As the chilly weather and shorter days roll in, spending time outside with the kiddos becomes a bit more challenging, but as important as ever. We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of, “Come inside…you’ll catch a cold!!” But this common misconception that cold weather brings about illness should be abandoned at the door…leading outside, of course! As long as children bundle up and stay safe, the benefits of outdoor adventures far out way the risks. Getting the blood flowing and soaking up essential vitamins, both supports our immune systems, so we may better fight off such viruses, and excites the senses. However, finding outdoor activities can sometimes be tricky and it is easy to want to curl up in a cozy blanket and hibernate until spring. Here are a few ideas and projects my children and I have done to stay connected to the natural world this winter.
Nature Confetti and Ice Suncatchers
Frozen Ice-suncatchers are a beautiful way to capture the sun and add some splendor to your yard! And they are super easy to make…winter temperatures do most of the work for you!
You will need:
Some sort of container: paper plates, aluminum pie crust pan, etc.
Natural materials: leaves, twigs, rose hips, feathers, berries, etc.
Something to hang the suncatchers: kitchen twin, yarn, ribbon, jute, etc.
Freezer or just set outside in freezing temperatures
Hole punch to make confetti from dried leaves (optional)
We used compostable paper bowls but you could use any sort of container. Search the yard or go for a walk in the woods or neighborhood to find natural materials and arrange them in your container. Next fill with water. You can even add a couple drops of food coloring to add some vibrant colors. Finally leave outside to freeze!
When they are frozen, you can pop out the ice and drill a hole for your string to hang. Or as an alternative hanging measure, you can wrap the string around the perimeter, with a good length at the top, then fill with some cold water and refreeze. You will then have string that wraps the suncatcher! Hang on a tree where it can catch the light and enjoy the beauty of your creation!
Winter Scavenger Hunt
Committing to learning with your children outside, ignites many opportunities to use your senses and connect with your little ones. Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? Winter scavenger hunts are a great way for the kiddos to have fun, while using their senses to understand winter habitat ecology! You can use the list here as an example, but there are certainly more items that could be added, depending on your region or where you intend to do the hunt!
Before the adventure, try talking with your children about how to use their senses for each item. For example, do you “see” the pine trees? Can you “smell” them? What do the bark, pinecones, and pine needles “feel” like?
After the search is a great time to talk over the items in your search, as the excitement and chaos of the hunt is often too great whilst in the moment! What items did you find, and which did you not? What was the most exciting winter spotting? Any new discoveries?
Electronic Wildlife Watchers
This next activity is not one to be done outside, but is great fun to watch wildlife in real time from the cozy comfort of your home. There are numerous wildlife cams, such as Cornell FeederWatch Cam, where we often catch a mongoose snatching fruit at the Panama feeders during the nighttime hours. My children also love to check on Iris the osprey at the University of Montana’s nest camera! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/hellgate-ospreys/
Time to get out the Sibley’s and see how many backyard birds you can identify! This is a great introduction to fascinating bird behaviors and I am always amazed to hear about the children’s “eagle-eyed” observations.
Another fun activity to check out some “bugs” and the health of your local watershed, is to identify macroinvertebrates using a dichotomous key. You can find the one we use here.
Bring a container so that you can collect specimens, being sure to keep an adequate amount of water for the creatures. Carefully turn over rocks and you should find some critters. Use a net if you have one.
Once you’ve collected some species, start at the top of the key, asking questions based on the characteristics you observe. For example, “shell or no shell, legs or no legs,” following your way down to the correct identification!
Check out some valuable online resources for more information on your local watershed, what makes a healthy stream, and how macroinvertebrates are bioindicators. A great resource for Butte, Montana is The Clark Fork Watershed Education Program!
“If it doesn’t excite you and scare you at the same time it’s not adventure.” Zero to Farm.
At the South Bay of the beautiful Flathead Lake on a Reservation in North West Montana rests a gorgeous town. Polson. My life has been located here for 25 years. Close enough to main street to walk to parades and far enough from the lake we can still afford the property taxes. Most often you can find us backpacking in the summer, paddling around the lake or floating the river. It’s been a great place to raise kids. But something was missing.
Obviously what’s missing is a farm. I decided a few months back I am going to write a book about sustainable farm living on a Rez whilst living in town with little to no property and a deep dislike of animals. I know nothing about sustainable farm life but I will learn as I write. My husband can grow loofah seeds so all my family can have sponges and dish scrubbers from our vines. I feel like a homesteader already. We can grow lentils and garbanzos. I will walk out onto my porch and wrap a blanket like a shawl around my shoulders as I look to the heavens for a sign of rain. Incredible. I think my hilarious lack of knowledge of anything pertaining to farm or sustainable living will hopefully fill my book with much humor and relatable failure. I recently bought a pair of overalls from a local thrift store so Im totally a farmer now.
Noteworthy sidebar, I am prone to be more absurd than absolute. More daring than dull. I often find myself on the outside of level-headed, practical conversations with little input to contribute. Watching all the sensible people talk, wondering when they last dreamed, who stole their excitement for life, and what causes them to process information like plain toast. Listen. I married a first born male who is incredible in his level-headed ways. It is truly a gift to us dreamers as we may find instead of eating or paying bills we forget altogether and float away in a hot air ballon. I need, WE need all the sensible, practical people in this world. And we need all the free-spirits. And this is where the next chapter in our farm life begins.
This farm thing has been a thought for years. Not sure how it would materialize we researched city ordinance for chickens. My level headed husband learned how to make sourdough bread and got obsessive about owning quail. My mom and I joked about buying goat girl dresses and learning how to can. I bought overalls and a seed catalogue and listened to James Taylor and Kenny Loggins for inspiration on peaceful living. Then bam!
