Home Is Where the Heart Is
This is a guest post by Alicia Owen--mother, teacher, and homesteader!
My husband John and I started pursuing our dream of country living about three and a half years ago when we moved to rural south-central Indiana. Like many others with dreams of homesteading, we wanted to raise our own food, veggies, and animals alike. We absolutely loathed having neighbors close by, as John and I both relish quiet and solitude (ironic since we have three crazy girls age 6 and under). My husband and I also played outside frequently as children and wanted the same childhood for our own kids. I could go on about all the reasons we chose to move to the country, as I'm sure you can imagine. While we knew we would be surrounded by nature and be able to enjoy it any time, I admit that is one aspect we now take for granted; let me explain.
I have been actively trying to learn to identify more trees and plants over the past few years. My six-year-old can tell you which tree is a redbud and which butterfly is a Red Admiral, and my three-year-old gets excited over "honeybirds" or hummingbirds. My point is that homesteading has really opened our eyes to all of the wonderful things the Hoosier wilderness has to offer. Because of that, we have all developed a more meaningful and educational relationship with nature. We have learned so much (and continue to learn) about the cool things to do and see since living out in the boonies. Birds are one of my favorite things. My bird feeder collection seems to be ever-growing, but don't worry. It's not so bad that I'm throwing off any migration patterns...yet. I love most of the birds we have hanging around and am always looking for ways to draw new ones near! However, I don't love the bullying invasive ones, such as the English house sparrows. Large flocks will run native species off! Cowbirds (who seem to be the evilest) lay their eggs in bluebird nests, which kill the adopted siblings and running the poor bluebird parent ragged.
Speaking of invasive species, I have learned more about detrimental plants and insects species. I despise the emerald ash borer after seeing the effects of these nasty little creatures. You may remember the upswing in warnings against planting the invasive type of milkweed several years ago. At the time, I thought, what could be bad about having more plants to help the Monarch butterfly populations? That was before we had a whole mess of it pop up next to our chicken fence last year that went wild. Butterflies are my favorite thing, especially the Monarchs, but this vining milkweed was choking out so many other plants that other butterflies and insects rely on. There are so many learning opportunities, not just for us, but for our kids too. We homeschool our kids, so we do lots of nature projects, arts, and crafts. Catching animals is great fun during the warm months, of course. I currently have plants to set up tree identification tags in our woods, for mine and the kid's benefit. I even went as far as to make up my own butterfly identification game for them last year, as they've graduated past the whole life cycle lesson. We usually have to bribe them to come inside, even during winter! Our bird feeders are located right outside of our living room and kitchen windows, so we get some enjoyment in the morning and practice identifying them. The girls love listening to bird calls on the Cornell Ornithology Lab website as well.
"Go play outside" doesn't have to be a punishment...
Do you have to live in the country to enjoy all of these things? Absolutely not! Take advantage of what you can, even if it's taking a walk to your local park or visiting your nearest nature preserve or state park when you're able. As far as I'm concerned, we can never have enough stewards for the environment. Why not start with ourselves or our families? To have an appreciation for and deeper connection to nature, we must immerse ourselves in it with a hands-on attitude. If we care about something, we will care about its future.
As a final note, have you heard about the #ThisFamilyCares initiative? Specifically for Hoosiers, you can visit their website to learn about their mission and discover ways you can leave less off a carbon footprint and live healthier lives!