• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Daybook

Outside my window…

the garden is dead. We had the first killing frost last night, -6 Celsius (it was -10 at my inlaws’ house). The sweet peas, cosmos, clematis, lavatera, sunflowers, rudbeckia, and even the zinnias under sheets (had we known it would be lower than -1, we would have used two layers) are all gone. I moved much from the greenhouse into the house, and it looks sad in the greenhouse now. But the kitchen looks like a florist’s shop, and the banana plant is wondering why it’s in the living room.

I am thinking…

how quickly the cold weather came on, after 30+ temps last week, though it has been autumn here for the past month.

I am thankful…

that Tom got the propane heater late last night for the greenhouse, when we realized the thermometer wasn’t finished moving at -2.

for a warm oven, containing peach cobbler.

From the learning rooms…

we are doing a quick run-through the 20th century before beginning another cycle of ancient history. We are focusing on the perils of populism, in the 20th century, and now.

We watched “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the version with John Boy. We are bouncing around a bit, based on what’s available and when from the library. Next up is the 1998 Disney movie “Miracle at Midnight”, about the Nazi occupation of Denmark in WWII, starring Sam Waterston and Mia Farrow.

In the kitchen…

more dill pickles, and canning peaches.

I am wearing…

an apron, and longer pants, because it’s cold in the house. I finally succumbed and turned on the furnace this morning.

I am creating…

good food and small skeptics.

I am going…

to town quickly to pick up a parcel with Laura’s newest voice book for lessons, and batteries for her camera.

I am wondering…

how to fit all my greenhouse plants in the house.

I am reading…

Elle DecorTraditional Home, and Noel Streatfeild’s Saplings, which though terribly sad goes well with our history readings (writing in The Guardian, Sarah Waters called it “A study of the disintegration of a middle-class family during the turmoil of the Second World War”).

Also, new from the library, 101 Things I Hate About Your House by James Swan, and How to Write a Sentence, and How to Read One by Stanley Fish.

I am hoping…

I have enough Ziploc bags on hand for the sliced peaches.

I am looking forward to…

cabinets in the dining room. We may have found some at Home Depot, the sort you can pick up in boxes and walk out of the store with. As long as everything is in stock, which is the rub.

And at Ikea on the weekend, we managed to get the long out-of-stock Numerar butcherblock countertops for the dining room. They’re oak, which I wouldn’t want for a kitchen, but for the dining room they’re fine.  The plan is for base cabinets on the east and west walls, topped with the butcherblock countertops, and then open shelving on the walls.

I am hearing…

the hum of the furnace. Very odd after so long without it. The kids were delighted, and ran to the registers with quilts.

Around the house…

there are plants, fruit, and vegetables in every spare nook and cranny.

I am pondering…

Professor Helen Zoe Veit’s editorial in favor of a return to Home Economics in the classroom, originally published in The New York Times. From which:

One of my favorite things…

peach cobbler

A few plans for the rest of the week:

Laura has her second babysitting engagement, which she finds thrilling.  Putting together the Ikea sideboard, which will be our under-the-chalkboard table, since it is not too deep. I may have the kids sand the sideboard, so I can stain it, because it’s a light pine which doesn’t go with much in the kitchen. And possibly painting the chalkboard, which is an old school board and green. Am thinking black might be a nice change.

Happy new year

A new school year started today. Well, at least that was the plan, until haying and fixing fences kept Tom and the kids out until 11 pm last night, which is when they finally came in the house and had dinner. So I let the kids sleep in today and we had a slow, relaxed start, especially since we still have another week to go to get the haying completed and the cattle moved to the new pasture.

Also, since I’ve been such a wretched blogger, I thought I would give something new a try, borrowing some of the daybook prompts I’ve seen at other blogs. But I am hopelessly consistent and live on a farm, so I will likely avoid regular updates of the “what am I wearing” prompts.

