Friday, June 27, 2008

Dyeing of the colourful kind!

Group session was all about dyeing using natural and artificial dyes. Katie, Ben and I had already tried out a few natural dyes as reported here, but families also brought along big vats of paprika/ chilli and elderberry to add to our coffee, tea, nettles/dock leaves and beetroot. We all had a go at painting on paper with these dyes as well as dipping materials and sheep wool into the bowls to see how deep a colour the dye would produce. It looked like the elderberry was going to be the best, but once home the dye turned out to be a rather sad grey which was a bit of a disappointment.
Natural dye

The artificial dyeing produced, not surprisingly, wonderful results. Tie dyeing t-shirts, cloth bags and literally anything in the way of plain materials produced an array of colour.
Deep colours of the artificial dye.

Shall certainly be doing more of this. At 75 pence each for the children's white t-shirts at QDs (and they were lovely quality), or £1 for adults (although these were rather huge) tie-dyed tops make brilliant gifts for the younger members of our family.
Tie-dye t-shirts and natural dyed cloth (at far right), although the colour didn't last unfortunately.

Love this website, all about colour + some projects to have a bash at.

little flower


Thursday, June 26, 2008


P has had the week off so we made the most of the pretty good weather and set off through the East side of the Lincolnshire Wolds (we even went up a hill!) towards Mablethorpe on the coast. Lovely expanse of soft sand, but I'll get to that in a mo. First we went to look around the Seal Sanctuary there. Not just a rescue centre for stranded seals (and other animals and birds) but a brilliant walk through tunnel of the history of Lincolnshire, how it was once near the Equator before the continents all drifted apart, about the dinosaurs and how they (probably) became extinct. Brilliant. I've gone over history like this with Katie and Ben before but to bored faces. The way this had been presented with short, interesting and easily digested snippets of information with exhibits made it a learning experience for us all. We enjoyed seeing the seals and all the other rescued birds. I particularly liked the Gannets and the owls (as we have barn and tawny owls where we live), and one keeper in particular was very happy to pass on information on all the different species.
Most of the birds and animals were enjoying a mid morning nap.


Lunch was on the beach with a gentle wind blowing sand into our sandwiches, crisps, fruit, drinks etc., etc., but then it wouldn't be a beach picnic without it! Apart from a smattering of people and a small school party, we had a large expanse of beach to ourselves. Enjoyed wandering out to the water's edge and investigating where the sand was soft and where it was hard. We also found brittle black rocks everywhere which Ben and I initially thought to be lava, but I'm not so sure now.
Anyway, it didn't take long before the rain came down, so we headed off home through a lovely village called Alford which we are definitely going to go back to and explore. We decided to find a donkey sanctuary that was signposted from Alford as P adores donkeys. We were lead through many a winding road, for a number of miles before finding the placed closed!

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Wet, windy, wonderful Wales

We spent this last weekend camping in Wales near Builth Wells, Powys. P and I last ventured to Wales years back, way before kiddies were in our lives, so it was lovely to be back. This time we ventured futher into Wales and witnessed the fabulous scenery all around us (and the never ending "baaing" of sheep). Anyway, our reason for visiting Wales? Katie went to stay with her friend who moved to the area around Christmas time. The family live in a lovely, peaceful part of the world, back to nature and (more-or-less) away from civilisation as most of us know it.

After dropping Katie off, we headed for the campsite through a never ending stream of twisty turning, high, low roads to the campsite (it was only about 16 miles "down" the road but it felt much further). We're pretty novice at the camping lark and were pretty stunned (as we've been on the last two occasions) by how much stuff we needed to take. The weather was fabulous when we arrived, allowing us to leisurely set up our two small tents (one for P and one for Ben with me) and our newly acquired gazebo to give us some protection when sitting and cooking. I chose Fforest Fields over another local site because it mentioned the lovely walks, streams and views around it for members to wander through and enjoy. Ben is absolutely mad on wading through water so I thought it would be right up his street.
View close to our pitch.

Our first wanderings were not a disappointment. We found streams hidden in the hillsides to explore, mini waterfalls and, a bonus for Ben, remains of an animal skull to explore and ponder over. The views from (almost) the top of the hill were breathtaking. Once back down to earth P and I studied the clouds over a cuppa. Very interesting as we had been learning about clouds and weather this last week. The clouds hanging over us were typical "fair weather clouds that also mean a change in weather within 24 hours". How right they were!
Climbing over fallen trees and following the stream up the hill.

