Maple Farm Field Trip

            As a kid growing up in western Massachusetts, tapped maple trees and maple farms seemed to be everywhere.  Visiting maple sugar houses, and learning about the process of making maple syrup and sugar, were some of my favorite school field trips. 

     Living a significant shift away from that area now, maple farms are not as common around here. But this was yet another field trip I really wanted to take our kiddos on.   We almost arranged one out where I grew up, but the timing of getting out there would have risked missing the end of the season this year.  So I found Matfield Maple Farm, less than an hour from us, and we went on a beautiful day! It almost felt wrong from the get-go, with no snow on the ground though!  And that was not the only change in the picturesque scenes I have carried in my fond memories of maple sugaring. But I was still excited for the kids to learn all about today’s process of maple sugaring farms.

My visual memories of the maple tapping season are very much like this:

     Metal pails on trees, catching the pure sap from the taps that were put into them. And always, as I recall, snow on the ground.   After all, one of the best parts of our class trips, was eating syrup on snow, inside the sugar house!  Maple tapping season is the few weeks of the tail of winter, and first weeks of spring, when the nights are still cold, but the days are warmer.  That’s when the sap starts flowing. But in western MA, near the Berkshires, we always got so much snow in the winter in those years, it simply had not all melted yet, come maple sugaring season.

MY have things changed.  Not only are winters not as true as they used to be throughout the season , but maple trees being tapped for  sap at many farms, now look like this:

     They are drilled and tapped much the same way, but tubes run connecting one tree to another, with all of the sap from all of the trees, running to one place.  I realize it’s more time efficient, and time is money after all. But I must say, I really miss the charm of good old fashioned pails on maple trees. 

     Watching and learning the whole process of how maple sap is collected, and boiled down into pure maple syrup, was still something I wanted my kids to see for themselves.  But I really hoped it would be just like how I learned about it, and I was looking forward to taking photos of the pails on the trees!  I did have an idea this farm used the more modern method, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But I was hoping. They did say they also tap with pails, but we didn’t happen to see any. 

     Still, we were very much enjoying our trip, and it sure was a beautiful day for one.  Saturday was when the touring was, so Daddy/Michael was able to come too. It was a family field trip!


      We had a chuckle at their cute sugar shack sign.  We’d recognize that shape anywhere!  Clever, recycling a basketball backboard into a sign! We  just love little family run businesses, and we always do all we can to support them, because we know all about having a little dream, and trying to make it work.


     The kids fed the llamas, while a small crowd of us waited for the tour guide. {JM} was gathering clovers on the ground to feed them too.

    Soon, the owner/tour guide, and his daughter led us out into the woods, as he started telling us about the maple farm.


     The first stop was this natural spring. Do you see how vibrantly green that grass is?  The guide told us that is there even through the winter snow, because of the spring there. Imagine how pretty that must be. BUT….no snow for us! ; )


     We were all offered to get a drink, and taste the fresh spring water. So I told one of my boys, who was going up first, that I wanted to get a photo of him getting some water. But all I got a bum shot!



     Thankfully I have other kids, and got another chance.


     We moved on, following each other on these wood-board paths. 

     A couple of times, we all had to duck under sap lines.  I personally thought of doing the limbo, but didn’t want to show off. ; )


     Next we stopped at the 450 gallon gathering tank, where all the lines run to.  Here, the guide told us about the easiest way to know what trees to tap.  They go out scouting trees in the warmer weather, and mark the maples, when the trees have leaves.  That is when they can quite obviously tell which trees are of the maple variety.  As opposed to the winter / early spring, when it’s harder to tell which are which.   See the jug down by his feet? In it was a little treat for us all.




He passed out little sampling cups, and poured us all some pure maple sap, straight out of the trees. If you have never seen or tried it, maple sap looks just like water, and tastes almost as refreshing, with just a hint of sweet.  Sap straight from the sugar maple tree is about 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, as well other nutrients, and minerals.  Maple syrup is derived by boiling it all down to the point where the process of evaporation leaves only about 33 percent of water and 67 percent sugar. 


     Do you know what this is? It’s called Skunk Cabbage. He broke off a piece for us to smell, but recommended we don’t let it touch our nose, whilst sniffing!  It’s named well. It stinks terribly! 


 A poison Oak tree, evidences by the poisonous vine plant climbing it.



