Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Some Useful Tips When Camping with Kids

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Notice the small sturdy lamp on the
deck. It has a nightlight.

            My family didn’t start right off with a month-long camping excursion. Not with five kids in tow. Nor did we have all the camping gear we have now when we started. We began camping with the kids on short camp trips to get them ready for longer excursions. And we camped locally first in case the kids really, really, really didn’t like sleeping in an old canvas tent trailer.  

            If you search the tabs at the top of this blog, you’ll find many tips for camping with kids. While I provide some information about camping equipment and how to begin camping with kids in a post entitled “Is Camping Gear on Your Christmas List,” I wanted to talk about a few things parents might not think about when starting to camp with children. 

            One of the most important things we realized with young kids camping was how they didn’t like to pee in the woods and they didn’t like the port-a-john booths. They wanted “a real toilet,” they said. “You know, Mom, the ones with water in them.”

            “So who doesn’t,” I told them. “Think of it as an adventure.”

They didn’t want that kind of adventure. They were convinced that a snake or bear would get them.

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This is like what we have, a Century
6210 5-Gallon Portable Toilet. It’s
currently out of stock on Amazon. 
So while I was able to get the kids to use the trees to pee when we hiked, if necessary, giving them a bag to put their used toilet paper trash in, we did buy a free-standing port-a-potty that sat on the camper floor. We kept it simple; two plastic tanks, one for clean water and one for waste water. They were connected in the middle with an open shut valve. You pump a little clean water into the toilet bowel, use it, and then open the valve to allow the waste to fall into the bottom tank while flush/pumping some clean water into the bowel. Then you close the valve. There is a gage that turns red when the waste water tank is full.  

The toilet tanks are self-contained and come apart, so you can dispose of the waste water tank at appropriate waste stations at the campground or wait until you return home—if you aren’t far and the potty is not full—to dump the waste into your own toilet. We cleaned the waste water out after a day or two but always before we traveled to another campground or back home because we covered longer distances. We only used the potty at night or when there were no flush toilets available.

We bought our potty years ago, but when I looked online, I found two styles that are like ours and aren’t too expensive, the Dometic 2.6 gallon portable toilet and the XIMENG Portable Toilet. Both sit on the ground. You can find more information about camping potties here.   

Another thing parents should be aware of is that it is usually very dark at campgrounds. If you have electricity available, bring a small nightlight to plug into an outlet in a camp trailer if you’re using one or a small sturdy lamp that can sit flat on the ground and has a low light to leave on during the night in a tent.

If you do not have any electricity available at your campsite, simply provide each child with a personal flashlight. Small flashlights seem to be available at most stores. You should narrow down the choices, as in brightness, size, LED, etc., and let the kids choose their own color or style from the approved selections. My kids had fun with this step. With five kids, they chose the slender, push-button lights in a rainbow of colors. Only give the kids the flashlights at nighttime. Store them away during the day.

Children usually feel more in charge of any situation at night if they can choose to turn on a flashlight when necessary. The important thing to tell the kids is to keep the flashlight pointing down at the ground when they turn it on at night. Explain how their eyes get used to the darkness, and they could temporarily blind someone with the brightness of their lights.

Of course, the kids will take longer to settle down at night if they have flashlights, no matter how much hiking you did that day. At least ours did. From flashlight beam tag to shadow shows on the ceiling of the tent, our kids entertained themselves—and kept my husband and I up—for hours when they were supposed to be going to sleep. With five kids, it got to look like the search lights of old Hollywood premiers in the tent. Oh, and the kids can find your bunk in the middle of the night to ask if you heard that owl or those tree frogs. And many times, they don’t have that “only flash the light on the ground” concept down pat. So be ready!  

            I hope you found these little tidbits helpful about camping with kids. Please share any experiences you may have about camping out with children in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It would be truly appreciated. Enjoy your spring! 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California


            What do you do when you get nervous? When I get nervous, I laugh. A lot! And my whole family knows it. They also know that I’m a bit nervous around sheer heights—especially with my five children in tow. Now I can climb a mountain with the best of them. Through a forest, along a rocky trail. Surrounded by trees. Or at least huge boulders to hem you in. On the East Coast of the U.S., most times when you hike the mountain trails, you feel pretty much protected. Oh, we’ve scrambled up boulders in our mountain climbing on the East Coast. But it’s not as frightening as out west where there appear to be more cliff ledges—with limited railings and way too much open air space to be swept off the edges. Hence all my giggles when we visited the Sequoia National Park and Moro Rock in California.  
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We were camping at Dorst Creek Campground inside the national park area and the children heard the park rangers’ talk about a stunning valley view that was only a half mile hike, roundtrip, from the parking lot in the Giant Forest area. Now my kids know they can entice me to do almost anything when there is a “stunning valley view” attached. 

            “Mom,” our oldest daughter opened her argument. “We can’t come all the way across the continental United States and not see this view.”
            “It’s above the Sequoias,” the twins added.
            “It’s the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mom,” our second daughter, Miss Know-It-All, said. “And Moro Rock is made out of granite.”
            I looked at my husband. He wore a big smile. “I’m convinced, guys,” I said. “Let’s go!”
           
            On the way to the trail parking lot, my son shared the fact he remembered.

            “Mom, we’ll be able to see the Great Western Divide mountain peaks up there.”

            The Great Western Divide? Mountains and valleys? Everything’s taller out west, I thought. My breathing increased, and I wasn’t even out of the van yet. The kids did say it was a short hike, Vic, I reasoned. Calm down.

            Oh, it was a short distance compared to other hikes we’ve taken. But it was almost straight up! Moro Rock rises 6,725 feet above sea level, according to the information literature. We only had to climb the last 300 feet of that elevation. It was enough!  

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Death grip on railing!
            As we climbed up the staircase, there was nothing but air on either side of us in some places. My laughter filled that empty space. The children went first. I wanted them where I could see them. In some places, the trail was so narrow that only one hiker could climb the section at a time. And while it was incredible to be above the mighty sequoia trees, I couldn’t help wishing there was something a little more solid holding us onto the dome rock besides gravity. While my children scrambled up the trail almost hands free, I stared at the rock under my feet and clung to the warm metal poles hammered into this granite dome wherever I found them.

            The websites I provide here offer much information about Moro Rock, both its geological history and present conditions and the surrounding national park area and Dorst Campground. The view is definitely worth the short climb if you are in the area. However, just be aware of the open space and grand heights. Please keep an eye on your children here. To me, it looks very easy to slip off that cliff.

            Spring is finally here in New Jersey. Why not start planning your family summer adventure? Oh, and please feel free to share whatever makes you nervous in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. I won’t tell anyone! Enjoy your spring holidays!  


Friday, March 1, 2019

Seeking Slick Snow for Sledding


            Yes, the Lees family is a little bit odd. We actually like snow. We even enjoyed snow in July in the Colorado Rockies! Our enjoyment of snow is probably because we live in New Jersey and don’t get a lot of it. Therefore, we seek out places where snow can be found. Like the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. It’s just a few hours’ drive from our home to find a great sledding hill and a house to rent for a weekend visit.  
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The Lees crew is ready to go sledding!

            Snow is actually one of the beauties of winter. It’s one of the things that make winter so much fun. With five children, it’s tough to afford skiing for the entire family. Besides, not all of us want to go skiing. We’re at different ability levels for sure. It is intimidating barreling down the mountainside by yourself on skis. Instead we grab a sled and head for the hills.

            While there are many places to pay for sledding in the Pocono Mountains, Camelback and Split Rock are just two, the Lees crew tries to seek out the less expensive, less crowded, and quieter type of sledding hills. We rent a home in the Arrowhead Lakes area of the Pocono Mountains and tote our own sleds and tubes to the bottom of an old ski slope with other residents of the area to enjoy an afternoon of sledding. True, we need to lug our own sleds back up the hill, but everyone is respectful of others and cautious of the children.

           
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An old ski run makes a great place for sledding.
We all take turns barreling down the steep hill so as not to crash into each other. The hill is wide and has a flat lip at the top where we can set up our sleds. The children like to sled down the hill trying to hold hands, five abreast. Their sled train usually falls apart about halfway down the slope. They either pull each other off the sled or lose mittens to their siblings as their grips slip apart. It’s hilarious.

            Everyone using the sledding hill knows to get off the hill as soon as possible, especially if they wipe out mid slope. They simply grab their sleds and trudge to the side of the slope where people climb up. My family has a contest to see who goes the farthest at the bottom of the hill, where it levels off. We all try to make it to the baseball field. It’s not really fair, of course, because my husband and I are the heaviest, so we go the furthest.    

