Rain Rain Go Away

For the past few weeks, Max has been playing t-ball and soccer. Between school, practices and games, I feel like we have been running around non-stop. With rain forecasted most of the week, most of Max’s games and practices have been cancelled. It was kind of nice last night, to just be able to stay at home and not have to be anywhere. Max has been very interested in science lately, so we did a couple of small experiments and projects last night.

The first was making a beer bottle volcano. The beer bottle part isn’t really important, any container will do. A long neck beer bottle just works nicely, because the shape of the bottle really spews the liquid around really well. So we filled an empty beer bottle about 3/4 of the way with white vinegar. Then we added some food coloring (I used 5 drops), and then I had Max drop in some baking power using a funnel. Lift the funnel out and in a few seconds, the contents erupts like a volcano. Kept adding little amounts of baking soda to get the reaction started again. We were able to do this 5 or 6 times before the vinegar acidity was totally neutralized by the baking soda. Then we just rinsed the bottle, filled it with more vinegar and food coloring and started over again.

 

The second experiment, we poured seltzer water into a clear glass, then dropped in a raising. At first the raising sank to the bottom, but then after a few seconds, the bubbles from the seltzer lifted the raising to the top of the glass. It continued to drop and raise up about a dozen times before the fix ran out. Dancing raisins!

 

The last project we did was making a terrarium. Last week on Facebook I saw a post about a man who had created a terrarium some 40 years ago, and only watering it once, it has sustained itself for all these years. Basically it created it’s own ecosystem. Essentially the water in the soil turns into condensation, collects at the top of the glass jar, and once it’s becomes super saturated, it falls back down just like rain and the way the water cycle here on earth works. The plants inside, flourish because the leaves go through their lifecycle, drop off, produce carbon dioxide as they decay, which is used by the plants to create oxygen. The decaying leaves fertilize the soil, and nourish the plants.

The glass container they used in the 40 year experiment was very large. I wanted to create something smaller. So I bought some widemouth mason jars, and using instructions I found on the internet, we created our own terrariums. We created 4 different ones. The first is an open design, with several small succulents inside. If I closed up the mason jar, the environment would be too moist, and the succulents would probably rot. So I left the lid off.

The other three are all closed designs, where we tightened the lid after we were done. We started each jar the same way. We poured in a 2 inch later of small pebbles. This helps with drainage. We then sprinkled a thin layer of activated charcoal on top top of the pebbles. We found the charcoal at Petco. The charcoal helps keep the water and soil clean and prevents odors. Then we added a layer of sphagnum moss, which I found at Lowes. Then we added a few inches of soil.

In the first jar, I added some small asparagus ferns that I purchased at Lowes along with some small ground cover plants that I also found at Lowes in their garden section. The opening of the mason jar is quite small. I guess that’s why a fish bowl or a brandy snifter would work better. Easier to fit your hands inside. But we managed to get the ferns and ground cover planted. We then watered the soil till we saw some water down in the pebble layer, and then sealed the jar with the mason jar lid.

The 2nd, we started the same way, but instead of adding plants, we added wild flower seeds. The 3rd, we just added regular grass seed.

For the first two (succulent and fern) we moved them into a shady spot in our kitchen. It gets some window light, but not direct. Apparently the sun can get magnified by the glass jar, so the leaves could scorch. They recommended leaving it away from direct light for a few weeks. The ones with the grass and wild flower seed, we just put directly on a window sill. I think the sun will help the seeds sprout.

We also did a mini terrarium, using yogurt cups. I used some cactus soil, and planted some small succulents. It will be interesting to see how each of them does as the weather changes from spring to summer, then to fall. I’ll try to snap some photos to track the progress.

One last thing we tried propagating a jade tree. I believe a jade tree/plant is a sort of succulent. I ordered a small plant off of ebay 7 or 8 years ago when we first moved into our house. It’s grown quite a bit. I wondered how it originated, whether it was from seeds, or some other process. And I discovered that you can grow a whole other plant, from either a small branch section or even from a single leaf. So we’ve been experimenting with trying to get new growth from two leaves off the main plant. It’s fun checking the progress each day to see how it changes.

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