“Bay Area Forager” is Here!

Yay! My book “The Bay Area Forager” is out. It was already featured in Time Magazine a few weeks ago! To order your copy of the book click on the image here. To read the article go to www.time.com.

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Field Journal- November 16th- Dressing for the Rain

A homeschooler shows off his rain fashion.

It’s been so beautiful lately that this topic almost doesn’t seem relevant. But the rainsare coming and I’ve promised for awhile now to write about the art of dressing for the rain. It’s quite different spending just an hour or so in the rain and spending the whole day out there.  An umbrella and rain jacket just won’t quite suffice. For an optimal experience you never want to even get cold, because once you do it’s very hard to get warm even by a fire. So here are some tips:

*Wear a very warm under layer comprised of natural fibers. Silk and wool are best.  I usually wear wool socks, silk long johns, a silk long sleeved shirt, a silk scarf, a wool hat, wool gloves and wool sweater.

*Wear a fully water proof over layer.  Rubber boots, rain pants and a nice breathable rain jacket are ideal.

*Avoid cotton! It will get very cold when wet and not dry out easily. Wool on the other hand will keep you warm even if it is soaking.  I know people who don’t even wear a rain jacket, but just wear heavy wool and let it get wet.

Hope this helps.

Have fun out there.

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Field Journal- August 22nd- What a Splendid Summer!

Well, I can’t help but to notice that I haven’t written a field journal entry since May. Why? Well, I’ve been leading summer camps non-stop. It’s been such a great summer. A big thank you to all of you who participated.

I have had so many highlights this summer.  Here are some of my many favorite moments:

* Watching a group of otherwise fairly rambunctious, 8 year old boys, go totally silent for over a half an hour, stalking up to bullfrogs. I even filmed a bit of this and may post it at some point. It really was incredible to watch them tell each other to be quiet and share techniques of stalking without any prompting from me.

*Finding colored rocks and mud to make into face-paint and getting totally camouflaged, with redwood duff galore in order to play some epic games of capture the flag and learning how to blend into the forest.

*Listening to a group of 20 kids in between the ages of 6 and 10 all be completely focused on singing the fire making song, and visualizing the fire so that we could successfully make a fire by friction.

*Watching six year olds make their own ice cream and getting it all over their faces when eating it. And having one of them turn around to say “this is the best camp ever!”

*Witnessing my student of four years, who is now my teen assistant, be able to lead a group in so many activities with great success and awesome response from the kids.

*All the animals that joined us. Telling a story of a mouse family and then finding a dead mouse right afterwards. Finding a nice burial spot for a gopher snake hit by a bicycle and then seeing a live gopher snake in the same spot the next day. And all the other amazing animal mysteries.

Such a great summer. I hope the kids continue deepening their relationship with nature this year and that I get to see them all next year again.

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Field Journal May 19th- The Power of a Village

Every nature educator needs a village. Or at least I do. Without a village what I do out in the field becomes significantly less meaningful. The hunter goes out to provide food for the people, the scout observes the outskirts to keep her community safe, the tracker gathers the information from the land so the village can thrive.

A teenaged homeschooler helps a younger participant learn archery.

Unfortunately our current villages/cities don’t usually have a place for these skills.   There aren’t many people close by who can or want to talk at length about what the coyote’s are eating this month, which harvesting technique seems to be working best, or which kinds of  birds seem to have increased numbers this year. That can be hard on a lonesome nature educator. I think that’s one reason I love my work with the kids so much. With the kids and my co-workers I have a village to share the stories of the land with.

Luckily, I got to experience the joy of having a nature based village several times this month.  Once at the Buckeye primitive skills gathering and then again during our home-school, year end camp-outs just last week.  For a few days we set up our tents, sharing food, skills, music and stories around the fire together.

The fact that we were a multi-aged group made it even better in both instances.  The kids naturally flow in and out of learning experiences with each other, teens and elders who are really just doing their daily activities, following their curiosities. Now, that’s my kind of school!

I must say I notice a huge difference between youth programs that stand alone and those that function as a part of a larger community.  By this I don’t mean programs that belong under an umbrella of a bigger organization (sometimes those are the most isolated from community.) For the kids, seeing older and younger kids participating alongside with them allows them to be both role-models and have something to look up to. For the instructors, working together and sharing ideas brings about more creativity and is really just more fun.

I’m so excited that we are going to have nature programs from age 3 to 15 happening here in the Fairfax area next year. This will also be the fourth year many of the participants are in the same programs! It really makes for a deeper experience.

I do hope to see the day when the kids can come home to an even bigger village fire that wants to hear and value the stories of the land.  Hmm..maybe we should do a presentation for the Fairfax Town Council next year, who knows?

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Field Journal April 16th- A Wild Easter Basket

Welcome to my on-line field journal.  I write entries here about what is current with wild foods and nature education. For information on my programs please click on the tabs above.

Lately I’ve been so busy working on my upcoming foraging book that I haven’t been indulging myself in the joys of life quite as much.  I’ve been stuck on the screen and in my head too much. Today I decided to take a well earned break from that and spent some time with a friend by the coast creating a wild easter basket. Daffodils and stinging nettles, an unusual easter basket.  I don’t much care for chocolate you see, I much prefer stinging nettles. They’re one of my favorite foods ever actually.

It’s quite surprising to find nettles and daffodils growing side by side. Daffodils are not native to our area.  Nature has an interesting way of placing stinging and poisonous plants in areas that need protection due to past misuses.  Based on that clue, can anyone guess how the daffodils got to this spot?

