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the wilderness of childhood

The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children's imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it — nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn't encounter a single other child. — Michael Chabon, The Wilderness of Childhood


harvesting mulberries

The raccoon mother and her babies climb up and eat them (after dark). The birds sit in the branches and yank them. (The cardinal and his wife share quite cozily.)

We just lay out a sheet and wait for them to fall. Plop, plop, plop.


build a fort!

tree root cave — photo credit: jump4joy, all rights reserved

One fall when I was 9 or 10, my best friend and I built a fort using a couple of leftover pieces of wire fencing we found behind the shed — we formed the walls and ceiling, then covered the entire thing with fallen leaves and christened it Fort Leafy.

It had a box for keeping treasures and oreos and we used it for weeks and weeks before the snow finally came.

It doesn’t take much to make a fort in your backyard — some sticks, a tarp, or whatever you have lying around that no one needs at the moment. The kids at my school made a fort by laboriously carving away a little cave in a mound of dirt (big enough for two small children to squeeze mostly into) then building out with sticks and leaves. The only completely necessary supply is imagination.

Do you have a fort? E-mail us and we will share it here!

our fort in the woods behind the barn

The smallest boys can build some of the simple shelters and the older boys can build the more difficult ones. The reader may, if he likes, begin with the first of the book, build his way through it, and graduate by building the log houses; in doing this he will be closely following the history of the human race, because ever since our arboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests and built nest-like shelters in the trees, men have made themselves shacks for a temporary refuge. — Dan Beard, Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

boys in their “fort” — photo credit: myPlayground, all rights reserved

woods fort with windows! photo credit: amirabilis, all rights reserved

driftwood fort on the beach —photo credit: sunnyshine12, all rights reserved

There are several ways of building a temporary camp from material that is always to be found in the woods. Whether these improvised shelters are intended to last until a permanent camp is built or only as a camp on a short excursion, a great deal of fun can be had in their construction. — The Boy Mechanic: 200 Classic Things to Build

fort pan-am —photo credit: nicodemas, all rights reserved

palm frond fort — photo credit: bryan robison, all rights reserved

By taking advantage of a rock, a fallen or uprooted tree, the work of building a hut is ofttimes materially lessened. — The American Boy’s Handy Book

empty lot fort —photo credit: rob rypma, all rights reserved

backyard woods fort — photo credit: my3sons_nh, all rights reserved

The next best thing to really living in the woods is talking over such an experience. — Dan Beard, The American Boy’s Handy Book

awesome beach fort —photo credit: brilliam, all rights reserved

It was our turn now, and we pelted their broken ranks with snow until they looked like animated snowmen. Another shout, and we looked around to find our leader down and the hands of one of the besieging party almost upon our flag. It was the work of a second to pitch the intruder upon his back outside the fort.

Then came the tug of war. A rush was made to capture our standard, several of our boys were pulled out of the fort and taken prisoners, and the capture of the fort seemed inevitable. Again and again a number of the enemy, among whom was their color-bearer, gained the top of our breastworks, and again and again were they tumbled off amid a shower of snowballs that forced them to retire to gain breath and clear their eyes from the snow.

Once their lieutenant, with the red-bordered battle-flag, had actually succeeded in reaching the mound upon which stood our colors, when a combined attack that nearly resulted in his being made prisoner drove him from the fort to gather strength for another rush. “Daddy” was now a prisoner, and the recaptured flag again floated over the enemy’s camp, when the school-bell called us, fresh and glowing with exercise and healthful excitement, to our lessons. — The American Boy’s Handy Book

More inspiration:

How to Build Treehouses, Huts, and Forts

The Book of Camp-Lore and Woodcraft

The American Boy’s Handy Book

The Boy Mechanic: 200 Classic Things to Build

The Field and Forest Handy Book

The Outdoor Handy Book



from nova scotia: nurturing spider babies

habitat for spider babies

I continue to be amazed by the things that I can handle now that I have a lover of all things that creep and crawl… I am learning to let go of my fears and allow her to take the lead when it comes to these little creatures. She has a sense about them… Another level of connection with these wonderful minibeasts…

testing the babies…

To read more, visit Dawn’s blog: To the Outskirts


from meg in tennessee: honeysuckle

Small orange and yellow honey suckles decorate my fence. I love the sweet taste and smell of the nectar. I enjoy walking the fence line watching the honeysuckles glow in the evening light. My time alone with nature is peaceful and it makes me happy.

Written by Megan, photos below by her mom Shona; read more on Shona’s blog at Towhead Adventures.

megan extracting the honeysuckle nectar

Get detailed instructions on extracting honeysuckle nectar on Instructables

Read more about honeysuckle on Wikipedia


clover lawn

Instead of adding herbicides to our lawn, which harm the bees, butterflies, frogs, toads, and wildflowers, we are nurturing a mixed grass/white clover lawn.

It makes the lawn healthier, feeds the bees, feels great on bare feet, chokes out undesirable weeds, and looks lush and green even during the hottest, driest part of summer!

Interested? Read more about it here:

Clover Lawns

The Clover Option

Healthy Alternatives to Grass Lawns

and the bunnies like it, too!



slug tentacles

Like other pulmonate land snails, most slugs have two pairs of ‘feelers’ or tentacles on their head; the upper pair being light sensors, while the lower pair provides the sense of smell. Both pairs are retractable and can be regrown if lost. — Slug Wikipedia page