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???????????????????????????????School is back in session, and it’s all too easy for families to find themselves indoors most the day and evening. It’s important to push back against the feeling that every moment must be scheduled, and to allow children to experience nature in an unscripted fashion.

How to do that? A few ideas:

  • If you live near your children’s school, considering walking them there, leaving enough time to note seasonal changes, “adopt” a favorite tree, listen to birds calling.
  • After school, look for ways to move a traditionally indoor activities outdoors, taking snacks or homework to a deck or under a shade tree.
  • Consider planting a small fall garden. It’s time now to start lettuce, cooking greens and sugar snap peas. At the end of October it will be time to plant cloves of garlic. Don’t have garden space? Try large pots near your front walk. As long as they’re in the sun and watered, they should do fine. Kids can spend a few minutes every week with their plants, caring for them and weeding, and research shows children are more likely to eat vegetables they had a hand in growing.
  • Try not to load up Saturdays with car-focused activities or fill the entire day with organized sports. Instead, bring a low-stress picnic to a park or nature preserve (try a breakfast picnic, if the day already is busy), take a walk on a greenway, or spend the evening outdoors as dusk falls.
  • Nurture your child’s interest in flora and fauna by attracting birds and moths to your yard. You don’t even need a fancy bird feeder – you can simply put out some seed or bread crumbs on a deck and watch for squirrels and birds to arrive. If you have a budding entomologist in  your family, mix up potion of overly ripe banana, cheap beer and molasses and let it steep in a warm place for a day. Then paint it on tree trunks. Moths may be attracted to the bait, and you and your kids can head outside after dark with flashlights to see who’s feeding.

Finally, for teachers, here are some great suggestions for incorporating the natural world into your lessons. – Amber Veverka

Mulberries from a tree in Latta Park in Charlotte.

Mulberries from a tree in Latta Park in Charlotte.

Mulberries are ripening through Charlotte and the surrounding communities, drawing flocks of cedar waxwings and robins. Alert foragers can spot the mulberry, Morus rubra,

Mulberries attract flocks of birds.

Mulberries attract flocks of birds.

by looking in parks and weedy parking lot edges for trees with dropped black and red berries circling the trunks. The berries look similar to blackberries but have a sweeter, less complex taste.

Mulberry jelly and jam recipes abound. This was made by cooking four cups of mulberries with four cups of sugar and a quarter-cup of bottled lemon juice until the mixture thickened. Process in a hot water canning bath to be shelf-stable.

Mulberry jelly and jam recipes abound. This was made by cooking four cups of mulberries with four cups of sugar and a quarter-cup of bottled lemon juice until the mixture thickened. Process in a hot water canning bath to be shelf-stable. This recipe made four half-pints of jam.

Mulberries hybridize easily, so berries can vary widely in taste from one tree to the next. Though it’s a tree many people regard as a nuisance – birds eating the fruit can blanket nearby cars with purple droppings – it also provides the basis for a jelly or jam that has a more sophisticated taste than the berries themselves. The berries also make a great addition to smoothies.

Mulberries are high in anthocyanins and Vitamin C and have a strong showing in Vitamin K and iron.

There’s another, less common type of mulberry tree: The white mulberry, Morus alba, which is more delicately flavored than the red mulberry (whose ripe fruit actually is black) and whose leaves are eaten by silkworms in the silk industry. For our common mulberries, don’t count on fast picking as in a blackberry patch, because berries ripen singly. Still, they’re a healthy berry, pretty tasty, and they’re free. Grab some the next time you walk the path through Latta Park in the Dilworth neighborhood, or in Freedom Park, where they flank Little Sugar Creek. There are plenty of mulberries growing as unplanned “weed” trees in city parking lots, as well. -Amber Veverka

 

DSC01405Gardeners are usually more interested in keeping rabbits out of a garden than finding ways to incorporate them into a gardening plan. But the manure pet rabbits produce is one of the best fertilizers for growing plants – high in nitrogen and phosphorus, and safe to put directly on the garden without composting it ahead, the way chicken, horse and cow manures must be processed.

Read more on putting the waste products from your pet bunnies to use in the garden.

Where there once were weeds, there is now a farm field, planted in potatoes, broccoli and greens. Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia. – See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/friendship-trays-urban-farm-sprouts-garinger-high#sthash.ky8MWl3F.dpuf
Where there once were weeds, there is now a farm field, planted in potatoes, broccoli and greens. Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia. – See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/friendship-trays-urban-farm-sprouts-garinger-high#sthash.ky8MWl3F.dpuf

Where there once were weeds, there is now a farm field, planted in potatoes, broccoli and greens. Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia.

Henry Owen demonstrates the way lettuce is grown with water circulated from tilapia tanks. Photo: Marla J. Ehlers

A year has passed since Friendship Gardens’ Henry Owen and his team of enthusiastic gardening partners took over a neglected corner of Garinger High School’s back lot in Charlotte. On Saturday, April 26, the team welcomed the neighborhood, the school and the tight-knit world of Charlotte’s locavore movement to celebrate the grand opening of the Friendship Gardens Urban Farm. The event – complete with fish tacos, face painting and an acoustic band – marked a milestone for a project that not long ago was a mostly a dream – See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/friendship-trays-urban-farm-sprouts-garinger-high#sthash.ky8MWl3F.dpuf

Where there once were weeds, there is now a farm field, planted in potatoes, broccoli and greens. Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia.

Henry Owen demonstrates the way lettuce is grown with water circulated from tilapia tanks. Photo: Marla J. Ehlers

A year has passed since Friendship Gardens’ Henry Owen and his team of enthusiastic gardening partners took over a neglected corner of Garinger High School’s back lot in Charlotte. On Saturday, April 26, the team welcomed the neighborhood, the school and the tight-knit world of Charlotte’s locavore movement to celebrate the grand opening of the Friendship Gardens Urban Farm. The event – complete with fish tacos, face painting and an acoustic band – marked a milestone for a project that not long ago was a mostly a dream – See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/friendship-trays-urban-farm-sprouts-garinger-high#sthash.ky8MWl3F.dpuf

Where there once were weeds, there is now a farm field, planted in potatoes, broccoli and greens. Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia.

Henry Owen demonstrates the way lettuce is grown with water circulated from tilapia tanks. Photo: Marla J. Ehlers

A year has passed since Friendship Gardens’ Henry Owen and his team of enthusiastic gardening partners took over a neglected corner of Garinger High School’s back lot in Charlotte. On Saturday, April 26, the team welcomed the neighborhood, the school and the tight-knit world of Charlotte’s locavore movement to celebrate the grand opening of the Friendship Gardens Urban Farm. The event – complete with fish tacos, face painting and an acoustic band – marked a milestone for a project that not long ago was a mostly a dream – See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/friendship-trays-urban-farm-sprouts-garinger-high#sthash.ky8MWl3F.dpuf

Photo: Marla J. Ehlers

Photo: Marla J. Ehlers

By Amber Veverka

Where there once was a defunct greenhouse, there are now floating trays bursting with lettuce, fed by water circulating through a tank of tilapia.

Urban Farm 943A year has passed since Friendship Gardens’ Henry Owen and his team of enthusiastic gardening partners took over a neglected corner of Garinger High School’s back lot in Charlotte. On a recent Saturday the team welcomed the neighborhood, school and the tight-knit world of Charlotte’s locavore movement to celebrate the grand opening of the Friendship Gardens Urban Farm. The event – complete with fish tacos, face painting, and an acoustic band – marked a milestone for a project that not long ago was a mostly a dream.

Read the rest of the story at PlanCharlotte.org.

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