I have recently been amazed at society's reaction to having to stay home! They act as if the world has stopped when, in fact, the natural world has kept going as if nothing has changed! Spring flowers are blooming as always, and the birds have returned with their songs. I have enjoyed their songs as I sleep later and the bright colors on our short walks around the property. I can't change some things that happen but can control how I react to them. I have chosen to enjoy the spring days I usually miss while sitting in the classroom. Instead of stressing about what computer program will be best for my four kiddos while we are stuck at home, I've decided to let nature lead the way and to practice a more leisurely way of learning. We have enough chaotic energy surging through the world right now, so I want my family to feel comfort and claim as we navigate this time. Teachers know that the real-life application of a skill is the best way of learning, so I am using the forced opportunity to do just that! If you are following Wildwood Wonder on social media, you have seen some of our at-home activities. Her is a list of some activities you can do in your yard or inside. They are not hard and are used to create a real-life application experience.
Activities for and home/outside:
Outside/Backyard Scavenger Hunt:
- Exercise, play, curiosity, brainstorming, research, technology, reading, kinesthetic learning, art, and science.
- As you walk around the yard, have the children (as they usually do anyway, lol) pick up little treasures (leaves, moss, acorns, rocks, flowers, and so on). Let them hold them, feel the shapes and textures, look at their form and colors.
- If they pick up leaves, flowers, and plants, they can then research them by using the internet (yes, technology has its downsides, but it also has its advantages, it's our job to teach children how to use it wisely) or if you have field guides and books, they can use those too. Help younger ones look up their nature objects.
- Have each child report their findings and information on their objects.
- If researching is not your thing or possible, have the kids draw their objects. This activity can help develop hand-eye coordination, observational skills, and help build drawing skills.
Writing Letters to Family and Friends:
- Writing, penmanship, communication, grammar, and spelling.
- We have spent the beginning of the mornings, writing letters, and sending cards to our family and friends. It has surprisingly become the highlight of their day. We started by watching the Journey of a Letter on YouTube. We talked about how the history of writing letters and how they were once the only way of communication.
- Then we discussed how to write a letter, address an envelope, and why we need stamps/how to place them. We have a basket full of cards, paper, envelopes, addresses, stamps, and writing utensils. Each child picks a different person to address their letter. That way, family members can have oncoming notes instead of receiving several at one time. Little ones draw or write short sentences, while older kids write more lengthy notes as well as add drawings. They then enjoy their daily ride to the mailbox! My oldest says it reminds her of classic novels little Pride and Predijuce and Little Women, which comes to the next an activity!
- Ask any teacher, and they will say that read is the most important learning tool we have! No matter what the subject, all require knowing how to read. Have your children read for a least 30min a day. If it's a rainy day, why not make it an all-day affair? Cuddle up with a good book!
- P.E. or gym time!
- One of my resolutions was to start yoga as a part of my exercise routine. It turns out that the kids like it too! Well, they like the idea of doing what they think is fun lying on the ground, turning themselves into pretzels, lol. Of course, they aren't doing yoga; they are just having fun, but they are having fun with you! You can find several different beginners' yoga videos on YouTube, and the only other thing you need is a towel to put on the floor. Take it slow, easy, and have fun!
- The fantastic thing about art is you can create with just a pencil! So if that's all you have, it's enough! You can also create with crayons, color pencils, paint, crating items, and even toilet paper rolls (some of you might have plenty of them around now, lol)!
- For younger children, I highly recommend just letting them experiment and play with different materials. They are also amazed that colors can mix and create other colors! So if you have paint or oil pastels, give them just the three primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. Watch as they naturally mix them and discover how they make different colors!
- For older children, you can talk about the color wheel in more detail. How it is made up of primary colors (yellow, red, and blue), secondary colors (Orange, Purple, and Green), and intermediate colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, & yellow-green). You can have them create a color wheel with oil pastels or paint. Both of these media blend well.
- All children love a box of crafting supplies! Just let their imaginations free to create whatever!
- Clean up time is also a great way for children to learn how to responsibly take care of their supplies and work space!
