Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We Love Riddles

In the past month or so we have been playing with riddles. Lots and lots of them. We have found some great riddle books, shared riddles with friends, and talked and wondered and tried to figure out many, many riddles. I have enjoyed playing with riddles because I get a different look at things in our world and the various meanings words can have. In our case, riddles also lead to some very interesting conversations.

Below are our favorite riddle books from the library::

Riddle Me This! by Hugh Lupton 1
Monica Beisner's Book of Riddles by.... Monica Beisner 2
Eight Ate - A Feast of Homonym Riddles by Marvin Terban 3

Here are some great ones (numbers indicate which book the riddles are from)...

What sits in a corner and travels around the world? 1
What is it: Has a mouth and does not speak, Has a bed and does not sleep? 2
What is it? It stands on one leg with its heart in its head. 2
What coins can detect odors? 3

The answers are below, so don't scroll down if you want to figure them out on your own first :)

And the answer to the last riddle:  Cents sense scents.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Nets

We bought two new butterfly nets at the store the other day. We were picking up some bird seed and I grabbed them impulsively and took them to the register. I asked how much they were and the cashier said $1.79. Before I could respond, she said 'no, they are $1.00 each'. Ok, I'll take 'em!

They have been used every day so far. One minute the kids will be on the trampoline and the next minute they will be running after something with their nets. The excitement and enthusiasm is contagious as I grab my camera and run after them. I do worry about fragile insect wings being damaged in the nets, but so far everything that has been caught has been examined carefully and released safely.

A great place to use them is at a nearby (very small) canal. Yesterday we found lots of small frogs at the water's edge, and dragonflies and butterflies flying above the water. We caught what I think was a green darner dragonfly and also a western gomphid dragonfly (photo of gomphid below). For an amazing photo series of a dragonfly naiad transforming into a mature adult, click here.

The kids also tried to catch butterflies near the canal, including some monarch butterflies that were flitting around, but were unsuccessful. My son took a nice photo of a monarch butterfly that landed just out of reach on a stinging nettles branch hanging over the water. What a great experience it is for us to be able to see these amazing and beautiful creatures up close!

Almond Harvest

It's almond harvest time here - August. The hottest, driest, dustiest time of the year. And folks are harvesting almonds (that's 'amons' out here in nut country). Back when I was a teenager we used to use rubber mallots and bamboo poles to 'knock' the trees. We laid out canvas tarps under the trees first, whacked the trunk with the rubber mallots, hit the higher branches with the bamboo poles and all the leaves, nuts (hulls, shells and all), sticks, branches, and earwigs would fall down onto us and onto the tarp. Once we were done with the tree we would shake the nuts to the center of the tarp, pull out the sticks and branches and then shovel the nuts into burlap sacks. It wouldn't be almond harvest if it wasn't over 100 F.

Fast forward 30 years....We had a chance last week to go see the kids' dad harvesting almonds in one of the nearby orchards. He was using a mechanical shaker that shakes the tree at the trunk.

Once the nuts fall, they are raked into long lines between the trees. Then they drive a tractor over the lines of nuts. The tractor pulls a blue implement with a conveyer belt which scoops up the almonds and pours them into a red bin, also being pulled by the tractor. Once the bin is full, the tractor backs up to a large truck to empty the almonds. The bin can be lifted hydraulically using the tractor controls.

Above is a photo of my daughter watching the tractor, with both implements attached, backing up to empty the almonds into a truck.

Here is a picture of the red bin lifted into the air, pouring the nuts into the truck. My son is on the truck trying to get a good photo of the action! Once the truck is full they will take the nuts to a local processor to be shelled and sorted. We had a few almonds that day and they were so tasty!