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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nature Study, The Elixir Of Youth

After all, what is the chief sign of growing old? Is it not the feeling that we know all there is to be known? It is not years which make people old; it is ruts, and limitation of interests. When we no longer care about anything except our own interests, we are then old, it matters not whether our years be twenty or eighty.

It is rejuvenation for the teacher, thus growing old, to stand ignorant as a child in the presence of one of the simplest of nature's miracles - the formation of a crystal, the evolution of the butterfly from the caterpillar, the exquisite adjustment of the silken lines in the spider's orb web.

I know how to "make magic" for the teacher who is growing old. Let her go out with her youngest pupil and reverently watch with him the miracle of the blossoming violet and say: "Dear Nature, I know naught of the wondrous life of these, your smallest creatures. Teach me!" and she will suddenly find herself young.

~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

One of the most common trees we see around are Oak Trees. Our kids climb them, play in their shade, swing on their branches, collect their acorns, observe their galls.



Any mother who has inherited a bowl full of acorns after a nature study knows well that there are more to those acorns than meet the eye. What seems like clean acorns will produce a bowl full of crawling larvae by dinner time



Arica, one of the mothers in our group, mentioned having read about how to rear some of these acorn inhabitants so I googled around and found this.

It sounded pretty involved with wooden frames and all so I just pulled out an old vase I had lying around, filled it with potting soil (I didn't have any sand handy) and threw the acorns on top, covered it with plastic, poked holes in the plastic with a toothpick, and tied a hairband around it.



While my husband sighed at the sight of yet another 'collection' of sorts, (in fact, he reminded me of the killer in Silence of the Lambs who had a similar interest in insects) and dinner guests shuddered at the sight of it, I cheerily peeped into my new pet project several times a day with excitement and anticipation at what might possibly emerge.

Amazingly, one of the larvae cocooned along the wall of the vase where it was in full view. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures, but was able to observe it change into a darker color and one day found it had emerged. There were both a beetle and a moth present so I'm unsure which it was I had been observing.



The moth that emerges is a filbertworm moth. There have been several of them, a couple came from a container that didn't even have dirt in it so they must have cocooned in the acorn itself.

At first, I thought, "Oh, a tiny moth."



But then I noticed the beautiful streaks of gold on its wings created by hundreds of tiny scales and the delicate ends of its wings resembling folds of exquisite draperies. Such minute, intricate handcraft. And I noticed those big green eyes... with a pupil!



Pupils that follow me when I take its picture!



I don't think I will ever quite forget those eyes!



So there you have it. I stand completely ignorant! You never do know what might be watching you in your neck of the woods, but finding out is your secret to the fountain of youth!

5 comments:

  1. At first, I thought, "Oh, a tiny moth."

    "But then I noticed the beautiful streaks of gold on its wings created by hundreds of tiny scales and the delicate ends of its wings resembling folds of exquisite draperies. Such minute, intricate handcraft. And I noticed those big green eyes... with a pupil!"


    of course you did... :)
    i think i love nature study even more than my kids do for reasons just like these... i think were i not careful, i'd become addicted to this kind of elixir. :)

    amy in peru

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  2. I am always amazed when I see gold on creatures. It is just awe inspiring to me!

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  3. I love those eyes! Thanks for sharing. I might have to try this.

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