Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Finding a baby bird

July 9, 2010 3 comments

A couple of days ago we sold four of the eight ducklings, and yesterday we sold the three ducks that we incubated (they were 7.5 weeks old). All of the birds went to excellent homes; I enjoyed meeting and chatting with the buyers at length.
As I said to one of them, when I got started a couple of years ago canning and was acquiring canning supplies, I remember telling dh that people who can are the nicest people. Well, yesterday I was saying, poultry people are the nicest people!

So our yard is much quieter and emptier now that seven ducks have gone to new homes, which is nice. But about two hours after the ducks were sold, a new addition was dropped into our laps. Or to be more accurate, dropped onto my bathroom floor!

Here’s what happened. Yesterday dd13 suddenly said to me in the middle of the day, “I think I hear a cheeping coming from the vent in the bathroom.” She listened again and thought she heard something again, and asked if she could open the vent cover. I couldn’t imagine how it was possible to have a bird inside a wall but said, sure.

She opened it and found a shoe (which must have been there a long time since it wasn’t one of ours), a key, and something else. And there was no more noise. So the kids were laughing to each other at how they thought they heard a bird but it was really a pile of junk. But then a little while later, they heard cheeping again. So they stuck the digital camera up into the hole in the wall, and took a video, since they couldn’t see anything (the vent opening is right next to the ceiling and pitch black inside). They loaded it onto the computer so they could see if there was anything there, and sure enough, a bird was flitting around inside the wall! Yikes.

They asked me what we should do and I told them we’d have to wait and see – my standard stalling tactic when I don’t want to deal with something right away. After a while we decided to leave the vent cover off, open the bathroom door, and open all the windows on the main floor so when it flew out, it could quickly find an exit.

I’m really not a bird person – I’m uncomfortable with the sudden fluttery movements and sharp beaks. Once I was at a homeschool nature class on birds with the kids, and the person leading it released a starling that flew across the room. The other mothers moved slightly, while without thinking I made a very noticeable (and undignified) duck- no other mother moved more than slightly – the naturalist giving the workshop was laughing at my obvious discomfort to this small bird flying across the room in my direction. Well, that’s how I am. I find birds unnerving because they’re unpredictable. So the idea of a bird flying around my house wasn’t something I was looking forward to, but neither was a bird dying inside my wall something I wanted to have happen.

Hours went by, and the cheeping was quite loud but the bird couldn’t seem to find it’s way out. I went to take a very late afternoon nap, and when I woke up was greeted with the news that the bird came out. Phew, I thought, I’m glad it left the house when I was asleep. But my relief was premature- it didn’t leave the house. In fact, it was sitting on top of my dehydrator in the kitchen wrapped up in a towel and cheeping loudly. It was a tiny baby bird.

It seems that it finally fell out of the vent opening onto the bathroom floor, which is where ds8 found it. (Seriously, it’s a good thing it missed the toilet, which was just a couple of inches away, or it would have drowned.) This baby bird is very lucky he ended up in our home, since he’s being very well-treated. 🙂 Dd9 is very, very good with animals, so she’s been feeding him tiny ants and potato bugs that she searched for in the garden, duck pellets mashed up with water, and giving him lots of water so he doesn’t dehydrate. This morning the kids discovered that it loved cornmeal mashed with water – they drop it into his mouth and he gobbles it down. He’s so tiny that he easily fits into her hand – when she closes her hand he’s totally inside and it hardly looks like anything is there!

Dd9 holding Yona M.

Are you wondering how a bird could be inside the walls of your house? Well, I certainly was! The kids said that a nest had been laid somewhere in the gutter near the roof, and there was a very small gap between there and where the vent for the bathroom exits. It apparently was just large enough for this tiny baby bird to stumble into.

We’ll have to research what to do with him, but it looks like a baby sparrow is our newest pet. My current understanding is that once a person touches a baby bird, the mother won’t take care of it anymore, and he would die very soon if he were released back outside now. I hope I’ll be able to borrow a cage to keep him until we decide what to do with him long term. We’re getting lots of hands on science recently without even having to look for it!

His name is Yona Matza. Dh suggested the name based on a famous Shabbos song called Yona Matza, ‘the dove found’. The song is about how the dove that was sent out of Noah’s ark found rest on the Sabbath. This little bird found rest in our house right before Shabbos, so it seems like a fitting name. 🙂


Categories: Science

Updates on oldest kids and ducklings :)

May 16, 2010 8 comments

I’ve been pretty busy this past week and to top it off, got a bad cold that left me spending most of two days in bed.  Because my ears were affected, my balance was thrown off and I literally felt like my head was spinning – not conducive to doing much but sitting still!  It makes one appreciate the importance of healthy ears.  However, I had a deadline for an article I needed to write, and write it I did.  When I pressed ‘send’ to send it to the editor, I hoped to myself that I wasn’t embarrassing myself since I my head was swimming – that’s not just a saying – while I was sitting still, it was like inside my head everything was going around and around. And sure enough, the next day I reread it and I was disturbed to find several grammatical errors, so I fixed them and sent them back to the editor.  But she said me a message saying the article was great, which was nice; she had already edited it and approved it, and I didn’t feel the need to explain the reason for not having caught the errors myself.   🙂

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been posting as much recently.  Some updates: on Friday dd15 received her notice that she was accepted to the program she’s considering for next year, which was exciting.  (I couldn’t imagine them not accepting her but you never know until it’s official.)   Now we’re looking into yeshivos for ds16 and have tentative plans to go with him in a week and a half to Conneticut to check out one that looks particularly suitable for him.   I warned him that if dh and I can’t do it, he’s taking a train and I’ve enlisted the support of a young man we know who has been at this institution for four years to pick him up from the train and introduce him around.  I’m honestly not feeling driven to go there with him – it would be nice, but it’s a very long trip at a very busy time of year for ‘nice’, and this is post high school, after all.  Ds has a very good feeling about it and unless we learn something new that changes things, he’s already feeling that’s where he’d like to be for next year.

Last night I went to sleep feeling quite anxious about our still unhatched ducklings. They’re supposed to hatch in 28 days, and we were at day 30 with only one showing any signs of pipping.  And I was afraid that one wasn’t going to make it since he pipped on Thursday and by late Saturday night wasn’t noticeably closer to getting out.  So I searched the internet to try to find out if this was anywhere in the realm of normal (couldn’t find anyone that had a duckling that took that long) and if it was still possible for him and the rest to hatch despite the delays.  I think  that we didn’t have enough humidity in the incubator and the shells weren’t soft enough for them to get out of.  I was almost dreading waking up and finding it dead, since the kids were so excited and I knew they wouldn’t take it well to find the duckling they’d been watching struggle to get out for over two days died.  I sprinkled the eggs with warm water (including the one that was already partially hatched) and sprinkled more water in the incubator, hoping it would become humid enough for their needs.

Well, by the time dd13 was up just four hours later (I got to sleep very late and she gets up very early), not only had the one we’d been watching hatched, but so had another!  And within another half an hour of that, a third one hatched.  (Named: Peeps, Darth Vader, and… I can’t remember and the kids are sleeping so I can’t ask for a reminder, maybe Quackers.)  You don’t know how relieved I was for the sake of the ducklings and the kids!  So far one more pipped but we think it died.  The kids think that tonight more might hatch, and I hope they’re right.  We incubated 15 duck eggs and 12 were viable according to our candling, and it’s not a great feeling to have such a poor hatch rate.

This week marks one year since I was overdue by three weeks before finally having our delightfully yummy baby, and as I was noting the long delays with this hatching, I was thinking about it all comes down to the same thing – understanding the natural process and trusting it. The problem is that I don’t understand the natural process for hatching eggs well enough to trust it or myself.

Though I said we’d be limiting our contact with the ducklings for the first three days, that was hopeless.  My kids are fascinated with these adorable and fun little birds and can’t get enough of them, and all their friends who visited today also enjoyed them.  Tonight after all the littles and middles were asleep, dd15 and ds16 put the ducklings in a shallow pan of water and were having fun watching them.  It’s the kind of thing you can just sit and watch for a long time.  Then they blowdried them; I wish we could find the camera – watching the littlest one stand on dd’s palm while she blowdried him was too cute!

I’m trying to identify what breeds we have – we bought the eggs from someone who has a number of different kind of ducks and they’re a mixture.  So far I’ve figured out one of the three, I think – it’s a Rouen.  What I’d like most if we keep them for egg laying are Khaki Campbells or Indian Runners.  One might be a Campbell, but I can’t tell.  And I can’t tell which are male or female, anyway!

We’re going to try again with chicken eggs.  My wonderful dh was trying to help me put away groceries after my last shopping trip, and had no way of knowing that I had put the fertile chicken eggs we planned to hatch in a particular box.  So when he put them away, it was together with all of the other eggs.  The kids picked one box that they thought might have been from the farm where we get fertile eggs, but there was no outwardly distinguishing markings and though we put them in the incubator, I wasn’t confident at all that they were the right eggs, and there’s no visible action going on with them.  But who knows – maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow to a dozen little chicks in addition to some more ducklings!


