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Musings of a Sidewalk Explore: Mammals

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

After focusing mostly on birds and flowers during my daily walks, the furry wildlife in the neighborhood caught my eye. I have seen plenty of domestic critters (barking dogs in yards and homes, disinterested cats in sunny windows, lots of dogs on walks with their humans, and a couple of wary outdoor cats); however, a recent squirrel encounter changed my focus from pets to furry wildlife, specifically squirrels and rabbits. 

I happened upon the path of one squirrel in hot pursuit another; we completely surprised each other as I rounded the corner. One squirrel dashed across the street (almost running over my foot) while the other turned on a dime and darted back into the shrubs along the edge of the sidewalk.  I was then thoroughly scolded by this squirrel…I almost thought it was going to come flying out of the shrubs to really make its point.  I’m not sure if the chase I interrupted was a territory dispute or the fact that spring is in the air; either way, there was absolutely no doubt on the feelings of this squirrel toward me. 

I had another squirrel encounter where I noticed three squirrels chasing each other in and around a tree.  Just as quickly as it started, they all stopped simultaneously and sat on three different branches. It was as if they were playing musical branches and the music stopped, only there was no music and plenty of branches. Squirrels really can be wacky, but so enjoyable. 

Apparently rabbits are not just dining in my yard…they are EVERYWHERE! The neighborhood rabbits don’t seem to notice (or care) when I walk by as they barely stop chewing and rarely hop away. Personally I have been battling the bunnies in my yard for the past few years (it’s a losing battle); however, I now know what rabbits don’t like to nibble (because that is what is thriving in my native perennial beds): foxglove beardtongue, cardinal flower, swamp milkweed, various ferns, wild indigo, and joe-pyeweed, just to name a few. Have a rabbit challenge and still want to have flowers? Check out our Native Plant Sale offerings and pre-order for your beds.  

Now I’m on the look-out for skunks, deer, opossums, raccoons, and/or coyotes, all of which I have seen/smelled/heard in the past in my yard.  Learn more about mammals in Massachusetts. 

What backyard mammals have you seen? Be well and stay safe! 

Become an Expert Observer With the Three I’s

Maddy, a TerraCorps member who started her service term this year at Moose Hill, creates programs and activities that engage adults and youth alike in exploration of the natural world.

The three I’s is an educational practice that helps us explore our natural curiosity about the world and become better observers. Is there somewhere in nature, maybe your own backyard, where you like to sit and observe your environment? This place is what some naturalists call a sit spot! By sitting still for a few minutes and opening all of your senses you can become a part of your environment – and reveal the secrets of nature! 

While sitting in your sit spot, try the three i’s activity to help engage with your environment: 

I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of… 

We call these questions the 3 I’s and use them to hone our observation skills. The 3 i’s were originally coined by John Muir Laws, an artist, educator, and naturalist, who teaches that understanding our environment doesn’t come from simply looking at it, but rather by asking questions and making connections.  

Take a minute to make a list of people who are exceptional observers – fictional or otherwise. So, who did you come up with? Maybe Sherlock Holmes, Hellen Keller, or John Muir himself? All these people have one thing in common. They learned to pay in-depth attention to what their senses tell them about the world.  

Want to become a professional observer? Here’s how to start! First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between an observation and an opinion, inference, or identification. For instance, let’s imagine you pick up a nature object off the ground. You may already know what it is, but saying it’s a leaf would be identification. You may be able to guess how it came to be on the ground, but doing so would be an inference. And you may think it’s pretty, but that would be an opinion. A true observation requires using your senses to simply state what you notice, for example, “the nature object is green,” “it smells sweet,” or “it is soft to the touch.”  

Now it’s time to try it out yourself! Note: you can do this activity alone but it’s also fun to do with a partner. 

  1. If you have a sit spot already, head out and take a seat! Otherwise, now is the perfect time to find a sit spot. Anywhere in your backyard or somewhere close by in nature will do. 
  1. Take a few minutes to get comfortable and start getting in tune with your surroundings. 
  1. Pick up an object from nature that you can safely hold. 
  1. For one minute, say out loud (to your partner if you have one) some observations that you can make about your object from nature. Start each observation with “I notice…” 
  1. Now, for another minute, ask questions about your nature object. Start each question with “I wonder…” 
  1. Last, it’s time to make some connections! Take another minute to say out loud an experience or other object that your nature object reminds you of. Start each statement with “It reminds me of…” 

What did you learn about your nature object? Did you discover something about it you didn’t notice at first glance – perhaps a smell, texture, or color? What did it remind you of, and can you make a connection or relationship between those two things? What questions do you still have about your nature object? If you have time and a naturalist guidebook, chase your curiosity and see if you can answer some of those questions by investigating further! 

