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‘Get Outside!’ Category

  1. Winter Walk At Indian Lake

    February 29, 2016 by admin

    No need to sit inside all year.  There’s always a way to get outside and explore.

    We are blessed to have a good county park system in our area.  This makes it so much easier to get out and explore all year around.

    Our latest adventure took us to Indian Lake County Park, about a twenty minute drive from our house.admin-ajax.php

    A walk through the winter woods is a great adventure.  Making sure we wore proper clothes, we were comfortable during our long walk.  We were able to explore to our hearts content before turning back and heading for the car.

    Along the way we found animal tracks, a warming cabin which inspired a long talk about planning a camping trip,  cool leaves that had melted into the ice, and this funky fungus!  Much better than staying inside.

    We used the “I’ll follow you.” method of exploring the park to give Bluey the maximum amount of control over exploring this park.  He chose the paths, he made changes in our explore- he was in charge.  And when he was ready to back, we returned to the car.

    With no pre-selected path, we explored the many cross-country skiing paths, and meandered through the woods.  It was a great morning of exploring, creating another great memory, and another place where Bluey says: “Let’s go back there soon.”


  2. Homeschool Snowday

    January 26, 2016 by admin


    One reason to love homeschooling is we get to have a whole new definition of ‘snowday’ ‘holliday’ and ‘vacation.’  Our recent snow means P.E. happens on the hill!  We guarantee that our Bluey gets more moving around time in his day than his public schooled peers.  IMG_3875

  3. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

    January 12, 2016 by admin

    Out 2

    Out 2When the weather outside is frightful, you can still go outside!  Dress warmly and go have fun!

  4. Fire Pit!

    August 2, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1722This TRFamily loves a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace on just about any evening of the year.

    It has been too long since we’ve had a house with a fireplace or property well suited for a fire-pit.  But the wait has finally ended!

    After some quick research on reviews and a few days of best-price hunting, we picked up a very affordable fire-pit from our local chain, Farm&Fleet.

    It required some simple assembly that took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.IMG_1590

    Tip1: Be careful of the size of the bowl you are considering when researching what might work best for you. Your bargain find may have a very small burning surface which doesn’t work out well. We went with a 30 inch fire bowl and couldn’t be happier!

    We are fortunate to have a cement slab “deck” area in our backyard that is perfect for safely positioning a fire-pit. Make sure you consider the placement of your pit carefully and have access to the usual fire safety tools.

    TRDad spent a good amount of time discussing proper fire building with our young Bluey.  TRDad also made sure that Bluey understood that you must respect your fire and use great caution while stoking or minding it.  They gathered up kindling and before long, our first fire was burning bright.

    Tip2: Keep the makings for S’mores tucked away in your pantry.  The ingredients are super cheap and the enjoyment is guaranteed.  You can even find vegetarian marshmallows at most specialty stores and coops.

    A fire-pit is a great addition to a backyard.  But it does require a full commitment to safety.  Your home, neighbors, pets, and children are very susceptible to injury from an unattended fire.  But with the properattention and tools, you’ll enjoy it for years to come!!

  5. Animals In Winter

    January 23, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2739 We don’t let winter keep this TR family indoors.  There are many great, fun things to do outside during the winter: sledding, building snow forts, conducting science experiments, and more!

    A fun adventure we enjoy is to go on a winter hike.  Hiking in the winter is a different experience than going during a warmer season.  For one thing, you have to dress right.

    You might think there are fewer animals to see in winter.  A lot are hibernating and many others migrate.  There aren’t a ton of critters left to observe, right?

    Wrong.  A lot of Animals are still out and about during the winter months, even in the most extreme weather.  You just have to know what to look for.

    IMG_2748We are reminded of one of our favorite illustrated books on this topic: Animals In Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft, Richard G. Van Gelder and Gaetano di Palma.  We’ve been reading this book to our kiddos since they were tiny tots.  The poetic writing and space pen-and-ink drawings beautifully capture the wonder of the wilds in winter.  Our family learned from the start that animals are up to all sorts of activity during the winter.

    We took this knowledge with us on a recent walk at the Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area.  Bluey had been learning about foxes and wanted to try to see some in the wild.  Using this as our motivation, we headed out to a likely habitat.

    IMG_2737Tip: Be prepared when heading out for a inter hike.  Parks and natural areas are sparsely attended in the thick of winter.  Dress warmly, and be careful not to overestimate how far your group can hike.  Remember you have to be able to make it back to the car.  Bring a cell phone.

    Immediately upon stepping out of the car we found a trail of canine footprints that were too large to be a fox.  We guessed they were coyotes which we also knew to frequent that area.  Undeterred in our desire to explore, we followed the coyote pack’s prints through the fresh snow and saw where their path crossed those of squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and deer.IMG_2735

    And it’s not just mammal prints we found.  We saw hawk footprints near a deer carcass, including a great imprint of the bird’s tail feathers as it crouched in the snow.  We’d never seen that before!

    IMG_2736As beautiful as this natural area is, we would never be able to have this adventure if not for the recent snow and cold temperatures.  We were able to enjoy a beautiful hike, see some amazing signs of animal life, and engage in a meaningful discussion about our local wildlife and what these animals might be up to in the winter.

    To top off our discussion of animals that migrate, hibernate or stick around in winter, a large group of Canada Geese passed over us on their migration route as we headed back to our car.

  6. Halfway Prairie

    January 7, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2589In a recent search for a new place to explore, we found ourselves at the Halfway Prairie near Mazomanie, Wisconsin.  We had originally been aiming for Indian Lake Park.  But driving up the street to our original destination, we saw the impressive ruins at Halfway Prairie and decided that we had to go there first.

    Visible from the road is a large, crumbling building, and a smaller building next to it.  This drew us in and we parked our car to explore.IMG_2590_2

    The larger building is mostly a ruin- the windows, roof and wooden parts have long ago rotted away, leaving tall stone walls behind.  Our best guess is that it was a former school, or maybe a church?  We’re not sure.  But it was very cool to explore the outside.  (The building is fenced off for safety purposes.)

    Tip 1:  Hunting is permitted in this wildlife area, so exercise caution if you explore during hunting season!

    The smaller building is locked and boarded up.  It is much smaller and less ornate looking than the other structure, and in better condition.  Perhaps it was a maintenance shed, or a caretaker’s home?

    Several paths flow off from the buildings, heading deep into the prairie beyond.  We enjoyed walking the paths and following some of the remaining fence lines.  At one point, we startled some sleeping deer who took off across the fields towards the wooden area further back.

    Tip 2: Indian Lake Park contains parts of the Ice Age Trail.  Perhaps one day the trail will cut through this wildlife area.

    IMG_2587_2We were quite taken by the quiet serenity of Halfway Prairie.  We’re sure to be back, and we recommend this out-of-the-way park for a day of explore.

  7. Snowtime Bliss

    November 16, 2014 by admin

    IMG_8760Even though the official start of winter is about five weeks out, there is no escaping the joy of the quickly approaching holiday season.

    What makes this time of year even better? Snow, of course!

    We are always surprised by the amount of people that seem to hate snow. They’ll bundle up and have a fabulous time outside while tailgating and watching a football game. But the mere mention of enjoying the snow brings out their bah-humbug.IMG_8751

    Perhaps these TR family’s favorite snowy activities will change your mind:

    1.  An early morning walk in the snow around your neighborhood. Listen to the birds. See the soft grey fade into a pure blue. Know that later in the day, people will think about your foot tracks.

    2.  Check out the footprints you find.  Who do they belong to?   Where do they lead?

    3.  Exhale and wonder at the beauty of seeing your breath.

    4.  Make a snow angel. Seriously. They’re just as awesome now as they were then.

    5.  Grab a handful of snow and throw it up all around you.

    6.  Have a snowball fight.

    7.  Build a snowman.

    8.  Go on a mid afternoon hike and try to identify animal tracks in the snow.

    9.  Get chilly and then come inside for hot cocoa and try popping your own popcorn on the stovetop.

    IMG_8738The snow and cold doesn’t have to be something aggravating that you suffer through all season. Embrace it and explore!

  8. Pewits Nest

    November 9, 2014 by admin

    IMG_8666If you are up for a hike a short drive from the Madison, Wisconsin area, and like quiet secluded places- we must recommend you head for Pewits Nest at some point.

    We recently had a great day exploring this small, natural area near Baraboo.  If you enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors, you’ve probably been to the nearby state park at Devil’s Lake.  But Pewits Nest is much less popular, and therefore much less crowded.   In fact, finding Pewits Nest can be a bit of a trick because there are no signs for it on the road.  You could easily drive right past its unmarked dusty parking lot- so make sure you check your maps carefully so you know where to look.

    Tip: Although less popular than many natural areas, it is still a good idea to arrive early in the day if you want to have the place to yourselves for a bit.  And there are NO public restrooms.

    The trail from the parking lot begins as a wide flat path going through a quiet little forest, but soon the path narrows as rugged cliff sides begin to rise on one side.  Soon enough you are surrounded on three sides by tall cliffs, with a fast but shallow creek running  through the middle.

    It was simply beautiful.

    With no trail map available, we went into exploring mode and followed the trails as far as they seemed to go.  We enjoyed rock hopping in the creek and tried to find a trail to the waterfall, which we could just barely see through an opening in the cliffs.  We found ample signs of wild animals and saw many beautiul trees and native plants.IMG_8690

    We left with a firm desire to go back and explore further- even our dog thought this place was the bees knees as she channeled her inner puppy, keen to check out each nook and cranny.

    Tip 2:  Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.  All plants and animals in Pewits Nest are protected- so leave them alone!

    On the way out, we met a truly interesting group of people in the parking lot- but we’ll share that story another day.

  9. Prepare For The Weather

    October 19, 2014 by admin

    Ah, Fall!  We love this season with its changing colors, shifting daylight and different weather every day.  Or even during the same day!

    One of the tricks about having fun outdoors is that you have to dress properly.  Warm sweatshirts, windbreakers, wellies– you’ll need all of these to have a happy IMG_8446time outside during the midwest autumn.

    With the weather’s active changes during the day, you need to think flexibly about your and your family’s clothes.  Layers of clothing allow you to add or subtract as needed.  A little bit of exercise outside can quickly warm you up and have you wishing you weren’t wearing a heavy coat (don’t worry- winter is coming, you’ll need that heavy coat soon enough).

    We find that gloves and hats are best brought along on almost all outdoor adventures.  We typically carry several pairs of gloves or mittens in the car to help with sudden temperature drops and wind gusts.

    Dressing properly, and being prepared to add or remove layers makes all the difference between having warm outdoor fun in the fall, or complaining that you are cold and need to go inside.

  10. Family Gardening

    May 11, 2014 by admin

    When seeking out fun activities for the family, we regularly check in with the happenings at our local colleges and universities.  You never know what you might get to see or do.IMG_5788

    We recently had the best day attending the University of Wisconsin Family Gardening Day!

    Hosted by the Science Outreach Department, Family Gardening Day is held at the D.C. Smith Greenhouse, the Allen Centennial Gardens and the Steenbock Library.  Each location set up a few booths to help educate people about gardening, talk to some experts, and allow you to get your hands in some dirt!

    We had a great time.  We got to look through a powerful microscope at tiny little garden bugs.  We taste tested different varieties of carrots and we took home seeds from the seed library.

    But our favorite parts were all the plant give-aways!

    IMG_5782We made small terrariums complete with live plants, constructed living necklaces that will grow to become bean plants, and took home a ‘spaghetti garden’- a set of tomato, pepper, oregano and basil plants to plan and harvest this summer. All for free thanks to the generosity of the event planners.

    If you live near Madison, keep your eye on the UW for their next fun happening.  No matter where you live, remember to check out your local college or university for fun activities for you and your family!