It’s almost Screen-Free Week and here in Western PA it couldn’t have come at a better time! It’s FINALLY getting warm, morels are just popping up, cheery dandelions are everywhere, and bird migration is getting into full swing - tons of songbirds are making their way back to and through the area! Here are Food Under Foot’s outdoorsy, nature-oriented suggestions for keeping you so busy you won’t even miss your tv/computer/social media!
Here are sojme ideas for ways to spend your screen free week from Food Under Foot. It’s what we’ll be doing this week!
1. Go Camping
We absolutely LOVE camping here at Food Under Foot - especially during morel (and dryad’s saddle) season! Last year we stayed in a yurt at Keystone State Park, where in addition to roasting morels over the fire we watched an osprey catch a fish in the lake, watched a hawk catch its dinner on land (both birds of prey flew their catches up into a tree just feet from the yurt to eat!), saw lots of colorful migrating songbirds flitting around in the woods, watched the gazillions of frogs and even took a dip in the lake!
Dryad's Saddle, An Edible Polypore Mushroom
2. Forage for Mushrooms/Hike with a local mushroom group
It’s morel season! If you are not sure how to identify this mushroom, look into going on a hike with your local mushroom group. If you live in Western PA, you are lucky enough to have the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Group nearby, if you don’t, check the North American Mycological Association for a group near you.
3. Have an Afternoon Tea, with Dandelion Tea Cake
Dandelions are easy to come by this time of year! Pick lots of the flowers from an unsprayed area away from the roadside, and follow this recipe for delicious Dandelion Tea Cake.
Dandelion Tea Cake
4. Go for a Bike Ride
Bike trails are great ways to see the country side! Here in Pittsburgh we are lucky enough to have the Great Allegheny Passage Rails for Trails, which goes along rivers and cuts through woods and countrysides, weaving through bike towns. Bring your camera to photograph all the lovely native wildflowers, such as trillium, which are in bloom right now.
Native Wildflower - White Trillium
5. Go Birding
Bird migration is in full swing! Check out your local Audubon, they are likely having weekly bird walks these days! Or just grab some binoculars and a bird guide book and head out to the river or the woods (or the feeder in your yard!) If you don’t have a bird feeder in your yard, you can make one out of pinecones, peanut butter and seeds, or use an old milk container.
Robin Making A Nest
6. Nature Journaling
Foraging is fun, but sometimes I like to head out with a sketchbook and pencils or watercolors and capture my experience on paper. This is a great way to hone your observation and identification skills, and get to know plants, mushrooms and animals a lot better. You don’t have to be an artist, just brave and adventurous!
7. Write…about Nature
Write a handwritten letter to someone, write a story, write a journal entry and if you need a prompt: write about the nature you have been observing this week, and your experience of being screen-free.
8. Read a book with great nature writing.
Some of my favorite include:
Elizabeth Enright: Gone Away Lake, Return to Gone Away Lake, The Four Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five….well, just anything by Elizabeth Enright!
The Penderwicks in Spring, Jeanne Birdsall
Walden Pond, Thoreau
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
Red Tails in Love, Marie Winn
9. Cartoon Chronicle Your Experience of Screen Free Week
10. Go Foraging, of course!
Here are some things that are up right now where we are:
- dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
- morel mushrooms, Morchella
- dryad’s saddle mushrooms, Polyporus squamosus
- garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
- onion grass/wild chives
- deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
- stinging nettles, Urtica dioica
- ground ivy, (Glechoma hederacea)
- Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum, or Fallopia japonica)
- fiddleheads (please harvest sustainably!!)
- ramps (sustainably, please!)
- wild ginger (sustainably!)
- burdock, Arctium
- mullein (medicinal)
- motherwort (medicinal)
- catnip (medicinal) (Nepita cataria)
- broad-leaf dock
- yellow dock, (Rumex crispus)
- violet, (Viola)
- wild asparagus
- winter cress (yellow rocket), Barbarea
- chickweed (Stellaria media)
- plantain (Plantago major and P. lanceolatata)
- cleavers (Galium aparine)
- Redbud Flowers (Cercis canadensis)
11. Make Dandelion Wine
Why not? There are plenty of dandelions out there. You can use our Dandelion Wine recipe. And while you’re at it, read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. If you’re not into wine, you can try your hand at Dandelion Fritters, served with maple syrup.
These suggestions should keep you busy and happy and not even missing the tv or computer screen!
Have fun, and if you have other suggestions please post them below.
See you on the flip side!
~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot