Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Outdoor Hour Challenge–Autumn Leaves, plus another safari trip October 20, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature,Field trips — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 8:25 am
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This week’s nature study was on autumn leaves.  Of course, if you’re in central Ohio in the middle of October, there is no better nature study than that!  Not only were we able to observe the changing foliage everywhere we went, but it made for a really good trip down to The Wilds, the nature conservation safari we’ve been to multiple times this year.  This visit did not disappoint.  The animals may not have been as active as they were during other parts of the season, but there were quite a few good encounters, and of course, the beautiful scenery that just can’t be found anywhere else!

The leaves are just past peak this week in Ohio, with last week's neon orange and bright reds turning into more muted colors.

The leaves are still a beautiful orange, although some have begun to drop from the trees.

More foliage


And all of the rest of the pictures are from The Wilds.  Be warned, there are a lot.  But there are some foliage pictures from The Wilds mixed in, so it counts. 😉


A zebra with a background of Ohio autumn you don't see that everyday!

The difference between horns and antlers--horns are permenant and hollow inside, antlers are temporary and solid.

Giraffe at sunset

Some wildflowers

More giraffes

Beautiful autumn leaves

More foliage

Another giraffe

More foliage


Little baby rhino

White tailed deer

Gorgeous fall day!

This creepy not-so-little guy was climbing up the side of a building by the carnivore conservation center

Bitty Bug and her daddy

These trees have already dropped most of their leaves

Trumpeter Swan

Bug feeding the catfish


Autumn in Ohio

Beautiful foliage near the entrance


Outdoor Hour Challenge: Apples October 17, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:23 pm
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This week’s nature challenge (posted a bit late) was apples.  It was a very timely challenge as our CSA share has been providing apples, and we also went and picked several bushels of apples.   For this challenge, we compared an organic Liberty Apple, picked at Charlie’s Orchard in Newark, Oh with some Golden Delicious apples, provided in our CSA share by Cherry Orchard in Athens, Oh. 

The liberty apple is a cooking apple and is the smaller red one. The golden delicious is the larger apple, and is an eating apple. Obviously, color and size are major differences. Another duifference is that the Liberty apple does have a few blemishes on it, likely do to it being organic (the golden delicious apple is from a "low spray" but not organic orchard).

The seed structure on the inside of the apple is also a difference. The golden delicious apple (top) had the seeds in separate "pods" in a pentagon shape. The Liberty aple had all of the seeds in the center, with the core being a star shape surrounded by little pinholes. I'm betting that's why it was named Liberty!

The liberty seeds were actually a little bigger and rounder than the golden delicious, which had smaller and more narrow seeds. The liberty was also a more tart apple, while the golden delicious was sweeter.


Outdoor Hour Challenge: Horses vs Dogs October 6, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:36 am
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This week’s nature challenge was horses, and how they compare to another mostly-domesticated animal: dogs.  Living in the country, the kids see horses all of the time (there aren’t any horses in our neighborhood, but we see them while driving.  So of course, to get a picture for this week’s challenge, we pulled over on the side of the road and took a picture of some horses we saw while driving. LOL!)

Horses in a pasture

More horses

Similarities between dogs and horses:

-Both are mammals

-Both have tails (although a difference is that dogs have bones in their tails and horses have hair for tails)

-Both can be domesticated or wild

-Both can vary in color and markings (one difference is that dogs have more of a variability in size and appearance though, due to breeding techniques.)

-Both are herd animals and can show psychological and physiological distress when isolated for long periods of time.

-Both can be used for recreational, sport, show, therapeutic, transportation, and career-based activities.

Differences between dogs and horses:

-Horses can weigh between 840-2200 lbs, and dogs weigh between 1-100ish lbs.

-Horses have 2 ‘toed’ hoof, dogs have paws.  (However, both are for stabilization and locomotive purposes, verses other animals who can also pick up things with their feet/hands.  Both also require all four on the ground to move efficiently instead of being able to walk on just two.)

-Horses graze, and many do not have canine teeth (stallions and geldings do have 4).  Dogs generally eat meat-based foods and have teeth adapted for meat eating.

-Domesticated dogs are able to live indoors, and horses are not able to.

-Horses can sleep laying down or standing up, dogs typically sleep laying down.  Horses sleep in short intervals and only need a couple minutes to a couple hours of sleep each day.  Many dogs sleep several hours a day or more.

-Horses are prey animals, strong fight-or-flight instinct, and usually flee.  Dogs are predatory animals.

And just for comparison’s sake…here are some pictures I took earlier this year during two of our trips to The Wilds, a nature conservation safari in central Ohio.  These are other animals who, like horses, are part of the Equus genus in the Equidae family.

The Zebra, while not considered a true wild horse, is in the same genus as domesticated and wild horses, as are donkeys and mules.

Persian Onagers, native to Iran

Przewalski's Wild Horse, native to Europe and parts of Asia. They were extinct at one point, but were reintroduced to Mongolia and China in recent years. This is the only true wild horse that still remains on earth.

