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.”

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. 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.


THANK YOU!!!

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.

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

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. 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.


THANK YOU!!!


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.”

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. 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.


THANK YOU!!!


Nature Poop Post #11

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop

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


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

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- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!


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!

Book Look: I Am . . . series by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Susan Verde has written an inspiring series of children’s books and paired with the engaging art of Peter Reynolds to provide families with the opportunity to read wholehearted stories that bring light and empowerment even in the most challenging times.

The book that hooked me first was I Am Love: A Book of Compassion. This short picture book uses powerful wording to help us all understand how to be the light and love in the room wherever we go and in whatever we do. It is also a wonderful reminder of all the ways love is present everyday if we are mindful and engage with self-compassion too.


I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

The second book that caught my eye was I Am One: A Book of Action. This is an invitation to ask ourselves “How do I make a difference?” even when we feel like we only have one small voice. The messaging emphasizes that so many things start with just one – a seed in a garden, a musical note for a song, a brushstroke for a masterpiece, and the first step on a long journey. This gift of a book is empowering and a wonderful reminder for the whole family that each individual can make a difference.


I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This book, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, is a balm and guide for those folks who worry what might happen next in our ever changing world. It provides a wonderful introduction to being present with what is and the basic gentle steps on how to be at peace with yourself, others, and the world around you. Bonus material includes encouraging folks to wonder and connect to nature!


I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This keepsake, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, is a wonderful expression of all that we each are and can be. This book is filled with simple possibilities and opportunities to guide each of us to be a better human and to simply be human. I appreciate the messaging throughout this story and the offering of a loving-kindness meditation at the end to pass forward.


I Am Yoga by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Through a focus of quieting the mind, body, and breath I Am Yoga brings calm and peace into any moment and with it a touch of magic as you witness the power to just be still and centered. This is an excellent introduction guide on how to embrace the basics of yoga and to see how the effects of the poses can bring strength and clarity to your day. A must read for the whole family!


P.L.A.Y. is here to support you and your family on your life learning path.


Share this Simple Gift with friends and loved ones.


P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

THANK YOU!!!

SKYscape Simplicity #76: A Meditative Moment

Look at the lines – vertical river, horizontal tree, and clouds mirroring the tree line. Simply Beautiful!

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.

Share this Simple Gift with friends and loved ones.

THANK YOU!!!

P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

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.

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. 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.”

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. 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.


THANK YOU!!!


Happy Heart Day – Nature’s Love is All Around!

Happy Heart Day Everyone!

Time to step outdoors and go experience Nature’s Love All Around!

Open your eyes, and heart, to see the natural world through the lens of wonder without expectations and you will be amazed at what you will find. By taking daily walks you have the opportunity to experience the simple pleasures that the great outdoors has to offer. Mother Nature loves to put simple surprises in your path and you just need to be present to receive the gift.

I am sure the landscape near you is full of these magical moments too if you simply walk daily with a sense of wonder (with a heartfelt nod and much gratitude to Rachel Carson for her inspiration!)

Rachel Carson – The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children

Take a look at more of the HEARTS I’ve discovered over the years on the landscape here at our hilltop home in New England.

Nature’s Love is All Around – Always!

P.L.A.Y. Project: Snowflakes + Cool Crystals #12

Welcome to my P.L.A.Y. Project:

SNOWFLAKES + COOL CRYSTALS

Geometric lines forming down at the river’s edge in January
Cool crystals creating “lanes” of different ice types along the river’s edge.

January and February have provided some interesting opportunities to continue my crystal and snowflake observations this year. You just never know what you’ll find on your daily walk!

I am fascinated with how Mother Nature magically “overnight” creates new artwork in the ice both down at the brook, the river, and in random locations found on my walks through the fields and forest here at our hilltown home in New England.

Geometric angles and curves formed in cool crystal fashion!

I’ve also found it takes great patience to capture photos of snowflakes and wait for just the right storms to arrive so being able to go out any day of the week in the winter and visit the ice is a bonus treat to see me through.


Curious Capkins love getting outdoors to P.L.A.Y. with you in all seasons and all kinds of weather!
So step into the sunshine, snow shower, wind or rain and enjoy the adventure.

You and your kiddos will be so very glad you did!


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.