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THE FAMILY'S DISCOVERY
Due to people’s work commitments, which may now be more onerous, many PGCs are working and commuting longer hours than ever before. Perhaps, outdoor trips are rare from Monday to Friday, although plans
and preparations CAN be made in the evenings for what the family will do over the weekend.
Anticipation is a GREAT part of the pleasure.
Examining the family's book on local flora and fauna, with colour photographs and sketches, before a planned trip, should help everyone learn
what flowers or berries or nuts are in season, and family members can keep an eye out for these on their travels.
Children, from around 2.5 years upward, can be responsible for helping plan what shall be required for the weekend trip, collecting the equipment needed, and packing it in rucksacks / backpacks and other bags, one for everyone to carry, except for very small children.
Paper, plus thick crayons for small hands, and whatever pens and pencils work best
for older children and adults, should be gathered and bagged for the trip.
This is a useful part of developing planning skills and taking on responsibility.
On the day of the trip, the children shall need to pack a small bottle of plain water for each person, and plastic cups, or a large bottle of water to be carried by
an adult; a mixture of semi-dried fruit, a banana each; paper tissues, biodegradable, non-perfumed, wipes, and perhaps a small tube of aloe vera gel or a small bottle of Pure Bergamot Oil
(which has anti-bacterial, antibiotic, and anti-tetanus properties, and speeds healing), for cuts, scratches, and rub-burns; plus a bag for all the empty bottles, wrapping and other rubbish generated; which
shall be brought home for proper disposal. The children shall learn, first hand, lessons on what material is recyclable, and what must go in
the 'waste' bin and the 'compost' bin, as they help unpack the bag when back home.
Each family member has food and drink likes and dislikes, and it would be a good exercise for children of around two-and-a-half years, and older, to consider these matters, and any other items they think may be necessary to add to the packing
for the trip out.
This planning would be a serious matter for these children, and the reasons for their choices should
be listened to, interest shown in their thought processes, and acknowledgement given to interesting or novel and useful ideas.
UP AND OUT!
I believe that if parents and children get up early even ONE morning over the weekend, dress for the weather, no matter how chilly, and head to the nearest park,
or just a small piece of green space, whatever is available, a great many wonderful things can happen!
They would greet the people they pass in their neighbourhood on
the way to the greenness, having a good snoop in gardens and window boxes en route.
A smallish green space can become a Continent, viewed
with an open mind, getting down to ground level!
Adults and children examine the terrain, noting rocks and stones, puddles, grasses and old seed heads, berries, shrubs and plants, the odd tree, old
blossoms, seed pods, worms and worm casts, ants, slugs, snails, spiders and their webs, beetles, evidence of bird activity ~ everything audible and visible!
Everyone can make personal rough notes or drawings, even the youngest
will have their offerings.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT TO SEE?
The London Plane tree is widely
considered to be the world's most reliable city tree.
The Littleleaf Linden "...
the beauty of the plant, its perfume, its pugnacity, have made it a city choice for generations ... long enough to become an urban fixture throughout much of the United States and Europe." An allee of littleleaf lindens or Unter den Linden is famous in Berlin.
The Norway Maple "The very shade that endears
the tree to some planters is bad news to others ... The resulting shade can seem as refreshing as a forest glen or as sombre as a Norwegian Winter - even menacing, depending on temperament or the neighbourhood situation."
The Green Ash "... even these most common street ashes have their charms. The leaves grown fern-like, almost feathery, allowing dappled sunlight to reach
the grass or espresso drinkers below."
The Horse Chestnut and Chestnut trees are very common on urban streets around Ireland. Many people do
not like spiders in the house, and as the weather gets colder they are inclined to come indoors. A good way of keeping spiders out is to collect conkers and leave them in bowls around windows. Spiders do
not like the smell of conkers! If you have dogs, please take care, as some react badly to eating conkers.
Another way to use them, which could involve the children, would be to use an awl-type needle and bore a hole through the centre of the chestnut, and then string
the conkers on strong thread or ribbon, spacing them by a few inches and knotting the thread under each conker. These could be hung by a loop beside windows in bedrooms, or beside the back and front doors.
are unhappy at the prospect of a spider in their bedrooms, having an anti-spider hanging beside the window would surely lead to more peaceful nights in bed.
The Irish Yew can be seen
growing in many graveyards up and down the Country. There have been studies done on it and it proves to have anticarcinogenic properties ~ unique to the Irish Yew!
