Nature Studies, Backyard, Gardening, Vacations

What's In A Name?

Today I spent an entirely exhausting but wonderfully fulfilling day in the gardens. Michelle's family came over to "Help Gammy". Seven year old Bug learned to prune a small crab apple tree. Five year old Fairy showed her might as she hauled bags of mulch. And three year old Pixie impressed us all as she shoveled pea gravel into the wheelbarrow with "Othy". (Othy... their name for Tim, as in Timothy... Tim Othy... Othy. Cute, right?) Anyway... At one point Fairy came over and asked, "What's that plant called?" Over the winter some of the plant markers got shifted or the growing spring plants covered our painted rocks that bear their names. Together we went through the garden we were working on to make sure all the name rocks were visible and by the correct plant. By each plant, Fairy used her budding reading skills to try to decipher the names. There were lovely names like Foam Flower, Coral Bells, and Porcupine Grass. For the rest of the day, each time she passed a plant, she'd look at the rock and proudly say the plant's name. It reminded of this blog I had written for One Generation to Another May 20, 2008. I hope you enjoy it!  

Tim: (Getting into the car after popping into Kroger to pick up some milk.) Peggy said there are tornado warnings.

Me: (More perplexed by the name Peggy then the impeding doom, I rack my brain trying to figure out who Peggy is. Coming up blank…) Who the heck is Peggy?

Tim: The cashier.

Me: How do you know her?

Tim: I just told you she was the check out clerk.

Me: Do you know her from somewhere else?

Tim: No.

Me: Then how do you know her name?

Tim: It was on her badge.

Me: Then why use her name like it means something to me?

Tim: Because it’s her name.

Me: You’re very odd.

This gives you some kind of understanding of the riveting conversions Tim and I have! Having said that…to me a name is personal…the use of one’s name implies intimacy. To Tim it simply conveys friendliness. Truth be told, people respond surprisingly well to him. I’m the kind of person whose dander flies with the first sign of confrontation. Tim becomes all smiles…and uses people’s names. Actually, this is a tried and true marketing strategy. Next time you get a telemarketing phone call notice how they utilize your name thus suggesting friendship and closeness. It’s much harder to turn down “Bob” when he keeps calling you “Kathy” than a nameless voice calling you ma’am or sir. (Unless, of course, your name isn’t Kathy!)

Anyway, names are powerful and the use of names does provide us with a sense of ownership, intimacy and responsibility. Right now I’m reading a very interesting book titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. I’m only a quarter of the way into the book but being a true believer that the average American child does not spend nearly enough “exploratory” time outside, I found the phrase Nature-Deficit Disorder to be intriguing. The author shares a conversation with naturalist and educator Elaine Brooks. She believes that people are unlikely to value things they cannot name. “One of my students told me that every time she learns the name of a plant, she feels as if she is meeting someone new. Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it.”

If we want our children to become intimately involved with their environment, the best way to do that is to “properly” introduce them to nature. Start in your backyard. Instead of talking about “the birds” use their names. (If you don’t know them get yourself a backyard bird book like Backyard Birds (Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists) by Jonathan Latimer or Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take-Along Guides) by Mel Boring. Start a bird watching journal. What about the trees and plants in your yard? What insects populate your yard? Helping your children discover the diversity in their own yard and learning to identify many of them by name might be the single greatest thing you can do to help your child become ecologically responsible. Names lead to intimacy…intimacy leads to caring…caring leads to action.

The other day we were at The Metro Park. We are so lucky to have this 5,000 acre park just 4 miles from the house. We went to see the egrets nesting and after hiking down to the long expansion bridge on one of the lakes, we pulled out our binoculars and watched the beautiful birds. I was with my daughter and her children. Along with the egrets we saw blue herons, a nesting swan, a northern water snake, a family of snapping turtles sunning on a log, and scores of red winged blackbirds. I enjoyed listening to my 5 year old grandson talk about his surroundings. He kept asking for the name of everything he saw. He already knows most of the local birds by name but his thirst for information is infinite. While listening to him it was apparent that he felt a sense of intimacy with the creatures and plants around him…you might say he’s becoming one with nature. To him nature is not something foreign “out there”. It is something personal, that he is involved with, and knows by name!

Over the years we have often gone one step further and have actually give proper names to things. My daughter named the weeping cherry she gave me one Mother’s Day, Julie. The boys named the matching dogwoods Barkley and Bob. My daughter's children name their squirrels. Now, I’m willing to bet the farm that they aren’t always identifying the same squirrel…but it doesn’t matter! What matters is they feel a connection to the animals in their backyard!

