Thank you for visiting the home blog of Caliso Learning, a natural science-based business celebrating the beauty and ecology of our natural environments. Our goal is to connect you and your family with nature--actually, we want you to fall in LOVE with nature!

Here you will find nature-inspired articles and posts, family activities, personal stories, resources, and more--all with the goal to connect you with the benefits of nature for family fun and inspiration! Please enjoy and let us know what you like :) Follow us on Facebook for even more resources, more frequently!

Monday, November 22, 2010

5 Family Activities To Try This Holiday Season

As the holidays near, we are blessed with a little extra time for family…at least that’s the idea! One way to take advantage of these extra days is to include the whole family as you gear up for the holidays with special, nature-inspired table settings, foods, and decorating. Celebrate family togetherness by encouraging older children to guide the younger ones through easy and fun creations, either in the kitchen or the craft table, or outdoors.

No need to think extravagantly or big, it’s the simplest activities that work best, requiring the least guidance for maximum creativity. Here are 5 ideas to try:

Feather treasures. Plant colorful turkey/goose feathers (found at just about any craft store) throughout your yard for a fun treasure hunt for the little ones. Extra points if they find REAL bird feathers…those are magical :) Have them lay them around the center of the table, or in a vase for a whimsical addition to your table that they’ll be so proud to have contributed to.

Garden varieties. What better way to encourage your children and other family members to make those holiday get togethers extra special than by harvesting and sharing delicious edibles and flowers straight from their own gardens? Start new traditions, who will have the tastiest or most creative garden contribution?

Garlands, garlands, garlands! I don’t know about you, but we have a steadily growing pile of activity papers, duplicate worksheets and piles of drawing paper from our four year old. He also loves using scissors and ends up cutting up many of his creations (unless I’m able to rescue my favorites first!). So I’ve seriously considered creating a festive chain garland from these treasures.

Keep the papers and drawings you want, but if you can (I know it’s hard to choose!), turn the other paper piles from your child’s school into fun decoration. Assuming he/she will be okay with the two of you cutting them up! My little one also loves collecting leaves, incorporating them into this activity would be a great Thanksgiving accent. Paper chains are easy and you can create long ones in a very short time, your little one will love seeing these hang throughout your home! Start with their room :)

Mark this one. We’ve found that when kids get the green light to draw or write on any surface other than paper, they go crazy for it! We’ve invited kids (and adults) to decorate and write messages on a variety of natural items like river rocks, tree cookies, smooth sticks, and large leaves. Washable markers ensure an easy soap and water clean-up from colorful fingers, faces and arms, and clothes just in case ;)

Nesting instincts. It’s tough work building a nest, especially without hands. Challenge family members of all ages (they can work in teams if they want) to create a nest that would hold a little bird family--yes, use your hands. Take a walk or search your yard for ideal nesting materials: leaves, twigs, moss, lichen, stringy natural finds. You can offer some man-made materials—after all birds utilize these too—like string, cotton, strips of material, pet fur. Who created the prettiest nest? The sturdiest? The softest?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Green Spiders

Certain spider venom is being investigated as an eco-friendly insecticide. Scientists are getting closer to field-testing insecticides that mimic the action of spider toxins. In synthetic or natural form it can, potentially, target crop destroying insects with little or no effect on non-target species (e.g. beneficial bees and insects, birds, humans, other mammals, etc.). Unlike some conventional insecticides, target insects may not become naturally resistant to this spider-venom cocktail as they do with current chemical insecticides, and the spider toxins used in the engineered virus would not end up in the food supply. Read the entire article here.

The Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) gets its name from the way Lynx spiders sometimes pounce on their prey in a catlike fashion. These spiders spend their time hunting for insects in bushes and low plants. They are fast runners, but can occasionally be seen lying in wait for prey beside flowers. They build no web for prey capture, but they do release a silk dragline as they hunt among leaves. Look for a large, conspicuous spider: bright green, cream, or tan body with yellow legs that have black spiny hairs. Body length: 5/8". Common in Southern California and beyond.

One million spiders make golden silk for rare cloth. Here you’ll find a fascinating article on a golden cloth that’s worth a lot of green. It took four years and more than 1 million female golden orb spiders, known for the rich golden color of their silk (see image), to create an 11-foot by 4-foot textile—the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today. Read more…

Image © Gstrange l Dreamstime.com


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creature “Spirits”

Confession time: I’m a huge fan of all shows that chase after evidence of ghosts, cryptozoological creatures (like Bigfoot), and UFOs. I can’t get enough Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth, and surprisingly—or not—I find the debunking just as intriguing and fascinating as the “hunting.” Yes, I believe in the occurrence of things we cannot explain, or things considered paranormal or otherworldly, because it’s exciting to me and perfectly sensible. But, I also lean toward 98% of those reported “things” being explained by natural events, scientifically, as a coping strategy, or even as some cultural phenomena.

