My Sixth Grade Trip to Galena

Galena-BusThe sixth graders at my school went on a trip to Galena, Illinois, and some cities nearby. We loaded into a “LAMERS” bus at 6 o’clock in the morning, which is when I normally get up. After a few hours of driving (and watching Big Hero 6), we arrived in Galena and went to the blacksmith’s shoppe. There they had a live presentation of how blacksmiths worked. They forged iron rods and pokers. It was really cool to watch. When I tried to video tape it, some people were purposefully getting in the way.

Back on the bus, we drove to Ulysses S. Grant’s house. It was really pretty and looked a little old. There was a green fuzzy chair,Galena-GrantChair which was Grant’s favourite (spelled in the British style on purpose) chair. He brought it from his house to the White House, and then back to his house again! He had a really old copper tub in a bathroom right off the kitchen. Everything else in the kitchen and bathroom had to be replaced because of a storm. The tub was the only original piece! We had lunch at a park not too far from the house. They provided us with Pepsi to drink. My friends and I had been talking about the park and about the tire swing. One of my friends liked tire swings so much that she yelled out, “Raise your Pepsis! Raise your Pepsis! Toast to tire swings!” All of us followed her example and said, “To tire swings!” (and I’m pretty sure everyone else there thought we were insane).

Galena-Museum1After lunch, we reloaded the bus and headed to a mining museum in Platteville, Wisconsin, and then some caves in Dubuque, Iowa. The museum was kind of cool; we got to tour underground. We almost hit our heads when we had to climb through a small tunnel. The caves were really wet, and I think I stepped in Galena-Cave1every puddle by accident. My friend almost hit her head on the stalactites, and she said that she’d kill to be small.

Galena-View1We also went on a trolley/elevator ride up a really steep hill near Dubuque. It looked really rickety and creaked a bit on the way up and down. The view from the top was really pretty. That ended most of the trip, except for dinner.

For dinner, we ate pizza and ice cream at Happy Joe’s restaurant.The pizza was really good; I’d definitely eat there again. On the way home, they played The Maze Runner on the bus. I didn’t watch that one. Instead, I talked to my friends (and almost fell asleep).

I’ve gone through Galena a LOT of times to visit family, but this was probably the best time because I actually did stuff there. My sixth grade trip to Galena was fun!

Easter Weekend/Spring Break

bird at Prairie Wolf This weekend was sort of my spring break, only kind of windy and egg-y. I say egg-y because it was Easter, and eggs were our theme for the weekend. We went for a walk at the preserve that was right next to the little store and restaurant area, where we ended up eating. There was this one bird that was at the beginning of the trail and at the end of it, too. I don’t know if it had any eggs, but it loved having its photo taken.

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Wetlands: Which is Which?

Earlier this year, my family went to a forest preserve. It has a marsh, and I wondered what the difference was between a swamp and a marsh. Evidently there are more than those two types of wetlands. So my mom told me to look it up and show her what I found:

The Differences and Similarities Between Marshes, Swamps, Bogs, and Fens.

Cuba Marsh

Cuba Marsh

A marsh has a shallow layer of water and a non-tidal marsh supports plant life like reeds, cattails, and lily pads. They are host to a number of different species of animals such as otter, blue herons, and muskrats. Marshes can be either freshwater (non-tidal) or saltwater (tidal), depending on if they’re next to a lake/river or an ocean.

A swamp has several feet of water and is dominated by woody plant life like trees. They function as protection from floods. One type of swamp, a shrub swamp, grows more shrub-like plants such as willow and swamp rose. The other type of swamp, a forested swamp, has taller trees like red maple and pin oak. Both types of swamps are home to wildlife like ducks, snakes, and otters.

Volo Bog

Volo Bog

A bog gets most of its water from rain instead of run-offs and flood waters. Bogs have sponge-like moss on their floors and have fewer nutrients than marshes and swamps. The moss forms acidic peat as it decomposes, which burns for a long time. People harvest it for fuel. Since acidic peat is low in nutrients, only animals like salamanders, snakes, dragonflies, and carnivorous plants survive there. In the Northern U.S.A., they use bogs to grow cranberries.

A fen receives most of its water from melted glaciers, so fens get their water from the ground. When glaciers melt, they put sand and gravel into the soil, preventing its water from getting into the soil. The water ends up picking up minerals as it travels, making fens a nutrient rich place. Fens are host to lots of different plants and wildlife. Wildflowers, deer, turtles and even fish are found in fens. Most fens are found in the Northern Hemisphere and are rare. It sometimes takes 10,000 years for a fen to form naturally.

Turtle at Volo Bog

Turtle at Volo Bog

Fun Fact: In MineCraft, they occasionally have you spawn in/near a wetland. It has lots of trees with vines, shallow and deep water, sugar cane/reeds, lily pads, clay, and animals (sheep, cows, chickens, pigs).

So my question to you is this: What sort of wetland is it? A marsh or a swamp?

 

Berry Bog Blog

This past weekend, I went to a cranberry bog in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the #1 cranberry grower in the USA. Massachusetts was #1 for a while, but they didn’t have the space to expand. Wisconsin had the space to expand, though. Oregon is a big grower, too. The coolest thing was that I got to put on hip boots and stand in the bog like the Ocean Spray guys!

