Plant Dye and Wool Yarn

Hand Woven Yarn

Dyeing with natural dyes is fun and easy to do. Wool takes dyes more readily than cotton or other fibers, so why not dye some yarn that you (or your mother) can make into something? Knit up a handsome scarf, or some mittens. Stitch a needlepoint pillow or a wallhanging for your room. You need to boil up some leaves, bark, or nutshells to extract your dye. In general, you need two pounds of fresh materials, and one pound of nutshells, barks, or berries in order to dye a pound of … [Read more...]

Can Crickets Tell the Temperature?

Narrow Winged Tree Cricket

Have you ever noticed how crickets chirp more when it's warm? They are very sensitive to temperature. A scientist named A.E. Dolbear also noticed this and came up with a way to guess the temperature by counting the number of times a cricket chirps in one minute. He based his figures on Snowy Tree Cricket chirps, but you can count the chirps any crickets make. Other crickets are not as reliable, but it's still fun to do. Listen carefully, because it's sometimes hard to tell when one chirp ends … [Read more...]

Look for Insects and Their Homes

A Wasp and Its Home in Wisconsin

The study of insects is called entomology. Did you know that there are more insect species than there are bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, and mammal species combined? Almost one million species have already been identified, and some scientists think there may be three times that number! We truly live in an insect's world! Insects are small animals that have six jointed legs attached to a three-part body. Many have one or two pairs of wings. Spiders - with eight legs and two body parts -- are … [Read more...]

Watch for Meteor Showers

Meteor Shower in Wisconsin

Wow! Fireworks in August! Well, not quite, but meteor showers are just as exciting. Around August 10-13, stargazers stay up late to watch the Perseid shower, an eagerly awaited summertime event. An average of 65 meteors light up the sky each hour as they move towards the earth. The best time for viewing is after midnight, but you'll see plenty earlier. One hundred million meteors are thought to enter the earth's atmosphere each day(!), most vaporizing high in the air. Occasionally … [Read more...]

Preserving Leaves with Glycerin

Preserved Leaves with Glycerin

You may have heard of glycerin. It's an old-fashioned ingredient in hand lotions (rosewater and glycerin). You can still buy small bottles of it at drug stores. You can preserve all sorts of foliage with it (from oak leaves to ferns) and even a few flowers, notably hydrangeas. The plants turn color somewhat, but these are usually pleasing shades. Prepare your foliage by stripping the bark from the thick lower stems (or mashing them slightly). Dilute the glycerin with water -- one part … [Read more...]

Preserving Spider Webs

Spider in a Spider's Web

Spider webs aren't really homes for spiders -- they are actually traps for catching small insects that spiders eat. Not all spiders spin webs, and those that do, spin a variety of webs. You are probably most familiar with orb-webs, those made by garden spiders. Look for them on fences, window frames, and spanning garden plants. Have you ever come across one glistening with dew on a summer's morning? You can preserve webs by mounting them on black paper that has been sprayed with hairspray. … [Read more...]

Make an Underwater Viewer

Wisconsin Underwater Foliage

How can you see what's going on in the water without diving in? Use an underwater viewer! You can make a very simple underwater viewer with materials you already have at home. All you need is a half-gallon milk carton, some clear plastic wrap and a rubber band or some tape. Cut both the bottom and the top off the milk carton. Stretch the plastic wrap over the bottom, securing it in place with a snug-fitting rubber band or some tape. Lower the viewer into the water, and place your face … [Read more...]

Look for Bird Feathers

Bird Feathers

Birds are the only animals that have fathers. Birds have 940 to 25,000 feathers, depending on the species. They serve as insulation and aid in flight. As the feathers wear, they are periodically replaced. During a partial molt, only some of the feathers are replaced (such as when males don colorful plumage during mating season). A more complete molt takes place after breeding, and before migration. Feathers are lost a few at a time from both sides of the body, so that a bird is still evenly … [Read more...]

Listen for Nocturnal Animals

Northern Wisconsin Nocturnal Flying Squirrel

The night comes alive with the sounds of nocturnal animals starting their "day." You don't need to live near a wild area to hear a number of different animals that have adapted to foraging and hunting for food once the sun has gone down. Raccoons, skunks, and mice are among the mammals that live near people. They benefit, in fact, from our habit of storing trash outdoors and from planting food gardens in our backyards. Why do these animals come out at night? Many are sensitive to the sun's … [Read more...]

Explore Northern Wisconsin Wetlands

Map of northern Wisconsin's Marshes & Wetlands

What exactly is a wetland? It's a name given to any area that is covered much of the time with shallow water, that has visible plants growing in it, and an abundance of animal life. You may know wetlands as marshes, bogs, and swamps and you should be able to find either a freshwater or saltwater wetland near you. Conservationists are trying hard to convince communities to leave wetlands untouched whenever possible. They support a tremendous amount of life as they are both nurseries for … [Read more...]