I once experienced a thunderous banging of the metal air ducts in the attic. It was the most terrifying, inexplicable sound at the time. I swore there was something huge up there, what else could make such a deafening sound! The week prior, my cousin had described the same thing when she experienced an extremely loud banging above our ceiling while she was alone in our house. She thought maybe someone was on the roof jumping around and even bravely checked it out for us. Seeing no one around, she left the house to sit in her car until we came home that night. She told us later that just before the crazy pounding, she kept hearing a light knocking or tapping noise on a particular wall in the living room that she couldn’t explain.

The crazy banging never happened again, but the tapping kept on for about another week. Was this an awakened spirit suddenly wreaking havoc on our little home? No. A rat was the culprit. The thundering clamour was likely the little beast navigating our metal air ducts in the attic. He was found, “removed” and our house was professionally rat-proofed by an extermination service.

In fact, much of the reported rustling sounds, groans, screams, human whispers, and even ghostly human giggling one might hear can be explained by critters very much alive and well, going about their business in the natural world. Have you ever heard a frog’s mating call? Or wind pushing, even “howling” through a boulder strewn canyon or between buildings, or pipes? How about a screech owl’s cry or a rabbit’s distressing squeal?

Nuisance Wildlife Relocation Specialist, D. Crawford offers very normal wildlife explanations for some of the most eerie paranormal sounds that may go “bump in the night.” Crawford discusses the rustling noises frequently reported in hauntings, reminding us that those strange noises in our basements, or in our walls and attics can simply be animals taking refuge in our home:

“Rustling noises coming from the walls or chimney can be caused by any number of creatures: bats, rats, raccoons, chimney swifts, etc. Bats or birds rustling their wings in the chimney or inside a wall can sound frighteningly similar to human whispering; the noises made by a colony of bats jostling for space may even sound like the rustle of silk skirts. A metal chimney shaft can sometimes produce a megaphone effect, making the noise seem louder or more intense than you might suspect.”

Even urban and suburban residents can be regularly visited by wildlife like owls, bats, raccoons, rodents, rabbits, and plenty of bird species. With increased habitat fragmentation it’s possible that adaptable critters like these will naturally seek and follow habitat corridors to get from one natural area to another; possibly wandering into your yard & home attracted by neighborhood trees, a nearby park, a cemetery, or wildland area as Crawford suggests.

Locally we have desert wood rats (packrats), famous for collecting shiny things like keys, jewelry, watches, and bottle caps from unsuspecting campers. If you live near a patch of desert, they just might enjoy moving into your home as well. Packrats, raccoons, and crows are mentioned in Crawford’s article as critters that may like to move around and collect items from your house—the possible culprits of poltergiest activity. The more we learn about the curious habits of our native animals, the more we can avoid jumping to paranormal conclusions, like things vanishing or being moved about or knocked over. It could simply be a curious creature—not a mischevious spirit. A little investigating yourself could solve the mystery, one way or the other.

For questions to help you determine if you are being “haunted” by wildlife, or to find out how Crawford debunked the ghostly screaming coming from a neighborhood graveyard, or to read about the poltergiest that was actually a sneaky raccoon, read his article found at the Paranormal Task Force website. Then listen to some of these eerily human-like calls and cries from common wildlife (creepy factor = high!):  

Fox call (often mistaken for human scream/yell):

Fox cry/call (often mistaken for a woman or child screaming or yelling):

Rabbit distress (sounds amazingly like a crying infant). Warning, some may find this one upsetting as this is a rabbit screaming in distress:

Arizona Woodhouse’s Toads (Bufo woodhousei) singing (sounds like human-ish screams):

Common Barn Owl call (sounds like a woman screaming):

See, not so scary after all! Or is it? Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

Raccoon Image: Dreamstime.com
Toad sound byte source: http://naturesongs.com/
Owl sound byte source: http://www.owlpages.com/sounds/

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Good news from the Mojave Desert Land Trust

Great news we saw first in the Palm Springs Green Scene newsletter:


"The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) announced on September 27th that it has successfully completed the acquisition of 955 acres of pristine wildlife habitat on the northern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. The acquisition will permanently preserve a section of wildlife corridor required for the movement of bighorn sheep, badger, mule deer, mountain lion and dozens of bird species, in addition to providing pristine habitat for the recovery of the threatened desert tortoise."

Fantastic news for such a tough fight, big hugs to all who were involved and made this happen. Just one person can help make a difference...support our wildlife and natural habitats and see what happens!

Learn more about the Mojave Desert Land Trust and the Palm Springs Green Scene

Friday, September 17, 2010

International Observe the Moon Night!

Oooo! Look what's happening this Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. It is International Observe the Moon Night. Here in the Coachella Valley, the moon will rise at 4:17 p.m. and set by 2:17 a.m. Sounds like a great night for lunar-loving activities like sky watching, moon watching using moon maps and telescopes/binoculars, even going on a moonlit walk! Here are a couple of other ideas you may want to try...

Visit the IOMN site:

Document the monthly moon phases on your window:
Observe the moon for a month+ w/your child and draw each night’s moon phase on the window w/a dry erase marker or white grease pencil.

