Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Final 2012 Barnyard Tale

Why do I love story time at Luscher Farm? Because each session is full of surprises. The biggest this week was that though we found almost no wiggly creatures hiding under the straw bale in the Children's Garden, we had an abundance of wiggly creatures in the
classroom--21 to be exact. No, I didn't transpose that number from 12. Moms and 21 preschoolers crowded into the classroom as we filled the arrival time "practicing" songs until all were settled. Even newcomers had mastered the welcome song by the time we sang it 21 times, once for each child we welcomed by name.

Stories about all things fall--pumpkins, scarecrows, apples, colored leaves and spiders--held their attention though some younger toddlers could be heard playing outside the classroom with their moms--a good decision on the moms' part. It's hard for really young ones to sit still for stories in a group this large. But songs and finger plays engaged nearly everyone: "Eentsy Weentsy Spider", "Autumn Leaves are Falling Down, Red, Yellow, Orange and Brown" (sung to the tune of London Bridge Is Falling Down), and "Five Little Pumpkins". The moms joined in enthusiastically on our old favorite, "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Suppose they remember it from their childhoods? 
It was in one of my daughter's childhood song books.

We loved the story about a little boy's walk one early fall morning to visit his friend on a neighboring farm. I had lots of help from the audience, making sounds of grass swishing, noses sneezing, dogs woofing and roosters crowing as the story unfolded. I had great storytelling partners!

The biggest surprises always occur once we get to the garden. The grass-green windfall apples we gathered were surprisingly "not sour at all" to quote one little girl. Because the water was off at the garden this morning, we wiped them on our jeans, sliced and ate them, dirt and all. Builds up the immune system the moms and I agreed. 
Another little girl had a menu suggestion for me. "You know what would make these really good? Peanut butter!"

The digging corner was crowded, but that didn't stop the treasure hunters. I just prayed no one would get bopped with a trowel, but they shared the space well and no butterfly bandages were necessary. 
Others went off to see what the well-dressed scarecrow is wearing these days while others checked out the veggies. One child noted that tomatoes are "shiny." Another filled her pockets with green beans.

Two boys spotted a baby mouse who wasn't moving much and when he did, his back legs were splayed to the side. Very strange. I don't know if he was sickly or simply a terrified. The boys were fascinated and though we allowed them to look, we warned them not to touch. "What's his name?" one boy asked. "Let's name him 'Chopper'," he said when I suggested he choose one. Good name for those nasty, veggie-chomping rodents!! However, this wasn't a vole, but your regular, garden- variety mouse with a long tail. "What does his tail look like?" the boy asked and then answered his own question. "It looks like a snake." Children's Garden coordinator captured the little guy and released him into the blackberry brambles. "I didn't want to kill him in front of the kids," Dawn said.

Dawn located our praying mantis friend in the greenhouse so we got to visit him one last time. Had wanted to show the children a spider in action, but no luck in finding one until late when only two little girls were left. There he/she was, in residence, waiting for a treat. 
We caught and threw a bug into the web. Shazam!! We were stunned at the speed with which that spider stunned the insect and encased him in spider silk. If we had blinked, we'd have missed it! The girls were impressed.

Many moms mentioned plans to visit the Children's Garden in weeks to come as long as the weather holds. When the rains begin, I hope those who joined Henrietta and me for story time this summer will bask in the warmth of many happy memories in the garden. Henrietta Hen and I hope to see you again in April, 2013.


P.S. The garden is looking beautiful, Dawn. Your hard work and the efforts of your volunteers are sure paying off. This season was a gratifying experience for me with so many more attending and so many of them regulars. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share stories and music and my love of the garden and young children with these families.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Barnyard Blog Sept. 19, 2012

We gathered in the classroom on this crisp, fall morning for our next-to-last story time for the 2012 garden season. About a dozen boys and girls, mostly young preschoolers and toddlers, many of them there for the first time, joined in the singing as we welcomed everyone. It seems a shame to be ending when so many have just discovered us. But the rain this morning tells me we made the right decision to bring this to a close next week, September  26. It will soon be cold and rainy, not great weather for hanging out in the garden.

