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Tag Archives: basic skills

Fine young folks around home, and projects

My twenty-one-year-old daughter landed a job via her boyfriend as a ski lift operator at Copper Mountain this year.  All was going well, and she was enjoying the chance to improve as a skier, when an infection of suspected Covid-19 hit about twenty in staff quarters, including my daughter’s roommate. This was about the same time as things were heating up here in Washington State, with our ski hills and otehr tourist faciliities shutting down preventatively, schools readying to do the same, and social distancing being encouraged. Copper Mountain closed and was keeping everyone quarantined, with pay and meal delivery. But testing revealed it was the flu after all, so my daughter and her boyfriend (I’ll call him Corey, not his real name) were able to catch a flight home.

They, and we, are fine–no flu, and it’s nice having them around. For one thing, since I have a secure state job, I’m able to have my daughter pitch in with stuff around the house for her room and board, and also hire Corey and his best friend, call him Jack, to do some outdoor building projects I’ve had in mind for years. The guys happen to be studying engineering and skilled with tools, as well as to love working as a team. I basically told them what I wanted done–the roof and floor of my tool shed replaced, showed them where the tools and scrap lumber was, and away they went. Pretty soon I realized the potential there and the project became a tool shed to chicken house conversion, with a three-bay rat-resistant compost system to follow. I might even have them remove the unused garage style door on back of the house after that, and replace it with a regular wall and window.

They are hard workers, and weren’t really doing it for the pay, my daughter told me–they just love to work together on stuff like that, she said. Of course, I will pay them, the market now being flooded with unemployed people of all ages. My other daughter and her boyfriend have also been added to my casual labor pool, doing the landscaping and spring cleanup when they have the time.

Outdoor projects, at least, are still feasible in the current shut down. I have used materials lying around, and can have others delivered if needed or track them down in the community. We’re keeping our pool of people contacts low, and I’ll be clarifying with the young people that we need to keep it that way and not hang out with others right now, to keep infection risk low. None of us is high risk, but we all have older friends and relations.

The evening after the shed project commenced, as we were sitting around trying to figure out next steps, we got to talking about this and that. Corey and Jack turned out to have a real breadth of knowledge and interests. They showed themselves to be intelligent, well read, thoughtful, and very interesting to talk with–just about every idea I brought up, they had read/thought about; they knew works of literature and philosophy, could talk politics, religion, history, and science; in the course of the evening we all got some leads from one another for further learning.

This evening I shared with Corey the compost bins plans, as well as a book I brought home from my school (getting some things before they disinfect and lock up completely for a month or two) called The Toilet Papers on how to build human waste composting systems. That’s something I’ve wanted to try too (see this post, as well as this and this), and Corey was interested as an engineer and builder as well as on principle, so maybe it could happen sooner rather than later after all (possibly through a permit process). Which would integrate well with another idea that occurred to me as I was discussing with a friend the latest toilet paper shortages: to challenge my at-home students to create homemade toilet paper from some kind of fiber they have at home, preferably one that occurs in the local ecosystem.

 

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How to Not Starve class

Fridays at my school we teach a series of classes on whatever we and the students, just the K through 8, think is interesting, running them for a semester. My classes are Drawing from Nature, How to Not Starve (wild edibles), Photographing Nature, and Food Science. The most fun, and most work, has been How to Not Starve. I knew there was a lot to eat in the Pacific Northwest landscape and shoreline, even this time of year, and I’m learning even more. Because I’m so busy with my academic classes (high school) the rest of the week, I tend to throw plans together for Friday the day before, and sometimes as dusk is falling, so I have to go out with a headlamp to get samples.

The first day we brainstormed situations where a knowledge of wild edibles would be useful, talked about the basics of survival nutrition, and sampled wild salad greens–dandelion, shotweed, chickweed, clover, rye grass, and a few others. The second day the students did some online research, we talked about the nutritional benefits of tea, and we had mint, raspberry leaf and chamomile. I had happened on a freshly car0killed squirrel the day before, which I brought out to illustrate the idea of using wild animals for a protein source. I also gave them Korean dogwood fruit, there being several heavy-laden trees in the school landscape, rose hips, hawthorn haws, and Oregon grape. For variety I also made collards with onions and garlic, and applesauce from substandard apples. I found a cool YouTube site (link to Wild Edibles Season 1 here) that I played portions of while cooking.

This is the class of all those I teach that has the potential of being the most useful. It really could be that these twenty kids might need to find stuff to eat one day, the Big One having struck, and his and other supplies having run low. In the meantime, the students are pretty adventurous and enthusiastic, and I hear have been bringing weeds to their home cooks and requesting to go out to the fields to gather leaves for tea. Now they know that although some of those berries may not taste great on their own, if they mix them with a little apple or honey or rhubarb they can be very tasty, as well as highly nutritious. They know to chew a little more or boil up the tougher greens, and when all else fails, eat hawthorn leaves.

Last class I asked why they thought there were so little wild edibles allowed to grow around town. Then we discussed the meaning of “weed,” which I hope will narrow down for them, as they now have a greater value for those they know can be food.

This weekend I made dandelion coffee, which was delicious, and I’ll be doing that next, step by step, first digging with whatever we can find, then washing, then roasting, grinding, and pressing. We’ll have moved to our new rented building by then, and it’ll be interesting to scout out the much larger grounds to see what we can glean, and find out if the owners might allow us to cordon off a little area to allow to grow wild, and/or create a wild edibles demo garden.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2016 in Education

 

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Who is paying attention to what of value is in danger of being lost?

“…long ago every army had men who could hear the approach of an enemy by putting their heads to the ground. That wouldn’t do now, because armies move faster, and we attack them before we can see them, but it worked very well for several thousand years. This is a simple example; I don’t want to bore you with complexities. But the kind of sensitivity that made it possible for a man to hear an army marching several miles away without any kind of artificial aid has almost disappeared from the earth. The recognition of oneself as a part of nature and reliance on natural things are disappearing for hundreds of millions of people who do not know that anything is being lost.”

Professor Hollier, in The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies (1983)

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Culture & Society, Writers & Books

 

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