The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock is a staple for those who follow the philosophy of Charlotte Mason in home education. Comstock was born in upstate New York and attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Since I'm currently nearby in Cooperstown, NY, I couldn't help but think about the author of this most handy resource when I was doing my own informal nature study this morning on the property of the home we're renting for the week. The book, which is probably about 3 inches thick, is also available for viewing online here and there are a number of websites that give guidance in how to implement the book in your homeschool nature studies. My favorites are the page at Charlotte Mason Help and the Outdoor Hour Challenge.
I grew up in what we called "upstate" NY, but what true upstaters would likely call "downstate." We called it upstate to differentiate from what most people thought of when you say you're from New York: the city. So, we'd clarify with the modifier (often said with indignant emphasis) upstate New York. The emphasis signified that we weren't those city folks, the ones who come up in the fall to clog up the local highways and byways taking photos of the vibrant colored mountains and hills. My childhood consisted of playing in the woods, making up imaginary games where pine needles were spaghetti and pine cones were meatballs, and my house was a lean-to made of fallen tree limbs and hemlock branches. My brother, cousins, and I would forage for wild native treats like woodland strawberries and blackberries. I was even so bold to try the tangy red berries of a sumac tree (which scared my poor mother to pieces, thinking that the local trees with the fuzzy red berries were poison sumac)! And sometimes, in a wild streak of rebellion, we'd take off down to the bottom of our dead end road to the stream that was too close to the highway for our parents' comfort and try our hand at catching fish. Now, as an adult, I live in a subdivision and my kids are probably more "citified" than I'd prefer them to be. Thankfully, our property is set on 1.5 acres of a nicely wooded lot, with several more unoccupied acres of forest behind us. We also have a creek that borders our property, so the kids at least have a chance to explore a little like I did, without the danger of trespassing.
This rental home set on a wooded hill on Otsego Lake reminds me a lot of my childhood home. I spent the morning identifying several plants and trees that were familiar to me, but whose names had escaped me. Thankfully there are a number of handy smartphone apps that helped with identification while I was out walking. Here you see a collection (r to l) of Eastern Hemlock pinecones (small), mature and immature White Pine cones, and Red Pine cones. (I like the green one, which I found close to the house).
This plant is growing all around the house and I remember it from my childhood. My mom used to call it "skunk cabbage", which always confused me because there was never anything smelly about the plant. I now know she was mistaken in that name. It is actually a giant Burdock plant and this plant's leaves are about 2 feet long! The plant can grow up to a few feet in height and sprout a spiny purple flower (similar in some ways to thistle) which then leaves a burr seedhead.
The burrs were apparently the inspiration for the manufacture of a popular hook and loop fastener.
Plants aren't the only things I've identified around here. We have seen these insects on the window screens every morning. I knew they weren't crane flies since I knew they looked like giant mosquitoes. I suspected that these were the "shad flies" that my uncle used to talk about and my suspicion was confirmed by a quick look up online. They are also known as May Flies.
And of course, I can't forget the chipmunks! They are plentiful on the property and are fun to listen to as the "chip" to one another. Sorry the photo of Mr. Chips here is not very clear. They are hard to catch posing and I was able to get this shot only because I had been sitting on a stump, identifying a plant when I looked up and saw him. We have chipmunks in the greater Cincinnati area, but the only times I see them on our property is when one of the cats has made a kill.
On the baseball front, the 12U Cincy Flames continue to do well. They won all 6 of their regular pool play games, most of which were no-hitter, shut-outs finished in four innings. Our young man hit a homerun during their one night game. The team is the 6 seed heading into the tournament bracket games. With such a high seed, they get 4 "byes" before playing later tonight. The weather has been gorgeous and cool, with the exception of a brief downpour during yesterday afternoon's game. I hope they play well in their bracket, but I'm really looking forward to heading a little south to visit my family for a few days.