What: Painted fallen leaves, arranged on the wall.
How: We collected fallen leaves from one of the local plane trees, choosing a range of sizes but mostly “the big ones”. Then I gave Kid 4 and Kid 2 each a paintbrush and a plastic takeaway container lid with some dobs of acrylic paint on it, and let them go for it. They mixed some colours on the tray, and others directly onto the leaf. I painted a few as well to get a bit of variety in colour and style. Once they were dry, we arranged them on the wall as if the wind was blowing them along. Kid 4 helped me with the sticking and enjoyed getting up on the stepladder to do it. So there were two activities here.
Note to people in other climates: here, leaves fall in winter – if they fall at all in this evergreen land. It just doesn’t get cold enough before then. So this for us is very much a winter activity. We also don’t get much of what people talk of as autumn colours – again, because even in winter it’s not cold enough to trigger the colour change in most of those trees that are famous for it. So painted leaves can be as close as we get, even if the colours are unusually fantastic.
Extras: Talking about the seasons with the kids is something I have to do every autumn and winter – they are barraged with the cultural ideas of “fall” and “autumn leaves” and it’s not always obvious to them that the autumn they experience isn’t like that at all. Though as they get older they’re noticing it more. Our autumns – and indeed, much of our winters – means bright, bright flowers against brilliant hotly blue skies. Bougainvillea, trumpet vine, poinsettia, plumbago, umbrella tree – oranges, reds, corals, pinks, scarlets, light blues, purples all so vibrant. Autumn is also the time when the eucalyptus trees lose their bark and show their trunks in an amazing range of colours. So going on a colour hunt is something we should try doing (though now that it’s winter it’s too late for the tree bark!). There are other things to try with plane tree leaves too. This year we’re making a picture with the plane tree leaves, and I’ll put that up as a separate post once we’ve done it.
Winter is Coming
written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
About: One autumn a girl goes into the wood, day by day, with her notebook and pencils. She climbs up on a platform in a tree and sits there quietly, watching, listening, drawing and writing what she sees and hears. Slowly the season changes, the animals come and go, they prepare for the cold. Winter is coming. Then one day the snow falls, and winter is here. I love the way seasonal change is described, how the skills of nature observation are blended into the story, the detailed observations of animals. I haven’t bought this one for ourselves, because it’s very North American – the animals that visit, the snow and cold and frost, all things we just don’t see where we live. I’ve been tempted though because it is so good at describing the nature observation, the patience, the stillness and listening and watching, the tracking of changes over time. Anyone who’s learnt about “sit spots” will resonate with this book.
Nature observation skills
Animals and behaviour observed and described in detail
What: Marking the autumn equinox by prepping the rain gear.
More details: In Perth, where I live, there’s almost no rain from November to the autumn equinox in March. Spring is long and warm, summer is long and hot. The first rains after the autumn equinox is an important local change of seasons for us, it’s the end of heatwave season and the end of endurance. And it’s the beginning of puddles! So we always mark the autumn equinox by going over the rain gear. Everyone has to have a working umbrella and gum boots that fit and don’t leak. Raincoats are awesome too, though we don’t do those every year. Two or three years ago the first rains were on the equinox, the year before that they were the first day of April, this year they were on Easter Saturday, the last Saturday in March. So usually if I’m getting organised around the equinox it mostly works out, timing-wise, for us to have our gear ready when the puddles arrive. Kid 6 this year spent a lot of time asking if it was the equinox yet.
This year I knew our current kid-sized umbrellas were broken so I picked two up as souvenir presents on a recent trip. They change colour when wet which has provoked some discussion as to *how*. Other years we’ve looked online at umbrella stores and hunted for favourite animals and styles, or searched for boots that match a current umbrella. Gum boots usually come from wherever we come across them – I tend not to buy them online due to needing to size them well, though I have at least once. Mostly that’s camping stores or discount clothing stores, once an agricultural supply store, it really depends. Because the heatwaves only finish with the first rains, a lot of stores here don’t get raincoats and gumboots in “until it’s cooled down”, which is usually after the puddles arrive. So I get them where I find them.