Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just a Silly Turkey Kind of Day

These turkeys were waddling across the road this morning. I personally don't think turkeys are very smart. Many times they wander down the road in front of the car instead of trying to get off the road to safety. This little flock was not moving very fast but they did at least make way for the car to go by.

They make a silly sort of noise as they walk. Did you know that turkeys sit in trees? Sometimes a whole flock will be in a tree and you won't notice until they get spooked and they all sort of fall to the ground and waddle away.

I also think that these turkeys are not very handsome birds. Interesting but not much to look at.

The Handbook of Nature Study has a section on wild turkeys starting on page 138.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Is Nature Study Old-Fashioned?

This is another recycled post from my old Heart of Harmony blog that I thought you might enjoy reading.
wild side yard
Why are we spending time in nature study? Is it old-fashioned? Do we really need to expose our children to this type of learning in our modern age, where everything is at our fingertips as far as finding answers to anything we want to know in books or on the internet?

I think outdoor time and nature study are as fundamental to good learning as you can find. Charlotte Mason agrees.
dandelions with tree
“And this is exactly what a child should be doing for the first few years. He should be getting familiar with the real things in his own environment. Some day he will read about things he can’t see; how will he conceive of them without the knowledge of common objects in his experience to relate them to? Some day he will reflect contemplate, reason. What will he have to think about without a file of knowledge collected and stored in his memory?”
Charlotte Mason, volume 1 page 66

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yosemite Birds: Photos and Notebook Page

Lest you think that all I took photos of on my Yosemite trip were wildflowers, here are some bird photos. You will also note that these are not my typical "pretty" photos....birds are hard to photograph and they just don't come close enough for my little camera.

I love to watch for birds in the early morning. The meadow near our campsite was a perfect birding site and I was up early each morning to see what I could find. The first photo is of a white-headed woodpecker and the second photo is a brown creeper. These are both new birds to add to my life list of birds seen and identified. That is always exciting. Make sure to click the photos to make them larger so you can see how pretty the birds are in real life.

There is a section in the Handbook of Nature Study on different woodpeckers on pages 70-77. You might enjoy reading about the woodpecker in preparation of your next encounter.

Something else interesting is that I found a feather from a Steller's jay and when I compared it to my Scrub jay feather that is already in my collection, I found out how different the feathers are colored. Both birds are very similar in color and shape but the patterns of color are very different. Here you can see it clearly. The Scrub Jay is on the left and the Steller's Jay is on the right. There is a section in the Handbook of Nature Study specifically on bird feathers starting on page 29. We found it very interesting to read about the various purposes of feathers and the various kinds of feathers.

Here is a scan of one of my bird nature journal pages that I made during our trip. Nothing fancy but still a really good reminder in my nature journal of the day we saw this woodpecker. (This blank notebooking page from Tina will be part of the new Outdoor Hour Challenge E-book that I am putting together.)

Hope you enjoyed a little bird stuff today. I still have insects to share and a really big entry with wildflowers. I am trying to decide whether to make a slideshow of the flowers or just share a few of the over forty flowers I took photos of. :)

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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 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.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Moths of All Sorts-Outdoor Hour Challenge #23

This week's challenge was to focus on insects and moths in particular. We were able to see lots of moths close-up this week when we were camping. Once you turn on the lantern and set it on the table, watch out! Moths come a flying!

Here are some of the many moths we observed during the week. We were able to get good photos by turning on two lanterns and using one to attract the moths and one to light the moth for the photo. I did not use the flash on the camera.

I don't think this one is a moth but some other sort of insect that is attracted to the light.

The next set of photos is from the back porch. I turned on the porch light and a little while later, we had plenty of insects that were sitting on the wall near the light. We were able to get good photos by shining a flashlight on the insect and then turning the flash off on the camera to take each one close-up.

Edit: Roberta says this is an adult cabbage looper. I think it looks right to me. :) Thanks Roberta.

This looks more like a green lacewing than a moth but it was sure attracted to the light.

