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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Summer Wildflowers!

It’s that time of year again! Wildflower season is upon us and it may just be the topic that your children will really enjoy as you take your summer nature walks. Who can help but notice the colors of summer when they start to bloom? Every habitat has something to offer before the season passes.

Use the ideas in the link below to take a closer look at a few of your wildflowers of summer.  After you make some observations, you can create a nature journal page for each flower. Keep your study simple and fun this summer and you’ll be sure to make some fond wildflower memories for your children.


Queen Annes Lace button

Link to the challenges in the archives:

Asters, Daisies, and Black Eyed Susans

Queen Anne’s Lace

Outdoor Hour Challenge Garden Wildflower and Weeds Index @handbookofnaturestudy

You’ll also find a complete list of wildflower nature study lessons (for every flower in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock) here on this link.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Wildflower Set 1 Ebook

OHC Wildflower Set 2 @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge Wildflower 3 Covermaker

In addition, you can use any of the three Outdoor Hour Challenge wildflower ebooks to learn more about wildflowers not included in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.


 Handbook of Nature Study Nature Book Club Wildflowers

You may also be interested in reading this entry that features wildflowers and nature study:

Wildflowers to Love


Amazon link to Handbook of Nature Study

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Garden Flowers #10 Sunflower Study and Art Too!


“All this flower has to do is to hold its banner aloft as a sign to the world, especially the insect world, that here is to be found pollen in plenty, and nectar for the probing.”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 576

Growing and then studying your own sunflowers is a great way to learn the growing cycle of a garden flower…from planting seed to harvesting seeds.

Last week, the challenge was to plant some sunflowers. This week our challenge is to make some observations once your sunflowers are blooming. If you have access to sunflowers now, either in your own garden or from a farmers market, take the opportunity to use the lesson’s suggestions to go deeper into a composite flower study.

Sunflower Renees Garden

Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages on sunflowers (pages 574-578). I can’t think of a better way to study sunflowers than to follow Anna Comstock’s lesson in this section of her book. Read the narrative and then go over the observation suggestions.

If you would like to see our family’s sunflower nature study entries, you can read it here: Outdoor Hour Challenge #16 and Outdoor Hour Challenge #29

Don’t miss seeing our images and nature journal pages!

If you have access to the Garden ebook, make sure to pull out the sunflower art activity using a painting by Van Gogh.


Gardens ebook Outdoor Hour challenge

With this challenge, we’ll be finishing our official work in the Garden Flower and Plants ebook. If you’ve been working in this book along with us for the past eight weeks, you’ll want to make sure to check if there are any nature journal pages you need to add to or finish up. See page 37 in the ebook for a list of wrap-up activities. Of course, you can continue working on your garden flower challenges and notebook pages as long as you have an interest.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Nature Study Continues ebook

If you want to join us for the summer series of nature study challenges, we’re going to be starting with the Summer Nature Study Continues ebook on May 31, 2019. If you have an Ultimate or Journey level Membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you have access to this ebook and the detailed plan for the summer in your account.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

If you would like to purchase a membership so you have all of the challenges at your fingertips and the custom notebooking pages too, click over to read all the details and download a sample: Summer Nature Study Continues ebook sample.

Use this discount code to receive $5 off your Ultimate Membership:






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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Garden Flowers #9 Sunflower Seeds and Planting


“The sunflower is not a single flower, but is a large number of flowers living together; and each little flower, or floret, as it is called, has its own work to do.”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 576

Growing sunflowers is one of the most satisfying long term nature study projects your family can do together. After examining the seeds and then sowing them in the dirt, you’ll be anxious for them to sprout and bloom! Put your children in charge of keeping them watered and then when they bloom they’ll have seen how from a single seed you get a beautiful garden flower.

Sunflower summer garden

Make sure to click the link below to the original challenge to find the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study to read with your children. Learn all about the sunflower and other composite flowers in this nature study lesson.

Link to the Archive Outdoor Hour Challenge –

Focus on Garden Flowers #9 Sunflowers

If you’d like to see one of our family’s sunflower nature study entries, you can read it here: Outdoor Hour Challenge #29

Don’t miss seeing our images and nature journal pages!

seeds pots sunflowers may 2010 (2)

Gardens ebook Outdoor Hour challenge

We’re winding down our work in the Garden Flower and Plants ebook. If you’ve been working in this book along with us for the past eight weeks, you’ll want to check if there are any nature journal pages you need to add to or finish up. We’ll be moving on in two week to the next ebook on our yearly plan.

