Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wild Greens Season!

Nettle-picking at Bowen's biggest nettle area.
Of course there isn't really a "wild food season", because there are wild foods available all year round. But this is definitely the season to be out picking wild greens, and scoping out the health and whereabouts of those plants we'd like to use, later in the year.

I've been running Wild Food Walks this spring, as usual. They seem to get more popular every year. Recently we also went harvesting with my brother, Adrian... hence some photos.

There are many many wild spring greens we can eat, but I would have to say the top 10 -- those plants I take time to pick by the basketful -- are the following:
  • nettles
  • maple blossoms
  • cattail shoots
  • salmonberry shoots
  • siberian miner's lettuce
  • sheep sorrel
  • bitter cress (mustard)
  • dandelion petals
  • flowering currant blossoms
  • narrow-leaved plantain
Then of course there are also the wild teas available right now: douglas fir tip, pine needles, sequoia, and licorice root. Also a good time to harvest these en masse, dry them, and save them for teas throughout the year. (Burdock root, while excellent for tea/coffee, should have been harvested a month or so ago.)
Fresh plump maple blossoms -- chop them up and eat them as a salad with a sweet vinaigrette (or plain!)

Stinging nettles -- picked with gloved hands, nettles are wonderful dried for tea, or made into pesto, lasagna, or any other delight you can imagine with a spinach-like vegetable. We freeze as many as we can for later use.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Unschooling Father this case, the fully-employed, commuting, but committed above all to his children's welfare... unschooling father. I want to recognise him and the choices he's made; the contribution he brings to the little community that is our family. These are some of the gifts he gives:

A few years ago, the company Markus worked for was pulled out from under him, in one of those shocking, call-everyone-into-an-office-dissolve-the-company-and-send-them-all-home experiences. He literally arrived home an hour early with a cardboard box full of his belongings and a bewildered look on his face. "[The company] is no more." They gave him a small severance, but he was in a hurry to find new employment. So he began sending out applications... and at the top of each one he wrote something to the effect that, in order to be closer to his family, he would work a maximum of 3 days per week in the city, and telecommute the rest from home. He would leave every day at 4, to get home by dinner time. He began with "My family is my priority."

Of course, potential employers and recruiters mocked him for this, advised him to take it off the applications, etc. But he held his ground. He found local contracts to keep us afloat in the 6 weeks or so that it took to find new permanent employment, but then moved to a company that respected and supported his values... and happened to be creating software that is close to his heart (resource-mapping). I can't say he wasn't lucky, but the choice he made to prioritize his family was and still is a sign of the great integrity of this man.

Markus sets his priorities in order. He spends the necessary time at work (up to about 44h/week, plus commuting time), and no more. He gives so much of himself to work, but to come home predictably and to choose to switch it off when he's not there is how he prioritizes his children. I've often asked him to find some employment that inspires him more, but he likes the security of the job he has, and it's certainly not up to me to make those choices for him. The fact that he carries our family's financial needs on his shoulders is a great responsibility -- one that I have never borne -- and I respect very much that he's able to do it without sacrificing his relationship with us.

Leading by Example:
I think I talk about this all the time on this blog; how important it is to remember that our children learn by example; that they will emulate our strengths and our weaknesses, without ever knowing they do. Our achievements and foibles and grand disasters -- even those things we try to hide, or to undo -- become a part of our children's authentic internal workings, whether they want them to or not. So of course it's important that we live the life we can feel proud of -- authentically.

Markus often looks at his life to determine whether he's living a life he wants to pass on to his children. When he brought home his old playmobil for the kids, he picked through it to remove the guns. He tells them he used to be interested in weapons as a boy, but explains, too, what he thinks about them, now. He is open to the children's questions and to their differing opinions and interests, while still remaining true to himself.

He doesn't give them all of his time. He makes a huge effort to get what needs to be done done, but also to take time for his personal interests, and to involve the children in those things they want to be involved with. Building; boat-restoration; archery. But above all, he's a good man, full of love and acceptance; everything we would want our children to emulate.

Following by example:
As the at-home parent, I am involved with almost everything the children do. With only two non-working days per week, Markus has to make an effort to achieve even a minimal involvement. So he does! Markus takes time to attend our activities when he can -- not just performances and community events, but also sometimes the classes we take, and the groups we lead. He sometimes leaves work early and makes up the time in the evening, if it means he can watch a performance the kids are putting on. He uses holiday time for working on our home and yard. He also pays attention to our family calendar and inputs our activities into his work calendar, so that, even in the office, he knows what we're doing. This allows him to stay connected to us.

And, like most unschooling parents I know, he has become good at allowing the children's interests to inspire him. He loves to join in their research and explorations; to let their fancies and fascinations pull him along. Life is a wonderful adventure, when our eyes can be opened by others' passions!

Trusting me:
It's so simple. Markus trusts me, as his partner and the mother of our children. I am the one who guides the children, counsels them, helps them make their decisions; I am the one who handles the money Markus makes; who defines our family's diet and activities and schedule. And with very few exceptions, he trusts me to do this well. As a partner in this relationship, having his confidence gives me the confidence I need to do my best. This is not to say he doesn't participate in decisions, or stand his ground when he disagrees, but the disagreements -- especially with regard to the children and their unschooled lifestyle -- are very very few. And I think that this also gives our children a kind of confidence in their choices, and in their choice to trust people, as they see that trust is a gift to both sides of the equation.

Remembering that we are all unschooling, together:
Growth and parenting is really not just about the kids. It`s about having a family of humans who are growing, supporting, and evolving, together. We are parenting ourselves and each other. Trust and confidence are things I have struggled with all my life, and having a partner who is patient with me, and generous, who has confidence in me and who puts confidence in me, who demonstrates compassion and understanding, as he also learns it from his own children -- is one part of this intricately balanced equation that holds us together.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Unschooling and Adaptability


Why We're Not Preppers: The Apocalypse is Already Here!

Organisms adapt. The world is an organism. It's changing right now. It has already changed. And by the time you finish reading this post there will be colossal changes again, some physical, some philisophical, and many of them changes in thought-patterns that will evoke their own colossal social changes, before too long. And we're adapting all the time. That's why we're not preppers. We're not waiting and planning for some apocalypse; we're finding ways to adapt to the changes that are already happening. Some of our family's choices to live more closely with the land seem to some like survivalist prepping, but really they are permanent lifestyle choices. I'm not storing food to get my family by until life as I know it returns; I'm learning to live in a way that I feel will be sustainable in the future. Because life as I know it has already changed past the point of no return. And... I like this change!! I find the challenge compelling, and the new ideas adventurous!

Yes, I store food, but that isn't survivalist preparedness, either! I have a pantry, I freeze or otherwise store any surplus produce in the summer, and I buy in bulk and keep buckets of grains and lentils, etc. -- not because I think it's all going to disappear anytime soon, but because it's MUCH more affordable, this way, and healthier: I like to eat whole grains, knowing that much of the nutrient quality is lost when they're rolled, ground, or otherwise broken and stored in shops, so I buy them whole and roll them myself, with the exception of some of my flours, which I keep frozen. That's a health choice, not a survivalist choice. Making choices for financial and health reasons is the definition of adapting to our changing world.

Big Changes: When I was in elementary school, the school got computers. One single family I knew had both a microwave and a computer. They were amazing. Now most people I know carry at least one much more powerful device everywhere they go, are connected to the Internet at all times, and have probably more such devices at home. This change has made us all aware of ourselves and our world in a very different way than was possible, before. But it's also caused (in my opinion) a whole lot of navel-gazing, and dependence on corporations and products we don't understand. Our global social structures are changing drastically, but we are losing connection to the physical world, too. Some people tell me that we're sentient beings, naturally evolving to a more sentient existence, where physical bodies and manifestations are no longer important. Well that sounds just lovely, but we're still living in physical bodies, our thoughts are still transmitted by neurons (which, the last time I checked, are living cells), even the thoughts themselves are waves; electrical impulses which affect everything around them... and quite frankly it's just much more rewarding to acknowledge this and live as part of our ecosystem instead of despite it.

What We're Doing to Adapt: 

Wild Food: I seek out, encourage, harvest and consume wild food. I also take people on wild food tours, introducing them to delicious things and vile things, poisonous plants and medicinals, ferns, vascular plants and trees and blossoms and fruits and roots... things that we can put in our mouths and taste, and others just to know about! Some of the things I show them are definitely starvation foods. But we are privileged suburbanites, pretending for a while that we could get by if we had to, while in fact none of these foods would sustain us. I bitterly suggest that if the shit really hit the fan, apocalyptically-speaking, we might kill each other over the need to fill our bellies with nutrition-poor foods, because that is what our bodies have now evolved to require. These wild foods - these handfuls of nutrient-rich greens and browns and yellows - are too much for our bodies to handle... and too little. But in getting to know the foods that surround us; in tasting the plants we might otherwise jog past, trample on, or mistake for "another prickly shrub", we integrate ourselves with our own ecosystem. We acknowledge the importance of our footsteps, and of the things we consume. We learn to appreciate and respect the soul of the earth that feeds us. And this connection is invaluable because it enriches and connects every other aspect of our lives.

Energy Efficiencies: We'd love to go off-grid, but can't afford it at this time, so we're skimping as much as possible on energy. We heat with wood. I haven't used my dryer in a year, now. It will benefit us financially, but also I'm not pouring cash into a corporation I don't align with, morally, and most importantly, I'm learning to value my resources. People think we're "living green", but in fact I think by urban/suburban standards, we're a green failure. Our carbon footprint, if you take into account our ancient Pathfinder vehicle, our wood heating, our barely-insulated home, the fact that my husband commutes to work, etc. etc. etc. is not compensated for by our garden, LED lightbulbs, and buying in bulk. Still... we keep on trying, and I do long for the day when energy-efficient living is not just a reality for the most financially-endowed.

Unschooling: Ah! Here it is! The reason this post belongs on this blog. Unschooling truly IS the big deal around here. Politically, it's a statement that WE CAN. We are raising happy, healthy, sociable and educated individuals, without the trappings (and yes I mean TRAPpings) of our government's chosen life-plan-system. The world is changing! And where education is concerned, it's headed back out of the doldrums! There was a time when putting children into big institutions was a new thing; when men looked at communist theories of working-class-creation and brought them into reality for North Americans. But that time is ending, now. People are waking up, and oh my goodness are we happy to be among the early ones! Unschooling is like wild food: you have to be partly into it for the adventure, because forging a new path is never without its challenges. But the rewards are enormous.

Unschooling is a redefinition of learning. It's life-learning. Learning about life, and learning throughout life. It's the open door to adaptability. We don't need an impending apocalypse to recognise the need to adapt. Evolution is all about adaptability, and humans have been evolving crazy-fast, lately. Unschooling gives us the tools and flexibility to move with the big changes, and adapt.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Project Shellback

Our unschooling friends are currently exploring the Pacific Ocean in their sailboat... and are just about to make their first big crossing. Sometime during the next 24-48 hours they'll leave the port at Cabo, and sail across to the Marquesas Islands! This is terrifying for us, as non-cruising friends who worry about them, but also totally thrilling, of course!

And on the way, they'll cross the equator, becoming "Shellbacks", as they do, according to maritime tradition.

In an effort to promote awareness of the oceans' importance and plight, they are offering to take people with them - virtually, and name these people "Honorary Shellbacks". All you have to do to join up is send them your name using the form on their website (very easy: type name, click send, and watch it appear on the list), and they will hand-print your name onto a tiny piece of biodegradable cotton and take it with them. As they cross the equator, they'll send all of these names into the wind and waves, and your name and intention will be forever tied to the ocean. You'll become an honorary Shellback.

Perhaps most importantly, our friends will be blogging their entire experience as they go, with reports of whatever they do, learn, and discover, along the way. They won't have capability of uploading photos until they make it into port in the Marquesas islands, but when they do they'll embellish their past updates with the photos they took, along the way.

Join them on their journey!
I present: Project Shellback

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Morning

The Easter Rabbit still visits our house. The wonderful people at Cocoa West (who sell soy-free chocolate) tell us that they supply the Easter Rabbit with his wonderful eggs every year. We approve!!

And to add to our celebrations of the springtime, we have beautiful sprouting oats, too!!