We didn't mind the rain overnight. It has a lovely sound that kind of lulls you to sleep (although at the back of your mind you can't help thinking "this had better clear up by tomorrow"). The rain continued in the morning and as the day moved on the wind began to pick up too. We headed for the Dan-yr-Ogof showcaves and had a brilliant day exploring the three caves and the various other attractions at the site. Reading about the dinosaurs and seeing an Iron Age camp took away the pain of climbing the steep hill to the different caves. Well worth a visit.

It took an age to get back to camp along the roads, but such beautiful scenery made up for it. When we returned we were relieved to see our gazebo was still standing after the strong winds of the day! We were even able to cook on the bbq, under cover of course. Overnight the wind picked up big time. Ben and I were woken about midnight and endured the roar of the wind as it blew through the tree covered hills closer and closer towards us. The huge gusts seems to last an age, with, strangely, a lull of about 15 mins before it would continue. It was pretty creepy; the tent was being battered, but stood its ground! Poor P was on his own in his tent which took the full brunt of each gust near-on collapsing it each time. I knew the gazebo wasn't going to survive and at 2 ish I peeped out during a lull to see the damage. It was still tightly held down but one of the posts had completely buckled. P and I decided to dismantle it before anymore damage was done. It's amazing how quickly one can disassemble something when you really want to get it over and done with and get back to bed!

The wind continued into the Sunday and we moved P's tent so that it didn't get so much abuse! We went for a delicious Sunday lunch at a local pub and then discovered a fabulous waterfall called "Break-its-Neck" fall. We all had lots of fun splashing through the water to the fall, climbing up some of the rocks and having a really great time. Back to camp for another bbq with the wind at a reasonable speed and the weather much improved. We went for our final walk through all the pine trees on the hillside to witness another view point of the campsite.
More water play
"Break-its-neck" waterfall
Pine covered hills

Needless to say, the weather was superb on the Monday. We picked Katie up about lunch time and had a sticky 7 1/2 hour journey home (thanks to two accidents on the M6 and a three hour drive through Birmingham). Katie had a brilliant time with her friend and even managed to go hacking on the Saturday between rain showers.

A big thank you to D, A, Ch, J and A.


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Natural Dyes and other things

We have been experimenting with natural dyes at the beginning of this week in preparation for a group session we are running with two other families later in the month. We found a list of natural dyes from one of Katie's books and we also sourced some from an article written on the new Home Ed Wiki.

As cold dyes we used the juices of mixed summer fruits (making deep purple) and beetroot with vinegar (making pink). The following were all boiled to extract the dye:

Tomato - yellow/orange
Tea - light brown
Coffee - dark brown
Earth - darker brown
Yellow onions - yellow
Turmeric - deep yellow/orange
Dock leaves - very pale green
Dock leaves and nettles - pale green

Katie and Ben use the dyes to paint on paper and materials (cotton and linen were the best) with some lovely results.


Other things

More socialising than ever seems to be occurring at the moment - we're all enjoying it but it makes getting back to our normal learning routine harder and harder. Anyway, Katie and Ben stayed away on Monday night so P and I sneaked out for a delicious curry in the evening. Friends came on Tuesday from lunch time so I had the house to myself Tuesday morning. I missed my kiddies big time and mooched around the house which was such a waste of valuable "me" time! Having breakfast all by myself (as P leaves early) was the worst part; it was just lonely.

My mum has knitted this lovely winter jumper for Ben, he's really chuffed with it. I think she's going to have a go at knitting something for Katie too.

On the (diminishing) work front, we've continued with maths as much as possible doing workbooks and the fractions poster. Katie and Ben were impressing P with their knowledge of mixed, proper and improper fractions as P had forgotten what they were (just shows you much all this is used in the adult world)! In our geography project we're still looking at weather - understanding different cloud formations and what they mean weatherwise. We did an experiment to make a cloud in a bottle which sort of worked but not brilliantly and didn't seem to impress either of them! We've also made a rain gauge and put it outside just as the rain stopped and the sun came out! At least, using our cloud guide, we'd been able to predict this would happen. Just found this cloud guide which is good too.

