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No Snow Study- Winter Walk Instead

Winter Walk Snow Nature Study
Our winter continues to be warmer than normal…even record-breaking temperatures. As much as I love the warm afternoons and sunshine, I am concerned for the drying up reservoirs and the very dry forest conditions. I know I have no power to bring on the rain and snow so I am trying to make the best of it.

This week’s Winter Snow challenge was a big challenge indeed. We did find a bit of snow up the mountain from our house but not a whole lot. We opted to complete the Winter Nature Walk- Scavenger Hunt activity from Hearts and Trees.

I took an image of the page with my phone and we used that during our hike to remember the things we were looking for as we went.

Here are our results:

An evergreen
Buds on a tree
We decided this duck weed was more interesting than moss.
Trees that have lost all their leaves – aspens
a bird – Steller’s Jay
We didn’t find any berries but this rose hip was certainly colorful.
Something with thorns
Pinecones – The squirrels had lunch on the picnic table!

One last image from our hike at Taylor Creek. The beavers have been clear cutting a lot of the trees along the water. They have quite a few trees that are ready to fall as well. The dam is getting huge! Amazing creatures with incredible strength.

We are still waiting for some real snow here and I will keep the snow study in the back of my mind for a future time. I hope some of you were more successful with this challenge or you took advantage of the scavenger hunt instead.


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Buds and Catkins – Our Spring Nature Study

Bud Study - Spring 2012
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.

Bud Drawing - Nature study
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 Bud
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.

Birch in the Sunset
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.

Birch Catkins and Leaves
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
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.

Maple Tree Keys
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 Catkins
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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More Nature Study Book 3 -Spring Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms

maple bud  
More Nature Study Book #3
Spring Tree Study – Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms

This challenge is aimed at getting you outdoors and looking at trees early in the spring. What should you be looking for? Try looking for buds, catkins, or blossoms. The challenge is not specifically about willow trees but the willow is covered in-depth in the Handbook of Nature Study and contains information you can apply to other trees. Since everyone has varying conditions, adapt this study to your local trees and their current stage of growth.

In the winter we looked at twigs. If you have a twig you have been watching, make sure to wrap up your study this week with a journal entry and final drawing.

Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read pages 651-654 of the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 179 on the Willow) and pages 648-650 (Lesson 178 on the Horse Chestnut). Read for information about the twigs, buds, and pussies.
  • View this page on catkins and note what to look for during your outdoor time. Explain that the “tassels” of the oak and “pussies” of the pussy willow are really flowers. Catkins appear before the leaves. There can be male and female catkins. Ebook users: Use the illustrations in the ebook to learn about the different ways buds can look and be arranged on the twig.
  • Interest arousing YouTube videos: Horse-Chestnut Bud and Birch Buds. Fascinating.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Go outside and look at the buds, catkins, or blossoms on trees in your yard or neighborhood. Ebook Users: See chart in the ebook for blooming times for common trees.
  •  Gather some twigs with buds, catkins, and/or blossoms to bring inside for observation. Place each twig in a jar with water and label with the tree name if possible. Note: Catkins and blossoms contain pollen.
  • Advanced Study: Watercolor a spring blossom if you have one to observe in person.
  • View this video on YouTube which shows birds feeding on willows.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Use your senses to observe your buds, catkins, and/or blossoms. (touch, sight, smell). Make a record in your nature journal including a sketch. Make sure to record the length of your bud and as many details as possible including color. Ebook Users: Optional coloring pages: Horse Chestnut and Pussy Willow.
  • Watch your buds over time and see what happens. Record how long it takes for the buds to open. Place a piece of white paper under the jars with catkins and observe what happens over the next few days. Record your observations in your nature journal or on a notebook page.
  • Examine your bud to determine what type it is using a hand lens.

Advanced study:

  • Extend your study to include information about the tree your bud came from using a field guide or the internet.
  •  If you haven’t dissected a bud yet, use a bud you collected as part of this challenge. Each bud is different so take your time to remove the scales and layers as you go. View this image to see how you can record your work in your nature journal.
  • Sketch your catkin and research how the catkin functions as part of tree reproduction. Use this link to learn more about classifying buds: Buds. This one is an excellent visual guide: okPlantid.
  • You may be interested in previous spring tree studies: Year-Long Tree and Spring Tree.

Elizabeth shared this link with me and it is a perfect citizen science project to go along with this challenge. Project Budburst. Free printable journal pages you could use with this challenge too!