            You don’t need to own ice skates to be able to enjoy a frozen pond. My family enjoys slipping on the ice. We can spend hours trying, once again, to see who can slide the farthest on the ice. Our son and the twins discovered that if they use their backsides to slide on instead of their feet, they usually go farther.  
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Slipping on the ice at Lake
Arrowhead in the Poconos. 

            It’s very important that you make sure the ice is frozen. You can do this by asking the residents how long the temperature has been below freezing, or simply check the weather reports. You also want to look at the ice and take a few tentative steps on the ice along the edge of the pond. It’s always best to have the heaviest member of the family do this. For safety’s sake, we usually stay close to shore and not venture out to the middle of the pond or lake. Never allow children to walk or play on ice when no one is with them. Just like hiking, winter fun is always best to enjoy with others.

            Spring will be here before you know it. So be safe and have some fun with your family in the snow and cold temperatures, if you’re lucky enough to have any. Please feel free to share any wintertime adventures you’ve enjoyed in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It would truly be appreciated. Enjoy the approach of spring!



Friday, February 1, 2019

Simple Pine Tree I.D. Using Needles and Cones


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I thought we could return to a little tree identification here at Camping with Five Kids. Let’s talk about the conifers. Conifer is Latin for cone-bearing tree. They are the pine cone trees, the evergreens. My family and I have seen many kinds hiking through forests on our camping trips. We even collected a few pine cones along the way. But how do you tell one pine tree from another? There are hundreds of conifers. This post will focus on a few of the needle-type.  

Once again, we took a walk around town to gather a few photos for the blog. We love the way the pines dance in the wind, the way the delicate white snowflakes catch in their deep green boughs.

Let’s start with the needles. The needles of a conifer tree are its leaves. And because a pine needle is waxy and thick for a leaf, it can sustain winter temperatures. Conifers do not need to shed their pine needles in autumn to protect the tree from the cold. You can find an explanation of this in my November 2018 post, “How Do Leaves Change in Autumn?” 

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Balsam Christmas
            tree
The short needle trees are the balsam and Douglas fir trees we decorate for Christmas. These fir trees have flat needles as opposed to the spindly, round longer needles of the red and white pines. Fir needles grow individually on the branch and look green on top and bluish on the bottom. Blue spruce trees need the cold to grow. They don’t grow natively in New Jersey. We saw them out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. 

Just like the oak trees I spoke about in my December 2018 post on identifying deciduous [leaf-bearing] trees at Camping with Five Kids, there are two main groups of long-needle pines; White Pines and Red Pines. The long-needled pines have clusters of pine needles growing on the branch. If you count the needles growing in the clusters, you can discover which tree family they belong to.
White Pines have 5 long needles in a cluster. W-h-i-t-e, 5 letters; 5 pine needles.
Red Pines have 3 long needles in a cluster. R-e-d, 3 letters; 3 pine needles.

Eastern white pines are what we have here on the east coast of the United States. These dark green needles are pliable and round.
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White pine needles and cones
The big thing to remember for identifying Eastern White Pine is to look at the branches:
Do they grow in a circle, like a hoop skirt? A line of branches; space, then another line of branches; space, then another line of branches. It’s called branches in a whorl. The Eastern White Pine has an open, irregular crown, or top, and holds the title of the tallest native conifer of northeastern United States.

The red pine needles are also dark green, but they’re stiff and inflexible. Some species sport clusters of two needles. A Virginia pine is in this class. Red pines have a single trunk that supports a symmetrical, dense and oval crown with up curved branches. 
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Virginia red pine needles

We found some Norway spruce growing in our neighborhood. To remember the Norway spruce; think “swamp thing.” The branches blow in the wind. I decided to demonstrate for the children what I meant. I loosely hung my arms from my shoulders and twisted back and forth, to let my hanging arms flop about. The kids thought it was funny. I worried that the neighbors were looking out their windows saying; “What’s that crazy lady doing now?” 
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Norway spruce, hang-y pine boughs

Let’s look at some pine cones. Remember how in my last post about trees I explained that the fruit of a tree is its seeds? How do you tell one pine cone from another?  

