Our world is full of vines…I never noticed how many vines there are in our neighborhood until we focused on vines for the past few weeks during our outdoor time. The vine above is a Common sulphur pea that grows wild in our area and is a native plant. I always just call them sweet peas. These are growing on our hiking trail and they don’t bloom very long since they are on the sunny dry side of the trail. They are a delight while they last.
Blackberry vines – This tangle is right alongside our walking trail. They don’t get a lot of water here on the dry side of the hill so they aren’t very sweet and plump. The wild critters benefit from these patches of blackberries.
I think these are Himalayan blackberries and are an invasive species in our part of the world. I have them in my yard…creeping in wherever I don’t whack them back or chomp them down. I keep a very small manageable patch in my front yard for the birds and for my own early morning picking pleasure in the summer. Nothing like a freshly picked, sun-warmed blackberry for your breakfast.
Sweet peas – These are the purple-pink sweet peas that grow wild alongside the walking trail. They come back year after year. I am cultivating a nice patch of them in my backyard, hoping they will fill in a spot with their brightly colored flowers. We read in the Handbook of Nature Study that studying the sweet pea should be a garden lesson so we will save it for the summer. (We did a previous sweet pea study and you can read it here along with my little video.)
English ivy – This is a vine that grows over and through our fence from our neighbor’s yard. We spend quite a bit of time cutting it back since we really don’t want ivy taking over our yard. It is pretty and green but that is about all I can say nice about it.
Hedge bind weed – We have this growing under our birdfeeder. We are watching it grow and then in a few weeks after it has bloomed we will pull it all out. (I am keeping just a few of the hedge bindweed plants on the advice of a fellow gardener who told me it could quickly take over.) We did a previous study of this plant here: Hedge Bindweed if you want to take a look.
Vetch – This was the plant that led to a complete afternoon of study. We actually have two varieties of vetch along our hiking trail. The one above is Hairy vetch and then we also have Spring vetch.
The spring vetch almost looks like a small sweet pea (same family, different genus). It took some time to find information on these two vetches because neither plant was in our wildflowers field guide. I presume this is because they are non-native plants. We found this interesting because these two plants are seen everywhere in our area. I have started keeping track in my nature journal of native vs. non-native plants…interesting exercise.
We decided we needed to keep this as an on-going nature study and we will be watching as the hedge bindweed and sweet peas in our garden as they mature over the next few weeks. We have had fun noticing if plants twine in clockwise or counter clockwise directions. It becomes sort of an obsession. Keeping a focus always adds an enjoyable layer to our outdoor time and nature study.
Don’t forget to share your Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. All entries done in May are eligible for the next edition. The deadline for entries is 5/30/12 and you can send them directly to me: email@example.com.
More Nature Study Book 3 Vine Study – Sweet peas, Hedge bindweed, and Dodder
Vines: Plants that have the habit of climbing upon other plants or upon sides of houses. Stems of vines are not strong enough to stand alone, seeking support to help get their leaves up into the life-giving sunlight. Some vines climb by twisting their stems around the support plant while others have special “holders” which are called tendrils.
Inside Preparation Work:
Read these pages in the Handbook of Nature Study to prepare you for this week’s challenge. 1. Sweet Pea: 588-590 (Lesson 164) *vines with tendrils. 2. Hedge Bindweed: 518-520 (Lesson 137) *twining vines. 3. The Dodder or Love Vine: 520-522 (Lesson 138) *tendrils with sucker.
If you would like to start your sweet peas from seed, follow the instructions in Lesson 164. This study could then continue into the summer months and end in a study of the sweet pea flower using Lesson 164.
Use your outdoor time for this challenge to explore your yard and neighborhood looking for vines of any kind. Don’t worry if you can’t find a sweet pea, dodder, or hedge bindweed but apply your knowledge and vocabulary to any vines you do find.
Make sure to observe closely how the vine climbs. If the vine is a twining vine, note which direction the vine wraps itself around the support plant. If the vine has tendrils, note their color, size, and direction.
Optional: Plant sweet pea or morning glory seeds for your own vines to observe over the next few months.
Follow up your outdoor time with the opportunity to record an entry in your nature journal with your vine observations. Ebook Users: You can use the vocabulary found on the chart in the ebook.
Advanced study: Research more vines and how they climb (How Plants Climb). Summarize your information in your nature journal.
