Friday, February 14, 2014

January's Nature Notes (A Little Late)

Weather in January: Hot, highs approaching 90 most days, and dry.  Hot and dry around here = dust.  The kind of dust that requires you to wipe your table BEFORE you begin to eat because of the layer of dust that has accumulated on it since lunchtime.  The kind of dust that turns perfectly healthy green plants brown….
Evidence of dry season - dry, crunchy grass and a dust-covered banana tree. (It's worse along the roadsides!)

Between the holidays and then the process of trying to get back into a groove after them, we’ve gotten a bit out of the habit of having a regular nature study time each week.  Slowly, we’re getting back to it.  But in the meantime, I admit I’ve felt a little bit guilty that we haven’t been making nature study the priority in our schedule that I would like it to be.  Then I realized just how much it has become part of our natural family rhythm.   Here is just a selection of the unscheduled nature studies that have happened around here over the past few weeks:
My kids (the 8 and 5 year olds) have spent so much time studying our plant book (Tropical Plants of the World ) that they are now quicker than I am at identifying the plants growing around our home.  Michelle even made a list of all of the plants listed in the book that we have seen in our neighborhood – 26 different plants!  (Here is a plug for strewing nature field guides around your house for your kids to pore over in you spare time! This has made up for my own lack of knowledge of our local flora and fauna ten times over.)  And their eyes are so sharp that they even notice the teeny-tiny-weed flowers growing in the grass.   They have developed eyes that really see.
We have watched our mango tree blossom and begin to produce teeny-tiny mangos, coming full circle in the life-cycle of the mango.  Our mango tree was in bloom when we arrived here a little over a year ago. 
Mango Blossoms

We have identified a new bird, the Olive-Bellied Sunbird, that frequents our yard, usually around midday.  (We keep our eyes peeled out the windows while we are eating and cleaning up our lunch!)
My husband finally(!!) trapped the mice that had taken up residence in our pantry and built a cage for them to live in. (If you have any mouse removal needs, please feel free to call him because he is an expert in live mouse trapping now.)  The kids have LOVED observing ‘their’ mice.  (And I’m glad they are safely caged and no longer raiding our food supply!!)  We started with 7, but some of them died so now there are 3.   One of Michelle’s exam questions was on what she has learned about mice from observing them:
            Tell everything you have noticed about mice.
They like to eat rice and Parle G cookies [locally produced cookies that taste a bit like graham crackers], and maybe nibble bits of avocado shells, and they eat the couscous, but they don’t like tomatoes.  They like to chew things to make their nests out of.  They nibble holes in plastic bags and cardboard and paper. They are really fast, because Papa couldn’t catch the one that ran away when he was trying to close the cage lid.  They have these claws on their hands and feet that make them able to climb things with holes, like the screen.  They have V-shaped mouths.  When they poke their noses where I can see, I can see their mouths, that’s how I know what they look like.  Sometimes they sit in the water cup.  When they sleep, they curl up together.
We also had an impromptu nature-study lesson on weevils while sorting beans the other morning.  Since we get our dried beans from an open-air market, they do have to be picked through for little stones and twigs (and yes, bugs sometimes) and cleaned really well before we cook them.
This particular batch was a little more weevily than usual and the kids (good little MK’s that they are!) had a grand time observing them.
Michelle spontaneously decided to sketch them.  Great observation lesson on insects and their general structure!  Nature really IS everywhere!
What have you seen in your neck of the woods this month?

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely nature study post!

    I'm jealous of the 90 degree weather.