FARM BLOG ~ Getting Kids Closer To Nature / Start This Time Of Year
10 THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS STARTING TODAY
We run an organic farm and spend alot of time with parents wanting to get their kids more interested in 1) the food they eat, 2) a healthier lifestyle, 3) more connectedness to nature, 4) off technology, 5) more family centric activities, and various other reasons.
First, we tell parents that it requires time from the parents to bring kids back to nature. The hectic lives of the parents are often the primary reason kids are not out in nature nor have the natural inclination to do something ‘outdoorsy’. Honestly, most kids LOVE nature when you take them out into it. You simply have to stop what you’re doing and begin to do things differently.
Second, we tell parents that one of the first things you can do is to BRING NATURE INTO THE HOME. This results in real day to day monitoring of nature’s divine workings, right in the middle of your daily lives. With this in mind, we are going to show you ten easy things we do and currently have going on INSIDE our house that gets kids closer to nature. These are all things you can do with your kids (small or older) to bring them closer to their natural world.
Things you can do with your kids (not in any given order or range of difficulty)
- START YOUR OWN SWEET POTATO SLIPS
This is incredibly fun and great for the kids to watch in the window sill. Here are our starts that have been in water for a week. The first picture is a tight shot to let you see the roots beginning to form. I have started about twenty of these in our windows last week. To learn more on how to grow sweet potato slips and then what to do to transplant into the garden, read more here How to grow sweet potato slips. This is great because it shows our kids they can eat healthy, they can grow their own food, and also they can MULTIPLY their food from seed (meaning growing is NOT a 1:1 proposition, it’s a 1:many…..1 plant can have 100s of seeds, thus 100s of plants…). Seeds are the highest return on investment on the planet. Literally. When we say food is expensive, true, but it’s only true if we go to the store. If we grow a garden and seed save – it’s the single biggest yield that exists on the planet and all by God’s design. It’s a beautiful way to teach economics (micro and macro) among many other key lessons for kids.
2. RAISE YOUR OWN COOKING AND MEDICINAL HERBS INDOORS
We focus on not just cooking herbs, but also medicinal herbs. Conveniently, many cooking herbs are also medicinal herbs. It’s incredibly easy to start a windowsill garden with your family whereby you grow the herb and also begin to make teas from the greens.
3. SEED SAVE / THRESH WHEAT
Starting out with some simple vegetables and grains, you can begin to save seeds with your kids. This teaches them where their food comes from and where all ‘life’ originates. It truly gives them confidence to go from saving a seed from a parent plant, to planting it, to harvesting from it, to saving seed yet again. Here are some seeds we are in the process saving and wheat we grew that we are now hand threshing for our 2016 summer garden.
4. ORDER YOUR SEEDS TOGETHER AS A FAMILY FOR YOUR 2016 GARDEN
January/February is the time to order your seeds for your spring/summer/fall 2016 garden. With the wonderful heirloom seeds now available from all over the world, it’s truly a delight to go through the seed catalogue and look at the pictures and buy awesome seeds. This is a fun thing to do with the kids. I buy purple carrots, black tomatoes and all sorts of crazy colors of vegetables as it makes the garden so much fun. And, these great produce do wonderfully well at the farmers market. When you make gardening an artistic, colorful delight, it is sure to thrill the kids and grandkids. We really love Baker Creek Heirloom as they collect the most amazing seeds from all over the world. You can learn in their catalogue about indigenous living across the globe and it truly opens up the family’s awareness to how other people live that are different than ourselves. This is a wonderful company and I encourage you to check them out at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. If you click the link you’ll immediately see the insanely beautiful colors you can create in your garden. You can also easily order your seeds online.
5. PREPARE TOGETHER FOR YOUR SUMMER GARDEN AND TEND TO YOUR CURRENT YARD
We have a ranch in Upstate NY and a farm in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Each location requires different care of our sugar bush (in NY), our fruit orchards (in both locations), our hardwoods (in both locations), our pastures (both locations) and our honey bees and thus their forage (in NY). We encourage you to buy a book that really outlines what you do EACH MONTH of the year in terms of your food-scape care and maintenance so you are up to speed on what to do with your own little food plot. There is so much that can be grown, even on a quarter of an acre. When we lived in Beijing China, gardening was hugely popular in apartments in Beijing. Indeed, with hydroponic gardens, Beijingers were raising Tilapia (fish) and many of their own veges in their tiny little apartments. While we lived overseas in 2012 and 2013 we truly saw a food revolution take place as more people around the world learn to grow food VERTICALLY. Going UP with the growth requires a great deal less space to produce food. This will be a great trend moving forward we believe.
6. DO NECESSARY PRUNING IN YOUR YARDS
Winter is also a good time to do pruning of certain trees and shrubs. Some bushes such as azaleas should not be trimmed during winter, but rather, right after they bloom. But it is important to know what trees and shrubs you do want to prune and when. This is a great way to get your kids outside as well. It offers time to be together, and you can teach them about buds and growth and how natures grows over a given season.
7. DECORATE YOUR HOUSE WITH OUTDOOR WILD-CRAFTS
I love this topic. Wild-crafting. This is a FREE activity to do with your kids that is simply gorgeous. I am floored at how many times people go to the store to decorate. For our Christmas celebration we literally decorated our whole house with ‘wild-crafts’. This is so much fun to do with your kids. Here are examples of what we did this year that have STAYED UP after the holidays due to their naturally beautiful appeal year around.
