Artwork Feed

Everyday Nature: Maple Sugaring

Despite the impending snow, it certainly felt like March today ... gray, drizzly, and mild. LeavessquareIt's been nice to have the windows cracked open, for the breeze is kinder than it was a month ago. The woods are damp with snowmelt and lively with birdsong. Newly sprung from its frosty pen, the earth smells - well - earthy. However removed we are from nature in our everyday life, we know in our bones, spring is near.

Here in New England, March means maple sugaring time. We don't have any sugar maples on our property, but if the storm clears out in time, we are planning to attend a local sugaring demonstration this weekend! I can hardly wait - I cannot believe I have lived practically my entire life in New England and I have never been to a sugaring demonstration. I thought the experience would make a nice entry in our nature notebooks.

So today we kicked off our maple study on a rather (sugar) high note. While I prepared delicous maple cupcakes, we played the Maple Leaf Ragg and we talked about trees in general, in light of their role as a natural resource.

We began with a quick brainstorm: How do trees help us?

  • lumber
  • firewood
  • paper
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • shelter (for animals)
  • oxygen
  • shade
  • maple syrup!

Here are the cupcakes on our "display" table, as well as a few books for the week. (I also made note that the table is made of maple!) On the far left is a page from An American Celebration: The Art of Charles Wysocki; it shows an old-fashioned maple sugaring scene. In fact, you can see it in the Amazon "look inside." (Grandma Moses, Tasha Tudor and Eastman Johnson also have done sugaring scenes.)


Here's a cupcake a bit closer up; I held it near the window so you could see it better. :)


And here's the page from my March 2006 journal where I saved this recipe from Country Living last year. This shows how the cupcakes are supposed to look. Mine are not as smooth or pretty, but if I may so, they tasted awfully good. ;)


We'll see what else develops after our "field trip" this weekend. We'll take lots of pictures of course - though I think it will be too cold and slushy to do much sketching while we're there. I wish we had a sugar maple we could visit year round as is suggested in the Handbook of Nature Study. It is the perfect time of year to "adopt" a tree - and watch it grow through the seasons.

If you're interested in learning more about maple sugaring, you might check out any of the titles I have listed in my Early Spring Basket on the righthand sidebar. (Still to add: The Big Tree and Ox-Cart Man). The Handbook has a wonderful Maple Sugaring chapter, and Project Seasons has many interesting activities (including maple math!). There is also an incredibly complete unit study I found online here.

And, if you are intrested in making the maple cupcakes, the link for the recipe is here.

Very yummy! :)

A Lotta Quiet = A Little Trouble

It had been far too quiet for far too long (in this house that means approximately five minutes), so I went to peek in on Earlybird. He's generally not a quiet child - though speech-delayed, he is quite verbal. You always know where he is and what he's up to. I thought he was playing quietly in his room, and I was half-right. This is what I found:


(He's not in this particular picture because he immediately ran to the other side of the room as if he had nothing to do with this! And yes, I walked down there camera-in-hand. I just had a feeling.)

Sure enough, he was painting - and all by his little 4-going-on-5 self did he set this activity up. As you know, EB does a lot of painting, only it is done at the kitchen counter, and it is not only set up, but overseen by, his mama!

Well, for some reason, EB decided to forgo the usual "asking first" route, and took matters into his own hands. I have to give him credit, though, as he was very thorough and neat about it!

He got a container of acrylic craft paint from my bedroom (don't we all keep craft paints in our bedrooms, lol?) and not only opened it himself but found a glass ball jar and poured the contents into the jar - not the whole container, mind you, just enough. Such restraint! He found a paintbrush and a piece of paper, cleared off a spot to work on ... (that would be his toy cubby in his bedroom - where we decidedly do not paint!) and set to work.



You see him here painting again because I didn't have the heart to take it all away, and, of course, I wanted to capture some action shots. ;)

The amazing thing is, he only spilled a tiny bit of paint on my bedroom desk when he made the transfer! Except for needing his hands washed, the whole (unsupervised) project came off rather smoothly!

So what we have here (completely disregarding the lack-of-permission issue for the moment) is really good independent initiative and awesome fine motor skills too! There was a reason he was quiet of course - he probably wasn't too sure his mama would have said yes to an impromptu paint session. I just might have, but he wasn't taking any chances - so he took matters into his own (industrious, able, adorable) hands!

In other Earlybird news, his language is progressing beautifully! His speech therapist is thrilled with his progress and said he is able to do so much more than he was able to only a month ago. For example, today he said apple as clear as a bell! (Before it was buppa or something like that.) He pulled an apple off the Chirstmas tree (separate issue), held it out to me and said:

"Wook, a apple!"

And I said, "EB! Did you say apple?" And he said:

"NO, a biiiigggg apple!"

I was even further thrilled when he pulled a smaller apple off the tree, brought it over to me, and said,

"Wook! A mall (small) apple!"

Amazing! At that moment Bookworm walked into the living room, so I promptly told him what had just transpired and he said:

"Oh yeah, I taught him that. We looked at the tree for a while yesterday and I talked with him about the apples."

Oh, I love it. I love it on so many levels.

And one more thing ~ he can say red now! (It used to be "ehd.")

Oh, how much joy this brings me! How I love this little boy who will be 5 in just over a week. (Can that possibly be?) Thanks for letting me "brag" a bit over my little guy's accomplishments. We are so blessed by this child and this journey, I just had to share!

Early Art in the Early Morning

(Programming note: I was going to post about my homekeeping notebook today, but I have to wait for the camera batteries to recharge before I can finish it up! In the meantime, here is my Earlybird hard at work at what he loves best - art!)

Earlybird, as you know, looooves to do art. In any form really, but to his 4 year old mind, the messier the better. :) Still, when it's only 6 a.m. and he's following his Mama around asking, "I peent, Mama?" and his Mama's just trying to finish her coffee, this simple project does suffice. Thankfully EB finds much satisfaction in painting a cardboard box with nothing more exciting than tap water.



Of course, the water medium hardly matches the excitement that glitter glue brings to the table. ..

Later that morning, EB came walking out of my bedroom with what I thought had been cleverly hidden Crayola glitter glue pens. Technically, EB should use only natural art supplies (due to his chemical sensitivies), but what else can you do when your little guy holds out such a treasure as glitter glue pens and says with the utmost sincerity (and big blue eyes), "Meeeeeeeeeese?" (EB for Please).

Well, of course, you break all the rules and let him paint with the glitter glue.



Only minutes out of bed, Crackerjack joined us, too. Who, after all, can resist glitter glue?

Much in the way the crinkle of a candy wrapper brings children running from all ends of the house, so too does the unmistakable plop of a dollop of gooey sparkly glue.


Earlybird's picture we called "Christmas lights." Crackerjack pronounced his "A Forest of Rainbow Marshmallow Mountains."

Love it.

And now I have glitter on my 3 day old computer's keypad. (Shhh ... don't tell Daddy!) But, that's all right. It was bound to happen before too long. I'd say it is officially "Mama's PC" now. :)

Speaking of Art ...

We don't have to look too far to see where Earlybird gets his artistic nature. My mother is a wonderful artist - and we have many examples of her beautiful work in our home. I'd like to share a few here:







By the way, that lighthouse is painted on Earlybird's bedroom door - a gift from his Nana before he was born. :) As you might guess, we're awfully proud of my mum - and for so many things - but her art is truly a work of love she shares with us gladly!