I have not taken the time to try to identify all these insects. I have a really hard time with that part of insect nature study. I spend hours and hours pouring through the field guides and rarely do I find what I am looking for. Insects are really hard to identify but we will persevere and try to update this entry as we find the names for these critters.

My son is going to help me identify the insects and make his journal entry on one of the moths we identify. He prefers to use a spiral bound sketchbook for his nature journal instead of notebooking pages.

We found this website informational:
How to Start Mothing

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beautiful Butterflies and Some Nature Journal Ideas

Showy Milkweed in Stoneman's Meadow, Yosemite Valley.

We did see some Monarchs fluttering and flying around the milkweed but there was never a chance to photograph one, maybe next time. :)

We were on the lookout for butterflies on our recent camping trip to Yosemite. Many were too fast or would not sit still long enough for a photo but here are a few that I can share. All these were butterflies that I saw as we went on various hikes in a variety of terrain and habitat. My daughter decided that she would rather take photos of flowers than insects because flowers stay in one place. :)

We know this is some sort of Fritillary but which exact one, we are not so confident. If I had to make a best guess, I think it is a Pacific Fritillary or a Western Meadow Fritillary.

Okay, there are two butterflies in this photo. It was taken in a marshy meadow area near Lukens Lake. There is one distinctly blue and one distinctly brown butterfly but I have no idea what particular ones they are even after examining the field guide for a long time. I'm not very good at identifying butterflies....yet.

Here is another blue butterfly sitting on some bird droppings. My best guess on this one is a Lupine Blue.

Now this one I think is a Woodland Skipper. I know it is a skipper for sure and it looks just like the one in my field guide.

You can see why I was able to take some good photos of these beauties, they were otherwise occupied with more important activities at that particular moment. I still haven't been able to identify this particular butterfly. Any ideas???

Here is one of my nature journal pages that I used to record one of my experiences with butterflies. I was testing out Tina's new notebooking pages that she is creating for an upcoming Outdoor Hour Challenge E-book that we are putting together to share with everyone. This page shows my attempt to record a bit about our butterfly study this past week.

Someone was asking recently about how I keep a running list in my nature journal. This is so easy to do and it doesn't need to be fancy. Tina has created an easy to use version of a running list that will also be in the upcoming E-book.

As you can see, I really just list the butterfly name if I know it and the date and place that I observed it. If I am not sure, I make a note and then use my photographs to identify it later when I have time to use the field guide and the internet.

So those are some of the butterflies that I was able to capture with my camera. We saw many, many Tiger swallowtails and a particular yellow butterfly that we have yet to identify. I look at this project as a life-long endeavor and if I don't catch the butterfly this time, maybe I will the next time.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Edit to add: Heather asked about my nature journal and how I plan on using the notebooking pages if I am using a spiral bound sketch diary as my nature journal. I made a decision to change to a bigger size nature journal, still spiral bound since I find that easiest to work in. I only have three pages left in my smaller spiral bound nature journal so I will be starting over in a 9" by 12" spiral bound artist's sketchbook that I purchased from Miller Pads and Paper. I will be attaching the pages into the sketchbook with double-backed tape; running lists will be in the back and the other sheets will go in order starting in the front. This will give me the flexibility to use the notebooking pages or to just freehand my entries in as I feel the need. I love to have options. This sketchbooks use heavy enough paper that I feel comfortable using watercolors in them as well as pencils and markers. Hope that explains it!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Camping: Boys Love It!

My boys love to go camping.....just a few of the things boys do when they are out in the forest.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Yosemite Trip: Just What I Needed

We spent the last week camping in Yosemite National Park and it is just what this weary mom needed. Time in the fresh air and time spent with just the family can recharge your spirits like nothing else can.

The weather was perfect and we spent every day out doing something in the sunshine. I think Amanda and I identified at least forty wildflowers. We saw a bear cub and several new birds for our bird lists. The butterflies were out in force and we took two new hikes into the high country that were fantastic. We took time to look for moths and we were amazed at the variety that we observed just around the lantern at the picnic table.

