Kids

Birding with My Daughter

I officially went birding for the first time with my 5 year-old daughter. I personally love birding (see my previous article on The Benefits of Birding for Permaculturists). I am not naive enough to think her interest isn’t, in part, because she wants to “be like her daddy”. But she has been expressing a growing interest in birds that seems to be more than just trying to mimic me, and I definitely want to foster this.  At night, she reads through an old copy of my Sibley Guide to Birds before bed, so I do believe this is a real interest for her.
The "Beginning Birder Set" I put together this Christmas.

The “Beginning Birder Set” I put together this Christmas.

For Christmas this year, one of her gifts from me was a “Beginning Birder Set” I put together. It included a couple of birding books for kids and a kids pair of binoculars. She has been asking to go birding with me since Christmas, but due to my work schedule we had to put it off. Yesterday, while I was at work, she took her new binoculars and her backpack, filled it with snacks, a water bottle, and her new birding books, and went birding on her own around the house! Well, I was not working today, and so were finally able to go out together this morning. We only lasted about an hour with temperatures in the mid 30’s F, but we had a great time… more importantly, SHE had a good time!
She correctly ID’d a couple birds entirely on her own, and she was the first to spot quite a few birds as well. I had a blast watching her! One of my favorite parts was her asking, “When can we go birding again?!”
White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow (source: http://hughvandervoort.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/White-Throated-Sparrow-53.jpg)

Here is a list of the birds we spotted. Not too bad for a first birding foray:
  • American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  • Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  • Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  • Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
  • Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) – photo at the top of this page. (Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/2016/10/17/northern-flicker-bird/01-northern-flicker.jpg)
  • Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
  • Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  • Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  • Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
  • White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
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Don’t Wash Your Hands!

Almost 1 year ago, Tasha Sturm, a microbiology lab technician at Cabrillo College, posted the photo above. It is a bacterial culture of her 8-year-old son’s handprint. She had her son place his hand on a large petri-dish after he was playing outside, and this is what grew! Amazing!

This image has made the rounds on the internet over the last year. The reason I am writing about it today is that it has unfortunately (and almost unanimously) prompted the opposite of the correct response from the people who see it. This is entirely due to lack of information and understanding.

The average person’s reaction is some combination of the following: “Ewww! Gross! I need to wash my hands! I need to wash my kids’ hands! I need some more anti-bacterial soap! I’ll never let my kid outside!”

Now, let’s deal with reality. There are bacteria everywhere. EVERYWHERE! In the dirt. In the air. On our food. In our water. On our skin. In our body! In fact, we need bacteria to survive. Our intestines are filled with bacteria, and hopefully most of it is good bacteria. But you know what? Some of those bacteria on or in us, are bad bacteria… bacteria that could kill us. But do you know why it doesn’t? Because of the good bacteria. The good bacteria entirely outnumber our bad bacteria; they overwhelm them and out-compete them. They give our immune system a fighting chance to beat the bad bacteria. If we didn’t have the good bacteria, we would be dead.

Close-up of some of the bacteria colonies.

Close-up of some of the bacteria colonies.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the photo above. Do you know what kind of bacteria are present in this handprint? These likely include Bacillus species, Serratia species, Micrococcus species, Staphylococcus species, and yeast species. All of these microorganisms are normally found in the soil and/or in the water and/or on the skin.

Tasha Sturm stated in an interview, “We have a large number of bacteria that live ‘with us’ that are beneficial. Some aide in digestion, make vitamin K, etc. People who are healthy come in contact with millions of bacteria every day without adverse effect. Coming in contact with bacteria actually strengthens our immune system.”

She added, “Unless your kids have a health condition that requires you to be more vigilant let them have fun and get dirty; it’s what they need to develop a healthy immune system.”

So, how do we strike a balance between good hygiene and developing a healthy immune system? If you touch or may touch something that is known to contain unhealthy bacteria, then wash your hands. If you touch or may touch something that could spread disease or cause infections, then wash your hands. This includes washing your hands after using the bathroom, after touching a dead animal, and before eating. And teach your children to do the same. But seriously, let’s be wise in this and don’t go overboard. Touching an animal that has been dead for a week is different than touching a dead animal you butchered yourself (yes, this is a Permaculture/Homesteading website!).

Also, please use antibacterial soap very sparingly. We don’t want to kill all bacteria in our environment or on our bodies. As a physician, I need to use antibacterial soap on a regular basis in the Emergency Room, but at home, I just use regular soap. Again, I recommend balance.

