Nature At It’s Best, In Our Own Backyard.

My husband discovered an extravagant nest immediately outside our back door, about 3 foot off the ground, 5 days ago (Friday). It was built in an old Mountain Dew box that was sitting on top of our grill table awaiting dryer days for the fire pit. Dryer days was that day and it almost went in. He quickly put it back and left it where it was. The box and some of the nesting materials were still wet from the days of rain.

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Saturday, she had an egg in the nest. We hadn’t used our grill all winter but we had just got a new gas tank that day and we were clearing the patio and pulling out the grill to prepare to cook dinner on it. I walked outside and he had moved the nest. I said no! it has to be back where it was, so I needed to find something else to set it on at the same height and in the same spot, so that we wouldn’t be disturbing it. I quickly thought and I found a solution and the nest went unmoved.

We left it alone and the next morning (Sunday), there was another egg in the nest. Oh how excited I was that we didn’t make her abandon the nest. I forgot to take a picture of the lone egg in the nest however I did get a picture of the 2 eggs. We don’t have to go look in the nest, it’s literally right as soon as we open the door to let the dog out. [ I worried that she put her nest in a terrible place with how highly trafficked the door is.] My husband said when he was letting the dog out one morning before work, she was in there sitting on her eggs and didn’t seem bothered by him at all. “She’s a little wren,” he said.

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Yesterday morning (Monday) I went to let our dog out to use the bathroom and there were three eggs in the nest.

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That’s when I decided to look up how many she’ll lay, I saw her today and I was wrong before, so I’m editing it now, she’s a Carolina Wren not a House Wren. They nest anywhere from 3 feet to 6 feet off the ground and they will lay an egg a day until they reach 3-7 eggs. Then they incubate from 12-16 days. I was intrigued to read that her mate may sometimes bring her food while she’s on the eggs. Once they hatch it will be another 10-16 days before they leave the nest.

You can read more here https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Carolina_Wren/lifehistory

I think being able to watch her clutch grow and possibly be able to see them hatch and become actual birds is a very neat experience. My biggest fear is that she’ll abandon the nest and I’m really hoping she won’t. I would love to be able to document their development, since I know the time frame of their whole cycle personally.

This morning when I let the dog out to use the bathroom, there were four eggs in the nest. Only one or two more days and she’ll be done laying. I still haven’t seen the mama with my own eyes yet. This is an exceptional learning experience for the children because I can educate them about a bird’s life cycle. How important it is to leave nature untouched and to just observe. After seeing a cat give birth to kittens a few months ago and to watch me carry their sister in my belly for 9 months, they are intrigued at the fact that birds lay eggs and have to sit on them until they are born.

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I will continue to observe and update on the nest in future posts. So if you’d like to see more about these babies, follow me.

 

**EDIT**
I finally was able to catch a photo of her since she isn’t in the nest much during the day, I snapped a quick shot tonight. (I didn’t have to get close, I just used my zoom)

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Nature At It’s Best, In Our Own Backyard.

Celebrating Earth

We love the outdoors and enjoying everything the Earth has to naturally give us year round. On Earth Day this year we took the kids to the museum for an event they were having.

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They got to make little bug catching cups that could hang around their necks and they got bug tattoos

and did little animal/insect crafts.

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We stopped by the plant table but because of the drive home being over 30 minutes long we didn’t want to risk the soil cups dumping over in the van. We also stopped by the table discussing the Sun safety and what it does for our planet, about the eclipse coming up in August and how to watch it, and of course more tattoos.

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In between going table to table the kids wanted to walk through and look at the museum things. Nothing had changed from the last time we came, but they still enjoyed walking through.

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We have many more outdoors plans this year and I got a new camera, so there will be a ton of great pictures I look forward to taking.

My flowers are blooming beautifully at home and they make the front patio smell nice when the breeze hits just right.

Look at these adorable little guys (Yellow Bellied Sliders), ready for a feeding, they all gather when I walk by and all I can think of is “Feed me Seymour” (Little Shop of Horrors)… then “mine, mine, mine” (Finding Nemo) as they are chasing down the pellets.

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Celebrating Earth

10 Reasons we chose a Nature Retreat

My husband and I have decided after careful deliberation that the property we’d be purchasing for our Family vacation spot would be a Nature Retreat instead of a place near the Beach. The property we’re looking to buy MUST have a few things on our wishlist. Including:

  • Mountain or Country/County property
  • Acreage for privacy and more room for adventures.
  • A source of water such as a stream, creek, pond or river front.
  • Level and rolling parts. Both clear and wooded to accommodate campsites and possible structures, hiking and walking, wildlife and scenery.
  • It doesn’t need to have a structure on it, but that could be a plus depending on it’s condition.

We already go out for hikes and nature walks very frequently, sometimes I don’t always remember to bring my camera. I’ve added photos from some of our adventures in our cities public parks and trails.

Here’s our 10 reasons for wanting our own nature retreat.