     Back at the sugar shack, we all learned more about the process of boiling down the sap to the right consistency.  This is a wood burning boiler, bringing the sap to the boiling point of 212 degrees.  When it does boil, the steam rises up out of the sugar shack, and the syrup gets thicker and sweeter.



     To the right of this shot is the pre-heating waiting area.  As it is moved into the boiling area, and getting to increasing thickened consistencies, it is moved over to the next holding well. 


     We found it interesting that it takes 40 gallons of maple tree sap, to make one single gallon of maple syrup!


      Samples of the finished product were shared with us as well. The kids were sure to get their own little cup, and immediately began asking about plans to have pancakes for dinner.  Honestly, there is no comparison between pure maple syrup, and the ‘syrup’ for pancakes that they sell at the grocery store, which is actually made of corn syrup!


     Another favorite part of field trips is always the gift shop! Here, what they sold was right behind us right there in the sugar shack, on some shelves.  Of course they sold pure maple syrup in fancy bottles, and there was some maple sugar candy as well, which is made by bringing the boiling process even further, removing an even higher percentage of water, until the sugar starts to crystallize. (I think.)

    A quick funny story about maple sugar candy:  As a kid on maple sugar house field trips, I always spent my spending money on buying maple sugar candy for my father.Every time. And I’d be so excited to give it to him, because I was under the impression he really loved it.  Then about a year or so ago he and I were discussing maple sugar houses, and I found out he hates maple sugar candy!  He says it’s far too sweet for him. But it just goes to show you how happy he pretended to be, so as not to hurt my feelings as a kid. (Thanks, Dad. : ) 

     I didn’t buy him any candy this time.


     We thought these bird houses were cute too. 


      The kids had a great time, as you can tell by the smiles on their faces.


     On the way home, we stopped lakeside, and ate our nice picnic lunch with the swans.


     It was a wonderful day, and along with the memories, we brought home a bottle of pure maple syrup. Chosen not only for it’s contents, but of course for the fabulous bottle, with an embossed maple leaf in the glass!  I already have ideas of what I can do with it, for detail home decor come Autumn.  But before then, we have many pancakes and waffles to eat, drizzled with our pure maple syrup! 

      A planned meal for that night was quickly kicked to the curb, and we satisfyingly filled ourselves with blueberry pancakes. It was the kid’s first maple sugar house trip, but it won’t be their last! We will be getting to a maple sugar farm in the next couple of years, that still does things the good old fashioned way! But this place was still worth the trip, and no doubt the memories and lessons will be as sticky as the syrup on their plates.

     I know not everyone lives in the right climate, but have you all been to a maple sugar shack lately? Did they use the old or new method, and what your thoughts on the two? We’d enjoy it if you shared.



Our School Year 2011-2012, Kicks Off!

Well, forgive me for the delay with any updates about our new school year we’re in the midst of here!  Once we kicked it off at the beginning of September, we’ve been very occupied finding our groove, with our new schedules.  Things are quite different for us this year! With the kid’s respective ages and levels, life has opened up new and exciting opportunities, of experiences and learning, for all of them.  Not to mention new territories for us parents!  We have a high schooler now, for example, and with it comes all kinds of things.  But the younger ones are also following their passions and gifts, more so than ever.

Some of you may know this, but for those of you who do not, we are year round home schoolers.  We keep a lighter (academic) schedule in the summer, and begin a whole new school year/grade levels, in September.  It’s always a very, very exciting time, as we love to plan out and begin a new school year!  We’re really blessed that our kids are enthusiastic students, who love school and learning.  This coming school year, was filled with more anticipation than ever, and it’s been as CrAzY and exciting of a ride, as we expected.

I always take the kid’s new school photos on the first day of school.  This year, it was almost a week later, but we got it done.  We have also ‘always’ taken their portraits in the school room, at the side of the cabinets.  But if you follow our blog, you may be aware that we drastically changed our school room set-up, and those cabinets are gone!  You can see the  old and new set up of our school room, as well as the style of school photos we were taking in all previous years, in this recent post.

So this year, I did all of the kid’s school photos outside.  These photos will be in the sidebar quite soon, so that new comers can see the kiddos who make up our home schooling world.  In this post, we wanted to share with you a little about their (book) subjects they are studying this year, as well as some other little interesting tidbits of information.  In coming posts, we’ll be sharing a lot more, including activities/learning experiences outside of their academics, some deeper thoughts and observations I have had as a home schooling parent, and lots of other fun and interesting home schooling related posts. We hope you’ll join us for it all, with discussion and sharing of your own!


