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Spinach, Asparagus, and Tick Season

spring-harvest-bountyLate spring days grow warmer, lilacs are in full bloom, and we’re finally harvesting fresh shoots and greens from the garden!

We’ve also been finding ticks after days in the fields and forests.tick-ID  I strongly feel that there are far more benefits than risks when it comes to outdoor play (and work).  Take a moment to read up on Ticks and learn how to properly remove them.  When you know what to do when you find a tick, poison ivy, or any other other outdoor irritant, they all seem a lot less frightening.

asperagus-roastedWe are happily harvesting large bunches of asparagus from the garden.  There are all sorts of recipes I love to use asparagus in, but recently, we’ve really enjoyed roasting it.  We simply toss the spears with olive oil and soy sauce and bake at 400 degrees on a roasting pan until the spears are crispy and slightly blackened at the ends.  YUM.


Spinach, dill, cilantro, and lambs quarters are all springing up in the garden, providing us with our first big fresh salads of the year.  We love early spring salads with cilantro lime dressing or our classic garlic dijon.  Looking back at past May/June blog posts, I can see that this year’s new and exciting salad concoctions are actually an annual ritual at this time of year.  If everything you’re harvesting for salad in May is green, try adding color with some edible flowers like pansies, violets, and chive blossoms.

Want to enjoy your greens without having salad for every meal?  We love this spinach soup recipe – it’s great warm or cold!  Happy harvesting.

Children and Nature

Fall in the Forest

This past weekend I took some time to browse through past blog entries.  I noticed certain seasonal rituals and appreciations repeat themselves year after year.  Every fall, right about now, I renew my love of the forest and trees.


As an adult on an elementary school calendar, September is always a month full of new beginnings, logistics to sort out, and rhythms to establish.  This is often hard work!  By October, my students have settled in and are ready for exploration further from home base, bigger projects, and the chance to enjoy the last sunny warm afternoons before winter sets in.  The forest is a perfect place for all of this.  For me, spending time in the forest is calming and rejuvenating – it reminds me of things to be grateful for, puts recent stressors in context, and stimulates my senses.

Here are some past forest-themed blog posts for you to browse.  Enjoy!

Making a discoveryChildren and Nature: The Forest ~ Why spending time outside, especially in forests, is crucial for children… “Upon entering the woods, the temperature drops noticeably.  The sounds change – whispering leaves and the occasional bird chirp blocks any outside noises from coming in.  Our foot steps are quiet on the soft needle-carpeted forest floor.  The smell of moist leaves, moss, and bark filters into our noses…”  (read more)

Mossy RoofForts and Fairy Houses ~ Discoveries and lessons learned from forest play… “We’ve discovered things that would never be possible (or allowed) in a classroom.  Different thicknesses of sticks make different sounds when banged against the trunk of a mature tree.  Pine needles make for a soft landing after tripping over a raised root.  TONS of different mushrooms and fungi grow on the forest floor after a few days of rain, and most of them are really slimy.  Pine sap is the perfect glue, but it’s better to keep it off our clothes…” (read more)

Foliage Games and Activities ~ Fun ideas for educators looking for active hands-on ways to teach students about leaves, trees, foliage, and the changing of seasons.  (read more)

Fairy-House6Zooming In: Fairy and Snail Houses ~ Fun photos and observations after several fairy and snail house building sessions with children… “Outdoor educators take note!  Fairy, gnome, and snail house building ties right into lessons on observation, habitat, ecosystems,  community, and respect for nature.  Building miniature things will lead students to observe the intricate details of pinecones, the barbs of burdocks, the veining of leaves, and much much more…” (read more) 

Welcome to the Woodlands Clubhouse ~ How the creation of a fort in the woods engaged a challenging mixed-age group of students for months after school.  (read more)

Stumps make steps and chairs for our fort

A Woodlands Playground ~ Great photos and ideas for adding natural forest elements to play spaces for children of all ages. (read more)

Ticks and Poison Ivy Season ~ Adults are increasingly fearful of the dangers of being in nature… “There are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks…” (read more)

Children and Nature

Tick and Poison Ivy Season

Memorial-Day-BloomsWe’ve experienced several exciting firsts of the season this past week: our first all-you-can-eat asparagus dinner, our first tulips, our first cilantro, our first thunderstorm, our first creemie (what we call soft serve in Vermont), and my first tick.  I’ve also removed several ticks from our cat, who spends much of his outdoor time stalking mice and voles in the long grass.

Poison-ParsnipThere are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks.  Take a moment to learn to identify any poisonous plants in your region.  If you are outside with kids, check out my Poison Plant Guide Activity for young naturalists.  Once you know to identify any irritating plant neighbors, it’s easy to avoid them and enjoy your time outside without itchy or stingy consequences.


If ticks are increasingly common in your area, I encourage you to read my post on Ticks and Outdoor Play.  This five minute read covers the basics of tick identification, avoidance and removal.  Ticks are now part of our outdoor environment in Vermont and Lyme Disease is well worth avoiding.  When you know what to do when you find a tick, it is easier to be carefree as you enjoy outdoor explorations and adventures.

With bright blue skies, warm sun, bird song choruses, green grass, and bright new leaves, I know I don’t want anything dampening the joy and contentment I feel in nature at this time of year.  I hope you have fun outside!



Children and Nature Musings

Ticks and Outdoor Play

tree-relaxingFor me, this picture highlights the inner peace and comfort I find when spending time in the forest or resting against the mighty solidity of a tree trunk.  For some, however, an image like this now inspires concerning thoughts about ticks.

The spread of tick-bourne Lyme disease has caused many families to fear outdoor play.  Lyme disease is spreading across the country and incidence of the disease increases each year.  It is certainly something we need to be well informed about.  With certain precautions, however, we can greatly reduce our chances of contracting Lyme disease and continue to enjoy the numerous benefits of outdoor play !

When working with kids, I facilitate a simple tick check when we come out of the forest.  We partner up, with one partner making a star with their bodies and the other looking for black specks.  Then every student examines around their ankles.  We then discuss the importance of checking our bodies’ dark and warm places when getting into our pajamas later that night. When ticks are attached to your body for less than 36 hours, the chance of getting Lyme disease is small!

The Vermont Department of Health has issued a clear and concise handbook that covers all of the basic information families should know about ticks and preventing Lyme disease.  I’ve taken following information from this booklet:

Preventing Lyme Disease Outdoors:

  • tick-IDWear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to minimize skin exposure to ticks.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks to form a barrier to keep ticks out.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can easily see ticks on your clothing.
  • Check for ticks, looking particularly for what may look like nothing more than a new freckle or speck of dirt, and remove ticks promptly.  Black-legged (or Deer) Ticks are the species that spreads Lyme disease (click the diagram to the left to learn to identify the Deer/Black-Legged Tick).


Preventing Lyme Disease When You Come Indoors:

Tick checks have been a regular part of outdoor activities for years for families in Connecticut and Cape Cod.  It seems like the rest of us living in the northeast and beyond will now need to make this part of our routine.  Older adults may remember how it was hard to remember to wear seat belts when legislation made them a requirement.  Now it’s second nature!   I strongly believe in the importance of outdoor play in childhood, so get informed and don’t let the fear of ticks keep you indoors.