Categories: Science

Fun astronomy lesson

May 8, 2010 Leave a comment

A week and a half ago I took my kids to the NASA Goddard visitor center for a trip on Earth day- very appropriate, don’t you think?  🙂  Today was Space Day, and so it seems like a good time to share with you a fun activity we made up last week.

Following the trip to NASA, we were doing some reading on the solar system.  As I was reading about the rotations and revolutions of the planets and moon, I was thinking that understanding what revolved and what rotated was confusing, since we tend to think of those terms as meaning the same thing, but they’re quite different regarding the planetary orbits.  I took out a globe and showed them the axis, and then had them spin it so they could see it rotating.  Then I took the spinning globe and with the globe, walked around one child who I designated as the sun so they could see the rotating Earth revolving.

Then I thought it would be fun for the kids to all be the ‘bodies in motion’.  😆  I chose one child to be the sun, one to be the Earth, and one to be the moon.  This is where things got fun.  Earth rotates once every 24 hours on its axis, and revolves around the sun once a year.  So the child who was ‘Earth’ walked around the sun once to show the revolution cycle.

Now, the moon rotates and revolves around earth at the same pace – once a month.  So at the same time the ‘Earth’ child was slowly revolving around the sun, I had the ‘moon’ child revolving around Earth.  This was a lot of choreography!  The moon had to circle the Earth twelve times in the time it took for the ‘Earth’ to circle the sun once.  A lot of laughing and fun.

Then I had them change positions so they could each experience being the moon and the earth.  I explained to them that the planets would be rotating at the same time they were revolving, but that it would be too much for us to try to demonstrate all it combined.  Instead, I had the Earth child rotate on her ‘axis’ thirty times to demonstrate the monthly rotation of the Earth (I felt a month was enough to demonstrate, as rotating 365 times to show a yearly rotation schedule would be way too nauseating!).  She quickly understood why it would be hard to rotate 365 times while revolving once around the sun!

I involved three children in this, but you can do this activity even if you have only one child.  Choose a stationary object to be the sun, and you and your child can each represent the moon and the Earth.  One you start your real life demonstrations of revolutions, you’ll see other ways to take the same principle and apply it to more parts of the solar system, if you and your child/ren are still having fun!

(This post is part of the Carnival of Homeschooling.)


Categories: Science

Egg incubation update

April 29, 2010 3 comments

It’s been two weeks since we began incubating the duck eggs, and one week since we started the chicken eggs (we staggered when we put them in since chickens and ducks have different lengths of time to incubate and we want them to all hatch the same time).  I expected that thanks to little hands that think it’s fun to turn the knob and adjust the heat in the incubator without us being aware of it for hours, we’d end up not having any hatch.  And though I expected it to be a boring process of just waiting until the last day or two when there is sign that they’re ready to hatch, I was wrong!

I read somewhere that you can actually shine a light on the egg if you’re in a dark room and see the developing bird inside.  My kids did this with the duck eggs by shining a flashlight directly on them, and this was very exciting for them!  Thanks to their observations, it  so far looks like 12 of the 15 eggs we started with are developing, contrary to my expectations that we wouldn’t get any.  You can actually see along the shell that there’s a vein-like pattern on those that are growing, and see the tiny developing embryo moving.  It’s quite remarkable.

They tried to take a video so I could put it here on my blog, because they said it was so interesting that all of you would want to see it, too.  But because it has to be done in a dark room, it was too hard to clearly video it since with the necessary light for the picture to be clear, you can’t see what’s happening inside the eggs.  So those of you who are interested will just have to rent an incubator and get your own eggs started. 🙂

Seeing this development on their own has motivated them to closely read the books I got out from the library.  Dd13 is trying to figure out exactly what body parts she’s seeing develop.  I suggested that they regularly journal their observations, but whether they do this or not, I already think it’s a valuable learning opportunity.

Two more weeks to go until the hatching should be complete!


Categories: home education, Science

Made mozzarella today!

November 12, 2008 Leave a comment

This morning my 13 year old daughter made cheese for science.  :))  Gotta love the fun and flexibility of homeschooling!

She actually tried to make it yesterday afternoon, but I didn’t yet  have citric acid, and I told her to use lemon juice instead.  Generally the principle I follow is to make something the first time the way the recipe is written and only adapt after that.  I should have stuck to that yesterday, because the cheese never curdled.  LOL – it was a good way to learn that there’s a reason for each ingredient in cheese making.

