Outdoor Hour Challenge #10 Our First Outdoor Dinner/Picnic

We had been trying all week to get outdoors to have a picnic to complete Green Hour Challenge #10 but the weather just did not cooperate. It rained and then even though the sun was out, it was really still too cold to eat outside. I was determined to eat out on the deck this weekend and it could not have worked out better. We spent the whole weekend working in the backyard because the weather was perfectly perfect.

We added a few more plants to the new butterfly garden, replaced some jasmine plants that didn’t make it through the winter, and I found two new hydrangeas that I wanted in my newly made flowerbed…a pink one and a pretty blue one.

Sunday evening rolled around and we threw some steaks on the barbeque and got out the chair cushions for the deck chairs. All was going well. The kids lit the tiki torches just fine and we went inside to grab a few more things for the table. My youngest son went out on the deck and discovered that one of the torches had completely lit on fire. My husband, who is a firefighter, was so calm and ran over to try to put it out. The older children ran and got the garden hose and put the flames out.

So after the excitement died down, we really did have an enjoyable meal. The sky was beautiful and air was warm. It felt so nice to be outdoors together enjoying a nice dinner.
first spring dinner
Here is the sky on this beautiful spring day.

spring sky
Here are a few more photos from the week’s nature time.

Figs are on the tree already!
fig tree 2
Our sunflowers have sprouted it seems like overnight and we are going to have a bumper crop.
sunflower sprout
We also continued our tree study in the woods but we are going to also pick a tree in our backyard to use for the seasonal Green Hour Challenge, more on that in another entry.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #11 Year-Long Tree Study

If you have been following along with the challenges and you picked a focus way back in challenge number four, you should be just about ready to wrap up your first focus study. Our family has been learning about garden flowers but we are soon going to switch over to wildflowers. (This is going along with my son’s study of Kingdom plantae in biology.)

This is a good time to start a seasonal tree study. You will be picking a tree in your yard or neighborhood that you could “adopt” for a year to observe and record the changes in each season. I encourage everyone to start their year long tree study with the group this week. This part of the challenge should take one week to complete and then in our next challenge we will be starting a group focus study of wildflowers or garden flowers.  

Please Note:If your family is enjoying your current focus, you do not need to switch but you can follow your own path and keep us posted.

drawing our tree
Observing our tree Fall 2007

Outdoor Hour Challenge #11
Begin a Four Season Tree Study

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 622-623. Also read page 625, Spring Work. After reading, turn to the table of contents, to the tree section, and read the list of trees covered in this book. If possible, pick a tree from the list that you have in your yard, on your street, or in a near-by park that you can observe over the course of the next year. My boys and I have been working on a tree study with an oak tree since August 2007. The changes in the tree have given us something to study in each season. If you live in a more exotic location, like some participants who live in Australia, Brazil, or Spain, do your best to compare your tree to a similar tree in the Handbook of Nature Study. Many of the observations can be used to study a variety of trees.

Before heading out for your nature study time, read the introductory section for your focus tree with your children. Make sure to read the observation suggestions for your particular tree and keep these in mind as you go out to make your observations. You will be challenged in each season of the coming year to make an observation for your tree and record any changes. I have prepared a journal page to record your observations. See the end of the blog entry for a link to the journal page.

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. We took photos of our tree to put in our nature journal or you can sketch them right into your journal. Keep in mind the suggestions for observation that you read in the Handbook of Nature Study. If you have younger children, just spend your time observing your tree and helping them to look at it closely.

3. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area (challenge #4) that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done to follow up interest found during your Outdoor Hour.

4. Complete the Seasonal Tree Study journal page with your child. Place the page in your nature notebook to have for comparison in the next seasonal tree challenge.

You can purchase all of the first ten challenges in a convenient ebook along with custom notebook pages.

Red-Winged Blackbird on a Spring Day

Red-winged blackbird
You can click the link above and read about this bird and also there is a link to hear his song.

If you click this photo to make it larger, you will notice his little beak is open. He was singing up a storm for us.

Here he is landing in the rushes alongside the pond area at the nursery.

We were out at the nursery on Saturday and the meadow and pond area were full of these beautiful blackbirds. I was able to capture this particular bird by creeping as close as I could and then taking lots of photos. :)

The Handbook of Nature Study has a whole section on red-winged blackbirds so I was able to learn a lot about them from Anna Comstock’s easy to read narrative. The section starts on page 117.

“The red-winged blackbird lives in the marshes where it builds its nest. However, it comes over to our plowed lands and pastures and helps the farmer by destroying many insects which injure the meadows, crops, and trees.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 119