Przewalski's Wild Horse


Outdoor Hour Challenge–Ducks vs Geese September 30, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 8:00 am
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This week’s study was on ducks vs geese.  We’ve seen both of these all summer long, so we thought this one would be an easy one to get pictures for…boy were we wrong!  Central Ohio’s having a bit of a drought and an odd weather pattern, so the geese that have been hanging around since the first signs of spring, were nowhere to be found in the past couple weeks!  We heard them overhead a few times, but we didn’t see them on the ground anywhere!  So, we had to pull in a lot of what we’ve observed over the past several months, as well as using some pictures I had taken earlier in the year to make our comparisons. 

Some ducks at the ice cream factory we visited a couple weeks ago.

Canadian Geese at the arboretum earlier this summer

Here are some of the things we discussed about the ducks and geese:


-Both are found near water

-Both are birds, with feathers, bills, and webbed feet

-They can exist in the same small piece of land without being aggressive


Sound: Geese honk loudly with a higher pitched sound, ducks quack more softly and in a lower tone.  Geese tend to honk while they are flying and are pretty quiet on land, and ducks tend to quack while walking around on the land.

Appearance: Geese are black and white, while some ducks are white, some are green and grey, and some are greyish brown

Size: Geese are much larger, with longer necks and legs.  Ducks are much smaller, have a short neck compared to their body, and have short legs.

Gait: Geese do not waddle when they walk as much as ducks do

Feeding: Geese don’t stick their faces in the water much when they eat.  They walk around on the land around the water, eating out of the grass.  Ducks feed mostly in the water.

How they fly: Geese fly in a V formation higher in the sky, while ducks seem to fly quite a bit lower and not always in a formation.

Size of flock: Every time we saw the geese, they were in larger flocks, whereas we did observe ducks in pairs instead of large flocks at times

And here are a few pictures I took while we were on our nature walk trying to find more geese to watch:

Here is the retention pond the geese liked to hang out at all spring and summer. There are none to be found there in the past few weeks.

Beautiful Autumn sky

The frogs are back in our little backyard pond!

Closeup of the little guy

The smaller frog swimming around

It's hard to believe this cornfield next door to us was just bright green a couple weeks ago!

Even the corn is dried up


Outdoor Hour Challenge: Our own backyard September 19, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:02 pm
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This week’s nature challenge was to spend time exploring your own backyard.  Now, most people might think “eh, what nature is there in suburbia?  Well, besides mice.”  But, the kids and I spent about an hour just looking at the various bits of nature in our very own suburbian backyard.

We were having some nasty weather last week, with tornadoes hitting central Ohio. But after it was all over, this was left behind...

Caterpillar vs Spider. The caterpillar lost.

Some wildflowers

More wildflowers

The view from the backyard

As summer turns to autumn, our Queen Anne's Lace is turning to seed

More wildflowers

This little guy was building webs in the blackberry bushes

Another bunch of wildflowers

Just a couple months ago, these were tall, green, and full of the juiciest blackberries

Some purple berries on some really tall bushes--these are on the other side of the fence from us, but there are a whole lot of them in one grouping. And the plants are tall!

Some more plants seeding

More things from the neighbor's yard. These seeds look all nice and fluffy. But, once they spread, they make thorny plants right in our lawn. So these aren't my favorite.

A big spider--it's really pretty

Birds flying over the farm down the street

Some flowers in the front garden

More flowers in the garden

Fuzzy little caterpillar

More grass seeding

Jedi holding a toad

Closeup of the toad

View from the front yard--a million birds always come to eat the seeds, bugs, and grass

The nature explorers...Jedi (almost 7), Monkey (3 1/2), and Bitty Bug (20 months) And me. But you're not getting my age. 😉

Goofy children

My baby bug


Outdoor Hour Challenge: Butterflies September 9, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 1:00 pm
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This week’s nature study was supposed to be on raccoons and skunks, but our we decided to do a unit on butterflies since our butterflies emerged.

Over the past month, we raised 10 painted lady butterflies from caterpillars to butterflies. 

Five caterpillars arrived in two separate containers. Each container was filled with caterpillar food.

After about 5 days, the caterpillars climbed to the top of the container and started hanging in a J shape.

After 24 hours of hanging in a J shape, the chrysalids formed. The interesting part is that when we moved them into the pavillion or if a breeze happened to hit them, they'd start vibrating!

After a week, they emerged as butterflies, with their wings all scrunched up.

Then they climbed up the pavillion to stretch out their wings. As they were stretching their wings, some red meconium came out.

A closeup of how a butterfly eats--the thicker line on the orange is the black tongue of the butterfly. It unrolls from the butterfly's mouth during feeding.

After keeping them for a week, we released them in honor of our other son, who passed away 5 years this week. Every year we raise butterflies to release on his birthday.

Discovering the new world around it.

Bitty Bug watching the butterfly walking through the grass.

Jedi helping the butterflies out of the pavillion

Every year, he gets a butterfly or two to rest in his hands.

Closeup of the butterfly

Another closeup

This butterfly had a broken wing, but Jedi helped him land on a flower.