In the picture, the berries aren’t as red as the ones you see in the Ocean Spray commercials because of the weather. The bog owners said they were a week or so behind because the weather was too mild. The berries turn red in colder weather.

Kendyl in a cranberry bog

cranberries on the vine

Cranberries are hidden under the vines until you add water. Then they float.

Some other cranberry facts are:

  • You need special dirt and sand to grow cranberries.
  • Cranberries don’t grow on water. They grow in the ground and farmers flood the areas to harvest the berries.
  • Cranberries don’t have seeds. In order to plant them, you need a cranberry vineclipping.
  • The berries have four air cells, so they float when put in/on water.
  • If you take care of them, cranberry vines can bear fruit for almost 100 years!
  • If you plant cranberries, you won’t see any (good) berries for about 3-5 years.
  • You can dip cranberries in melted caramel or chocolate and stick them into little pumpkins via toothpicks. It’s a great party treat.
harrowing the cranberries

This machine knocks the berries off of the vine so that they float to the top of the water to be harvested.

We also went to the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens and got to try different cranberry creations like cranberry salsa and cranberry ice cream. The salsa was okay but I’m not a big salsa person. I did, however, like the cranberry chocolate swirl dip, especially on pretzel sticks. My favorite, though, was the chocolate-covered cranberry caramel swirl ice cream! Yummy! Yummy! 🙂

 

Wisconsin State Fair Fun

Last week, I went to the one place you can get an original cream puff…THE WISCONSIN STATE FAIR! It was so fun. We saw the Great American Duck Races, where you could race ducks after they were done with the show.  I came in third place in the races after the show. One man’s duck just stopped half way through the race pool. It was quite funny.

Here’s the video of my race:

http://youtu.be/-FZ09PWhOYk

Bunny at Wisconsin State Fair 2013We also saw a lot of bunnies and chickens at the fair. There were lops, big guys, little guys, straight ears, and others that looked like big balls of fluff. There were also what I like to call afro chickens at the fair. They’re usually black chickens with poofy white feathers on their head. They also had ducks and turkeys there. The turkeys looked sorta ugly.  The cutest is yet to come. They had ducklings and chicks there, too! They were so cute! Most of the chicks were an August Brown, at least I think that’s what they’re called. The rest were yellow, no black chicks. We got inspiration for my costume this year. I won’t tell you until Halloween.

The baboon show at the Wisconsin State Fair 2013Another fun thing was the Baboon Show. This man brought out 3 different monkeys, 2 dogs, and a bright little rainbow-like bird. One monkey had starred in a movie, another liked annoying the man. She kept on taking his “I am THE Boss” hat and wearing it. Then she chewed on it. He gave her a job to clap one of those action rectangle things, once, but she clapped it about 20 times really fast. The smallest monkey was also the youngest. He had a diaper (the lady said it was for her own protection) and still drank from a bottle. The lady said he had learned to take off his diaper (which would be bad for her). They had to put duct tape on the diaper and him. The little monkey ran around in circles, like a racing horse.

It was also inspiring to see all of the art projects, especially from kids, up on the walls. I saw a lot of very cool paintings, drawings and photographs. I can’t wait to go back next year.

Richardson Farms Fun

This weekend we went to Richardson Adventure Farm, home of the world’s Largest Corn Maze.  We went through the corn maze doing activities like Who Dunnit (finding the clues to find out who did what to Farmer Brown and where) and Farm Tracks (finding all six animal tracks to see who all stole the pie). There are at least 11.5 miles of corn maze trails (imagine if you got lost!) that make up a picture for the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. We didn’t walk all of it, thank goodness.

The Corn Maze

11.5 miles of maze

I went on Jumping Pillows (which I highly recommend) and got bounced two feet in the air when an adult was jumping. I went into this big tube that you can roll around (like a hamster wheel) and was like a hamster. Then my mom and dad

The Jumping Pillows

pushed it and I felt like beads in a rolling container. I nearly went on my head! They also have a pumpkin patch that we picked this year’s pumpkin from.

Did you know that pumpkins in a pumpkin patch have thorny vines? My hand tingled when I touched the vines. I can’t believe we saw 50 lb. flattened yellow pumpkins! Yellow! I mean, really? Yellow pumpkins.

Giraffes :)

Feeding the GiraffesI went to the zoo the other day, and we had gotten there just in time to get a ticket to feed the giraffes! It was weird feeding a giraffe for the first time. At first, we fed them rye crackers by putting the cracker right on the giraffe’s tongue! Their tongues looked as if they were at least two feet long! I guess it goes along with the long neck.

The two giraffes were half brother and half sister, and the brother kept making it hard to get food to the sister. When we fed them maple branches, they would each grab part of the branch with their tongue and tear it in half! The girl was 20 years old while the boy was only 7. Their dad was old! We also saw a picture of a giraffes’ skull. They have two big bottom teeth and a bunch of top and bottom teeth in the back.

I think giraffes are cool but I wouldn’t want to feed them every day. Their tongues are just too weird.

