Thursday, August 7, 2008

Outdoor Hour Challenge #10 Picnics, squirrels, caterpillars, beetles OH MY!

Outdoor Hour Challenge #10---Picnics - ongoing throughout our studies :)
We joined the Outdoor Hour Challenges late so as we go through our family's nature studies - I try to use the Outdoor Hour Challenges as much as possible and "catch up" on the ones we missed as they fit into our focuses and studies. These challenges that Barb so graciously posted for all of us to enjoy and share with our loved ones are TOO good to pass up any of them!! This particular challenge is one that I know we will use frequently and I plan to do at least several times each term (other than winter lol - we'll see ) It will be great to really EXPERIENCE the season by having a relaxed meal outdoors as a family in God's beautiful creation!!!

“The whole earth is full of his glory”.~ Isaiah 6:3

As with many of our homeschooling friends, we will be starting "school" on onday so I wanted to spend some relaxed time this week with the kids. Having breakfast outside was a nice surprise for them. :) It's great when they awaken and I tell them we are having breakfast outside and they all start screaming,"Yes! Yeah! Cool!" Mom's not always that cool :). I was pleased with their excitement. :)

As you can see they are still sleepy but it was so nice to enjoy a meal outside together. Once they were finished, we decided it would be nice to follow up with some outdoor observation and painting- but our poms had to be spoiled first... Here Chance is feeding the leftover eggs to Kilroy and Brittany - our 10 and 11 year old pomeranians. Kilroy was shaved recently by the vet for an allergic reaction which is why you see a bald pomeranian!

Kilroy is still begging Chance for more eggs - I didn't realize until I was looking at the pictures last night that he was feeding him from one of our FORKS! With an apple in one hand feeding the dog eggs from a fork in the other! It was too funny for me to say anything!

We took a walk through our flower beds and garden bed to see how things were progressing. They were so happy with thier plants. In hindsight - I will handle garden plants and flowers much differently next year! I just let the children run wild with seeds and we were so excited that we didn't really label anything on thier end of the garden so we're "waiting to see" what plants develop into on several of them. We will be more organized next year. This year was our first summer here so I was so busy planting in the beds my DS and DH were building and the kids and I reading about so many different plants and flowers that the labels seemed to get left out somehow.

This is the kids' end of the garden bed - we essentially built up beds this year and this one was already here. Initially the dirt was hard and unmanagemable with small, "rooty" vines that were killing what was left in it but it wasn't our main "focus" so I worked with the kids to till the dirt by hand and gradually add compost and rich topsoil throughout the summer. We have weeded to our heart's content to rid it of the choking vines and it worked out much better than expected. It's actually produced for us which is more than we thought it would do! :)

cherry tomato - not yet ripe


Basil Chance's 1st green/string bean

Chance standing beside Alyssa's bean plant to show how TALL it has gotten!!
Alyssa was still sleepy and being camera shy :)

We looked over my garden flowers (see all of them under the "plants in our backyard" slideshow on the right side of my blog) and then I brought out books, watercolors, and insect nets and jars for the children to work on some nature study.

My DH had found Chance a HUGE beetle that he had been observing. We tried looking him up in several books and websites and since his color was metallic green and copper - we continuously found "Japanese Beetle". He looked quite a bit like a Japanese Beetle but was SO large. We ended up labeling him from the book - "Peterson First Guides - Insects" We identified him as a Shining Leaf Chafer but nothing further than that. I'm not certain if he is just a really LARGE japanese beetle or another chafer that we didn't have information on.
Either way, this beetle, like the Japanese Beetles that I pluck from my roses constantly is an agricultural or garden pest. According to the guide,
"Shining Leaf Chafers are often extraordinarily beautiful,
but are also often very destructive both as larvae and adults. Few of us can appreciate the color pattern of the Japanese Beetle as it munches through a rose bush or an orchard. Its larvae, like others in this group, eat roots and are especially destructive to lawns."

