Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Keeping Track

Like many parents of young children, I often find myself nodding off to sleep in the early evening, snuggled up to a sweet litte boy who was promised just a few more minutes of cuddles. Waking up in pitch darkness hours later, I can usually muster just enough energy to brush my teeth and peel the dried out contacts from my eyes before crawling into my own bed.

With two sick boys in the house today, tonight was no exception. This exhausted mama found herself drifting off to dreamland before dusk. I was, however, jolted awake by images of wild beasts prowling in my head! Peering out into the darkness, I grabbed my flashlight and rubber boots and high-tailed it into the back yard to tuck the chickens in for the night. With hubby out late for work, I had no choice but to venture into the darkness alone. Our feathered flock would most certainly be a mere memory in the morning.

I'm well aware of what is lurking in those back woods late at night. With all the excavation work we recently had done, the bare mud and ground on our property present a wonderful opportunity to track and identify the creatures that call this hill home. The whole family has been having lots of fun following the tracks and trying to decipher their makers. Over the last few months we have been working on a project to "keep track" of our findings. By pouring plaster of Paris into the tracks, we have created a set of foot print casts to examine, collect and admire. So far our collection includes skunk, racoon, pheasant, deer, mouse, coyote and possibly bobcat.

I got this idea from the book Nature Rangers by Richard Walker. The plaster of Paris sets rather quickly so I suggest deciding which prints you would like to cast before mixing up the plaster. I let the casts sit for 30 minutes before digging them up to dry indoors.

We currently have our collection displayed in the dining room for all to admire and examine. The large coyote track with defined claws certainly provides the necessary motivation to lock up that coop at night!


sherrieg said...

What a fantastic idea! It's soooo nice to see people respecting and trying to better understand nature, rather than demonizing creatures and being fearful. Well done! I'm going to see if I can get that book from the library right now. :)

Becky said...

We used to collect animal droppings to bring back to our family 'lab.' They always got cooked on cookie sheets in the oven before joining the extensive scat collection. I far prefer your version of animal identification than the method my mother chose. A little more hygenic perhaps? Although I have to say, being the only kid in elementary with a poo collection meant I could get just about any kid to come for a playdate afterschool!

The Wool Fairy said...

Thanks for the nice comments!

It's a great book Sherrie, with lots of other projects and ideas. Our next "to do" item is the bat house, which ties into a certain Halloween obsessed child. Hopefully the library has it for you. I got my copy at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. I'm excited with all the rain this weekend as it will make for some good tracking in the mud.

Becky, your poo story is too funny. I will admit, the boys and I have definitely done some poo disection, though we ususally leave it in the woods. The oven baking idea is very very interesting!! Lots of tiny bones in there to discover (: