My Nature Toolkit

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My ultimate goal as Treehouse Magazine progresses, is using this badge to address questions that an Earth Explorer might have when it comes to something, like say, mushroom hunting, or nature journaling, or even how to cook over an open fire. Each aspect of the badge requires in-depth discussion of preparedness and what tool is most appropriate for the job, and where you could find such tools.

Please understand that your idea of My Nature Toolkit might be different than what I have presented here on the website. Geographical conditions, time of year, etc.; even things that might be relevant for your family, will help you make sound decisions based on your experience after you have completed the task a few times and get more comfortable with the subject matter. I will give an overview and present the most pertinent information to help you accomplish the task that you set out to do. I really want this to be a place for the novice to come and find a sort of blueprint to exploring the great outdoors with their children, family and friends.

Above all, I want to build your confidence and see you succeed because you have been offered the tools to do so. I think that many people would love to explore nature with their children, but are sometimes frightened because they don't know where to begin or even know who/how to ask for help. If I've posted something here about a particular subject and you have a stellar tip to pass on to the community, please do so in the comments. When you post a comment, please list it as such:

(Format) ***SUBJECT: Explanation***

(eg.) MUSHROOM HUNTING: If you encounter Laetiporus sulphureus, aka Chicken of the Woods high in a tree, use utility cord to retrieve rather than a ladder; it's much safer.

Keeping tips organized will allow for a more fruitful discussion and top notch organization of useful facts and information. The more knowledge that we share with one another and pass on to our children, the more successful we will be when we set out to complete a task. Let us know how it went in the comments and good luck!

-The Treehouse Family


Mushroom Hunting

Venturing out of your comfort zone and into the forest to find mushrooms with small children, might put some of you on edge. I am a firm believer that we need to educate our children on how to properly identify mushrooms and understand what to do if they happen to encounter a mushroom on the trail or in a play area. We must have an open and honest dialogue with them on the dangers of improper identification in order to keep them safe and aware of their surroundings.

Different times of the year, pose some very different challenges when you're trying to complete a successful hunt with your family. While winter isn't the best time to find mushrooms, spring, summer and fall offer a colorful bounty of beautiful specimens for your child to study and explore. Certain animals and insects that might not be found in Winter and Spring, but are prevalent in the summer and fall months. (Think snakes, mosquitos, bears, cougars, spiders; just to name a few.)

If you go into the forest prepared and ready to take on any challenge that might arise, you are sure to have a much better experience, than a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants afternoon jaunt, whilst being carried away by 100's of blood thirsty insects looking for their next meal.

Whenever you're going out into the woods during the warmer months, I highly recommend some type of mosquito mesh; whether it be a hat, pants, jacket, stroller/kid carrier, you're going to want to protect the kiddos from having to apply excessive amounts of DEET from insect repellent if you plan on traversing any deep woods with heavy leaf litter. Spraying a waterproof suit with 15% DEET also works well to limit contact with the skin. You might be asking why not a natural insect repellent. Trust me, I've tried this and it just doesn't cut it in deep woods. It will be a miserable experience for your family.

A high waterproof boot does wonders for protecting your child from possible snakes that might be hidden on the ground if they are running through the woods and not watching their surroundings. They also are easy to clean if your child walks/runs through some poison ivy/oak/sumac and you need to clean the urushiol off of their boots with soap and water. Extra socks are like extra clothes; a must if your child plays hard like mine do. Thick gloves offer protection from possible unknown mushroom residue that might happen to be on a cap or poison ivy that could be close to specimens. It's often hard to keep a check on your child when they are lost in the excitement of the forest and the hunt. You want to make the experience fun, but also safe without worrying about extraneous factors that might change a pleasant day into something unforgettable; and not in a good way.

A trekking pole or walking stick will allow for your child to inspect areas where they might want to investigate. Snakes are one of my biggest fears when I'm in the forest with my girls, but if you teach them to go slowly and pay attention to their surroundings, then that might prevent a dangerous encounter with a venomous snake.

I know some of you might be a bit leery about giving a child a knife. You need to consider that if you want your child to be capable and prepared to go into the forest to hunt mushrooms, you will want to get them a good knife. Opinal France makes some really great knives for kids, whether it's for mushroom hunting or for the kitchen, I don't think that you will be disappointed with the quality and timeless designs.

A few other things that you might want to have is a guide for your area, a kids shockproof/waterproof camera, a compass and utility cord. The split-willow creel is my go-to basket for foraging or collecting in the forest. It's better known as a fish basket, but it's got a small square hole in the top where your kiddos can drop all of their finds and forest treasures. It's also hinged and has a stap for carrying cross-body.

If you have some other really useful finds to add to my list, please do so in the comments. It's always so helpful when everyone passes along useful knowledge to one another. It creates a stronger community for our children and makes them more confident in the wilderness. Happy Mushroom Hunting!


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