Tasha Sturm concluded by saying, “As microbiologists, our job, especially in education, is to make the invisible world visible so it’s easier to understand. I think the image of the handprint was a graphic way to show others what’s out there and the beauty of microbiology. I think this image did just that.”

I agree!

 

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Making an Herbal Tea with Local Ingredients

All people have a specific set of taste preferences. This is a combination of genetic predispositions, culture, food and taste exposures, and likely many other factors. My oldest daughter (currently age 4) has a set of taste preferences closest to mine; we will pretty much eat anything. This will range from “common” American food to those foods that are more “acquired tastes” such as sushi to olives to sauerkraut to organ meat. She is the only one of my four children that will drink tea with me. Most mornings she will ask if we can have a “cuppa”.

I thought it would be fun to teach her how to make an herbal tea from ingredients we collected from our farm.

We went for a walk through our pastures, and we collected Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) flower buds, Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) flowers, Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina) flower petals, petals from another species of wild rose with deep pink, double flowers but less fragrance than the Pasture Rose, and new leaves from Blackberry (Rubus species) plants.

BK_Herbal_Tea_02

All the ingredients mixed together.

All the green parts from the Red Clover and Honeysuckle flowers were removed. We saved all the petals from the Roses. Then we dropped it all into a glass bowl. Everything smelled wonderful and very fragrant.

We poured almost-boiling water over the whole mix and let it steep for somewhere between 12-15 minutes. I’ll be honest, this smelled rather vegetal, and not so good.

We then strained the tea into mugs. I tasted it, and it had a mild, pleasant flavor. We added some local honey and a little bit of cream, and this made a huge difference. The sweetness of the honey really highlighted to floral essence of this tea. My daughter and I both finished our mugs and decided we need to do this again soon!

 

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Wild Mushroom Identification (and a project for kids!)

I want to take a few minutes to explain why identifying your local mushrooms is important. Even if you have no desire to ever eat a wild mushroom, which I think is a travesty, there is still a few good reasons to go beyond simple avoidance.

And for all you sticklers out there, I know a “mushroom” is really called a “fruiting body”, but for sake of simplicity for the average reader, I will stick with the layman’s vernacular. 

These mushrooms popped up all over my neighborhood... but what were they?

These mushrooms popped up all over my neighborhood… but what were they?

Before I get into the reasons, let me give you some background:
We’ve been in our new neighborhood for a few weeks now, and last week it rained quite a bit. Within a few days, there were mushrooms popping up in many of our neighbors lawns. Now I never really dismiss mushrooms. I am kind of addicted to them. I like to try and identify mushrooms, and I absolutely love to find edible mushrooms. However, I am not a highly skilled mycologist. Yes, when comparing myself to the average man-on-the-street, I am smarter than your average bear pertaining to the topic of mycology. But I am not a Paul Stamets or David Arora (these are two famous and noted mycologists… two of my favorite mycologists, in fact… and I know it makes me a geek when I actually have “favorite” mycologists!).

Well, the ones I saw were large, mostly white, and gilled. While a number of mushrooms can make a person sick, very few mushrooms in North America are actually deadly; however, there are a few mushrooms fitting this description that are, indeed, deadly. This includes the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) and the Destroying Angels (species including Amanita ocreata, A. verna, A. virosa, A. bisporigera). If a person is a beginning mushroom hunter, you should avoid eating any mushrooms that comes close to this description. If you are a mid-level, amateur mycologist (like me), then it is fun to identify them, but I would probably never eat this type of mushroom, just in case I am wrong. A seasoned mushroom hunter or a professional mycologist may feel comfortable eating a mushroom of this type, but even some of these people avoid eating them. There is not room for error with these mushrooms. This nice thing is that these mushrooms are easily avoided. And there are so many other edible mushrooms that are easily identified, that we are not missing out on much by avoiding mushrooms that may look like deadly species.

Well, I saw a few of these mushrooms, and I quickly realized they were not going to be easily identified without a little bit of work. I had a few guesses for species, but I wasn’t sure. But we had just moved here, and we had a lot of other things going on, and frankly, I just didn’t have the time to try and identify these mushrooms. But then I saw more of them, and then some more, and then even my wife was telling me about them popping up in the neighbors’ lawns. I started to reevaluate  the need to identify these mushrooms, and I came up with a few reasons why it could actually be more than just a personally interesting project.

