Pipevine Swallowtail :: Summer Nature Study

On Saturday morning, we went for a little walk along the Tower House Trail in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.  We had didn’t know what to expect but we’d hoped to observe dragonflies for the August Outdoor Hour Challenge.    Though we did observe a few from a far, what we discovered was much more alluring.

The munchkins and I were immediately intrigued.  I had never before seen a caterpillar quite like this one in the states.  As we observed their behavior, I was reminded of my weeks in Ecuador as part of an Earthwatch Expedition, Rainforest Caterpillars.  You can read my post about that experience here.

What struck us was that the caterpillar would extend this ‘Y’ shaped tube from just behind it’s head when it was agitated.  As it relaxed, it would pull it back down.  Way cool!   Covering its body were numerous tentacles (soft to the touch), red and relatively short along the dorsal side and black along the sides of its body.

Upon our return home, we immediately looked it up and discovered they were Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars.  As larvae or caterpillars, they eat all parts of the plant – stems and leaves both.  As an adult butterfly, they feed upon the nectar of the usual host of flowering plants that attract Lepidoptera.  
As per usual, the munchkins wanted to bring them home to watch them change into a chrysalis and eventually emerge as a butterfly.  As we’ve just moved, I was not prepared for this and managed to convince that we would consider this for next time.  

Bend Animal Hospital :: Field Trip

My best friend is a veterinarian technician. She and her husband own an animal clinic and for years we’ve talked about taking a tour. Sadly, only now that we are about to move does it come to fruition.

We were greeted upon our arrival and we were first introduced to the receptionist.  Our tour was then underway.  We first visited the technician or lab room where we were shown the numerous instruments and tools that are used.

We were then able to watch a portion of an abscess surgery on a large boxer dog.  My little guy was very intrigued, the other munchkins kept their distance.  The veterinarian described how a small burr from cheat grass had most likely embedded into the skin of the dog and an infection ensued.  The cause of the infection was of particular interest as we have discussed the impacts of invasive species a great deal in our studies.
We then toured the other areas of the clinic, including the kennels and the stalls for the large animals. In the photo above, the kids talked quietly to a cat in recovery.  It was fascinating to see how they are equipped to service both large and small animals, though predominately in the clinic they see household pets, namely dogs and cats.

We were then able to watch in completion, a common surgery on a dog … castration. The kids were very interested … though not so much in the particulars of this specific surgery … just the process of surgery itself. It could have been any surgery.

We departed shortly after and enjoyed going out to lunch together.  Later that afternoon, Buddy expressed to me, “I might like to be a veterinarian when I grow up.”

Of Ticks and Trees :: Spring Nature Study

Last week we drove down to Northern California to visit with DH’s brother and family.  While there, we had a little time to explore the area, including Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and the Redding Sundial Bridge.  As we had obligations with family, we didn’t have the time to explore as much as we would have liked … but hope to return some day soon.

Our first area of exploration was the grassy hillside and open area behind our motel.  The spring wildflowers were in full bloom and it was a delight to explore and discover many wildflowers we were not familiar … including this little orange beauty (which Buddy illustrated below) … anyone know what it is ??

One of the other discoveries was this vibrant red clover … I have never seen a red clover … it really stood out in the field of green.  We also observed mature black walnut trees … and marveled at the walnut shells that littered the ground.  The munchkins discovered that many young critters like to use the shells for shelter … including slugs and earwig nymphs!!   [Admin Note: I have a picture if you’d like to see – but I didn’t post it, knowing it would give some the willys.] 
We walked about leisurely … allowing nature’s delights to pull us in whatever direction caught our attention.  We observed many different adaptations (climbing vines, spiny leaves, fragrant-colorful flowers) and briefly discussed the advantages of each. We also observed what appeared to be very young galls on the Oak trees.  We are quite familiar with these galls … but we have never seen them so colorful and relatively soft and smooth to the touch.  They felt like apples! 
We returned to our room about an hour later … carrying with us a few clippings of flowers and leaves the munchkins wanted to press in their journals.  I encouraged the kiddos to choose something of interest to illustrate in their nature journals and I laid down to do the same.  As we were quiet at work, I felt a tickling, itchy sensation on my neck.  I reached up to soothe said irritation to discover the cause was a tick!  As I jumped up to dispose of it, and proclaiming my displeasure (I don’t recall my exact words but I can assure you, it wasn’t not worth repeating here), MeiLi says, “Mom!  There’s another one!”  Sure enough … a second one had apparently fallen off me onto the white comforter.  

I absolutely detest ticks!  I had one take up residence in the back of my right leg several years ago.  I had been out in the field setting up for a field trip and upon my return home, I kept feeling a funny itch on my leg.  I was wearing jeans and wasn’t able to ascertain the cause until I got home.  Thankfully, we lived with my in-laws at the time and my father-in-law was familiar with the proper removal technique.