Cherry Blossom trees are another favourite planting in urban
housing developments around the Country, although their lifespan is only around 25 to 30 years, they blossom in the Spring, Summer, and Winter, and bring great pleasure.
A list of your common city and urban trees and plants, giving your climate type, would be very welcome, so that
I can include the information in updates of this Post.
The above information in lime green was sourced at https://www.google.ie/searchq=plants+and+trees+visible+in+autumn+and+winter+streets&oq=plants+and+trees+visible+in+autumn+and+winter+streets&aqs=chrome..69i57.34864j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
The most exotic plants can thrive in a city centre because
the temperature of a city is usually a couple of degrees higher than the surrounding environment, due to pollution and light levels.
When buddleia was first brought to Europe by plant hunters, it was
kept in glass-houses as it was thought to be very delicate. In fact, it is a great addition to almost any wayside piece of land, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and it is a beneficial pollinator. The bushes
are known as "The Butterfly Bush", and have conical flower spikes that bloom in intense hues of pink, orange, red, and purple, throughout the Summer. They will grow on any bit of rubble strewn land ~ so much for delicate!
On arriving home, all can peel off and put away their outdoor wear,
wash their hands and have a favourite drink.
THEN, everyone gets down on the floor with cushions and a very large piece of paper spread flat, on which they draw their Map, including everything
they saw and noted. With the help of the family book on local flora and fauna with colour photographs, identifications can be made, and lore and medicines used in
the past, from some of the plants, can be investigated, along with the life cycles of insects and spiders, and any other creatures observed.
RICHES OF URBAN NATURE
Here are some of the most ordinary,
and frequently found weeds and wild flowers, and some of their uses.
Nettle is probably one of the commonest
weeds of all, and the water drained and cooled, from the young leaves simmered, is used as a calming lotion for skin, and especially for the face. (The young shoots are picked in Spring to make a tonic, and used as a vegetable. The leaves are very nutritious, containing Vitamins A and C, plus appreciable quantities of iron, and other minerals ~ of value in anaemia. With a high Potassium content, it is markedly diuretic.*) In the past, families would go foraging for the new, fresh,
nettle leaves, knowing them to be of nutritional benefit. People would have made it through a harsh Winter, and needed to be built-up.
If you get stung by a nettle leaf, look around for dock leaves, they are a thick, broad, spear-shape, with a rough outline to the leaf. Rub dock leaves
on your nettle sting(s) until the pain subsides.
Dandelion milk was
used to cure warts, and the whole plant was boiled to be used as a kidney rinse. Young dandelion leaves can be used in salads or
cooked as a vegetable (dandelion leaves and roots are a rich source of Potassium, as well as being diuretic *). They taste best when they are young,
before the plant has blossomed. Wine is made from the flowers. A hot infusion of the whole of the common thistle was used as an herbal steam for treating
rheumatic joints. Milk thistle grows easily on waste ground, self-seeding. (The seeds are collected in late Summer, when mature. It is used in protecting and supporting liver function and liver cell
regeneration; it is being shown to be a significant treatment for Hepatitis A in blind trials.*)
The entire plant of the creeping buttercup is an analgesic and rubefacient ~ makes the face red if applied to its skin, an early form of
blusher! A poultice of the chewed leaves was used in the treatment of sores, muscular aches and rheumatic pains.
Be wary, the common buttercup is toxic!
Photographs can be added to the Map. As the seasons change, so will the material to be discovered. Even in a temporary puddle, frogspawn can be found in the middle of a very big city!
Perhaps a separate
Map might be made for each season. Broken branches, found on the ground, can be brought home to do bark and leaf rubbings. In season, seed heads can be gathered and opened at home to examine the seeds. Have you ever played conkers?
Engaging with Nature in a city is not expensive, everyone can get involved no matter how young or old. This is a way for a family to
discover the world of Nature in their neighbourhood, to learn together, while relaxing in each other's company. These weekend expeditions can be both silly and serious. Children get to spend time working and playing with their family and strengthening their sense of belonging. And what an antidote to a stressful working week it is getting right down
and counting the spots on a ladybird?!
These days feed the family’s imagination, on their privately discovered Continent, leading the way to bigger expeditions as the children grow.
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
Please also see the Companion Post ~
"Children's City Life"
If you have any comments, positive or negative, I should welcome hearing your views. If you find any errors or wish to disagree with any of the above, please let me know.
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