First – I really just like to know the biology that is surrounding me. It was kind of bothering me to have this many mushrooms popping up around me when I didn’t know what they were.

Second – In a worst-case scenario, one of my children, one of my neighbors’ children, or even my dog, could end up taking a bite of one of these mushrooms. It would be very helpful to know how concerned I needed to be about these mushrooms surrounding me, my family, and my community.

Third – I will be working in a local ER in a few weeks. It is not uncommon for parents or babysitters to show up with a child who ate some mushrooms from the front yard. They often come in with the remnants of the mushroom cap. Since this is my local area, it would be good to have this information on hand to make a faster clinical decision.

Fourth – I had a great kids science project right in front of me. Every time we walked past these mushrooms, my two boys (age 5 and 6 years old) would ask if these were poisonous mushrooms or not. I kept telling them that since we didn’t know what they were, we have to assume they are poisonous for now.

A partial Fairy Ring.

A partial Fairy Ring.

Once I decided to try and identify these mushrooms, I had to gather some information. I grabbed my boys, and we went for some collections of data and specimens. We found this partial ring of mushrooms growing a few houses away. This ringed pattern is sometimes a full circle, and it is called a Fairy or Elf Ring/Circle. After reading The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit with my kids at bedtime, by boys loved that name!

I took photos of mushrooms at various ages of development, from just popping through the soil to very mature. (see the photos that follow)

Young unidentified mushrooms.

Young unidentified mushrooms.

False Parasol Chlorophyllum molybdites

Prime Unidentified Mushroom

False Parasol Chlorophyllum molybdites

Another photo of the same specimen from above, showing the gills and the firmly attached ring (annulus).

False Parasol Chlorophyllum molybdites

A mature specimen of our unidentified mushroom. 

We returned to the house with a number of photos and a few specimens. After really examining these mushrooms, I had already narrowed down the list in my head, but I was still not certain. I took about 10 minutes, and gave my boys a little science lesson on the parts and life cycle of mushrooms. They really got into it, and they can still name all the parts to a mushroom (fruiting body) – they were looking over my shoulder as I wrote this and pointed them out to me!

All my books are still being shipped from the Azores, including all my mushroom and mycology books, so I used the MycoKeys Online Morphing Mushroom Identifier. This is a really useful tool, and is pretty simple to use.

With the information I had gathered so far, I had narrowed down the choices to two likely species. The first was the highly edible Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) or the False Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites) which is not deadly, but definitely poisonous causing severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The False Parasol is responsible for the most mushroom poisonings in the United States each year. But how do we tell them apart?

The answer is a Spore Print. This is a very simple project, and my kids were fascinated by it. The spores produced by a mushroom will drop from the gills under the cap. Each individual spore is way too small to be seen by the naked eye, but if there are enough of them in one spot, we can determine the color of the spores. The fallen spores will leave a pattern that is unique to that species and individual specimen, just like a fingerprint. A mature cap (I used the one pictured above), with the stalk (stem) removed, is placed on a piece of paper. Putting the cap on a half sheet of black and a half sheet of white paper will ensure the spores can be seen if the spores are all white or black. The cap is left for at least a few hours, but it is best to leave it overnight. I had a very mature mushroom, and my kids were impatient, so after about three hours we checked on our print.

A beautiful spore sprint!

A beautiful spore sprint!
I put half of the cap back on top to show both the cap and spore print in one photograph.

The spore print was a nice, pale green, and this clinched our identification. Our mushroom was the False Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites). My kids now know that these mushrooms are poisonous. I am relieved they are not deadly. I have a bit more confidence in my mushroom identification skills. My kids had a fun time without even realizing they were learning… which is how education should be! And I got to know some of my mycological neighbors.

But, if I am honest, I was a bit bummed they weren’t edible!

 

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Photo References: All photos are mine. If you would like to use them, please let me know!

 
 

 

Saying Goodbye to the Azores

My family and I have spent the last 2 years living in the Azores, an oceanic (maritime) temperate climate. The Azores are a group of 9 Portuguese, volcanic islands about 850 miles (1925 km) off the coast of Portugal. That puts it pretty much 2/3 of the distance from New York to Lisbon… rather isolated in the North Atlantic Ocean. We lived on Terceira Island, the third largest island of the archipelago.
Population: Dairy cattle = 100,000… Humans = 50,000… seriously!

