Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Walking to School

I had a vacation day I thought I'd already used, so I took today off. So I walked Boo and the neighbor kid to school.

There's just a slight dusting of snow on the sidewalk. Just enough to look for tracks. Mostly people tracks, several dogs, a neighborhood cat or two. The exciting ones are the rabbits. Boo thought they looked like deer tracks, so we had to look at the little toe prints in the paws.

They also found icicles and used them to write "secret messages" in the snow.

Then they stuck their hands in the snow, took their hats off, and licked snow off the sidewalk behind my back (I think that's where the snowy noses and grins came from).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Get Out!

Many people get the “Birch, you’re being crazy again” look on their faces as I regale them of stories of my weekend camping. Hiking, Avoiding minor disaster. With my small child. Personally, I think it’s kinda awesome, or I wouldn’t be doing it. 

But then some small number of them say, “Wow, that sounds really fun… but I could never do all that.” 

And yes, if you’ve never camped, you will not succeed backpacking with a kid right away. And a lot of families don’t live as close as we do to nice trails and wild spaces. 

But you too can get your kids outside. By not letting perfect be the enemy of good.

Do you garden? Even a small container garden gets kids in tune with weather and seasons, dirt and worms and pests and weeds. Boo has a couple containers in the big garden where she grows carrots and radishes and lettuce and peas (things that are easy to grow). She also has a dirt pile where she digs for worms and treasure. She hides in the bushes and climbs the maple tree. She and the neighbor kids chase each other around the house. 

Diggin' in the Dirt

Walking as a family is good, even if you can’t get to the wilderness.  Walk around the block. We were once stuck with the adults needing a hike and the kid wanting a playground. So we went to a park where we could take a trail from one parking area to the playground at a different parking area. We live in town, so we can walk to the library, the hardware store, and 3 playgrounds. 

Run Away - super-hero style

I had many happy nights sleeping in the tent in the backyard as a kid. Boo’s a little young to do that without an adult, but I have offered to chaperone her backyard camping trips next summer. Backyard trips don’t need a lightweight tent, or even one without chipmunk holes in it. 

The best part of camping was always cooking over a campfire, and we don’t do that backpacking. We do cook over a fire and in coals in the backyard a couple times a year. We have a portable fireplace, but we used to have a ground fire, and we burn the woody yard waste. It’s enough for hotdogs, potatoes, and s’mores. 


I went camping with my parents all of once, and I never camped outside a backyard until I was an adult. I got where I am through friends willing to put up with my fumbling and fear of freezing. So if you’re an experienced outdoor person, invite a newbie along. If you want to become an outdoor person, take small steps, seek out people who do what you want to do, and have fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Everyone needs to know how to tie knots, right? 

We tie our shoes, tie ribbons on gifts, tie saws on tethers to drag up in trees, tie pea plants to trellises… We even occasionally tie knots out in the woods. 

Boo has always been interested in tying. She quickly claimed my short length of extra (usually laundry) line for her backpack. 

We start with the half granny knot, also known as “cross, tuck under, and pull.” Then she worked on adding a second, just the same, to get a faincy-dancy granny knot. 

Knot Practice

Granny knots are good for tying leaves into a belt.

Even More Tree Climbing

Or making my work boots impossible to get out of… 

Thoroughly Tied Shoe

She and J will often take her string, or some found line, and tie laundry lines, fish lines, or monster traps around camp. 

Practicing Knots

Lee and I have been known to sit around camp and learn new knots around the campfire. Turns out my knot pamphlet is a little tricky for her. But not for long at this rate...

Knot Lessons

The first knot I remember after tying my shoes was a slip-knot, and I still use it fairly frequently. I do not have a large repertoire of knots, but I’m learning. 

What knots did you learn as a kid? Which do you use the most now?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"I Wanna Snow-Cave Camp!

Looking through the clearance section on REI I cam across a pic of a tarp in the snow. Suddenly, a little voice shouts in my ear, "I want to snow camp!"

So it doesn't snow much where we are, and it would take a little doing. How old do you think a kid needs to be to go snow camping?

winter camping

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekend Tidbits

Both Saturday and Sunday saw Boo charming fishermen. She was shown big fish, and the guy in the nice bass boat came in close so she could see his bait.

During our "explore", Boo walked through a burr bush. She must have gotten every single burr on that push in her shirt and hair. Poor kiddo. It was bad enough that I had her climb trees without a shirt on so I could pick burrs out better, and I reached my patience limit with her hair and Lee had to finish.


The rest of the park we saw was fine, but around the campsite, the only plants were nettles and poison ivy. Turns out nettle flowers sting a whole lot worse than the rest of the plant.

While setting up camp, we found a mostly dead "It's a Girl!" mylar balloon. I stomped on it to pop it as we were packing up, and it made a huge bang that echoed like a gun. I would not have been surprised to see a ranger come investigate it.

We had a good weekend. Did you do anything fun?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Secret Trail Markings

Boo started school this year, and it's been a big adjustment. We really cut down our after-work hikes with her, because she was so tired and cranky. But on Labor Day, even though she was still out of sorts, we dragged her to the trail. And we woke her up gently (she hasn't fallen asleep in the car for ages!) After we poked some food into her, she perked back up. We took a hilly, 2.5 mile hike. And it really perked her up. She was the happiest she's been since school started. Well, lesson learned right there. Back to the woods even if she doesn't want to and would rather play with her friends.

When she wasn't running, she was making "secret trail markings". She wouldn't tell us what they were.

Secret Signs

Of note in the pic: whistle on a break-away cord, camera, temporary tattoo, and a stick.

Then her sandals gave her blisters, she she spent the second half of the hike running barefoot up hills.

Do you kids do better for being outside, even when it seems counter-intuitive?