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New Printable for Members- Garden Set of Notebook Pages

Now available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships:

Garden Notebooking Pages – Set #1

(See the end of this post for more information on how you can become a member.)

Garden Notebooking Pages Set #1: This set of notebooking pages for your nature journal will help you study the following topics: morning glories, lilacs, marigolds, caterpillars, and cabbage whites. I love this time of year and hope these pages will inspire you to get out into your garden and look for these common subjects. There are 7 notebooking pages in this set. These pages are a great supplement to the Garden Flowers and Plants ebook that we are currently working through with the Outdoor Hour Challenge.


Note: If you have any subjects you would like me to create nature notebook pages for, please let me know in a comment here on the blog or in an email:


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Print a complete list of printables available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships by clicking the button above.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code NATURE5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership!

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Garden Update – August Bonanza

Early morning in the garden is my favorite time to stroll the boxes looking for what treasures are to be found…you are welcome to view some images from the last week.  Above hangs my new birdfeeder, a gift from my husband and my gift to my backyard birds. They love this new feeder and I love that it is larger than  my last one so that means less times filling it each week.

Sunflowers and morning glories are the in the main box this year and they seem to like living together. The vines creep up the poles as well as the sunflower stalks and each morning I have a new blue flower waiting for me to enjoy.

This is the Mailbox Mix from Renee’s Garden and her heirloom collection. This is a winner in my yard!

The zucchini box is full of gorgeous plants and squash this year. We planted Renee’s Garden Tricolor Mix so we have dark green, light green, and yellow squash to enjoy just about every day.

Our tomatoes are starting to produce lovely red fruit and just a few at a time so we can enjoy them in our sandwiches and salads. Tonight…bruschetta!

Our fig tree has another crop of figs to pick. I am not a fig lover but I share with my friends and family that are…they love me for sharing.

Our pear tree has just a handful of pears this year but they are beautiful to look at and hopefully tasty to eat. Our apple tree dropped its apples last month which was weird. My sister said hers did the same thing.

I love the bright orange squash flowers and apparently so do the bees in my yard.

More squash to come!

My dad and I have both found that our green beans are not producing even though we have blossoms. My dad called Renee’s Garden customer service to see if they had some tips on getting our plants to set fruit. They suggested we add some fish fertilizer which I had on the shelf. I mixed up a couple batches and fertilized all my veggies in the garden so we shall see if it helps.

Someone had emailed me asked what I use in my garden for fertilizer so here is a photo of the bottle.

This is my dad’s flower garden which I am envious of. His lantana and dahlias are amazing! Up above he has his fenced in veggie garden which is producing lots of okra, corn, zucchini, eggplant, strawberries, and peppers. I have been helping him a bit in the garden since he had a fall last week and was not moving around too well. What a joy to help him in his garden.

These are just a few of his sunflowers which are Chocolate Cherry variety from Renee’s Garden.

I better stop there…so many garden delights this time of year to share with you. Until next week and the Tuesday Garden Party.

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Garden Update – Renee’s Garden Seeds

This year Renee’s Garden sent me my whole seed order as a gift so that I could share my results with my dear blog readers. I love the selection of seeds found at Renee’s Garden and I have grown them in my garden for many years. I usually order them directly from their website but my dad purchased his whole garden seed order at our local Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) which would even be easier!

We got our seeds in the ground last month and we are already seeing tremendous growth in the veggie and flower gardens!

Our Blue Lake pole beans have all sprouted and with the heat we are getting this week we should probably see them double in size. The seeds we planted are from Renee’s Garden Organic Seed Collection. I am so thrilled to have these in my garden that I planted two different boxes with these green bean sesds. I am anxious to see how they taste!

This is something new for our family from Renee’s: Tricolor Zucchini. The zucchini seeds are mixed in the packet and contain three different kinds of squash. The seedlings look strong and are growing like crazy. I have a whole houseful of zucchini lovers so hopefully we will get our fill of squash this summer.

