Nature Observer – December 2020

Nature Observer – December 2020

December has been a cold, wet, snowy month. We often have all types of weather in the span of 24 hours which is one of my favorite things about Central Oregon. We can have a snowstorm in the morning but by late afternoon the sun is shining, and I get to enjoy the sparkling snow and the blue sky.

I spend a lot of time watching birds at my feeders when the weather is storming outside. They zip in and out, sheltering only briefly under the roof overhang of the feeder. We watch the geese land in flocks down by the river and observe as they walk along poking here and there for something to eat. The sparrows will pop out from under the shrubs to get a bite to eat from seeds that have fallen from the feeder, then quickly dart back under the shelter before we can get a good look at them. Our gray squirrels leap around in the treetops where they search for cones still hanging on the tall pines. It seems as if there is always something going on out in the yard.

snow on bird feeder

It’s our December world.

I cannot help but think back on the past twelve months sitting here now in mid-December. What a wild ride of a year for our family! We’ve had our serious struggles along with everyone else: unemployment, cross country moves, dating during COVID, caring for elderly parents who are in and out of lockdown. On the other hand, there were high spots like the celebrating of joyful outdoor weddings of two of our children and a summer filled with staying close to home and getting creative with how we can socialize safely with our children.

canoe at hosmer lake

There has been kayaking, canoeing, floating, hiking, nights around the fire pit, bike rides, and lots of fishing.

fire pit

These are all things we normally do together, but we had to be thoughtful about the execution of these activities this year.

lava butte hiking

I needed to have some “normal” in my life and I found it while hiking a trail or paddling my kayak.

pre garden 2020

We started our big garden remodel back in May and little did we know that it really was the project that would keep us sane and bring us a place to sit in peace with the world seeming far, far away. We could sit and watch the birds and insects from our little bench placed under our newly planted crab apple tree. Swallows took up residence in the nesting box within a few feet of that bench. The nuthatches and finches came to drink at the bird bath.

garden flowers 2020

I’ve come to realize that there were more benefits to that garden than I could have ever imagined. It gave me a reason to go outside, it provided beautiful cut flowers to have in vases inside, and it was always a thrill to go out to the wildflower patch and spy a new variety of flower blooming.

flower bee garden

I look back on the photos of the progress we observed as we dug the dirt, built the boxes, planted the seeds, saw the seeds sprout, enjoyed the first flowers, and welcomed the bees and butterflies and birds. This project was a joy!

wedding garden

In the end, it’s the place that our middle son married his beautiful bride, right there under the tall sunflowers we planted from seeds. During the ceremony, a chickadee was sitting on a flower right over their heads and it was such a happy moment even in this crazy mixed up year of 2020.

barb in the garden

2020 gave us something wonderful after all. If it weren’t for the COVID shutdown, we wouldn’t have had such an extensive garden, we would have missed out on all the wildlife visitors coming to enjoy the garden, we probably wouldn’t have had a garden wedding, and I would not be looking forward to the promise of next summer’s flowers and bees and birds.

Maybe you had an experience like mine this year and stumbled into a project that kept your spirits up. Thank you to all of my faithful readers who have encouraged me this year with comments and email.


I’m looking forward to some winter fun and garden planning over the next few months.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

We’ll be starting the winter series of Outdoor Hour Challenges  January 8, 2021. There is still time to purchase a membership and follow along with us.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Please use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist membership.




Outdoor Hour Challenge: First Day of Winter Nature Walk 2020

Outdoor Hour Challenge

First Day of Winter Nature Walk 2020

With most of us spending more time than usual around the house, getting outside for a walk on the first day of winter may be one of the most refreshing activities you could do with your children. The temperatures drop and we huddle inside more and more, especially on the shortest day of the year!

winter landscape

The Outdoor Hour Challenge this week is to make plans to get outside for a brisk nature walk and then to follow up with a nature journal page recording all of the interesting things you found while outside.

outside with the kids

Encourage everyone to use all of their senses on this walk. Did they see something colorful or unusual? How does the air feel on your skin? Is there a particular fragrance to the air? Can you listen carefully for a minute or two to distinguish any particular sounds?

Another idea is to ask your children to find differences in the landscape, comparing your neighborhood habitat on this winter day to what they remember about the first day of summer. This is a little harder and you may need to help them get started with a few of your own observations.

Winter Walk Snow Nature Study

Most importantly, take along a good attitude and leave yourself open to whatever the experience brings. Allow your children to direct you to things they find interesting and then share in their excitement. A good nature walk is pleasurable for everyone and allows you and your children to develop a relationship with our Creator. The best times I can remember with my children are the times we just took it slow and easy, looking for the little things that most people pass by. Turn over a rock and see what’s underneath. Look up in the branches of the trees and see if you can find any birds or other critters. Sit quietly by the edge of a pond or stream and see what comes along. Breathe the air and enjoy the day.

You can read more about my ideas for winter nature walks on my HubPage: Winter Nature Walks.

First Day of Winter Walk Observation Notebook Page

There’s a printable for the First Day of Winter Nature Walk in the Member’s Library for you to use as part of this activity. A simple list and a sketch will make a perfect follow up to your outdoor time.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

Use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.



Winter Berry Hunt & Nature Walk

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Winter Berry Hunt – Nature Walk

Our last hike along the river was on a cold but sunny day last week. This particular trail allows for one way hiking on a loop that goes upstream on the Deschutes River and then across a bridge and back downstream on the other side. Although it’s a popular trail, keeping us all hiking in one direction means you can easily space out and feel as if you have the trail all to yourself.

We noticed quite a few shrubs with berries along the trail and it reminded me of this winter berry hunt nature study idea. I was wishing you all could see the many berry colors!

berry shrub


I hope that you can squeeze in a winter berry hunt sometime soon. Let me know what you find along your neighborhood trails.

Winter Berries Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

View the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Berry Hunt.   

Snow and Winter Berries

Winter Berry Hunt notebook page 1

Winter Berry Hunt notebook page 2


If you have access to the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook,

there are two notebook pages to choose from for your nature journal.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

Winter Nature Study ebooks graphic and promo

Don’t forget there are Winter ebooks in the Member’s Library for you to use in your nature study. Feel free to use any of the winter Outdoor Hour Challenges during this season. You can pick and choose the topics that fit your family best.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Nature Study Ideas Index @handbookofnaturestudyYou’ll find all of the winter themed nature study ideas by clicking the Winter tab at the top of the Handbook of Nature Study website. Everyone is welcome to use the ideas found there whether you have a membership or not.