Earthroots Field School https://earthrootsfieldschool.org Deepening our Connections with Nature Tue, 10 Dec 2019 18:33:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shane’s Corner – November 2019 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/12/10/shanes-corner-november-2019/6371/ Tue, 10 Dec 2019 18:27:45 +0000 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=6371 Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Join Shane for a 2-hour casual wander observing the flora and fauna of Big Oak Canyon on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
*See schedule for dates and times
Second Tuesdays of the month will be focused on plants, and fourth Tuesdays will be focused on birds and animal tracks and sign.

November brought a sharp shift from summer to winter, as the weather changed from dry Santa Ana winds to the first soaking rains that brought the first sprouts, and a ton of snow in the mountains higher up!

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

This picture tells the story of November. The wild oats were dry and golden from the dry summer, then came the Santa Ana Winds that knocked them over, then the rains which left droplets along the stem. Soon the rains of winter will turn them gray and bring up the new sprouts.
The acorns are on, and ready for harvest!
These miniature persimmons have been a treat for students at Big Oak!
We had a couple of workdays on our cob bench and are close to completion! Made of all-natural materials, it has cob (mud and straw) covered by lime plaster. Designs in this Story Bench include a sun, niches for hidden treasures, a mountain lion, bird, mountains, and oak trees.
Participants layer lime plaster on cob bench.
Lime plaster drying on the cob bench.

Projects and Discoveries

The old septic system at Big Oak had a lot of mysteries to uncover! Here, we’re repairing a broken section of the pipes, and soon we will be installing a real bathroom that connects to it! Donate to help finish this project so we can upgrade to a nice bathroom!
I had the amazing opportunity to spend two weeks at doing the Permaculture Design Course at Quail Springs, which is about 2 hours inland from Santa Barbara. I learned so much about designing efficient and holistic systems of human settlement that help repair the Earth by harmonizing with natural patterns! Here’s a view of “downtown” Quail Springs.
Even the goat pens at Quail Springs were beautifully made and blend in with the hillside.

Trivia Questions

Answers for last month:

What do tarantula hawk wasps eat?
The larvae eat tarantulas, but the adults can be seen feeding on flowers.

Why can fossils of sea creatures be found so far inland in the mountains?
The ocean used to extend much farther over the land, and Big Oak was underwater!

What color dye can you get from walnut husks?
It can be made various shades from light to very dark brown

What is a building material that is fire-proof, natural, insulative, sturdy, cheap, and can be shaped into any form imaginable?
Cob!

This Month’s Questions:

What are the two species of oak found at Big Oak Canyon?

What is the plant at Big Oak that has bright red berries at this time of year, looks like holly, and has leaves that can be boiled into a tea that tastes like cherries?

What kind of small, slow-moving animal at Big Oak emerges from the ground when the rain begins in fall or winter?

Where is the easiest place to store rain water, and how do you do it?

Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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Survival Skills: Food https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/11/14/survival-skills-training/5446/ Fri, 15 Nov 2019 01:46:53 +0000 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=5446 It was the fourth day of my survival skills training & we were on the topic of food. Lessons ranged from trapping & skinning animals to leaching and cooking acorns. Our instructor, Tom Brown Jr., described how the notches on the traps had to be cut at precise angles, exact dimensions and of certain materials. His strict adherence to each skill was based on experience, having lived many seasons of his life depending on that which he found in and created from the woods. This knowledge has influenced people around the world through his books, trainings and special missions. Tom Brown Jr. knows his stuff. He told stories of training navy seals, assisting police in finding lost children in the wilderness, and finding a diabetic lost wandering in the desert. Every story was better than the last. I was on the edge of my seat taking rigorous notes.

Grinding and leaching acorns.

But his gentle side came out as well. There were two times during that week, where this strong man welled up with tears describing moments that touched him deeply.  One was when he recounted a time that he found a child who had been lost, the other was sharing when he received a letter from a college student who said that Tom had saved her life. I’ll summarize the way he described the letter from that student here.

In the letter, the student shared how she had attended this same course that I was taking many years ago. And on the “food day”, she commented to the class that she didn’t eat meat and wanted to skip out on the lecture about skinning animals and preparing their meat for food. He gave her permission to leave if she wanted to, but included “this could save your life one day”, and so she stayed. He went over how to skin a squirrel, how to separate the meat from the intestines, which parts are edible and various ways to prepare it for food.

