Autumn in our part of the world has been very mild and sunny. We would have a few days of rain and then the sunshine would be back to draw us outdoors again. Our garden has never been so tidy and neat for the autumn season. We have been able to work in some new bulbs and replant our deck containers. The leaves have fallen in small batches so we have easily kept up with the raking and composting.
That all changed this week.
We had wind and lots of rain. The leaves fell from the trees like crazy and made big mounds in the street gutters. At last, it seemed like a true autumn. The leaves made beautiful mosaics of color on the ground.
My husband sees the leaves differently since has spent the last few weeks being able to keep up with the leaves that fell.
Now he is overwhelmed.
It really is a case of whether you see the glass half full or half empty.
I see the colors and shapes as an inspiration so I run inside to find my camera and to capture the moment.
Here are some more of the images I was able to gather from my yard on this beautiful autumn morning.
This is on the side yard where in the spring I have my daffodils.
Kona was glad to be able to get outdoors with her ball between rain storms.
The birds have cleaned out this birdfeeder in less than a day. This time of year I need to fill them up more often for the finches, sparrows, nuthatches, juncos, towhees, and jays that come to enjoy their daily seeds.
Kona doesn’t see the problem with the piles of leaves since exploring the yard and sniffing the smells of autumn delight her and she never tires of it. She is an optimist like me.
I am going to take the colors from these images and make a color palette in my nature journal…yellows, greens, browns, reds, purples, and oranges. Watercolor crayons or pencils? I will share my colorful mosaic when I finish.
I don’t know about you but ever since we really learned about Fibonacci numbers in nature we have been on the lookout for the patterns and swirls. They seem to be everywhere once your eyes learn to focus on this interesting design in creation. The More Nature Study Book #4 Summer Sizzle challenge for garden flowers shares lots of ideas for getting to know about the Fibonacci sequence and the aster family.
Our Garden Flowers Study using the Handbook of Nature Study led us to discover some different kinds of asters that we have right in our own yard. The clue is the shape and arrangement of the flower petals.
The challenge was actually to study White daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and Asters. We went beyond and tried to find all the flowers in the aster family that we have in our garden. We found quite a few.
There are the dahlias. This surprised me that it was in the aster family. My son grows dahlias in his garden box for me and this year they are all shades of pink. I would like to add a few more colors next year.
We do have dahlias growing in pots on the back deck. We planted these from seeds that we purchased from Rene’s Garden. The package calls them Watercolor Silksand they live up to their name.
I bring them in and let them fully open up inside on the kitchen table.
We have lots of Echinacea in our cutting garden. We looked this flower up and it is in the aster family! Can you count the petals?
We were not sure about the Bee Balm so we looked it up on Wikipedia…no, it is not in the aster family. Knowing what makes an aster an aster, we should have known better. Sometimes it adds to the learning experience to NOT find what you are looking for because it makes you stop and take note of the different attributes of a flower like petal arrangement and the way the flower grows.
The nasturtium is also not a member of the aster family. I would love to have a whole bed of nasturtiums. I settled for four scrawny plants this year. There is a study in the Handbook of Nature Study for the nasturtium and I think our family will be following up this aster study with that one in the near future…just for fun and to record this flower in our nature journals.
Other Miscellaneous Garden Adventures from the Past Month
We have lots of Cabbage White butterflies in our garden everyday. I really love this link: Cabbage White. I learned so much by taking the time to look up this butterfly even though it was technically garden flower week. I love it when nature study subjects come to us and we slow down enough to learn a few facts. This is what makes our nature study so rich and satisfying. I think it is such a joy to know about the common everyday things in my garden. There is so much to learn.
We visited a beautiful rose garden when we were on our Oregon trip last month. Shores Acres has a garden that is so magical that you don’t know where to look and you are afraid you are going to miss something. The rose above is my absolute new favorite…it is called Hot Cocoa. It had a slight chocolate fragrance and the color was reminiscent of cocoa.
A rare sighting of me on the blog but I want you to know how much I enjoyed this rose garden. My son obliged me by taking a few photos of me as we wandered around and tried to find our favorites.
My other son decided that the bench was just too inviting and he rested awhile in the rose garden…what a great way to spend a few minutes while you wait for your mom who decided she wanted to read very sign.
So have you completed your garden flower study for the summer yet using the Handbook of Nature Study? I would love to see your garden entries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival…you have until the end of the month to post your entry and send in your links.
Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!
This is the summer of the butterfly! We have been observing many kinds in our front yard garden…it is amazing to watch as several flutter around from flower to flower. The American Lady butterflies are smaller than we expected but they are daily visitors to the butterfly bushes.