I'm not terribly mortified about my lawn but I can tell you - its frustrating as a rose gardener at the FAST and FURIOUS destruction on my rose bushes. This is my first year as gardening roses and they have been a constant "thorn in my side" - no pun intended.

Here's an example from one of my own roses -

Chance did an excellent journal page using watercolors to paint the chafer.

Briana wanted to read about and identify two caterpillars that we found at the park. Using "Princeton Field Guides - Caterpillars of Eastern North America" we were able to identify them both. The black caterpillar with white hairs covering his body is a Walnut Caterpillar.

My photos of these caterpillars are not very good - I couldn't seem to focus well on them. I found a better picture online here.

We identified the second caterpillar as a Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar.
He has

"conspicuous black and white lashes extending from anterior end of his body."
Caterpillars of Easter N. America page 471
Again- my photo is not that good. I found a better picture of the Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar here.

Here is Briana with the walnut caterpillar.

This caterpillar fell out of one of the tall trees at the park last week and right down my back! It frightened me until I realized it was a caterpillar. The girls couldn't wait to get him home and put him in their butterfly pavillion. Shortly before that I looked up and saw a very hairy yellow caterpillar crawling on my camera. We left the park with two caterpillars for our nature studies! All of the children (even their playmates we'd met there) were so excited to see these beautiful caterpillars.

We read about the both of them and realized that we hadn't been providing them with the proper nourishment as they both consume woody shrubs and trees-

The walnut caterpillar feeding on: butternut, hickory, pecan, and walnut.

The banded tussock moth caterpillar feeding on: alder, ash, birch, blueberry, chestnut, elm, grape, hackberry, hazel, hickory, oak, walnut, willow, and many other woody shrubs and trees. After studying and sketching them, we decided this morning to let them go so they could obtain better nourishment - they'll need it for their metamorphasis. Here is Briana's amazing watercolor and journal page:

Alyssa caught her favorite insect - the ladybug. She has been in love with these little beetles for some time now. :) She's fascinated with them in a way only a young child full of heart and imagination can be :). As you can tell - it's dear to me. Here you will find a great ladybug picture.
I did not get a picture of the ladybug Alyssa caught because she flew off as soon as she was free from the butterfly pavillion. I have a link to the right side of my blog that is a slideshow of "backyard discoveries" where I thought I had a picture of Alyssa with a ladybug but I couldn't find it. We used the same Peterson First Field Guide - Insects to read about Alyssa's ladybug as we used for Chance's chafer. The ladybug is actually a lady or ladybird beetle. We've seen this before but its so easy to slip back into calling them ladybugs.
According to the guide,

" they... are familiar to everyone as "ladybugs." Their popularity is well deserved as they are among the most helpful insects. Of the 400 North American species only 3 feed on plants. Most of the rest devour vast quantities of agricultural pests such as aphids and scale insects. "

We also looked the ladybug up in a book, National Audubon Society - First Field Guide of Insects

This is actually a nice book - much clearer and easier for young children such as mine - Praise God for the library so that I can review all of these before making purchases. This book had a nice page on the ladybug. Pages 94 & 95 are devoted to the ladybug beetle and its look-alikes. Alyssa was SO pleased that her favorite insects were a help to gardeners! This book give similar information as the Peterson Guide but it was a bit clearer for her.
"One of the best places to find ladybug beetles is on a plant
that is infested with aphids. By devouring these sap-sucking pests, the adult beetle and its black larvae help to protect the host plant. The number of spots a ladybug has depends on the species, not the insects age. Some ladybugs have no spots at all - still others are striped."
This was good information for us both since we've seen so many that have either few spots or no spots and we were curious as to the differences.

Here is Alyssa's watercolor and journal entry:

Another wonderful entry!

