Decorating with Autumn Leaves; Door Garland and Candle Jars

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on God’s green earth, who appreciates the foliage that Autumn brings, more than I do.  I am mesmerized by it, from beginning to end.  Ask my kids.  They are often amused at how taken I am, with the beauty of this season.  And they’ve certainly come to understand that I don’t want them to miss one bit of it, any more than I do. I get especially excited when we are driving here and there, which with 4 kids I can tell you, we do a whole lot of.  “Oh!! There’s a tree starting to change right there! Do you see it guys?” And as fall progresses., each week is more full of awe than the last. As we go along, I’ll burst out “LOOK!….at that GORGEOUS tree guys!! LOOK AT THE COLORS ON THAT THING!!”  I’ve startled them. And they’ll be like, “We know Mama! Watch where you’re going!”  It’s true. I probably shouldn’t be driving at all in the Fall. Certainly not during peak foliage week.  There is just a span of weeks in this season, where the trees are all I can talk about, everywhere we go. Sometimes, I feel God made Autumn, just for me. Perhaps not. But gosh, it sure feels like such a gift of love.

The peak beauty of the season, is really all too fleeting for me.  I want it to stay just as it is in those weeks, forever.  At least, I want to save as many beautiful leaves as I can.  But I’ve never found a great way to preserve them for a while, until this year. Oh yes, there was the waxed paper trick but, I heard that never worked all that well.  And besides…..Confession of Domestic Shame:  I really hate ironing.  So when I learned that using Glossy Modge Podge really worked well, I was so excited to try it.  And I immediately started dreaming up a very simple, very rustic leaf garland for my home.

The kids helped me Modge Podge countless leaves they had collected for me, over the weeks.  We had them drying and being pressed between the pages of newspapers and magazines all over the house. I’m willing to bet we’ll be finding several we missed finding again, well into spring.  But I found you can actually Modge Podge a fresh leaf right away, anyway.  I do recommend the Glossy medium. I tried the Matte finish just as a test, and it seemed to strip the color, and not look very impressive once it was dry either. Something about the Glossy really does enhance the color of the leaf, and add lustre.  To Modge Podge (MP) the leaves, we just poured some MP in a non-pourous bowl, and used foam brushes to apply it to our leaves, doing the back of the leaves first.  Then you can lay them on newspaper or whatever, until they dry. They don’t really stick anywhere as drying, because they are not flat or heavy.  MP is so easy to clean up anyway.

I wanted my garland extremely simple and rustic.  Jute was just the kind of string for the job. I love this stuff.

I took 4 pieces of equal lengths of the jute, knotted the ends, and twisted the quadruple strand quite a bit before push-pinning it over the frame of our sun room french doors.

Then, I just stuck my leaves in between the twisted jute string, arranging as I wanted to, all the way across.

There it is. Done in like, . . .a couple of minutes.
And I didn’t fall off while standing on the chair I had to keep moving, even once.
(Although I think I had my husband and kids nervous, because they kept reminding me to be careful. That might have to do with the many happenstances I have had. But not this time!)

Look how pretty!  Honesty….my heart is racing a little bit right now, just looking at them. 
No two alike….such beautiful shapes and colors.

Do you see that long pointy leaf? After being out and about collecting leaves, the kids came running in, so excited to give me that one. They call it my giraffe leaf.  I love giraffes, and they saw a giraffe skin pattern in it. I do too now.  I felt the love, and that leaf makes me smile even more than all the rest now.

I also used the glossy Modge Podge to apply more leaves to jars.  I love that you can just slap that MP all over the jar with a foam (or flat bristle) brush, and everywhere it dries where there is not a leaf, it looks like frosted glass.

Isn’t it beautful?
I’ll warn you that this project took a little more patience than I had anticipated. Certainly not as easy as my garland! It’s worth the little bit of trouble I think though! It’s just that the leaves, which I had MP’d the back of, as well as the jar, don’t want to lay down flat right away. It’s all kind of slippery. It’s only once the MP glue starts setting a little, that is starts sticking as you need it to.  You need to MP over the leaves too anyway, so I kept kind of poking the leaves down where they were sticking up. Once the whole jar was dry, I did one more final coat.  Oh and I just let stems hang free off the glued down leaf. I liked them that way anyway, if they didn’t want to stick.