This display is literally all homemade. First, the wooden base sitting on the platter my husband cut to make rustic cutting boards. The antlers were from a deer we harvested on our NY hunting land. The dried petals and the moss inside the vases we collected and dried. The rocks we collected and stacked in pretty ways. And, the pinecones we collected. We even painted some pine cones and acorns with glitter and those were lovely (we used them on our big fireplace mantle display). This display below is still up after Christmas is over as it captures the rustic elegance we love so much.
Below we made all the dried oranges, both whole and cut. We did this in the oven to dry them and boy do they ever throw off a wonderful citrus smell. We added bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and anise to the mix to make an amazing potpourri that we’ve kept up as a display. This is still very fragrant two months after its creation. This is a very easy project to do with kids of every age.
The wreath below I made by hand by simply wrapping some of our old grapevines. My family made the rest by adding pinecones we’d collected and acorns and some extra burlap and checked ribbon from a chocolate box we were going to throw away. The little American flag wooden peace in the center was a small table top that had broken off it’s base. We found it in the dump pile and revived it by having it serve as the center of the wreath. Since our dining room is very Americana rustic elegance with a large late 1700’s “Walking Spinning Wheel” in the corner, this wreath works very well all year around.
We are somewhat spoiled having a ranch in the Adirondack mountains, where the Adirondack Chair was invented as well as Adirondack furniture. Rustic elegance as a design style was pioneered in our area with the ubber rich who seem to live on every side of us. The hay days of the early 1900s and the style that has permeated the Adirondack’s via the “Great Camp” era of the Rockefellers and other such tycoons, has forever more defined ‘rustic elegance’. Thus, it’s not hard for us to throw together birch bark candles, big pine cones and pine needles in a wooden bowl with ‘stick’ handles. This is the simple elegance of our region’s design theories dating back to those early 1900 days of America’s first industrialist tycoons who all made their great camp home in the Adirondacks. This little project below is a simple project you can do with your small or grown kids that makes a huge statement and brings the scent of the woods into the house in a lovely way.
8. ESTABLISH A WORM COMPOSTING BIN
We absolutely love our worm composting bin. We literally save all our food scraps, place them in our worm bin in the garage, and have amazing worm casting dirt for our spring starts. This is a FABULOUS project to do at home. We always wonder, why throw things away that can be re-generated for a better purpose? Worm bins are awesome. The worms inside are Red Wigglers which are great worms to break down the food. Here’s some shots of our worm bin.
The first shot is of the actual brand of worm bin we use. We love this and highly recommend it.
The picture below is of the top tray of our worm bin. Here we have egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, old vegetables. And I add brown paper from our grain bags, old leaves, etc. And the worms break this all down.
When you lift up the top tray to see the tray below you can see how the worms have broken down the food into what is now the richest soil you can imagine with worm castings (highly nutritious) in the mix. Worm castings are the richest natural fertilizer known to humans. That’s right: as little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed a 6″ potted plant for more than two months. Worm castings stimulate plant growth more than any other natural product on the market. Unlike animal manure and artificial fertilizers it is absorbed easily and immediately by plants. But Worm Castings don’t only stimulate plant growth: they also enhance the ability of your soil to retain water (because of its texture), and it even inhibits root diseases such as root rot. The bottom line is that this exercise done with your kids is a HUGE learning experience for the whole family about soil quality, healthy food, and peak production in your own garden. we highly recommend a worm bin for everyone.
9. DISPLAY YOUR PRODUCE LIKE ART
This is really important. When we bury the veges in the fridge, the kids don’t see them and usually neither do we. They often get thrown out. We urge people to do what we’ve done that works great – even for us as we now eat more veges and fruit than ever. Display your own veges and fruit you grow as a work of art. Or, more like a farmers market in your own kitchen. When we all walk through farmers markets we are enamoured with the healthy food and tend to get inspired. When we display fruit and vegetables the same way at home, it has the same effect. And, once you raise your own veges with your kids that are bright colors and funky shapes, it’s a corner of the kitchen that is full of pride for the whole family. But bottom line, if we bury the veges in the fridge, no one sees them.
10. START A NEW LEARNING CYCLE WITH YOUR KIDS – LIKE NATURAL MEDICINE
Earlier I highlighted that you can start with a windowsill garden comprised of herbs that are both for cooking and for healing. The next fun step to do with your kids is learn how to make teas, salves, your own shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc. from your herbs. There is so much that can be done with basic herbs, apple cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, baking soda, espsom salts, etc. for over all health and well being, it’s truly amazing. We notice that for many drugs, drugs and more drugs seems the way to health. Well, with the concept of ‘well being’ it’s really more about how to you get your body optimally functioning so you DO NOT NEED DRUGS. We learned, while living in China, with all the teas they drink for healing of x, y, and z — that the approach is insanely powerful. Western medicine is very pharmacy centric. Eastern medicine we were blessed to learn, is very nature centric….thus “natural medicine.” Learning about this amazing area and beginning to work with some of your basic windowsill herbs is a great place to start.
The above ten areas of focus are ways we can all bring nature closer to children and children closer to nature, all in and around our homes. It doesn’t require a big park, dozens of acres of private land, or lots and lots of time or effort. It takes a desire to get our kids and ourselves closer to nature and then it takes a little bit of time, over time.
HiBar Ranch hopes this is an insightful set of activities you can do with your family to bring nature alive.
God Bless!! L. Davis