Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Tamaracks Are Turning!

Actually, the orangey, brown trees, on these mountains are not tamaracks, but rather alpine larches - but both trees are deciduous conifers from the same family, and tamarack sounded better for the title.

They are not dying, pine trees either, but "evergreens", that turn color in the fall, and drop their needles. They'll regrow, and green up in the spring. And, in the meantime they are a sight to behold, glowing orange, on the sides of the mountains.

These pictures were taken from my driveway - and so are a little far away. If you've never seen one close up, check out Summit Post (click the link to go there), they have some great shots, and a lot of information about these high elevation trees.

The top of the mountain above is over 8,000 feet, and the ones below are higher, with ify roads heading that high, on those particular peaks. I'm not sure if the minivan will make it up to them, though I think we'll try, because spotting a turning larch is on our fall leaf-list. Just in case, I ran the kids out front, with binoculars in hand, to make sure everyone got a good look.

It's a prettier sight than the snow, we had on those peaks a few weeks ago, or at least a more seasonally appropriate one - kind of like a bunch of crazy Christmas trees, dressed up for Halloween. And, on a side note - those are some of the mountains that the Corps of Discovery crossed (at least part of the same range). Can you believe Sacagawea managed it, on foot, with a baby in tow? It never ceases to amaze me.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

P is for Pumpkin - A Pumpkin Seed Craft

The girls (ages 4, and 5), put together a quick, pumpkin craft, last night, to go along with Patty's Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat.

Patty's Pumpkin Patch, is a rhyming story, following life at a pumpkin patch, through the seasons, from planting, to harvest, and on into winter. Not only would it be a great book to read before roasting pumpkin seeds, as that is what happens at Patty's patch, to the extra seeds left behind (click here, for directions, and suggestions for pumpkin seed roasting)...

...but, it is also, a simple alphabet book, detailing the animals, birds, and insects you might find visiting a pumpkin patch, throughout the year, making it very well suited for a fall themed, alphabet craft.

To that end, I helped the girls cut out seven pumpkins, from orange construction paper...

...and green stems, which they cut in a straight strip, and then snipped across, to cut apart.

They glued the stems onto the pumpkins.

Then, for C (age 4), I traced out letters in glue...

...for her to cover with pumpkin seeds.

For E (age 5), I printed the letters, lightly, in pencil, and she traced them in glue, herself...

...spelling out "p-u-m-p-k-i-n".

When their pumpkins were dry, or mostly dry, I taped them up together, under our fall leaf-list tree, where they are nicely displayed, and I can keep an eye on them, to make sure no one picks off any of the seeds.

At four, and five the girls are pretty well past putting choking hazards in their mouths - but you never know.

Be sure to check out this week's stART (story+ART) link-up, at A Mommy's Adventures, for more story stretching, arts, and crafts.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Few More Pumpkin Recipes

After freezing enough pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving pies, we found ourselves left with with quite a bit to be used up. So, we've been trying out all kinds of recipes, both sweet, and savory, and have found a few so good, we had to share.

First of all, a quick word about fresh pumpkin. You will often hear, that sugar pumpkins are best for pie making, and while that is true, don't be afraid to cook up your larger pumpkins, too. They might not be as good for pies (you can get an idea of the difference in texture from this picture - our larger pumpkin is on the left), but they are perfectly fine for a number of other recipes.

After removing the seeds, and pulp from the pumpkins, wash, and quarter them, and cook each quarter, on a plate, flesh side up, in the microwave, for about nine minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Cut the roasted pumpkin away from the skin, and puree it in a blender, getting it as smooth as possible.

Then you'll be ready to try out recipes like:

Savory Pumpkin Bread Sticks

Take the recipe for Savory Pumpkin Pizza Dough from The Cooking Photographer, mix as directed. Or, make things easy on yourself, and mix it in the bread maker. Start by putting all of the wet ingredients into the machine, topping with the dry ingredients, adding the yeast last, right on top of the flour. Choose the dough setting, and leave the machine to do it's work.

