Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 20 – Moles


Chapter 20

Moles


Scampering along on his way Peter Rabbit stubbed his toes. Yes indeed, Peter stubbed his toes on a little ridge where the surface of the ground had been raised a trifle since Peter had passed that way the day before.

Peter chuckled. “Now isn’t that funny?” he said to know one in particular because he was quite alone. Then he answered himself. “It certainly is,” he said. “Here I am on my way to learn something about Miner the Mole, and I trip over one of the little odd ridges he is forever making. It wasn’t here yesterday, so that means that he is at work right around here now. Well hello, I thought so!”

Peter had been looking along that little ridge and had discovered that it ended only a short distance from him. Now as he looked at it again, he saw the flat surface of the ground at the end of the ridge rising up as if being pushed from beneath, and the little ridge became longer. Peter understood perfectly. Out of sight beneath the surface Miner the Mole was at work. He was digging a tunnel, and that ridge was simply the roof to that tunnel. It was so near the surface of the ground that Miner simply pushed up the loose soil as he bored his way along, and this made the little ridge over which Peter had stumbled.

Peter watched a few minutes, then turned and scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, towards the Green Forest to gather with Mother Nature and the group of four-legged folks for another learning session. When he arrived he was a bit out of breath for having made haste to get there on time.

“Well, Peter,” she said . “Did you have a narrow escape on your way here? Or have you found something in your travels?”

Peter shook his head. “No,” he replied. “No, I didn’t have a narrow escape, however I did discover something.”

“What is it you discovered?” asked Mother Nature.

“That the very one we are to learn about today is only a little way from here this very minute. Miner the Mole is at work in the Green Meadow and close to the edge of the Green Forest,” Peter said eagerly. “I thought perhaps you would want to see his work in action.”

“Have this morning’s session right there where we can see his work would be grand,” Mother Nature agreed. “That sounds just fine, Peter,” Mother Nature said with a smile. “We will go over there at once. It is always better to see things in action whenever possible than to merely hear about them.”

So Peter led the way to where he had stumbled over that little ridge. It was longer than when he had left it and grew even as the others crowded about to look as the earth was pushed up. Mother Nature stooped and made a little hole in that ridge. Then she put her lips close to it and asked Miner to come out. She spoke softly and pleasantly so as to coax Miner from the hole she had made.

Almost at once a long, sharp nose was poked out of the little hole she had made, and a squeaky voice asked fretfully, “Do I have to come way out?”

“Yes please,” replied Mother Nature. “I want some of your friends and neighbors to get a good look at you, and they certainly can’t do that with only that sharp nose of yours to be seen. Now scramble out here if you please and no one will hurt you. I will keep you only for a few minutes. Then you can go back to your digging.”

Mole illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

While the others gathered in a little circle close about that hole there scrambled into view one of the oddest little fellows in all the Great World. Few of them had ever seen him close up before. He was a stout little fellow with the softest, thickest, gray coat imaginable. He was about six inches long and had a funny, short, pinkish-white, naked tail that at once reminded Peter of an angleworm.

His head seemed to be set directly on his shoulders, so that there was no neck worth mentioning. His nose was long and sharp and extended far beyond his mouth. Neither ears nor eyes were to be seen.

Striped Chipmunk at once wanted to know how Miner could see. “He doesn’t see as you do,” replied Mother Nature. “He has very small eyes, tiny things, which you might find if you should part the fur around them, and they are of use only to distinguish light from darkness. Miner hasn’t the least idea what any of you look like. You see, he spends his life under ground and of course has no use for eyes there. They would only be a nuisance, for the dirt would be continually getting in them if they were any larger than they are or were not protected as they are. If you should feel of Miner’s nose you would find it hard. That is because he uses it to bore with in the earth. And, just notice those hands of his!”

At once everybody looked at Miner’s hands. No one ever had seen such hands before. The arms were short and looked very strong. The hands also were rather short, however what they lacked in length they made up in width and they were armed with long, stout claws. The odd thing about them was the way he held them. He held them turned out. His hind feet were not much different from the hind feet of the Mouse family.

Miner was plainly uncomfortable. He wriggled about uneasily and it was very clear that he was there only because Mother Nature had asked him nicely to be there, and that the one thing he wanted most was to get back into his beloved ground. Mother Nature saw this and so she picked him up and placed him on the ground where there was no opening near.

“Now, Miner,” she said, “your friends and neighbors have had a good look at you, and I know just how uncomfortable you feel. There is only one thing more I’ll ask of you. It is that you will show us how you can dig. Johnny Chuck thinks he is a pretty good digger. Just show him what you can do.”

Miner didn’t wait to be told twice. The instant Mother Nature stopped speaking he began to push and bore into the earth with his sharp nose. One of those great, spadelike hands was slipped up past his face and the claws driven in beside his nose. Then it was swept back and the loosened earth with it. The other hand was used in the same way. It was quite plain to everybody why they were turned out in the way they were. There was nothing slow about the way Miner used that boring nose and those shoveling hands. Peter Rabbit had hardly time for half a dozen long breaths before Miner the Mole had disappeared.

“That was some digging!” exclaimed Peter.

“Never again as long as I live will I boast of my digging,” declared Johnny Chuck admiringly. From the point where Miner had entered the ground a little ridge was being pushed up, and they watched it grow surprisingly fast as the little worker under the sod pushed his tunnel along in the direction of his old tunnels. It was clear that he was in a hurry to get back to where he could work in peace.

“What an odd life,” exclaimed Happy Jack Squirrel. “I should think it would be awful living in the dark that way all the time and it couldn’t be much fun.”

“You forget that he cannot see as you can, and so he prefers the dark,” replied Mother Nature. “As for fun, he gets that in his work. He is called Miner because he lives in the ground and is always tunneling.

“What does he eat, the roots of plants?” asked Jumper the Hare.

Mother Nature shook her head. “A lot of people do think that,” she said, “and often Miner is charged with destroying growing crops, eating seed corn, etc. That is because his tunnels are found running along the rows of plants. The fact is Miner has simply been hunting for grubs and worms around the roots of those plants. He hasn’t touched the plants at all. I suspect that Danny Meadow Mouse or one of his cousins could explain who ate the seed corn and the young plants. They are rather fond of using Miner’s tunnels when he isn’t about.”

“The only harm Miner does is sometimes he tunnels so close to garden plants that he lets air in around the tender roots and they dry out,” continued Mother Nature. “His food consists mostly of worms, grubs and insects, and he has to have a great many to keep him alive. That is why he is so active. Those tunnels of his which seem to be without any plan are made in his search for food. He is especially fond of angleworms.”

“When you see his ridges you may know that his food is close to the surface. When in dry or cold weather the worms go deep in the ground, Miner follows and then there is no trace of his tunnels on the surface.”

“Night and day are all the same to him. He works and sleeps when he chooses. In winter he tunnels below the frost line. You all noticed how dense his fur is. That is so the sand cannot work down in it. His home is a snug nest of grass or leaves in a little chamber under the ground in which several tunnels offer easy means of escape in case of sudden danger.”

“Has Miner any near relatives?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Several,” replied Mother Nature. “All are much alike in habits. One who lives a little farther north is called Brewer’s Mole or the Hairy-tailed Mole. His tail is a little longer than Miner’s and is covered with fine hair. The largest member of the family is the Oregon Mole of the Northwest. His coat is very dark and his fur extremely fine. His ways are much the same as those of Miner whom you have just met, excepting that when he is tunneling deep in the ground he pushes the earth to the surface after the manner of Grubby Gopher, and his mounds become a nuisance to farmers. When he is tunneling just under the surface he makes ridges exactly like these of his eastern cousin.”

Star-nosed Mole illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“The most interesting member of the Mole family is the Star-nosed Mole. He looks much like Miner with the exception of his nose and tail. His nose has a fringe of little fleshy points, twenty-two of them, like a many-pointed star. From this he gets his name. His tail is a little longer than Miner’s and is hairy. During the late fall and winter this becomes much enlarged.”

“This funny little fellow with the star-like nose is especially fond of moist places, swamps, damp meadows, and the banks of streams. He is not at all afraid of the water and is a good swimmer. Sometimes he may be seen swimming under the ice in winter. He is seldom found where the earth is dry. For that matter, none of the family are found in those sections where there are long, dry periods and the earth becomes baked and hard.”

“The fur of Miner and his cousins will lay in either direction, which keeps it smooth no matter whether the wearer is going forward or backward. Otherwise it would be badly mussed up most of the time.”

“Remember that the Shrews and the Moles both belong to the order of Insectivora, meaning eaters of insects, and are the only two families in that order.”

Following the prompts below draw, doodle, write, ponder, paint, color, and creatively capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. This chapter talks about shrews and moles. Have you heard of a vole? What is the difference between a vole and a mole? They are often confused by folks. Use Chapter 15 along with a little research to discover the mystery of which animal is actually called a vole. Bonus Nature Note: Moles with an “M” eat Meat and Voles with a “V” eat vegetation.
  2. Take a closer look at images of a Star-nosed Mole focusing on the fabulous nose. Now draw a new version of a mouse, mole or shrew and add one or two special features and explain what their uses would be specific to that animal.
  3. Visit this LINK at the Mass Audubon Society for more photos and information on moles.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 19 – Shrews


Chapter 19

Shrews


“Of course Mother Nature knows and yet just the same it is hard for me not to believe that Teeny Weeny is a member of the Mouse family,” said Happy Jack Squirrel to Peter Rabbit, as they scampered along to the next learning session on the edge of the woodlands. “I never have had a real good look at him, just glimpses of him many times and always thought he was a little Mouse with a short tail. It is hard to believe that he isn’t.”

“I hope Mother Nature will put him where we can get a good look at him,” replied Peter. “Perhaps when you really see him he won’t look so much like a Mouse.”

When all had arrived Mother Nature began the morning session at once. “You have learned about all the families in the order of Rodents,” she said, “so now we will take up another and much smaller order called Insectivora. I wonder if any of you can guess what that means.”

“It sounds,” said Peter Rabbit, “as if it must have something to do with insects.”

“That is a very good guess, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, smiling at him. “It does have to do with insects. The members of this order live largely on insects and worms, and the name Insectivora means insect-eating. There are two families in this order, the Shrew family and the Mole family.”

“Then Teeny Weeny the Shrew and Miner the Mole must be related,” Peter quickly spoke-up.

“Right again, Peter,” was Mother Nature’s reply. “The Shrews and the Moles are related in the same way that you and Happy Jack Squirrel are related.”

“And isn’t Teeny Weeny the Shrew related to the Mice at all?” asked Happy Jack.

“Not at all,” said Mother Nature. “Many people think he is and often he is called Shrew Mouse, however this just isn’t so.”

All this time the eyes of every one had been searching this way, that way, every way, for Teeny Weeny the Shrew, for Mother Nature had promised to try to have him there that morning. However, he was not to be seen. Now and then a leaf on the ground close by Mother Nature’s feet moved, and yet the Merry Little Breezes were always stirring up fallen leaves, and so no one paid any attention to these.

Mother Nature understood the disappointment in the faces before her and her eyes began to twinkle. “Yesterday I told you that I would try to have Teeny Weeny the Shrew here,” she said. A leaf moved. Stooping quickly she picked it up. “And here he is,” she finished.

Sure enough where a second before the dead brown leaf had been was a tiny little fellow, so tiny that that leaf had covered him completely, and it wasn’t a very big leaf. It was Teeny Weeny the Shrew, also called the Common Shrew, the Long-tailed Shrew, one of the smallest animals in all the Great World. He started to dart under another leaf and Mother Nature stopped him. “Sit still please,” she requested. “You have nothing to fear. I want everybody to have a good look at you, for it is high time these neighbors of yours get to know you. I know just how nervous and uncomfortable you are and I’ll keep you only a few minutes. Now everybody take a good look at Teeny Weeny the Shrew.”

Teeny Weeny the Shrew illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

What they saw was a mite of a fellow less than four inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, and of this total length the tail was almost half. He was slender, had short legs and mouse-like feet. His coat was brownish above and grayish beneath, and the fur was very fine and soft.

The oddest thing about Teeny Weeny the Shrew was his long, pointed head ending in a long nose. No Mouse has a head like it. The edges of the ears could be seen above the fur, and the eyes were so tiny that Peter Rabbit thought he hadn’t any and said so.

Mother Nature laughed. “Yes, he has eyes, Peter,” she said. “Look closely and you will see them. They are barely there as they are only used to tell daylight from darkness. Teeny Weeny the Shrew depends on his nose chiefly. He has a very wonderful little nose, flexible and very sensitive. Of course, with such poor eyes he prefers the dark when there are fewer predators abroad.”

All this time Teeny Weeny the Shrew had been growing more and more uneasy. Mother Nature saw and understood. Now she told him that he might go. Hardly were the words out of her mouth when he vanished, darting under some dead leaves. Hidden by them he made his way to an old log and was seen no more.

“Doesn’t he eat anything other than insects and worms?” asked Striped Chipmunk.

“Yes,” replied Mother Nature. “He is very fond of flesh, and if he finds the body of a bird or animal that has been killed he will tear it to pieces. He is so little and so active that he has to have a great deal of food and probably eats his own weight in food every day. Of course, that means he must do a great deal of hunting, which he does.”

“He makes tiny little paths under the fallen leaves and in swampy place he makes little tunnels through the moss. He is especially fond of old rotted stumps and logs and brush piles, for in such places he can find grubs and insects. At the same time he is well hidden. He is active by day and night, although in the daytime takes pains to keep out of the light. He prefers damp to dry places. In winter he tunnels about under the snow. In summer he uses the tunnels and runways of Meadow Mice and others when he can. He eats seeds and other vegetable food when he cannot find insects or flesh.”

“How about his predators?” asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“He has plenty,” replied Mother Nature, “although he is not so much hunted as the members of the Mouse family. This is because he has a strong, unpleasant scent which makes him a poor meal for those at all particular about their food. Some of the Hawks and Owls appear not to mind this, and these are his worst predators.”

“Has he any near relatives?” asked Jumper the Hare.

Short-tailed Shrew illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertees

“Several,” was Mother Nature’s prompt response. “The Short-tailed Shrew, also called Mole Shrew, is the best known. He is found everywhere, in forests, old pastures and along grassy banks, and seldom far from water. He prefers moist ground. He is much larger and thicker than Teeny Weeny the Shrew and has a shorter tail. People often mistake him for Miner the Mole, because of the thick, fine fur which is much like Miner’s and his habit of tunneling about just beneath the surface, however if they would look at his forefeet they would know the difference. They are small and like the feet of the Mouse family, not at all like Miner’s big shovels. Moreover, he is smaller than Miner, and his tunnels are seldom in the earth rather just under the leaves and grass.”

“His food is much the same as that of Teeny Weeny the Shrew preferring worms, insects, flesh when he can get it, and seeds. He is fond of beechnuts. He makes a soft, comfortable nest under a log or in a stump or in the ground and has from four to six babies at a time. Teeny Weeny the Shrew sometimes has as many as ten. The senses of smell and hearing are very keen for him and make up for the lack of sight. His eyes, like those of other Shrews, are probably of use only in distinguishing light from darkness. His coat is dark brownish-gray.”

“Another of the Shrew family is the Marsh Shrew, also called Water Shrew and Black-and white Shrew. He is longer than either of the others and, as you have guessed, is a lover of water. He is a good swimmer and gets much of his food in the water feeding on water Beetles and grubs and perhaps Tadpoles and Minnows. Now who among you knows Miner the Mole?”

“I do. That is, I have seen him,” replied Peter Rabbit.

“Very well, Peter, tomorrow morning we will see how much you know about Miner,” replied Mother Nature.


Short-tailed Srew discovered in the meadow near to the forest and brook.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Can you tell the difference between a mouse and a shrew? Have you ever confused the two? Do you have an outdoor cat that tends to bring these home? Which ones typically – mice or shrews?
  2. How often are mice characters in the stories you read vs. how often do you have characters that are shrews? What are some of your favorite mouse characters? Do you have any favorite shrew characters? Example: the main character Ralph S. Mouse in the Mouse and the Motorcycle series by Beverly Cleary.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 18 – Pocket Mice + House Mouse


Chapter 18

Pocket Mice + House Mouse


“Pockets are very handy things for little people who are thrifty and who live largely on small seeds. Without pockets in which to carry the seeds, I am afraid some of them would never be able to store up enough food for winter,” began Mother Nature, as soon as everybody had gathered the next morning.

Striped Chipmunk spoke up, “I wouldn’t be able to do my work without my pockets.”

Mother Nature smiled. “You certainly do make good use of yours,” she said. “And there are others who have even greater need of pockets, and among them are the Pocket Mice. Of course, it is because of their pockets that they are called Pocket Mice. All of these pretty little fellows live in the dry parts of the Far West and Southwest in the same region where Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat lives. They are close neighbors and relatives of his.”

“The Silky Pocket Mouse is one of the smallest animals in all the Great World, so small that Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is a giant compared to him. He weighs less than an ounce and is a dear little fellow. His back and sides are yellow, and beneath he is white. He has quite long hind legs and a long tail, and these show at once that he is a jumper. In each cheek is a pocket opening from the outside, and these pockets are lined with hair. He is called Silky Pocket Mouse because of the fineness and softness of his coat. He has some larger cousins, one of them being a little bigger than Nibbler the House Mouse. Neighbors and close relatives are the Spiny Pocket Mice.”

“Do they have spines like Prickly Porky?” asked Peter Rabbit.

Mother Nature laughed. “I don’t wonder you ask,” she said. “No they haven’t any spines at all. Their fur isn’t as fine as that of the Silky Pocket Mouse, and it has long coarse hairs almost like bristles all through it, and from these they get their name. The smallest of the Spiny Pocket Mice is about the size of Nibbler the House Mouse and the largest is twice as big. They are more slender than their Silky cousins, and their tails are longer in proportion to their size and have little tufts of hair at the ends. Of course, they have pockets in their cheeks too.”

“In habits all the Pocket Mice are much alike. They make burrows in the ground, often throwing up a little mound with several entrances which lead to a central passageway connecting with the bedroom and storerooms. By day the entrances are closed with earth from inside, for the Mice are active only at night. Sometimes the burrows are hidden under bushes, and sometimes they are right out in the open. Living as they do in a hot, dry country, the Pocket Mice have learned to get along without drinking water. Their food consists mainly of a variety of small seeds.”

Grasshopper – A crunchy dinner for a Grasshopper Mouse

“Another Mouse of the West looks almost enough like Whitefoot to be a member of his branch of the family. He has a beautiful yellowish-brown coat and white waistcoat, and his feet are white. His tail is short in comparison with Whitefoot’s and instead of being slim is quite thick. His fur is like velvet. He is called the Grasshopper Mouse.”

“Is that because he eats Grasshoppers?” asked Peter Rabbit at once.

“You’ve guessed it,” laughed Mother Nature. “He is very, very fond of Grasshoppers and Crickets. He eats many kinds of insects such as Moths, Flies, Beetles, in addition to Lizards, Frogs and Scorpions. Because of his fondness for the latter he is called the Scorpion Mouse in some sections. He is fond of meat when he can get it. He also eats seeds of many kinds. He is found all over the West from well up in the North to the hot dry regions of the Southwest. When he cannot find a convenient empty burrow of some other animal, he digs a home for himself and there raises several families each year. In the early evening he often utters a fine, shrill, whistling call note.”

“Another little member of the Mouse family found clear across the country is the Harvest Mouse. He is never bigger than Nibbler the House Mouse and often is much smaller. In fact, he is one of the smallest of the entire family. In appearance he is much like Nibbler, although his coat is browner and there are fine hairs on his tail. He loves grassy, weedy or brushy places.”

“His food is chiefly seeds of weeds, small wild fruits and parts of wild plants. The most interesting thing about this little Mouse is the way he builds his home. Sometimes he uses a hole in a tree or post and sometimes a deserted birds’ nest, and more frequently he builds a nest for himself–a little round ball of grass and other vegetable matter. This is placed in thick grass or weeds close to the ground or in bushes or low trees several feet from the ground.”

