Children and Nature Home Gardens Parenting Uncategorized

Spring Activities for Young Kids at Home

IMG_1682I think it’s safe to assume parents are spending A LOT of time home with kids.  Luckily, spring is here. I’ve looked back at my old blog posts and realized that there are quite a few about indoor and outdoor spring activities for kids.  I’ve linked to them below.  Enjoy!

One extra note: the #1 activities my toddler and I do together are housework and yard work.  Here are a few articles with more information if you’re intrigued and want to read more (one, two, three).  Toddlers LOVE to feel purposeful and they also LOVE to imitate the adults in their life.  My toddler would much rather learn how to use the intriguing brush that sits beside the toilet than do painting or a complicated craft.  It is important to remember that things might not be done exactly how you would have done them, and they might take a LONG time.  We often take turns so I can eventually accomplish the task.  This is fine by me.  I’d personally rather take a long time working towards the accomplishment of putting away silverware or cleaning the toilet than move all the toy trucks and cars to a new home for the 957th time.

If you’re playing outside with kids, take a moment to read up on ticks, tick checks, and proper tick removal

Here are some of my favorite spring time traditions:


Look and listen for signs of spring: Jot down notes on a calendar or a piece of paper that you can save.  Keeping a “Signs of Spring” list heightens my sense of awareness when spending time outdoors.  I pay more attention to the little things that are happening around me as the world wakes up from hibernation.  Sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and feelings can all point to signs of spring.  Saved lists from past years allow you to notice changes from year to year.

Learn new bird songs: Every spring I am reinspired to learn more bird songs.  First, I review bird songs of species are common around the house.  There’s a list of mnemonics here and a huge directory of songs to listen to at “All About Birds.”  Then, when I go for walks down our back dirt roads or hikes in the forest, I listen carefully.  As I walk I try to translate what I hear: “Cherrio, cheery me, cheery me,” for example. When I arrive home, I try to identify one or two of the songs I remember (that was an American Robin).  Slowly but surely I identify more and more songs in the outdoor chorus on my own.


Play in the Mud: Yes, the extra laundry is worth it.  All sorts of learning, experimentation, engineering, and play can happen in the mud. Most days we’re still wearing our winter outdoor clothes up here in Vermont.  As temperatures rise, rain pants, rain boots, and rain coats will help keep indoor clothes clean and dry.  Hosing everyone off before coming inside can help keep that mud outside.


Start Seeds: Even if you don’t have a garden, starting seeds can be a fun spring activity.  All you need is a container with a hole poked in the bottom, potting soil, seeds of your choice, and some sort of dish or bowl for your container to sit in.  Grow lights or windows with strong southern sun will make for stronger seedlings that will do better if transplanted into your garden.  Plants like peas, lettuce, spinach, and herbs can be eaten as sprouts or “micro greens,” making this project rewarding in as little as 30 days!  If you do want to garden with kids, this post is full of really great tips.


Taste the first wild greens of the season: As spring progresses, keep an eye out for wild ramps, fiddleheads, young nettles, or other edible wild plants.  Foraging is most rewarding and delicious in the spring when plants are young, tender, and mild.  They also tend to grow before anything is ready from gardens, satiating our cravings for fresh green treats after a winter of soups, stews, and casseroles.  Read more about the plants I look for here and check out this recipe for Cream of Ramp and Nettle Soup.


Force spring branches: All you need to do is clip branches and put them in a vase filled with fresh water.  Change water regularly, as you would for cut flowers.  Blooming branches, like forsythia, are great for forcing.  At indoor temperatures, your branches’ buds will open into new leaves and flowers.  My family clips the bright red branches of dogwood in March for a beautiful table arrangement at Easter.

Some more easy kids activity ideas: Playdough, tissue paper flowers, have a tea party with fresh spring herbs, and try cloud spotting.

Happy Spring!


*Please excuse funky formatting of older posts.  I recently changed the format of the blog to make it more mobile friendly.

Musings Uncategorized

Our House Named “Greenest Building!”

house 2

More good news from the home front: our house won 2016’s “Vermont’s Greenest Residential Building” award from Vermont Green Building Network!  Two years after moving in, we still feel incredibly lucky to call it our home.

Since I’m on the topic of the house, we have two other exciting updates.  Solar panels have been installed, and we’re moving forward with finishing the second floor!  Because we use so little energy, we’ll be sending the electricity produced up to Evan’s business to offset the electricity needed to run a busy screen printing shop.

We were so happy that Lynn at The Charlotte News captured our feelings so well in the story below.  Our main message: efficiency does not necessarily mean expensive!  Anyone building a new home should definitely prioritize efficiency for many long term savings – for the home, the family, and our planet.

