4 Reasons I’m Teaching My Kids to Forage

{Today we have a guest post about foraging from blogger James Smith. James is a passionate blogger who loves to write on trending topics. If he is not doing anything, you will find him writing. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates}

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I’ll never forget the first foraging outing I took my children on. They were about four and six years old at the time (I opted to leave my two year old with her grandmother for a few hours). Following our guide along the trail we learned all about the local river ecosystem, local history and culture, and got to put our eyes and hands on a wide variety of plants – sharpening our observation skills in the process. The best part, however, was getting a chance to smash open raw ripe pine nuts with rocks right there on the dirt trail – an unforgettable first experience and one my son loved!

Teaching kids to forage local native food has numerous physical as well as psychological benefits.

Children become more aware of their surroundings. Even without a field guide or clear goal, foraging hikes with an experienced guide can help kids with their listening and comprehension skills. It also introduces them to new vocabulary. As they sharpen their observation skills they quickly learn to discern between different types of plants. They also eventually learn to make well-reasoned and well-explained decisions about their choices.

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Foraging Instills compassion and understanding of the local ecosystem

We spend so much of our time indoors that we’ve lost touch with the world around us. We’ve also lost touch with a piece of our humanity that requires connection to nature. By getting outside, and getting dirty, sweaty, and observing our surroundings, we deepen our connection to the planet and the other creatures that live here with us. We learn that birds and other critters love fruits, berries, roots, and nuts too! That common bond we share is one that will help our children have compassion for all the animals and plants in their local environment.

Wild foods are nutritious

Contrary to what you may believe, most foods found at the grocery store, or even the garden varieties we grow ourselves, have been bred for color, taste, and palatability – not nutrition. Wild foods however, are often more nutritious – and this is evident in their, at times, slightly bitter taste. Higher mineral content and micronutrients make wild foraged foods healthy for us and a nice supplement to an already well-balanced modern diet.

Foraging food also helps instill a deep appreciation for the effort it takes to make and prepare foods that haven’t already been conveniently packaged for us at the grocery store. Give kids a rock or two and help them crack open a walnut. Let them grind their own flour from grains and seeds. Teach them how to make their own dried fruit. Make them climb and reach to pick fruit from the trees, or dig in the dirt for roots and tubers.

Let them truly experience the amount of activity and effort that goes into shelling one nut or grinding up their own grain for bread-baking. Once they know how much effort goes into it, they’ll begin to learn empathy for others who work on a daily basis to bring them their food at the grocery store in nicely packaged containers.

Wholesome exercise

There’s no mistaking that foraging is hard work. Even at a leisurely guided tour pace, hiking outdoors, trekking up and down hills and across rivers and bridges, is certainly a nice workout – and one that deserves all the tasty wild fuel you’ll find. Carry a walking stick for stability and encourage your children to go at their own pace.

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A few final thoughts. When foraging out in the wild and in unfamiliar areas, be sure to keep a lookout for poisonous and irritating plants and animals. Stay on the trails as much as possible to avoid disturbing native wildlife. Wear loose, weather-appropriate clothing in layers to protect against the sun and any stinging and biting insects. Wear comfortable shoes with a strong grip. Pack a small first aid kit to cover the basics in case of minor cuts and falls. Also, be sure to bring lots of water and healthy snacks to keep you hydrated and energized.

Make Your Own Chive Blossom Vinegar

Starting in late May and lasting through June, the garden is speckled with the vibrantly purple blossoms of chives.

Chives are a welcome addition to salads, vegetables, and eggs by adding their mild onion flavor.

Their blossoms are edible as well and can also be added to salads by pulling them apart into smaller bits.


Another simple way to use the flowers is to make a chive blossom vinegar.

Start by snipping the blossoms.  You’ll need a cup or two to fill a pint jar 3/4 full with the blossoms.

After collecting the blossoms, it’s a good idea to soak them for an hour or so in water.  This way any resident bugs can evacuate . We didn’t find any bugs in our freshly-opened blossoms, but if you do find them, consider changing the water another time to make sure they’re all out.

Towel dry the blossoms.

Lightly pack a sterilized pint jar with the blossoms and cover with vinegar.  I wanted the color of this vinegar to be lovely so I used white vinegar,  but generally I make my herb-infused vinegars with apple cider vinegar as if offers numerous health benefits on its own.

Place a piece of wax paper underneath the lid so that the vinegar doesn’t corrode the metal top.


For best flavor, infuse the chives into vinegar for 2-4 weeks before straining them out. After, keep the chive vinegar in a cool, dark location.

24 Hours Later

 

one week later

 

To recap, you’ll need:

  • 1-2 cups chive blossoms, soaked to remove any bugs and then towel dried
  • a sterilized pint jar
  • wax paper
  • enough white or apple cider vinegar to cover the blossoms

And then:

Add the chive blossoms to the pint jar and cover with the vinegar ensuring that all of the blossoms are completely submerged.  Place wax paper over the opening and screw on the lid. Wait 2 -4 weeks before straining out the chives. Store the vinegar in a cool, dark location.

This vinegar can be used wherever you might use vinegar, but I plan to use it mostly for salad dressings.

A simple Chive Blossom Vinaigrette could be made like this:

(for one cup)

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chive vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried herbs and snips of fresh chives (optional)

Place all ingredients into an empty jar, make sure the lid is on, and shake away!

 

 

 

The Time of Imbolc is Here!

For most of us reading this, we are generations removed from a truly meaningful connection with the land. Gone are the days where stocking a larder meant the difference between life and death. We no longer spend long hours huddled around the hearth, connected to the flame for vital warmth throughout long winter days.

We are no longer wondering if there is enough food and fire to ensure the elders, infants, and breastfeeding mothers can make it through the final months of cold, dark, winter.

For these reasons (and more), we have lost touch with the spirit of this season. We no longer remember why this day (February 1st or 2nd depending on the year) is a time for pause, a time to celebrate, and a time to rejoice.

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Gifts from the Heart of Nature & Herb Society Open House

What a beautiful sunny day we’re having here!  Overall, it has been such a pleasantly mild Autumn that it is hard to believe that the holidays are ahead.  I’m still harvesting some greens and even a few frost-escaping tomatoes from the garden, but somehow Thanksgiving is right around the corner!

15748430319_1332b56ab4_zI’ve attended a few holiday-themed craft shows already, but wanted to make a little announcement for those of you in the area that you can find a few of my favorite products at this year’s Gifts from the Heart of Nature at Holden Arboretum (non-locals, stay tuned, I have something for you, too!).  Thirty of the region’s artists that create nature-inspired works are featured in the lobby of Holden all season.  There are some truly amazing, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind finds there from ceramics to jewelry to fine art (and of course my botanicals!).  The display is open every day from 9 – 5 and until 8:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (check the link above for details on days that they are closed for the holidays).

There will also be a meet-the-artists Ladies Night from 5 – 9 on December 2.

IMG_3339Please come have a look at the Gifts from the Heart of Nature show now through January 3rd.  While you’re there, make sure to take a lovely walk through Holden’s gardens.  They are beautiful all year long!

Another upcoming event where you can find me and learn more about a national herb organization is the Herb Society of America’s open house this Sunday, November 22 from 1:00 – 4:00.

Come do some holiday shopping and learn about the benefits of membership with the Herb Society.  The Herb Society headquarters is located at 9019 Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland, Ohio 44094.

For those of you who are not local, I don’t mean to leave you out!  You can use the code BLOG10 to get 10% off all orders in my Etsy shop throughout the holiday season (expires December 31, 2015).

Many thanks for your support of our fledgling farm and small business.  The love and attention we have been receiving is so affirming and appreciated!

Ben Falk, World Renowned Vermont Permaculture Designer is Visiting Northeast Ohio!

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Credit: Whole Systems Design

Internationally renowned ecological designer and award-winning author Ben Falk will visit Cleveland October 21-24. Falk’s Vermont-based landscape design firm Whole Systems Design utilizes permaculture techniques and systems thinking to design for ecological regeneration, resilience and abundance. Falk will hold consultations with six small farms across northeast Ohio during his tour, which will also include a public lecture and a meet-the-author dinner.

Ben Falk’s award-winning 2013 book The Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green), an indispensible manual for small-scale farmers, is based on Falk’s experience developing his own largely self-sufficient homestead on a degraded site in Vermont. Falk’s book provides guidance on a wide range of topics, including water management and earthworks, fertility harvesting and cycling, tools, social systems, species composition, health and preparedness considerations, and leaving a positive legacy.

Falk has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a Master’s degree in land-use planning and design. His book was honored with an award from the American Horticultural Society and is described by Chelsea Green as “an inspiration in what can be done by imitating natural systems, and making the most of what we have by re-imagining what’s possible. A gorgeous case study for the homestead of the future.”

The Whole Systems Design client list includes The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University; Cape Eleuthera Island School, Bahamas; Vermont State Prison Farm; and a significant installation at Teal Farm/LivingFuture in Vermont. Falk has been a featured speaker at ecological food and farm association conferences and given a TED lecture; appeared in Mother Earth News, FastCompany and the Utne Reader and in the recent film Inhabit.

Falk will give a public lecture on Friday, October 23 at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights; an author dinner at Spice Kitchen + Bar featuring the restaurant’s signature local cuisine on Wednesday, October 21; and a Forum for Farmers at The University of Akron Field Station in Bath, Ohio on Thursday, October 22. For more information, and to purchase tickets for any of these events, visit: http://bit.ly/1PJmqOq

Ben Falk Tour Event Schedule

Author Dinner at Spice Kitchen + Bar

Wednesday, October 21, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

5800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

Plated dinner of venison or vegetarian option; includes wine and dessert.

Limit 20 guests.  Tickets $120.  Includes a signed copy of Ben’s book.

This event has been cancelled.  We will be having an informal evening around a cob pizza oven at Kelly’s Working Well Farm.  Join us from 7:00 – 9:00!

