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Top 5 Edible Plants – Found in Your Own Backyard! Presented by Trackers Northwest

When most people think of foraging, they imagine long days in the wilderness and tediously searching through miles of forest and foliage. However, edible plants can be found right in your own backyard. Here is a list of five commonly occurring plants that are safe for human consumption.

Dandelions: Most people think of them as pesky weeds, but dandelions can be eaten raw, steamed, or sautéed, and added to salads or stir-fries.

Clover: Full of protein, clover is a great addition to any vegetarian dish. The dried flowers and seeds can also be ground and made into flour.

Violets: Like dandelions, violets make a great addition to salads, and can also be used to add extra sweetness to desserts.

Pine: The needles of pine trees can be candied, eaten raw, or made into a tea.

Yarrow: This plant can also be made into tea and is believed to have medicinal value. It is used by some as an astringent, an anti-inflammatory, and a digestive aid.

About Trackers Northwest:

Trackers Northwest is an organization that supports traditional ways of living, and offers a wide range of workshops and courses that focus on skills such as foraging and tracking.

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Trackers Northwest Offers Summer Camps for 2013

Parents in Portland, Oregon, looking for nature-based activities for their children may want to check out the day and overnight summer camps hosted by Trackers Northwest, a company that specializes in outdoor education. The company furnishes adventures appropriate to a wide range of ages. Children between four and 10 years old enroll in the School of Magic, an experience in which participants pursue wizard themed adventures in local parks.

Young people from six to 14 years can join the Stealth, Archery, and Wilderness Survival camp. While there, children learn how to correctly shoot a bow, find their bearings using a compass and the sun, and create their own wilderness shelter, in addition to many other engaging lessons.

Finally, children 10 to 16 years old can enroll in the Apprenticeship of the Blade: Blacksmithing and Martial Arts camp. Besides learning to forge using a hammer and anvil, individuals gain awareness of and respect toward the environment’s natural beauty. Further, campers explore the Niten Ichiryu, a school of swordsmanship founded by Miyamoto Musashi, the famed samurai warrior.

Learn more about the above summer camps as well as classes for adults on the Trackers Northwest website at www.trackerspdx.com.

Five Examples of Edible Wild Plants in Oregon

Foraging wild edible plants can increase knowledge about the local ecology and strengthen connections with nature. Trackers Northwest offers a class on plant taxonomy with hands-on instruction in identifying wild edible and medicinal plants. Here are five examples of wild edible plants found in Oregon.

Morels are substantial mushrooms that grow in Oregon’s forests. Most abundant in the spring, morels grow best in logged out or burned areas. These mushrooms must NOT be eaten raw.

Fiddleheads are the edible new growth of ferns. Fiddleheads are found in moist, shady areas. It is best to gather the youngest fern fronds, which have curled-up heads. They taste like asparagus with a similar texture. Fiddleheads may be boiled or steamed, but they are especially delicious sautéed in butter.

Dandelions grow in a wide range of terrain, and foragers should look for them in cultivated areas. The entire plant is edible raw. Younger leaves are the least bitter and should be picked before the plant’s flowers have formed. Many people boil these greens, particularly the older leaves. Dandelions provide ample vitamin A and C and the mineral potassium. Additionally, a serving of these greens provides the equivalent of calcium as a half cup of milk.

Nettles (or stinging nettles) grow in moist soil in a variety of areas: the plains, foothills, and mountain regions. Foragers should protect their hands from the stinging needles by wearing gloves. Nettles may be consumed raw, but to avoid stinging, they are best when boiled or steamed. Nettles have a high vitamin content, and cooks often add them to soups.

Elderflowers are found on the blue elderberry tree. These fragrant flowers bloom from spring into early summer. The petals are gathered to infuse their sweet scent in syrups, spirits, and cream.

About Trackers Northwest: Established in 2004, Trackers Northwest offers outdoor education programs and organized outdoor activities in Oregon and Northern California for all age groups. Since 1992, founder Tony Deis has taught and developed outdoor learning education programs in conjunction with other Oregon institutions.

The Value of Outdoor Learning for Youth

At Trackers Northwest, the experienced staff teaches youth practical skills for outdoor activities, such as camping and adventure treks. Moreover, these outdoor learning classes help youngsters understand the interrelationship between the ecology of the land and its inhabitants.

Research indicates that outdoor learning contributes to improved physical health, enhances learning, increases interpersonal skills, and promotes overall well-being.

Children involved in outdoor learning increase their physical activity and fitness, and these habits extend into adulthood. Activities within green space reduce crime activities and help children focus. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) show a decrease in symptoms.

Outdoor learning programs have been shown to increase problem-solving skills and promote creative thinking. Students in programs such as Trackers Northwest perform better academically, as measured by grade point averages and test performance. Additionally, these students are less likely to show disruptive classroom behavior. Furthermore, students in outdoor learning programs demonstrate greater enthusiasm for learning.

Youth who participate in outdoor learning activities show improved perceptions about themselves and demonstrate stronger interpersonal skills. Studies find that children in these programs express emotional stability, assertiveness, self-reliance, motivation, and maturity. These youth demonstrate social competence through cooperative behaviors and effective interpersonal communication skills.

Finally, outdoor learning programs also help children learn important lifestyle skills. When youth have opportunities to interact with nature, they are more inclined to develop ethics concerning environmental sustainability and conservation and to participate in recycling and volunteer activities.

About Trackers Northwest: Since 2004, Trackers Northwest has conducted urban learning programs, youth summer camps, and outdoor adventure programs in Oregon and Northern California. Founders Molly and Tony Deis emphasize the importance of family and community building within Trackers Northwest programs. Prior to starting Trackers Northwest, Tony Deis taught outdoor education and designed programs in collaboration with Greenspaces, the Audubon Society of Portland, Portland State University, and Metro Regional Parks.

Wilderness Preparedness for Families Presented by the Staff of Trackers Northwest

A family-owned and -operated camping and outdoor education program based in Portland, Oregon, Trackers Northwest works with the goal of connecting children and adults more closely to nature. Before you start out into the woods for your own camping trip, educate yourself and prepare carefully. Below are a couple of lists to help you go safely into the wilderness.

What to pack:

-Bottled water (or a water filter or water treatment system)
-Non-perishable food supplies
-Waterproof, sturdy tent
-Sleeping bags
-Flashlight and additional batteries
-First aid kit containing gauze and adhesive bandages, tape, antiseptic, tweezers, an ice pack, and painkillers
-Insect repellent
-Map of the region
-Global positioning system (GPS) device or compass
-Signaling devices
-Sewing kit
-Cell phone (though service may not be constant, depending on your location)
-Whistle or personal alarm
-Dynamo-powered radio
-Waterproof matches
-Weather-appropriate clothing, socks, and rain gear
-Sunscreen and sunglasses
-Knife

Part of being safe is simply exercising common sense. Here are some common sense tips:

1. Don’t walk down a trail alone, and have a communication device with you at all times. Be aware of uneven ground, temperature extremes, poisonous plants, and poison ivy in the area.

2. Keep your tent zipped and secured, and seal your food tightly to keep the smell from attracting animals.

3. Turn off your flashlight before you go inside the tent so that you don’t attract bugs inside with you. Check your family and animals for ticks daily. If you are very sensitive to insects, camp far away from water.

4. Don’t allow a child to start a fire, and make sure a responsible adult watches the fire until it is put out. When you leave the campsite, pour water or earth on the fire and make sure it is completely extinguished.

5. To put it simply: Be wary of approaching wildlife too closely.

A little attention to details like these can ensure that your family will be excited about enjoying another outdoor vacation again soon.

Lava Cast Forest: Scenic Beauty and Ancient Setting Presented by Trackers Northwest

Based in Portland, Oregon, Trackers Northwest has provided camping experiences and wilderness education to children and families since 2004. The Deis family founded Trackers with the goal of fostering an increased feeling of connection with the natural world. Here are a few of their insights on one of the most fascinating outdoor experiences in Oregon.

Lava Cast Forest, accessible near the town of Bend off Highway 97, offers a hike through a lava flow that dates back some 6,000 years. The Newberry Volcano spewed a blast of lava that burned out a series of trees whose outlines are now encased in the stone formed when the lava cooled. The casts left behind by these trees sometimes go several feet down into the earth, surrounded by Indian paintbrush and other new plant growth on the surface. The view from the trail also winds through black and red cinder cones, waterfalls, streams, lakes, caves, and other stand-out natural features.

Lava Cast Forest is a part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, established by the U.S. Congress just over 20 years ago. Visitors can enjoy a paved, one-mile-long, self-guided trail tour. Be sure to dress warmly and wear sturdy footwear.

Are You Chicken?

Given our focus on homesteading, among other land and community-based activities, we at Trackers Northwest are naturally delighted that so many Portland residents are taking advantage of city bylaws and keeping chickens alongside their beans and compost bins. If you have been thinking of starting a coop of your own, here are a few things for you to consider.

1.    Available space. Chickens will need both a coop and a run to provide shelter from the elements and protection from predators. The coop, where the birds sleep and nest, needs a roof and should be at least four by four feet. The run, for eating and exercising, should be a minimum of four by eight feet with six-foot fencing.
2.    Cost. Average start up costs, including the coop and run as well as the chicks themselves, are about $500. From there, monthly costs for maintaining three chickens are $40-$50.
3.    Time investment. If they are properly cared for, chickens can live for up to 14 years!
4.    Neighbors. In the spirit of community, it may be a good idea to let your neighbors know that you are planning to keep chickens. If they are interested, a group coop construction day could be a great community-building event, and allow everyone to feel invested in the project.

Trackers Northwest runs outdoor camps and programs in the Portland area designed to teach adults and children about nature and community. Several Homesteading Crafts courses are offered throughout the year.