This is our oldest daughter/student, Alexis (14). Also known as {A} around the blog here.   She has been home schooled (not necessarily at home…right? lol),  since 3rd grade, and just started 9th grade this year. We can’t believe we have a high schooler now!  That means I worked hard over the summer, researching, and piecing together a serious 4 year college prep plan for her. And maybe panicking, just a little. The girl scares me, and excites me, and makes us all proud, all at the same time!  She has huge aspirations, and her heart set on really big name colleges.  We cannot let her down, and we believe in her, because she is so unique in her focus of her life at her age.   She is so faith-filled, determined, intelligent, tough, independent, and firm on the path she is laying out for herself.  What fascinates me, is it’s all a far cry from anything her father or I ever dreamed for ourselves, or were interested in.  But that’s why each one of us has our own calling, and why it’s important as home schooling parents, to help shape our children’s character, and foster the calling they feel God has put in their heart, as the work He has meant for them to do, in their life.   It’s all about guiding and supporting them, to be the people they are meant to be.

Throughout this past summer, Alexis taught the 4th Grade Religious Education at our parish (2 weeks), and ran the games activity for the kids of Vacation Bible School (1 week.)  She also earned herself a Catholic High School scholarship, that has covered all of the expenses of her academic and extra-curricular school year. We’re proud of her, and grateful as well!

This school year, as a high school Freshman, Alexis’ courses are:  Language Arts (Alpha Omega /LifePac),  Algebra (Math-U-See), Biology (Apologia), History/Social Studies (Streams of Civilization-Volume 2 Cultures in Conflict Since the Reformation), Latin (Latina Christiana), Spanish (All Bilingual) , Art and Music (Piano – private lessons, and the Recorder – all kids at home.).

Alexis is also playing sports now, for our town’s public South High School! She is really involved there. That is a whole other exciting post. I could easily ramble, so I’ll save it, but suffice it to say it’s been really wonderful for her so far, and exciting for us.  It is extremely time-consuming on a daily weekday basis.  But I’d say we best get used to it and keep making it work.

In the light of sharing all of their subjects in this post, I feel it’s important to mention, that we live our personal faith, which is Roman Catholic. So it’s not a subject the kids study for school, but more something we are always teaching them, and they are always living and learning it as they grow. Just as we still are as adults, actually. That said, they do begin each day all together, with a Scripture, discussion, and prayer.  As a tool, we still really love Living Faith-Kids!!

JackMichael(9), the first-born of the triplets.  Also known as {JM} around here.  He and the other 2 have the same academic subjects of course, being in the same grade level and age.   As I said, I’ll be posting more about what they love to do outside of their academic studies, and I’m excited to do so, because they are all so unique, with their interests and personalities. And yet, the differences from within their unique selves, meld together so well with each other.  It’s fascinating to me, to observe, frankly.  But anyway, for today, here are the subjects all 3 of them have this year:

Language Arts (Alpha Omega / LifePac),  Math (Delta / Math-U-See),  Science (Exploring Creation with Astronomy-Apologia), History/Social Studies (Christian Liberty Press / Our Nation Under God, and, History Stories for Children), Writing Strands, Spanish (All Bilingual), Latin (Prima Latina), Art and Music ( Recorder – all kids at home).


Olivia Faith (9), the second triplet born. {O}, which we tend to call her 1/2 the time, ourselves. The boys especially, refer to her as “O”, a lot. And you know what she calls them, when she’s talking to the both of them? “Boys”. It always cracks me up, because there is such a motherly air about the way she says it. So….our own little baby boom is “O and the Boys”, I guess. It has a cool little ring to it, now that I think about it. : )   Oh, speaking of their names, and {name initials in brackets}, I know we’ve been a little all over the place with it.  The thing is, using initials for any sake of privacy or protection, is pretty irrelevant by now, considering they’ve been on TV a few times now, (related to our Catholic faith) as well as the newspaper, for different things. All times with full names.  On the flip side, I have found myself continuing to use their initials in brackets sometimes, for the sake of brevity.  As you can see, my posts tend to be perhaps a little lengthy, so I need to use all the brevity tricks I can.  : )   The kids are all well aware, lots of people know who we are by name, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. (Especially around our town, and the people we meet and run into in person.)

Shane Jacob (9), the last born of the trio.

(Reaching for ‘brevity’ now………..).  Shoot. I forgot what I was going to say. Ummmm. Oh yeah.  You see that beautiful little school desk in the background?  That is Michael’s, from when he was a little boy!!  What a treasure, huh?  That sweet and sentimental little antique is going to be another blog post coming up, that I am planning, as well. There’s some story to tell, and some specific things that are part of the desk, that you will not believe!!  Michael’s antique school desk, is not the only one we have to show you, either. So if you’re interested, be on the look out for that post too!


I am glad I thought of doing a quick ‘class picture’ of sorts, while we were at it.  I sure love my class!!

Honestly, I’ve struggled a little with this Home Schooling section of the blog, right along. It’s a lifestyle to us for sure,  but one that is just so normal to us, I think…”What is there to blog about?”.  But I know there is LOTS.  Lately, my realization of that has really broadened, and in the process, I have realized why I am not as active in this section. Which is crazy, because I so passionately love home schooling my kids, and living this life I do with my family, that it hardly makes sense.  But I see now where it comes from, and I think I’ll be sharing those thoughts very soon too.

So stay tuned!!  This home schooling section should be picking up steam, real soon!   You should know, we love comments and hearing from all of you! But if you are a home schooling blogger as well, we especially encourage comments with your blog-linked names, so that we can visit your stories and shared, comment, and connect with you all as well. Our hope and goal is that we are all an inspiration and encouragement for each other, in raising and educating our children, as home schoolers or not. Home schooling happens to be the route we have happily taken, with a deep love and passion for it. So our posts will derive from that life we live, as a home schooling family.  But proving a great education, however any of us do, is the more common thread.  So thanks so much for stopping by, and please DO again!  God bless you all!

Gosh, I promise I’ll work harder on that brevity thing, too.



{Homeschooling}: The Metamorphosis of Butterflies – Photos, Our Experiment & Study

Hatching butterflies is probably a pretty standard experiment and  study for students, in both formal and home school educations alike.  It’s one that can be used as a Science participation lesson more than once in the course of ones education, because the benefits of the lesson are different for various ages.

For very young students, such as toddlers-K, it’s a really fun & exciting process to watch every day. At this age, they are full of both intelligent, and sometimes humorous, questions.  They are able to grasp the basic understanding of the stages.  Some little ones may rather non-nonchalantly accept the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly, simply as magic, in a way.

Older students comprehend the cycle and the information of the lesson at hand, on a bit of deeper level. Their more mature experiences of curiosity and intake of the study of nature and Creation, throughout their ages of years, has led them to a wiser perspective.  They are more fascinated than ever, by the works of God, and the magnitude of His power.  They may also more readily make observations, younger ones may not pick up on, such as happened in our family, that I’ll tell you about shortly, further into this post.

Our study was of the butterfly species, the Painted Lady.  We purchased what we needed at a lovely nearby place called The Butterfly Garden Boutique, in Bourne, MA.  The owner was very friendly, helpful and informative, and supplied us with live caterpillars in a container with their food, and a small net pavilion. (Larger pavilions are available as well.).

We had 5 live caterpillars, and it wasn’t a day or 2 after getting them home, did a couple begin to make their way to the top of the container. Inside the lid of the container provided, is a fabric like piece of material, for the caterpillars to attach themselves to for their transformation process.  We learned they do this, by dispensing a thread from a hole beneath their mouths.


By the following day, the rest followed.


Once each of the 5 were hanging, the transformation begins rapidly.  They first shed their skin, revealing a the green casing that is their chrysalis.


Once we had 5 chrysalises attached to the material, we carefully took off the lid of the container, and pinned the material to the inside of our pavilion near the bottom, as instructed.


Here is a closer look.  It was evident which chrysalises attached first, and which were more recently formed.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn, that the inside of the chrysalises in this pupa stage, the caterpillar is turning into a complete liquid form, before forming into a butterfly.  In this photo, you can see the the patterns of butterflies, through the somewhat transparent casing.


