Earth Day Adventures: Lyrid Meteor Shower April 2015

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2015? If enjoying all the abundance of the Earth – like the wildflowers and rainbows under the sun isn’t enough, you could get up before the sun rises to see a spectacular shooting star show! The Lyrid Meteor Shower 2015 will peak in the wee hours of April 23, 2015.

Are you ready to watch the next meteor shower?First some vocabulary:

A Shooting Star is bright streak of light caused by a meteor.

A Meteor Shower is the Earth passing through the wake of the comet and named for constellation nearest the point the meteors seem to radiate from.

A Comet is an icy-rock ball that orbits the sun and has tails of dust and gas streaming away from the sun

Meteoroid – relatively small particles in space

Meteor – a meteoroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere (shooting star)

Meteorite – a meteor that didn’t burn up before landing on earth

The Lyrid Meteor Shower seems to radiate from the constellation Lyra. Lyra is from the Greek word for lyre and is connected the myth of Orpheus, a musician who charmed all with his playing. The Classical myth ends sadly for Orpheus, but if you’d like to hear a folk version with a happy conclusion, I highly recommend the song “King Orfeo” written by Lisa Theriot and sung by Ken Theriot on the CD Human History.

But I digress!

Lyra Constellation Map (creative commons use)
Lyra Constellation Map (creative commons use)

The constellation Lyra contains the star commonly known as Vega — 5th brightest in the sky and part of the Summer Triangle. To learn more about Lyra check out Solar System Quick’s guide.

The comet wake or path that causes the Lyrid Meteor Shower is called Comet Thatcher and was seen in 1861 — and isn’t expected again until 2276, according to EarthSky. Add that to your smartphone’s calendar before you forget!

Astonomy Magazine has an excellent 5 minute introductory video on How to Observe Meteor Showers.

So, this Earth Day, celebrate by looking up after dark and before dawn, and view the Lyrid Meteor Shower of April 2015!

Think Nature is Boring?

Do you think nature is boring?  Do your kids?  Just another walk in the woods?  Same nameless green trees, same nameless green plants, same —

Another boring nature walk? I think not.

What would you do if you came across an orange tentacled blob in a cedar tree?  And not just one?  But another, and another, and one with even more tentacles?

a) Run screaming?

b) Call the police?

c) Email the county’s pest control department?

d) Pluck to one to dissect in the name of science?

e) Call…whoever would be interested in an alien sitings?

After coming home and finding some of these bizarre apparitions on the cedar trees in both my neighbor’s and my yard, I chose answer C.

And the calm, kind urban forester who replied to my email assured me that this was fairly common in my county and not of concern unless I had an orchard.  Which now I’m glad I don’t have an orchard because this is Cedar Apple Rust (not an alien invasion).

Doesn't it look alien?
Doesn’t it look alien?

These are Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae galls with spore horns (not orange tentacled blobs): a complex pathogen that requires both the apple tree and the cedar tree (with other species such as hawthorn and juniper standing in), adequate moisture, including a rain, and has a two year life cycle.  You can read all about these fascinating galls on Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Fact Sheet.

So, the next time you think just another boring nature walk, think again.  And carry a camera — might just find something incredible for your Earth Day Celebration rainbow walk!

Chirping on Twitter as @pocketmousepub!

Connect with Pocket Mouse Publishing on Twitter @pocketmousepubPocket Mouse Publishing is on Twitter!  Yes, you will hear Jean (itsabeeslifeforme) and Lee (brightskymom chirping tweeting as @pocketmousepub now!

Since we’re brand new, we will bumble around like the fledgling social media-ites that we are.  If you’re on Twitter, we’d appreciate well-known, obvious, how-could-you-not-know tips — I don’t think we’re ready for amazing insider secrets yet!

We hope to see & hear you in the fields and trees, tweeting interesting tidbits about #nature and #forage and #organic and all kinds of things!  After all (to quote Robert Louis Stevenson, April IS National Poetry Month!):

The world is so full of a number of things,
I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

How Nature is like the Library and why it matters

How Nature is like the Library

Sitting in traffic on my way home from the library the other day, I got to thinking:

Nature – the great outdoors – is a lot like the public library.