“They are well-built little houses and have one or more little doorways on the under side when they are in bushes or trees. Inside is a warm, soft bed made of milkweed or cattail down, the very nicest kind of a bed for the babies. No one has a neater home than the Harvest Mouse. He is quite as much at home in bushes and low trees as Happy Jack Squirrel is in bigger trees. His long tail comes in very handy then, for he often wraps it around a twig to make his footing more secure.”

“Now this is all about the native Mice and . . . what is it, Peter?”

“You’ve forgotten Nibbler the House Mouse,” replied Peter.

“Ah well, as I was saying, this is all about our native Mice; that is, the Mice who belong to this country. And now we come to Nibbler the House Mouse, who, just like the Brown Rat, is not originally from here.”

“Have any of you seen Nibbler?” asked Mother Nature.

“I have,” replied Danny Meadow Mouse. “Once I was carried to Farmer Brown’s barn in a shock of corn and I found Nibbler living in the barn.”

House Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“It is a wonder he wasn’t living in Farmer Brown’s house,” said Mother Nature. “Probably other members of his family were. He is perfectly at home in any building put up by a human, just as is the Brown Rat. Because of his small size he can go where the Brown Rat cannot. He delights to scamper about between the walls. Being a true Rodent he is forever gnawing holes in the corners of rooms and opening on to pantry shelves so that he may steal food. He eats all sorts of food. In barns and henhouses he gets into the grain bins and steals a great deal of grain. It is largely because of the Brown Rat and Nibbler the House Mouse that humans keep Cats about to chase them away.”

“Nibbler is slender and graceful, with a long, hairless tail and ears of good size. He is very timid, ready to dart into his hole at the least sound. He raises from four to nine babies at a time and several sets of them in a year.”

“If Mr. and Mrs. House Mouse are living in a house, their nest is made of scraps of paper, cloth, wool and other soft things taken from the people who live in the house. In getting this material they often do great damage. If they are living in a barn, they make their nest of hay and any soft material they can find.”

“While Nibbler prefers to live in or close to the homes of humans, he sometimes is driven out and then takes to the fields, especially in summer. There he lives in all sorts of hiding places, and isn’t at all particular what the place is, if it promises safety and food can be obtained close by.”

“This finishes the sessions on the order of Rodents, the animals related by reason of having teeth for the purpose of gnawing. I suspect these are the only ones in whom you take any interest. Am I right?”

“Umm,” answered Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, “there are ever so many other people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows we want to know more about than we now know. Isn’t that so?” Happy Jack turned to the others and every one nodded, even Prickly Porky.

“Actually there is one little fellow living right near here who looks to me as if he must be a member of the Mouse family, and yet he isn’t like any of the Mice you have told us about,” continued Happy Jack. “He is so small he can hide under a leaf. I’m sure he must be a Mouse.”

“You mean Teeny Weeny the Shrew,” replied Mother Nature, smiling at Happy Jack. “He isn’t a Mouse. He isn’t even a Rodent. I’ll try to have him here tomorrow morning and we will see what we can find out about him and his relatives.”

*The past few chapters on mice are dedicated in loving memory to “Button” who lives on in this painting by my daughter on her whimsical goat barn.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Why would a mouse eat a grasshopper? Did you know many humans eat grasshoppers around the world? If you’re curious take a look at what nutrition is in a grasshopper and other bugs (hint: protein and so much more!). Just for fun you might also like to look up “chocolate grasshoppers or crickets” and give them a try!
  2. If a house mouse is not from the United States, where did they originally come from and how did they get across the ocean?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 17 – More Mice


Chapter 17

More Mice


With Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, Danny Meadow Mouse and Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse attending the learning sessions, the Mouse family was well represented, and when they began the next morning there was still another present. It was Piney the Pine Mouse. Whitefoot, who knew him, had brought him along.

“I thought you wouldn’t mind if Piney came,” explained Whitefoot.

“I’m glad he has come,” replied Mother Nature. “It is much better to see a thing than merely to be told about it, and now you have a chance to see for yourselves the differences between two cousins very closely related, Danny Meadow Mouse and Piney the Pine Mouse. What difference do you see, Happy Jack Squirrel?”

“Piney is a little smaller than Danny, though he is much the same shape,” was his prompt reply.

“True,” said Mother Nature. “Now, Striped Chipmunk, what difference do you see?”

“The fur of Piney’s coat is shorter, finer and has more of a shine. Then, too, it is more of a reddish-brown than Danny’s,” replied Striped Chipmunk.

“And what do you say, Peter Rabbit?” asked Mother Nature.

“Piney has a shorter tail,” declared Peter, and everybody laughed.

“Trust you to look at his tail first,” said Mother Nature. “These are the chief differences as far as looks are concerned. Their habits differ in about the same degree. As you all know, Danny cuts little paths through the grass. Piney doesn’t do this, instead he makes little tunnels just under the surface of the ground very much as Miner the Mole does. He isn’t fond of the open Green Meadows or of damp places as Danny is, rather he likes best the edge of the Green Forest and brushy places. He is very much at home in a poorly kept orchard where the weeds are allowed to grow and in young orchards he does a great deal of damage by cutting off the roots of young trees and stripping off the bark as high up as he can reach. Would you please tell us, Piney, how and where you make your home?”

Home of Piney the Pine Mouse at the edge of the Green Forest and brushy places.

Piney hesitated a little and then he ventured to say “I make my home under ground. I dig a nice little bedroom with several entrances from my tunnels, and in it I make a fine nest of soft grass. Close by I dig one or more rooms in which to store my food, and these usually are bigger than my bedroom. When I get one filled with food I close it up by filling the entrance with earth.”

“What do you put in your storerooms?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Short pieces of grass and pieces of roots of different kinds,” replied Piney. “I am very fond of tender roots and the bark of trees and bushes.”

Gardens are great for a tunneling mouse.

“And he dearly loves to get in a garden where he can tunnel along a row of potatoes or other root crops,” added Mother Nature. “Striped Chipmunk mentioned his reddish-brown coat. There is another cousin with a coat so red that he is called the Red-backed Mouse. He is about the size of Danny Meadow Mouse with larger ears and a longer tail.”

“This little fellow is a lover of the Green Forest, and he is quite as active by day as by night. He is pretty, especially when he sits up to eat, holding his food in his paws as does Happy Jack Squirrel. He makes his home in a burrow, the entrance to which is under an old stump, a rock or the root of a tree. His nest is of soft grass or moss. Sometimes he makes it in a hollow log or stump instead of digging a bedroom under ground. He is thrifty and lays up a supply of food in underground rooms, hollow logs and similar places. He eats seeds, small fruits, roots and various plants.”

Old stump entrance for a home of a Red-backed mouse.

“There is still another little Redcoat in the family, and he is especially interesting because while he is related to Danny Meadow Mouse he lives almost all in trees. He is called the Rufous Tree Mouse. Rufous means reddish-brown, and he gets that name because of the color of his coat. He lives in the great forests of the Far West, where the trees are so big and tall that the biggest tree you have ever seen would look small beside them. And it is in those great trees that the Rufous Tree Mouse lives.”

“Just why he took to living in trees no one knows, for he belongs to that branch of the family known as Ground Mice. However he does live in trees and he is quite as much at home in them as any Squirrel.”

Chatterer the Red Squirrel was interested right away. “Does he build a nest in a tree like a Squirrel?” he asked.

“He certainly does,” replied Mother Nature, “and often it is a most remarkable nest. In some sections he places it only in big trees, sometimes a hundred feet from the ground. In other sections it is placed in small trees and only a few feet above the ground. The high nests often are old deserted nests of Squirrels enlarged and built over. Some of them are very large indeed and have been added to year after year.”

“One of these big nests will have several bedrooms and little passages running all through it. It appears that Mrs. Tree Mouse usually has one of these big nests to herself, Rufous having a small nest of his own out on one of the branches. The big nest is close up against the trunk of the tree where several branches meet.”

“Does Rufous travel from one tree to another, or does he live in just one tree?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Wherever branches of one tree touch those of another, and you know in a thick forest this is frequently the case, he travels about freely if he wants to. However those trees are so big that I suspect he spends most of his time in the one in which his home is,” replied Mother Nature. “And if a predator appears in his home tree, he makes his escape by jumping from one tree to another, just as you would do.”

“What I want to know is where he gets his food if he spends all his time up in the trees,” spoke up Danny Meadow Mouse.

Mother Nature smiled. “Where should he get it other than up where he lives?” she asked. “Rufous never has to worry about food. It is all around him. You see he lives mostly on the thick parts of the needles, which you know are the leaves, of fir and spruce trees, and on the bark of tender twigs. So you see he is more of a tree dweller than any of the Squirrel family. While Rufous has the general shape of Danny and his relatives, he has quite a long tail. Now I guess this will do for the nearest relatives of Danny Meadow Mouse.”

“He certainly has a lot of them,” remarked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. Then he added a little wistfully, “Of course, in a way they are all cousins of mine, although I wish I had some a little more closely related.”

“You have,” replied Mother Nature, and Whitefoot pricked up his big ears. “One of them Bigear the Rock Mouse, who lives out in the mountains of the Far West. He is as fond of the rocks as Rufous is of the trees. Sometimes he lives in brush heaps and in brushy country, although he prefers rocks, and that is why he is known as the Rock Mouse.”

“He is maybe a trifle bigger than you, Whitefoot, and he is dressed much like you with a yellowish-brown coat and white waistcoat. He has just such a long tail covered with hair its whole length. And you should see his ears. He has the largest ears of any member of the whole family. That is why he is called Bigear. He likes best to be out at night and often only comes out on dull days. He eats seeds and small nuts and is especially fond of juniper seeds. He always lays up a supply of food for winter. Often he is found very high up on the mountains.

“Another of your cousins, Whitefoot, lives along the seashore of the East down in the Sunny South. He is called the Beach Mouse. In general appearance he is much like you, having the same shape, long tail and big ears, although he is a little smaller and his coat varies. When he lives back from the shore, in fields where the soil is dark, his upper coat is dark grayish-brown, and when he lives on the white sands of the seashore it is very light. His home is in short burrows in the ground.”

“Now have we covered enough about the Mouse family?”

“Wait, you haven’t told us about Nibbler the House Mouse yet. And you said you would,” Peter Rabbit said with a pout.

“And when we were learning about Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat you said he was most closely related to the Pocket Mice. What about them?” said Johnny Chuck.