  1. A place that is our own, where the kids would love to visit time and time again.
  2. We love being outdoors and in nature so it’d be a great getaway.
  3. Seclusion and serenity. We like our privacy and being able to connect better as a family without a load of distractions.
  4. Better fit for technology free trips.
  5. Playing in a creek, fishing or just sitting by the water.
  6. Observing wildlife.
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  7. Encouraging fantastic developmental and learning skills within our adventures.
  8. A place we can set up a campsite and perhaps in the future build a cabin or tiny house, whatever suits our future needs and wants.
  9. A place that can accommodate us throughout the year and always be “in-season”.
  10. A place close enough to home and work for us to explore and enjoy not only on weekends but during the week as well.

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My Pros and Cons of a Beach Property:

Pros-
Obviously, close vicinity to the beach/ocean.Variety of different shops and food choices.
Play time at the beach and in the water.
Could rent out the property during most the year for residual income.

Cons-
It would have to be a closer beach (VA, NC, SC – Not FL like I’d want)
Still further distance to travel from home. (making it a well planned out trip just to go)
More expensive to upkeep.
Seasonal property. (won’t do us much good majority of the year)Less time to enjoy the property. (could only go there a few times a summer, if that)
Weather permitting.
Possibly crowded or “busy” in the area/city or on the beach.
Less privacy than in the wilderness.
Not as much wildlife (seagulls, birds and some crustaceans, maybe)
Sometimes being on the beach is actually not as grand as it sounds.

As fun as a beach trip sounds, having lived at Cocoa Beach in Florida, but with as many children as we have (6) it sounds like chaos to me. We’re actually taking our first family camping trip Father’s Day weekend to Williamsburg, VA so we can visit Jamestown and Yorktown. That same weekend we’ll also be traveling to the coast to have an afternoon at the beach, taking all the kids for the first time. They are still young and we’ll find out quickly if we can even handle it again or if we have to wait until they are even older. I have faith that together we can overcome my fears of taking all of them to the ocean, but they are excited and I just hope it goes well.

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So because we want something close to home and something we can utilize almost daily. We chose a Nature Retreat instead. We haven’t found the right property for us just yet, but we’re still looking for that right one. We want to make sure it not only fits us for now, but fits us for many years to come as our children grow up. I’m anxious, though I know I need to have the most patience so that we don’t go into anything too hasty.

10 Reasons we chose a Nature Retreat

It’s okay to get your hands dirty.

After a comment on my post about my addiction to gardening that I shared on Facebook, someone was talking to me about the microbes in soil and how it acts as an antidepressant. These good bacteria actually boost the immune system and allows the body to release more serotonin which makes you feel better. (I’ve shared a link to an article about it at the bottom)  I was intrigued with this discovery (especially since I do suffer from depression). I knew there was a reason why I love playing in dirt. I mean who doesn’t right? I love the smell of soil and getting my hands dirty. I could stay outside all day with the kids just playing in the dirt.

My Poppy used to have a homemade dirt/sand box in his backyard when we were young and my cousins and brother and I would dig trenches and fill it with water. We constructed buildings all over and bridges over the trenches. It was hours and hours of fun.

The bottom of our yard is mostly, well… dirt. Sadly though we do not have a dirt/sand box, but that doesn’t stop the kids from getting super dirty. They make mud cakes and build little houses with wood, rocks and dirt for their outside toys. They play restaurant and other imaginative things kids do. They would stay outside all day if they could.

We go hiking or walking every clear weekend we get, since my husband does not work weekends, it’s the only relaxing time we get to enjoy the outdoors. We usually collect nature things on our walks. The kids bring home neat looking sticks, moss, leaves and rocks they’ve come across. We used to have a shelf inside designated for all the rocks and things, but with 5-6 kids bringing home little treasures, it filled up fast and we ran out of room so we started just keeping their discoveries in the garden.

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I’ve been doing some reading on the antidepressant microbes in soil.
Here’s a link to a website with a good article about it. Gardening Chemistry…
It’s interesting to say the least. I never would have thought something such as dirt would actually have some health benefits for us. I’m always looking for new methods of self-help considering I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for 12 years. I prefer to be non-medicated because of all the side-effects from the medications I used to be on. I’m always reading and looking for natural remedies and techniques for handling my depression and anxiety on my own. I’ve been doing good overall for the past few years, some days though, are harder than others. I’m going to be doing my own research and experiments with soil and see what the conclusions are overall. I already know being outside in nature (in the woods, near streams) and in the garden and in the dirt makes me feel better, more calm, more grounded, but now if I do get a dark day I’ll know what may help. It’s worth a shot.

All this talk about dirt has me thinking. I’m going to build a new play station in the backyard for more dirt play and soil exploration for the kids. I’ll make a post about it when it’s built and in action.
It’s okay to get your hands dirty.

Gardening with children

Anyone who gardens knows that there is a real reward to a beautiful space in your yard. A space where you can feel that joy and serenity from what you have helped create. I love adding new flowering plants and green foliage to my landscape. I’m almost prone to say I have a gardening addiction. I love putting new plants in my garden and my children do too.