The Douglas fir tree has a unique pine cone in that it looks like it has little paper tickets sticking out of it. I share a native story about the sly fox and the tiny mouse as well as some western Douglas fir tree facts learned from a park ranger at Olympic National Park in my post “A Rain Forest in the UnitedStates? Are You Crazy, Mom?”  
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Douglas Fir cones

But if you’re looking for dramatic differences in the size of pine cones, look no farther than the western part of the United States. While east coast pines can grow to about 75 and 80 feet tall, we found taller and bigger pines out west. We saw the “giants” of California—the sequoias and the redwoods. You can read of our adventures at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks here and of our Redwood National and State Parks here

            We learn much from our park ranger hikes and talks. This post is only a summary.
In comparison, the Redwood is the tallest living thing, towering over 300 feet high. The sequoia is the largest living thing in the world. The interesting thing is these mighty giants have no deep taproot like most of the deciduous trees; no root that penetrates straight down into the earth to secure these massive beasts. Most pine trees don’t have tap roots, we discovered. Instead, the redwoods and sequoias have roots that travel beneath the soil for miles in all directions. Impervious to fires and insects because of their thick bark, these giants usually die by toppling because of a lack of tap root. 
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Redwood, Sequoia, bear claw, Sugar Pine

The sequoia reproduces only through seeds in their cones. And the cones only open when the heat from a forest fire reaches the cones which are hundreds of feet up. The sequoia cone is the size of a chicken egg.

The redwood reproduces from seeds in its tiny, 2-inch cone. However, the redwood can also reproduce by becoming a “mother log” when it topples. The toppled tree sprouts new growth from burls, roots, even cut stumps.

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California Sugar Pine tree
It's the Sugar Pine out in California that has the huge pine cone in my photo. While the sugar pine is towering, it's not as massive as the sequoia or redwood tree. 

I don’t pretend to be an expert naturalist. This is only a quick overview of what my family has learned about conifer trees on our many adventures camping with kids. Here is a good short post on the difference of pine needles

I hope you’ve learned something new by reading this post. Please feel free to share any knowledge you may have about nature or pine trees here at Camping with Five Kids. It would truly be appreciated. Enjoy your weekend!



Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Christmas in July


            I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with family and friends. And may your 2019 be full of health and happiness.

My Christmas was indeed filled with family and friends. We are truly blessed! While we were enjoying many tasty homemade treats, the children asked for a camping story from our many adventures. As I thought about which one to tell, my eye caught the Santa doll by our tree.  The interesting things about family camping are the surprises you find along the way, if not on the trail, then at camp.
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Christmastime at our home


It was July, our usual camping time, and we were visiting the Appalachian Trail and some New Jersey State Parks and forests
  
The children were younger on this particular trip. And when we came back from a short hike, whom did we find at camp? Santa Claus. He wore shorts and a white t-shirt with his boots and Santa hat. The children’s eyes were taller than the trees. They searched for his sleigh. But he explained that he uses his hay wagon in summer. Suddenly, the children became wary. They peppered him with questions. [They are definitely MY children!]

“Why are you using horses to pull the wagon instead of your reindeer?” Our son asked.
“Well you see,” Santa explained. “My reindeer think it’s too hot to come so far south.”

Okay, so the children thought about this.

“Can your wagon fly through the air, too?” Our oldest daughter asked.
 “Well actually,” Santa began, “only my reindeer can fly. And since they refused to come along on this trip, the wagon is grounded.”

Our children became quiet, an unusual state for them. Santa still had helpers all around him. There was even a Christmas tree under the pavilion at camp. 
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One of the twins visits Santa


My children weren’t the only ones at camp who had questions. Another young camper asked how Santa got here if the wagon didn’t fly. Santa explained that he needed to fly the traditional way, by airplane to New Jersey for this trip. But he did bring along a few small gifts for those who were good so far this year. All the children quickly lined up! 
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Our son visits with Santa

After Santa visited with the children, he asked if anyone wanted a ride in his summer “Santa” wagon. Suddenly, children of all ages believed and climbed into the wagon for a trip around the campground. It was a great way to end a summer visit from Santa.
  
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Everyone climb in!
Riding in Santa’s summer hay wagon around camp. 
Have you ever visited with Santa at a time other than at Christmas? Please share your experience here at Camping with Five Kids. It would truly be appreciated. May your New Year be full of adventure!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Simple Tree I.D. Using Leaves and Seeds

            The children and I are always looking for easy ways to remember which tree is which. Much to the children’s dismay, it’s not always so simple. The first thing we learned was that the seeds of a tree are called its fruit. Some seeds seem like they have parachutes, think of the fluffy “wishies” that float in the air. Think of the sycamore tree as having a brown wishie. Some seeds have blades like sailboats and catch the wind, twirling effortlessly to the ground. Think of the maples and Tulip Poplar. And then there are the nut seeds like the oaks.