We planned this garden for bees, butterflies, and birds and they are now moving in and taking advantage of our neighborhood oasis that we have created. Our neighbors all stop by to tell us how much they enjoy seeing our yard as they walk and drive up the street. It makes me smile.
Creating this wildlife habitat has been a dream realized. I can honestly say that we have spent time every single day enjoying the wonderful things in this space.
The Western Tiger Swallowtails are the most frequent of the larger butterflies to visit every day. They spend lots of time on the butterfly bushes but they also land on the lavender from time to time. I think they are my favorite butterfly.
The white butterfly bush is the color that attracts the most butterflies from our casual observation. It has larger amounts of flowers so I think they may be the attraction.
We have had a few Monarch butterflies in the past week. This one looks a little tattered. It is exciting to see a Monarch though…this is exactly why we created this habitat. We looked forward to having our nature study subjects come to us…and they have.
This long thin purple flower cluster is my favorite shape and color. This could be called my purple section since I have purple lavender, sage, and butterfly bushes literally bursting out all over. The bees have found this space and they are here all day long.
The deep purple bushes line the front street and there are hummingbirds that can be seen landing on the blossoms as they take a break from collecting the nectar. The blooms don’t even dip down…those hummers must be super lightweight.
There are a few more butterfly varieties that have come to visit but I haven’t caught them with my camera….yet. I will share when I do.
Just for the record, the bee balm and nasturtiums started blooming this week in the back yard. Beautiful!
Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!
Every reader of the Handbook of Nature Study (the book) knows who Anna Botsford Comstock is….the esteemed author of our nature study guide and lessons. She wrote the words that have touched my personal life in such a profound way, changing how we view the world in our own backyard. She may have touched your life in a similar way through the pages of the Handbook of Nature Study as you worked through the Outdoor Hour Challenges.
When the opportunity was offered to me a few years ago to visit and actually stay at her cottage in New York outside Ithaca, I wasn’t able to make the trip at that time. It was on my mind a lot through the years so when a last minute trip involved traveling in New York came up last month, I immediately contacted the family that now owns the cottage to see if it was available during our visit. It was! We made arrangements to stay for three days in the cottage that Anna and Henry Comstock built on the shore of Lake Cayuga.
” During the fall of 1906, we were making habitable The Hermitage, our summer cottage on Cayuga Lake. We put a large window in the living room which gave us a wide view of the lake. This room was given a hardwood floor and was ceiled, to make it warm. Here we set up the wood stove that had been in my mother’s parlor when I was a child. It had a grate and in the evenings we opened up its front doors; this made it as cheerful as a fireplace.” Anna Botsford Comstock
It was just like I imagined it…set in the woods, right near the water’s edge. The birds, flowers, and trees were those that Anna wrote about in her books. It was warm and cozy and somehow familiar.
We sat on the porch and enjoyed the sounds of the woods. The lake glistened as the sunset on that first day. I climbed into bed and thought how it must have been there over a hundred years ago when the Comstocks first built the cottage.
“Harry and I spent weekends there, and on each trip he would walk the mile and a half from Taughannock Station to The Hermitage, carrying on his back a basket filled with materials for fixing the house.The labor my husband performed in and about this place was remarkable.” Anna Botsford Comstock
The next morning I was up early for a walk in the woods. I ventured out alone for the first hike and as I stepped off the porch I heard birdsong and glimpsed a young deer sneaking across the road into a thicket of bushes. The woods woke up as I hiked up the trail and my eyes were trying hard to take in all the sights.
The green of the new spring leaves, the thin trunks of the trees, the rustlings of birds and the cry of the mourning doves. These were Anna’s woods. This was the place that helped inspire her to share her love of nature with teachers and children, bringing them into a relationship with common everyday things in their world.
There was teasel by the trail…new to me in person but familiar through the pages of the Handbook of Nature Study. Advanced preparation does work…I recognized it right away and remember that she had called it ” a plant in armor”.
“He added paths and built a fine wharf and a double-decked boat house, in the upper part of which we swung our hammocks, and from which we enjoyed the glory of many sunsets. The Hermitage was always a place where work was play; we dumped our cares at the Ithaca station when we left, but they were always waiting to jump at us on our return.” Anna Botsford Comstock
I made my way back to the cottage and by this time the boys were up and ready for the day. My husband and Mr. A took out the canoe onto the morning smooth water of the lake. Exploring a new place by water…leaving their cares behind as they paddled across the surface of the lake in the early morning sunrise.
Mr. B and I decided to take another hike through the woods and this time we noticed the wildflowers. These were the wildflowers of Anna’s books…the ones we don’t have in California.
