TripDate: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Use this Green Spiral Map

along with the blogpost from

“Becoming a Wild Family”

to explore Shaw Park

in Clayton.

2016 Shaw Park Map

This is part of the

Spring Series of

“Urban Wild Adventures”

featuring fabulous nature guide

Angela Wildermuth

2016_Angela_Avatar

Becoming a Wild Family

We went on our weekly park tour today!

Kentucky has their horse derby 🏇and we have the leaf race 🍃…

… Read on to find out who won…. 😉

We began the tour of Shaw Park at the playground. It’s quite a fun park that tries to draw upon the aesthetics of nature!

Angela always engages the kids right away by telling them what the park has in store for them!  She quickly drew the kids’ attention to the Sensory Garden.


She passed around samples of the plants that could be found in the sensory garden and had everyone touch and smell the leaves and flowers.

She also had a scavenger hunt list for the kids to check off.

Simone was in charge of our family’s findings.

She took the hunt very seriously…

The boys listened and hunted but in a much less organized way.

Some of…

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This is Angela Wildermuth. She’s an amazing family nature guide.

Her last name means “wild spirit”.

2016 Angela Notepad

Angela is inspired to take families “into the wild” places at the edges of parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.  Green Spiral has now hosted two series of playground adventures that we are calling “Urban Wild Adventures”.

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In the wilds of Maplewood…

 

This blog debriefs “Winter Wild Adventures” in hopes of getting kids outside in all kinds of weather. You definitely need proper clothing, and friends, to help keep you warm, and overcome that indoor inertia.

If you can find REAL felt or alpaca foot inserts for kids (NOT polyester), and put them inside standard wellie-type rain boots, you’ve just created a pair of warm kid boots for a fraction of the cost of snow boots. Wear wool socks for extra measure.  Buy rain boots a size too big in fall, and as kids grow, take out the wool inserts for spring and summer.

Fit for a prince...

Fit for a prince…

The weather is not likely to settle down anytime in the near future, and families who follow Green Spiral know all about raising resilient kids.  Green Spiral field trips are not for everybody; they’re kind of like “Outdoor Leadership School” for toddlers, kids and families.  But for those who do follow the wild spirit into the woods, the magic and the misadventure makes every extra effort worthwhile.

2016-01-25 Memorial Park (7)

The colder the winter the sweeter the spring, and even rain feels nice compared to ice. Getting outside in cold weather is good for you — and here’s an introduction to the fairly new concept of “brown fat”.  Brown fat is abundant in hibernating animals and newborns, it’s function is to keep the body warm.  But “brown fat” has also recently been discovered in adults as a response to cold exposure.  Brown fat keeps you warm, and it also burns “white fat”.  In short, being outside in winter causes you to build brown fat, which eventually keeps you warmer, WHILE, it makes you thinner!

2016-01-25 Memorial Park (15)

Nature doesn’t hibernate in winter, and there is plenty to do. The first three “Urban Wild Adventures”, to the Webster Sculpture Garden, Memorial Park and Tower Grove Park were cold, cold, cold. Kids have less body mass than adults, and thus get dangerously cold faster, so bundle little ones up well, wrap babies close to the body, and bring warm drinks in a thermos for when you get back to the car.  As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

2016-01 bridge

Memorial Park in Brentwood (near the YMCA), is a fabulous destination for a short cold weather hike, as the secret paths are easier to find in winter, mulched with recycled Christmas trees.  Be careful not to fall into the creek when crossing the stepping stones, and make your way to the bridge with the arch.  Keep your eye on the creek — we had a magical moment when we spotted a great blue heron! It’s nice to have a tour guide who carries along bird books, and that nature guide could be you.

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Along with a moment of magic, every trip has a misadventure; the misadventure on this trip was the sad realization that trash along creeks is highly visible in winter.  On a positive note, mothers can’t stop themselves from cleaning up this pretty planet:  the moms found a lost garbage bag, spontaneously started cleaning up the place, and the kids jumped right in. The nice thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to wash hands, just mittens! Panera would be your closest cozy stop, across the street in the same shopping center as Whole Foods.

2016-01-25 trash

Here’s your map should you want to catch up with Green Spiral Tours, or simply organize your own playgroup adventure.

