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I would like to read an interesting, living book that is nature centered for myself. I have field guides and such, but I just wondered if there was a living book for ME about nature. 🙂 Does anyone have one they can recommend?Sonya ShaferModerator
Have you read Pocketful of Pinecones? It’s more about nature study than about nature itself, but it’s very inspiring.
Actually, I’m about halfway through that book now. It is that book (along with Miss Mason’s suggestions in Home Education) that have inspired me to learn more about nature. “Carol” is always pointing out different trees and bushes to her children and she knows about them already. I feel like far too often I am saying, “We’ll look that up when we get home.” Thumbing through a field guide on site can be helpful at times, but it can also prove to be cumbersome. I also find things can be hard to identify in this manner.Rachel WhiteParticipant
For field guides, I like the Peterson First Guides and Stokes Bird guide idfentifier by color.
Karen once suggested that I do an Internet search for birds common to my state. Then I spent some time learning those birds by sight and name. Limiting the search by region really helped narrow down the focus so I wasn’t overwhelmed. Plus, it almost guaranteed that I would have plenty of practice spotting those birds outside. You could do that same type of search for flowers and trees too.
Karen, got any book suggestions to throw in here?Rachel WhiteParticipant
I’m not Karen, but the Stokes Beginner’s GUide to Birds: Eastern Region, has been a blessing. We’ve been able to easily find birds by color (a necessary option when you don’t know the name), all of which come to our area. If you’re on the Western side, National Audubon has one for the West, delineated by color and pattern/plumage.
Also, for both visual and sound recognition,The Backyard Birdsong Guide: Eastern and Central North America. My dd, who is auditory, loves this one. There’s also one for the Western side of the USA and one narrowed down to just 250 bird of North America.
Amy at Simply Necessary recently shared a really informative and fun post on Field Guides as Living Books in the CM blog carnival. You might find me totally geeky but I took my sister’s advice and keep Anna Botsford Comstock’s “Handbook of Nature Study” on my bedside table and made it a part of my evening reading. BTW, Anna Comstock lists lots of books for further reading if you have her Handbook.
We can’t know everything at once but, for example, March means tapping the Maple trees so I read up on the Maples. Now we’ve noticed squirrels actually biting off tiny branches to chew on as the are sweet.
Rather than saying, “I don’t know.” how about working together to glean as much detail from observing the tree/plant/animal, etc. “Well, let’s see…the bark is dark grey…how does it feel? Yes, it is rough. Let’s smell it, feel it, etc.” (Actually, those squirrels have made me want to chew on a sugar maple branch 🙂
Where is it growing? What is it doing? Can we stretch our arms around it? Draw it, collect samples. Sit under it, climb it 😉
Can you supplement with people? We moved to the east coast five years ago and I didn’t know the nature around here at all – I didn’t even know what was poisonous. I met a nature photographer that specializes in native plants and asked her if she would be willing to walk our land with me. She knew SO much and it turned out she wasn’t even originally from the area. She had purchased a home with an overgrown perennial garden and in trying to figure out what was weed and what was flower, fell in love with the native varieties. Do you have any nature reserves? Ours has volunteer days where you can help move salamander eggs to larger vernal pools, count pollywogs, tag birds, etc.
I hope you don’t mind me giving more info than what was asked for. I’ll be on the lookout for living nature books for adults.
It sounds as if you are looking for a living book that will teach you how to identify things in nature. As far as I know there isn’t one for adults. I’m not even sure if there is one for children. However, there are many books on specific plants, animals, and insects for children. It is surprising how much information you will find in a children’s book. Check to see what your library has on specific plants, animals, and insects in your area.
It may be a good idea to search Amazon for books that are on specific topics. For example, maybe you want a book on chipmunks. Search Amazon for chipmunk books. Narrow it down to ones you are interested in, then search your library catalog to see if they are available. When I was doing research for the Outdoor Secrets Companion book, I found that there were many good children’s books on nature that were shelved with the picture books and not with the nature/science books so knowing a few titles ahead of time will help you locate books in your library.
Another thing you can do to help you learn to identify plants, animals, and insects in your region is to start small. Identify what is in your yard first. What plants do you have growing in your yard? Don’t limit yourself to just bushes and trees. Use your field guides to help you identify weeds, grasses, flowers, bushes, and trees. Really look at them and notice the shape of the leaves, what the ground is like where it grows (wet, dry, hard, good soil), what color and shape the flowers are, what the fruit looks like, if it has thorns or any other characteristic that will help you identify it in another setting. Draw a picture of it in your own nature journal.
Don’t forget to notice insects, animals, and birds that visit your yard. Identify them using your field guides. Notice their habits. What flowers do the different bees frequent? What foods do the different birds eat? With the birds you can use your sense of hearing to identify them and to know when they are claiming territories or when mating season is over. They have different songs for each. The resource on bird songs that Rachel mentioned would be good for learning the dfferent bird songs. Also, http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx is a good source for identifying birds.