I hope this gave you some ideas and ways to spend time with your little ones! I am also making two downloadable coloring pages available each week, sign up for our VIP Newsletter or the Wildwood Wonder Instagram @wildwoodwonder to get them!
All you have to do is Download, Print, Color, and Share them at @wildwoodwonder
Keep wandering the wildwoods of life!
Wow, what a week! Time change, full moon, spring break, Friday 13th, and of course, the coronavirus! Not to mention the tornados and hurricane winds that have effected the South since fall 2019. For many, these things have caused fear and uncertainty, especially if you felt unprepared. Did you have enough food at home? What would happen if you had to stay home for over a week? Is there enough money in the bank to cover the loss of work or extra supplies? An, of course, did you have enough cleaning supplies and toilet paper?!
Well, instead of using all these things to create fear in your life, use this time as a learning opportunity! So what can you change, so you don't feel this way again? Here are some suggestions that my family and I have been doing that helped us not to panic amid this week's chaos.
If you didn't know, my family and I are homesteaders, or what some would call modern homesteaders. Both my husband and I work full-time jobs while also working towards a life of self-sufficiency. We have been homesteading for four years now, and in that time, we have raised several types of animals, grown all kinds of plants, and have learned several ways to becoming self-sufficient.
We like the idea of not having to rely on stores or other entities for the things we need. Another positive is it keeps us healthy not only through good food but also exercises our bodies psychically and mentally. It also provides our children with learning opportunities, activities, and responsibilities. I will admit that it is not easy; it takes hard work and planning to make it successful. All family members must be on board for you to reap the rewards.
One way of becoming self-sufficient is figuring out what will work best for your family. (If you are single, this is still totally possible, too!) We put into consideration what we need for six family members, what will everyone eat, what will save us money, what skills are practical to have, and what will not work for our family at this time. Here are some examples:
- Don't grow food that two or more family members do not like to eat. I'm the only one who eats okra, so it's not practical to grow a whole bed of okra.
- Grow food that will be successful and abundant so that you can store some for later. I have tried many times to grow more tropical fruits, but they don't make it in my north Mississippi growing zone. So until I can afford to buy a big greenhouse, I've stopped wasting money on plants that won't make it. I'm sticking to the hardy plants that yield a great harvest.
- At least a 1-2 month supply of toiletries and food stocked at my house. We have six people in our house, so yes, toilet paper is usually a big deal anyway! I started doing this last spring. I have two reasons: One, it keeps me prepared, which in turn helps me not to get worried, and second, as a bonus, it keeps me out of the stores while I'm saving up. It also helps me to prepare for a great skill to have, cooking!
- I am cooking from scratch! It saves me money and keeps my family healthy, well if you don't count all the baked goods! We usually have enough food per meal to take for lunch the next day too. Once my husband started taking his lunch to work, he lost weight, and we began to save a surprising amount of money!
- We have learned to process and put up veggies, fruit, and meat. When everyone else is freaking out at the store, we are relaxed, knowing our pantry and freezer are full!
- We have learned what animals we can raise and which ones we can not. Quail, ducks, laying chickens, and meat chickens are great for us. But, one pig about did us in, so no more pigs, lol! We are not set up or have the time to handle large livestock.
- We are learning new skills: Cooking, hunting & gathering, gardening, handyman skills. We read books, take classes, go to workshops, and research topics. We consider: Can I save money doing or learning this so that I can use that money to do/buy something else?
- Can you trade an item or skill for something you need? We get tired of eating chicken, so we often trade chickens for fish or venison.
- Are you buying items that might help you in the long run? Water filtration system like a Burkey, meat processer, tools for the garden, pantry storage, and other self-sufficient tools?
- Before we do something, we think: Is this the right choice or decision that will be helpful to me, my family, and our future?
- Do you have positive friends and family that will help in times of trouble? Or do you have negative friends and family that will cause more harm? How can you keep positive and distance yourself from the negative?
- Are you using your time wisely? Are you learning or being productive? Or have you spent the last week on the couch binge-watching three different series?