In her letter, she explained to Tom about a research  trip to Alaska in a remote area where they had to be flown in on small planes. The research trip was for her and another student in her program. They had flown in all their research equipment, food, camping gear and computers. They stayed out for 2 weeks, and when they were finished with their work, the plane came to pick them up. Once loaded, the plant was too heavy to return with all of the gear and passengers. So, she opted to stay behind for a few hours until the second plane could come out and pick her up. During that window of time, a storm blew in and she was hunkered down until it passed, knowing the plane could not fly in those conditions. The day turned into night, and the storm continued. So she fixed dinner and got some sleep.

Tom recounted the letter and continued… The storm pressed on. Another day, another night, and her food supply was running low. She rationed what she had, but finally it ran out. She was camping in a blizzard, in the middle of nowhere, without knowing long it would last for. She was hungry and scared. Then, there was movement under her tent, a mouse had found it’s way burrowing up through the ground beneath her. She never thought that she would ever kill an animal, but she was desperate and with one motion hit the movement beneath her tent with her shoe. She ate the mouse, and it sustained her until the storm cleared and she was picked up. Just like Tom promised in the lecture years prior, knowing how to process an animal saved her life. Tom’s tears were connecting with that moment, knowing how we all struggle to do the right thing, and be the right person. But at the end of the day, we are all just trying to survive.

I share this story with you today because animal processing is not a commonly discussed topic, yet one that is interwoven to human life throughout our ancestral lineages. I welcome you to read more on Shane’s upcoming class Using the Whole Animal, and perhaps add a new survival skill to your life.

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Shane’s Corner- October 2019 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/11/03/shanes-corner-october-2019/5081/ Mon, 04 Nov 2019 05:22:28 +0000 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=5081 Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

Here’s a peek at what some of the animals and plants at Big Oak Canyon are up to this fall.

October was marked by several days of dry, gusty Santa Ana winds, big swings in temperature, and the return of the wintering birds, like hermit thrushes, kinglets, and juncos! Days are getting short, nights are getting chilly, the land is parched, and the leaves are falling off the elm trees. Forest kindergarten sang rain songs for the rain to arrive soon!


Spanish Immersion class got to harvest potatoes and black walnuts, and plant cempasuchil in celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
(Photo by Karina Ducoulombier)
Some marine fossils dug up while excavating pipes
A honeybee visits sagebrush flowers
A tarantula hawk wasp visits English ivy flowers

Projects and Discoveries:

Little helpers clear the road after big winds knocked down tree limbs

Trivia Questions:

Last Month’s Trivia:
Why did the scorpion cross the road?
Because a road was built across where it lives

What medicine was first derived from willow bark?
acetylsalicylic acid (aka aspirin)

What do the roots of alder trees do for the soil?
They are nitrogen fixers, meaning the excrete nitrogen compounds into the soil.

What is the name of the insect commonly found eating the insides of acorns? The acorn weevil is the most common insect found eating acorns, and their larvae are called grubs.

This Month’s Trivia:
What do tarantula hawk wasps eat?

Why can fossils of sea creatures be found so far inland in the mountains?

What color dye can you get from walnut husks?

What is one building material that is fire-proof, natural, insulative, sturdy, cheap, and can be shaped into any form imaginable? 

Blog post written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.


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Instructor Highlight – Kat Cobb https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/10/11/instructor-highlight-kat-cobb/4528/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:43:12 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=4528 Meet Mrs. Kat, Earthroots’ new Program Director, Homeschool Field Class lead instructor, and Eco-Literacy instructor at the Journey School.

Mrs. Kat finds joy being a mentor to children, young adults, and other teachers in nature-connection, farm to table cooking, horticulture, confidence and safety in nature, and environmental science.

The last 5 years of teaching with Earthroots and the Journey School as the Earthroots’ eco-literacy teacher has been such a gift and fueled Mrs. Kat to learn. She has taken multiple 8 Shields trainings and received a permaculture design certificate to deepen her knowledge and ability to care for the Earth.

Thank you for all that you do at Earthroots, Mrs. Kat!

Interview with Mrs. Kat:

What is your role at Earthroots (classes taught, other responsibilities)?

