Thursday, 24 October 2013

Club Day. The Nature Version.

I knew that neglecting to clean out the corn from our garden was a wonderful choice.  All summer and so far this fall it has stood guarding our potato patch and our back yard.  I loved coming around the corner and seeing all those long green leaves swaying back and forth in the breeze.  I loved the sound of the leaves rustling together.  I loved the splash of green colour it gave to an otherwise boring fence.

But we kept it in late for a reason.  Two meetings ago, Nature Club read the book We All Gather Together.  It describes the autumnal equinox and how various cultures celebrate the harvest at this time of year.  One such celebration is Sukkot, an eight-day festival of thanksgiving celebrated by the Jewish culture.  Often, a sukkah - a hut built by Jewish farmers in their fields so they could be close to their crops - is built and decorated with fruits and vegetables. 

Sometime between that meeting and now, I read an article in the Fall 2013 edition of Living Education magazine that described building a sukkah.  Hmmm, I thought.  That could be an interesting project that could tie in nicely with some of the other celebrations we could organize to honour the seasons.  But the actual instructions for how to build that particular sukkah felt a bit daunting.

Fast forward about a week.  My family was hiking around on a local hiking trail.  And what did we find?  A little fort built quite simply with fallen branches.  It didn't make much of an impression on me at the time, except that it was a cute little hideout for little ones in the woods.

Eventually, the two ideas came together.  What if we made a little Nature Club hideaway?  We could use our old, dried corn stalks for the walls and the longest piece of wood in our garage for the center beam.

Fast forward today.  We briefly reviewed the Sukkot celebration and I showed them the picture of Astrin and Jaelyn in the fort in the woods.  "Have you made one of these before?" someone asked.  "Nope, but we'll figure it out" was my response. 

We tromped outside after our snack, armed with a pitchfork and a couple of spades.  We worked together to pry the corn out of the cold damp ground and made a huge pile of definitely looked like a pile that would be fun to jump in, save the cement sidewalk lurking not too far underneath. 

Then we hauled the stalks over to the spot in our yard that Jaelyn and I had chosen earlier...a spot that would hopefully stand up to the elements until at least the next meeting.  A spot where the branches we wedged the end of our wood between would be high enough for people to duck into comfortably, and also wide enough to have seating for more than two.  We alternated the stalks as we stacked them - one on the left, followed by one on the right of the beam - and the leaves naturally tangled themselves so we didn't need to lash the stalks and the beam together (at least not yet...we'll see how it's doing in the morning). 

Once the space was nice and cozy, the Clubbers began to decorate and make it just right...the spot for the fire circle was created...any leaves on the inside of their hut were cut away...the tassels of the corn were cut off and gathered into bouquets to scatter around the hut.

And that was where Nature Club played for the rest of the meeting. 

Eventually, Nature Club was over, yet my children continued to enjoy the outside space that was created, expanding it to fit their needs.  They insisted upon eating outside, equipped with homemade flashlights (courtesy of a recent Cub Scouts meeting), camaraderie, and toques and mitts too, of course.

I certainly hope this little hidey-hole we created lasts for a while!  Thanks Nature Club for a bit of fun, and for helping stretch those corn stalks out just a wee bit longer!

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