Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nature Study Notes :: Early Spring Keeping

February and March are such busy months nature-wise in our part of the country!  We have days of glorious weather (sunny and in the 70s) followed by chilly days (overcast and in the low 60s), and then rain here and there.  It is wonderfully refreshing and delightfully inspiring after the brown-brown-brown of winter.

In February, we watched our backyard come alive: daffodil buds, blossoms on the maples and hebe bushes, leaves on the hibiscus and the honey locusts.  Welcome Robin began his daily visits to our garden once again, and song sparrows and finches visited the crepe myrtles along the side yard.  Since it remains warm here during the winter, the birds don't migrate away, but they definitely get louder and busier as spring arrives.  We watched ducks showboating along the creek (great fun!) and saw the wattle trees bloom yellow and then fade to green.  

In March, we saw the poison oak shrubs start to re-leaf, alongside the horse chestnuts and the sycamores.  We watched the creek park become enveloped in green canopy and green carpet.  We hunted and hunted for wildflowers, finding first their tell-tale leaves, then hints of blossoms.  Now some have already gone to seed, and we're busy identifying the new ones that pop up with each successive month.

As you might guess, the children have been very inspired in their journaling lately.  For the past couple months, Gianna has started including a little dialogue info-graphic on each spread, with make-believe characters asking and answering questions about her nature finds (in various British dialects, ala Redwall, of course).  Drawing people is her first love, but I've always told her that our nature journals are reserved for our nature discoveries.  Here, though, I can't help but allow it; it is just so very indicative of her personality.  (And that snippet of poetry?  Out of her memory, added all on her own.  It's working!)

Vincent's journal pages are stark but careful.  He is the more interested one in the field and the more detail-oriented one at the drawing table.  His fine motor skills are catching up with his enthusiasm.  I love his comment, "I know both Magpie and Meadowlark by heart." Melt.  He is right, though--he was able to identify both of those birds at sight even though we had never seen either before.  The meadowlark he recognized first by its call.  I am constantly amazed by the knowledge he has picked up just through reading.

My journal pages are chatty and comprehensive.  I don't have as much time to journal as I would like, but I do sit down for at least a few minutes each week and at the very least, take notes and lists.  I actually love the writing, almost as much as I enjoy painting and sketching.  I don't share my nature journal all that often here, but at least half of it is just words.  And I find myself going back to my notes from previous years very often, hunting for name, date, or location.

And, of course, I pull out our Book of Firsts to add new entries there too. We now have three years of data to compare.  So we know that spring is a couple weeks early this year, and we had our eyes fixed on the roadsides waiting for the first poppies to appear the week before they arrived.

Now the hills are streaked yellow with mustard flowers or striped amber and violet as poppies and lupines vie for growing room.  It is a full, rich season, and we are trying to capture what we can.

The children are in the last few pages of their current journals, and then we will swap them for new ones--and just in time, as we head into our vacation months full of plenty of time to adventure and record!


  1. This is a WONDERFUL post. I love seeing how each of you have different journals, but each are special and so personal to who you are.

    I am just now starting to enjoy the Nature Journal aspect in our home. We've always loved nature walks and looking up our finds or questions in field guides, but the journaling, not as much. My oldest (son, 9) is not naturally artistic and neither am I. So the journals always felt like work or to check off of a list. Because of this they just did not really happen. But as more people have begun sharing their journals I realized that lists and pencil sketches and words are just as nature journal worthy. My mind was just so stuck on Diary of an Edwardian Lady type thing.

    Now my oldest daughter (6.5) has some natural artistic ability that is beginning to show and blossom. She LOVES her nature journal and her joy in it is contagious. So my son and I have come to grips with the fact that ours may actually not look as good as the 6 year olds, ha, but are just as important and satisfying. That is why I love this post and seeing the differences in the journals in your home. My son sees every little detail and looks at things in a what do they do and how are they connected and loves "field work," (he can also identify so many things it's amazing) so his journal reflects that. His drawings are not master pieces, but his notes and labels fill in the banks. My daughters are drawing after drawing and she sees colors and shapes and texture and emotion. It's the beginning stages, but I can see from your daughter's how time and care will grow that. It makes me wish I had been better about nurturing the journal aspect with my son, but it's never too late!

    Thank you for sharing so many pictures. It is so very encouraging!

    1. Isn't it funny how personalities shine through our Keeping? I should have included some photos from my 6yo's too, as she is a very diligent nature journaler alongside me each week. And my 4yo just started wanting to do nature drawings a couple months ago too--and now he is a very absorbed participant in our table time after nature outings. All in all, the kids' enthusiasm feeds mine and mine feeds theirs, so nature journaling has become something we share and part of our family culture--I love that aspect of it! Thanks for your comments, Virginia Lee! I have loved the few photos of your family's nature journals that you have recently posted on Instagram!

  2. It is so interesting to see all the plants people in other parts of the country get to see and observe. Most of these things I have never seen where we live. I did notice the "bradford pear" entry and had to have a closer look to compare with what I have written in our Calendar of Firsts. Ours started blooming February 22, with the leaves appearing March 17.
    And I really am impressed with all of your nature journals. They are definitely worth aspiring to! Ours are still in the simple stages. Great work!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kristyn! I went to the library a couple days ago and the bradford pear blossoms are gone now, so it sounds like our area is just a week or two behind you! How fun. :)

  3. I enjoyed reading your post and seeing all the pictures. We are just gettting started with nature studies at our house, so I need all the inspiration I can get. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Tasha! I'm glad you stopped by. :)