They give such a warm glow of radiance.

I can see myself doing these same projects with leaves every year, from now on. And other preserved leaf projects I’ll think of I’m sure now too. 
I so enjoyed every minute of working with the leaves, and I am so very happy I found a way to preserve them, and let the beauty live on in my home, as the world around us outdoors drains colorless.

Thanks for coming by, and listening to me go on and on about my love for the colors of Autumn.
It sure was an amazing Fall season this year, and I thanked God for it every day.
Do you get a colorful foliage season where you live, in the Fall? And if so, have you done anything with the leaves?

Come follow me here and there:

On Faith, Gardening, and Digging Deep.


      Our family really loves Sundays.  It’s just a feel-good-family day, all the way around.

     This past Sunday after Mass, we all came home, and changed into our old clothes, so that we could get working in our garden beds.  Oh, the butterflies I get this time of year! It’s almost time for planting, so we needed to get all of the winter rye that we had growing in the beds, chopped down, and turned into the soil. There is much to do, to create soil rich enough to produce well for us.

     Whenever I’m working in the gardens, especially in the planting season, my thoughts most always turn to my faith in God. In my mind, there are many parallels, between the process of gardening, and one’s day to day faith.

The Dirt on Gardening

     With gardening, we put so much into all we hope for.  We cultivate the soil, nourish it, and plant our tiny seeds or little starters, where they will receive the proper amount of light.  We water them daily, if nature does not send us sufficient rain. We wait and keep watch daily, with great anticipation.  Our eyes seek for a sprout. Some sign of growth. For the fruits of our labor, to reveal itself.  Although we may enjoy all we put into our gardens along the way, the reward is the great surplus each plant provides for us, whether it be beauty or food, from the little seed we began with.

Cultivating Our Hearts

     Isn’t that much like how our faith begins? At some point in our lives, a seed of faith in God, was planted within many of us. Whether we were aware of that exact moment happening, or not. For many of us, that may have been as babies, and nourished throughout our upbringing, from our parents. For others, it may have come much later in life. Perhaps it began with circumstances in life, or one’s own seeking for something they felt was missing. But for all of us, our spirituality can only grow and bloom, when we have given our time to cultivate that most important relationship in our lives.  When we have turned to Him, in times of thanksgiving and praise, and in times of need and despair, as well. When we have spent time daily, in communion with our Savior, Jesus Christ – in thought, in prayer, in praise, in a way that keeps our heart open to Him.


    To Know God, is to Better Revel in Life

Our faith in God, and our relationship with Christ, we believe is what enables us to experience a more elevated state of joy in our days here on earth. Our eyes are open to the abundant blessings that rains down on us, and all around us. We know that all good things come to us, by the grace of His loving hand.  Our hearts rejoice, for the love He shows us.  Likewise, we have learned, we are wise to give thanksgiving, even for the most difficult trials and tribulations in our lives.  Even they have great purpose, and bring forth blessings of their own. It is easy to question God, isn’t it? We want to know why, for each one of our sufferings. But we know deep down inside, God’s love for us is pure, and beyond measure. He is there to comfort us, He does only want what is best for us, and only He knows the big picture of ours lives.

    God is good. God is always good!


Even on the Darkest of Days

     Oh, we know friends, the devastation life can bring.  Unexpected tragedies, life-threatening or terminal illnesses, lost lives of people we love, unemployment and financial hardships, betrayals and broken hearts….the list is endless.  We know….it is touching the lives of people we know and love, all around us, too. Our family too, is not untouched by the hardships and disappointments of our own, that can roll in like the tide, leaving a mess on our seashore of life, that was so clean and beautiful yesterday.  The memory of what was, leaves us longing, and we wonder if we appreciated it enough, while we had it. We wonder when the tide will ever come in again, to sweep the mess away.  

