Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Earth Day Projects With 4-H

Team Clover met in April with only one thing in mind Earth Day!  We wanted to do our part and that meant that every project had to be about helping our amazing planet.  We also wanted to stick to our "bug" theme for the year.

So with bugs the theme our first recycling project was making Mason Bee Homes.  That would have been enough to stick to the "bug" theme of the year but we went a little farther and made the cans we recycled also look like bugs too.   Members painted their choice of bug on their can, while the paint dried members had the tedious job of rolling and rolling paper tube inserts to fill toilet paper rolls that would later be inserted into the cans. 
This was a great Earth Day Project as we recycled, reused or used left over items from other projects for the entire project.  The paint, glue, eyes, screws and even the sticks were left overs from other projects.  The cans, newspaper, tp rolls and wings were all recycled for this project.  Nothing new was added to the Earth that needed removing later other then adorable bug garden art and who wouldn't want these in their gardens.

Another fun recycling project we did while paint dried on our cans was making Funny Face Planters.  These were a pretty simple project.  Members used the same glue and eyes from the other project to attach to recycled snack size containers and then drew on the rest of the face with permanent markers.  Members then filled them with organic soil and then chose which seeds to plant in them.  They could either choose grass seeds to add fun hair to their planter or Nasturtium flower seeds to feed the mason bees once they moved in their houses or they could replant their Leprechaun Trap Garden plants in them when they got home.  I think most members chose the flower seeds as we did not have any left.....feeding those pollinators and sticking to a bug theme, love it :)

If you wondering we used?  Our containers are Pringles snack size containers as we had enough of them but any pudding or jello cups would work too.   Even a recycled bottle would work but I would recommend that you shy away from any that may have had chemicals, perfumes or dyes in them as we were planting seeds in them.

Our last fun recycling project and yes were were still waiting for paint to dry on some of our bug cans, was making decorative household storage containers.  Using regular shampoo/body wash containers that most homes have and kitchen scissors we cut them to the decorative shapes we wanted.  Members were then given the option to use stickers, markers or even modge podge some fabric on them to decorate them.  This recycling project is really very quick once your containers are cleaned out.  It is also a great way to clean up small clutter, hold pens, pencils or paintbrushes and even work great as cell phone holders.
I am a big "waste not want not" kind of person so I recommend that since we all know you never get all soap out even after  you rinse them in the shower be sure after you take your lids off to drain any extra substance into your new bottle rather then just wasting the last bits.
*side not- these take a while to rinse out and they still have a prefumy smell to them even after cleaning so that is one reason I would not recommend these for the funny face planters above.  I'm sure there a many more uses for these then the photos below but here are 2 ways they are being used in my house after our meeting.

These were all very easy projects other then asking kids to wait for stuff to dry as that's never easy.  If you are looking for fun easy Earth Day projects I definitely recommend these.
I know most of the items we used are recyclable and would (or should) not end up taking up space in a landfill or floating in our oceans but now we can be sure of that as they all have homes with us. 
The mason bees will be happy to have a nice home and will hopefully pollinate our nasturtium plants and other garden items and I now have a nice place to keep my hole puncher that I am constantly looking for.  But the best part of this is that many members were in awe of what could be made from something they would normally toss.
And these projects don't have to be just Earth Day projects.  Need a quick gift for your mom for Mothers Day, well she would just about love any of them.  Or how about a decorative holder for dad to fill with tools, nails/screws or even pens at his desk for Fathers Day. 
The sky is the limit with these projects and you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your part to save the plant.
Happy Earth Day 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018


And the winner is......
.....the Oldest Daughter!!!! Congratulations on your 1st place medal at RoboRave!!! Excellent Job!!!! Yahoo!!!!! We are so proud of you!!!!! And every other great saying out there!!!!!
Not just because you won a medal but even better, because you stuck with something you didn't like at first, tried hard and succeeded!

There are lots of words to describe the Oldest Daughter.  She is kind, she is caring, sweet, helpful and the list goes on and on.
Another great word you could use to describing her is "Heart".  She has a heart of gold and is always putting everyone's feeling first.  She will go out of her way to be nice to someone and just does so many amazing things for everyone.  Another reason "Heart" describes her is because she puts her heart into everything she does and actually cares about what the outcome will be.

Even with all those descriptive words I would have to say the best descriptive word for her is "Determined".  She is determined to succeed in everything she does.  She is determined to finish (and finish well) and she will give it everything she has to do so.  And she is determined to do it all with a kind loving heart.
Seriously we are very proud to be her parents.  Not many children are such all around nice people and she makes us prouder and prouder every day, no medals required.

