Monday, May 24, 2010

Life Cycles

Adults often talk with kids about how they're growing, how they used to be a baby, how they'll one day be a man or woman. My 3-year-old says he doesn't want to be a man, only a boy. No worries, I say, you'll always be a boy.

It's no wonder, though, he's interested in the cycles of life.

Yesterday, we went with friends to observe the tadpoles at Eaton Canyon. The boys spent nearly 2 hours watching the little commas squiggling in the shallows. They also enjoyed wading in the creek, and examining stones and water bugs.

A couple weeks ago, Eaton Canyon docents had set up a table with magnifying viewers and rubber copies of the tadpole-to-frog cycle. My son looked at them and pronounced, "metamorphosis." (The docents said the tadpoles were either Pacific or California tree frogs.)

We'd been raising painted lady butterflies at home. They burst from their chrysalises last Friday, and we released them the next day.

This year several people told us the caterpillars they got from Kidspace did not emerge. But we've had good luck with the ones we mail ordered from Insect Lore.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Critter 'N' Kids

Last year, my son and I enjoyed the Los Angeles Zoo's Toddler Totes classes. Now that he's three, we've moved up to Critter 'N' Kids.

Our first class was "Fabulous Flamingos." In the classroom, the kids explored bird eggs, looked at flamingo feathers with a magnifying glass, strained glitter out of water simulating flamingo feeding, and created flamingo nests in a sand tray.

Then we headed out to observe the birds and discuss them.

Critter 'N' Kids runs Wednesday through Saturday mornings, about once a month. It's worth becoming a Zoo member to get the newsletter with the schedule of classes and special events (although you can find the info online too).

A single class is $18 for members, $23 for non-members.

The June class will be Amazing Alligators. Reggie has a new (girl)friend, Cajun Jane, so the class should be especially exciting.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mourning Dove

Out back--behind our house--a mourning dove is nesting
sheltered under the 'Roger's Red' grape

Plumped, still and quiet she waits
shiny black eyes wide

Our son these days is still learning about respect
He whines
He screams
He wants his way

Then yesterday
He saw the eggs and the bird sitting so tenderly

Here mother dove, he said, here's seed for you.
Here mother dove, some water for you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Small Wonders

One of my favorite things about gardening is the little surprises: the bulbs and wildflowers that spout up in spots you didn't expect or had forgotten about, a new bloom you hadn't noticed forming.

Among the small wonders I'm enjoying these days is this feral celery (above). Last year the deliberately planted crop was bitter and I didn't (intentionally) start any this year. Wouldn't you know it, this volunteer, which has been totally neglected, is delicious. And it's growing in decomposed granite! Not that I recommend that; it's getting seepage from a nearby pot of marjoram.

We also had lettuce crop up in unusual places, including right next to nitrogen-fixing bean plants. Those greens were quite tasty; never fertilized. (I should note my entire garden is not that wet: it cropped up in places where I was watering new plants and near a water barrel.)

I mentioned earlier that my last year's basil, moved to a pot at the end of summer, had resprouted. Below is the proof of my perennial basil.

I'm also grateful for a bounteous harvest of snap peas. I love them so, I intend to try a tip I picked up from my dad the suburban farmer. (Okay, he's a college music professor, but he grows so much food he supplies his college cafeteria.) The tip: when weather warms, extend the life of your peas by placing ice cubes on the soil in the morning.

We're also enjoying spinach, scallions, lettuces, sorrel, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, and just harvested the rest of our yukon gold potatoes.

Apples on the way!