Inclement Elements

           Despite the time and attention we have invested in our gardens, or our daily spirituality, there is always the threat of damaging elements, that can come along on any given day, to deal with for a time. In both the daily lives we live, as well as the weather, there are storms.  They must be faced with courage. We must persevere.  We must stand on the greatest asset we have, which is our faith, in the most difficult of times, and believe that God will help bring us through our trials, to the other side of the storm.

     His love for us is filled with many promises, that are grace….

Sticky Note This

    It is easy to forget, for we get wrapped up in this physical life. But we would be wise to remember, and take comfort in knowing, that ultimately, we are not meant for this world.  The greatest gifts of all, a life free of any and suffering, are promised to us eternally, beyond our earthly days.

     It is the mustard seed of faith, from within our hearts, that we know as truth, that always offers the light of hope.

     “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” – John 1:5

Pass It On, to the Littles

    By our side, our children learn about the complexities of life.  From the day they are born, they experience all of the happiness, wonders, and beautiful gifts of life, as well as the realization that the world is not a perfect place, and that bad and sad things can happen, even to good people. And the value of our faith, through it all!   

     Parenting is our beautiful opportunity, to build up in them character to live a life pleasing to God! Thankfully, as homeschoolers, we have that ability to navigate when and how our children awake to the challenges of life, and realities of this world. I can tell you that there are many raw, honest, and deep discussions that take place, with our children. It’s a beautiful time of connection, between us all. But as a parent, to see the revelations unfold within them, is such a heart-wrenching honor.  We cannot shield them from all of the hurts and truths that life can bring. Doesn’t a piece of every parent’s heart, want to? But no, it would be a great dis-service to them, to keep them ignorant to the harsh realities of life, for long. 

     What we can do, is arm them well, with the tools of our never-failing faith, and a strong faith in our God, who never leaves us.


Expect a Mixed Forecast, But Take Heart

         Life can bring the greatest moments of laughter and happiness.  We cannot count the ways in which we have been blessed!  Our days can be filled with such sunshine, contentment and peace. But when the dark storms of life circumstances descend upon us, our faith can feel diminished, to the size of a mustard seed. It can be very difficult to find solace in our faith, so small and buried.

     But those are the times we need our faith, more than ever!  If we have allowed ourselves to be filled with bitterness and anger, it can be difficult to bring ourselves to reach. To be humble enough, to express such a need, in the face of feeling abandoned. We must find the seed though, that we alone have neglected, shriveling again in the questioning of God’s love for us. Maybe we turn away from God in anger, confused, but He never leaves us alone. We must get back to the seed of our faith, and begin again. Because it holds all of the promises, and all of the strength we need to carry us through.  So that peace and contentment can be ours again. In time, if we turn our face upwards to Him again, and open our hearts, we will see He was always at work within us, through the storm.  God heals hearts.  Let Him!

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn into joy.” John 16:20

Light Into Darkness, and Back Again

     Maybe that is part of His plan all along… bring us to the point where we realize, we actually need Him. To make us seek His grace.  He wants us to know the comfort of His love.  He wants to help us see His face…..the Light, in the darkness.  To truly know Him and need Him, so that we always walk beside Him, and realize that He only wants to lead us to something greater.  Don’t we always appreciate the light shining on all that is beautiful, the most after we have experienced such darkness? 

   Are you experiencing darkness, in this period of your life?  Are you resistant, or wrestling, to sense the great faith you had on better days?

   Your hope and solace, is in the mustard seed, friend.  Sometimes, when we have neglected all we have built up in faith, we must begin again. In doing so, God promises our gardens can not only flourish again, but bring forth more fruit than we ever dreamed for ourselves.  His love for us, is that great. That is what He wants for us, and what we truly want, for ourselves.

So we must. dig. deeper.

This post was shared at:
Life In Bloom


Maple Farm Field Trip

            As a kid growing up in western Massachusetts, tapped maple trees and maple farms seemed to be everywhere.  Visiting maple sugar houses, and learning about the process of making maple syrup and sugar, were some of my favorite school field trips. 

     Living a significant shift away from that area now, maple farms are not as common around here. But this was yet another field trip I really wanted to take our kiddos on.   We almost arranged one out where I grew up, but the timing of getting out there would have risked missing the end of the season this year.  So I found Matfield Maple Farm, less than an hour from us, and we went on a beautiful day! It almost felt wrong from the get-go, with no snow on the ground though!  And that was not the only change in the picturesque scenes I have carried in my fond memories of maple sugaring. But I was still excited for the kids to learn all about today’s process of maple sugaring farms.

My visual memories of the maple tapping season are very much like this:

     Metal pails on trees, catching the pure sap from the taps that were put into them. And always, as I recall, snow on the ground.   After all, one of the best parts of our class trips, was eating syrup on snow, inside the sugar house!  Maple tapping season is the few weeks of the tail of winter, and first weeks of spring, when the nights are still cold, but the days are warmer.  That’s when the sap starts flowing. But in western MA, near the Berkshires, we always got so much snow in the winter in those years, it simply had not all melted yet, come maple sugaring season.

MY have things changed.  Not only are winters not as true as they used to be throughout the season , but maple trees being tapped for  sap at many farms, now look like this:

     They are drilled and tapped much the same way, but tubes run connecting one tree to another, with all of the sap from all of the trees, running to one place.  I realize it’s more time efficient, and time is money after all. But I must say, I really miss the charm of good old fashioned pails on maple trees. 

     Watching and learning the whole process of how maple sap is collected, and boiled down into pure maple syrup, was still something I wanted my kids to see for themselves.  But I really hoped it would be just like how I learned about it, and I was looking forward to taking photos of the pails on the trees!  I did have an idea this farm used the more modern method, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But I was hoping. They did say they also tap with pails, but we didn’t happen to see any. 

     Still, we were very much enjoying our trip, and it sure was a beautiful day for one.  Saturday was when the touring was, so Daddy/Michael was able to come too. It was a family field trip!


      We had a chuckle at their cute sugar shack sign.  We’d recognize that shape anywhere!  Clever, recycling a basketball backboard into a sign! We  just love little family run businesses, and we always do all we can to support them, because we know all about having a little dream, and trying to make it work.


     The kids fed the llamas, while a small crowd of us waited for the tour guide. {JM} was gathering clovers on the ground to feed them too.

    Soon, the owner/tour guide, and his daughter led us out into the woods, as he started telling us about the maple farm.


     The first stop was this natural spring. Do you see how vibrantly green that grass is?  The guide told us that is there even through the winter snow, because of the spring there. Imagine how pretty that must be. BUT….no snow for us! ; )


     We were all offered to get a drink, and taste the fresh spring water. So I told one of my boys, who was going up first, that I wanted to get a photo of him getting some water. But all I got a bum shot!



     Thankfully I have other kids, and got another chance.


     We moved on, following each other on these wood-board paths. 

     A couple of times, we all had to duck under sap lines.  I personally thought of doing the limbo, but didn’t want to show off. ; )


     Next we stopped at the 450 gallon gathering tank, where all the lines run to.  Here, the guide told us about the easiest way to know what trees to tap.  They go out scouting trees in the warmer weather, and mark the maples, when the trees have leaves.  That is when they can quite obviously tell which trees are of the maple variety.  As opposed to the winter / early spring, when it’s harder to tell which are which.   See the jug down by his feet? In it was a little treat for us all.




He passed out little sampling cups, and poured us all some pure maple sap, straight out of the trees. If you have never seen or tried it, maple sap looks just like water, and tastes almost as refreshing, with just a hint of sweet.  Sap straight from the sugar maple tree is about 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, as well other nutrients, and minerals.  Maple syrup is derived by boiling it all down to the point where the process of evaporation leaves only about 33 percent of water and 67 percent sugar. 


     Do you know what this is? It’s called Skunk Cabbage. He broke off a piece for us to smell, but recommended we don’t let it touch our nose, whilst sniffing!  It’s named well. It stinks terribly! 


 A poison Oak tree, evidences by the poisonous vine plant climbing it.



     Back at the sugar shack, we all learned more about the process of boiling down the sap to the right consistency.  This is a wood burning boiler, bringing the sap to the boiling point of 212 degrees.  When it does boil, the steam rises up out of the sugar shack, and the syrup gets thicker and sweeter.



     To the right of this shot is the pre-heating waiting area.  As it is moved into the boiling area, and getting to increasing thickened consistencies, it is moved over to the next holding well. 


     We found it interesting that it takes 40 gallons of maple tree sap, to make one single gallon of maple syrup!


      Samples of the finished product were shared with us as well. The kids were sure to get their own little cup, and immediately began asking about plans to have pancakes for dinner.  Honestly, there is no comparison between pure maple syrup, and the ‘syrup’ for pancakes that they sell at the grocery store, which is actually made of corn syrup!


     Another favorite part of field trips is always the gift shop! Here, what they sold was right behind us right there in the sugar shack, on some shelves.  Of course they sold pure maple syrup in fancy bottles, and there was some maple sugar candy as well, which is made by bringing the boiling process even further, removing an even higher percentage of water, until the sugar starts to crystallize. (I think.)

    A quick funny story about maple sugar candy:  As a kid on maple sugar house field trips, I always spent my spending money on buying maple sugar candy for my father.Every time. And I’d be so excited to give it to him, because I was under the impression he really loved it.  Then about a year or so ago he and I were discussing maple sugar houses, and I found out he hates maple sugar candy!  He says it’s far too sweet for him. But it just goes to show you how happy he pretended to be, so as not to hurt my feelings as a kid. (Thanks, Dad. : ) 

     I didn’t buy him any candy this time.


     We thought these bird houses were cute too. 


      The kids had a great time, as you can tell by the smiles on their faces.


     On the way home, we stopped lakeside, and ate our nice picnic lunch with the swans.


     It was a wonderful day, and along with the memories, we brought home a bottle of pure maple syrup. Chosen not only for it’s contents, but of course for the fabulous bottle, with an embossed maple leaf in the glass!  I already have ideas of what I can do with it, for detail home decor come Autumn.  But before then, we have many pancakes and waffles to eat, drizzled with our pure maple syrup! 

      A planned meal for that night was quickly kicked to the curb, and we satisfyingly filled ourselves with blueberry pancakes. It was the kid’s first maple sugar house trip, but it won’t be their last! We will be getting to a maple sugar farm in the next couple of years, that still does things the good old fashioned way! But this place was still worth the trip, and no doubt the memories and lessons will be as sticky as the syrup on their plates.

     I know not everyone lives in the right climate, but have you all been to a maple sugar shack lately? Did they use the old or new method, and what your thoughts on the two? We’d enjoy it if you shared.



{Homeschooling}: The Metamorphosis of Butterflies – Photos, Our Experiment & Study

Hatching butterflies is probably a pretty standard experiment and  study for students, in both formal and home school educations alike.  It’s one that can be used as a Science participation lesson more than once in the course of ones education, because the benefits of the lesson are different for various ages.

For very young students, such as toddlers-K, it’s a really fun & exciting process to watch every day. At this age, they are full of both intelligent, and sometimes humorous, questions.  They are able to grasp the basic understanding of the stages.  Some little ones may rather non-nonchalantly accept the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly, simply as magic, in a way.

Older students comprehend the cycle and the information of the lesson at hand, on a bit of deeper level. Their more mature experiences of curiosity and intake of the study of nature and Creation, throughout their ages of years, has led them to a wiser perspective.  They are more fascinated than ever, by the works of God, and the magnitude of His power.  They may also more readily make observations, younger ones may not pick up on, such as happened in our family, that I’ll tell you about shortly, further into this post.

Our study was of the butterfly species, the Painted Lady.  We purchased what we needed at a lovely nearby place called The Butterfly Garden Boutique, in Bourne, MA.  The owner was very friendly, helpful and informative, and supplied us with live caterpillars in a container with their food, and a small net pavilion. (Larger pavilions are available as well.).

