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Children and Nature Musings Uncategorized

Time to Play in the Snow!

Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel's Hump
Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel’s Hump

Happy Snow!  Finally, we got something to cover up our icy playground.  (Although, admittedly, we wouldn’t mind a bit more).  Yes, the ice was fun to slide around on, but we were all craving the multitude of opportunities snow offers:  forts, snow people, snow angels (or butterflies), sledding, and yes, probably some refreshing snow eating.   It’s a joy to see what a group of children come up with when presented with a yard full of fresh snow!  For more snowy play inspiration and instructions to cut a six-sided snowflake, check out this past blog post.

Adults should remember to take time to play outside in the winter too!  Winter hiking is a great (free) way to enjoy snow-covered forest beauty, wonderful views, and stay warm outside.   Just don’t forget your microspikes.  I still remember the feeling of skating across Lake Champlain last winter.  It was very magical to glide for miles over one of my favorite lakes – one that is over 400 feet deep in the middle!  Though it doesn’t seem likely that the lake will freeze this winter, there are always rivers, ponds, and ditches to provide skating opportunities.  We love visiting the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, VT.

Skating on Dead Creek
Skating on Dead Creek

Snow also offers the opportunity to investigate the creatures that live near our schools and homes.  Tracking is a great winter activity for children and adults.  Check out some of the animal signs we found on this walk up the Lewis Creek and through the woods.  The thrill of this outdoor detective work is infectious – who doesn’t love finding clues along a trail and solving mysteries?  To read more, check out my post about Encouraging Curiosity and Problem Solving with Animal Tracking.

And if the cold temperatures and dry winter air chap or crack your skin, try making your own salve.  It’s quite simple, is a good indoor project for sub-zero days, is a great thing to have around the house, and makes the perfect homemade winter present!

Categories
Children and Nature Musings

More Winter Fun

lake-iceThis winter has been a blast.  Lake Champlain froze across for the second year in a row, we’ve gotten plenty of snow without any mid-winter thaws, and sometimes sunshine even boosts temperatures into the twenties!

It’s usually not too hard for me to think of the subject of my weekly blog post – I think about the past week’s highlights: yummy meals, fun outdoor adventures, or successful projects with kids after school.   Sometimes I scan through my most recent photos.  Even though I already wrote a post this year about winter play, outdoor recreation was the clear highlight of my past week!  We hiked Camel’s Hump again, this time equipped with sleds for the ride down.  SO FUN.  The lake froze across, providing us with miles of black ice to explore.  We even enjoyed temperatures in the thirties on Mt. Philo along with crowds of happy sledders, skiers, jack-jumpers, walkers, and their dogs.  I love living in Vermont, surrounded by people who love having fun in the snow!

Enjoying a sunny warm day on Mt. Philo... soon to be our back yard!
Enjoying a sunny warm day on Mt. Philo… soon to be our back yard!
A ski up the river to the upper covered bridge.
A ski up the river to the upper covered bridge.
Enjoying the wintery river highway.
Enjoying the beautiful wintery river highway.
Hiking up and sledding down Camel's Hump and a winter bonfire.
Hiking up and sledding down Camel’s Hump and a winter bonfire.
Exploring miles of black ice off the shores of Shelburne Farms.  Western winds literally blew us home!
Exploring miles of black ice off the shores of Shelburne Farms. Western winds literally blew us home!
Categories
Children and Nature Musings

Winter Play: Recommended for all ages

Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel's Hump
Wonderful winter hiking: the trail up Camel’s Hump

Happy Snow!  Finally, we got something to cover up our icy playground.  Yes, the ice was fun to slide around on, but we were all craving the multitude of opportunities snow offers:  forts, snow people, snow angels (or butterflies), sledding, and yes, probably some refreshing snow eating.   It’s a joy to see what a group of children come up with when presented with a yard full of fresh snow!  For more snowy play inspiration and instructions to cut a six-sided snowflake, check out this past blog post.

Adults should remember to take time to play outside in the winter too!  We went on a wonderful winter hike up Camel’s Hump last weekend – just don’t forget your microspikes.  I still remember the feeling of skating across Lake Champlain last winter.  It was very magical to glide for miles over one of my favorite lakes – one that is over 400 feet deep in the middle!  Though the lake isn’t frozen (yet!) this winter, there are always rivers, ponds, and ditches to provide skating opportunities.  We loved visiting the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area last weekend.