Azores

A view of Terceira Island, Azores.
Our home for 2 years.

Azores

My photo from the plane.

I love this photo for a few reasons. First it shows Porto Martins, the village where we live. Second, it shows Mount Pico on Pico Island in the way back behind the clouds. Third, it shows a couple prominent landmarks, Mount Brazil and Split Rock. Fourth, it shows the amazing cloud cover of the island. These islands are very remote in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The islands are covered in green – pastures and forests. This greenery, along with the mountains popping up in the middle of the flat ocean, creates the perfect conditions for this island cloud formation. On other islands in the world, where people have cleared most of the trees from the island, this cloud cover stops forming and the island slowly becomes a desert. This shows that the Azores are still managing their natural resources pretty well.

Azores

A closer view of Porto Martins, Terceira Island, Azores

Split Rock, Terceira Island, Azores

A closer view of Split Rock, Terceira Island, Azores.
I can’t find the exact date of the split, but it was in fairly recent history.

Patchwork Fields, Terceira Island, Azores

Patchwork Fields, Terceira Island, Azores

I have previously written about the Azorean style of rotational grazing. While not as prominent on some of the other islands, our island of Terceira is covered in permanent pastures divided by mostly dry-stacked volcanic rock walls.

Cow Jam, Terceira Island, Azores

Cow Jam, Terceira Island, Azores

The dairy cattle are rotated through the pastures every day or every few days. Many farmers own or rent fields that are not next to each other, so the cattle have to walk the roads from one pasture to the next. It is fairly common for me to get stuck in a cow jam (never a traffic jam!) on the way to work.

A walk through the pastures

My wife, kids, and father taking a walk through the pastures… beautiful!
Terceira Island, Azores

Me at the botanic gardens.

Me at the botanic gardens. Old Gingko biloba trees.
São Miguel Island, Azores 

One overlook on São Miguel Island, Azores.

One overlook on São Miguel Island, Azores.
The green pastures are used in rotational grazing of cattle.

My boys taking photos of a waterfall. Me at the botanic gardens. Terceira Island, Azores

My boys taking photos of a waterfall.
Terceira Island, Azores

The hilly pastures of the Azores. São Miguel Island, Azores

The hilly pastures of the Azores.
São Miguel Island, Azores

Lagoa das Sete Cidades São Miguel Island, Azores

Lagoa das Sete Cidades
São Miguel Island, Azores

The twin lakes and small village of Sete Cidades are located in the crater left from the volcanic eruption. Wikipedia recounts the legend of how these lakes were formed. I think it is amazing that a village is located inside a volcanic caldera!

Tea Plantation São Miguel Island, Azores

Tea Plantation
São Miguel Island, Azores

The Azores are the only location in Europe where tea is commercially grown. I was driving on São Miguel Island and saw this unique landscape. I almost passed it by until I realized what it was. My wife would say I screeched to a halt in the middle of the road… what can I say? I was excited. This is the only tea plantation I have ever seen. Due to its remote location in the Atlantic Ocean, there are no pests or diseases that bother the tea plants (Camellia sinensis). The Gorreana Estate has been in continuous tea production since 1883, and it still uses much of its original equipment… all run by hydro power generated from natural springs.

My wife at  São Miguel Island, Azores

My beautiful wife at Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire)
São Miguel Island, Azores

Yet another breathtaking pasture/overlook. São Miguel Island, Azores

Yet another breathtaking pasture/overlook.
São Miguel Island, Azores 

My oldest daughter bringing milk to a calf. Terceira Island, Azores

My oldest daughter bringing milk to a calf.
Terceira Island, Azores

My second son milking a traditional Azorean dual purpose dairy and beef breed of cattle. Terceira Island, Azores

My second son milking a traditional Azorean dual purpose dairy and beef breed of cattle.
Read more about it by clicking on the photo.
Terceira Island, Azores

My kids and me with some baby mice I found in the garden. Terceira Island, Azores

My kids and me with some baby mice I found in the garden.
Read more about it by clicking on the photo.
Terceira Island, Azores

My family says goodbye to the Azores... this is one block from our home. Terceira Island, Azores

My family says goodbye to the Azores… this is one block from our home!
Porto Martins, Terceira Island, Azores

So thankful to be able to provide these memories to my children. Terceira Island, Azores

So thankful to be able to provide these memories to my children.
Terceira Island, Azores

 

 

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Photo References: All photos are mine (except the very first island photo and the photo of Split Rock). If you would like to use them, please let me know!

