Welcomed to the farm with a selection of herbs and common plants to try and identify, which sparked some rich chat about the many potential uses of each plant.
Gathered around we share what we were grateful for and set off a different route, across the fields and into the woods, which allowed us to practise some of our map and compass skills - taking and following bearings and logistics of taking grid references. It was also a great route to collect some plantain to make some ointment (great for cuts and bruises.) Although, it was another bitterly cold day, so once in the woods we set get to work on the fire and had a superb story from Anna to keep our hearts warm as well.
There was a lot of energy going this session to get firmly into building the shelters and getting them into a fit state for the winter weather. I had the joy of experiencing a superb moment of standing back and seeing the sharing of both resources and time between different groups of children working on their shelters. Furthermore, the exchange of advice, as all the shelters are in different stages of development and of slightly different design; it sparked some rich communication around techniques and materials best to use.
With such free flowing interaction, the day had a wonderful free flow movement to it and resulted with some fantastic development: in people through our social sharing and understanding, progression of shelters, working on crafts of carving mushrooms, butter knives or trees and all in the balanced presence of the natural living world.
Straight into a very energetic game to get us all warmed up and an introduction to Jack: - down from London with his guitar to get singing some lovely songs we know and create some of our very own pieces! As well as, of course, get involved with all the crafts we had planned. Which today was some delicious popcorn and songs to singalong around the fire whilst others worked on finishing felting some lovely shapes and characters, climbing trees, forming den’s, starting fires and crafting tiny little shelters for characters. All with the sweet sound of guitar and voices charming the background.
It grew much colder in the afternoon as the sun disappeared behind the clouds, so we headed straight down to the spruce tree woodland to gather plenty roaring-flame firewood and got the fire reaching it's flames high into the skies right away. After a fantastic few singalong songs from Jack, some of the group got to work making a small pouch to store birch bark and various other forms of tinder inside, some continued with decorating the larger pouches with acorn ink. This group have become very confident in gathering, preparing and lighting their own fires completely independently and did so today with great efficiency.
Also, during a rich period of free-play, part of the group made a series of clearings in the autumn leaves, each of which acted as a different room with its own purpose; making an excellent area for interesting debates and social interactions to take place over all manner of agreements and minor adjustments. A truly valuable time in development and such rich, pure social, moral and emotional skills developed there.
After a run around to warm up we headed to the woods for a truly trusting challenge: together both partners came up with an audible code that translated to directions, one of the pair chose a tree at least 50m away and was directed towards it by their partner, blindfolded. We heard all manners of codes from simple clapping, to donkey sounds and some form of mystery sounds; very impressive to see that all the group made their way to the trees with no tree face-plants!
Once in the woods, we got the fire roaring straight away and set an intention of well being for an endangered animal. This led to a rich and heartfelt discussion around an apparent rhino ranch in which the owner is appealing to the South African government to sell his Rhino’s horns to stop poaching on his land, and to feed the demand of East-Asia with his legally obtained rhino horn. If interested, there’s an article online on the Telegraph about it:
Part of the group continued to build the tree house, while a partnership formed to make a ladder up to the tree house platform or worked on crafts around the fire.
This week it wasn’t just Anna who was blindfolded in the bushes armed with clay balls, it was half the group! The other half of the group stealthily and sensitively crept their way past, it was an enchanting experience of the group moving but only with the sound of the woods to be heard. See if you can spot the three children patiently listening....
There was a wonderful connection in the group this week, we all got straight to collecting wood and worked in balance together to light the fire. Gathered around the glowing fire, I shared a short story some friends had written and illustrated about my journey so far, it was truly touching to have the group so intrigued and focused around the fire.
Anna worked with whittling some detailed mushrooms out of some hazel for children to use as Christmas decoration; though was such detail and care taken in carving they could have easily been lost in the leaves! Meanwhile some children worked on making mallets for some wood carving with chisels next week. Others continued on building shelters and developed the idea to tie together bunches of rhododendron, which is in absolute abundance, to use as a form of forest style thatching for their shelter. The clay chimney for the shelter is also coming together excellently.
Welcomed into the morning with a warm mauve sunrise over the trees just about hanging onto those last leaves. We learnt about moles and their fantastic senses which led to us embodying ourselves as moles and jumping around over mole hills to escape an oncoming predators!
The story of the Pedlar of Swaffham shared with us a moral of following dreams and led to some great discussion about our wildest nighttime dreams, of which there were many! Then on with a day of using mole mud to mould tree spirit faces, carving bows, shaping wood and splitting for tongs. Finishing off any felting from last week and creating our own quills to draw our imagination onto some cotton.
We split into groups and fox walked down through the woods separately in silence, aware of all our senses and trying our utmost to not be heard by any of the other groups. Still in silence we filtered out into our individual sit spots for a long and connecting time with nature.
After a story, we continued with our fire focus on this afternoon group, some children carried on with decorating the tinder bags or sewing pouches for initial thistle fluff or fine tinder. We also stripped down some buddleia and heated it over the fire so it could be shaped to be as straight as possible in order to use as a hand drill for fire lighting.
Before entering the woods we shared what we felt our inner weather of the morning was, and awakened our senses to the farm environment around us, meanwhile, Anna went ahead and sat to the side of the path, blindfolded and armed with several clay balls…. The challenge was to fox walk past so silently we could not be heard, or else the clay balls would be flying our way!
It was a magically peaceful and balanced day. Some children continued to build shelters, sculpting clay chimneys, axing down or cutting and transporting fallen spruce trees. Others drew tracks with acorn ink, waxed leaves and used them to mark the compass directions around the camp, which led to fantastic excitement around map making and hunting for the treasure of the Golden Acorn!
Straight into a sneaky, stealthy and lightning quick game of ‘otter steals fish’ from the guarding heron, and those herons certainly didn’t want their fish being stolen!
After our circle of gratitude we headed to the woods and working all together got a fire started in 6 minutes by percussion of flint and steel using Ganoderma fungus as tinder, in 6 minutes!
Then a morning of crafting, baking and felting: carding dyed wool, layering it over hands, fingers or stones and massaging into the wool with warm water and soap then after a fair bit of more vigorous massaging...felt! In all shapes and sizes, from a mitten, to an afro lady, to a fox. Meanwhile other children were working and making acorn bread from acorns we’d collected and prepared; as well as crafting with clay, whittling, shaping bows or sharing creative ideas, imagination and building dens.
The image of learning, development and creative curiosity experienced by Ross. d:-)
We warmed up with an exhausting game of ‘Robins and Ice Sprites’, we are still developing the game together and fine tuning the ratios and rules, which led to some fantastic rich discussions.
We heard about how Daniel is getting on exploring the forests of Seattle and finding us some new games, skills and material. We heard that after a long day of trekking and searching he came across a gang of Elk’s with mighty great antlers - we very much look forward to more stories soon Daniel!
A silent and respectful exploration around a gigantic fallen Beech tree and some delicate, creative leaf printing or drawing with our acorn ink around the fire.
Victoria Mew, Founder of Cultivating Curiosity