Entering The Garden

We’ve just completed our second week of the Wise Child Learning Program. We’re delighted and grateful to have the organic medicinal garden of Sister Sage Herbs as one area where we work, learn, and play!

I like to start sessions (when they take place in fine weather) with what I call a “greenfire”. Basically, it’s a circle created by the kids (and/or adults when present!) and myself with stones or sticks, leaves or flowers, etc. or all of the above! from the natural world. The “greenfire” serves as our imaginative and centering fire during our time in that place.

Here is our first greenfire:

Our first "greenfire"

We’ve taken time beginning to get acquainted with the herbs in the garden. I was delighted to discover one of my favorite herbs in abundance, Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.).

Evening Primrose - one of my favorite herbs!

During our first week, we compared and contrasted plant “lookalikes”. Here are Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, grown in the garden) and Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea, a common wild chamomile on the dirt roads nearby.

Chamomile (growing) and Pineapple Weed (in her hand)

We have each chosen a new plant friend to get to know deeply this year, and whose area we will give extra-special care (weeding, etc.!)

I chose this one–or perhaps I might say, it chose me! Every time I walk even a little close to it, I find my clothes and hair coated in in its “cockleburrs”, its seed-heads with their stiff hairs and hooked ends.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)- sometimes called "Cockleburr" or "Sticklewort" with good reason!

We’ve each created three-line poems inspired by our new plant friends. Look for a “Lesson Plan” in the near future about how to do this process!

We created poems about our new plant friends

An ongoing project this year is add to our “Weather Trees” — drawings we made today of a leafless tree. Each day we’ll color in a leaf to represent the weather. Today’s leaf was inspired by the morning fog that dispersed to sunshine.

Both in the garden and in other areas of the surrounding land are ripe raspberries. We can’t help but enjoy some!

Ripe Raspberries always beckon!

That’s just a snippet of our time in the garden, and of our day!

The Doorstep Of Autumn

I spent a lovely 1 1/2 hours with a grandparent and grandkids who I nature mentor. We started our day by tasting some rose petal honey that we’d started in late June. Mmm! Delicious! We imagine that spreading the honey (with the rose petals) on toast will make a delightful treat.

Wild Roses In Late June
Wild Roses In Late June
Making Rose Petal Honey

To make Rose Petal Honey: harvest petals from an area free of toxins of any kind. Layer the petals in a jar with honey. Be sure to entirely cover the petals with honey. Fill to the top, stir, and screw on the lid. It’s good to stir the petals every day or every few days. We left our petals in for about six weeks before tasting, though I know of folks who don’t wait more than a week. You don’t have to strain out the petals–just spread them on with the honey!

Note: Mountain Rose Herbs has a video on how to make herbal honey. They use Lavender in the video, but you can easily substitute rose petals.

After honey tasting, the kids ran outside to a special place in the woods where fairies leave notes. There they discovered a message and a lovely smooth heart stone that the fairies had found on the beach. Whenever the grandchildren visit their grandparents they find notes, gifts, and treasure hunts from the fairies!

Then out we went to the fire circle. We started a “greenfire” (this time made up of the yellow blooms of false dandelion, various grasses and leaves, and charred sticks). We settled in for a story.

I have been telling tales of two children who call themselves Bard Owl (spelling is correct) and Redcedar. Today Bard Owl and Redcedar’s grandmother told them about the maps she used to make of special places in forest and field, with notes about the magical adventures she had in those places. Bard Owl and Redcedar decide to map their special places. A nearby Douglas-fir tree wakes up enough to tell them about Songlines, a way of mapping your wandering into a place–also helpful for finding your way back out …. A Songline is like a series of stories and names that follow one another like beads on a string.

When the story finishes we head out into the woods with the intention of creating a songline, and then using the songline to help begin a map of the land.

Here is an abbreviated version of our songline!

Spiderweb crossing – where we crossed a footbridge and accidently broke through a spiderweb

Compost pile

Tree with eyes (where my older daughter helped clear some blackberry–we ended up discovering several trees in the area with eyes!)

Nettle field–lots of different kinds of deer scat here, of varying consistences. Some seeming fairly fresh, some as if they’d been there a day or two. A lot of speculation about why the scat was different from one another. Different food sources?

Bubbling brook

Blackberries all along the north edge of the land. Yum! Why so many blackberries here? What do they love about the light, soil, and moisture here? Who are their plant companions? Who (animal and plant) lives in their neighborhood?

The Fairy Place–full of huge skunk cabbage and another brook. We left some rose petal honey here for the fairies.

Apple Tree–an old tree with the tiniest apples, and with blackberries ripe interwoven in the branches. More enjoyment of blackberries!

Mountain-Ash (Sorbus scopulina) or Rowan Tree–just vibrant with orange-red berries, and also interwoven with blackberries. I just couldn’t get over the beauty of this tree!

A garter snake glided through the grasses, stitching in and out like a threaded needle.

Ah, a mystery animal gnawed an apple. Smooth rounded bites. From a deer? Probably not from a bird (the marks don’t resemble pecks) or a raccoon …

The sky was deep blue with scads of little clouds, the air, cool. It so feels like the beginning of autumn, just like that!

We headed back along on our songline …. We ended our time by dispersing our greenfire  and looking at maps children had drawn of the forest and field there seven years before. Many names for places are different. A few landmarks are different. What stories do these maps tell?

Time to create maps of our own!

Wise Child Learning Program Open House

Announcing our Open House!

Experience with your child a Wise Child Learning Program adventure and our curriculum for free ~ two opportunities!

Monday, June 4 ~ 10am – Noon

Saturday, June 9 ~ 10am – Noon

Both Open Houses will take place at a family farm near the Vashon town center.

The Wise Child Learning Program is a small group offering for children ages 7-12 in association with the Heartstone Center Children’s School. Beginning Fall 2012 our program runs through the school year, Wednesdays 9:30am-1:30pm.

Find out more about our Weekly Program here.

For More Info And To Sign Up For Open House Adventure: Contact Jane