water oops, cool squishy dirt
just call me Mud Dog
mud dog by Angie Quantrell
Accident? Perhaps. Digging all on purpose. Bath not as popular.
We have a Sunflower Forest.
Not intentionally, but as happenstance. Last year, I planted sunflowers. This year, the birds planted sunflowers (leftovers from their grazing and dropping last year). I love my Sunflower Forest. It really does resemble a forest with all its many layers, shadows, heights, and wildlife.
Just this morning, I was again (and again) gazing out the window to enjoy the peeping antics of goldfinch families. They flit, flirt, fight, and feed throughout the Sunflower Forest. Swarms of bees, many varieties, wasps, and other flying hungry insects buzz and float around the Forest, a veritable cloud of life shifting back and forth. I don’t need a fish tank for gazing and relaxing. I can sit on the deck and watch visitors enjoy the Forest. Relaxation and entertainment all wrapped into one ball of delight.
It’s interesting how our brains work, those miracles of human technology. Thoughts and ideas zip and zing along brain pathways so fast I often find myself wondering How did I get to that thought from this?
Take ecosystems. As I watched the Sunflower Forest with rapt enjoyment, I realized it was an ecosystem in its own right. Our Forest is approximately 25-foot-square, give or take a straggler standing tall along the edges. The top height is at least 15-feet, well as tall as the RV, which rests high atop tires and tire stops. That’s plenty of ecosystem space for the myriad of wildlife I see every day.
The Undergrowth (Forest Floor):
I’m so excited about this level of the Sunflower Forest. Baby oak trees have sprouted from last year’s planting of numerous (I mean NUMEROUS) acorns I brought back from my cousin’s house. I love science activities and free exploration and invited my grands to play at will. They did. Played and planted. Baby oaks have been discovered in very surprising places!
Other nature on display in the undergrowth layer: weeds (of course), ants, spiders, worms, earwigs, beetles, frogs, millipedes, roly polys, mystery bugs, snails, grasshoppers, and cats. Our cats LOVE hiding in the Sunflower Forest.
In the Sunflower Forest, the understory is crammed full of bamboo-like stalks, mottled leaves, dappled light, and fluttering life. I imagine myself small, wandering amidst the trunks of sunflower trees, climbing too high for my own good. Tall weeds populate this layer, plentiful, but not enough to trouble sunflower trees. Anything that creeps, climbs, and flies traverses the Sunflower Forest understory.
The majority of my sunflower trees litter this layer with bright blossoms, wilted petals, and plump seeds. This is where the action is! Goldfinches love the canopy of bright yellow, fragrant and fruitful. Before the seeds were ready, nearly as soon as the first few yellow faces opened to the sun, goldfinches made forays into the canopy, checking to see if food was available. They didn’t stay long, since seeds were not even pollinated yet. But now? Layers of unopened buds, fully exposed golden orbs, droopy petals, green seeds, and ready-to-go seed buffets lure our state bird (Washington, goldfinch) by the droves. I love the families, fledglings peeping loudly and shuffling their feathers, waiting for mama or daddy to bring the seeds to them. Parents, proud and busy, race to pop seeds into open mouths. Several males pop in, notice each other, and fight for feeding rights. Never fear, my little finches, plenty for all.
Also seen in the canopy layer: red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, finches, butterflies, spiders, yellow jackets, and multiple varieties of bees and flies.
The Emergent Layer:
I hadn’t thought much about this layer, the very tip top of the forest and everything above. Until this morning, still observing the finches, I noticed the shadow of a fledgling hawk pass across the top of the Sunflower Forest. Aha! Besides the very tallest of sunflower trees and nearby ornamental corn, our emergent forest layer is filled with other wildlife. The hawks (two parents and the tween), crows, starlings, magpies, and geese regularly putz back and forth above our heads. The only ones we all keep sharp eyes on are the hawks, of course. Hunters they are, and Junior is especially attached to our pasture, nearby power lines, and a few strategic trees. I can only guess how many friends have met their end as he learns to fly, land, and hunt.