Advanced study: Make your own time lapse video of a vine twining or using its tendrils.
If you planted sweet pea or morning glory seeds, continue to record their growth over the next few months in your nature journal.
This week we walked the same trail to view our ferns. We tried to remember how many ferns there were back in January and there seems to be more ferns now and they are larger. Comparing photos I think we are correct.
Magnificent ferns on our hiking trail.
I was interested in the Western sword fern but Mr. B was interested in the California Maidenhair fern. Both are plants that we have looked at closely before. The Maidenhair fern is interesting because it has a black stem and looks like lace…sometimes you have to look twice because you think the green parts are floating in air but really they are attached with delicate black stems.
We had a field guide to consult and to glean a few new facts from. Mr. B did a nature journal page for the California Maidenhair fern from our hiking trail. He thought the stalk was a purple/black…I will have to look closer the next time we hike down the trail.
California Maidenhair Fern – March 2010 (Best photo I have that shows the stalk.)
Now do you want to see some of our California wildflowers from further up the trail? We were busy this time stopping and noting all the colorful flowers there are right now.
This is a colorful time of year in our part of the world.
I am keeping a running list of wildflowers seen on this particular trail for the whole year of 2012.
Keeping a list…nothing fancy about this page in my journal.
I just add to my list in my nature journal when we get back from our hike. It is interesting to see the patterns and successions of blooms.
Making fern prints with ink. See link below.
We will be revisiting ferns again this summer as we visit several spots in California that have ferns. I think it will be fun to add to our collection of fern prints that we started back in January.
It is not too late to join in with your own fern nature study….. If you own the More Nature Study Book #3 for spring, there are plenty of simple ideas to glean more information about your local ferns or prepare for the future when you may encounter ferns during your travels.
I am linking up to a new to me monthly meme at The Homeschool Scientist. Click over and join in.
Read pages 693-706 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lessons 192-195)). Highlight information on ferns that you would like to share with your children. After reading through the information, pick one aspect of the fern to focus on during your outdoor time (unfolding, fruiting, learning parts of the fern).
Advanced preparation: YouTube: Fern Life Cycle (Give this one a chance. It starts off a little rough but covers the information very well for this challenge.) Fern Cycle—Animated (For Fun). For students who have a background with high school biology: Fern Life Cycle.
Outdoor Hour Time:
Note:Take a hand lens and a way to carry a fern frond with you during your outdoor time.
Ferns are in the section of the Handbook of Nature Study that covers Flowerless Plants. Use your outdoor time this week to go on a fern hunt or as an alternative, look for moss which is in the same section in the Handbook (Lesson 197). Make observations using a hand lens if you have one. Take photos of the location of your ferns or other subjects.
Collect one frond of your fern (if appropriate).
Allow time for a nature journal (notebook page provided in the ebook). If you would like to make this study into a year-long project, record your spring fern observations and mark your calendar to return in summer, autumn, and winter to view your fern’s changes.
Use careful observation to view the sori on the back of your fern.
Funny how we all have had our favorite spring Outdoor Hour Challenges. For me? This dogwood study has been about two years in the making. I have always wanted to have a dogwood tree in our front yard but it wasn’t until we did our massive front yard remodel that I was able to find a dedicated spot for the dogwood tree. We choose one with white blossoms…my favorite.
We waited last year for it to flower but we only had leaves. This year….ta da! A dozen or so creamy white blossoms to enjoy and now study.
We read in the Handbook of Nature Study about how the flowers have been waiting inside the bracts all winter long, protected and sheltered until conditions were right. I have spent the last month or so going out almost daily to check the branches for any signs of opening. What a gift once we saw the bracts changing!
See the notched bract? This is another thing discussed in the Handbook of Nature Study that I would have never noticed if it wasn’t pointed out to me.
I had to convince Mr. B that the true flowers are the ones at the center and not the big white bracts. We counted the flowers and found there were 25+, some open and some closed.
The Handbook of Nature Study said that this was a perfect lesson to use a hand lens for so we brought ours out and took a deeper look. Amazing! If you haven’t yet done your dogwood study, I highly recommend this activity. You might note it in your ebook to do for next year as well if your dogwoods are no longer blooming.
How fun is this? Don’t the leaves look like a bird? I was busy standing on top of my retaining wall to take photos of the dogwood and looking down on the leaves….it truly looked like a bird!