When the dough is ready, drop it out onto a floured surface, and divide it into 20 balls (pinch the dough in half, and in half again, and again, until you have twenty pieces).

Roll the balls into 9 inch ropes, and place them onto a greased cookie sheet.

Cover, and let rise for about an hour.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 22 minutes. Brush with butter, while they are still warm.

The go very nicely with What's in the Cupboard Pumpkin Soup (this was taken from a No Fuss Pumpkin Soup Recipe from Start Cooking, but I didn't have everything, so used what was in my cupboard).

In a large soup pot combine:

  • two flavor packets from Chicken Flavored Ramen Noodles

  • two cups of water

  • one tablespoon of butter

  • one tablespoon brown sugar

  • one cup of plain applesauce

  • two cups of pumpkin puree

  • one half teaspoon of salt

  • one teaspoon of cinnamon

  • a pinch of garlic powder

  • one teaspoon chopped chives

You will also need 1 12 oz can of evaporated milk, but don't add it yet. First bring the ingredients above to a boil, on high heat, stirring constantly.

Reduce the temperature to low, cover the pot, and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the can of evaporated milk.

Despite the cinnamon, and sugar, this soup is savory, and not at all sweet, and it goes wonderfully with the bread sticks, above. All six of my children ate it - which is something, that almost never occurs with a new food.

But, if you're in the mood for something sweet, instead. Then, I suggest you try the Taste of Home, pumpkin square recipe, from Rebecca Writes (click the link to go to the recipe). I made them last night, and they are soooo good, I didn't even bother frosting them, with the suggested cream cheese frosting, for fear I wouldn't be able to stop myself from eating the entire pan.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Paper Plate Pumpkin Shaker Craft

My youngest two wanted a craft to do, yesterday. So, I turned to a Kaboose stand-by craft (at least I think it was Kaboose, I can't find it now).

I know the one I saw, involved painting a couple of paper plates orange, and then stapling them together, with a paper stem between them, and lacing bells around the outside.

I had paper bowls, instead of plates, and more orange tissue paper, than paint, so I had the girls paint their bowls with watered down glue, and then stick the tissue paper on, to cover the bottom sides of the bowls.

Once, they had dried, for the most part, we glued on stems, I had pre-cut, from construction paper (one stem per pumpkin).

The girls added a handful of pumpkin seeds (we didn't have any bells on hand, either).

I stapled them together.

And, the girls were ready to join the pumpkin percussion section of the fall orchestra - now if we could just conquer the pumpkin vine flute, we could really make some music.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pancakes and Pi

Well, we've done pumpkin science, and pumpkin math. And, we've been pureeing pumpkin all morning. Some of which turned nicely into pumpkin butter (recipe here - but be warned, it's very spicy)...

...that we used in pumpkin pancakes (recipe here - just substitute 2/3 cup pumpkin butter, from above, for the pumpkin puree, and they are quite fluffy, pumpkiny, and wonderful).

Inspired by Little Page Turners, I even tried to get cheeky, and attempted to make pumpkin "pi" pancakes for the kids...

...but they settled for short stacks instead.

My hat is off to Christianne, of Little Page Turners, and Lindsey, from Filth Wizardry who inspired her. And, I sit in total awe of Jim from Jim's Pancakes (if you haven't seen his creations, click the link - it's too good to miss!).

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Pumpkin Math

I'm always amazed at the amount of math mileage there is in a pumpkin. I've already mentioned weighing it...

...measuring it...

...and counting the seeds, after rinsing them off, and laying them out to dry (except for our roasting seeds, which were rinsed, and counted wet, and then prepared for roasting).

When it comes to counting the seeds, the possibilities are, again, endless.

Encouraged by Margaret McNara's How Many Seeds In a Pumpkin (which I mentioned in our Sunday Science post), the children chose to count our seeds by arranging them into piles of ten.

