Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn (Originally from MacBeth's Opinion)

Anyone home?
"Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could riot in rich masquerades..."--The Wind in the Willows

Have a Delightful Autumn Read!

(Funny Fall Fantasy from Finland.  Click on the link to read a few pages.)

Nature journaling favorites:
Start your school year off right with this book:  Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie.  In it you will find more suggestions to make you nature study permanent--by keeping the ultimate nature notebook!  Other books for inspiration:  Leaf Bird Days and Firefly NightsA Life in Hand, and Making Handmade Books.  And for crafty ideas, try Nature's Art Box

Looking for a way to kick off your time outdoors?  Try The Squirrel Project, perfect for large groups of children of all ages.

Enhance your nature study with bird watching!  Birding is a terrific pastime for all ages, and can even be done inside, with a bird feeder set at just the right window.  Use a variety of seed to attract a variety of birds.  A good guide to who eats what is the Backyard Birdfeeder's Bible.  Find a field guide that's right for your area.  I prefer to use Peterson's Guides.  These are available for Eastern BirdsWestern BirdsMexican Birdsand Advanced BirdingHandfeeding Backyard Birds is a one of a kind how-to  book.  Feeding wild birds by HAND will change your view of birds forever.  Kids love this!  They all look like little St. Francis statues while feeding the birds.  Get a closer look at owls with an online owlcam. If your family is very interested in birding, you can participate in Cornell University's annual bird count, Project Feederwatch.   

Of course, you'll want some great living books about birds to fill out your ornithology program this fall.  Here are a few of our favorites:

  • There's an Owl in the Shower is about a family that adopts an owl.  Lots of information on owls and conservation.
  • Arnie: The Darling Starling by Margaret Corbo (out of print--check the library!) This is about a woman who raises a "pest bird," the starling, in Texas.  The bird learns how to talk!  See the Talking Starling page! (off site)
  • Make Way for Ducklings  (picture book) The Mallards have landed in Boston, but where will they nest?  Turns out, they choose an island right near the Community Sailing boathouse where I learned to sail!
  • Owls in the Family  What is it about owls and families?  This is another great book, this time set in Canada, about a family that adopts 2 owls.
  • The Coot Club It's an English summer story, but is a fine tale of bird conservation and adventure, honesty and judgment.  Vacationing boaters threaten a nest of coots, and the Club tries to save them.
  • The Pigeon Post Another English summer story, but filled with homing pigeons!
  • Great Northern? finds the Ds looking for loons!
  • The Tarantula in My Purse  There are enough birds in this book to qualify.  Visit Jean Craighead George's house, and get to know its exotic inhabitants!

How tiny we seem among the trees.

Crisp was the air, and bright was the sun,
Brilliant and clear dawned this October day:
Flinging out pennons of victory won,
The trees stood flaming in gala array.
 --Helen Hawley
Preserving Leaves
(modified from Victorian Family Celebrations by Sarah Ban Breathnach)
Select large branches when leaves have first turned color.  Split the stems of your branches about three inches from the bottom; stand them in a bucket of warm water for several hours.  If some of the leaves begin to curl, remove them.  Prepare a solution of glycerin (available in the laxative section of your local pharmacy) and water by combining two parts water to one part glycerin.  Bring the solution to a boil, simmer gently for 10 minutes, and let sit until completely cooled.  Cut the bottom of your branches at a very sharp angle and stand your branches in the mixture, storing the container in a cool, dark place until all the glycerin mixture has been absorbed.  This will take about a week to 10 days.  When you first notice tiny beads of glycerin forming on the leaves, remove them from the solution, wipe down the leaves with a damp paper towel, and dry thoroughly.  They may last several seasons!

This is the best time of year to--

 Collect wild edibles (to get started, see Wildman Steve Brill's book:  Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (And Not So Wild) Places  We have had more fun with this book than any other.  Brill not only includes accurate descriptions of the edible plants, but also includes folklore and personal anecdotes.  This book is so easy to use you'll be eating your lawn in no time.

 Bake bread with wild nuts and berries (recipes are in Wildman's book)
 Cook outdoors
 Hike an old trail
 Hike a new trail
 Learn the Beaufort scale
 Track animals
 Collect dried wildflowers (make sure you have permission, and that the flowers are not endangered)
 Press flowers (see above)
 Build a "survival shelter" from fallen branches and leaves
 Sleep in your survival shelter :)
 Dig up some pond muck and see what's hiding in it--how do animals live through the winter?
 Turn that compost pile and see what's hiding there
 Visit a county fair
 Go pumpkin picking
 Record the temperature daily
 Watch clouds
 Picnic at an old mill, castle, estate, garden--some place with history--or a shrine.
 Breath deeply
 Listen to Vivaldi's "Autumn" from The Four Seasons (listen to Amazon samples here)

More living books and "how-tos" for fall:
Looking for ways to make that "Not-back-to-school" time of year special? Try a few good books with "not-back-to-school" flavor:
  • Prince Caspian  The Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy think that they are on their way back to school, but Aslan has other plans--terrific outdoor adventure.
  • The Castle of Llyr The Princess is supposed to be taught how to be a lady, but is kidnapped and the adventure begins.
  • The Hobbit I know it begins in summer, but this book is one I like to read in the fall.
  • I Am a Home Schooler Photo essay of a homeschooling family.

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