We began with a beautiful book, All In a Day, by Portland author Cynthia Rylant. Through rhyming text and intricate cut paper illustrations by artist Mikki McClure, we joined in the beauty and celebration of one little boy's day, through work and rest, rain and sun, comforts and surprises. Check it out at the Lake Oswego Library. We sang about the day. "♫Morning has come, ♪night is away, ♫rise with the sun, and ♪welcome the day" Hand and body motions help to get the wiggles out! 

With this new crowd, we revisited a favorite from earlier in the summer, a big book about the farmer who wants to stay in bed just a little longer as one by one the animals and farmer's wife awaken and urge him to get out of bed and get at those chores. We pretend that it's Rudy and Mrs. Luscher. We also reprised "♫Rudy Luscher Had♪ a Farm♫" pulling the animals out of the lunch box barn verse by verse. Both story and song were fresh and exciting for this group.  

It's pumpkin time. Pumpkin Harvest by Calvin Harris has big, bold, colorful photos of pumpkins and simple text--great for this age group. The photo of a slice of pumpkin pie with a huge dollop of whipped cream was a favorite and the scarecrow with a Jack-o-lantern head was pretty funny. Pumpkin Cat by Anne Mortimer, in which Mouse teaches Cat how to plant and grow a pumpkin is fun, especially when Mouse carves the pumpkin into a cat face Jack-o-lantern as a surprise for Cat.  I had to suspend belief with this story. A mouse planting a seed and nurturing a plant rather than feasting on it? This author obviously hasn't met the voles in my garden plot!! But the story and realistic illustrations nicely set the stage for a pumpkin hunt in the garden. Finished up with "Five Little Pumpkins" finger play. 

No story time would be complete without a visit to the chickens who were eager to try the oatmeal Children's Garden coordinator Dawn had provided. A new treat, plus they already had a pen full of greens. Then we became pumpkin hunters. Not so many in the garden this unusually cool summer. But eventually we found a few in a plot. How many? Count them. Wow! FIVE little pumpkins, like the ones in the finger play, so we recited it again!! Then we found a big, dark orange, bumpy pumpkin in another plot. That was fun to touch. We also saw some little, round green ones, a big papery blossom, and scratchy leaves. Just like in the story. One little boy wanted to find a bee like the one on the blossom in the book. We looked and looked. But no bees were out. Probably because the sun wasn't out either. But we found a treasure trove of creepy, crawly critters under the straw bale: slugs, earthworms, centipedes, beetles, pill bugs, etc. In spite of the overcast, it was too bright for them and they quickly crawled away. From there, some kids headed to the worm bin, others picked--and ate!--green beans, while others just dug in the dirt. The moms talked and exchanged contact info, making plans to get together when story time is over. 

Next week: scarecrows, apples and more pumpkins. Fall has arrived.   

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Barnyard Tales on 9/12

After a two week absence from Barnyard Tales I returned to find a whole new audience. I'm guessing our regulars, mostly 3 and 4 year olds, are off to preschool this fall. The new catalog listing dropped the age range from 3-8 to 1-6, which has brought in a whole new and much younger crowd. The oldest of the ten children in attendance were two three-years-olds. The rest, younger--three 2's, four 1's, and a 10 month old whose mother said they just needed a place to go to get out of the house and meet other moms. I quickly adjusted the day's plan. Thank goodness I come loaded with a whole basket full of books, my autoharp, and Henrietta!

After the welcome song, Henrietta greeted the children and told them about her friend Hilda and begged me to read her story: Hilda Hen's Happy Birthday by Mary Wormell. Seems Henrietta's friend was delighted when she found lots of lovely gifts on her birthday--oats, apples, even a dust bath! But were those "gifts" really meant for Hilda? Hmmm, it seems not. In the end, however, her friends do surprise her with a lovely party on her special day and the rooster crows. His version of the "Happy Birthday" song, perhaps? We sang her our version--twice through. Even one-year-olds know and love that song. 

With a tractor scheduled to be available for children to explore at the upcoming open house and festivities at Luscher Farms this weekend, it seemed like the perfect day for the tractor books. At least one toddler agreed! There was a squeal of delight when I pulled out Tractors by Hal Rogers and he saw the photo of a big John Deere on it. We mostly just looked at the pictures. But the crowd was getting restless. Time for a song; "If You're Happy and You Know It." Guess they were; there was much happy clapping and stomping and shouting "Hurray!!"