Like most easter baskets, mine was also partially created by a magical creature. No, not the bunny. A little girl actually.  She came up to me while in the field of nettles proclaiming “I hate stinging nettles.” After a conversation about getting stung and me letting her know that I fell into a bush of nettles when I was around her age, she insisted I have some of her daffodils.

I took out my scissors and gloves, and started picking nettles.  She curiously observed me from afar, and after a few minutes came over and asked “what are you doing?” “Picking nettles,” I said.  “Why would you want to do that?” she asked baffled.  “They’re really yummy to eat” I told her.  After a long silence and some serious contemplation she surprised me by saying “can I help?” I handed her my scissors and gloves (or one glove rather, she was very clear she only wanted one). She proceeded to carefully and skillfully harvest.  She had clearly been watching my “cut and come again” method, which doesn’t harm the nettles but rather allows them to keep growing fresh leaves, because she was cutting them exactly as I did.  She happily kept at it for quite a while, during which time I picked a bouquet of daffodils.  A quick shift from “I hate nettles” to contentment.

What a nice moment.  It reminded me of the deep connection we all have to foraging our food.  There’s something really special that happens to people, especially children when they get to do it.  It’s so natural, so simple, and so enjoyable.  It feeds us on some level even before we prepare the food and eat it.  Ah, what a true gift my easter basket gave me today.  A needed glimmer of simple joy in the midst of my brainy book writing.

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Field Journal March 8th-Learning Awareness From Salad

Nature is an amazing teacher.  I’m often blown away by how perfectly things are designed to make sure we are well motivated to learn the appropriate amount of care and awareness.  Just take a look at this picture here.  Notice anything interesting about this wild salad bar?

Which one doesn't belong in your bowl?

Look carefully and you’ll see that in the middle of the yummy Miner’s Lettuce, and Oxalis there is a nice shiny piece of Poison Oak! While Poison Oak is actually not poisonous, but quite edible, I don’t know many non-natives who could manage eating it without a severe allergic reaction.

Once again nature has designed the perfect protection mechanism against unaware, fool-hardy foragers. This is a great way to make sure that we don’t just grab everything by it’s roots and go. So when you go out to harvest those yummy greens this spring, watch out, if it’s not poison oak it’ll be Poison Hemlock, which is a tiny little carrot top like plant that is impossible to see if you aren’t really looking.

But let that not discourage you from going out and making yourself a yummy salad, ’tis the season and the healthy greens are abundant.  Let it be an invitation to learn some awareness instead. These little hazards are an ally to me on my walks when I try to emphasize the importance of treading lightly and respectfully in the places we forage from. Ah yes, much gratitude to the perfect designs of nature.  I’m not even going to get started on Poison/Protector Oak and what an amazing plant it is. That’ll have to be a different Field Journal.

Anyhow, if you want to learn how to forage safely, I’ll be teaching several wild greens classes in the upcoming weeks.  Please check out the wild foods section of this site for more info, or e-mail me and feel free to request a custom walk.

Hope to see you out there soon.

With smiles,

-mia

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Field Journal Feb 18th: Rain and the Art of Survival

“Wilderness survival is a lot of work but it sure is fun”

Having tea by a fire in the rain.

says a 6 year old member of the pack, sipping on a cup of Doug Fir tea in the pouring rain.  I fully agree. After struggling to make a fire by friction in a totally soaked Redwood Forest and sheltering a hail storm under a tarp with four 4-6yr olds, I certainly am tired. But it is a lot of fun, and such a great learning experience.

When parents ask me if we go out even if it’s raining, I like to tell them that the rainy days are actually some of our favorite ones.  There’s something about being completely soaked and muddy and feeling more alive than ever.  Or about working for hours just to get that fire going and finally enjoying a story and a cup of tea next to it.

In my programs, the weather is one of our greatest teachers and one of my greatest allies. When it’s warm and sunny it’s easy to just forget you’re even outside and chat about video games or movies.  When you’re cold there’s a real immediate need for warmth and action. You need to stay alert, aware and work as a team.  You definitely know the difference between being indoors and outdoors, and you leave the day having learned a whole lot and appreciating the luxuries you have at home.

Some of my favorite things to do with kids in the rain:

  • Go on a walk and let yourself get soaked (make sure you have a place you can get warm afterwards though)
  • Challenge yourself to make a fire (where allowed)
  • Go look for a spot where you could actually stay dry, don’t be surprised if you find an animal there :)
  • Make up a rain dance or song
  • Make a feral cup of tea out of rain water and a wild plant (where allowed)
  • Build a fort out of tarps and sticks
  • Listen to raindrops falling on the shelter roof
  • Put your toes in the mud

If you have a favorite rainy day memory from my programs, please share it here.

Hope to see you out there soon.

With smiles,

-mia

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For love of work

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite…Work is love made visible.

-Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”

I am inspired through this piece of wisdom that I happened upon to thank all of you who make it possible for me to do what I love as my work in this world.  I consider myself very lucky. Thank you.

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Welcome to my new website

I’m glad to announce this new, amazing feat in virtual communication on this inter connected web which i think must have been inspired by mycelium in some strange way.  I must say as someone who tries to spend as little time next to my computer and as much time next to trees as possible, I’ve surprised myself in creating this.  I must admit though, my designer side thinks it was a lot of fun.  I’m sure there are still things that need to be tweaked so don’t hesitate to let me know if something doesn’t make sense or isn’t working right.  Also, if you are a parent or participant in my programs please feel free to leave a testimonial on that page, I would very much appreciate it.

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