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.



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

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


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”

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Horse Mushroom (Agaricus arvensis)

and the infamous Death Cap mushroom ~

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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!


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Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features Moss, Lichens and Mushrooms

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


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 ~

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encrusting lichens
leafy lichens
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!


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!


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


Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features Moss, Lichens and Mushrooms

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


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!


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.


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


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


Delightful nature discoveries!

Join us for your OHC discoveries!


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Rocks & Stones Experience

We enjoyed our month of Rock Outdoor Hour Challenges and my own Stones and Rocks discipleship week.

Rocks & StonesAlthough we have been outdoors most days, and have quite an impressive new rock and stone collection on our table, we have not approached our time scientifically.  I enjoy my child’s natural delight and detailed observations, but we did not research, compare, investigate, analyze, or even note our findings.

It was more a simple pleasure.  

And Charlotte Mason would approve.  She encourages us to give our children regular opportunities to get in touch with God’s creation and to allow these experiences to form a source of delight that will last throughout their lifetime.

So, with this as my long-term approach, I am confident that a scientific approach may develop in time.

(May I encourage young moms not to do what I did when I started homeschool? In my early days with my eldest child, I over-emphasized our nature study sessions and made it too intense, too heavy.  I was very ‘results’ orientated.  This approach stunted my child’s natural delight and she eventually pulled out of our outdoor hour times.)

Right now, our nature study is planned as a natural nature experience!

How have you enjoyed your nature study times?  What works for your children?  Have you any tips for new moms? Please share in the comments.


This post was submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge carnival.

Mammal’s Fur

We have really enjoyed our Outdoor Hour Challenge ~ mammals studies this month!

Our first week we studied animal fur and without a second thought, my daughter insisted we “study” our cats’ fur!

Our cats didn’t object!  They purred with contentment as we stroked and felt their fur.  Using words, we talked about texture, length, colors, the way the fur lay, how the cats cleaned their fur and what differences we noticed between the short-haired and the long-haired cats.

We then wrote in our nature journals.

I was slightly shocked to discover that Miss.L10 had taken some “samples” to paste into her nature journal!  She assured me that I wouldn’t even notice where she had snipped some fur off!  Her journal entries where not ‘scientific’.  I noticed how descriptive and emotive her words were.  I think this is good. It is lovely to related to observations with all our senses. (I also noticed how poor her spelling is …we’ll add some of these words to our thematic list)

My journal entry was more objective and comparative, my word “Fur” separating the different cat’s fur.

We love the Outdoor Hour Challenges each week. Apart from the weekly challenges, the nature grid gives us plenty of ideas to follow-up as well.

Have you joined in?


Nature Journals ~ Karee Tree

This month’s Outdoor Hour Challenge theme is


We studied the Karee tree just outside my bedroom window.  I sketched it one afternoon.

This week we examined the leaves and bark of the same tree.

Miss.L10 took paper and made some bark rubbings and picked some leaves to bring inside.

We used the bark rubbing as part of the background for the nature journal page.

I suggested that we try to make “negative” leaf rubbings – place the leaf on top of the page and rub over the edge of the leaf creating an outline of the leaf.  I filled my page with these shapes.  the little lines created a lovely texture.

Then I sketched the leaves, painted them and outlined the details. 

A few short, descriptive notes and my journal page was complete.

MissL.10 enjoyed a similar approach.

I have found so much nature journaling inspiration at Jane LaFazio.com’s ~ Sketchbook and lots more on Pinterest.

Join in the Outdoor Hour Challenges.


Nature Study & OHC September

We re-started our Nature Study this term

with the arrival of our spring here in South Africa.

I created a First Week of Spring Grid (click for your free download)

We chose one box for each day of the first week.

I chose to study and sketch all the different fruit trees in bud in our orchard:

Barb of Handbook of Nature Study has a new approach for her Outdoor Hour Challenges using a grid.

It has helped us focus on a simple topic for each week.

Last week we studied ants.

Miss.L10 and I stood watching the ants scurry about their disturbed holes and kept our distance! We all know how our ant bite!

We noticed the large and small-sized ants.  Some ants ran straight back to the hole while others ran around in random circles.

We sat and sketched the ants.

By the time we were finished, there was not an ant to be seen.

All was calm again.

This week we crawled on our bellies with our camera to take a photo capturing a “Bug’s Eye View” ~

It was interesting to look at plants in our garden from a new and unusual angle.

It gave us a different perspective.

Miss L10 couldn’t choose the best of her 3 photos and pasted them all on her notebook page.  She didn’t want to write descriptive words about her bug’s eye view.

I had some creative fun and wrote words extending out of my central photo.

Lovely, simple nature study sessions!

How does the new approach work for you?  Share how you keep it simple and relaxed in the comments.  Join Barb and all of us for the Outdoor Hour Challenges.