The whole weekend was filled with the opening of eyes and hearts to a magical place, gently teaching us the way of the New York woods in which we found ourselves. One day it rained and we watched the drops fall from our dry spot on the porch. The fragrance of the wet woods was delightful…different than our Northern California woods. The rain stopped and we grilled dinner on the stone fire pit down by the water. We skipped rocks, sat and watched the fisherman go by on their little boats, and we shed our cares, refreshed.
At the end of the weekend, we had made many entries into our nature journals, took lots of photos, and made some memories of our own at this lakeside cottage.
We will always remember our weekend spent on Lake Cayuga at the Comstock’s beloved Hermitage Cottage. Special thanks to Christiana and Alison who graciously opened up their family cottage to our family, making this trip to New York even more special.
I hope my readers enjoyed glimpsing our weekend….we all need to remember to build in our families a rich heritage of outdoor experiences. Who knows who it will touch in the future?
Next time I will share our day at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and Sapsucker Woods! More connections were made to the Handbook of Nature Study.
My dear sweet husband surprised me by making a new garden arch for my front yard. We had talked about adding a decorative arch, kicked around a few ideas, and then he added his creative touch. I love the way it makes a sort of “window frame” to the lower part of the garden. He is going to fill in the bare spot with another sage. The poppies are filling in naturally and I think by next year they will be to this lowest part of the yard.
He added a few of my favorite things….birds, butterflies, vines. (Maybe all this garden beauty will distract me from my neighbor’s falling down fence.)
He didn’t stop there. He finished up the top terrace of the front yard….he eliminated much of my wildside garden but now it is going to be filled with more wonderful color. Just a note: He used the idea I found on Pinterest to spray a solution of vinegar and water on the weeds before trying to remove them. He sprayed last weekend and let it sit for a week. It was awesome how easy those weeds just hoed out of the ground. He was able to do this entire area in less than an hour! I didn’t get a “finished” shot….I will soon.
We are adding more yarrow…a different color this time. The yarrow in our front yard is amazing right now…what a great performer with no water and lots of sunshine.
Maybe someday this new section will be as colorful as the established part of the garden. Here is an image from the top terrace looking down onto the yarrow, lavender, butterfly bush, poppies, and dogwoods. We also added some lamb’s ear among the rock garden. I am going to see if spreads too much but it has added a new texture to the yard.
Switch gears now and head to the back butterfly garden.
The columbine is starting to bloom! This is such a wonderfully happy flower that loves my semi shady spot in the butterfly garden. Look at those colors!
How about the shape? Isn’t it interesting to see how different the back of the flower looks from the front? I am adding this image to my nature journal…I think watercolors.
Last but not least, I wanted to share another one of my swallowtail visitors to my back garden. This magnificent butterfly spent quite a bit of time yesterday fluttering among my potted plants. He seemed to like the bright pink dianthus the best.
So now you know what I am one delighted nature mama. I love this time of year!
Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!
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.
When we started our front yard remodel in 2010 I had no idea how much joy this space was going to bring to our lives. Each week it is a new palette of colors. The plants are really filling in this spring and new critters are moving in as well. Here are some glimpses into our garden and then a nature journal entry tutorial for you to give a try.
Butterfly bushes, Yarrow, and Lavender – April 2012
Lavender is the main blooming plant on display right now. The bees love it and so do we!
Along with the lavender is the forsythia, which contrasts so well with the lavender.
The poppies are just beginning to show signs of flower buds and they are just waiting to tip their “hats” and show their blazing orange colors.
This is something new this week….a critter is making a home under my big rock! They have pulled the landscape material back and exposed a little space to hide in right there alongside my front path. I wonder who it is?
I still really enjoy watching our butterfly “fly” around in the breeze. It adds a little bit of whimsy to our front yard.
Nature Journal Tutorial- Window Frame
This project may at first appear to be a little complicated but I encourage you to give it a try. The finished project is so fun to look at and remember your nature time.
Watercolor pencils and brush
Begin by sketching a frame that includes both pages in your nature journal.
Sketch your subject. I chose this butterfly bush sample to sketch. Just for fun I made it extend outside the frame.
Now you can add water to your sketch, a title, and a little detail sketch if you wish. Add some fun lettering along the one side…add a date (which I did after taking this photo) and you are finished.
Our quartz study has stretched on for weeks. We have had numerous rock collecting hikes and each time we come home we develop new questions to be answered. The supply of quartz in our area is seemingly endless. Once your eye starts to look for it…you see it everywhere.
