Hello October, It’s Wonderful To See You!

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Can you believe it’s October already!? I know it’s a cliché, but time has absolutely flown by these past few months. While we love summer’s warm sun, and relaxed schedule, there is nothing better than sipping coffee while enjoying the crisp fall air. We love nature walks, scavenger hunts, campfire nights, and jumping in leaves! All are wonderfully beautiful, and so quick to leave. Enjoy the moment. 🙂

 

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Fried Dandelions? Yummy!

Picking dandelions while Running with bare feet through the lawn. There was nothing better! We remember thinking how strange it was to be picking weeds for a fun dessert, but also remember being ecstatic about trying something new. Fried dandelions!

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Makes 36 fritters

3 dozen medium-sized dandelion flowers (see note)

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of sugar

4 Tablespoons of water

5 Tablespoons of milk

½ cup canola oil for frying

1-2 teaspoons of powdered sugar to finish

 

Dandelion note: The best dandelions for this are young, tender and medium-sized (about 1” across). Pick them from a lawn or bank that you know has not been sprayed with weed killer. They’re at their freshest in the late morning when they first open to the sun. Oh, and they’re packed with vitamins, too!

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Prepare the dandelions: Trim the milky stems right to the base of the flower, leaving the green bud intact. From this point on, you’ll want to avoid licking your fingers both for hygiene reasons and because the taste of the raw milk is mighty bitter! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Heat the oil: Pour the canola oil into an 8” frying pan and heat it slowly over medium heat. The oil will be ready when a test dollop of batter cooks to medium brown on the bottom in 30 seconds. Arrange a plate with two layers of paper towel beside the pan and have a spatula and a pair of tongs handy.

Make the fritters: Dip 6 dandelions at a time yellow-side down into the batter, using the green knobs as handles. Quickly fork a little of the batter onto the green bits, but don’t try to coat the backs entirely.

Put the 6 battered flowers face down into the hot oil so that they keep their flower shapes and fry for 30 seconds until medium brown. Now flip them over, pushing the tops gently with the spatula as the green sides cook, and fry for a further 30 seconds.

Using the tongs, remove the fritters to the paper towel to cool. Repeat the process until all the flowers are fried.

To finish: Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm. Delicious!!

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Old Trees, New Life- Camping Activity

When a tree falls, its life is over. But the tree can still give life to others. The dead tree becomes its own ecosystem, where plants, insects, and microorganisms thrive-from the mosses, ferns, and fungi that make the rotting tree their home to a whole host of bugs and bacteria that eat the tree and break it down into soil for new plants! Next time you see a dead log, take a close look and record your observations in your Field Journal. You just might be amazed by what you see.

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What You Do

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#1. Find a rotting log: Look for a tree that has fallen and that has wood breaking apart in pieces. It may be slightly damp.

 

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#2. Describe what the log looks like. What is growing on it? Can you see any mushrooms, ferns, mosses, or lichens? Are there baby trees or any other plants sprouting out of the wood?

 

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#3. Do you see any insects? What are they doing? Look for tiny piles of sawdust at the base of the log. This is evidence that insects have drilled into the wood, starting the decomposition process. The holes left behind create highways for fungi and bacteria to come in and break down the wood even further.

 

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#4.  Tap the log with your fingers. Is it hollow? Wet? Bone-dry? What does it smell like?

 

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#5. Put on your gloves and gently and carefully lift the log a few inches to see if you can take a peek underneath. What do you see? Are there insects underneath? What are they doing? What do they look like? When you’re done, put the log back.

 

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#6.  Use your magnifying glass to peek at the log itself. Do you see insects breaking it down? What do they look like under the magnifying glass? What about the plants growing on the tree? What do the mushrooms look like up close?

 

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#7. Draw and describe what you’ve seen in your field journal. Try to identify plants, animals, and insects by looking at your field guide or Nature Anatomy book! 

 

There is so much to learn! Head outdoors and explore! 🙂

 

 

An Indiana Summer

One of our favorite things about the summer season is all the fun activities available. From concert series in the park to museums, the options are endless. Here are some of the activities that have been our family’s favorites! 🙂

 

#1. Conner Prairie

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Immerse yourself in a 19th-century village and interact with the people, animals, objects and routines of life in Central Indiana in 1836! After you explore the town check out the Treetop Outpost, Craft Corner, and the Balloon Voyage!  We love that this huge park offers activities for both littles and adults.