A whole row of sunflowers…which need to be thinned a bit. We have three really big ones which were self-sowed from last year’s crop but there are some little seedlings that we planted from our Renee’s Garden seeds. There are Van Gogh, Chocolate Cherry, and Royal Flush.

We planted plenty of morning glories right in the middle of our back garden. I am hoping they do well here and have been watching them grow week by week. Morning glories make me super happy and I love to draw them in my nature journal…relaxing. The seeds we picked are a heritage blend that are traditionally grown to decorate fences and mailboxes.

There are also some really pretty showy flowers in the garden right now which are not from Renee’s Garden but I want to share with you.

The hydrangeas are very happy this year and this is my favorite color…so delicate.

In my container deck garden there is a beautiful calla lily blooming. This plant always surprises me when it pops back to life after the winter weather. It soon will be a whole pot full of blooms which the hummingbirds and I will enjoy.

It is very hard to believe that it is day lily blooming time but they are all budding out and a few are blossoming.

I love the peachy color of this day lily and am always happy to see it in bloom in my butterfly/hummingbird garden.

There are lots more of Renee’s Garden seeds to share and I will as the season progresses. I am always happy to share our favorite seed company with my blog readers.

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OHC More Nature Study Book 3 – Vine Study

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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.
  • Read this page and view the images: How Vines Climb. You can watch these videos on YouTube: Twining Motion of Vines, Morning Glory Stop Motion, Time Lapse of Cucumber Tendril (Beware: 1812 Overture plays loudly.)
  • You can see some of our sweet peas in this entry: Sweet Peas and Blackberries.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • 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 Activity:

  • 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.

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Our Fabulous Five

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding something extraordinary in the ordinary as far as things we see in our own backyard and in our own neighborhoods. We have done some follow-up work on our five subjects and I wanted to share a little about what we learned and didn’t learn. 🙂

Morning Glory (Handbook of Nature Study page 519 reference to twining)
We learned that it is closely related to the sweet potato. It is called a morning glory since the blossoms only last one day. It grows in just about any soil, doesn’t like too much moisture, and will thrive in full sun.

I love the way the vine curls up the poles and then into the trees.

Alligator Lizard (reference and photo of alligator lizard and fence lizard, Handbook of Nature Study, pages 210-211)
We did some research on our alligator lizard but guess what? We saw an even bigger and more glorious lizard last week.

How is that for a lizard? I love his feet!

I think he might be a Northwestern Fence Lizard which we have had in our backyard before but he also may be a Sierra Fence Lizard. He has lots of color on his back and we have always just called these guys “blue bellies”. I am not definite about who exactly he is but still enjoyed observing him with his wonderfully long toes on his feet and his inquisitive eye.

We learned from reading on different websites that lizards can have ticks! That is something we definitely did not know before and for some reason we all found it very interesting.

CA Alligator lizard nature journal
This is an older journal entry my son did for a lizard we had in the backyard. He incorporated a photo and a sketch. We did some additional research this week on the alligator lizard and found that there are several species that live in our area. Now we are not sure which one we have so during our next encounter we will know more in detail what to look for.

Caterpillar (Handbook of Nature Study -lots of caterpillar info. We used page 299 for a drawing in our nature journal.)

We had no luck with figuring out what kind of caterpillar we saw on the sidewalk under our Sweet Gum tree. You would think that with its bright colors and outstanding horns and markings that we could find it somewhere in our field guide or online. Nope. We will be keeping our eyes open to see if we can observe more about these creatures right outside our back door.

Hummingbirds (Handbook of Nature Study section on hummingbirds starts on page 115)

We were still not able to figure out our dark headed hummingbird from a few weeks ago. We have been watching the feeder but the regular hummers are keeping it busy. Anna’s Hummingbirds are very common at our feeders all summer long and then even over the winter. We learned that they are *not* migratory which is really interesting since it gets very cold here in the winter and we even have snow. Where do they live when the weather is bad in the winter? You can be sure we will be keeping our eyes open to answer that question.

