Buttercup's Bionic Leg

This is Buttercup. Okay, maybe his leg isn't exactly bionic. It's probably more accurate to refer to Buttercup as having a prosthetic foot. However, Buttercup has a foot that was made by a 3D printer, so by definition, I think I can get away with my title.

We met Buttercup and his caregivers at the Hummingbird Migration Celebration, and it was the highlight of my day. Buttercup is not your average Pekin duck, though you wouldn't notice from his photo. He's a famous feathered friend because he and his 3D-printed foot have been featured everywhere from Mashable to HuffPost, even Fox News. You can google him. Buttercup was visiting from his home at Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary, where he lives with other domestic ducks and geese that have been tossed aside by irresponsible humans. Jennifer and Mike Garey are the hearts (and brains) behind this nonprofit, where their mission is to "help abandoned domestic ducks and geese with food, shelter, and veterinary care; and facilitate adoption into safe, loving homes."

Being that I have ducks in my own backyard flock, I was very moved by their mission! But the science and technology behind this benevolent endeavor is really just mind-blowing when you think about it.
A person... used a printer... to create a foot... for a duck.
When I made plans to go to this hummingbird fest, I was expecting a bounty of nature and conservation-learning opportunities. I wasn't expecting STEM to boot!

We're hoping to visit Buttercup sometime and meet his friends. I can't wait to learn more about the work the Gareys are doing. You can follow the links to learn more or follow Buttercup's Facebook Journal.

Buttercup's special foot

Buttercup has loved Teddy all his life.


Hummingbird Migration Celebration

Down in Mississippi, about an hour outside of Memphis is a piece of land "where nature and history meet," and each September the public can go there to celebrate the Ruby-throated Hummingbird... in a very hands-on way. The place is Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. We attended the Hummingbird Migration Celebration five years ago, when the temps were scorching and the hummingbirds were scarce. This year, I decided to give it another go, though it wasn't really the hummingbirds that attracted me.

If you're reading this and wondering if it is worth the trip, I will tell you all you really need to know. Yes! Get there when they open to beat the heat and prepare to be amazed. You will have an opportunity to release a hummingbird or feel its tiny heart beating rapidly against your ear. I could give more detailed information about this event and its purpose, but this video does a much better job.

Note: The video states that Strawberry Plains is located 25 minutes outside of Memphis. Actually, it is 25 minutes outside the outermost boundaries of Collierville. It's closer to 45-50 minutes from Memphis.

Now, for the reason we made the (ahem) 50-minute trek to Mississippi... It was the live bat encounter with conservation biologist and bat expert, Rob Mies that really motivated us to risk a heat stroke. Really, it wasn't that bad because we got there when they opened! Rob offered a very engaging presentation about understanding bats. The photos I was lucky enough to get are of bats that are about 15 inches from my face. It was very cool! Rob answered every question from the audience. Afterward, he hung out at the Organization for Bat Conservation tent, where he autographed books that he has written, and sold other bat-related merchandise... all to support bat conservation and education.

In addition to releasing hummingbirds and getting face-to-face with the world's only flying mammals, we also took in a "Good Ole, Down-home Mississippi Snake" show.

All of that and I still haven't made it to my favorite part of the day! It involves one very cool husband and wife, a 3-D printer, and a one-legged duck named Buttercup. You can read more here.


Geology Rocks!

With the unofficial end of summer drawing closer, we decided to take a little road trip with a specific purpose. Geology! My budding scientist has been very interested in geology this summer. So, we headed to cave country in the Missouri Ozarks.

We've spent a lot of time visiting the unique geographical features of the Ozark Plateau. From one of the world's largest natural springs to granite boulders that are over a billion years old, there is so much to explore! This trip was the perfect opportunity to nurture geological interests and apply what we learned about Gold Rush technology. So, we packed our handy-dandy field guide and headed to Cave Springs Park.

This was our second tour of this cave. As cave tours go, this one is actually very short, which is perfect for elementary-aged learners. During the tour, we spotted two types of salamanders and a frog! Cave Springs Park never disappoints when it comes to a variety of animals to see... and not just in the cave. They have a small museum where they house animals from the diverse ecosystem of the surrounding land. This trip, we saw a variety of baby and juvenile snakes and frogs and the cutest little prairie dogs you've ever seen! (The last time we visited, we got to hold a baby raccoon.)

While all of these aspects of the park are really fun and provide a multitude of learning opportunities, we were there for rocks to apply recent geology lessons to real life. So, we purchased a bag of dirt and turned the junior geologist loose on the long tom. Later, we all participated in a quarry dig for fossils and gems. And while many of our finds were not native to the location, it was a really great science activity. We plan to make a chart of our finds, similar to the one in the photos that follow.

I was sure to inquire about group educational field trips. In an effort to support science education, the owner, Danny,  offers an amazing discount for educational groups. He even mentioned that he has groups from as far as Jackson, TN drive up for the day. So, Memphis should be no problem. Thanks Danny! We'll be back with a group. However, I think we might have to make it an overnight-er! There's just so much geology learning to do in the Ozark Plateau region.

From Sea to Shining Sea: Missouri                                                      Great State Graphic Organizer

Our next project: Great State Research. We've got a head start on Missouri!


Bridging the Gap

This is one of those posts, where I state the obvious... It's been a very long time since I've even looked at this blog. Yadda, yadda, yadda... difficult year... house flooded... twice. The reasons for my hiatus are not very interesting. So, I'll get to the point. I needed to post something to bridge the gap between then and now. 