Learn about lunar phases using Oreos! Sounds delicious:

Write a folding poem about the moon, after spending time with it:

Moon Meditations that inspire you to live fully:

Find moon surface features in your flour tortillas, then eat them!

Enjoy the moon! Share you experience :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

10 Simple Ways to Connect With Nature

We hope you enjoy these 10 easy ways to connect you and your family with nature. These fun ideas are some of our favorite activities compiled from previous lists and handouts of ours for a range of nature-themed family fun--or if you prefer some nurturing, soul feeding moments. If some of these are second nature, we encourage you to share your experience and guidance with another family and friends! Be sure to include your own experiences and ideas with us in the comments below.

Happy full moon by the way, you can start with #10 as soon as tonight!

1. Fight habitat fragmentation, create a backyard habitat. Get yours certified here: http://www.nwf.org/gardenforwildlife/

2. Create a personal meditation garden. Include the sights, smells, sounds of nature that relax you: rocks, birds, water, citrus, jasmine…

3. Why not take an evening to learn about the stars/constellations you can see. Call your local astronomy club and go to their next star party!

4. Go for a walk in the rain and notice the changes in nature. Talk with your child(ren) about new smells, how things feel, sounds. What happens to the birds, insects, trees, flowers, and people?

5. Photograph the letters of your name found in nature. Does that tree make a good Y or V? Do you see a B at the base of a leaf?

6. Plant a salad garden, a pizza garden, fruit salad garden, or even a salsa garden! There are plenty of online guidance for all ages.

7. Refill your birdfeeders. How about offering some creative—safe!—nesting materials as an additional resource for your feathered friends?

8. Collect leaves from your yard showing the life cycle of a particular tree/plant. From new green leaves to yellowing, to dried and brown.

9. Establish a secret garden for your child where they can create their own unique garden to plant collected rocks, sticks, plastic dinosaurs...

10. Go on a full moon walk. What will you experience? Once, our group encountered a drum circle in the canyon, another time a curious tarantula!

Photo: Ecosalon.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower (Timelapse Video)

In case you missed the Perseids, we just had to share this oh so beautiful video shared by Facebook friend Roy Scribner. We just love the Joshua Tree, it adds a magical touch! Please enjoy this short video treat: http://vimeo.com/14173983

Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gift Of Wonderment

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” ~Rachel Carson

We can help our little ones maintain this gift by encouraging their wonderment of nature (and so many other magical things!). In fact it would do us well to get ours back and discover the natural world through their eyes again! Not everything we encounter needs to always be explained with a scientific reason for occurring.

Often times the best teaching opportunities for our children occur when they are watching us -- in how we react to nature, or how we behave in nature. Do we enjoy living in the moment and allowing a sense of awe or whimsy to settle about us without expectations? Do we pick up litter along the trail? Do we cringe at the site of crawlies or marvel at their tiny existence; do we value their role in nature? Are we comfortable outdoors? Fearful, respectful, at home in nature? Our children are always watching, what are we teaching them?

"Teaching Opportunity" by M. Hedgecock

[click image for larger size]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Family Camping Do’s & Don’ts

Camping is FUN! Next time you head out to sleep under the stars as a family, here are 7 activities to try while you are in the "wilds" (followed by a great list of 25 Family Camping Do's and Don'ts from The FamilyCampman.com)!

1.  Climb a boulder or a tree for a new perspective; have lunch on your perch, or draw, read, or watch for wildlife.

2.  Go to the ranger program as a family.

3.  Learn about the stars and constellations of the area you're camping and identify them in the night sky.

4.  Go on a full moon hike as a family.

5.  Howl like a coyote, see if you can get them to respond with howls!

6. Pick a spot to explore your campsite by laying on your belly with a hand lens. Look under rocks (carefully!), into tree bark, by a stream's edge...

7.  Make leaf and stick boats for "racing" in a nearby stream.

We think these 25 tips posted by Eric at The FamilyCampan.com site are great! They are also a timeless reminder for family camping etiquette! DO visit Eric's site for other very useful camping/family posts!

1.  Do prepare ahead of time
2.  Do entertain thy children
3.  Do reserve your site in advance
4.  Don’t forget extra batteries
5.  Do leave a clean campsite
6.  Do prepare for rain
7.  Don’t bring firewood from different locations
8.  Don’t bring video games for the kids (or any other electronics)
9.  Don’t leave your garbage out at night
10.  Don’t set your car alarm
11.  Don’t ignore campground rules
12.  Do continue your kids’ bedtime routines
13.  Do respect your neighbors
14.  Don’t set your tent up in the dark
15.  Do bring a firestarter
16.  Do pack extra clothes for chilly nights
17.  Don’t pack using cardboard boxes
18.  Do pack using rubber bins (think rubbermaid)
19.  Do explore the surrounding areas
20.  Don’t forget the first aid kit
21.  Don’t let your kids run around other sites
22.  Don’t leave your campfire unattended
23.  Do eat lots of s’mores
24.  Do take lots of pictures
25.  Don’t forget to relax and have a great time

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Clouds...

