Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Math Behind the Crops: Part 1

Our oldest son is taking "corn" for one of his 4-H projects this year.  While this might seem like the lamest project ever, we are really getting into it!  He had to examine a seed corn bag's tag to learn about what's actually in the bag and the science behind the corn seeds. He conducted a germination experiment and has plans to do a soil "tilth" experiment, as well.  He also learned about "growing degree days", which is a unit that measures how much heat the corn is exposed to over the growing season.  Some varieties of corn require more degree days than others, but on average most corn varieties in Illinois require 2,300 to 2,700 growing degree days. 

To figure out how many "growing degree days" each actual day is worth, use this formula:
high temp. + low temp.   -    50

Some restrictions apply, though:  if the daily high temp. is over 86, then only use 86, and likewise, if the low temp is below 50, then only use 50.  This takes into account the stress on the plants on super-hot or unseasonably-cool days.

For example, Thursday's high temp. is forecasted to be 95 and the low temp. is forecasted to be 74. 
That means that 86 + 74 = 160 /2 = 80 - 50 = 30 growing degree days on Thursday.

Now, if only it would rain...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Biker babe!

When we are giving directions to our house or people are asking about where we live, we often get, "Oh!  Your house is the place with all the bikes in the driveway!"

....Yes.  That's us.  Our driveway looks like a bike salvage yard.  We have 3 medium-size two-wheelers, 3 smaller, child-size two-wheelers, a cozy coupe, a big wheel, and a John Deere pedal tractor. 

....Yes.  We only have 4 kids.

This week we hit another milestone in our family history, though!  Our older daughter, who is 6 1/2, finally figured out how to ride her two-wheeler without training wheels! 

It's a REALLY big deal because we ALL have been trying to get her to a.) quit being so over dramatic, b.) just try to balance with her feet on the pedals, and c.) accept the fact that she needs to put more effort into the process than just trying to ride the bike down to the end of the driveway once. 

We've all be extremely supportive.
...About a month ago, our oldest son took the training wheels off the bike that older daughter likes to ride.
...Younger daughter has been providing "moral support" in the form of "QUIT WHINING AND JUST TRY IT!" 
...And I've been trying every once in a while to get her going by holding on to the back and then giving a shove once she is mostly balanced. 

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon I was determined that we would turn the bike riding corner.  She perservered like a champ and by the time supper was ready, she'd logged 20 laps around the driveway! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My baby...

If you've had the pleasure of spending time around our youngest daughter lately, you've probably heard the news that she is going to have a birthday soon (in 1 month and 3 days), and that she is going to be five! 

This is our baby girl, the youngest of our four. 
She was a very sweet baby, definitely making my life easy...  She was really cute for a baby, but that's just my opinion, I guess!

She's always been quite helpful... mostly... I think that the point that she has her father wrapped around her little finger needs to be made.  We don't normally let our children sit ON the kitchen table.
As she matured into preschooler-hood, she developed a delightful fashion sense.  She definitely knows how to accessorize! 

And finally, with her fifth birthday practically knocking on the door, she's becoming quite the cowgirl! 

(P.S.  Take another look at that outfit!)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The John Deere Historic Site

Sunday we took a trip down Route 2 to Grand Detour, Illinois, and visited the John Deere Historical Site.
We started off with a guided tour of the Deere family's home, John Deere built it when he moved to Grand Detour from Vermont.  (He came to Illinois because work as a blacksmith was drying up in the New England states as everyone was heading west.) 

He went to work repairing the saw mill in Grand Detour, and long story short-- he had the bright idea to make a plow out of steel using a discarded saw blade.  Up until the John Deere plow, plows were made out of cast iron.  Because of the sticky soil in Illinois, farmers would have to use a wooden paddle to clean off the cast iron plow blade after plowing as little as a few feet.  The new steel plows made plowing the Illinois soil like cutting through butter! 
We had the pleasure of  watching a blacksmith in action!  He showed us many of the tools that a blacksmith would have used in John Deere's day, and also demonstrated some blacksmithing techniques.  The blacksmith was very entertaining!  He asked us what John Deere would be know for if he was alive today...
and that would be living to 204 years old!!!  The John Deere name is synonomous with tractors, combines, huge farming and construciton equipment, but John Deere died decades before the first tractor was even invented! 

I also found it interesting that John Deere started the first "implement dealerships";  his plows were so popular that people from all over the midwestern states wanted his steel plow, and so to make sure that all farmers could have access to them, he had salesmen in many of the bigger cities in the mid-1800s selling his plows.  It's reported that many of the settlers heading for the plains states would stop in Grand Detour specifically to get the steel plow before heading west to "sod-bust". 
All around the grounds of the beautifully restored historic sited are "heritage gardens", and in each garden section is a plaque that highlights what was happening in the world of agriculture.   

So, if you ever need something fun to do, check out the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour!  It's about a 45 minute drive straight south of Rockford on Route 2 along the Rock River.  It's open from 9am -5pm Wednesday through Sunday.