When I was a young mother...
Not that I'm not STILL a young mother. I mean, I'm ONLY 41.
Let's try this again.
When I was a mother of little ones...
Yes. Much better!
When I was a mother of little ones, my oldest children still very small, I remember pouring over all those Charlotte Mason books. I remember reading all about nature study, how it's important to spend time out of doors, every single day.
I found that bit of wisdom absolutely paralyzing.
I had visions of lounging in the woods with children running about, sketching nature and pouring over field guides. (In the Lake District of England, of course.)
That was not my life.
My out of doors reality had more to do with keeping a proper count of heads, making sure no child of mine went missing. And really, who was I fooling? City parks with their mile high play structures and finely manicured landscapes? Not exactly a natural habitat. A walk in the woods? I live in Texas for crying out loud. At best we'd land ourselves in a bed of fire ants. (We have!) At worst we'd encounter a rattler. (Thank the Lord we haven't!)
Back then I did the only thing I could think to do. I hung a bird feeder outside the breakfast room window, kept a field guide on the sill. We identified birds, read a little Burgess. It worked for us.
But I always doubted myself, thought it wasn't enough.
I wish I could go back in time and whisper a little known secret to that mother of littles: To do nature study, you only have to go as far as your own backyard.
Whether you live on a bit of acreage, a suburban plot, or only have an apartment balcony to call your own, you can spend time out of doors, every single day. Believe me, this garden of ours began when I first planted herbs on the balcony of a Dallas apartment - all western exposure. They died in a week.
I don't claim a green thumb, I'm just stubborn. The trick's been a matter of never giving up and learning from my mistakes - learning that sometimes no matter what you do, things don't work out as planned. Funny how the failures teach more than the successes.
Years later and many lessons learned we now enjoy a pleasant little ecosystem within our suburban fenced yard - a green belt, if you will. The neighbors, they all call in the chemical trucks to keep their yards pretty. Our organic landscape and garden, it's an oasis to many a critter in our parts - frogs, toads, bees, butterflies, bunnies... If you build it, they will come.
All you have to do is plant a seed. Whether you sow it in the soil of an expansive garden bed or a small pot on a concrete balcony, the whole universe unfolds, just by planting a little seed and watching it grow.
Like those 4 little pumpkin seeds we planted in mid-July - two sugar pies and two jack o'lanterns. We've learned more from those little seeds than ever we could have from pouring over field guides, web sites, and botany books. To watch life unfold right before your eyes, to witness a life cycle from seed to fruit - it's a matter of witnessing a miracle. Education.