Monday, July 30, 2012

A Mint Compilation

Taking Care of Mint Plants

Mint likes to be in full sun or partial shade.

Mint is bossy - you need to keep its roots away from other plants or it will kill them.

Mint likes to be kept damp and moist - use mulch, and keep the soil damp.

If the plant looks unhealthy, it is either getting too little water or too little sun. Move it, and change your watering habits. Mint recovers well.

Mint likes to be fed bonemeal once or twice a year.

Mint flowers should be removed asap, because otherwise you will get fewer leaves, which is the part you're wanting.

Mint's worst enemy is a disease called rust. You can spot it by seeing orange blobs under the leaves. Take affected leaves off immediately - you might have to sacrifice the whole plant to prevent it spreading to other mint plants.

Mint has loads of varieties, of which a few follow (this information and quotations selected from
  • Spearmint "One of the most intensely fresh mints, milder than peppermint, it is used in sauces, jellies, and teas." 
  • Chocolate mint "This herb has dark, rich foliage. It tolerates hot, dry conditions and is not as invasive as most mints. A nice desert mint!" 
  • Apple mint "Tall sturdy stems with large, fuzzy, grey-green leaves that smell slightly of apple" 
  • Peppermint "The most famous of all mints, it requires little care and makes excellent teas and candy. 

Mint will reproduce easily - cut off a sprig (1cm above the junction) and leave it in a glass of water. After a little while some roots will start growing out. Wait till the roots are quite long and then plant in a fresh pot.

Mint likes to have its biggest leaves taken off, so that the smaller leaves get a chance to grow (big leaves hog the sunshine).

Mint runs out of space easily - approximately once per year you need to unplant it, separate it into quarters (especially the roots) and put each piece of plant into a separate pot.

Using Mint

Some of the things that mint has been used for medicinally:

  • indigestion and a wide range of tummy problems (pop a couple of leaves in boiling water to make a tea!) 
  • headaches 
  • muscle relaxant and anti-inflamatory 
  • calming 
  • breath freshener (is this really medicinal??) 
  • relieving nasal/sinus/chest congestion - helps with colds 
  • giving energy (replacement for caffiene) 
  • aids concentration 
Some of the things that mint has been used for in the kitchen:
  • Salads 
  • Marinade fish 
  • Vegetables (put mint in the water used to steam the veggies) 
  • With potatoes or rice 
  • Make mint ice-cubes (a whole leaf in each cube) 

Mint can also repel insects (flies and ants) and possibly also mice.

Preserving Mint

Pick it in sprigs after the dew has dried off.

Then you tie the sprigs together by the stems (use an elastic band) and put the bundle(s) in a brown bag to dry.

Hang the mint upside down to dry - it will take about 2 weeks.

When the leaves are brittle, put it on a sheet of wax paper and pull the leaves off (you don't want the stems).

Crumble the leaves, and store in a dry, dark environment.

You can also freeze the crumbled leaves (but make sure they don't get wet).

Mint can also be preserved in vinegar (or oil). Just put the fresh leaves into a bottle of nice vinegar and stand in the sun for two weeks, shaking gently every day to spread the flavour.

 More detailed information:


Patrick de Penguin



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Baby Gardens

I've been wanting to start growing herbs and vegetables for a while now. In fact, I even started a small herb garden a few years back, but I didn't look after it properly, so it died... Then the other day I inherited some small wooden boxes that my dad made for my sister's play (long story), and I thought:

"What perfect containers for mini gardens"

Second thoughts said:

"No money. No time. The plants will probably die anyway."

Third thoughts said:

"We should all grow vegetables to become eco/sustainable and also healthier...and I have to start somewhere. And besides I WANT to."

Happily, first and third thoughts ganged together to beat second thoughts into submission. So here is the story of my baby gardens.

I went to the garden shop with my mom - who is also en route to a herb/veggie garden. 

The boxes needed a teeny bit of adjustment to be perfect...Thanks husband and best man (and still special friend)!

 Box one - swiss chard (two types), wild rocket, lemon thyme, broccoli, origanum.

Second box: peppermint and garden mint (yes, I love mint!)

Two beautiful baby gardens by our front door. Can't wait to visit them tomorrow morning!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Teaching Transformations and CAPS

Since the curriculum changed soon after I left high school (2008 for the first batch of matriculants), geometrical transformations (reflections, rotations, translations and enlargements) have been a small but important part of the curriculum in Maths from grade eight through to grade twelve.

If you've forgotten what geometric transformations are then there is a fun free powerpoint with lots of pretty pictures here. There are also awesome notes and visualisation tools here.

Now we have just started grade ten roll-out of a new new-curriculum: CAPS. And we decide to remove ALL transformations from grade 10 to 12. Which is cool...we have to take something out to make room for all the new stuff...

But the problem is that teaching functions (linear, quadratic, hyperbolic, exponential) is really lacking in depth if you teach it without referring back to transformations (I should know, I learnt it without any knowledge of transformations). Functions are so much more sensible if you understand transformations. And Maths should always be sensible. Well, where possible anyway.

Net result: we teach almost all of the transformations (leaving out detailed rules of rotation) in grade 8 and 9. We do basic understanding of physical transformations in grade 8. This means that in a one-two week module in grade 9 we have to achieve a reasonable level of understanding and competency with the rules of translations, reflection and enlargement.

Bear in mind that being decent, hard-working teachers (most days of the week), we don't just want to give them the rules and let them get on with it. We want them to at least have a "hand-wavy" understanding of where the rules come from.

With this aim in mind, I have created a series of worksheets aimed to develop a solid intuition about how the various types of transformations can be represented algebraically. I attach some screenshots of the best bits for your delectation and delight. I will put them on TPT as soon as I've given them a test run (and since it'll be a test run by my whole department it should be reasonably accurate **we hope**)

The aim is to start with what the kids CAN do (writing points as coordinates, physically transforming the shape using geometrical methods...) or at least are supposed to be able to do. Needless to say half of them will have forgotten, which is why I'm planning to use this series of worksheets as "do on your own - now do together" type resources, question by question so that the weaker kiddies don't get completely lost or end up going on their own little completely incorrect mission.

But we need to move very swiftly on to focusing on the coordinates of vertices, and figuring out the relationship between the object coordinates and image coordinates. Otherwise we stay in grade 8 forever...the horror!!

You'll notice that 2.4 represents quite a jump forward. So I anticipate spending a fair bit of time in class looking at the table together and formulating a sensible answer. The second half of question 2 then does exactly the same process all over again with the other translation shown in the image...

Then, after some notes and a fair bit of repetition, we get onto using the notation properly and skipping out the intermediate steps. In other words, actually using the rules which they will now be intuitively happy with.

When we go onto the next installment (reflections), we take the steps a teeny bit faster, and they have to get to the comparison of coordinates a teeny bit more independently. Just to mix things up a bit (and prevent the stronger learners from getting too bored).

I won't bore you with endless repetitions: I do essentially the same thing three times for translation, reflection and enlargement, and a brief version for rotations. The emphasis throughout is on correct notation and terminology, and attempting to make a strong intuitive link between the algebraic representation and the geometric representation.

AND FINALLY...we whizz through a whole bunch of exam type questions. Just to satisfy the endless chorus of "What's in the exam, ma'am??", and of course also to calm the nervous and generally satisfy curriculum requirements. 

What do you think?

Can we get through this in 5x forty minute lessons??

We really need to, so wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012