I’m using some photos from our walk around the neighborhood, looking at the trees to help clarify the information we are sharing. After our walk, we went home and researched further online or in our tree and nature books to learn more about the trees. This post is a summary of what we learned.

         
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American Sweet Gum Tree
  
The American Sweet Gum tree is the star tree with the spiky balls as my children calls it. Many children identify trees by describing their leaves and seeds. This is a great way to have children pay attention to detail. Have the children look around the base of the tree or even up into the tree for clues as to its identity.   
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Sweet Gum leaves and seed pods

            We found out that the Sweet Gum is among the last trees to leaf out in the spring and among last trees to drop leaves in fall. It has deeply-lobed, star-shaped leaves. The seeds for this tree burst out of the pods. You’ll notice in my photo the green pods are closed. Once the seeds explode out, the pod has open portals and turns brown. We found both kinds of pods on the ground.  

          
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Sycamore Tree 
 
The Sycamore tree is the easiest one for my children to identify by the trunk of the tree. The sycamore is the peely-barked tree. In other words, the tree sheds its bark. A sycamore can be called a buttonwood tree. It is a North American plane tree with broad leaves measuring almost six inches and has three to five lobes. The seeds are tightly packed in a soft hairy ball that blows apart in strong wind. Think of tawny wishies here. It’s not a woody ball like the sweet gum. 
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Sycamore seed 

American Sycamores have smooth, whitish bark, which peels off in large flakes. Splotches, where bark has peeled off, can be brown, green, or gray. These trees grow near rivers, streams, or lakes. They need moist, but well-drained ground.  

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Tulip Poplar Tree leaves
The Tulip Poplar tree is the cat face leaf tree. If you look at the leaf of this tree, it looks like a cat face. The leaves have four points on them. They have winged seeds, like little helicopter blades, but we couldn’t find any on the ground. I use an internet picture here. This fruit [or seeds] is a cone two to three inches long, made of a great number of thin narrow scales attached to a common axis. Each cone contains sixty or seventy of these scales, of which only a few are productive.
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Tulip Poplar seeds

Tulip trees are large and grow to a great height. On an average, these trees grow up to 80-100 feet tall. The tallest tulip tree found on the Earth is about 200 feet tall. A distinguishing characteristic feature of this tree is its very straight bark. The bottom branches of the tulip tree start nearly 70 to 80 feet from the ground. But the children and I still use the cat-faced leaf to identify this tree.

The Ginkgo tree is an odd tree. The little golden leaves are shaped like a fan. These trees can live as long as 3,000 years, we’ve read online, and have both a male and a female tree. Since the female trees can smell a little, so the information says, the trees we found in the neighborhood are most likely male.
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Ginkgo Tree Leaves in Autumn 


A fascinating fact we found about the ginkgo tree is that it is a living fossil. The earliest leaf fossils are dated from 270 million years ago. It was rediscovered in 1691 in China and then brought over to our country in the late 1700s. The seeds and leaves are still used in medicine throughout the world. [Info from https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=1092

            *A great place to find tree information is the Arbor Day Organization.* 

I could go on and on, but I’ll finish with a few facts about maples and oaks. There are over 100 species of Maple trees. Maples have sweet sap and double-winged “helicopter” seeds or fruit. The leaves are varied in sizes, but maple leaves have 3 major pointed sections with tiny, stout lower sections by the stem of the leaf. Here are a few that we saw on our walk. 
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Silver Maple Leaves
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Sugar Maple Leaves 

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Small Maple Leaves called Swamp Maple

As for the Oak trees, there are approximately 600 existing species of oaks. But for my children’s purposes, we researched the two main groups:  
The pointy-tipped Pin Oak are the red oak leaf trees. The red oak trees have the points on their leaves. I told my children to remember r-e-d, 3 letters for pointy p-i-n, 3 letters oak leaves. 
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Pointy leaf Red Pin Oak Tree

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Rounded finger White Oak Tree leaves
The rounded finger oak leaves are the white oak trees.  Again, I told my children to remember w-h-i-t-e, 5 letters for the r-o-u-n-d, 5 letters finger oak leaves. 

But red oak or white, all oak leaves have the same amount of lobes or teeth, about eight. And all oak trees bear the acorn as fruit.

