Butterfly Garden: Caterpillar

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We saw a caterpillar in our butterfly garden! According to the research I did, this caterpillar should turn into a Black Swallowtail. I have not seen the fellow for a while, which I hope means that it has formed a cocoon in some safe place.

The first time I saw caterpillars eating dill in a friend’s garden, I said “I think you have a problem.” She informed me that she was letting the caterpillars eat her dill on purpose because they were going to turn into Swallowtails.

We have had a little trouble with the hungry/thirsty birds. I created this very simple bird bath to help quench their thirst, and maybe stop them from eating the plants (and pollinators).

Here is more information about our Pollinator Project.


Teen Cuisine

We started the Teen Cuisine program last summer, and “more food activities” were requested this summer, so we are cooking once more (and eating too!). It is important for teens to learn how to cook, so that they can create their own meals in the future. The program includes five different activity days: Chicken Day, Beef Day, Veggie Day, Apps Day, and Dessert Day. For each day, participants watch videos that show them how to prepare each dish.

Here are links to all the recipes we tried:

Chicken Day: BBQ Chicken Nacho, Fajita Chicken Salad, Teriyaki Chicken Rice

Beef Day: Steak and Potato Nachos, Swedish Meatball Pasta, Ramen Carbonara

Veggie Day: Spinach and Artichoke Mac n’ Cheese, Black Bean Burgers, Veggie Spring Rolls (Veggie Spring Rolls didn’t work for some reason. We got these strange alien babies instead of food.)

Apps Day: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Bacon Guacamole Chicken Bombs, Waffle Grilled Cheese

Dessert Day: Cinnamon Sugar Twists, Homemade Ice Cream ,Apple Pie Bake

Happy cooking 🙂

Yarn Art

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This was a new experiment for our Knit & Nosh program. In my experience, knitting and crocheting can be pretty challenging, even for adults. It seems difficult to find projects that take a short time to complete (let me know if you have any). One of the issues is different skill levels. Some people know how to knit and are quite good at it, while other people may be beginners.

The idea with this yarn art project was that it would be challenging enough to keep everyone interested, but not require an advanced skill set. However, this yarn art project turned out to be little more challenging than it appears. While it doesn’t require an advanced skill set, it does require a fair amount of patience.

There are three ways of filling in space used in the above image: layering and cutting (the hills), layering without cutting (the sky), and spiraling (the blue pond areas). Spiraling looks neat, but it is a little more complex than the two other methods because it is easy to unravel your work. It might be possible to use pre-cut yarn, which would make the project easier (the end result would be very different, of course).

It is important to tell the participants to only squeeze out a small amount of glue at a time. If they make a huge puddle, they might get glue on their fingers, which will stick to the yarn.

I found that it is best to use foamcore board, so that the glue doesn’t warp the surface. The picture above was created on cardstock, so it rippled. It is also a good idea to limit the surface area. I handed out 6″X 6″ boards, but they could have been smaller.

If you want to have an educational portion of the activity, you can talk about the origins of yarn art.


Nerdy Sidewalk Chalk

We have made sidewalk chalk on numerous occasions. We haven’t done it in awhile, because it is a 10 minute activity, where the finished product isn’t ready for 24 hours. However, summer is a different time than the school year. A 10 minute activity, while a teen waits for their friends to go to the pool, can be just what we are looking for. Before we had done chalk in toilet paper rolls and dixie cups. The finished product is ok, you can go chalk up your sidewalks, but at the end of the day it is a cylinder of chalk. 😦

However, there are tons of silicon ice cube trays with cool nerd culture stuff (You can find more on Amazon). Turns out, teens are pretty excited to make chalk shaped like Stormtroopers, Superman Logos, and a Tardis.

Some notes:

  • Get powdered tempera paint (you can get it pretty cheap from school supply stores).
  • You can follow the directions from the link. However, give each teen a cup of water (about 1/3 of a cup). Then put out bowls of plaster and tell them to add plaster until the have an island of plaster. When mixed, the mixture should look like thick yogurt. Making it not an exact science, means you can just kind of check on people. If you have them measuring exactly, you will need a wet and a dry table and plenty of measuring cups.
  • Remove your chalk from the mold after approximately 30 minutes, then let dry for 24 hours. This way they can take their chalk home with them. Have games and other stuff available for that 30 minute wait.
  • You need to have plenty of molds or limit the number of people. They can make quite a few pieces of chalk with the above mixture.


Watercolor Splatter Painting

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Splatter painting is something that the teens are always wanting to do with acrylics, and I usually say “No Splattering.” However, it is really enjoyable, and splattering creates fun, spontaneous images. Watercolor is the perfect medium for this activity because it splatters well, but is easy to clean up. We happened to have some leftover liquid watercolor and black ink, which worked out great.

If you want an inexpensive paper, you can cut down cheap poster board and use the mat side. Watercolor paper is a little pricey, but worth it. I was surprised by the speed at which people completed their paintings. It might be a good idea to have lots of extra paper, in case everyone wants to make more than one. In addition, you might want to think of another process to add to increase the complexity. We had straws out so that people could blow on their wet paint to create spidery designs, but collage or stenciling might be fun too.


Pollinator Project


This spring we started the Hays Public Library Pollinator Plant Project.  It is especially important to learn about threatened pollinators like the monarch butterfly, so that we can help them rebuild their numbers. We hope to attract butterflies, bees, and ladybugs while making a beautiful and educational garden.

Research is an important step in the process of creating any garden. I began by consulting horticultural and sustainability experts including: Andree Brisson (sustainability expert at Fort Hays State University), Carly McCracken (certified in sustainability), Keri Claudle (Fort Hays State University sustainability graduate student), Holly Dickman (horticultural expert with Kansas State University Research and Extension), and Margie Muller (Master Gardener). They provided advice, inspiration, and seeds for the garden.

There are some types of milkweed that can be controversial, and even the butterfly bush can ruffle some feathers. Annual tropical milkweed is controversial for a few different reasons, but since we had some donated, we planted it. This site goes into some detail about reasons for concern, and what to do. If you want to keep your butterfly garden full of native plants (and you live in Kansas), this is a great resource.

Every spring, members of the Prairie Garden Club dig up plants from their yards and give them away. Some generous souls also start annuals from seed. There is a donation jar available, if you wish to donate. The best thing about the plants you get at the giveaway is their hardiness, they will thrive in this specific region. I got many different plants at the giveaway. Not all of them will provide food for the critters, but they will help create shelter for the pollinators and smaller plants.

Here is a list of some of the plants I got at the giveaway (common names): large sedum, small sedum, lamb’s ear, dill, ice plant, monkey grass, day lily, bee balm, golden rod, sweet pea, and orange cosmos. I also purchased: butterfly bush, portulaca, fennel, rosemary, lantana, blue-stem grass, verbena, and petunias.

The second stage of the project took place on a misty Wednesday morning at the library.  Children and teens got involved by planting verbena along the border of the garden. They also received an educational pollinator talk by Carly McCracken and Holly Dickman and a had outdoor storytime with Cathleen Kroeger.

Thanks to everyone involved, and especially to Carly who initially had the inspiration for the project!


Fairy Gardens


Last summer an extensive fairy town sprung up one day and dominated the activity room for almost a month. There was a Fairy-Mart and a Fairyot hotel. I wanted to revisit the fairy construction industry, so we had a fairy garden activity. Some materials we used included felt, beads, craft paper, ribbon, white glue, hot glue, and small pots. These were really small fairy cottages with gardens. There were ponds, bridges, and ladders. Note: In order to create a roof like the ones we had, you need to cut a half-circle of felt. Here are the steps using a paper template: