Spring Blossoms

We have experienced an unusually mild, dry winter.  There has been no snow on our mountains and yet we have experienced some of the worst frost ever.  Since it is still August, it came as a surprise to find our fruit orchard full of blossoming trees.  My previous early spring blossom sketches in my nature diary were done September last year.Blossoms1

My youngest daughter led me out to enjoy the warm sunshine and we went to view “our” Maple tree. We first measured our Maple tree  in 2011 and the little tree was just as tall as Miss.L12, just over 1 meter high.  This spring it is twice my height!  I was glad that my nature journal contained many of my older nature study pages because we could compare our current tree study with previous years and seasons.

Sketch Book Blossoms 001

Sketch Book Blossoms 004

We spent time looking at the variety of fruit trees’ blossoms.  I was utterly enchanted by our blue berry blossoms which looked like little bells.  We sketched and painted and we both experimented with wet-on-wet water painting which worked wonderfully! (I’m afraid that my scanner did not pick up the colors of our watercolors.)

Sketch Book Blossoms 002 Sketch Book Blossoms 003

As our time was running out, and we had already spent much of our morning outside (time flies when you are having fun sketching), I sent Miss.L12 with the camera to capture all the blossoms.  We plan to use the photos to sketch and paint or simply to compare the differences between the different blossoms.

Blossoms

We are so happy to enjoy our lovely early spring nature study here in South Africa and wish a happy autumn to those living in the Northern Hemisphere!

Blessings,

(Contributing this post to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.)

Notice Board – Nature Study

In my last post I featured the Current Affairs section of our new homeschool notice board.  In this post, I want to share about ~

Nature Study

20140220_165127

My Nature Study notice board includes 3 elements:

  1. Nature Photo of the Week
  2. Outdoor Hour Challenge month grid
  3. Nature Study tray display

Let me explain a bit more ~

Nature Photo of the Week

Barb of Handbook of Nature Study introduced aNature Photo of the Week.  She explains ~

“Nature photography is a huge favorite hobby of mine. Our home is filled with images from our travels near and far. This is something I have passed on down to my children and they all enjoy photography in their free time. I want to push my skills to the next level this year and in order to do that I have made myself a Nature Photo of the Week challenge. I will be taking photos each week to go along with a determined theme. At the end of the year, I will take my weekly photos, choose one from each month, and then use those images to create a customized family calendar for 2015.

I am happy to share my Nature Photo of the Week Challenge with any of you who want to play along. I have created a printable list of topics that you can use in any order you wish. I also have started a Pinterest board where I will pin my images and I invite you to as well.

You can join the Pinterest Board : Nature Photo of The Week 2014
You need to follow the Pinterest Board before I can send you an invite. 
You will need to send me your Pinterest name and I will send you an invite. You can comment here or email me directly at harmonyfinearts@yahoo.com”

My kids love capturing their nature study finds with a camera, so this challenge was right up their alley!  And with my smart phone, I can so easily snap and upload photos to the Pinterest Board.

I took Barb’s list (Nature Photo of the Week 2014 Printable and turned it into a quick-glance-chart ~

Nature Photo of the Week Chart
Here is your free download ~ Nature Photo of the Week Chart

Outdoor Hour Challenge month grid

You will also notice the Nature Study February Fun grid on the clip board.  Again Barb of Handbook of Nature Study encourages children to enjoy Nature Study with The Handbook of Nature Study with her Outdoor Hour Challenges. Each month she provides subscribers her OHC newsletter with articles, links, downloads and nature study activities according to season or theme.  The monthly grid (a lovely visual reminder) pinned up and on display encourages my children to get outdoors and observe, collect, journal or photograph.  And it doesn’t take an hour – just a short outing!

Nature Study Tray

Below the clipboard is our Nature Study Tray where we display any nature study finds.  Celeste (a mommy to 6 little kiddies under 8!) of Joyous Lessons has a marvelous method of displaying her children’s nature study finds.  Her young children collect interesting finds on their nature study outings and  when they return home, they place these items on a tray.  The children can then look up and label, draw and record their finds in their nature journals during the week.  Celeste describes:

The next week, I clear the tray, putting on our nature shelf the things we want to keep and discarding the rest.  Sometimes I grab some leaves and put them in the leaf press, between sheets of contact paper, or into someone’s journal with tape if he or she requests it.  Rocks, sticks, bark, and feathers either go into our little collection or out into the backyard for play.  And the tray is then wiped down, ready to be refilled with a new set of treasures after our next outing.  In a way, this holds me accountable too: I don’t like to clear out the tray until I have had time to document and sketch a bit, but the tray must be emptied to make room for our new finds. So through the routine, I’m nudged into at least a weekly journal entry.

This seems like such a minor tip–perhaps this is something you already do!  But if you’re anything like me, it’s little things, those easy habits that allow the “extras” to become smoothly woven into the rhythm of our days, that make all the difference.  Sometimes, when I’m having a busy week and I would normally be tempted to let our nature study slide, it’s this little habit that prods me to get out the colored pencils and notebooks!

This is a wonderful idea, Celeste!  Older children, homeschool graduates and parents can use the very enthusiastic younger children’s nature collections as a stimulus for nature journaling! No excuses for not doing nature journal entries!

As you can see, Nature Study is simple, easy and delightful!  Charlotte Mason encourages moms to also spend time outdoors with their children and simply observe and enjoy their children’s delight in nature.  This time is an investment in “Mother Culture” because, for an hour or so, you can forget the hum-drum of life and household chores!

Schedule in this “extra” in your week ~ see my “Theme of the Day” chart.

Much grace,

Tiny Frogs

Our Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features

Reptiles & Amphibians

My youngest daughter really loves to film, photograph and discuss her nature finds.

Here are her latest Outdoor Hour Challenge photo finds of small frogs in our fish pond.

These little frogs are teeny, tiny, only the size of a baby pinkie finger nail, and yet they are perfectly formed.

lara tadpoles

She left all the little frogs in  the pond.  

We remembered some of the misfortunes some tiny frog relatives had when she captured some early spring (last year September) and placed them in bottles …

They all died.

We thought that they may have starved to death and so, after a little research, we placed new frogs with some shredded lettuce leaves in a larger container.  Miss.L even put a few large rocks and stones in the bottle so that the frogs could spend some time out of the water.

Sadly, one rock fell over and squashed some other unfortunate little frogs.

And, worse still, one morning, those brave surviving frogs spied a small opening in the lid and escaped!

About 14 little frogs hopped and jumped through our house, all coming to the front door and some even managed to reach our stoep.  With great care, Miss.L took each carefully to the pond and set them free.  She felt that her attempts at raising these frogs in her aquariums had been a failure.

But, armed with the digital camera, “catching” these frogs was an absolute delight!

Join us for your OHC discoveries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Carnival.  Submit yours here.

Blessings,

Mushrooms

Our Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features Moss, Lichens and Mushrooms

and this week we’d like to share our study on

Mushrooms

Fungi Finds

As with our moss and lichen nature studies, Miss.L captured her mushroom nature study finds on our camera.

She went off on her own and made me guess where she found the mushrooms!  I could identify the tiny white mushrooms as those that grow on an old tree stump in my veggie garden, and the slender stemmed white mushrooms that grow on the cow manure pile, but I was unsure about the brown mushroom … off to the field guide!

Which reminds me of our family’s first search through the mushroom field guide ~

Our first experience of eating our own wild mushrooms was when our neighbor visited us and brought us a handful of white mushrooms that he picked on his walk through our veld, which were delicious!

I’kowe (Termitomyces umkowaani) also known as Beefsteak Mushrooms

We have several kinds of edible mushrooms that grow on our grazing lands. Some are massive and can reach sizes over 30cm in diameter!

We are “fungi novices” and even though our field guide is very specific, it can be hard to differentiate between the edible and poisonous mushrooms!

After lengthy, detailed comparisons between our SASOL First Field Guide to Mushrooms of Southern Africa photos and physical descriptions, and careful examinations of our huge mushroom, we cut a section off and fried it in some butter and garlic.  We (only my hubby and I) ate a tiny helping.  It was delicious!  We waited for a while and then went to bed. We survived!  The next night we fried up the rest!  It was so large that we froze some.

Mushrooms can look very similar!

Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) edible raw or cooked ~ your basic “button mushroom”

kaminski_agaricus_arvensis_02.jpg (725×434)

Horse Mushroom (Agaricus arvensis)

and the infamous Death Cap mushroom ~

234px-Amanita_phalloides_1.JPG (234×312)

Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) accounts for 90% of all mushroom fatalities worldwide!

I suppose nothing motivates one more to accurately identify a mushroom than when faced with eating a potentially deadly fungi!

This week we did not have to eat any samples, but we did enjoy photographing the variety on our farm.

Join us for your OHC discoveries!

Blessings,

Sharing this post in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Carnival.  Submit yours here.

Lichen

Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features Moss, Lichens and Mushrooms

and this week we’d like to share our study on

Lichen

Moss Lichen & Mushrooms2

Lichens abound on our farm … on rocks, trees, on old branches.

We loved the amazing variety in their colors and shapes.

We found examples of all three types of lichen as described below from Countryside Info ~

wpe29.jpg (15604 bytes)

wpe2A.jpg (21243 bytes) wpe2B.jpg (12951 bytes)
Crustose 
encrusting lichens
Foliose
leafy lichens
Fruticose
shrubby lichens

Later, we spotted this moth on our kitchen windowsill and knew immediately that it would be perfectly camouflaged on any lichen on a tree!

P1160242

When Miss.L photographed the moth she noticed its tongue and quickly filmed it – sucking up the water splashes on the tiles!  What a long proboscis!

Later in the week I suggested that Miss.L capture as many lichen samples that she can find with our digital camera and then prepare a collage – a lichen scavenger hunt!

Here’s her Picasa-created collage ~more lichens

Join us for your OHC discoveries!

Blessings,

Sharing this post in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Carnival.  Submit yours here.

Moss

Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features Moss, Lichens and Mushrooms

and this week we’d like to share our study on

Moss

Moss Lichen & Mushrooms1

We have become nature detectives once again!

I think that our greatest tool is a digital camera.  Miss.L10 is armed and alert and scampers off to find moss, lichen and mushrooms. She already knows of one spot – her favorite place with a soft carpet of moss.  We stop in the shade and I photograph her feet on the wonderful, cool, velvety, green moss.P1160186 But Miss.L is off to show me her amazing moss discovery – some moss is tucked in a rock, all dusty, browny-grey, seemingly dead.

But she knows a special trick that I must photograph ~ if she pours water on this moss, it will instantly transform into lush green!P1160190 And so, I watch and record the instant recovery – in seconds the moss has revived!

P1160197

A small piece of moss is loose.  She takes it home so that we can examine it closely under our magnifying glass.

No roots?

How does it turn instantly green?

Once again, we do not have the answers and so we search our Handbook of Nature Study and the internet.

The moss is so pretty.  After seeing such lovely moss on Pinterest, we decide to put our moss in some bottles and display them on our nature shelf for the month. A dainty garden of moss and lichens arranged in some glass bottles.

P1160233

The next day Miss.L notices steam inside the bottles.

Steam?

“Where did the steam come from?” Miss.L10 asks me.  And, amazingly, she remembers,  “… transformation? …no, … transpiration!”

Yes!

Delightful nature discoveries!

Join us for your OHC discoveries!

Blessings,

Sharing this post in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Carnival.  Submit yours here.

Marjolein Bastin ~ Nature Artist

Every now and then I find something really inspirational on Pinterest!

I discovered Marjolein Bastin!

Marjolein Bastin's Autumn in Holland

Marjolein Bastin’s Autumn in Holland

Quoting JoAnne Carter’s “Marjolein Bastin’s” Pinterest board:

Marjolein Bastin is a Dutch-noted nature artist, writer, children’s author and illustrator. She is the creator of the character “Vera the mouse”. A Hallmark designer discovered Marjolein’s artwork while on a trip to Holland in the early 1990s. Today, stationery, greeting cards, home décor items, and gifts in Hallmark’s Nature’s Sketchbook by Marjolein Bastin line are among the company’s best-selling offerings.

Marjolein Bastin

JoAnne Carter’s “Marjolein Bastin’s” Pinterest board

I love her detailed and finely sketched paintings of garden and nature scenes.

Marjolein Bastin's "Summer"

My younger children loved her cute animals, especially Vera, the mouse, and these raccoons ~Marjolein Bastin Racoons

So pop over to her website and enjoy the exquisite beauty of her nature art and add her to your “Famous Contemporary Artist of the Month”.

Blessings,