We have been working on taking photos of the birds in sports mode and we get much better photos…a tad bit clearer.

After some research and online digging, I think we have identified our migratory black headed hummer as a Black-chinned Hummingbird. I looked at the migratory map on and it looks like it is highly likely it could be just this bird. Here is more on their migration.

California Towhee

We read some more about this regular to the feeder, or more specifically…under the feeder. They always come in a pair. What is interesting is that the map does not show that we should have these birds but we have them year round in our yard. The other thing that is interesting is that the maps show that we should have Spotted Towhees all year but we don’t during the summer. Hmmm….don’t know what that means but it is interesting.

We also learned that California Towhees are sometimes called “car birds” since they like to run and hide under parked cars. We have actually witnessed this behavior several times and think it is quite funny. They also will sit on car mirrors and “fight” their own image. We have not seen that behavior but it wouldn’t surprise us.

Here is a link for reference on the CA Towhee.

Our Fabulous Five Ordinary Things
That wraps up our fabulous five ordinary things that we looked more closely at from our yard. This was a great exercise and we will be certain to do it again.

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Nature Study: Finding the Ordinary to be Extraordinary

Extraordinary in the Ordinary @handbookofnaturestudy
Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary I challenge you to find five ordinary things in your backyard or in your everyday life that you can study and learn something more about. Find something extraordinary in something you have come to think of as ordinary and usual, so usual that you may not even notice it anymore.

Sebastian actually gave me this idea that I think would be a great challenge for nature study close to home. In order to start developing the idea, we challenged ourselves to go out in our backyard and find something extraordinary. I decided we needed a little clearer definition.

Extraordinary: beyond the usual, far more than usual, more than expected

It is that “more than expected” part that we want to develop an eye for in our family.

Here are the five things we will be learning about from the Handbook of Nature Study, the field guides from our nature shelf, or internet sources like and

The blue of the morning glory is outstanding and we have never done a formal study of this garden flower. Now is the time to do it since we have lots of blossoms to observe. We already have decided how extraordinarily blue this flower is…not very common in flowers I think.

While we were outside, the cat was chasing this Alligator lizard. Lizards are not an extraordinary creature in our backyard but as we watched this lizard, we started to wonder about its defense mechanism…the breaking off of the tail to distract its attacker. We are going to do some more research about this extraordinary ability.

This California Towhee is a regular visitor to our feeder, or rather under our feeder. We have never taken time to focus our nature study on this particular bird but now we will. I’m sure there is something extraordinary about it that we don’t know yet. The most visible difference we have noticed about the California Towhee is its very long tail…hmmm….maybe that is extraordinary.

We have noticed an increase in hummingbirds in our yard this summer and there have been two in particular that we would like to study more in depth. I was unable to get a photo of the hummingbirds but thought you might enjoy seeing my new feeder. I think maybe the two unusual hummers we saw were migrating and I would love to learn more about where some of our hummingbirds go at different times of the year.

Caterpillars have been dropping out of the Sweet gum trees and before they can crawl away, the birds swoop down and eat them. These caterpillars are busily eating the leaves from the tree but we don’t know exactly what they will be once they go though their life cycle. Look at those colors, now that is extraordinary! We are going to try to identify these critters as part of our challenge.

Now we have a list of things to investigate.
1. Morning glories
2. Alligator lizards and their tail
3. California Towhee
4. Migrating hummingbirds
5. Caterpillar from the Sweet gum tree.

You can take the challenge to find the extraordinary in the ordinary if you are up to it! Find something in your yard to focus on and really see the beauty, the design, and the magnificence of something that perhaps you have been overlooking. It could be as simple as the dandelion in the crack of your sidewalk. It could be the robin gathering worms in your lawn. It could be the ants on your kitchen counter. The possibilities are endless.

If you take the challenge and you blog about it, leave me a comment and I will come over and read about it.

