Monday, December 8, 2008

Toadstool

Now that the weather is damp, there are toadstools popping up along the path where I like to walk.
There is new growth sprouting between the decaying leaves and acorns. What do you make of the cone shaped parasites on the oak leaf? I see a lot of them, but I'm afraid I don't have an answer or this one. Let me know if you do! Click on the pictures to enlarge them. It is really interesting to see the minute details when you do!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beautiful Butterfly


photo courtesy of Liam and Owen's Mom

How to Make Paper

Here is the promised recipe for Handmade Paper. I could not improve on the recipe and instructions that I found at How to Make Paper, so I have attached it here. Their site looks interesting, have your parents check it out!

Below you will find a simple papermaking recipe to get you started. If this is the first time you are making paper, don't be afraid to experiment with different fibers, you don't have to stick with paper related products. Add whole flower heads to the pulp mixture after it has been through the blender. You can add scraps of yarn, tin foil, even seeds. Its all comes down to what you want. Experiment with different textures and colors! Remember, some of your ideas will turn out while others may not. Have fun with it, express your creativity.

Simple Recipe:

Many types of paper that can be used include:
Computer Paper (unprinted)
Newspaper (If you want a grayish colored paper)
Magazines
Egg Cartons
Old Cards (For heavier paper)
Toilet Paper
Paper Bags
Non Waxed Boxes (Pre-soak in warm water)
Office Paper
Tissue Paper (For finer paper)
Typing Paper
Napkins
Construction Paper

Supplies you'll need:

Sponge
Window Screening (mold)
Wood Frame (old picture frame can be used too) (deckle)
Plastic Basin/Tub (Large enough to totally immerse frame)
Blender/Food Processor (For making paper pulp)
White Felt or Flannel Fabric
Staples or Tacks (For tacking screen on frame)
Liquid starch (optional)

Instructions:

1. Select the pieces of paper to be recycled. You can even mix different types to create your own unique paper.

2. Rip the paper into small bits, and place into the blender. (about half full). Fill the blender with warm water. Run the blender slowly at first then increase the speed until the pulp looks smooth and well blended. ( 30 -40 seconds) Check that no flakes of paper remain. If there are, blend longer.

3. The next step is to make a mold. The mold, in this case, is made simply by stretching fiberglass screen (plain old door and window screen) over a wooden frame and stapling it. It should be as tight as possible.

4. Fill the basin about half way with water. Add 3 blender loads of pulp. (the more pulp you add the thicker the finished paper will be) Stir the mixture.

5. Now is the time to add the liquid starch for sizing.(This is not necessary but if the paper is going to be used for writing on, you should add some, the starch helps to prevent inks from soaking into the paper fibers.) Stir 2 teaspoons of liquid starch into the pulp.

Place the mold into the pulp and then level it out while it is submerged. Gently wiggle it side-to-side until the pulp on top of the screen looks even.

6. Slowly lift the mold up until it is above the level of the water. Wait until most of the water has drained from the new paper sheet. If the paper is very thick, remove some pulp from the tub. If it is too thin, add more pulp and stir the mixture again.

7. When the mold stops dripping, gently place one edge on the side of a fabric square (felt or flannel square). Gently ease the mold down flat, with the paper directly on the fabric. Use a sponge to press out as much water as possible. Wring the excess water from the sponge back into the large plastic tub.

8. Now comes the tricky part. Hold the fabric square flat and slowly lift the edge of the mold. The wet sheet of paper should remain on the fabric. If it sticks to the mold, you may have pulled to fast or not pressed out enough water. It takes a little practice. You can gently press out any bubbles and loose edges at this point.

9. Repeat the steps above, and stack the fabric squares on a cookie sheet. Save one fabric square to place on the top of the stack to cover the last piece of paper. Use another cookie sheet to press the remaining water out of the stack. (do this outside or in the bathtub, it can make a mess)

10. After you press the stack, gently separate the sheets. They can be dried by hanging on a clothesline or laying them out on sheets of newspaper. When they have dried peel them off the fabric and voila! you have paper!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mistletoe

There are large bunches of green leaves in this otherwise bare tree which has no leaves of it's own. Those bunches are mistletoe. It is a parasite, which means that it lives on the branches of a host tree or shrub. It is actually very unhealthy for the tree that the mistletoe is growing on.

We have a tradition which involves decorating with mistletoe during the Christmas season. Our tradition is to hang a bunch of mistletoe high, like in a doorway, and any two people who happen to meet under the mistletoe, are obliged to kiss. Ewww! Wierd, huh?

While you're looking at the mistletoe, notice all of the woodpecker holes in the trees!

Wasp Nest

Can you tell how thin and delicate the nest is? If you could feel it, it is as light as air, and would feel like home-made paper. Maybe your parents will help you make paper! I'll tell you how! I might not get back to it today, but I will try to make sure to in a day or so! I promise!
Did you know that men learned how to make paper by observing paper wasps? Isn't that amazing!?
"Around A.D. 105 a Chinese court official named Ts'ai Lun observed paper wasps making a next. He experimented with mulberry bark, hemp, and rags with water, mashing various mixtures into a pulp, pressed out the liquid and hanging the thin mats up to dry.
Tree bark or bamboo was a typical source of paper in China. In Europe, linnen and cotton rags were often used.
In both cases, the fibers were beaten in water to make a pulp."
- from Paper

Holey Trees!