Outdoor Hour Challenge: Queen Anne’s Lace September 2, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:39 pm
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This week’s nature study was Queen Anne’s Lace.  Queen Anne’s Lace is also called “wild carrot” and “bird’s nest”.   Some of the facts we learned about Queen Anne’s Lace are:

-It looks very similar to the Poison Hemlock, except the flowers on the Queen Anne’s Lace are more compact

-Sometimes, you can see a tiny red flower in the center of the white blooms, which is said to attract insects.

-The root is edible, but once the flower matures, the root becomes too woody to eat.

-The white blossoms curl up and turn brown in the fall, and then fall off and roll around the ground like tumbleweeds

Queen Anne's Lace along our fenceline

One of the blooms seeding

A bloom open

One head completely dried out


Some of the other flowers we found this week (all in the kids’ garden)….


Outdoor Hour Challenge…Grasshoppers August 27, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 9:35 am
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This week, we got up close and personal with grasshoppers.  Actually, maybe they got up close and personal with us–it seemed like everywhere we turned this week, there were a few hopping around us.  Every evening, we’d always find a bunch of smaller grasshoppers on our front porch–they were always about an inch in length, grass green, with a red patch on the back legs.

But then we’d also get these big ones…

We were driving the other day and this not-so-little guy hitched a ride on our car. He rode on our windshield until we could pull over and study him!

He was a big one too...about 3" long. And apparently pretty good at holding on to the windshield of a moving car! The kids all loved watching him, until he hopped away--straight onto a windshield of another parked car!

This was another 2 1/2-3" long grasshopper I found while I was weeding the garden. He let us hold him on a blade of grass for his photo session...

Once we were done, we let him down. At first, he only hopped about 12" away. But then we watched him leap about 10" at a time! It's amazing how far something with such tiny legs can jump!


And not grasshopper related, but an update on our butterflies!

Earlier this week, the caterpillars formed their chrysalids. As of this morning, a couple of them had turned dark black, which means they will be emerging within the next 24 hours!


Camp pictures part 2 August 18, 2010

Filed under: Exploring Nature,Family updates,Field trips — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:22 am

Beautiful sunset

Roasting marshmellows and hot dogs

Bug, really enjoying camp food (they had grilled veggies and chicken right before this, so we packed in the vitamins before this part. But really, they just liked this part. LOL!)

The little guy that was crawling on our tent the next morning

The minnows swimming around

Bug collecting rocks on an early morning walk

Jedi, all excited about the "fuzzy rock" (moss on the boulder)

Some seeds in the pine tree

Monkey and Jedi playing with the caterpillar

Bug, deciding to swim on her early morning walk...still in her PJs!

Monkey, looking at the trees

Hiking through the woods

Deer tracks!

Some cool seed pods

And on a completely different note…friends and family know about our other son, but visitors might not.  Almost 5 years ago, our second oldest child passed away (September 7th, 2005).  Each year around his birthday, we raise some caterpillars (painted lady butterflies) and release the butterflies on his birthday.  Right after we got home from camping, the caterpillars had arrived in our mailbox!

The caterpillars on day 1


Another view of the caterpillars


Outdoor Hour Challenge–Evening Primrose & Night Blooming Flowers

Filed under: Exploring Nature — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:11 am
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This week, the outdoor challenge was evening primrose and night blooming flowers.  It was great timing, because we were planning on going camping anyhow!  It was the first time camping for everyone in the family, except my husband…so, being camping newbies, plus doing primitive tent camping with three kids from ages 1 through 6, we were in for quite the adventure!  I’ll post most of those pictures at the end of this post, so that the nature study stuff can be at the top of the post.

Anyhow, it was a rainy night with a few thunderstorms, so we weren’t able to go out to observe early on in the evening.  However, once it was dark, the thunderstorms let up and we were able to walk around the edge of the woods and lake looking for flowers that only bloom at night.  Oddly enough, we actually didn’t see any.  But, the next morning we did see morning glories…flowers that only bloom in the morning!  So, it wasn’t quite the results of the challenge we wanted, but still, really cool and kind of related!

Morning Glory fully opened

A view of the bloom from the side

A flower getting ready to bloom

Here's a view of the leaves around a bloom. This bloom had fallen out, so we got a good view of the teardrop shaped leaves.


And now for the camping pictures…I’ll post it in 2 parts because there are like 30 pictures to share!  There are lots of nature-related ones too.

Red berries that were around the campsight

The trees surrounding the tent

Thunderstorm rolling in

Jedi watching minnows

Peekaboo, Monkey!

Happy little Bitty Bug running around

Bug pretending to nap

All three kids trying to catch minnows in their nets

I caught one in mine! Later, Jedi caught one too.

The rain started coming down hard, so the kids went back to the tent to play games

Back to the water!

Bug going rock hunting in the water

Calm lake...nobody else was here because the beach closed when the thunderstorms hit, and only one other family was camping at the campground due to the weather

A view of one of the fake mountains around the lake...we actually hiked up a smaller version of this that was right next to it earlier this summer


Posting part 1…more camp pictures in the next post