Here’s an interesting fun fact we learned from a National Geographic Society tweet: A cloud can weigh more than a million pounds (450,000 kg). Wow, that’s a lot of water floating above our heads! This made us think about other cloudy things like…

Cloud Collecting Makes You Happy
Karen Kingston’s post on “Why Cloud Collecting Can Be Good For You.” Why? Because it's etherically refreshing and psychologically uplifting…and it raises your energy. Karen also states that developing a relationship with the skies above allows your consciousness to expand to fill bigger spaces and your creativity to soar. Sounds good to us! For more reasons why clouds are so inspiring read the rest of Karen’s uplifting and informative post.

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook
A field guide and journal for collecting your favorite cloud types and phenomena.

Clouds For Climate Change
This project potentially brings many benefits, both to the global climate, and also to communities suffering from desertification, poor agriculture and forestry, low rainfall. Learn how clouds can make an immediate impact on the global climate at The Global Cooling Project.

Hey rainbow fans…behold the cloudbow!

Music For Cloud Watching
Music collected by cloud lovers deemed perfect for cloud gazing.

Partly Cloudy
Attached to Pixar’s movie UP is the Pixar short, Partly Cloudy...Everyone knows that the stork delivers babies, but where do the storks get the babies from? The answer lies up in the stratosphere, where cloud people sculpt babies from clouds and bring them to life. Partly Cloudy is about Gus, a lonely and insecure grey cloud, who is a master at creating "dangerous" babies like crocodiles, porcupines, and rams…

As Gus's creations become more and more rambunctious, his loyal delivery stork partner, Peck, must work harder and harder. How will Peck manage to handle both his hazardous cargo and his friend's fiery temperament? Watch this imaginative story unfold here!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Camping Tips for Single Parent Families

This is a helpful article for any family heading out to go camping with little ones. You'll find valuable tips and important things to consider. However, we have one big opposition as we do not agree with or condone allowing children to “sneak” out rocks or any other items from protected areas that ask you not to remove anything from the area.

There is sound reason for this rule and I know some parents feel an exception to it, or believe it inhibits a child’s experience in some way. I can relate...my son collects rocks, pinecones, leaves, etc. everywhere we go--but if we’re in a protected area, he’s reminded (ahead of time as well) that his treasures will need to be left behind when we leave. He's a preschooler, so we let him know those natural items “live there” and the plants/animals need them. We turn the “bummer” into a valuable lesson of environmental respect and ecology, and to demonstrate the fact that even our family is not exempt from keeping our natural areas protected for future enjoyment!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Backyard Beach

An irresistible idea from the Go Explore Nature blog, creating an uber-easy backyard beach for the little ones. Not only will you get a little chuckle reading about the "big explorer" and the "little explorer" (too cute!) but you'll be inspired to create some beach-y fun!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

From the Caliso Learning newsletter - Nature On The Side: Summer Solstice
  • Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + (sistire)"to stand still."
  • The day that the Earth's North Pole is tilted closest to the sun (the summer solstice) is the longest day (most daylight hours) of the year for people living in the northern hemisphere. It is also the day that the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky (where it seems to stand still).
  • As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year for the Northern Hemisphere in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.
  • The summer solstice marks the first day of summer.
  • “Midsummer” is often associated with this solstice as it occurs midway through Europe’s growing season for many ancient healing plants that were(are) harvested at the summer soltice.
No matter what your traditions, the summer solstice is a great time to celebrate growth, life, harvest, unions…and summer!

Image: Laura Huff
Sources: http://www.Chiff.com and http://www.religioustolerance.org

Saturday, June 19, 2010

11-year old Artist Campaigns to Save Gulf Wildlife!

Wow, Olivia you are our hero!

Please read this thoroughly inspiring story about a passionate, budding ornithologist who has helped raise over $70,000 to protect pelicans, manatees, whooping cranes and the other birds she loves that are threatened by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

LINK: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/artist-11-campaigns-to-save-gulf-birds/

Yay Olivia!!

Happy Father's Day Super Dads!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

8 Animal Webcams to Brighten Your Day

Take a nature break while working at your computer! Check in on wildlife around the world with these streaming live feeds from Gimundo News and Features: 8 Animal Webcams to Brighten Your Day

More nature webcams from Caliso Learning's Planet Pages and previous blog posts!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lavender Festivals: Family Fun!

The site of lavender fields, lavender flowers, the smell lavender can inspire the imagination of any age! Here’s a fun way to spend Father’s Day, the 123 Farm’s 6th Annual Lavender Festival this June 12-13, and 19-20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. If you’re interested, please visit their website for details, directions to their Cherry Valley location, festival activities, schedule, and organic herbs and oils for sale (including lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and sage!).

Lavender farms can be found throughout the region, check your local area for any local harvests, find out what's available in your area. Don't worry if lavender is not a likely harvest--now's a great time to learn about the organic goodies in your region to discover a local farm that celebrates their harvest publicly for natural family fun!

