Do they really have to grow up?


Hanna and the forest

Hanna and the forest

This weekend my youngest daughter will come to visit.  She is on a reading break from university and will be able to spend a couple of days with me.  After the great time with my son I look forward to the opportunity to connect with another of my children.  Hanna, as  I said is the youngest of my children.  If I had to sum her up in a word I would use the word ‘quirky.’  She is so like her brother and sister in some ways and then so different in others.

Hanna has always been creative and free spirited. From the time she was able to make things she believed in making gifts, cards and tags rather than buying things.  The funniest of these gift givings was when we opened our beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts from Hanna and each one of us received something that belonged to the other.  Hanna was really young at the time and she thought it was a great idea to go into other family members’ rooms and find something special, wrap it up and give it to another family member.  It was a pretty amusing Christmas morning as we all tried to balance our shock with gratitude so as to not hurt her feelings.  After that she mastered the art of homemade gift giving and we each have a collection of pottery, drawings and crafts Hanna has thoughtfully made and gifted us with. In the last few years it was actually hard to watch her become less free and creative as she felt the pressure of the world around her and the need to fit in with her friends, a work schedule and rigours of university study.

Hanna and I have been pretty tight but it has been a painful process for me to allow my last child to grow up and explore who she is.  I have learned much from Hanna, some of which I have not learned willingly.  I described this last year as, Hanna transforming from “Heidi” to ‘party girl” in one easy year.  She doesn’t like that description but for me, a mother wanting to hold on to the last bit of innocence of childhood for my baby, it seems accurate.

Fast forward from a party summer, a totalled vehicle and not enough money saved to make it through the next year of university and here we are.  She is doing well in school, learned to drive a standard vehicle, basically all on her own and is again pursuing her creative spirit.  She is studying her two passions, physical education and art and has decided to follow in her mother and father’s footsteps and get her degree in education. She will be an awesome teacher and I think she will be very satisfied in that career.

Hanna's latest art work

Hanna’s latest art work

This weekend when she comes I will try to remember that she is no longer my little girl but a developing young woman with talents and hopes and dream all her own which I need to honour.  I have already made her a batch of ginger cookies to take home with her and have apples, salmon, dried fruit and a few other treats for her to take back to school with her that will comfort, nourish and remind her of home.  She loves homemade soup and is very good at making it so I thought today I would play with scone and biscuit recipes so that we can freeze a bunch for her to take and reheat on those cold dark nights when she is having a bowl of soup.  Her absolute favourite are cinnamon buns so when she gets here we will mix up a batch of sweet dough together from Beth Hensperger’s book, Beth’s Basic Bread Book. I love the Caramel Rolls Recipe on page 47. Hanna also loves a good BBQ steak so I have ordered up some really good, hormone free Rib Eye Steaks from my favourite butcher and we will feast on those Sunday night.

Hanna is also a nature lover.  This is my daughter who will call me to say ‘hi Mom, I’m at the top of a mountain and the view is so great.”  When I ask her who she is with, she replies casually, “just myself.’  Although I am not keen on her being in the woods alone and not telling anyone where she is going, it does make me proud that she is so confident and comfortable in the woods.  So, this weekend we will walk in the forest, along the ocean shore and maybe even have a hotdog roast over an open fire in the yard one afternoon.  She will tell us her funny stories and crack us up with her quirks, like getting the ending sound of a word wrong or using a word that rhymes with the word she should be using, or telling us to ‘adios’ when she gets annoyed.  We will laugh, share food, the outdoors and memories from days gone by together and perhaps I will be feeling generous enough to share my new bottle of Taylor Fladgate, 10 year Port with her by a roaring fire one night.

ready for a night by the fire

ready for a night by the fire

I am anticipating her arrival with warm thoughts and a busy kitchen!

Big Ideas

The other day I decided to take a walk through the nearby forest and check out where the trails lead to.  As I was walking I got a Big Idea. I have a passion for teaching people to be ecoliterate so why not turn this walk into a lesson in forest ecology. You may be asking yourself what ecoliteracy is. Basically, it is a big word  which means to be literate in the ecologies. Ecoliteracy is a term coined by David Orr, an American educator and physicist, Fritjof Capra in the 1990s. To be ecoliterate means to be literate in how ecological communities work together to sustain themselves and work together with other ecologies to create an integrated, organized, sustainable community.  Ecoliteracy also means to be able to apply tenants of ecological systems to human society in order to minimize the impacts on the earth and to understand the importance of diversity along with empathy among all living things, including human relationships.  The goal is to use nature’s model to find ways to be gentler on the environment and live in unison with nature’s systems and cycles  without causing irreparable damage. It also means to develop empathy and honour diversity as nature models.

