Friday, May 22, 2020

We Made Terrariums... and I LOVE Them!

We didn't exactly make the self-contained ecosystems that was my intended hands-on project for the Principles of Ecology chapter in CK-12 Biology

Honestly, adding any animals into our lives, however tiny and shrimp- or snail-like, is just a recipe for me fretting endlessly about their health, safety, and emotional well-being. The years that the kids had pet fish encompassed some of the most miserable day-to-day experiences of my life. I'm stressed out enough in general, and if Will wants to incubate chickens this summer I'll be stressed out even more, and I just don't have it in me to experiment with the lives of tiny critters in a sealed plant world.

Maybe later this summer we'll collect some jars of pond water and watch them for a few weeks. 

Terrariums are MUCH more my speed, and the kids were super into the idea, as well, so that's what we did!

Happily, we were able to make our terrariums entirely from supplies we already own, although that's mostly because I'm a supplies hoarder. Here's what we used:
  • glass container with a loose-fitting lid. This keeps most of the moisture inside, while still allowing some air flow. We used some old solar-powered lanterns that were on our property, not working, when we moved here... yeah, I've had them kicking around until 2012. And I'm STILL hoarding the flat-backed glass marbles that were inside them!
  • rocks. I need to stop using the rocks that I bought for landscaping for craft projects, instead. Also, I need to buy more rocks for landscaping.
  • activated charcoal. I bought this a few Halloweens ago to make black food. It's just occurred to me that I bet I could dye play dough with it! It's also good for soapmaking and bath bombs.
  • peat moss. I HATE that I bought this once upon a time, because peat is SO unsustainably sourced. I am never, never, never going to buy it again, although I guess that means I'll have to research what to use for terrariums instead!
  • potting soil. This is basic potting soil, with no fertilizers or moisture-retaining polymer beads.
  • plants. Mosses and ferns and other shade-loving woodsy botanicals do great in terrariums like this.
When the kids were so busy with extracurriculars (if we were homeschoolers, why were we never home?!?), we'd probably have split this project up into two or even three days, so it is true, I guess, that one of our pandemic silver linings is that we're lucky enough to all be quarantined together, with time to do big projects all in one day and space on our own property in which to do them.

I'd still rather my kids had their ballet classes and summer camp internships and our big Girl Scout troop trip, though!

We're lucky enough to be together at home, though, and so together we spent one morning making our terrariums!

We put a layer of rocks at the bottom, added two-ish scoops of charcoal to cover, then an inch or so of peat moss, then a couple of inches of potting soil:

And then we went for a hike in our woods:

Can you see the elusive Spots? Torties are pretty well camouflaged in the spring woods!

Among the mayapples and Jack in the Pulpit, we collected little mosses and ferns, trying to include as much of their matrices as we could along with them, and trying for at least a couple of different kinds of plants, in case some didn't take:

Syd found a lovely horn corral fossil that she gave to me for my terrarium, and in our little creek I found a well-worn vintage green glass marble that also went in.

The lids of our old solar lanterns were an ugly chipped black, so I asked the kids if they would like to repaint them:

Indeed, they would!

We've had our terrariums for almost two months now, long enough for the plants to see if they like it and settle in if they do.

Syd says that she forgot she owned her terrarium (sigh), and it definitely needed a few caps of water when I went off to investigate it--

--but look how it's thriving!

Will's plants were so thrilled to be there that we had to remove the lid to give them some more space to blissfully spread out!

Matt's might be the most successful, since it's not clear if he ever even knew that Syd made him this terrarium:

You guys, it's got a wee little MUSHROOM!!!

My terrarium, which I dote on far more than the children dote on theirs, is the least vigorous, but it's happy, as well.

Even if it wasn't part of our biology study, this was the perfect spring project. Now I just have to go put mine on a shelf somewhere where I can forget it for a couple of months, so it can grow as happy as the rest of the family's terrariums!

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