The indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial. -Edward Abbey

Nature Study

Useful Nature Study Printables

Places to go in Alabama

Let's say you have an average yard, about 1/4 acre, maybe a half acre. You have a driveway, a garage, a fenced in back-yard and some bushes that stand guard across the front of the house. Maybe you have a tree. Or not, maybe you are in an apartment 10 floors up or live on a vast spread. Inventory what you have already, you can give over a portion of your yard to grow wild or plant butterfly attracting flowers there. Put out a birdfeeder, make your own and the seed will cost about $5 a month, making it a very affordable way to attract nature.

Start asking around to see who has some flowers to share, bulbs are super easy, and many 'scatter and grow' type flowers, such as cosmos and zinnias, make loads of seeds that are often free for the asking. Set aside a small area to grow flowers that will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Sunflowers along a fence, bee balm in a small pot, a huge butterfly bush in the corner of the yard, some cosmos and zinnias and daisies-all of these will grow easily, quickly and afford you great pleasure is seeing 'who' comes to visit once they are blooming. A small pot of dill will soon be covered over in swallowtail caterpillars, milkweed feeds the Monarch butterfly and a hanging basket with salad greens, a vining tomato and some herb, maybe cilantro, will feed you.

To extend your gardening to include more items of use for yourself and your family, try herbs.
For indoor or outdoor herbs, grow parsley, marjoram, oregeno, thyme and terragon.

For a medicinal garden, try purple coneflower, which is ecinacea. Boil the root into a tea, then strain and drink to cure a cold. Tea from hollyhock flowers will fix up a sore throat or earache, a strong poltice from thyme helps bruises heal faster. Tea made from crushed basil leaves is good for stress, as is chamomile, which will also help a tummy ache and peppermint and ginger will settle an upset stomach as well. Not an herb, but just as easy to grow, aloe will help heal burns, just snip off a part of a leaf and squeeze the goo inside on the burn.

Herbs to grow for flavor and making your own tea, start with lemon balm or mint. Pick the fresher leaves before the heat of the day and rinse them and tear or snip into small pieces.

To preserve herbs for winter use, go early in the morning and snip off the whole branch of herbs. Early in the day, they have the most flavor. The best time to harvest is just before they bloom. Rinse them well and hang upside down in a shady and dust-free place. If your house is like mine, dust-free can be hard to find, so you can cover them with a very light fabric, like tulle. After they dry, crumble off the leaves and compost (or burn, mmm) the stems. Store the leaves in an air-tight container.

An herbal bath is a sensory delight. Choose lavender for a soothing bedtime bath or snip some fresh pine needles for a energizing soak, try several different plants and herbs.


Other Ideas for at Home:

Nature Study by Season

Take a Walk


Inventory living things in your yard.
Categorize them by characteristics

Take several soil samples:
Number and label each sample, noting where it came from
Place soil in small, clean jars and add enough water to cover the soil. Seal and shake for one minute. Let jars stand overnight. Talk about what you see. Check for soil acidity using pH paper.

Place yarn, string, hair, cloth scraps, straw, ect in an onion bag and hang outside where you can see it often. Make note of who uses the materials.

Feelin' Blue? How 'Bout Green? Yellow?

Take a walk to gather natural dyes.
To dye wool-the easiest material-you need:
2 pounds of fresh material OR 1 pound of nutshells, bark or berries per 1 pound of wool.
A large pot, alum, cream of tartar
Large wooden or plastic spoons

Before you begin:
Soak wool in a mordant bath overnight. To do this, mix 4 oz alum and 1oz cream of tartar to enough water to cover the wool. Add the wool, boil for one hour, then remove from heat and let sit overnight.

Gather the material:
Lots of the list can be found naturally, but a few items are already in your cabinets, so experiment freely!

Black Barberry leaves, oak bark
Tan Maple Bark
Purple Blueberries, peach leaves, moss, blackberries, cherries, huckleberries, cranberries, grapes, purple cabbage
Red Red onion skin, bloodroot, fresh beet juice, madder root, logwood
Yellow Stem, leaves and flower of apple bark, barberry stems and roots, cinnamon, curry, hickory bark, mustard, paprika, pear leaves, saffron, tanglewood stems, turmeric, goldenrod
Brown Coffee, tea, rose hips, tobacco
Green Beet tops, sunflower seeds, birch leaves, Spanish onion skins outer leaves, elderberry leaves, spinach, cabbage, rhubarb leaves
Orange Orange juice, onion skin
Pink Cherries, beet and sassafras roots

Boil the dye, strain and pour off the liquid into a pot.
Add the wool and heat.
When the wool is the color you want (dries lighter) turn off the heat and let the wool and the water cool together.
Rinse the wool in cool water until the water runs clear.
Squeeze gently and hang to dry in a shaded place.

Natural Easter Eggs

Using the color-chart above, select the colors for your eggs and get ready. You can also add small Spring flowers to the list.
You will also need:
Raw eggs
A large pot
Cheesecloth or large green leaves

Place your raw egg in the middle of a square of cheesecloth large enough to wrap the egg and tie at the top.
Heap the natural materials around the egg. Try layers and designs as well as pressing small flowers or leaves against the shell. You can also use large green leaves instead of the cheesecloth for very different results.
Wrap the egg well in the cheesecloth, tie the top and place in a pot of cool water.
Bring to a boil. The longer you let it cook, the darker the dye will be.
Cool the egg slowly and remove the wrapping to see your masterpiece!
You can re-use the materials a couple of times with lighter results.

Sun Fun

Race the sun-which will melt faster, an ice cube in a plate in the sun, or one you hold in your hand?

Make a solar cooker-the Girl Scouts have great plans for these.

Make a sun dial.

Make sun prints using sunprint paper.

Learn about UV protection.


Nocturnal Capers

Look at dust with a magnifying glass

Give your child a sturdy magnifying glass and join them for a micro-explore.

Take some string along-or use sticks-and mark off a square at different areas and times of the year. Go over this small area together and talk about all the life going on in such a small area!

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