As a reference of sizes, this is our small tent-like pavilion, and you obviously can see the chrysalises pinned to the back bottom.  The door is only unzipped and open for the sake of this photo.  Throughout the entire study, the pavilion resided here on the shelving table-top, between our school room and kitchen.  The kids were allowed to look anytime, but not touch the tent, as to not disturb the chrysalises.  Of course, I carefully did open the door now and then, to take photos.

Some mornings later, there was all kinds of excitement in the house…..

Michael got up (very) early for his morning church job, and discovered a butterfly had emerged sometime during the night!  He woke the little ones up to show them, and soon they were running through the house to spread the word.  To {A} and Mama. Darn! We missed it.

Right above the butterfly, you can see the empty casing the butterfly emerged from.

Those who observe butterfly hatching for the first time, may be surprised to learn that the hatching process is somewhat of a messy business! The red staining you see, almost appears to be blood, but it is actually just the leftover liquid excreted from the formation of the butterfly, through the pupa stage. In other words, waste.

Just as mentioned before, it is even more noticeable now, which butterflies are likely to hatch next. Can you guess?  It would be the darkest one.


Our first hatched butterfly of the 5.

As unfortunate luck would have it, we unbelievably missed the actual emerging of every butterfly from it’s casing!  Seriously. The 2nd one came out while we were not aware, because we were busy doing a math lesson.  2 others emerged while we were sleeping, once again. And the 5th was while we were not home.  So you know what this means! We need to do this again!

At the beginning of this post, I was talking about the benefits and differences of children doing a butterfly metamorphosis study.  Our oldest, {A}, hatched butterflies twice, consecutively, when she was very little, and an only child. This time, being much older and wiser teenager, was a whole different experience for her, such as the following occurrence:

It was fairly late at night, and the little ones were in bed, when I was in the kitchen and peeked in at the butterflies, and spontaneously exclaimed, “Oh my!”.  {A}, who was in the kitchen too,  looked in and, without surprise or question, said “Oh yeah, they’ve been doing that like, every night.”  Then gave me some wide eyes and a giggle. Butterflies waste no time, to get mating, once they are emerged!  They only live 2-3 weeks, so they have little time to get pro-creatin’! ; )  Over the course of our study, there was many observations she had had, as the oldest, and more in-depth facts she was aware of. So it’s a continual learning process as the kids grow, and still the fascination of the whole cycle, never wears off. Not even for me!

We decided that the evening of {A}’s 14th birthday, was the perfect time to release our butterflies.  We had had a wonderful family day together, and the time had come, and seemed right.

Our gardens seemed to be the perfect place to let them go, as well.  We hoped perhaps they would stick around the garden beds for at least a few days, and do some pollination work for us!  But first, the kids took a few more minutes to just watch their Painted Ladies, and say goodbye.


Then they opened the door, to set them free.
One flew out right away!

The others needed some encouragement.


Finally, out flew another.  {A} was reaching in to lift one that was determined not to move…

….while out flew 2 more.

This one seemed quite as hesitant to leave us, just as we have been to let them go.

Soon, it fluttered off the kid’s hands, to a nearby garden flower.

We really enjoyed this study, and plan to return to The Butterfly Boutique again very soon, to spend some time in their Butterfly House, which is a screen house guests can enter, full of plants, flowers, a water fountain, and you guessed it…..lots of live butterflies! There’s also a Gift Shop, with beautiful butterfly-related jewelry, home decor, and more. And the Hungry Caterpillar Snack Bar! The boutique as a whole is a small but charming and fun place, for kids and adults alike. If you live nearby, or find yourself visiting Cape Cod, The Butterfly Boutique is very near both the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges. Visit their web site to get more information, and their exact location, which is so easy to get to.

As you probably know, butterfly kids can be ordered online as well, such as from here. There is also numerous resources to assist you and your children with educational information and activities.  I have gathered just a couple of links for you today.  For your younger ones, this web site has simple and minimal basic information about the life-cyle of the butterfly.  Here is a print-out as well, to just review, or use as a guide with what to expect, as you are hatching your own butterflies.  For your older children (middle school +),  this link offers more in-depth information about the life of butterflies.

It’s important to remember, that children who have fun learning, will enjoy it and seek to learn more.  Case in point, our children have continued to use the butterfly pavilion, with self-launched studies all on their own.  Following the release of our butterflies, the kids found a HUGE furry, nasty-looking cocoon in our woods, and were excited to see what would emerge! (I was rather scared.  I thought maybe a bear….or one of those seemingly evil hummingbird-moth-things.)  I will share photos of what came of THAT pupa, on our Facebook Page, very soon! So be sure you are following us! At this very moment as I type, that pavilion now holds 11 moths, and 1 large grasshopper, as the kids study them.