Once you are comfortable with identifying things in your yard, start identifying what is in your neighborhood. Then, when you are comfortable with that learn what is in your region of your state/province. Remember that what grows in a yard is not necessarily native to your area and will not be found in field guides. You may find visiting plant nurseries in your area helpful in identifying some of the trees, bushes, and flowers.
There are several living books that relate an author’s experiences in nature. Two of my favorite authors are R. D. Lawrence and Farley Mowat. Mowat’s books are usually readily available. Look for Owls in the Family (this one is suitable for most of the family) and Never Cry Wolf. Lawrence’s books are mostly out of print but you should be able to find some of them at the library. Look for The Zoo That Never Was, Secret Go the Wolves, Paddy: A Naturalist’s Story of an Orphan Beaver, Owls: The Silent Flyers (this one is probably the closest you might get to a living field guide type book), and Voyage of the Stella. Though I have enjoyed all of the above listed books, they may not be for everyone. The authors are relating their own observations in nature and sometimes those observations can be graphic. Also, none of them are written from a Biblical worldview so you will find mentions of evolution in them.
Other books about nature you may enjoy are Rascal by Sterling North, Gentle Ben and others by Walt Morey, and In Search of a Sandhill Crane by Keith Robertson (this one is out of print).
Remember to start small. Eventually you will be able to identify enough plants, animals, and insects that you find it easier to share that knowledge with your children.
Thanks so much for your suggestions and insight. Richele, I don’t mind the extra information at all and I do own the Handbook. I’ll have to get it out and look through it more often. I espeically really like your suggestion of encouraging the children (and myself!) to really examine the tree/bush/bird in question.
Karen, thank you a million times over for your book suggestions. I can see how it seemed as though I was looking for a living field guide type of book…and I definitely would be interested in reading one! But, truly, any book about nature will give me a launching point for more information. I adore being outside and would rather be there than anywhere else. But, the technical side of the outdoors has never appealed or attracted me. I am happy to sit in a grove of trees and admire them without knowing a single thing about them. LOL However, now that it is my job to teach my children, I feel it would be such a blessing to them to grow up gaining knowledge about the trees I have always so readily admired. The knowledge will be a blessing to me as well.
I will remember to start small with identifying and go from there. Thanks again! 🙂
I identified the tree outside our kitchen window as a type of oak tree. There are two types: red oaks and white oaks. This is a red oak tree, more specifically a Pin Oak. (There are several classifications under both Red and White Oaks). The leaves on the tree are marcescent leaves, which means the tree does not drop all of the leaves in the fall, but rather holds onto some of them throughout the winter. A benefit of this is that the leaves are less palatable and prevents herbivores from eating the branches, twigs, etc. during the winter months. There aren’t likely to be deer in our yard, but in the forest, this would be helpful to the Pin Oak Tree. lol
I’m working on my front yard tree next. Thanks for your ideas and support. Starting small makes nature study seem manageable. Great advice ladies! 🙂GemParticipant
You did an awesome job learning about that tree! I never knew the special name for those leaves that stay on through the winter – we have that same tree so I know just what you mean.
Karen had some good book suggestions, and I wanted to suggest the Holling C. Holling books for you – they are true living books that will be approachable for all ages. I have enjoyed them very much. Loved Minn of the Mississippi!
I also agree with Richele that I find it worthwhile to read the Handbook of Nature Study – not just as a reference, but just to read for pleasure and enrichment. Comstock has wonderful insights.dmccall3Participant
3littlegirls, how did you go about identifying that tree? Fantastic! I’d love to be able to do the same thing!sherazParticipant
You might also see if your state has a conservation dept that has an educational division. In MO they do, and provide very affordable (Free to under $20) references for your specific area/state. MO even has a free magazine about our state environment that feartures animals, insects, birds, etc. It also has a lot of hunting and fishing info (not everly interested) but the info is amazing. We have all kinds of their stuff and it is my favorite resource for lots of things. You might find an amazing resource for the phone call…
I have been following Richelle’s advice about the Comstock book as well! I really gleaned a lot from this thread and am so glad I see this area as manageable now. 🙂
I identified the tree primarily through google. LOL I also used some materials we had from the Dept of Conservation on Oak Trees.
I am using a couple of the Holling C. Hollings books for school next year…I’m so glad to hear I will love them as well as the kids. 🙂
sheraz – I actually live in MO and have those materials! They are so helpful! 🙂sherazParticipant
Hey, we’re in the Rolla area! It is so nice to see someone else from MO! Where are you? Our office has the tubs that homechoolers can check out about different subjects, we used the one about pond habitats. They have about 10-12 of them and they are free. They also have a free K-2 curriculum for the 4 seasons called Conservation Seeds. It has everything in it from language arts, crafts, flannel board stories etc about the stuff in your yard, park, etc. I have it and helps with Nature Study ideas and training..=) I really liked its price.
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