Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Earth Day Gifts

Earth Day 2016 was the day after our monthly 4-H meeting and we were looking for a way to combine them.  The kids came up with planting seeds but we had no real way to do this in our meeting as it was already planned that we would spend this meeting fishing but they were determined to do something for Earth Day and 4-H so we came up with a plan, give all the kids seeds to plant themselves and all they would need to plant them.

Once we came up with a plan we all set to work getting things together that would go along with Earth Day.  There were recycled items such as bottles and news papers and there were even earth healthy items like organic seeds and potting soil.

The kids got right to work each one doing a part to make parts to the growing kit.  The girls filled bag of organic soil for each kit and the big guy started working on seed labels.

Each packet of seeds had a combination of 4 seeds.  As we forgot to mark each packet it will be a "surprise" as to what each member grows.  Each kit may have different seeds in them but they were all in recycled hand made packets that the kids cut out of news paper and made labels from left over scraps of construction paper from previous projects.

And even though we though it was self explanatory we included some easy instructions that were drew on recycled paper as well.

So what did you do for Earth Day?  We came home from our meeting and the kids instantly planted their seeds and now we wait to see what we end up with.

SEW Much Fun in 4-H

Sewing in 4-H is big in our area.  Of course I did not know this till this year but now I do and now I also know why most people in our area didn't' know this.....teaching kids to sew is a bit of a challenge I must say but the end result is amazing and full of proud young 4-H members.  Obviously not all of our members wanted to learn to sew so the Hubby took the non sewers and taught them Hunting and Trapping skill while I took on the rest with the help of parents and my sister (the only other person I knew that could run a machine).  We started out our adventure in sewing with only 2 members knowing how to sew (my girls) and they had just learned this year themselves so it was going to be an interesting first year of sewing for them.  With limited time (3 meetings only) I set out to teach them how to sew and actually complete a full project.  Let the fun begin......

Not enough for each member but 5 sewing machines is still impressive.
First thing to do was get more then one sewing machine.  I pulled some strings and after some were donated to us and purchasing 2 cheaper ones we had about 5 working machines.  I say about because all my new seamstress were breaking needles, jamming machines with thread and so on, basically at the end of each meeting we were down to 1 working machine but it was all good.  I could not imagine trying to teach them all on only one machine though so I was thankful for the extras when they worked.

We started with learning a little control of the machine.  I searched online and thanks to Pintrest found some sewing templates and then made a few myself.  Wish I could say by the end of the meeting they had great control, not the case but it was a start anyway and they were able to get their "sewing machine driving licenses" allowing us to actually sew a project at our next meeting.


This is actually the meeting where I begged for reinforcements in the form of my sister to help teach them sewing skills.  She was one of the very limited number of people I knew could sew and call on such short notice.  She was a big help and with a members parent helping with the ironing, her and me teaching sewing we actually managed to make canvas shopping bags.  We were headed in the right direction now.

Our 3 and final sewing project was to be a simple Apron, guess I didn't realize it was only "simple" if you had been sewing for the last 15yreas and maybe not as simple for beginner 4-H members but they struggled though it and made some amazing aprons.  I am very proud of these girls as these were not just baby sized or 1/2 aprons but full sized, double layered aprons that are durable, fully adjustable and big enough to fit even after they grow aprons!  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of all the completed aprons but for everyone I want to say, Great job to my mini seamstress!!

All variations of the same pattern.
Pockets/no pockets, ruffles/no ruffles, long tie back/normal tie backs.

And I know you think that should be all but its not as I had 3 members take on extra sewing this year in the from of our local Sewing and Textile program though 4-H.  With the help of Carla from The Scientific Seamstress they made these amazing sewing projects! They all scored "Excellent" on them at their 4-H Sewing Evaluations and two of them (in the dresses) decided that they are going on to compete in 4-H's Fashion Revue next month!
Like I said I couldn't be prouder of the job all my mini seamstress did this year and they should all be just as proud of themselves!

And with all these great sewing skill under their belts next years sewing should be a breeze.  Not only that we can finish our Community Service Project of making patriotic curtains of the Downsville, James S. Moore American Legion Post #167 who are currently undergoing some major reconstruction and trying to get things back together.