The learning never ends, at Our House Of Joyful Noise. Thanks for visiting with us for this post, and please feel welcome to share your own experiences, studies and observations, with butterflies, or any other insects!


A Baby Raccoon Study

Some of our most exciting lessons, often times turn out to be ones that were not part of my day’s lesson plan at all!  Like the countless opportunities of teachable moments  that pop up throughout every single day for us as parents/teachers, to utilize in educating and guiding our children down the right paths, we’ve had many days, where a lesson to study has sauntered right into our yard!  And it can be a darn cute lesson!!

Such was the case the other day, when we spotted this baby raccoon, right up on the hill, outside of our school room windows! (For the sake of reference in this post, we’ll assume the baby was a girl.)  She was enjoying the banana peels & strawberry tops we had thrown out there.


She was poking around and frolicking about up there on our hill, all afternoon, and gave us plenty of time to study here, research facts about baby & adult raccoon, and of course as always, abandon all self-control, and  take more photos than necessary. : )


The kids get so very excited, when we spot wildlife, whether it be here on the homestead, or out in a (small) worldly travels.   We all learn so much, gathering both fun, useful, and definitely good to know kind of facts!  So as we share with you all of the photos of this adorable masked critter, we’ll also share with you a lot of what we have learned, as our unexpected study unfolded.

Maybe you’ll learn a new thing or 2 about raccoons, that you didn’t know before! (We sure did. That would be more than 2 things though.)  We’ll see.

Well, every life starts with mating season. Right?  That would be winter, for raccoons.  January through the end of March.  Although we had some raccoons up in our tree one night around 9 pm, making ALL kinds of racket.  We could have sworn they were ‘busy’, if you know what I mean.  (HOLY LOUD!)  In fact, until we got further into researching, we joked that this baby was probably from once upon a night!


Baby raccoons are called ‘kits’.   They are born after 63 days of gestation, in the spring, and are born in litters of 4-5. They generally stay with their mother until the Fall, unless their has been some interference of the nest, or tragedies brought on by man or nature.


By studying the appearance and motor skills of raccoons at various young ages, we determined this kit to be somewhere between 8-10 weeks.   The mother was no where in sight throughout the day.  While I easily approached the baby to photograph her, I was keenly aware and cautious, of a mother raccoon coming out of nowhere to protect her young.  But I was brave (any risk is often small for a good photo!), and that never happened.


Raccoons grow to be about 12-35 pounds, and 12-28 inches long.   They are omnivores, which means they will eat most anything.  Both meat and vegetation.

It is not true, that raccoons like to wash their food before they eat it.

As we can surmise, by looking at these photos.


I know it is difficult to tell the scale of our little visiting kit here, but she was small enough that she could have sat in Michael’s big hand.

Another sign of how young she was, was her frequent fatigue.  She needed to rest a lot between activity.


She had just scrounged around our hill, and then sat upon our retaining wall here.  I could see her growing sleepy, as I sat nearby taking photos of her.  Her instinct was to keep an eye on me.   But her instinct was not stronger than her will to stay awake.   In a matter of seconds, she put her head down like this, and then…..


….tucked her head, and curled right into a ball, for a snooze!  The desire to nap, was much stronger than her fear of me, or will to protect herself!


How cute is she?  A little fuzzy ball.

After her kit-nap, she had a little more activity, and then curled up into a ball once again, in a patch of sandy dirt up on the hill.   By then, we were observing her through our school windows, when it began to rain on her!!  We felt so bad for her, but she kept sleeping on.  So Michael grabbed a box from our basement, cut out a door, tip-toed out there, and put it over her.


We carried on with our day, but soon noticed 2 things:  She had pulled down the flap of the box, to sleep on instead (smart little kit!), and then she was coming out for a little more exploring.


As much as we were tempted, and the kids were pleading their cases, it is not wise to keep raccoons as pets, for a variety of reasons.  They can be very dangerous, and keeping them in captivity would ultimately end up with a sad ending.

