Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pumpkin Update

These are shrinking quickly! Wonder how the warmer temperatures might affect it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vulture View

While at Bristol library yesterday, I asked the children's librarian for recommendations on books on nocturnal animals. Mind you, I had scoured the listings a month ago, but hadn't quite found the book I wanted. She mentioned several "natural" picture book authors that might be applicable and the name April Pulley Sayre came up. She is a local author from South Bend who has written over 50 books on natural topics.

I had no idea we had such talent in our own backyard! I'm looking forward to investigating her books more and learning from her. Here is April's website.

After looking at a few of her titles, I checked out Vulture View. This is a great preschool level book. The illustrations, done by Steve Jenkins are mainly done with cut and embellished papers. The text combines a simple story line with informational text woven into the story. The book looks at several animals and plants it might be attracted to until it finds what it would like to eat--a stinky, dead deer! The book uses simple text and pictures that engages the reader to learn more about the vulture. Many action words make this an excellent read aloud story. I loved that the book tackled head on that vultures like to eat carrion. That yuck or gross factor is perfect for kids. I also liked the informational pages at the back of the book, which contained basics on vultures and a list of additional resources. Additional information like this helps me when teaching classes as I have a little more to add than just what I read to children.

Find the book, Vulture View, here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bass Pro Shops

So, usually Cabela's is my husband's favorite place to be (he calls it a little slice of heaven); however, on a recent vacation we were close to the flagship store of Bass Pro Shops. This place was huge! I felt like we were inside a nature center on steroids. I did pretty good at ignoring the things for sale, but wish I'd checked out the selection of women's shoes better.

The shop had taxidermy animals throughout the store, including one perfect for a photo op. There were several placards and information cards throughout the store. The boys signed up for a kids adventure club that included a carrying case and animal information cards. Cool, if we keep making trips back! There is one in western Indiana near the Illinois border. I know several who make the trek on a regular basis. On the Bass Pro KIDS! website, children can explore animal facts, color pages, and play nature based games.

This was one of our favorite visits on the trip! It was set up for the holidays. The day before we visited a smaller Bass Pros Shop, had a FREE picture taken with Santa and got free coupons for kids meals. At both, we tried out the holiday toy selection with archery, the shooting range, a remote control off roader, a slide and carousel, etc. We got a lot of bang for our buck (pretty much free plus lunch). There was also a live alligator, fish, turtles, etc. There are fish feeding shows too. The lunch buffet was also good. I must say, I think my husband snuck out in the wee early hours of Black Friday and snagged a few deals!


During vacation our younger boy was getting a little antsy while his brothers and cousins were playing chess. So, I found a few acorn tops and borrowed a pen from my husband's every day carry bag (this DESERVES its own post sometime) to create some "finger" puppets. He was intrigued and started doing this:

On his own he started stacking, organizing, sorting, and classifying his treasures! Nature builds science and math skills!

Soon he was trading his acorns for leaves with his cousin. What did I say about nature building math skills??

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giant Chess

On vacation, there was a giant chess board at the activity center. Hello, geeky kids in heaven! My oldest son learned how to play chess in an hour long library program when he was only six years old. The next morning he was at my bedside at 7 am with a chess board, ready to teach me how to play. Yes, I learned how to play chess from a six-year-old. I'm not ashamed to admit it. 

So now we need a giant chess board in the Michiana area . . . any takers? We'd love to come play! Come to think of it, at the last scouting exhibition this spring, one troop DID make a human giant chess board, but we just played checkers on it. Cool! I will have to watch for this, as it was lots of fun for the whole family. It was also good to see a local chess tournament not long ago . . . there is also a chess club in the area. Fun stuff!

This sequence of events was interesting to watch . . . my husband captured it all! Oh, the impermanence of our man made structures! Nothing like a mountain . . . oh, wait, they erode too!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friends Feast

We had a Friends Feast with Nurturing Acorns. We could invite special friends and enjoyed food together. We enjoyed learning about Thanksgiving over the years and took a nature hike. Grandpa Cal would be a great trail leader. He took notice of the little things like frost on the ground!

Our spread was delicious . . . fruit salad, pumpkin rolls, mashed potatoes and corn, bison and noodles, etc. Just perfect!

Charlie sang a beautiful song with his drumming. We need to record this and post a video sometime. He is SO talented in native and outdoor skills. I want him to teach my older boys to do flint knapping.

Pumpkin Spice playdough--it's been a hit every week! The recipe really held up well over several weeks and made a ton. It smells delicious. We really could eat it, but it probably doesn't taste good. 

Indiana Master Naturalists

I thoroughly enjoyed my classes with Indiana Master Naturalists. Tonight we took our tests and had a potluck/gathering with our classmates and instructors at Rieth Interpretive Center in Goshen.  As we reflected on our time together, several mentioned how the course brought together people with similar passions. I can't wait to spend more time with them serving and exploring our natural surroundings! Such neat people! Also, the instructors and steering committee did an excellent job of putting it all together for us.

We received several books as part of our class and needed to use a few as tools for our test. These four books are great basics for any naturalist household.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reptiles and Amphibians

I took the boys to a Reptile and Amphibian program at Elkhart Public Library. We've seen this presentation before, but I still feel like I learn many things each time I go! I was taking notes on scrap pieces of paper and it helped me on my Indiana Master Naturalist test the next day.

Andy from Elkhart County Parks and Recreation presented the program after a craft turtle time with the librarian. The librarian was so nice to pull a huge selection of books on reptiles and amphibians for the kids to check out. Andy brought in lots of props to show the differences between reptiles and amphibians. It was very hands on. He also brought many specimens, such as a two headed snake, eggs casings, and lots of live animals to look at and examine. Excellent program! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Holiday at the Mill

This is the second year of Holiday at the Mill at Bonneyville Mill. It's a great time to stock up on stone ground flours for holiday baking, visit a few craft vendors, visit Santa, eat cookies and hot cider, and hit the trails. This turned into a community event for us as we saw several friends from our moms and tots group and preschool, friends from school, and extended cousins. People were popping up left and right!

There were several activities for the kids. They could dip candles, visit the one room school house, or decorate ornaments. It was good to see a fellow Indiana Master Naturalist helping out! What did my kids enjoy the most? Hiding from me outside the school, just far enough away that I still knew where they were. "I wonder where my boys could be" is a popular phrase when I know exactly where they are. I'll let them keep the illusion that they're pulling one over on me.

Santa Claus made an appearance! And my boys chased him off with swords! Why did my boys have swords at Holiday at the Mill? Because they're boys and they found their swords!

We found a sweet little nest on the ground while we were there. Need to study up on our birds to know what type of bird used it for nesting earlier in the year. It was a beautiful fall day!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pumpkin Experiment

Yes, I have rotting pumpkins in my yard! It's all in the name of science! My boys are working on their science fair projects. One wanted to do something with plants, another wanted to attract animals to the yard. I've seen several ideas on Pinterest about using vinegar and other solutions to preserve pumpkins longer--I thought testing several variations would be a perfect science project. Maybe I need to do my own!

I ended up just putting the decaying pumpkins in a small depression in the front yard. They are on their way to nutrients in my soil! I'll post updates. Did a raccoon make marks on the taller one? I thought more critters might be interested, but I guess not. Need something to do with your pumpkins? Elkhart Environmental Center hosted a pumpkin smash. Something to try next year!