But when the opportunity comes along where she can use her heart and determination to succeed for herself, then we will encourage her even more to do so as she deserves it.

RoboRave 2018
And now you thinking what does this all have to do with RoboRave?  Well back at the beginning of the school year she started Robotics Class and lets just say she was not a fan of it at all.  She tried hard like she always does but could just not get where she wanted to be with the class or her grades.  A girls who is used to all 90+ for grades and then a 70something grade in this class did not set well with her at all.  Of course as her parents and knowing how already amazing she is the grade did not matter to us as much as it did her.  We are smart enough to know not everyone is a robo genius and if that was not her strong spot then so be it......
......Fast forward two marking periods to last week and a very excited girl coming home explaining to her parents that if she was able to get her project done before another student that she would be able to go to Robowave that weekend?  What, Wait, Hold on?  Where? 
Okay, knowing how robotics class was going to begin with and not really making a focus of it to keep her from getting to upset about it, lets just say we were not expecting that at all from her.  Guess she has had a change of "heart" for robotics class and her determination to succeed at everything  worked out to be great character traits to have as she has come a long way in that class, even if her parents were unaware of it. 
So you guessed it already but she got her robot built first (which she was determined to do) so her and one other student from her class were off to Robowave, which is a competition for students to compete with other students on how well they can build, design, and program robots to do a variety of tasks.  With 20 teams that competed at the competition coming home with a 1st place medal is quite an achievement for the two of them.  And the fact that they used the robot that she built made this victory just a little bit more special to her.
Now I'm not going to lie, I was shocked when she even wanted to go.  Knowing how it was going before in robotics class we gave her the its okay if you don't do great, just try lecture parents give.  But I can say that we sure are proud of her for going.  We are proud of her for putting her heart and determination into Robotics.  We are proud of her for not giving up!
Yes, we are proud of her medal but more importantly we are proud of her and we are proud to be the parents of such a determined girl with a loving heart! 
Congratulations Sweetie!

April 15th, 2018

And just like that the first 2 weeks of April are gone already.  The weather was not quite nice, we did have April Showers but they were in the form of Snow showers....UGH!  But April showers whether rain or snow still managed to peek a few daffodils out of the ground however they have not even thought of blooming yet.  And like all April snow it all melted in a day or so.  We also had some wind, strong damaging wind which usually misses us when it happens as we are tucked down inside this hole by the brook. So strong it broke a gift I was given 12 years ago (the year we bought the house) which made me a bit sad but I guess spring means new beginnings so we will get a new lighting fixture as well.

And with April upon us and the lack of additional jugs to fill we called an early end to Maple Season.  We were already at the "dark" end of the syrup flavor season anyway and with no time and even less jugs we just decided to call it early this year.  We made just 2 gallons less this year then our average so it was still a very successful year.  But I think it was a wise decision to call it when we did as we are all cleaned up and packed away already.  Usually that takes us forever since we wait till our extra buys time of year starts (now lol) with the gardening season fast approaching and before we know it summer too.

We were blessed with a nice surprise though.  The Oldest Daughter won first prize along with a few other members of the school's robotics team at RoboRave!  Seriously, when she came home rambled off something about finishing a project and she could go to a competition over the weekend I was like hold on, what????  Last I knew she was not that interested in robotics class?  Next thing I know permission slip is signed and she was off enjoying herself and was blessed to come home with a 1st Place Medal!  Awesome Job!  We couldn't' be prouder of her and her determination to be succeed even at something she did not like in the beginning.  Read the whole store here.

The not so little babies were quickly outgrowing their stock tank in the house too.  They go from fluffy little cuties to big ole stinky pooping machines so quickly. lol  Since we also have the meat birds this year (which grow 10x faster then normal chicks) it was definitely crowed in the tank and it was time to get the new additions up to the Brooder Coop.  Now they are all happy in their new space and once again they look like cute little babies again <3

And before we could think about having a week of slow down the Youngest Daughter and the Big Guy's spring soccer season started with only 1 days notice (sort of).....Oh well they like it and we enjoy watching them so we are off running to games again.  Thankfully it was a day off for me as they both outgrew their spikes over winter and needed new ones so it allowed me time to go get them before practice that day, never a boring moment here.
I really hope they have a great Spring Season, the Fall Season was a time of learning for most of the players (new team year) so now that they have some experience under them and the help of the older players I know they will do great!

I'm sure there is lots more that I didn't remember as times seems to all blend together when your busy.  Hopefully with our busy, busy time of year starting I will still be able to update regularly?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Brooder Coop

Remember the new additions?  Well after the Hubby and Youngest daughter went off to pick up some last minute supplies for Easter Dinner we ended up with another 8 babies in the tank.  Lets just say it got crowed fast.

Really after seven years of chickens now if there is one thing I have learned it is they just grow from cute fluffy babies to awkward looking teenager chickens way to fast. So this weekend we moved those awkward looking teenagers up to the brooder coop.  Just look at all the room they have to grow now.
So this is great now, the chicks are happy to have room to move.  You can't tell by the photo because they are all scared and huddled up from the move but 2 days later they have adjusted well.  That's not the only reason its great, in the brooder coop they will also get introduced and be able to adjust to the adult chickens we already have.  And its great for us too as our house no longer smells like chicken poo.

Thinking about chickens for your future?  Maybe you have them already and want to add more and aren't sure what to do next or perhaps you are just wondering what the brooder coops even is.  Just keep reading so you don't have to learn this lesson the hard way like we did.  Obviously we did not always have the brooder coop or this story wouldn't be quite as interesting but I'm sure glad we do now.

Building of the Chicken Coop 2011
I had to do some digging (way back to May of 2011) for the coop photo but as you can see the brooder part of the coop was not always there and neither were the goats, ducks or pigs.  Funny how quickly just getting a few chickens made things change so much here. 

Even more digging for this.  March 2011 our first chickens and OMGosh, look how little the kids were <3
Our first year as chicken owners was a start from scratch year.  Back then we had the chicks in a stock tank in the house and that's where they stayed till we were able to get the coop built.  Then they had their grow up time in the coop till they were big enough and it was warm enough for them to be outside.  We learned the hard way on a lot of it, like the fact that we did not have access to the run from outside and we crawled in and out the chicken door more then once, that was quickly remedied though.   And to this day we still wish we had made the height of the run about another foot taller so we don't have to slouch to be in there but it all works out.

The chickens lived happily in their coop and run and then year two comes along and getting more new chicks happens.  Even with the big coop completed, dang it if we still had no place to put chicks again once they grew too big for the stock tank, sheesh. We had a nice coop but it was now full of grown chickens.
This year we were lucky as we had already added to the chickens run for more space and even added a door to access the run from outside the coop.  We just took some extra fencing panels and a big pipe and made a makeshift brooder area for the babies.  Well we though we were lucky but then just like every spring here Mother Nature decided we needed freezing cold and snow so the chicks were moved back inside our house more then once.  We def. learn the hard way here.

That year was the end of no room for chicks nonsense.  That summer we added on to the coop.  And not just a little addition but basically a whole extra coop size was added.  The chickens loved the new space as we left it open till next chick season came along.  Then we were able to take half the new addition and turn it into a brooding area complete with private run area for the new chicks leaving the other half extra space for the new chickens we were again adding.
Of course it wasn't all presto and done, we learned a few lesson there too.  Like the plastic (in the photo belwo) seemed like a good idea that year to keep the chicks warm but honestly with the heat lamp, the sun in the windows that plastic made it a bit too warm so we opted out of that quickly.  Now we just enclose the chicks in metal roofing to limit the draft on them and it is easily removed as the days get warmer and they get bigger. 
The new brooder also allowed the chicks interaction with the grown chickens making the introduction day a lot easier in the pecking department.  Since we had already fenced in more run area we also took and divided that up so the chicks would have their own run away from the adult chickens as well which can be opened back up once they adjust to each other.

looking into the brooder from inside the adult chicken part of the coop
We might have to learn it the hard way but these last few years have been an easy transition from the stock tank into the brooder coop for chicks.  Maybe we just made it too easy as now we can't stop ourselves from getting more chicks every year.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Earth Day Project - Recycled Bugs

So even though there is still snow in the picture its now April.  Earth Day is only two weeks away and our 4-H meeting is next week.  I was trying to find a way to incorporate bugs into our projects this month and still do an Earth friendly recycle project that was not just for decoration but had an actual Earth friendly purpose.

A Recycled Bug Can Mason Bee Home it is!  I know its a bit of long project name but it all makes sense I promise.
This buggy project should definitely get one in the mood for Earth Day with all the recycling and re-purposing we are going to do here.  Every item in this project is from recycling, reusing or even just using left over supplies from other projects. We start with recycled vegetable cans, plastic bottles, news paper and even toilet paper rolls.  The googly eyes, glue, paint, bamboo stakes and even the screw used to hold it all together are all left overs from previous projects.
And if all that wasn't a great start for an Earth Day project we are also doing our part to help out one of our friendly pollinators the Mason Bee by supplying it a place to call home.  Hopefully the Mason Bee will return the favor by pollinating our garden this year.
Photo credit Wikipedia Mason Bee
Not sure what a Mason Bee is or if you have them in your area?  According to Wikipedia, Mason Bees are named for their habit of using mud or other "masonry" products in constructing their nests.  When available some species preferentially use hollow stems or holes in wood made buy wood-boring insects. 
To learn more about Mason Bees follow the link here.

To Learn how you can make your own Recycled Bug Can Mason Bee Home check out my step by step instructions below.

First you need to get your tools and supplies ready.  We tried to re-purpose, use left over and recycle as much as we could for this project.  It was easy for us as after 3yrs of being a 4-H leader I have loads of left over items here and there but if you do not have some of these items on hand it is perfectly fine if you need to actually purchase a few items.
Supply list:
Clean Recycled Vegetable Can (or any size)
Clean Recycled Bottle
News Paper
2 Toilet Paper Rolls
Stake (we used a left over bamboo rod but any stick will work)
Waterproof Glue
Googly Eyes
Screw Driver and Screw (we used a drywall screw but really any screw will work)
Drill Bit as wide as your stake
Pencil (optional)
Exterior Paint and Primer

Start by priming your can.  We used Spray primer as we had it already but if you wanted a different kind I'm sure it would work.  The primer just helps the paint cover better.

Now you will need to choose the colors you want for your bug.  In this one we are making a bumble bee so we just did yellow and black but really you can choose any colors you would like.  For best coverage you may need a second coat, we did with our yellow.

While you are waiting for your paint to dry you can begin to build the Mason Bee Home part of the project.  You will need to cut your newspaper into strips that are shorter than the can is long but long enough to wrap around a pencil about 5 times.  I just guessed and did what was long enough to wrap around the can.  You are making the "hollow stems" mentioned above.  You do not need to use the pencil but it did work easier for us.  Your stem openings should be around 1/4 to 1/2 an inch wide.  As it was hard to keep them all from unrolling while you fill your toilet paper rolls we did use a small piece of tape on each stem to hold them in place.

When the paint on your can is dry you can begin to make your bug.  Using  your drill make the hole for your stake.  It does go a little smoother if you have something inside the can to support the side.  Just be sure it is something that is okay to drill into should the drill go too deep.

Next cut your wings out of the plastic bottle.  We found it easier to cut the bottle top and bottom off so we could flatten the center "wing" section of the bottle.  Once you have  your center flat cut the wing shape out.  We folded ours and cut one side so we would have matching wings.  While most would toss the top and bottom of the bottle we are doing a recycle project here so we suggest you save the top to use as a funnel or even a small planter green house.  The bottom can be painted and turned into decorative flowers you can use in your garden to help attract more pollinators (see images below)

Now you can attach  your wings and add your Mason Bee home.  We screwed down from the top to connect into the stake that goes all the way though the can making the bug house a bit more sturdy. Now you can add your filled toilet paper rolls in the back of the can, one on each side of the stake.  Ours fit snugly but  you may still want to glue them to your stake to prevent them from falling out.  We just used a dab of glue on each roll to hold it to the side of the stake.

Almost done, while you have your glue right there handy you can now attach your eyes.  Add a smile with a touch of paint and done. 

Be sure you allow 24-48 hours for all your glue and paint to dry thoroughly before placing your Recycled Bug Can Mason Bee Home outside, there is that ridiculously long name again but now it makes sense right?  In our cause we have to wait for the ground to defrost before we put ours out but it will be fun to see once we get them out how quickly they become homes for Mason Bees or any other pollinators who need a home. Not only that but now everyone can feel great about doing a little more for Earth Day.
Happy Earth Day 2018!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Dinner 2018

