Thursday, March 3, 2016

Nature Study Outing :: First Wildflowers and Early-Leafers


Our last couple nature outings have been taken over by the wildflowers.  And it's no wonder: we're having so much fun spotting our "old friends" again, whom we haven't seen since last spring.

We're making careful notes in our Calendar of Firsts--we're on our fourth year of data and it's getting really interesting to compare year by year.  Each season adds a new layer to our understanding of the changes in this area.  People always say that here in California, we don't have seasons.  But as a native Californian, I know we do.  We just have to be a bit more attentive!  Careful keeping of our Calendar of Firsts and nature journals help us to do that.

Like I said before, February starts "green season" here in California--that means early leafers and first wildflowers.  Here is a bit of a mish-mash of some favorite finds from the past couple weeks...

Plenty of vetch leaves cover the ground, but no blossoms yet.  This is one of my favorites, so I'm waiting eagerly for them to pop up!


Mustard and fiddlenecks are responsible for all the yellow around here.


Henbit, aka Giraffe head. (The perfect name for this guy, right?)


Sweet shepherd's purse with its heart-shaped leaves is always up by Valentine's Day here.


Wild cucumber leaves, blossoms, tendrils, and immature seed balls.  It loves to intertwine with the very-plentiful poison oak around here, so we have to beware.


It's not as common now for us to find one we're not familiar with, so it's always a real treat when we do.  This one I had never seen before.  It's called Persian Speedwell, which somehow sounds like a Bond girl to me?  Ha.  The tiny striped blooms are a pretty shade of blue.


This next one is blurry, but I couldn't leave out the other new flower we found: purple nightshade.  Cate said the middles (with their banana-like stamens and prominent pistil) look like pumpkins.  I agree!  There were two lone clumps of this, and I haven't seen it anywhere else nearby.


The wisteria--not a wildflower but beautiful all the same.  We always catch it when it's already in bloom, so I hadn't seen how the flowers are partially enclosed in a kind of casing and then unfurl.  The shapes and textures in this stage are so interesting.


When we get home from an outing like this, I prepare a nature tray for our journaling session.  The kids love to help me label it.  Here's ours from last week...


You can see a couple of the early leafers there on the tray: the willows that line our pond have both new leaves and small catkins, and the California sycamores have tiny velvet leaves and seed balls that hang in a line (which, I believe, distinguishes it from the American sycamore).

my willow sprig sketched and ready for painting
Since wildflowers are so small and delicate, I took the opportunity to talk with my kids once again about slowing down, observing, and trying to attend to the little details that make each one unique during our journaling session.  They made lots of little discoveries as they were drawing and did slow, deliberate work.  (Gianna's on the left, and my kindergartener's on the right--he really did a great job paying close attention and being true to the flowers he chose to draw.)


And it's not all journals and wildflowers!  There's lots of romping, building, climbing, and more going on when we get together...

not all the kids, but a good bunch of them!

I'm desperate to take the kids to some spots on my running trail because I noticed last weekend that the first lupines and vetch are in bloom, and I've heard there are shooting stars just around the bend of my usual route.  I'm thinking that's where we'll head next week!

20 comments:

  1. Bond girl! Ha, made me chuckle! Going to copy you tomorrow and see what we find here in East Texas.

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    1. I hope you'll let me know what you find! I'm obsessed with finding wildflowers these days. I'm so glad my kids and friends humor me because I'm the most excited one out there most weeks, but I can't help it! I think it's partly the thrill of the hunt or something. :)

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  2. You have encouraged me to find wildflowers! We have lived in Oklahoma for 5 years now and I know nothing of our spring season. Surely, it is time I get to work. Thanks for the motivation.
    Barb

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, Barb! There is something so pleasing about watching the seasonal changes week by week and getting to know the area...and wildflowers are so pretty too. :)

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  3. Lovely post Celeste and a great show of nature study. We still have residual snow here in WI and don't expect wildflowers for at least six weeks, but your photos give hope :)

    Thanks,
    Melissa

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    1. I think the flowers must be all the sweeter after the long wait of a snowy winter! Hoping spring comes your way very soon, Melissa! :)

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  5. What a great shot of most of the kiddos! Such a happy post. So much green, sunshine, and lovely flowers and children. Spring is such a joyful time year.

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    1. That place is so bright and vibrant this time of year that the kids always have a wonderful time there. (In the summer, it's pretty hot and brown there, so this is the time to go! ;))

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  6. Love this! :) This is our second year using a Book of Firsts faithfully and it WAS so fun comparing from last year. :) Your photos are lovely!

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    1. It is such a valuable exercise! And I would never have thought to start one without CM. :)

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  7. Your beautiful pictures are making me long for spring...which for us will be a long time coming! Snow will be swirling for a good while yet. I love your idea of the nature tray for sketching.

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    1. I hope spring gets there soon for you all! The nature tray makes things so convenient -- I can just pop it up on the bookshelf when the toddlers wake up from nap and bring it back down to finish our sketching later in the day. Hope you find it as convenient as we do! :)

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  8. I note firsts down in my own nature journal but we've never made a Book of Firsts! We'll definitely be giving it a try this year (although we're still under a foot of snow right now). Thanks for sharing your photos - it's always so neat to see what's going on in other parts of North America!

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    1. Thanks, Erin! And yes, the Book of Firsts is so much fun -- enthusiasm for it is very catching, and now we have even the little ones running to me and shouting about something new we have seen that they want to add. :)

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  9. i love Gianna's "We found lots of stuff. I thought we would" in her journal. God bless!

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    1. It's a good attitude to have, right? :)

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  10. I am so looking forward to wildflowers up here! Last year was dismal in that department because of the drought. This should be a great year though. Right now the manzanita is just starting to flower, along with the daffodils, our neighbor's forsythia and my daughter's peach tree. We should start seeing some buttercups and yellow violets soon!

    (And I just printed out our calendar of firsts for this year and I am going to comb my photo archives and get us up to date. Gack! That is a huge advantage of the Calendar of Firsts you keep - you don't have to remember to print another set of pages each year! Where's that paper bag over the head smiley when you need it...)

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    1. Yes, photo records are VERY helpful when getting behind in one's Book of Firsts! (Ask me how I know. ;)) Have you shared yours on the blog, Amber? I can't remember but I would love to see what format you guys are using!

      On my run this weekend, I went past our favorite pond and saw that the lupines and gilia are up! Am going to have to bring the kids there soon to see the "firsts" of the season. :)

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    2. I don't think I have - but I think I will! :-) I just got ours all up to date - well, almost. I need to consult my daughter's photo record for the date her peach tree bloomed. It seems I didn't take a picture of that, but I know she did.

      And wow, we won't see lupine or gilia for at least another month!

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