Sunday, February 10, 2013

Grandma and Grandpa's House

Yesterday between basketball games for boys, we stopped at my grandparent's house to fill up their bird feeder and brought them some suet. I wonder if I can talk them into the Great Backyard Bird Count this next weekend. :-) Grandma and Grandpa live north or Goshen on about 40 acres. My grandfather often sits on the love seat facing the sliding doors that look behind their property. This is his typical view, with bird feeders in front of us. They also have easy views of the pond that is closer to their house. They frequently see great blue herons, wild turkey, deer, etc. from their view. They also have had sand hill cranes in the area at times. We saw ten deer going across the back fields before we left. My son is proud that he spotted them first. The other week we saw 4 bucks walk just in this area near the house.

My grandparents owned HIllside Nursery at one point, so they have a good variety of plants nearer the house. There is an organic group from South Bend that uses part of their fields to grow veggies and a nearby farmer uses part of the land to pasture cattle.

As a child I remember fishing and taking a rowboat or float out in this little pond. We'd look for frogs, turtles, snakes, etc. I didn't always live in the area, but would usually visit for a bit in the summer. Many of us have memories of visiting a relative out on a farm or in the country and exploring as children. This is one place I explored. We picked up rocks for pocket change from the garden area behind here. I'm glad my kids can visit here as well . . . we need to do this more often!

Of course a stick is needed to poke and prod along the shore! There were fights over this pole one kid grabbed off our front porch. We found more sticks later so everyone could have one.

The kids were excited to go back in the trees . . . even in winter, they have a fair amount of color here. It's gorgeous in the fall, too!

We found lots of tracks . . . some were harder to tell as the snow has been changing since it fell.

While we weren't able to identify  them all, we are noticing more patterns, shapes, and spacing in the tracks. Focus, attention, categorizing, classification, etc.--all needed skills we work on in school but that can be learned in nature. 

This one kind of had me baffled. It was interesting to see the drag between prints. 

Sometimes we followed the paths and tried to recreate what might have happened. 

My nephew found a tree with thorns.

This guy decided he needed one. I'm always reminded of Andy Goldsworthy's environmental art with thorns. Note to self: there is a thorn stuck in my mitten!

The tree had some berries.

And grew in a clump like this . . .

And this was a close up of the bark. We wanted to try to identify it later.

We found lots of places for animals to find shelter . . .

The kids actually loved having all these hiding places. I think they are getting old enough that they can explore more while I visit inside with my grandparents. With all the open windows, I can keep a bit of an eye out. We just need to teach them the common sense and basics of what is okay for the area, such as keeping off a few areas that my grandparents don't want them on.

There were lots of raspberry brambles and cattails near the back pond. We need to do some foraging this spring and summer! We also need to collect pine cones for projects. I stopped at Walker Park one day because I didn't have any! They have more variety and selection here. 

I kept trying to show the kids this structure . . . but they were too busy playing at the edge of the water. They finally found it by the time we needed to leave. I wondered if it was my cousin's tree stand, but sounds like my uncle started it recently. Will need to talk to him about his plans as this could be a great fort site! 

We found milkweed and other wildflowers.

By the end, this little guy was fast asleep! Love that he's big enough to be in a backpack carrier--he will grow up in this! 

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