Kathy: Hello, everyone. We are back again today with Cindy West of Our Journey Westward talking about five things we can study in nature this spring.
Last week we talked about bugs and birds and flowers. We talked about where to find them, what to do when we see them, and some things you can do to instill an excitement for nature study in the process. If you miss that episode, I encourage you to backtrack and listen to episode number nine for today’s discussion is a continuation of last week. That being said, let’s return to my interview with Cindy West of Our Journey Westward.
Kathy: Okay. So, let’s move on to those grasses that are coming out. What can we observe about grasses?
Grasses to Mushrooms to Study in Nature This Spring
Cindy: Grasses seem really boring until you actually get down and start looking at them. So, in some areas you will have grasses that are…mostly the same grass growing in the same place and other areas, you will have multiple grasses, and that’s only seen by close observation.
So I bet a lot of you have heard about the concept of the one small square. If you take that concept of just looking at a square area, um, you know, a foot square. Three foot square. Doesn’t really matter how big you make it. And you really get down and start observing. You’re going to start seeing color variations, height, variations, and variations in grass styles.
If you can perhaps get to an area where there is a farm and grasses are growing to seed. That’s a fantastic thing to see, because a lot of times we don’t realize that grasses are actually different things. And when you see them growing to seed, which might not happen as early as spring in most areas, but keep that in mind for other seasons, you’ll begin to see that they produce different flowers and different seeds and different looks altogether. They grow different heights.
And then, you can start taking a deep dive into topics like livestock. Most of these grasses, many of these grasses are grown specifically for livestock to be able to feed and to get enough protein and carbohydrates and fats. And those things are turned into hay even when it’s out of season.
So beginning to look at them in spring to see how they begin to grow is a really good start to maybe even an all year study of grasses.
Kathy: I think that’s a good point too, about the fact that the grass get really tall. If. Where to let them grow, like the ones that are in your yard, people mow all the time.
My daughter is a great example of this. Cause we go to the country to my in-law’s house that is in the country, they have a farm and the grass gets very tall, the weeds and those things. And she didn’t realize they were actually grasses. She thought that was something different.
Cindy: And that’s something I hear quite often is….grass actually goes to see like, well, it’s a plant.
Kathy: Yeah. I know. You just don’t think about it cause you mow it all the time. Okay. So I like rain, but I don’t really like mushrooms, but tell me, what are you supposed to look at whenever we look at mushrooms.
Mushrooms to Study in Nature This Spring
Cindy: Well mushrooms…the reason I even put those two together is because they really liked damp, moist, shady areas.
That’s where they thrive best. So after a rain is a good time to go on a walk and to look for them. And the spring is when they’re most prolific, at least where I live, because that is our rainy season. So what do we look for? We look for…really any fruiting body, which is what we typically see of a mushroom, coming out of the ground, growing out of roots on a tree growing out of tree trunks. Sometimes even growing in crevices of rocks and things like that. And what we’re looking for, the most fun thing that I enjoy doing is looking for the vast variety.
So if you go on one woodland walk…if you have woodlands where you are in the spring, or even in the fall, when it’s moist, you can find a bunch of types of mushrooms and other fungi. So. You can take along a field guide and try to identify they’re a little hard to identify, but you can just find varieties in sizes and shapes and colors.
We have found red, we have found a yellow, we have found multiday color multicolored on trees that are shelf fungi. We’ve found some that looked like slime. We have found molds that we’ve had to determine are these mushrooms or are these molds, which are all fungi, but it’s just a really, really cool study.
That is a hard one. I’m not going to pretend that this one’s an easy one because identification of fungi is, I mean, they’ll tell you if you get a fungi field guide, there are hundreds or thousands of different types of fungi. So it’s going to be difficult to identify a specific one, but you will be able to at least categorize, “Are we seeing buttons? Are we seeing shelves? Are we seeing slime, molds?” And that’s pretty fun.
Kathy: And we should say, don’t eat.
Cindy: Oh, yeah. Honestly, touching mushrooms is not a great idea unless you know what they are.
Kathy: Right. Okay. So that’s, that’s good to say right here too. Okay. So I know you do nature study lives and for those that don’t know, that means every other week you come on, and you talk to an online classroom about a different nature study topic.
And my girls have loved it whenever they have done that. Are you doing any of these topics this spring that some people could hop on and join you with?
Cindy: That is a great question. Upcoming is tree bark. We’re doing music in nature with Ms. Mary of SQUILT, which will be a really cool spring because we’re going to talk about listening with our ears.
Honestly, I can’t remember. I’ve been planning a lot of lessons, but I can’t remember exactly what the spring and into early summer look like, but there are always seasonal topics. And then some that aren’t necessarily seasonal. What we do in those classes..we do the nature study online. We do the nature journaling together, and then my hope is that it inspires your kids to get outside.
You don’t have to get outside, but my hope is you will want to, so we try to keep things as seasonal as possible. However, we’ve got people all over the world who are taking these classes. So every single lesson that is taught goes into a video library and members get access to this video library.
So let’s say you want to study birds. We’ve done herds. We’ve done bird nests. We’ve done new growth in nature. We’ve done a bazillion different spring topics. You could go into that video library and you could find whatever floats your fancy or things that go with lessons that you’re wanting to learn, or we’re noticing a lot of birds are coming back into our area. You could go grab the bird lessons, the bird specific, we’ve done bird eggs and things too. So lots of those are there. And then a lot upcoming. That video library grows with every single.
Kathy: And my girls, that’s probably their favorite way. They like to use the videos because then they can pause things and spend a little bit toward time.
And they also like going in and they like finding things in nature after they’ve studied them. Cattails–I know that was a long time ago, but that was still one of their favorites.
Cindy: Yeah. That was one of my favorites.
Kathy: All right. Well, this is about what we have time for today. So be sure to check out Cindy West at Our Journey Westward, and I will be sure to include some links for both her No Sweat Nature Study Live and Our Journey Westward in the show notes. Be sure to check out those out there, and we hope to see you again next time. Thanks again Cindy for joining us.