Monday, June 28, 2010

Planting His Tomato Plant

Earlier this month a kind couple at church gave us a couple tomato plants they had started. The lady gave my younger son one of the plants to be especially his own and told him that it was a special plant. He was pleased with his special plant, and the other day we planted it. ♥

First-Day-of-Summer Nature Walk 2010

Our family has a tradition of going on a nature walk the first day of each season. The forests and meadows and lake at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA, make it a wonderful place for a nature walk, and we went there this year for our first-day-of-summer nature walk.

We take pictures on these walks and enjoy comparing the pictures from year to year. It's fun to see the similarities and differences. This year the weather had a lot of similarities to the first day of summer last year.

In 2009, technically, in the pacific time zone the first day of summer started on the 20th of June at 10:45pm, but we went for our nature walk the next day on the 21st. According to Accuweather's site, on the 21st of June in 2009 the temperature in Lakewood was 68° F, and according to the Farmers' Almanac website the wind was 5.3 knots (which is 6 miles an hour according to this site).

This year, in 2010, summer started on June 21st. The temperature in Lakewood was a high of 63° according to Accuweather.com. The weather was similar to last year in that there were clouds with some sunshine and the temperature was in the 60's. Differently, though, from last year, the air felt pretty still this year.  The smooth surface of Waghop Lake beautifully reflected the clouds above. 

Below are a few pictures so you can see a little what it looked like on the first day of summer at Fort Steilacoom Park and compare June 21, 2009 to June 21, 2010.

Pictures from the First Day of Summer 2009


 

Pictures from the First Day of Summer 2010
 

 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spit bugs aka Spittlebugs aka Froghoppers

Did you know that a small bug lives in the little spots of "spit" you see on plants around this time of year? It's true!  The nymphs of spit bugs, also called spittlebugs or froghoppers, secrete the liquid (not out of their mouth, but rather out the other end) to hide in to keep themselves safe from predators, to keep from drying out, and to help insulate themselves from temperature extremes.

Today my children and I went to a place in our yard where we had seen lots of those little spots of "spit" to see if we could see for ourselves that there really are little bugs there and to see what they look like.  I thought it was kind of hard to find the tiny bugs, but I was impressed that my two oldest children were very good at finding the bugs inside the froth.  The bugs are kind of cute, in a tiny-bug type of way. ;)

Here are some pictures taken by my older daughter today:

The little bugs cover themselves so well!
A bug my daughter uncovered:

A spit bug crawling on my daughter's finger (do you think
their face looks a little bit like a frog's face?):

A spit bug crawling on my daughter's shoe:
Here are a couple pictures I took of some grass in our yard:
Here are two very short videos my older daughter took of a spit bug crawling around:




Would you like to see how to uncover a spit bug?  Here is a video of my older son helping his younger siblings find a spit bug.  :-)



Here are some pictures I took earlier this month at Fort Steilacoom Park:

On a stinging nettle plant:

On a common snowberry shrub:


Resources
Wikipedia: Froghopper
Spittlebugs You Can Say Spittlebug, Spittle Bug or Froghopper - They're All Hard to Miss by Marie Iannotti, About.com Guide
Book suggestion for ages 9-12: Nature Close-Up - Spittlebugs and Other Sap Tappers

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dragonflies

The other day we saw a couple beautiful dragonflies on our walk. We excitedly followed them, hoping for a picture, but were disappointed when they flew off and were lost to sight.

Happily, the next day a couple of my children were surprised when they spotted two dragonflies in our yard perched on two dead branches in a pine tree. My daughter ran to get me, and, remembering our adventure from the day before and how quickly those dragonflies flew off, at first I assumed they had already flown away. However, she insisted that I would be able to see them, so I grabbed my camera and went to the tree, and there the dragonflies were, sitting there, enjoying being in the tree! There was a spotted one and a smaller orange-y colored one.  Sometimes the spotted one briefly flew off his branch but then returned, so my son deduced that he was probably flying off to grab an insect to eat.

In the picture below is the first dragonfly, the one my son spotted. I think it might be a twelve-spotted skimmer.

And then below that dragonfly, on a lower branch, my daughter spotted the dragonfly in the picture below.  I think it *might* be a flame skimmer, but I'm not sure.

Here you can see both dragonflies in the tree.  Can you find them?

Resources


BugGuide.com: Order Odonata - Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Northwest and Beyond

Dragonflies Photo Gallery by M. Plonsky

Wikipedia: Dragonfly

This page has a diagram of a dragonfly that children can color: Enchanged Learning: Dragonfly

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ookow at Fort Steilacoom Park

On Monday, the first day of summer, our family went for a nature walk at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA.  I took some pictures, and over the next week or so I'll try to post a few pictures every day from our walk.

The first pictures are of the ookow flower.  Isn't that a fun name?  More specifically, these are pictures of the fork-tooth ookow,  or dichelostemma congestumWikipedia says,
Dichelostemma congestum is a species of flowering plant known by the common name ookow or fork-toothed ookow. This perennial wildflower is native to the hills and mountains of western North America. Its tall, thin, naked stem is topped with an inflorescence packed densely with six to 15 flowers, each about a centimeter wide and long, with usually six petal-like lobes in shades of bright purple.
 I think they are especially pretty because they are such a lovely color. 


Don't they have long stems?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Son Found a Four-Leaf Clover!


I would like to announce that my older son found his first four-leaf clover yesterday. He found it in the lovely field of clover up by the Hill Ward memorial at Fort Steilacoom Park, Lakewood, WA. If you, too, want to find a four-leaf clover, that is a great place to look, and I wish you much luck. ;)

Finding a four-leaf clover is a special occasion because they aren't very common. According to Wikipedia, estimates say there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover. Of course if you can find a nice field of clover, you'll have many clover to look through, so don't give up hope. This article says there is even a guy who claims to have found 160,000 clovers.

Clovers can have more than four leaves, too, a lot more. Wikpedia says that "the most ever recorded is twenty-one, a record set in June 2008." So if you are wanting to break a world record, keep that in mind.

Traditionally, finding a four-leaf clover is supposed to bring good luck. Wikipedia says, that "according to legend, each leaf represents something: the first is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck." That's interesting because in the Bible in I Corinthians 13:13 (isn't that funny that it's at "13:13" considering we are talking about luck ;)) it says, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (NIV ©1984). Our family doesn't actually believe in luck, for we believe that God is in control, that He is a good God, and that He wants what is best for us. So that is where our hope lies. But finding a four-leaf clover is sure a fun accomplishment! :D