I put off building a tree house for my son because I didn’t want to damage the beautiful maple tree in the backyard by hammering nails. (Nails in trees are an entry point for fungi and other diseases.) Then it occurred to me that I could support the framing for the deck in the Y of the tree and not put any nails into the tree itself.
I wanted to build the tree house with my son and not for him so that I could teach him about basic construction. Growing up, I was always working with my father on carpentry or shop projects or gardening with my mother because like most children up until a generation or two ago, I was expected to be productive from an early age and to learn useful skills all the time. Continue reading “Building the Tree House”
I spend afternoons with my son, and now that the summer heat is here in full force, it makes doing things outdoors during our time less than ideal. Fortunately, I remembered that I had a box of studio-grade acrylic paints that I had saved from years ago, and I knew that my son liked finding rocks, seeds, and other materials outside . So I proposed that we find and paint rocks, and he thought it was a great idea.
It was a great idea. The student-grade paint didn’t contain toxic cadmium oxides like my studio stuff, and we could do the painting in the relative cool of his mother’s garage. And like any activity, there were many opportunities for teaching basic life and work skills if I paid attention. Continue reading “Painting Rocks”
I wanted to teach my son about oak trees because I grew up learning about the outdoors constantly from my father and great uncles, who always pointed out different trees, plants, insects, animals, what animals ate, where things grew, if it migrated, was it native, etc.
It was easy for me to take all that in as a boy because I loved it, and I didn’t have video games and Youtube constantly competing for my time the way my son does.
I chose oaks as a starting point because they were something that was available in Decatur and didn’t require driving, and because the leaves and acorns of different species are distinctive and easy to learn. Continue reading “Acorn Adventures”
My son had to teach a lesson in third grade, some activity he was good at, and when I heard him propose something about video games, I immediately suggested planting the three sisters and pushed the idea hard. I didn’t give my son time to suggest other ideas and come up with his own, which is how the assignment was supposed to be.
I hate that I did that, but I did it because I was afraid his mother might let him get away with some easy but dull idea because he had to pick an idea that night and was wanting to play video games rather than think about it. I also wanted to make sure that most of his time for the lesson preparation wasn’t spent shopping for craft materials aimed at children and buying an idea.
I couldn’t stand the thought of that opportunity being wasted when it could be used to show the children something real that might literally change some of their lives, possibly plant a lifelong passion or interest in someone.
But who knows, maybe he and his mother would have come up with making a healthy salad or something equally important for him and the other kids to learn.
Each year, my friend has a fishing trip with the guys from college at a house on the north end of Sapelo Island, the part that is completely wild with hogs and rattlesnakes and alligators. Except for one other small house owned by Georgia’s DNR, my friend’s house is the only house on the north end, and it is in the woods at Raccoon Bluff. The wild hogs and other animals come right up to the house, especially at night.
The house is only occupied a limited number of days per year because the island is protected and access to the property is limited by DNR for good reason. The ecological and historical and cultural value of this wilderness barrier island is enormous.
Each year, a few of us always kayak across to Blackbeard Island on the last day, which is even more isolated than Sapelo. Blackbeard is smaller and is a protected National Seashore. We paddle down to the strand of beach at the southern tip of Blackbeard and then back up the river a mile or two to the dock at the ranger station. Then we hike north from there to the northern tip.
We aren’t using any pesticides on our plants. We aren’t shooting the squirrels, although I have explained to my son that in a time of hunger, we wouldn’t have to worry about them because they would have already seen the inside of a pot.
Germination Room 1: Formerly Known as the Dining Room
Instead of buying plastic germination trays, I wanted to show my son how to reuse recycled materials like cardboard and the rolls from toilet paper in some totes on loan from the warehouse. Continue reading “Seedlings”
I was noticing fewer and fewer tree frog tadpoles, and I was sure that a single juvenile female bullfrog was eating them and eating too many of them to be sustainable. The tree frogs had been singing and laying eggs for three weeks until the bullfrog showed up after a rainstorm, and they had suddenly disappeared. Had she eaten them? If she had eaten the adults, she was certainly eating the tadpoles.
The thought that a single bullfrog was eating up everything in the tiny pond was depressing me, and I decided to relocate her to a larger pond. Maybe even the leopard frogs weren’t appropriate for a pond this small.
I went out to the pond to catch the bullfrog, and while I was waiting to see her, I pulled some of the excess water cabbage and hyacinth out of the pond. That was when I noticed tiny baby tree frogs on the plants. They were smaller than a raisin, ridiculously tiny, and there were lots of them. The closer you looked, the more you saw hidden on the plants. They were on the water hyacinth, the arrowhead plants, the ferns, the cattails, and even the grass. All these tiny miracles were everywhere.
I tip toed away overwhelmed with pure joy. Less than ninety days before, the pond had not existed, and yet it had already been colonized by several species of frog and produced its first generation.