Russell Cave National Monument, AL.

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Down few winding roads, on a lovely spring day, we stopped to visit Russell Cave National Monument. The beautiful setting looks like a lovely spot for a picnic and a nice spot to linger, and I suppose that must be what many, many, many generations of people before us thought as well. Russell Cave is just this, a spot many chose to stay and live from prehistoric times through early Native Americans. We are talking 10,000 BC to 1650 AD. Excavations reveal ample tools, supplies, and details to the daily lives of many on these very grounds.

As always, the boys participated in the Junior Ranger program. We ran into a fellow Junior Ranger-er who had a vest chock full of badges. Thumbs up gal! What we did find was this was one of the most detailed, intense booklets we’ve encountered yet. I suppose with SO much history they wanted to cover it all, but phew, the boys were getting a bit restless with this one. In fact, said Junior Ranger gal’s mother and I were puzzling and pouring through our pamphlets trying to assist with downright detailed questions. I did mention this to the Ranger, and of course it’s no harm done. We just feel we really earned those badges this time.

The spring dogwoods were blooming, the caterpillars were everywhere, and the water was flowing. It was such a peaceful place, but the Ranger told us there will be much activity soon. They intend to excavate again, now. We were just shy of their start date. I’d love to have seen that in progress, but again, the quiet we enjoyed was so appealing, too.

 

High Shoals Falls, GA.

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With a concentration of falls hikes that encircle us, we went with the easy choice, the nearest one to the north, High Shoals Falls. We did read that it is one of the most impressive, so that solidified our choice. What we didn’t read was that the “road” (and yes I put that in quotes for a reason) to the “parking lot” is really a swollen kick butt hiking trail. In fact, my older son about lost faith in us as parents as we swung back and forth up this gravely, bumpy “road”. We reassured him that there were still indeed rustic parts in our country, and surely as a forest road this would pass. We were right. We landed in a parking lot where he promptly exited the truck and declared we should just get on with it.

The descent was fine. The terrain was much more well traversed than our first GA hike, and the loud rumble of the falls helped reassure us we were on the right track. I noticed the abundance of Galax leaves which was very cool because as a florist I used those time and again. I always love to see the flowers and greens growing naturally, as I’ve only seen them wrapped and rubber banded.

Finally, I’ve been experimenting with my phone time lapsing. I filmed us pulling Tracy up into the Chattahoochee National Forest. Check out my instagram for the time lapses.

Growing Pumpkins.

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It’s not the first time nature had a better plan than I did. I expect it’s not the last. I noticed a pumpkin in the compost bin on a routine dumping last week. Earlier this summer I saw large green leaves growing in our bin, but assumed it was squash again like last year. Instead, happily I found mini-pumpkins this time around.

Last year, I also let the squash plant be, but the chickens did not. One day it was laden with squash, the next it had all been pecked and consumed. That stunk. Naturally, I became concerned the chickens might eat the pumpkins. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how large they would get if I left them alone. I played it cool. I tried not to suggest to the chickens any pumpkins were growing. I’d look over my shoulder when they were in the compost bin pecking around to confirm the safety of the orange flesh. I would route by the bin if I needed to walk to the burn pile to check the status.

The chickens avoided the pumpkins just fine. I suppose we both learned lessons last year? Perhaps that unripe squash left a bad taste in their mouths as well? Anyhow, the vine died, one pumpkin started getting squishy, so I pulled them and put them on the back porch for exceptionally early Autumnal decor. Little fella keeps mentioning pumpkin pie.

With dried up, dead tomato plants in my garden, I’m about ready to let nature just do the compost pile surprising. Also, with the awful July heat we’ve been enduring, a little Autumnal color is welcome.

Rainbow Queen Anne’s Lace.

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We dyed some Queen Anne’s Lace last week to see how plants use their stems to move water. The boys put cut flowers in small bottles of red,  yellow, and blue food color dyed water (about 20 drops per bottle). The next morning I had an idea. I asked the boys what would happen if we switched the stems to different colored water the second day? They knew of course. We would enjoy a rainbow. 

Botany for Kids: Week Three

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Continuing on our four weeks of botany, this time we’ll discuss one very important thing plants need, sunlight. PDF download is below, and I’ll continue to link the posts so you can navigate to all of them easily.