More Summer Fun & Adventures…

A baby bald eagle

Bald eagles don't get the white feathers until they are 4 or 5 years old. The darker feathers let older eagles know that they pose no threat. They can't hold territory.

This past weekend I went to the Wisconsin State Fair with my parents and one of my three sets of grandparents. We saw roosters and bunnies and cows and horses and llamas. I even got to pet a llama. We also had flavored milk. Not just chocolate and strawberry, but root beer, cherry vanilla, and banana. The root beer was my favorite. We went on the gondolas and saw stuff on the roofs of places that people had dropped. We also saw pig races and a raptor show with a baby bald eagle from Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.  She’s about a year old and hasn’t been named yet. Last, we ate giant cream puffs. They were like cream sandwiches, but still delicious!

We got up at 1:00 a.m. to see the Perseid meteor shower. We only saw one, but it was still cool. It happens every August so we’re going to try again next year.

Then I spent an over night at one of my other grandparents. We went to Donley’s Wild West Town and had fun panning for gold (fool’s gold, to be exact!). We found 36 nuggets, 5 small, small, small, nuggets. Then, we saw a gun fight show. They used blanks, but they still do harm. The person shot at an aluminum can. One side had a small hole, but the other side had a hole as big as the can itself! Imagine if a blank hit a person! We then went to the movie theater and saw ICE AGE CONTINENTAL DRIFT. I highly recommend it! It’s very funny!

Getting the Most Out of Summer

It’s hard to believe that summer’s almost over. 🙁 But I have had a lot of fun!

One of the Jelly Belly mosaics

One of the Jelly Belly mosaics

This month I went to the Jelly Belly Factory. They have flavors from Harry Potter’s Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. The names are pretty gross so I didn’t try any of the samples. I did try Toasted Marshmallow and Chocolate Dips Mint. They were yummy! We went on a daily tour and saw Jelly Belly Jelly Bean mosaics. I wish they still had the Superman one but they did have one of “American Gothic” (the painting of the farmer and wife with a pitchfork.) Today I had some Jelly Beans today and I got a Red Hotts one (cinnamon).

Jelly Belly mosaic

Another Jelly Belly mosaic

I also went to see full-size model replicas of the Nina & Pinta, two of the three ships Columbus came to America on. We couldn’t go below the deck though, that was for crew and captains.  It used to be that only cargo an animals were below deck. The whole crew, about 27 men, had to eat and sleep on the deck—even when it was raining or snowing! They didn’t have the Santa Maria because it would be twice as large as the Nina and wouldn’t fit into the harbor.

A full-size replica of the Nina

A full-size replica of the Nina.

Now I’m getting ready for my trip to Washington D.C. with my Grandma Debbie and her husband, Neal. I might see one of my friends who now lives in that area, too! That’s cool because August 5th is Friendship Day! I’ll be on a sleeper train on the way back home. That will be something new for me. I hope to have lots of pictures to share when I get back.

The 2nd of August is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Too bad I’ll be gone for it. Maybe I can remember to have one on vacation!

I’m Batty for Nature!!!

On Friday me and my family went to a campfire at our local park. We had s’mores* and banana boats* (I prefer s’more s’mores). This was the first time I roasted a marshmallow over a campfire. I’ve roasted them over a grill and a candle. After eating our treats, we went on a nature walk. We learned that Chicago is Native American for “Smelly feet” because of Skunk Cabbage, Wild Garlic, and Wild Onion. These plants smell if you step on them. We sang some songs. One was “Little Brown Squirrel.” That one was funny! Did you know that a long time ago northern Illinois had so many forests and savannahs that a squirrel could make it from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River without touching the ground?

Fox bats

Fox bats are very soft

Then yesterday we went to bat fest. I made a bat necklace and got a bat painted on my face. I got to pet 2 bats, and they were sooooooooooooooooooooooooo-oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo soft. They were really adorable and the small one, a Jamaican leaf-nosed fruit eating bat, kept trying to bite the person’s leather glove! The other one was an African fox bat. We learned about white nose fungus and how it happens to bats that hibernate in caves. Scientists don’t know how to stop it but are trying to contain it. After the sun went down, we saw about 20 bats fly out from under the shelter where they sleep during the day. They say there are over 200 bats in the shelter but they don’t all come out at once.

Jamaican leaf-nosed bat

The Jamaican leaf-nosed bat kept biting the glove. I think he wanted to play.

Facts about Bats:

  • There are nearly 1,100 species of bats! That’s a lot of bats!
  • Bat droppings are used for fertilizer in some countries.
  • All bats have echolocation (a sonar built in), so they can avoid things as thin as human hair!
  • Never touch a bat if on the ground. If you get bitten you should seek medical help and bring the bat to be tested if possible.
  • 70% of bats eat insects. They eat a lot of bugs, between 500 and 1,000, I think.

* S’mores to make indoors: 1 marshmallow,  2 graham crackers, a piece of chocolate, a candle. You should know what to do! Banana boats are simple. Cut 1 banana in the peal, take a hand full of mini marshmallows and three pieces of chocolate (or chocolate chips), stuff them in and wrap in aluminum foil and heat up until melted.