Mother Nature laughed. “Alright, I can see that you want to know all there is to know,” she said. “Be on hand tomorrow morning. I guess we can finish up with the Mouse family then and with them the order of Rodents to which all of you belong.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Have you been on the look out for rodents, specifically mice, in your neck-of-the-woods? Or field? Or backyard? Or barn? Or even a rock wall? Are there signs of their homes? Nesting materials or tracks or seed stashes?
  2. Do you have any predators of mice around or near your home? An outdoor barn cat perhaps? Or owls or hawks? Who else might be eating the mice in your area?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 16 – Brown Lemming + Jumping Mouse


Chapter 16

Brown Lemming + Jumping Mouse


Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse had become so interested that they decided they couldn’t afford to miss the next session with Mother Nature. Neither did either of them feel like making the long journey to their home and back again. So Whitefoot found a hole in a stump near by and decided to camp out there for a few days. Danny decided to do the same thing in a comfortable place under a pile of brush not far away. So the next morning both were on hand when the learning session began.

“I told you yesterday that I would tell you about some of Danny’s cousins,” said Mother Nature just as Chatterer the Red Squirrel came hurrying up, quite out of breath, to join the group. “Way up in the Far North are two of Danny’s cousins more closely related to him than to any other members of the Mouse family. Yet, strange to say, they are not called Mice at all, rather Lemmings. However, they do belong to the Mouse family.”

“Bandy the Banded Lemming is interesting because he is the one member of the entire family who changes the color of his coat. In summer he wears beautiful shades of reddish brown and gray and in the winter his coat is all white. He is also called the Hudson Bay Lemming.”

“Bandy’s tail is so very short it hardly shows beyond his long fur. He is about Danny’s size, and a little stouter and stockier, and his long fur makes him appear even thicker-bodied than he really is. He has very short legs, and his ears are so small that they are quite hidden in the fur around them, so that he appears to have no ears at all.”

Brown Lemming illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In that same far northern country is a close relative called the Brown Lemming. He is very much like Bandy save that he is all brown and does not change his coat in winter. Both have the same general habits, and these are much like the habits of Danny Meadow Mouse. They make short burrows in the ground leading to snug, warm nests of grass and moss. In winter they make little tunnels in every direction under the snow, with now and then an opening to the surface.”

“There are many more Brown Lemmings than Banded Lemmings, and their little paths run everywhere through the grass and moss. In that country there is a great deal of moss. It covers the ground just as grass does here. And the most interesting thing about these Lemmings is the way they migrate. To migrate is to move from one part of the country to another. You know most of the birds migrate to the Sunny South every autumn and back every spring.”

“Once in a while it happens that food becomes very scarce where the Lemmings are. Then very many of them get together, just as migrating birds form great flocks, and start on a long journey in search of a place where there is plenty of food. They form a great army and push ahead, regardless of everything. They swim wide rivers and even lakes which may lie in their way. Of course, they eat everything eatable in their path.”

“My!” exclaimed Danny Meadow Mouse, “I’m glad I don’t live in a place where I might have to make such long journeys. I don’t envy those cousins up there in the Far North a bit. I’m perfectly satisfied to live right on the Green Meadows.”

“Right you are Danny, you are well suited for where you live” said Mother Nature. “By the way, Danny, I suppose you are acquainted with Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, who also is rather fond of the Green Meadows. I ought to have sent word to him to be here this morning.”

Hardly were the words out of Mother Nature’s mouth when something landed in the leaves almost at her feet and right in the middle of their session. Instantly Danny Meadow Mouse scurried under a pile of dead leaves. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse darted into a knothole in the log on which he had been sitting. Jumper the Hare dodged behind a little hemlock tree. Peter Rabbit bolted for a hollow log. Striped Chipmunk vanished in a hole under an old stump. Johnny Chuck backed up against the trunk of a tree and made ready to fight. Only Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Prickly Porky the Porcupine, who were sitting in trees, kept their places. You see they felt quite safe.

As soon as all those who had run had reached places of safety, they peeped out to see what had frightened them so. Mother Nature was smiling down at a little fellow just about the size of Whitefoot, and yet they had a much longer tail. It was Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse.

“Well, well, well,” exclaimed Mother Nature. “I was just speaking of you and wishing I had you here. How did you happen to come this way? And what do you mean by scaring these fine four-legged folks?” she said with her eyes twinkling. Nimbleheels saw this and knew that she was only having good fun with him.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Before Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse could reply Johnny Chuck began to chuckle. The chuckle became a laugh, and soon Johnny was laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. Now, as you know, laughter is catching. In a minute or so everybody was laughing, and no one other than Johnny Chuck knew what the joke was. At last Peter Rabbit stopped laughing long enough to ask Johnny what he was laughing about.

“I’m laughing at the very idea that such a wee thing could give us all such a fright,” replied Johnny Chuck. Then they all laughed some more.

When they were through laughing Nimbleheels answered Mother Nature’s questions. He explained that he had heard about the learning sessions, as by this time almost everyone in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows had. By chance he learned that Danny Meadow Mouse was attending. He thought that if it was a good thing for Danny it would be a good thing for him, so he had come.

“Just as I was almost here I heard a twig snap behind me, or thought I did, and I jumped so as to get here and be safe. I didn’t suppose anyone would be frightened by little old me,” he explained.

“It was some jump!” exclaimed Jumper the Hare admiringly. “He went right over my head, and I was sitting straight up!”

“It isn’t much of a jump to go over your head,” replied Nimbleheels. “You ought to see me when I really try to jump. I wasn’t half trying when I landed here. I’m sorry I frightened all of you so. It gives me an odd feeling just to think that I should be able to frighten anybody. If you please, Mother Nature, am I in time for today’s session?”

“Yes, actually, you are,” replied Mother Nature. “Hop up on that log beside your Cousin Whitefoot, where all can see you.”

Wood Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Nimbleheels hopped up beside Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and as the two little cousins sat side by side they were not unlike in general appearance. The coat of Nimbleheels was a dull yellowish, darker on the back than on the sides. Like Whitefoot he was white underneath. His ears were much smaller than those of Whitefoot. However, the greatest differences between the two were in their hind legs and tails.

The hind legs and feet of Nimbleheels were long, similar to those of Peter Rabbit. From just a glance at them any one would know that he was a born jumper and a good one. Whitefoot possessed a long tail versus the tail of Nimbleheels was much longer, slim and tapering.

“There,” said Mother Nature, “is the greatest jumper for his size among all the animals in this great country. When I say this, I mean the greatest ground jumper. Remember when I told you what wonderful jumps Jack Rabbit can make, and if he could jump as high and far for his size as Nimbleheels can jump for his size, the longest jump Jack has ever made would seem nothing more than a hop.”

“By the way, both Nimbleheels and Whitefoot have small pockets in their cheeks,” said Mother Nature. “Would you please tell us where you live, Nimbleheels.”

“I live among the weeds along the edge of the Green Meadows,” replied Nimbleheels, “though sometimes I go way out in the Green Meadows. I do like being amongst the weeds best because they are tall and keep me well hidden, and also because they furnish me with plenty to eat. You see, I live largely on seeds, though I am also fond of berries and small nuts, especially beechnuts. Some of my family prefer the Green Forest, especially if there is a Laughing Brook or pond in it. Personally I prefer, as I said before, the edge of the Green Meadows.”

“Do you make your home under the ground?” asked Striped Chipmunk.

“For winter, yes,” replied Nimbleheels. “In the summer I sometimes put my nest just a few inches under ground, or often I hide it under a piece of bark or in a thick clump of grass, just as Danny Meadow Mouse often does his. In the fall I dig a deep burrow, deep enough to be beyond the reach of Jack Frost, and in a nice little bedroom down there I sleep the winter away. I have little storerooms down there too, in which I put seeds, berries and nuts. Then when I do wake up I have plenty to eat.”

“I might add,” said Mother Nature, “that when he goes to sleep for the winter he curls up in a little ball with his long tail wrapped around him, and in his bed of soft grass he sleeps very sound indeed. Like Johnny Chuck he gets very fat before going to sleep. Now, Nimbleheels, please do show us how you can jump.”

Nimbleheels hopped down from the log on which he had been sitting and at once shot into the air in such a high, long, beautiful jump that everybody exclaimed. This way and that way he went in great leaps. It was truly wonderful.

“That long tail is what balances him,” explained Mother Nature. “If he should lose it he would simply turn over and over and never know where or how he was going to land. His jumping is done only in times of danger. When he is not alarmed he runs about on the ground like the rest of the Mouse family.”

This is all for now. Tomorrow I will tell you still more about the Mouse family. Have a good day everyone!” said Mother Nature as she went on her merry way.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Have you ever heard of lemmings? Have you heard of their behavior to follow one another in large groups? This is caused by mass migration, or moving from one place to another, when they are in search of food. Sometimes when humans follow one another right behind the other someone will remark “you look like lemmings”.
  2. Mother Nature compares the Jumping Mouse to the Jack Rabbit in terms of how high and long he can jump. How high and how long can you jump? How can you measure it? How high and long can your family members jump? Talk it over and see if you can come up with a way to measure in your backyard or on the sidewalk. Then research the measurement of a Jumping Mouse and a Jack Rabbit to see in comparison (even though they are both much smaller than you!)

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.



Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 15 – Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Chapter 15

Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is one of the smallest of the little four-legged folks who live in the Green Forest. Being so small he is one of the most timid. You see, by day and by night sharp eyes are watching for Whitefoot and he knows it. Never for one single instant, while he is outside where sharp eyes of hungry predators may see him, does he forget that they are watching for him. To forget even for one little minute might mean–well, it might mean the end of little Whitefoot, and a dinner for some one with a liking for Mouse.

So Whitefoot the Wood Mouse rarely ventures more than a few feet from a hiding place and safety. At the tiniest sound he startles nervously and often darts back into hiding without waiting to find out if there really is any danger. If he waited to make sure he might actually wait too long, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

This being the way Whitefoot looked at matters, you can guess how he felt when Chatterer the Red Squirrel caught sight of him and gave him Mother Nature’s message.

“Hey there,” shouted Chatterer, as he caught sight of Whitefoot darting under a log. “Hey! I’ve got a message for you!”

Slowly, cautiously, Whitefoot poked his head out from beneath the old log and looked up at Chatterer. “What kind of a message?” he asked suspiciously.

