During the darkness of winter, it’s hard to think of ways to engage children. Especially in customs that promote a love of nature. What can you do? Do you have access to an oak tree? If so, you may be lucky enough to bag a few acorns and return home to leach them and bake cookies a few weeks from now. But if the acorns are gone, why not adopt a local oak tree and keep an eye on it? Through the seasons, the oak changes. Right now, its roots are being saturated by rain and/or snow, but in California, sometimes as early as February, the branches start to leaf out and later in the season, start producing pollen. In the summer, you’ll see little green acorns that turn to a beautiful brown in the fall and drop to the ground. After they drop, the forest animals come along. If your adopted oak is in a city park, those forest animals will be small; squirrels, mice, birds… but if you live in a rural area, those acorns will attract deer that attract mountain lions. They will attract large black crows, vultures and woodpeckers. They will attract coyotes, fox, ringtail and all matter of wildlife, including field rats. When you get home from surveying your adopted oak, make sure you point out any oak furniture. Teaching our children the value of the “great oak that was once just a little nut that held its ground,” will prepare your child for the hard task he or she has ahead… stewardship of the earth.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973