My illustration is on the left and Buddy’s is on the right.  
This was the first time we’d used a microscope.
I wanted to model how to draw what we were seeing through the eyepiece.
Somehow or another, MeiLi started her illustration too close to the edge of her paper 
so she wasn’t able to sketch the entire tick.

We opted NOT to take the time to illustrate our hitch-hikers.  Instead, we flushed them quite quickly and then immediately took a shower so I could assure that others hadn’t thought to join their cousins.  Apparently, however, after removing the tick, one should place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.  Ah well.  You learn something new everyday.

Anyway … we had illustrated a tick in January of last year.  Coincidentally, I saved the one that had been digging into my thigh as I was teaching science at the time and it made a cool story … still does. I’ve thereby scanned the kiddos’ journal entries for your pleasure.

Birth & Midwifery

For the past few years, my kiddos have been interested in the birth process due in part to the fact that one of my best friends, Aubrey Anselmo, is a Birth Doula and Midwife Apprentice.  Whenever we get together, the conversation at some point always turns to birth and pregnancy.  I love to listen to her share the stories of the home births she has had an opportunity to take part. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I wanted an at home, water birth.  My husband, on the other hand, was adamantly opposed.  He is a healthcare professional … so it comes as no surprise.  Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t know a doula or midwife … had not known anyone who had had a home birth … and was thereby unable to persuade him otherwise. 

I won’t go into detail here with my birth story, but I will say that it was traumatic and life threatening to both me and my child.  I feel very strongly that had I had a doula or midwife by my side … particularly as this was my first – the problems that arose would not have.  My husband feels the same.  There were so many miscommunications … so many errors on the part of the hospital staff.  As a result of this experience – I have longed for closure.  For healing.  I think that is why I am so keen to listen to the stories that Aubrey shares.

 As she talks, my munchkins inevitably always have questions and I’ve come to discover – due to my own childbirth experiences – my daughter, specifically, has developed a sense of fear.  “I don’t want to have kids, Mom.  I’m scared; I know it will hurt!”    I thereby knew some education was in order … and if my kiddos were interested, so too, were others.

Thus …. yesterday afternoon, I opened up my home to my Aubrey and Tiffany Sutphin of Beautiful Blessings Midwifery and the families of my Roots & Shoots club.  My goal simply to allow the children an opportunity to ask questions in the hope that their fears and misconceptions would diminish.   Aubrey and Tiffany opened up the discussion by first playing a video for us …

From there, the kids gradually felt more comfortable talking and inquiring about the birth process.  As usual, they take time to digest information … so I look forward to the future discussions we will undoubtedly have.  This morning, in fact, as I was typing up this post, MeiLi and I watched a childbirth video that celebrated the miracle of childbirth.  Though I am not able to have another child, a choice I made after my second was born – I look forward to a more natural birth process when I become a grandmother.  

Narcissus :: Spring Nature Study

Last week, we went to the lodge social for dinner and a lively game of bingo. One of the white elephants that was brought for the prizes was a pot of daffodils. Buddy was fascinated by these flowers and went over to the prize table several times to observe them and delight in their fragrance. “I want to win the daffodils, Mom. I want to give them to you.”

As you can guess, he didn’t win the flowers … an adult admired them as well. Fortunately, he took it in strides and no tears were shed. For the next few days, however, he continued to ask and plead with me to go to the ‘plant store’ and buy some ourselves. I couldn’t say no. When the munchkins finally had the opportunity to select the flowers, they opted for Narcissus instead.

We spent several minutes with the loupe (or hand lens) while I read from the Handbook of Nature Study.  We then spent a little time illustrating a single bloom and labeling the flower parts as indicated in the book (Meili’s labels are on the reverse side of the paper).  Buddy was not feeling well when he did his – he had quite the fever and spent most of the day sleeping – I was actually surprised he did it at all.  It was his idea – I reckon – so he saw it through.  I’m so proud of them both! 

Real Milk .. Happy Cows

We have been buying real, unpasteurized milk for a few months now from another homeschool family. As we had recently enjoyed a field trip to a local dairy processing plant, Eberhard’s Dairy, I wanted to show the kids the alternative.  I thereby made arrangements with the family and we were encouraged to invite a few friends to join us. 
We arrived early in the morning, just in time to see how the milking machine is hooked up to the cow.  I didn’t get a picture, but the young woman pictured here moments before took the time to prep and cleanse the cow with iodine.  Notice, she also tied up the cows tail to keep it out of the way. 
The milking machine was underway and the kids then entertained themselves observing the young calf and playing with the barn cat.  It was cold and snowy outside so the heat lamp was on for the calf’s comfort.  

After the 3 gallon tank (if I recall the volume correctly) was filled, it was taken into the kitchen and poured into smaller jars for those (like us) who partake in the herd-share program.  It was fun to watch the kids’ enthusiasm and interest in the entire process.  The kids that had also taken part in the trip to Eberhard’s were especially intrigued.

When the trip concluded, I treated the kids to hot cocoa with real milk.  It was delicious and the perfect way to culminate the experience.