Week 6 | Fox Walkers at Fairhaven | Getting Prepared, Hazard Awareness, and Balm of Gilead!

The sunshine returned in all of its glory last week, along with some cold, crisp mornings!  Luckily our Fox Walkers LOVE to help with the fire making process, so we spent lots of time working on those skills.  This crew seems to truly enjoy batoning wood, so we’re starting to accumulate a nice stash of dry kindling thanks to all of their wood chopping efforts!

As we transition to this colder time of year, our curriculum theme is shifting towards cultivating awareness around natural hazards as well as practicing skills and accumulating the tools needed to be fully prepared for these hazards while out in the forest.  In light of this theme, we spent some time on Tuesday morning making plant medicine to add to our first-aid kit.  The recent windstorms have left lots of Cottonwood branches on the ground.  These branches are filled with sticky leaf buds that offer pain relieving anti-inflammatory medicine known as salicin, which is considered to be “nature’s aspirin”.   The Fox Walkers assisted us in picking these buds off the branches and collecting them in a jar, which we then filled with olive oil.  This mixture will infuse for several weeks before we strain the buds from the oil and mix the infused oil with melted beeswax to turn it into Cottonwood salve, which is also known as Balm of Gilead.  Balm of Gilead can provide relief for achy sore muscles, bruises, scrapes, burns, and skin irritations.  It will be a helpful addition to our first-aid kit so that the Fox Walkers are prepared for potential injuries while out in the woods!  (Check out my Wild Wednesdays blog on how to make Balm of Gilead at home HERE )

Our Moon Bird and Running Deer story also reflected this theme of getting prepared and being aware of hazards.  In this story, Moon Bird and Running Deer were getting ready to go out on an overnight hiking adventure.  They took the time to go through their equipment, including a first-aid kit, matches, a compass, a map, water, snacks etc.  Once they took off on their adventure, they realized that they left the compass at home.  Luckily Running Deer was aware of how to use the sun to determine which way is North, so she shared those skills with Moon Bird.  Moon Bird also learned that drinking water straight from the creek without filtering or boiling it first could make him sick.  Luckily he didn’t learn that lesson the hard way!

Our adventures last week also focused on this theme of preparation and awareness, as we spent some time using the sun to figure out which way is North and we also made some effort to collect any dry tinder for our fire making supply that we came across on our wanderings.  On Tuesday we visited Frog Swamp Flats, and on the way we met a hiker who told us that he had seen a couple of cougars in the area the day before!  Definitely a hazard to be aware of.  We practiced what to do in case we see a cougar (lock eyes with the cat, make yourself look really big by putting your backpack over your head, and back away slowly-  Do NOT run away!).  We kept our Owl Eyes and Deer Ears open wide after hearing about that, and stopped to examine tracks in the mud to look for cougar sign.  Didn't spot any cougar tracks, but we did find a pile of fur and scrape of some sort!

On Thursday we adventured to a new favorite spot which features a big overturned log that is perfect for balancing on.  We played an epic game of Fire Keeper there, which involved sneaking up on the blindfolded "fire keeper" and trying to take his or her “fire” (aka loud jangly keys) without being detected.  This game is an excellent way to practice Deer Ears and Fox Feet.

We’re grateful for another week of awesome adventures with this crew, and we can’t wait to do it again this week!!!