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Milkweed Pods and Seeds: Outdoor Hour Challenge #30

We took some time to observe and learn about milkweed seeds as part of this challenge.

“The milkweed pod has been the admiration of nature students from the beginning, and surely there are few plants structures that so interest the child as this house in which the milkweed carries its seeds.”
Milkweed pods opening
“No sooner is our treasure open to the air than the shining silk begins to separate into floss of fairy texture.”

“…and altogether there are enough of the threads to float the seed, a balloon of the safest sort.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 493

The Handbook of Nature Study has a complete section of information and observation suggestions on pages 491-495.

We are going to plant some milkweed in our butterfly garden this year. I ordered the seeds from this website. We did not gather the milkweed seeds that are in the photos since we were at Yosemite National Park and it is against the law to gather seeds in a national park. 🙂

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #30 Weeds and Seeds

I don’t know about you but my garden has lots of weeds right now. It is going to take some serious effort to clean it up since I guess I have neglected it lately. This brought to mind a great idea for a challenge this week. Hopefully, you have some weed in your yard….or am I the only one?

I had already decided to introduce the idea of seed saving and then with all the weeds, I came up with a sort of combination challenge.

1. Weed study using the Handbook of Nature Study
2. Observing and collecting seeds.

As the flowers start to fade and dry, I try to gather a few of the heads to collect the seeds from. There are some flowers that are easier to get the seeds from and some that seem to not make it through the winter. I have saved a few seeds in the past by collecting the seeds and then pouring them all into a paper bag to sow in the spring. We will consider this a challenge-wide experiment to see what we can collect, save, and then what eventually grows.

Marigolds are an easy first flower to save the seeds from and I collect lots of the seeds and put them into an envelope for sprouting next spring. This pile is about six marigold blooms. They actually need to be a bit drier before I collect them but you get the idea how many seeds there are potentially in a small number of flower heads from the size of this pile.

Hollyhocks work well too but you have to remember they don’t bloom their first year so they are a long term plant in your garden.

I have never tried Morning glories but I am going to give it a shot this year and see how it goes.

If you want more information on saving seeds, there is a link below in the challenge that you can read.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #30
Weeds and Seeds  

1. This week we are going to have a two-part assignment.
Part 1: Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 512-513 on beginning a weed study. This is a terrific section to read aloud before your outdoor time this week. [Note: If it offends your family to say that “nature is the great farmer”, please feel free to insert God’s name in place of the word nature.] Skim down the table of contents in the weed section and see if you recognize any weeds from your area and read at least the introduction material to yourself before your outdoor time.

“A weed is a plant growing where we wish something else to grow, and a plant may, therefore, be a weed in some locations and not in others.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 512

Part 2: Spend your 15-20 minutes of outdoor time with your children in your own yard or on your own street. Pay attention to two opportunities this week. First, look for some weeds growing in your own garden, yard, or along your street. Remind your children of the definition of a weed and see if they can apply it to your local plants. Secondly, see if you can find any seeds to collect and to observe and possibly save to grow next year.

Here is a website for more information on collecting and saving seeds from your garden.
Saving Seeds

Possible seeds to look for that are easy to find and grow:

  • Sunflowers
  • Dandelions
  • Marigolds
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnias

Optional Activity:
If you want to really find some seeds and you have access to a little open ground like a pasture, meadow, or field, try this activity.

Sock Seeds
They say this activity works best in late summer or early fall.

2. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes discussing anything you found of interest. Topics might include the weeds you observed, the beginnings of the change in the plants and trees in your neighborhood for the autumn season, or the change in weather if you have any. If you are completing the Sock Seed project, spend some time examining your socks before you plant them in the soil. Use a magnifying lens to get a closer look.

This challenge is part of my Garden Flowers ebook. This ebook has ten garden-related challenges that will walk you through a study of garden flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study. In addition to the challenges already written, there will be more photos, nature journal examples, book lists, and totally new notebook pages designed to go with each of the Garden Flower Challenges.

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Shooting Stars, Miner’s Lettuce, and Hound’s Tongue

Sierra shooting star

My husband and I took a walk today to see if we could find any more wildflowers blooming early. We were not disappointed. It was a cool morning and the trail was damp but the sun was bright as we walked down the hill. Not far past the place where we parked the car, we found several beauties waiting for us.
Pacific Hound’s Tongue flower

Here is the leaf on the Pacific hound’s tongue that gives it its name. The Maidu tribe used this for stomachaches and burns.

Miner’s lettuce

Unidentified flower. I think it may be a wild carrot but I’m not sure.

This pretty little leaf is poison oak… was everywhere around the trail we were on. We didn’t notice it until this time down the trail so we will have to be more watchful climbing up and off the trail from now on. 🙂

I am learning the value of going on a particular trail more than once to see the differences from time to time. We are getting to know this little hill and every time we hike down it we find something new and interesting.

We stood quietly listening a few times. We were rewarded with the sound of a distant woodpecker knocking on his tree trunk. We heard some California quail with their little unique sounding bird call. If you want to hear what it sounds like, here is a link:
What for California Quail if you scroll down the page a bit, on the left side, there is a button to click to hear the quail call.

It was a refreshing hour out in the air and sunshine.

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Wild Mustard

Or at least it is in my world. Mustard is a wildflower that we see in great numbers in our area starting about this time of year. I spotted this patch of mustard growing in an abandoned orchard near my house.
The Handbook of Nature Study, page 460:
“Because of their beauty and scientific value, special need exists for the protection of our native wild flowers and shrubs. It is understandable that these uncultivated plants should attract the visitor, but in too many instances he is not satisfied to enjoy their beauty as they exist in their natural habitats. All too frequently he picks flowers in large numbers, only to discard them faded and wilted a few hours later.”
(note this was written in 1911)
Look at those beautiful flowers.
“Some flowers are so abundant that they can be picked in moderation if the roots are not disturbed, if plenty of flowers are left for seed, and if the plant itself is not taken with the flower.”
Another beautiful spring day.