Fun on a lavender farm (or any herb or veggie farm or fruit orchard you can visit):
 • Take a family photo sitting in the middle of a blossoming lavender field
• Collect fresh lavender for drying
• Paint as a family, a minimalist scene of lavender rows…
• Identify as many different pollinators as you can find in the fields
• Eat a yumm-a-licious dish prepared with with lavender!
• Bring lavender home with you, purchase a lavender plant to add to your patio garden or yard!
• Have a picnic in the fields
• Participate in the u-pick lavender, workshops, demonstrations, craft artists, music, food and other activities you can find at various lavender festivals!

Share your ideas and experiences with us!

About the 123 Farm: http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M14941
Photo by derekwt http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekt1/3392168766/in/set-72157616023029554/

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Protecting Our California Deserts

We like John Randall's ideas and solution(s) toward balancing renewable energy RESPONSIBLY while maintaining our beautiful and diverse, fragile desert ecosystems. For a quick read: The Nature Conservancy in California - Faces of Conservation - John Randall

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Activities Do You Do With Your Children To Encourage Love & Understanding Of Nature?

Recently a discussion on LinkedIn was started by a group member asking, “What type of activities do you do with your children to encourage love and an understanding of nature?”

Of the activities my son (nearly four years old) and I do together outside, I feel the best is when he leads the way in personal discovery and his excitement of finding flowers, lizards, birds, etc. on his own. It's so tempting for parents to point out every little cool thing we see—in our own excitement—that we don't want our child to miss! I catch myself all the time ;) But it's so important to let your child make their own discoveries and if they pass up the lizard for the rabbit poopies, so be it...the point is to get them excited about nature, and any way they can relate it back to their own world, the better! If this kind of exploration is encourged, they'll want to get back outside!

Here are some activities I shared in the discussion that we do with our preschooler:

1) Rescue bugs spiders in the house and release them outside (although we currently have
a harmless cellar spider living up in a hallway corner that we say hello to each day)

2) Caring for our desert tortoises, requiring a little native plant knowledge on what they like to eat and tortoise behavior like when they’re usually awake, take naps, how they eat cactus.

3) Playing "Pooh Sticks" in streams; also make leaf and stick boats for stream play

4) Puddle jumping, he's great at it—and we encourge it, even on the way out to dinner ;)

5) I made him a set of paint sample color swatches to practice his colors on wildflowers and other plants and rocks, which he LOVED when he was 18 mos. to about 3 years...

6) We keep fresh flowers in the house

7) "Hiking" and bug/bird/reptile watching; tracking; stick play

8) We pick up trash we come across on trails or in nature areas and parks

9) We go outside to jump around in the rain (it hardly rains here!)

10) We pay attention to the moon

11) We like ladybugs crawling on our hands

12) He collects feathers, leaves and flowers that he knows some names of, also sticks and rocks. The feathers, leaves and flowers go in a simple photobook, the rocks in a bucket while collecting, and into container for keeping (unless we're in a protected area*)

*A quick note on being in a protected area: this is an absolute prime teaching opportunity. Please respect the rule of no collecting or removing of natural items in protected or preserved areas!!! It is so important and little ones are not exempt! My son will collect 'til his heart's content, but before we've even started I've let him know that whatever he collects "lives here" and we will have to leave the pinecones and rocks behind, after we go through them and admire his finds and/or take their pictures. His fuss is brief and the lesson is so valuable, especially in the long run.

What are your favorite nature activities you do with your child(ren) or students? Please share with us :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Wild Mommies!

Here’s a fun peek at wild animal mommies from sand to sea...

Desert Cottontail mommies bear young year round (in California) or up to eight months of the year. She may bear twenty to thirty young in four to five litters. A normal litter has two to six young, which are born blind, furless and unable to care for themselves. Not wanting to draw attention to the nest, mommy cottontails return to the den site only about 2 to 3 times a day to feed her young. The young are weaned at two weeks old, and they begin to leave the nest area three weeks after birth when they are ready to live on their own! Mom considers her job over at 4-5 weeks when she leaves, available to raise another litter.

Sea lion mommies give girth to one pup a year, usually on land and usually on the same beach she was born. From the very start, moms start barking right in their baby’s face until it replies. This is so they can learn to recognize and find each other if they ever get separated in the crowded rookery full of fellow pups and single moms! The sea lion mommy plays a kind of “marco/polo” with her pup until they’re reunited. Sea lions are attentive to their pups, fiercly protecting them and carefully teaching them how to swim for their survival. Pups may nurse for up to 6 months, but by 2 months, mommy sea lions have already taught their babies to swim and hunt with them.