You can read about our Spring Buds, Catkins, and Blossoms study:
Buds and Catkins – Our Spring Nature Study

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Forcing Spring Buds – Leaves and Blooms Update

Forsythia blossom (1)

Have you tried forcing twigs to blossom? It is the perfect easy late winter nature study project for any family.

This is an activity that we enjoy every year.  In February, we cut and bring in forsythia twigs to force the buds to bloom indoors. This year we added some additional twigs and buds to our collection and they are starting to unfold. The project is so easy and it is not too late to try your hand at some twigs from your yard.

Birch leaf

This birch leaf is from our Twig Study earlier this winter. It has little spring green leaves opening…love the texture and the shape.

Buckeye leaf and bud (2)
We also collected twigs from one of our hiking trails and even though they all looked a little different at the beginning, we realized now that they are opening that they are all from buckeye trees.

Buckeye leaf and bud (1)
It is such a simple project with some fascinating results. We cut the twig, placed it in a jar of water, and then set it in the window sill. After that, you just need to be patient.

We have had such amazing results that we are going to cut some more twigs today. I think the plum tree would be a great candidate for this project. I will post our results when we see some blossoms. 🙂

Tabletop Carrot

So did you start a tabletop garden of your own? We have been watching our carrot first grow roots and now it is putting lots of energy into making leaves. This is another simple and fun project that your family can try at any time.

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OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Twigs

Twigs in a Vase - Beginning our Twig Study

“Many times children are familiar with trees in spring, summer, and autumn but they have no knowledge of them in winter; yet trees in winter give much delight to those who know them as they do in summer. Oftentimes I have gone out on a winter day with my botany can and filled it with twigs for the pleasure that the colors and form gave me.
Home Nature-Study Course, Cornell University 1906

More Nature Study Book #2
Winter Tree Study – Twigs

Inside Preparation Work: 
1. Read the Tree Study section staring on page 623 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 172). Pay special attention to #3 in the section on Winter Work. Take note of the lesson’s observation suggestions to keep during your nature study of winter twigs. You may wish to read the links in the follow-up activity and the additional links listed below before you go outdoors so you will be equipped with some vocabulary to use casually during your observations.
2. Optional reading if you have access to a willow tree: Read Lesson 179 in the Handbook of Nature Study (starting on page 654). Use the ideas in the lesson to study willow twigs and buds.

Marking our Twig for Twig Study
Advanced Study Option

Outdoor Hour Time: 
1. Outdoor time this week should include a few minutes gathering twigs. Select twigs from three different trees to take indoors for closer observation. It would be helpful to know the names of the trees you collect your twigs from but not necessary. We came inside and marked each twig with little name tags This is primarily a challenge about comparing and contrasting twigs from various trees.
2. Advanced activity: Tie a string on a twig attached to a tree. Observe and record in your nature journal the twig’s changes for a few months.

Follow-Up Activity:
1. Use the questions from Lesson 172 to get your child started making observations for each of the three twigs you collected (or just one twig for younger children). Make sure to use your sense of sight, smell, and touch to make careful observations. Record your thoughts in your nature journal or on the notebook page (ebook users only).
2. Place your three twigs on a table. How are they different? Look at size, shape, arrangement of the buds, as well as the size or shape of the buds. Compare two buds on the same twig. Can you see the leaf scars where the leaf dropped off?
3. The main parts of the twig in winter are the buds, leaf scars, and lenticels. Sketch your twigs in your nature journal or on the notebook page, drawing everything you see and labeling the parts neatly.
4. Advanced follow-up: Complete the Twig Study notebook page (ebook users). Dissect a bud from your twig and then record your observations.

Additional Websites: 

Structure of a twig

You can view our twig study here: Winter Twigs – Training Our Eyes.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Spring Was Here and Now It’s Snowing

Snow - Spring Shower
My blog entries over the last few weeks have shown what wonderful spring weather we have been enjoying. This week we had snow, heavy rain, and high winds. In between storms we would rush outdoors to drink in the sunshine and get some fresh air. The daffodils are still blooming, several vases full at a time which contributes to my good mood.

Our signs of spring have been popping up all around us and I made a personal list of things to study in the next few weeks, some with the Handbook of Nature Study and some with my field guide.

