Where I excel with this homeschooling experience in what we refer to as ‘checking boxes’ (all those daily lesson requirements), my husband is incredible and very knowledgeable when it comes to taking the things we study in books and making them come to life. Blowing up balloons with baking soda & vinegar. A trip to the Chicago Field Museum. Catching frogs and toads and studying them & discussing their habitat. He is definitely where the hands-on exciting learning is in our household! I’m thankful that he takes over on at least one of his days off to lead field days for the kids and he does just an amazing job.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my son has been reading Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain for his novel study the past couple weeks. Put very simply, it is about a young boy who runs away from his crowded home in the city to reclaim his long abandoned family homestead in the Catskills. He hollows out a tree for a home and goes about the business of living off the land. It is such a well-written book that I’m not sure who enjoys reading it more, my son or me! In any case, one of the staple foods that Sam, the main character, uses is acorns. Mostly he processes the nuts and grinds them into flour for pancakes, but there are a number of ways to eat them.
After a little research, my husband planned out a day dedicated to acorns. It started with a hike…
Reaching the stand of trees was half the adventure as there were no maintained trails at this particular site. And it was barely 50°F and misting/drizzling. We used game trails and it was so fun to watch the kids start to figure out how to follow these winding paths through grasses and brush that was as tall or taller than they were. Shortly after taking this picture, I was zipping my camera back into my pocket while holding the dog when a deer bolted from nearby. For the first time in his two and half years, the dog actually growled. I assume most dogs would react this way, but our Moose tends to be a huge baby that hides behind me at the slightest indication of danger. This was an honest to goodness, threatening growl that involved him placing himself between the ‘threat’ and myself. He’s still sweeter than sugar, but I think my baby might be growing up!
Once we reached the trees, the kids learned that acorns come from oak trees (although I’m pretty sure they knew that already) and how to identify oak leaves.
Then, the hunt was on.
We didn’t harvest a ton, partly because the squirrels and chipmunks had beat us to most of them, partly because we didn’t want to take a ton out of the ecosystem, partly because we knew — and explained to the kids — the dangers of the cold, wet conditions. While on the hunt, my husband had us each try just a taste of raw acorn. This was my reaction…
That is one bitter nut. The kids learned how to field check acorns for weevils and we all even had the “opportunity” to try an acorn weevil as they are perfectly harmless to eat. My daughter and I passed, but my son excitedly tried one. I tell you, this kid is terrified of butterflies and flying bugs, but fearless when it comes to all other insects. Apparently he’s even very open to eating them. He declared the acorn weevil a little spicy for his palate, but otherwise pretty good.
We trekked back out of the woods and across the field to the car and back home for dry socks and shoes. From here, I hung back and worked on some knitting & spinning projects while my husband did the water test for acorns that are bug-free (acorns that sink are bug-free, those that float are compromised). Then they cut them up and peeled off the outer layers of the nut…
To prep them for processing. For a little more authentic feel, my husband took the kids out to our boathouse to do the boiling on our simple wood stove. You can also pull out the tannins from the nuts in a cold-water process, but the boiling way is faster and for kids a little more instant gratification.
They worked on their acorns and ate a simple meal of beans n’ wieners while their dad read a couple chapters out of their latest book.
Meanwhile, I finished up doll #2 of my daughter’s set…
And got the ever so slightest start on doll #3…
And when the kids and family headed back in to glaze the acorns with a little maple syrup, I switched gears to
I am hopelessly addicted to my Cloudlover Quick’s Point merino/nylon. Can you blame me?
This is not lit well, but this is seriously the most beautiful blue ever. It is just such a fantastic spin. I was afraid it would take me a long time, but I’m almost through the 2/3 point and I’m already a little sad that it’ll be over before long.
Now my newly fearless Moose, aside from his brush with the menacing deer, has been having a rough go of it lately. He’s had a rough time getting over some allergies and we had to resort to a little topical medication and making him wear a cone. The poor guy is so miserable for it. That’s why I had to include this photo…
Even though I slathered goop on him and made him wear a cone on his head and got really kind of grouchy when he kept waking me up complaining about his cone, I think he still loves me.
And what of the finished acorns, you might ask? Well, they turned out quite good. Like an earthy walnut with a little kick. Another beautiful autumn day, another wonderful adventure, a sweet pup, some knitting, and some spinning — and for a day, we were the best acorn hunters around. Next to the squirrels and chipmunks, of course.
Many thanks to my Mister for the photos of the acorn adventure!