Coyote mommies bear one litter of 3 to 9 puppies a year, usually in April or May when food is abundant. Her pups are born blind in a natal den, but their eyes open after about 14 days and they emerge from the den a few days later. She uses a vocalization called “huffing” to call for her pups without making a lot of noise that might attract predators. Pups suckle for 5 to 7 weeks, and start eating semi-solid food after 3 weeks. While the dad helps support the family with regurgitated food, the mother does not allow him to come all the way into the den. When the pups are about 8 to 10 weeks old, the mother starts taking them out hunting as a group. Within a year, they go their own way, staking out their own territory.

Orca mommies give birth to a baby orca (or calf) on average about once very ten years. Orca moms in labor are accompanied by another orca who is there to help. A baby orca is born tail first, and at ~8 feet long it already weighs around 400 lbs. A mommy orca will help her baby swim to the surface for its first breath. Soon after, the baby learns to swim on its own, just as it will need to learn everything else it needs to survive from its mom and other orcas, without instinct to guide it. Young orcas will stay with their moms their whole lives, living in an extended family pod of aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters!

Bighorn mommies are protective of their young for many months. But within a few weeks of birth, lambs form bands of their own, seeking out their mothers only to suckle occasionally. Yearlings, often abandoned while the ewe is giving birth to her next lamb, may be seen again with the ewe and lamb late in the spring. Bighorn find safety in numbers and are ever watchful for predators such as Coyotes and Mountain Lions.

Sea Otter mommies have a strong and tender bond with their furry little pup. After four months of pregnancy, a single pup is born in the water. For the first few months of the pup’s life, it is completely dependent upon mom for survival. A sea otter pup rides on its mommy’s belly like a “little prince on a royal barge.” She gives her pup near constant attention, protecting it from the cold water, grooming the pup’s fur constantly, and nursing it. She’ll leave her pup floating for brief periods sometimes wrapped in kelp to keep it from floating away during which she forages to feed herself and replenish her milk supply. Young sea otters are usually independent by six or eight months.

Human mommies can give birth any time of year, usually to one or two young. Their babies can see at birth, and have some hair.Human mommies use several vocalizations to communicate with their babies.Their young may leave the nest after about 18 years, when they are on their own to stake out their own territory. Lucky for these youngsters, their mommies stay protective and are forever watchful for predators and other dangers throughout their offspring’s entire lives.

Celebrate your mom!

Sealion mommy and pup image: VerySherry_photos

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cactus Are Wildflowers Too!

What is the first plant that comes to mind when you think desert?

The cactus is usually one of the first plants people think of when they think of the desert. It is certainly one of the more conspicuous plants you encounter in the desert landscape. Cacti are well adapted to dry, hot environments with an anatomy and physiology that has evolved to survive such desert extremes. These specialized plants have a photosynthetic process all there own (CAM), effectively splitting the process between night and day—a mighty useful ability for reducing water loss!

Cactus are thought to have evolved in the last 30 to 40 million years and are almost exclusively a New World plant. There are over 2,000 species of cactus. Tehuacán Valley of Mexico has one of the richest occurrences of cacti in the world.

Their thick stems are succulent and full of water (undrinkable by the way), with a waxy coating to reduce water loss. Cactus ribs will expand for water storage, or shrink depending on available water. As cactus ribs and stems shrink, this creates deep valleys on the plant, providing more shade for the stems.

Cactus spines are actually modified leaves that evolved as protection. They are usually light-colored to reflect radiation away from the plant, another adaption for reducing water loss. Spines also create a lattice to shade plant bodies; interestingly for some species there is a higher density of spines on the side that gets the most sun exposure. The arrangement of spines on a cactus also help guide rain directly to the roots.

Cactus flowers are typically big and showy. They're great photographic subjects because of their large size, beautiful array of bright colors, and the fact that they don't sway in the wind like other wildflowers. You will often catch a variety of pollinators busy in these eye-catching blossoms for some fun shots!

Here in the Colorado Desert of southeastern California, many of our wildflowers have already peaked by this time of year. However, beginning on the desert floor we are now treated to the "second act" as many cactus and succulent species are now in full swing, spotting the desert landscape with bright pops of fuschia, orange, red, yellow and creamy white blossoms! This visual treat can last into June as you follow the bloom from our low-elevation desert floor to the upper, high desert blooms.

Release Your Inner Tree-hugger!

The new Side of Nature activity is added and the previous is posted here for comments! Did you give it a try? We’d love to hear your ideas, what did you end up doing with your creations?

What to do with those tree trimmings? Take the small branches (2” to 3” in diameter) and make tree cookies—no baking required! Once you’ve saw-sliced your cookies, use colored Sharpies® to write tree-friendly messages on them, tree-themed haikus, draw or paint tree images, or even write your favorite fun fact about trees. Give them to friends, wear them, hang them, use them in an art project, or get others inspired by secretly leaving your tree cookie for someone else to find :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grants for Monarchs In Your Garden!

This is a great opportunity for kids to get involved in a fantastic project. Project Learning Tree grants are available to create Monarch butterfly waystations/pollinator gardens at schools. Details here: Monarch Watch Blog

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Full Moon: Moon Meditations

The moon is a great mentor in living your life to its fullest. Find a comfortable spot in the moonlight tonight and try one of these empowering meditations inspired by the full moon...