Wild Bird Watching

Our first year as 4-H leaders.....where do we start?????

Well, where/what should we spend the year working on?  I know everyone thinks 4-H should be all about farming but that not really the case and with our group that definitely wasn't going to work as my kids are the only ones with any animals that don't consist of cats or dogs.....

.....Hmmmmm?????The one thing I know all the kids have in common is that they all live in the same basic area and we all have access to wild birds so we started our year there.  Now, if we were going to be watching birds we needed to attract some first so our first official meeting was making bird feeders, suet feeders and some suet/feed for these feeders.

Of course since it was our first meeting we didn't have a ton of money to throw at projects so we did the next best thing and up-cycle and re-purpose items to make our project.

Tiki Hut bird feeders from re-purposed syrup jugs

The Tiki Hut feeders were made using old Maple Syrup jugs that had been given to us.  We gathered a bunch of dry Birch sticks and hot glued them on.  It was a pretty simple project other then actually cutting he openings for the birds, those jugs are much tougher then one would think.

Making our own suet feeders

Suet feeders were made from scrap lumber (Hubby has a saw mill) and left over wire from our chicken cook/run.  These were a 2 part build as some of the members did the construction of the frames and then some attached the wire.  The kids all did an awesome job at both.

Each member donated some ingredients for the suet

With the feeders complete we needed something to actually feed the birds.  We worked as a group and each brought in some "ingredients"  and ended with a nice wild bird mixture.  There was everything in there, sun flower seeds, wild bird seed, peanuts and we even had berries in it, what bird wasn't going to love that.

Using hot pig lard to help the suet form

Next was how do we turn that into "Suet".  We actually raise pigs each year and every year we save the fat that doesn't get used in the butcher process so we just melted a bunch down and stirred it in.  I have been doing this for the last few years so I already knew it would work but the kids were quite amazed that it would harden and make a nice "suet".
And if you ever want to give it a try, those mini loaf pans from the dollar store make a great mold for making suet.  Once hardened the suet simply pops right out.  However if you choose to use Pig Lard like we did I recommend that you keep the extra in the freezer as it does have a tendency to melt faster then store bought suet.

The birds loved them!  We had birds here all winter which basically inspired our 4-H theme for most of the year.  At our house the feeders were just taken down (its April) and that is only because the bears have woken from the winter.  Thanks to these simple feeders though we found our groove for our first 4-H year.  We have made a bunch of different bird themed items, we spent time learning about Wild Turkeys for Thanksgiving and even made bird feed garland for exterior tree, Christmas decorations.

And if all that bird fun wasn't enough we even have our own bird watching books to keep track of all our feathered visitors.  Don't laugh too much the kids and I are not technically "artists" but we have a book full of picture and information on the birds we have seen so it was worth it.

I know the year is not over yet and we still have a few more bird related projects to do.   I'll be sure to keep you updated when we do them.

Why 4-H...

Team Clover 4-H Club, the beginning of fun!

It has been a first half of our new 4-H club the Hubby and I formed.  If you are wondering why with out already busy lives we took on a 4-H club with over 10 members all under the age of 10, well all I can say is there are 3 very great reasons.  The Oldest Daughter, the Youngest Daughter and the Big Guy.  We wanted them to have the joy of being with friends, doing good for others and learning life skills too.
For a few years I was the Youngest Daghter's Girl Scout leader and I can say I'm quite happy to have moved from that on to something more fitting to the life and values I want my kids to know.  Don't get me wrong GScouts is a great program and what it stand for it great but as a GScout leader it seemed as I was always competing with all the other leaders to do things rather then working together with them.  In my own opinion it really seemed as though our school's Council itself didn't want other leaders to do or say anything they didn't' approve of.  Obviously that is just not the kind of club I wanted to be a leader of or have my kids in and my kids actually didn't want it either as one of them dropped out of her club of "no fun" as she put it and the daughter whose club I was the leader of actually asked me not to do it again.....
.....Problem solved with the formation of Team Clover 4-H Club.  I knew I wanted my kids to be involved in things around the community and be able to do things with their friends so we move on to a club that works best for our family.  That came in the form of a 4-H club as even the Big Guy could be a member of this club rather then having to be excluded from the stuff I did with the GScouts.   I had some limited knowledge of 4-H as I had volunteered at a club my niece was a member of 10yrs ago and knew that it wasn't all just "farming" as many people think.  I also knew that my kids would fit better into a club where they could have fun, do what works for them and be themselves rather then trained into cookies selling snobs and yes I said it, sorry seems that's all GS stands for now days.  
We did not have enough kids to form our own club so we opened up the club to not only friend of our kids but to our local community and ended up with 16 original members, WOW!  We weren't expecting such a response but we took them all on.  We also added another leader to help us out with such a large club.  She is the mother of one of the kids friends and I have basically known her my whole life.  Also she was a member of a 4-H club when she was younger so it just seemed to work for all of us.  Unfortunately it ended up being a bit more then a few members bargained for and we are down to 13 members but still that is a large club for such a small town and considering I only had 5 GScouts when I was the leader of that club.  We have had a blast this year and honestly I have not heard one member complaining so I guess we must be doing a good job finding fun ways for them to learn important life skills

