Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letters from the Kids

These letters just came in the mail from the first graders who visited us last month. Excuse their spelling errors. It is their thoughts that really count.

We had two hours together. They fed snails and worms to the ducks, checked the temperature of the compost piles, examined our rainwater-fed duck pond and fed the fish in it, harvested Calendula flowers, explored the greenhouse made of recycled redwood and salvaged stained glass, collected warm chicken eggs, heard a Mockingbird do a variety of other birds' calls, decorated easter eggs with berries and flowers, and ate lunch in the garden.


 Dear Suzanne, 
I lovd the ducks and I also lovd feeding the ducks and also lovd the chickins. I also lovd holding the snales and worms. I also lovd wen we were picking the flawers. And I also lovd macking the Easter eggs and I also lovd finding eggs. That was fun wen we wer living (leaving) at the last moment a chickin lade a egg. Thank you it was a funn day.
Love, Tierra


 Dear Suzanne, 
 I liked the ducks because I like the noise they made. I liked the chickens noises and thair soft fethers and i also liked the stinky-stinky-stinky composts. It was enteresting checing the dugrees and the hot hot mud by mud i meen soiol (soil). And I alsow liked painting the eggs. Thank yuo for inviting us to your farm. 
 Sincerely, Alex 


 Dear Suzanne, 
 I liked feeding the ducks. I also liked peting the chickens. I also liked harvesting the flowers. I liked the smell of the farm. I also liked hearing the sound of the birds. I also liked decorating the Easter Eggs. I also liked collecting the chicken eggs. I also liked going in the greenhouse. 
 Love, Devi 
 

Dear Suzanne, 
 I loved wen wee fed the ducks snails. I liked peting the chicen. I like how you dye peices of cloth it looks reale cool. I also liked wen wee dyeed Easter eggs. And I thingk that it is cool the way you get water in the duck pool. And I thingk it was reely fun! Thank you a lot! 
Sincerely, Zoe


This boy had a really hard time settling into the visit here. He wouldn't touch anything or participate until the very end when I led him into the greenhouse to meet a worm. I left him there and he stayed for a long time emerging happy and with a new friend in his hand.

Dear Suzanne, 
I lovd making frinds with a worm. Gathering flowers and decorating eggs was fantastic. I loved the greenhouse. The colored glass and the special wood and the plants made it really beautful. I loved your garden. 
Thank you. 
From, 
Nathan

THIS is why I work with kids here at the ol' homestead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Goats and Sheep Mow Through Town

Yesterday we went for a hike at La Cresta Ridge. It was a lovely rainy day. The hills all around us were green. We were happy to find the goats and sheep back this year. Today, the goats were huddled together under cover trying to stay dry. They were a wonderful assortment.
Last year was the first time they were employed to do the mowing. For years the land had been disced and torn up. Now, the goats and sheep munch the grass, Mustard, Wild Radish, and Fennel down to the ground. And, while they are munching away they are fertilizing the the fields. I just love this kind of win-win situation!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Honeybees Like to Play Too!


Tonight at dinner time Eden called from down the street to tell us about a swarm of bees at the library playground. We grabbed an empty hive box, put two half-frames of honey in to make the bees happy and some drawn out comb. Packed the bee brush, bee suit, gloves, and some screen to block the entrance of the hive for transport and loaded up the truck.


We arrived to find some boys hanging out at the playground. They had put up a sign warning people about the bees gathered underneath the slide platform. They said, "We've been watching them all day!". I talked with them about the swarm and they already knew quite a bit about honeybees. Still, they had lots of questions about all kinds of bees and wasps.


As I talked to the boys Paul swept the big clumps of bees into the hive box and waited for the remaining bees to follow. After a very short time everyone was inside the hive box and we were ready to go! Yay! First swarm of the season! "Thank You" Eden.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Indian Runner Ducks for the Urban Homestead


We have just added two Indian Runner ducklings to our flock of Khaki Campbells. These are the two most recommended breeds for the backyard flock. Both are good foragers and highly productive egg layers. The female Indian Runner lays 150-200 eggs a year or more. They were discovered on the Indonesian Islands of Lombok, Java and Bali where they were "walked' to market and sold as egg layers or for meat. They are highly comical as they walk upright like penguins. I have loved "Ferdinand" in the movie BABE since I first laid eyes on him!


These girls will be mainly foragers and slug and snail control. Secondly, they will be egg layers. We have found ducks to lay consistently for only a couple of years. Our chickens have been productive for a longer period of time. We cull the chickens as their production wanes. We do not cull the ducks. They become pets. We are far more enamored with our ducks than with our chickens.

O.k., our original Americauna has been spared out of pure sentimentality! And.... we can't cull our Aracauna because we are too attached to her hawk-like looks and wild-bird ways. We love it when she gets fed up with the other hens' bad behavior and flies the coop to take respite in the Redwood tree! Plus, she's just beautiful! Sorry, I digress.... back to the ducklings. I must confess! I am totally in love with these little girls! They are the cutest thing I've ever seen and just as sweet as pie. They are only four days old and their personality is already showing!


My husband named this one Daisy. She's a bit more 'Dazey' than the flower. She kind of goes through her day eating, pooping, sleeping. You know, the usual baby thing. She doesn't care that she has food all over her face. So what!


This one on the other hand looks you right straight in the eye with pure joy. She is just as pleased as punch to have landed here on earth. She likes to run around happily, smiling as she goes. A duck 'smile' is when they open their bill for no reason other than pure delight!

Welcome to the homestead girls!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Decorating Eggs with Berries and Flowers

What a lovely morning spent in the garden with six 1st graders! They happily gathered eggs from the chicken coop and the duck house and were delighted to find that the chickens laid colored eggs. We talked about how we didn't really need to dye them but we could decorate them... They loved the idea!


I cut up some paper egg carton into four-egg sections with the tops off. Each child got their own egg carton and ran to the garden to fill them with grass. When they returned I laid out bowls of frozen blueberries with which to draw and paint on their eggs. They each got one pink and one blue egg to decorate. The eggs all looked darling in their little grass-filled cartons but they needed a little something.... hats!


We ran out to the front yard to find the perfect flowers for this purpose. I had mixed up some flour paste the night before and set it out for them to use with with craft sticks. A dab of that on top of each egg and the 'hats' stayed on just fine.


Each child created their own variation of this idea. I am ALWAYS astounded at the beauty created by children when they really SEE what surrounds them in the natural world.