The doll's houses have been rediscovered and Ben has done a new paint job on some of the walls before putting in the furniture. The visiting cat "Kandar" wanted to try a room out for size, but ended up snuggling on Ben's bed in the end.

PhotobucketOn the garden front I've managed to find space for all the chilli and pepper plants in the end; they couldn't have lasted any longer in the conservatory. We have two tiny apples appearing on our baby Granny Smith. We've noticed, by chance, a collared dove nest in one of our trees - visable from one of the benches so we can keep a quiet eye on what's happening. Lots of new ducklings have appeared and seem to be healthy. We've named one "Wanderer" as it likes to go off by itself, running like mad to catch up with the rest of it's family once they've moved on. It got left behind the other day and we found it sitting in the middle of the road, still strong and healthy and such a darling to pick up and stroke and totally weighless. Managed to track down the mum and reintroduced it to the rest of her brood. Mum wasn't happy with me being so close and came running out of the bushes to have a mega nip at my feet to keep me away! Discovered these two acting as a hoover in my kitchen the other day - cheeky pair!
Finally, spotted this tiny baby bee having a suck on a left over grain of cereal.


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Mmm, let me think ....

Falling behind on the old blogging of late. Not sure why, just feeling really tired and finding there's not much time in the day once we've done some HE and then sorted out the house, ironing, gardening (weeds, weeds - they're coming out of my ears!), etc., etc., (you get the picture) and then getting stuck into a couple of brilliant books!

Forgotten half of what we've been up to, naturally.

On the geography lapbook (Our World) side of things we've recapped on the water cycle by making small 3D collages. Pleased to see the children could remember how the cycle worked and most of the "big" names, although Katie initially typed "perspiration" instead of "precipitation"! We also did a simple experiment to show how condensation works as well as transpiration.
Started to look at extreme weather finding some amazing tornado vids on You Tube and we've started to keep a 2 week weather chart turning our findings into bar charts/graphs etc. in due course.
Katie has been drawing lots, Ben has been doing lots of Lego building and I've been doing lots of weed pulling. The combination of warmth and rain has made them sprung up in an uncontrollable manner. We have three exit doors in our house, the side one only really gets used for the postie and Tesco man so I was horrified to see the path completely covered in those horrible sticky weeds (they were fastening themselves to the Tesco man's leg as he delivered my monthly shop!!). Have been pulling and pulling to banish them but I know they shall be back! On the other hand, the warmth and rain has done wonders for the veggies; they are looking mighty good. Just need to sow the sweetcorn and we're done for this year.

At Katie's art lesson this week she studied tone making an object (horse) out of white paper to witness light and dark and then drawing what she saw using white chalk and charcoal. Everyone produced some lovely results. She's really enjoying these sessions and carries on her learning at home in her spare time, drawing, pastelling, inking and now charcoaling in her art book. While Katie was doing all this, Ben and I enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of Kings Cliffe walking through the narrow alleyways, admiring the stonework on the old buildings, looking for dates in the churchyard and, more than anything else, having great fun in the streams that run through the village. Typically I forgot the camera, I could have taken some fabulous shots.
Charoal and chalk - prickly pot plant.

Ben is expressing more and more his desire to do woodwork. This week he decided to use a hacksaw, hammer and nails to make Katie a mini jump for her model horses. He was adament to do the whole thing by himself (only needing a bit of assistance in working out the best way to keep the small sticks for moving during the hammering), even down to working out how to make the jump stand by itself (rather than being pushed into the ground). He was pretty chuffed with himself.
Have been engrossed in this book and this book. "World Without End" is, just like "Pillars of the Earth", fabulous - finding it hard to put down (I try hard not to read novels these days purely because it stops me doing anything else). In between reading this, I've been thumbing through "The Complete Secrets of Happy Children" which is actually a very well written and thought provoking book. Reasons for reading this? I'm finding Katie and Ben push me and push me more and more to do what they want. I find it harder to be as firm as I used to be as I quite often see their side of the argument, but I still feel I (or P) need to be the grown up figure they respect and listen to and they shouldn't expect to get their own way every time. Reading this book has really helped me find a way of getting my kiddies back on track without getting really annoyed. So far it's working and I noticed today that they were playing together and treating each other alittle better too.

Oh and finally, two more ducks have produced a total of 13 ducklings overnight. Fingers crossed this time.
black cat