We have had a mix of weather this month, starting out with barefoot weather the first week of March to gale winds, driving rain and hail later in the month. The children have all been appropriately dressed, however, and we have very much enjoyed all of the various weathers and the science lessons they provide us with.
We have moved from talking about roots and seeds to talking about buds and sprouts. The season is progressing so quickly that we are actually seeing some flowers (salmonberry, indian plum, madrona, and elderberry). Our foraging choices are increasing and the variety of ingredients in our daily forest tea is astonishing. We are noticing that there are a lot of new colors in the forest, including some bright reds, pinks and yellows.
We have begun some medicine-making projects. The children spent several days collecting the husks from the cottonwood tree and have put them into olive oil to make the famous balm of gilead. We also collected plantain (Plantago major) leaves and put them in olive oil to make our bug bite balm. The plants need to soak for six weeks so we will be finishing that project next month and everyone will take some home with them.
The children have all been enjoying challenging their eagle eyes to spot as many bracken ferns as they can as they rise from the forest floor, We have been measuring their growth and are amazed at how quickly they grow! We have also been watching the sword fern baby fiddleheads rise up out of their “nests” and begin to unfurl.
We have challenged the children to find as many different leaves as they can, and pointed out the less obvious such as fern leaves, moss, and doug fir needles. Those kids can tell you exactly what the leaves do for the plants; just ask them! (“they turn the sunlight into sugar”). We have been trying to find different natural shapes and noticed that the most common was an oval. The kids have learned what a spiral shape is as we have noticed it mostly on the fiddleheads.
One day we made maps of all of our trails and hide-outs at Cedarsong and they were quite elaborate. The kids enjoyed drawing and then walking the diagrams of their maps. None of us realized just how elaborate the trails are that we have created!
We have added the towhee to our list of birds that is making a regular appearance. One day we watched two native squirrels (douglas fir squirrels) chasing each other around and around a tree trunk. Another day we watched a young racoon climb down the length of a standing dead doug fir tree; it stopped and looked directly at us several times.
We have had a couple of campfires this month, giving us a chance to use the campfire popcorn popper that Robin gifted us with. Some of the kids said this was the best popcorn they ever had!
We have noticed a lot of new mushrooms, including a very poisonous one called Panther Amanita. This has prompted us to add cautionary advice to the kids regarding all plants. First, we NEVER eat the wild mushrooms, and second, if they are not at Cedarsong, they MUST ask a grown-up before eating any plant. The kids all can recognize elderberry at this point, the only plant at Cedarsong that eating the leaves could make you sick (it is an emetic).
One day we made a salad for snack, consisting entirely of plants the kids had collected themselves. The ingredients were: evergreen huckleberry new leaves and flower buds, salal leaves, red cedar, bittercress, cleavers, prunella, miners lettuce, indian plum leaves, salmonberry flowers, sweet ciceley, dock leaf, wall lettuce, new blackberry leaves, doug fir buds, and bracken fern fiddleheads. We ate it sprinkled with a black huckleberry vinegar. That day, we drank a tea made from cottonwood husks, salal, old man’s beard (usnea), cedar and western hemlock (the tree; no relation to the poison hemlock).
By Erin Kenny ©2010