“A message you’ll do well to heed. It is from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer.

“A message from Mother Nature!” cried Whitefoot, and came out a bit more from beneath the old log.

“That’s what I said, a message from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer. “She says you are to come join all of us for a learning session at sun-up tomorrow morning.”

Then Chatterer explained about the learning sessions and where they were typically held each morning and what a lot he and his friends had already learned together. Whitefoot listened with something very like dismay in his heart. That place where they gathered was a long way off. That is, it was a long way for him, though to Peter Rabbit or Jumper the Hare it wouldn’t have seemed long at all. It meant that he would have to leave all his hiding places and the thought made him shiver.

However, Mother Nature had sent for him and not once did he even think of not attending. “Did you say that you gather at sun-up?” he asked, and when Chatterer nodded Whitefoot sighed. It was a sigh of relief. “I’m glad of that,” he said. “I can travel in the night, which will be much safer. I’ll be there. That is, I will if I am not caught on the way.”

Meanwhile over on the Green Meadows Peter Rabbit was looking for Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny’s home was not far from the dear Old Briar-patch, and he and Peter were very good friends. So Peter knew just about where to look for Danny and it didn’t take him long to find him.

A meadow mouse visiting our driveway?

“Hello, Peter! You look as if you have something very important on your mind,” was the greeting of Danny Meadow Mouse as Peter came hurrying up.

“I have,” said Peter. “It is a message for you. Mother Nature says for you to be on hand at sun-up tomorrow when our learning session opens over in the Green Forest.”

“Of course,” replied Danny in the most matter-of-fact tone. “Of course. If Mother Nature really sent me that message–”

“She really did,” interrupted Peter.

“There isn’t anything for me to do then attend,” finished Danny. Then his face became very sober. “That is a long way for me to go, Peter,” he said. “I wouldn’t take such a long journey for anything or for anybody else. Mother Nature knows, and if she sent for me she must be sure I can make the trip safely. What time did you say I must be there?”

“At sun-up,” replied Peter. “Shall I call for you on my way there?”

Danny shook his head. Then he began to laugh. “What are you laughing at?” asked Peter.

“At the very idea of me with my short legs trying to keep up with you,” replied Danny. “I wish you would sit up and take a good look all around to make sure that Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk and Black Shadow, that pesky Cat from Farmer Brown’s, are nowhere about.”

Peter obligingly sat up and looked this way and looked that way and looked the other way. No one of whom he or Danny Meadow Mouse need be afraid was to be seen. He said as much, then asked, “Why did you want to know, Danny?”

“Because I am going to start at once,” replied Danny.

“Start for where?” asked Peter, looking much puzzled.

“Start for the gathering space of course,” replied Danny.

“Um— we don’t begin until sun-up tomorrow,” Peter stated with hesitation.

“Which is just the reason I am going to start now,” replied Danny. “If I should put off starting until the last minute I might not get there at all. I would have to hurry, and it is difficult to hurry and watch for danger at the same time. The way is clear now, so I am going to start. I can take my time and keep a proper watch for danger. I’ll see you over there in the morning, Peter.”

Danny turned and disappeared on one of his hidden little paths though the tall grass. Peter noticed that he was headed towards the Green Forest.

When Peter and the others arrived the next morning they found Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse waiting with Mother Nature. Safe in her presence, they seemed to have lost much of their usual timidity. Whitefoot was sitting on the end of a log and Danny was on the ground just beneath him.

Wood Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I want all the rest of you to look well at these two little cousins and notice how unlike two cousins can be,” said Mother Nature. “Whitefoot, who is quite as often called a Deer Mouse as Wood Mouse, is one of the prettiest of the entire Mouse family. I suspect he is called Deer Mouse because the upper part of his coat is such a beautiful fawn color. Notice that the upper side of his long slim tail is of the same color, while the under side is white, as is the whole under part of Whitefoot. Also those dainty feet are white, hence his name. See what big, soft black eyes he has, and notice that those delicate ears are of good size.”

“His tail is covered with short fine hairs, instead of being naked as is the tail of Nibbler the House Mouse, of whom I will tell you later. Whitefoot loves the Green Forest, although out in parts of the Far West where there is no Green Forest he lives on the brushy plains. He is a good climber and quite at home in the trees. There he seems almost like a tiny Squirrel. Tell us, Whitefoot, where you make your home and what you eat.”

A wood mouse at the edge of the forest

“My home just now,” replied Whitefoot, “is in a certain hollow in a certain dead limb of a certain tree. I suspect that a member of the Woodpecker family made that hollow, as no one was living there when I found it. Mrs. Whitefoot and I have made a soft, warm nest there and wouldn’t trade homes with anyone. We have had our home in a hollow log on the ground, in an old stump, in a hole we dug in the ground under a rock, and in an old nest of some bird. That was in a tall bush. We roofed that nest over and made a little round doorway on the under side. Once we raised a family in a box in a dark corner of Farmer Brown’s sugar camp too.

“I eat all sorts of things–seeds, nuts, insects and meat when I can get it. I store up food for winter.”

“I suppose that means that you do not sleep as Johnny Chuck does in winter,” remarked Peter Rabbit.

“I should say not!” exclaimed Whitefoot. “I like winter. It is fun to run about on the snow. Haven’t you ever seen my tracks, Peter?”

“I have, lots of times,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “Also I’ve seen you skipping about after dark. I guess you don’t care much for sunlight.”

“Oh no, I don’t,” replied Whitefoot. “I sleep most of the time during the day, and work and play at night. I feel safer then. On dull days I often come out. It is the bright sunlight I don’t like. That is one reason I stick to the Green Forest. I don’t see how Cousin Danny stands it out there on the Green Meadows. Now I guess it is his turn to share and tell us more.”

Meadow Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Every one looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. In appearance he was as unlike Whitefoot as it was possible to be and still be a Mouse. His body was rather stout, looking stouter than it really was because his fur was quite long. His head was blunt, and he seemed to have no neck at all, though of course he did have one. His eyes were small, like little black beads. His ears were almost hidden in his hair. His legs were short and his tail was quite short, as if it had been cut off when half grown. No, those two cousins didn’t look a bit alike.

“Danny is a lover of the fields,” began Mother Nature, “and meadows where there is little else other than grass in which to hide. Everything about him is just suited for living there. Isn’t that so, Danny?”

“Yes, I guess so,” replied Danny.

“Now it is your turn to tell how you live and what you eat and anything else of interest about yourself,” Mother Nature said encouragingly.

“I guess there isn’t too much interesting about me,” began Danny modestly. “I’m just one of the plain, common little folks. I guess everybody knows me so well there is nothing for me to tell.”

“Some of them may know all about you, however I don’t,” declared Jumper the Hare. “I never go out on the Green Meadows where you live. How do you get about in all that tall grass?”

“Oh, that’s easy enough,” replied Danny. “I cut little paths in all directions.”

“Just the way I do in the dear Old Briar-patch,” added Peter Rabbit.

“I keep those little paths clear and clean so that there never is anything in my way to trip me up when I have to run for safety,” continued Danny. “When the grass gets tall those little paths are almost like little tunnels. The time I dread most is when Farmer Brown cuts the grass for hay. I not only have to watch out for that dreadful mowing machine, I also have to watch when the hay has been taken away since the grass is so short that it is hard work for me to keep out of sight.”

“I sometimes dig a short burrow and at the end of it make a nice nest of dry grass. Sometimes in summer Mrs. Meadow Mouse and I make our nest on the surface of the ground in a hollow or in a clump of tall grass, especially if the ground is low and wet. We have several good-sized families in a year. All Meadow Mice believe in large families, and that is probably why there are more Meadow Mice than any other Mice in the country. I forgot to say that I am also called Field Mouse.”

“Danny eats,” continued Mother Nature, ” grass, clover, bulbs, roots, seeds and garden vegetables. He also eats some insects. He sometimes puts away a few seeds for the winter, although he depends chiefly on finding enough to eat, for he is active all winter. He tunnels about under the snow in search of food. When other food is hard to find he eats bark. He gnaws the bark from young fruit trees all the way around as high as he can reach, and of course this kills the trees.”

“ And I will finish our session today mentioning that Danny is a good swimmer and not at all afraid of the water,” said Mother Nature. “No one has more predators than he, and the fact that he is alive and here this morning is due to his everlasting watchfulness. This will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up others of the Mouse family.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. How do a Wood Mouse and Meadow Mouse look different? Are they the same in any way since they are from the same larger family?
  2. Have you ever seen a Meadow Mouse out in a field? Did you think it was something else?
  3. Have you ever seen a family of humans and wondered how they are all related even though they may have different hair color or texture, different skin tones, even facial features (like eyes and nose) that just don’t look the same? What were your thoughts? Could it be that we are all one human family just like all the different types of mice all belong to one mouse family?

NOTE: The specific science Family name is Muridae which comes from the Latin word mus meaning mouse.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.



Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 14 – Wood Rat + Kangaroo Rat


Chapter 14

Wood Rat and Kangaroo Rat


“Let’s continue with other members of the Rat family. One of these is Trader the Wood Rat, in some parts of the Far West called the Pack Rat. Among the mountains he is called the Mountain Rat. Wherever found, his habits are much the same and make him one of the most interesting of all the little four-legged folks who wear fur.”

“Next to Jerry Muskrat he is the largest native Rat, that is, of the Rats which belong in this country. He is about two thirds as big as the Brown Rat and of the same general shape. His fur is thick and soft, almost as soft as that of a Squirrel. His fairly long tail is covered with hair. Indeed, some members of his branch of the family have tails almost as bushy as a Squirrel’s. His coat is soft gray and a yellowish-brown above, and underneath pure white or light buff. His feet are white. He has rounded ears and big black eyes and plenty of long whiskers.”

“Why is he called Trader?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Oh yes, I was just coming to that,” Mother Nature chimed in. “He is Trader because his greatest delight is in trading. He is a born trader if ever there was one. He puts something back in place of whatever he takes. It may be little sticks or chips or pebbles or anything else that is handy although it is always something to replace what he has taken.”

