The Forest Unseen- Book Review

The Forest Unseen Reveiw @handbookofnaturestudy

The Forest Unseen by David Haskell came highly recommended and I was looking forward to digging into it as part of my Nature Book Project for 2015. I wanted to like this book, giving it a chance past the first chapter that left me wondering what all the fuss was about in the reviews I read online. I read the Preface three times because I was having a hard time getting the “mandala” metaphor that he kept referring to in the chapters.

Mandala- Hindu or Buddhist symbol of the universe.

As far as my experience with this book, I will admit that I had favorite chapters. These bright spots kept me going when I was tired of trying to make all the connections he was drawing from his forest observations, philosophy, religion, and history. This book could have been better if it hadn’t tried so hard to weave it all together.

The idea of watching a spot in the forest for a complete year is one that I have long wanted to accomplish in a far larger scope than I have in the past. Our family had a tree in the woods that we observed and documented each season. Taking that idea one step farther, keeping track of the spot on a more frequent basis, appeals to me as a life project. We have loosely made observations weekly on a certain trail near our home in recent years and it has given us a sense of time that only can be experienced by seeing the concrete evidence of the passage of time and the seasons.

My advice? See if you public library has this book for you to check out and read. Dip into a few chapters after reading the preface and see what you can discover of interest to you. Note that this book is written from an evolutionist point of view.

More importantly, let the idea of this book inspire you to find your own “forest unseen” near your home. A place to visit frequently to observe the life and death that takes place there is one that will enrich your family and provide valuable life lessons.

Nature Book Project 2015 @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Violets

Violet Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge


Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read pages 476-479 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson #123). This section has information that will help you identify and then study the violet. In the book, use your highlighter to mark a few facts to share with your child and then to use in your outdoor observations.
  • Where you can find: common blue violets, Canadian white violet, evergreen violet (redwoods).
  • Here is some basic information and images for the violet: Violets—Flower Expert.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Make this a violet hunt! Look for violets with their heart-shaped leaves and five petal blossoms. Remember that violets can be purple, purple-blue, white, and yellow. Look in shady moist places.
  • If it is appropriate, collect some violets to press for your nature journal.
  • Alternative study: You can study any of the flowers in the viola family. We regularly find violas for sale at our garden nursery.  Our favorites are Johnny Jump Ups.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Create a nature journal entry for your violets. If you can collect a complete plant, this is a great subject for your nature journal. Make sure to draw in detail as many parts of the plant and flower as you can.
  • Advanced study: Use the suggestions in the Handbook of Nature Study to make a detailed entry answering as many of the questions as you can. Include a sketch of the flower parts with labels.

Additional Links:


Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library
Join us for this series of challenges every week here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

If you want to purchase the Winter Nature Study Continues ebook so you can follow along with all the notebooking pages, coloring pages, and subject images, you can join the Ultimate or Journey Membership Levels. See the Join Us page for complete information. Also, you can view the Winter Nature Study Continues Ebook Announcement page for more details.

February Wildflowers 2015


Here in my part of the world we have experienced a warmer than normal February. This means we are looking at early spring conditions and lots of wildflowers already. For those of you who live where you are buried in snow or are having super cold days, forgive me! My kids live in New York state and they have been frozen most of February and I understand how long your winter seems to be this year.

Look at my wildflower photos as a breath of spring that will be coming your way before too much longer.

The above flower is one of our normal early wildflowers and it greeted us alongside our normal hiking trail. This pretty flower is the Hound’s tongue.


We also have this beauty starting to bloom along the trail and it always marks the beginning of our wildflower season. The Sierra shooting star is one of my very favorites and is going to be featured in my nature journal later this week!


Now we are jumping to a different habitat…the California coastal trail near Muir Beach in Marin County. We had the chance to visit there last weekend and I snapped this pretty yellow flower during a hike.


Here is another flower we saw quite a bit of on our day at the coast.


We also made it to Muir Woods and we had a great hike under the redwoods. The redwood sorrel was everywhere…getting ready to bloom I think. Look for an entry on Muir Woods National Monument soon here on the blog.


There is nothing so wonderful as a month of early spring wildflowers to enjoy with family and friends. As the season progresses we will no doubt enjoy many more days wandering the trails looking at flowers. I know the names of quite a few flowers but there are some that I need to learn so my field guide will be in my pack and my nature journal will get some new entries as I continue to become friends with the wildflowers of California.

Have you been out looking in your woods yet?