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Week Three: Plants Need Sunlight with The Natural Navigator

Pail and Pie Botany Week Three PDF 

Check out four weeks of Botany for Kids:

Week One: The Purpose of the Flower

Week Two: How Do Seeds Travel

Week Four: Inside Plants

Botany for Kids: Week Two

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Continuing on our four weeks of botany, this week we will study how seeds travel, with a bit of why. PDF download is below, and I’ll continue to link the posts so you can navigate to all of them easily.

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Week Two: How Do Seeds Travel with Knee High Nature Fall

Pail and Pie Botany Week Two PDF

Check out four weeks of Botany for Kids:

Week One: The Purpose of the Flower

Week Three: Plants Need Sunlight

Opryland and Visiting

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We had lots of full days this past week, very few with my camera in hand. Visiting requires 100% of my attention and efforts. It’s rare that I can include shooting photos in the mix. I feel like visitors may become easily annoyed if they have to wait for me…all the time…taking photos. So, the camera gets tucked away most of the time.

We had fun walking the lush gardens at Opryland Hotel. There was plenty of eating out (a rarity for us) including a fabulous lunch at the Grilled Cheeserie truck and our very first home delivered pizza in our boys lives! (We kept saying we needed to do that at least once.) We also did the flea market, plenty of antique malls, and of course chatting at home. My sister is always a fabulous new music resource and her pup provides plenty of antics for the boys.

Right now I’m trying to catch up on laundry (now wrinkle free thanks Mom), move some furniture (Sis always has great spacial ideas-creating more chaos, short-term), and, oh yeah, un-pause my day-to-day routines.

Dandelion Root Tea Benefits.

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Dandelions are abundant and beneficial, two things I cannot ignore. Dear Husband made up a drying rack for me this summer and after collecting and drying chickweed, I knew I could focus on dandelions.

The whole part of the dandelion is edible, but I love roasted dandelion root tea, so I figured I’d mostly focus on the root gathering. After digging them out, I dipped them in a water bath to remove most of our clay sticky soil. After that, I laid them on the rack and then hosed them off with clean water. The sun finished the job. In a couple of weeks I had dried dandelion roots.

To roast the roots, I sliced and then toasted them in a cast iron pan for a little while. I read to toast about 10 minutes, but I’m not that patient. After that I brewed it up. Verdict, my tea was not near as strong as the tea I’ve purchased, so I definitely need more per cup. I certainly have an abundance of the “weed” and my husband likes how the gardens are getting “weeded,” so I can fix this easily.

What is so good about dandelion tea anyways? It is used as a digestive aid and liver stimulant. It also aids the kidneys, helps elimination, and helps keep up proper potassium levels. The greens are high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C. This plant is known as a whole body tonic, but revered for its effects with the skin, liver, and urinary tract. You will find dandelion in many detox teas and detox cleanses.

Before you use it as medicine, please do your own research. Also, if you are a dandelion root tea drinker, let me know what you think. Check these two great books out for much more detail about the herb. As for me, I’ll be out digging.

 

Pick Your Own.

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We went strawberry picking twice now. The first batch I stole and made into a pie for Mother’s Day, for all of us. I am usually not so ferocious about needing pie, but this time I couldn’t wait to get home to make it. I used Mother’s Day as my excuse. Fortunately, my younger son picked them with me and my older son baked it with me, so my excuse didn’t seem too far-fetched. We had it for dinner, with strawberry ice cream. It was great.

I’ve given up on canning the strawberries. We do best with slicing and freezing them for smoothies. Jam requires too much of my attention and too much sugar. I feel we do better with the raw, sliced berries. Having a cupboard of canned jam looks way cooler, but in the end, the frozen bagged berries will have to suffice.

For Mother’s Day, Dear Husband took the boys outside to pick our own flowers. The boys arranged them and presented them to me after breakfast. The blooms are slimming outdoors as the weather is transitioning. The freshest blooms are now the wild roses, wild raspberries, wisteria, and sweet williams. The sweet williams definitely lend to the vase best (with the sole Iris they could find). The wisteria was fun to arrange in bloom sizes though.

Are you getting fabulous blooms? Fruits? What do you do with them?