Owls

I believe that I have mentioned before that once a month I pay a visit to a magical doctor who eases my sore muscles and arthritis and calms my worries. Dr Bruton has a magical assistant, Sarah. Sarah often talks to me while they are massaging and lasering and sticking needles in me. Sarah of the magical hands. During my last visit, Dr Bruton was waving his blue laser, magical wand around on all the stiff muscles and sore parts and I was just beginning to snooze and dream a bit about some serenity I have been encountering in my woods lately.

IMG_4225Lately, in the middle of the night, I have been hearing some rather loud, gentle Hoooooooing. Off in the woods behind our house. Surprisingly near. The Mom Person says that it comes from Great Horned Owls. I like the sound of these owls. They do sound so very serene. The Mom Person says that they are far from it and are hanging out at our house so as to eat our chickens. I couldn’t say about that. But anyway, I was laying there in that quiet doctor’s office thinking about that HOOOOOOOOOOing and Sarah with the magical hands said, “Owls?” I opened my eye and looked at my Mom Person. Had she been talking about our owls? No. She looked rather quizzically at Ms Sarah and said “What?” and Ms Sarah said, “Rhythm is talking about owls. Have you had owls at your house?” My Mom Person looked at Ms Sarah and looked at me and just shook her head in wonder. I smiled and went back to sleep. Ms Sarah always knows what’s going on. She’s magical.

IMG_2257Owl Moon
by Jane Yolen
illustrated by John Schoenherr
published by Philomel Books in 1987
winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal

Themes – winter, owls, nature, father/daughter relationships

Suitable for ALL ages, young and old

It begins –
It was late one winter night,
long past my bedtime,
when Pa and I went owling.

This is the book that comes to mind when I listen to our owl in the woods. It’s a rather popular book with my readers and I get to hear it quite often. It’s really a bedtime kind of story. Soft, and dark, and soothing. The narrator is a young girl going “owling” for the first time with her Pa. They tromp through the dark, quiet woods in knee deep snow. I have a hard time imagining that much snow! It’s cold, cold, cold. But a person must be quiet and brave when out owling. And they must make their own heat. The Pa and his daughter walk a long time hoping to see an owl. The Pa stops now and then to call out to the owls — Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo. Finally, there is an echoing call — and there is the Great Horned Owl in all its dark glory!

IMG_2259Wow! We don’t have to walk very far to go owling, just out our back door. And we don’t have to tromp through any snow. But we have yet to see an actual owl. I’m happy just to listen and let that Hooooooing lull me to sleep. I think that these Great Horned Owls are rather large. Bigger than the vultures that fly around overhead all the time. A bird that big might be kind of spooky.

But there’s nothing spooky about this book. It is the height of serenity. The words and the pictures work together to entice you to be quiet and calm so the big bird will come. It invites you to savor the natural wonders in the world around us. And it celebrates the bond between a father and his daughter. A glorious book indeed.

Ms Yolen and Mr Schoenherr both took their kids owling. I think that everyone should try some owling! Out in the woods on a full moon night! What fun!!

You can find out more about Great Horned Owls HERE. And this link HERE also has a recording of that Hooo-Hoooing.

This KIDZONE link has some owl worksheets and activities.

Our science classes here at school always dissect owl pellets – the stuff that they throw up. The kids love doing this!

And here is what you might see if you get lucky!

Now be sure and go visit Ms Susanna Hill HERE and see her list of great Perfect Picture Books! It is Perfect Picture Book Friday after all!!!!

Happy Owling!!
Your friend
Rhythm
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The Start of a New Year

IMG_2242I understand that we are in to a brand new year. 2015. Numbers don’t mean much to my little canine brain. Years, days, weeks, months. Just words to me. I don’t have a good understanding about time. I know that I’m getting older – my body doesn’t seem to want to do things that it used to do. So I guess that means that years are passing by. But I wake up every morning to a new day! Sometimes I wake up from a good nap to a new day! And it’s most always good.

There seems to be a lot of celebration around the start of a new year. Staying awake way past my bedtime to watch balls drop on TV. I’d be happy to see some real balls drop. Drinking champagne and tooting horns. My humans love to celebrate. I guess a brand new year is something to hoot and holler about.

I’m celebrating the start of the new year with a couple of Ashley Wolff books that we happened across recently. All about that word “year.”

IMG_2249A Year of Beasts
by Ashley Wolff
published by E.P. Dutton in 1986

It begins –
In winter, in spring
in summer, and in fall –
in every month of the year
beasts of all kinds
live in the fields and forests
around Ellie and
Peter’s house.

IMG_2250And thus we are lead on a romping wildlife hunt through the months of the year. Each page spread reveals a new animal and a new happening apropos of the season. (apropos! big word for the day!) The text is simple and bold. It’s the pictures that tell the story of a year in the life of Ellie and Peter. And Ms Wolff’s artwork is absolutely JOYFUL!!

Book No. 2 is –

IMG_2245When Lucy Goes Out Walking
A Puppy’s First Year
by Ashley Wolff
published by Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Co.) in 2009

It begins –
January
When Lucy goes out walking
In January snows,
She leaves a trail of puppy prints
Everywhere she goes.

