Posted May 15, 2009 by jules
Categories: family

The butterflies we purchased on our trip to Magic Wings have all hatched.  Kenna had four caterpillars that made their way into our little butterfly-hatching house.  We propped it up in a prime spot in our kitchen, in the hopes we wouldn’t miss any of the excitement.  Michael was a bit worried about his and Priscilla’s, since they had been blown down by the wind  – even after we put a big rock inside to keep it in place.  He was positive that we had killed their butterflies-to-be.  

We woke up to one of Kenna’s Painted Lady chrysalis’ much darker one morning, so we kept a close eye on it all day.  Late in the afternoon, it started it’s journey out…I’m sorry to say that this poor butterfly was not destined to fly in our yard.  It struggled for several hours just to get out of the chrysalis, and it’s wings never did flatten out.  The girls were a bit sad, but they handled it well.

The next three Painted Ladies all did their thing in the proper manner, and they were much more fun to watch.


Priscilla’s Tiger Swallowtail hatched next.  We knew this one was about ready, so we were watching for it.


Last of all was Michael’s Spicebush Swallowtail.  This one we expected the day before, and I was a bit concerned that it hadn’t done anything.  But, when we woke up the next morning, there it was, flying all around!


Every year we try to add a few host plants and nectar plants around the yard.  We’ve always had a fair amount of butterflies in the yard, but we’d certainly love to have more.  Maybe next time we hatch butterflies, they will be ones we have found in our own yard!


A Day in the Woods

Posted May 1, 2009 by jules
Categories: letterboxing

Tags: , ,

Yesterday was our first letterboxing trip of ’09.  It was the perfect spring day, so wonderful to be outside watching the kids explore the woods and appreciate the little things they found there.  When I was a kid, I grew up exploring the woods around my house, just like every other kid in the neighborhood.  It’s a different world now, and that’s one of the things that strikes me the most, watching my children and their friends, how tuned in everyone is to the tv, the computer, the video game, the phone, the ipod…whatever it is.  Every spare moment they are entertained by something.  I want my kids to have time to daydream, to think, to explore.  And yes, to be bored.  I’m mean like that.

Did I mention we went letterboxing yesterday?

We picnicked alongside the river, next to an old foundation of what used to be a grist mill.  While the kids were devouring strawberries, watermelon and grapes, my dad picked up a trash bag and started picking up trash along the riverside.  He told me that they have been letterboxing in so many states, in so many beautiful spots, and that they are so sad to see these beautiful places spoiled by thoughtless visitors who scatter their trash…He then told me that he had decided that being angry about it wasn’t productive, and he had added a trash bag to his letterboxing supplies, so he could do something about it.  I am so lucky that my kids have someone who is a living example of the things I try to teach them.

Yikes!  No more tangents.  Here is Priscilla exploring the foundation of the old mill.  I think it’s so cool how a bunch of rocks all stacked up could support a big building with no cement or other modern materials…

Once we had packed up the picnic supplies and returned them (and Dad’s very full trash bag) to the car, all we had to do was call the monkey boy Michael down from his perch and we were off to find waterfalls and letterboxes.

It was a short way to the waterfalls.  McKenna didn’t like how noisy they were, so we backtracked a bit and observed from a little cliff overlooking the falls where it wasn’t quite so noisy.

On our hike to the Bear’s Den and Bear’s Den 2 boxes, Michael got to try some leaves my dad told him tasted like mint.  I was impressed by my picky boy, he tried several different leaves looking for that minty taste before spitting them out and giving up.  “They just taste like leaves,” he said.  

The kids had such a good time that we decided to go find the Quabbin View letterbox as well.  What a neat little spot, tucked away unmarked where you’d never think to look.  It had a nice picnic area (should have gone there first!) and what a view of the Quabbin Reservoir.


Ok, one last small tangent…see that vest my dad is wearing?  I think it was meant for fishing, but it is perfect for letterboxing.  The whole back is mesh, so it stays cool, and there are tons of pockets.  I had designed a backpack that I was going to make each of the kids, with a spot for everything they needed…but, sometimes procrastination pays off.  Instead of backpacks, I am going to make them vests instead.

Magic Wings

Posted April 28, 2009 by jules
Categories: family


My parents took us to Magic Wings last week.  The girls were so excited to see the beautiful butterflies.  Until the first ones flew too close to their heads, that is.  They got a little spooked by that, and it took them quite a while to recover and appreciate the butterflies so close to them.  

They had lots of other critters there, as well, and the girls actually seemed to enjoy the hands on more with the creepy crawlies than the butterflies.

They seriously wanted to take the little chameleon home…and the helpful staff person was quick to let us know that they had some for sale through the gift shop.  Gee, thanks!