This week we bought a farm on accident. More accurately, by chance. It presented itself in a place we weren’t expecting. 2 hours South of home. Victor, Montana, on the Bitterroot River. Fly fishing anyone? We fell in love with a piece of property that most describe as “It has potential.” We couldn’t live without it. We are selling our houses on the Rez and moving into a commune style life with my family on this farm. Away from the familiar to foreign.
We are cramming 2 families (possibly 3 if we can talk my brother into joining us in our absurd farm dreams)into one house much smaller than our current houses. Shedding off some of our spacial comfort in exchange for acreage, river front, and doing this farm life together. In community with our people. Our family. Ridiculous and incredible. Stay tuned for the continued adventures of zero to farm.
PS. I bought our first goat. She is majestic. She will have friends. Not sure how many yet. Thanks to my dear goaty friend for hand picking our herd. Our pack? What are a group of goats called? Gawd… I have so much to learn.
Trip. They are called a Trip of goats. Thanks Google.
If you are headed to Spokane for a weekend getaway or even just a quick day trip, there are many different activities to enjoy, places to eat, and views to take in. My name is Isabella Bradley, I am a senior at the University of Montana. In this blog post I will be sharing with you some of my favorite things to do in Spokane, where I was born & raised.
One of my favorite spots in Spokane is Kendall Yards, located closely to downtown! Kendall Yards is a modern neighborhood with a view of the river and downtown. There are many hip spots for food, beverages, dessert and more! In the summer, Kendall Yards hosts a night market filled with food trucks, art, produce, and live music every Wednesday night. One of my favorite parts about Kendall Yards is the paved trail that runs parallel to the river where you can walk, ride bikes, or grab a Lime Scooter to enjoy the view of the river and downtown.
Green Bluff is an association of small family farms and food stands. The activities change based on the season, but they range from pick-your-own fruit, pumpkin patches, and annual festivals. Green Bluff has a variety of breweries, places to dine, and other specialties.
Downtown Spokane is a lively area filled with shopping, dining, Riverfront Park, pubs and clubs, hotels and more. Riverfront Park is home to the Looff Carousel, the Skate Ribbon, the Pavilion Light Show, and the SkyRide Gondola. Both the Carousel and Skate Ribbon were recently renovated, along with the majority of the park, causing them to become more of a staple to the downtown Spokane scene. The Pavilion Light Show was also recently welcomed to Riverfront Park, it is a free recurring weekly light show on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and is a must see on your visit to Spokane.
River Park Square, the downtown mall, is located just across the street from Riverfront Park. This mall has many stores including Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Athleta, and an AMC Movie Theatre. On the same street, you can find more shopping that includes; Lululemon, Free People, Anthropologie, Nike, Apple, Carhartt, Lush, and more. A large amount of both my time and money have been spent downtown Spokane, with thanks to the wide variety of shopping and entertainment.
My final & favorite spot in Spokane is Manito Park. Manito Park is a public park featuring botanical gardens, greenhouses, and arboretum. Manito park has five different gardens; Duncan Garden, Ferris Garden, Rose Hill, Lilac Garden, and Nishinomiya Tsutakawa. Other features include the Mirror Pond and the Park Bench Café. Many people gather at Manito Park to picnic, host gatherings with friends and family, and enjoy the views of the beautiful gardens.
You are now equipped to navigate a weekend in Spokane. I hope this information was helpful & you enjoy your getaway!
We are all scared of change, whether it is a change in our daily schedule or change in the weather. This creates a bit of uneasiness in with us. I personally believe when you change an aspect of your life and it makes you uneasy that is when the best thoughts, ideas, and personality comes from. I have found that schedules can have their advantages and disadvantages. They are very good in the sense of keeping you in line and focused but there is an aspect that is missing and that is “what are we missing?” Within this post, I am going to share a couple of ways that I have achieved seeking discomfort in my daily life. These are very simple ways that you can get out of a rut and experience something new.
Go a different route to class/work
We get stuck in the same process every day. We take the same way to get to our destination and you may never know what you are missing if you take a different way. We see the same parking spot, the same sidewalk, and sometimes the same people. I have found that when I walk a different way to class I realize a lot of different things that I have never before. I run into old friends that I have not seen in a while.
Sit in a new spot in the classroom (non-COVID times)
When we were not in all COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing. I always challenged myself to sit in a different spot every week or so if the professor allowed moving spots. If they did not allow spot moving, then I would enter into the classroom and choose a spot next to people that I did not know. This was a challenge to me because we are all okay with what is normal to us. We find security in our own normal.
Try a new place to eat
I have to be honest with you, every time I am hungry and too lazy to make food I immediately go to McDonald’s without even thinking about it. This is a massive thing I have struggled with. It is just comforting food that I know will fulfill my need for food. We always lean to what is comfortable to us, instead we should be seeing what else is out there and trying new food or places.
Ask a friend that you have lost touch with to catch up
This is honestly one of the hardest to do. We all live in a life now of people’s opinions of ourselves are taking a lot more personally then they have ever. We strive to get the most likes on our pictures or the most views. This can take a toll on someone’s mental health and self-image. That is why I try to connect with people that I have not talked to in a while. This might be a high school friend that you got distanced because of college or a college friend that just split ways with you. This can be very overwhelming at first thought about reaching out to this specific person, but you could make this person’s day if you simply sent them a text.
Do anything that makes you scared.
In daily life, I say ‘I don’t want to do that’ or ‘I don’t like that’ this is something I have been catching myself say, and it all roots down to fear. Fearing something that you do not know anything about is one aspect of life that can stop you from doing anything. Living in fear is not a way of life it is a blanket.
These are some aspects that I have learned by following and living the sole purpose of seeking discomfort. This originated from a YouTube group called Yes Theory. If you have any time to spare go give them a watch and a listen.