We started from scratch. It seems few children get to do this any more. I suppose it goes along with the thought that food originates in the grocery store. I have some wheat stalks that I show before we look at the flour in the sack. I explain that wheat is grown on large farms and a big machine cuts it and shakes the seeds out and another mills it by squishing up the seeds into powder. It is oversimplified, I know, but thoughts are planted.

There is so much vocabulary involved that it is a shame I do not cook more with my children. It just takes a lot of preparation and then clean up and I really need another adult in there with me and volunteers are not coming out of the woodwork anymore. Too, our curriculum is more demanding than ever, so there does not seem to be time allowed for much additional.

Each child completed three tasks to help make the cookies: they either measured  or added some ingredient; they each used the electric hand-mixer (holding it entirely on their own while I took their picture); and each one used the heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out their own cookie.

In the afternoon, they wrote about making cookies.

On Valentine's Day, they drizzled pink icing on their cookie and ate it with vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. It is a very simple special snack with lessons embedded for hungry mouths ---and minds.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thoughts on Valentines

What a love-ly week it has been.

My kindergartners have shown me their love in so many sweet ways from chocolates and tulips to hand-drawn pictures of Angry Birds! (For the uninitiated, Angry Birds is a video game that has taken the world by storm. You can buy all kinds of Angry Birds products.) 

This sharing of themselves is a special part of kindergarten.  Love notes to a teacher can be a real boost on a trying day. When a child makes me something and gives it to me at school, I tape it to the display window in the classroom. By this time of year, I am  having to replace things that a child has made with their newest gift. You see, I get valentines all year.

Unfortunately, they have also shared their colds with me. All week, I have been saying, "Turn your head when you cough." "Cough into your elbow." "Do NOT cough in my face like that." Well.....some lessons are yet to be learned. Good thing I love them, too. Runny noses and all.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

One day this week, when I stopped at the stop sign at the train tracks that I cross every day coming and going to and from school, I noticed that a CSX truck was driving on the rails. I have seen these before, both on the tracks and off. I remained stopped as it approached the crossing. The bells began to clang and the guard rails went down. It slowly passed through but as it did, I heard the  horn of a train. There are two tracks there and I prayed that the train was not on the same one as that slow truck. As the train came into view, it clearly WAS on the same track. I could see both the slow moving train and the slower moving truck. But then I noticed the engine pulling the train.

It was also a truck! The horn sound was identical to train engine horns.

I had never seen such a thing! But wait! ----there's more! There was another truck that appeared to be pushing the train as well. It was truly an odd sight.

There were perhaps four cars in this short train and it was apparently traveling with the lead truck.  Since, I have wondered if it is used for track repairs and the cars may carry needed materials.

I guess if you can tow airplanes with grocery-getters, you can pull/push a train with trucks!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whoop De Do!

B and I attended a lecture in the new education building at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I had expected it to be interesting, but it was even better than I had expected. It was presented by two volunteers who work with Operation Migration, which was founded in 2001. This has been the most successful of the projects that have worked to improve the chances that whooping cranes will not immediately become extinct. In 1941, there were only 14 left. Currently there are 500, with 350 of these in the wild. The first whooping cranes lived with the dinosaurs.

These birds get HUGE. This life-sized photo shows just how huge: 5'2". They are the tallest flying birds on the planet. They have a wingspan of 7'. Because of their hollow bones, they only weigh 15-20 pounds.  (I've roasted heavier turkeys!)

They sleep and nest in the water. This is a life-size model of a whooper egg. Two are laid. The one that hatches first, kills the second one--- unless humans intervene and take one and incubate it. 

The babies grow and develop very fast, growing one inch per day and are able to stand and walk within a day of hatching. 

Here is the display of some of what these omnivores consume with their 9" bill:

Apparently, blue crabs are a favorite and now that Texas is experiencing such drought there is concern that the blue crab population may be diminished as they depend on fresh water mixed with the salty Gulf water for their habitat. 