Adult raccoons have few natural enemies.  I think we as humans, dislike them more than other creatures, for their mere clever interference with our camping activities, and trash disposal efforts.  They are indeed curious, and clever.  Their front paws and back legs all have 5 toes each, and they are as skilled as human fingers. Raccoon have been witnessed to unlacing shoes, opening purses, and undoing zippers!  They are both great climbers, and swimmers. They are members of the ‘carnivora’, such as dogs & cats, but are also related to the panda bear.

One of the most distinguishing features of the raccoon, is it’s black mask. The purpose of their mask, is to reduce glare, and enhance their night vision.  As many of us have grown to understand through our own observations and experiences with raccoons, they mostly sleep during the day, and are most active, searching for the food, from dusk through the night.


Our kit, who we had fallen a bit attached to, despite our best resistance (ok….the kids did not try real hard…), did not end up staying with us for life, as we had entertained notions of in our minds.  She seemed to like her box, but it didn’t turn out to be ‘all that’ after all.   She was in there for a good part of the evening and early dark, but later that night, she went missing. (As she had the freedom to do!).  My own mother instincts kicked in.  I had fleeting thoughts of going to search for her with a flashlight, and bring her home to safety. “She is still so small and helpless, ” I worried, “and prey for larger animals right now.”  But I knew…such is nature. And anyway…I was tired and wanted to go to sleep!

Michael was the first one up the next morning, at 6:30 a.m.  Kit was back by then, and he had the pleasure of watching her climb the tree stump, and roll around in the morning-dew grass out there, as cute as she is, while he ate his breakfast.  But awhile later when the rest of us woke, she was gone again.


Our best guesstimate, as to why she was around with no mother in the first place, is that her mother was in fact close-by, sleeping in a tree, and kit wandered off to play.  And nap, as needed.  We have faith that she was not abandoned, as she appeared well cared for and fed.  She was just practicing her independence, but will not truly be ready to be on her own, until fall.

We amuse ourselves with how hopeful we are though.  The box is still out there.  None of us have grabbed it and broken it down.  I suppose we all carry the hope, that she may sleep away at nap time once again, and come to play and amuse us.   If only for a lovely afternoon, once again.



You had to know THAT was coming.  ; )

So did you learn anything new about raccoons yourself?  Do you have anything to teach us about them, that we may have missed?  What opinion have you formed of raccoons, based on your own experiences?  Are they a nuisance? Amusing? Clever? Cute? Please share your thoughts, experiences or facts, with us in the comments.

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Food For Thought; Literally! (Get Those Kids of Yours in the Kitchen!)

I’m sure I’ve been forthright about this before, as much as it makes me feel a little bad to say out loud.  (Figuratively speaking.)  But there always moments in time when these things come up, and there is some purpose in being truthful in the matter. Right?

Well, this is one of those times.

So the truth is, <whisper> my mother was just not very domestic in the kitchen. Nor was her mother. <end of whisper> Which says something not good.  Doesn’t it?

I’ll answer that.  Yes it does.

It says that the chances of me being one, was slim to none.

Unless of course, I broke the cycle, and took responsibility for myself.  Made different choices. And God-willing, began a new cycle for my children, and grandchildren, to carry on.

(I’m not really that smart.  I read something like that in a book once.)

I have to say, I did know plenty about cleaning, weeding gardens, and working hard coming into this holy- sacrament-of-marriage-thing.. I worked for a little old lady from the time I was 11 years old until I was14, every Saturday.  I cleaned her house top to bottom, kept up her garden beds, weeded her stone patio, changed the sheets the beds, etc.  I learned a lot from her.  Some things, she was very particular about how it was done….such as the fine techniques of folding sheets, or making a bed.  It’s funny that I insist on these same techniques in my own home now. lol   She was a nice old lady, made me a fine lunch which we enjoyed together, and later had an afternoon tea as well.  And then she paid me too! Well, I might add. For a kid. Of course, I was also risking my life twice a day, every Saturday, as this 80 year old woman who peered through the hole of her steering wheel, picked me and and brought me home.   I’ll never forget that time we were heading for the side of the bridge…..

But admittedly, I was slow coming around as a new bride-to-be, in the cooking and baking area.  I think becoming a mother sort of kicked me into domestic-gear. Somewhat. Until then, my husband and I did o.k., together. He did have more of a domestic mother, all the way around.  From what I could tell anyway.  So he had watched, learned, and praise God, was not helpless himself when we married.

Yes, this has everything to do with homeschooling, so bare with me here.