Be sure to share your sit spot adventures with us on social media and tag us on Facebook or Instagram!

Musings of a Sidewalk Explorer: Gardens

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

I so enjoy seeing flowers along my walking routes, and whether the beds are perfectly weeded and mulched, wildly cozy, or somewhere in between, I appreciate the work that goes into maintaining flower beds. I have always been a student of botany (trees, wildflowers, and other non-cultivated plants), but I now consider myself an accidental gardener. My first real dig at gardening came with coordinating Moose Hill’s first Native Plant Sale. Not being versed in actually planting/growing anything (other than a failed attempt at potted tomatoes…a squirrel got most of the them), my initial question was, “Remind me again the difference between annual and perennial.” It’s been almost 15 years since then and I now love getting my hands into the soil and dirt under my fingernails. Currently in my flower beds Mayapple is up, a few trilliums have flowers, columbine is just starting to bloom, and lots of greenery is filling in with the hope of more flowers to come. Each spring it’s truly is like seeing old friends after a long absence.  

My personal gardening philosophy is to dig a hole, put the plant in, water, and see what happens; I’m definitely in the let-it-grow-wildly-cozy camp. I try to place plants in their ideal growing conditions, but if I have an empty spot and a plant…in it goes. I have discovered that most will grow if placed even remotely close to their preferred conditions (they may not be as robust, but they will grow and thrive). As I enjoy the process of gardening, it is also important for our local pollinators (butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and the like). So, I hope you will find time to get your hands into soil, and if you don’t have space…just appreciate the gardens in your neighborhood. 

Celebrate plants! Here’s a few ideas:  

Plant anything and watch it grow. 

Read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The final page will let you know how to care for seeds. 

Watch a particular tree/flower and track its growth. 

Try an underappreciated vegetable.  

Support Moose Hill’s Native Plant Sale (being held at the CSA Barn at our farm) and pre-order from our selection of native perennials.  

Join Moose Hill’s CSA for 18 weeks of fresh organic produce with options for helping harvest or not.  

Let us know about your gardening adventures! Be well and stay safe. 

Discover Your Own Backyard!

This Backyard Quiz is based off of a quiz of the same name from Owl Eyes. Owl Eyes is a children’s educational activity book by expert environmental educator Devin Franklin. The guidebook aims to “open your senses” and “discover nature’s secrets” with “mapping, tracking, and journaling activities.” 

Discover Your Own Backyard with this BACKYARD QUIZ! 

  1. Name a tree that grows in your backyard, draw a picture of it and a picture of its leaf!  (If you don’t have any trees in your yard, you can use a shrub or bush.)
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Your picture of the tree

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Your picture of the leaf 

  1. Name a kind of bird that visits your backyard. 

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  1. Draw a picture of this bird and label two things you notice that could help identify it. 
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Your Picture of the Bird 

  1. What kind of habitats can be found in your backyard? 

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  1. Draw a bird-eye view of your backyard (as if you were looking down at it from above). 
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Birds-Eye View of Your Backyard 

  1. Write the name of a creature that lives in or passes through your backyard, then write one type of sign or trace that the animal leaves behind and make a sketch of this “clue.”  

 _______________________________________ 

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Animal Trace 

  1. Write the names of two things in your backyard that are connected to each other through some type of relationship, then briefly describe this relationship. 

______________________________________________________________________________ 

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  1. Extra Credit: Get Creative! 

Write a haiku or free-poem about your backyard 

OR 

Get a camera and explore your backyard like a tourist- take pictures of flowers, birds, squirrels, and insects you find! (If you have an app like iNaturalist, upload your observations and see if you can identify any of the plants and animals in your pictures)! 

Be sure to share your results with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Musings of a Sidewalk Explorer: Woodpeckers

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

The woodpeckers in my neighborhood are announcing themselves to anyone willing to listen by pounding their heads against anything that will produce noise. Some birds have found creative places to drum, as the louder the drumming the more likely to attract a mate or maintain a territory. I actually saw one bird drumming on a chimney cap…it was loud and I can only imagine what it sounded like inside the house. Other possible drumming sites are hollow trees, gutters, transformer boxes, trash cans, siding of homes, phone poles, and tree stumps; basically anything that resonates sound. Find out more about woodpeckers in Massachusetts and what to do if one decides to drum on your house

I then wondered how woodpeckers could continually bang their heads against a hard surface and not become impaired. Turns out nature took care of that with adaptations to protect them: built-in shock absorbers, the actual structure of their skull and beak redirects pressure away from its head, and perhaps my favorite, it can wrap its tongue around its head (internally) to help cushion the blows. Find out more about how woodpeckers can drum without getting brain damage

Have some woodpecker fun: 

How many knock, knock jokes you can tell? 

