Thursday, May 22, 2014

Crickets and Honeysuckle Sipping

Okay, not really, but I have not posted anything in a while and I am fairly certain if you were checking in, you might have thought you simply heard crickets...if it were warm enough.

It was a long, cold winter with lots of stuff going on that had absolutely nothing to do with homeschooling and yet, at the same time, everything to do with life events that are more important than any math lesson.

When I started writing this in mid-March, we were just finally starting to see the brown grass in our yard. I refused to take a picture of that. It was a false start to spring. Spring and GREEN, pretty grass finally showed up with a lot of very cold days to get us here...even cold into May.  So, to stave off spring fever, I read quite a few books. Some were simply me pre-reading for content for my oldest, others were for my own edification, then some were simply brain candy. :)  However, I did find some gems while I was reading and this was one of them.

This lovely book that I is called "Honeysuckle Sipping" by Jeanne R. Chesanow - a most delightful book!

Once upon a time, children did not have computer games, shelves & bins full of toys, playrooms, or other such dedicated places for their entertainment. During good weather, they were sent outside to play and had to amuse themselves. In the great outdoors they played with the plants that they found in their environment. They made whistles out of grass, dolls, had snacks (truly, sucking honeysuckle is a wonderful delight - yummy!), made crowns -- all kinds of wonderful things that were only limited by their imaginations.

There are some lovely poems, legends, and folklore that go along with so many of the plants in our flowerbeds.  One of the plants they talked about in the book, we already knew about and had played with:

A few years ago, when I was expecting my youngest son, we moved to a house that had LOTS of hollyhocks. I just love hollyhocks and this house had lots of wonderful colors! At the time, we also got a magazine called The Girlhood Home Companion (I highly recommend the magazine. Even though no longer in publication, you can still get back issues. They are lovely). One of the issues talked about hollyhock dolls. So, we went looking for more instructions. We found them and this is what we made:

I look forward to introducing my children to some of the other fun found in the book. It is also a great way to continue our nature studies as we look for the various plants found in the book. I hope this inspires you to take a different look at the plants in your yard and the world around you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our favorite conservation area

We are very blessed to have a conservation area in our small town and live only about 5 minutes from it. There are upland forested areas, upland prairie areas, wet prairie areas, wet woodlands, along with regular wetland areas (meaning ponds & swamp). So, besides our walks around our yard, we try to get out to the conservation area 2-4 times a month (well, except in the winter....we don't have snowshoes, heehee!). During the spring, it is a little harder to visit all the areas because even with grass, the trails get muddy. We have hiked trails on warm, early spring days only to still encounter snow on the trails!

We have found it to be a great place to see many different kinds of birds, plants, trees, frogs, etc. Last year, I had the privilege of taking a visiting friend to the conservation area. She and her daughter were privileged enough to even get bit by some of our state bird (cough....mosquito! heehee!). Since they visited in the summer when all the plants were well into their life cycle, I thought I would share some of the pictures I took last week to show it at the beginning of the season. I took the pictures with my friends in mind. I hope you enjoy them.

>>A beautiful, flowering tree in the wooded area just off of the parking lot. I am still working on the tree name for this one. I love this time of year.

    <<The is the main trail that we walk on from the parking lot.

>> By mid-summer, the grasses are about 3-4 feet all through here. Right now, they are just a few inches. Sometimes, they will do a controlled burn in the prairie zones.  G3 was very excited to know that bluebirds happen to live in the birdhouse in the middle. I missed seeing it, but the children actually saw an altercation between a bluebird and some robins in the area (in the trees behind me). I suspect there was a territory violation.

<<In this picture, on the left side of the trail in, when my friends were here, this was full of a wildflower that I had not ever seen before in that area. I suspect it was something new that was seeded in that area.

>>The prairie area here would be on the right side of the picture above. In this area, there are flowering plants that grow well over 7 feet tall. It is amazing to walk through this zone and be simply dwarfed by the plants. Right now, we are dwarfing the plants. In a few weeks, not so much. It is amazing how quickly plants can grow!

<<The large green "tufts" in this picture on the left are the beginnings of some of those huge plants. The picture just below on the right is a close up of the same plant, but from a different area. No name for it at the moment, but I will when it flowers this summer.
A close up of one of the unnamed tufts.

<< This one of my favorite plants in the prairie zone. In early fall, when it is dried out, the huge  leaves make this fabulous dry, rattling sound. I cannot explain it, but it is the most amazing sound to me. Isn't that just silly? This one and the one just above it are ones we are researching the names

This one has the answer to one of the clues.
This particular visit, we are looking for a Letterbox. I started us letterboxing back in 2005. We are better known as the Catherders of WI on the trail. However, due to pregnancy challenges with M3 and then life afterwards, we have not been letterboxing since the summer of 2010 (just before I went on bedrest with M3). So, this is M3's first time looking for a letterbox. We were looking for one about a Tiger....G3 was very worried that we would find Lion's in the forested areas. Silly boy! 

<< 3 different kinds of mushrooms at the base of one tree stump.

One of the many ponds in the wetlands area.

Red-winged blackbird

Seed spreading, lol!

Garlic Mustard plant. Pretty, but an invasive species originating in Europe. Edible.

Two of my hikers:
G3 on the left and M3 on the right. G3 is bound and determined that we will NOT get lost.
The deer lay here.

<< Common Blue Violet. If you look closely, there is some Garlic Mustard plant hiding in there.

>>I just love the contrast of life and death here.