I don’t know if they even have Home Economics in school anymore.  Do they?  But I heard they did, back when I was in school.  Problem is, I went to a private Catholic high school, where the guidance counselor, was also the Geometry teacher sometimes, and the principal was sometimes the Religion teacher (that was a bad run.). The gym teacher helped in areas he should have never been helping, with the senior girls. (But I won’t go there today.)  In other words, we were just a small school, without any extras.  We didn’t even have a football team. Or a field of any sporty-kind.

My mom was a wonderful mother in many ways, though.  But seeing as though I was not learning much in the kitchen at home, it would have been nice to learn about it somewhere.  In retrospect, I mean. (Because I am quite sure I could have cared less at the time.)   And so seeing as though my kids are not in school, and won’t be come high school either I can only presume, where they may have or may have not gotten Home Ec classes, it is up to me to be sure they get some!!  Other-wise, they could end up as a floundering bride or groom some day.  And if they marry the same, there is going to be a big problem.  Travesty. Know what I’m saying?

So I need to be sure, my kids get a domestic bone from me, some way, some how, some day.   Hopefully before they are married, or are out on their own.

And it was that mindset that I was in, when I got my kids (happily) helping out in the kitchen, since they were about ohhhh….so tall. (Use your imagination.  It’s pretty short.)

But it was in having them help, that I realized just how much schooling can happen in the kitchen!  And the more we do it, the more I see the lessons happening.

It’s a whole lot more than Home Economics!

Let’s see…….

First, there is READING…..the directions.  I have them do it out loud. It’s such an opportunity for new kitchen-related VOCABULARY words, SPELLING words, and PROPER PRONUNCIATION.

On this particular day in the kitchen, we were making an ordinary box of  cinnamon streusel cake, and making the apple version.

Then, comes FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS, of what was just read, very carefully.

MATH is a biggie!  (age depending.)  There is counting, adding and subtracting, and measuring. (Especially when halving or doubling a recipe.)  Reading numbers, and temperatures!

SCIENCE is everywhere, in the operating kitchen.  How does one ingredient react, when another is added to it?  Why must we temper some ingredients first, before adding to the big batch.  (There’s another new word!  So what does it mean, and how do we do it?)

What happens with various temperatures set in the oven, and what is the difference between baking, and broiling?

Enjoying our time spent together counts for something too! For some, it truly is a learned behavior!

(Not for my kids, of course.  I’m just sayin’ ; )

How about the ins and outs of KITCHEN SAFETY?   We are using sharp knives, reaching into hot ovens….

…..and operating heavy machinery!

(After you read this post, you may want to find out how this sweet piece of machinery hummed it’s way into our lives, and MiXeD everything up, HERE. ; )

Uhh, by the way…….Where’s the fire extinguisher, just in case?  And how do you use that?

We don’t want to learn that Science, in an emergency. You want to know how to use that thing if you need to!  And if all else fails,< insert the family fire drill skills here>, and we’ll meet at the telephone pole across the street!

Back to the lessons at hand…

Learning how to WORK AS A TEAM, and also ……..

…….admitting when you need help, and allowing others to help you.

All of these lessons I mentioned, are just the topping of the cake.

I am sure you could think of plenty more, in addition to mine.

Think on it.

OH OH OH!! I just thought of another one!!  The one I think we all like to forget!:

The RESPONSIBILITY of cleaning up the mess!

But most times, we can do so, while we enjoy the mouth-watering smell we’ve created in the air.

Ahhhhhh……smells…..SO…….good!!!   We can hardly wait to cut into it, indeed!

Of course the best lesson of all:, our mouths and our bellies, REAP THE REWARDS OF our HARD WORK.


All kids, home schooled or not, can benefit from the lessons to be learned in the kitchen.

What lessons have I missed mentioning?  Help me out here.

I’ll be hoping you can you add to my list, because I know there is a lot more.  And you’re smart cookies.

While I wait, if you’ll excuse me, I need to head down to the laundry room, transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer, sort some piles, and start a new wash load.

And you can bet I’ll be taking a kiddo down with me.  And believe it or not, they’ll be excited to come and help! (And secretly learn.)

Hopefully, I’m cutting my chances here of them coming home on weekends from college, accompanied by several loads of laundry.  If they do, we’ll be repeating those lessons, that weekend.  ; )