With the snow relinquishing its hold on the hillsides, we have been spending much more time wandering through the woods. If I walk slowly enough, the woods will reveal creative opportunities in every direction. At my feet there is a pine cone that looks strangely different from the rest. To my right, a rock that sparkles in the sun. On the bank beside the path, a gnarled root that would make a great paperweight or bookend without any alterations whatsoever.
On a recent trip two of our children carried half of their body weight in rocks home because they couldn’t bring themselves to leave such wonderful treasures behind. When they learned they wouldn’t be allowed to bring armloads of rocks inside, they quickly found creative outlets for them. For one a massive addition to her fairy garden, to another a great start for a decorative stone border for her strawberry patch.
The burl on this tree will make a few beautiful bowls or one gorgeous bushel basket.
What I love about these woodland art supplies is that as long as we manage the wilderness with gentle benevolent intent, there will always be more creative project prompts ready and waiting. I never go into the woods with an artistic purpose in mind. The things I see and find will guide the process organically.
The balanced rocks in the feature photo took maybe 3 minutes of my time, but I get to watch their journey through the seasons for the rest of the year. I definitely didn’t expect that I would do that on that walk, but there was a pile of stones that was just waiting for rearranging. I don’t doubt that snow will knock them over this winter, but that will just give me a clean canvas for next year.
We often take walks in the woods. All of us appreciate the wilderness, discovering new things on every foray. Yesterday I got a chance to focus on a few subjects more relevant to hunting (both wild foraging and deer hunting) by leaving the path. Leaving the path is something you only want to do if you are confident in your knowledge of the terrain, but even so it still requires some faith in yourself and random circumstance. I of course stressed the dangers of leaving the path, and we discussed the other options available to us before putting it to a vote which was almost unanimous. Continue reading
“Many hands make light work.” I would argue that many small hands make light-hearted work. Children love to help, and often get giddy with excitement when there is an outdoor job to be done. Many times the job to be done couldn’t possibly accommodate as many workers as have volunteered, so I try to delegate down to the smallest task to involve as many willing helpers as possible. Usually this means the smallest children have completed their part of the job very quickly and move on to asking poignant and sometimes existential questions about the work we are doing, followed by spontaneous outbursts of energy which most times will culminate in a game of tag around the area where I continue to work.
Like the phases of matter, solid to liquid to gas, these phases of children’s helpfulness are just part of the natural order of things. They heat up and cool down, settling back in to take a knee for a couple more questions before exploding outwards at full speed with no warning. If I were to time how long the job would take, I would not be surprised to learn that it took me far longer to complete the work with their help than without, but neither I nor they would have gotten nearly as much enjoyment out of it. Pausing to wipe sweat from my brow becomes a moment of joy, my sore back and aching feet forgotten as I watch the children squealing with joy when a hand just misses its mark or a ball goes flying over a head. They are helping me dig this hole just as much as if they held the shovel themselves.
The day that bare root trees arrive in the mail is always an exciting day. It’s a day for dreaming, even for those of us who are usually so well grounded in reality. These finger-thick twigs with a few roots at their bottom will explode into a 12 foot tall solar-powered fruit factory in 5 years or less, and then continue bearing fruit loyally and faithfully for decades upon decades as long as you remember to uphold your part of the contract.
Upon arrival, you must remember that these trees are in the most vulnerable part of their existence. They are young, fragile, and their roots are not in the life-giving soil where they belong. Can you imagine what that must be like? Of course you can, you were a young adult once – Continue reading