Friday, October 22, 2010

A Beautiful Autumn Walk

We've been reading some fall books lately, like these:

and talking about all the changes that take place in nature in the fall, particularly in trees. We went for the most beautiful nature walk at a local arboretum - what better place to learn about trees and leaves?

We discussed simple and complex leaves, leaves with serrated edges, how leaves use CO2, water and energy from the sun to make food for the tree and how they give off oxygen, the breakdown of chlorophyll in the fall, deciduous vs. evergreen and all things leafy.

Speaking of leaves, does anyone know what these plants might be? They consisted of just one enormous leaf on top of a thick stalk. We found one fallen over that made an excellent umbrella.

Because there were bridges over running water, we played Pooh Sticks. If you have ever read (or listened to) the original Winnie the Pooh stories, you will understand that bridges over running water simply cannot be crossed without playing Pooh Sticks.

And some of us rolled down a large hill because, well, it was there. I guess that really needs no explanation. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wind Farm field trip

Yesterday we drove up into the hills, got lost twice and finally ended up on an unlabeled dirt road to see the windmills! Now, these things are HUGE and you can see them from most anywhere so you would think it would be tough to get lost but there are 19 of them and, well, they all look exactly alike. We did finally find the windmill that our homeschool group was visiting, though, and it was a spectacular sight.

These stand over 300 feet tall. The rectangular part at the top that houses the generator is as big as a school bus. And each blade weighs seven tons! As I stood under it to take this picture, the clouds were moving in such a way that it looked like the turbine was moving toward us (or falling on us) - kind of scary. Especially given that one DID fall last year - I am not making this up. Fortunately, the injury list was limited to several rows of corn.

There was an actual blade that the kids could explore. These are hollow on the actual windmills and workers can walk inside them when necessary. 300 feet up and in complete darkness. Now there's a job my high school guidance counselor never mentioned. Go figure.

The blades are made of fiberglass.

And make a lovely play structure if you have the room.

We found out that these 19 windmills produce enough power to run 9,500 homes. Amazing!

Interesting note:
Since the hills upon which these windmills stand lie directly under a major migratory flyway, there was apparently some concern that birds might be killed by the blades. Several environmental agencies came out and checked around and, finding no dead birds, they came back with some of their own and spread them around the bases of the windmills!

No, really, I promise I am not making this up.

The idea was that maybe birds really were being killed, but they were quickly being dragged into the woods and consumed by predators. After a week of checking on the carcasses, they were satisfied that this was not the case. One could go into a discussion of the ethics involved in killing one set of birds to see if another set might be in danger but one won't because one needs to go to bed.

I did mention to Z-Man that, again, through obvious negligence, I was never made aware of "dead bird distributor" as a potential career path. And I guess I'm OK with that.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I LOVE fall in the Northeast

We are so blessed to live close enough to the Adirondacks that we can drive up for a day. Today Little Man made it up (and down) his first mountain all by himself. Hard to say who was more excited about that - him or those who would have had to carry him.

I think we missed peak color by about a week, but it was still gorgeous.

No, I haven't enhanced this - the sky really was that blue.

A woodpecker has been here!

I find it so amazing when trees find a way to grow right on top of huge rocks.

Ahhhhhh... rewarded with a spectacular view. We climb one of these mountains several times a year and they never cease to awe me. Such stunning beauty.

And now for a sustaining snack to get us back down the mountain. The promise of Barb's famous donuts probably provided a little more motivation. On the way home, we asked the boys to name the best things they saw today. You'll be happy to know "the view from the top" ALMOST edged out the donuts for the number one spot. Good grief. Maybe it's a boy thing. They're just lucky they're so cute.