Fox Walkers | Weeks 14 + 15 | Tree ID & Winter Beauty

We’ve been up to what seems like a little bit of everything since the new year began at Fox Walkers!  We’ve been blessed with some very mild and warmish days as well as a couple of pretty frosty days, but one thing is for sure: it’s been an unusually dry school year so far!  Pat and I have been teaching year-round nature connection programs in WA state for the past decade, and we’ve gotten pretty accustomed to spending the majority of the winter being soaked to the bone and covered in mud.  But not this year!!  (Which makes our jobs much easier, and the children much happier, so I’m not complaining!)

The woods have been magical as always these past few weeks, with so many subtle shifts taking place each and every day.  Winter mushrooms such as Witches Butter, Scarlet Cup, and Dung Bell are a common discovery these days, and the winds have brought down lots of Alder branches full of Usnea lichen (which I use to make medicine, more about that HERE).  The Indian Plum are already starting to flower, and the birds have been super active as well.  It feels like spring is on it’s way, even though it’s only January!

We’ve been focusing our curriculum on Tree ID, and this past week the Fox Walkers heard the story about the time when the “bacon-y barked” Douglas Fir tree let all of the little mice in the forest hide in her cones to stay safe from a big forest fire, and that’s why you can still see the little “mouse butts/tails” sticking out of Douglas Fir cones.  Deer also tried to hide in Douglas Fir’s cones, but he just couldn’t fit, so that’s why you see what looks like a deer footprint on the inside of the scales of the cone.  

We also played a game called “Flee, Mousey, Flee”, which is inspired by that story and helps to reinforce Douglas Fir tree ID.  In this game, there’s a “fire” who is “it”, and everyone else is a mouse.  When the fire yells out “Flee, Mousey, Flee to the Douglas Fir tree!”, all the little mice have to run through the forest and touch a Douglas Fir tree in order to be “safe” for the fire.  If a mouse gets tagged by the fire before making it to a Douglas Fir, then the mouse becomes a fire too.

Another game that the Fox Walkers have been LOVING lately is Fox Ball (which is a modified version of a game that we like to play with the older kids called Wolf Ball).  It’s a bit more complicated to explain it in this blog, dear parents, so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself when you attend our next Family Visit Days at Fox Walkers on April 25th & 26th!

Some highlights from the past couple of weeks at Fairhaven Park include:  plaster-casting dog tracks, adventuring to Falcon’s Nest, making tree bark rubbings, examining the fascinating phenomenon known as hoarfrost, playing Plant Concentration, working on shelters, climbing lots of trees, and jamming out on the melodica and djembe.

Some highlights from the past couple of weeks at Whatcom Falls Park include:  trailing fresh deer tracks, salamander sightings, finding Douglina’s massive midden, stalking a Pileated Woodpecker at Forest Home, taking the Hemlock Highway, and working in the Construction Zone.

We’re truly grateful for all of the magic and mystery of the forest, and we look forward to the adventures that will unfold this week!