Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall foraging

I signed My Little Helper up for Nature Preschool through PP&R. He absolutely loves it! I loved the idea of it, it's like Outdoor School for little kids. There are lots of time when he doesn't want to go to regular preschool and says, "I want to go to the preschool with no doors and no windows!" They have been learning about mice, birds, spiders, leaves, and this week was mushrooms.
I like to take him on my own fall foliage or foraging walks. The weather has been nice and dry this week so I took both the boys to a pumpkin patch on Tuesday, spur of the moment because it was so sunny, but no one else was available. And yesterday since it was still nice out I decided we'd go foraging for chestnuts. I have tried this before, but I always seem to make it to the trees too late; others have been there before me and picked them clean. First we walked past the chestnut tree closest to our house, but I think it must just be a bad producer, the nuts are malformed and look more like cloves of garlic than a proper nut. I've discovered another close tree on our walk to preschool and there we struck it rich! So many uncollected nuts and they are nice and fat.
I confess that I have never actually eaten a chestnut that I can recall, but I have heard of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and I know one of my season Catholic feast day recipes calls for chestnuts. And foraging food just seems like a PNW thing to do. My guess is that I should wash them first? And then score with an X before roasting?
My Little Helper loved filling up his basket with nuts though! He gathered a few pine cones too along the way from a western white pine tree, we like to use them as kindling. We thought it was going to rain on us, but it didn't so we changed courses and walked over to Laurelhurst Park. The boys enjoyed the playground for awhile and then we walked over to the duck pond. Firwood Lake is looking good now, I especially like these little habitats they made for the ducks to forage naturally. My Little Helper decided that we should race the chestnuts down the big, steep hill. We ended up doing that most of the way home. He always claimed that his nut had won and gone farther than mine. It is so nice to know that there are still some toys you can get for free for little children to enjoy!
It is a little bittersweet walking to Laurelhurst knowing that soon we may move and these will be our lasts walks over there as our neighborhood park.

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