Spring Planning

Two months to go

We have two months left of the school year. We’ll break for May and start back up in June with a modified summer schedule.  I believe we’ll nix most indoor studies and spend as much time outdoors as time allows.

Before summer though, comes spring,  and like last year, I’m in planning mode.

Goal one: Plan and plant this year’s pollinator garden


We had a good amount of bees and butterflies attracted to our pollinator garden last year.  I want to add some swamp milkweed to the bed. We also have plans to grow herbs and mint in containers.

Goal two: plan and create a shade loving garden for the front yard

Being a northern exposure with light blocked by the homes across the street, the front yard is always in the shade and somewhat cooler than other sides of the house. I want to plant a front bed with native shade loving flowers.

Goal three: to observe and photograph Moth Emergence


I already have a robin moth (Hyalophora cecropia) cocoon in the basement. I haven’t decided if I will photograph and release or keep it for its full life span and then try framing it.  I’d love to get a Luna moth cocoon as well.

Goal Four: start nature quest 2016


It’s almost time to grab another quest booklet and tackle Nature Quest 2016. This will be our third year participating in the hiking program run by Baltimore County Parks and Recreation.

personal goals

For myself I want to work on my writing more AND get out to photograph butterflies more. Specifically, this blog needs more attention.

I also have my homeschool paperwork to complete and turn in. I’m doing slightly better at it then previous years when I spent all of April in a panic. I will probably STILL spend April in a panic but hopefully not AS panicky as usual. 😀

How about you? What are your spring plans?



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Biomes, ecosystems and animal habitats

Hello people.

Life is moving along.

Peter is recovering from his cornea transplant.

He’s been such a good and patient kid.


He still needs drops four times a day, but now only needs to wear this guard at night.

We’re wrapping up nature quest.


(Patrick playing in the creek at Cromwell Valley Park)

One more trail to go and we’ll be in the running for prizes at “Nature Quest Fest 2015” which is this coming weekend.

Learning goes on as it does.

During the month of October the littles and Pete are studying  biomes, first terrestrial and then we’ll take a dive into the aquatic for a week or two.

This week its a little bit of both with study of wetlands.

We’re talking about:

  • Climate: how it affects the specific ecosystem, the types of plants and animals that can live there
  • Biodiversity: examples of how everything relies on everything else
  • Adaptations:  how  animals and plant adaptations are suited to their habitat
  • Biomes: different types of ecosystems within each biome designation (rainforest vs. deciduous, salt marsh vs. swamp, etc.)

We’re reading about them.


We’re watching videos about them:


“The Magic School Bus Gets Swamped”



“Bill Nye the Science Guy: Wetlands”

For a social studies tie-in we’re learning about famous deserts, wetlands, grassland, forest and rain forests in North America.

This week we’re watching these videos:

Nature Wonders : Everglades USA

Realm of the Alligator (Okefenokee swamp)

Bee is researching and marking the famous places on our map of the United States.


Friday, the plan is to wrap up the wetland study with a visit to Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary which Lily marked out on our Maryland highway map.




Huffing Felines and Project Updates


I hope everyone is enjoying their Friday.

Today is a kid free day, and also a day to get some work done, including caulking around the tub.

I know, I know, its a charmed life.

I can feel your jealousy from here.

It’s not always this glamorous.

This is mouse.


(picture of me, holding my cat, she wants nothing of it)

Mouse is a bit weird.

That’s ok, she fits in.

One of the things that makes her weird, is her enjoyment of inhalants and other substances not usually enjoyed by housecats.

She goes crazy over/tries to eat:

  • smelly junk mail, especially if  its sealed with rubber cement
  • magazines, especially if they have perfume inserts
  • glue
  • my herbal tea
  • new paint
  • coffee

As of today I can add bathroom caulk to the list.

I began to caulk and she ran into the bathroom with a wild look of ecstasy.

“I can has caulk??”


I shut her out of the bathroom.

Shutting the door made me feel rather light headed, but better that then having to explain her substance abuse issues to the vet.

She’s sulking now.

I should update you guys on some of our ongoing projects.

First off,

The closed terrarium


It.  has been sealed over  a month and as predicted is happy and has grown. There have been at least two generations of little gnats living in there as well.

Speaking of insects, next we have:

The pollinator garden

We’re getting quite a few insect visitors.

