Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Outdoor Skills Class - April 2010

My MooseBoots journey got a bit of a boost yesterday.  It was certainly a refreshing change from the usual 9-5 routine.  Instead, we had our monthly outdoor skills class, "The Earth Is Our Home."  This followed a skipped month because a large number of the members of this group also participate in a homeschool downhill ski group ... the things we are teaching our kids.

To start, we gathered in a circle and sang a song to welcome Spring.

Let's dance and sing and welcome Spring
Dance and sing and welcome Spring
There's only one thing the Mother's trying to bring ...
and that's Spring!

The kids were excited to be out on a bright sunny day.  It was gorgeous.  We started by revisiting our old friend the Red Maple.  At our last gathering, we were given a twig to sketch before this class.  The buds were just visible.  This time, we sketched the twigs on the live trees to compare the buds and leaves.  I chose a tree that was just a bit further along than some of the other trees ... it actually had some very young leaves opening.

The only thing that could have been better  was foraging some spring greens ... so, we did.  We gathered Trout Lily, Dandelion Greens, Jerusalem Artichokes, and firewood.  Then, we washed the foraged food and made salads and macaroni and cheese over the fires we built. 

The kids, ages 6-12, worked well together building the fires and foraging.  Some of the kids carved spoons, spatulas, and even chop sticks to eat.  We sat together and shared the meal we had gathered (and shared some smuggled venison and hard boiled eggs ... I can't abide a meal with no meat).  It is amazing to be in the woods with people who want to learn the same things without all of the distraction of modern life (cellphones, computers, etc.).  I even saw some kids ... gasp ... playing Army with ... gasp ... sticks and branches for ... gasp ... guns!  To quote one of my favorite teachers from high school, "it warms the cockles of my heart."

While cleaning up, we saw ...

a Ruffed Grouse in full fan ... it must be mating season.

I have been intending to practice foraging more often.  Last year, we did a bit.  This year, we hope to do more.  The Forager's Harvest came highly recommended as a good starter book.  If you want to get started foraging, I would definitely recommend getting a teacher in your local area ... it will be more efficient and safer, initially, while you learn.  When we forage, we only harevst plants that we are very familiar with ... dandelions, wild carrots, berries (blue-, black-, rasp-), milkweed (no, it is not toxic ... read the book), maple sap, cattail, pine, fir, hemlock, sweet fern, partridge berry.

It may be touted as a class for the kids (parental attendance is encouraged), but it is really for me.  I have heard the same echoed by some of the other parents.  Thanks to the Koviashuvik crew for assisting in my education, and that of my kids, on this MooseBoots journey.


  1. What a wonderful way to raise children - and to enjoy outdoor living yourself. I plan on learning more about foraging this summer, as well, starting with fiddleheads and wild leeks...Richard has promised to take us out in a few weeks when they are ready here in southern Ontario.

  2. I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. You have inspired me to work a little harder not just to get the youngsters outdoors but teach them along the way! Thanks for a great read! :)

  3. ... and pita bread and zuchinni pickles. You forgot to mention those ;).

    It was a great day. In the end, I was thankful, also, that the ticks weren't as bad as we had thought they might be ;).

    Spotting the grouse was very cool - and unexpected considering how very close to our rowdy crowd he was ;).

  4. Julie, I am hoping to find leeks this year, too. This will be a new one for us, but I love onions and so it makes sense.

    Leigh, you're welcome. This is so much a learning experience for me that it surprises me sometimes when they "pick something up" along the way.

    Wendy, of course. I am surprised at the lack of ticks, too. Thanks for pointing out the grouse ... it is amazing he stuck around!

  5. It's been quite a week for sighting wildlife up here for me.. This week alone, I saw an osprey sitting on a nesting box, a pileated woodpecker below the drive at the farm in a dead maple, and I surprised a groundhog, who then jumped into the creek and swam to the other side. The latter two were significant totem animals that are aligned with where I'm going these days...

    Richard said we're going out for fiddleheads and leeks on Saturday afternoon, weather permitting. I'll try taking some photos for you!

  6. As it turns out, we were still early for the fiddleheads, but found lots and lots of leeks! The patches are increasing in size every year, and we were careful to cull out only the largest, to let the remaining ones continue to grow... I've sent you pictures, as well.

  7. Julie, thanks for the pictures. Congratulations on the successful hunt. I went out briefly yesterday to see if I could find any near me ... no luck. We have eaten dandelion greens in a few meals this week.


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