I decided to take Barb's advice and paint with the children. To let go of the fact that I'm really not good at it and just enjoy the morning with the kids and relax with them. I was amused the entire morning by our backyard buddies (and sometimes pests!) - the squirrels. We've found we have a lot of "frequent visitors" of both the squirrels and birds that we can expect each day now and I LOVE IT! The squirrels, however, amuse me - that is until I'm filling holes back in with compost, top soil, and mulch where they have dug and pulling out "peanut plants" from my flower beds!! LOL

We were looking at all of my DC's ideas when we noticed our little burgular-

He had decided to send the birds away and jump in their platform feeder to have an extra snack. I had already fed him - mind you. I had filled up a feeder with peanuts, sunflower, and corn kernels and also put out an ear of corn for them. I guess he was still hungry! He stayed here for quite some time - then another joined...

keeping in mind - this 2nd little acrobat is EATING out of a SQUIRREL PROOF feeder!!

Our next little visitor was thirsty and decided it would take time to drink and relax in the bird bath.

This squirrel is one of 2 or 3 that we see that are much smaller in size and have a much thinner, less bushy tail. My DC and I wondered if it was because they were younger - possibly born in a huge mass of leaves and sturdy branches in a pine tree out back that we've been watching. I tried searching online but didn't really find anything. I didn't see anything in the HNS concerning this either. Maybe someone knows and would like to share?

In The Handbook of Nature Study I found this great picture~

I just LOVE the quote I found from The Handbook of Nature Study on page 233 when she opens up her study on squirrels:

"We ought to yield admiring tribute to those animals which have been able to flourish in our midst despite man and his gun, this weapon being the most cowardly and unfair invention of the human mind. The only time that man has been a fair fighter in combating his four-footed brethren was when he fought them with a weapon which he weilded in his hand."


This is NOT to start a debate on guns or hunting or gun control - afterall my brother is a police officer and MANY of our closest homeschooling friends are military - I just found her introduction o squirrels quite bold and passionate. My opinions on weapons are for another spot - not this post but I thought this really lead into the antics and intelligence of the squirrels - especially since for most people - they've went from the dinner table to the hearts and amusement of their outdoor time. :) She goes on to explain her opinion further - much of which I agree to - but again for a different type of post.

How could anyone resist the antics of these creatures? I sometimes think they are God's comedians when I need a smile or a laugh. They really are quite amusing!

As I read through Ms. Comstock's notes on squirrels in the HNS- as I usually do when we come in from a nature "walk" and have something I want to research - I quite enjoyed all of her squirrel chapter. If you enjoy squirrels in your backyard or park or otherwise- I STRONGLY suggest you read pp. 233-236 at a minimum. I won't go into all of it now as I would probably be copying all three pages here in type! I found myself grinning and giggling and nodding my head in agreement as I read these pages despite myself. My DC must have thought mommy had "lost it" until I explained that I was reading about our "backyard, fury friends" :). I could feel Ms. Comstock's passion for these little creatures that was so similar to my own. We will be studying mammals in the winter so I will obtain more books and information at that time. I started this little ramble here to just express my own interest in them and reason for MY watercolor. Keep in mind - this is not for my talent (or lack of :) but to take Barb's advice (which was spot on) and paint for my enjoyment, positive modeling for my DC, and for thier enjoyment. They really took to mommy painting with them.

Again- I MUST thank Barb for a great challenge. I truly believe starting the morning off with a loving, peaceful out door breakfast was the way to get this nature study rolling. I realize this was a long entry and forgive me but once they were outside - everyone took off in their own direction of interest! It was GREAT! So much knowledge and enjoyment in one morning!

1 comment:

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Wow, this is so great. I love the outdoor breakfast start to nature study. I know when we go camping that I love to sit and eat my breakfast at the picnic table and just enjoy the air and the scenery....great idea for your family!

So many good things in this entry. I love how you are finding things and then digging deeper to learn more. I love the journal entries and the children's expressions.
(Could I use the photo of your daughter and the caterpillar for the Outdoor Hour Photo of the Week?)

I see Charlotte Mason's ideas so at work in your nature study. Keep it up!

Thanks again for sharing,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom
PS Let me know about the