Nature is space free for all to visit, all to peruse, all to enjoy – paid for by tax dollars, public & private benefactors, and citizen fundraising; maintained by forest rangers and naturalists (the librarians of their wild spaces) and the enthusiasm of volunteers.

We go to the library to learn: a vast collection of non-fiction books on every topic imaginable, waiting to be read and gleaned from. There is always something new to be found on a library shelf.  We can go to nature to learn as well.  Every walk in the woods will reveal something new.

Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher. ~William Wordsworth

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. ~John Lubbock

You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters. ~St. Bernard

Let Nature be your teacher

We go to the library for enjoyment: genre upon genre of fiction, poetry, picture books, movies, comics, how-to books. We can go out in nature for enjoyment too.  A mud-puddle and a mountain are always ready to provide a new experience.

when the world is mud-luscious…[and] puddle-wonderful. ~e.e. cummings

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Khalil Gibran

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail. ~John Muir

How Nature is like the Library and why it matters

Just as our minds long for ideas that we can find in a book at the library, so our hearts and eyes long for nature – photos of breath-takingly beautiful nature scenes abound on Pinterest, are shared on Instagram, and hang on the walls of homes & offices around the world.

With innovation and technology, seems we have forgotten to cherish the true beauty the world has to offer. ~A.C. Van Cherub

Yet, unlike the library – still a place of generally hushed reverence (except during toddler story time!), nature is often carelessly used as a dumping ground – tires, empty cans, golf balls, and a large collection of half-filled plastic water bottles litter the creek near my home. Would you ever find these in your local library? Who keeps the library clean? Who keeps the natural spaces around your home clean?

If we all treated nature more like the library, I think the world would be a better place. We borrow. We return. We pay our fines when owed. We preserve. We respect. We enjoy!

May you find yourself out in nature or in a library today — better yet, both!

April 2015 Full Moon Walk & Lunar Eclipse

Full Moon Walk April 2015 Lunar Eclipse/Blood MoonAre you planning a Full Moon walk with your family this week?  This month’s Full Moon is on April 4, 2015 — traditionally called the Pink Moon, is also going to include the first total lunar eclipse of 2015!

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is in the Earth’s shadow. In some locations, the shadowing can cast a red glow on the moon, and so the moon can also be called a Blood Moon.

Solar and lunar eclipses always arrive in pairs — the lunar eclipse coming 2 weeks after the solar eclipse.  This and other interesting eclipse tidbits can be found at — the website includes viewing information, video clips, and helpful explanations.

Full Moon Walk 2015 Printable from PocketMousePublishing.comDownload your free Full Moon Walk tracker  and enjoy this special time outside in nature!

Free Bird Printable Set of Hunting Red

Birds of Hunting Red color page from -- free download!
The free Bird Printable Set based on the nine North American birds found in Hunting Red* is ready for downloading! The set contains a full color page of all nine birds, an identical b&w page for coloring, a set of name cards, play ideas, and individual coloring worksheets for each of the following birds:

Red-Tailed Hawk
American Robin
American Crow
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Cardinal
Scarlet Tanager

Birds of Hunting Red hawk worksheet from
Red-tailed Hawk worksheet

After creating the page featuring all nine birds together, I printed a copy for my 12yo son to color.  He used Hunting Red*,, and our beloved National Geographic Birds of North America* field guide to accurately color each male bird.  I chose to draw all males, although there is a mix of males and females in Hunting Red*.

He scanned the completed page, and printed it on cardstock to see how it looked.  Beautiful!  I laminated the colored bird page, along with the name cards, and cut them all out.  Then it was off to the park to play Bird Search — which is exactly like hunting for Easter eggs, but the fun is year-round!

The children stayed on the playground while I went to a little stand of trees nearby.  I hid some birds in the branches of the evergreens, some on the ground under those branches, and some I stuck into the bark of a deciduous tree.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Worksheet from Hunting Red (
Rose-breasted Grosbeak worksheet

I laid out the name cards on the ground so the children could place each bird with its name as they found them. For my 5yo, I added the encouragement of “hot and cold”: “You’re getting warmer, warmer…oh, colder now, warm, burning! You found it!”

