I’m back after a round with Covid.

Hello again! Sorry I fell off the map there for a while, but my husband and I came down with Covid the same day. UGH! While we didn’t get seriously sick like some folks have, we were definitely miserable and were ready for it to go away long before it did. We are still feeling the crazy tired stuff but slowly improving! I’m hoping to be back in the saddle now here on the blog.

Yesterday was our last day of quarantine and we both had cabin fever. Time to get out of the house while still keeping our distance from people. We ordered “curbside to go” food from a local restaurant, drove through a local coffee shop drive through for some yummy drinks and then went looking at some of our favorite nature spots in our Jeep. Oh yes, Rusty, our Labrador Retriever came along. 🙂 Believe me, he had cabin fever too! LOL

Clear Fork Reservoir is not far from our house so that was our first stop. There is a small Marina there and a boat ramp. We were surprised to actually see a couple of people out in a boat. The trees are, of course, without their leaves, so it wasn’t as pretty as it is in the spring and summer, but the fresh air felt amazing!

Part of the reservoir water is thawed now, but there was still some ice in places. We got a chuckle out of watching some birds running around on the ice. We also dreamed about when the weather will be warm enough again to take our boat out for a spin. 😉

Knox Lake is not far from us either and so we spent a little time driving around that area and finding the different boat ramps. Then we googled where the Knox Lake dam is because its a little tricky to find. (Aaaand Google was wrong so that made it even more interesting!) But we were eventually successful!

There isn’t much to DO at the dam, but again, it was just nice to feel some fresh air and get out of the house for a bit.

We find it interesting to explore the area we live in and almost always find something we haven’t seen before. So even if you need to stay in your vehicle like we did, you can find something to explore. 🙂

Can You Spy Our Little Friends?

Just for fun today, I have 4 pictures for you to look at and see if you can spot a little animal friend or friends. The first one is the easiest one…here we go!

#1.) 5 little babies are in this picture. Can you find them all? (You can see part of a 6th one too.) (Baby chicks)

2.) Can you spot 1 little brown friend in this picture? I almost stepped on him before I saw him! (Baby toad)

#3.) This little yellow, white and black striped friend was crawling on one of my flowers. (Monarch butterfly caterpillar)

#4.) And now the tiniest of all our friends today! Can you spot him? He’s a smaller version of picture #3. (Monarch butterfly caterpillar)

Wasn’t that fun? Keep your eyes open when you are outside because you never know what little friend you might see! 🙂

From Chrysalis to Butterfly!

Hello and welcome to another adventure in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly! Yesterday we looked at how the Monarch caterpillar changes into its chrysalis. Today we’ll see what happens when it’s time for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. (Hang on until the end of this post for a video!) So just to remind you, here’s what the Monarch butterfly’s chrysalis looks like.

When the time for the butterfly to emerge is getting close, the chrysalis will start to turn a darker color and look black. Notice in this picture that one chrysalis looks green but the one in the background is black.

Here is a closer look.

Did you notice that you can see the butterfly’s wing inside the chrysalis? My pictures aren’t super clear because they are taken looking through the plastic container, but here is a picture taken with a flashlight shining on the chrysalis.

Whoa!! How cool is that?! The chrysalis is now very thin and you can see the butterfly! Next, the chrysalis starts to slowly open. Can you see along the left hand side that the chrysalis is splitting open?

Then the split becomes a little wider. The butterfly is hanging upside down right now and you can start to see its head coming out first.

The butterfly is dropping down a little lower now. You can start to see its legs that are folded up close to its head.

It’s now beginning to slide out of the chrysalis!

Sliding farther out…almost there! The chrysalis will stay attached to the top of the container as the butterfly slides down and out of it.

And it’s out! Look how big it’s body looks right now and how small and folded up it’s wings are.

The butterfly grabs a hold of the empty chrysalis and it will hang right side up now.

As the butterfly hangs on the empty chrysalis, it will pump fluid from its abdomen into its wings and the wings will begin to expand and the body will become smaller. This next picture was taken 5 minutes after the butterfly emerged or eclosed. Its wings are still wrinkled looking.

Then 10 minutes…it’s wings are looking straighter.

And then here is 15 minutes after emerging.

It takes a couple of hours for the butterfly to finish this process and for it’s wings to expand and dry off. They don’t need to eat right away so it’s good to give them time to dry off and to begin to flex their wings. After a few hours have passed, I carefully open the container and put my hand close to the butterfly and they usually climb onto my finger. And then it’s time to set them free outside.

Here is a video I took of the process of the butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis. It is so amazing to watch this happen!

It has been such a rewarding experience for me to help these beautiful creatures along in their transformation from a tiny little egg into an amazing gorgeous butterfly! This is my fourth year of raising and releasing Monarchs and I hope I can continue to do so for many years to come! I hope you have enjoyed coming along with me on this journey! 🙂

It’s That Time of Year Again! Raising Monarch Butterflies!

Yep, it’s begun again! In case you haven’t followed me long enough to know what I’m talking about, every summer I raise Monarch butterflies and release them back into the wild. The Monarch butterfly population had dwindled down drastically, but over the last couple of years the population has increased a LOT! Which is so exciting!! Many people are doing their part to grow plants that the Monarch’s feed on. Monarch caterpillars will only eat Milkweed plants. I look for the Monarch eggs or caterpillars and raise them in a safe place away from many of the predators that will destroy them. Here’s the start of my setup this year!

Last Sunday morning, I found 6 caterpillars and put them into their “hotels”. 😉 Some children were here that day and they discovered 5 more! And we were off and running! 🙂

I don’t put more than 4 caterpillars in one container at any given time. And I try to put the same sized caterpillars together.

Today I found 1 more caterpillar and he/she is still very tiny! Can you find him/her in the next 2 pictures?

Isn’t that pretty neat?! I won’t share all the steps today that the caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly, but for now I’ll just say eventually they form a chrysalis. They stay in the chrysalis for a while and then the Monarch butterfly emerges. It’s truly magical! (I’ll share more details in another post.) Here is a picture of 4 of this year’s caterpillars that have gone into their chrysalis now:

For some reason, it seems they all wanted to be in the same corner of their hotel! LOL Two of them are actually touching, which I’ve never had happen before. Now the wait is on till it’s time for the butterfly to put in an appearance! I really enjoy raising Monarchs each summer! 🙂 It’s a great experience to share with your kids!

Crafting an Easy Octopus

Let’s talk about octopus today and then I’ll show you how to make one with a few craft supplies. I bet you know quite a bit about an octopus already. Like do you know how many “arms” an octopus has? Yes, eight! Wow, do you think it would be cool to have 8 arms?! Is the body of an octopus soft or hard? It’s soft, so soft in fact that they can alter their shape so that they can squeeze through small spaces. How many eyes does an octopus have? It has 2 just like we do and they have excellent eyesight! Octopus are actually quite intelligent too. How do octopus protect themselves from predators? One way is to camouflage themselves into their surroundings so its hard for their enemy to see them. Another way is by expelling “ink” which is a dark colored substance and that gives them some time to swim quickly away. Did you know that when an octopus swims, it’s “arms” extend behind them? So, what do you think? Are octopus pretty cool? I think so too! Now let’s craft an octopus! 🙂

You will need 2 pipe cleaners (or chenille stems), 1 pom-pom, 2 wiggly eyes, a pair of wire cutters or strong scissors and some glue.

To begin, use the wire cutters to cut the 2 pipe cleaners in half so you have 4 pieces.

Arrange the pipe cleaners into a star pattern like in the picture below.

Wrap 1 of the pipe cleaners once around the group to hold them all together.

Curl each end of the pipe cleaners up a little bit for the octopus’s arms.

Put some glue in the center of the pipe cleaners…

…and place the pom-pom in the center. Push it firmly down into the glue and hold it in place for a few seconds.

Glue the 2 wiggly eyes to the pom-pom and your octopus is complete!

Find a fun place to display your octopus. Hmm, do you suppose an octopus would be good at playing the piano since it has so many arms? Haha! Yes, we are just being silly now but it’s fun to think about an octopus playing a piano! 😉

I hope you had fun learning a few facts about octopus and that you will have fun making your own! 🙂

Looking For Hints of Spring!

It’s only 10 more days until the official first day of Spring!! Are you getting excited? Whoohoo, I am! It’s going to feel like winter and it’s supposed to snow this weekend, but Spring is really just around the corner! It’s time to take our annual walk around outside (bundle up if it’s cold where you are!) and look for hints of Spring. Here’s a few that I found today!

Look at the trees. Are they starting to get buds on them?

Violas are some pretty dainty, but really tough flowers and I found one blooming today!

