The Great Outdoors

Since natural living is something we strive for here, one thing that I had hoped to become part of our homeschooling core was extended outdoor time. While at Keeber’s age (almost 5) and with a baby in tow, I wasn’t expecting to do hardcore nature hikes, I did want us spending time outside playing, exploring, just “being”. I’ve been kind of upset with myself because of how little time we have spent outside over the summer. There were no daily morning walks around the neighborhood or gardening in the front or back yard. These might have occurred once a week or once every two weeks. We did strive to do Park Day every week but that was just playing on a playground, which is great but not quite what I had in mind. In the past several weeks though, I’ve felt a lot better about things and have come to some realizations. Okay perhaps not realizations as these things were quite obvious, but mommy guilt tends to make us dismiss the obvious and go straight for self-blame. Or maybe that’s just me… In any case, we have been in a severe drought this summer, and its been HOT! We have had weeklong stretches of triple digit temperatures, and many mornings it was uncomfortable before 10 AM. We would often get outside to water our plants first thing in the morning, but had little time for anything else before it got too hot for us.

In the last several weeks, however, we have had much cooler weather around here, and I am finding that we spend A LOT more time outdoors. We will spend most of a Saturday in our backyard doing yard work and other projects. Keeber and I spend much of our mornings watching the birds from our back window – we have set up a bird area with feeders, shallow water baths, and an as yet unoccupied birdhouse that she painted. Often when we are home, she will head out back with the dogs to just explore the yard, dig in the garden beds, make mud and collect acorns or rocks. She loves playing in the dirt! The extended outdoor time we have had recently has really put my mind at ease over whether we were getting the outdoor experience I had desired. I came to realize that with the heat here in south Texas, I might have to accept that summer is not our season for lots of outdoor activities. We can get some things done in the morning, but (especially) with a baby, our window for outdoor pursuits is quite limited in the hottest part of the summer.

I think that I will take advantage of our extended seasons here – it warms up here earlier so our spring really gets a head start, and stays warmer (but not too warm!) longer. Even now in early November the weather is just amazing. Sixties and seventies during the day but still crisp fall weather at night. Today we sat on our front porch and enjoyed some much-needed rain. She drew with chalk on the front porch and picked some of our flowers (!). This is more like what I had envisioned for us. She is my rough and tumble, dirt-loving princess and it’s WONDERFUL!

A girl, her dogs, and her shovel. She LOVES to just go outside and dig! We got her child-sized gardening tools (rather than plastic toy versions) and she loves them!

Keeber and one of our dogs harrassing a beetle. Actually I think it was the dog who was doing the harrassing, she was just enthralled because it was a giant black and white beetle that she had never seen before. She is currently facinated with dung beetles…

Our resident squirrel. We are getting to know our “usual” visitors and this little guy has been around since we first moved here in the spring. He LOVES to taunt our dog from the power lines! We have been watching him over the last week or so kick his food foraging into high gear.

Part of our bird area set up outside our back window. We have a simple feeder with Songbird feed that the birds love. Not pictured are the tube feeder with thistle, which the birds really haven’t taken an interest in yet, and my daughter’s birdhouse. We are feeding A LOT of birds! This area is under our live oaks, and next to our fence, which is right next to our neighbors small trees. This makes this little nook we set up PERFECT for the birds because they congregate in the neighbor’s small trees, the branches of the live oaks (pictured) and on the fence. We usually have twenty or so House Sparrows, ten or more mourning doves, two tufted titmice, and four cardinals at our feeders. We also get a gang of grackles in our yard. We are getting to know our birds! They now love to explore the entire yard. We also have an identical feeder in our frontyard. We will be taking part in Project Feederwatch this year (more about this in another post…).

Keeber doing leaf prints at Growing Up Wild. I attended a workshop on a wonderful curriculum called Growing Up Wild when I first moved here, and several of the moms in our homeschool group did as well. We are getting together monthly and working through the activities in the (very extensive) curriculum guide. This month we did LEAVES! I’ll be doing an in-depth post about Growing Up Wild soon, as we have really had a great time with it!

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