FOR TODAY

Outside my window…

The goldfinches are gathering up and preparing to migrate. We’ve had so much fun in the past few weeks watching the juveniles learn their way around, having baths in the gutter, learning to open sunflower seeds, flapping wings to get a parent’s attention.

I am thinking…

that I have some more decluttering to do. It has been a decluttering summer, especially since we had two old TVs, and one “entertainment center” to move out as Canada moved from analog to digital television. Unlike most of our family, friends, and neighbors, we did not have any flat screen TVs or satellite service. And cable is a dream out in the country. I am delighted with the new streamlined look, and my old eyes are loving the larger screens. The small TV in the bedroom, from my NYC days, was ridiculously small.

I am thankful…

that we don’t have to travel this autumn/winter (that sound you hear is me knocking on wood). This will be the first time in three years that we are/I am home for our traditional family celebrations of Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, Davy’s birthday (which has reached new lows for the past two years, poor kid), and Christmas. I am relieved and grateful, since I found being away for these terribly discombobulating and somewhat unrooting (disrooting? deracinating?).

From the learning rooms… 

We are starting over again with ancient history. Laura, who starts ninth grade, has formal science for the first time. Though tomorrow she is spending the day in the provincial park to observe the fall bird migration.

In the kitchen…

Over the weekend I made quarts of mustard pickle — my mother-in-law’s mother’s mother-in-law’s recipe, so venerable — and dill pickles.

In the new addition, across the three windows on the north end, we put up our new autumn banner (which I bought from Jaime Mancilla at Etsy),

to replace the summer banner, also from Jaime (and both photos from Jaime’s Etsy shop),

I am wearing…

oh dear

For today I will play along. An old navy blue Leon Levin polo shirt that used to belong to my mother, and yoga pants. Though not because I do yoga…

I am creating…

disorder with my decluttering, and with any luck out of disorder will come order. Unless I quickly learn some much needed reupholstery and slipcovering skills (not very likely), we need a new sofa, which may come from the new Crate and Barrel opening next month in the city. I would like to paint the living room, but we’ll see how far we get with the new addition (see below).

With luck, I will be creating a nicer version of the house. Between home schooling and farming, we live hard in this house. And with all our absences from home over the past two years, much has been put off and ignored. We need to fix things up, for ourselves and for the house.

I am going…

Nowhere for the next few days. Laura has music lessons half an hour north of here on Thursdays, and has moved her egg delivery day in town to Fridays, which is also the boys’ day for guitar lessons.

I am wondering…

if autumn can be remotely unharried. I get better each year at saying No, though lately with estate matters there have been few things to which No has been an acceptable reply.

I am reading…

The Three Weissmans of Westport; Sense & Sensibility updated for 2010, with two daughters who help their aged mother navigate the realities of divorce.

Thoreau’s Method: A Handbook for Nature Study by David Pepi; originally published in 1985 as part of Prentice-Hall’s wonderful PHalarope natural history series.

I am hoping…

that our calico cat Callie doesn’t bring me any more presents of headless gophers,

that autumn will not be too busy and overwhelming,

to keep the depression at bay, or at least to minimize it. In which case a busy autumn may not be a bad thing, as long as the busy-ness doesn’t make me anxious and overwhelmed. A fine line, I think.

I am looking forward to…

the new season of “Downton Abbey”, which begins in the UK on the 18th of this month and on PBS in January

the weekend arrival of the fruit truck from BC, with nectarines and peaches

the return of Michael Enright on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition”

 

Laura getting her learner’s permit

I am hearing…

goldfinch twitterings, sandhill cranes trumpeting and rattling as they make their loops, the neighbors’ combines rumbling down the road, three young voices singing along to “Eleanor Rigby” on the radio.

Around the house…

we still need to finish the kitchen addition. I pestered Tom this morning to order the flooring (vinyl) for the entire area — kitchen, addition, and front entry. And we still need the kitchen base cabinets for the addition. I had hoped (ha…) to have this done in time for the beginning of our school year, but at this point I will be happy to have it done in time for Christmas.

I am pondering…

what color to paint the front door. It has been a dark green these past 17 years. When Tom bought the house, he painted it white with dark green trim. I am tired of the green door, though, especially on the inside.

One of my favorite things…

homemade dill pickles

A few plans for the rest of the week:

more hay to cut and bale

fixing fences so we can move the cattle to another pasture

insurance adjustors arriving to inspect damage to house and cargo trailer

music lessons, voice on Thursday and guitar on Friday

egg delivery

a trip to the library

start moving greenhouse plants indoors

Blogging with substance

I haven’t been very good about blog awards, and I think I missed acknowledging the last one which arrived last year some time (my apologies to whoever sent it along).  This time I thought I’d better be more timely about acknowledging it, so a big thank you to Subadra at Library of Books, Links & More for thinking of me along with nine others for the “blog with substance award”. Subadra definitely blogs with substance — head over to her blog for hundreds of home schooling links, especially for science and math.  Thanks so much to Subadra for thinking I blog with substance.  At this point I’m happy to be blogging, period!

I’m supposed to acknowledge the rules of the award:

1. Sum up your blogging motivation, philosophy and experience in exactly 10 words.

Oh dear, motivation, eh?  I haven’t exactly been motivated.  I suppose I have to give the award back now…

(I’m not very good at coloring within the lines, either. So much for 10 words, or 10 blogs.)

2. Pass it on to 10 other blogs with substance.

I’m going to do something different and instead of picking friends who blog — usually other home schooling bloggers, or kidlit bloggers — pick blogs by bloggers who don’t know me at all.  If you’re at all interested in science, you might already read some of the best contemporary science writers, many of whom have blogged at ScienceBlogs.  In which case you probably know about the recent PepsiCo blog fiasco, and if not, you can read all about it here, and at The Guardian too.  A number of ScienceBloggers decided the situation was untenable, opting to remove their blogs from ScienceBlogs.  They are the blogs with substance I’m choosing, and while they don’t need a pat on the back from a home schooling mother, I think their actions deserve recognition and their new homes deserve publicity.  And they are always science writers worth reading, wherever their blog homes are:

Bora Zivkovic  at A Blog Around the Clock; his farewell post at ScienceBlogs is a thorough explanation of the situation

David Dobbs at Neuron Culture

Rebecca Skloot at Culture Dish; Ms. Skloot is the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Blake Stacy at Science after Sunclipse

PalMD at White Coat Underground

GrrlScientist, one of Farm School’s favorite science bloggers because she’s “an evolutionary biologist/ornithologist who writes about E3: Evolution, Ecology and Ethology, and the subtle relationships between these phenomena, especially in birds”

Deborah Blum at Speakeasy Science; Ms. Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter and the author of the recent The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Maryn McKenna at Superbug; Ms. McKenna is an award-winning science writer and author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA

Suzanne E Franks at Thus Spake Zuska

Mark Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math (no new home as yet)

Chris Rowan and Anne Jefferson at Highly Allochthonous

Travis Saunders and Peter Janiszewski at Obesity Panacea

Eric Michael Johnson at The Primate Diaries in Exile

Dave Bacon at The Quantum Pontiff

Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority (no new home as yet)

Scicurious at Are You Scicurious?

Brian Switek; author of Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature (to be published in November 2010)

Abel Pharmboy at Terra Sigillata

Alex Wild at Myrmecos Blog

(Thanks to Carl Zimmer for his round-up post at his Loom blog — if only I had found it before getting halfway through the list piecemeal!)

Spreading the word

I belong to the Sciencesongs group at Yahoo and today had word from songwriter Monty Harper at the group:

I’m working on a new CD of unique science songs for kids, and I’m  writing to ask for your help.

The songs are unique because they focus on every-day scientists and  current scientific research. Most of the songs were inspired by the  scientists I’ve had as guest speakers in my “Born to Do Science”  program at the Stillwater Public Library over the past two years.

