Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Native plant walk

On Thursday we joined our homeschooling group for a walk along the Kern River to explore our local plant life.

Our guide was a longtime local resident who grew up learning how to live off this land, and who now knows the names and uses of more than 3,000 native plants. Lonewolf is a Native himself, and he is passionate about passing on everything he knows to Native Americans and non-Native alike.

(A bit of advice... If you ever get the opportunity to go on a two-hour nature hike with someone who knows the names and uses of 3,000 different species of plants, be sure to take a pencil and notepad!!)

He showed us plantago major, sometimes called White Man's Foot, because it was brought to this continent on the feet of Europeans. Both edible and medicinal, it was often used on battlefields as a wound healer.

We learned about the chemical properties and usefulness of stinging nettle. We discovered mallow, yarrow and milkweed.

We ate the flowers of a plant that tastes like fresh broccoli. We sniffed a plant that smells like body odor -- and then breathed in the honey-like scent of a locust tree.

We learned how people used to brush their teeth with the ends of horsetail, which grows in the moist soil along rivers.

(If you ever have trouble getting your kids to brush their teeth, take them to the park and let them pick horsetail. Suddenly brushing your teeth is the coolest thing ever!)

As we walked, I realized how often I take our local plants for granted. I'm so used to seeing some of these plants and thinking of them as weeds! Somehow knowing a plant's usefulness makes it that much more beautiful.

The one above is called bedstraw (galium aparine), because it was used to fill mattresses. Lonewolf said it also cushioned Baby Jesus in the manger!

After our walk, and a break for lunch, we sat down to admire Lonewolf's handmade tools, and learn some wilderness skills.

He showed us three different ways to start a fire -- and did it in less than 30 seconds!

He carved his many bows with only his Swiss army knife.

Many of his arrows were sharpened out of found metals.

He also demonstrated a spear-throwing tool that could put a hole in a car door!

On Friday we went to our natural foods store... and noticed a shelf full of the seeds of one of the plants Lonewolf talked about.

He said you could eat a handful of these seeds and it would be all the food you needed for a whole day. Maybe you've heard of chia?

This was definitely one of the best field trips we've ever been blessed to participate in. Thank you, Lonewolf! (And his assistants, Red Sky and Whitefeather!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Day 2011

I love that I get to participate in all of the Holy Week services at our church as a member of the choir. Maundy Thursday, or the Last Supper; Good Friday, with its many hymns and homilies on the meaning of Christ's sacrifice; the change from darkness to light during the Easter Vigil, when the evening light glows through the stained glass, the candles are lit, and we can finally rejoice aloud, saying, "Alleluia! Christ is Risen!"; and of course, the glorious celebration of Easter morning.

It is, of course, difficult to take pictures while holding a hymnal. ;)

But no photos could truly capture the incredible majesty of our risen Lord. We'll have to settle for homely snapshots, memories of Easter traditions and adorable boys, wearing spring-colored outfits in celebration of Life.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!! 
The Lord is risen, indeed!!

Birthday snapshots

My first baby turned 10 years old on Saturday. TEN.

I felt like I should have been marking that milestone in some big, important way, but Eldest was content with our usual birthday traditions -- presents from his family over breakfast, a party with friends at the park, dinner at home afterwards.

Since it fell the day before Easter, that was about all I could manage anyway. I do plan to make him a scrapbook of his first decade when the Mac harddrive gets back from the shop.

 My darling boy, we are so very proud of you. Your enthusiasm for life, your compassion for all living creatures, your enormous laugh and broad smile, your sensitive spirit, your never-ending curiosity about the world around you -- you inspire us to care about "the least of these," to listen better, to keep learning, to love more deeply.

Homeschool Easter party

It wouldn't be spring without at least one egg-dyeing session and a candy-filled egg hunt with friends!

By the river on my 36th

I'm hosting a playdate this afternoon... which means I get to catch up on a little blogging! April has been one busy, beautiful month. I had a birthday, Eldest had a birthday, and then, of course, we celebrated Easter. There's nothing more beautiful than that.

On my birthday, we drove out to the river with my mom, my friend Catherine, and her boys.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"It has come, the Spring!"

"...Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like? You don't see it in rooms if you are ill."
"It is the sun shining on the rain, and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth," said Mary...
...She unchained and unbolted and unlocked, and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm, sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky, and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself, and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it...
...The afternoon was even lovelier and busier than the morning had been. Already nearly all the weeds were cleared out of the garden and most of the roses and trees had been pruned or dug about. Dickon had brought a spade of his own, and he had taught Mary to use all her tools, so that by this time it was plain that though the lovely wild place was not likely to become a 'gardener's garden,' it would be a wilderness of growing things before the springtime was over.
 --Frances Hodgson Burnett, "The Secret Garden"

Mary and Dickon and Colin have been our literary inspiration lately.

On cool, grey or rainy mornings, we've been reading "The Secret Garden," studying botany, playing The Ladybug Game, continuing our Roman history, and trying to get started on a little spring cleaning.

Outside, we've pulled weeds, planted two avocado trees, three blueberry bushes, six rose bushes, a few lavender plants and lots of pansies, and watched our happy chickens scratch for bugs.

We've finished the first two chapters of "Exploring Creation with Botany," learned about angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (conifers), studied the parts of a seed and their role in germination, identified the difference between monocotyledons (petals in multiples of 3, non-branching veins) and dicotyledons (petals in multiples of 4 or 5, branching veins), and collected samples for their notebook pages.

Tulip: angiosperm, monocotyledon

Western redbud: angiosperm, dicotyledon
Today I've been laid up in bed ala Colin (with a bit of food poisoning), but tomorrow we're hoping to get some summer veggies in the ground. It should be another lovely, sunny, warm spring day.

How are you enjoying springtime?
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