After all the birds had been found, we played 2 more times – once with my boys hiding them for their little sister, and once I helped her hide them for her big brothers.  Each time we moved to a new location in the park.

I hope you enjoy the printable set!  It was fun to create and plan to make additional sets based on the other flora and fauna of Hunting Red*. In the meantime, before you hunt for eggs — hunt for birds!

Pileated Woodpeck worksheet from Hunting Red (
Pileated Woodpecker Worksheet

You can download the free set by clicking here, and share this post with those who enjoy it!  Also, a special thanks to Deborah Leigh for use of her snail picture on the Scarlet Tanager worksheet!

As always, books marked with an * are affiliate links, and you can read our full disclosure at the bottom of the About page!

Do You Have a Nature Habit?

Making the Nature Habit Your ONE ThingDo you have a nature habit? Have you made nature part of your daily or weekly rhythm? Sometimes it is hard to make “getting outside” a priority, even when we know the benefits, including recent studies showing the importance of sunlight to vision!

I’ve just finished skimming the book The ONE Thing* by Gary Keller. The premise of the book (highly recommended!) is that in order to have more of what we want in our life, we need to focus on less. Our focus needs to be on our ONE thing. He acknowledges that we will have many priorities in our lives, but each of us has something that matters most and that is our ONE thing.
Right now, my ONE Thing is getting myself and my children outside every day, as a habit. Just as we eat every day, and we sleep every day — we go outside every day. To notice, to know, to be.

The ONE Thing is full of quotes which inspire me to making going outside a daily habit.

At the end of Chapter 2: The Domino Effect, Gary says:

The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.

The benefits of time in nature happen over time. Getting out every day — whatever the weather — will get us there.

Making the Nature Habit Your ONE Thing

Chapter 4: Everything Matters Equally opens with a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

This is followed by:

The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest. –Bob Hawke

Everyone’s “matters most” will be different from their “matters least” – but the thing that screams the loudest for our attention likely isn’t time in nature. And it probably comes via an electronic device of some kind.   At least, that generally is the case in my house.

So how do we make nature time a habit?

Well, in Chapter 6: A Disciplined Life, Gary tells us:

There is this pervasive idea that the successful person is the “disciplined person” who leads a “disciplined life.”

It’s a lie.

He says that we don’t need more discipline; we need more habit. And just enough discipline to form that habit. How long to form a habit? More than the often cited 21 or 28 days, apparently. Gary references a University College of London study which found it takes, on average, 66 days to form a habit. Yesterday was our family’s 34th day of getting outside in a row – we’re halfway to a habit!

A final quote from the book I will share is by F.M. Alexander and comes from Chapter 12: The Path to Great Answers:

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.

What habits are deciding your future?  Do you have a nature habit?  Leave a comment or share a link and let us know!

*This page may contain affiliate links which help support the site, click here & scroll to the bottom of the page for full disclosure.

When a Walk in Nature Goes Wrong

When a Walk in Nature Goes Wrong -- pocketmousepublishing.comHow do you handle it when a walk in nature goes wrong? I don’t mean “Drama in Real Life” wrong. Breathe easy — no cougars attacks, rock slides, or poisonous mushrooms will be featured in this account.

This is about the small frustrations that occur when you’re trying to get yourself and your family away from “the electronic paradise” as the S’More Outdoor podcast so succinctly describes it. This is the red crayon in the dryer, the burned dinner, the waiting in line at the library with a whining toddler to pay the (huge) fine – so you can check out your fifty book stack.

We’ve all had these types of frustrations in our daily lives. And they aren’t absent just because we want to take our children out to experience the joys of nature.

Earlier this week we headed out for a walk with the dog to the woods. I was in high spirits because two of my older children were able to come along – between working and their college/highschool classes, they do not get the same quantity of outdoor time the rest of us do! Off we went, the little didn’t even where a jacket because it was such a spring-like day.

First, I slipped on the wooden walkway leading across a drainage ditch. Initially my knee hurt dreadfully. But after standing up and testing it, I realized it didn’t hurt to walk (much). So on we went, with me and my oldest chatting about the importance of soil and the neat collection of monthly soil activities I found (more on this in a future post!).