Specific topics include phototaxic bacteria, stress hormones, wheat genomics, bacterial biofilms, bat taxonomy, x-ray crystallography, and luminescence dating! The deeper messages are that science is a process done by real people; science is important, cool, fun, and relevant; and science belongs to everyone!

I’m trying to raise the money to make a really top-flight recording, one that families will want to hear again and again.

You can watch Monty‘s pitch video for his “Songs from the Science Frontier” here.  I figure home schooling families are a pretty natural audience for a project like this, so if you’re interested, let Monty know.

*  *  *

More science songs to listen to this summer:

Singing Science, science songs from 1950s-60s LPs; we love these.  EEK — no link any more!  Here’s the old link which apparently no longer works. Try this too, from the Wayback machine. I have these already, but have no idea where to send you so you can get them if you don’t already have them. Drat. If anyone knows, please leave information in the comments. You can read about the songs, from the six-LP “Ballads for the Age of Science” series by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer (covering space, energy and motion, experiments, weather, and nature) here.  You could probably, it occurs to me, find them somewhere online to download if you Google “singing science” and “torrent”.  Just an idea…

You can find oodles of science songs if you just Google “science songs”.  Some of the better sites:

Kiddie Records Weekly, where you can find some vintage LPs to download, including “By Rocket to the Moon”, “Space Ship to Mars”, and “What Are Stars?”

PhysicsSongs, more general than just physics; Prof. Walter Smith’s labor of love

Science songs at Songs for Teaching

And some Charles Darwin and evolution songs in my old Darwin Day post, which includes information on MASSIVE: a database for “Math And Science Song Information, Viewable Everywhere”. The database, which is maintained by Greg Crowther and is part of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library,

contains information on over 2500 science and math songs. Some of these songs are suitable for 2nd graders; others might only appeal to tenured professors. Some songs have been professionally recorded; others haven’t. Some are quite silly; others are downright serious.

A delight, which you can also listen to all day, all week, all year at MASSIVE Radio — many thanks to Greg Crowther (of the Yahoo Sciencesongs group) and the band Science Groove for putting it all together. Read more about them here.

And don’t forget the granddaddy of them all, the great Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”, here and here.

High end

The great William Zinsser, in a recent “Zinsser on Friday” column/blog post, “Life and Work”, over at The American Scholar,

I’ve never been–perhaps to my shame–a citizen of writing. I don’t belong to writers’ organizations, or attend writers’ talks and panels, or lunch with publishing potentates. I don’t hang out with writers. Writers tend to be not as interesting as they think. What they mainly want to talk about is their own writing, and they also have a ton of grievances, their conversation quick to alight on the perfidy of publishers, the lassitude of editors and agents, and the myopia of critics who reviewed–or didn’t review–their last book.

I’m a lone craftsman, not unlike a potter or a cabinetmaker, shaping and reshaping my materials to create an object that pleases me–nobody else–and when it’s done I send it forth into the world. I don’t have an agent. I never show my writing to other writers; their agenda is not my agenda. For the objective judgment and emotional support that every writer needs I depend on the individual editors of my books and magazine articles–fellow craftsmen–and on a few trusted friends. …

It may seem perverse that I compare my writing to plumbing, an occupation not regarded as high-end. But to me all work is equally honorable, all crafts an astonishment when they are performed with skill and self-respect. Just as I go to work every day with my tools, which are words, the plumber arrives with his kit of wrenches and washers, and afterward the pipes have been so adroitly fitted together that they don’t leak. I don’t want any of my sentences to leak. The fact that someone can make water come out of a faucet on the 10th floor strikes me as a feat no less remarkable than the construction of a clear declarative sentence.

Read the entire piece here.

Find the Zinsser on Friday archive here.

Find a list of William Zinnser’s books here, and read them.  He is one of the best writing teachers around, for the price of a book, and, nowadays, a rare fount of common sense.  As his Zinsser on Friday pieces prove.