So get ready for the next week or two....I will be posting lots of photos, stories, and some of my nature journal pages.

I found a new alpine meadow that I could have sat for hours just gazing at its beauty and I will share it's secrets with you in another post. We were the only humans in that meadow and it was an awesome experience in the high country. I wish everyone who reads my blog could have such an outdoor experience at some time in their life.

Anyway, I am back to real life and will be sharing lots with you as the days go on.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Friday, July 25, 2008

Outdoor Hour Challenge #23 Moths

This week we will continue our mini-focus on insects with a study of moths. The Handbook of Nature Study has several sections on moths that you can read whether you think you will find those particular kinds in your area or not. I found the information very easy to read and now I can apply the suggestions for observation with just about any kind of moth. We do have Isabella Tiger moths in our area so I will be especially on the lookout for those when we do our observations. We will be going camping soon so it will be a perfect time to watch the moths that come to the lantern.
“Not only are insects numerous when we regard individuals, but the number of species is far greater than that of all other animals taken together. The number of species in a single family is greater in several cases than the number of stars visible in a clear night.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 295
Outdoor Hour Challenge #23 Focus on Insects-Moths

1. In this challenge we will continue our mini-focus on insects. Turn to the table of contents in the Handbook of Nature Study and skim down the list of moths discussed in the book. Read those sections in the Handbook of Nature Study on moths, pages 310 to 329. I personally don’t know much about moths so I am going to read through all the sections and see what I can learn. Here is some general information.

Wings not attached
Nocturnal (active at night)
Wings flat when resting
Feathered antennae
Fat abdomen
Form a cocoon

Wings hooked together in flight
Diurnal (active in the day)
Wings upright when resting
Straight, plain antennae
Thin Abdomen
Form a chrysalis

2. This challenge will need to be completed in the evenings. Turn on a light outside or take a flashlight outside. Moths are attracted to light so you should have some success if you are patient. Make sure to look on walls and plants near the light for moths.

Try this website for further techniques in attracting moths.
Attracting Moths

If you are unable to complete the challenge this week for moths, please feel free to take your outdoor time at a time that works for you family. Use your time to look for insects and to enjoy the summer air and sunshine.

3. After you have your outdoor time, provide an opportunity for working on a nature journal entry. This might be a good time to discuss the differences between butterflies and moths. If you didn't see any moths, you can record in your nature journal any other kinds of insects that you found during your outdoor time.

4. If you observe more than one kind of moth this week, make sure to start a list of moths in your nature journal. I like to keep a running list in the back of my nature journal. If you observed some other kinds of insects during the week, record those too.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #23 Moths (complete set of insect challenges in one document)

 OHC Blog Carnival
Post an entry on your blog sharing your experiences. You can link up by clicking the carnival button or you can send them directly to me:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drawing and Your Nature Journal

I decided to do a reposting of this blog entry from my old blog because I thought it might help someone who is a newer reader of my blogs. I wrote this awhile back and it contains a lot of my personal thoughts and experiences with keeping a nature journal.
"The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
I was asked to post a little about my personal nature journal. I decided I would share, not because I feel as if I have the "right" answer but because I think it will be helpful to see how I have struggled through the years to find something that works for me. I am not an authority on nature journals, if there is such a thing, but I have been attempting this life project for many years now and have grown to love keeping a record of my experiences.

***Note to those just starting out with nature journals***
Everyone feels that little twang the minute a blank page is opened in the journal itself. I want my journal to be perfect and wonderful and worthy of awe but I don't always seem to get what is in my head down onto the actual page so be comforted when you feel as if you are the only one that views your first efforts as inadequate.

