See also A Call of The Wild, published in Kindred, issue 22, June 07
Naturalist Koa Windsong says bush lore is a way to help children feel connected to their world.
Why is it so important to help our children to connect with nature? This question says a lot about our current human society. Have we gone so far from the natural world that we as parents have to contemplate such a question? Maybe first we should ask what kind of person do we want to support our children to grow up to be?
Like most parents you probably would like your child to grow into a creative, respectful, compassionate, happy and healthy human. I’m sure you are already making choices every day to facilitate that dream. Like choosing cotton over plastic, real foods over junk foods, we intuitively know natural is better for our children. It is hardwired into us and every living thing to live in balance with nature. In fact, it’s not only the children that need to connect with nature but all of us.
So how do we help our children to interact with the natural world and not be consumed by the virtual reality of the digital age? Take the initiative and interact with nature. Grow a garden. No room? Then grow a sprout garden. My family had a ‘family patch’ and each child had their own patch. People would ask me, ‘How did you get all of your children to love vegetables?’ When a child prepares the soil, plants the seed, weeds and waters, they experience the miracle of life. Then when they harvest with heart and hands they are thrilled to eat it!
My grandmother taught me the whole earth is a garden and I passed that knowledge to my children. They learned all the wild foods and medicines and how to harvest them respectfully. This gave them incredible confidence in the bush. The child that has an intimate relation to nature will grow into a happy, healthy, self-empowered human.
Bush tucker is Australian terminology for the huge variety of herbs, spices, mushrooms, fruits, flowers, vegetables, animals, birds, reptiles and insects that are native to the country.
The Aborigines have been eating bush tucker for 50,000 years. It is said that in colonial times the pioneering white settlers who learned about local foods from Aborigines and utilised this knowledge fared much better than others who did not. But to many white people the plants are still a mystery. Becoming knowledgeable about the tasty foods available from the earth and in the wild gives children an important sense of belonging to the whole.
A special note from Koa — never eat anything in the wild unless you are sure it is edible. Also, when in the bush, use a long walking stick (parents: making a walking stick together is a great activity). Not only does it help support you over uneven terrain, it frightens snakes away. Snakes cannot hear, but feel the vibration of walking and rustling. If you thud the stick down in front of you as you walk, any snakes in the area will quickly move off.