Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out on Whidbey Island. A better part of my childhood was spent out there walking in the woods with my Grandpa learning the names of the trees, looking for frogs and clearing trails. It is one of my favorite places and I am really grateful that we are able to pass on the tradition with our kids. Many of the trails we made as kids are still there but need some major work.
My grandparents were uber frugal before it was a fancy way to reach Financial Independence. When I was little they built a house on inherited land and set it up as their home base while they traveled all over the country. They bought every thing on sale, used items until they were very broken and heated their home with the wood they chopped outside in the yard. The grandkids would stay out there periodically and we played outside all day long making forts, wandering around in the woods and hitting golf balls into the woods (which we still find today). We had so much fun and learned a lot about how to be out in the woods safely. My Dad and my Grandpa taught us which plants to avoid, which ones we could eat and we helped out keeping the property clear and the trails open.
We went for a walk the last time we were out there and it was awesome to see my Dad interacting with the kids the same way he had with us when we were little. My kids have a set of fresh eyes when walking in the woods. We have not been out to Whidbey as much as I would have liked in the last year because of ongoing sickness and a crazy schedule but being out there recently reminded me of how much I would love to have a wooded retreat of our own to take the kids out to on the weekends. Mr. Oscoey and I have talked about someday buying property with woods and streams and such but “someday” has always been too far out to be tangible.
There is something to be said for spending time walking the same woods over the course of many seasons or even years. The surroundings change as the seasons move forward and plants you may have seen in April will have withered away by August. I remember when my Grandpa and Grandma cleared this path 30 or so years ago. It took many months and lots of help from the relatives but everyone worked together to get the project done. When my oldest daughter was about five I remember seeing a litter of baby coyotes play in the clearing which is one of my all time favorite memories.
One of the best parts of walking in the woods is learning to be more aware of your surroundings. We came across some deer tracks on our walk and the kids loved hearing about how you could tell the age of the track and where the deer went afterwards. We also spent quite a bit of time experimenting with stepping on branches to see if we could get them to snap and make a loud noise. This kind of random fun experiment is one of the best ways to get kids engaged with science without making it seem like a chore. We talked about which branches were better for snapping (drier ones) and how the larger ones required more weight to snap and everyone took turns snapping and helping each other snap branches. The kids had a lot of fun trying it out and they were very tired after our long walk!
We had a great time walking out in the woods and the kids learned quite a bit about their surroundings while spending quality time with Grandpa. I am hoping to get back out there once a month or so now that our schedule has cleared a little bit. We are not afraid of the weather so we will be out in all sorts of conditions! I also want to make more time to spend outside at our house but our kids go to bed so early these days it is hard to find the time.
How do you spend your outdoor time?