Thursday, April 25, 2013

Barnyard Bulletin - Earthworms Live Dangerously! April 24, 2013

When I chose the subject of earthworms for this week's Barnyard Tales, I didn't anticipate that the real wigglers would be the ones on the carpet in front of me! A big crowd--18 children, several who were only two-years-old--made for lots of restlessness. That age group has short attention spans. It was a morning for more movement and singing, less stories and talking. 

We began our day with All In A Day by Cynthia Rylant with Nikki McClure's gorgeous cut-paper illustrations. The little boy in the story enjoys many of the same activities we engage in at Luscher Farm following story time: feeding the chickens, making wishes with dandelions, exploring the wonders of the earth, lying in the grass looking up into the sky, digging in the dirt and, sometimes,  even dodging raindrops. But not today. We welcomed our gorgeous, sunny, special spring day by singing "Morning has come, night is away, rise with the sun, and welcome the day."  

With the day properly greeted, we began learning more about worms from Yucky Worms, by Vivian French, a  book in our own Children's Garden collection. Grandma insists that worms are not yucky, but really our friends. We got well-acquainted with their anatomy, with their eating--and pooping--habits, and how they help plants grow by loosening the soil so roots can go way down. We learned how worms move by using their muscles. We have muscles, too, so we used them to wiggle about on the carpet like worms to the song "The Thousand Legged Worm." Actually, those "thousand-legged worms" are really centipedes. One boy wanted to be sure we looked for one in the garden. I promised.

All that worm talk woke Henrietta up and she asked to tell the kids the story of her foolish friend and the Golden Worm. I said, "O.K., but only if you change the ending." Henrietta agreed that her friend would rather gobble up the Golden Worm at the end. After all, we'd just learned that a worm's life is dangerous. Birds like to eat them. And worms are one of Henrietta's favorite snack foods!! Now doesn't that sound yucky? !!

I had more stories in mind, but the kids were finished. As one little girl said, "Kids need to play." 

The chickens loved the oatmeal, chard leaves and broccoli flowers we dropped off on our way to the Children's Garden. But we didn't linger. We had other friends to feed. The worms in the Children's Garden worm bin. We fed them banana peels, an apple core, tops of strawberries, fruit and vegetable peelings, purple cabbage leaves, asparagus stems and egg shells. A yummy treat topped with shredded newspaper. I'd brought in some worms and castings from my worm bin at home and we discovered tons of baby worms, little, tiny threads probably just hatched, as well and some nice, big juicy worms to hold and touch and examine. 

On this beautiful day, children dug for treasures in the dirt, ran in the tall grass (that is until we realized we were disturbing the wetlands environment), had their pictures taken "driving" the tractor. And I kept my promise and found a centipede under the bale of straw along with worms, slugs, pill bugs, and beetles. The centipede didn't like the light and quickly ran away to hide. But we saw him for a few seconds.

Our first book of the day told us, "Live it well, make it count, fill it up with you. The day's all yours, it's waiting now....see what you can do." And we did!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Barnyard Tales- Luscher Farm 4-17-13

What a gorgeous, sunny day to gather for stories and songs on the cushiony carpet in the Luscher farm house. And a full house it was with 15 preschoolers, their moms and grandmas!! What fun to see some of the regulars from last summer and fall. My, how they have grown!! Sort of like the weeds in your garden in spring when you turn your back!! 

The rooster was crowing loudly as the children arrived so we began with When the Rooster Crowed  by Patricia Lillie. A favorite from last season, we call the farmer and his wife in the story Rudy and Esther Luscher. Poor Rudy is really sleepy and doesn't want to get out of bed to feed the animals. The animals complain, the rooster crows and Mrs. Luscher scolds until finally Rudy gets the message. He hops out of bed, feeds the animals and is rewarded with a big stack of pancakes for breakfast. Guess who else was sleepy this morning and couldn't get herself out of bed in time for Barnyard Tales? That hen, Henrietta!! Maybe I can bribe her with pancakes next week! Or maybe she needs a rooster????

With Earth Day just around the corner--April 22--and Luscher Farms bursting with new life--this seemed the perfect day to celebrate our big life-giving home with the poem "Earth Day"  by Jane Yolen from The Three Bears Holiday Rhyme Book. "I am the Earth and the Earth is me," it begins and ends. Another poem, Our Big Home, An Earth Poem by Linda Glaser, beautifully illustrated by Elisa Kleven, reminds us that the air, the water, the soil, and other elements that affect and sustain all of us--people, plants and animals--are shared by all who live on Earth. A beautiful poem. But by then we needed to move a bit so we sang "We're All A Family Under One Sky" from the Ruth Pelham CD by the same title. 