The leaves from the Red Oak Group have pointed lobes:
Black oak
Pin oak
Red oak
Sawtooth oak
Scarlet oak
Shingle oak
Shumard oak

Leaves from the White Oak Group have the rounded lobes:
Bur oak
Chestnut oak
Chinquapin oak
English oak
Swamp White oak
White oak

I hope you’ve learned something new by reading this post. Please feel free to share any knowledge you may have about nature or trees here at Camping with Five Kids. It would truly be appreciated. Enjoy your Holiday!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How Do Leaves Change in Autumn?


            One of the twins asked me how leaves change in autumn. Instead of saying, “I don’t know,” which I didn’t. I said, “Let’s find out together.” True, my kids groan when I say this. But I think it’s part of a parent’s job. I truly believe that parents are their children’s first teachers—in many ways.

            So back to how leaves change color in autumn. Please understand that I am not a science major. I started as I usually do when asked a nature science question by my children. I turn to the United States National Parks Service. We learn so much from the park rangers when we camp with five kids at national parks.

This time I used the Department of Agriculture Forest Service site. So this post is a summary of what we learned from national and state forest services and my tree books:
            Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees and Shrubs by William M. Harlow, Ph.D.
            A Field Guide to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey by Howard P. Boyd.    
           
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            You may know that the deciduous trees—the trees with leaves—are the trees that change color in autumn, and only those leaf-bearing trees in the temperate zones change. The temperate zones are found about 30 degrees above Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere to about 60 degrees near the top of Canada, and the same degrees in the southern hemisphere, south of the Tropic of Capricorn to about 60 degrees near the edge of Antarctica. 

            The key to leaves changing is the growing length of night in autumn.

            Here’s a little chemistry:
Chlorophyll gives leaves their basic green color and is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food. What we learned was that there is a second chemical present in the leaves throughout their growing season [spring and summer]: Carotenoids. Carotenoids produce the yellow, orange, and brown colors in plants.
           
A third chemical appears in the leaves during autumn. Anthocyanins offer the red and purple colors to leaves and plants.
           
Now, during the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As the night lengthens in autumn, the chlorophyll production slows down and then stops and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed.

            The carotenoids [the yellow and orange] and anthocyanins [the red and purple] that are present in the leaf are then unmasked and show their colors.

“Ta-da!” I told the kids. I thought it was fascinating. I thought it answered all their questions.

            Nope!

            “But Mom,” our son asked, “what makes the leaf fall off?”

            Back to the books and websites. I found more science.

            Since the daylight fades faster in autumn and the night lengthens, the veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaf gradually close off. A layer of cells forms at the base of each leaf. The clogged veins trap sugars in the leaf and promote production of the anthocyanins, the red and purple colors. When most of the green is gone from leaves, the leaf is ready to fall.
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            I thought this would be enough. Not for my kids.

“It’s cold in the winter,” the other twin said. She’s my fellow tree-hugger. “Wouldn’t the tree be warmer with its leaves on?

More reading steered us to this:

            Leaves are too tender to withstand a freezing winter. The trees have protection for the thicker stems, twigs, and buds to survive extreme cold. Therefore, the trees must release their leaves so we can crunch through them, I told the kids.

            Done!

            Nope. 

            “But what about the pine trees,” our oldest asked. “Do they lose their needles in autumn?”

            *Who taught these kids to ask so many questions?*

            The evergreens or conifers keep their needle-leaves. The pine needles are covered with a heavy wax coating and the fluid inside their cells contains substances that resist freezing.

“But why do we find brown needles on the ground around pine trees in the forest,” our brainiac wanted to know.

I should have studied science instead of English. But I was curious, too.

We discovered that evergreen needles survive for some years but eventually fall off because of old age—not seasonally for autumn. That’s why you can find brown pine needles on the ground or a few on the tree. It’s not seasonal, it’s old age.

            The leaves of broad-leafed plants are thin and vulnerable to damage. These leaves are not protected by any thick coverings. The fluid in the cells of these leaves is usually a thin, watery sap that freezes easily.
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            After our science lesson—which took over a week to learn everything—the five kids grabbed some bags and we took a walk in the woods near our home to gather leaves and talk about trees.

Maybe I’ll share what we’ve learned about tree species next time. This is just a summary of what we’ve learned about how and why tree leaves change color and fall off in autumn. I hope you’ve learned something new. Please feel free to share any knowledge you may have about nature, autumn, or trees here at Camping with Five Kids. It would truly be appreciated. Enjoy your seasons!