SKYscape Simplicity #77: A Meditative Moment

Take a moment to watch the clouds roll by as you connect to the calm and beauty of nature that is always there for you.


Wishing you and yours much peace throughout your P.L.A.Y. days.

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.”

This Curious Capkin has gathered P.L.A.Y. Prompts for you to ponder and explore!

Enjoy!

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, 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.


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!!!


Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 8 – Lightfoot’s Challenge

Originally written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 8 –

Lightfoot’s Challenge


In his search for the latest newcomer who had come to the Green Forest, Lightfoot the Deer no longer stole like a gray shadow from thicket to thicket as he had done when searching for the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. Now he bounded along, not caring how much noise he made. From time to time he would stop to whistle a challenge and to clash his antlers against the trees and stamp the ground with his feet.

Now and then he found the larger newcomer’s tracks, and from them he knew that this newcomer was doing just what he had been doing, which was seeking to find the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. Each time he found these signs Lightfoot became more frustrated.

Of course it didn’t take Sammy Jay long to discover what was going on. There is little that escapes those sharp eyes of Sammy Jay. As you know, he had early discovered the game of hide-and-seek that Lightfoot had been playing with the beautiful young visitor who had come down to the Green Forest from the Great Mountain. Then, by chance, Sammy had visited the Laughing Brook just as the larger newcomer had come down there to drink. For once Sammy had kept his tongue still. “There is going to be excitement here when Lightfoot discovers this fellow,” thought Sammy. “If they ever meet, and I have a feeling that they will, there is going
to be a challenge.”

Of course, Lightfoot knew nothing about all this. His one thought was to find that big newcomer and drive him from the Green Forest, and so he continued his search tirelessly.

Larger newcomer leaving signs behind.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever heard the phrase “A bird’s eye view”? What does it mean?
  2. With Sammy Jay’s use of his “bird’s eye view” what advantages does he have in seeing stories unfold in the Green Forest?
  3. Are there any disadvantages to Sammy Jay’s use of his “bird’s eye view”?
  4. Why does Sammy Jay think there is going to be a challenge when Lightfoot the Deer meets this newcomer? What does he know? or not know?
  5. Why does Lightfoot the Deer say he wants to drive the newcomer from the forest vs. welcoming them? What natural behavior is playing out for this deer?

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 7 – A Startling New Hoofprint

Original story written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 7 –

A Startling New Hoofprint


The game of hide-and-seek between Lightfoot the Deer and the beautiful newcomer whose dainty hoofprints had first started Lightfoot to seeking her had been going on for several days and nights when Lightfoot found something which gave him a shock. He had gone very softly down to the Laughing Brook, hoping to surprise the beautiful newcomer drinking there. She wasn’t to be seen. Lightfoot wondered if she had been there, so he looked in the mud at the edge of the Laughing Brook to see if there were any fresh prints of those dainty feet. Almost at once he discovered fresh hoofprints. However, they were not the prints he was looking for. They were not the dainty prints he had learned to know so well. They were prints very near the size of his own big ones and they had been made only a short time before.

Startling new discovery of larger hoofprints!

The finding of those prints was a dreadful shock to Lightfoot. He understood instantly what they meant. They meant that a second newcomer had come into the Green Forest, one who had antlers just like his own.

“He has come here to seek that beautiful newcomer I have been searching for,” thought Lightfoot. “He has come here to take her away from me. He has come from the Great Mountain where that beautiful newcomer must have come from, too. I want her to stay here in the Green Forest with me and I must drive this fellow out.”

Lightfoot stamped his feet and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He threw his head high in the air and whistled angrily. Then he leaped over the Laughing Brook and once more began to search through the Green Forest. However, this time it was not for the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. He had no time to think of her now. He must first find this other newcomer and he meant to waste no time in doing so.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. What time of day do deer move about the most?
  2. Where do the deer sleep? Do the sleep standing up or laying down?
  3. Do the males and the females form a herd together? or separate?
  4. Do deer walk over the same paths or form new paths throughout the forest?
  5. What are you curious about having read 7 chapters about Lightfoot the Deer? Capture your questions in your nature journal!

Deer tracks and scat (aka poop!) and so much more can be found in this handy guide book, Scats and Tracks of the Northeast by James C. Halfpenny, that fits easily in your backpack to take on your next P.L.A.Y. adventure in a field or forest near you!

