Monday, 29 October 2012

Nature Study Idea: Listen

I was enjoying another afternoon on my front porch. It was wonderfully warm last week even though it is the end of October, we reached a high of 22 Celsius (that's 'add 32....' and do the hokey-pokey to make it Fahrenheit). Well, it was sunny and warm enough to be in a t-shirt and bare feet.  I was doing the Ken Ken and Sudoku puzzles in the newspaper when I thought I could hear leaves falling. They were.

Upon investigation I saw at least a dozen robins in my mountain ash tree.  They were pecking off and eating the orange berries that are left on it this time of year. The sound was the birds movement disturbing the fragile grip the yellowed leaves had on their branches. I could also hear some of the berries that got knocked off fall through the leaves and hit the roof and rain gutters.

Lucky shot of one of the robins with the berry in his beak,
they swallow them whole as far as I could tell.

I also could hear crickets.  It is a nice sound when hearing them on the outside. When even one gets trapped, or I think some come purposefully, in my house it is quite loud and annoying.  I am quite an expert on catching them and releasing them out my door.

I was still enough hear a rustle then see the black and white cat that lives under the mountain ash dart away probably because falling berries were disturbing his nap. I am sure he sleeps on my cushioned chairs on the front porch when I'm not looking.

The Canada geese are hard to miss, their constant honking announces that you will see their V in the sky as they pass over. Follow their path long enough to see them switch places and catch up with each other.

So listen.  In order to listen you must remain still for longer than 10 seconds. To help restless children settle down try reading a poem or tell a story to them first, the constant sound of one voice will give courage to the wild creatures to come back round. If they are truly a rambunctious lot, let them run through the trail first and near the end they might be more willing to settle down.  Or have lunch outside to keep their hands and mouths busy enough to let their ears hear. And don't forget your own front porch, there is no need to travel too far to hear new things.

Listen. It will draw your attention further than your eyes can immediately see.
Listen. It will change the sense of space you feel around you.
Listen. You might see a flock of robins eating berries in a mountain ash tree.
Listen. Sit quietly you may observe something extraordinary and unexpected.
Listen. Creation is speaking.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Nature Study Idea: Seeds

It's that time of year where the seed pods are revealed after the leaves have fallen: 

1. go on a quest for what has produced seeds.  
2. collect some seeds and mark them carefully for planting in your own garden or
3. share with someone who is willing to send you their seeds. I would be willing to send you some of mine.
4. sketch some of the different shapes of pods and seeds noting what plants they they are from.
5. if your students find something else more fascinating while searching for seeds, then explore and sketch what has attracted their attention instead.  The point is to get them noticing.

Here are some of my plants that have produced seeds:

Red bud seed pods looking like laundry on the line.

The silver dollar, money plant or "Lunaria annua",

if you gently rub the outer shells,
the parts with the seeds slip off,

the 'silver dollar' is revealed
and you have a beautiful dried plant for your home.

Seeds fall and drift everywhere producing many plants,
 if you don't like them they pull  up easily.

Purple flag iris pods reflect the number 3 in their flowers,

the shells are hard and three sided.

Columbines gather their seeds as in a miniature rattle,

shake them gently to hear the tiny sound
 then dump them upside down to spread the seeds.

Plantaginea hosta, the one with the lovely white flowers,

their seeds almost look like tiny maple tree keys.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Nature Study Idea: Blooms


I challenge you to find at least five things blooming in your October yard and garden.  If you live on a very small property, next time you walk to the corner store or library take the challenge.

These are the things I found yesterday:






I have had these wonderful plants in my gardens for years and have enjoyed the colors of the blooms and shapes of leaves. My second challenge for you is to find out some thing more about one of the flowers you have loved for years in your own garden.  I chose the clematis that I recently replanted and was rewarded with some blooms.


Clematis (KLEM-a-tis) is a member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. The word is from the Greek and means "vine." This genus includes approximately 250 species and numerous garden hybrids. It is a varied genus, made up of mostly woody, deciduous climbing plants, though a few are evergreen and a few herbaceous. There is great variety in flower form, color, bloom season, foliage effect and plant height. Leaves are opposite on the stem and mostly compound with three to five leaflets. The leaf stalk twines like a tendril and is responsible for giving the plant support. The flowers are showy, having four (sometimes five to eight) petal-like sepals (no true petals) in numerous colors and shades. There are three general flower forms: small white flowers in panicles or loose and irregular spreading clusters; bell or urn-shaped flowers; and flat or open flowers. The fruit is often showy as well, being a ball shaped, "feathered" structure. Clematis are hardy plants (many are hardy to USDA zone 3) and can survive for 25 years or more. The large-flowered hybrids may have blooms ranging from four to ten inches in diameter and as many as 100 blooms per plant in a season. The species types have blooms ranging from one-half to three inches in diameter with diverse shapes and habit; many of the species have fragrant blooms, which is not true of most hybrids. The one fault of clematis is that they are not attractive during winter, when they are a tangle of bare stems. 

I never really thought of a plants life time. There was a large hosta in our garden when we moved in 24 years ago. I have split, separated and replanted and split those and replanted more hosta to the point that I give them away. It could be the everlasting plant.

I would love for you to tell me what is blooming in your garden this month.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hey, What's That?

What is curling the leaves of my oak sapling?

can you see it?

yup, a very shy spider.