Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just Waaaalkin' in the Rain

Let's get something straight. When it comes to having all this homeschooling stuff figured out, I'm clueless. And lazy. And often pretty lame.

So when an activity comes up that looks like it can pass for educational, especially if it requires little or no planning or effort on my part ... well, then, that's damn near spectacular. I jump on it like a duck on a grasshopper.

Enter McKinney Roughs, a nature park about a half hour outside of town. Occasionally McKinney Roughs hosts homeschool workshops on various nature topics for a reasonable price, and one of them was slated for today.

So I loaded up the kids, raced to make it on time (as usual, we were running ten minutes behind schedule), and careened into the parking lot at 9:30 on the dot. We found several other families there that we knew, so my kids were thrilled.

There was just one weensy problem. Did you happen to hear Hurricane Rick mentioned on the news?

Hurricane Rick as seen from this NASA image on October 18th while it was still a Category 5.

Granted, Little Ricky is now a tropical depression and isn't a bit of a threat (and never was) to us here in Central Texas. But do you see those arms of rain spreading out from that storm? A few of the fingers connected to those arms made their way across our part of the state, tickling us on the back of the neck off and on this morning.

Did I mention I was lazy? Being lazy means that often I prefer to stay indoors where it's nice and dry instead of huddling under borrowed rain ponchos previously used by sticky, sweaty school kids piling out of sticky, sweaty school buses on untold numbers of sticky, sweaty field trips. But today I didn't get the option of holing up in my toasty, cozy home, however, because I'd already paid my $9 for each kid. And hey, did I mention that I'm cheap too?

Fortunately, it ended up being pretty pleasant. It sprinkled off and on and only really rained for a short while, and the temperatures were cool enough to make the ponchos not stink too much (actually, not at all, but I wasn't trying to smell them, if you get my drift). Considering that about 75% of the workshop was held outside, that lack of hurricane rain, coupled with a smidgen of learnin' and good conversation with friends, made this a delightful morning. (Oh, and the kids didn't mind missing math and writing either.)

Just to prove that there was a touch of brain building going on, I'll give you a few pictures. These all came out pretty bad, considering that they were shot in the drizzle and the humidity made everything look like it came out of a Bela Lugosi movie.

If you look really close, you might see a bunch of monarch caterpillars on the small plant on the left. It's late for monarchs to still be in caterpillar form at this date, but the drought pushed everything behind schedule.
Poor T ... we really need to have that third arm growing out of his ear removed.

Speaking of caterpillars, this toothache tree is holding a bunch of these white caterpillars, three of which you can see here. This is an awful picture, but the caterpillars blended in perfectly with the bark. The kids kept spotting more and more of them. When they were touched, they raised bright red antennae and emitted a stench, compared alternately to dirty socks, apples, and something so heinous, and yet unnamed, that it sent my oldest into dry heaves.

Speaking of critters, we happened upon two of these funnel spider webs. On one of them, the hike leader was able to trick the spider into squirting out of her funnel and checking out the vibration. The spider was smarter than we were, however, because she took one look at the stick our leader was using, high-tailed it back into her funnel, and sternly refused to emerge again. I think I heard her say, "Fool me once ..."
If you look really, really hard, you might see a few reddish legs inside the funnel.

While I was hanging back to make sure that a boy who had run behind a bush to pee actually made it back onto the trail, I missed the name of this plant. But I did hear the part about how the Redcoats in the Revolutionary War were dyed (the coats, not the soldiers) using the pigment from this plant (fungus? bug? what the heck is that white stuff?) on the cactus. Clearly, I need to read up on my British textile history. Gosh, those folks must have really wanted their clothes to be bright red enough to be seen so far away that they could be picked off like dodos on the ground.

Wide expanses of the preserve had recently been burned, not necessarily a bad thing. Like one of the hike leaders said, the burns are like the reset button on the computer, giving the ecosystem a hard reboot.

Another burned tree. It was intriguing to see how the landscape was so brilliantly green in the areas that had been burned. Nope, not a bad thing at all.

Tomorrow, back to the grind. But that's okay. At least I won't have to be anywhere at the grizzly time of 9:30. Heck, that's practically the middle of the night!
If you enjoyed this post, you might like Pioneer Girls.


  1. Thanks for the chuckle. I like the pictures - they convey a misty, drizzly mood.

  2. So nice! I actually almost called you Monday to see if you wanted the boys to do this together. But, I thought it was a dropoff thing and couldn't stomach driving there twice; also our week was starting to fill up fast. I'm glad I didn't try to cram another thing in as I was already a basketcase by halfway through the week, but it sure does look like a great experience!