What a Wildlife

The girls and I were out enjoying another beautiful day here in Central IL. We took homeschool to Wildlife Prairie Park just outside Peoria for a few hours of exploration. This is such a great resource for us here in Central IL that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit we haven’t been there is a few years. For a matter-of-fact, I couldn’t remember if Naomi had ever been there, but if she did go, she was maybe 1 and that’s been almost 4 years ago. Needless-to-say, they have made a few changes since then and did I ever get excited to see what they are working on now – a Pioneer Farmstead!!!!

It’s still a work in progress with plans to put in farm animals that kids will be able to visit and pet, but what I did find there was my future homestead garden.

DSC_1583 DSC_1585 DSC_1586

Mine will be bigger than the one at the park, but I saw it and knew this garden set up was in my future.  I can see me spending a great deal of time locked up in my garden cage :-)

We saw so many animals at the park today.

Bison grazing

DSC_1570

These animals are just amazing and I love watching them.  They are so majestic!

From there we moved to see all the other animals that roam the State of Illinois – the gray wolf, black bear, red fox, silver fox, cougar, bobcat, lynx and more.

We read about the animals, learning much along the way.  Then, as we returned to the entrance of the park, I saw another animal out grazing with the bison. We headed over to check it out and there stood a herd of elk, eating corn.

DSC_1603 DSC_1608

They were maybe 5 feet away from the fence, standing there eating and watching us as we watched them.  We examined the way the dominate elk kept the others away from the corn.  We waited and cheered on the under dog as they stood at the sidelines awaiting their opportunity to come in and get a few kernels for themselves.  We watched nature up close and personal for probably 20 minutes and eventually pulled ourselves away.

As we left the park, the girls and I decided that we needed to make regular visits to Wildlife Prairie Park this spring, summer and fall. It’s a great place to learn and explore many of the things nature provides us here in Central Illinois. Plus, I’ll need to go back and more closely examine my future garden :-)

Now I leave you with some pictures of our little field trip and some of the amazing animals I captured in picture.

Giant Monarch Butterflies.

DSC_1567 DSC_1568

Bison and Elk

DSC_1572 DSC_1573

Beautiful girls with horse.

DSC_1577

The Great Horned Owl

DSC_1582

Red-Tailed Hawk

DSC_1581

Red Fox

DSC_1595 DSC_1597

The cutest bison at the park.

DSC_1615

And I saved the best for last.

Happy, happy girls!!

DSC_1611

Posted in Homeschool, Kid Stuff, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Education Brought to Us By Nature

During warmer weather, many member of our local homeschool group have a weekly get-together at a local park for fun and exploration.  There is play equipment for those who want to play.  There are some woods with trails and a small creek for those who want to explore.  It’s a big beautiful park, just perfect for our group.

We were only able to join the group a couple of times last fall before the weather got too cold and everyone retreated to warmer meeting places. Last week we joined the group for the first time this year and all three of us looked forward to being there again today.

It’s been very good for my girls, especially my oldest, who needs time to warm up to new people and new situations. She definitely enjoys staying in her comfort zone. Her safe place. Unfortunately, staying in that place isn’t always the best and last week, when her little friend didn’t show up to the park, she became a bit anxious. That someone, who makes her feel comfortable, was not there and she was not happy. She was being forced to move outside that box of security and I wasn’t sure she would leave, but she did. It took some time, but she began engaging with other kids and by the end of the afternoon she had created new friendships.

This week she was a different kid. She seemed to have a new-found independence and she began to soar. She ran off with kids she had not played with in the past and there were many smiles and much laughter. One of the boys was celebrating his 8th birthday and brought some fun equipment for exploring nature.  With my girls and some other kids tagging along, they headed down to the creek in search of natures treasures.  Several minutes later excitement exploded like fireworks on the 4th of the July.  They had caught a snake.  Okay, my girls didn’t actually participate in the catching of the snake, but they were there watching as the snake was caught and placed in a net and brought back for the moms to see. My oldest was beaming with excitement, while my youngest was beaming with uncertainty.  Should she be excited or frightened?  She just wasn’t sure.  My oldest touched the snake and allowed it to wrap itself around her hand.  My youngest sat back watching and talking about the danger of this non-venomous snake as the adults explained all the positive attributes of this particular snake.

These are the kind of homeschooling experiences I want for my girls. Experiences that allow them to learn thru childhood exploration. Experiences that leave an impression. I want them to look back on their education and remember that day at the park when the snake was caught and how they examined the snake, one up close and the other from a distance. These are the kind of experiences that  trigger interest and that interest creates opportunity for learning.  Today’s experience most certainly leading to a study of snakes.

We will continue to meet at the park as often as we can. My girls will build friendships, create memories and experience education brought to us by nature.

Lili closely examining the snake.

Lili closely examining the snake.

Posted in Homeschool, Kid Stuff, Nature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Start to Our Weekend

We had some big outdoor plans on tap for the weekend and since Sunday is calling for storms, today was our day to get as much of it done as possible.

My primary goal was getting all my cool weather vegetables in the ground.  It really has been cool here, unseasonably cool.  Of course the day I decide to plant, it’s in the upper 70′s, which is unseasonably warm.  Not to worry though, next week is calling for colder than normal temperatures and this afternoon I read that we have a possibility of a rain/snow mix early next week.  That should be cool enough for my onions, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, carrots and peas.  Once we get past the really cool stuff at the beginning of the week, I’ll put my cabbage plants in the ground.  I’ve never grown cabbage before and am very excited about my attempt.

After I got everything planted, hubby and I got busy working on our big landscaping project.  We are putting edging around the deck and patio.  It took us a few minutes to get our system in place, but once we got it going, it began going faster than we expected.

DSC_1559 DSC_1560

Once we get all the edging done, I’ll come back and put more weed block down, with mulch on top.

The little plant in the corner of the first picture is a Mock Orange bush that I just planted a couple of days ago.  I have also ordered another Hydrangea which will be planted next to the Mock Orange.  There are two new Peony bushes by the deck as well, but you can’t see them in the picture, since they were just bare root plants that have not been in the ground long.

When the weather warms up, I will add pots of various herbs to help fill in the space.

We were able to make it over half way around the patio before quitting for the day and are very pleased with our progress.

During all the landscaping, the girls took advantage of our nice warm day by entertaining themselves with the hose.

They had a big Rubbermaid container and buckets for filling.  I also got one of their little sprinklers out and they played in the sprinkler for a while.

DSC_1552

Then they got creative.

We have a pile of sand they had been playing in earlier.  They decided to sit in the sand and then go rinse themselves off.

That turned into seeing just how much sand they could get on their wet bodies followed by a rinse off.

Before long, they were carrying buckets of water back to the sand pile, which is nothing but dirt underneath.

Here is the result of their creativity.

DSC_1554

I have a small, ornamental tree that should be delivered early next week.  I really should thank them for helping me prepare a spot for the tree.

They had an awesome afternoon in the sun getting dirty and even though it took me quite some time getting them cleaned and then cleaning out the tub, they made some truly wonderful childhood memories today.

DSC_1561 DSC_1562

Posted in Gardening, Kid Stuff, Weather | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Time to Garden

Our weather has had me questioning when to plant my cool weather crops. We had a colder then normal winter with many feet of snow.  Our winter has only been followed by a cooler than normal spring. Although we are expecting a nice warm weekend, we will be back to below normal temperatures again next week. However, my garden seems to be calling for me to come out and begin planting.

DSC_1543

After all, the sun is shining, the grass is turning green and I’m seeing the tiniest of buds on the trees.  So I’m going to tackle some of the planting this weekend – broccoli, cabbage, peas, carrots, onions, spinach and lettuce.

Of course my fear is that I’ll get everything planted and then suddenly we’ll have a heat wave and they won’t do well, but that’s part of the challenge a gardener faces. We just can’t predict what mother nature may throw our way. Yet, we must move forward because we know the pure feeling of satisfaction when we have a success garden.

So I have been putting my cabbage plants out to harden for the last several days.

DSC_1540

Today, I’ll pull out all my seeds and do some more clean-up in the garden.

My tomatoes and peppers await their turn into the garden.

DSC_1547 DSC_1549

Although there is not enough space in my garden, thanks to a successful year of starting my own seedlings, I have many beautiful vegetable plants to choose from.  I will have no need to buy any vegetable plants.

My excitement grows with each passing day as I envision the bounty of my labors.

Now I raise my watering can to all the gardeners out there. May we all have wonderfully successful gardens this year!!!

Posted in Gardening, Motivation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shop Til You Drop

We left early Friday morning for another property shopping trip and looked at a total of 8 properties. By the end of the day Saturday, I was exhausted. We saw some beautiful properties, but each of them had something that just didn’t appeal to us. Not that we are expecting to find any property that is absolute perfection, but these properties had some big things missing or some problem we just couldn’t deal with.

On Friday we looked at three properties.

The first property was nice and although it didn’t have a pond, there was a spot that could very easily become a pond. It was down a road that had several other nice homes along the road and once a portion of the land was cleared of the trees, we would have had some nice privacy. What we wouldn’t have, was the view we are hoping to get. We would simply be nestled amongst the trees, which isn’t a bad thing, but not what we want.

The second property had way too many negatives to list, so I’ll just say that we only visited for maybe 5 minutes before driving away.

The third property had some potential, until we started walking closer to the pond and discovered how marshy the land was. We had too much concern about flooding and just weren’t sure where we could build without flooding being a potential problem.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early and at the realtor’s office shortly after 9:00. We headed out to property #1, which was the property we were most excited about seeing.

Getting to the property required that we cross a beautiful creek that winds its way thru the country and is part of the property. As we pulled into the driveway, about a dozen wild turkey began running and flew away over the trees. It was a spectacular site and we were immediately drawn to this beautiful piece of land. The property sits at the top of a hill, overlooking the Ozarks. It has a pond on the property, which we could only get a glimpse of because of the overgrowth, which means we would have some work clearing things off. There was a lot of open land for farming. For a matter-of-fact, a chicken coop is already on the property, along with a storage shed. The girls loved the swing hanging from one of the big trees and there was a play house for the kids. We began walking the trail thru the woods, leading to the creek. About 33 acres of trees which has deer stands and turkey blinds set up. After a walk up and back down the hill, we finally arrived to the creek. It was gorgeous, which a large rock bar and I could imagine many summer days spent at the creek fishing for perch, crawfish and looking for turtles. As perfect as the property sounds though, there were some problems, the biggest of which was one of the neighbors. This neighbor owns cattle and decided that he owned the creek, so he put fencing up to allow his cattle free access to the water. He only owns the land to the middle of the creek and the property owners took him to court, spent thousands of dollars and the end result was an agreement that he could leave up the fencing and put up a gate giving the property owners access to the creek. It just wasn’t a good deal in our book and was now deeded that way, so the new owners would be buying property that ran to the middle of the creek, but could only access the creek by going thru a gate and climbing thru barbed wire fencing. There was also the problem of crossing the creek twice getting to the property which does flood and would make the road impassable during heavy rains. So we drove away saying no to the property that had so much going for it.

We drove onto the next property with an old rustic cabin sitting up on the hill overlooking another creek. There wasn’t easy access to the creek and all the open land sat at the bottom of a steep hill. Every time I went to my garden I would be hiking up and down the hill. It would have been great exercise, but also very inconvenient. The land would have been great for sheep and okay for goats though.

The next property was so unimpressive, that I can’t even remember details of the property, but the fourth property was intriguing. I found a nice spot for building that would have give us a beautiful view and there was a nice trail going thru the approximately 49 acres of woods. There was a small pond on the property, but we would once again need to go a lot of clearing to access the pond. The bigger problem was the neighbors property which was very run down. We would be looking at that property every day and it also meant less privacy on our property than what we are hoping to get.

The last property would have offered us some great views, but the owner has been running a logging operation (which the realtor didn’t realize until we went to look at the property). He has cleared a nice spot for building, but has also taken a lot of other trees off the property that would have been better left. It was off a heavily travelled highway and would make an awesome location for a roadside stand. However, it also means contending with a lot of traffic noise up and down the highway. Since we have no plans for a roadside stand and don’t want to listen to cars and trucks all day and night, we said no.

With that, our weekend of shopping was done and we now know of 8 properties we don’t want to purchase which puts us that much closer to finding that one property we really want to buy.

We also had the opportunity to talk to a couple of folks from the area who gave us some great information that will help us as we move forward in our search. Information can be a powerful tool when used correctly.

After a good night’s sleep, we packed up and headed back to Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. They have a festival the first Sunday of each month from spring thru fall. There were vendors selling plants, homemade baked goods, crafts, herbal creams, and much more. They had live music and of course the store was open for buying seeds. We met up with some friends and spent the day enjoying each other’s company as we browsed the vendor tents. Eventually, I made my way into the seed store and came out with 14 packets of herb seeds along with a free packet of romaine lettuce seeds (they give you a free packet of seeds with each seed purchase). I’m not on my way to starting my own herb garden.

It was a really good weekend and I look forward to our next property shopping trip in the not too distant future.

 

Posted in Homesteading, Motivation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

It’s Official

Spring has sprung!

The temperatures have been slowly rising, although for the most part they have still been below normal. Then overnight the rains and storms moved in and now we have the possibility of severe storms this afternoon and tonight. When the severe weather threats move in, I know spring has officially arrived.

Although today is a gloomy day, the grass is much greener and my tulips are working their way up thru the soil. I should see little green leaves emerge from the branches of the trees soon and next week I’ll move my pots of cabbage and broccoli outside during the day to begin hardening before planting them the following week.

Our long, cold, snowy winter is now behind us and I look forward to the new season before us.

 

Posted in Gardening, Motivation, Seasons, Weather | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ready to Pay the Price

After months and months and months of planning and researching and searching, our homesteading dream is finally happening.

The excitement!!

The joy!!!!

The utter amazement!!!!

Bring on the chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, turkeys, and sheep!!!!

Let’s get this garden started!!!!

And I can’t forget the orchard!!!!!  Apples, pears, cherries, and peaches.  Yum, yum!!!

I’ll also grow grapes and I’ll eat them off the vine and make jelly.

Oh, wait a minute . . . . .

April Fools!!!!!!

Our homesteading dream isn’t technically happening, but we are going back to Missouri to look at potential property.  We have a realtor that will be showing us 9 properties near Ava, Missouri and another realtor will be showing us some properties around the Buffalo, Missouri area.  I do feel that we’re making progress in the right direction.

While nothing has necessarily changed, the dream remains.

Posted in Animals on the Farm, Homesteading, Motivation, Positive Living | Tagged , , | 4 Comments