Farmer Boy, Chapter 1


This chapter takes place in the wintertime when there is lots of snow on the ground. Have you ever seen or played in snow? Snow is formed when ice crystals in a cloud bump together and stick to each other. If the air temperature below the clouds is cold enough, snow will fall. Snowflakes can be made up of as many as 100 ice crystals. They all have six sides, but no two snowflakes are alike.

This chapter mentions a variety of trees. They include oak, maple, beech, cedar, and spruce. Use your tree field guide to research each species. The scientific name for each tree is in parenthesis.

Oak (Quercus)– There are over 60 species of oak trees, including white, chestnut, scarlet, black, and pin. They are found all over North America. Most varieties are deciduous with simple, alternate leaves. They all produce acorns, some of which are sweet to eat. The oaks are divided into two groups, white oaks and red oaks. The wood from the oak tree is used for flooring, furniture, railroad ties, barrels, and construction. They are also planted for shade trees.

Maple (Aceraceae) – There are nearly 150 species of maple trees. The maples native to New York would be the sugar, red, silver, and Norway maples. The deciduous leaves are all simple and opposite. The winged seeds, or “helicopters”, are in pairs. They grow from 75’ to 100’ tall. The sugar maple has a hard wood that is used for furniture and flooring, and is also the variety to be tapped for maple syrup. The others are a softer wood, and are also used for furniture when strength and hardness are not an issue.

Beech (Fagus) – The beech species present in New York is the American Beech. Their deciduous leaves are simple and alternate, about 3”-4” long. They have a shiny, brown, prickly, triangular nut that is edible. They are large trees, growing up to 100’ high. The wood is used for railroad ties, paper pulp, boxes, furniture, and flooring.

Cedar (Juniperus) – The species of cedar found most often in New York is the Eastern Redcedar. It has evergreen, opposite leaves with whitish lines on the under surface. They have a bluish berry-like fruit that is covered with a white powder. Each fruit contains 1-2 seeds. They are small to medium sized, reaching up to 50’ tall and 1 – 2 feet in diameter. The wood is used for fence posts and cedar chests.

Spruce (Picea) – In New York, the most commonly found spruce trees are the Norway, red, and black spruce. They have evergreen needles that are spirally arranged on the twigs. They have cones with thin, woody scales. The Norway spruce is the largest of the three, growing up to 125’ tall. The wood is used for paper pulp, boxes, crates, and lumber.

The Wilder children were dressed in woolen clothing. Do you know why wool is a good fabric for clothing that is worn in winter? Wool is a fabric made of matted sheep hairs. These hairs trap in air, and air does not let heat pass through easily. The trapped air helps to keep your body heat in so that you feel warm.

If you take a piece of wool cloth and dunk it in a glass of water, as you hold it down you will see many bubbles coming up. These are from the air that is trapped between the hairs. If you do the same thing with a piece of cotton fabric, not as many air bubbles will come up from the cotton. Cotton is not as warm as wool because it does not trap as much air. Cotton is better for summer, when you want your body heat to escape easily through the cloth.

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