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 – Tree Branch Surprise

Original text written by Thornton Burgess in 1921 and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 3 –

Tree Branch Surprise


It was evening and dear jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had gone to bed behind the Purple Hills, and the Black Shadows had crept out across the Big River. Mr. and Mrs. Quack were getting their evening meal among the brown stalks of the wild rice along the edge of the Big River. They took turns in searching for the rice grains in the mud. While Mrs. Quack tipped up and seemed to stand on her head as she searched in the mud for rice, Mr. Quack kept watch for possible danger. Then Mrs. Quack took her turn at keeping watch, while Mr. Quack stood on his head and hunted for rice.

It was wonderfully quiet and peaceful. There was not even a ripple on the Big River. It was so quiet that they could hear the barking of a dog at a farmhouse a mile away. They were far enough out from the bank to have nothing to fear from Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote. So they had nothing to fear from any one other than Hooty the Owl. It was for Hooty that they took turns in watching. It was just the hour when Hooty likes best to hunt.

By and by they heard Hooty’s hunting call. It was far away in the Green Forest. Then Mr. and Mrs. Quack felt easier, and they talked in low, contented voices. They felt that for a while at least there was nothing to fear.

Suddenly a little splash out in the Big River caught Mr. Quack’s quick ear. As Mrs. Quack brought her head up out of the water, Mr. Quack warned her to keep quiet. Noiselessly they swam among the brown stalks until they could see out across the Big River. There was another little splash out there in the middle. It wasn’t the splash made by a fish; it was a splash made by something much bigger than any fish. Presently they made out a silver line moving towards them from the Black Shadows. They knew exactly what it meant. It meant that someone was out there in the Big River moving towards them.

Mrs. & Mr. Quack!

With their necks stretched high, Mr. and Mrs. Quack watched. They were ready to take to their strong wings the instant they discovered danger. However, they did not want to fly until they were sure that it was danger approaching. They were very much on alert.

Presently they made out what looked like the branch of a tree moving over the water towards them. That was odd, very odd indeed. Both Mr. & Mrs. Quack said so. And they were both growing more and more suspicious. Mr. and Mrs. Quack half lifted their wings to fly.

It certainly was very mysterious. There, out in the Big River, in the midst of the Black Shadows, was something which looked like the branch of a tree. However, instead of moving down the river, as the branch of a tree would if it were floating, this was coming straight across the river as if it were swimming. How could the branch of a tree swim? This continued to puzzle Mr. & Mrs. Quack.

So they sat perfectly still among the brown stalks of the wild rice along the edge of the Big River, and not for a second did they take their eyes from that strange thing moving towards them. They were ready to spring into the air and trust to their swift wings the instant they should detect danger. They did not want to fly unless they had to as they were very curious to find out what that mysterious thing moving through the water towards them was.

So Mr. & Mrs. Quack watched that thing that looked like a swimming branch draw closer and closer, and the closer it drew the more they were puzzled, and the more curious they felt. If it had been the pond of Paddy the Beaver instead of the Big River, they would have thought it was Paddy swimming with a branch for his winter food pile. And yet Paddy the Beaver was way back in his own pond, deep in the Green Forest, and they knew it. So this thing became more and more of a mystery. The nearer it came, the more nervous and anxious they grew, and at the same time the more curious they became.

At last Mr. Quack felt that it wasn’t safe to wait longer. He prepared to spring into the air, knowing that Mrs. Quack would follow him. It was just then that a funny little sound reached him. It was a half snort, half cough, as if some one had sniffed some water up their nose. There was something familiar about that sound.

“I’ll wait,” thought Mr. Quack, “until that thing, whatever it is, comes out of those Black Shadows into the moonlight. Somehow I have a feeling that we are in no danger.”

So Mr. and Mrs. Quack waited and watched. In a few minutes the thing that looked like the branch of a tree came out of the Black Shadows into the moonlight, and then the mystery was solved. They saw that they had mistaken the antlers of Lightfoot the Deer for the branch of a tree. He was swimming across the Big River on his way back to his home in the Green Forest.

At once Mr. and Mrs. Quack gladly swam out to meet Lightfoot and to tell him how happy they were to see him and his wonderful set of antlers.


