With summer winding down and autumn gearing up, there’s plenty to discover outside in August and September. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Grab some friends and the smallest lasso you can find. It’s time for a roly-poly roundup! Look under rocks, rake up leaves, and search the base of your house for the brownish-gray crustaceans (roly-polies are related to lobsters and crabs). Once you’ve gathered a few, make a simple maze out of rocks or sticks. Turn the roly-polies loose at the entrance, and see which one boogies through the maze first. When you’re done, return your racers to the place you found them.
What do animals do when people aren’t around? Here’s how to find out. First, get your paws on a large cardboard box. Appliance stores usually have big boxes. Cut out a small viewing window, and paint the box green, brown, and black for camouflage. Place the box near a bird feeder, under a tree where squirrels gather, or in the woods along a deer trail. Climb inside with some snacks and a book … and wait. Soon, critters will forget you’re in there, granting you a great view of their daily business.
Has your mom ever complained that your socks are dirty enough to grow flowers? Here’s a fun way to prove her right. Slip an old pair of socks — the fuzzier, the better — on over your shoes and go for a stroll in the weediest place you can find. Soon, your socks will be smothered with seeds. Stuff the socks with potting soil, stick them in a baking pan, and pour some water in the pan so the socks soak it up. Use a spray bottle to keep the seeds moist, and in a week or so, your socks will sprout!
Famous painters — such as Monet, Van Gogh, and Winslow Homer — found inspiration for their art in nature. You can, too. Grab paint, brushes, paper or canvas, and head outside to set up your easel. You’ll find plenty to paint, from sweeping landscapes, such as a forest starting to show fall color, to fine details, such as a fuzzy caterpillar wiggling along a leaf. The French call this style of painting en plein air (in the open air). You’ll call it just plain fun.
No tent? No problem. With some knowhow, you can still sleep outside. Pick a clear night with a good breeze to blow the mosquitoes away. Find a soft, flat spot with a good view of the sky. Lay down a tarp or piece of plastic, then a foam pad or air mattress, then your sleeping bag. Snuggle inside and drift off to sleep counting shooting stars or connecting the dots of constellations.
When August’s heat has you beat, it’s time to get tubular. Salvage a tractor inner tube at an equipment dealership or buy a float tube from a sporting goods store. Then head to your favorite swimming hole. There’s nothing wrong with floating lazily along, but if you crave action, grab a buddy and play “King of the Tube.” Or, bring a pole and fish from your floating donut. If you hook a lunker, it might take you for a cruise.
Don't miss the chance to Discover Nature at these fun events!
Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at xplormo.org/node/2616.
Despite their name, pillbugs are more closely related to lobsters, shrimp, and crayfish than bugs. Like their waterloving relatives, pillbugs breathe with gills. Gills work only when wet, so pillbugs stay in dark, moist places. Pillbugs don’t pee, but they do eat their own poop. The poop contains copper, which pillbugs need to survive. When disturbed, pillbugs roll into a ball. That’s why many people call them roly-polies.
The wheels on the bug go round and round. Wheel bugs, which are named for their round backs, stab insects using their long, pointy beaks. Wheel bug spit turns a victim’s guts to mush, which the wheel bug slurps up like an insect-flavored smoothie. It’s best to observe these spike-faced assassins at arm’s length. Their bite hurts worse than a hornet’s sting.
Nichole LeClair Terrill