Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Club: Caddie Woodlawn!

I loved Caddie Woodlawn as a kid and we all loved her again more recently. A true story, written by Caddie's grandaughter, of a family living in rural western Wisconsin during the Civil War. Repeated deaths had caused Caddie's father to rethink the way girls were raised and Caddie was allowed to run outside most of the day, exploring and playing in the wild.

Summer book clubs are more scarcely attended because of vacations, but we had fun with the three families who came with our "field trip" to an organic farm. Outdoor play, learning about bees, edible flowers, and other plants, and making compost; all very in-line with the overall outdoor/survival theme of the book. I learned a lot, too!

Digging up young plants and guessing what their root color might be by observing their stem colors.

Poppy seed harvest. Don't eat too many!

Carefully making and then proudly displaying a "flower burrito" made with lettuce, daikon radish flowers, arugula flowers, calendula leaves, borage, and johnny jumpers (violets). We also drank nectar from bee balm flowers and enjoyed tea from lemon verbena leaves. Oh! And then there was sorrell, rasperries, strawberries, lavender, baby apples and kiwi... and so much more!

Checking out the way the ground feels when it is prepared and hospitable for new life!

Making compost with a mix of table scraps, weeds, horse manure, hay and water. When done, it is the consistency of a wet sponge. We also did an experiment using hydrogen peroxide on mixtures of soil, sand, and compost, with the bubbles indicating a much larger number of microorganisms in the compost.

Checking out the bee hives, tasting some fresh honey on sorrell leaves, and meeting the beekeeper. He explained that honey bees are the only ones that work through the winter; that cooler weather keeps the bees indoors; that by smoking the hives, he calms them down because smoke confuses their sense of smell/pheremones, which is how they communicate; that adding grass to his smoker makes the smoke cooler; that when the hive divides every year, about 20,000 bees (half of a hive) leave en masse, but fill up on their body's weight in honey first, making them very docile.

We also saw apple trees growing on a diagonal, allowing them to yield the most fruit with the least use of space. We also learned that bamboo is a type of grass, not tree and that thick stalks grow in thick and think stalks emerge from the ground thin - not what I would have suspected.

One of the last things that we saw was a beautiful cherry tree, draped with messages and trinkets. It is the site of a ceremony in which parents who have lost a child gather to commemorate their loved one. I thought of course of Xavier, knowing that with all the love he knew in his life, he is now close to God and keeping us close through prayer.

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