This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever seen things in the dark shadows outdoors and mistaken it for an animal?
  2. Have you ever seen tree branch shadows sprawling across white snow lit up by moonlight? What did it look like to you?
  3. Have you ever sat outdoors when the sun has gone down and the stars are out and simply listened and watched the night sky? Time to P.L.A.Y. and give it a try!
  4. When you come back in try to capture what you experienced in the dark of night by writing and drawing or even recreating and recording a batch of sounds that you heard. A great time to try this is nearer to the Winter Solstice in December as there is shorter hours of daylight so you can be outdoors early around 5PM in the dark!
  5. What senses did Mr. & Mrs. Quack rely on the most to figure out that it was only Lightfoot the Deer?

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

More updated animal stories from the Thornton Burgess archives featuring local four-legged friends in the fields and forests.

Arriving January 2021!

Nature Poop Post -or- the Scoop on Scat!

In addition to checking out P.L.A.Y. Nature Poop and Scat-Be-Doo-Doo posts, this book by Dawn Cusick, Get the Scoop on Animal Poop!, is a fun rainy day read for the whole family and can provide hours of engaging conversations with plenty of learning activities and experiments too.

How can you resist with book section titles like this:

The Power of Poo!

Underwater Poo

Watch Your Language! Feces, Frass, and Scat!

And so much more!!!

OK parents it is time to P.L.A.Y. !

Let your inner child bring forth a field full of cow patty poop talk and let loose!

Oh Deer- a patch of poop pellets! Simply another wonder in the woods!

Stretching Shadow – A Simple Gift

The shadows grow long as the sun sets ever earlier and we near the end of November allowing for P.L.A.Y.-full moments like this one here in my neck-of-the-woods.

And even though I’ve passed through this patch of the forest a thousand times this moment was like catching an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror as I caught sight of my extended shadow.

My how tall I’ve grown I thought. I look a bit long in the legs with four of them no less! I could be called “stretch”! What if a critter walked up behind me, how tall would they be? What if it was the black bear I saw a few weeks ago only this time it was walking on two legs? Oh my – what silly fun!

This whimsical moment reminded me yet again of how everything changes, always. Mother Nature has made sure that no matter what there will always be change even if we do not readily see it.

That is how this year has been too. There are so many obvious changes that have taken place in 2020 and yet there are so many subtle ones as well.

This holiday week may be a bit quieter for many of us as we stay home in our own pods and save visiting family and friends for another year when it is safer to do so.

And perhaps this provides an unexpected opportunity for all of us to reflect on the more subtle changes, perhaps even unexpected delights, that have unfolded while our attention was elsewhere this year.

What little things have you overlooked that could only have taken place due to the larger changes throughout 2020?

Someday when masks, and pods, and the pandemic are over what little things will you miss that could only have taken place this year and will eventually disappear?

Once you’ve sat with these thoughts awhile I hope you and your cozy pod are able to take the time to delight in the simple and subtle changes outdoors this week and in the months to come.

Whether it is catching a glimpse of your own shadows in the setting sunlight, collecting cool crystals on a winter’s day, or creating your own spontaneous P.L.A.Y. projects may you all discover simple pleasures in your own neck-of-the-woods.

Truly nature is there for you, ready to P.L.A.Y., always.

Be well, be safe, and simply bee!

From me and my shadow,

Karen ;0) ❤

Winter’s Coming, P.L.A.Y. Time!

This 3″ snow storm arrived as a bit of a trick and a treat at the end of October.

It was a fun reminder that winter is just around the corner and it is time to gather up simple P.L.A.Y. activities and order your next copy of Nature Alliteration Adventures to carry you through the super season of snow!

Nature Alliteration Adventures: Winter Activity Guide Book

Also be sure to check out my Snowflakes & Cool Crystals project for more inspiration for family nature adventures!

Surprise -Jack Frost climbing up my window on Halloween morning!

Nature Poop Post #1

SCAT – What’s that???

A curiously fun and magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special P.L.A.Y. combination of two things:

SCAT = animal poop (aka feces)

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop.


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do when you find the poo out in the wild:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal left behind this special clue.

4- Get curious if you like and poke it with a stick to try to figure out what this animal ate. Can you see fur, seeds, grasses, or ???

BONUS P.L.A.Y.  Sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


The authors write in the introduction:

“(this book assists with) . . . the joy of reading stories written in the soil and snow. The fun of nature’s challenge is solving the mysteries written on the trail.”

I highly recommend picking up a copy for your nature library! ~ Karen ;0)


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!