Monday, September 19, 2016

Celebrating National Days

There is a national day for just about everything under sun. They range from the common, such as, Grandparents Day, that even gets a mention on most calendars, to the uncommon celebration of the rather morbid National Life Insurance Day. Over the last couple of years we have added celebrating these days into our homeschool.  We mostly focus on the days that are food related or one that can be celebrated with food. The first reason for the food focus is our co-op is teenage boys, who are always looking for something to eat, and secondly, teenage boys are not interested in making a craft that goes along with a theme.  There might be one, or maybe even two out there, but I don't know them.

In the last few days we have celebrated National Milkshake Day, I recommend peanut butter

and National Cheeseburger Day.

There are lots of websites out there to tell you what day it is, here is one to get you started National Day Calendar. I can tell you, I have my eye on the up coming National Ice Cream Cone Day (19th) and National Corn Beef Hash Day (27th).  

The Running of The Llamas

The Running of the Llamas is a fun celebration that was held in Hammond, Wisconsin.  This was the 20th, and final year, of the event. During the event, which packs the town with people far and wide, heats of four llamas race down the street for about two blocks to the finish line.  Some llamas are great runners and others are not all that interested.  A llama that isn't interested in doing something just doesn't do it.  If you are holding on to a lead of such a llama, you may not even get over the starting line.  Spark brings Marceline because she makes it her goal to be the leader of whatever group of llamas she is in.  This means that she naturally wants to be in the front of the pack and that her personality makes her a strong competitor in a race.  The last two years Spark and  Marceline won their heats, but came in third over all.  Since this was the last year, Spark ran sprints in the backyard for a good portion of the summer to get ready for a win.

Before the race there is a parade with the llamas, local royalty, and others community groups.

This year Spark's training paid off, he and Marceline came in first place.

For her effort she was awarded with a large basket of vegetables.

The prize smelled so go we could hardly get her back to the trailer to go home.  Bet she wishes she had run faster those other years now that she has "tasted" success.

At home, Spark cut up all her winnings to share with the entire barnyard.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Wood Slice Wreath

We're on a roll here with these wood slice projects, this time a wreath. Again super simple and inexpensive.  

The wreath. For the base of the wreath have about 12-15 slices of wood roughly the same size.  My base slices were about 4 inches across so how many you need will depend on how large you want your wreath and how big they are.  Lay them out on the table in a circle arranged so that they have the most surface edge touching.  Hot glue the pieces where they touch and this is the base of the wreath.  By itself it will not be sturdy enough, this is where the smaller slices come in.  Lay them over the middle of two of the base layer slices and glue the heck out of them.  Do this all the way around and there is no way this wreath is coming apart.  Keep adding slices to add depth and dimension.  

The bow.  Making a perfect bow is difficult at best, especially if you are working with a stiff material like burlap.  For this reason I don't even try and no one will know the difference.  The bow on this wreath is made of four pieces.  Two for the loops and two for the streamers that hang down.  Hot glue is again your friend for making this look like it is the perfectly tied bow. The hot glue also insures that this bow isn't going anywhere.  Add an adornment and it's done.

The cost. Others of these I have seen made had a store bought base. I skipped that part for two reasons.  First, I would have to wait to make this until I had a chance to go into town and I'm not even sure where you buy such a thing so I would have to go looking around.  And second, it would add to an already heavy project.  Unless you know you are hanging this where there is a stud in your wall, over time it will make a large hole in dry wall.  Also it needs more than a picture frame nail to hang it up. The slices Dad cut for me from downed branches in the yard.  I have seen these slices in craft stores for an insane amount of money.  If you don't have a table saw to cut your own, do some networking in your neighborhood, someone must have some sort of saw that will cut these for you. Bring them some fresh baked cookies if they seem hesitant.  The pine cones I had in the craft closet that I picked one day when we were geocaching, so free.  The ribbon I got on clearance at Walmart.  It wasn't the right size so I had to cut it. Don't let the wrong size ribbon keep you from a good deal.  The ribbon was $1.50 and I used about a quarter of it making the final cost of the wreath 37 cents plus however much hot glue you use. 
We made a bunch of these for a church festival and added fake flowers and ribbon.  This made them a little more expensive, but not by much as we were able to use store coupons.  This one we added a couple painted wood pumpkins and a couple of spiders Dancer made.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wood Slice Pumpkins


We were cleaning and burning up some brush the other day to get the yard ready for fall. When Dad was cutting the wood up I said to cut me some slices of a branch to make pumpkins.  Super simple, paint the slice orange leaving a little margin on the edge, then glue a stick and some Spanish moss on the top with hot glue.  Done! I used a semi gloss paint from Walmart that was about $1.50. I made seven and used about half the bottle of paint making them about 10 cents apiece.   The moss I had saved from some dried arrangement so no cost there.  If I hadn't had the moss I would have used dried grass or a bit of green fabric for an embellishment.      