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The Bee Houses

Leaf cutter bees moved in next door to our  mason bees. DSCN0011

The mason bee make a smooth mud covering, while leaf cutter are lumpy.


sweet potatoes


We have several plants, all from one potato:



nature quest

We recently completed both trails at Oregon Ridge, and the trail at Marshy Point.  Here we are at Marshy Point looking at an Eastern box turtle spotted by Tessa.


Kevin, a new, and rapidly becoming a very important person in my life, took the above photo. I don’t blog about love. Maybe I should.

Anyhow, here’s the box turtle:


Marshy point has a neat nature center, that includes a free roaming duck.

That’s it for project updates.

Time to get back to the chores.

Enjoy your weekend. 🙂





Oregon Ridge Nature Quest (Wednesday Picture Diary)


I think I’ll begin using Wednesdays to share pictures/what we’ve been up to.

Yesterday we traveled a half hour north to “Oregon Ridge Park” for a picnic, nature center visit, and Nature Quest Hike.




I love the tallness of the trees here. The general mood of the forest is a good one and the weather was perfect. On the edges, Mountain Laurel was in full bloom.


Our finds: Robin Egg shell, flowering bud, a snail shell. Spotted: chipmunk, frog, minnows

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Our hike (moderate/hard rating) involved several stream crossings and steep hills. The kids really earned this one.


Release the Frogs!

Happy Monday, and Memorial day/bank holiday  for everyone celebrating.

We’re on our final week of break before we start the new school year.


Time to get back to it.

We’re switching to year round now, but only 4 days a week.  My eldest and I managed that schedule for years so I know its workable.  It will, I hope, give me more open Fridays for writing.

As most of my weekends are kid free,I like to spend the lion’s share of them alone at home doing things I don’t usually have time for, and enjoying much needed solitary time.

Saturday my to-do list had :

  • write
  • groceries
  • release the frogs

Have you ever had that on a to-do list?

The  tadpoles from a week and a half ago developed into frogs quickly so I decided to not wait for the kids to come back to release them.  I grabbed the portable pet cage and drove them back.  Water is heavy so it was slow waddle from the parking lot to the pond.

A man out for a walk  came by, looking confused/interested. “Hello!!!!!:” I called super cheery (like “Flo” from progressive commercials level cheery) “Well hello!”

He passed without  another word.

I wonder what he was thinking.

Finding a good shallow spot I dumped them out and watched them. They were doing generally exploratory happy froggy things.

I began to think, will someone think I’m dumping a pet??

My plan, if so, was to defend myself saying “they’re indigenous,

indigenous (repeating for emphasis) !!! They belong here! And anyway -it was educational!”

No one asked.

I once raised non indigenous frogs from tadpole to frog.

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Jeremy lived rather long lives.

We don’t like to talk about what they did to Kermit.

I’d like to say its was science-y educational reasons but no, it was on my bucket list. I have a mental list of things I’ve wanted to do in my life. Raising frogs, butterflies, and chickens are on it. I’ve managed all three. I raised chickens back when I lived in West Virginia, from peeping mail order chicks in a baby pool to grown laying hens in a portable pen. It was generally rewarding save for the killer dogs and foxes.  One time we even had surprise llamas. Butterflies are much easier.

It occurs to me that my bucket list may be a bit unique.

As far as our spring project list goes….

  • The pollinator garden planned for this year is growing ever so slowly.  The seeds we got from Green Fest  have not germinated, save one unidentified sprout.  One type of flower is blooming. Itty bitty ants like it.


Another is getting ready to:


  • We’ve had more orchard bees lay eggs in the houses. I’m hoping we also get some leaf cutter bees over the summer.

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  • Our sweet potato are taking extra long to develop. I need to get them out in the planters and growing by June if there is to be anything to harvest by October.
  • I have the supplies for the new closed terrarium. That will be a step by step post when that is completed (some time within the week).

With Spring out of way, Summer plans are coming into view, which include

  • growing things in petri dishes
  • swimming at the waterfall/Patapsco
  • more nature Quest Hikes
  • keeping on with the Butterfly survey

Growing things in petri dishes is another bucket list thing, but at least I have the excuse of a teen studying microbiology.