 

Had to take a break…

I’ve had to take a break from pretty much all of life’s activities to focus on my family. We have been blessed yet again with another little girl. She was born about two and a half weeks ago. Both she and my wife are doing great, and my other children have been fantastic with their new sibling.

I’ll be getting back to my fairly regular articles soon. This short break from writing has reinforced how much I love researching and sharing Permaculture. If you have recently signed up, and I had a large number of new subscribers in the last four weeks, you should be getting more frequent updates from me in the near future.

With all the down time and late nights and long flights, I have been able to really spend time thinking about another big project. I plan to share it with you in the next few weeks. I am very excited about it as I see this shaping a significant portion of my life’s work for the next few years. Stay tuned!

All the best!

 

By |September 22nd, 2013|Kids|5 Comments
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    Get your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 2: Touring an Azorean Farm!

Get your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 2: Touring an Azorean Farm!

I am a huge advocate of getting our kids into the natural world and into the agricultural world. Please read my first article on this subject here: Get your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 1: Get them in the garden! All children should understand, and not be frightened, of nature. All children should understand where their food comes from. At this stage in my life, we have no animals other than a dog. Hopefully, this will change in about a year’s time, but for now I have to make do with what we have. So when we had the opportunity to visit a heritage farm here in the Azores, where we currently live, I certainly wasn’t going to pass. My rather pregnant wife and I got to watch our three young kids tour an historic, renovated Azorean farmhouse (whose owners dress in traditional Azorean farm clothes); feed the chickens, ducks, and geese; ride a donkey; milk the cow; visit the piglets; and eat freshly made bread still warm from the traditional wood-fired stone oven and slathered with local butter and jams… yeah, of course we participated in that part as well!

Farm05

My daughter loved to pet the donkey… riding it was another story!

Kids06

My youngest and oldest posing with the traditional Azorean breed of cattle. I was told by the farmwife that it was called the “Azores Cattle”, and it dates back to the 1400’s and maybe even the 1300’s. I can find nothing online about them… if anyone knows more about this breed, I would love to read it!

Kids03

Teaching my daughter (2 years old) how to milk a cow!

Kids04

My second oldest (4 years old) really started to get into it.

Kids05

My oldest (5 years old) got the milk out and was done… he was like, “I did it, why do I need to do it again?”, but he was the first of my kids to sample the milk! It was quite sweet.

Kids02

Milking a cow may have not been his thing, but he could have fed the chickens all day long if we would have let him!

Kids01

My second oldest just wanted to walk with the chickens. He was out there, just him and the poultry, for quite a while. We finally had to call him back. He ran up and said, “Dad, we have got to get a farm!” Ahhhh… music to my soul!

Farm06

One last goodbye to the chickens, ducks, and geese before we had to leave.

 

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The Permaculture Prime Directive

The painting above is titled, The Doctor, and was painted in 1877 by Sir Luke Fildes. This poignant image always makes me pause… as a parent, a physician, and a permaculturist, this painting hits me on so many levels. We are at the bedside of a sick patient. That sick patient is our children’s future, and we have a cure if we choose to use it. The Permaculture Prime Directive gets to the core of the matter.

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for own existence and that of our children.
– Bill Mollison

This is one of the first things written in Bill Mollison’s book, Permaculture, A Designer’s Manual. I don’t have a whole lot to elaborate on it, but I would say that this is one of the primary things that drew me to Permaculture in the first place… even before I read this. I do believe there is something fundamental to being human that craves responsibility and longs to be a part of something that cares for our future generations. I actually do believe there are some significant spiritual reasons for this, but I will not go into that today. I think this quote is powerful enough on its own.

 

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Photo Reference: 

Great article about real Native American gardens.

Original Article: The dirty little secrets of a Native American garden (follow this link).

Once again, thanks to my good friend Jake for sending me this article. Go ahead and read the original article first, but I’ll give the secret away here in a moment.

