Monday, December 22, 2014

The Nature Notebook, A Treasury of Memories

"As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day's walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb.  Innumerable matters to record occur to the intelligent child."

The plants and trees have gone to sleep for the winter, but there was still such beauty to see on our nature walk.  A Hawthorn tree devoid of leaves revealed its long sharp thorns and bright red berries hanging from every branch.  It brought our minds to the crown of thorns our Savior wore as he hung on the cross and the berries a reminder of the blood shed for the sins of the world.  We were enchanted by the Spanish moss hanging from the leafless branches on a Live Oak tree.  On closer inspection we found Oakmoss lichen with its stringy hairs and blue green flakes covering many of the branches.  It was delightful sharing this nature study with friends as we explored the river under the bridge. We brought home a specimen, a piece of a branch from the Live Oak tree and plenty of memories of all we did and saw together.

On another day we pulled out our nature notebooks from the bookcase with all of our paints and brushes to record our nature walk.  Our jeweler's loupe allows us to see our specimen magnified 5x's.  I referred to my Handbook of Nature Study (HONS) by Anna Comstock to see what I could find about Spanish Moss, Lichen, and Hawthorn trees. It is a wonderful source of information, but on occasion our Texas flora and fauna are not found within its pages, so I go to the internet where I am able to identify our specimens. Did you know that Spanish moss is not a moss or a lichen? It gets all of its nutrients from sun and rainwater. On occasion a poem can be found in HONS relating to what we are studying and if we feel so inclined, add it to our nature notebook entry, but mostly it is a treasure of our memories and observations in nature.

I have chosen high quality spiral bound nature notebooks for us with heavy watercolor paper as most of our entries are painted with our paints.  Watercolor color paper seems to take the color very well allowing the colors to stand out without bleeding through to the other side of the page.  You are creating a keepsake to last a lifetime so quality is important.  We have used colored pencils, sketching pencils, watercolor crayons, and markers, but we continue to come back to the watercolor paints.  Why?  Because it allows you to take the time to really see your specimen.  You touch it with your eyes and mind in order to see every nuance of shape and hue.  You begin to know what you are painting in a way that is unique to any other observation.

The classic eight color Prang semi-moist watercolor set in the white box has been a perennial favorite and has produced beautiful colors in the paintings.  This year my sister gave me the Sakura Koi assorted water colors field sketch set for my birthday, which I have really enjoyed.  The variation in colors has allowed me a wider range to better capture the colors in nature.  It is important to have a variety of brush sizes, especially very fine tipped brushes, in order to paint fine detail.  Lately, we have experimented with aqua brushes that have the water in the handle. My boy used one in the picture above, but it was harder for him to control the amount of water.  What often results from excess water is a very washed out picture with little detail.  Below, I used conventional brushes, blending the colors in the pallet, and was able to paint a much more detailed picture.

Each year marches on with rapidly increasing speed, but these precious moments shared in the exploration and observation of God's beautiful creation with each other, will remain in your nature notebooks, captured and preserved.


  1. Love the pictures of your journals. I'm going to show James, hoping to inspire him a bit at what Caleb has done. You're a little eager on the dating of your journal page --- 2015? :)

  2. Ha! I did write that. What was I thinking. I will have to go back and change that!


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