Do you have a bucket list? (written or merely in your mind) What is one  you’d like to do but haven’t gotten to yet?  (comment below)


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Reality tv, Freaks, Sifaka and Traumatic Haiku

Morning 🙂

Thank you for all the kind comments on my last post. I am thinking of scheduling another walk for next week.

Do you all watch reality tv? I don’t, so I wasn’t much use in this past week’s #filmdis discussion on the topic. I have seen snippets of them here and there and fighting and high drama seems to be a common element.

Another is novelty.

My son Aidan says that while our family may be novel we simply aren’t interesting or screamy.

We’d make for excruciatingly boring reality tv.

We’re on our month break for schooling before summer session starts. I’ve been planning out 9th grade for the eldest which will include microbiology, geometry, ancient rhetoric, world history, and creative writing.

I’ve also been working on putting finishing touches on my paper and my talk I’ll be presenting at a Sherlockian symposium in a little less that a month, as well as book on nature study. I want to announce more about that soon and am also contemplating setting up a site for more serious writing about media representation of invisible disability.  Right now I’m re-reading  “Pop Culture Freaks: Identity Mass Media and Society, and “How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing through media influence.”

That’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s not particularly trend setting  or Kardashian-esque  I  know.

Other highlights this week:

This past Sunday we went to the Maryland zoo, which though only about 5 miles away, we’ve never been to before.


I have mixed feelings about zoos and keeping wild animals in captivity, especially those  cognitively complex enough to have awareness. (to know, “this isn’t my home”, “this isn’t what my home should be like”, “I’m lonely”…etc)


The sifaka lemurs seemed pretty content.

The leopard on the other hand…miserably pacing a small circle ( worn down into a groove), I felt for him.

Monday I organized the spare room into a study for myself.

I also gave “shiny armor” a new hairdo. Tessa was unappreciative.



Tuesday I had to remove a very much alive and frightened mouse from my kitchen sink. I wrote a haiku, to commemorate the occasion:

“Not in my job description”

Twas in my sink
it is now relocated
cat is on notice

Wednesday we went to “Font Hill Wetlands Park” for our biweekly butterfly count.  However it was cooler and breezy and not one butterfly fluttered by.


The paths were covered in helicopter seeds. Lily gathered up a few to bring home to use in the confetti cannon she made this week. We also gathered tadpoles for observation. They are loving lettuce and betta food.

DSCN0152 DSCN0169

Today will be more writing, planning, and cleaning. Tonight starts our summer schedule where the kids will spend Friday-Sunday with their Dad.

Tomorrow is the autism positivity flash blog, which I hope to do something for.

And that’s it.

Hope everyone is doing well.



Post on posting the post, riots and racoon skulls

Hey minions,

Remember the paperwork I’ve been working non-stop on for an age?

Its for the umbrella school that helps us keep all of our state reporting requirements.

At 20 pages a child, its time consuming.

But now,

It is DONE.


Today I went to the post office and mailed it off.

In case the blog title and “about me” section hasn’t clued you in, we live in THE CITY.

I know “homeschooling” carries the presumption of white bread middle class planned community living, but its simply not the case for us.

It’s not gentrified.

It is not upper class.


We’re white bread below poverty line city dwellers.

I know we’ve made the news lately for  reacting to police thuggery by looting and vandalism, but I assure you most of us are mostly harmless. Sort of. Those people aren’t representative of justified outrage or my neighbors in general.

You couldn’t tell that from our post office though.

Mail is often dumped at the wrong address, and if it looks as if something interesting/valuable may be in it, tampered with.  Whether that tampering is by employees are after its placed on the porch, its impossible to say.  They can’t keep a regular carrier for our neighborhood, so they  take turns.

Pick up is even trickier. You can’t assume they’ll see it, and if they do, that they’ll take it.

The best way to mail anything then, is to go to the post office.

My post office has a yelp rating of two, mostly because the counter is  open for 5 hours  and there are often lines.

The parking lot is quite small so its often necessary to park across the street.  Across the street is a fenced off older cemetery and on one post of that fence is a make shift memorial for a young man that was murdered there. Regularly refreshed balloons, stuffed animals, even sweatshirts with his picture adorn the spot. This memorial has been kept up for years, I don’t know much of the details around it. People don’t usually get shot around here.

The inside of the post office is older and rather dirty.  Bullet proof glass separates  the customers from the clerks.  A Hannibal Lector prison cell type drawer  is used for passing parcels, just in case we bite.