How will self-sufficiency help us to help others? When we have extra, we give it away. If someone needs something, we see how we can help. Homesteading has enabled us to understand how hard people work to grow, raise, and make things. It is, in some cases, their only livelihood. We are now able (by making better choices) to buy from local farmers and makers. Now before we buy an item from the big box stores, I consider can I get it at the local small-town shop, farmer, mom & pop store, or online from a maker/artist? If I can, I do!
So how can you get started? Well, one way to help calm the chaos that may be wanting to creep inside your mind while also setting a plan into place is to write it all down! Write down all the things that scared you, you felt you were unprepared for, or you wish you had? Then beside it, write how you can fix it, so that next time you don't feel that way.
- What/where did you feel the most unprepared? Not having enough food and toiletry supplies at home to last two weeks.
- How can I fix it? Start to prepare a sustainable pantry of two weeks worth of household supplies.
Once you have accomplished this goal, you can then strive to reach for four weeks of supplies and then lead up to two months' worth. Take your time! I know you may feel the need to hurry up with all the panic that is out there, but this too shall pass. The point is to learn and prepare for next time!
We started with a small garden of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a few laying hens for eggs. Now we have several types of birds, an orchard, and several garden beds. But, it has taken us years to accomplish this, and we have made mistakes along the way. The times that we did try to rush things or do too many things at one time, always ended in disaster! So please take my word for it and chose the slow route!
I hope you will use this time as a time of growth and learning! Fill your soul and mind with uplifting thoughts and prayers. And may you find a positive path as you wander the wildwoods.
In the last blog, we discovered the Wolly Bear Month and the Barn Owl as the winged creatures featured in my latest collection. Now its time to meet the gray fox and the oyster mushroom!
The only time I've personally seen a gray fox was once when it ran across the road on my way home one day. It was small, fast, and beautiful!
The gray fox is smaller than its cousin, the red fox. Their legs and length are shorter. The gray fox has a beautiful peppered coat that covers the top of its back, along the sides, and top of its head/mussel. It has a tan/reddish color that edges its sides, face, and neck. Black strips accents are visible on their face and nose, while the tail has a black tip. The gray fox's color palette helps them hide in their favorites habitats.
Gray Foxes are omnivores loving meat, vegetables, insects, and fruit. So, of course, they would flourish in woodlands, forests, and anywhere smaller mammals would also live. The Gray Fox has also been called the "tree fox" or "cat fox" because of its ability to climb trees. I wonder if the fox knows how tasty the oyster mushroom is?
Looking for a tasty as well as a beautiful mushroom during the winter months, then the blue oyster is your best bet! The blue oyster is a visually pleasing mushroom all around. I've always thought that the towering clusters topped with blue that is almost metallic looking looks like a tree species from an alien planet. Its overlapping layers create thick vertical clusters that almost look like a tree canopy. The oyster has gills on its stalk, which creates vertical lines that lead your eye to their smooth, rich blue colored caps.
Wild oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, can be found in North America and are more common in the Eastern States. Oysters grow on logs and stumps of broadleaf trees and can grow throughout the year. All oyster mushrooms are high in protein, making them a great culinary treat! The warm blue oyster's flavor is sweet and meaty. It also has medicinal uses known for its cholesterol-lowering and antiviral properties. You can find oyster mushrooms at local farmer's markets or Wholefood stores if you can't find anyone local. They are also a popular choice for at-home grow kits! If you are interested in learning more about growing mushrooms, I highly suggest checking out mushroommountain.com. I've had the pleasure of sitting in on some of Tradd Cotter's, the founder of M.M., talks at the Mother Earth Fairs. He knows his fungi and has convinced me that mushrooms can save the world!
Well, I hope you've enjoyed meeting the animals in my winter collection. Prints, cards, and sketchbooks will be available in the shop!
Mushrooms of the Southeast, by Todd F. Elliott & Steven L. Stephenson
In my research of hibernating animals, I also discovered some animals that thrive in cold weather. Some of those critters caught my eye. This collection features a chilly insect, bird, mammal, and fungi!
