On our last couple of outdoor adventures, we found so many things to bring home and investigate; Sumac Berries, clam shells, moss, a very old & empty turtle shell, a Coot's foot, deer antlers, and an owl pellet. My favorite was the owl pellet.
An owl pellet is: Owls eat their food whole and since they don't have teeth, they can't chew their food. They use their strong and sharp beaks to rip their prey apart and then swallow large chunks whole. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials (meat) from the harder material (bones). It then regurgitates the harder material along with indigestible items like feathers and fur in the form of a pellet.
(See what we found below)
Sumac Berries: These "berries" are really seeds covered with a thin coating of flavoring substance and hairs. Late Summer is the right time to harvest Sumac or as soon as they are ripe (dark purple in color) and before they have been rained on. This is when they will have the strongest flavor. The rain will wash off the sour flavor. Sumac berries make a great sour lemonade type drink or sumac-ade. This yummy drink is so easy to make: harvest 6-8 ripe "berry" clusters, taste them to make sure they have the sour flavor, put them in a pitcher and pour cold water over them. Let them sit in a cool place for awhile, taste drink to see if it is sour enough. When ready to drink, strain the drink through cheese cloth. This will remove all unwanted seeds and hairs. Some people add sugar, but we think it is great without. (I will remind you of this yummy drink when we actually do it later this season)
Just a note: sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, anyone allergic to those foods should avoid it and/or be very careful. Also, there is a poisonous Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix or Rhus vernix) but according to Wikipedia: "Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swampa and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada."
Happy exploring and foraging!
I gave the kids a tweezers, magnifying glass, and pokers and had them open up the pellet to see what this owls last meal was and see what he left behind. They got a kick out of finding tiny bones and teeth and separating them from the fur. Based on our finds, we decided the owl had eaten a mouse.
Yesterday, here in Southern MN we enjoyed a beautiful Spring day! The kids were out all day playing with bubbles, jump roping, playing with chalk, digging up worms, biking, and picking pussy willows. It was great. We will be starting peas this week outdoors and Clare will be starting her flower seeds indoors. We are all so excited to be able to spend more time outdoors. Our plan is to transform our whole yard into a garden with a pond, and little bridge, fruit trees, and an outdoor kitchen. We want pretty much everything we grow to be edible. With many beautiful flowers to pick! I say whole yard, which really only amounts to 50x40 feet in the back. Not much, but we have BIG plans. I will keep you posted on the progress.
One thing we have already added to our backyard is a deck. And on this deck we have had our buddies, duct tape dad and duct tape Clare, hanging out there all Winter long. So far they have attracted squirrels, sparrows, juncos, robins and blue jays. While the kids were out in the garden right behind our porch, Clare heard something, looked up and noticed there was a robin trying to get out of the porch through the closed window. "Why is there a robin in our house" she asked. We run inside, after a little struggle, John catches the robin, we took a little peek at him while John held him and then set him free. He must have been looking for food on our deck and snuck inside (we had our door open.)
So, I hear there is snow in the forecast. That will be a funny thing to see since we just enjoyed a day of Spring at 60 degrees. Life in MN, gotta love it!
My hubby took the girls on their very first ice fishing trip. Our friend has an ice house on a lake about 1.5 hours away. We didn't know what to expect but the girls loved it! They came home at about 10:30pm and my oldest stayed up until 11 telling me all about it. Then around 3 am, my 4 year old came down, half asleep, and told me about it.
They told me all about the snowman they made, the ice house, the minnows, the fish they caught (3 crappies and 1 walley) the canned foods they cooked on the ice house heater, the hot chocolate, the flag that went up and down when they caught a fish and so much more! Clare, my oldest, asked if fish pee she learned that fish do not urinate. They release ammonia from their body through the gills.
After my hubby filleted the fish, my 4 year old looked in the bowl containing all the unwanted fish parts and wanted to keep them all for a craft project! My hubby said no, but eventually gave in and let her bring home the fish tails. This is so like Becca. She will take anything and turn it into a craft project! So today we baked the tails on a very low setting to dry them out. Then she painted 3 and put one in our nature book. Becca also came home with a dead minnow in her coat pocket! She is not your typical girl! She loves everything that crawls, slithers, and that is slimy. That minnow was sealed with tape and put into our nature book as well. Clare came home with 2 minnows to keep as pets. So far, one already died!
