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Ancient History

We made pinecone zinnias

Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers. They are in abundance this time of year. We live in a place where we are practically knee-deep in pinecones. Squirrels in conifers literally hurl them at our heads because they have so many.

But what do pinecones and zinnias have to do with each other?

At the beginning of summer break, I found a cool, easy art project that uses pinecones in a novel, zinnia-saluting way. I knew Beatrix would love painting pinecones to look like zinnias, especially if we made a little adventure out of the process.


All summer, we collected pinecones from the places we visited. Usually, we only took one or two. We made sure they were intact, nicely shaped, and the bottoms were smooth and symmetrical. When fall arrived, it was time to squirt crafting paint into pots and get to work.


As predicted, painting the pinecones was easy and a lot of fun. At first, we painted them in solid colors. Then, we got a little wild and made them more multicolored. Things got really out of hand when she painted gold glitter onto some. Real zinnias don’t have glitter, but that’s okay. I love the way they turned out.


The best part is looking at them and thinking of the places we found them, together. It was a great, meaningful project to do with Beatrix. They are arranged artfully in bowls as lovely reminders of our little adventures.



~ Gather pinecones in different sizes

~ Paint them with acrylic craft paint

~ Marvel at how they were too easy to make

~ Wonder what you did wrong

~ You did nothing wrong! Enjoy!


Dork Report #4 ~ Blood Moon Eclipse Tetrad Complete. Level Up.

Last night signaled the end of a four-part project. I had my doubts along the way. We shivered. We yawned. We disturbed neighbors with outlandishly loud gas. In an odd way, I’m proud that most of the kids and I witnessed all four of the eclipsed moons this past year and a half. We found ourselves outside at iffy hours on April 15, 2014. There we were again, nerding out on October 8, 2014. Look at us gaping at the sky on April 18, 2015.

How could we justify missing the final tetrad moon when it rose just after dinner on a Sunday night? No excuses. Not even the lure of watching the Denver Broncos play the Detroit Lions could keep us away. Peyton would do his thing, regardless.


Shortly before 7:00pm MDT, Sam, Tommy, Joel, Beatrix, Archie, and I walked down to the neighborhood lake. The moon was just rising, and our backyard trees would block the view. We needed something more unobstructed. The moon was a beautiful peach color and slightly obscured by the time we set up a little camp on a clear portion of the shoreline. We traded around binoculars for several minutes.


Unfortunately, clouds hovered near and the moon slid behind as they thickened. We did not get to witness the full eclipse, but we dutifully gawked while we could. It was slightly disappointing. We walked home in the dark. As predicted, Peyton was doing his thing just as if nothing was going on in the cosmos other than an advertising executive dreaming up the next Nationwide Is On Your Side commercial.

Tetrad? You were had.


Here are posts from two of the other moon-viewings:

Moon #2: Sheer Lunacy: Getting Up With Children to Watch an Eclipse

Moon #3: Tetradical ~ Geek Out in the Yard #3

It’s time to shine, anthocyanins!

Let’s do this, xanthophyll! The chemistry behind fall’s gorgeous display of colors is fascinating and complex. The unique chemical composition of differing tree species, coupled with environmental conditions, determines if a tree will turn red, orange, yellow, purple, or brown. Chlorophyll, which makes leaves green in summer, begins to wane. This allows the color chemicals to ramp up production.

If only the colors changed because a giant invisible squirrel fairy’s paint pots were knocked over by her lush, proud tail.

Or, maybe an Owl King’s pizza party got severely out of hand? Some marinara there, some roma tomatoes there, golden crust here, some spicy brown sausage yonder. What a charming mess.

Here in Colorado, our leaves are predominantly yellow in the fall. The mountains are carpeted with aspen trees, light on the anthocyanins. Perhaps their color mirrors the gold still buried deep, deep down? It’s so bright, it wheezes up through granite and marble and rhodochrosite.

I want to press the owl’s pizza between sheets of waxed paper. I want to dab a brush into my backyard aspens and paint a golden scene.

How can the beginning of the end of the year feel so fresh?

Teddy, who is in kindergarten, is learning about seasons. Yesterday, he was surprised he didn’t wake to a red, orange, and yellow world. He learned in fall, the leaves change. Teddy has demonstrated this remarkable fact through paintings, coloring, and breathless descriptions of how he’s so gonna jump in all those orange and red leafs!

He’s newly five and never gave much thought to the changes we see throughout the year. He was certain these things happen in an instant. BOOM. Fall. I had to explain it takes time, but that means we will get to have more fun. Every day on the drive to school, the trees we see are less green, more yellow or orange. Look.


Nature gets to show itself the door. Trust it to be beautiful, always and in its own time. When winter comes, you’ll be able to recognize the beauty in the clacking bones, the cold, the silence, the hard ground that houses a seed or thousand.