Thursday, July 3, 2014

Finding Nature After the Storm!

A few other posts related to nature service projects:
Service--Outdoor service project ideas and TIPS! 
Working Together--Cleaning up as an extended family at my grandparents' house
Litter Pick Up--Thoughts on picking up trash


I woke up the other day after sleeping blissfully through the night to hear that the big willow tree in my parents' yard was down from the wind the night before. Yes, we slept through ALL of it!


We love that tree! It holds the horse swing, provides shade, graces us with long tendrils, and is a landmark when we're out in the boats. Not only was their tree down, but trees were down in most of the yards around us and branches were everywhere (including ours--just not as obvious). We went to help out the clean up effort and do a little nature exploration.

Some things we found: 

1. The root ball of the willow tree--it made a huge crater underneath! We could see the root system well.


2. A crawdad--it was way back by the house. We never see them back there! Since this one was dead, I think we're saving it for a little dissection soon. That should be very soon before it starts stinking! I know the boys have kept the heads or claws when we've found them before, but never dissected one. 


3. Shadows and the texture of the bark. What cool lines! By the way, all the kayaks and canoe were right there where they were left!  



4. Textures of wood! There was some decay in the tree (reminds me of dental cavities for some reason!). Parts crumbled apart. Near the knots or burls, the wood was quite hard and smooth--it almost reminded us of plastic. There were holes and cavities throughout. I even found a good specimen full of woodpecker holes! I'm keeping that for programs.

 

5. Leaves! We took a walk down to see the tree down over the road. We found pinecones, acorns, and other novelties. We also found lots of branches with leaves intact. We could talk about the different types of oaks, tulip poplar, maples, mulberries, and more! 


6. One of the helpers used her great observation skills and found this lovely dragonfly. They are usually so fast we don't get to see them up close! I had just been watching a TED talk on the migration of dragonflies. How neat to see this beauty in such detail. They have such unique wings--the TED talk mentioned dragonfly wings can independently move separately for great mobility and control, even flying upside down! My friend mentioned they are like helicopters! They also eat mosquito larvae while in the water as larva (10-11 months in freshwater!). 


7. A jungle gym! I personally would have just left the main part of the tree to be a good climbing place for the kids. I even advocated for it and tried to use my kids to advocate for it. But it's not my house. :-) We still enjoyed it while could!


8. Insects! We found rollie pollies, ants carrying large loads, and other decomposers breaking the wood down.


We really did clean up! Honest! We also had lots of fun nature exploration! 


My brother-in-law was there with a chainsaw, my older nephew drove the tractor, the older kids helped some, and a family from church came by to help. Of course, we had to stop and talk to the neighbors to see what all was going on around the area. Even a few days later, I keep seeing more downed trees! 


By the end of the first day, the yard looked miraculously different than when they started that morning. Wow! What a difference! Don't worry, the willow tree will not be leaving us too far. We took some of the "stumps" up to our house (okay, my nephew pulled them in the little trailer) to use for nature play. I'll keep you updated with what we do with them. 

My brother-in-law was there with a chainsaw, my older nephew drove the tractor with trailer, the older kids helped some, and a family from church came by to help. Of course, we had to stop and talk to the neighbors to see what all was going on around the area. Even a few days later, I keep seeing more downed trees! Wonder what else we can explore!



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