Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011

This year, in honor of Earth Day, I scanned some of my favorite images from various places around the world. Yep. Most of them are old-school prints I had to scan.

Erg Zhigaga, Sahara Desert, Morocco. We slept on bedrolls in the open air during our desert camel trek.  From here we went to an oasis where we watched with jealosy as a dog cooled off in a little trickle of a stream (It was 120 degrees in the shade). After the oasis... sandstorm.

Elephants in Parc W, Niger, West Africa
We traveled from the capital city of Niamey to the park in hopes of seeing wildlife. Nature did not disappoint. The night before I took this photo, while sleeping in a tent, we heard lions roaring. They sounded like they were right outside our tent. We were assured they were miles away, but we didn't sleep much that night.
 Rice Terraces, near Marinduque, Philippines. I lived in the southern Philippines, in Cebu, but I took a trip up north with my host family. Rice terraces like these are common in rural areas of the Philippines.

Machu Picchu, Peru. We hiked about 30 miles along the Inca Trail, crossing a mountain pass at 14, 000 feet, to reach this ancient city. I loved the tree in the middle of the open area. I spent some time sitting beneath it writing.


Water Spout, off the coast of Cebu, Philippines. My host dad owns a seaweed farm that grows carageenan. The farm is a large building set on stilts in the ocean. Divers harvest the seaweed and dry it on large bamboo racks before shipping it. During dinner one evening, everyone raced to one side of the building looking out over the ocean. I was shocked to learn that this is what they were watching. We had no choice but to watch it and wait, seeminlgy forever. It came straight toward us, then eventually turned and went exactly the opposite way it had come.

Aldea Salamandra, Near Puerto Quito, Ecuador. I was a volunteer headed for Bila Bilogical Reserve on an Earthwatch Expedition called Ecuador's Rainforest Butterflies. We stopped here for an overnight on our way to Bilsa from Quito. I found my cabana in the chiparo tree quite comfy.

Happy Earth Day, everyone. I hope you can get outside and enjoy it a bit today.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reading the Land

My family spends lots of time in the woods behind our house. We know the place where the trail splits and we often find coyote skat (poop). We know where the pioneer white pine forest transitions to a hardwood forest. We know the exact place where we relaxed on our backs in the snow and watched a Bald Eagle fly overhead. We know the little hole that is home to a chipmunk. We know our woods.

Yet, each time we go out there, we learn something new.

Maybe we notice a new fungus growing on a log.

Or the rainbow created by the fading sunlight as it hits the vernal pool.

Ot the dappled sunlight as it falls upon a princess pine.

Recently, my son stopped to point out this tree.

"Mommy. It looks like this tree started to split and then it grew back together again."
"Oh yeah. I've never noticed that before. I wonder why we never noticed it."
"Maybe because that branch was in the way." (He pointed to a branch that used to be in front of the "crack" but fell off. In the photo- on the ground to the left).

"When do you think that branch fell?" I asked.
"A while ago."
"How do you know?"
"There's mushrooms growing on it."

We've passed this tree probably hundreds, certainly many times since the branch fell, but we never noticed this detail. In that moment, I realized we had never touched it, either. As we touched the bark we were surprised to learn how rough it is. From a distance is looks smooth.

My son moved closer and further away examining the bark and then touched it again. "Yeah. It looks so smooth but it's really rough."

No matter how well you think you know a place, there is always more to learn. Close observation reveals the details.

Spend time getting to know where you live. City dwellers, this can be as simple as getting to know the tree growing up through the sidewalk outside your apartment. What shape are it's leaves? Does it bear fruit? What kind? What animals are living on it/around it? (Remember that insects are animals). Does your tree look healthy? Feel it's bark. Maybe even make a bark rubbing. How does your tree change over the seasons? Visit it regularly to find out.

Have you observed nature lately? What did you see? Did you learn something new? I invite you to share.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And the Winner is...

I've been running a contest here on Polliwog (Click here to read more) and the results are in...
I put all the names in this lovely little basket from Indonesia that has a frog on it's lid. Fitting for Polliwog on Safari, don't you think?

I asked my daughter to pull one name from the basket.

