A Little Laundry Line
Heard it through the Grapevine ...

Everyday Nature: Life's Little Mysteries

Who doesn't love a good mystery? It's human nature isn't it? People are curious and drawn to discover - and thereby learn more about the world around them. Mysteries present a perfect opportunity to do just that - to expand our understanding and change our perceptions. Best of all, mysteries provide plenty of good mental exercise!

And where can mysteries be found, at anytime of year, but perhaps more so in the summer than ever? Why, right in our very own backyards!

My family is always finding little things that we do not understand out there. We strive to recall what we experienced - we take pictures, consult field guides, check the internet - all in an attempt to know more. I've noticed the times my boys pay the most attention to nature study is when there's a mystery to solve. Which is good, because 9 times out of 10 we don't know just what it is we are seeing (or as the case may be, hearing) and really, it's great fun to figure out ... 

Why did six blue jays sit in the spruce tree and coo at each other?

Why is the catbird so antsy this morning, flitting about?

What made that very loud, very odd noise in the woods last night?

Building upon this instinct to wonder and detect, wouldn't it be fun to begin a Nature Detectives Club this summer? This could be done in several ways, depending on level of enthusiasm and number of interested parties. You could do this within your own family; each child seeking out a mystery to share at a family meeting. Or, working together, mother could do this with the children through the week and then make a presentation to father on Saturday.

How about inviting some friends to take part? Assemble a few families together, each one bringing their "evidence" which could be photographs, sketches, or just an experience to describe aloud. Let the children talk it out and share their opinions, offer advice.

Start a notebook just for your detective work. Assemble a kit with magnifying glasses, binoculars, field guides, storage containers and bug inspection devices. You could have your club meet once a month or once a week, or even share things online via email if necessary. Why not publish a newsletter?!

I know some children are hesitant to delve into nature study, but this mystery angle strikes me as a way to appeal to the innate love of a good mystery. I think it might be a particularly boy-friendly activity, as well.

With all that in mind, here are some recent photos we took in our yard, several which have us scratching our heads.

Nature1_2

These wood shavings indicate some drilling - but what drills holes in wood?

Nature3

This situation caught my eye quite early this morning. From the kitchen window I noticed our hanging petunia had spider webbing all about it, between the planter and the deck railing. Going out to investigate, and photograph, I noticed a fine white dust all over the plant and the deck. What on earth?

Looking above the plant I noticed the origin of the debris:

Nature4

Something drilled a hole in a board that sticks out from the corner of the house just above the hanging plant. So the question is - what did it? A wasp or a spider?

Nature8

Here's what we found beneath the picnic table on Monday. We know it's a wasp nest, but what kind?

Nature6

This is some intricate and interesting webbing at the tip of a spruce branch. We only noticed it last evening as the setting sun shone through it. It seems an odd spot for a web; said spider must not realize this area is birdfeeding central.

Nature9

Our first dragonfly of the season - ah, but what kind?

Nature10

And a beetle of some sort. We'll look him up online.

Nature2

A blossoming wildflower - it's all around our back fence, but I have no idea what exactly it is.

Nature7

The rhododendron is opening its lovely blossoms. I was surprised to notice the orange speckling inside the petals as I opened the photo - pollen or markings? Also, one whole portion of the shrub has died off, which is a pity as well as a mystery.

Nature11

A new weed growing in the backyard - tiny yellow flowers with an interesting shape.

Nature12

Last year we had lots of morel mushrooms growing in the shade of our family room addition; this year, just one. We guess it's because it was a drier spring this year.

Nature13

Another pretty and so far unidentified wildflower growing in the yard. Interestingly, it grows here in the sunlight as a pale lavender, but the patch that grows in the shade near the chimney is much darker:

Nature17

Same plant - according to petal and leaf shape. But what is it, and what accounts for the shade variation? Sunlight perhaps?

Nature14

The tip of a fern - gone to seed? Or something else?

Nature15

Forget-me-nots in the shade garden - some with white centers, some with yellow! What's the difference, we wonder?

Nature16

On this leaf are tiny black seeds (?) that are all over the yard. Obviously dropping from some tree - but which one?

Nature5

And last but not least, last night's almost-full moon. Today we'll check on the exact time for fullness - and just what is meant by the term "blue moon" (as this one will be!).

Well, those are the mysteries for now - plenty to keep us pondering, researching, guessing and, ultimately, learning. A great skill set to bring to all aspects of life!

So what little mysteries have you wondering this week? A perfect post for Field Day, perhaps? :) 

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