August 24, 2007

Sure, Go Ahead, Eat the Grass

Today I took the kids to an edible plants field trip. I'm not sure it was entirely all that interesting, but it got us out of the house and we did learn a few new things. Like, mosquitoes are taking over the world, or at least southeast Wisconsin. Oh, and you can eat certain plants in the wild. You just need to know which ones won't give you the runs or make you want to sandpaper your tongue off.

This will be my second year of homeschooling the three older children and even though J is 17 and enthusiastically indifferent and uninterested in such an outdoor adventure I dragged him along. He may be taller than me, but I'm still the one in charge so he has to do whatever dumb things I tell him to. For now.

Since I'm a member of a local homeschcool group thing, I received notice of this trip and went ahead and signed up. The girls have been taking botany for awhile now and LiL' J is still not in school and I thought he'd like going on a school trip with the big kids.The field trip was at and the science and nature center of Timber-Lee Christian Center in East Troy, Wisconsin. I got to use my new handy-dandy GPS system in getting there. Which is nice, because it gave me a chance to get lost going somewhere other than the grocery store. I'm getting so of bored of having to make u-turns at all the old familiar landmarks, you know. After getting my GPS system I'm an adventure girl now.

Because the instructor didn't have a flyer printed to overview the plants we actually studied, we can't remember a good portion of some of the names, which is OK, because neither of my children ever truly plan on nibbling on wild plants. They prefer the Panda-hut buffet on Lovers Lane to mulberries. Surprisingly though, LiL' J actually was a very good sport on this trip. He was very shy and self conscious at first, which is a new thing since he turned seven, but then he found his groove and he was actually trying the vegetation and even enjoying a few. So, I can't get the kid to sit and eat his roast beast and vegetable medley, however he'll suck on Sumacc proclaiming, "Yum! Tastes like Kool-Aid!”

What does that say about my parenting? I haven't a clue, but I'm sure it's probably not a good thing.

I think the highlight of the trip though was the nature center which housed all kinds of creatures like snakes, turtles, more snakes, dead spiders, dead butterflies, bones, skulls, and some rat like creatures in cages. Or maybe those were bunnies? Same difference.

The instructor and her helpers were pretty cool. In other words, she didn't make my children want to laugh out loud or cover their faces in embarrassment. This is a good thing. We didn't know any of the other parents or children by the way. So the kids were extra shy and quiet which is so not normal for them. Perhaps I should drag them to these things more often.

All in all, if you are in the Milwaukee area and you homeschool or your kids just like nature things I'd recommend Timber-Lee Christian Center's classes.

However, I think Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is probably better. Their hiking trails are superior and it's near the lake. They also have classes for families, adults, and students. You can go there on your own or you can organize your own field trip. Sometimes they can even add you in to another group's trip if you ask.

Here are some memories in pictures:

Here's one of the turtles.

The turtles were quite popular and we all agreed they needed little pleather wetsuits and sunglasses, but we held our peace.

Here are the snakes, which are one of my least favorite creatures.I propose that we exterminate all the mice and rats of the world so we don't need the snakes. Then we can just use child molesters as lab rats. I'm just sayin'.

This one was huge.

One of the things we like about Timber-Lee is that they encouraged the children to touch the artifacts. Almost nothing was off limits.Here is LiL' J and Snoo. She's wearing her Rescue Zone shirt from when she helped teach VBS in Staten Island, New York earlier in the month.

Here the instructor is teaching us about this plant with spicy leaves. I have no idea what it is now though so I guess we won't be putting into our salads. I do not know the girl in the background, but she volunteered to carry the cottage cheese tub of wild grapes, which are very tart by the way.

timmer-lee instructer

We also learned about the wild cherry trees of southeast Wisconsin. They are tiny and very sour.

wild cherry tree

The Sumac tree was sort of odd. I guess people used to take these buds and plop them into water and then they'd stir it around until the water resembled something like a diluted punch. The best way I can describe this plant is that the red flower buds are like furry pomegranate seeds. You don't actually chew or swallow the kernel like things, but you suck on them and then spit it out. This was an interesting experience considering we’re all on a rather narrow path with some 20+ kids. I'm still checking my socks for red stains.

sumac tree

Mulberries anyone? And yes, you will have the song stuck in your head now.

mulberry tree

Here the instructor is telling the children that they will need about 4.5 million berries to make two ounces of jam. Then she asked for volunteers to climb the tree which sounds like a recipe for a permanent stain if you ask me.

That's my child in the forefront. Snoo is always bound to take the most unflattering pictures. It's a curse she gets from her mother.

crazy snoo

J thought he was too cool to pick berries and Mooch tried her best to hide from the watchful eye of my camera all day, but I got a shot of Snoo.

Picking Mulberries

Another shot of the teacher and a learner sniffing the specimen. I just noticed she has a Creation Museum shirt on which is from Answers in Genesis. We passed the museum on the way to and from Whitesburg Kentucky for the reunion trip. I wanted to see what all the controversy was about, but I didn't have time to stop.

Here are a few nature shots from the marshes. Here we learned that we can eat part of the cat skills. The bottom of the plant tastes like a spicy cucumber. The instructor said they are good in stir-fry which is a nice bit of trivia, but a complete loss on me because I have no desire to go plucking up cat skills for my stir-fry. Did I mention they were extremely hard to get out of the water?

As you can see it has been a very dry summer.


They had a huge butterfly collection with butterflies from all over the world.This is just one frame. I'm jealous.

I covet

Here is Ortoise who we all wanted to take home.

ortoise the tortoise

Here's a shot for all you arachnaphobes.


Here is more nightmare material; a drawer full of spiders. This is lunch if you’re Andrew Zimmerman.

drawer full of tarantulas

Here's LiL' J again with his new friend. All of my kids are animal lovers, but I think he's probably the biggest one of them all.

j pets ortoise

admiring ortoise

All in all it was a good day. No real meltdowns, I haven't come down with the West Nile Virus-yet-and nobody broke anything. At the end of the trip we made some tea out of white pine needles, some wild grape juice, and something like mulberry jam.

And since I was in the area I stopped off in Mukwonago to get some goodies at the Elegant Farmer, the famous home of the apple pie baked in a paper bag. I have gotten their pies and breads at the grocery store for years, but I have never actually been to the store. My friend, Ali, even stopped by there last year when she was in town. The place is a foodie’s dream. That place is dangerous I tell you. After a full day out in the sunny outdoors we were all hungry. I ended up getting a berried-treasure pie, a mini caramel apple pie, and a mini apple cobbler. Then LiL' J and Snoo both chose giant cookies. I also got some golf ball sized peanut butter chocolate concoctions that tasted like buckeyes. I also got a dozen ears of corn and some Door County cherry pancake syrup. Not to be eaten together of course. Unless you're Will Farrow.

I had to show restraint because the place was stocked full of must-tries. If you haven't visited the Elegant Farmer yet you should. It's a cute, cozy,little place out in the country, but it's still close enough to I-43 that you can make a run out there easily enough. They had a ton of great fresh produce and frozen fruits. It's a haven for people who love to bake. I think I've gained like ten pounds already. Perhaps I should call Timber-Lee and ask if they have a fat flushing plant available?