Month: April 2015

Nature Exchange

The nature exchange is finally over. We gathered bits of nature, identified them, labeled them, mailed them, and received a package of our own to open and enjoy.


At first, I wasn’t even sure that the nature exchange would be a success, or that we would manage to get our package out the door. Once we had collected a satisfactory pile of nuts, leaves, needles, twigs, etc, we set to work figuring out exactly what each thing was.


I totally underestimated how long the identification process would take.


On the bright side, all the hours we spent googling things like ‘tree with tiny pink flowers’ produced an interest in each item, and a deeper understanding of the world we live in. Now each time we drive by a Salt Cedar, I can say ‘Tamarix….?’ and someone else will inevitably say ‘….Ramosissima!’

Latin’s not so Tough after all!


Years ago, I purchased a box of tiny vials at an estate sale somewhere…and have lugged them around ever since. We are in a period of ‘use it up, wear it out’, so even though I wanted to hoard these for myself, we put them to good use.


The tiny labels came about as a secondary use for the big label I made for the wooden cigar box that we sent the vials in. I got it at the bins, and it had a split in the lid. I thought I could mend it by gluing a layer of paper over it, and thus, the label design process was born.


The label design includes our hometowns, the year, the Oregon state motto {she flies with her own wings}, a little outline of our state, and a symmetry driven abbreviation of the word exchange. The abbreviated version was a hot topic at our house for a while, but in the end, form won over function, and I am completely at peace with it.


While we were working on it, Vegas suggested making tiny labels for the vials, and so another labor intensive project was born. We glued the labels on with a glue stick, which actually worked out very well, and the items that couldn’t fit in jars we just wrapped in paper and used a labeled gift tag.


I wrote the latin and common name of each thing on the labels, and sent along a packet of information on each thing…you know, just in case the family we sent this to have nothing else to do besides read our BOOK.


Even though it took longer than it should for us to assemble, it was quite fun to see it all finished!






What did we learn?

Each little stick and seed has a story, an origin, a reputation, a use. We can learn ceaselessly from the places we live, creation is an endless sea that should capture our imaginations, and our curiosity. Latin is fun. Pinecones are very difficult to identify. We will do this again!


The package we received included a book, maps,  sea shells, sand dollars, rocks, moss, bark, juniper berries, and my favorite, Cholla Cactus wood. I hung that piece up as soon as we unpacked the box.

You can follow along other exchanges at Instagram, either by following the @naturepalexchange feed or by searching #naturepalexchange.

I think there will be another one, perhaps this summer?

Bathing children, Shelley

***What we sent specimens/samples of:

Giant Sequoia


Sweet Gum

Japanese Cedar

Salt Cedar

Tulip Tree

Red Pine

Red Oak

White Spruce

Shortleaf Pine

Rose Hair Tarantula

Bearded Dragon

Oregon Hazelnut

Horse Chestnut

Black Walnut

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass


Christmas Rose

Green Bamboo

Monoammonium Phosphate Crystals – Diamond and Aquamarine

White Birch

Bristly Beard Lichen


Fruitless Mulberry Tree

Milk Thistle

Jade Tree

Rabbit Foot Grass