The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Months.

by D. Nesbitt.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 460-463

By House of Education Students.

No. VI. July.

July 1st. 1903 -- We went for a walk through a tangled lane, finding about fifty different flowers. Among those which were not in flower a few days ago were solitary vetch, yellow rattle, greater hawkweed, dwarf mallow, trailing St. John's wort, and wood betony.

We watched a bright emerald green spider making its web. It was a mesh web-shaped, something like a hammock. The flies were caught by entanglement and not as with the geometrical webs by adhesion to sticky threads. We took the green gentleman (or more probably, lady) home and found the spinnerets, which we were able to see by placing the spider on its back under the one-inch power of the microscope.

We could also see the four rows of eyes and the wonderful jaws that give spiders such a fierce aspect. The spots of light which show through the creature's body are its breathing apertures. We let the spider out of the live-box after about an hour's imprisonment and allowed it to escape. We had not been able to discover its name. It evidently belonged to the tracheary group of spiders, that is, to the class which breathes by means of trachea or air holes. When young this spider had six legs only instead of eight and it would then have been called a "mite." The other great group of metamorphosis, but come straight out of the egg "ready-made." So the "tracheary" family seem nearer to true insects, between which creatures and those of the great family of crustaceans spiders form a connecting link.

But we will say "good-bye" now to our little green friend -- a dainty enough little emerald you were in the sunlight! No wonder you struggled when you were asked to walk into our parlour. The little glass live-box and the searching eye of the microscope have discovered your secrets. We know all about the cruel jaws and the cunning claws now, and feel that in letting you wander away again free, we are more merciful than you with your prisoners. In the autumn we will hunt out (not not to their hurt) your babies. Perhaps if we scrape a tiny but of loose bark from the hazel tree where you made your home, we shall find them wrapped in soft down, huddled together, ever so many little pink six-legged mites.

July 10th. -- They are harvesting the hay today. The air is sweet with scent and all the grasses are in flower. The hay crop is poor, on account of the heavy rain storms we have had. Today the sun shines brightly however, and the bees are as busy as the farmers. I sat by a hedge and watched the former improving "the shining hour." One was in such a hurry that he mistook a blackberry blossom for a white wild rose. He came straight from the rose and alighted on the bramble, and on discovering his mistake went off with an angry buzz, most expressive of vexation and mortified anger. Some of the wild roses have double petals "in the place where the stamens ought to grow." They have been watered so much this year, that perhaps they feel justified in this attempt to emulate the garden rose.

I can see quite a number of flowers without moving from my cosy corner by the hedge. A tall figwort is "at home" to both bees and wasps. Red galeopsis and black ballota, two cousins not very much removed, grow between the hedge and the ditch, regardless of the stinging nettles whose leaves they mimic, as does also, though less closely, the nettle-leaved bellflower. Looking towards the field, I see common toadflax or, as the children call it, "butter and eggs," round-leaved toadflax and the dainty little sharp-pointed toadflax hugging the ground as if afraid to be seen.

Then quite a collection of fruits could be made. The green remnant of the buttercup, the coarse clinging burdock, the feathery heads of yellow avens (a few flowers still linger also by the way), the dandelion "clocks," and the great strong "parachute" fruits of "John-go-to-bed-at-noon" are all within reach.

The little treasure-box of campion, inside which, when the seeds are gone, larva and beetles may frequently be found by those who think of looking for them; then the hemlock fruit, tall and dry, and lower down the bright berries of wild arum, their red tints seeming to proclaim "danger" alike to man and bird, inhabit the hedge together.

July 11th. -- I held a private appointment today, with the small-boy-finder of the green linnet's nest. I was warned to wait until "all the other chaps are gone, you know, ma'am" -- not that they would have injured the nest, but too many prying eyes might frighten the birds from sitting.

The green linnet's nest is in a rhododendron bush, and the mother bird is so tame that she continued to sit while we were looking straight at her. There are four eggs in the nest now.

We also watched an interesting fight between some squirrels and blackbirds, and came to the conclusion that the blackbirds got the best of it. The squirrels received a good many sharp pecks, and were finally obliged to take refuge in flight. The casus belli we could not determine. Perhaps the squirrels were after some belated eggs, or perhaps the feud is of long standing. Once, at least, in the spring, I saw a squirrel eating an egg.

Among the birds we have noticed here this month are the following -- sedge warbler, Kentish plover, the skylark, tree creeper, jackdaw, rook, cuckoo (this one is generally what children are told not to be -- "heard but not seen"), robin, chaffinch, swallow, red-backed shrike, various members of the tit family, and of course the ubiquitous sparrow.

I was told the other day that while the thrushes, chaffinches, whitethroats, skylarks, and willow warblers take a new mate and make a new nest every year, the robins, wrens, tits, starlings, and sparrows are true to one mate all their lives. The latter class certainly seem to hide their nests more cleverly. One never sees a very large proportion of sparrows' eggs, for instance, in a collection.

July 12th. -- We have found both purple and yellow loosestrife out. Their names suggest near relationship but they do not belong to the same order. We were lucky enough to find six different kinds of flowers on one stem of purple loosestrife. The flowers are "trimorphic," differing in the comparative length of the stamens and styles. Individual flowers may have: (1) long styles and medium stamens; (2) long styles and short stamens; (3) medium styles and long stamens; (4) medium styles and short stamens; (5) short styles and medium stamens.

The yellow loosestrife belongs to the order, Primulaceae. It is rather curious that this plant and the purple loosestrife should so often be found growing together.

July 20th. -- Some bog flowers arrived by post from Devonshire. A plant of sundew was in flower, with a good supply of small flies caught in its leaves. The leaves have the power of bending up, and, besides this, they are provided with prolongations like hairs, named rather happily "tentacles" by Darwin. We tried feeding the leaves with meat, and found that it took as well to dead as to living prey. Then we tried to deceive it (it is hard not to think of these plants as reasoning creatures; there is something so artful about them). We gave it little bits of thread, and the tentacles and leaves bent upon them, but soon unbent again as if in disappointment. Dropping water, however, had no power to make the tentacles move. We tried with this, because it occurred to us that otherwise rain might keep the plant rather too busy. A light touch does not make the tentacles move, but if it be repeated so as to suggest the movements of an insect, then they do move. We tried similar experiments with the butterwort. In this, the stalked glands have no power of motion, but only the edge of the leaf can move. The leaves, we found, moved for inedible substances such as thread, but there did not seem to be an increased flow of the peculiar viscous fluid that takes place when an unwary fly finds itself entrapped.

July 30th. -- The fields are bright with scarlet poppies. The crimson poppies have not yet appeared in the fields. They always come later.

A bat was brought in last night, and held firmly in its captor's hand while we examined it. The poor little "flittermouse" uttered a shrill plaintive cry all the time, so high and shrill indeed that not all our ears could distinguish it. Curiously enough the gentlemen present failed to hear it, while the ladies could catch the sound well. It seemed to synchronise with some ears, and not with others.

Typed by Mariel, August, 2023; Proofread by LNL, August, 2023