But no harm done, because she used the same milk this morning for another try at mozzarella, and this time was immediately successful!  All of the other kids were crowding around to watch her (it’s good the baby and toddler were napping or she’d never have been able to move), and I told the other kids that anyone else who wants to make cheese can have their own turn to make a batch, too.  She even braided it – it looked really nice.  We had fresh cheese for lunch immediately when she finished – there was no way kids were going to wait after watching and salivating over it.  🙂 

Then she used the whey to make mysost, a Scandinavian whey cheese.  This turned out well in all regards but one – it was much too salty.  That was because she had added extra salt to the whey when she was dipping the mozzarella cheese in it, because she wanted it to have it be more flavorful than it was initially.  And when the salted whey was boiled down to make the mysost, the saltiness became too intense. 

But as I always tell my kids, making mistakes is part of learning, so now we’ve learned not to add more salt to the whey if we want to use it for something else afterwards.  Even if we hadn’t wanted to make whey cheese, we would have kept it to use as an acidic medium for soaking oats (to break down the phytic acid), so I still wouldn’t want it to be salty.

By the way, the recipes we’re using are from a book called Home Cheese Making, by Ricki Carroll – there are 75 recipes of all sorts and we’re planning to just follow the recipes.  We were able to borrow it from the library, so I suggest you check there before rushing to buy any books if you’re interested in learning about cheese making. 


Categories: Science Tags:

Homeschooling science – dissection

May 5, 2008 Leave a comment

I debated about whether to share this with your or not, as it might gross some of you out.  But I’ll just warn those of you who are squeamish not to read any more, and if you decide to read anyway, well – it’s your choice.

Yesterday our cat caught a mouse, a large mouse.  Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t eat them (because they’re perfect complete packages of feline nutrition), so he deposited in the side yard.  My kids saw him put it there, and asked me if they could dissect it. 

I can’t say that I enthusiastically agreed to this idea.  Frankly, it was slightly outside of my comfort zone, but I didn’t say no.  I try to say yes as much as I can, especially to potential learning opportunities.  Remembering the memorable and educational dissection I did in high school, I kind of half nodded while slightly gagging.  They didn’t need more than that before they raced back outside excitedly.

Three of the kids dissected the mouse.  (Don’t ask me what they used, I didn’t watch and didn’t ask.)  They showed the rest of us what they learned.  It was very, very fascinating.  They found five mouse embryos inside – each about the size of a large pea.  By looking closely, you could see clearly the shape of the mouse it would be, though they weren’t fully developed. 

They took a picture with the digital camera to bring it in to show me – and with the camera, we were able to zoom in on the picture already taken and see minute details.  They didn’t have a book, but based on their knowledge of human anatomy, they identified the placenta, and looked at the other organs.  They were able to identify the heart, and probably could have figured out which were the intestines, etc, if they had more time.

You never know when an educational opportunity will present itself.  Hands on learning!


Fun with oobleck

January 2, 2007 Leave a comment

A few days ago we went to the library and one of my younger kids chose a book called A Hatful of Seuss – it is a collection of Dr. Seuss stories. One of the stories is Bartholomew and the Oobleck, in which the kingdom in invaded by sticky slime. The kids loved the story, and when we found a recipe for homemade goop that we made up a couple of days later, we decided to rename it oobleck, since it resembled the Seusslike stuff.

This is a fun and easy activity to do with kids. I remember stuff like this being sold in little plastic balls from the vending machines in the front of supermarkets when I was a kid – they probably still do. It’s almost magical for kids to see it created in front of their eyes! The recipe uses just a few common household ingredients – I bought a box of Borax quite a while ago and now have it on hand for recipes like this (it’s useful for laundry, too :)). Here it is:

8 oz white glue
3/4 c. water
food coloring (optional)
1 t. 20 Mule Team Borax
1 – 2 T. water

Combine the first 3 ingredients in one bowl; combine the last two ingredients in a different bowl. Add borax mixture to the glue mixture, stirring until a blob forms. Remove the blob from the mix, add a new batch of borax and repeat until glue mix is gone. Knead all blobs together; store in airtight container (we use ziploc bags).

My kids discovered that they could blow bubbles with it, which was really fun – until my youngest daughter (with hair almost to her waist) had the bubble pop right into her hair. Supposedly this doesn’t stick to anything – but when I saw her, with orange slime entangled throughout her hair on each side of her face, my first thought was to just chop it all off. It looked like a wad of bubble gum that had gotten smooshed in. She looked ready to cry, so I got to work on one side while I told her not to touch the other side – but unfortunately, I was so focused on getting it out that I didn’t realize she was rubbing it in more on the other side as I worked (trying to help get it out). It was a painstaking job, getting it out tiny bit by tiny bit and I finally thought of using a brush to get it out. That worked really well, and I was able to brush it all out pretty quickly (it fell out in lots of crumbles all over the floor).

Now you’ve been cautioned – don’t let your kids eat it or rub it in their hair, and they will have an amazing time with it (and so will you)!