That got some wiggles out so we were ready for Driving My Tractor by Jan Dobbins & David Sim. A rhyming text and colorful illustrations tell the story of a farmer's "very busy day" as he loads an increasing numbers of animals into the trailer hitched to his tractor and drives them down a bumpy country road. We got really good at the tractor noise, "Chug, chug, Clink, clank, toot!" I love how participatory these moms of toddlers are!! The increasingly heavy load and a bumpy road eventually sends those animals flying. What to do? Luckily they were waiting for the farmer in the barnyard when he arrived home. Whew!! 

It was time for another song and movement. Music is a lifesaver with this age group. Sitting still is not in a toddler's job description and it often felt like I was speaking to a colony of ants. Still, I wanted to share Dandelions, Stars in the Grass by Mia Posada 'cause I'd gone out and picked all those dandelions and fuzz balls for them. And, after all, aren't dandelions every small child's favorite flower? Had about half the crowd with me. They loved blowing on the fuzz ball. Now we could see all the little seeds--and the teeny, tiny bugs that were on it, the ones now running all over the paper plate. Nature is full of surprises! So we decided to move outside and discover more. 

No one had beat us to the chicken pen this morning so the hens weren't even out and about until they heard our voices. They gingerly stepped out of the hen house and then eagerly rushed to the fence for our treats of Swiss Chard and dandelions. The rooster just couldn't stop crowing. Saying, "Thank you," for taking such good care of his ladies, perhaps? Then it was off to the Children's Garden where we were crowing "thank you" for the new pile of soil, a gift from Luscher Farm Coordinator Karen Davis, in the digging corner. Oh, the treasures we found!! And, oh, how we love digging in the dirt. A handful of the older children went into the green house to see the large praying mantis who has taken up residence. Wow! What a handsome guy. We'd been told he was eating a spider earlier in the morning, but he was finished with "breakfast" by the time we arrived. 

One of the children commented on how windy it was yesterday. I've been waiting for a windy day to read some stories and poems about the wind, but, of course, hadn't brought them. Hopefully we'll have another windy fall day before Barnyard Tales is over for this season. Besides the wind, we'll check out pumpkins and sunflowers in our last two sessions as fall approaches and we put the garden to bed. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Barnyard Tales from the Farmhouse 8-22-12

The cooler morning air reminded us that fall is just around the corner. It was good to be back on the cozy carpet in the farmhouse for stories. 

Families drifted in slowly. Started with three, but ultimately we had 10 children and a baby. Good to have some of our regulars back from vacation. A baby who earlier in the summer was in a carrier now sits up by himself, squealing with delight to be part of the group. He's growing like a weed. Others who earlier in the summer had trouble sitting "criss-cross applesauce" have nearly mastered it. Yay!! That way everyone can see the pictures. 

Read Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee, a funny story about a horse who gives all the farm animals a ride on his back--faster and faster and faster! You can imagine what happened!! Henrietta showed off for the children with "Peter Piper" and begged me to read My Hen is Dancing by Karen Wallace again. She had an ulterior motive--teaching them the "Chicken Dance." And she did!! It was Oktoberfest right there in Mrs. Luscher's living room--beaks a peckin', wings a flappin', and tails a wigglin'! Aren't chickens silly when they dance?

After all that excitement, we had to settle down with a couple of stories about how animals sleep, even children. As they laid on the carpet I sang "Silly Lullaby" from Philadelphia Chickens..."♫ the chickens in the bathtub, ♫ the closet full of sheep, ♫ the sneakers in the freezer are all drifting off to sleep....." and finally, "♫ The owl is whispering, 'Moo.'" Moo? Really? Moo? They thought that was pretty funny.   

Before we headed out to feed the chickens and check on the garden, we did a "call and response" vegetable chant, Rah, Rah, Radishes!  by April Pulley Sayre. Maybe that's why they were so eager to taste my cherry tomatoes and gobble up the green beans they picked from the vines running up the tepee in the Children's Garden.  One little guy asked, "What happened to all the strawberries?" Time for a conversation about how plants produce crops seasonally. Strawberry season is over. But blackberry season is here. We'd sampled some blackberries (one little boy's favorite "vegetable") on the way to the garden. Yum!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Barnyard Tales August 15, 2012

Back in the classroom after a long time. Good session though we got a late start as the families trickled in over a 15 minute period. Eventually we had five little girls plus a 5-month-old baby brother.  

Owl day. Brought in a half-eaten beet from my garden, complete with vole teeth marks on it, for "show and tell." Talked about the vole problem at Luscher Farm and the recent release of four, young barn owls to try to help control the pests. Why barn owls? Their favorite food is voles!! Shared some books about barn owls. One of the books told us that a nesting pair with four or five owlets can easily eat 1,000 critters in a year. I'll bet there are that many and more at Luscher Farms!! Happy hunting, owls!!

After talking about voles and owls, we enjoyed a story for the two younger girls, I Can't Get My Turtle to Come Out. It might take a cookie to entice a kid out, but a lettuce leaf did the trick for the turtle!! 

Then it was time for silliness. Teeny Weeny Bop is a story about a foolish woman who keeps going back to market, trading in one pet after another--a pig, a cat, a hamster and finally a slug. She's certain that each new pet will be the perfect one, but, of course, they each wreck havoc on her garden and house in their own special way. 

We ended by singing about another foolish woman, the one who swallowed a fly!! And a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog........a horse!! Even our shy girl giggled over that one!

Shorter time outside today because of late start, but had a great time checking out a vole "housing development," an apple tree laden with red apples in Oregon Tilth's garden, and wondering over a variety of tomato that has shiny black fruit. Showed the girls how to make a "Spanish dancer" from a hollyhock blossom and bud, the kind of toy little farm girls might have played with in times past. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Barnyard Tales 8/1

What a fun-filled story time we had in the Luscher Farm's farmhouse this morning!! 

Started slowly with three little girls and a sleeping baby in grandma's arms, but then three more girls arrived. We even sang the welcome song, very softly, to the sleeping baby and declared it a "girls only" morning. We were wrong. Two boys arrived about halfway through story time to balance things out. Total of nine, ages ranging from maybe 10 months to 8-years-old. 

Henrietta Hen was in rare form this morning. She'd seen me dancing around the kitchen to the song "I Love You a Bushel and a Peck" from my Sing Along with Putumayo CD the other day. Asked if she could sing to the children to let them know how much she loves them. 

"Sure," I told her. "If you practice." She did. She also asked to recite the old tongue twister "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers"--her idea of a good poem.  She wowed the kids with both. They were amazed at how fast her beak whipped out those words!! She taught the kids the chorus of the song so they could "doodle, oodle, oodle" along with her. She has kind of a croaky voice, but she sings with heart!!

As she practiced I remembered an old bushel basket I have. Hmmm, how much is a peck, I wondered? Discovered that a peck is 8 quarts so I brought the bushel basket and 8 quart jars filled with foodstuffs so we could see just how much Henrietta loves them and how many pepper Peter Piper had to pick. The song also talks about lovin' you "a barrel and a heap." A barrel is three bushels. We don't know how much a heap is, but it must be a lot!! Now we know how farmers measure produce. And the size of Henrietta's heart!

We read a couple of stories about gardens and tractors and then it was time for more excitement. A mom had brought "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. " She sang the song and held the old lady who, one by one. gobbled up the animals the children held. I strummed the autoharp and watched in wonder as the old lady swallowed, verse after verse, a fly, a spider (that wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her and kept doing so 'til the end!!), a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat, a cow and a horse. She died, of course!! 

But were we done with the fun? Nope. Still had a June Bug beetle in a jar to check out. I found this amazing insect in my home garden and captured it to show the kids. We made the chickens happy with flowering broccoli and bolting lettuce, peeked at the hundreds of starts in the CSA's greenhouse, and finished up checking out what's new and fascinating in the Children's Garden. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Barnyard Tales 7-25-12

Story time in the farmhouse again. I had books and autoharp in place. 
Flowers gathered. Henrietta good to go. But no customers. At 10:05 a.m. I moved out to sit on the porch steps, pet the cat and talk to her about the vole problem in my plot, #62. Was just getting ready to pack up and go home when at 10:10 a.m. a car comes up the driveway past the farmhouse. It's a mom and her three girls, regulars who had been away. "No story time today?" Mom hollers out the open window.

"Not yet," I reply. "You're the first." Then another family over by the hen house appeared.

"Where is story time?" It's a grandmother with family from out of town. Not sure how long they had been there. Finally got going about
10:15 a.m. Eventually we had seven little girls; a very different energy from last week.

