Winter Nature Walk on the W&OD Trail (& excellent nature biography for kids)

Little Brother "beating us to the rotten egg"

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Background Info:

Older Brother and I just finished reading this awesome book, The Flower Hunter, about William Bartram, America’s first naturalist.  His father, John Bartram, was America’s first botanist.  So, so fun to read about their explorations as they studied and gathered plants.

As a botanist, John Bartram taught his son William to observe nature closely and make accurate sketches of what he found.  Not only is The Flower Hunter a fascinating biography, I was hoping Older Brother would be affirmed and inspired in his own Nature Journal efforts.


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NOTE:  The Bartrams lived on the Schuylkill River, right outside Philadelphia.  I was curious to know if any of their property had been preserved or if there were any local tributes to this family.   Naturally, I was thrilled to discover Bartram’s Garden, National Historic Landmark House & Garden, located just 15 minutes from center city Philly.  According to the website, the rare Franklinia tree–discovered by John and William Bartram and named for their good friend Benjamin Franklin–blooms in August/September.  I believe a field trip may be in order for my Yankee Homestead family…]

A proposition

We finished the book on Sunday.  Monday morning, Older Brother returned from collecting the eggs having gathered several samples of a winter weed near the chicken coop.  He wanted to draw them on his Nature Calendar.  Next, he announced that although it was quite chilly outside, it was very sunny and would be an excellent day for a walk on the nearby W&OD Trail.

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The Washington & Old Dominion Trail follows the green line on the map, spanning 45 miles between Purcellville and Alexandria, VA.

He didn’t have to ask me twice!  After our morning chores and abbreviated lessons, we bundled up and set off for the trail.  I must say, the whole experience was an encouragement to this homeschooling mama.  On top of the fact that we enjoyed an excellent book together, which strengthened Older Brother in his own schooling efforts, his desire to head outdoors on a cold day (when he’d been fighting a cold and wasn’t feeling his best) fortified my own resolve as a Charlotte-Mason-Nature-Study enthusiast.

Winter Nature Walk

It was chilly, but the sun and lack of wind made it tolerable.  The exercise and fresh air came as a welcome change to our typical mid-February indoor activities.

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Gathering “firewood”

Here’s what we spotted:
  • Cows and horses sporting their shaggy winter coats–Little Brother got a kick out of asking them How now brown cow? but was a bit sad that “They not make any soundses!”  So he supplied the “soundses” by mooing at them.
  • Canadian geese, who made lots of soundses–honking galore
  • Ferns–still green!
  • Clear, blue sky with a few wispy, cirrus clouds
  • Many winter weeds
  • Sticks–or “firewood”, according to Little Brother
  • A dog on a walk with his owner
Fun Things to Do
  • We had several races, in which Little Brother “beat us to the rotten egg.”
  • Older Brother climbed several tall banks by grasping onto tree roots.  There was lots of panting and strategizing involved.
  • There was also a short session of hockey-golf, utilizing sticks and rocks and In Which Mama’s Ankle Sustained A Blow.

It was a fantastic outing, on several levels.  Days like this keep me going–as a mom, homeschooler, nature fanatic and resident of the Northeast, where winters are long and gray.

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Little Brother “beating us to the rotten egg”

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Older Brother scaling a bank

More Resources for Winter & Nature for Kids:



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3 ebook covers (1)

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Valerie Stoltzfus on 02/20/2013 at 8:12 pm

    Looks like you all had some good winter outdoor fun!

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