When the pumpkins were all lined up it made me think of the book I read to the kids at least a hundred times when they are little to teach ordinal numbers, "Five Little Pumpkins Sitting On a Gate."  Click  here to hear the song if you aren't familiar with it or just want to walk down memory lane.

Baby Guinea Keets

We have had our guinea fowl about four years and the first couple of years were excited that we would have babies.  We never got any babies.  The only thing I got was jealous when I heard of other people who's guineas were having successful hatchings.  We started with eight birds and this fall are down to two, thankfully a male and female.  To our surprise they came out of the swamp the other day with, as far as we can count, 17 baby keets.  It's been three days and it looks like they still have all of them.  They are a crazier, more aggressive bird than a chicken, and they co-parent unlike a chicken, so maybe they will manage to get a couple of them to adulthood.  The keets are so tiny though they look like peanuts running through the grass after their parents.  There has also been an eagle circling the house so they better keep them close or they will go on the raptor buffet. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Minnesota State Fair

State fair was a little different for us this year.  Dancer started school and wasn't able to bring a project this year, but she still wanted to be able to go to the the fair. To make this work we had to work around her class schedule and Spark needed to attend the encampment (where the county buses the kids to the fair and they stay in the 4-H Hilton on the fair grounds). He went down the day before us and we dropped him off for the bus. I don't know if he was more excited or I was more nervous.  The next day we picked Dancer up from school and headed down, which was an adventure all on it's own.  It took us almost as long to find a parking spot as it did to drive there.

Spark did great, he earned a blue ribbon for his pelargonium. The judge said she wasn't impressed with his plant, but she was impressed with his in-depth knowledge of it. 

Our county also had a team in the "Chef for a Day" competition.  The kids get an hour of instruction and then they have half and hour to prepare a salad with meat for the judges.  It is similar to the t.v. show "Chopped."

I took the two pictures above and then had my phone in my purse. The only other picture I snapped the whole day was of Paul Bunyan made out of recycled goods. We will just have to remember the rest in our minds like in the good old days. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How To Prepare Spaghetti Squash

We were given a spaghetti squash a few years ago from someone who had a garden overflowing with them and loved it.  The next couple of years we thought that we would just grow our own and not have to rely on kindness from others.  Well, we were unsuccessful in getting them to grow for some reason and gave up on them.  This summer we decided to try our hand at them again and we grew a plant that took over the garden.  I don't know why some years certain plants grow and other years they don't.   Anyway, if  you're fortunate enough to get your hands on a spaghetti squash, here is what you do with it.

Split it in two and scoop out the stuff in the middle.  You can roast the seeds like pumpkin seeds for an extra treat.

Lay it cut side down on a tray with a little bit of water and bake it at 350 degrees for about half an hour.

Take it out and rake over the flesh with a fork.  The strands, or spaghetti, will easily pull away from the rind.  Use this just as you would spaghetti.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cut a Rope With Itself

So you find yourself in a situation where you need to cut a rope, but you don't have anything to cut it with. When would this ever happen?  I don't know, but that's not the point. The point is, if you ever are in a situation where you need to cut a rope, you can impress everyone with this little trick. 

Step on one end of the rope, leave some slack and step on the rope with your other foot.  Then loop the rope through the slack and pull up. 

Start sawing back and forth and, depending on how thick your rope is, in a minute or two you will have caused enough friction to "saw" the rope.

The rope is suppose to be cut on the slack part where you were sawing back and forth.  This picture shows how successful we were with that. Only one strand of the rope was cut.

We cut the rope with the part that we were sawing with.  Not sure how it worked this way so we tried other types of rope, aka yarn, and the same thing happened.  Either way, we ended up with two pieces. The only problem is if it cuts with the sawing part of the rope you can't measure how long your two pieces will be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We Visited A Zoo

 Last week we took a day trip up north for our last big hurrah of the summer before Dancer started school this week.  Truth be told it was one of our only hurrahs of the summer, seems no one has the same days available anymore. We went to a zoo/wildlife/petting zoo place.

Dancer and I posed sweetly on the bear's lap for a picture.  

And then realized, what are we doing, we're sitting on a bear's lap!

Dancer ain't afraid of no bear!

Dad is so hard core he flossed the bear's teeth. 

My picture with Spark.  I guess this is all you get with a 15 year old.

 I did get a picture of both the kids and Paul Bunyan.

On to the petting zoo.  This camel knows where the treats come from and he wanted Dancer to feed him.

Dancer with Mother Goose

The parakeet house was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  It is a large, screened building with about 75 parakeets in it. All the birds fly from one side of the building to the other in a big swoop.  If you stood with your arms out a bunch of them would land on arm.

They also loved my shoes for some reason.  I don't have any food on them so not sure what the attraction was.  I had to shake them off to get them to leave because they were starting to creep me out.

Not sure why there was a table in there, but as soon as Spark sat down the table filled up with birds.

The cutest thing we saw there was a mom kangaroo giving her little joey a bath in her pouch.

We finished the day off with a Chinese buffet and now we are back to the grind.

New Mother Fail

New chicks are so adorable!!! and fragile we found out this year.