Live full. The full moon creates a lot of action; humans celebrate it, animals and oceans move by it. When the moon is full and bright, we can see things outside without the aid of artificial light. Live your life fully, illuminate your own path, celebrate your strengths.

Radiate light. Despite being the weakest reflector in our solar system, the moon shines brightly against the black backdrop of space. Reflect positive qualities in your interaction with others.

Infuse yourself with nature. The moon is intimately aligned with the natural world as we have witnessed through the pull of lunar tides and the variety of species that rely on its light for survival. Plant yourself in the cycles of nature to appreciate your vital role in the world we share, increase your personal awareness, and heighten your sensitivity to your attitudes and behavior as it compares to your core standards and beliefs. This type of connection may intuitively affect the conscientious mind and accountability that guide your decision making process.

Inspire others. Our silvery moon has long been the source of inspiration for artists, philosophers, and poets. Both science and art continue to seek ways to study and interpret its profound affect on our lives. Think about the people in your life, and how they inspire you; awaken those same inspiring qualities in your self. Find ways to express yourself as passionately as those who inspire you and others will not be able to resist supporting you in achieving your goals.

"Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine." ~the Buddha

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking A Child's Perspective

With Earth Day two days away, it's time to regroup and see where we're really making a difference. Sometimes, we just need to shift our perspective to ask better questions that won't mire our progress and energies with lengthy, over-analized answers.

Folks at the 7GenBlog remind us to step back and simplify our approach--they remind us to listen to our children--to take a child's perspective--because they tend to think of the most important questions :) In the very least, how about rethinking some creative solutions as your inner child would, so we can take action in providing a safe and natural environment for our children. Read about it here: Taking a Child's Perspective Seventh Generation

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's the BUZZ...Native Bee Boxes

Denise Shreeve is a beekeeper of an unusual sort. Instead of honey bees at her home in McLean, Va., she raises native orchard mason bees -- solitary bees that don't produce honey, but do pollinate abundant gardens and crops. Orchard mason bees are native to the entire North American continent and are amazingly efficient pollinators, especially of early fruit and nut trees. After completing a honey beekeeping course a few years ago, and realizing how many chemicals it takes to keep them alive, Denis Shreeve decided to research native bees as an alternative and found:
  • Orchard Mason Bees are gentle, mild-mannered solitary bees that rarely, if ever, sting. (Males don't even have stingers.)  
  • OMB’s do not make honey, but rather use collected nectar and pollen to feed themselves and their young.
  • They don’t have a Queen to defend so will never attack if disturbed, making them very safe around kids and pets, and fun and educational to watch.
Continue reading this article for more about these native bees, native beekeeping and how Shreeve creates her beautiful, easy DIY bee boxes 6 Facts About Native Bees
Photo: Denise Shreeve

Create your own Mason bee or other native bee boxes:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Upcoming Spring Festivals :)

From our Festivals page, here are some upcoming festivals and events to get you connected with nature. Look for Caliso Learning at a few of these favorite spring happenings!

April 15-18, 2010
Yuma Birding & Nature Festival, Yuma, AZ

April 16-17, 2010
First Annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival http://www.nhm.org/site/sites/default/files/pdf/NHM_NPS_SciFest_SantaMonicaMtns_2010.pdf

April 17, 2010
Earth Day Festival, Hi-Desert Nature Museum, Yucca Valley, CA http://www.hidesertnaturemuseum.org/events.html

April 17, 2010
Mother Nature's Earth Jam at The Living Desert, Palm Desert, CA

April 23-26, 2010
Desert Symposium, Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx, CA

April 24, 2010
Earth Day Birding Challenge, Coachella Valley, CA

April 24-25, 2010
California Poppy Festival

May 1, 2010
31st Annual Endangered Species Faire, Chico, CA

May 15, 2010
Southern California Indian Storytelling Festival, Palm Springs, CA 

May 15-16, 2010
25th Annual BUG FAIR Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Memorial Day Weekend 2010
Memorial Day Weekend Wildflower and Art Show, Idyllwild Nature Center http://www.idyllwildnaturecenter.net/Home.html

May 15, 2010
21st Annual Idyllwild Earth Fair, Idyllwild, CA

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Little Bird Told Me...

I was stumped on what to share this week for a different blog/ezine, my deadline coming down to the wire. I found myself staring out my window to watch the birds when I noticed some feathers flapping about in strange way on the ground, next to our driveway. It looked like a bird was trapped by something. I decided to go and take a look and found a baby bird stuck inside a broken bottle, unable to back out because of the glass. (I use upside-down, bottles filled with sand as plant borders. The sand protects the glass from acting like a fire-starting magnifying lens in the summer.) One of the globe bottles had broken and the little fledgling was inside, beak first into a hole in the sand. A male and female verdin were flying about me, chattering in distress. I quickly realized I couldn’t just pull him out, his little legs and a wing were snug against the sharp edges of the glass. The tiny bird was trying so hard to free himself. I waved my husband out to take a look and he quickly went back into the garage for some pliers and pair of gloves.