What an amazing Easter we had.  We had our normal morning with the kids.  We did the egg hunt and looked at all the stuff the Easter Bunny left us.  Then it was time to get busy working on dinner only to have it end with a fun family gathering. I truly hope all of you were just as blessed this Easter as we were.
If you followed my blog posts regularly you will see that my last 2 weeks of March were pretty much consumed with Easter Dinner Prep and I know most of you think I'm probably crazy and are wondering why I would put so much effort into a dinner.  Well, simple I love nothing more then spending time with family on holidays or actually any day for that fact.  I also love to decorate and create.  So the need to make it as nice as possible was actually a lot fun for me.
That is one of the reason why when my mom offered up the opportunity for us all to host a holiday at our houses now that are all grown with families I jumped at the opportunity to host a dinner.  Honestly, maybe I was even a bit bossy and told each of us which holiday we were getting but really it was just because I wanted a holiday at my home the worst way.  I chose Easter Dinner for myself, my brother and his wife got Thanksgiving, my Sister already has a huge 4th of July celebration so no point making her do extra with another holiday and my Mom still does Christmas for tradition.  I'm sure someday with my Sister being the Oldest  of us she will inherit Christmas if she wants.  Her family will most likely be the first to have the families great grandchildren anyway.
Our kids coloring this years Easter Eggs are the "Youngest" of the grandchildren even though they are not as young as they were 6yrs ago when we started hosting Easter Dinner at our house.
Wondering why I chose to do Easter?  It just made sense for us to do at our house.  We have the youngest of the grandchildren and lots of space for the kids to go egg hunting, they could be home to play with their toys and just enjoy themselves while us "older folks" enjoy uninterrupted conversation.  The kids are older now but has been a blessing for them to enjoy Easter home all these years so it was well thought out and has worked well for us. 
Also we raise our own pigs, since I was a kid we have always had a ham for Easter Dinner.  With that and the canned goods from the garden the food part is covered for a yummy spring feast here.  Plus having it all homegrown is just the best taste and feeling one can have at a nice family dinner.
We are also lucky enough to have a huge house to fit everyone in comfortably.  This is including the Hubby's family too as Easter is the one holiday that some of the his side of the family can make it to this is the holiday we wanted most.
Obviously, I tend to overdecorate or overdo everything depending on how you look at it in the decorating department.  Honestly, look at the table displays below even the kids table is fancied up.  I made almost all of it from the Bunny Napkins the new Place Mats just for dinner so you can imagine how the rest of the Easter Decorations must look around here.  With us living tucked back in the woods and rarely visitors this is one way I can show it off to everyone. 
Really, Easter dinner was the perfect fit for us and it has worked out great every year since.


This year we had 20 guests make it to dinner and 8 more that were invited who were unable to attend due to other obligations and living farther away.  It was just the best feeling having everyone here enjoying themselves for dinner.  Unfortunately my oldest Niece and Nephews were unable to make it for dinner.  While it is sad it is to be expected, they are no longer children and some day they too will be deciding who is hosting which holidays I'm sure.  But as sad is was to not have them join us it was just a extra blessing to have the Hubby's 80+yr old Uncle and his Aunt here for dinner this year.

Almost all 20 of our guest made this photo, guess next year we make a mandatory group photo.
And while everything looked nice, the guests were all having a great time and it was turning out to be the "perfect" as possible Easter Dinner we still had an "oops" in the food department.  No it was not the ham as that turned out great, it looked great and tasted even better and it made the prefect tasting best gravy I have made yet (so wish I had snapped a picture of it) the oops came in the from of the turkey.  Why a turkey too? The Oldest Daughter who helped so much with the Easter Prep does not eat ham so we decided to make her a small turkey to enjoy something other then potatoes for dinner as a thank you....

......OOPS.  Do you notice something strange with this turkey?  While I was busy setting up the ham in one roaster the Hubby was helping get the turkey in the electric roaster.  Yes, I did instruct and watch him as he removed the bag from the turkey and the neck prior to rinsing it out and cooking it so I was a bit dumbfounded when I saw this when we went to carve it.  Neither of us looked inside the bird as I was not intending to stuff it.  It was just supposed to be extra and a treat for the Oldest Daughter who helped so much.  Knowing I had witnessed the removal of what I though as the giblets only left me left me wondering where did this come from?  Well after much debate and then searching for the previously removed bag (yes in the trash) we found out that the bag was not the giblets but rather a gravy for the bird.
OOPS!  We all got a good laugh out of it and the turkey was delicious just the same.  With only a few scraps of dark meat and one wing left of what was intended as an extra meat at dinner I'm going to assume no one was bothered by our "oops" at all.
So yes we had an oops but despite that I still have to say this has been one of the best Easter Dinners we have hosted yet.  Having both families here for dinner is just the best feeling one can ask for.  I have to admit I did miss all the little kids that used to be here running around just a few short years ago but everyone is growing up so it is to be expected.  I can only hope that Easter Dinner will be just as special when the next generation of little kids are running around collecting eggs hearing the story of how we cooked the turkey with the giblets still inside.