The dirty little secret of the garden is… urine! It is always a little fun when you know someone else’s secret. But it’s a bit of a let down if you already knew it. I was hoping to put another trick up my sleeve. I have been promoting urine in the garden for quite some time now. My boys started to help fertilize the garden when they were two years old. They would say the garden was thirsty or ask me which plant needed nitrogen (okay, that came when they were three… honest!). Then they would go out to the garden, drop trousers, and pee in the soil or mulch around a plant. I have since seen the same concept promoted by Martin Crawford (author of the incredible book, Forest Gardening) and Marjory Wildcraft (creator of the Grow Your Groceries DVD).

I didn’t originate this concept. Martin Crawford or Marjory Wildcraft didn’t either. The Native Americans referenced in this article may have, but they likely inherited it from even older tribes. I doubt we will ever know for sure. But whoever came up with the idea… it truly doesn’t matter. What matters is that it works!

We may not always have the scientific explanations or the historical attributions, but if we have a method that works, we should strongly consider using it in our Permaculture designs.

Just my quick thoughts for the day. Now get out there an pee in your gardens!!!

 

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    Get Your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 1: Get them in the garden!

Get Your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 1: Get them in the garden!

I have written previously about how important it is to get children into the garden… into nature in general. I want to share a few photos and stories of how I do that now. But first I really want to make a point that it doesn’t have to be your own biological kids you teach about the natural world. All kids deserve to know about it, to experience it. My wife and I dealt with infertility and were married for 10 years before we welcomed our first child into our home, so I know that not all people reading this will have a son or daughter to teach. But you probably have a niece or a nephew or a neighbor’s kid. Get them into the garden. Get them into nature. You will never regret it!

Kids_in_Garden_03

My daughter deciding which beet needs to be picked.

This first photo series is of my almost 2 year old daughter. She is more into plants and gardening at a younger age than either of her older brothers (so far). She has spent hours with me plucking and eating cherry tomatoes, planting seeds (she loves to taste test the distinctly colored Hidatsa Shield and Calypso beans… yeah, we are working on that!), and harvesting any produce she can.

Kids_in_Garden_04

Got one!

Kids_in_Garden_05

uhhh… now what?

Later that week, I was spreading some old straw as mulch around my newly planted tomato and pepper seedlings. A blur of brown fur clued me in that a mouse had taken up residence in my old garbage can full of straw. I hadn’t opened it in months. Well, sure enough, after a few minutes of removing straw and spreading it in my garden, I uncovered a bunch of newborn mice.

Kids_in_Garden_02

Five “pinkies” from the garden straw pile… their eyes were not yet opened.

Not one to let an experience like this pass, I called the kids together and showed them what I had found. They were ecstatic. They were giggling and laughing. Asking question after question before I could even answer the first one. There was no fear. No shivers. Just interest and awe. If only we as adults could maintain this wonder.

Kids_in_Garden_01

The kids loved seeing the baby mice!

After about five minutes of letting the kids see the mice, gently touch them (and then have mom help them wash their hands!), I put the mice in a pile of straw. I finished my mulching work, and I placed them back in the original pile and lightly covered them up again. The next morning they were gone. Did the mom come back and move them? Did the mom come back, smell human scent, and kill them all? Did a predator come by and eat them (I had a lesser weasel living in one corner of my garden last year)? I have no idea. We don’t have much of a mouse problem inside our house. We had one mouse this Winter which my dog quickly dispatched. In the garden, I see mice as a welcome part of a healthy ecosystem. If my disturbance of them while I was going about normal garden work interfered too much in their lives, I honestly feel a little bad. But not that much. It is part of life. Ours and theirs. I do think that the few minutes my kids were able to watch these tiny creatures was a treasure.

Finally, and with no photos, I will share how I spent some time planting seedlings with my sons and their friends. I really have no idea how much experience these two boys have had in a garden, but they got to plant some seedlings with my sons and their dad. I know which ones they planted, so each time they come over, I ask them to check on their plants. Who knows what seeds will be planted in them, no pun intended. I do think that we are connected to this Earth in a way that many of us have forgot. Deep down, there is a longing in all of us to be a part of the natural world. I just think it is buried deeper in some than in others. Is this a spiritual thing? Maybe. I am not really sure. As a Christian, I read about the perfection in the Garden of Eden, but I also know of the essence of nature that runs in almost all world religions. It makes me think that there is something intrinsically “right” about humans working with nature instead of against it. I guess this is why I am so passionate about Permaculture. This is why I am so passionate about getting kids back in the garden and back in nature.

 

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Photo References:

  • All photos are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them. Thanks!