Nature in our neighborhood

Br remarked on its similarity to helicopter propellers

So I’ve taken on the challenge issued by some awesome blogging mommies to “make this a smart summer”- find opportunities everyday to sneak in a little learning.

smart summer button '11

The theme this week was “Backyard Science”.  On Wednesday, Br (3 3/4) had gone with my hubby to work on the furniture for Br’s school.  At some point, Bl(16 mo) strongly hinted (e.g. climbed in our sit-n-stand stroller & pointed at the door) he would like to go for a walk.  #Bl REALLY likes to be outside#

I’m a reasonable Mommy, so I grabbed hats, opened the door, and pushed the stroller out.  About 1/2 block from our house I realized “I only have 1 kid! Why am I taking a stroller for 2?” Much to Bl’s confusion, I turned quickly back around, popped him out of the sit-n-stand and into… THE JOGGING STROLLER!

My darling Mother-In-Law often complains of being hood-winked by my hubby into buying the expensive jogging stroller.  It admittedly has been largely underutilized.  Because of this, I do feel a certain obligation to use it, even though I have admitted I have not been working out lately.

Knowing I am fairly out-of-shape, I opted to do a short run-walk on an old favorite route, that also would offer some nice nature views for Bl.  I also grabbed the camera, because, hey, I’m trying to write a blog…

Aren't we lucky to have this view 0.58 miles from our home?
Aren't we lucky to have this view 0.58 miles from our home?

I underestimated how out of shape I was.  Let’s just say: there was a lot of “wind-suckage.”  As I did need to take frequent wind-sucking breaks some pictures of the lovely view, it was handy I grabbed the camera.

And this view 0.74 miles from our house?
And this view 0.74 miles from our house?

We also learned a little about what our neighbors do:

Now we know who to call next time we need our lumber jacked! #Hmm, I hope that's nothing like car jacking#
Now we know who to call next time we need our lumber jacked! #Hmm, I hope that's nothing like car jacking# If you are keeping track, I believe this was at 0.98 mi

We also saw some birds, but I was on a slight incline & feeling industrious, so no pictures.

I'm so sorry for whomever did this.  I have some tweezers I'll even let you keep.
I'm so sorry for whomever did this. I have some tweezers I'll even let you keep. My brain was oxygen-deprived enough I don't recall the mileage.

After my run-walk, I took an extra long cool down (I’m sure you are shocked :) ) and walked past our house to the end of the cul-de-sac, where we never go, which feeds into another part of the park near our house.  This ended up having the coolest nature things we noticed!  So cool , as soon as Br got home, I took both kids back out in the sit-n-stand to show him!

Propellers! On a tree!
Propellers! On a tree!

Although we were taking our lives in our hands to get these pictures:

but few risks are too great to miss a learning opportunity!

We even found one special one with 3 propellers!

Br remarked on its similarity to helicopter propellers
Br remarked on its similarity to helicopter propellers

We tested their flying abilities.  They sank like stones.  We discussed that they were green, so had lots of water in them, which would make them heavy.  We’ll try to remember to test it again later in the summer or fall when they dry out.

We also discussed a little about plants protective mechanisms:

Not much growing under the big oak tree
Not much growing under the big oak tree

I had Br notice what was growing under the oak tree. Br: “Not much!”  I started to explain about “out-competing”, shading out other plants, and taking up the water & nutrients, how oaks have a special chemical in their leaves that inhibits other plants from growing… Br: “Mooommm… I want to go to the park!”   Hmmph.

As we got closer to the tree (and the park), I told Br to look at the ground and tell me what he saw.

Animal habitats!
Animal habitats!

There were all sorts of holes in the ground.  Br’s guess was they were for gophers (pretty good guess!)  And the “gopher’s friends must live in the other holes!” I pointed out there were also other types of animals that sometimes live in holes: mice, snakes, etc.

The next thing was possibly the most interesting, but also made me the most nervous:

mystery hair...
mystery hair...

I pointed the clumps of hair on the ground out to Br and asked him what he thought it was from.  He answered with a stock “I don’t know”, so I suggested he make a hypothesis (we’ve been working on that vocabulary) from what he observed.  What colors is the hair? And (most clue-worthy in this case), do you smell anything?

“Skunk!”  (Luckily, just a subtle “skunkiness”)  In the interest of science,we talked about if the hair looked like it would be soft or coarse (coarse, if you are curious), and I did pick up a piece & let Br touch it.  (There was precautionary hand washing as soon as we got home) We also sort of glossed over why there might be big clumps of skunk hair on the ground…

 

close-up of the skunk hair
close-up of the skunk hair

 

The favorite discovery I actually have no pictures of: the patch of thorn-less (I know! How awesome is that!) blackberries our neighbor has growing on the outside of their fence.  Their oldest son, whom we had bought a blackberry plant and some of Br’s favorite toys from at our neighborhood garage sale a few months ago, was actually out snacking on them.  He invited us to eat some (apparently they have more than they can eat!), and taught Br what to look for to find the “tastiest blackberries”.

My kids went home a tad purple, and not that hungry for dinner, but we totally saw some awesome bits of nature in our neighborhood!

What about you? Any great “smart summer” ideas, or discoveries in your neighborhood?

 

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7 thoughts on “Nature in our neighborhood”

  1. WOW! You took those pictures on your run/walk with the jogger!?? You GO girlfriend! Joggers are hard to run with in the first place, but when you add a photo session to the mix, you’re really giving yourself a challenge!

    Thanks for linking up in the Smart Summer Challenge–you are such an awesome mama for sneaking in this kind of cool learning when you did. It’s not easy, but you’re using smart words and are helping your littles to develop keen eyes. Fab.

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