So there you have it. The Sunflower Forest and its ecosystem. I’m sure your garden, yard, or field has yet more exciting nature (flora and fauna) inhabiting the different layers. Take a look. Grab that cup of tea or coffee and sit for a bit. Who do you see in the different sections of your ecosystem?
tasting toes, flutters
and alights; dinner prepared
dine, consume, be full
dine by Angie Quantrell
Meet our dinner guests, flora and fauna beauties.
Welcome! Join us for a Happy Hump Day Haiku Challenge. Leave your link or Haiku in the comments. One, two, three, go!
Written by Gillian McDunn
Illustrations by Alisa Colburn
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019
It’s summer, and Caterpillar Summer is the perfect read! Thank you to Gillian McDunn and Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles for this lovely copy. If you look just close enough in the above photo, you will see a friendly butterfly snacking while I consider this perfect summer read. A nod to the main character and her name of Cat(erpillar).
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.
But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.
Why I Love This Book:
~ The names! Cat and Chicken? Fun and interesting.
~ The unique way Gillian created a mother who is an author that writes stories about her children, aka, Caterpillar and Chicken. Each section opens with an illustrated page from a story written by Cat’s mother and several other Caterpillar and Chicken illustrations are interspersed throughout the book. Stories upon stories.
~ The characters are great. I love how Cat is a caring, responsible older sister who is just finishing 5th grade. I love the uniqueness of Chicken and how Cat knows how to take care of him. The harried, busy mom, the newly met grandparents, old friends and new friends, the bad guys-the characters are fun to get to know.
~ The setting is fabulous! Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer in a huge house at the beach? On an island? I would. Cat gets to stay in her mother’s old bedroom. I love the small town community where Cat’s grandparents live.
~ The intrigue. Why has Cat never met these grandparents? What happened to Dad? Why does life have to have so many changes? How can Cat take care of Chicken but also still be a kid and enjoy life? How can Cat get her mother and grandfather to talk?
~ Fishing. This is a big hook (!) for Cat’s hopes of getting her family to reconcile.
~ Friendship, forgiveness, and family.
~ Great writing! I found Caterpillar Summer easy to read and very enjoyable. I think upper elementary and early middle grade readers will love this summer tale.
Two thumbs up for Caterpillar Summer.
To my writer friends, this post at Writers’ Rumpus is an excellent resource! I’m posting it on my blog to remind myself where I put it. Kind of like taking notes and sharing good stuff at the same time.
Hope you learn at least one new word related to the world of publishing. Enjoy!
Alas, with the 4th of July and other extra activities, my guest bloggers were unable to contribute to the blog last week. Nana to the rescue!
Summer Camp Theme of the Week: Gardening
Gardening is near and dear to my heart. Add outdoor and nature connections, and the setting and theme is just perfect.
Some activities we did during Gardening Week:
~ We made dandelion play dough! Look on Pinterest for several different recipes. Tips from Nana: Use a LARGE blender or food processor for the boiling water and dandelions. Both of my prospects were too small and leaked. All over. Use MORE dandelions than you think you will need. We didn’t get as much yellow as we wanted, so added a bit of yellow gel food coloring. I doubled the recipe, since 5 gardeners wanted to explore.
~ We watered. Of course. They are all quite adept at handling a variety of gardening watering implements. We also refilled the fountain numerous times. Like the grands, I’ve been enjoying the quick dip of a smaller watering can into the fountain to tend to tiny water needs. As a result, fountain water disappears much quicker than one would expect.
~ We dissected a sunflower from the Sunflower Forest. We have plenty! It was pretty neat to see baby seeds, petals, the pithy center, and other plant parts in their glory.
~ After coloring cardboard egg carton sections, we went on a nature collecting hunt, looking for bits of nature that matched the colored sections. Rocks, flowers, petals, leaves, pine cones, bark, pottery shards, glass marbles . . . The grands did enjoy this activity even if all colors did not exactly match.
~ I’ve been wanting to have a nature loom for a long time. With freshly cut wood chunks from a recent trip to wood hunt, the oldest grand Hayden hammered in nails around the edges of one log. I looped jute around and back and forth to create a loom. I think Nana enjoyed this most, but I hope over time they will wander back and add to the nature weaving. I think next week I will have to allow them to hammer all the nails they want into a sacrificial log. That seemed to be the biggest draw.
~ The two girl grands, Khloe and Autumn, loved helping Papa transplant root-bound mint out in the pasture. Just for fun. Since it will be mowed with the pasture grass.
~ The youngest, Gage and Autumn, enjoyed giving hair cuts (mowing the hair) to paper plate faces.
~ Swimming! This involved puppy power and hogging of the big pool, but still, cooling fun was had by all.
~ Gardening books were read. Always books.
I had more plans, but the mid-week holiday took out a huge chunk of our Summer Camp time. Until the next week of Summer Camp (camping!), enjoy your July and the rest of this quickly evaporating summer vacation!
you flutter and flit
blossom landings, flower sip,
whispers of beauty
flutter by Angie Quantrell
Even in the mountains of Central Washington, with no evidence of water, dry dusty soil, and an abundance of rocks and weeds, beauty is on display. Towering pines, blooming wildflowers, and clouds of butterflies floating and feasting on the myriad of blossoms wrap viewers in a blanket of peace. The sightings make the steep bumpy road worth enduring.
Remembering Joseph Chickadee
Written and Illustrated by Nancy Peek Youngdahl
Mascot Books, 2019
I love bird watching and travel with my falling-apart bird identification book at the ready to help me name the birds I see out car windows.
What about the birds I read about in books? Love, love, love birds!
Remembering Joseph Chickadee is a delightfully illustrated picture book telling the story of a bunch of birdy friends saying goodbye and remembering their friend, Joseph Chickadee.
It sounds sad, but it really isn’t. Instead, I enjoyed the stories of friends sharing happy memories of their friend. A Remembering Celebration was held in the woods where Joseph was a leader, helper, and friend to many feathered community members. The different birds told of their encounters with Joseph and all the ways he had helped them. As I read, I thought this picture book would be a perfect way to gently help young mourners as they face the loss of a loved one. And, of course, readers will learn about birds.
Why I Enjoyed this Book:
~ I loved the imagination in the story. A Remembering Celebration for a beloved community leader-grief and celebration in the bird world. Young readers will be able to put their imaginations to good use as they read Remembering Joseph Chickadee.
~ The illustrations are wonderful! I love the collage, watercolor, cut paper look of the different books. This book is very nicely done.
~ The availability of this book for use with grieving children is perfect. Readers can see how others grieve and remember, and perhaps, with gentle discussion, can apply the ideas to their own lives. Not that this book needs to be read only with grieving children, but all young readers can learn empathy as they hear about Joseph.
~ Birds! I learned new information about different birds. Maybe this book will spark an interest in readers to learn more about birds or encourage them to go outside and go for a bird walk.
I thoroughly enjoyed Remembering Joseph Chickadee. Thank you to Nancy Peck Youngdahl for writing this book for readers. Thank you to Mascot Books for my review copy, which I now get to share with the young readers in my family (we just focused on birds last week, one of our summer weekly themes). Thank you!
When wise and kind Joseph Chickadee passes away, other birds of the forest come together to remember him and celebrate all that he did as a leader and friend. Follow along in this story of love, loss, and grace and Joseph’s family and friends say goodbye.
Play Dough Nest
Materials: play dough, sticks, leaves, rocks
1. Go for a bird walk. Watch for birds and peek at their nests in trees and shrubs. If you don’t find any nests, look in picture books or online for pictures of nests.
2. Warm up the play dough by playing with it. Form a nest shape on a plate.
3. Decorate the nest with sticks, leaves, or rocks. Birds often add soft materials to the bottom of the nests to protect the eggs and new hatchlings. Find something soft to place in the bottom of the nests. Let your nest dry.
4. Keep watching for birds!