1. Dogwood (Handbook of Nature Study page 680)
2. Spotted Towhees-Where do they nest?
3. Red Shouldered Hawk
4. Iris (Handbook of Nature Study page 571)
5. Hair Cap Moss (Handbook of Nature Study page 709)

Dogwood bud 3 16 11

Our new dogwood tree (planted last fall) is beginning to show signs of life. We purchased it when it had lost its leaves already so we are anxious to see it leaf out and blossom too.

Forsythia yellow

Our forsythia continues to spread its own yellowy sunshine in our yard, providing shelter to the sparrows and towhees that sit on its boughs.

Tree Buds

The buds on this tree are ready to burst open and seem to be waiting for just the right moment.

3 17 11 Tulips

Mr. A’s tulip bed shows signs of life this week and on careful examination you can actually see the flower buds forming. Now that says spring!

3 17 11 Laurustinus

Last year I featured this flower in my signs of spring post and I didn’t know what it was called. I have since done my homework to discover its name because I wanted to plant some more in a different area of the yard since it is such a great bloomer. It is Laurustinus – Spring Beauty. I actually found some to purchase at our Home Depot last week and four new plants are happily placed by Mr. A over on the other end of the yard now.

How quickly our weather changes this time of year! We went from sunshine to rain and then to two inches of snow in a matter of hours. Now today it is back to rain again with periods of snow showers that wash away with the next wave of rain.

Daffodils in a Spring Snow

The daffodils still add color to our yard even with the snow coming down. I picked quite a few and brought them inside so it feels like spring at least on the inside of the house.

Birdfeeders in the Snow with Forsythia

The birds were not deterred by the snow and they gathered at the bird feeding station.  We all sat and watched the birds flying in and out as the snowflakes came down all around. They sheltered under the nearby lavender and would pop out to flutter up and take a few nibbles.

So there you go…a wide range of spring weather and lots of promises for a future summer of color and goodness.

Looking forward to seeing your signs of spring this week!

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Seasonal Tree Study and Leaf Comparisons

I don’t usually enjoy the fall season…it is a melancholy time for me. I love the barefoot days of summer and the hot afternoons working in the garden or swimming in the pool.  I would much rather be hiking in the green, green hills with wildflowers blooming at my side in the springtime. The promise of spring and the activity of summer are much more likely to gain my vote for “favorite season”. Winter is the enduring time, the time for preparing for spring and summer.

Autumn days are soon filled with colored leaves, falling leaves, and raking leaves. It seems to creep up slowly but then you wake up one morning to find that the leaves are starting to turn colors…..oranges, reds, yellows, golds, purples.

Leaves on maple 10 10
Observing autumn trees and looking close though, you will see spring’s leaves preparing for the winter.

So here we are in the middle of our autumn challenges and making the best of what the season has to offer. We gathered a few leaves to compare and my son reminded me that we did an in-depth study of leaves and their parts as part of our biology study.

Botany notebook page 1
I went to the shelf and pulled out his biology notebook and his nature journal and we thumbed through to find our completed study.

So now what could we do to learn more about leaves?

Tree Study Leaves on copier
First of all, I shared with my son the idea that I gleaned from Amy at The Teachable Heart and her family’s study of autumn leaves. She actually color copied the leaves for their nature journals and they looked wonderful. I thought maybe we could do the same for our tree and other fall leaves that we were comparing just for a change in our journals.

We had already decided to choose another tree to study for a year-long tree study, the birch tree in our backyard. We gathered a few leaves and took a closer look at the tree while we were out there.

Tree Study Birch 10 10
Welcome to our new tree for the year! We are excited to see what we can learn by looking at and comparing this tree to our previous tree study subjects.

Tree Study Birch 10 10 leaves
These catkins are such interesting things to look at and we looked up some more information in our tree guide after our outdoor time.

Leaves with loupe
We brought some inside to look at with our loupes and to draw in detail in our nature journals.

Dandelion leaves 10 10
While we were out we looked at several other kinds of leaves….the dandelion growing in my pot is such an interesting shape in comparison to our tree leaves.

Broccoli leaves 10 10
How about these leaves on the broccoli? Amazing gray-green color.

Leaves on coleus 10 10
Our coleus is still giving us blazing amounts of color in the container garden on the deck. It makes me happy just to look at these leaves.

It had to go in my nature journal.

Coleus leaf in My Nature Journal
Watercolor pencils are fun to work with in your nature journals and we always have a set sitting on or near our work area table. It is easy to sketch quickly and then come back later to add water and details.

I will end my entry here since this journal is getting quite long. We are enjoying the connections between our biology study and our nature study using the Outdoor Hour Challenges.