The Arctic Woolly Bear Moth is the coolest insect I've seen. Yeah, I couldn't miss out on that pun. It spends its whole life not just in the Arctic, but in the northern regions of the Arctic! You can also find this moth in Greenland and Canada's northern islands. It spends several years as a larva, building up enough energy to move on to its next stage of life. It may sound cool to spend most of your life as a teenager, but they spend the majority of the caterpillar years frozen. The moth thaws out for a short time in the summer they thaw and find food resources. Most Arctic Woolly Bears will go through seven freeze and thaws in their lifetime. The"Woolly" in their name comes from all the insulating hairs found covering their body.
Though the descriptions of this small moth included, drab with very few details, I found this little moth to be quite beautiful. While its wing patterns compared to other moths might seem a bit dull, the Woolly Bear Moth's patterns are more highlighted with shimmering golds and silvers. This simple elegance and almost an heir of Arctic royalty are what give this moth it's beauty.
The other winged animal I chose for this collection was the barn owl. It like the moth has a wintery elegance. The barn owl's face, body, and underwings are white. Even though they have a mixture of buff and gray on their head, back, and upper wings, they can appear all white when seen at night. The Barn Owl has a rounded shape that starts with its smooth rounded head, because it has no ear tuffs, like some owls, and continues down to its rounded wings and short tail feathers. They do have long legs, which are great for catching their rodent prey.
If you have a large open spot of land like a field, meadow, or open grassy area, you might be able to spot one flying low as they look for small rodents. The Barn Owl loves to nest in structures that have cavities in which they can hide, such as abandoned buildings, holes along rock walls, and of course, old barns. Even though Barn Owls are found worldwide, they are not all the same color patterns or sizes. But, the subspecies of Barn Owl that are found in the United States and Canada do have the same plumage patterns and are the same size. Overall, Barn Owls are considered a medium-sized owl. The Barn Owl species are showing some decline in the North-Eastern part of the United States. One way to help this species is to build a Barn Owl nesting box. You can find/download a construction plan for a nesting box at nestwatch.org. There you will find instructions as well as nesting range, nesting habitats, and where/how to attach your nest box!
Check out the next blog to find out about which mammal and fun fungi I chose for this month's collection!
Keep on wandering,
When I am planning a collection, one of the main considerations is what colors I'm going to use to unify all the pieces. The fact that we are sitting in the middle of the coldest months of the year easily influenced my decision. I wanted to incorporate colors that would inspire and comfort during these chilly first months of the year.
This year's winter collection colors are:
Primary Colors are Silver/Gray:
Sliver has a more gentle energy that connected to emotional, sensitive, and mysterious parts of life. It is also a fitting color for a time of reflection and change of direction. Sliver can remind us to reflect on what we need to change. Helping to clear mental and emotional issues that might block our future paths. Silver & Gray both have a positive energy that works well with other colors. These colors also help to balance everything out!
Secondary Color, Gold:
Gold can give off optimistic and positive energy. A strong sense of power linked to the sun. It adds richness and warmth to cold winter days. I feel it is a fitting color choice for the beginning of the 2020 year because gold is associated with wisdom and enlightenment. It can inspire a giving attitude with compassion, loving, sharing of one's wealth, and knowledge with others. This collection has just enough gold to encourage positive energy and kindness.
Accent Color, Bronze:
Bronze can give one a sense of calmness and comfort. It also has a warmness that can symbolize sincerity and genuineness.
Could you also use these colors in a nurturing space? Yes! Just like a piece of art, you can balance these three colors together to create a calming and inspirational place in your home. I used gray, silver, and gold in my daughter's room makeover this summer. The walls are covered a dark gray, making it the primary color that fills the room. Then we chose silver, gold, and teal as accent colors. Well placed metal lambs and small inspirational pieces of artwork help to create a cozy nurturing environment. They love being creative, so maybe the metallic silver and gold will help to influence creative energy.