And the winner is...

Alison will receive a copy of The Green Hour by Todd Christopher.

I must confess. When my daughter pulled my friend's name from the basket, I was tempted to pull another name. I didn't want it to seem like I'd fixed the contest. But then I thought that would be just as dishonest. Alison won fair and square.

Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word about Polliwog on Safari. I hope you'll continue to tell your friends.

Remember, you can receive posts via email by entering your email address in the box to the right and clicking submit. It's that easy. Then you'll never miss a post.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Seasons and Cycles

The call came on a Thursday morning two weeks ago. "The herring are running!" My dad went on to explain how he had watched hundreds of the fish rushing upstream to mate and then rescued one from a hungry gull. This is an annual event in the town where I grew up. My family made plans to go see them.

Wednesday, I got an excited voice mail message, this time from my friend Alison. "I was just driving back from school...there's this body of water. I don't know what it is. I never even really paid attention to it before. (Gives me directions to it).Through my closed window I heard that crazy, bird-chirping kind of sound that reminded me of frogs mating. I don't know what it was but I just felt like I had to tell you I heard some nature!"

I know exactly which body of water she's talking about. It's really a glorified puddle (The perfect kind in which to find cool stuff!) BUT... that is the place where I hear the peepers first every year. It's surrounded by fields, so it's warmed by lots of sun, which is probably why the frogs appear there first.

The funny thing is, when people know you're connected to the seasons and nature's cycles, they tend to pay more attention themselves and then call you when they notice seasonal changes. My whole life, my mom has been very tuned into the cyles of  flowers. She knows exactly when the first snowdrops and then crocuses appear.  As a farmer, my dad has always been tuned into animal cycles, hence the call about the herring. My sisters and I always waited to hear that wonderful peeping sound each spring and would set out frog hunting the very next day. To me, peepers equal spring.

This latest call from Alison is new in my life, however. Now that we've been going on wood frog adventures together with our kids, she's tuned into the mating cycles of frogs. She knew the sound she heard wasn't wood frogs but recognized that other frogs were "busy." I'd venture to say that Alison will forever be aware of when the frogs appear each spring.

I share our seasonal adventures here, hoping to inspire you to pay closer attention to where you live and to go on your own adventures. Of course, not everyone can experience wood frog or herring migrations. The exact experience is not my point. The paying attention is. What seasonal events are unique to your area? Desert dwellers might celebrate the coming of rain after a long drought and rush out to see the explosion of flowers that follows rain. Most people can watch bird migrations. Some of us live in a place where birds live for part of the year and can watch their arrival and return. Others live on a migration route and can observe birds on their way to somewhere else. Those in temperate zones can watch trees grow and change with the seasons.

Saunter around your own neighborhood with your kids or students. What changes do you notice? Leave  a comment to let us know what you find. You know I love those kinds of messages!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

KidLit for Japan: An Update

Ok all you Polliwog readers-all you parents, teachers, and homeschoolers. Today is the day to bid on a field class from me! I'll lead any group of up to 25 children (or teachers in training) on a 2 to 2.5 hour field class. I'll custom design the class to meet your needs, connecting our work to state standards, scouting requirements, or professional teaching standards when appropriate.

Please hop over to the KitLit for Japan fundraiser to learn the details. And please bid generously.

Monday, April 4, 2011

KidLit for Japan

You may have noticed the KidLit for Japan badge on my sidebar these last couple of weeks. The KidLit community has been very generous in donating items to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Please help support this worthy cause.

From the website:
"A Daily Auction Preview will appear each weekday morning at 8AM EDT. New items will appear at least hourly from 9AM to 4PM. Items include signed books, advance reader copies, artwork, critiquing services, book-related swag, author visits, or the chance to name a character in an upcoming book."
I have an item coming up for auction on Thursday.  Bidders have a chance to win a field (nature) class for your elementary class, homeschooling group or other children's group.
Please check out what others have offered. I "won" a skype visit with author Lesie Bulion for my son's class plus two signed copies of her book At the Sea Floor Cafe.
For those looking for a book to read with young children about Japanese culture, check out My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe.

Thanks for your support.