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Every time we go to the home improvement store or even Walmart they children beg to go see the plants and we oblige, because honestly, we love looking at them too! Our kids enjoy all the pretty colors that plants have to offer, they have to smell everything. They like to look at and touch all the different textures. It’s a really high sensory hobby and I like the variety that it offers to the kids.

We had recently bought pink Dianthus to place in our newly painted flower pots along our front patio, but it was my youngest daughter who picked them out because said she just had to have those ones. I liked that they are evergreen and will maintain color all year long and will bloom through spring and summer as well.

We also just added baby Lavender plants to the garden and we’re looking forward to seeing them matured and blossomed because lets face it, I love the smell of Lavender.

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We also have seedling tree that my son brought home from preschool, that we are rooting and I believe it’s a cherry blossom if I can remember correctly. We’re going to be adding it to the backyard landscape once we have an idea of where we want it permanently.

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He also had brought home a tomato plant from school and was so excited to plant it. We’ve since gotten 3 others and wires for them and placed them beside our porch. My children are not big fans of eating tomatoes and neither am I, however, when we harvest our fresh grown tomatoes I’m going to show them just what you can do with them. (homemade spaghetti sauce and also fresh made salsa)

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We have a lot of other beautiful plants in the garden like flowering pear trees, pink magnolia and orange day lily’s. I’ve found that involving my children in the garden has raised their appreciation for nature and it’s entirety. They help with watering, adding new plants, weeding, dead-heading, and trimming. They love playing outside in the dirt, exploring the woods and inspecting new insects. It’s very rewarding watching them play and enjoy the outdoors.

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Benefits of gardening with children:

 

  • Bonding with your child. Spending quality time with your child. Take this time to hold a conversation and to teach.
  • Learning about nutrition, plant growth and Photosynthesis.
  • Helping them understand responsibility as well as the cause and effect. (some plants take more special care than others and some plants can easily die if not cared for properly)
  • Research also shows that children who spend time in an outdoor environment with natural green color have reduced symptoms of ADD and ADHD.
  • Gardening with a child teaches nurturing skills, introduces them to healthier foods, gives them a sense of accomplishment.
  • A garden is a great tool for children with SPD and you can add different gardening activities to your child’s daily sensory diet routine. (such as a sandbox, walking barefoot in the grass and dirt, plant a flower, listen to birds or rain, explore scents)
Gardening with children

Our Backyard Coop Beginning

My husband and I have been talking about getting some chickens for a while now to put in a backyard coop to provide us fresh eggs. I’ve never had experience with chickens, but we’ll learn together.

Our city ordinance is 9 chickens and under, so we started out with just 5. We do not know their sexes yet for definite, but the farm we got them from trades  roosters out for new chicks. I did a feather sexing technique and also listened to their chirps in comparison and it’s looking like majority girls except or one. But I want to know for sure before we make any decisions. We should be able to tell in about 3 weeks. If we’re correct though at least we’ll only have one to trade out.

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We own our home in the city and as much as I love it, I’m starting to really long for a country farm house of my dreams. I want a big plot of land out in the county and I want to expand on my dream to have our own little farm and be self-sufficient. But until then though…

We’re going to be building a coop and run here next weekend or the weekend after, soon, I know that much. The kids were excited to pick up the chicks today, I explained to them that they are nice and cute and fluffy now but that they turn into adult chickens. They weren’t too enthusiastic about that but when I explained to them we’re going to be collecting their eggs to eat, they got excited again. They LOVE eggs!

Here’s the little guys and a rough sketch of what we want the coop and run (it looks open but it will have 4 walls and ventilation plus the run will be open aired). When we start building it, I will take pictures as it progresses. Hubby has been watching online videos and getting ideas on what he wants to do. Apparently he’s named them already, though I was waiting to do that, but it’s nice he even thought to name them at all. He named them Midnight, Sunshine, Nugget, Speckles, Lucky. (I heard it’s not good to name them when it’s possible they could be eaten in the future, but I guess he couldn’t help himself.)

PicMonkey Collage

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BENEFITS WE’LL HAVE FROM OUR BACKYARD COOP

  1. Knowing what conditions our chickens are living in.
  2. Knowing what our chickens are eating and what’s going into our eggs.
  3. Having fresh eggs for our family and knowing how old the eggs are.
  4. From what I’ve read, many people who raise chickens see them as an antidepressant, they lower stress just by watching them and tending to them. I can already see how that’s true just looking at these little guys.
  5. Can turn their waste into fertilizer for the garden by adding it to the soil or compost pile.
  6. As we cycle out of our chickens, we’ll have fresh meat for meals.
  7. They are good recyclers for table scraps, not as their main food supply, but to cut back on waste.
  8. Natural pest-control for the backyard and garden. They eat many pesky insects.
Our Backyard Coop Beginning