Apple Ice Cream Cake, Bug Houses, and Check Dams: A play group in the woods.

The decision to host a play group in our woods came after Eloise I had been seeking refuge from the hot summer days in the woods and creek. After sending out an email we had found some people that could join.  We gathered around the fire as people arrived.  Once everyone was settled into the space, the true learning began. As the kids tried to avoid the campfire smoke in the mud kitchen they whipped up some delicious meals. Bodie made a wonderfully delicious (in our imaginations) Apple Ice Cream Cake. In reality it consisted of leaves, acorns, sticks, and other forest floor delights. However, I could almost taste the cinnamon apples and creamy ice cream as he looked over me “eating” waiting to see how it came out. After everyone had left I googled Apple Ice Cream Cake to see if there were any similar deserts – Wow! What did I find but this delicious recipe.

When the cooking was coming to an end, I pulled out some string and scissors. It was time to make some bug houses. The kids collected big handfuls of sticks and then we wrapped them together with the yarn. They will take them home to place in special spots and see what kind of bugs will move into their houses.

We had tons of yarn and Elsie decided that it was a good time for some finger weaving. What a skill! She very patiently taught Bodie to weave. Bodie, however, got distracted when the goat cheese and crackers came out.

Moving on we went to explore the creek. We observed the bullfrog family -What do they eat? – The kids wanted to know. After discussing frog cuisine, the older kids decided to make more Cairns and then saw my check dam. They immediately went to work collecting leaves, sticks, rocks, etc. Bodie and Elsie worked together on carrying very large sticks to the dam. Busy as Beavers!

It seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves while in the woods. The forest and natural surroundings can offer so much. When you are in the woods you feel different, relaxed maybe, but what can we bring out of the woods? Well there are so many options that can fit in our already existing routines that also cover a lot of school curriculum.

Math – cooking in the kitchen requires counting, measuring, etc. You don’t have to make the sugar filled cake recipe above to have fun. Cairn building also uses math by selecting rocks that are certain shapes to build the towers.

Art – We painted rocks, built Cairns, weaved with our fingers, observed natures artwork, etc.

Science – What do bullfrogs eat? You could do some research on bullfrogs and their habitat. Books on bugs could maybe tell us more about what kind of bugs may want to live in our bug houses and then who will come to eat those bugs, etc. Why does the speed of water flow matter in Spruce Creek?

History – Where do Cairns come from? What is the history of the beaver in the Eastern US? How long have people been weaving in Virginia? What materials did they use to weave?

Engineering – What is a check dam? Why are they important? How do you build a successful check dam?

World Views – Where else in the world bullfrogs live? Where does the word Cairn originate? Why are check dams important around the world? Where are other check dams located?

Here is an interesting article about Beavers and the affects of the check dams they build. 

These are only a small example of furthering our woodland experiences. I think that it would be great if the older kids could go to the library with one of the questions they asked in the woods. I believe that they will find what they are looking for and so much more. When they return to the woods they will have a deeper understanding and many more questions.


Permaculture Herb Spiral

There was a pile of old decaying wood near our cabin in the woods. I wanted to clean it up because it looked like an inviting place for snakes. I decided it would be the perfect spot for an herb spiral.


I consolidated said logs to a smaller and taller pile, added straw, top soil, and finally potting soil.


After collecting the rocks from the creek I made the spiral.


I planted some perennial herbs and some annuals by seed.