June 1, 2012
Fridays are usually a day with no planned activities around here. A sunny Friday like today, means a full day outdoors. Today we took advantage of some unexpected occurrences to do some learning about our immediate environment and community.
With the grasses unusually tall for the end of May and rain forecast for the coming days, the dairy farmer showed up to cut and harvest the fields surrounding us yesterday. Whenever the tractors show up there is total excitement. [There are many older blog posts from past years about our interest in these tractors.] One of the tractors was left overnight in the field behind us, so this morning we went out for an up-close look. We figured out that the large back tires were as tall as me (about 5-1/2ft) and 3 preschoolers could fit inside the rim easily. There are “lots” of buttons and levers where the farmer sits to drive it. That seat is up high and you “can see good from it”. We checked out how the cut grass is picked up and shot into the grass wagon (not the official name, but our name). While this investigation was going on the manure spreading truck was arriving at the harvested field beside us. It’s funny to watch a truck shooting out cow poop and getting a good smell of it too. Especially when you are under 5 and male. Then the second tractor shows up to cut another field. Followed by the dump truck to collect the cut and harvested grass. Lots to see, hear and smell, coupled with my simple explanations about how hydraulics lift and lower the “grass wagon”.
Off to play until lunch time.
As we are eating, I see our closest neighbor bringing her little ones out for some sunshine and lunch. This I have to share with the kids, because how often do you get to observe a woodchuck and her babies at play and feeding right outside your window!
Yes, I was totally excited about this and the kids definitely picked that up. They came quickly and quietly to the playroom window to watch.
We finished lunch and then got out the iPads to research woodchucks. In checking out the pictures found in the google search, I read information from the sites to help us learn more about our neighbors. We all learned new things. I believe it’s important for the children to understand that often I’m also learning along with them.
- 4 claws on front paws and 5 claws on the back paws
- small, but keen (powerful) ears
- hibernate in Winter
- burrows/tunnels have different chambers for living in. Have a special chamber for their bathroom.
- tunnels can be longer than our houses (66ft)
- woodchucks like to stand tall, sitting up on their back paws (like squirrels)
- 4 teeth that are always growing, but they stay small because of all the plants woodchucks eat
- can move their mouth (jaw) up and down and side to side – bite off and grind their food
- herbivores – only eat plants
- can climb tress and even swim
- get most of their water from the plants they eat and the morning/evening moisture on them
- babies are born without fur and blind
- usually 3-4 babies in a litter
- mom and babies stay within 50 feet of their burrow openings
- like burrows on the edge of open fields
Needed a project to pull this all together. Paper bag puppet- right color, have them always on hand, simple and we love our puppets.
Project done with smiles. Went to check on our neighbors again. They were still outside enjoying the day.
This little one enjoyed munching on my perennials, but I have tons of gardens and enough plants to share. A good trade-off to my way of thinking. Yes, I know to most woodchucks are pests and we talked about this, too.
It doesn’t get much better than being able to share an experience like watching these woodchucks in their natural place. Or developing that awareness of jobs within our community and awareness of where our food comes from and the work it takes to get it to us.
I love days like this!
Groundhog Life and Habitat
Science Education Center
Baby Animal Guide