I will be posting our results over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned.

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Black-Eyed Susan, Daisies, Tomatoes, Lemons, More

This week’s garden update is full of colors and surprises. My daily watering routine is always rewarded with something new or interesting to look at and think about as I spend a few minutes enjoying the growing things in my yard. This is the time of year that gardening is at its best….all those hours spend cultivating and sowing seeds, pampering the delicate plants as the summer progressed, and then feeling the surge of joy as you peek under a leaf and see something delicious to eat or something to raise your spirits with its colors and textures.

Here are your garden treats this week.

Morning glories in all their glory. This is the color that they are in real life…a sort of radiant pink and the camera just enhances that rich color.

My Black-Eyed Susans are just starting to bloom along the fence and they make me smile.

“These beautiful, showy flowers have rich contrasts in their color scheme. The ten to twenty ray flowers wave rich, orange banners around the cone of purple-brown disc flowers.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 523 (Black-eyed Susan)

This is a hover fly inside a wildflower. He is the perfect size for this trumpet shaped flower. I have been on the lookout for insects in the garden since that is the focus of the Outdoor Hour Challenges right now. This one I recognize from our fall study of insects.

This creature is my constant companion as I spend time in our backyard. She is always curious about what I am looking at and many times I have to shoo her away in order to get a good photo of something in the garden box. In this photo she is watching my middle son fly his RC helicopter on the lawn. She isn’t afraid of it but I don’t think she exactly knows what to think of it either. Always curious….

This beauty just started to bloom today. It is in a pot on the back deck and it came up from a plant that I had last year. Gerber Daisy…what a color it is!

Now we are to the edible update for the week. My patio tomatoes growing on the back deck are really starting to produce. Can you just taste the yummy sunshiney taste of these beauties? Next year I think I will grow two of these plants so we have enough tomatoes for everyone.

Last year my hubby bought me a lemon tree for the deck. He put it in a beautiful pot and it was loaded with lemons. We harvested those and then over the winter we pampered this tree through rain, wind, snow, and ice. Come springtime it blossomed like crazy and it smelled so delicious. Then the cold weather came back and I worried that we wouldn’t get any lemons at all since the blooms fell off. Well, hiding under the bottom leaves there were some that made it through and now we have some fairly good sized lemons on the tree again. I think there are eight lemons which is better than nothing. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the garden update for this week….so many things to share. I wanted to mention that I usually look up everything in the Handbook of Nature Study as we go throughout our week. Many times I am surprised to see something listed in there and then we take the time to read and discuss the information. It just seems so natural to find something we are interested in and then learn more about it when it is fresh in our mind. Even though the focus this week is on insects for the Outdoor Hour Challenge, many other subjects come up and we take that opportunity to learn about them too.

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Morning Glories and Passion Flowers

This morning I noticed for the first time that the newly transplanted passion flower is starting to cling to the garden arch that my husband made for me a few weeks ago.

I love the twirly little way it sends out its tendrils to grab the bars of the arch.

I also was interested to find that my morning glories are starting to get their first true leaves and how differently they are shaped than the emerging leaves.

I was looking in the Handbook of Nature Study for morning glories but couldn’t find them directly listed, except for a little mention in the hedge bindweed section on pages 518-519. But the description of the leaves sounds just like the morning glory plant.


“The leaves are arrow-shaped, with two long backward and outward projecting points, or “ears”, which are often gracefully lobed. “

We are really enjoying our study of garden flowers this year. We always have a garden but this time with the focus on learning each plants name, the names of their parts, and a little about it, we are seeing so much more.

I can’t resist sharing my new birdfeeder station with you. My husband picked up the pole to hang the feeders on and I chose two different kinds of feeders, hoping to attract a different kind of bird to our yard. We are also going to be planting the Thompson Seedless grapes on a short fence in this little spot to add a little green and shelter for the birds. The vines on the fence will also hide the ugly green propane tank you see on the right of the photo. 🙂

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