We had 5 live caterpillars, and it wasn’t a day or 2 after getting them home, did a couple begin to make their way to the top of the container. Inside the lid of the container provided, is a fabric like piece of material, for the caterpillars to attach themselves to for their transformation process.  We learned they do this, by dispensing a thread from a hole beneath their mouths.


By the following day, the rest followed.


Once each of the 5 were hanging, the transformation begins rapidly.  They first shed their skin, revealing a the green casing that is their chrysalis.


Once we had 5 chrysalises attached to the material, we carefully took off the lid of the container, and pinned the material to the inside of our pavilion near the bottom, as instructed.


Here is a closer look.  It was evident which chrysalises attached first, and which were more recently formed.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn, that the inside of the chrysalises in this pupa stage, the caterpillar is turning into a complete liquid form, before forming into a butterfly.  In this photo, you can see the the patterns of butterflies, through the somewhat transparent casing.


As a reference of sizes, this is our small tent-like pavilion, and you obviously can see the chrysalises pinned to the back bottom.  The door is only unzipped and open for the sake of this photo.  Throughout the entire study, the pavilion resided here on the shelving table-top, between our school room and kitchen.  The kids were allowed to look anytime, but not touch the tent, as to not disturb the chrysalises.  Of course, I carefully did open the door now and then, to take photos.

Some mornings later, there was all kinds of excitement in the house…..

Michael got up (very) early for his morning church job, and discovered a butterfly had emerged sometime during the night!  He woke the little ones up to show them, and soon they were running through the house to spread the word.  To {A} and Mama. Darn! We missed it.

Right above the butterfly, you can see the empty casing the butterfly emerged from.

Those who observe butterfly hatching for the first time, may be surprised to learn that the hatching process is somewhat of a messy business! The red staining you see, almost appears to be blood, but it is actually just the leftover liquid excreted from the formation of the butterfly, through the pupa stage. In other words, waste.

Just as mentioned before, it is even more noticeable now, which butterflies are likely to hatch next. Can you guess?  It would be the darkest one.


Our first hatched butterfly of the 5.

As unfortunate luck would have it, we unbelievably missed the actual emerging of every butterfly from it’s casing!  Seriously. The 2nd one came out while we were not aware, because we were busy doing a math lesson.  2 others emerged while we were sleeping, once again. And the 5th was while we were not home.  So you know what this means! We need to do this again!

At the beginning of this post, I was talking about the benefits and differences of children doing a butterfly metamorphosis study.  Our oldest, {A}, hatched butterflies twice, consecutively, when she was very little, and an only child. This time, being much older and wiser teenager, was a whole different experience for her, such as the following occurrence:

It was fairly late at night, and the little ones were in bed, when I was in the kitchen and peeked in at the butterflies, and spontaneously exclaimed, “Oh my!”.  {A}, who was in the kitchen too,  looked in and, without surprise or question, said “Oh yeah, they’ve been doing that like, every night.”  Then gave me some wide eyes and a giggle. Butterflies waste no time, to get mating, once they are emerged!  They only live 2-3 weeks, so they have little time to get pro-creatin’! ; )  Over the course of our study, there was many observations she had had, as the oldest, and more in-depth facts she was aware of. So it’s a continual learning process as the kids grow, and still the fascination of the whole cycle, never wears off. Not even for me!

We decided that the evening of {A}’s 14th birthday, was the perfect time to release our butterflies.  We had had a wonderful family day together, and the time had come, and seemed right.

Our gardens seemed to be the perfect place to let them go, as well.  We hoped perhaps they would stick around the garden beds for at least a few days, and do some pollination work for us!  But first, the kids took a few more minutes to just watch their Painted Ladies, and say goodbye.


Then they opened the door, to set them free.
One flew out right away!

The others needed some encouragement.


Finally, out flew another.  {A} was reaching in to lift one that was determined not to move…

….while out flew 2 more.

This one seemed quite as hesitant to leave us, just as we have been to let them go.

Soon, it fluttered off the kid’s hands, to a nearby garden flower.

