Monarch Mania

About a month or two ago, we were excited to see a monarch in our butterfly garden.  We have seen several different types of swallow tails and moths, but we have been trying to attract monarchs for a while.  Well now we have tons of monarchs!  Not only do we have monarchs but we have eggs and caterpillars!  We have so many that we are sharing them with others.  So far, four other families are helping to care for some caterpillars.  In our family, we have already had one group of eggs hatch and morph into monarchs.  We have about 35 caterpillars now!  And there are a ton more on our milkweed in the back yard.

Advertisements

Finding Passion-Rock Climbing

A new passion has arisen among two of my three children-rock climbing.  The kids climbed at the US Whitewater Center many times when they were younger.  They always enjoyed the thrill of completing a route.  I remember the first time that Sims climbed with a person belaying him instead of using the autobelay.  I think this is when he became hooked.  He saved up and purchased his own harness, which he passed down to Sawyer and now Parks.

Fast foward a few years…Sims and Sawyer display amazing confidence in the climbing gym and on a rock face.  They both have learned how to read routes and to know how they climb.  They have learned so much about self-control, breathing, mindfulness, and how to work with what you have (short stature, tall stature, less flexibility, anxiety…).  They are learning about safety while climbing outdoors and how to help rescue fellow climbers.

They utilize many of our school lessons while climbing.  Sims researches outdoor climbing areas to learn about the rock type.  His geology lessons from last year are being put to use now.  He understands the importance of weather on the rock.  He discusses the physics behind the different types of gear used and why each is important.  He looks at the terrain to get to the rock faces.  They both train and show true commitment to the sport.  I look forward to watching them grow in this passion!

Charcoal Making

We recently began a 4H group in our area which has opened up some new opportunities for us.  One new opportunity is primitive studies. Charcoal making initiated the series.  One of the fathers of the group taught the class.  Everyone had a can filled with a various type of wood-MDF, plywood, pine, oak, black maple, cedar, cherry and cotton (not a wood, but we did make charcoal with it).  We placed them in the fire and waited…and waited…and waited.  Initially, we only saw the steam come out of the containers.

Next, the wood went through pyrolysis.

Finally, the wood turned into charcoal.

The class was absolutely fascinating.  We saw how tar is a byproduct of burning (and had a lesson on how tar can coat your lungs from a burning cigaret).  We are looking forward to using the coal to smith some iron next!!

Trip to Salt Lake City

When the kids turn 10, Nick told them that they could pick out a spot to visit.  Sims chose Puerto Rico.  Sawyer originally chose Italy, but this was not in the budget.  She got a surprise trip to the Florida Keys.  Parks turned 10 in 2016, but he didn’t know where he wanted to go.  Over the past year, he finally decided that he wanted to visit the western United States.  Thus, we headed to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nick and I visited there 18 years ago and loved it.  We were excited to share the city with the kids.  We headed out on a Tuesday morning and arrived Tuesday evening.  After a long day in the plane, we checked into our air bnb, found a local restaurant for some dinner, and hit the grocery store.

Full Moon Super Moon

We arrived in Salt Lake City as the moon was coming up. It was a full, super, blue moon. It was amazing! (Not a great photo as it was taken in the car as we were going down the road)

While in Salt Lake, we took the kids skiing.  We had a blast watching them hit the slopes.  They have all skied since they were about 3 or 4.  However, they learned in North Carolina-a big difference from Utah!  They all rocked the slopes!  We may have ruined them forever. 🙂

We also found several skate parks in the area for Parks to play at.  He brought his scooter along.

We also headed out to the actual Great Salt Lake and learned some of the history and science of the area.

Overall, a fun and very relaxing trip.  The weather was perfect for hanging out-not great for snow fall, but there was enough snow on the mountains to enjoy the skiing.  These days are going by too fast!  It is times like these that I realize how quickly the time is going.  I love that I get the opportunity to share these memories with my kids.

Friday Hike-Hill Trail

Yep, you read that correctly!  We finally got up and outside to hike.  It was about time.  Friday Hikes got lost somehow this school year.  We decided that not getting in the woods is contributing to us all getting sick more often this year (forest bathing-as it is called-has been found to improve the immune system).  Thus, we sent out a text to a group of our hiking buddies to see who was up for a hike.  We got a few takers and met up with some friends along the way.  Our youngest hiker even showed me a new spot in the park.  I thought that I had hiked all of the park, but I was wrong.  She showed me(and the rest of the hikers) a fun spot tucked in the woods complete with a ravine and a creek.

The Return of the Monarchs

Back in June, we released monarchs that we watched morph from tiny eggs into amazing caterpillars and finally, into magnificent butterflies.  Throughout the summer, we kept an eye out for any monarchs returning to our garden.  We saw many butterflies but no monarchs.  We were all slightly disappointed that all of our work in the butterfly garden to attract monarchs was not working.

And then came September!  Sawyer came running in to tell us of her find-monarchs landing on the milkweed!

 

Now we watch as daily, five or so monarchs flutter around our garden in preparation for their long journey to Mexico!

The Hungry Little Monarch Caterpillar

At the end of April, we visited the butterfly garden that we planted at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.  We were ecstatic to see monarchs in the garden!  Not only did we see monarchs but we gathered the eggs.  At this time, I had no idea what we were getting into.

So the caterpillar nursery began.  After about a week, twelve of the fourteen caterpillars came into the world.  These hungry little guys ate and ate and ate!  They initially measured a mere 1 mm long!  After two weeks of nibbling away at the milkweed leaves, the caterpillars were about the size of my son’s pinky finger!

I started getting concerned that I would not be able to keep up with their appetites!  They are veracious eaters.  Initially, I thought that they would only eat the leaves, but the ended up eating every bit of each stalk of milkweed that I placed in with them. One afternoon, I started calling around to find milkweed to feed them, but lucky for me I found them forming Js at the top of the enclosure.

We even got to watch one of them form its chrysalis.  It was absolutely amazing.  Then for another 10 days or so, we had 12 gem-like chrysalis hanging in our kitchen.

IMG_2454

We went away for the weekend and came home to an amazing sight!

We had several dark colored chrysalis and several butterflies!  We observed them for a day and were entranced by their beauty.  We watched several of them emerge from their chrysalis and grasp onto the edge of the chrysalis as they dried their wings.  When all twelve had emerged and dried, we brought them out to the garden and released them.  It was a bittersweet moment.

Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to find more eggs this summer so that we can tag them.  Monarchs migrate to Mexico each year.  The generation that we released will lay more eggs here and their offspring should be the ones to make the journey.  We will let you know if we get to do it again!