Thursday, February 4, 2010

Outdoor Nature Hour #3

It looked like rain the rest of the week, so I decided to do our third outdoor hour challenge today.  We took a walk to the end of our road and visited with our neighbor.  She walked us through their small vineyard to a swampy area on their property.

The littles saw a hollow tree stump, dandelion, henbit(I learned this from my neighbor) and some Sweetgum balls.  They had the most fun while play fishing for leaves in the swamp with long sticks.

Each spring when we are out taking our nature walks I have noticed this abundant weed or wildflower.  I was sooo thankful that my neighbor identified it for me.  It is called a henbit.  I quickly wondered if there were any medicinal or edible componets of this pretty little flower.  I found a nice article explaining some of the plants history and uses.  The most important use of this little plant seems to be for the honeybees.   These plants provide nectar for the honeybees during a time when other sources are scarce.

I forgot to bring the camera on our walk so I took a picture of what I think is a henbit in our yard.  This one has not bloomed yet, but it will soon.

We also found some Sweetgum balls on the dirt road as we were walking to our neighbours.  The boys gathered a few to draw in their nature notebooks.

(Bo holding the Sweetgum balls and the picture he drew in his nature notebook)

When we got home the boys got their nature notebooks out and began drawing pictures of our finds.  Bo wrote a sentence all by himself.  I was very proud of his hard work!

We learned something very interesting last year about Sweetgum balls.  At one of our homeschool field trips there was an herb station for the children to visit.  The lady teaching at the station was telling us about important medecinal herbs that would have been used many years ago. 

She had read a book called Mountain Medicine.  In this book she had found a use for Sweetgum balls.  The author explains how legendary herbalist Tommy Bass taught him to gather Sweetgum balls and burn them.  Next, gather the remaining ashes and mix with lard or tallow.  Once the mixture has hardened use as a topical cream for skin infections.  The lady teaching the class had made the littles some of this cream to carry home.  She had mixed it with vegetable shortening.  She had gotten a staph infection in her finger and had taken two round of antibioitcs to cure it.  The antibiotics did not work, so she mixed up some of the Sweetgum ball salve and it did the trick!  Isn't that useful information?  I sure thought so!

So each time we see some Sweetgum balls, I remind the littles what to do in case of a skin infection.  They now know that Sweetgum balls can be used for something besides throwing at each other;-)

(Sweetgum ball salve)


Amy in Peru said...

Thanks! This is an awesome Outdoor Hour! I love these because I learn as much or more than my kids!! :)


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

I did not know that about the sweet gum balls! We have a zillion of those things in our backyard. I will share your info with my boys for future reference. :)

We also have henbit in our backyard and I hate it when the boys mow it down as they mow the lawn. I love anything with purple flowers and the bees love it too.

Great nature study...thanks for sharing.

MasterpieceMom said...

That is soooo interesting. It's too bad that ancient herbal wisdom is poo poohed by today's society. We could learn a lot from the 'ole timers'.

Pebblekeeper said...

Great post on your walk - It encourages me to get out and meet some of the neighbors. The boys would love to walk on some of their properties that go up into the woods. Maybe a plate of quick bread and a smile would gain us entry. :)
Love learning plant names too!
Hope to see ya around the Outdoor Challenge blogs. :) Thanks for sharing.

Party of Eight said...

What a great challenge! Thanks for sharing the info about the sweetgum, we see those often around here in MD. I'll have to check out the book you mentioned as well.

Holli said...

This book is out of print. The only one I saw listed on Amazon was a couple hundred dollars.