If you're interested in incorporating these colors into your life, you can find several different items to choose from in the winter collection. I hope you find a balance of comfort and positive energy!
The temperatures are cooling down, the sun journies lower across the sky, and the moon appears sooner each night. Animals naturally know ts time to get ready to snuggle up in their dens. What is a den? A den, which is also known as a hibernacula, can vary on its function depending on its hibernating critter. They can be anything from a hollowed-out space underneath a tree, that can leave the animal a little exposed to the elements or for the more serious hibenator, a fully insulated den, where they line it with natural materials like leaves and mud. Each animal has to prepare its place of rest according to its needs. Have you gotten your resting place together for the winter? Does your home fit your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?
I can defiantly relate to our critter friends. When the temperature drops, I want to retreat inside! Winter is not my favorite time of year at all, and I usually get into a wintery slump around February due to the lack of sun and warm days. So this winter, I'm trying to break the slump by making my art studio a den that I don't mind wintering in! Here are the things I did to help crush my winter blues:
This past summer, I moved my art room to a brighter corner of the house. I chose the space because it has two windows to let natural light in, and I also have two large studio lamps I can use at night. The walls are white so that the natural light and artificial light can be reflected more throughout the room. Good light is needed while I work so that I can see colors and details better, but it also helps keep my energy and happiness levels up on clod days when I won't go outside. In the winter, I have to make sure that I get enough exposure to some form of light, or I find my self getting down. I need to maintain the right level of energy so I can create new designs and critters for Wildwood Wonder.
The effect of light can also affect your rest patterns. It's dark at 5:00 pm in the winter compared to almost 9:00 pm in the summer, so I also keep more lights on in my house during the winter to give the same effect and keep my family from wanting to go to sleep at 6:00 pm. Now, on the other hand, I think it is essential to listen to what your body needs. If your body says it tired, then take a nap! I am committing to letting my self take naps on the weekends so that I can refresh and have more energy. During the week I go to bed an hour early if I don't have anything pressing that I have to do.
I have also put an antique couch in my studio space for rest, reflections, and brainstorming sessions. My children can come in an take a nap while I work, and it adds a warm cozy touch to the room.
I'm afraid I'm not like the bear who can deal with a draft. Because the room was originally the garage, I did have to add some physical warmth by getting an oil heater. Which, of course, is used with caution and care. This way, I can stay and work, an if the kids or dogs what to come into the studio for a bit, they can. I also put down a rug to block the cold from the concrete floor underneath, and as a bonus, it adds a cozy look to the studio. Warmth can also go beyond the physical. Your space can look or give off the feeling of comfort. It can be warm and inviting. I have a Himalayan salt lamp beside my couch, and the pink-orangish glow of the light helps set a warm mood throughout the studio. If you are a believer in the health benefits of these lamps, then that's a bonus for your space! I also have them in all of our bedrooms.
You can also add a sense of warmth to your space by adding your favorite incense or candle. I happen to burn both, and my main scent is Ne Champa. It just fills the air with a clean, warm smell that can leave you with a positive state of mind and calm feelings. You can also find candles in your favorite incense fragrances.
If you are about to spend four months inside, its best to be surrounded by your favorite things! I'm sure you've probably already guessed that art supplies are one of those things. Art uplifts my soul, stretches my creative mind, and comforts my spirit. So, surround yourself with something you enjoy doing, a hobby, craft, or tiny library. You can cuddle up on your couch and read a good book in that great lighting you have!
I'm also plant-obsessed! I can't go to a garden center without leaving with some new plants. So bring a little nature inside was a must! They make me happy when I look at them and remind me of warmer days. Another one of my favorite things is mushrooms. I'm fascinated with mushrooms, so I've ended up with a collection of them and have them scattered around the studio as little accessories that accompany my art. My collection of ceramic mushrooms and vintage mushroom coffee mugs are reminders of fun antiquing adventures with one of my besties. That best friend happens to be a pretty talented artist herself, whose work is one of the pieces that hang on my art collection wall.