We finally arrived at the creek. The 9yo had gone on ahead and was out of sight, but I wasn’t worried, we had a meeting place.

With all the melting snow our little creek was running fast and quite cold, so big brother offered to carry 5yo across.

You know what is coming, right?

When a Nature Walk Goes Wrong - Creek

He slipped and into the icy water she went.

Was she hurt? Not at all.

Did she cry? Not at all.

Was she cold and wet and needing to go home right then? YES! I took off my coat and wrapped her in it, picked her up, instructed the other three to locate 9yo and come home. So much for family time out in glories of nature.

Then I headed home with a bum knee, a shivering 5yo in my arms, and a very unhappy dog who didn’t like her family heading in different directions.

Halfway home, coming down a rather steep hill, the dog stopped and looked back. She wouldn’t budge. Then over the hill came the dejected 9yo. My initial (horrified) thought was he had discovered no one was following him and came back to look for us, somehow missing his siblings…who were now wandering the woods looking for him!

But no, they had found him and were not far behind. He was unhappy because he hadn’t gotten his nature walk.

We all finally arrive home. And swore off walking in the woods forever.

No, actually, we didn’t. Think about those small frustrations. After the crayon in the dryer incident, did you take ALL your family’s dirty clothes to the dry cleaners henceforward? After the burned dinner, did you only eat in restaurants? And have you never returned to the library simply because you were embarrassed by a fine? Of course not!

We move on, we overcome, and maybe we can even laugh about such incidents in the years to come. When the immense bruise on my knee fades, I may laugh.

In the meantime, we’re still walking in the woods and on the paths and to the park…anything to get our daily dose of nature, no matter the weather. It has been 33 days since we started. I think we’re on the way to a habit!

Don’t give up on getting out into nature just because it isn’t idyllic every time you venture out!  Check out this encouraging National Wildlife Federations Health Benefits page and get back out there with your kids!

Do you find getting out into nature with your kids frustrating?  Have you ever had a nature walk go wrong?

Book Review: When the Root Children Wake Up

Book Review: When the Root Children Wake Up

When The Root Children Wake Up* is Audrey Wood’s delightful tribute to the changing seasons based on a 1906 German story.  You might recognize Audrey Wood as the author of The Napping House* and King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub* (a family favorite!).

The tale begins and ends with Grandfather Winter, and Mother Earth is present when the Root Children wake up.  She helps them with dressing in their new leaf and flower costumes, painting the bugs, and then leads them out into the world.

The children enjoy adventures in the company of each season — Aunt Spring, Cousin Summer, and Uncle Fall — before Mother Earth plays a lullaby for the Root Children to return to sleep.

Ned Bittinger’s paintings do a remarkable job personifying the jolly exuberance of summer and the biting chill of winter. The plump cherubic innocence of the Root Children captures the joys to be found in nature through the year.

I highly recommend this beautiful book for reading with each change of the seasons.  Celebrate the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, on March 20th with the Root Children!

And if you’re looking for more ideas for welcoming spring, check out 7 Ways to Celebrate the Spring Solstice by Rhythms of Play.

Previous Book Reviews: Moon Child

*This page may contain affiliate links which help support the site, click here & scroll to the bottom of the page for full disclosure.

What changing of the seasons books does your family like?

Bird Printable Coloring Page

March is a wonderful time to take a bird walk — the weather is warming, but the leaves are not hiding the birds yet. And the birds are so active!  Today we saw a wren and a nuthatch, plus numerous cardinals, juncos, crows, and robins.

Birds of Hunting Red printable coloring page
Download the Birds of Hunting Red coloring page!

I created a free printable coloring page with the nine birds found in Hunting Red*. I am working on creating a set of worksheets featuring each of the birds individually as well.  While the birds are shown smaller than life-size on this coloring page, they are sized relative to each other.

Enjoy a bird walk this month, and then enjoy coloring these nine birds, while you sip hot chocolate or cool lemonade, depending on how warm the weather is!

Want to be updated when the printable pages are available and when new posts are added here at Pocket Mouse Publishing?  Just click the follow button in the upper right!

*This page contains affiliate links which help support the site, click here & scroll to the bottom of the page for full disclosure.