Sunday, June 22, 2014

Steer on the Loose

It used to be that I only prevented the girls from running ahead on the trail when we were in black bear territory. Now, I will extend that rule to all trails. 

We walked the Snowden trail at Sky Meadows last week and we deliberately chose a trail that did not enter the cow pasture because I didn't want to be surrounded by the beasts with my small children. Apparently, though, farm animals can escape their fences. 

Luckily, the park staff and the cattle ranchers reacted quickly and we didn't run into this steer alone. I'm not even sure what I would do if that happened. Hug a tree, perhaps.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Astronomy for Kids with NOVAC at Sky Meadows State Park

I like star parties. I went to my first and second star parties at Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona. I lucked into my third star party hosted by the Shenandoah Astronomical Society when I took the girls camping over spring break at Shenandoah River (Andy Guest) State Park.

By my fourth star party, I knew to bring a headlamp with a red light mode so as not to ruin my night vision with white light. I knew to bring a jacket for the cool night air and a bottle of coffee for the drive home.

Star party #4, hosted by the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, was the largest I've seen. Up to forty astronomers brought their telescopes to set them up during the afternnoon so they would be ready by sunset.

Before sunset we saw the sun through a filtered lens, sunspots, solar flares. An amateur astronomer used beach balls to demonstrate how big our solar system was. 

At night we observed the craters of the moon, Mercury, the bands on Jupiter and its moons, and Saturn with its rings.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Waiting for Paw Paw Fruit at Mason Neck State Park

Two years in a row I have stumbled upon ripe paw paw fruit on Leesylvania State Park's Lee's Woods trail. This morning my 3 year old looked up at the trees near the playground picnic tables at Mason Neck State Park and called my attention to the fruit dangling in a stand of three trees grouped together in a row. She found some early paw paw fruit dangling green on the vine. We will have to keep watch on this fruit as it ripens because the animals will get it immediately if it falls.

Here's some ripe paw paw fruit from August of 2012 that shows what we are looking for: