Taking a Sock Walk is one of my favorite fall activities to do with children. I have “sock walked” with many, many groups of kids.
There is nothing like a Sock Walk
Fall is a time for harvesting, but it is also a time for sowing. As the days grow cooler and the sunlight wanes, many small plants complete their growing cycles and die back. But they ensure the survival of their species by producing seeds, which will sprout in the spring. The seeds will be most successful when they are scattered – or “sowed” – away from the parent plant, so they don’t have to compete with each other for water and sunlight. Some seeds are scattered by the wind, some by water, and some by animals. If you observe a seed closely, you may be able to guess how it will travel.
One of the best ways to collect seeds is to take a Sock Walk. First put on your shoes and socks – in that order. Pull a large pair of old socks over your shoes and as far up your legs as they will go. Then take a walk through a field of dry grasses and wild flowers. Those seeds that are scattered by sticking to animals will stick to you. You’ll be surprised at how many seeds have tiny hooks, barbs, anchors, and spikes just so they can hitch a ride. When you return from your walk, take your socks off and look at the seeds through a magnifying lens. Don’t they look mean?
Don’t try to remove the seeds. It’s easier just to plant the socks! First, lay both socks on a tray and pour water over them until they are soaked. Find two shallow pans, and partially fill them with sterile potting soil. (If you use dirt from your yard, it will probably have some seeds in it and ruin your experiment. You can buy sterile potting soil or sterilize your dirt by baking it in the oven.) “Plant” one sock in each pan by laying it on the soil and covering it lightly with half an inch of soil.
Place one pan in a light, warm spot and keep watering it. You’ll be amazed at the little plants that come up. Place the other pan in the refrigerator for two weeks. Many seeds are scheduled to rest through the winter and sprout in spring. The “wintertime” in the refrigerator will trick the seeds into germinating when you take them out. After two weeks in the refrigerator, place the second pan near the first and keep it watered. How do the two sock gardens compare?
A Sock Walk is one of dozens of nature activities included in A Kid’s Fall EcoJournal by Toni Albert.
There is something almost magical about mushrooms. They seem to appear from nowhere, popping up overnight and then popping down again. Actually, a mushroom is only the fruit of a fungus. The true fungus is typically a tangle of fine threads, called a mycelium, which is found underground. The fungus fruit, or mushroom, contains spores that are like tiny seeds that can produce more fungi and more mushrooms. The mushroom pops up out of the ground to spread the spores.
One year in late August, we were hiking in a deep forest with my dad, a life-long mushroom enthusiast. He veered off the trail and we followed him into the shady, secret, steamy understory, where lush ferns grew on crumbling, mossy logs. The forest floor was carpeted with layers of damp leaves. We saw some familiar brown mushrooms, delicate and long-stemmed. Then we saw a large white mushroom. Then a lemon-yellow mushroom with white scales, a flat red mushroom on a curved white stem, a bright yellow mushroom with a pleated cap, a completely blue mushroom, a waxy green mushroom, leathery purple bracket mushrooms growing on a tree trunk, a sticky orange-yellow mushroom with branches like coral, and a colony of tiny red cuplike mushrooms. We seemed to be walking in an enchanted garden with very odd flowers – leathery, feathery, slimy or wooden, velvety or crumbly, stinky and musty, tiny and large. Mushroom-flowers.
One thing I learned was that fall is a wonderful time to look for mushrooms. Bob and I have been mushroom hunting in our woods all week. This is what we found.
All photos, copyright: Toni and Robert Albert
How do we talk back to Harvey, Irma, and Jose? Is there anything we can do in the face of hurricanes with 185 mph winds, “rain bombs,” rising sea levels, and devastating wild fires?
One thing we can’t do is wait – wait for our politicians and policy makers to act or wait for our government to catch up with other nations who are already working to address climate change. We can work individually and in our communities to limit global warming by reducing carbon emissions.
The following suggestions for tackling the climate crisis are culled from Al Gore’s “Averting the Climate Crisis,” (see the TED Talk) and National Geographic’s “14 easy ways to reduce your own carbon footprint.”
How to tackle the climate crisis
Reduce carbon emissions from the energy use in your home by using efficient insulation and green electricity. Make sure your lighting is efficient. LED light bulbs use up to 80% less energy than traditional lighting and they last longer. (See Karen Johnson's guest blog, "Smart people use smart light.")
Adjust your thermostat up in warm months and down in cold ones, especially when you’re not home.
Use cold water for washing clothes, then line-dry them.
Consider getting solar panels for your home or buying renewable energy credits.
Reduce emissions from your car and other transportation. Save on gas with an electric, hybrid, or super fuel-efficient car.
Maximize fuel efficiency, no matter what model you drive: Keep tires inflated, avoid speeding, keep your trunk free of excess weight—and above all, avoid driving when you can walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit.
Reduce your flight travel where you can, and remember that, unfortunately for your personal comfort, first- and business-class seats have a higher carbon footprint than economy ones.
Be a green consumer. Buy the most energy-efficient appliances and other products you can find.
Replace old appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines, water heaters, and clothes dryers with smarter models. Look for ENERGY STAR certification.
Eat less meat. By one estimate, consuming a pound of beef gives off more carbon than burning a gallon of gasoline.
Make a decision to live a carbon neutral life.
To find out how, go to climatecrisis.net or https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ to use the carbon calculator to find out what your carbon emissions are and what you can do to reduce them.
Recycle. The EPA estimates that recycling glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper could save 582 pounds of CO2 per year, equivalent to more than 600 miles of driving.
Reuse. Bring your own bags and buy in bulk when possible to reduce packaging. Pack lunches or picnics in reusable containers. Consider the global impact of acquiring more stuff.
Buy and use less plastic. Reduce your consumption of bottled water and other packaged drinks. In general, driving up demand for plastic means doing the same for fossil fuels.
Make your business carbon neutral.
Integrate climate solutions into all your innovations, whatever you create and do.
Invest sustainably in companies and funds that are part of the solution.
Become a catalyst for change. Learn about reducing your carbon footprint. Talk about it.
Raise awareness in your community.
Become politically active. Speak up. Contact your elected officials. Make our democracy work.
Urge the US to join the rest of the world community by committing to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Rebrand “global warming.” Call it climate crisis or planetary emergency. Al Gore suggests this as a way to help depoliticize the subject. We have been arguing over the cause, even the existence, of global warming for too long. Now we must face the effects of a climate crisis together.
“Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs.” - Netflix
“An emotional race against time.” – NY Times
“Chasing Coral is not impartial. It’s staunchly pro-life, in the truest sense of the term.” – Sam Fragoso, The Wrap
Winner of a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award
To produce Chasing Coral, divers, photographers, and scientists spent 650 hours underwater in 30 countries to capture and document the worldwide collapse of coral reefs. Director Jeff Orlowski focused on the effects of climate change on the oceans, which absorb 93% of the heat produced by greenhouse gases. Reef-building corals thrive when the temperature remains between 74 and 78 degrees F, but we now see ocean temperatures as high as 95 degrees. When water temperatures rise even two degrees, the distressed corals may eject the tiny single-celled algae living inside their bodies. Without the algae, corals appear bone-white, or “bleached.” And without the algae, corals begin to starve and die.
The goal of the Chasing Coral crew was to create a powerful and impelling video by showing changes to reefs in real time, using time-lapse photography to document the effects of too-warm water. The result is stunning. We see colorful, healthy, gorgeous “gardens” of corals – then ghostly-pale, sick corals – then dead, disintegrating corals covered with slimy, hairy algae.
Near the end of the documentary, the time lapse video of bleaching and dying corals is presented at the World Symposium on Coral Reefs in Honolulu, Hawaii. As the camera pans the audience (an audience of people who study and love coral reefs), we see people slowly shaking their heads as if they are saying, No, oh, no! Many people have their hands over their mouths or eyes; the corners of their mouths are visibly drawn downward; there are tears. (Their tears and my tears.)
The collapse of coral reefs is serious. They are the foundation of a huge, intricate ecosystem. One-quarter of all marine life is found on coral reefs. Half a billion to a billion people rely on reefs for their food; their culture, economy, and way of life rely on reefs. Many new drugs and new products and foods come from the sea. Reefs provide a breakwater that protects shores from dangerous storms. Coral reef communities are like underwater rainforests teeming with abundant and diverse life.
The loss of reefs (along with rising sea levels, violent storms, and famines) is too important to be politicized. We can address the warming of our planet and reduce the rate at which our climate is changing. Chasing Coral ends by reminding us that we have the money and the resources and the intelligence to tackle climate change. They provide ideas at chasingcoral.com.
“It’s not too late for coral reefs … indeed, for many other ecosystems that are facing challenges from climate change. It’s still possible to reduce the rate at which the climate is changing, and that’s within our power today.” – Dr Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – July, 2017
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”