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.