I am fortunate enough to teach the Homeschool Field Class as lead instructor. Our students range in age 6-14 the past years and my class this year will be 7-14. The class runs for 32 weeks of the school year, broken up to 2 semesters. 

Happily, I also teach Earthroots Eco-Literacy curriculum at the Journey School 2 days a week throughout the school year grades K-5. 

My newest role at Earthroots is Program Director. I mentor adults that come to our program to learn how to be nature-connection teachers. Working with them is a highlight for me. Knowing that I can inspire children in nature is wonderful, but helping other people become nature-connection teachers makes me feel like this work is being spread like wildfire to many more kids that I can’t get to. Nature-connection is making our world and children’s lives better, richer, and with a deeper understanding of what is of value and why we should protect it. Life, water, air, and food all need to be clean so that all of the world’s creatures can thrive. Earthroots has a rich pool of teachers each with amazing gifts to share with our students. Seeing their ideas take shape and influence students of all ages to have a deep understanding of the natural world in English and Spanish, in all ecosystems, is truly awe-inspiring. My love of Earthroots and what we bring to our local communities is endless.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to support our teachers and programs and in turn, all of our students in learning, growing and passing on these ideals that we as an Earthroots community hold dear. 

What is your favorite memory from working at Earthroots?

I have many! This school year learning what my students know about water, watersheds, the ocean and how these bodies of water hold us, was fascinating. Being able to share what I know with them in the garden was extra special. The students not only ate salad they grew, but they also made tomato sauce, herb salt, self-care items including a hand-sewn Mother’s Day sachet filled with the herbs they grew, and more. 

HIking with Homeschool Field Class

Do you have something to share about yourself that would surprise us?

A few years back, I ice climbed Mt. Whitney; it was a free climb (no ropes). One of my most epic adventures ever! That same year I finished the entire John Muir Trail and hope to hike it again in sections with my daughter Hailey. I am also a moderator for the Mt. Whitney Facebook Page and have guided people up and down the tallest mountain in the lower 48 several times.  I have summited the majority of peaks in California many times including Mt. Whitney in every season in day trips and overnight. 

Do you have a mentor/role model that inspires you?  

I have been fortunate to have many mentors over time. I even feel like children are unknowing mentors. They have so much to teach us and remind us of things we once learned and have forgotten. The older I get the more I realize I have to learn. Slowing down and being receptive to it is one of my daily goals.

Why do you enjoy working at Earthroots?

My career for over a decade was as a chef, so for years, I was happily feeding people. Afterward, I became a mother and that was my job full time. As a mother, I noticed a void of learning about nature that I felt was up to me and my husband to fill. Noticing other parents not feeling confident in nature and their kids missing this key component in their lives caused a seismic shift in my career goals. I decided to leave the chef profession and started volunteering as a nature-connection science educator. 

When my kids got older, they did not need me at home full time anymore. I decided with advice from friends and my hubby that I should apply for a job teaching kids outside. I reached out to Jodi (Earthroots Executive Director) and lucky for me, I have been an Earthroots Instructor ever since.

Mrs. Kat backpacking

What are your favorite things to do in nature and what location? 

Backpacking and hiking are all equal loves of my life. I love to be in unedited nature as much as possible. I get a little wacky if I don’t disconnect often. Now that my children are in high school and soon college, it is so cool that they join me in the backcountry on longer hikes and overnight trips. The Sierras hold a special place in my heart!

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Shane’s Corner – September 2019 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/10/01/shanes-corner-september-2019/4252/ Tue, 01 Oct 2019 14:36:28 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=4252 Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Join Shane for a 2-hour casual wander observing the flora and fauna of Big Oak Canyon on second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
*See schedule for dates and times
Second Tuesdays of the month will be focused on plants, and fourth Tuesdays will be focused on birds and animal tracks and sign.

Here at Big Oak Canyon, the month of September has meant the return of chilly nights, the sound of acorns dropping and woodpeckers and jays squawking, the sweet and tantalizing aroma of brickelbush wafting down the canyon at night, the tiptoeing around the hundreds of metamorphosed little frogs, and even the smell of a light rain moistening the earth! Here are some of the highlights from the month.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

In a matter of days, thousands of caterpillars came and turned the leaves to skeletons on many of the alder trees!
A scorpion was crossing the road…
Brickelbush opens its flowers and sends the sweet aroma down the canyon at night.
Tiny chorus frogs are all over the rocks at the creek!
Honey bees are very busy in the elm trees!
California fuchsia shines bright and glistens in the light rain.
A praying mantis sheds his old skin.