“Next to trading he delights in collecting. His home is a regular museum. He delights in anything bright and shiny.. All sorts of odd things are found in his home–buckles cut from saddles, spoons, knives, forks, even money he has taken from the pockets of sleeping campers. Whenever any small object is missed from a camp, the first place visited in search of it is the home of Trader. In the mountains he sometimes makes piles of little pebbles just for the fun of collecting them.”

Wood Rat illustrated by Lois Agassiz Fuertes

“He is found all over the West, from the mountains to the deserts, and in thick forests. He is also found in parts of the East and in the Sunny South. He is a great climber and is perfectly at home in trees or among rocks. He eats seeds, grain, many kinds of nuts, leaves and other parts of plants. In the colder sections he lays up stores for winter.”

“What kind of a home does he have?” asked Happy Jack.

“His home usually is a very remarkable space,” replied Mother Nature. “It depends largely on where he is. When he is living in rocky country, he makes it amongst the rocks. In some places he burrows in the ground. More often it is on the surface of the ground–a huge pile of sticks and thorns in the very middle of which is his snug, soft nest. The sticks and thorns are to protect it from predators. When he lives down where cactus grow, you know those odd plants with long sharp spines, he uses these, and there are few predators who will even try to pull one of these houses apart to get at him.”

“When he is alarmed or disturbed, he has a funny habit of drumming on the ground with his hind feet in much the same way that Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare thump, only he does it rapidly. Sometimes he builds his house in a tree. When he finds a cabin in the woods he at once takes possession, carrying in a great mass of sticks and trash. He is chiefly active at night, and a very busy fellow he is, trading and collecting. And Mrs. Trader has two to five babies at a time and raises several families in a year.

“Now we come to Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat, so called because of his long hind legs and tail and the way in which he sits up and jumps. Really he is not a member of the Rat branch of the family, although closely related to the Pocket Mice. You see, he has pockets in his cheeks.”

“Like mine?” asked Striped Chipmunk quickly.

“Actually no, they are on the outside instead of the inside of his cheeks. Yours are inside.”

“I think mine must be a lot handier,” asserted Striped Chipmunk, nodding his head in a very decided way.

“Longfoot seems to think his are quite satisfactory too,” replied Mother Nature.

“Oh do tell us how big he is and what he looks like,” Peter Rabbit said with great curiosity.

“When he sits up or jumps he looks like a tiny Kangaroo,” replied Mother Nature. “He is about the size of Striped Chipmunk. That is, his body is about the size of Striped Chipmunk’s and his tail is longer than his head and body put together.”

Kangaroo Rat illustrated by Lois Agassiz Fuertes

“My, it must be some tail!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit admiringly.

Mother Nature smiled. “It is,” she said. “You would like that tail, Peter. His front legs are short and the feet small, and his hind legs are long and the feet big. Of course you have seen Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, Peter.”

Peter nodded. “Oh yes, of course,” he replied. “My how that fellow can jump!”

“Well, Longfoot is built in the same way as Nimbleheels and for the same purpose,” continued Mother Nature. “He is a jumper.”

“Then I know what that long tail is for,” Peter said with delight. “It is to keep him balanced when he is in the air so that he can jump straight.”

“You’ve got it Peter,” laughed Mother Nature. “That is just what it is for. Without it, he never would know where he was going to land when he jumped.”

“Now then, let’s see what else can I share with you,” said Mother Nature. “His fur is very soft and silky. Above, it is a pretty yellowish-brown, and underneath it is pure white. His cheeks are brown, he is white around the ears, and a white stripe crosses his hips and keeps right on along the sides of his tail. The upper and under parts of his tail are almost or quite black, and the tail ends in a tuft of long hair which is pure white. His feet are also white. His head is rather large for his size, and long. He has a long nose. Longfoot has a number of cousins, some of them much smaller than he, and they all look very much alike.”

“Where do they live?” asked Johnny Chuck who had been quietly paying attention.

“In the dry, sandy parts of the Southwest, places so dry that it seldom rains, and water is to be found only long distances apart from one another,” replied Mother Nature.

“Then how does Longfoot get water to drink?” inquired Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“He gets along without drinking,” replied Mother Nature. “Such moisture as he needs he gets from his food. He eats seeds, leaves of certain plants and tender young plants just coming up. He burrows in the ground and throws up large mounds of earth. These have several entrances. One of these is the main entrance, and during the day this is often kept closed with earth. Under the mound he has little tunnels in all directions, a snug little bedroom and storerooms for food. He is very industrious and dearly loves to dig.”

“Longfoot likes to visit his relatives sometimes, and where there are several families living near together, little paths lead from mound to mound. He comes out mostly at night, probably because he feels it to be safer then and also in that hot country it is cooler at night too. The dusk of early evening is his favorite playtime. If Longfoot has a quarrel with one of his relatives they fight, hopping about each other, watching for a chance to leap and kick with those long, strong hind feet. Longfoot sometimes drums with his hind feet after the manner of Trader the Wood Rat.”

“Now I think this will do for this morning’s session. If any of you should meet Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, please tell him to join us tomorrow morning. And you might tell Danny Meadow Mouse if you little folks want to extend our session.”

“We do!” cried Peter Rabbit, Jumper the Hare, Happy Jack Squirrel, Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Striped Chipmunk, and Johnny Chuck all as one in unison.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Has anyone ever called you or a family member a “pack rat”? Now you know it is referring to Trader the Wood Rat and his liking for collecting things and making piles! Just for fun and P.L.A.Y. when you go on your next nature adventure leave a few small piles of pebbles or leaves or acorns on the side of the trail so the next person who passes by is left wondering who has been there and what were they up to!
  2. Have you ever tried using poles or wood sticks for balance when you walk in the woods? Do they support you like the Kangaroo Rat uses his tail for support (almost like a 3rd leg)? Try using walking sticks to cross a log over a stream and then try without them. Do you feel a difference? What do you think would happen to the Kangaroo Rat if he had a short puffy cotton tail like Peter Rabbit?!?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


THANK YOU!!!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 13 – Muskrat + Brown Rat


Chapter 13

Muskrat and Brown Rat


“Now we come to the largest family of the Rodent order, the Rat family, which of course includes the Mice,” said Mother Nature, after calling the next learning session to order at the old meeting-place. “And the largest member of the family reminds me very much of the one we learned about yesterday.”

“I know!” cried Peter Rabbit. “You mean Jerry Muskrat.”

“Yes, Peter,” said Mother Nature smiling. “Jerry is the very one, the largest member of the Rat family. Sometimes he is spoken of as a little cousin of Paddy the Beaver. Probably this is because he looks something like a small Beaver, builds a house in the water as Paddy does, and lives in very much the same way. The truth is, he is no more closely related to Paddy than he is to the rest of you. He is a true Rat. He is called Muskrat because he carries with him a scent called musk. It is not an unpleasant scent, like that of Jimmy Skunk, and isn’t used for the same purpose. Jerry uses his to tell his friends where he has been. He leaves a little of it at the places he visits.”

“Jerry is seldom found far from the water and then only when he is seeking a new home. He is rather slow and uneasy on land; however in the water he is quite at home, as all of you know who have visited the Smiling Pool. He can dive and swim under water a long distance, though not as far as Paddy the Beaver.”

“Has he webbed hind feet like Paddy?” piped up Jumper the Hare.

“Well, yes and no,” replied Mother Nature. “They are not fully webbed as Paddy’s are, and yet there is a little webbing between some of the toes, enough to be of great help in swimming. His tail is of greater use in swimming than is Paddy’s. It is bare and scaly, and instead of being flat on the top and bottom it is flattened on the sides, and he uses it as a propeller, moving it rapidly from side to side.”

“Like Paddy he has a dark brown outer coat, lighter underneath than on his back and sides, and like Paddy he has a very warm soft under coat, through which the water cannot get and which keeps him comfortable, no matter how cold the water is. You have all seen his house in the Smiling Pool. He builds it in much the same way that Paddy builds his, and cuts and uses rushes instead of sticks. Of course it is not nearly as large as Paddy’s house, because Jerry is himself so much smaller. It is arranged much the same, with a comfortable bedroom and one or more passages down to deep water. In winter Jerry spends much of his time in this house, going out only for food. Then he lives chiefly on lily roots and roots of other water plants, digging them up and taking them back to his house to eat. When the ice is clear you can sometimes see him swimming below.”

“I know,” spoke up Peter Rabbit. “Once I was crossing the Smiling Pool on the ice and saw him right under me.”

Muskrat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Jerry doesn’t build dams however he does sometimes dig little canals along the bottom where the water isn’t deep enough to suit him,” continued Mother Nature. “Sometimes in the winter Jerry and Mrs. Jerry share their home with two or three friends. If there is a good bank Jerry usually has another home in that too. He makes the entrance under water and then tunnels back and up for some distance, where he builds a snug little bedroom just below the surface of the ground where it is dry. Usually he has more than one tunnel leading to this, and sometimes an opening from above. This is covered with sticks and grass to hide it, and provides an entrance for fresh air.”

“Jerry lives mostly on roots and plants. He is also fond of mussels or fresh-water clams, fish, some insects and young birds when he can catch them whereas Paddy the Beaver doesn’t eat flesh at all.”

“Jerry and Mrs. Muskrat have several families in a year, and Jerry is a very good father, doing his share in caring for the babies. He and Mrs. Muskrat are rather social and enjoy visiting neighbors of their own kind. Their voices are a sort of squeak, and you can often hear them talking among the rushes in the early evening. That is the hour they like best, though they are abroad during the day when undisturbed. They do have to watch out for Hooty the Owl at night and for Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote whenever they are on land. Billy Mink also is an enemy at times, perhaps the most to be dreaded because he can follow Jerry anywhere.”

“Jerry makes little landings of mud and rushes along the edge of the shore. On these he delights to sit to eat his meals. He likes apples and vegetables and sometimes will travel quite a distance to get them. Late in the summer he begins to prepare for winter by starting work on his house, if he is to have a new one. He is a good worker.”

Brown Rat illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Another member of this family is the Brown Rat,” said Mother Nature. “He is sometimes called the Norway Rat and sometimes the Wharf Rat and House Rat. He is big, being next in size to Jerry Muskrat.”

“He lives chiefly around the homes of humans and likes to gnaw into grain bins and steal the grain. He gets into hen-houses and helps himself to eggs and young chickens.”