 

#2. Town Park Concerts

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Check your town’s website for a list/schedule of concerts. Our local park offers free lawn concerts on the weekends!

 

#3. Farmers Markets

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We LOVE going to farmer’s markets. It’s such a fun way to connect with people, and the food is always amazing. It’s hard to beat fresh Indiana tomatoes!

 

#4. Libraries and Book Stores

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Check your local library or a nearby bookstore. They often have summer reading activities and fun games for kids! It’s a great way to keep littles motivated to read all summer long!

 

#5. Nature Walks

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Print off some simple study guides (guides about insects, trees, etc), and head outdoors to discover a whole new world! Check with your local park to see when their nature days are. They have them often, and are always fun!

 

 

These are just a few of our favorite summer favorites! We’ll be sharing more on our next post! 🙂

What are your favorite summer activities!?

 

 

 

Keeping a Field Journal

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

 

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You’ve got your tent pitched and your fire pit set up-you’re finally at home in the wilderness. But one of the best parts of being in nature is exploring it,  and discovering the plants and animals that call your campsite home, sweet home. Keeping a field journal is a fun way to record what you see or hear while in the great outdoors. In it you can make drawings, describe in detail the plants and animals you come across, and collect leaves and flowers to press and tape right into your book. When you get home, you can gather more information at the library, local wildlife center, botanic garden, or online.

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What you need:

  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Watercolor set with brushes (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Envelopes for holding any leaf, flower, feather, or other natural treasures that you may find along the trail.

You may find a pair of binoculars to come in handy. They will help you scope out wildlife from a safe distance!

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What You Do:

Get Organized

Before you begin, think about how you want to organize your journal. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Organize by environment. If you camp in areas that have different climates and types of plant and animal life-say the woods one weekend, the desert another- you might want to make sections in your journal for every kind of place you go!
  • Organize by topic. Have an animal section, a plant section, bug section, and rock section. Add new entries to each part according to what you see.
  • Organize by camping trip. Keep a running journal of your trips. Gather your information, make sketches, and record your thoughts by journey.
  • Keep two journals. Make one a free-forum for notes, sketches, and collages of leaves, bark, and feathers. Then keep a second, more polished book where you can categorize the random info from the other book.

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Gather the Essentials

Before each entry, write down the date, time, name of your location, and other information that will provide the what, where, and when.

  • Date. Time of year can play a big part in what you see in the wild. In the autumn, many animals migrate and others are busy gathering food for the winter. Leaves begin to turn colors and fall. This season is great for watching foragers-animals that gather their food and hide it for safe-keeping-such as squirrels and chipmunks. In the spring, many animals search for mates, graze for food, and have babies. Trees begin to bud and flowers bloom. Spring is a great time to look and listen for songbirds. Winter is sort of quiet for some animals, but you’ll see lots of activity in the summertime.
  • Time of day.  Most critters are more active at dawn and dusk (though some, like owls and snakes, are more lively at night). So if you want to spot these animals or insects, plan to get up early or stay up late. Some plants are more active at different times of day as well, like the morning glory,a flowering vine that usually blooms in the morning and closes during the day.
  • Notes on the environment.  Are you exploring a pine forest? Wading in a brook? Sitting on a rock at the oceans edge? Describe where you are and what it looks, sounds, and smells like.
  • What’s the weather?  Is it sunny, snowy, or somewhere in between?

 

Gather Information:

A field journal can document more than just animals-it can include bugs and plant life, too. Here’s a general list of questions to ask yourself.

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Animals

  • Describe the animal. What did it look like? What was its behavior? Did it make a sound? Where did you see it? Was it alone?
  • Did it leave behind any tracks? How many toes were on each foot? Are there claws? What is the shape and size of the toe pads and the heel? What kind of pattern do the tracks make as a group? Sketch the track(s) in your journal, then try to identify them.
  • Identify the animal. Is it a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian? When you get home, you may want to research the animal further. Leave space to write your findings. Some questions to consider: Does the male look any different from the female? What kind of home does it live in? What are its feeding habits? How does its body develop or change over its lifetime?

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Insects

  • Carefully collect an insect (for observation only) and describe it. What color is it? Does it have wings? How many legs does it have? How many antennae? Any weird behavior?
  • Identify the insect. Leave room in your journal for answers to these questions (you may need to do some research). Where does the bug live? Does the male look different from the female? Is the insect part of a colony? What is its life cycle?