2016-01-25 map Memorial Park

 

The Tower Grove Park trip was even colder, with one or two misadventures. But know that Tower Grove has a secret natural playground, and Angela took us there. Our destination was these “gnarly knee trees” underneath a bald cypress tree.  This type of natural wonder cannot be landscaped – they’re very old and only grow in the wettest ground.

BUT! it snowed, covering up the gnarly knee destination! And, sadly, one of the cars got broken into —  so always remember “Adventure School Rules #3” – remain aware, and always lock valuables away and out of sight.

2016 Adventure School Rules

HOWEVER! Tower Grove has a pony! Who knew? AND, it was early February, so we saw the earliest sign of spring: witch hazel in bloom.

2015-02 Tower Grove pony

Tower Grove is a known birding destination along the “Mississippi Flyway”, so you might want to  return around Mother’s Day, with a picnic, when the songbirds pass through. We learned that a bird sanctuary is planned to be installed in Tower Grove Park soon. By the way, Hartford Coffee is a nice place to warm up, with quality coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Mr. Cypress Tree

Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is an amazing park to explore, and Angela & the families ventured forth in the rain, which seemed like  fun after the first three cold trips. Blackburn is famous for it’s sinkholes, and the kids had a blast jumping in and out of them; but be careful, what happens if the sinkhole doesn’t let you out? Remember, these are true off-the-beaten adventures and not sanitized, canned experiences, so you have to stop and assess the risks and hazards.  Fortunately, most kids have highly developed survival skills, and in this world, they need to be encouraged to take more risks, not fewer.  As always, use your own judgement.

Sink into the goodness...

Sink into the goodness…

By the way, ponchos are better for kids than umbrellas, because ponchos are cheaper and last longer than umbrellas, plus, nobody gets poked in the eye! Here’s a darling blog by a “Wild Mom” which tells you all about the adventure to Blackburn Park, and how to become a “Wild Family”. Imho, wild families have more fun, AND they are going to save this beautiful earth:

Becoming a Wild Family

The trip to Lindberg Park in Maplewood resulted in a great horned owl sighting as well as the welcome sight of wild purple crocus flowers — the first wink of spring! Also found: rabbit fur from owl hunting, as well as multiple groundhog burrows.  Teach kids to look up, down, and all around.

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Kids don’t learn about nature by osmosis or by magic; they must be taught directly how to pick up trash and put on wool socks.  Schools are not particularly set up to teach kids about nature, so the amazing nature teacher in your life is likely to be you. Hopefully this blog inspires you to get outside and shake off the winter doldrums.  As a tip to future trip leaders, it works well to meet your playgroup at the playground, to get the ya-ya’s out, so when the nature hike begins, everyone is in a calm mood of ready awareness.

Think on these things?

Think on these things?

In short, Winter Urban Wild Adventures, are good for you, good for kids, and good for Saint Louis. Be inspired to launch your own trips with the maps provided, or follow Angela Wildermuth on future “Urban Wild” adventures, by watching for future Green Spiral emails or following the Green Spiral Facebook Page.

Now here’s your homework:

  1. Go to your favorite park and get off the beaten track.  Look along the edges, where the wild things might be.  Look up, look down.  Collect nature items as you go, and arrange them in an interesting way at the end of your explorations.  Take a picture of it, along with the kids, for your photo journal.  Mark it with the date and location. This is a “Goldsworthy”; following in the footsteps of famous artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  2. Buy wool socks, rain boots & ponchos, and train your family to get outside in all kinds of weather.  Get your friends to come with you. Tell yourselves how resilient and awesome you are becoming with each passing day.
  3. Create a winter terrarium by collecting a small sample of soil, plus a small patch of frozen moss.  Put it inside a pretty jar with a lid, spritz it with water and set it on the kitchen table.  Prepare to be amazed at the tiny creatures and ferns that unfurl as the terrarium warms. Toss the soil and moss into the compost pile when the tiny riot of life has played itself out.

2014-08 Know Your Farmer

It’s getting harder and harder to find family farms to visit, but it can be done, and here’s one way to do it. You can visit Windcrest Dairy, the only makers of homestead yogurt in our area, conveniently located just 40 minutes east of the Arch, in Illinois.

Here’s the link to the farm, along with a map, and here’s the address to the farm:

Windcrest Dairy

14898 Old Trenton Road; Trenton, IL 62293

 

(Be careful with your GPS device, as it seems to want to divert to Wing Crest)

2014-07-17 Windcrest cows in the barn

Here’s Farmer Kurt, third generation farmer, with a broken rib.  Thank goodness farmers don’t stop farming just because they have broken ribs, or because it’s frightfully cold, or because it’s blisteringly hot outside — because we love to eat!  Call up Farmer Kurt anytime, and organize a field trip; afternoons are best.  Here’s his phone number: 618-910-346four.

Do you know this farmer?

Do you know this farmer?

Farming is hard work, and harder still due to economies of scale and “Get Big or Get Out” farm policies.  Milk is a commodity, so bigger producers have a competitive advantage over the little family farm, yet Windcrest Dairy has found a way to stay in business by making yogurt. 

 

When you go, ask them what “homestead” yogurt means.  Small farms are little businesses, and thus they need to be very entrepreneurial; making yogurt is known as a “value added product”, and has made a big difference for this family-owned farm operation.

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You can buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt at Schnucks, Straubs, and local foodie establishments; Wash U uses Windcrest Dairy yogurt in their yogurt parfaits.  It’s nice to “Know Your Farmer”, and it’s important know where your food comes from. Heck, do you think a factory farm would let us visit their operation with little girls in tutus?

2014-08-06 Windcrest Tutu (36)

If you visit the farm at 4:30, you get to see the cows get milked at 5 pm.  Otherwise, there are lots of cows, pigs, ducks, geese, donkeys and miniature horses to pet or maybe feed.  Depending on the composition of your group, ask to milk a cow!

2014-08-06 Windcrest  milking (51)

Of course, the stars of the show somehow turn out to be the barn cats. And sometimes toads.

2014-07-17 Windcrest Barncat

A bit of mischief and misadventure always seems to present itself on Green Spiral field trips, as these are true adventures and not sanitized experiences; thus we were surprised, but not surprised, when a big goat jumped up on our yogurt tasting table.

 

Don’t park under the shade trees, as tempting as it might be, unless you want a goat on the back of your car, reaching for the tasty leaves.  Needless to say, goat hooves are not kind to car paint, and I feel badly about that.  Hey, it’s a farm!  What else can we say about that?

2014-08-06 Windcrest Sally and the goat

Green Spiral brought about 34 people, which was just about the right number, although a bit crowded in the yogurt making room.  A better number might be around 24.  Be sure to ask what makes Greek Yogurt different.  One answer is that it has more protein, which makes it a “superfood” for growing kids. 

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Sharing food builds community. We all got to sample different flavors of yogurt. Here’s a yellow cucumber from Schlafly Gardenwork seeds, along with a simple recipe to inspire a cool summer treat made with greek yogurt and mint:

2014-08-06 yellow cuke

2014-08-28 Cucumbers

You can also just show up at Windcrest by yourself or with a small family group, as dairies are always open, and cows still need to milked, twice a day, even on holidays. There is a “store” where you can buy yogurt, and even buy frozen yogurt not available at your local grocer.  Remember to bring your cool pack or cooler for transport.  An indoor restroom facility is available on site.

2014-07-17 Windcrest windmill and horse

This is a fabulous field trip for any age and you can pretty much wear anything you want, including a tutu. Every adventure teaches us something new, and from here on out, everyone is encouraged to wear batman capes and tutus to future Green Spiral field trips!

2014-08-06 Windcrest  Elisha and tutus

You’ve been on the field trip, and now here’s your homework!  It’s important to take time to reflect on your experiences and integrate what you have learned into your framework of understanding. You can respond in the comment section below.

2014-08-06 Big Red Barn

Homework: 

  • Got milk? Do you have a basic understanding of how milk gets to your table? Does it matter?  What if you lived in China? Would it matter then?
  • Patronize your local farmer’s market and help grow the local food ecosystem (every dollar makes a difference!)
  • Share recipes and food to help build community. (Remember, the best place to store food is in other people’s bellies!)
  • Ask your own special magic question.  You will know you have found the magic question when you just have to find out the answer!
  • Inventory books in your personal, school and public libraries.  Do they include The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollan or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver?  Do your children’s books present an accurate picture of how food gets from farm to table?
  • Ask children where milk comes from.  Then ask them what cows eat.  Write down funny answers for later.
  • Know your farmer!  Visit a local farm, or better yet, lead a field trip to a local farm! Take kids.
  • Buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt, if you live in the Saint Louis area.
  • Blog! or use social media to show what you know.  Here’s a blog called Magpie at Heart which has particularly nice photos from our field trip: http://www.magpieatheart.com/dairy-farm-adventure/
  • Vote! Amendment One is a constitutional amendment that gives the courts, not the voters, the authority to decide about future farm practice disputes. In general, this is probably a long term win for those with deep pockets, such as  puppy mills and factory farms. For more, here’s a non-partisan link to Ballotpedia.

A river runs through it…

Patch.com Post – August 2012

Family reunions call for equitable activities, meaning free activities, and nature is able to answer that call.  My mother called a family reunion, so we ventured down to the river, all 22 of us, plus a dog, in search of arrowheads and other treasures.  We had very young children and princesses in tow, along with several kids who don’t like to unplug for long.

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There was a moment of trepidation at the river’s edge, and then, in one glorious movement, everyone entered the shallow river, skipping rocks, flipping shells, happily exploring the river and it’s many wonders.  Nature is the great equalizer and the great individualizer: we each found something unique, and completely compelling to do, to the point of ignoring the first pouring rain in a 90-day drought.

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Watch the way children play outdoors very carefully, it’s easier to discern their learning modalities outdoors than it is indoors.  For example, if they are visual learners, they will be the first kids to spy the fish bones, or arrowheads.  If they are auditory learners, they will be the first to hear the airplane overhead.

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When visiting a river with extended family, always bring paperclips with you, for with paperclips, you can make “crawdad catchers’ and keep everyone entertained for hours. To make a “crawdad catcher” simply unfold a paperclip into the shape of a fishhook, tie a piece string to it, and fix a bit of meat to it.  Teenagers and toddlers alike can safely “fish” for crawdads, who pinch the meat with their claws and won’t let go, even when you lift them out of the water to watch their spiny legs claw frantically at thin air.

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The proper name for crawdad is crayfish, and surprisingly, Missouri is a biodiversity hotspot for them, largely due to our rivers, which are among the biggest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the world.  Sadly, our rivers are under siege, from many point sources, including monster vehicles with enormous wheels, that crush delicate creatures in their wake.

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Who will speak for the truffulla trees and crawling things, if no one takes kids crawdad fishing?

If not you, then who?

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What you can do:

Take your kids “crawdad fishing” – and remember to bring your paper clips.  Splash photos all over social media.

Start a family nature club – and bring all your friends crawdad fishing.  Make sure they bring their cameras.

Find restaurants that serve crayfish and ask where the crayfish come from.

Join any number of worthy organizations, like Missouri Stream Team, and help clean up our rivers.

The Citygarden visit actually happened in

September of 2010 in between tornado storms,

but I’m posting it here while I recreate

historical data after Apple discontinued

supporting it’s web-site, and while I’m

creating a blog site starting at the beginning

of Green Spiral Tours.

Citygarden leads the way in creating naturescapes

for children, and their families, while demonstrating

the viability of economic rejuvenation.  If you build

outdoor places for families to connect with nature,

families will come, and bring their dollars for drinks,

trinkets and more major purchases.  There is pent-up

demand for friendly nature places that is not yet fully met.

You can bring your dog to the Citygarden

and the security officer will give them treats.

Citygarden is quite safe, and parking is easy.

We shall return in the summer to play

in the fountains and water.  Citygarden

is progressive and responsive for

hiring lifeguards and allowing children

to play in the water features.  So often,

beautiful parks are built, and then

children are forbidden from touching.

We applaud all involved with Citygarden

and families thank them deeply for

their wisdom and foresight.

Water is life, and every great garden must incorporate

water.  If you build a water feature, children will come,

and climb right into it.  You can plan on it.