Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our Favorite Trees

As I mentioned last week, my family and I have a big move ahead of us and we are getting a bit sentimental about leaving this area.  While we are very excited about the opportunity to move west, it is a bit bittersweet as big moves tend to be.  We've made some amazing friends, especially over the last couple of years as our girls have entered school.  We also have an idyllic piece of property - one in which we feel completely comfortable letting the kids and dog roam and explore the many natural treasures found on it.  (Okay, so sometimes I'm not so happy with the "treasures" that the dog finds...)

This past weekend, my husband had the idea of documenting our favorite trees on the property.  So, Sunday afternoon we went on a ramble and each of us picked out favorite tree and took pictures with it.  We also had to share why it was our favorite tree - I thought the girls' answers would be a fun thing to look back on in the future.  As this blog is as much a place for me to document some of our family's activities as well as a place to share fun science things to do, I thought I would share.

If you want to do this, its helpful to have a way to identify the trees.  There are several good pocket guides (I like any of the Peterson ones) as well as apps (such as from the National Audubon Society).  I had a few other resources listed in our seed hunt activity from last fall and recently found the Tree Leaf Key from which does a pretty good job describing the characteristics of the different leaves.  Another thing you can do is visit a local arboretum, park or college campus that has identified and labelled many of the trees for you.  It would be great fun to document your child in front of their favorite tree each year to see how each has grown over the years.

Leaf Rubbings
We also collected some of the fallen leaves from each of the trees and later in the week made some leaf rubbings.  We had a little experiment with the best way to do the rubbing because Sydney wanted to use colored pencils, Maya wanted to color over it with a crayon and I suggested using the crayon on its side.  We also tried different colors to see which came out more clearly and tried both sides of the leaf.  The verdict?  As most of you already know, crayons on their side, darker colors and the back side of the leaf.

Our Favorite Trees
Maya's favorite tree is the big oak at the bottom of our driveway.  She loves collecting the leaves and acorns from it when we walk to get the mail every day.  The solid, old oak is actually a pretty appropriate choice given her personality, "it's HUGE!".

Sydney's favorite tree is the "moon tree" in one of the forested areas on our property.  As you can see from the picture, she loves to "ride the moon".  There were very, very few leaves left on it and we are guessing it is either a pear or an elm but I may have to phone a friend in on this one.  (Amy, are you reading this?)

The girls decided that Gabby's favorite is another oak, this one down in the valley that has a path mowed around it.  Classic strategy here - they wanted to pick a different tree as their own but love to run around this oak, so assigned it to Gabby.

My favorite is a Juneberry by the front entrance.  When I was younger, I used to always joke that I wanted a flowering tree right by my front door.  Lo and behold, the first spring after we moved in the tree burst into beautiful white blooms and I was so excited about it.  (It's the little things, people.)  It is also a native to the region and the birds love it - both for the berries and as a place to build nests.

Michael's favorite is a beautiful sugar maple that is just beyond the edge of our "lawn".  (We also call it our "mixed greens".)  We debated several times over the years whether we should take it down as its somewhat dwarfing a japanese maple that is in front of it and blocking the view down the valley but we just couldn't do it.  I'm glad.

And, Dante's favorite tree?  Yup, we picked one for him.  A gnarly old apple tree in the woods.  In the years when it bears fruit (most), we would always grab a couple of the little, pitted apples from it as we walked by.  He'd danced around us as we walked up to the area of long grass until we tossed the apple as far as we could and then he'd rocket after it.  He would find it in the long grass every time.  Every.  Time.

Eventually, I'd like to compile all this into a photo book to remind the girls of the beauty at the home where they were born.  Until then, I'll be happy that I wrote this even though its a bit of a departure from the usual Momma Owl stuff.  I'll be more "science-y" next week.  I promise.

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