Glowing embers

Elspeth Thompson first came to my attention several years ago through her writings about the environment, self-sufficiency, and ethical living in The Guardian and about gardening in The Telegraph.  I was captivated by her idea to turn two railway cottages into a cottage — could anything be more charmingly English? — her photographs, love of poetry, and by the way, as someone at The Telegraph noted, she found the ethereal in the everyday.  She had a wonderful blog mostly about the railway cottage adventure, Off the Rails but with poems, pictures, and other bits and bobs, and a very new gardening blog started only last month, Gardening Against the Odds, where she wrote about unlikely gardens in unpromising places.  Elspeth Thompson could make a stone in a desert sprout leaves, and she could write about it enchantingly. I began to seek out her books, Urban Gardener and A Tale of Two Gardens, collections of her Telegraph columns; The Wonderful Weekend Book: Reclaim Life’s Simple Pleasures, which just came out in paperback.  And I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Homemade: Gorgeous Things to Make with Love co-authored with Ros Badger, which I want to get for Laura’s summer birthday.  Ms. Thompson sparkled so much through her writing that I can only imagine what it must have been like to know her.

It was catching up at her blog yesterday, when I really should have been packing or cleaning, that I learned the terribly sad news of her death on March 25th from a note by her husband Frank Wilson, who wrote,

It is with the deepest sadness that I must tell you that my beautiful and beloved wife Elspeth died on Thursday 25th March aged 48.

She brought her family and friends so much happiness during her short life and she loved to share some of the things that brought her happiness through her writing. She was loving, warm, wonderful and generous and she will be missed by many.

According to the obituary in The Telegraph, “In recent weeks … she had been suffering from an extreme depression; she took her own life last Thursday.”

Several years ago, Elspeth Thompson was one of the last writers to interview Anita Roddick before the latter’s sudden and untimely death. From that interview,

“The most exciting time is now!” [Anita Roddick] declared, as we prepared to leave. And it was easy to believe that, of ourselves as well as her, as we sped down the drive. It is lined with chestnut trees – some ancient, some planted when Roddick moved in.

Typically impatient, she tried to stop the designer planting small trees: “I’ll be dead before they’re fully grown!” He persuaded her that they would grow quickly. What a great sadness that she will never see that happen.

I’m so very saddened to think of Elspeth Thompson’s death, especially in the spring, with her garden waking up and waiting for her.  In her first, and only, blog post at Gardening Against the Odds, she wrote on March 7,

Why do we garden? And why does the passion with which we garden so often seem to be in inverse proportion to the conditions in which we do it? This is a question on which I often ponder while weeding my seaside garden or cycling down London’s sooty, smelly Brixton Road. This last month, three instances of what I call “gardening against the odds” have made me ponder even more. Number one is a balcony in a concrete council block that I pass on my bike ride into the centre of town. Every summer, this tiny, unprepossessing space – it can’t be more than 6 x 4ft – and overlooking a busy road – is a riot of sweetcorn and sunflowers. I’ve never once seen the owner, but like to fantasise that it’s one of the many local residents who came over from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 60s, for whom beans and corn in the back yard mean independence. Anyway, it does cheer me up as as I ride past.

The second is a roadside verge down near the south coast, in the village where we spend most of our weekends. On a turning off the busy sea road into a modern housing estate, someone has taken the trouble to plant a narrow strip of “no-man’s land” with bearded iris, sisyrinchiums, white astrantia and low-growing grasses and campanulas. It’s such a beautiful piece of planting, I’m surprised it doesn’t cause traffic accidents. And it seems to me all the more beautiful for it being completely selfless – it reminds me of that old hippy tenet to “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty”.