I think Sugar was Michael’s favorite.

Of course, no adventure is complete without a trip to the gift shop.  In my kitchen, we have praying mantis eggs (natural pest control, hooray!), two chrysalis’ residing in our butterfly house, and a lovely cup full of caterpillars…these were so tiny when we got them, and in just a few days they are huge, and already starting the transformation process.  The girls are so excited to watch it, and even Michael keeps remembering other times we’ve seen butterflies emerge.  I hope we remain observant enough that we don’t miss it!

Spring Chickens

Posted April 21, 2009 by jules
Categories: down on the farm


We have baby chicks in the bathroom again.  The girls are thrilled, and asking every five minutes to hold the chicks.  Kenna has two favorites, “the tiniest brown chick”, and “the black one with the bright feet.”  She named the black one, but it’s escaped me…Roly-Poly, that’s it!

Really, I will be so happy when we relocate the henhouse and get these babies outside.  They generate a lot of dust, and more work is not what I need right now ever.  I can’t wait for my own fresh eggs again!  As cute as they are when they are babies, I like them so much better when they are all grown up.  I love to see them wandering around the yard, dust bathing in their favorite spots, and watching them put themselves to bed at night.

The fresh eggs and dust-free bathroom are a bonus.


Posted April 20, 2009 by jules
Categories: Health

Tags: ,

Well, we have our unofficial answer.  When we saw the pediatrician, he told us to go a whole week dairy-free, and then give her a glass of milk.  Well, Dave wasn’t too happy about the idea of purposely making his little girl feel like crap, and in all honesty, I’ve been so busy that I kind of forgot about it.  She’s been fine on the raw milk; I’ve been making yogurt and butter and just avoiding cheese until I figure out how to manage that.  When the allergist’s office called to confirm her appointment tomorrow, I realized I had never done the milk challenge.

One cup of milk at lunch, followed by yogurt that Dave bought during a momentary lapse of sanity….followed by hives 15 minutes later.  As far as I’m concerned, I don’t even need to waste my time at the allergist’s office tomorrow, but Dave seems to need the official stamp of approval, so we will go.  Silly man.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Posted April 15, 2009 by jules
Categories: kids

McKenna opened up a new toothbrush today, and I told her she could throw her old one away. “Why, Momma?” she asked me. I told her we are supposed to get a new toothbrush every three months…”Why, Momma?” she asked again. So I told her it would help her to keep her teeth extra clean.

“And so you keep spending your money on more toothbrushes, right?” she asked.

I didn’t teach her that, I swear….

Soap to Nuts

Posted April 13, 2009 by jules
Categories: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

Tags: , ,

Recently I learned about soap nuts, and couldn’t wait to try them.  They are dried nuts from the soapberry tree used as a laundry detergent.  

Dave is quite picky about what goes into our septic system (that means no powder – laundry or dishwasher), and I personally can’t stand the smell of most laundry detergents.  It’s been years since we’ve used fabric softener, and I’ve been looking for any excuse to dump those stupid plastic bottles of detergent that pile up in the recycling bin.  

My soap nuts arrived on Saturday, just in time for me to go to work.  You can’t get more earthy-crunchy than this, can you?

I’ll admit that if I do a load of laundry, it’s an occasion worth marking on the calendar.  I’m spoiled, and Dave does 99% of our laundry.  You will recognize, then, just how inspired I was this morning, when I ventured downstairs with the girls’ sheets and comforter, to brave the wild space that is our laundry room.

Five nuts go in a little bag (included) inside the washing machine with your clothes, and they last for five loads of laundry.  After that, you throw them in the compost.  Inside the earthy-crunchy cloth bag is a plastic liner, because they are a bit sticky.  I threw them in, started the machine with a splash of hot water to activate the oils in the nuts, and then swapped over to cold.  I’m too lazy to try to figure out the evils of heating my water with oil vs. using detergent in a plastic bottle.  I really do care about being kinder to the enviorment, but I have five kids, two jobs, and a life.  If the nuts work, they stay.  Otherwise, we’ll chalk that up as one of my kooky ideas and go back to buying whatever laundry detergent happens to be on sale.

How did they work?  Well, the girls’ sheets are fairly new, and white with a flowered pattern.  I’ve been a bit worried about that, because they seemed to be getting dingy recently, thanks to the super-suckiness of my washing machine.  They are now bright white and odor free.  There is not a single bit of smell to the sheets or the comforter, though the nuts did smell a bit vinegary.

If these things can clean my kids clothes as well as the sheets, then I am sold.

This last photo I add for those of you that know me well; notice that the little sack inside my washer is wet – I really did do laundry!