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!)


Carolyn Renee said...

What a wonderful opportunity! Glad you & the boys took advantage of it & thanks for sharing.

Lisa said...

oh my, what a treat! we spend a lot of time at our local botanical garden learning the names of our local plants. it would be wonderful to have such a truly knowledgable guide!

Daisy said...

Amazing! What a great experience!

Kathy's Red Door Welcome said...

The boys are certainly getting an amazing education!

Bona Fide Mama said...

What a fabulous experience, Amanda! I'd LOVE to attend a class like this!

Kelly said...

What an incredible opportunity. Yes, I would love to attend a session like this too!

Helen said...

Amanda, I'm not sure how else to contact you so I'm posting a comment here. I'm a Christian homeschooling mom and an author, whose book The Missional Mom (Moody Publishers) was recently released. I'm writing to introduce myself and to see if you'd like a complimentary copy of the book, either for review or just for your own personal use. I can also send you an e-galley immediately if you'd prefer something quicker. And I am available for guest posts if you are interested. Please email me if you would like to get connected. I look forward to hearing from you!

mandi said...

Wow! I love that you guys got to do this! It sounds incredible. I need to see if there is something like this around here.

Sherry said...

Now that is the kind of field trip that reminds me how little I actually know!

Love the teeth-brushing shot. :)

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog and just had to say that this is the coolest!!! My boys (I also have three) would have LOVED LOVED LOVED that! :)

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