How can we take good care of our Earth home? We learned one way from a delightful book, Compost! by Linda Glaser. It was fun to learn how one little girl's family turns garbage (even the lima beans her mom wishes she'd eat and her moldy Halloween pumpkin!!) into compost that grows beautiful flowers and vegetables. It's called "recycling." 

With all that sunshine, the new tractor was calling. So we sang our tractor song and headed out to the Children's Garden after a quick stop to feed the hens some oatmeal. I don't know which was the more popular, the tractor or the new digging corner. Those diggers truly became one with the earth and no doubt carried some home with them on their hands and clothes!! I agree with Dawn's suggestion to expand the digging corner!! There were some "sharing" lessons going on at the tractor, but all in all, things went smoothly. What fun to pretend you are a farmer, pushing the peddles, steering the wheel, and working the fields!!  

As we checked out Oregon Tilth's apple trees, one of our younger ones from last season, a quiet, serious boy, said, "Remember that snake we saw?" I didn't really, but nodded. His mother insisted we'd never seen a snake. He kept quietly repeating his question. I kept nodding, thinking he'd soon forget it. As we entered the Children's Garden he pointed at the worm bin. Once again, he repeated, "Remember that snake we saw?" Suddenly a light bulb went on!! 

"In that black bin?" I asked. He nodded. Of course, the worms!! Tiny snake-like creatures!! We'd also seen worms at Tilth's compost bin last summer. We opened the worm bin and held the tiny "snakes." He was satisfied. I told him we call them "worms," but I know I will always see them now through his eyes--as little, tiny snakes!!

See you next week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Barnyard Tales April 10- Welcome Back Readers!

Sunny skies were predicted for Wednesday, April 10, the opening date for our spring session of Barnyard Tales. But in typical April-in-Oregon fashion, the weather can turn on a dime. By the night before, the forecast had changed and rain was headed our way, due to arrive about 10 a.m. that day. But Henrietta and I chose some good stories, tuned the autoharp, grabbed our raincoats and headed out to Luscher Farm. Running late, I rushed into a nursery on the way to buy some radish seeds, part of the day's fun. Laid the seeds on the counter to get my wallet out and looked up to see my seeds in the hands of the customer beside me. What? "Those are mine!" I said, like an indignant preschooler!! The clerk had to quickly intervene. Seems the other customer (another Lynn!) had also bought radish seeds, which she thought he'd forgotten to bag. What a comedy of errors. Lots of laughter ensued and we left good friends!!

I was delighted to have about eight preschoolers show up, a record number for an opening session on such a chilly, wet day. My count isn't too exact because there was lots of movement; late arrivals, early departures, wandering about the room, etc. The toys on the shelves in the classroom were a distraction for some. I finally incorporated them into our final song of the day, but Dawn and I agreed some changes to those shelves are in order. And we plan to move the story time into the comfy, cozy farm house living room in the future except on days when there is a conflict with a class. 

Spring was the theme for the day. After a spirited singing of our welcome song, with everyone calling out their names loud and strong, we began with Spring Song by Barbara Seuling, a story in which animals wake up, explore, help farmers loosen the earth, build nests and start families in the warmth of the season. Henrietta reminded us that it wasn't all that warm yet and led us in a song with stomping thunder, pitter-pattering rain, and wet feathers! Wiggles out, we settled in for Bluebirds Seven, a sweet story about a pair of bluebirds and the joys and challenges they faced raising five babies. It's beautifully illustrated with paintings by noted bird artist R. Bruce Horsfall. Now rare, Western Bluebirds were once common in the Willamette Valley and surrounding foothills and probably lived at or around Luscher Farm. (Out of print now, the Clackamas Co. library system has one copy and used copies are available on the internet.)

With the purchase of a tractor identical to the one Rudy Luscher owned, it seemed fitting to learn a song from the book Driving My Tractor by Jan Dobbins & David Sim. The children did a great job of singing the chorus, "Chug, chug, toot toot toot....." and bouncing along on a bumpy road (or their mom's laps)!! The book, complete with a CD of the song, is available at the Lake Oswego library. Then we read the old favorite The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. Being a gardener requires lots of careful tending and lots of waiting. The children each got a tiny packet of radish seeds to take home to plant and tend and watch and wait, just like the little boy in the story.

We braved the weather and headed out to the chickens. Smart girls, they were all in the hen house staying dry. But carrot tops and oatmeal brought them out in a hurry. Don't think they've had many visitors lately and, boy, were they excited to see us. And us, them!! A quick tour of the garden with Children's Garden coordinator Dawn gave the kids a chance to see what's in store this season. Things are really growing there. But no digging this morning. Too muddy. And no tractor play either. Too rainy. So back to the classroom for one last song and story, Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure. Summer? We wondered if it was even spring yet???? Maybe next week?