More Nature Study Summer @handbookofnaturestudy

If you want to join us for the summer series of nature study challenges, we’re going to be starting with the Nature Study Continues – Summer Sizzle ebook on May 31, 2019.

If you have an Ultimate Membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you have access to this ebook and the detailed plan for the summer in your account.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

If you’d like to purchase a membership so you have all of the challenges at your fingertips and the custom notebooking pages too, click over to read all the details and download a sample: More Nature Study – Summer Sizzle Sample.

Get $5 off an Ultimate Membership if you use the discount code NATURE5.

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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – September 2016

Outdoor Moms Journal September 2016


This Outdoor Mom had a fantastic end of the summer! This post features our second Oregon trip of the year and lots of kayaking adventures. Technically, the Oregon trip was at the very end of August but after my August Outdoor Mom’s post so I want to include it here because it was a fantastic trip.  I will be dedicating a complete post in October to the many Oregon State Parks we visited on this latest trip. It was a perfect trip!

bend oregon old mill district deschutes river 2016 (2)

We spent four days in the Bend/La Pine, Oregon area. It was a heat wave for them and most of the lakes and rivers were super busy with so many people swimming, using stand up paddleboards, rafts, and kayaks. I was really glad we had our kayak and we made the most of the time out on the water. We are in the middle of training our Labrador to ride along with us and she is quickly getting the hang of jumping in and enjoying the ride. The image above was taken in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon along the Deschutes River. It was a perfect night for a walk along the banks of the river and for sitting at an outdoor patio for dinner. We read in a brochure that Bend, Oregon is the most dog friendly town in the U.S. We believe it!

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Oregon  (47) sharps lake kayak

I think this is first photo I have shared where you can see our awesome tandem kayak (Old Town Loon 160T). We LOVE it! Both my husband and I are tall and there is enough room for our legs and the 70 pound Labrador. The image above shows us launching at Sparks Lake on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. It is a large shallow lake within view of many of the area’s signature mountains: Mt. Bachelor, South Sister, Broken Top.

Kayaking Beaver Creek Oregon Aug 2016This collage of images is from our stay in Newport, Oregon. We found an amazing spot to kayak just south of town at Beaver Creek (Brian Booth State Park). First we paddled up the creek and saw some interesting birds: Belted kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Turkey vulture, and several different ducks. Then we paddled back down the creek and all the way to the ocean! What a day!

silver falls oregon august 2016 (67) south fallsThis is the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park near Salem, Oregon. We had three days of hiking in this amazing place! There are actually TEN waterfalls that you can hike in a loop. This one was our favorite because you could actually hike behind the waterfall…look at the image carefully and you can see the trail. You can be sure I will be sharing more about this destination in my October Oregon State Parks entry.

nature journal pages osprey and heron august 2016 (3)I did fit in some nature journaling on this trip. I learned some interesting things about the heron and I actually heard the loud sound it made as we paddled too close to one and it flew off. Loud! It surprised me. I will be sharing a bit more about my nature journals in an up-coming post.

garden renees sunflower august 2016 (5)A little closer to home, my sunflowers bloomed! I looked out the window one morning and discovered this beauty. I love the sunflower time of the year and look forward to it each summer. This is one of the sunflowers from Renees Garden Seeds. So perfectly perfect.

IMG_5148We did some hiking closer to home when my two New Yorkers were home for a visit. We camped at Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe in California. It was perfect weather and the hiking was filled with wonderful autumn air and sunshine. IMG_5246This is Fallen Leaf Lake on a crisp September morning. We all took turns taking the kayak out for a spin on the water to take in the high Sierra views.

IMG_5358The last place on our travel list this month was to Yosemite National Park. We hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome with our children and they posed at the top for this amazing photo. It captures so much of what our family is about as we adventure in the big outdoors together. It was a day of laughter, refreshing vistas, and friendship. I tried to soak in the family time since it is hard to gather us all in one place anymore. We end up outside when we do get a chance to spend time together….habit? necessity? mutual love for God’s creation? I think it is a little of all of those things.

I hope you enjoyed my entry this month and if you want to play along, there are instructions at the bottom of this post.

If you missed my August and September nature study entries, here are the links:

Our Wildflower Observations: This entry shares our August wildflowers, both in California and in Oregon.

Snail Observations at the Tidepools: We had a fantastic time hunting, observing, and learning about marine snails in response to the August newsletter topic. This is one of my favorite blog entries of the year!

Insect Nature Study -Potpourri: We had several opportunities to observe insect homes up close. We even identified something new to us!


Outdoor Mom’s Journal

Whether your family spends a few minutes a week outside or hours at a time, share what is going on in your world.

How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!


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Prickles, Patterns, and Vines in the Garden

This week I had fun gathering lots of interesting images from the garden to share with you. I have been trying to work my way through the Summer Nature Photo Challenge and one of the topics is “something prickly”. The cactus on the left I call Hairy and he lives on my deck…I inherited him from a relative and we think he is over thirty years old. The image on the right is one I actually took at Home Depot as I browsed in the nursery. I love the patterns of the prickles on this cactus!

I have a wide variety of sunflowers this year and they each have their own unique charm…ruffles, bendy petals, variations in color and leaf size…so much to enjoy about our sunflowers.

This is the time of year that I take a morning walk with my cup of coffee, exploring for new things in the garden. As you slow to really enjoy each flower, the patterns of color, petals, and seeds make an impression. Learning to share these things with your children and watching them grow in appreciation is something we all can do and it is easy if you have a cutting flower garden. Let your children cut a single flower, bring it inside and find a vase for it, and then set it on your kitchen table for closer observation and enjoyment.

Climbing vines are a big part of my summer garden. After studying vines with the Outdoor Hour Challenge, I have learned to notice how the vines twine and which direction they twine around the stakes. Each plant is uniform in its twisting direction. I also have a passion flower vine and it doesn’t twine but it uses tendrils to grab onto the stakes.

One last image for you to see….this one is my thistle plant that is blooming and is super pokey! The birds (finches) love the seeds from this plant and I hated to pull it out but I had to. My husband does not always share my love of all things that grow in the yard. He is right that it had already spread enough seed to ensure that there will be more next year without letting the whole area get filled in with thistles. I am a reasonable person so we pulled it all up.

I encourage you all to take a look with fresh eyes at your yard or neighborhood…find some prickles, patterns, and vines to point out to your children. Let them make some oral observations and perhaps gather a pretty flower or two for you kitchen table.

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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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Gardening for Birds – Expect to Be Dazzled By Who Comes to Visit

Finch in the Sunflowers

Our garden and our bird list is very interconnected. The birds are coming and enjoying a variety of things in our garden habitat. I learned from Angie at Petra School that it takes about twenty minutes before the birds forget that you are watching. I have tried to find a spot to sit or stand in the garden and just wait to see who will come back during that twenty minute’s time.

The results?

I can confirm that she is right on! Usually after a few minutes the jays come back and the nuthatch and the grosbeaks come fairly quickly too. But some of the birds take a good long time before they reveal their hiding places in the trees and in the shelter of the bushes we have at the edges of our yard.

It is worth the wait. I decided that this week’s garden/bird entry would be a photo essay with lots of colorful images and very few words. Enjoy!

July 12 Garden and birdbath
Day lilies and our back birdbath

The birdbaths are a frequent stopover for the neighborhood birds.

July 12 Garden and birds (3)
Our little wild patch of blackberries just behind the birdfeeding station.

The blackberry bushes are a perfect shelter for birds to rest and to wait their turn at the feeder.

July 12 Garden and birds (9)
The leaves on our sunflowers are being eating by nibbling finches.

The sunflowers and birch trees are attracting the Lesser Goldfinches…who are eating the leaves and seeds.

The Black-headed Grosbeaks and the Western Scrub Jays are in and out of the feeders all day long.This is the best image I could get this week…they are fast in and out of the feeder. They have a sweet little song as well.The Mourning Doves and California Towhees are pecking around under the feeders.The White-breasted Nuthatches, House Finches, Titmouses, and House Sparrows are always found in the seed feeders.The European Starlings and Robins are busy eating the fruits from the neighbor’s tree that hangs over the fence into our yard.The birds are making a huge mess by taking the fruits all over the yard and eating them. They leave the pits behind and they are covering our driveway. This starling will leave the pit in our neighbor’s grass and next year it may start to grow into a tree. I know this from experience.

