Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our summer camp - a wild success!

Our wilderness and homesteading summer camp last weekend was a huge success.  In fact, it went so well that I shed a tear or two in our closing circle, when all the kids shared what they loved best about our camp and what their favorite learning was.

After spending two whole days and nights with these ten kids (including our own three), we bonded with them and started getting to know their personalities, and I can honestly say that each one of them touched my heart.

I also fell in love with my own family even more than I thought possible.  Watching my husband teach these kids with his patient, strong and gentle manner, observing my thirteen-year-old and eleven-year-old sons help guide and lead the other kids... my heart is full.

Do you want to come along and see what we all experienced?  I took 800  (!!!) photos, so to distill them down into this one blog post feels like torture.  

If you want to send your child or grandkid to our camp, we will do another camp August 19 to 21.

The kids arrived on Friday around 5pm.  While we waited for everyone to trickle in, the kids started to get to know each other playing "Capture the Flag", or rather capture the towel.

It's amazing to me how quickly kids form friendships when they play these games.

We ate a home-cooked meal around the campfire while we all introduced ourselves and laid down some ground rules for safety and respect.

Before it got dark, we planted some cedar trees to teach the kids about conservation and forests.  Shovels in hand and not deterred by the drizzle, the kids showed plenty of enthusiasm and curiosity.

Then we headed to the tipi for a powwow around the fire and a popsicle treat.   Steve demonstrated how to make a friction fire (without matches), and we all told stories of our favorite encounter with wild animals. 

The boys slept in the tipi, and the girls got to spend the night up in the fort/treehouse.

They got up bright and early the next morning (their choice, not ours!).  I bet none of them had ever done a sit-spot at 6 am, which is a practice where you quietly sit outside for ten minutes and observe things around you.

After breakfast, we headed to the barn to milk goats, which turned out to be a favorite for many kids.  My goats are gentle, docile and big milk producers, and a couple of the kids remarked on how milking them felt like squeezing big water balloons.  

After another rousing game of "Capture the Flag", we ventured into the forest to our magical camp filled with moss and huge cedars and big leaf maples.

The rope swing that marks the entrance to the camp was a huge hit.

Here, Steve taught the kids how to build a debris hut - a functional shelter made with sticks, leaves and moss.

Next came the fire challenge, where the kids had to work together to build a fire that burns a string that's suspended over it.  This is surprisingly hard and really brought out their competitive (but fun) spirit!

The last skill we taught in this magical spot was how to make cordage from  natural fibers to make ropes.  

After heading back to our homestead and devouring lunch, I showed the kids how to start making fermented bread.  I teach this in my online fermentation course as well, and it's a big hit with people who have a hard time with gluten, since this bread is much easier to digest than conventional bread.

You think they had fun getting their hands into flour, water, and yeast?

Next: bow making!  A lot of kids counted this as their favorite.  Steve has taught this art to hundreds of people, but there's nothing like watching kids work on their bows!

That evening, we led a treasure hunt to another magical place close to our homestead.  We call this place "the grotto", a cave-like, fern-draped spot at the creek.  Steve and our sons had hidden some treasures a couple of days before (antlers, arrowheads, feathers), and it was up to all the kids to pay attention and find them.  They got to keep what they found.  Sorry about the deer vertebrae, parents.

They needed a little help finding the treasures, and it turned out they also found stuff we hadn't hidden ourselves, including a garter snake and lots of huckleberries.

See the snake draped around his finger?

That night found us back at the fire pit, where we consumed the only non-organic food we serve at our camp: the obligatory marshmallows.

Before bed, Steve told more stories around the fire in the tipi.  The kids conked out hard after a long, active day, and nobody complained about how loud the frogs were that night.

The next morning, after sit-spot and breakfast, we headed to the pigs so the kids could meet them as well.  

After finishing their bow and getting an archery lesson, we packed a picnic and headed to one of our favorite swimming holes at a wild creek.  There, the kids built rafts, devoured three loaves of the bread we had made, plus my home-made goat cheese, learned about tracking in the sand, swam in the glacial water, buried themselves in the sand, and practiced making friction fires.

When we came home, it was time to organize all their stuff, hold our closing circle, give them their buck skin bag gifts we had made for them, and say goodbye.

Steve and I are very tired, but very happy, and our hearts are full.  We love sharing our knowledge with children, and I think we sowed some seeds this weekend.  Maybe the seed for one child was kindling a love for animals, or maybe it was experiencing the garden and picking peas straight from the vine and popping them in the mouth still warm from the sun.  Or maybe it was watching Steve making a fire without any matches, and getting to try it themselves.  Maybe it was about finding comeradery with other kids in a respectful, safe way, or maybe it was about picking wild berries.

I don't know.  Maybe the kids are happy to get back home, play with their devices and walk on concrete instead of mud.  But I do think they all enjoyed themselves.  In fact, some kids asked when they can come back.

Any time, honey.  Any time.

PS: If you want to send your child or grandkid to our camp, we will do another camp August 19 to 21.


  1. Sounds like such a wonderful time!

  2. What an amazing experience for those kids! I love the idea of the sit-spot. And all the different elements that you taught them about - survival, homesteading, nature appreciation - all while still giving them the opportunity to run a little wild :^) I'm sure they loved it!!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I think the kids all had a great time. They sure were tied and dirty at the end of it!

  3. Wonderful. You got an entourage now. You know that, right? Kids crave this kind of stuff. What a blessing!

    I have only one other comment. I am so surprised you didn't make homemade marshmallows being the homemade gal that you are! Ain't that hard and mighty fine for the refined sugar hit. Blog in the making anyone? Hmmmm?

    1. Yeah, I wanted to keep the sugar rush component as low as possible!