October 28, 2010

Chicken Mummification Part 3

Let me start by apologizing for not keeping up this blog more regularly. We are in the process of selling our house right now. We've recently received an offer on it and it looks like we might be moving out of state sometime in the next few months. I will try my best to continue blogging, but I've got a lot on my plate right now.

That being said, I have no idea what I'm going to do with this partially mummified chicken when we move. Casia and I opened him up again about a week ago. He still reeks. 

There was no pool of water in the bag this time, but there was plenty of clumpy salt. It was moist so it's still drawing out the water, but it was actually very difficult to clean the salt off of the chicken. Last time, he was sitting in the water in the bag, so it wiped off easily. This time I was tempted to get the hose to clean him off, but instead settled for just brushing off as much salt as I could (or rather, I made Casia do that dirty work- it builds character).

Once Casia had cleaned off as much salt as possible, I held him open so she could scrape salt out from the cavity. We then weighed Nkuku.  He gained half a pound!

Casia and I discussed reasons why he might actually weigh more this time than last and came up with two possibilities:

1.  The salt that we could not brush off or out of Nkuku is adding the weight. 


2. Our bathroom scale is imprecise. I've known since before this experiment that it's very inaccurate and to tare it I basically slide this dial back and forth until it looks like it's pointing at zero. I highly recommend to anyone wishing to try this themselves to get a decent scale.  

So after the weigh-in, we bagged him back up with a lot more salt and put him back in the sealed container. Overall, we didn't notice much of a change aside from less water. He's still stinky, still stiff, and his coloring looks like a chicken that's been rubbed with lots of cinnamon. ;) 

October 14, 2010

Time Line

Before I get into all the details about how Casia and I made our time line, I have to give you a bit of a background history on me. Bear with me, there will be a point to all this in the end.

I am notorious in our house as a person who can take the smallest task and turn it into a grand scheme, so complicated and time consuming that it's a miracle if I ever get it finished. I spent two years making just four simple roman shades for our living room. Back before I had kids, I had a delusion that if I could stitch a curtain, then I could make a quilt. I took a quilt making class with a good friend of mine and when the six week session was done, she had the start of a very fine quilt and I still hadn't cut all the pieces, let alone made a single stitch. Why? Well, it was the planning. See I didn't just want to do a simple square patch quilt. I had this idea to do these interwoven triangles which ranged in colors from deep dark yellow to almost white and then others from a pale lavender to a dark purple. The way the triangles would shift colors as the pattern progressed was going to create this beautiful wave like pattern. I mapped it all out on the computer complete with scanned in material that I had already purchased, and then using an eye dropper in adobe, carefully constructed the detailed plan. Now, it turns out, sewing triangles isn't the easiest shape to start with as a beginning quilter. Measuring alone is way more complicated because the seam allowances confuse me. And then there's a lot less leeway if you can't actually stitch a straight line. So in the end I have this beautiful, detailed drawing, about 30-50 small cut triangles and not even a small corner of the quilt fixed together.

Well, so sewing is not really my thing. Then there was the garden! I love gardens. I envy those with green thumbs. I come from a long line of farmers, but I am a death sentence to anything unfortunate enough to put roots down in my yard. I've managed to hang onto a few sturdy houseplants, but if they are those finicky kind that need to be watered every week- forget it. But I didn't know all this years ago when we bought our house. I loved the idea of gardening so much that the two acres looked like a challenge I was excited to tackle. We moved in during the winter so I spent the time drawing detailed plans of the grounds. I had every tree and bush carefully mapped out and made a plan to make a vegetable/herb garden in the back. It was going to be an inspirational English garden type thing, with weaving paths, and a sundial in the middle. I plotted out the entire 12'x30' plot complete with which flowers should be grown by which vegetables to help ward off pests. Plus! I was going to grow all of this from seeds. Within weeks of starting the garden, we had sore backs but I was very excited about all the green growing in it and I had all the hope that this was the start of a wonderful hobby! Sadly, it took me weeks to realize, the only thing I was growing in these carefully arranged beds were weeds. And lots of them. We've since removed all the edging logs and Jacob built the kids a playset over top of it years ago.

So why am I telling all of this to you? Because I think you should be warned before I start to explain the design of our time line. You should know that any plan of mine is probably not the easiest way to go about it, or even the best. It's just MY way to do it. So here it goes.

About a year ago Casia and I made out first time line for a summer project when she wanted to learn some history. I grabbed some old brown craft paper I happened to have lying around and we stretched it out from one side of the house to the other. The first thing I wanted to show her, to give her some context, is how much of the earth's history is human history. So we did a little math and figured out if the length of the whole piece of paper (about 50') was the length of time that the earth has existed, roughly 4.5 billions years, and the earliest Homo sapiens originated around 200,000 years ago, then human history makes up less than 3/100 of an inch. Even the dinosaurs only take up about about 24 inches of the 600 inch time line. This was a real eye-opener for Casia and I think it really put human history into perspective. 

So we never got very far in our previous time line.  It was big and bulky, made from old crinkled craft paper that was hard to write on and I ended up recycling it in one of my many house-cleaning purges. But I loved the idea of a time line. I think they are a great visual way to represent historical events and give kids a feel for how recent or long ago events happened.  So when I decided to homeschool, I knew I was going to resurrect the idea.  I also knew that I wanted it to be big- big enough to span all of human history.  It also had to be more portable, so I had to come up with a way to pull it out, work on it, and then stash it way without ruining it or making a big mess.