“Often in summer he moves out into fields, digging burrows there and damaging crops and also eating any of the furred and feathered folk he can catch,” said Mother Nature in a matter-of-fact tone. He is not fond of the light of day and prefers the darkness. He has very large families, sometimes ten or more babies at a time, and several families in a year.”

“Is the Brown Rat afraid of any one?” asked Peter.

“He certainly is,” replied Mother Nature. “He fears one whom every one of you fears–Shadow the Weasel.”

“When food becomes scarce, Brown Rat and his family move on to where it is more plentiful. Often they make long journeys, a great number of them together, and do not hesitate to swim a stream that may be in their path.”

“I’ve never seen Brown Rat,” said Peter. “What kind of a tail does he have?”

“I might have known you would ask that,” laughed Mother Nature as she recalled how Peter Rabbit longs for a bigger tail. “The Brown Rat has a long and slim tail and it has no hair. His fur is very coarse and it is brown and gray. He has a close relative called the Black Rat, however he is smaller and has been largely driven out of the country by his bigger cousin.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Paddy the Beaver has a flat tail top-to-bottom and Jerry Muskrat has a flat tail side-to-side. They both use them in the water for propelling and they have other uses. What other four-legged animals come to mind when thinking about tails and their special uses? Can you make a list with descriptions of what they look like and what they are used for? Furry? Long? Flat? Puffy? Digging? Balance?
  2. Do you know where rats originally came from? Are they native to the United States where you live? How do they behave when living in cities vs. out in the wild?
  3. BONUS: If you like stories with rats as characters be sure not to miss this classic: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White in which Templeton the rat keeps busy fussing about in the barn while Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig have many adventures.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.



Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 12 – Beaver


Chapter 12

Beaver


Johnny Chuck and Striped Chipmunk were the only ones who were not on hand at the pond of Paddy the Beaver deep in the Green Forest at sun-up the next morning. Johnny and Striped Chipmunk were afraid to go so far from home. However, to the surprise of everybody, Prickly Porky was there.

“He must have traveled all night to get here as he goes at a very slow pace,” said Peter Rabbit to his cousin, Jumper the Hare.

Just then Prickly Porky was reaching for lily pads from an old log which lay half in the water and appearing very well satisfied with life. You know there is nothing like a good meal of things you like to make everything seem just as it should.

Mother Nature seated herself on one end of Paddy’s dam and called the session to order. Just as she did so a brown head popped out of the water close by and a pair of anxious eyes looked up at Mother Nature.

“It is quite all right, Paddy,” she said softly. “These little four-legged folks are trying to gain some knowledge of themselves and others, and we are going to have this morning’s session right here because it is all about you.”

Paddy the Beaver no longer looked anxious. There was a sparkle in his eyes. “Then I’d like to stay,” he said eagerly. “If there is a chance to learn anything new I don’t want to miss it.”

Beaver illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Paddy the Beaver climbed out on his dam. It was the first time Happy Jack Squirrel ever had seen him out of water, and Happy Jack gave a little gasp of surprise. “I had no idea he is so big!” he exclaimed.

“He is the biggest of all the Rodents in this country, and one of the biggest in all the Great World. He is quite clever as he is a lumberman, builder, and engineer,” said Mother Nature.

“As a lumberman he cuts trees, as a builder he constructs houses and dams, and as an engineer he digs canals,” Mother Nature continued as Peter, Chatterer, and Jumper sat with their mouths opened in astonishment at all Paddy does.

“Paddy begins by cutting down the trees so that he may live, for the bark of those trees is his food. Like Prickly Porky he lives chiefly on bark. However, he wastes nothing. He makes use of every bit of that tree. He also does something for the Green Forest in return for the trees he takes by building a dam that creates a pond for you all to visit.”

“Now I want you all to take a good look at Paddy,” said Mother Nature.

As Paddy sat there on his dam, he looked rather like a giant member of the Rat family, though his head was more like that of a Squirrel than a Rat. His body was very thick and heavy, and in color he was dark brown, lighter underneath than above. Squatting there on the dam his back was rounded.

Peter Rabbit appeared to be interested in just one thing, Paddy’s tail. He couldn’t keep his eyes off it.

Mother Nature noticed this. “Well, Peter,” she said, “what is on your mind now?”

“That tail,” replied Peter. “That’s the oddest tail I’ve ever seen. I should think it would be heavy and dreadfully in the way.”

Mother Nature laughed. “If you ask him Paddy will tell you that his tail is the handiest tail in the Green Forest,” she said. “There isn’t another like it in all the Great World, and if you’ll be patient you will see just how handy it is.”

It was broad and thick and flat, oval in shape, and covered with scales instead of hair. Just then Jumper the Hare made a discovery. “Why!” he exclaimed, “Paddy has feet like Honker the Goose!”

“Only my hind feet,” said Paddy. “They have webs between the toes just as Honker’s have. That is for swimming. There are no webs between my fingers.” He held up a hand for all to see. Sure enough, the fingers were free.

“Now that everybody has had a good look at you, Paddy,” said Mother Nature, “suppose you swim over to where you have been cutting trees. We will join you there, and then you can show us just how you work.”

Paddy slipped into the water, where for a second or two he floated with just his head above the surface. Then he quickly raised his broad, heavy tail and brought it down on the water with a slap that sounded like a loud crack. It was so loud and unexpected that every one save Mother Nature and Prickly Porky jumped with fright. Peter Rabbit happened to be right on the edge of the dam and, because he jumped before he had time to think, he jumped right into the water with a splash. Now Peter doesn’t like the water, as you know, and he scrambled out just as fast as ever he could.

“What did he do that for?” Peter asked while shaking out his soaked fur.

“To show you one use he has for that handy tail,” replied Mother Nature. “That is the way he gives warning to his friends whenever he discovers danger. Did you notice how he used his tail to aid him in swimming? He turns it almost on edge and uses it as a rudder. Those big, webbed hind feet are the paddles which drive him through the water. He can stay under water a long time, for as much as five minutes. See, he has just come up now.”

Sure enough, Paddy’s head had just appeared clear across the pond almost to the opposite shore, and he was now swimming on the surface. Mother Nature at once led the way around the pond to a small grove of poplar trees which stood a little way back from the water. Paddy was already there. “Now,” said Mother Nature “show us what kind of a lumberman you are.”

Paddy picked out a small tree, sat up much as Happy Jack Squirrel does, while using his big flat tail on the ground to brace him, seized the trunk of the tree in both hands, and went to work with his great orange-colored cutting teeth. He bit out a big chip. Then another and another. Gradually he worked around the tree. After a while the tree began to sway and crack. Paddy bit out two or three more chips, then suddenly slapped the ground with his tail as a warning and scampered back to a safe distance. He was taking no chances of being caught under that falling tree.

The tree fell and at once Paddy returned to work. The smaller branches he cut off with a single bite at the base of each. The larger ones required a number of bites. Then he set to work to cut the trunk up in short logs. At this point Mother Nature spoke up.

“Now show us,” she said, “what you can do with the logs.”

Paddy at once got behind a log, and by pushing, rolled it ahead of him until at last it fell with a splash in the water of a canal which led from near that grove of trees to the pond. Paddy followed into the water and began to push it ahead of him towards the pond.

“That will do,” Mother Nature called out. “Come and show us how you take the branches.”

Paddy climbed out and returned to the fallen tree. There he picked up one of the long branches in his mouth, grasping it near the base, twisted it over his shoulder and started to drag it to the canal. When he reached the latter he entered the water and began swimming, still dragging the branch in the same way. Once more Mother Nature stopped him. “You’ve shown us how you cut trees and move them, so now I would ask you to answer a few questions if you would please,” she said.

“Certainly,” Paddy said as he climbed out and squatted on the bank.

“How did this canal happen to be here in such a handy location?” asked Mother Nature.

“Why, I dug it out,” replied Paddy. “You see, I’m rather slow on land and I don’t like to be far from water. Those trees are pretty well back from the pond, so I dug this canal, which brings the water almost to them. It makes it safer for me in case Old Man Coyote or Buster Bear or Yowler the Bobcat happens to be looking for a Beaver dinner. Also it makes it very much easier to get my logs and branches to the pond.”

Mother Nature nodded. “Just so,” she said. “I want the rest of you to notice how well this canal has been dug. At the other end it is carried along the bottom of the pond where the water is shallow so as to give greater depth. Now you will understand why I called Paddy an engineer. What do you do with your logs and branches, Paddy?”

“I put them in my food-pile, out there where the water is deep near my house,” replied Paddy. “The bark I eat and the bare sticks I use to keep my house and dam in repair. In the late fall I cut enough trees to keep me in food all winter. When my pond is covered with ice I have nothing to worry about; my food supply is below the ice. When I am hungry I swim out under the ice, get a stick, take it back into my house and eat the bark. Then I take the bare stick outside to use when needed on my dam or house.”

“How did you come to make this fine pond?” asked Mother Nature.

“Oh, I just happened to come exploring up the Laughing Brook and found there was plenty of food here and a good place for a pond,” replied Paddy. “I thought I would like to live here. Down where my dam is, the Laughing Brook was shallow–just the place for a dam.”

“Could you tell us why you wanted a pond and how you built that dam,” Mother Nature requested.

“Why, I had to have a pond, if I was to stay here,” replied Paddy. “The Laughing Brook wasn’t deep or big enough for me to live here safely. If it had been, I would have made my home in the bank and not bothered with a house or dam. It wasn’t though so I had to make a pond. It required a lot of hard work and it is worth all the time and energy.”

Beaver built hut/home and food storage of sticks in the water.

“First, I cut a lot of brush and young trees and placed them in the Laughing Brook in that shallow place, with the base of each pointing up-stream. I kept them in place by piling mud and stones on them. Then I kept piling on more sticks and brush and mud. The water brought down leaves and floating stuff, and this caught in the dam and helped fill it in. I dug a lot of mud in front of it and used this to fill in the spaces between the sticks. This made the water deeper in front of the dam and at the same time kept it from getting through. As the water backed up, of course it made a pond. I kept making my dam longer and higher, and the longer and higher it became the bigger the pond grew. When it was big enough and deep enough to suit me, I stopped work on the dam and built my house out there.”

Everybody turned to look at Paddy’s house, the roof of which stood high out of water a little way from the dam. “Tell us how you built that,” said Mother Nature quietly.