The last instance, and one it makes me sad to write about, concerns the father of a close friend of mine, who recently died from cancer. Some weeks ago, having just been told the worst by the hospital, he became agitated that he had not been able to order and sow seeds of the balsam flowers (Impatiens balsamina) that he and his wife have always loved to grow in their garden. You could call it displacement anxiety, but I could understand this gnawing concern about his favourite seeds, which were no longer offered by the mail order company that he habitually used. Sensing the comfort he would have in knowing the garden would be full of these sweet-smelling flowers all summer, even if he might not be there to see them. I helped to track down the seeds, he sowed them and a few weeks after his death his widow sent me a small tray of seedlings to plant in my own garden.

So what is this human urge to garden – to fill our living space, no matter how small – with living plants; to embark on this passionate collaboration with nature, however seemingly inauspicious the circumstances? After 20 years of travelling to write about gardens, it is by no means just the great and grand gardens that remain in my memory. If anything, I remember all the more vividly the hundreds of tiny patches – on strips of rooftops, sun-baked shingle, even the tops of narrow boats or travellers’ converted buses – all conceived and tended with the deepest love and care. I remember the nonogenarian who was still planning (and did, in fact finish) an ambitious water cascade in his garden in Oxfordshire; the front garden fashioned from blue and white painted breeze blocks and car-tyre containers in rural Barbados; the miniature Versailles behind a modern housing estate in Holland; the woman who raises homegrown vegetables, including 20 types of basil, on a tiny roof terrace in Chelsea.

It is in honour of these and all the many other “gardeners against the odds” that I am planting out John Bloom’s balsam in my garden this afternoon.

And that, years later, I am beginning this blog.

Would that she had been able to continue living, gardening, blogging.  I’ll end here with the poem Elspeth Thompson posted this past New Year’s Eve, “Twenty Blessings” by Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark,

Twenty Blessings
by Thomas A. Clark

May the best hour of the day be yours.
May luck go with you from hill to sea.
May you stand against the prevailing wind.
May no forest intimidate you.
May you look out from your own eyes.
May near and far attend you.
May you bathe your face in the sun’s rays.
May you have milk, cream, substance.
May your actions be effective.
May your thoughts be affective.
May you will both the wild and the mild.
May you sing the lark from the sky.
May you place yourself in circumstance.
May you be surrounded by goldfinches.
May you pause among alders.
May your desire be infinite.
May what you touch be touched.
May the company be less for your leaving.
May you walk alone beneath the stars.
May your embers still glow in the morning.

Blessings on Elspeth Thompson, her husband and young daughter.  May they always be surrounded by goldfinches.

Trip report, part 2: NYC, still wild

On our second day, Sunday, we were up bright and early to go birding in Central Park with Deb Allen. We met what seems to be a devoted group of regulars by the Turtle Pond dock near Belvedere Castle, where I spent many high school Saturdays climbing the castle and the rock walls below. Laura was delighted to be in the midst of the fall migration, surrounded by her favorite warblers, and found it interesting that some of the birds we take for granted and enjoy in full summer plumage, such as goldfinches, are simply visitors in New York in the autumn.  Also novel was birdwatching as a large group activity.

We started off at the Turtle Pond,

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Laura with her new binoculars, a belated birthday gift from Grandpapa,

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The lack of binoculars didn’t hinder Daniel,

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and I can tell you that by the end of our birdwatching, that backpack was full of acorns, all of which made the journey home with us.

The group zeroes in on a new specimen,

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Laura in her element,

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We walked through the Ramble, then out onto the very new Oak Bridge (which is really steel and aluminum), and toward Strawberry Field,

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Laura kept a list in a notebook of all her sightings for the day, which included ruddy ducks and gadwalls at Turtle Pond, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglets, a swamp sparrow, a northern water thrush, winter wren, brown thrasher, eastern towhee, and pine warbler. I’m sure there were more, but I’m not the official birder in the family. Between the birds and the lovely New York birders we met, it was a wonderful morning.

We left after two hours (the walks usually last three hours) to head over to my parents’ apartment to make pancakes for brunch. As it was, we ran into a 10-block street fair at Broadway and 86th Street, which slowed us down considerably,

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