Sunday, September 14, 2008
Duck Creek is a placid little stream that flows through the bottomlands of Whipple. Placid until it floods, and then it can cut off our main access to our house (which is on one of the highest ridges in the county) for days at a time. That hasn't happened for quite awhile. It was a moderate summer in terms of rain and Duck Creek never raised out of its banks.
Most of the time, the creek is a wonderland for us. It's got tremendous diversity and abundance of minnows, darters, sticklebacks, sculpins, and gobs of crawfish. We love to take the kids down to wade slowly through its shallows, looking for stream life. The theme of our late summer has been aquatic.A monster mudbug, almost qualifying for lobsta status. We told the kids they were rock lobsters. We tried to teach them how to pick up a crawfish, but we both got pinched and there was a lot of hollering involved. Just when you think you have it, and that it doesn't notice you sneaking up on it, the little mudbug whips around and gets you good. OW!!
People are constantly asking me if we homeschool our kids. I've gotten the question often enough, and my answer is so often met with visible deflation and disappointment, that it puts me just a bit on the defensive. Before replying, I think how eager Phoebe and Liam are for school to start, because they love seeing all their friends. Direct quote from Liam: "Ahh, the sweet smell of the bus seats. The sweet smell of school."That said, he is equally able to soak in the wonder of a golden stream on a late-summer evening.
I deliberately keep the questioner waiting while I think, "Well, I show them things constantly, and explain what we're seeing. Does that count?" So I take my time answering. I suppose that I should follow Emily Post's recommendation for any question you find intrusive and reply, "Why do you ask?"
A baby bullfrog, probably metamorphosed only this year. Bullfrogs are two-year tadpoles. In their second year, they're almost the size of an apricot. You can tell it's a bullfrog and not a green frog by the smoothness of the skin of its back--a green frog has two raised ridges running from each eye to its rump.
Dodder, a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll, and twines from honest plant to honest plant, sinking little white teeth into their stems, sucking sugars away from them. It has the audacity to be orange, and it looks like a strand of fly-fishing monofilament caught in the vegetation. This dodder is in full bloom, with little white clusters of flowers. Sometimes it gets so thick on stream banks it looks like an orange tarp. A vegetable vampire.
Coming upon some peculiar bones at streamside, I summoned the kids to look and guess what they might be. We put the pieces together like a jigsaw, but they were no closer to the answer. The Science Chimp in me was pant-hooting. There are so many excellent clues here.
The long icky looking gray thing stretched over the bark is a piece of leathery skin. Any closer?
OK. I'm going to soft pitch it, kids. Here's a good piece of the thing that's still hanging together. The problem is, they didn't yet know this creature existed, much less lurked in the shallows of Duck Creek. I'm going to let y'all work on it in the comments section. Bruce, over there waving your hand, practically jumping out of your desk, I know you know!
So I tell them nope, we don't homeschool.
Not much, anyway.