How many “W” words can you work into a sentence? Here’s my best attempt: “The white woodpecker wilted while waiting for winter to wane.” 

Make a cool woodpecker that moves up and down a string like a real one working a tree. 

Fold an origami woodpecker

Send us your best attempts at woodpecker fun on Facebook or Instagram! 

How to Shop Safe and Local

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop, and trails remain closed during this time, the farm will be open and we hope that you will continue to support the local vendors that we partner with to fill our gift shop shelves. Though you can’t shop through us right now, you can still easily shop directly with many of our vendors for all of your upcoming gifts, gardening, or grocery needs – it will be easy to see why we have been so proud to partner with them at Moose Hill.

The two current best ways to directly support Moose Hill are by joining us as a member, taking advantage of the new member special for just $32, and by joining our Organic CSA, where you can get 18 weeks of fresh vegetables worth $27-$32 a week. Guaranteed fresh vegetables without needing to remember to place an order each week – what a great deal! We will be starting our CSA program on time in late May. Arrangements will be made for a safe pick-up process for shareholders and farmers if the COVID-19 situation continues into the CSA season. By purchasing a CSA share now, you’re giving valuable support to our farmers as they continue to work to provide fresh, sustainable food for our community.

While we can’t physically sell the great products from our local partners in our shop right now, we want to help you reach them virtually, or contact free, and continue to show them some love. Visit the list below to check out what your neighbors and community members have available.

CatBird Design – Greeting Cards / Nature Photography / Jewelry and More
Cilla’s Creations – Cement Garden Decorations
Chickadee Seed & Feed – Bird Seed, Feeders, Garden Supplies, Feed, and More
Country Farm Candles – Family Owned Hand Poured Soy Candles
Good Life Creations – Personalized Gifts & Decor
Ink’d – COMMUN-A-TEE T-Shirts and Masks
Jim’s Organic Coffee – Local Coffee Offering 15% Off Your Online Order
Mass Audubon Shop – Limited Version of the Usual Online Shop
Nelumbo Healing Arts – Nature Art, Jewelry, and Hand Crafted Self Care Products.
Our Corner Booth – Handmade Wooden Home Goods & Decor.
The Petal Peddler’s Shop – Unique Handcrafted Paper Flower Bouquets
Ring by Ring Designs – Handmade Jewelry
Simpson Spring – Local Grocery Goods (Including Local Meat), Fresh Spring Water, Gifts, and More
Tea Guys – Local Tea
TreeHouse Farms – Local Eggs, Meat Birds, and More
Ward’s Berry Farm – Local Groceries, Plants, and Moose Hill Maple Syrup
Yellow Ochre Studio – Original Gouache Paintings & Giclee Prints

We hope you are all staying safe and healthy and miss you dearly. Thank you for your continued patronage and shared love of nature.

How to Make a Recycled Nature Journal

Julia is a teacher-naturalist at Moose Hill who has been with Mass Audubon for over two and a half years and at Moose Hill specifically for the last year and a half. Julia is passionate about conservation and protecting the environment so future generations have the same resources that we have today and she loves sharing that passion with people of all ages. With a background in geology and environmental studies and research projects on fluvial features on mars as well as wetland restoration, she can easily teach on the many aspects at Moose Hill, hopefully sparking an interest or love of the environment in children and adults. She particularly loves seeing a child express excitement over something they learned.

Make your own homemade journal using recycled materials found in your home. Then use it to write and draw about things you see and observe in nature! 

Materials: 

  • Cardboard from a cereal box, soda box, or any other cardboard item 
  • Ruler 
  • Pencil/pen 
  • Hole punch  
  • Scissors 
  • Yarn 
  • 5 sheets of computer paper/any paper you have in your home 

Instructions: 

  • Using the ruler, measure 2 pieces of the card board as a 6” by 9” rectangle using the ruler and pen to mark the measurements. 
  • Cut out the 2 measured cardboard pieces. 
  • Fold 5 sheets of 8” by 10” computer paper in half the “hamburger” way. You may use more paper but keep in mind it will be harder to poke holes in it the more paper you have. You may also use any kind of paper you have. 
  • Using the hole punch, punch three holes along the edge of each cardboard piece and the folded packet of paper. Make sure the holes line up with each other. You can use scissors to make the holes if you do not have a hole punch. 
  • Using your yarn, weave through the holes. Put the yarn down through the top hole, up through the middle hole, and down through the bottom hole. 
  • Then weave the yarn back up through the middle hole, and back down through the top hole.  
  • Then tie the two ends together.  

