Although the month of April has been cool, many of the plants have progressed to a new stage of growth and our spring foraging options have increased greatly. We have been enjoying salmonberry leaf buds and flower petals, salal leaf buds, evergreen huckleberry flowers and ” goodness” ( the red new growth of the evergreen huckleberry), red huckleberry leaves and flowers, red flowering currant flowers, miners lettuce, sweet cicely, and the tiny fiddleheads of the bracken fern.
The growth of both the bracken ferns and the sword ferns has been dramatic this month. We have been placing measuring sticks next to the emerging bracken ferns and can actually see that they visibly grow taller every single day. The sword ferns fronds, which were still laying low in the center of the fern clump “nest”, have quickly grown to be about knee-high. The children have enjoyed stroking the soft fur that covers these young fronds.
This sweet aromatic smell of the Cottonwood leaves has enchanted us all month. As the new leaves emerge, they dropped their sticky resinous husks to the ground and we spent several days collecting them to put in a jar with olive oil. In six weeks, we will mix the infused oil with melted beeswax to make our superb balm of Gilead which is an anti-inflammatory – great for treating sore muscles, sprains, and bruises. All of the children will be taking some home with them at that time.
Since it has been unseasonably cool this month, we have had the opportunity to enjoy a several camp fires. The children always enjoy roasting salal leaves to eat. We have had a chance to review our fire safety rules and the kids have once again demonstrated that they are capable of following them.
The energy of spring has been manifesting in our children and they have been literally bouncing through the forest. Our musical jamming, playing instruments and singing our homemade songs, has amplified this month as the children seek more outlet for their increased energy. There were several days this month when the children simply wanted to run back and forth along heart trail. We have been challenging children to see how high they can jump and how far they can jump using their arms for momentum and bending their knees to increase their height or distance. The children of course are always encouraged to challenge themselves and increase their personal best so that there is no competition between the kids.
Our imaginative play this month has centered on the storyline of a great movie that Lola made us all aware of: Duma. The children have been playing various themes around the movie’s subject of a boy who befriends a baby cheetah and when it grows he takes an adventure to return it to the wilderness. The children have also been enjoying running and jumping and pretending they are gazelles. I have told several stories this month that the children have wanted to act out. They participated in an impromptu performance of my ad libbed story loosely based on the children’s book “Good night Gorilla”.
The flavor of our daily forest tea has changed as the available plants have shifted with the new season. This month the most common combination of flavors included new red Cedar tips, evergreen huckleberry leaves and flowers, blackberry leaf buds, red flowering currant flowers, new growth tips of Western hemlock, young cleavers (or sticky wicky), nettles, salal leaves and buds, elderberry flowers, and Cottonwood husks. I have found that the tea is most flavorful after placing all the ingredients in very hot water in a thermos and letting it infuse overnight.
We have spent some time this month also reminding the children that it is very important not to put Vashon soil in their mouths because of the heavy metal contamination. We are teaching them to choose clean leaves for our forest tea and not to put any dirt covered things in their mouths, such as Doug fir cones. We also are diligent about washing and scrubbing dirty hands before our snack.
By Erin Kenny ©2011