In the end I decide to create a scroll for the time line. I bought a 52' roll of white craft paper from Staples for about $5. It measures 30” wide. I bought some 1.5" pvc pipe with end caps for another $5, cut them to just slightly longer than the roll and painted them white with some left-over spray paint to cover the purple writing.  I attached the paper to one of the pvc pipes with tape and then slowly rolled it onto the pipe. When I got near the other end I attached the free end of the roll of paper to the other pvc pipe with tape. For both sides I made a large line and marked it clearly with a "Do Not Roll Past this Point" about a foot in.  I found that starting the rolling was the trickiest part and so I wanted to remind myself (and Casia) not to completely unwind it. In retrospect I should have made the pipes longer and put some sort of wide block at the end between the paper and the end cap because the paper quickly becomes thicker than the end cap and it makes it hard to keep the rolling straight when it doesn't have the edge of the end cap keeping it constrained. Overall this design works and I am able to put a couple of rubber bands around the ends and plop it up and out of the way on top of a book shelf when we're done with it. It's very convenient.

Staples does sell narrower rolls, and a nice single line time is certainly sufficient and could very well be the best way to go about it. BUT, what if instead of just tracking events across a single time line, we track different types of events. Casia and I got to talking as we were planning this. We came up with two different ideas. The first was that we could track events as they happened and separate them geographically as they happened on continents. This sounded appealing at first, but then as I thought about it, early on, there would be some big open areas on some lines and really crowded areas on the other. Plus, other than seeing some shifts over time, I'm not sure we gain much seeing it all down geographically. But what if we divided up the events based on the nature of the event. We could have technology and science separate from art and literature. We could give important people their own line and the have wars and conflicts on another. In the end,the latter is what we decided to do.

Casia was very big on the idea color coding, so when we drew out the lines we put a black line down the center for the main date line and then color coded for the other topics. In addition, she liked the idea of keeping track of general geographic areas and decided to color code those as well.  

In this picture, the top line is for science and technology. Since we are studying Ancient Egypt, Casia has written down the building of the pyramids. She color coded it orange for Africa and wrote the information on the Science & Technology line. The vertical lines are orange as well and connect the technology to the main date line at the corresponding correct date. She also has the major periods in Egyptian history marked in orange just above the main date line (Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, etc.).

Casia drawing lines and dates on her time line.

First Entry on the time line.


 Marking the major periods in Egyptian history.

It's been a slow process making our time line. Everything has taken longer than I had anticipated; from creating the scroll, to putting down the main line and dates (not to mention the four other lines!), to figuring out where each entry should go and what color it needs to be. I think we've added some unnecessary complications to it. But, with that said, I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out. I'm hoping as we cover more history and fill up more of the time line, we'll see the benefit of having it set up the way we do.  

October 3, 2010

Picture Day

This past week, my son, Garrett, had Picture Day at school. It made Casia just a little sad that she wouldn't be getting her Picture Day this year, too. Now anyone that knows me, knows that I take about a zillion pictures my kids, but the idea of standing in line and waiting for a two minute photo-shoot with varying results (we've had years with barely-there-smiles, hair-all-out-of-whack, and one where the eyes weren't closed- but they weren't completely open either), still made Casia nostalgic and she felt like she was missing out. So I promised her that I would take both her and her brother out this weekend to a scenic location for their own personal photo-shoot. It was chilly and extremely windy, but the sun managed to peak out a little and we had a lot of fun at a local beach.  

Here are the results of today's 'Homeschooling Picture Day':

October 1, 2010

Art Museum

Today we took our second field trip and  I've decided it's my favorite part of homeschooling. We went to the art museum because I remembered from years past that they had this great Egyptian section with a mummy and some really cool hands-on activities for the kids, including make your own hieroglyphs. 

Casia points out all the figures painted on the sarcophagus
and explains who they represent.
Unfortunately, the exhibit as I remember it, has changed. Looking back, it might have previously been a special exhibit up only for a limited time. I remember entering a tomb-like room by walking past two Anubis statues. Now they have the Egyptian artifacts in the same small room with the Greek and Roman antiquities. Gone are the make your own hieroglyphs and the collection is quite a bit smaller than I remember it. But they still have the mummy and sarcophagus and some other interesting relics, including canopic jars, a relief from a burial chamber's wall, jewelry and shabtis. Casia enjoyed looking at the sarcophagus and identifying the figures painted on its side. 

They also had this computer terminal that gave a brief Egyptian history and explained some of the mythology. Casia had fun playing the games. The room was very dark and the lights were not turned on in the sarcophagus exhibit. We could still make out all the details on it, but it was harder to get good pictures because I couldn't use a flash.

After visiting the Egyptian room, we then toured the rest of the museum. It had been more than a year since Casia and I had been there. Our favorite exhibit is the impressionist paintings. We both really like Monet and they have two on display at this museum. On our way out we checked out the gift shop. I almost never buy anything at gift shops, but I couldn't resist when I saw a "make Your Own Papyrus" kit. It's one of the activities that I have been planning but I've been struggling to figure out what to use since papyrus doesn't grow around our parts. I had heard that you could use parts of the cattail plant, which grows around here. I just hadn't gotten around to picking some and experimenting. When I saw the papyrus being sold for $7, I decided to save myself the trouble and probably a lot of frustration. Casia bought herself a hieroglyph stencil ruler. She wants to use it in an art project involving Nkuku (her mummified chicken) and his sarcophagus. 

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon and I look forward to planning our next field trip.