Now for a few fun images from our evening study. Here is a colorful view of our front yard right now….hubby brought me home a new garden flag for the front stairs. I love it! We did have a swallowtail in the yard a few days ago so it won’t be long now until butterfly time! The Kona dog is taking a rest from helping us weed and water.
I don’t think I shared my new addition to the rock garden. We took a new hike up into the mountains and into an area where you can collect rocks, a true rockhounds paradise. We brought home this big piece of serpentine which is the California State Rock. Isn’t an amazing shade of green? Our rock garden has become its own little micro-habitat with insects and critters living around and under the rocks. In the evenings there is a very loud cricket chorus in our yard. It is a comforting sound and I stand on the deck and listen in the dark and imagine where they all are as they sing.
What a wonderful study! It all started back when we decided to remodel the front yard a few years ago and we put on paper our list of plants and trees we hoped to include. The dogwood came two years ago and this past week we added a California redbud. I am looking forward to seeing it grow and mature…maybe next year it will bloom for us.
“One of the most interesting performances to watch that I know is the way this poppy takes off its cap before it bows to the world. Like magic the cap loosens around the base; it is then pushed off by the swelling, expanding petals until completely loosened, and finally drops off.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 563
Way back when I was planning the challenges for the More Nature Study Book #3, I had no way of knowing what perfect timing I would have with this particular Poppies and Buttercups Challenge. We were treated to two events this week in connection with our poppy study.
1. We took a day trip to Yosemite National Park and even though parts of the park still have quite a bit of snow, when we left the park through the southern El Portal entrance and out Hwy 140 there were millions of poppies blooming along the hills that run alongside the Merced River. It was breathtaking! I have lived in California all my life and I have never seen such a display of poppies…miles and miles of poppies in bloom.
2. The California Poppies in our front yard garden decided to start blooming on Monday. I am serious….Monday, right on cue! We took some time to closely observe the way the caps tip to reveal the petals (see the top photo in this entry). We marveled at the light shining through the bright orange petals. We peered into the inside flower parts and remembered Anna Botsford Comstock’s remarks about sleeping inside a poppy. We observed the lacy leaves and decided to do some sketches and rubbings of the leaves in our nature journals. You can view a previous more thorough study of poppies in this blog entry: CA Poppies-Using the Handbook of Nature Study.
“The insects in California take advantage of the closing petals and often get a night’s lodging within them, where they are cozily housed with plenty of pollen for supper and breakfast..” Handbook of Nature Study, page 564
As part of the advanced study suggestions for this challenge, we are keeping a spring list of wildflowers in our nature journals.
Mr. B also completed an additional notebook page for the Hound’s Tongue wildflower that we saw blooming this week on our hiking trail. This is one of the early wildflowers that we see in our local area. It’s distinctive leaves make it an easy flower to identify. The flowers are almost blue which is unusual and beautiful.
I enjoyed the lupine on the way home from our Yosemite trip. We had a wonderful week of focusing on wildflowers, increasing our desire for spring to really come and stay in our part of the world.
More Nature Study Book 3 Spring Wildflowers – Poppies and Buttercups
Inside Preparation Work:
Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 516-518 (Lesson 136) on the buttercup. Also, read pages 560-565 in the Handbook about the poppy and the California poppy (Lessons 154 and 155). Use the information to identify and then observe these flowers when you get the opportunity. If you don’t have these flowers in your area, use this challenge to find and view closely any flower in your spring world.
Use this challenge to introduce the parts of a flower with the proper names. You can find information online HERE. There is a diagram in the Handbook of Nature Study on page 456. You can also refer to Garden Challenge #2. I encourage you to start using the flower part names as you observe flowers.
Outdoor Hour Time:
This week you can spend some of your outdoor time looking for spring flowers or flowering weeds. Part of this challenge is to start using the correct flower part names and that can be done with any flower you find.
Collect one or two flowers to bring inside to draw in your nature journal.
Advanced students: Complete your nature journal in the field. List as many of the flowers you observed as you can (Free printable list notebook page HERE). Use your field guide to identify any flowers you don’t know. Pick one to research later in the week.
Sketch or watercolor the flower you collected during your outdoor time. Make sure to add a date, flower name, and the location you collected the flower to your entry.
Advanced students: If you did not do so in the field, complete a nature journal entry for your flower, complete with flower parts labeled. Use a field guide or the internet to learn more about your flower.