A focus of the Operation Migration is to train fledglings to eat, drink, fly, and sleep by use of humans posing as mother cranes by using puppets such as you can see below.

The birds never see or hear the human. The visor is a one way mirror.

When the time is right, a group of 10 or so is trained to follow an ultralight plane with the pilot wearing the same outfit and a speaker playing recordings of their flight calls. They travel over seven states from Wisconsin to Florida, going about 50-60 miles per day at 38 mph, flying at 4,000 feet, up where it is very cold. The trip is 1,285 miles long. 

Sadly, there was a complaint this year that led to an FAA investigation which grounded the birds in northern Alabama at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, near Decatur. The birds were kept there so long and they got so old, it was decided to abandon their trip. They will be released soon to return to Wisconsin (or wherever) on their own. The ones in Florida fly back on their own.

So we had heard in the class that two of the whoopers from last year's group had returned here for the winter on their own and had been spending time in an area near our home. A couple of evenings later, we went for a drive to see if we might find them ---and WE DID!!

What a thrill! There was an amateur photographer there who said she has been watching them for two weeks. I guess it is because these guys (and they are reportably both males as determined by their tracking bands) are about two years old, they do not look as tall as I expected them to.  Of course we kept the distance.

On Saturday, I was in the area and stopped back to see if they were still there. They had moved to another pond where there were no cows. These pictures are zoomed in 12 times and then cropped. I was not at all close to them. If you click on the pictures, you can see the red on their heads and also the leg bands that identify them.

In the water in the picture below are bufflehead ducks; Canada geese were on the shore.

What a thrill! 
OK, guys: come spring, you head on back to Wisconsin and find you some gals and get busy making some babies. No pressure, but we are all counting on you! Bring them back here next fall.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Passionate About Passion Vine

We bought this red passion vine plant from a local high school horticulture club last spring and it has done pretty well on our screen porch but I was surprised to see it blooming  this past week. As you can see it has more buds that promise a few more blooms.  This flower is about four inches in diameter. Isn't it spectacular?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Shipwright

As we walked around in Old St. Augustine, we came upon this sight; a gorgeous wooden boat in the back of a pick-up. The man beside it was trying to sell it and advertise some of his other products.

He makes furniture and  repairs boats. He has a sailboat in Canada and one in St. Augustine and he spends his life on the two. He comes ashore to work. He calls himself a shipwright. Can't say as I have ever met one  before. He is one talented craftsman.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Old St. Augustine

We had a good time wandering a bit through the streets of Old St. Augustine. Our lovely daughter-in-law gave us the inside story on many of the buildings as we walked.

This house is haunted  by music coming from the top room where the seaman left his wife locked in when he went away on ship, never to return.

Another house was owned by Al Capone. 

The Llambias house was begun prior to 1763 and was completed to its present form in 1788. It was built by Minorcans who escaped from the failed New Smyrna colony.

This house has a cannonball stuck in its wall.

Below is the courtyard at the oldest house in Florida. The house was built in the early 1700s but the property has been inhabited since the 1600s.

This sign tells about another one of the oldest houses in town. It is made of coquina, a tiny shell that is abundant on the beaches here.

This wall is tabby, made from whole oyster shells.

Though not old, I loved the design of this door knocker on a wooden gate!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mailbox Monday: St. Augustine Post Box

I thought this iron post box on the old wall in St. Augustine had such charm.

Notice the Spanish design on the ceramic tile numbers. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Planes: Old and New

While we were having breakfast at the St. Augustine airport, we had views out the windows of the various aircraft that were on the field. I learned that it is a no-no to  photograph the identifying numbers on the planes. I find this curious in that it is painted so visibly large on each plane. So to comply with protocol, I have edited the numbers off of the jets shown here.

In contrast to these sleek jets, we watched this bi-plane come in and stop just under our windows.

The series below shows the pilot climbing out of his plane.

These two pictures were made with a different camera and are a little more clear.

Looks like fun!