Our family lives in the gold country of California. The gold rush started practically in our backyard. We drive by the American River every day…as the crow flies it is about 3 miles from our house. This area is full of old gold mines and many people still today make a living by mining and panning for gold (or using a sluice box). Where there is gold, there is quartz.
We collected milky quartz for the most part at the river, along with a variety of other “pretty” rocks. I have a special place for pretty rocks in my heart. It may be the hunting for them or the spotting of a particularly nice rock that keeps me coming back for more.
Mr. A shares my love of rocks and we enjoyed an afternoon this week at the river with the Kona dog. Kona likes sticks more than rocks so we occupied her with fetching sticks while we looked for something interesting along the rocky shore.
The sound of rushing water always seems to welcome a good thoughtful sit..even on an uncomfortable rock. This day we sat and enjoyed the warmth of the sun after a freezing morning. Our jackets were slipped off on the hike back to the car which was nice.
At home we started off with a magnifying lens, looking carefully at the surface of each rock. This can quite addictive once you get started and there really is a lot to see.
We noticed a colorful collection of sand on the surface of one rock and we had the bright idea to place it on a slide and look at it under the microscope.
We are still not sure if the shiny gold is actually gold or pyrite….probably pyrite flakes.
We placed a little sand on a microscope slide…our rocks all had small amounts clinging to the nooks and crannies.
Now this is where the study becomes even more interesting! We spent the next hour or so taking turns finding things on the slides to share with each other. It was like discovering a new dimension.
We now have a larger collection of quartz and pretty rocks, a growing understanding of what “sand” is after looking at it under the microscope, and an appreciation that we don’t know everything about everything. 🙂
Amazing world down there…who would have thought?
It is not too late to do your own study of quartz using the Outdoor Hour Challenge. You may be as amazed as we were.
When I posted on Facebook yesterday that we were going to head out to snowshoe, the weather forecast said something like “partly cloudy, high of 52 degrees, and 10% chance of precipitation”. Sounded good to me. Well no one told us that between our house and our hiking spot that there was going to be dense fog, drizzle, and the temperatures were falling into the 30’s.
I knew Mr. B was anxious to test out his new snowshoes so I didn’t want to disappoint him and we kept going up over the mountain. Once over the mountain it cleared up and we had lots of clouds but no rain.
Needless to say, we kept our eyes on the sky, checking for signs we were going to get rained or snowed. We had the snow to ourselves, not counting the many animal tracks that were visible. So many tracks going so many directions…there must be a whole forest full of animals out there.
Isn’t this a surprising sight of brilliant blue on this winter day? Steller’s jays are common and this one was posing for my camera. I love the blue feathers on the nose. My field guide says that these jays are “inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy”. Yep, that totally describes this bird.
We couldn’t resist seeing if we could lure the jay closer and Mr. B had a pocket full of pretzels. One little bit of pretzel and that Steller’s jay came swooping down for a tasty treat, making his shook-shook-shook sound as he flew.
We had to go the long way around since the beavers have now completely dammed up the water in the creek and the resulting pond has spread over the normal trail. This is where we saw the salmon spawning last fall and the mama bear with cubs. No signs of them now, although it smells rather fishy around this bend in the creek from all the dead fish remains.
We hiked along the creek a little way and we noticed that there are places where the creek mud is piled up onto the banks. We could see lots of little animal tracks around the mud but I’m still not sure what kind of animal did this and what they were doing. Winter hikes can lead to lots of questions. You can see the muddy sludge…it is the black stuff there along the edge.
I never get tired of looking at the landscape here at Taylor Creek. The patterns of the tree trunks against the Sierra sky in the winter is amazing and beautiful. Some people get to look out their living room windows and view a similar scene and I wonder if they stop seeing the awesomeness of it. I come here a dozen times a year and I never tire of this place.
When you are on snowshoes, you can follow tracks as much as you want but I am always a little afraid of getting out into the forest too far….I have a terrible sense of direction. This area is easy to navigate because I can hear the highway in the distance and I generally know which direction I need to head to get back to the trailhead. Here is an example of a nice clear print in the snow.
We did a little preliminary winter weed study while we were out traipsing around the woods. There were plenty of subjects even with snow on the ground. I just liked the way this one looked. I think it is a corn lily. Next week we plan on doing a whole winter weed study so we will revisit these images then.
So our first real snowshoe of the year is over and we didn’t get rained or snowed on. We were bundled up warmly so it was really a delight to be outdoors exploring just the two of us. Mr. B decided his snowshoes were perfect and now we will be able to explore the woods in winter as part of our Outdoor Hour Challenges.
You can read more about hiking in winter on my Squidoo page for tips on how to make it fun: Winter Nature Walks
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