It smells too.

Today it had a subtle bouquet of burning rubber.

Anyway… they are SENT.

We went hiking today as well.

Banneker historical park and museum is a 15-20 minute drive away and offers hiking trails and museum dedicated to Benjamin Banneker, free African American colonist, scientist, surveyor and farmer.

Lily found what we think is a raccoon skull. It was brought home to keep the deer skull company.


We also completed a “Nature Quest” marker.


We came home to news of riots, burning vehicles, injured officers and otherwise chaos just north of us. Tonight we had a state of emergency declared and curfew imposed.

And yet, I still insist, most protests have been peaceful, characterized by a desire for justice. Its a shame the criminal actions of a few are being used to discredit/mischaracterize a primarily peaceful response.

I do not condone violent acts, or looting, or destruction of private property, but I do understand the anger and distrust.

Coming up on Nature in the City this week:

  • I will post three of the children’s paperwork so you get a glimpse at our past  school year (which began in June)
  • a review of “How to Raise a Wild Child”
  • possible Saturday vlog

I am really interested in your feedback. What would you be interested in my sharing? Do you have a topic or question you’d like answered in this Saturday’s vlog?

Let me know in the comments.


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Video! HCC Green Fest with Tess

Tessa and I are having a weekend of just the two of us while the other kids are visiting their Dad.

This morning we went to Howard County Community College for “Green Fest.”

It was crowded, and I am exhausted.

(Miss Tess isn’t in the least, she’s running circles round me this evening)

Bees and Butterfly, Green Fest and Fresh Air

Morning 🙂

“The blossoms were finally at peak this week – time to wake the bees!

Only two of the cocoons I ordered hatched. Even with following directions to the letter,

the rest were dead. 😦


Isn’t she the fuzzy-wuzzy-est?


ONE nest space has been filled.

It’s early yet though, we may have more activity from the mason bees this spring, as well as leaf cutter bees in the late spring and summer.

This Saturday we’ll get some seeds/native plants at Howard County Community college “Green Fest.” to work on our native pollinator garden.

As my readers know we spend time in several parks, primarily in Baltimore County and Howard County.  This year we’re participating in Howard County parks’ butterfly survey.

Our designated park is Font Hill.


Yesterday we had our first family butterfly walk of the year. It was a nice walk, even if disappointing butterfly wise. Do to weather, construction, contractors, waiting for phone calls, and unexpected trips to deal with unplanned headaches of paperwork, we hadn’t been out.

DSCN0026  fonthill7 fonthill8

We saw squirrels, Canada geese, a tiger beetle, minnows, tadpole and a garter snake.

We only counted two azure butterflies and they didn’t stop for a photo op.

Ah well.

It felt good to move.

Tomorrow Tess and I will be vlogging our trip to Greenfest. 🙂


A Week of Nature In the City

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Did you manage to “see” the eclipse? We’re in the wrong place for it.

Today is a good day  for a “week of” post. We made headway on our spring to do list.

Monday we hung up the bee houses, and Aidan put together the planter.


Pete is wondering where the bees are.  DSCN0011

Bee  built a hanging tiered water-er where the water flows from the top cup (in which a bean seed is sitting in water absorbent polymer) into the second cup (mustard seeds) and then into a third cup for collection.


She had quite a bit of polymer left over from the project so we started out beans seeds on the window with it as well.


Tuesday Pete and I bought dirt for the planter box and we started “Nature Quest” 2015. Three of us have colds, so we hit the easiest of trails- Catonsville’s  “Trolley Trail 9.” Tessa found a millipede and a red backed salamander.

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The frogs are singing:


Wednesday we put the soil in  the planter  and I realized I was one bag short.  I started working on the April Calendar (yes, am ignoring the fact we’ve got a bit of March to get through).


Next I need to check  to see what is happening in the homeschool group and plan for that. I also have a massive amount of documentation to write and a speech/paper to finish.

Bee’s radishes were looking radical!  errr. radicle. (not sorry).


Thursday the beans were also growing.


Nothing much “Nature-y” happened Thursday. We all have colds so I cancelled a visit to the park and we did other stuff, like playing “No Stress Chess.”


Today it will be snowing and or raining all day.

This means, likely more board games and Netflix documentaries.

I also need to clean the bathrooms.

I think a picture montage of that might just be a little too wild for this blog.