Sunday, August 19, 2012

Middlebury Riverfest

We had a blast at the Middlebury Riverfest at Riverbend Park! We went geocaching here before but haven't spent as much time in the area. I liked the park--there is a nice blend of recreation and hiking trails. There is also a river running through it which is a nice feature.

I've loved watching Daragh Deegan's presentations on fish. I've seen him with his tanks of fish at the YMCA kids day, cub scout day camp, etc. This was the first time that I knew about where we could actually see him using his fish shocker to collect specimens. He is the Aquatic Biologist of Elkhart County and uses fish samplings to assess the water quality in the area. I also was able to participate in his demonstrations as part of Indiana Master Naturalists. Good info and fascinating to learn about these fish. My son remembered the lampreys! I think he also put up a small exhibit at Woodlawn Nature Center. While there were other great activities, seeing this advertised was the hook that sealed the deal as we made plans for the weekend.

The kids loved the children's activities area. It was very hands on and the candy for prizes didn't hurt their interest and motivation level. I enjoyed going to the different booths to learn about natural resources in the area and connecting with others who enjoy the outdoors. We really have great resources in the area! 

Notice the little guy in the sling--that's our newborn! He was 9 days old and went on his first longer hike with an Indiana Master Naturalist in the woods. It wasn't his first time out. I started going stir crazy the first week home and ran over to Bonneyville Mill for a nature fix. The dahlia garden was beautiful that day. 
 The kids made boats out of natural materials and then later sailed them on the river. They didn't go too far. A testing pool might have helped beforehand, but it was still exciting to see the kids involved and the boats setting out on their journey!

It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but there is a clump of branches high up in the tree. The festival arranged buses to take us to a nearby Great Blue Heron Rookery, led by a local scientist who did his master's thesis on Great Blue Heron rookeries in Indiana. I didn't know this was available during the festival. I've since listened to him again--fascinating! I saw several Indiana Master Naturalists helping out throughout the day and countless others--thanks for the great experience!

Can't wait until next year! There was a little of something for everyone! Like it on Facebook!

Monday, August 13, 2012

River Clean Up in Warsaw

As part of a church service project, we helped clean up trails down near Warsaw. Families and individuals gathered from South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Goshen, Plymouth, Warsaw and surrounding areas. We helped pull fallen debris out of the water. What a great way to have a creek stomp with a little dash of service. 

There were bike trails just near the river with bikers zooming by on a hot summer day. Thank goodness for the shade. The water was refreshing. The height of the river varied, necessitating getting in up to our waists at points. Here is more information on the trails in Warsaw and Winona Lake. I would love to get back there and explore more! It really only took us about 45 minutes to get down there--sounds like a good day trip!

As a side note, I was pregnant at the time and had our baby less than 2 weeks later. I was worried about the bending and lifting as it was harder at that point of pregnancy; however, I didn't even notice it while I was in the water. Fun!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Garden Creatures and Canning

So, I asked for Tattler reusable canning lids for my birthday--yes, I'm dorky like that! I really only wanted them for "storage" and didn't intend to can anything since I was well into pregnancy by this point of the summer. Well, my husband, as he often does, got into the research on these while ordering and decided he wanted to grow his canning skills as a result. 

We had a small raised bed garden, a la Square Foot Garden style, this summer. It's in our front yard. Yes, you read that right. FRONT! Some people in more urban areas have had issues with this, but we live out in the country. This was really the only patch of sunny yard that isn't overshadowed by the trees. 

Back to my point, of the story--you can see my husband canning above. He's an even bigger dork as he  bought me a canner on top of the jar lids. We had friends and family that offered (and we tried one) the use of their canners to try them out. I made the man PROMISE not to buy anything until we tried different ones. He couldn't resist and had one hiding in the garage for "me" (er, HIM) for several weeks after my birthday before he unveiled his purchase. I'm not sure if we needed it, but it is great quality and fits well on our stove or for using out on the front porch with a turkey fryer. We'll use it more next year. Note a household of boys that live in the country--the front porch becomes the dumping ground for all things recreational, including the rock collection.

I digressed--again! This post was really about the caterpillar my husband found in the garden while picking jalapenos for salsa. Childhood amazement and entertainment, my friends! We put in a bug jar for a short time for observations.

Are you good for our garden or bad? I need to ID this guy soon. This looks like a good flow chart to try. Still have so much to learn about gardening (squash bugs!). The Master Gardener program would be great!

By the way, we found a great source for canning veggies without growing them all. Wakarusa Produce Auction is a good way to buy lots of produce at once from local farmers. We went a couple of times and bought corn, tomatoes, and peaches to can. These were all locally grown and picked fresh--NOT shipped several days before getting to us. It's interesting to learn the rhythm and flows of an auction. While prices fluctuate, they seemed fair and less or comparable to others low price baseline for canning.