This, of course, allowed the children to practice counting by 10's. But, they also counted by 2's to 10, for each pile.

They learned, it's easier to count the piles of 10, if they are arranged in straight, even rows, instead of random piles.

And, it's even easier to count them, if the piles of 10 are lined up into rows of 10, making 100 seeds in each row.

This was great for the older children, but dealing with over 1000 seeds (from two pumpkins) was overwhelming for my 4 year. So for her, I went with an idea from Dr. Jean's Pumpkin Page, for pumpkin seed counters...

...that she could put into order, and place the proper number of seeds onto.

Then, E (age 5), could turn them over, to find a corresponding addition problem, to use with the same number of seeds.

There's so much more, I hope to do with these seeds, yet. And, I haven't even touched on all the fractions, and story problems, associated with cutting, and cooking up the pumpkins. But for now, I'm off on a search for pumpkin recipes.

There's more math fun to be had though, at this week's Math Monday link-up, hosted by Joyful Learner.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Fairy (Bugs)

We had a blast last night, playing with a bunch of "fairy flies", or woolly aphids, as I think they're more properly known.

When you catch them, they look kind of like hairy flies. Though, the white fluff is not hair, but rather a waxy excretion.

When they are flying they look like tiny fairies in the air, thus their nickname - they are also sometimes called "fluff bugs", or even "fuzz-butts".

They only grow wings in the fall (or sometimes in late summer), when they are migrating to the trees where they will lay their eggs for the winter. As I understand it, they are relatively harmless, as aphids go, and are food for many beneficial insects. So, if you run into a bunch, don't worry about "dealing" with them - just enjoy the wonder filled show of these flying, fuzzy, fairies of fall.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Pumpkin Science For Kids

We read in Margaret McNamara's How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin?, that one clue to how many seeds a pumpkin will have, is the number of ribs on the outside. Apparently, each rib represents a row of seeds, inside.

The color of the pumpkin is another indicator. Darker orange pumpkins, have likely had longer to develop on the vine, and therefore might have more seeds.

I'll admit, we were intrigued. We didn't really buy into the darker orange theory, because in the past we've had to ripen pumpkins on our table, after saving them from an early frost in the garden. So, we know from experience, that pumpkins will continue to darken in shade, after they've been cut from the vine.

But, we had to check out the connections between the ribs, and the rows of seeds, ourselves. So, we took two pumpkins, one large, and one small, and counted the ribs.

We also weighed them, and measured, and recorded their circumferences, and colors, just for fun.

The larger pumpkin was a darker orange, but the smaller pumpkin had about ten more ribs, than the larger one. So, we predicted the smaller pumpkin would have more seeds. Then, we cut them open, and checked them out. Sure enough, the seeds were arranged in lines corresponding to the ribs, at least the deeper ribs, on the outside.

All, that was left to do then, was pull the seeds out, and count them. The larger pumpkin had 483 seeds (very large seeds), and the smaller one had 620 seeds (smaller, more tender seeds - good for roasting).

As, I'm sure you can imagine, we had quite a bit of pumpkin themed, math going on as well, but I'll save that for Math Monday, tomorrow.

In the meantime, as usual, you can find more fun with science, at this week's Science Sunday link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pumpkin Lid Stamps

After cutting our pumpkins open, I asked the Man of the House to carve a couple of stamps for us, on the fleshy side of the lids.

He made one a simple circle, to be painted with washable orange paint, for pumpkins, and one, a stem, to be painted with green paint.

The girls happily stamped away, on the paper side of pieces of butcher's paper.

Then, the older girls brushed on some vines, and leaves.

I was thinking they would make some sort of pumpkin patch mural, but the girls decided to make fall themed, pumpkin wrapping paper, instead. With my birthday coming up in a couple of weeks (the big 4-0), I really can't complain.

It's great to be a homeschooler.