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Posts Tagged ‘health’

It’s a sad sign of our times that children are spending less and less time playing outdoors in nature.  The lure of technology, busy lives and a lack of natural spaces are often blamed for this trend, but there’s really no excuse.  All technology has an off switch, lives can be made simpler and, even in the city, there are usually parks or wayside spaces nearby.

It’s easy to get a child to spend a sunny summer day at the beach, but other seasons and outdoor settings seldom have the same pull.  The hassle of getting a child dressed for the winter cold can be discouraging, but the health benefits alone are worth the effort.

Feet dangling over a brook

As a mother of three and grandmother of two, I’ve seen for myself the benefits of getting children one-on-one with nature. Confronted with the majesty of the great outdoors, a child quickly realizes that they’re not the center of the universe. Bad moods are quickly abandoned as the focus shifts to the natural world, whether in the form of a sunset, a forest or a daisy.

Years ago, while homeschooling my sons, I saw how going outdoors allowed them to burn off energy while refreshing their minds from a morning of book work. As a preschool teacher I see how 3 to 5 year olds delight in simply running and jumping outdoors and are thrilled at the discovery of a squirrel or pinecone in their surroundings.

However, over the years, I’ve also seen children too unaccustomed to the outdoors shrink back at the touch of evergreen needles and wince at the sunshine.  It doesn’t have to be this way.   Every child has the potential to be comfortable in nature.  Some may even find their better selves there. 

This post is the first in a series aimed at getting children outdoors.  Next time, I’ll offer an easy way to get a resistant child interested regardless of the season.

Text and photos copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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What’s in a name?  That which we call a lingonberry
 By any other name would be as healthy.
~ William Shakesberry

Cowberries grow in Cow Bay.  Of course they do, you say.  Where else would cowberries grow?  Well, in a lot of places actually.  They’re found in most countries located in the circumpolar expanse that encompasses the arctic tundra and the sub-arctic regions of the boreal forest (known as the taiga in Russia).  Vaccinium vitis-idaea goes by a number of names:  partridgeberry, foxberry, redberry, lingonberry, quail berry, csejka berry, mountain bilberry, mountain cranberry, lowbush cranberry and… cowberry.

Regardless of what it is called, this tart red berry is brimming full of anti-oxidants.  Native peoples and Scandinavians have known this for some time, but North Americans are just catching up on the news, making the lingonberry the new superstar natural food recommended for lowering bad cholesterol and fighting cancer.

Dr. Oz puts lingonberries in a smoothie with almond milk while Scandinavians (even IKEA) and Newfoundlanders make them into a jam/preserve which can be spread on toast or served with venison, ideally reindeer meat.  However, I enjoy the berries fresh off the vine, their flavor being a blend of blueberry and cranberry.  Frost enhances their flavor but makes them more mushy.  I also find them tasty crushed fresh and sprinkled with sugar as a topping for vanilla ice-cream.

This evergreen vine often grows in boggy places.  The ones I found were on or near deadfall trees in locations many would consider scrub wastelands.  As old growth forests on the edge of wetlands are destroyed to make way for new  ‘developments,’ I’m sure these wonderful berries will become less common here in Cow Bay Nova Scotia, and consequently even more prized for their healthful properties.

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It’s not unusual to find tangled seaweeds and seagrasses on Nova Scotia’s beaches.  Irish moss, sugar kelp, rockweed and eelgrass are all common finds.  Loosened from their strongholds, they are often washed onto the beaches by the waves at high tide, appearing either individually or with others in the strandline.

On this small stone beach in Cow Bay, there is often a narrow strip of seaweed.  However, what I found this week was far from ordinary.  A massive heap of seaweed consisting mostly of the brown variety lay in a distinct mound on the shore.  The heap appeared a few feet high in some spots.  Thrown onto the beach during our recent stormy weather, this is the thickest stack of seaweed I’ve ever seen over my years of visiting our local beaches. 

Though seaweed is growing in popularity as a health food in the western world, and has traditionally been used by gardeners for fertilizing the soil, this mound will likely be on the beach for some time.  As it’s so thick, the seaweed probably won’t have a chance to dry out during low tide.  Despite the cold weather, kelp flies were swarming around the already rotting mass when I took these photos on Wednesday.

Seaweed scattered along Conrad Beach near Lawrencetown in November

Last month, Em of Diabetes Dialogue, offered some excellent information pertaining to the health benefits of seaweed:

“As I understand it, all seaweeds are edible, but they must be gathered from pollution free waters. http://www.ryandrum.com will give you good information and Dr. Ryan Drum, PhD is a professional person who is well acquainted with both coasts.

The Maine Sea Vegetables link on my post will also be helpful for you, as what grows in the Bay of Fundy likely grows on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore, at least to some degree.

Ryan says that not all seaweeds taste good, in the sense that some are very strong textures. The ones eaten by Native Americans, Europeans and Asians tend to be versions of the same species. Interesting, eh?

But, as I understand it, barring any natural or man-made pollution, you should be safe in collecting fresh seaweed — now, navigating the coastal rocks is another matter!

Ryan explains how to “harvest” and not kill the plant, which is critical as, evidently from about the 1980s onward, commercial businesses have been using Norwegian mechanical harvesters, all over the world, to indiscriminately “rape” the ocean. Whole species have “disappeared” and are at or near extinction just in order to show up as “organic” and “regular” fertilizer or be used in Caribbean natural-Viagra drinks (these species were over-harvested by hand). How incredibly maddening!

Dr. Drum says we need to demand laws to stop all this over-harvesting and to encourage marine farming of seaweed, as is done in parts of Japan, on strings or on matted net.

Why can’t business use the less-invasive technology, first?! I hate to think how much damage these companies have wrought, unabated. So Drum says that Maine is threatening a 5 year moratorium on all seaweed harvesting, which would be devastating to the responsible hand harvesters, who in a year probably don’t take as much as a mechanized harvester does in a day or so.

Anyway, as your estuary and possibly coastal area, seems quiet, maybe you can learn more and safely harvest your own.

As far as health is concerned, the more I read, the more I see that this primal plant, which has supported all Life, from it’s inception, is truly the most nourishing plant we could use everyday.”

For more information on using seaweed for fertilizing gardens, see Anne’s post on Winter Gardening at Nova Scotia Island Journal.

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autumn through living room window

Sometimes, even when sunny skies beckon, we still have to stay indoors.  Sometimes it’s because there’s house or office work to be done.  Other times, it’s because we’re sick.  Such is the case with me this week with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

From behind glass, there’s still much to see of nature outside.  Trees continue to change colour and some of the vines on the house have turned red and pink.  They adorn the edges of the living room window.  There’s no time like the present to appreciate them as the wind will soon blow them all away.  In the summer months, they make drapes in the window unnecessary and bring nature’s colours up close.

second storey vines

Vines can also be seen from one of the second storey windows.  Although their colours are still bright through the screen, they’re even prettier seen from the outdoors, as in the photo taken on the weekend. 

leaves through front door windowSilhouettes of leaves can be seen trembling in the wind through the glass of the front door’s window as well.  By the time witches and goblins show up at the door in a couple of weeks, they’ll be all gone.

I’ve been so accustomed to stepping outdoors several times a day.  There is something about fresh air and sunshine that makes us feel better just by being outdoors. 

So why do we tend to stay in when we’re sick?  I wonder if perhaps we would recover more quickly outdoors.  The challenge would be to not engage in too much tiring activity. 

From the kitchen window I can see a large snowshoe hare that’s decided to come close.  Its ears are perked and it’s sitting just below the window, posed perfectly still for a photograph.   Sometimes, when you can’t go out into nature, nature knows, and comes to you.

hare from window

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