2015
Jun 05

Building Forts with Plants

by Hannah Holt »

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Forts are my favorite.

I loved building elaborate blanket forts as a kid, and I still like hiding away in nooks to read a book–when my kids let me.

This year we’ve been visiting historic forts in the Pacific NW, like Fort Stevens

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and Fort Vancouver.

Elena and Josh Ft Vanc

While we were at Fort Vancouver this weekend, I noticed something cool in their vegetable garden. They grow their beans on birch tepees.

bean fort bare

bean fort1

Wouldn’t that make the perfect summer fort for a four-year-old?

In May, I started a corn fort:

corn fort

It’s basically the world’s easiest corn maze: the corn is laid out in a rectangle with one end open for a door. By August, the plants should be high enough to create a nice little hiding place. I’m thinking about putting a chair in the closed off end.

I also tied together some sticks and made a mini-cucumber fort in my garden boxes. But this one is more of a fort for lettuce than children. I’m hoping when the summer gets nice and hot for cucumbers, it doesn’t scorch my lettuce.

cucmber fort

 

Forts could also be made by planting tall flowers like sunflowers or hollyhocks in a circle. Just make sure you leave room for a door.

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Plant forts are the perfect summer escape–right in your backyard!


2015
May 04

Graphing with Waffles

by Hannah Holt »

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When I see a waffle, sometimes all I see is a buttery breakfast treat.

graphing waffle 1

 

But then I add a few blueberries and voilà! An equation!

graphing waffle 2a f(x)=x

 

I don’t need a formal proof to show me math can be delicious…

graphing waffle 2f(x)=-(x-1.5)^2+2


2015
Apr 08

The Incredible Edible Yard

by Hannah Holt »

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favorite books growing up. I loved cheering for Charlie as he came out ahead of the obnoxious Varuca Salt (et al). But most of all, I wanted to float down that chocolate river.

Charliechocolate

Unfortunately, I grew up and realized a chocolate river would lead to all kinds of trouble: ants, carpet cleaning nightmares, a happy but untimely death…

In lieu of the chocolate river, I’ve opted for the highly snackible yard. Wherever possible, I plant edible bushes and flowers. It’s more healthful than my childhood dream but still delicious. Here’s how it came about.

Last year we moved to a house with almost zero landscaping:

astro turf yard

That green you see is astro-turf. Pretty sweet. Right?

Okay. No.

I live in a temperate rain forest for crying out loud. I knew we could do better.

Flowers

I started with flowers because they are relatively easy and beautiful. I chose…

cone flower

  • cone flowers
  • lavender
  • sage
  • parsley
  • day lilies (Warning: many types of lilies are poisonous. Always research plants thoroughly before eating. FYI, day lilies taste like cucumbers and make a colorful addition to salads.)

Trees

  • apple
  • fig

(Note: many fruiting trees and bushes require more than one variety to produce fruit. However, some are self-fertile.)

Bushes

  • blueberry
  • rosemary
  • honeyberry

Honeyberry is a new bush for us. They are ripening now and should be ready by June. Fingers crossed that we don’t hate them.

Vines

  • raspberries
  • kiwi

We haven’t planted the kiwis yet because it involves building a rather large trellis system. Last year our huge project was this rock wall:

Wall beginnings

Building it made us very tired. One big thing at a time–kiwis are my wish list for next year.

Ground Cover

creeping thyme

  • creeping thyme
  • strawberries

We also have a wood chip and grass play areas for the kids, and a vegetable garden plot. Not every section of our yard was completely guided by the plant-to-eat philosophy. However, it’s possible to make landscaping choices that are decorative and delectable.

All this on one-tenth of an acre.

20140701_091331

 

(This picture is from last summer before most of the perennials had grown in. I’ll try to update later this year with the second year’s growth.)


2015
Mar 31

Tackling Homework

by Hannah Holt »

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We spent spring break in Pacific Northwest camping bliss.

south beach

 

Coming back to homework today was hard. It seems like I’m always starting the kids on a new homework routine. We do great for a while. However, gradually, we always slide into after school chaos.

Here’s our homework help evolution over the year.

1) The super-organized & colorful homework board.

We started the year with a complex system with rewards for positive behavior. It worked great, until I decided everyone was fine and I wanted to use the poster board for something else.

homework board

2) With the board re-purposed (darn false confidence), we resorted to a fancy timer.

homework help1

 

It worked…until the timer ran out of batteries. It takes a special kind of batteries, and I keep forgetting to reorder them. Right now the timer is sitting in a drawer somewhere.

3) That led to our current system: outright bribery.

homework help2 mm

 

If my kids finish their homework by 3pm, they get three M&Ms. If their homework is neatly done, they earn a bonus.

It’s working for us for now. I’m sure we’ll be doing something different next year.

I don’t seem capable of sticking to one homework program, and one child has a really hard time staying focused without one. This post isn’t to say, I’ve figured it all out. Obviously, I haven’t. But I keep trying, my kids keep trying, and for us that’s no small victory.


2015
Mar 12

Ladybug Life Cycle

by Hannah Holt »

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Weeding my strawberry patch this week, I found someone hibernating among the leaves.

ladybug hibernating

 

A few days later, I saw this guy getting ready to take flight.

ladybug wing1

 

ladybug wing2

Beautiful, aren’t they? The waking of ladybugs makes me feel spring is really here.

Did you know ladybugs have four stages to their life cycle just like butterflies? I think the ladybug looks like an alien in its larva stage. What is your favorite phase?

ladybug coloring

Click here to download the ladybug coloring page.

And just for cuteness, here’s a ladybug my daughter drew.

Elenas Drawing