Simms Bayou Nature Center, January Captured


“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu

Catching Up. It’s Been a While.

I don’t know how you all brought in the New Year, but this is the beauty that rang in mine.

Still Waking Up

So precious.

A yawning baby is fitting for my first day this year, being that 2015 will be the Year of the Slow Down. I started by merging two blogs to minimize my time on-line — DirtNKids will now host content from GreensForGood, my vegan blog. As veganism, gardening, and raising environmentally conscious children go hand-in-hand, it just no longer makes sense to keep content separate. It was a seamless transition, but I might be stepping outside my comfort zone posting delicate subjects to my meat-eating follower base.

The school-and-home schedule is rockin’ and rollin’, minus the puttering around in the yard and garden for long stretches in the day.  The last time I spent any significant amount of time there was back in November for the annual mulching. Once the decorations went up, it rained for what seemed like an entire month with temps in the 40’s — cold and wet, not my favorite. Christmas lights and decorations finally didn’t make it back up into the attic until the middle of the January.  Everything in it’s time, I say.

The majority of my “outdoor” time was viewing nature from the inside where it was warm and dry, checking backyard birds off our new 2015 Bird List one by one and watching out for wintering hummingbirds. They showed up right on schedule, just like last year, but it was the final day of the month, not the first  Rufous Hummingbirds really things in perspective for me. Slow and easy, if such a thing could be said about them.

Our three bunnies are also quite settled into life with DirtNKids; they have full run of the downstairs, house buns.  I spotted Magicman with his double chin having a snooze in the master bathroom.  He didn’t stir after I snapped his picture.  Eating, pooping, and ignoring noise are just part of life here.

Bun Loaf Reflection

By the time I ventured out from behind the school desk and out into the garden late in the month, I discovered that the Swiss Chard and onions had all but taken over one corner of the garden, such a grand reward for so little (a/k/a/ zero) work put in. The keyhole, sadly, remains unplanted, but it is full of earthworms. Aside from the 20 bags of organic debris I rescued from my neighbors’ curbs to amend beds and feed all my little underworld peoples for the spring season, this very well may be my laziest garden season yet.

In the month of January, I hit two milestones as a parent:  1) I can out-kick and out-punch all of my children in Taekwondo, and 2) all four children stayed at home alone…twice. Blessed is the day the kids can take care of themselves!  We spied what looked like a Mute Swan on a drive home early in the month and wanted to return to confirm if it was. As the kids had no inkling to go birding in cold weather, we just left them at home. Upon return from a couple of hours out, not only was the house still in tact, but everyone appeared to have gotten along with each other in our absence.  And, oh, what quiet and relaxed birding hike that was.

We spotted several migratory species, including our first ever Blue-headed Vireo on a nature hike near where we live.  Both days were cold and windy, but I still lugged the long lens strapped to my body and with stiff, cold fingers to pressed the shutter again and again.  Birds are so much easier to chase without a tripod attached.

Least Sandpiper
Ladies in Wait – Ring-necked Ducks
Male Suitor – Ring-necked Duck
Loggerhead Shrike
Mute Swan Tushy Feathers


Simms Bayou Nature Center

Field trips are coveted by my children.  Previous years in our brick-and-mortar school, the kids were geeked to attend the one annual trip with their whole grade, sponsored by the PTA, and usually in May, the last month of the school year. The size of the group topped 150 students, so trips were limited to places that could host them, like the Houston Zoo or the Museum of Natural Science. B-O-R-I-N-G. Not only was it always super hot in May, but kids were rushed through the areas with little attention. Plus, we’ve already seen these places, like, umpteen million times.

By January in our on-line school, we already have attended not one but two field trips, even a couple of “free” days with dad. Trips are much more intimate with fewer students, and all the kids (and even parents) get a higher quality “education” in the process. This is the time they get to hook up with other students and teachers in real-time, relationships built and friendships bonded. Since we get to log full-time hours for the school day, no actual lessons are worked — a “free” day in the truest sense.

We met students and staff at Simm Bayou Nature Center where the kids learned from Houston Audubon folks about how conservation efforts with birds and environment help not only the birds, but also our own species. We came away with a desire to erect Purple Martin Gourds in our yard in addition to the bat boxes planned, perfect insect management and a boost to a species in trouble from habitat loss. They also learned all about the man, John James Audubon, and how he revolutionized the bird identification process with his detailed drawings. While nature hiking the 1-acre tract, we spotted a migratory Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nearby and even learned to paint watercolor, just like Audubon did.

The Barn
Injured Mississippi Kite becomes education ambassador
Looking at birds up close reveals plumage detail
Ginny pencil-draws a Macaw to paint

After we finished with our painting projects and lunch, the group finished with a fantastic game simulating the journey of a migratory bird.  Rolling the die to go through the 24 “stations,” more than half of the children would finish the game by “dying” on their journey.  Angie starved to death, and Ginny and Scott got shot with BB guns. John was the only one to live to make it to his final destination and get to mate and reproduce.

Finding the next station on the migratory journey

Ah, the things we learn from nature and being outdoors.

I even discovered than I ain’t half bad at painting with watercolor.  Who knew?

Blue-footed Booby – my first watercolor

We are never too old to learn anything.
So…what’s on your bucket list for the year?

Bird Count To-date:  67

See all these photos (and more) in hi-res here.

8 thoughts on “Simms Bayou Nature Center, January Captured

  1. amazing shannon. i already changed my mind about the tv show. i d love to read a hardbound book about these beautiful connections you and your family share with the wild! and the mr education ambassador is looking mighty dapper. we have two of his dopplegangers over here in my part of India. Black-Shouldered Kite and the Pallid Harrier.


    1. I continue to be amazed by the my ability to change my mind about things. Take cockroaches. Now, rather than squish them in the house to manage a potential over-run, we catch and release them to the garden instead. The word is out! We now have cooperative easily-caught cockroaches — no scattering in our presence. Ha.

      I too love the ambassador. I remember your kite! And I love your blog. Cheers, Christy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! If you only saw the first (opening) photo, there are a few more embedded in the post. That was a sunset shot out back under our naked redbud trees; in a couple of months, the same trees will explode in pink blossoms. Cheers!


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