This mother, who was all get any closer and I'll peck both your eyes out, hatched four eggs.  By the time she got done being the mom, usually about three or four weeks, she had one that survived.  That will happen when your favorite place to hang out is in front of the llama and goat feeder.

The chick rearing antics of this mother made us ecstatic when another mother hen came proudly strutting out of the wood pile with about 16 chicks.  Little did we know that she was going to be an even worse mother.  She hauled her chicks on the road where the traffic roars by at 55 mph, through the garden where they couldn't figure out how to get through the fencing, back by the pine trees where the raccoons live and anywhere else perilous she could find.   Two of her chicks are still alive, amazingly, because even though she isn't mothering them anymore, they are still dare devils.  When they are at their regular stomping grounds down by the swamp, where who knows what could jump out and eat them, I hear them laughing in the face of danger.

Chickens - not the sharpest tools in the shed.  That must be why it only takes 21 days for an egg to hatch, any longer and chickens would be extinct. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

4-H Favorite Food Show Potato Salad

Favorite food show is a project where you highlight one of your favorite foods by constucting a theme (Spark's was obviously 4th of July) and complete a menu around it and then present it to a judge. This year Spark chose Potato Salad.  You can never go wrong with homemade potato salad and this year it won him a blue ribbon.  I can actually brag about our potato salad recipe because when there is a potluck, often times we will get requests for our dish to be potato salad. It's not a family secret so here is the potato salad recipe.

Spark's potato salad was a little harder to make this year than usual because our stove died and we haven't gotten around to getting a new one. To boil the eggs and potatoes he had to haul out the camping stove so he had a little extra twist to tell about his dish. The rest of his meal was a burger, baked beans, chips, sweet iced tea and, if you can see the little flag on the top of napkin, mini Resees Peanut Butter Cups arranged as a flag.

To complete his theme he wore a USA t-shirt.

Besides making the food the kids also need to know what nutrients are in the the meal, how much it costs and anything else the judge can think up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dutch Oven Pizza

Step 1: Before starting the fire to make the coals to go around the Dutch Oven, remove your cat from the top of your fire pit.

Step 2: After starting the fire, bring your dog out to enjoy the evening with you. Don't forget a pillow for her to lay on because the chair is cold.

Step 3: Spray the inside of the oven with cooking spray or rub with butter.  Spread out the pizza dough and smear with pizza sauce.

Step 4: Layer on the toppings.

Step 5: Bake.  Have plenty of coals or this takes a long time to get done. 

We were baking rolls in our other oven and could have used way more coals.  It took a good 50 minutes for this to get done and it was torture waiting that long.

Step 6: Slice and enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Dementia Awareness

Grandma Shirley lives in a memory care unit where they do a lot of really neat activities with the residents. Last week a group of kids came visiting and they had a painting day, kinda like those wine painting parties, but I think minus the wine. ;)  The pictures are going to be displayed at a local grocery store next week to promote dementia awareness. This is Grandma with her beautiful painting.  She was always artistic and I am so glad that she still has the opportunity to express that side of herself. When I saw her and said I wanted to take her picture with her picture she didn't remember painting it, but she did in the moment.  And that is where people with dementia live, in the moment. So thankful that where she lives they understand that.

Dessert Sushi

The 4-H camp counselors made these for evening snack at the bonfine to complment their Under the Sea theme.  The ingredents are: Rice Krispies, fruit roll ups, Swedish fish, gummy worms, marshmallows and butter.

Make a regular Rice Krispie bar recipe.  Smoosh it out flat on a big baking sheet.  Quickly, very quickly, while they are still warm, put on Swedish fish and gummy worms.  Roll the sushi up the long way to make a long roll.  Wrap the fruit roll ups on the outside of the roll, this helps to hold it together.  Put it in the freezer for about five minutes until hard enough to cut. Slice with a surrated knife.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dutch Oven Maiden Meal

We have been scouring the thrift stores for a Dutch oven the last few months with no luck in finding one.  People must not part with them, or else it is going to go the other way and now that we finally bought one I will start seeing them for sale everywhere. We choose a traditional cast iron one with legs and the curved handle.  They make really fancy ones, but those come with quite the price tag so we went with one priced in the middle of the road.

First step in using the oven is seasoning it.  Just spray that baby all over with some Pam.  Bam, done!

For our first delicious delight, we threw in sausage, apples, a bag of cabbage and onion.  Dump it in, stir it up.

The coals to bake it need to be made before you put them on the oven.  To make them, burn logs in the fire and when they are black and charcoalish, lay them on the ground and then load some on the lid.

For the oven to bake the meal there needs to be heat from the bottom and the top.  Turn the oven every 15 minutes to avoid hot spots where your meal is burned on one side of the oven and raw on the other.  This goes for the lid as well, give that a little spin when you turn the pot.

When you are going to check how it's going in there, the suspense will be killing you, the cover needs to be completely cleaned off.  Remove all the embers and dust off the top or the meal will be adulterated with coals and ash. 

The end result was so worth the hour it took to cook this.