The majority of the collection consists of Mississippi artists from all the different places I've visited around the state, or meet at various workshops, markets, and shows. They hold meaning for me, and I can quickly remember those great times with a glance at that wall. It is also a source of inspiration. An example of how several people from the same place can have the same passion for art, use te same colors, same themes, but yet all have their unique take on what they experience and see. There is room for all of us, and we can support each other.
I hope you've been able to get some ideas for your den. Maybe add a plant or two. Cozy up with your favorite book, perhaps wrapped up in your grandmother's quilt that holds special memories. Fill your space with items that will remind you of sunshine and warmer day.
What if humans hibernated?
The older I get, the more I think nature has it right. One of those things I believe mother nature is pretty spot-on about is the art of hibernating! I don't mean that I want to sleep for four to five months, but there are some beneficial things that I think we humans could learn from our plant and animal friends! I was pretty fascinated by this idea, so I did a little researching.
The main thing I remember from school and all the animal shows on the Discovery channel and MPB that I watched as a kid was that: animals went to sleep. I also remember thinking, "Wow, that's a long time just to sleep!" and now that I'm an adult, what I wouldn't give for just one or two extra hours! But surely that's not all that happens? I mean, I live in the middle of the woods where I see all types of animals out and about, even on snowy days, so what's up with that? Aren't they all suppose to be snuggled up tight in their dens?
It turns out not all animals hibernate. But lots of mammals do, even some amphibians, reptiles, and insects, and some are super hibernators, while others are light hibernators. True hibernators (which included two of my favorite, bats & hedgehogs) lower their body temperature, respiration, and heartbeat while going to sleep in their secure den. But even some of these critters will wake up at intervals, move about, eat a snack if they are a rodent, and then return to sleep. Not so sure I want weeks worth of time to keep going while I'm catching some Zs, but I do like nature's idea of rest.
Maybe we should take nature's cue and have our own time of rest. This rest can be physical, but can also be a time of mental and spiritual rest. It can be a time for us to reflect and meditate on the past year and what adventures we want to embark on for the new year. I plan on doing a little version of hibernating myself and invite you to come along. I have used part of my winter break, to prepare my den, get my food & energy plan together, and work on feeding my soul and heart. I will share some of my ideas and process in the next blog.
Keep on wandering,
The turkey tail mushroom is a great mushroom to start the blog off with! This easily found and recognizable fungi are an excellent starter for any new mushroomer. In my opinion, this mushroom has the overall package for fungi, and as an artist I find the turkey tail to be a beautiful woodland treasure. Why is this treasure worth the hunt? Once you get down what you have to look for you'll see them everywhere and usually several clusters at a time, so you're rewarded more often. They are one of the most visually appealing fungi with multiple colors combinations, and each one is different. Another visual "happy" to the eye is the variety of patterns that are unique to each one, this could also be a learning opportunity for kids, recognizing the differences in patterns. One of my favorite elements is their soft velvety texture that children love, you can't help but touch them, making it a welcoming kinesthetic experience! While they are not an edible find and are used for medical reasons, which I will cover in a later blog, the visual and texture appeal make them a wonder of the wildwoods!
Quick Facts: Turkey Tail
Scientific Name: Trametes versicolor
Common Name: Turkey Tail
Description: Semicircular fan-shaped structure. Tops are fuzzy-velvety softy textures that are split into “zone” of color – that can be from orange, green, yellow, blue, brown, or gray. These bans of color can range in width and pattern.
Spore/Fertile Surfaces: Pores, circular to angular, white to grayish, spore print: white, no stalk
Edibility: Inedible, used medicinally
Habitat: Usually appearing in large clusters on fallen branches, logs, stumps, or dead trees.
Time of Year: Mostly year round.
Keep finding wonders as you wander through the wildwoods!
If turkey tail is one of your favorite mushrooms too and you want to show off your love for this fabulous fungi check out our Mushroom Shop in the Shop drop down menu. There you can find handmade turkey tail themed jewelry, artwork, and sticker gear. www.wildwoodwonder.com
Below are two field guides and a mushroom knife that I personally use and recommend:
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