We take the time to get to know the names of a people we deal with regularly. We learn the name of streets we frequent. We remember the names of delicious dishes at favorite restaurants, and we can list by name the television shows we watch every week. Learning names makes is easier to talk about things accurately. It also suggests a level of involvement. So, the next time you’re in the great outdoors with your children, take the time to meet some new friends…friends you can call by name!

For the Birds!

Sugar Bush

It's March... and around here that means it is SUGARING TIME!!! We are in the middle of perfect sugaring weather... freezing at night but a beautiful 45 or so during the day. We took our first trip to the Sugar Bush on Sunday and then we came home (actually went to Gammy's) and made our own Maple Sugar Candy (click here to check out this yummy treat).

Mmmm... there is nothing quite like the smell of a sugar shack. Sweet sap boiling, firewood smoldering, fresh earth exposed (ie lovely March mud). Bug would spend all day peering into the sap pans if he could.

Did you know that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup? You can collect 6-10 gallons of sap per Sugar Maple tree during sugaring season. To learn more about sugaring check out these great books Grandpa's Sugar Bush and Sugaring Time. Grandpa's Sugar Bush is a lovely introduction for the younger crowd and reading Sugaring Time is the next best thing to being able to help out at a Sugar Shack.

The Farm we visit sets up a Native American Sugaring Camp display for the kids... the kids favorite part... squishing through the six inch deep mud. ;)

And A Happy New Year!


The last of our children headed for home today, leaving Tim and I alone for the first time in almost 2 weeks. What a wonderful time we all had. And with the exception of a couple of broken glass Christmas ornaments, resulting from Bug's new bow and arrows, the house remains intact. (BTW... I would like to point out that Bug did not break the ornaments... his rowdy Uncles can take full credit for the destruction!)

So, here I sit, sorting through the Christmas photos, smiling at the mayhem, marveling at how tired I usually looked ;) but feeling extremely blessed. I am hopefully that everyone had a marvelous time with their loved ones.

I am taking the next couple of days to put the house back in order and do some serious snuggling with Tim. Michelle and I will be back on Monday, January 4, with lots of New Projects for the New Year!

I wish you much health, happiness and good fortune, and may we all delight in the smallest of blessings this coming year!
 

Cattail Applique Block - Or how to Avoid Pre-mature Christmasing!


I don't know about anyone else, but this time of year poses a real problem for me. Every fiber of my being wants to embrace Christmas. I want to listen to Dean Martin singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and on that same note, lame as it is, I want to watch Will Ferrell's "Elf". I want to pack away all my Thanksgiving decorations with the Halloween ones, and start sneaking out stars and angels, evergreens and mangers. I want the absolutely joy instilling, peace invoking feeling of the Christmas season!

But, I stop myself. Although the Christmas Season officially opens for me when the last vestiges of our Annual Pumpkin Carving Party are  packed away, I've learned from experience, that if I pull out Christmas too soon, including the music, the Holiday itself can feel anti-climatic. Also, if not EVERYONE in your family has the same obsession with Christmas, they are apt to mutiny, and throw you, and all the Christmas trimmings overboard before Thanksgiving!

So, I've learned to bide my time. One of the ways to combat my impulses, is to throw in at least a couple more Thanksgiving and autumn crafts during the month of November. They can't be anything too big, because I AM crafting for Christmas, but it does help keep me in the moment. To that end, I'd like to share an applique block that I totally and completely love! Our Cattail Applique Block is more detailed than many of our other applique blocks, but it is fun to make and absolutely beautiful when completed. As always, it was made to fit a 6" x 6" block, but can be reduced or enlarged to meet your needs. The pattern for the Cattails Applique Block can be found HERE or with our FREE Applique Patterns. Enjoy... and if Christmas is tugging at your heartstrings, focus on Giving Thanks for the next few weeks!

NOTE: The stitch on the cattail stem is called a whipped stem stitch. It is not in our glossary yet but to make one... embroider a stem stitch first using 6 strands of floss. When you are done, whip stitch over the stem stitch, using 6 strands of floss, without going through the fabric below. Basically, you are wrapping the stem stitch. Michelle will include this stitch in our glossary later!

Note about patterns: We are sharing patterns we have designed and made for our own children, families and friends. Every effort is made to share information in a clear and accurate manner. We offer preemptive apologies for any mistakes that may be made. Please let us know via comments or emails if you stumble upon a mistake or if you stumble upon a mistake or if you encounter directions that leave you scratching your head! We will rectify the situation as soon as humanly possible!

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