We really enjoyed this study, and plan to return to The Butterfly Boutique again very soon, to spend some time in their Butterfly House, which is a screen house guests can enter, full of plants, flowers, a water fountain, and you guessed it…..lots of live butterflies! There’s also a Gift Shop, with beautiful butterfly-related jewelry, home decor, and more. And the Hungry Caterpillar Snack Bar! The boutique as a whole is a small but charming and fun place, for kids and adults alike. If you live nearby, or find yourself visiting Cape Cod, The Butterfly Boutique is very near both the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges. Visit their web site to get more information, and their exact location, which is so easy to get to.

As you probably know, butterfly kids can be ordered online as well, such as from here. There is also numerous resources to assist you and your children with educational information and activities.  I have gathered just a couple of links for you today.  For your younger ones, this web site has simple and minimal basic information about the life-cyle of the butterfly.  Here is a print-out as well, to just review, or use as a guide with what to expect, as you are hatching your own butterflies.  For your older children (middle school +),  this link offers more in-depth information about the life of butterflies.

It’s important to remember, that children who have fun learning, will enjoy it and seek to learn more.  Case in point, our children have continued to use the butterfly pavilion, with self-launched studies all on their own.  Following the release of our butterflies, the kids found a HUGE furry, nasty-looking cocoon in our woods, and were excited to see what would emerge! (I was rather scared.  I thought maybe a bear….or one of those seemingly evil hummingbird-moth-things.)  I will share photos of what came of THAT pupa, on our Facebook Page, very soon! So be sure you are following us! At this very moment as I type, that pavilion now holds 11 moths, and 1 large grasshopper, as the kids study them.

The learning never ends, at Our House Of Joyful Noise. Thanks for visiting with us for this post, and please feel welcome to share your own experiences, studies and observations, with butterflies, or any other insects!


A Baby Raccoon Study

Some of our most exciting lessons, often times turn out to be ones that were not part of my day’s lesson plan at all!  Like the countless opportunities of teachable moments  that pop up throughout every single day for us as parents/teachers, to utilize in educating and guiding our children down the right paths, we’ve had many days, where a lesson to study has sauntered right into our yard!  And it can be a darn cute lesson!!

Such was the case the other day, when we spotted this baby raccoon, right up on the hill, outside of our school room windows! (For the sake of reference in this post, we’ll assume the baby was a girl.)  She was enjoying the banana peels & strawberry tops we had thrown out there.


She was poking around and frolicking about up there on our hill, all afternoon, and gave us plenty of time to study here, research facts about baby & adult raccoon, and of course as always, abandon all self-control, and  take more photos than necessary. : )


The kids get so very excited, when we spot wildlife, whether it be here on the homestead, or out in a (small) worldly travels.   We all learn so much, gathering both fun, useful, and definitely good to know kind of facts!  So as we share with you all of the photos of this adorable masked critter, we’ll also share with you a lot of what we have learned, as our unexpected study unfolded.

Maybe you’ll learn a new thing or 2 about raccoons, that you didn’t know before! (We sure did. That would be more than 2 things though.)  We’ll see.

Well, every life starts with mating season. Right?  That would be winter, for raccoons.  January through the end of March.  Although we had some raccoons up in our tree one night around 9 pm, making ALL kinds of racket.  We could have sworn they were ‘busy’, if you know what I mean.  (HOLY LOUD!)  In fact, until we got further into researching, we joked that this baby was probably from once upon a night!


Baby raccoons are called ‘kits’.   They are born after 63 days of gestation, in the spring, and are born in litters of 4-5. They generally stay with their mother until the Fall, unless their has been some interference of the nest, or tragedies brought on by man or nature.


By studying the appearance and motor skills of raccoons at various young ages, we determined this kit to be somewhere between 8-10 weeks.   The mother was no where in sight throughout the day.  While I easily approached the baby to photograph her, I was keenly aware and cautious, of a mother raccoon coming out of nowhere to protect her young.  But I was brave (any risk is often small for a good photo!), and that never happened.


Raccoons grow to be about 12-35 pounds, and 12-28 inches long.   They are omnivores, which means they will eat most anything.  Both meat and vegetation.

It is not true, that raccoons like to wash their food before they eat it.