He carefully snipped a piece of glass out of the way. I was able to support the tiny verdin’s legs and then his body enough to guide him out rather easily. He remained calm the entire time. The parents were watching from the roof next door. We checked him for cuts, the little guy looked good, he was just a little shaky. I showed him to his parents and put him on the ground where they could see their little fledgling. He immediately hopped closer to the base of the palm for cover, I replaced some bird seed on the ground nearby and then I went inside to watch the reunion unfold by the kitchen window…

It felt very good. It’s so hard to watch any living being in distress, especially when it’s tricky to communicate that you are there to help. I knew we were there to help the verdins, but was that their experience? I was more likely seen as an instinctual threat to their offspring more than anything else. Like our own mothers, Mother Nature is once again perfect and subtle in her unique teachings. So often we find ourselves in our own struggles. The tricky part is communicating to ourselves or to others when we need help. Sometimes we find ourselves watching someone we love in distress and we are torn between figuring out a way to show them support and encouragement—without hurting them further; or lovingly waiting for them to find a place within, where they are open to accepting our help. That can be tricky too.

I think the best we can do is to be kind to each other and stay watchful, to be aware of when others around us are in pain or struggling. We should try to help whenever we can in the smallest ways—it feels very good to do so! And we should try our best to be there for those who will need our love, support, and encouragement in the biggest ways. Many times we just need to be present. We need to keep in mind that whomever or whatever we are wanting to help may also be afraid or cautious or not in need of our help.

The opportunity presents itself daily. Today my husband and I helped a baby bird and filled the opening of the broken bottle with a rock so that nothing else can get stuck (I will remove it over the next couple of days, when the baby verdin is not around). My only regret is that our preschooler missed the whole event, as he was peacefully napping. It was have been a wonderful learning opportunity for him as well.

How will you manifest your kindest qualities toward others today? What will you choose to do today to pay-it-forward, or do good?

Image: Artist Nataska Wescoat

Friday, March 19, 2010

Recognized at Last – Healing Clays

Interesting post discussing the benefits and healing factors of good, natural clay. Read more about their initial findings and what qualifies, as well as the scientific study (at end of article)...Recognized at Last – Healing Clays

16 Tips for Wildlife Gardening with Kids

Found via Twitter, this is a great article with ideas for making gardening safe and fun for the WHOLE family (see previous post!). Wildlife gardening has many benefits like helping native wildlife survive habitat fragmentation, providing spontaneous and natural learning opportunities for your child, wildlife watching, and raising awareness for the value of our connection to nature.

"One of the best things you may ever cultivate in your yard is a gardener; share your love of nature with a child" read more here: 16 Tips for Wildlife Gardening with Kids - National Wildlife Federation - StumbleUpon

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Secret Garden

The Family Garden
Spring is upon us and many gardeners are harvesting their spring gardens and beginning to prep the soil for summer garden delights. Establishing a family garden is a great way to get your children and even nearby grandparents, or aunts and uncles into the experience of a family garden. If extended family is too far away, consider planting their personal seasonal favorites and have your child keep in touch with family members through updates on their “crops.” At harvest time you can plan a fun dinner by inviting family over for a visit with a special meal that is made with everyone’s garden contributions. Or you can prepare food like salsa, preserves, nuts, baked and seasoned sunflower seeds, or muffins that use your family member’s favorite garden veggie or fruit as the main ingredient that can be sent to them to enjoy!

The Secret Garden
When I was a child I was encouraged to try a few different gardens, from veggies to flowers, all of which failed. It could’ve been that I was not consistent with watering and also that I was quite frequently distracted by other activities such as “planting” other items in my carefully raked garden patches; like Smurfs, cars, stick tepees, tiny plastic animals, and bark houses for my Sunshine family dolls. I also decorated the area with collected rocks and shells. I did this for hours and hours on end. If I would have thought to water my seeds as much as I played, I might have had a flourishing flower or spaghetti squash garden. At least the birds benefitted from the seeds.

The Secret Family Garden
My point to this post is to encourage you to try gardening with your child, possibly making it an extended family garden—if you haven’t already! It’s the perfect activity for even the youngest in your family. I would also encourage you to establish a secret garden for your little ones to "plant" their plastic dinosaurs, favorite rocks, collected shells, or to build fairy houses…anything they wish to carefully place just so, that will inspire them to be outside, in the garden, in the soil and water, and simply in nature to express theirs. This special garden can be in and around the sprouting family garden or in a designated area within or next to the garden. I like the idea of keeping them close or intertwined as cultivating healthy food and healthy imaginations are equally important.

Maybe you had your own secret garden when you were young? If so, please tell us about it! We’d love to hear what made it most special to you. A secret garden never fails to cultivate the seeds of creativity, and always allows imagination to blossom :)

Fairy house photo from www.spokaneoutdoors.com
more fairy houses