So far this year we have learned a lot about Wild Birds, Hunting, Trapping, Fishing, Sewing, we have had fund raisers, had members go out on their own to other local 4-H functions and have almost completed our Community Service project.  Its been a blast and there is still tons of time for more fun including the local County Fair, Summer projects, Pheasant raising and the list goes on....

Do I think we made the right decision, Absolutely!  I had to drag the girls to Girls Scouts functions and now they are nagging for when the next 4-H meeting is going to be.

His 1st Fish

A fishing inspired 4-H meeting has led to all the kids all having poles that can be used when ever they want and that is exactly what the Big Guy wanted to do the day after our fishing meeting.  He is a very lucky boy as we have access to fishing daily with a brook on our property and some nice fishing holes just on the edge of our lawn so fishing he went.

The Hubby gave him a minnow trap to use to try to catch bait fish while he set his new pole with a hook and worm and waited and waited and waited some more.  Lets just say like most 7yr old boys he wasn't quite patient but unlike most boys he had the luxury of going to play in the yard and still see his pole so he played and played and played.  He had checked his pole a few times here and there but it didn't seem like the fish were going to bit today....

....Then this happened.  He check his pole and reeled in a fish.  We were building our green house at the time so he stood there by the brook screaming for us to come.  I almost panicked thinking he was hurt, well he is my baby even if he is 7 but seeing the smile on his face proved to be worth the run to him.  He was the happiest thing the rest of the day, all smiles and he also fished all day though he didn't catch anything else.

Wow, it doesn't seem like he is big enough to be fishing on his own already.  He did it though and caught this beauty all by himself.  While the rest of us had regular spaghetti with sauce for dinner the Big Guy enjoyed a nice trout with his dinner and ate every bit possible.

Fishing for some 4-H Fun

We have an amazing group of 4-H kids and as our first year in the club we have already had a ton of fun.  Trying to do everything that was listed by members when we first started back in October has been a challenge but we are trying for sure.  One of the things they listed as wanting to do this year was go "FISHING" all in capitals so I'm sure the member who wrote it really wanted to go fishing.  Of course if you know me at all by now we wouldn't just get some cheap, store bought poles and go fishing, no way we had to earn fishing....

Team Clover 4-H Club
Fishing with our poles under the Downsville Covered bridge.
First thing we have to do is make poles to fish with so at our regular monthly meeting we made poles and again if you know me at all they couldn't just be any sill string and stick poles even though that is what the Hubby wanted to do.  Nope if we were taking them fishing they were going to learn something along the way and make poles.  So we were having awesome bamboo pole and working reels on our poles too and before any of that we went over some fishing safety and such too.  Yeah, I know it took longer but such is life, all the good things require waiting and patients don't they.

Bamboo Pole with screw eyes and working reel.
DIY Reel made using thread spool, bolt, nuts, washers and a wooden spindle.
Next up was get fishing tackle and if time had allowed we were planning on making some lures at the meeting with the kids but that didn't look like it was going happen so it was the basic hook and worm fishing, probably the best way to go anyway.  Now obviously we had hooks but not enough for that many kids so we visited Al's Sports Store in town to pick up some hooks and worms.  Yes, that is a plug for a local business and there is good reason for it.  I love living in such a small town with amazing local businessmen (women too) as he graciously donated 2 dozen worms for us to take the kid fishing with.  Thank you so much to him as it saved me time in trying to dig them ourselves which meant more fishing time and also saved the club any money it would have cost to purchase them.  Now if you look at the expression on her face below, lets just say not all the members were quite as excited to be fishing with worms.
Youngest Daughter watching as she gets her worm for fishing, her expression says it all. haha

While it took a bit of time to make the poles fishing with them also proved to be a waiting game as well.  Unfortunately we didn't have a patient bunch and as no one actually caught in the time we had left to fish at our meeting we did have one member (the Youngest Daughter) who found a dead minnow left by previous fishermen and thought....Close Enough and used her new pole to scoop it out of the river. lol  Have to love my kids but she was the only one to catch or scoop up a fish that night.

Now they can all take themselves fishing when ever the opportunity arrives as they all have working fish poles to use.  They also have something even better in the knowledge to make new ones should they ever need them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Green House

Finally got it done......About 5 years later then planned, tons of hoarding, 16 old windows, 1 sliding glass door, Plexi glass, lumber and tons of work.....Worth every ache, pain and minute!  Now to grow something in it.....

A few years ago, about 5 but who's counting I saw a post for a green house made of old windows and knew I wanted one.  Actually since I was a little girl I have wanted a green house and that just rekindled the spark I had way back then.  Anyway, the opportunity came to get my hands on some old windows and I took it knowing completely what they would be used for.  Well, lets just say they never made it to the green house as some were given away, some were used in the chicken coop, some were used in building our Sap Houses and some just broke over time leaving me a pile of frames with about one pane of glass each in them but I was still determined to keep them for my now someday green house.

So how did that pile of broken windows make this awesome green house?  They didn't.....
 About a week ago, which also happened to be about a week after having my gallbladder removed I was starting to feel much better, as I was having my morning coffee with the Hubby we were chatting about the garden and all that still needed doing now that I was getting better.  He had taken extra time off from work to help around here while I recovered and it was his last day home, I jokingly said we should just build a green house today and much to my surprise he said okay we will build your green house......almost fainted right then. lol

We set to work almost instantly, I knew I had a pile of windows stashed and I was certain we could make something work.  I knew they were mostly damaged but if we put all the broke ones together we would have a few walls and the rest well we could come up with something we usually do our best work when we don't have anything read anyway.   The hubby went to get the windows so we could figure out some sort of layout and size.  When he returned he brings out a pile of nice white windows that are not broken?  Where did they come from?  Well apparently he had been hoarding some windows himself for my some day green house too.....I'm such a lucky lady <3

Of course I already knew where I wanted it which required digging out the bank a little bit.  Apparently it wasn't quite as level as I though as it took most of the day to dig, lay up a a leveling wall and then build the frame.  I had to put my green house on hold yet again.

It was one of the longest work days I think the Hubby every had, not really just seemed that way and although he was tired after work he jumped right back into the green house as we actually had a very busy week ahead of us so we needed to work on it when we could....till dark even but we were able to get the roof and first wall on.  The roof is made from a set of sliding glass doors that were to be tossed but knowing we might have a use for them some day we hoarded them.  They were the perfect size, it was meant to be.

Days went by, only like 2 but it felt like months before we were able to work on it again and again we worked through dinner but were only able to get one wall on before we had to stop again.

Already it was Friday and a little over a week had gone by but it was the Hubby's day off again and we could work on my green house again.  First thing we did was install the final walls and build the door which ended up being the last 2 white windows we had put inside a custom frame to fit the smaller opening....It was so exciting to see it all coming together after all these years.

Saturday and the final day of work on the green house before the Hubby's work week started back up again.  I was up at 5am getting every thing done in the house so we would not have anything keeping us from completing my green house.   We spent almost the whole day working on the green house but by dinner time we had it done.  I even had time to work on making a potting bench and a custom rack for growing seedlings before cooking dinner.

We still have some detail work to do like trim around the windows, some sort of flooring and I have to make it look all cute but I cant begin to tell you how happy I am to have my very own green house.

......Now that I have it done, think the first thing to do is to get the seedlings in my dining room out there.....Did I say how lucky I am to have such a great life, not to mention the greatest Hubby ever!