I will try to explain what I have learned about nature journals and include some of my actual nature journal pages from the last eight years to help illustrate what I have discovered. Please know that it takes a lot of courage on my part to share my feeble beginnings and to show just how much I still have room to grow. Sharing these pages, others can see that this is a work in progress even for those of us who have been at the process of nature journaling for a number of years. (You can click on any of the images and they will enlarge.)
nature journal tracingnature journal spider
nature journal people
Here are some pages that show how I just do the best I can to get down on paper what I am seeing at the time. I don't draw faces very well so I just left it blank. I also will sometimes just trace something like a leaf or a flower into my journal and then add a bit of color. It works.

The process of finding something you want to include in your journal is more important than the actual journal entry.
When you are trying to keep a nature journal, you actually need to have some sort of contact with nature and that is the first step....usually the hardest step is just getting out the door of your house. The actual getting outside into your little square of nature is more valuable than the journal entry itself if you really think about it. You are outside under the big, beautiful sky. You are spending time with your children and showing them by your example that you value being out-of-doors. Anything that happens while in the process of finding something to record in your journal is the real experience of the nature journal.
nature journal not artisticnature journal birdwatchingnature journal weather
Nature journals are not meant to necessarily be artistic. Once I took the pressure off myself to have a journal like the examples in How to Keep a Nature Journal, I noticed that I was having more fun keeping a record of my experiences. The point of a nature journal is to record things that inspire you and you want to remember. Your experiences out-of-doors should spur you on to make a record of those memories that are worthy of remembering just like a scientist keeps a lab book. Sketches, arrows, cross outs, diagrams, lists....these are all found in my nature journal. It is my journal and it can be any way that I wish it to be.
nature journal sunflower B
Here I am trying to show the progress of our garden.
nature journal pressed flower
I opened my journal this morning and this pressed flower fell out. I had pressed it between the folds of a napkin and put it in my nature journal. You can also find leaves pressed between the pages of my nature journal.
nature journal lists
Sometimes I just like to list what I take photographs of and not take the time to actually sketch or draw and that is what I did on this day. I still like the entry and I could go back and put the photos on the next page if I want to but for now it is just a list.

Keeping a nature journal is a long-term life project. I have one nature journal that I have been working in for over eight years. It is a work in progress. My favorite entries are those that are not necessarily the most artistic but they hold the memories of my time spent in God's creation. My nature journal goes with me on every trip we take....I have packed it three times to Hawaii, to Yellowstone, on countless trips to Yosemite, and on most every little day trip I make. Do I always remember to pull it out and record things? No. Do I wish I would have made more entries? Yes. There is the lesson.
nature journal trip accountnature journal unfinished entry
Sometimes my nature journal doubles as my travel journal. On these two pages I wrote and sketched about our time at Redwood National Park. I didn't have time to finish the sketch but it still is something that reminds me of that time.

If you want your drawing skills to improve, you must practice.
Gulp. That is a tough one for most of us. I did not come from an artistic background so giving myself permission to try to learn to draw or paint or do anything artistic took a big shove from my husband. He encouraged me take a drawing class at the college. This was so far out of my comfort zone but I really wanted to learn how to draw past stick figures. It took time and effort. My suggestion for people who are striving to do a better job in sketching is to go to your library and go to the children's section first and check out "how to draw" books and use them along side your children. I checked one out on how to draw insects and one on how to draw birds and then found some nature sketching books to try. These experiences with the book open in front of you and your sketching from the step by step instructions will eventually spill over into your nature journal. There is no magic formula but your success is equal to the effort you are willing to put into it. I started to work with watercolor and I was brave enough this summer to actually do a watercolor straight into my nature journal. You can decide what you need to teach yourself in order to make your nature journal your own expression of your experiences in nature.
nature journal watercolor
This is a more recent journal entry that I made *after* working through the book Sketching in Nature. I can already see the difference. I am starting to be able to take some of the ideas of others and make them my own in my personal nature journal. I am working on drawing the water so that it looks like it is is coming along.

I have recently become fascinated with the journals of Lewis and Clark and those of John Muir, the conservationist. The connections between their journals and their legacy is indisputable. Our journals and those we encourage our children to keep will be a link to their deepened understanding of how wonderful and exciting a world was created for us to live in.

Harmony Art Mom