Forum for Farmers and Designers

Thursday, October 22, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

University of Akron Field Station at Bath Nature Preserve

3864 W Bath Rd., Akron, OH

Limit 40 guests.  Tickets $40.  Includes heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Public Lecture & Book Signing

Friday, October 23, 7:00-8:30

First Unitarian Church of Cleveland

21600 Shaker Heights Blvd, Shaker Hts., Oh 44122

Tickets $10 suggested donation.  Ben’s book will be available for purchase.

While in Northeast Ohio, Falk will consult with Thorn Valley Farm in Newbury Township, Kelly’s Working Well Farm in Chagrin Falls, Spice Acres Farm in the Countryside Conservancy in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Light Footsteps Herb Farm and Learning Center in Chardon, Hershey Montessori School’s Adolescent Program on the Farm in Huntsburg and Terra Firma Farm in Walton Hills.

“Light Footsteps” by the Emmaus Community

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Light Footsteps

How awesome is this place,

of birds + plants + bees + space.

The humans who share their inner experiences,

give an outer meaning to faces

in a common experience.

So free are the loving owners

that we will return again,

to re-experience awesome

awareness and peace.

-the Emmaus Community

IMG_2462We love to share our land with everyone who is interested.  We opened our home to our first retreat group recently and it was a joyous experience for all.  Contact christine (@) lightfootsteps (dot) com for more information about hosting your own retreat or workshop here.

Perma-Blitz in Chardon, OH! We need your help!

Light Footsteps and Resilient Health cordially invite you to a PERMA-BLITZ!

We’re having people over this weekend Saturday, May 9 and the following weekend Sunday, May 17.  Come any time after 11 AM and stay as long as you’d like!  If you’d like to plan around mealtimes, we’ll be having pizza at 6:00 on Saturday and a potluck at 6:00 on Sunday. We even have plenty of space for camping in our field or the woods.  Bring your friends and come have some fun!

What the heck is a perma-blitz?! It’s a convergence of people who get together for a short time to make a BIG project come together.  It’s also about meeting and networking with like-minded individuals, learning about permaculture, sharing what you know, and having fun outdoors.

Here at our homestead we have some BIG ideas for the future, and we’re trying to make a lot of headway this spring.

Some of the projects we’d like help on are our:

  • 2500 sq ft Keyhole garden
  • Kitchen garden
  • Herb spiral
  • Orchard swales
  • Medicine wheel garden
  • Sun garden

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We’ve done a lot of the design and prep work:

  • We sheet mulched a space for the medicine wheel garden in the fall, added more mulch this spring, and it is ready to be planted.
  • In order to turn our lawn into garden beds and orchards, we cut paths by hand with shovels, and rented a sod-cutter to establish the keyhole beds and to prep the swales and sun garden
  • We’ve stockpiled cardboard to be applied to some of the keyhole garden beds that will be covered with soil and planted with nitrogen fixing plants until next season
  • We’ve imported a couple tons of soil and mulch, which need to be applied to the beds

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We need your help, and there are a number of things you might do:

  • Move soil and mulch
  • Plant fruit/nut trees, herbs, vegetables
  • Help to design a forthcoming sun trap, pond, and food forest
  • Occupy our 18 month old

If nothing else, stop by to meet our chickens and new bees!

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Please CLICK HERE to find our address and telephone number to call for more info/help finding us (I prefer not to place them here so I can avoid spam calls and the like!).  Email us at christine (at) lightfootsteps (dot) com.  Please bring shovels and rakes if you can!

Can’t attend, but still interested in helping?  You can donate to our fiscally-sponsored non-profit HERE (it is tax-deductible). Please, also feel free to contact us about volunteering at another time.

Upcoming Class & the February Newsletter

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day weekend.  We had a very snowy Valentine’s Day, but we made the best of it with pancakes, a warm fire, and lots of good family time.

In case you missed it, we sent out the February newsletter for Light Footsteps last Thursday.  You can read it HERE.  Also, consider subscribing so that you’re always in the know with what’s happening at the Light Footsteps Farm!

In the newsletter this month, I talked a little about turmeric and how to use this awesome anti-inflammatory herb in eggs. Yum!

I also mentioned that I’ll be leading an upcoming class where we’ll discuss preventative health and home remedies that are available in most everyone’s kitchen.  It’s called Kitchen Cabinet Remedies and it is happening at Balance & Thrive on Monday, February 23 from 6:30 – 7:30.

We’ll talk more about turmeric and a variety of other herbs and common foods that you’re likely to already have at home.   View this flyer to learn a little more or sign up HERE.

I hope to see you there!

Zucchini Fritters

It’s a fun challenge to continuously find new ways of preparing the abundance of produce that appears this time of year.

After trying zucchini fritters recently, I’ve realized that they’re nothing new to kitchen pros, but they were new to me and now we’ve already made them several times. They’re delicious and a great way to use up some of that extra zucchini.

Here’s how you can get started with your own Zucchini Fritters! Continue reading

June Brings…(Sourdough success, garden beauty, and permaculture plans)

It took me a month of working with my sourdough starter, but it finally resulted in a delicious loaf. It still needs work, but I think it was a darn good first try.

Fresh sourdough bread!

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