 

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Plants

  • Choose a plant. Draw it, and if there are any leaves, flowers, branches, or bark  on the ground nearby, paste them in. We love pressing the plants into our journals to make them last longer.
  • Describe the plant. What kind of leaves does it have? How tall is the plant or tree? What is its overall shape? Are there any flowers? If so, what do they look and feel like? What color and texture are the bark or stems? Where does the plant live? Is the soil wet, or dry, dirt or sand? Can you tell how the seeds move around?
  • Identify the plant. Using information you gathered, do some research at home to figure out what kind of plant it is. If you like, leave room in your journal to answer the following questions: What is the life cycle? Does the plant serve as food or shelter for any animal? Does the plant lose its leaves in the fall?

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Keeping a field journal is a little like writing in a diary, except instead of writing about yourself, you write about what you observe all around you. It’s great fun, and provides a wonderful keepsake to remember your trips by! If you aren’t able to get outdoors much this summer, be sure to check out Nature Anatomy! It’s one of our favorite completed nature journals!

 

Great Games for the Car- Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are some more of our favorite road trip games!

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The Minister’s Cat:

This is an oldie but goodies. Players take turns coming up with adjectives to describe the minister’s cat, starting with A. “The minister’s cat is an (angry) cat.” The next player repeats the sentence with a B word, and the play progresses through the alphabet.

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A, My Name Is Annie:

Starting with A, players describe a person, that person’s friend, where they are both from, and what they’re selling. For example: A, my name is Annie, my friend’s name is Alex, we come from Alaska, and we’re here to sell you apples. The next player starts with B. If you can’t come up with a sentence, you’re out.

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License Plate Bingo:

You’ll need paper and pencils for this game. Make a bingo card by drawing a grid of five boxes across and five boxes down. Fill the boxes with letters from the alphabet-either in order or at random. Put the Z in the center box along with whatever letter is already there (there are only 25 boxes, so you have to double up in one in order to fit all 26 letters). Now look at the license plates around you and check off the letters that you see. When you get a straight line up, down, across, or diagonal, you win!

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Guess the Number:

One player thinks of a number (between 1 and 1,000) The other players must guess what number it is. The person who is thinking of a number can only say “higher” or “lower”, narrowing  down the choices until one of the player gets it right. The winner gets to think of the next number.

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Bizz, Buzz:

This is a counting game. Each player takes turns counting-player one says, “1”; player two says “2,” etc. But every time a player gets to a number with a 3 in it, they must shout “Bizz!” instead of “3.” (That’s 3,13,23, etc). Want to make it harder? Every 3 is a bizz, and every 7 is a buzz. If you mess up, you’re out. (This is one of our favorites. It is tons of fun with a large group!)

 

What’s your favorite road trip game!? 🙂

Great Games for the Car!

You’re in the backseat, on the way to the campsite, but the ride goes on and on and on. Mile after mile, the minutes drag. You twitch. You fidget. You ask, “How much longer?”, and still only five minutes pass. Well, fidget no more!! 🙂 These games will make even the longest car trips zip along. They are designed with everyone in mind. You can involve the whole car (though you might want to leave the driver alone), or  just enlist your backseat pal. With some minor tweaks, you can even play the games on your own. Keep score if you want, and eliminate players or assign penalties. Set time limits, or check the odometer to use distance-a number of miles-to signal the end of a game.

 

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The ABC Game:

Look for something that begins with he letter A. You can look at the scenery, or use signs, billboards, and even license plates. Once you get something with the letter A (such as automobile, antenna or apple tree) move on to B, and so forth-until you make your way through the alphabet. You can all play at the same time or take turns.

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Going on a Safari:

In this game, a player starts with the letter A and says: “I’m going on a safari and I’m taking an…” The player says something that starts with the letter A (let’s say apple). The next player repeats the line with the first player’s objects and then adds one beginning with B. “I’m going on a safari and I’m taking an apple and a bench.” The third player then continues with the letter C, and so on! Anyone who makes a mistake or can’t come up with the name of a new object is out. The surviving player wins! (This is one of our favorites)! 🙂

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Destination:

This game is a bit harder. Players start with the letter A and then make up sentences that have a destination, a mode of transportation, and an activity that all begin with that letter. For example: “I’m going to Alabama on an alligator to anchor a boat.” The next player has B-“I’m going to Bavaria on a bus to buy a hat”-and it goes on from there! Tons of fun! 🙂

 

Those are just a few of the fun car games you can play! We’ll add more on our next post!! 🙂