Hello Wilderness, We’ve Missed You

February 13, 2015 at 3:04 am (Education, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , )

Since moving away from our beloved Timberlane Estates, we’ve been in dire need for nature.  Especially with this winter we just had – harsher than I remember winter being – wet, muddy, colder sooner, and nowhere cozy to defrost.  Temporary living arrangements have caused us to leave the comfort of having a nearly 1000 square foot library just down the hall from our beds.  We also don’t have a fireplace here.  It’s been a long time since I lived without a fireplace.  But the change is good, it’s helped us redefine necessities, discover the beauty of new public libraries we hadn’t yet visited, save mP1000764oney for the land and dream home we want, and teach our daughter lessons she might have otherwise missed.

We’ve also discovered the Lake Houston Wilderness State Park.  We went from 100+ acres of trails and exploration that we knew like the back of our hands to not having anything most of the winter, to Lo! And Behold! 4700+ acres of trails and wilderness closer than we could have ever imagined.  Ask and ye shall receive.  Take a ride down the highway and pay attention to those marvelous brown signs!

It costs $3 per adult to get in, kids under 13 and senior citizens are free.  OR (and this is what we’ve done) it’s $25 for a year pass for an adult and three adult guests; basically, a family pass.

We’ve been back about every other day since we’ve discovered it.  We walk, tromp, and read.  We snack and picnic, we play in the creek, we stare at the trees.  We read all the sign posts and discover new plants we’ve never heard of.  We soak up vitamin D and work our muscles.

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To the left you’ll see a Hercules’ Club. We were pretty excited about this discovery and did a mini-research project on it when we got home.

In all this much needed tromping and new library resources at my fingertips, I stumbled across a Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by a fellow named Nyerges.  It isn’t the best resource for Texans, only a few plants were ones I recognized, but if you hail from California then it’s right up your alley.  Either way, if you’re in the foraging scene, this book is a great read.  Nyerges personalizes a lot of his foraging facts with anecdotes of how he has confirmed or debunked various myths, legends, and general assumptions for certain plants.  My favorite was a bit about the Native Americans and poison oak – eat the young, red leaves and you’ll be immune to the rash for the rest of the season/year.  The science of immunizing oneself at its finest.  Already this is how we tackle seasonal allergies when it comes to pollen, it would not have occurred to me that there is a practical pre-remedy for poison oak.

 

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Bouquet of Color

March 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Revisiting…

dirt

Title:  I Love Dirt!

(52 Activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature)

Today, we went for a much needed walk in the woods.  When the weather is nice, we’re out there five days a week.  When the weather is too hot to be nice, we’re out there four days a week.  When the weather is obnoxiously freezing cold, wet, and completely unnatural to a born and bred Texan, we hide indoors and rock back and forth holding our hot coffee and teas.  Well, not quite, but close.  We actually sit by the window and watch the birds eat bits of things we’ve left in the yard, name the squirrels that live in the trees out back, and read stories by the fire burning in the fireplace.

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Today, the sun was out for a bit.  It wasn’t quite so cold.  We needed the woods and we needed it bad.  There was cheering involved.

So, we loaded up our trustee going out bag and went for a trek.  Tucked inside was our copy of I Love Dirt and as soon as we hit the trails we read from chapter two: Bouquet of Color.

Bouquet of Color is an exercise in finding flowers and identifying how many colors we can see.  It’s a purely natural I Spy game.

P1010201   We discovered more flowers we would call purple than I would have supposed.  Lots of purple field pansies, baby blue eyes (that look more purple than blue), and even some butterfly peas.  We saw a lot of pointed phlox, but that is categorically considered a ‘red’ wildflower… so maybe we’re a little colorblind because they looked pinkish purple to us.

Of course, there was a lot of yellow in the form of dandelions, but not as many as I would have guessed.   We found a lot of dewberry patches sporting their telling white blooms, and took note of where they were so we could come forage berries come summer.  Yet, tt seemed Kiddo was still shouting “I see purple!” more than any other phrase.

P1010203We were pretty excited about the blossoms on this tree.  See what they look like up close.  Anyone know what it is?

Click this photo to find out…

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Sometimes on the trail we get distracted from whatever task is at hand and just enjoy ourselves.  Here she said, “I want to put the sun in my mouth!” I couldn’t resist snapping that picture.

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A Shropshire Morning

February 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000979Title: A Shropshire Lad

Author: A.E. Housman

Publisher: Penguin (Classics)

Genre: Poetry (English Journeys)

I know I just posted on this very same title yesterday, but I’ve been reading through it over my morning coffee on this cold, rainy day, and I couldn’t keep myself from sharing the best parts.