And tada, you have a nature journal! Now get out there and document that nature that is budding in your backyard right now. You can take it another step further and decorate the cover however you see fit so that it is personalized just for you.

We hope you had fun crafting with us today. Be sure to share your findings with us on Facebook or Instagram! We love to see what you come up with.

While the Nature Center, Gift Shop and trails are closed during this time, there are still a number of ways you can support Moose Hill as we prepare for when we once again can welcome everyone back – join Mass Audubon (there’s a new member special for just $32 dollars!); join our CSA, with a regular pick-up worth $27-$32 a week, it’s a guarantee of fresh, organic vegetables this summer; support our partners:

Musings From a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

I was excited to notice the first buzzing bumblebee bumbling around my yard (it was a bit chilly, so I think that may have been impacting the bee’s flight path). I am sure it was searching for a flower to have a snack; however, to date the only things blooming in my yard are maple trees, daffodils, and a few weedy lawn plants, slim pickings for sure. I am hoping the bumblebee will be back when my blueberry bush is in bloom since bumblebees are blueberry pollinators. Since they are way too big to physically get into a blueberry flower to access the pollen, they use buzz pollination! They grab hold of the flower and vibrate their bodies at the proper frequency so the pollen drops out.  Watch this super cool adaptation! 

Learn about bumblebees (and other bees/wasps) in Massachusetts. 

Learn all about bumblebees. 

Celebrate bumblebees…here’s how: 

  • Enjoy blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, or the fresh fruit unadorned to show your appreciation of bumblebees! 

Let us know your bumblebee (and other pollinator) sightings and activities.  Be well and stay safe. 

Sugar on Snow from a Vermonter’s View

by Danielle Lanson, Administrative Assistant and Office Manager

that sweet, sweet steam

As a Vermont native, maple syrup wasn’t just something you put on pancakes. It was a tradition, a season, and a way of life. I’ve traded chickens for it, I’ve been paid for home improvements with it, and I’ve sat around pots of boiling sap in a room full of white beards and flannel passing down stories while the sweet steam seeped into my clothing creating memories to cherish in years to come. Maple syrup was about community, more than it was about creating a product. As I got older and my life got busier, there was less time to spend hanging out in sugar shacks but one tradition that always remained was sugar on snow.

getting ready to pour some on snow

Every March, the entire family got together to go experience the essence of Vermont in its chewy and caramelized form over hot cocoa, cider donuts, and laughter. The winters are long up in Vermont, so we celebrate the horizon of spring by pouring piping hot maple syrup over packed snow to create the iconic Sugar on Snow that has become a well-loved tradition signaling the end of winter and the beginning of mud season, which then gives hope for spring.

In honor of these northern traditions, we are excited to offer a Sugar on Snow program for all here at Moose Hill to bring you the full experience of the sugaring season.

Want more? Check out all the great Maple Sugaring Programs: Maple Sugaring Weekends, now two full weekends (great for everyone!); Behind the Scenes tour of our sugaring operation (for the adults); and Fledgling Fridays programs (for you and your child age 3-5 years).

We hope to see you here, enjoying our sweetest season!

Holiday Shopping at Your Local Gift Shop

If you are looking for unique gifts this Holiday season, be sure to come check out our ever growing and changing gift shop right up at the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Center. We are proud to support a wide range of local artists with items such as handmade jewelry, wood burned art, cement garden art, hand poured soy candles, greeting cards, nature and vegetable prints, wool dryer balls, ornaments, hand knit and crocheted hats, and more! Keep checking back throughout the season as new products, including some of those pictured below, arrive in the shop.

On top of all of the lovely local art items, we also have Moose Hill branded items like shirts, hats, water bottles, and bags – most of which were printed locally at Inkd in Mansfield!

We are also getting restocked with plenty of nature themed items that make excellent stocking stuffers! These will be arriving at the shop towards the end of November – keep an eye out on our social media pages for our announcement of their arrival.

At Moose Hill, we strive to support our community and offer as many local items as possible, even down to the soda and bird seed that we sell. So you know that when you shop with us you are not only supporting a local conservation organization, but also a local business or artist. And don’t forget – if you are a member then you get 10% off of most things in the shop, including the bird seed!

We hope you are all having a lovely transition into winter as the sun sets earlier, the nights get colder, and the landscape changes once again. Our 25 miles of trails are beautiful year round with something new to see in every season so be sure to keep us in mind as you plan out your weekends!