Can you find the holes that woodpeckers have made in these old trees? Click on the pictures to enlarge them, then see if you can find where the birds have hidden acorns in some of the holes (in the bottom picture). They are saving food to eat later in the winter! Isn't that the coolest!?

Walnut Halves have Hearts!

I will tell you later how to crack walnuts in half so they look like hearts! Then you can eat the nut meats and make old fashioned toys out of the walnut shells!

When I was a child, we made walnut boats, and they really float!
I also made beds for teenie tiny dolls, with my little girl. Imagine Thumbelina!
Sometime soon, very soon, I will post directions! Really, I will! I always keep my promises!

Okay, here we go. . .the instructions are on my blog for adults, because it involves unsafe methods for children. PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN TO ATTEMPT!

Here, now are some great suggestions for using walnut halves! I made these things with my children, as my Mother did with me!


Craft Suggestions:
Toy Boat - Melt paraffin into the hollow half, stick a toothpick mast in it, slip on a paper sail, and fill the bathroom sink with water for boat races!

Thumbelina Bassinet - Cut scrap fabric to size and glue in hollow half for bed linens. Glue teenie trim around the edges. Make a teensie quilt. Use trims and decor creatively. Think of ways to add buttons and sequins. (Like wiring buttons for wheels) I'm sure you'll know what to do! If you are lucky, you can still find a teenie tiny plastic doll in the babyshower favor section at your florist supply, otherwise you may have to be creative and make a Thumbelina. Polly Pocket might do!

Spiderweb

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Camouflage

In each of these three pictures, there is a bird hidden in the branches. Can you find them? They are very well disguised. This is called camouflage. When birds and animals are almost invisible in their environment, it makes it more difficult for predators to find them.
If you have trouble finding the birds, click on the picture to enlarge it, I'll bet you won't have any trouble finding them then!


Wild Grape Vines




The wild grape vines are growing on and clinging to the trees that grow here. In the second and thrd pictures, see the close up view of the way that the grape vnes support themselves on the oak tree. Can you see how they wrap themselves around the host plant?

Moss, Lichen, Fungii, II




Is there a pair of eyes peeking out of the hole near the top of this tree? Click on the photo to enlarge it and see what you think.

A.
This (A) is a closer view of the fungal growth on the tree that is pictured below (B).

B.

C.
The photo above (C), is also a closer view of the fungal growth that is shown in the picture below (D).
D.

1.
Above is the close-up view of the next two photos. Notice the little orange sprouts.
2.
This set of three photos, are the same fallen tree. Notice the moss on top, and the lichen growth on the bottom in the last two photos.
3.

Seedlings


Grass seeds have found a hospitable environment in which to sprout in this decaying bit of wood, and in the moss, below, growing on a giant fallen tree. Both the moss, and the old wood hold moisture, which the seeds need to grow.

Hairy Woodpecker

According to my bird book, the Hairy Woodpecker is about 9 inches tall (22.5 cm). A male is black and white with a white belly, and black wings with rows of white spots. He has a white stripe down his back, a long black bill and a bright red spot on the back of his head. The female looks the same, without the red spot on her head. The juvenile (young bird) looks like the female, but grayer.
The parents make their nest in a hole in a tree which they carve out. Both parents sit on the eggs. The female sits on them in the daytime, and the male sits by night. These woodpeckers often prefer to make their nests in Aspen trees, which are related to Cottonwood trees. It was in a woodsy area with a lot of Cottonwood and Oak trees that I made this video. It is likely that this fellow is eating insects. These birds are responsible for eating many destructive insects in the forests.
If you would like more information, click here: Hairy Woodpecker, to see more at Wikipedia.
video

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wasp/Hornets Nest



I can't tell you positively what used to live in this nest, but I feel like I can guess Paper Wasps. This nest was GIGANTIC, and scattered all over a hillside. Some animal must have found it. It appeared to come from a hole in the ground that has been torn up, and the bits of nest strewn about.


Click on this picture to enlarge it, and see if you can tell where the soil is disturbed up high, and find all the bits and pieces of wasp nest that are strewn in the grass. For more information from Wikipedia, click on the name, PAPER WASP.

A closer view of the hole, do you see more nests inside?



This photo added Novemner 14, 2008 ~ Science Lady's nice husband climbed the hillside to take a picture inside the nest hole. You will want to enlarge it to see what he saw.

Goldfinch


A goldfinch is a tiny bird. They are usually about 4 1/2 inches long. This is a female, Lesser Goldfinch, according to my book on birds. Although, I can't imagine why such a beautiful little bird would be called a "lesser"!

Goldfinch dining on dried grapes. For more information, click on the link and it will take you to Wikipedia!

Gopher Hole


The prettiest gopher hole I've ever seen! For more information about GOPHERS, click on the name and the link will take you to Wikipedia!

Bird Nests


Aerie
This aerie, or nest is built at the very tip-top of a 75 foot tall tree! An aerie is a nest of an eagle or other bird of prey, built at a high altitude.


This nest is mostly built of mud and grasses, and is very near a river.

Moss, Lichen, Fungii








Praying Mantis Eggs


Praying Mantis Eggs
The proper name is Praying Mantis Ootheca. Wierd, huh? It's very likely that you have seen one attached to your backyard fence. That's where I found this one! For more information, click on the words PRAYING MANTIS, and the link will take you to Wikipedia.

Antlions


Antlion Sandtraps

Antlions are little insects that set up sandtraps near anthills to catch ants, to eat. For more information, click on the word ANTLION, and it will take you to Wikipedia.