The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran three years ago, but I find it so important I am running it again.  I will continue to run it as long as these beautiful creatures continue to decline. Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.      monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world. 90% of the milkweed they depend on is gone from roadsides and fields. Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. 

monarch caterpillar

Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org

Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers

IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOME MILKWEED SEEDS TO START YOUR OWN BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION AND I WILL MAIL YOU SOME WHEN THEY ARE AVAILABLE IN THE FALL.

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.

On July 20, 2019, it will be 50 years since man first stepped onto the lunar surface of the moon. I was in high school back then and, like everyone else, watched the event unfold on television. There are all kinds of celebrations taking place to commemorate the occasion. You and your kids can be part of it by learning some interesting facts about the APOLLO 11  mission and sharing some moon-themed books.

Astronauts NEIL ARMSTRONG, BUZZ ALDRIN, and MICHAEL COLLINS were the team that launched from earth in Apollo 11 on July 16, and landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.  Apollo 11 traveled at 24,000 miles per hour. Their suits were made of white, nonflammable Teflon fiberglass. Collins stayed in the Command Module Columbia while Aldrin and Armstrong rode the Lunar Module Eagle onto the moon’s surface. From here, they stepped out to make their historic moon walk. They spent 21 hours and 36 minutes exploring the moon’s surface.

moon

It was the first time anyone had ever seen the EARTH from the moon and the photos taken of  the Big Blue Marble are now a common image.

The distance traveled? 953,054 miles.

500 to 600 million people (one fifth of the world’s population) watched the moonwalk on TV or listened via live radio.

TOY STORY character  BUZZ LIGHTYEAR is named after Buzz Aldrin. 

The Apollo space program was responsible  for the introduction of freeze-dried food, Velcro, memory foam, water filters, scratch-resistant coating for eyeglasses.

Want to know what the Apollo 11 astronauts ate on their 8 day trip? They had 70 different dehydrated foods to choose from including spaghetti and meatballs. The first meal eaten on the moon included bacon squares, peaches, sugar-cookie cubes, pineapple grapefruit juice, and coffee.

Here are some picture books that feature the Moon:

Owl Moon       The Moon Might Be Milk    Goodnight Moon  Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me    If You Decide To Go To The Moon

I Love You, Michael Collins by [Baratz-Logsted, Lauren]

Become a Naturalist

Ah Spring! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone.

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

TallTreesLittleKids

Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

Every May, the barn swallows return to my farm.  While I do have a barn, I have about ten nests attached to my house.  These mud constructed homes for baby birds are found on top of ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, built in to the corners where walls meet, and in one location, attached to the siding. These active, cheerful birds call my house, home.

Chattering and darting every which way through the summer air, barn swallows are identified by their blue metallic back feathers, their cream to reddish underbelly, and their most striking field mark is their forked tail.  Barn swallows catch and eat insects on the fly. They also drink on the fly while skimming low over a marsh or pond.  They typically eat moths, flies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Swallows are found throughout the world, but barn swallows are most common.  They are usually found in open habitats, farm fields, beaches, and over water.

Barn swallows are migratory birds leaving my property in late September and returning in April. To me, they indicate that spring weather is close to follow.

It is the male barn swallow that typically arrives at the previous year’s breeding location. The swallows build cup shaped nests using mud as the glue while attaching feathers, horsehair, grass, and other found materials.  Reusing nests year after year, the swallows apply a new mud covering. Both male and females are stern defenders of their nest and will “mob” intruders like cats, hawks, or people.

In North America, it has been observed that barn swallows will sometimes build nests on structures underneath an osprey nest.  The swallows receive protection from the fish-eating osprey (they don’t eat swallows) and the swallows protect the osprey nest from intruders with their warning chirps.

Barn swallows are very often found in backyards but do not eat at backyard bird feeders.  It may be possible to attract them by putting up manmade nest cups long before the birds’ migration north.  A supply of mud is also helpful.  It is nice to have a healthy colony of swallows living nearby as they help in keeping the insect population down.  Anything that eats mosquitoes is a win on my farm.

Photo 1: This is the barn swallow collecting nest building or rebuilding supplies

barnswallow 1

Photo 2: you can see the mud constructed nest with babies and the nest placement on a fan blade.

barnswallow 2

Photo 3: In this photo, you can see the babies being fed by a parent thanks to the clearly identifiable forked tail.

swallow 3

“All of the photos were taken from a respectable distance, some from inside my home, with a high zoom lens.”

To learn more about these fascinating birds visit:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_swallow

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barn-swallow

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Hirundo_rustica/

 

 

 

 


 

 

Want to Be An Archeologist? Get Digging at This Camp!

If you and your family are looking for something different and hands-on, why not try a trip to CROW CANYON ARCHEOLOGICAL CENTER. This 170 acre campus is located in Cortez, Colorado, near the Mesa Verde National Park.  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm  Travel with Crow Canyon in the Southwest and beyond.

For FREE, you can take a one hour tour to explore an archeology lad and curation room.  Or, for a fee, you can SPEND A DAY visiting an active excavation site that was once the home of the ancient PUEBLO people.

http://www.crowcanyon.org    Archaeology for Teens

Looking For A Unique Family Adventure? Try Space Camp.

Family Space Camp, at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has a program the allows wanna-be astronauts of ALL AGES to simulate missions to the International Space Station. Families can construct and launch model rockets, explore the night sky with telescopes, and much more   file000347090881

For more information and where to sign up visit:  http://www.spacecamp.com

Laurie Wallmark Presents: STEM books with Curriculum Guides for Teachers.

Looking for great STEM books to use in the classroom?  Check out these gems from Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine are picture book biographies of computer science pioneers. These book and the associated teacher guide activities are appropriate for grades K-5.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017) by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu

 

 

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Grace%20Hopper%20guide.pdf

 

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Ada%20Lovelace%20guide.pdf

 

www.lauriewallmark.com

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards including Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book. Her latest picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and is on several public library’s best of lists. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.