Today their writing assignment was to add a page to our nature book about the ice fishing trip.
They can't wait to go back!
When I get the picture of the girls holding the fish, I will post it for you all to see!
Have you ever taken your kiddos on a fishing trip? In the summer time or winter time? What did they think?
My husband and I wanted to add some adventure into our lives so we decided to start taking day trips with our family once a week. Once we started, we found out that there are tons of places to visit all within a 30min-2 hour long drive. This is definitely doable with 3 kids and a 32 week pregnant momma! It gives us something to look forward to and helps motivate us to get more work done during the week.
One of our first day trips was a visit to Blue Mounds State Park located in Luverne, MN. It was about a 2.5 hour long drive. Our day started off in the lake. Since we went on a weekday, we had the lake to ourselves most of the time! John caught some minnows and the kids made little swimming holes for them. We also saw some turtles on the shore of the lake. After swimming, we went on a short hike to some small cliffs. First thing the kids started doing was climb up them. Our youngest, 2.5 yrs old, just climbed up and never even looked back and did not want any help! The girls climbed up and believe it or not, I did to, even with my pregnant belly. Something about climbing and being out in the wide open makes you feel so free and is a great place to relax and slow down.
We had to watch out for cactus, I was the only one who stepped on one. Probably because I was watching out for the kids!
We had the whole family out picking raspberries on a farm outside of town. It got so dark we couldn't see the berries anymore so we had to leave. On our way back something flew up from the side of the road and it looked like we hit it. So we turned around and drove really slowly with our brights on to see if we could find it. Towards the end of our second pass when we were about to give up we spotted it. It was a nighthawk sitting on the side of the road facing us with it's wings held out. It was alive, but we couldn't tell if it was hurt at all. We all got out of the car to get a closer look. John walked up to it slowly and then picked it up. We all stood around the headlights and looked at it. It was an incredible looking bird. It's not actually a hawk at all. Most people have seen them. They are the birds that fly above the city in the evening with long pointed wings and a white stripe on each wing. They make a nasal sounding "bzzzeeert" when they fly above the houses catching insects in their mouths. And they have the mouths for the job. Seeing the bird up close gave us all a chance to see how huge it's mouth was. It makes sense for a bird that has to use it's mouth for scooping bugs out of the air in mid flight. One of the girls asked if it could fly so John opened up his hand and it just sat there with it's wings open for a few seconds then flopped onto the ground and laid there. We were all thinking that it was seriously injured and wondering what to do with it when all of a sudden it just took off and flew into the night. It was a magical little moment and we all applauded as it flew off.
It's fun spending time with kids because it's a good reminder to always be on the lookout for exciting little adventures. We recently went to a little lake to go swimming and there were a lot of rocks around the shore. One of the girls found a crayfish claw, which meant they were living in the water. John's method of catching crayfish is to feel around the bottom edges of the rocks until one gets pinned in between his fingers and the rocks. Then when we have a few of them the girls can build little ponds and streams on the shore for their new little pet to live in. It's a great time to learn about exoskeletons and crustaceans, along with a nice little lesson on how to hold a crayfish without getting pinched!
Two of my favorite activities are exploring nature with my kids and crafting with my kids. Today I got enjoy both during our nature craft! This morning we took a walk around the block and picked up pine cones, moss, rocks, sticks, walnuts and anything else that looked interesting. During our walk, the kids learned about pine trees, where moss grows, and had fun competing to find the biggest pine cone. Once we returned home, I sorted out our nature finds to prepare for our craft of Nature Fairies! I got really into it and was really proud of my fairy. As always, my youngest daughter also got really into it and made a really awesome fairy. It took my oldest a bit to get into it, but once she saw how awesome our fairies were, she jumped right in. We then had the idea to hang them in our tree and that is where they now live.
We visited a really neat little farm by Northfield called Old Orchard Farm. They had all kinds of animals. The kids got to feed the sheep and goats, pet the horse, and find eggs in the chicken coop. They held the eggs all the way home from Northfield to Wells. Clare was determined to turn her egg into a rooster. She had it tucked in her shirt. Unfortunately (for her) Miles ran it over with his toy lawn mower later that evening.
Our visit got me excited for the day that we can own our own small hobby farm.