Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back to the Land - the Kid Version

I suggested to Ronan that she should maybe stop waiting for the adults to build her a treehouse and build her own fort. That suggestion didn't go much of anywhere until Ronan and I discovered a less frequented part of the public land across the way from our five-acre plot of hillside. Somehow this place inspired Ronan and she and two of her friends set off with a bagful of baling twine, a pocket knife, and a faithful dog and built themselves a fort in the woods by the Coast Fork of the Willamette River.

[I can't seem to figure out captions yet, so the picture above is their fort after one's day work on it. The structure on the right is an additional fort for Sophie.]

I'd rather wished they hadn't. The fort is something like a half a mile away from our house. But you got to let go sometime.
Many sometimes. Over and over again as the kids grow up. I reminded myself that when I was ten I rode miles and miles away from home with no patch kit or any knowledge of how to fix a bike, no helmet and no cell phone, pedalling up and down windy shoulderless rural state routes. I settled for warning them that they might go to their fort someday and find it destroyed while at the same time reassuring them that if that ever happens they have the know-how and the materials to do it all again somewhere else. I hope I got the message across that those with skills can never be completely bereft. The three of them listened to my heavy hints (all ignored) that they should consider building a second fort on our property up in the woods so that they could then migrate between the two like the Kalapuyas did or some Greeks we know. Ronan protested that our property isn't as pretty. Right. Doesn't have the river. Right again. Doesn't have all the birds: the kingfishers, the ospreys, the herons, the mergansers, the occasional bald eagle, etc. Doesn't have rocks to scramble on. Right.... Doesn't have the wildflowers. Not true, but different species. But okay, I give up. There's three of them there and a scruffy-looking dog. Where their fort is they are at they are less likely to run into super-troublesome types as they are to encounter people with unleashed dogs. I make sure they take a spray bottle with vinegar water in it every time they go down there. Advise them that each of them should have a nice stout walking stick with them. And remind them that the trashcan lid they found can be used as a weapon, especially edge-on. What the kids would really do if a situation arose, I can't tell. All the parents involved have encouraged resourcefulness. That's the best we can do. Now we also must remember not to make our children fearful and overly cautious.

[Different view of fort, with much more work done on filling in the walls.]

It was winter when they started their project and everything has gone fine so far. I don't really expect their fort to survive the summer without something happening to it. As with everything else involved in raising a kid for me, I just have to muddle along as best I can, taking things as they come, and improvising, improvising.

One last thing: I was particularly proud of them all when the three young pagani (pagan being Latin for "country person") found and altar to sanctify their new home-away-from- home. The altar is a hollow stump from which is growing a new young - and unrelated - tree. The hollow stump allows for many offerings to be placed inside the altar.

[Hazel, Vesta, Ronan, and
Sophie at the altar. I wish I could have gotten more of the new tree in the picture, but it was already too tall.]

One more one last thing: Hazel found a patch of stinging nettles near the fort. (Yes, she found it the hard way. The nettles were just coming out of the ground at the time she fell into them.) I sympathized, but I was also very pleased. Matthew, Ronan, and I had steamed nettles last week, one of our
favorite vegetables. Plus, now we have a second source for our year's supply of dried nettles. (We have as yet never gathered and dried as many nettles as we use in a year. I put nettles in almost everything that has a sauce as well as in breads and pastas.)

[At left: a nettle plant, about as old in "nettle years" as Ronan, Vesta, and Hazel. I want to post Cornelia Nettle's herb column on nettles from my old zine bummers and gummers on this blog. I've asked Ms. Nettle's permission (she's also the mom of Hazel and Vesta), but I will probably have to type the whole article in over again. A nuisance which may derail my plan.]

1 comment:

  1. Sure you're worried about your kids but I think running around in the woods is probably pretty safe. We roamed for miles up and down the irrigation canals when I was a kid - they were our highways. Anyway, you didn't even mention the greatest danger facing us all, pagani and urbani alike: grayanotoxins. I can't sleep at night worrying about grayanotoxins ever since I read about them this afternoon.