Check out the article below, or click here to read it on The Charlotte News’ website:

house 1

Charlotte home dubbed greenest in the state

JUNE 2, 2017

Lynn Monty | Editor in Chief

A Charlotte home built by Ken Ruddy of Fiddlehead Construction for Tai Dinnan and Evan Webster has won 2016’s “Vermont’s Greenest Residential Building” award from Vermont Green Building Network. The only house to measure more efficient in the history of this annual award was another Charlotte house, designed and owned by David Pill and Hillary Maharam.

Rather than buy an existing house Dinnan and Webster decided to create a modest, energy-efficient home using current technology and techniques. “We hope this attention brought by this award will help others realize that efficiency can be affordable and should be part of every new home’s construction,” Dinnan said.

Ruddy has developed a streamlined and cost-effective approach to building this type of high-performance home that incorporates enhanced energy efficiency but also utilizes best building practices and focuses on durable detailing, he said.

The award-winning, single-family residence on the southern slope of Mt. Philo has walls built with air barriers, vented roofs with cathedral ceilings, wastewater heat recovery for both baths and kitchen, and ventilation driven by indoor air quality monitoring, among other special features. It’s an electric home with supplemental solar and a woodstove.

After Dinnan and Webster had been living in the house for a year to prove its energy efficiency, Ruddy applied for the award. It makes sense from both a financial and sustainability perspective to build this way, Ruddy said. Not only did investing in this new home reduce Dinnan and Webster’s impact on the environment, they also experienced short-term savings.

“Because we never needed to get infrastructure such as radiators, propane, oil or gas lines and tanks, investing in efficiency didn’t end up costing more money,” Dinnan said.

When you include energy costs along with the mortgage, these homes are less expensive on a monthly basis than a new home built to code standard, Ruddy said. “Tai and Evan sized the home for their current and future needs and no more, so it is smaller, but functional,” he said. “Efficiency Vermont’s High Performance Homes standard, which this home used as a starting point, was not only developed to hit the sweet spot with regard to cost effectiveness to reach net zero, but also incorporates safeguards to ensure the homes are comfortable and durable.”

Net Zero is a term used to describe a building with zero net energy consumption.

Lindsay Jones from Efficiency Vermont was the energy consultant on the project. The house also won Efficiency Vermont’s 2016 “Best of the Best” in New Residential Construction. “The home was built with insulation levels approximately twice that of Vermont’s baseline residential building code, has exceptionally low air leakage, and energy efficient heating and ventilation systems,” Jones said.

Efficiency Vermont initiatives allowed Dinnan and Webster to save money and receive rebates. “Their work in the state really helps encourage homeowners like us to make choices that are good for the environment,” Dinnan said.

See the original article by clicking here

Home Gardens Musings Uncategorized

Celebrating Beauty in Daily Life

Events near and far over the past few weeks have provided me with a steady stream of reminders to cherish the bounty, beauty, and stability of my daily life.   It is an incredible luxury to live in such a beautiful place AND have the time to tend a bountiful garden, walk regularly in the forest, swim in the lake, and prepare meals with delicious fresh whole foods.  Here are some pictures I took while remembering to intentionally soak in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures in and around our home.

I am grateful for:

Edible flowers
The view from Mt. Philo, and that Mt. Philo is in my back yard
Daily harvests
Shades of green
Camp porch sunsets
Grandmother trees
Tasting the rainbow
Having food to share – with friends and wildlife
Orange yolks
Long swims in Lake Champlain
Food as art
Standing out in the sun and rain to admire a rainbow
A full wheelbarrow of weeds
Having time to notice beauty in nature


Children and Nature Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

DIY Maple Sugaring


sap-drip-sumac-spileUp here in Vermont, our temperatures have begun rising above freezing during the day and falling below 32 degrees at night.  That means it’s sugaring season!  Though specialized technology and expensive equipment have been developed to help large sugar-makers boost their production of luxurious maple syrup, it’s possible to make maple syrup in your back yard without spending much.  One thing is consistent for all scales of syrup production: it takes a lot of time!


It is early spring.  I’m itching to spend more time outside, am no longer excited by our local ingredients stored or preserved many months ago, and won’t start my garden for several months.  I find that tapping, collecting sap, and experimenting with this sweet ingredient in the kitchen is exactly how I’d like to spend my spare time.


Learn more by reading some of the posts I wrote during past sugaring seasons:

–> For more detailed instructions for how to tap a tree at home or school and boil sap down in a kitchen, check out this blog post.

–> Want to cook with sap, rather than taking hours to boil it down into syrup?  Check out this post.

–> Want to make your own tap, or spile, from a sumac branch?  It’s free and quite easy!  This post will teach you how.

–> Are you a teacher?  Here are several fun games and activities that can help students understand the science, history, and math behind maple syrup production.

2) Measure trunk circumference to determine how many taps can be drilled in the tree