Henrietta just came out and chatted; no story from her this time. 
They love her. Then we read about a walk in a grandmother's garden and I brought out the flowers I'd picked. Most of the ones in the story grow at Luscher and it was fun to match them with the illustrations. My shyest customer even left mom's side to come smell them, a big step for her. We sang "Three Blue Pigeons" and then settled down for some poetry from an old children's literature anthology of mine from my childhood. No pictures; just the lovely language. The girls were very receptive. We read three about birds and three about cows. Among the featured poets were Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson and Emily Dickinson. We're getting a little culture here on the farm!!

Then off to feed the chickens some greens before heading to the Children's Garden to explore, stopping to check the ripeness of the blackberries on the way. And to rescue some poppy seed pods from a pile of vegetation headed for the compost pile. They make wonderful doll heads, complete with crowns.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Barnyard Tales 7-18-12

It was a quiet start this week; only three children plus one baby brother. But not for long. Families continued to arrive in a steady stream over the next ten minutes or so until the group numbered 11 or 12 children. 
Some regulars from earlier in the summer returned after being away for a few weeks, these kids were eager to reconnect again after being away--both with the stroyteller and each other. Lots of interruptions to tell me about band aids, owies, and trips to Idaho!!  Even a little kicking episode at one point, firmly nipped in the bud. Thank goodness for the "no shoes in the farm house" rule. 

Read One Bean, a story about a little boy planting a bean seed, and Ten Seeds, a story about the disasters that befell nine of the ten sunflower seeds another little boy planted. The previous week we came face to face with tons of honey bees in the Children's Garden so I shared Jam & Honey, the story of a little girl and a bee who fear each other, but learn they can share the same garden space. Sang "Rudy Luscher Had a Farm" w/animals, but I think the song has run its course. Finally, because children have twice this season reported seeing a dead bird on the farm, I felt we needed to talk about the natural life cycle of all living things. I brought a dead crane fly to show them and read Lifetimes, a beautiful book about how all living things have "beginnings and endings with living in between".  I questioned whether to try that book with this young and restless group, but they settled down and were very attentive as we read the story about all living things dying. One boy said, when I finished, "I stepped on a whole lot of bugs when we were camping and killed them!" That prompted lots of sharing. Maybe I've been underestimating them!! Bagged the story about a grandmother's flower garden with this restless crowd even though I'd gathered most of the flowers in the story. This group needed to move outside!

Henrietta Hen did tell the story of the Golden Worm as promised, but mid-story a little boy interrupted. "What are we going to do now?" he asked. I think that's a 4-year-old's way of saying, "You are boring me to death!!" I'm going to have to work with Henrietta about her story choices as well as her delivery.

We were a beehive of activity in the Children's Garden. Fairy house plants to water; treasures to be dug; creepy, crawly creatures to be discovered under the straw bale and a rotting log; mole hills to be explored; weeds to be dug and pulled; edible flowers to be picked for salad; checking our height compared to a sunflower, and so much more!! Some stayed a good hour or more and that little group found a wasps nest complete with wasps and larvae in a cold frame. Yikes! While we marveled at this nest from a safe distance, we're not eager to share garden space with these guys and suggest an end to their lifetime!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Barnyard Tales 7-11-12

During Barnyard Tales for this session we had a one-year-old who was faster than a speeding bullet and not easily distracted from his mission. His main focus was the  autoharp and even putting it back into the case and latching it didn't dissuade him; he had that case open in a flash!! Henrietta tried to distract him to no avail. Friends have asked, "Where was his mother?" Busy with two other children and that if she gotten very forceful with him we'd have had a major tantrum on our hands.  It was like a juggler with many plates in the air--tell a bit of story, grab the autoharp, tell a little bit of story, shut the lid, tell a bit of story, latch the latch, tell a bit of story, grab, shut, latch and hide the autoharp, etc!!

Henrietta had a great time--found the children very attentive except for the autoharp fiend!! She has made friends with a gorgeous peacock who lives with Karen and has invited him to come tell a story, too. He's spending the week with us right now so that I can see how it is he spreads his tail!! One mother was so excited about Henrietta, she offered to bring me her "Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" complete with all the farm animals she swallowed!! We're getting quite a barnyard full!! We do a lot of singing so that will be fun.

Lots of chicken time. Shared some interesting seed pods at the end of story time so several kids were on the look out for those. Garden filled with bees. Picked some flowers. Good, busy time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


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