Advanced students: Research more information on one of the flowers you observed during your outdoor time.
This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge was to do a robin nature study…but where were the robins? Just a few weeks ago we counted six for our Project FeederWatch count. We saw forty-two during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year in February. This week….zero. We have been vigilant about looking but they are gone from our neighborhood now. So what to do?
We were out looking for any birds this morning and we were surprised to see that our neighbor’s trees were full of Cedar Waxwings! We have learned that they visit us on their way south and then again northwards. The interesting thing, according to our family’s records, we usually see the big flock come through during the GBCC in February. We did not see them this year at all until now. What does that mean? Not sure but it will be interesting to see what happens next year.
Would you like to see our Cedar Waxwings?
They filled three trees and were munching on the “nuts” from the pistache tree that have lasted all winter…just waiting for them to come and polish them off before the next growing season. What a wonderful provider they have!
Yes, we had very gray skies this morning but it wasn’t very cold. They sat resting and eating for quite some time and I was able to get up close to take a few colorful photos of them as they sat in the tree. Don’t you just love their yellow-tipped tails? I could really hear them making their very unique buzzing sound. Do you want to hear? Here is a link to AllAboutBirds and you can click over and hear what I heard…click the “high pitched hissy whistle” and that is exactly it.
Then in a blink of an eye, they were off again. I was amazed at just how fast they flew away in a flock. What a great experience we had this morning! I am forever grateful for the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I know that if I had not started this adventure with all of you that I would have missed out on so many deeply memorable times with my family.
It spurs me on to get outside and this month I have enjoyed joining in with Debi at Go Explore Nature and her #GetOutside project…a photo scavenger hunt. This simple project has already brought such joy to our family. It has encouraged us to think about how we can incorporate outdoor time each day in the month of April. I hope you will consider jumping in with us and take a few minutes to read more about the way it works on her blog. You can see all my entries in my Flickr Set: April GetOutside Project.
Another great week of nature study with my teenage sons.
Don’t forget to share your April Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.You can submit entries directly to me if needed: firstname.lastname@example.org
We still have plenty of tree buds to use in our nature study this week as part of the More Nature Study Book 3 study of Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms assignment. We went out after dinner last night to observe and gather some specimens for our study. Can I just say that we were intrigued with the variety we have right in our own backyard?
Mr. B and I both sketched buds into our nature journal. There has to be no better way to really see what a bud looks like than to try to sketch it in detail. Picking the correct color and seeing the different ways that buds are shaped lead to really truly *seeing* the subject.
Advanced Study Notebook Page from More Nature Study Book 3
Mr. B used the advanced notebook page from the ebook to try his hand at sketching an enlarged bud using the grid paper. He thought this was hard…..I think he just needs a little practice.
Sweet Gum Tree Bud
What a glorious bud he chose to sketch! This is the sweet gum tree bud…it looks like it is ready to burst open at any moment. We placed it in a glass of water to see if we could get it to open up in our window sill.
The vertical twig hanging down has our string on it…still no leaves.
We also observed the birch catkins we have on our backyard tree. This was the same tree we used in our twig study and we found the branch with the string marker. Not much of a change yet so we will continue to watch our twig as the season progresses.
New leaves on this twig of the birch tree and some catkins too.
Currently there are no tree blossoms in our yard. The plum is done and the pear and apple are not yet blossoming. We found a few more interesting things to gather and bring inside for our bud study.
Walnut Tree Twig with Buds
The most interesting thing from our study is the walnut tree twig with its unusual buds…both color and shape. We had never taken the time to really examine the walnut tree bud before so it was a surprise. It was a fun exercise to try to get the sketch right in my journal. It helps to know a little bit about twig anatomy so you notice all the important parts like the leaf scars and the lenticels.
Silver Maple Buds and Key
The maple tree buds are all burst open and you can see the keys in the image above. If you are interested in doing your own Spring Maple Tree Study, you can look back to a previous study we had here on this blog. You may wish to use the free printable: Spring Maple Tree Notebook Page
Birch Tree Catkin – April 2012
So this was another wonderful study with my teen. He did a little grumbling at first about doing the study this week since he thought there wasn’t much to learn but as you see above once we got started there were many things to be interested in. If all that he gleaned from this study was that all tree buds are unique and we can identify trees from twigs and buds, then I am a happy mama.
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