Skating on Dead Creek
Skating on Dead Creek

Snow also offers the opportunity to investigate the creatures that live near our schools and homes.  Tracking is a great winter activity for children and adults.  Check out some of the animal signs we found on this walk up the Lewis Creek and through the woods.  The thrill of this outdoor detective work is infectious – who doesn’t love finding clues along a trail and solving mysteries?  To read more, check out my post about Encouraging Curiosity and Problem Solving with Animal Tracking.

And if the cold temperatures and dry winter air chap or crack your skin, try making your own salve.  It’s quite simple, is a good indoor project for sub-zero days, is a great thing to have around the house, and makes the perfect homemade winter present!

Categories
Musings

Is it Spring yet?

snow-pilesI’ll admit it: I loved getting one more big snow storm before spring.  And it transformed into great packing snow, allowing us to build forts and snow creatures when temperatures rose above freezing.  What a lot of building material we had to work with!  Each morning this week when I wake up to sub-zero temperatures, however, I find myself yearning more and more for spring.

Ice crystals still form on the windows, blocking the view of the sunrise.
Ice crystals still form on the windows, blocking the view of the sunrise.

The good news about early spring in New England, is that it signals the start of Maple Sugaring Season.  We’ve had a few days when temperatures rose above freezing, allowing sap to flow.  I didn’t have great luck with my first sumac spile (a.k.a. tap), so I made a second.  I didn’t want my spile to completely plug my hole.  This time I shaved away the bottom tip, drilled a deeper hole into the tree, and didn’t hammer the spile in as deep.  This, I hoped, would allow sap flowing through the trunk to pool up inside my hole and flow out the spile.   I set my bucket under the tap on the ground so that it wouldn’t disturb the spile in its hole.  Success!  I collected about a gallon of sap before temperatures dipped back below freezing.

Sumac-Spile

Here are a few more photos after the last snowstorm, which dumped over a foot of snow. Wild March winds created drifts that evolved through the day and caught the beautiful dark blue of the evening sky.

Drifts

post-driftsunset-drifts

Categories
Children and Nature

Winter Exploration

Two weeks ago we had the rare chance to skate across Lake Champlain on black ice.  Sub-zero temperatures and a lack of precipitation were not so fun for those of us who love playing in the snow, but they were ideal for building beautiful ice.  And then, last week, snow finally fell and temperatures rose into the 20s.  Finally!  A chance to do all of the snowy recreation we’ve all been craving.  Check out photos of our winter adventures below.  If you’re curious about tracking animals, check out last year’s winter blog posts: Encouraging Curiosity and Problem Solving with Animal Tracking and River Walk.

Walking on water: a view toward the Vermont shore with Thompson's Point and Mount Philo
Walking on water: a view toward the Vermont shore with Thompson’s Point and Mount Philo in the distance
champlain-skating
Enjoying black ice between Split Rock Mountain, NY and Thompson’s Point, VT
Mount Philo Sledding
Mount Philo Sledding: The hike up
Mount Philo Sledding: The Ride Down
Mount Philo Sledding: The ride down
Our snow-covered river road
Our snow-covered river road
Over the river and through the woods
Over the river and through the woods
A turkey takes off
A turkey takes off
The road home
The road home
Categories
Children and Nature Musings Recipes

December Excitement: Cooking and Crafts

Snow is in the air, and people around here are excited for winter!  With less than an inch of snow on the ground, my students immediately got to work building snow forts, catching flakes in their tongues, and following animal tracks through our wooded play space.  I started dreaming about eggnog and Christmas cookies, and sat down to cut my first paper snowflake of the year.  I’ve listed some December highlights from past years below for you to enjoy.  Happy Winter!

Table Decoration

Last year I did some delicious experimentation with my first batches of homemade eggnog.  Now that it feels really wintery out, I’m eager to make another batch.

Egg nog homemade

In my family, there are two cookies that must be at any holiday celebration: spritz and pepperkaker.  This blog post includes the recipes for these two favorites in addition to fond Christmas Eve Smorgasbord reminiscing.

Spritz

Snowy adventures are a key ingredient in transforming your kitchen into the coziest place on earth.  This blog post includes my tips for enjoying snowy weather with kids or adults, plus step-by-step instructions for cutting beautiful six-sided paper snowflakes.

Snowflake-making_1

Categories
Musings

Spring Equinox Photo Update

With the spring equinox came one last beautiful snow storm.  One last snow day.  One last chance to set up an after school snowball zone.  One last sled down the hill.  One last wintery walk in the woods.  We’re now keeping our eyes out for each new sign of spring.  Here are some photos from the past few months of Vermont adventures and observations:

Morning sun on our icy bedroom window
Morning sun on our icy bedroom window
These two pretty much sum up our President's Day weekend
These two pretty much sum up our President’s Day weekend
Snowy home
Snowy home
Sunday morning northern VT beer and donut tour.  Stop one: Poorhouse Pies.
Sunday morning northern VT beer and donut tour. Stop one: Poorhouse Pies.
The garden in the winter and our climbing tree's hammock hanging branch
The garden in the winter and our climbing tree’s hammock hanging branch
Mammoth white pine
Shrew’s eye view:  mammoth white pine
Brewing maple sap beer
Brewing maple sap beer
Mr. Photographer playing with his new camera!
Mr. Photographer playing with his new camera!
And then it all starts to drip away...
And then it all starts to drip away…
Categories
Musings

Winter Photo Update

In the past few months, I’ve been especially grateful to have such a cozy quite comfortable place to call home.  It makes weekend adventures fun, allows me to save energy for special activities at work, and provides flexibility when family and friends are in need.  In the past month, we celebrated Hanukkah, shared our last Smörgåsbord dinner with Farmor (“father’s mother” in Swedish), enjoyed a white Christmas, and have had plenty of opportunities to play in nearly two feet of snow!  This past weekend we celebrated the life of my grandmother, Farmor, who  died peacefully at age 97.  Her incredibly positive attitude and nurturing personality will stay with us throughout our lives.

 

 

Lighting Hanukkah Candles
Lighting Hanukkah Candles
Our last Smorgasbord with Farmor
Our last Smorgasbord with Farmor
Christmas breakfast: chevre and home made marmalade with vorte limpa (holiday rye bread)
Christmas breakfast: chevre and home made marmalade with vorte limpa (holiday rye bread)
The view from our dining room window
The view from our dining room window
Returning from a snowshoe, and ready to ski the freshly packed trails
Returning from a snowshoe, and ready to ski the freshly packed trails
Family photo at the funeral
Family photo at the funeral
A rose from the burial
A rose from the burial
Categories
Children and Nature

Fun with snow: Inside and Out

I’ve learned a thing or two about winter and snow having grown up in Vermont, moved away, and come back:

Snowshoe adventure

1. Snow is most fun to play in with good winter clothing: snowpants, mittens, boots, and a coat.  A similar adult situation: driving becomes less stressful with appropriate tires and window scrapers.
2. Spending time around others who love the snow is infectiously exciting.  Vice versa for too much time spent around those who hate it (remove “exciting,” insert “terrible”).
3. Snow can be transformed into thousands of games and activities.  It is slippery, sticks together, can be sculpted, acts like a giant chalkboard, tells you which animals went where, and much more.
4. Cold winter days are the perfect excuse for increased hot chocolate consumption

Going outside after school on our first very cold and snowy day was a blast!  All the students had boots and snow pants.  Donated used snow pants were available at the school for anyone who didn’t have any.  We could jump, role, slide, and make snow angles without getting cold or wet. Last winter in the city, snow piles were off limits.  School yards were plowed and salted.  Touching the snow was pretty much against the rules.  This year’s contrast has me crossing my fingers for a snowy winter!

If you work with elementary students, there are great snow and winter activities in several recommended books:
Project Seasons: Check out the “Sole Search” page and accompanying tracking activities.
Hands on Nature: I like “Flakes Up Close,” “Make a Flake” (see below), and “Snowflake Fantasy.” There’s also great stuff on hibernation, tracking, trees in the winter, and more.  In addition to lesson plans, this book provides great 2-page overviews of each subject (including snowflakes, hibernation, etc.) for adults.

Cutting paper snowflakes, like in the “Make a Flake” activity, is not only fun for kids.  One of my fondest winter rituals is to cut snowflakes by a roaring fire.  Snowflake GuidelinesI toss my scraps into the fireplace as I create winter decorations for the house, note cards with snowflakes glued to the cover, and flakes to slip into winter letters to friends.  As you gain experience, you can predict how your snowflakes will come out – at first it’s  a fun surprise!  I think cutting holes so that the remaining white paper is evenly thick makes the best snowflakes.  Check out the illustration below to cut scientifically correct six-sided snowflakes.  Drawing lines on a square paper in advance makes this possible for students of all ages.  Enjoy the snow!

Snowflake-making_1