The daffodil flowers are pushing their way up through the ground.

I can’t remember which flower this is at the moment, but, hey, it’s green and it’s growing! 🙂

This may look like a pile of old dried up leaves but look closely and you can see some green leaves growing down inside there! Can you spot any?

Some of our favorite birds are showing up at the bird feeders again! I counted 15 different kinds of birds here the other day. 🙂

Our dog, Rusty, found this chipmunk hole today. He’s on the lookout now for the occupants of that hole. 😉

Now it’s your turn! What signs of Spring can you find outside close to where you live? If you get some snow this week or weekend, don’t get discouraged because Spring is almost here!! 🙂

Do Pine Trees Have Seeds?

I accidentally discovered something cool about pine trees and I thought you might find it interesting too. We have a very large pine tree in our yard.

I really like the shape of the pine cones that grow on this tree. So the other day I picked 2 off the tree and brought them inside to dry. I planned to paint them and use them for decorations.

I noticed that the pine cones were starting to open up as they dried.

Here is a picture of a dried pine cone and one that I just pulled off the tree today. Can you tell the difference?

This morning when I picked up the 2 dried pine cones, guess what fell out?

Yep, seeds! 😃 Pretty cool, isn’t it? If you are like me, you might be wondering if those seeds can be planted and grow into pine trees? Well, from what I read online the answer is maybe. The seeds have to go through a process of being frozen for about 3 months and then they can be planted. These seeds have been outside all winter so they might grow. I just might plant a few and see what happens! 😉 Most of the time when you find a pine cone laying on the ground, it has already released its seeds. So now you know where pine tree seeds come from!

A Fall Walk in Nature

Well, Fall (or Autumn) is officially upon us! Fall can be such a beautiful time of year. Days and nights are often cooler and we can see things changing outside as our warm days of summer transition to Fall. Now is a great time to take a walk outside and see what things you can find. Here are a few things we found on our walk…

#1.) Toadstools. It’s always fun to imagine fairies or tiny creatures hiding under a toadstool in the rain.

#2.) Tiny wildflowers growing in the grass.

#3.) A lone dandelion…maybe the last one for this year.

#4.) A pile of brown dried leaves

#5.) Beautiful colored leaves

And the trees that still have the colorful leaves on them.

Maybe you will find a weird looking tree like this one with half of it having colorful leaves and half of the leaves that are still green.

#6.) And then there’s the bugs…like a grasshopper

#7.) A katydid

#8.) Or some creepy looking bugs…maybe a stink bug.

#9.) Plants whose flowers have died now

#10.) And plants that are still blooming with beautiful flowers!

#11.) Milkweed plants that are now spreading their seeds for next years plants.

You may find different things in nature than we found. Maybe some caterpillars or some pine cones, an interesting bird or another kind of bug. Whatever you find, I hope you will spend some time out enjoying nature this Fall! 🙂

A Beautiful Place to Vacation

Sorry for fewer posts this week but we had the nicest family vacation in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. If you’ve never been there, you should definitely add it to your bucket list. We love the beaches!

There is so much to do and see that a week is barely enough time to scratch the surface. Like fishing…even though we didn’t catch anything big enough to keep.

Some people caught things they wished they hadn’t caught!

There are lighthouses to see.

Sand to play in…sand turtles to make.

Footprints to leave behind…even if only for a few seconds before they are washed out to the ocean.

An aquarium to visit…

And you must beware of shark attacks in the local gift shops! 😉

We had some stormy weather during our week but still had some beautiful relaxing days to spend with some of our family. The time always goes by so quickly and then it’s time to go home. But we love our time spent in the OBX! 🥰

Fun Things to Do at the Beach

Going to the beach is always so much fun! (If you like sun, sand and water, of course!) But sometimes the kids get “bored” while the adults would still like to have some time to relax. Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone enjoying your day away.

Look for wildlife in the area. They can be quite entertaining. 🙂 Birds…

Depending on what type of beach you go to, you might be able to find some little crabs.

And you can make a nice little bunker for a crab. Haha!

Of course, building sand castles is always fun.

Depending on where you are, fishing might be permitted.

Drawing in the sand is another option. We had some creative artists. 😉

And there is always burying yourself in the sand. Lol

And collecting treasures of pretty shells and stones.

It can be fun seeing what other people catch while fishing. 😳😱

And watching the moon rise in the evening can be a great way to end a wonderful day at the beach. ☺️