Nature Exchange

On a recent trip to the zoo, the boy and I discovered an interactive exhibit that had been under our noses for years:  The Nature Exchange.  Zoo patrons are invited to collect tidbits of nature and bring them into the Nature Exchange, along with any research or information that accompanies each item.  Items are then relinquished to the Exchange curator, who issues you points for your items that you may use as tender to "buy" items that others have brought into the center. 
I may have mentioned this before, but Wyatt is a collector of all things nature-related.  He finds beauty in every stick, rock, and blade of grass...beauty that he insists is worthy of schlepping into my too-tidy home.  This Nature Exchange center has been a wonderful blessing for me as it gives our daily hikes outside a new purpose:  find natural treasures!  Today's walk was bountiful; here is a sampling from our cache.

A rabbit skull.  Yes, I am pretty grossed out, too, but I couldn't deny the boy the chance to collect this very exciting find.  I said a silent prayer, hoping it wasn't the same bunny that we tracked during the snow days, and recommenced our journey.

A fluffy seed pod and a sprig of berries.  Before we exchange these, I'll try to figure out what they are and teach Wy about them. 

This leafy twig has had it rough...some insect decided it would be the perfect host for its egg, hence the weird bubble on the stem.  Then something else used the leaf for the same purpose.
Another crazy seed pod.  I've never seen one of these before...Wyatt loves it, though!

This wasn't something we could collect, but we both thought it was so neat how the vine encircled the sapling, from the ground all of the way up to the top, in a perfect spiral.

A cocoon.  We had our choice of dozens of these.  Each was decorated differently by its inhabitant.  Not to be judgmental, but some should not quit their day jobs, and others would make fine designers.
This one...uh, I'm thinking is a dude all wrapped up in there.
And this one, a wormy version of Candice Olsen, perhaps?

This was one pretty mean-looking tree.  Not only was every single branch and twig finished off with a piercing spike, but the trunk was slathered in these urchin-like protrusions.  In all my life, I've never gotten the creeps from a tree...until today.

Did you know that crawdaddies (I know that's a little hillbilly of me, but who says "crawfish" nowadays?) molt their entire exoskeletons as they grow?  Lucky us, the ditch that traverses our front yard is full of these little critters and all of the pieces they discard.

A couple more cocoons.  I'm a little uneasy about the ones we've collected that have yet to be vacated, so I'm being completely inhumane and keeping them inside of a sealed ziploc once they enter my abode.  Bugs are cool...as long as they're outside.

I encourage you to go outside and scour your surroundings for little nuggets of nature.  We literally found every single one of these things in one hour's time.  Don't be fooled: we don't live out in the country...we live in a cul-de-sac, people!  We just meandered into the empty lots and along the treeline.
At the very least, you'll see something new.
At most, you'll spend some quality time with someone you love.


  1. In the fall of my 2nd year of teaching, a student brought in a cocoon entwined on a twig. I put it in a glass jar with no lid thinking that it was the home of a moth. Imagine my surprise when the creatures who emerged were teeny grasshoppers! They were all over the classroom! The kids squealed with delight. I learned to know the difference in cocoons from that experience. :D

  2. What a fantastic idea!! Thanks for sharing!

    Scrappy, that's a funny story about the grasshoppers.

  3. I love the shots with your son in the background. I absolutely love the faces he is making! Great shots!


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