Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Science School

   I am going to a wreath making party tonight.  It's become an annual tradition and so the Saturday after Thanksgiving we all traipse into our woods looking for some fresh greenery for me to bring with me to my wreath making party.  It's a great, festive, fun night out with just us ladies and my husband is great enough to watch the kids and help me cut down some boughs every year.  We then pile all the cut branches and supplies into his truck and he drops them off at the party for me to use later.  It's become a real tradition in our family and not usually something I even think about.  But today as we were walking through the snowy, cold New England woods I was struck by how much science we were doing as we were walking, talking, and observing. 
   We found so many animal tracks in the snow.  We have just an inch or so of snow, enough for a nice coverage of the ground without it being so deep that the tracks were buried or hard to find.  We saw turkey tracks, deer tracks, and what Alec believed to be fox prints.  My husband thought they might be raccoon prints instead and Alec told us that the "fingers" weren't long enough and that raccoons have long fingers more like a human hand but skinnier and with claws on the ends.  He pointed out that the fox prints were more like a small dog, small coyote, or small wolf but since they were so small and not very deep in the snow they had to be a foxes.  They had great fun following the tracks in the snow to see where they led and we found a nice big tree with lots of leaves under it that we believe is probably the home to the deer.  We looked up fox prints and raccoon prints on the computer once we got home and we all conceded that Alec was right and we most likely saw fox prints. 
     My husband was teaching us a bit about the different kinds of trees.  He pointed out pine trees, red cedar trees (which he encouraged the boys to smell a piece of), spruce trees and even maple trees.  Alec found a stick with what looked like frozen/ crystalized sap on it that he wanted to bring home. We thought it was a maple branch and probably maple sap.  We talked about how much sap  you need to make even just a little bit of syrup and reminded the boys about our trip to the maple sugar house.
   Once home Alec really wanted to try and melt all the sap together and then re-freeze it. He used a small knife to scrape all the sap off the branch and set it near our woodstove to melt.  He told me at lunch that he was pretty sure it was not sap at all.  The blob (as he calls it) did not melt at all but started to dry out and shrivel up.  He's beginning to think it's some sort of fungus or mushroom. 
 

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