A. E. Housman (1859–1936).  A Shropshire Lad.  1896.
XLVIII. Be still, my soul, be still
BE still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
  Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.
Think rather,—call to thought, if now you grieve a little,
  The days when we had rest, O soul, for they were long.
Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry         5
  I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn;
Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry:
  Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.
Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
  I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.         10
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
  Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.
Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
  All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation—         15
  Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?

This melted me to my core.  Melted me into a state of beautiful stillness, and I couldn’t keep that to myself.  It’s so calming, so true, and so utterly gorgeous.

Not just for his poetry itself, Housman is inspiring because his work is so good and back in 1896 he was essentially self-published.  Publishers turned this beautiful work down over and over again until finally he decided to publish the title at his own expense.  Originally he wanted to call it The Poems of Terrence Hearsay, but was encouraged to change it.  Sales lagged until about 1899 when the Second Boer War broke out and profits have surged for Housman’s work during every time of war since – especially World War I.  Though this surprised the poet, it is not surprising to me… the entire work is about loss.  There is much solace in reading about loss when you have lost or anticipate it soon.

Don’t be surprised if Housman is revisited often on this blog.

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Shropshire Lasses (and dog)

February 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000955Title:A Shropshire Lad

Author: A.E. Housman

Publisher: Penguin (Classics)

Genre: Poetry (English Journeys)

A few years ago I became completely hooked on the Penguin Great Ideas series. I think they’re wonderful pocket sized source documents to keep around the house. I also love the Great Journeys… and now, I have a small collection of English Journeys as well.

The kiddo and I love scampering through the woods.  We also love reading outside.  These little paperbacks are the perfect books to tag along for our wooded adventures and frolics in the park.

Not to mention that, today, I think Housman became my favorite male poet – a title previously held by William Carlos Williams.  The two are nothing alike.  But I am nothing like who I was when William Carlos Williams was awarded his place on my mental pedestal.

Where William Carlos Williams amused me with “This is Just to Say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I was in middle school when I discovered this.  For some reason I found this bluntness endearing.  I thought, “What a wonderful jerk to address poetry with such sarcasm.”

I don’t want poetry to be sarcastic anymore.  I don’t appreciate the uncaring witticism the same way.

I do, however, love this:

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again

– “A Shropshire Lad: XVIII”

Ok, well, it seems it’s always the jerk lines that appeal to me.  But at least it’s not about stealing plums anymore.  Housman has real heart and soul as he describes landscapes and lovers, crickets and dead soldiers, the woods and the very real feelings of longing for something that has gone.   All so beautiful and natural; and the pattern in which he writes lends itself to easily reading it aloud outdoors while the kiddo plays.

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The dog seemed to enjoy it too.  He stopped to look at me every time a poem ended as though I was denying him the chance to be included in the written word of humans.

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I Love Dirt!

January 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dirtTitle: I Love Dirt!(52 Activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature)

Author: Jennifer Ward

Foreword: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

Illustratator: Susie Ghahremani

I popped in at Half Price Books after a long season off from scheduling book signings.  Tucked low in my employee cube was a book – this book – with a post it note on it from my boss.

“Andi – I thought you might like because of the woods you live by!”

I did like it, immediately.  And bought it with my Christmas money.

The book starts with a riveting foreword about the nature of nature in the United States and how much we have strayed from the outdoors.  Interestingly enough, the more we stray from outdoor life, the more children struggle with obesity, ADD and ADHD, as well as depression.

And the more kids spend outdoors?

“A 2005 study by the California Department of Education found that students in schools with nature immersion programs performed 27 percent better in science testing than kids in traditional class settings.  Similarly, children who attended outdoor classrooms showed substantially improved test scores, particularly in science.  Such research consistently confirms what our great-grandparents instinctively knew to be true, and what we know in our bones and nerves to be right: free-play in natural settings is good for a child’s mental and physical health.  The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, stating in 2007 that free and unstructured play is healthy and essential for children.”

P1000640I’m in love with this book.  I already do a lot of nature activities with my child – foraging for starters.  We play outside at the public park, we walk nature trails, we run, we jump, do cartwheels in the grass, hunt insects and lizards, sword fight with sticks, and sing our ABCs at the tops of our lungs by the creek.  As Ward states in her introduction, “There is nothing more joyful and inspiring to watch than children discovering the world around them.”

All of the activities in this book are pretty much cost free.  The only one I found that requires any kind of purchase is the bird feeding one, and that’s only if you want to do it big and don’t have spare groceries in your house.  The activities are simple, like sprinkling orange peels in your yard or covering pine cones with peanut butter and bird seed to bird watch from inside when it is too cold to be outside.