“Oh, I just made a big platform of sticks and mud out there where it was deep enough for me to be sure that the water could not freeze clear to the bottom, even in the coldest weather,” replied Paddy, in a matter-of-fact tone. “I built it up until it was above water. Then I built the walls and roof of sticks and mud, just as you see them there. Inside I have a fine big room with a comfortable bed of shredded wood. I have two openings in the floor with a long passage leading from each down through the foundations and opening at the bottom of the pond. Of course, these are filled with water. Some houses have only one passage, however I like two. These are the only entrances to my house.”

“Every fall I repair my walls and roof, adding sticks and mud and turf, so that now they are very thick. Late in the fall I sometimes plaster the outside with mud. This freezes hard, and no predator who may reach my house on the ice can tear it open.”

Peter Rabbit drew a long breath. “What a lot of work,” he said. “Do you work all the time?”

“No Peter,” Paddy said with a chuckle. Mother Nature nodded and asked “Are there any more questions?”

“Do you eat anything else besides bark?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Yes actually,” replied Paddy. “In the summer I eat berries, mushrooms, grass and the leaves and stems of a number of plants. In winter I vary my fare with lily roots and the roots of alder and willow. Bark is my principal food though.”

Mother Nature waited a few minutes and seeing there were no more questions she added a few words. “Now I hope you understand why I told you that Paddy is a lumberman, builder, and engineer,” she said. “For the next session we will take up the Rat family.”


More Paddy the Beaver stories at P.L.A.Y.

More photos + videos of beaver adventures at P.L.A.Y. Pinterest

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. In addition to Prickly Porky and Paddy the Beaver who else likes to eat bark?
  2. Does Paddy the Beaver do all this work by himself? Does he have a family or other related helpers?
  3. How long can beaver dams get? How long do they last? Months? Years?
  4. Visit this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society for more information and photos of beavers.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 11 – Porcupine


Chapter 11

Porcupine


“There,” said Mother Nature, pointing to Prickly Porky the Porcupine, “is the next to largest member of your order, which is?”

“Order of Rodents,” piped up Striped Chipmunk.

“He is the next to largest and very good at escaping predators,” continued Mother Nature.

“Actually, escaping his predators is no real credit to him. They are only too glad to keep out of his way; he doesn’t have to fear anybody,” said Chatterer the Red Squirrel to his cousin, Happy Jack.

His remark didn’t escape the keen ears of Mother Nature. “Are you sure about that?” she asked. “Well there is Pekan the Fisher”

She was interrupted by a great rattling on the old stump. Everybody turned to look. There was Prickly Porky backing down as fast as he could, which wasn’t fast at all, and rattling his thousand little spears as he did so. It was really very funny. Everybody had to laugh, even Mother Nature. You see, it was plain that he was in a great hurry, yet every movement was slow and clackety.

“Well, Prickly Porky, what does this mean? Where are you going?” asked Mother Nature.

Prickly Porky turned his eyes towards her, and in them was a troubled, worried look. “Where’s Pekan the Fisher?” he asked, and his voice shook a little with something very much like fear.

Mother Nature understood instantly. When she had said, “Well there is Pekan the Fisher,” Prickly Porky had waited to hear no more. He had instantly thought that she meant that Pekan was right there somewhere. “It’s all right, Prickly Porky,” she said. “Pekan isn’t anywhere around here, so climb back on that stump and no need to worry. Chatterer had just said that you didn’t have to fear anybody and I was starting to explain that actually you do, that despite your thousand little spears you have reason to fear Pekan the Fisher.”

Prickly Porky shivered and this made the thousand little spears in his coat rattle. It was such a surprising thing to see Prickly Porky actually afraid that the other little folks almost doubted their own eyes. “Are you quite sure that Pekan isn’t anywhere around?” asked Prickly Porky, and his voice still shook.

“Quite sure,” replied Mother Nature. “If he were I wouldn’t allow him to hurt you. You ought to know that. Now sit up so that every one can get a good look at you.”

Prickly Porky sat up, and the others gathered around the foot of the stump to look at him.

Porcupine illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

He was a little bigger than Bobby Coon and his body was thick and heavy-looking. His back humped up like an arch. His head was rather small for the size of his body, short and rather round. His neck was even shorter. His eyes were small and it was plain that he couldn’t see far, or clearly unless what he was looking at was close at hand. His ears were small and nearly hidden in hair. His front teeth, the gnawing teeth which showed him to be a Rodent, were very large and bright orange. His legs were short and stout. He had four toes on each front foot and five on each hind foot, and these were armed with quite long, stout claws.

The oddest thing and the most interesting thing about Prickly Porky was his coat. Not one among the other four-legged folk of the Green Forest has a coat anything like his. Most of them have soft, short under fur protected and more or less hidden by longer, coarser hair. Prickly Porky had the long coarse hair and on his back it was very long and coarse, brownish-black in color up to the tips, which were white. Under this long hair was some soft woolly fur, and what long hair he had hid chiefly was an array of little spears called quills. They were white to the tips, which were dark and very, very sharply pointed. All down the sides were tiny barbs, so small as hardly to be seen. On his head the quills were about an inch long and on his back they were four inches long, becoming shorter towards the tail. His tail was rather short, stout, and covered with short quills.

As he sat there on that old stump some of Prickly Porky’s little spears could be seen peeping out from the long hair on his back, although they didn’t look particularly dangerous. Peter Rabbit suddenly made a discovery. “Why!” he exclaimed. “He hasn’t any little spears on the under side of him!”

“I wondered who would be the first to notice that,” said Mother Nature. “No, Prickly Porky hasn’t any little spears underneath, and Pekan the Fisher has found that out. He knows that if he can turn Prickly Porky on his back he can attack him without much danger from those little spears, and he has learned how to do that very thing. That is why Prickly Porky is afraid of him. Now, Prickly Porky, climb down off that stump and show these little four-legged folks what you do when a predator comes near.”

Fisher illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Grumbling and growling, Prickly Porky climbed down to the ground. Then he tucked his head down between his front paws and suddenly the thousand little spears appeared all over him, pointing in every direction until he looked like a giant chestnut burr. Then he began to thrash his tail from side to side.

“What is he doing that for?” asked Johnny Chuck, looking rather puzzled.

“Go near enough to be hit by it, and you’ll understand,” said Mother Nature. “That is his one weapon. Whoever is hit by that tail will find himself full of those little spears and will take care never to go near Prickly Porky again. Once those little spears have entered the skin, they keep working in deeper and deeper, and more than one of his predators has been killed by them. On account of those tiny barbs they are hard to pull out, and pulling them out hurts dreadfully. Just try one and see.”

No one was anxious to try, so Mother Nature paused only a moment. “You will notice that he moves that tail quickly,” she continued. “It is the only thing about him which is quick. When he has a chance, in time of danger, he likes to get his head under a log or rock, instead of putting it between his paws as he is doing now. Then he plants his feet firmly and waits for a chance to use that tail.”

“Is it true that he can throw those little spears at folks?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature shook her head. “There isn’t a word of truth in it,” she declared. “That story probably was started by some one who was hit by his tail, and it was done so quickly that the victim didn’t see the tail move and so thought the little spears were thrown at him.”

“How does he make all those little spears stand up that way?” asked Jumper the Hare.

“He has a special set of muscles for just that purpose,” explained Mother Nature.

“When those quills stick into someone they must pull out of Prickly Porky’s own skin; I should think that would hurt him,” spoke up Striped Chipmunk.

“Not at all,” replied Mother Nature. “They are very loosely fastened in his skin and come out at the least little pull. New ones grow to take the place of those he loses.”

“Also notice that he puts his whole foot flat on the ground just as Buster Bear and Bobby Coon do. Very few animals do this, and those that do are said to be plantigrade. Now, Prickly Porky, tell us what you eat and where you make your home, and that will end today’s session.”

“I eat bark, twigs and leaves mostly,” said Prickly Porky. “I like hemlock best of all, and also eat poplar, pine and other trees for a change. Sometimes I stay in a tree for days until I have stripped it of all its bark and leaves. I don’t see any sense in moving about any more than is necessary.”

“Does that kill the tree?” exclaimed Peter Rabbit.

“Well, maybe, what of it?” replied Prickly Porky. “There are plenty of trees. In summer I like lily pads and always get them when I can.”

“Can you swim?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Of course,” grunted Prickly Porky.

“I never see you out on the Green Meadows,” said Peter.

“And you never will,” replied Prickly Porky. “The Green Forest is for me every time. Summer or winter, I’m at home there.”

“Don’t you sleep through the cold weather the way Buster Bear and I do?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“No, cold weather doesn’t bother me. I like it, ” said Prickly Porky. “I have the Green Forest pretty much to myself then. I like to be alone. And as long as there are trees, there is plenty to eat. I sleep a great deal in the daytime because I like night best.”

“What about your home?” asked Happy Jack.

“Home is wherever I happen to be, most of the time, and Mrs. Porky has a home in a hollow log or a cave or under the roots of a tree where the babies are born.”

“You might add that those babies are big for the size of their mother and have a full supply of quills when they are born,” said Mother Nature. “And you might like to mention how fond of salt you are. Your fear of Pekan the Fisher we all saw. I might add that Puma the Panther is to be feared at times, and when he is very hungry Buster Bear will take a chance on turning you on your back. By the way, don’t any of you call Prickly Porky a Hedgehog. He isn’t anything of the kind. He is sometimes called a Quill Pig, although his real name, Porcupine, is best. He has no near relatives.”

“Tomorrow morning, instead of meeting here, we’ll hold our session on the shore of the pond that Paddy the Beaver has made.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What do people actually mean when they say ” that person was as prickly as a porcupine”?
  2. What other animals eat bark, twigs, and leaves just like a porcupine? I’ll get you started by naming goats(!) as fantastic eaters of bark and leaves. How many more animals can you list?
  3. *Start “branching out” into other topics mentioned by Prickly Porky such as the hemlock tree as his favorite food. What does a hemlock tree look like? What size cones does it have and who eats the seeds within them? How are the branches arranged to shed the snow or shelter birds? What is the color of the foliage? Does this change with the seasons?
  4. Visit this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society for more information and photos of porcupines.

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.


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P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.