IMG_2246This book is particularly apropos for our house because we have just been through a puppy’s first year! In each month of the year little Lucy encounters new and exciting adventures – just like our Electra has! And each month she gets a little bigger – just like our Electra has! And in the book, Lucy is always accompanied by her Best Boy. That’s one thing that Electra has missed out on. She’s had plenty of kids to play with, but no Best One. Me and Walker both had our Best Girl and I wish that she could have been here to help Electra, but alas she is far away and all grown up now. That’s what happens over the years. They come and go and little folks become big folks. And little critters become big critters. And all the new days march on.

You can visit Ms Wolff at her website HERE. Please do! You’ll be glad you did!

So – this is the Start of a New Year, A New Day – Make the most of NOW!

Celebrate your NOWS!
Rhythm
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The Listening Walk

My Princesses came to the 7 Acre Wood this week. They are Woodsy Princesses and love to go walking through the wilderness here. They also are Booksy Princesses and love to read books and tell stories. We found a great little book that tied it all together!

IMG_5038The Listening Walk

by Paul Showers
illustrated by Aliki
Published by Harper Collins, originally in 1961 and again in 1991

Theme – Fathers and daughters, nature, using your senses

Suitable for ages 3 and up

It begins –
“I like to take walks.
I take walks with my father and our dog.
Our dog is called Major.
He is an old dog and he does not walk very fast.”

“We go down the street and we do not talk.
My father puts his hands in his pockets and thinks.
Major walks ahead and sniffs.
I keep still and listen.”

IMG_5026The narrator, a little girl, calls this a Listening Walk. They listen to all the sounds and don’t talk. And she tells us about the sounds that she hears. Major’s toenails scratching on the sidewalk — twick, twick, twick. Her father’s shoes. Noisy lawnmowers.Whispering sprinklers. Cars going by. Bicycles, jets overhead and a baby crying. They go into a quiet park and there are different sounds of birds and bugs and leaves blowing in the trees.

It’s a lovely little book. The Princesses liked it alot. We didn’t hear all of the same sounds on our walk. It was a cold, quiet day in the 7 Acre Wood. The Guineas walked with us and they are real chatterboxes. They do not believe in being quiet and listening. The goats were calling to us – they wanted to come along, but we left them behind in their pen. We heard lots of different birds, and the wind, and the river down the hill. The Princesses shoes crunched on the dry grass. The Guineas scratched in the leaves.

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Listening is a good thing. You can have a listening walk in the country or in the city. It would be fun to compare the sounds from different places. Or the differences between day and night sounds. You don’t even have to go on a walk to have a Listening Adventure! You can just sit and be quiet and notice what sounds you hear. How would you write the sounds that you hear? Could you draw pictures to go with the sounds?

You could also go on walks using your other senses. My favorite walks are Sniffing Walks. Can I find any new smells along a trail? Who’s been through these woods before me? You could do a Seeing Walk and even a Touching Walk.

Before you go out walking, you might want to visit Susanna Hill’s Blog to see the list she has compiled of Perfect Picture Books.

Kermit the Frog likes Listening Walks –

What kind of walks do you like? What will you notice today?
I wish good sounds and smells for you!
Your sniffing, listening friend
Rhythm
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The Big Snow

I have heard that some parts of the country are experiencing more of that stuff called snow. I hear that in some places it is really BIG snow and really BIG cold.

Not here. It’s COLD. Really Cold! But no snow for us.

But in honor of BIG Snow in other places, I’m sharing a rather chilling book called

THE BIG SNOW

This is a rather old book published in 1948 by E.M. Hale and Company (by arrangement with The MacMillan Co.) There are newer versions of this book to be found. We found this really lovely, old copy at our library.

It was written and illustrated by husband and wife, Berta and Elmer Hader, and describes the big blizzard of December, 1946. (the book says 1946, research tells me that it was  Christmas of 1947.) The book was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1949.

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The theme of the Big Snow would be Snow! and winter and wildlife survival in winter.
It’s suitable for age 5 and up.

It is an old book, but it is pertinent to current times. It’s basically a nature book. It begins – “Honk-honk-honk.” “The wild geese were flying south.” Mrs. Cottontail and the littlest rabbit watched them from the vegetable garden. She tells the little rabbit that he must eat plenty of cabbage leaves and carrot tops so that he will have a thick coat for winter.

We see all the other animals watching the geese fly by and learn how they will get through the winter. The ground hog and the skunks and raccoons will all take long naps in dark dens. All of the other birds – the cardinals and sparrows and jays and pheasants – believe that they will be able to find plenty of seeds and be just fine through the cold weather. The chipmunks and squirrels and mice have stored nuts and seeds away. The deer are comfortable in their woods. All of the animals thought that they were ready for winter.

