That Agape Family

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Tag: fall

If You Love Sour, You’ll Love Sumac

A long, long time ago, when I was in elementary school, we went on a field trip to a local conservation area. The only thing I remember about this trip was when the guide told us about sumac. He said that we could eat it. That’s all I remember. I’m certain he mentioned that Aboriginal people have been using it as a spice for centuries, and that it’s a source of food for local wildlife during the harsh cold winter, but that part just didn’t sink in. What has always stuck with me was the taste. It was sour. 

I love sour things. When I was younger, I would suck on lemons. *Pucker*. And, naturally, my children have also developed a palate for all things sour. So, it came as no surprise to me after I shared some sumac with Little Miss a couple of years ago, that it became a forest favourite. Whenever we pass by a sumac bush, she always asks for a bunch.

Honestly, she eats this stuff like a corn dog. And yes, Sweet Pea has also developed an affinity for it. You should see the back of my car! It seemed like such a good idea at the time, to let them have it as a snack. Lesson learned. 

I had been promising Little Miss that we would make tea out of sumac for the longest time, and we finally got around to making it this week. 

The sumac tea was remarkably tasty (and sour)! If you’re wanting to try sumac when you’re next out and about, do! I tend to suck on the red fruit (I always thought they were seeds!), then spit them out. However, both the girls swallow them. Sumac is an antioxidant and helps with hypertension. You can read more here.

Have you ever tried sumac?

Blessings!

Liz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz

Go Home and Learn (About Camouflage)

This morning, we went on our morning walk. It was a somewhat typical September morning, other than the fact that it’s been in the high 20s (Celcius) the last few days, which is unusual for Toronto at this time of year. As we walked along, we came across this little guy:

He’s a leaf insect! At first, I thought it was an ant, carrying a leaf. The insect’s colour was so vibrant! It was quite beautiful. It even had veins to accentuate his “leafy-ness”. This nifty creature then sparked a discussion on camouflage, naturally.

As we were talking, our neighbour was walking by, and said “hello”. As typically happens lately, he asked Little Miss if she was starting school next year (our walks tend to happen mid morning, during school). I commented that we were homeschooling (she would have technically started school this year), and we continued our conversation about the housing market in our area. As we ended our conversation, he turned to Little Miss and told her that she had better “go home and learn”.

I thought it was a little funny. Here we were, outside in God’s creation, learning about camouflage, colours, and construction equipment (they’re doing work on our street), but he thought learning only happened at home. Learning happens everywhere! If we simply keep our eyes open, there are many opportunities to learn naturally, and dare I say it, more meaningfully.

Perhaps we’ll pick up a book at the library that discusses camouflage. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the local pet store, and see what the chameleons are up to. Or, maybe we’ll simply look for more instances of camouflage, as they come up naturally, in our day to day lives. However, we won’t be working on a worksheet about it. Nor will I make Little Miss create a science fair project, that requires 5 examples of camouflage, while she dresses in military camo gear. If she chooses to dress up, and cover herself in mud, then so be it (and probably more likely than less, actually…), but I want to avoid forcing the subject. I don’t want to crush her natural curiosity by over extending our natural lesson.

I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to learn naturally, because they are everywhere. And I firmly believe that naturally occurring learning is more meaningful, and will have more staying power, than preconceived unit studies.

What have you learned lately?

Blessings!

Her Journey Stick

As I may have mentioned before, we are part of a Forest School Playgroup. We meet once a week, year round, in the forest. We have a beautiful creek that the children can explore, as well as fallen trees that are great for climbing. So, if you happen to see photos of us in the forest, they are likely from our playgroup.

One of the leaders brought yarn last week, so the children could make Journey Sticks. My mom had told me about them a few months ago, so I was eager to see if Little Miss was interested in making one. The purpose of the Journey Stick is to attach items you find along your journey – a collection of sorts – to a stick of your choice. Here is hers:

She chose flowers, weeds, leaves, and grass, because she felt they were beautiful. Some children decided to attach acorns, while others wanted a rock – creativity was needed to attach those items.

A journey stick is a fun way to have a momento from the forest. However, please be aware of your impact on your surroundings. This is not an activity we do every week, nor do we regularly pick items from the forest. Some flowers are protected in Ontario (like the Trillium), and if you pick them, you can face hefty fines. We generally take the approach of take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, but occasionally, we create something from the forest. We try to be as hands on as possible, while also minimizing our impact as much as we can.

Blessings!

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