Posted by: wolfcampcollege | October 14, 2010

Stinging Nettles and Salmon – Homeschool and After School Classes in Puyallup

Another beautiful October day!  Today we learned how to make cordage.  We started out using raffia in order to learn the reverse wrap method. 

Chris is showing everyone how to make cordage out of raffia.

Raffia is an easy material to use when first learning the reverse wrap method.

We practiced splicing in a new piece of raffia in order to increase the length of our ropes while not compromising strength and durability.  While our hands were busy, we shared our personal stories with one another and caught up a bit.  Then we headed outside to attempt a continuation of the navigation challenge from last month.

Tug-o-war to test the strength of the splice.

Using the map to help locate and identify various shrubs and trees.

Skye's waiting for her turn to help with the challenge.

We were broken into teams and each given a map of the general area.  Using the map we had to find and identify various trees and shrubs (with a little hint – the first letter of the name of the tree).  Everyone did a great job!  Then we headed over to the fish hatchery down the street and stopped to check out the farmed fish while on our way to collect stinging nettles. 

Checking out the thousands of hatchery fish.

Japanese knotweed, a highly invasive plant, grows along the bank of the creek behind the hatchery.

We spotted this spider fashioning its beautiful web near the creek.

We saw salmon making their way up Clark's Creek to spawn.

Clark’s Creek runs behind the hatchery and we were able to see several salmon coming upstream to spawn. 

Checking out an informative sign including drawings of various salmon species that spawn in Clark's Creek.

A bird's-eye view.

One large salmon was near the creek edge and Chris was able to slowly approach and gently hold it so the kids to get a good brief close-up. 

A close look at this amazing creature.

We watched from creekside and an overhead bridge before continuing up the trail to visit a spring coming from the hillside. 

You almost can't tell where the spring comes out of the hillside.

The kids gathered under a cedar for a story.

We gathered nearby and Chris shared the story of how nettles got their green color and their sting (thank you tree frogs and red ants!).  Then we spent some time learning how to respectfully harvest nettles with and without gloves (fresh nettles are delicious!) and what time of year they should be used for food, medicine and rope-making. 

The homeschool class.

Everyone did a fabulous job harvesting and we had very few stings!  Then we bundled the stalks and headed back to enjoy some stinging nettle tea and learn how to process the rest of the plant. 

Chris is showing everyone how to touch stinging nettle without getting stung.

Yep, he's really going to eat it. Raw. And you can too if you know how. 🙂

Last glance at the salmon as we headed out of the field.

We removed the leaves from the stalks and left them in place so they could decompose and help nourish the next generation of nettles.

Longest stalk for the homeschool group.

Longest stalk for the after school group.

With our new-found knowledge of making rope (from our raffia practice earlier), we were able to remove the fibers from some previously dried nettle stalks and make nettle cordage!   Everyone went away with some stalks to dry and process at home. 

Processing dried nettle stalks.

Stinging nettle tea is tasty and nutritious.

Breaking the stalks open to get to the pith.

Separating the pith from the fiber needed to make rope.

Rope that was hand-made from stinging nettle fiber.

Some of the other plants and animals we learned about today:  how to identify dogwoods by tearing the leaf, rose-hips and vitamin C, spruce needles and vitamin C, dragonflies, Japanese knotweed, salmon life cycle, salmonberry, youth-on-age (or piggy-back plant), giant bullwhip kelp (harvested on Orcas Island two days prior), belted kingfishers, great blue herons and killdeer. 

Dragonflies we found out in the backyard.

Great blue heron perched high above the fish hatchery.

A pair of killdeer that live in the gravel parking lot of the hatchery.

What a wonderful day we had.  See you all next month for an afternoon harvesting and processing willow, and much more!

It was a good day!

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