Hummingbird in the Butterfly gardenThe Anna’s Hummingbirds are everywhere. They still come to the feeders but they also are in the trumpet vine, the roses, the bee balm, the butterfly bushes, and several of my potted plants.The neighborhood Great Horned Owl is heard once it is dark and still outside. I envision him hunting the rodents that get into my birdfeeders.The mockingbird sings all the time…almost round the clock.

Additional bird notes:
We have heard the Steller’s Jay and their “shook-shook-shook” several times in our neighborhood but we have yet to see one. This would be a new to our neighborhood bird.
We have heard the Nuttall’s Woodpecker lots of time but only once in our back tree. I need to remember to fill the suet feeder.
The Starlings come everyday now which is new for this year as well. Their buzzing sound is now a familiar backyard bird sound.
The Black-headed Grosbeaks are also a new every day bird. Their flash of color at the feeders is 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!You may be interested in reading my entry, If You Build It, They Will Come, entry that shows the butterflies that are frequently found in our yard.What are you doing to make your yard attractive to birds and butterflies?

Sage Lavender Butterfly Bush
Sage, Lavender, and Butterfly Bushes
Fruits for the Birds
Not sure what kind of tree this is but it sure is messy…the birds love it though.
Starling Eating Fruits
Starling in our neighbor’s yard with a fruit from the tree.

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Fall Insects and A Pear Tree Update

Bee on the Sunflower

Cooler weather means more time spent outside during the day….we went from really hot weather to cool weather in the span of a day or two. I am so pleased with these late blooming sunflowers and I am going to plant more of them next year. The insects have been visiting them every day and when I went out to snip a few flowers for the kitchen table, I saw this big guy!

Praying Mantis

This praying mantis decided to hang out on my stove one morning. It must have been pretty funny watching me try to scoop him up while he was hopping from side to side. I would try to scoop him up and he would hop just out of my reach. I would try again and he would hop too fast. Finally I got a bowl and set it over him and then slid a piece of paper under the bowl. Success! I transplanted him outside to my potted plants and he was happy to pose for a few minutes on the allysum.

Skipper on the Butterfly Bush

Our butterfly bushes are still blooming, in white, lavender, and deep purple. I see the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all buzzing in and around in the morning sunshine. Makes me happy to see such a busy community right in my flowerbeds. We have spotted a few monarchs lately…none captured with the camera yet. They are fast!

Pears on the Tree

We were out for a drive and took a back road only to find a pear orchard within about two miles of my house! It is tucked away off the beaten path and as we slowly drove down the lane I tried to snap a few images…..glorious fall pears to enjoy!

We are going out and about tomorrow so stay tuned for some more back roads loveliness.

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Late Blooming Sunflowers – First Day of Autumn Beauty

Prairie Sunflowers 1

My Prairie Sunflowers are now blooming…took all summer but they are now showing their very cheery faces. I am sort of glad they waited so long to bloom because all the other sunflowers are done and in the compost.

How would you like a great link to a some coloring book pages?
Celebrate Wildflowers

Prairie Sunflowers 2

Apparently, flowers have a “biological clock”. I have been fascinated with this idea all summer and I think it makes for an interesting read: How To Make A Flower Clock.  On that note, my Four O’Clocks are just about ready to bloom. I have been nursing them along all summer and I think they finally are getting some flower buds…need to watch for the bloom time.

Bees in the Trumpet Vine

We still have an abundance of insects in our late summer/early autumn garden. In fact, they are even more active from what I have observed. These bees were loving the trumpet vines…sharing at times with the hummingbirds. Make your own Bee Observations (free printable from HomeschoolShare.Com – Click the Bee Lapbook and then print Observation Cards and Pocket).

Zinnia in Garden - Yellow

Our zinnias are such great performers and are relatively maintenance free except for cutting the flowers and enjoying them in a vase on your kitchen table. 🙂

Container Dahlias 1

We have enjoyed our container dahlias this year…seeds from Rene’s Garden. I found this paper craft for dahlias…so very pretty and fun. Then again, I may just pull out the watercolors later and made an entry in my journal.

We are working on cleaning up the garden … lots of trimming, raking, pruning, harvesting, picking, and composting going on here. Garden update next week.

Have a wonderful first day of autumn.