As we can surmise, by looking at these photos.


I know it is difficult to tell the scale of our little visiting kit here, but she was small enough that she could have sat in Michael’s big hand.

Another sign of how young she was, was her frequent fatigue.  She needed to rest a lot between activity.


She had just scrounged around our hill, and then sat upon our retaining wall here.  I could see her growing sleepy, as I sat nearby taking photos of her.  Her instinct was to keep an eye on me.   But her instinct was not stronger than her will to stay awake.   In a matter of seconds, she put her head down like this, and then…..


….tucked her head, and curled right into a ball, for a snooze!  The desire to nap, was much stronger than her fear of me, or will to protect herself!


How cute is she?  A little fuzzy ball.

After her kit-nap, she had a little more activity, and then curled up into a ball once again, in a patch of sandy dirt up on the hill.   By then, we were observing her through our school windows, when it began to rain on her!!  We felt so bad for her, but she kept sleeping on.  So Michael grabbed a box from our basement, cut out a door, tip-toed out there, and put it over her.


We carried on with our day, but soon noticed 2 things:  She had pulled down the flap of the box, to sleep on instead (smart little kit!), and then she was coming out for a little more exploring.


As much as we were tempted, and the kids were pleading their cases, it is not wise to keep raccoons as pets, for a variety of reasons.  They can be very dangerous, and keeping them in captivity would ultimately end up with a sad ending.

Adult raccoons have few natural enemies.  I think we as humans, dislike them more than other creatures, for their mere clever interference with our camping activities, and trash disposal efforts.  They are indeed curious, and clever.  Their front paws and back legs all have 5 toes each, and they are as skilled as human fingers. Raccoon have been witnessed to unlacing shoes, opening purses, and undoing zippers!  They are both great climbers, and swimmers. They are members of the ‘carnivora’, such as dogs & cats, but are also related to the panda bear.

One of the most distinguishing features of the raccoon, is it’s black mask. The purpose of their mask, is to reduce glare, and enhance their night vision.  As many of us have grown to understand through our own observations and experiences with raccoons, they mostly sleep during the day, and are most active, searching for the food, from dusk through the night.


Our kit, who we had fallen a bit attached to, despite our best resistance (ok….the kids did not try real hard…), did not end up staying with us for life, as we had entertained notions of in our minds.  She seemed to like her box, but it didn’t turn out to be ‘all that’ after all.   She was in there for a good part of the evening and early dark, but later that night, she went missing. (As she had the freedom to do!).  My own mother instincts kicked in.  I had fleeting thoughts of going to search for her with a flashlight, and bring her home to safety. “She is still so small and helpless, ” I worried, “and prey for larger animals right now.”  But I knew…such is nature. And anyway…I was tired and wanted to go to sleep!

Michael was the first one up the next morning, at 6:30 a.m.  Kit was back by then, and he had the pleasure of watching her climb the tree stump, and roll around in the morning-dew grass out there, as cute as she is, while he ate his breakfast.  But awhile later when the rest of us woke, she was gone again.


Our best guesstimate, as to why she was around with no mother in the first place, is that her mother was in fact close-by, sleeping in a tree, and kit wandered off to play.  And nap, as needed.  We have faith that she was not abandoned, as she appeared well cared for and fed.  She was just practicing her independence, but will not truly be ready to be on her own, until fall.

We amuse ourselves with how hopeful we are though.  The box is still out there.  None of us have grabbed it and broken it down.  I suppose we all carry the hope, that she may sleep away at nap time once again, and come to play and amuse us.   If only for a lovely afternoon, once again.



You had to know THAT was coming.  ; )

So did you learn anything new about raccoons yourself?  Do you have anything to teach us about them, that we may have missed?  What opinion have you formed of raccoons, based on your own experiences?  Are they a nuisance? Amusing? Clever? Cute? Please share your thoughts, experiences or facts, with us in the comments.

*(Love this post? How about subscribing to our blog in the sidebar, ‘Liking’ our Page on Facebook, or following me (Laura) on Twitter? Or all 3? 😀     )