Last weekend we combined two events and made a family field trip out of the entire works. Family field trips are so much fun, starting with “Are we about there?” every five minutes enroute to “Make her stop singing!” and “I am starving hungry. Did we pack any snacks?” Then you finally get there.
“Does anybody need to go to the bathroom? Where is Rita? Yes, we will eat just soon! Everybody stay together. We don’t want to lose you!” And so on. But it is fun, really. “Please don’t touch! Maybe you will have to save your money for the next 20 years so you can buy that. Yes, I know this display is boring for big boys, but humor us for a little. Where is Rita? Wow, that is a really neat knife with that bone handle, but we don’t have 45 dollars hanging loose right now. Where is Rita? Here, you hold tightly to my hand for a while. Yes, I know you are hungry. Shall we get some popcorn?” We did have fun. This is just my running dialog of the stuff that makes me feel like I am developing a twitch.
Wanna know what we did? Every year Gabe has to take an Outdoor Emergency Care refresher course in order to stay certified as a ski patroller in order to get a free family pass at the slopes. The course itself is interesting for him: what to do with a patient in shock from whacking headfirst into a tree, how to splint that broken-up person for the trip up or down the mountain to an ambulance, or how to assess why that person is coughing blood. It gives me the willies, just looking through the course handbook.
Fortunately for us, there was another event held at Seven Springs that weekend. The Mother Earth News is a magazine that we subscribe to for ideas to develop our small acerage. They hold various fairs across the country, and this one happened to be at the same resort as the OEC refresher course. We bought a pass online and a room for the night, making it a two day affair. A real field trip for our underprivileged homeschooled kids. ;)
The fair was held mostly outside on the hotel grounds from the bottoms of the ski lifts to the outdoor courtyard, but it meandered through conference rooms and hallways as well. There were hundreds and hundreds of vendors, the nicest people you will ever meet. If you are country and going to a resort with a family, this is the time to do it. Earth-mother types like children and they don’t really dress up that much. I saw a lot more turbans and hippie skirts and Ugly Shoes than I have ever seen before in one spot. In the middle of all the herbs and chicken butchering equipment and log splitters there was one lonely booth for flu shots. I nearly laughed out loud. What? I would have hated to be that salesperson.
There were about eight stages with different breakout sessions, all the way from Keeping a Family Cow to Worm Composting. We split up so that we could cover more information.
- Growing a Sustainable Diet (Very interesting talk by a woman wearing a linen vest she grew, spun, wove and crafted)
- Eating the Whole Plant (Meh. You can eat carrot tops and beet tops… Don’t throw them away! There were two men in the session who were unabashedly snoozing in the A/C. Also my girls were down to the crumbs in the maple-syrup-popcorn bag and they needed to go potty and get drinks.)
- One Hour Cheeses (the most fun, as the children were watching How to Pack a Llama for a Hike and I could actually follow. It was fascinating. I bought her book.)
From various friendly vendors we got open pollinator seeds and useful information about saving seeds from one year to the next.. One woman bought corn seeds for meal 25 years ago and has saved them for her annual crop ever since. Another kindly dread-locked lady didn’t have the sweet pepper seeds we wanted, but she did have a few of the peppers and offered us one to save our own seeds. I turned around for a few seconds and looked at Rita just in time to see her eating the last of the pepper, ready to throw away the core with all those lovely seeds attached.
They showed us how and why we should grow mushrooms and explained the science of herbal remedies. I bought teas and tinctures that I usually pay lots of shipping on. My favorite vendors were the good folks from Beeyoutiful. They served the girls and I freshly brewed Immunotea and I bought my winter’s vitamin C supply for the children and essential oils called ProMiSe Blend. Some of you will get that. :)
The boys gravitated to the wilderness survival supply booths and the alternate power sessions. Alex has a list of supplies he needs to make an electric motor bike. Gregory now has a Life Straw for his bug-out bag. The girls got batik-patterned head bands and a tiny succulant plant for their windowsill. By the end of the day we were all funned out except for one more thing: the indoor pool. We went during the supper hour when it was deserted except for a few little boys. Alex cannonballed right in, just like at the pond, putting the lifeguard on high alert. So did Addy, only she didn’t have her lifejacket on and was too short even for the shallow end of the pool and had to be fished out. I realized that our children have hardly ever gone swimming in anything but creeks and ponds. They thought the clear water was a blast. By 8:30 they were all asleep and Gabe and I could sit on the balcony to compare notes and make a game plan for the next day.
That included me taking the children for breakfast at the hotel restaurant while he did his refresher course, then meeting somewhere at the fair around lunchtime. The kids were up bright and early, bickering and giggling by turns. I made sure everybody was shiny and well aware of ettiquette at a breakfast bar. The dining area was decked out with white tablecloths and goblets, buffet lines with polished silver serving covers on every dish. I was the only adult with that many children. A buffet line with a child in tow is never easy. Too many choices, they can’t see what is up there, they want to touch stuff that they won’t eat, and the plates are too heavy for the little ones to safely manage without spills. Add in heavy lids on everything and you have a true white hair producing situation. Add in crowds of adults who only want to get their bacon already and don’t know that your kid is counting the strips he is getting because that is what he has to do at home when we have bacon and then you know where the twitch comes from. Here is the dining room, only this web image has flowers and chair covers for a wedding.
Imagine my little country mice, freshly rested and full of ginger, there, around that table.
It did turn out to be a great breakfast. The only Where is Rita? moment was when she had ducked underneath the tablecloth for some privacy. They were very careful to only drink decaf coffee and choose their doughnuts wisely. I was proud of them. :)
We spent a good while in the hotel’s backyard, a rock garden area with a fountain and trails. The twitch had almost worn off when the acorn wars started. All this happened while many other guests were still blissfully sleeping and I could just imagine an errant acorn clattering against somebody’s window. I decided our best option was to hang around the animal tent. The little girls plucked up grass to feed the sheep and the boys examined all the rabbit options and chickens and pigs.
When Gabe’s course was done, we wandered around for a while before heading home with our heads just packed with information.
I have been inspired to learn more about foraging for edibles in the wild and growing interesting foods. Next year we want to have a plot for broom corn and zuka gourds. I have been a little obsessed with the One Hour Cheese book, garnishing my end product with flower petals and herbs. I did feel ridiculously happy with that.
We went on a hike yesterday and brought home some turkeytail lichens to make a tea in which “clever prodding helps us keep our systems on their toes, invigorating us in the process.” (Click on the link for an almost lyrical description of the benefits of the humble little turkeytail.)
I don’t buy into the theory that everything will kill you unless you do it the natural way, because I have noticed that everybody eventually dies, one way or another. Hopefully the weekend did open up some fresh neural pathways, possibly staving off alzheimer’s for a few years. Last week I had a vivid dream about an edible caterpillar foraging session that the boys and I were taking, complete with taste testing. I had to brush my teeth when I got up, just to get the taste out of my mouth. We aren’t quite that far gone, but I suppose if you see me coming around in clothes died with geranium petals and walnut hulls, subsisting on fermented vegetables and venison jerky, you may have cause for concern. :)