The book is broken up seasonally, so you can hop in and do something no matter when you pick up the book.  Each activity has a prompt or a concept to get your child thinking about the activity and world itself.

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Great Books to Read Outside With Kids

March 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – March 12, 2013

loraxTitle:The Lorax

Author: Dr. Seuss

You know you’ve read The Lorax a few too many times when your two year old steps outside and says, “Look Mommy, the trees,” then breathes deep and continues, “they smell like butterfly milk!”

The Lorax is an oldie but a goodie.  It follows the tale of the Once-ler and how he destroyed all the trees for the sake of industrialism.  Ignoring the warnings from The Lorax, the delightfully curmudgeonous beast who speaks for the trees, all that is left of a once beautiful land is a small truffula seed.

The Lorax is a fantastic way to enlighten your kiddo to the environmentalist ideals and introduce them to be mindful of their world.  We love reading it on the porch swing and inhaling the sweet smell of “butterfly milk.”

Wild_about_book-330Title: Wild About Books

Author: Judy Siera

Illustrations: Marc Brown

Follow the tale of bookmobile librarian Molly McGrew introduces all the animals at the zoo to the wonderful world of reading.

“By reading aloud from the good Dr. Seuss,

She quickly attracted a mink and a moose,

A wombat, an oryx, a lemur, a lynx,

Eight elephant calves, and a family of skinks.”

Kiddo likes to find all the animals mentioned in the story illustrated out on the page.  To the right of this segment, you can find Molly McGrew in a chair reading from The Cat in the Hat.

Later, the animals discover that they like books so much, they even start writing them!  The Insects dive in with poetry and the scorpion offers “stinging reviews.”

We read this one outside on the porch a lot, but we also read this before bed at night too.  If you don’t have a copy, check out your local Half Price Books, I purchased mine off a generous stack in the kids section at the Humble store.  No guarantees that you’ll find one too, but it’s worth a shot.

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When We’re Not Reading – August Edition

August 13, 2012 at 4:24 am (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Old MacDonald’s Farm – Humble

… Is such a great place to take kids.  Ayla has a blast just running in any place that has vast, open spaces.  Add farm animals and swing sets, and you just can’t go wrong.  It’s only $8 a person to get in, so even if you’re not one of those cool people with coupons (like me), it’s pretty cheap if you only have one kid.  The baby goats were easily kiddo’s favorite as they were about the size of a one year old beagle, you know before the hounds get fatter, so they were easy to maneuver around.  Although we didn’t use these particular things, because we were only there for about an hour, there’s a swimming pool and pony rides too.  The most gratifying part for me, as both a mom and a reader, was when she was able to identify the pigs, having seen them previously in her Gossie & Friends books.

Woodlands Waterway & Park

> Kiddo making friends with Guitar playing strangers; these two lovely people were incredibly sweet considering my daughter totally invaded their date night.

Find a parking spot, buy your picnic food at HEB (which is right there), and head on over to the park.  Again, the kiddo loves having vast, open places to run and play, and apparently everyone is willing to share balls and frisbees with a toddler.  Good thing too, because I think she may have stolen them otherwise.  What’s great about hanging out here, I discovered thanks to my bestie, is that you can pretty much hear any concert being held at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for free. This is great for families with small kids and poor students because you can pop in for a bit, not feel obligated to stick around for the whole thing, but still hear a great show. Artists will sell demo cds (for donation only, of course) and the hipsters sit around and play their guitars while dads throw footballs with their kids. It’s great. There was a lady there this evening at the Jason Mraz and Christina Perri non-show that had citronella candles and bottles of wine, made me incredibly jealous, she was so cozy and prepared.

Meteor Shower

I’d write about our meteor shower adventure last night, but really we just did even more running in fields and caught a few really low flying airplanes that kiddo thought was pretty cool.  We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and pointed out stars, and that was it.

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A Walk in the Woods with Bill Bryson

April 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

A Walk in the Woods makes me desperately want to go hiking. This was my first Bryson, I find the author surprisingly witty and fun, although perhaps a bit truthfully cruel in the beginning. I have to admit, prior to reading this I knew very little about the Appalachian Trail – it was a trail I had heard of but didn’t really have a clue about its length (Georgia to Maine, 2200 miles), its fame, or its history. This is the perfect blend of traveling memoir and a true survival/ adventure story, and I was completely captured by the weather conditions, the terrain, the fellow hikers, and the long nights in cold shelters. It’s definitely an adventure I’d like to take, even if it means I only finish 39% of the trail like Bryson himself.

Buy here:http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=anakawhims-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=0307279464

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