IMG_4875Then it began to snow. And it snowed and snowed. The snow was deep and thick and covered everything. The animals discovered that it was not going to be so easy to find food in all that snow. But the jay saw an old man and an old lady putting out seed and nuts and bread crumbs and hay. The jay called out to all the other animals on the hill. Everyone passed the word along that there was food at the little stone house and they all made their way to the feast. In the end, the ground hog saw his shadow and hurried back to his den to wait out the rest of the long cold winter.

HERE is a link to Life Magazine photos of New York City in the snow – 1947.

If you do have snow where you are it would be fun to just go out and walk in the snow. Scatter some seeds and bread crumbs for the birds.

HERE are some instructions for making pine cone bird feeders.

Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes has directions for a fun “Winter Calming Jar” filled with sparkly floating glitter.

And of course there’s always snow ice cream!! I’ve never had any myself. I just eat my snow plain. When I can get it.

And of course on this bitter cold Friday, while you’re nice and warm at your computer, you might want to venture over to Susanna Hill’s blog to find more Perfect Picture Books and some great resources to go with them.

Stay warm!!
Rhythm
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A Texas Safari

OK! Grab your hat and camera — we’re going on a safari!

IMG_2425safari van

A few miles down the road from us is Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a world-renowned, 1,700 acre wildlife preserve dedicated to the conservation and preservation of endangered animals. Like rhinos and cheetahs and the native Attwater’s Prairie Chicken. Now I’ve never actually been to Fossil Rim as they have a very strict NO DOGS ALLOWED policy, so everything I’m going to tell you and show you is hearsay. But it all comes from the mouth of My Mom Person who has been to Fossil Rim a billion times.

To tour Fossil Rim you can either drive your own car through the 9 1/2 miles of road (don’t bring the dog!) or you can reserve a tour on one of Fossil Rim’s Safari Vans with a tour guide. You can purchase cups of feed to feed the animals that you encounter. I have sampled these special pellets and they are quite yummy! They make me feel tall like a giraffe and swift like a deer!

img385There are over 1,000 animals from 50 different species roaming the hills and pastures of Fossil Rim. No dogs! But they do have wolves. Red Wolves, Mexican Grey Wolves and Maned Wolves. There aren’t any wolves at all in Texas any more. Except at some zoos and Fossil Rim.

But these animals are not here just for the fun of it. Most of the animals are part of intensive breeding programs to help preserve their species. Some of them are actually extinct in the wild!

Rather than me trying to give you all the cool facts, I will refer you to the Fossil Rim Website here.

And I’m going to leave you with some pictures from our tour –

I will tell you that Fossil Rim offers overnight accommodations if you are so inclined. They have a very nice Lodge and a really cool Safari Camp. I have included pictures of both in my picture gallery above.

And since I am, after all, a LIBRARY dog, I have a great book for you to get you in the mood for your Fossil Rim visit.

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African Critters by Robert B. Haas is an incredibly beautiful book for young readers about African wildlife. It was published by Sacova Publishing in 2002. It is a photographic journey with text and photos by Mr Haas. This book is particularly special to Fossil Rim because the Haas Family was instrumental in helping the park build a new cheetah facility some years ago. The Robert B. Haas Cheetah Conservancy was created at Fossil Rim by a very generous grant from the Haas Family Foundation.

A little video about the Rhino program at Fossil Rim —

Rolling on the River —

We got to play in the river today!!  YaHoo!! I LOVE the river! I like to swim and fetch my toy. And roll in stuff. Walker likes to get wet and run, run, run. He’s like a black gazelle. The Mom Person likes to explore. And throw my toy. And take pictures. And throw my toy. The trees along the bank are all losing their leaves and the river is full of pretty color. It’s the purple season — purple flowers and purple leaves and purple berries. And you thought dogs were color blind. We didn’t see a lot of wildlife. A lot of little frogs. And a fisherman up river a bit.

We’ve got this really nice book called Where the River Begins by Thomas Locker. It is filled with the most beautiful, serene paintings by Mr Locker.  The story is about 2 boys who live next to a river and wonder where the river begins. So their grandfather takes them on a camping trip to see if they can find the beginning of the river. They have a nice, leisurely trek all the way up the river. It’s a companionable trip with just the 2 boys, their grandfather and their dog. And all of the natural world around them.

I don’t know where this book river is. It doesn’t look much like my river, except that it’s not very big. My river has big rocks and cliffs and thick forests along the bank. I think about swimming up river as far as I can go. But I think that it would be a long way. Sometimes in the summer our river goes dry and then we can walk up the river bed and find fossils and dinosaur tracks  and other treasures. We’ve walked up a couple of miles before, but then we just turned back and went home.

Rivers are magical places. The sounds and the smells and the wildlife. I recommend a river trip for everyone. Whether to find the beginning of one or the end. To swim or to fish. To ride the rapids in a kayak or tube the slow parts. A river is full of stories.

The beginning of my river, The Paluxy River, is up there somewhere. For now I’ll just stick with my little part of it.

Thomas Locker has written and illustrated many similar books for children. He died this year and I’m glad that I got to know him a little through his work. I hope that you will check out Where the River Begins or one of his other fine books.

And Happy Drifting!