To cut to the chase, I've put my teaching career on hold to teach my own child. The reasons are many and at some point I'll probably elaborate. However, for this post, I just want to say that we are officially homeschoolers. Officially because the state of Tennessee requires families to file paperwork that refers to non-traditional education as "homeschooling," though I really don't like the term and in reality much of our learning happens everywhere except home.  Until someone coins a phrase that I do like, I suppose I will stick to homeschooling. 

Now that I've gotten the introduction of that unfortunate label out of the way, I can go on and on about my excitement! [insert gushing here] School started on August 4th in Memphis. That is when I started trying our learning routines and introducing new learning materials to my daughter (and husband). I sort of think of it as our soft opening. I like to think of our official grand adventure beginning the day after Labor Day. After all, when you're not tied down to a school, you can start your learning year whenever you want. 

My plan for Peachy Skeen is to post often about our new lifestyle and hopefully use it to connect with other likeminded people. If you've read my blog before, you probably won't see a huge difference in the content, just the frequency in which it is updated.

While we are still finding just the right balance of teaching and learning. I thought I'd post a few photos of our beginnings. Please feel free to connect with us, ask questions, or share ideas! 


The Logistics of Losing a Tooth

It finally happened! After what seemed like years of all her friends losing their teeth, the snaggletoothed smiles of her peers will no longer torment her. My seven (and a half) year old finally lost a tooth! I have to mention the half.
We've long been prepared for this special moment. In fact, Santa brought the sweetest little tooth pillow... Christmas before last! I have it on good authority that the same cute pillow can be found HERE.
I polled my friends to find out what the Tooth Fairy is offering for teeth these days. When I was a kid, it was one dollar per tooth. Considering inflation and the current median tooth fairy bounty, the Hubs and I estimated fair market value for teeth to be about five dollars per tooth. It was Hubs that insisted that the prudent pixie leave payment in the form of five golden dollar coins.
It was important to me to capture this rite of passage. Admittedly, I searched for ideas on "lost tooth photo sessions." To my surprise, I came up with very little. Even if only using my iPhone, I really just wanted to be sure to document that sweet, little smile that is about to be forever changed.
Speaking of iPhone photography... I took this photo session as an opportunity to try fun photo apps. Several friends have asked me about the program I used to fluff these basic phone photos. I'll tell you truly, it wasn't a cakewalk. I used a combination of several apps to get my end product. It was worth it though. I think they turned out pretty cute! These photos were styled using Snapeee, Insta Text, and PicFrame. Since then, I've discovered my absolute favorite photo app, Rhonna Designs. It's SO worth two bucks!


Critter Encounters

Now that summer break is almost over, I finally have time for a long overdue post! I never know what our summer adventures will teach us and this summer we've learned a lot. Our Volunteer Odyssey was an incredible learning experience that introduced us to some of the most inspiring people in our community. (I blogged all about that experience here.) But I couldn't let the summer slip away without a post about another amazing Memphian!

Earlier in the summer we discovered we had a raccoon living in the attic. Wildlife removal is quite expensive and I wasn't very keen on the idea of having strange men in and out of our house, checking traps. So, Jorma and I decided to buy a live trap and catch the little booger ourselves! What we weren't counting on is that our first catch would be a baby and that the mother would abandon ship, er... attic, after the tragic caging of her little one. Though legally I'm sure we were never supposed to release our attic raccoon in just any secluded countryside, ethically there was NO WAY I was going to leave a baby to fend for himself. Now what?

Well, a series of phone calls and web searches led me to a list of wildlife rehabilitators. If you live in Memphis, go ahead and pin this for future reference!  Little did I know how lucky I was to select the first Shelby County woman on the list. Within an hour of calling her, Janie Kathryn and I were driving to her house.

When we pulled up to the unassuming house on the edge of Germantown, we had no idea what we were in for. Claire and her husband Joe showed us around their home, where they were rehabilitating about a dozen baby racoons, and a few baby bunnies and opossums. It was amazing. They were amazing! They took time to teach us about the animals. They showed us the obstacle course used to acclimate the baby raccoons to climbing trees in the wild... occupational therapy for the little critters who might otherwise fall into an urban life of knocking over garbage cans. I was blown away by Claire's kindness and passion for helping these sweet babies. Janie Kathryn was blown away by all the critters to hold and that Claire and Joe were happy to feed her addiction to creature education. Did you know that raccoons bathe their food before eating it? Watch this video for a laugh!

One of Claire's rescued raccoons has become part of the family. Gypsy, the umm... most robust raccoon I've ever seen is also the most lovable. She has been living with Claire and Joe for quite a while and is in the process of becoming an education animal. You might see her at Lichterman Nature Center one day! Veterinarians think that Gypsy might have suffered cognitive damage at some point in her life, causing her to be mute and very docile. She is so gentle and lovable, Janie Kathryn and I instantly fell in love!
Ever since meeting Claire and Joe, I've thought a lot about them and how lucky we were to find them. Not only does Claire provide a valuable service for our community, she and her husband are simply delightful people. So, when we trapped an opossum in our attic a few days ago, I knew who to call! Claire was so kind to help us again, even though the little baby we dubbed Opal the apple-eating opossum was actually an adult male. We changed his name and that's (oh)possum, in case you didn't know.)

I hope to take my Girl Scouts to meet Claire and her creatures this fall. I am certain there is a badge to be earned! If you'd like to learn more about Claire and how she helps orphaned wildlife, you can visit her website!


My Weekend With Big AL

I have a guest blogger for this post. My child asked if she could make a blog about her weekend with the class mascot. A gal after my own heart! Of course, she got a little tired of typing when she was on her third sentence. Introducing, in her online journaling debut, Janie Kathryn... [insert applause]

I had a good weekend with Big Al. I had fun making my packet. I am excited to be star of the week. I am still working on my star book, but here are a few photos of Big Al and me.