Since completing my research in ecoliteracy, mainly food security and sustainability, I have not had a chance to really take time to develop lessons that I and other teachers can use.  I teach students, family and friends all the time, just  little bits and pieces, but this on this particular day I decided to start the creation of a unit on forest ecology.  My idea was to document a variety of flora and then go home and organize the pictures and create an Inquiry question that would enable students to begin to investigate and create understandings of how a forest functions and sustains itself.  What I thought would be a half an hour walk turned into an hour and a half and culminated with me coming out on a beautiful back road in the city that I did not know existed.

What follows are some of  the pictures and my meandering thoughts about how I could use these pictures to teach others who may not be able to get out into a coastal rain forest, about the unique relationships  that allow nature to sustain itself.  I can see this fitting into a variety of grade levels and curriculums.  I’ll see what I come up with.

NOTE: this is just a snippet of a unit.

Big Ideas: How can we understand connections and systems by looking at a forest? What are some of the relationships seen? How can you equate or use the relationships you observe in the forest  to human relationships.  Give examples of human  to human relationships and human to nature relationships that model something you noticed from the forest.

The video link at the bottom of the page could be used to Segway into a class discussion as well as the following activities.      


Choose one of the following:


Look at the pictures below and write one paragraph of what you see in the pictures.  Use language that describes the colors, textures, shapes, depth, layers and anything else you notice.

Try to imagine the sounds you might hear in this forest.  Write a paragraph that describes what this forest might sound like if you were standing very still in it.

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Can you name any of the things you see in the pictures?  List them.

What colour seems to dominate all of the pictures?  Using your knowledge of plants cells, adaptations and relationships in nature to explain why you think the colour you chose tends to be so prominent.

Have you seen any of these plants in nature?  Where were they?

Look at the pictures below.  All of these plants are……?

Is there anything they all have in common?

What differences do you see in them.  Record you observations in a chart with the labels, size, shape, colour, detail.

What do you think the purpose of these plants is in the forest?  Research that question and record what you find.

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This is a nurse log.  What is a nurse log and why is it important in the forest?  Can you think of any ways that humans interfere with the importance of a nurse log? Explain.


Abundance in November


Heading up the main path from the river

After a soggy Saturday, yesterday was a glorious sunny day.  It was also the fall back time change so we had an extra hour in our day.  Craving some outdoor time and some sunshine we headed out bright and early for an adventure to hike the Canyon Trail in Campbell River area. We hiked along the river, past a hydro power plant and then I found a trail straight up the bank into a wonderful 2nd growth forest.

The path through the forest was very well maintained and the scenery was phenomenal.  We got in about two and a half hours of good hiking and witnessed the aliveness of the forest, even in November.  The forest floor is so green with moss, ferns and Salal right now.  It is strange how a dark place exudes life in its lush greenness.


view of part of the canyon

Of course among all the moss, twigs and ferns mushrooms abound.  I could not help myself and just happened to have a bag in my pack to store my foraged finds.  I am not familiar with mushrooms except for Chanterelles and so with my eyes peeled to the ground it wasn’t long before they started appearing.  Sometimes I would be alerted of their whereabouts by the one lone Chanterelle on the edge of the path.  From there I would look for a vein of them and usually was successful in finding one or two more.  As we walked deeper into the forest I found myself stepping off the path when we were on a mossy slope with plenty of Douglas Fir trees around.

It was again like a forest treasure hunt for me.  I got my partner involved eventually and the addictiveness of mushroom picking bit him and soon we were calling to each other with enthusiasm as we discovered little patches of the buttery morsels.  We picked enough to sauté with our moose roast dinner and some to make a batch of Mushroom Rosemary Soup.  Last night we feasted on the mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic and served with roast moose, roasted carrots and potato wedges accompanied by Pear Lavender Preserve and Pear Brown Sugar Cardamom Preserve. Delicious.

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

Today after cleaning the rest of the Chanterelles I am going to make another of my favourite recipes from John Bishop, Oyster Mushroom with Rosemary Soup.  I will be substituting Chanterelles for Oyster mushrooms.  Along with the soup we will be having green salad with four kinds of lettuce, pomegranate and pears as well as some delicious looking  Feta Chive Scones that I can’t resist trying from Joy the Baker.  You can find the recipes by using the links or going to my recipe page.

Time to get cooking.