Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Interesting find.

Every spring we are surprised by interesting finds. Just when we think we've seen it all, we spot a new bird or a new bug or a new wildflower sprouts in the middle of the yard.

This is one of my favorite things about nature, every thing is constantly changing and surprising us. There are always the expected things, like crocus and daffodils blooming...but also the anticipation of those unexpected treasures. A chance for us all to learn or witness something totally new. For the past several years i have tried to document all of our finds on an online Nature Journal. This is something we really enjoy each year. i suppose it is time to start this years, i'm feeling a bit behind on it.

So this is one on those unexpected treasures, truly a bit of a mystery. We found it laying in the driveway, probably scratched up by the chickens or maybe dug up when we tilled the new garden beds. It is quite obviously the pupa of some sort of moth or bug, but it was much larger than any we had seen before.

It measured over 2 1/8 inches long. After doing a bit of online research (googling giant cocoons/pupas) and then eventually just looking it up at the What's that Bug website (one of our favorites!) We have identified this as a Saturniid Moth Pupa, probably a Regal Moth. i'm not sure if it will emerge having been dug up and spent the night uncovered during below freezing temps. We placed it in a flowerpot with some soil and covered it loosly with dead leaves and other decaying matter. Perhaps it will surprise us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Walk in the Woods.

We woke to another gorgeous day, and decided to start it with a walk in the woods. In my opinion, this is truly the best way to start a day. Morel season is getting close, and although i know it is probably a bit early. i could not resist the chance to go morel hunting.

Gotta love Sage's cloth diaper butt, sticking out the back of her pants. Although we didn't find any morels, we did find lots of signs of spring.

The woods were full of this beautiful bright green moss and crazy looking fungi. We had several days of rain, and a couple days of warm temps so the woods are just bursting with new life. Little green shoots popping up everywhere.

Sage found these cool pinecones and brought them home to set on our nature table. We have slowly been transitioning from winter to spring. i think it is finally time to take down the gingerbread. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nature exploration

It is just impossible to stay inside on days like this. So we headed into the woods to look for signs of spring. One of my all time favorite activities.

Sequoia brought along his note pad and pencil. He made lists for animal habitats; food, shelter, tracks, and scat. Then we went on a nature exploration to see what kinds of things we could find in the woods.

We turned up rocks and fallen logs. We found lots of scat! We also found hollowed out logs filled with acorns and hickory nuts. Trees that the deer had rubbed the bark from, holes in the bark from woodpeckers, tracks from raccoons and deer and many other things.

We found these under a log. We believe they are wooly bear cocoons.

Sequoia looking very serious as he records the data he found.

Our hike eventually led us down to the creek, which of course led to a bit of tree climbing. The rhododendrons have become a favorite for both kids, the branches are low to the ground making it easy for both of them to climb.

Sage collected acorns and hickory nut husks and floated them down the creek. The creeks were full and really raging. It was nice to see after the drought last year, when the creek behind our house completely dried up.

Sequoia found a peaceful spot and sketched a few pictures of the creek and some of the critters we came across in the woods.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Preparing for spring

With one more day of beautiful weather before the cold returned, we spent most of Sunday working around the yard. We cleaned up the flowerbeds, took down the bean fence and looked for hidden toy treasures in the yard. We found a few dinosaurs in my kale bed, a plastic cow in the strawberries, and bubble wands in the strangest of places.

Sequoia helped Kenan till up all the garden beds. This is something they do together every year.

This picture was taken two ago, almost the exact time of year. It is one of my favorites.

We have expanded the gardens again. We are terracing out the front hill, and creating more garden space. These spots will eventually be raised beds. i have not decided exactly what will be planted here, but i am thinking something that vines and cascades down the hill. Squash, pumpkins, or maybe sweet potatoes. i have lots of ideas this year.

Rhubarb is beginning to breaking through the soil and reach for the sun. i love this time of year.

Sage helped pick spinach for dinner. This is the spinach that i planted in the fall, and it has survived through some crazy cold temperatures, snow and several frosts. We added a new layer of compost to the bed, and planted more spinach seeds.

Spring can just never come soon enough.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stone Mountain

This weekend we planned a day trip to Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina. Since we knew the weekend was supposed to be really nice, i started looking around for someplace close by but new to visit. Stone mountain is only about an hour and half away, almost the same distance as Pilot Mountain. i found some information about the different trails to hike, and we decided on the Stone mountain loop which took us to the summit of Stone mountain, and then back down to the water falls.

