Category Archives: Outdoors

White Squirrel!

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My family was driving around town enjoying one of the northeast’s few remaining yard sale weekends, when my daughter spotted a white squirrel.
We ditched our yard sale plans and followed it down the street instead. Because, SQUIRREL!!!
This little guy was quick, and we couldn’t get close enough to take a really good picture. We tried.  We decided that he was on the hunt for any white chocolate that trick-or-treaters tossed from their bags to make room for the good stuff.

We later found a great resource from white squirrel expert Rob Nelson, and learned a whole lot about these cool critters. Rob is compiling research and a map of white squirrel sightings at Untamed Science, where we logged our own account to contribute to the research.

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DIY Kite Messenger Parachute Drop

A kite messenger is a clever little device that slides up a kite string, releases a light payload, then slides back down to the bottom of the string for more fun. I made one with some cheap materials and finally found some windy days to test it out. Some kite messenger designs use sails to pull up the kite, but I’m starting out with a simpler design that uses toy parachutes to catch the wind. It can be made in just a few minutes using drinking straws, wire, tape, and a toy parachute.

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Here’s how it works: The front loop of the wire hits a simple cardboard bumper attached high up on the line. As the wire stops, the rest of the unit continues forward, opening the middle section where the parachute is held. Once the parachute releases, the messenger slides right back down towards the spool of string, ready to be reloaded for more fun.IMG_1338
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IMG_9652It’s fun to see the kid’s excitement build as they watch the messenger climb up the string, eagerly awaiting the parachute’s release so they can chase it down.

Here is a tutorial on how to build your own kite messenger. I used replacement Tervis straws that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, because they’re much sturdier than your average soda straw. To hold it all together I used packing tape as well as a bit of super glue for good measure. The climb to the top of the kite line seemed to take a little long, so my next modification will be to use a much lighter gauge wire to reduce the overall weight.

Mountain Unicycling is Thing

Whenever I’m perusing yard sales, I always keep my eyes peeled for a unicycle. I haven’t found one yet, which means my family is temporarily spared the embarrassment of me practicing in the driveway.

My curiosity recently had me searching YouTube to see if there was such a thing as unicycle races (there is) and I found this great little documentary on mountain unicycling. These guys are hardcore!

 

 

 

Running of the Goats

My family recently attended our first goat racing event in a small Pennsylvania town situated alongside the Susquehanna river. We had a blast watching people of all ages race their pet goats. Some folks were decked out in fun and gaudy costumes, and so were some of the goats! We got the feeling that the races were more about having fun and not so much about the competition.
Here are some more posted videos from the event:
One goat got a little too rammy and knocked over a judge. I hope all parties walked away unscathed!
I’d love to enter the race next year, except for the fact that I don’t own a goat of my own. Are goat rentals a thing?

Gardens and Dragons

Dragon CarrotMy family has enjoyed tending our small vegetable garden all spring and summer. We use a square-foot gardening design to maximize our small space. While it’s full of the staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs, our favorite thing to do is to plant something unique or unusual each year. This year, we bought a pack of dragon carrot seeds from Amazon. The seeds germinated extremely well and we had to thin back the sprouts.
We’ve been pulling them out a little at a time, and are now enjoying the last of the bunch. They are a beautiful purple color on the outside and orange in the middle. They look great chopped up or as a garnish. To me they taste a little spicier than a normal household carrot, but perhaps I just can’t get the dragon idea out of my mind.
Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

How to Find Walking Labyrinths 

labyrinthMy family recently came across a walking labyrinth for the first time and now we’re hooked. We literally stumbled onto it during a college campus visit. Thinking that I would be the only one excited about this, I was surprised when both of my young kids jumped in and walked the entire length with complete focus.

Of course, I was quite impressed by this. It was a ten minute, non-digital oasis when I didn’t have to field questions about snacks or break up arguments. They were totally in the zone.
It is a simple, yet powerful, principal; you are set into forward motion, you have momentum, and knowing the end is not too far away, you’re committed to twisting, turning, and spiraling until you reach it. What a great exercise for focus in an age when people (of all ages) can use it the most! I left wanting more, so I’ve since tracked down several other nearby labryinths and we’re excited to visit them.

To find labyrinths near you, visit labyrinthlocator.com, where you can search a large database of labyrinths that includes useful information such as: directions, accessibility, hours, pictures, etc. You can search by city, zip code, or state. Both private and public labyrinths are listed, and while some aren’t open to the public, it’s still fascinating to view the pictures and marvel at these labors of love.

Sorting through data by state produced too many results over too wide of an area to sift through. Yet, I didn’t want to exclude any nearby small towns located in other zip codes that were still within reasonable driving range to me. A map of nearby labyrinths would be ideal, but since that wasn’t an available feature, my solution was utilizing zipmap.net to make a short list of a few zip codes within an acceptable driving range, then searching each of them on the labyrinth locator. I quickly found several labyrinths very close to me, and was especially surprised to find that I drive right past a few of them daily. Now that I know they are there and available to the public, it’s on my spring to-do list to hit as many as possible.

A day or so after our first labyrinth find, I noticed something interesting about a carpet at preschool. Carpet LabyrinthI think this may be an example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at work. It’s amazing what you can notice, or miss, depending on how you look at things and whether or not your mind is primed.

If you visit any labyrinths near you, send a picture and I’ll post them here! Stay curious and keep exploring!

The Mysterious Skull: Case Closed

 

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In June, I posted pictures of a small animal skull that my kids found in a playground next to a wooded field. Still wondering what kind of animal it had belonged to, I posted the question on Ask Metafilter, and within a few hours the overwhelming consensus was that it had once belonged to a raccoon. Someone also pointed out that it was seriously gnawed on by another animal, as proved by the scratch marks that I hadn’t even noticed. Another case solved by the internets!skull 1skull 2 skull 3