Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Mann Center and Fairmount Park

It started off as a dreary day, but the sun came out as we strolled the nature trails at the Horticultural center in Fairmount Park. But before that, we saw TapKids at the Mann, the beginning of their Free Young People's Concert Series for the summer. Free parking, free concert, you know I'm there. The TapKids were very good. The shows was a kind of play with tap dancing playing a major part. It traced the day of ordinary kids on the day of their school dance. Hey, that right there was a lesson for my homeschooled bunch. Cafeteria trays? Detention? The rhythm of the props (basketballs and the cafeteria trays) and shoes and the energy of these young dancers made for a very engaging hour long show. The next concert is more than a month away - check out the schedule.

We'd been to the horticultural center in April for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Since it was so close to the Mann, I thought it would be nice to see what was blooming now. We spent a little time in the greenhouse where we saw an artist painting. He was very friendly and let us sneak a peek and answered some questions. We then walked past the pool to the sundial. My two younger children didn't understand it at first, so I explained and we waited for the sun to show itself. This sundial was built in 1906, I think, and was quite interesting. It had more than just the hours denoted. Around the dial were months of the year and cities of the world with the appropriate adjustments in time. Kind of like at the train station where there are many clocks, each set to a different city.

Now that we knew what time it was we decided to head down a nature trail. Along the way we saw interesting plants, some common birds and even a little chipmunk. At the end of this particular trail was a most unusual gazebo. Designed by the artist, Puryear , it was built in 1993(?). What makes it unusual is that you literally walk into the tree tops. It is open all around (although safe due to heavy wire fencing) and on the top too. It feels like a tree house. Delightful.

On our way back to the car we stopped at the gardens by the greenhouses. There were 4 or 5 ladies there tending to the plants as well as planting. Sadie, my 5 year old, exclaimed, "There's salad growing!" Her astonishment caught me off guard; I had to remember that planting a vegetable garden was one of things I'd dropped since she's been born. The kids started asking questions about the names of plants and other things I couldn't answer. Fortunately for me one of the women patiently told them not only the names of plants, but their uses, both medicinal and nutritional. They were particularly interested in the herbs, so Kim (the gardener) plucked a generous bunch of tarragon, oregano and peppermint for them to take home. She encouraged them to put some on their chicken, pizza and in their salad. They've hung the oregano, per Kim's instructions, waiting for it to dry to they can crumble it onto their pizza. I didn't need to beg for help later in the day set out to move some perennials around and plant a few annuals. And I've had more than one offer to tend their own piece of land. Thanks Kim!


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