The weather was nice, and the scenery gorgeous! This is an old chimney stack along the trail.

Almost to the top, we had to stop and take a few breaks. The hike was listed as strenuous and they were not kidding. It was a 4 mile loop..which doesn't sound too bad, but it was 2 miles straight up the side of the mountain and two miles straight down the other side with very little flat ground inbetween.

We finally reached the summit! Wow!

The hike was definitely worth it! The view was amazing! It is hard to capture the enormity of this rock face, but it was immense!

My budding geologist studying the rock. He even brought his rock and mineral guide with him and carried it in his backpack. :)

We then we took a never ending stairway to the bottom of the mountain, and then more stairs back up to the top of the waterfall. The hike was a bit more strenuous than we were expecting, and we passed a few people along the trail who i'm seriously not sure were going to make it.

At the base of Stone Mountain was The Hutchinson Homestead. We look lots of pictures of the log cabin, barns and garden area. It had the most amazing view of Stone mountain. We could see climbers repelling down the face of the mountain. After leaving the homestead, we hiked to the Stone Mountain Falls.

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At the base of the falls.

Stone Mountain Falls cascades over 200 ft. down the granite mountain face. We climbed more stairs to get to the top of the falls.

It was a truly amazing view. We really enjoyed Stone Mountain State park, and look forward to returning again. There were many trails that we did not hike, and other waterfalls we did not get a chance to see. This may be a new favorite hiking spot!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Almost Spring.

Here it comes! After having a week of super cold 13-22 degree temps, we have a weekend with almost record highs. On Friday the snow began to melt, and on Sat. it was 74!

All the water from the melting snow plus the heat of the sun caused spring to pop up overnight! My daffodils began blooming, the grass turned green and new green flower shoots are popping out of the ground everywhere.

We spend the entire day outside playing, it was wonderful and much needed after what felt like a never ending winter. The kids played on the swings, ran in circles, climbed on the woodpile and blew lots of bubbles. We ate lunch outside and spotted a phoebe, a blue bird and a robin!

The beginning of spring always gets me extremely motivated. The construction on the back of the house has left our backyard a huge mud hill. We are planning to eventually get some grass planted there, but until then the soil is eroding and the hill has become extremely slippery and difficult to get down.

All winter when we came down to the hill to check on the chicken i would literally ski down them only stopping when i hit the fence. Now with the snow melted...it's become a huge muddy mess and somewhat hazardous to walk down the hill. i won't mention how many times i've fallen or watched Sage roll down it. So as soon as the weather permitted, i set to work digging steps down the hill. It's a lot of work, but after such a sluggish winter...it felt great to be out there digging. The steps came together very well. The soil is very heavy in clay, so after they were dug out, i was able to flatten and shape them somewhat easily.

i am now in the process of collecting and carrying flat rocks out of the woods to line them. i am hoping they will be attractive as well as functional...but we'll see. i am already realizing i can not lift the rocks that are the size i wanted to use, so i will have to use smaller rocks. That has bummed me out a little, as i had something pictured in my head and now i have to reformulate how i want to do it. lol. i will post more pictures as they come together more. i feel like it's a pretty good start to the spring, and i have so many other projects i am eager to begin.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Snowman and sledding.

i really hope this is our last snowfall for the year, i'm so ready for spring i can barely stand it. Our snow has stayed for almost a week, and we are getting our fill of playing in the snow. This is the most snow the kids have ever seen, we got somewhere between 9-12 inches. On wed. the sun came out and melted the snow just enough that it was perfect for packing and sledding.

There is a small hill at the edge of our yard perfect for the kids to do some sledding. It's not very steep, or big and levels out into an open flat area. The only danger is if you bear to much to the left you will end up stuck in blackberry brambles.

Sage was terrified of the sled, but desperately wanted to slid down the hill too. So she created her own version. She threw herself onto the snow and slid down on her belly.

This was a lot of fun until her diaper became packed with snow. :)

Sage finally got her snowman.

Both kids were really eager to help build him. Sequoia had all kinds of ideas for him, but in the end we made a very traditional and basic snowman.

His face is made from prunes, a carrot and dried corn. We used raisins for the buttons and the hat and scarf belong to me.

Our snowman hung out for a day and already has begun to melt away. By the weekend i think he'll be officially gone. It is not uncommon to get another snow before March is done, but i am hoping for the signs of spring to start popping out all around us.