Projects and Discoveries

BSA Troop 850 works on a footbridge by the storage shed for an Eagle Scout project.
Almost done with an acorn granary, woven with willow and other plants from the canyon! This project was inspired by the Ipai-style acorn storage basket in the book Survival Skills of Native California, and will hopefully be in use later this fall.
A bobcat strolls by the kitchen, interested in what I’m cooking.

Trivia Questions

Answers for last month:
What skulls were pictured last month? Striped skunk

What two basic categories of things are needed to build a compost pile? Greens (wet and nitrogen-rich) and browns (dry and carbon-rich)

How does a robber fly digest its prey? They inject their prey with a digestive chemical, then suck out their insides.

What animal species was extirpated from Orange County 111 years ago? Grizzly bear

What does tannic acid, used for tanning animal skins, come from? From many kinds of tree bark and oak galls

This Month’s Questions:

Why did the scorpion cross the road?

What medicine was first derived from willow bark?

What do the roots of alder trees do for the soil?

What is the name of the insect that is commonly found eating the insides of acorns?

Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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Shane’s Corner – August 2019 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/09/09/shanes-corner-august-2019/3631/ Mon, 09 Sep 2019 22:48:35 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=3631 Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Join Shane for a 2-hour casual wander observing the flora and fauna of Big Oak Canyon on second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
*See schedule for dates and times
Second Tuesdays of the month will be focused on plants, and fourth Tuesdays will be focused on birds and animal tracks and sign.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

Here’s a peek at what some of the animals and plants at Big Oak Canyon are up to this summer.

Cactus bug (Narnia femorata) on a prickly pear pad
Spider wasp digging a hole in preparation to bury her prey
Acorn woodpecker removing a green acorn from a coast live oak. They have been doing this all month long, usually dropping the acorn to the ground.
Robber fly (Mallophora fautrix) hanging out on the road
Robber fly (Stenopogon californiae) consuming its yellow-jacket prey in the kitchen
Fence lizard hanging out on my foot
Mantisfly (Plega signata
Pacific-slope flycatcher feeding her young
Track of a mountain lion kitten (going towards the top of the page), and a bobcat track in the top left corner (going towards the bottom of the page). I was lucky enough to find and follow the tracks of three mountain lions who passed by the kitchen, through the orchard, and through the chaparral along the slope east of the orchard. From the size, I guess that a mother was traveling with 2 kittens who were 6-8 months old.
Islay, or holly-leaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), the answer to one of last month’s trivia questions. I am eating the ripe fruit, and saving their pits to plant and to teach people how to cook them into a yummy porridge.
Sweetbush (Bebbia juncea) and California Buckwheat offer some late summer color.
Fleabane (Erigeron foliosus
Elderberry and apple juice from the land has been a refreshing late-summer treat.

Projects and Discoveries

Soka University students came out to volunteer and had a great time chopping up cactus and other plants to build a hot compost pile, making our own potting soil, potting up tree seedlings, and clearing ivy.
Raz and I peeled some poles and made progress building a kiosk to go at the central road junction at Big Oak.
I found that one of the springs at Big Oak has a man-made cave that goes about 20 feet back, and has some cool and colorful mud for camouflage!

Trivia Questions

Answers from last month:
What animal at Big Oak makes wide and flat burrows that go into the earth at a shallow angle?
Scorpions make flat burrows that we see at Big Oak.
What planet is right above Scorpio in the evening sky right now?
Jupiter can be seen right above the constellation Scorpio in the current evening sky.
What wild plant with sweet, edible fruits and nuts will be ripening at Big Oak in the month of August?
Islay, or holly-leaf cherry has ripened in August.
How are rattlesnakes different from other snakes in the way they reproduce?
Rattlesnakes give birth to live young as opposed to most snakes, which lay eggs.

For this month:

What animal’s skull is pictured above?

What two basic categories of things are needed to build a compost pile?

How does a robber fly digest its prey?

What animal species was extirpated from Orange County 111 years ago?

What does tannic acid, used for tanning animal skins, come from?

All of these questions will be answered in the next Big Oak Canyon highlight blog by our caretaker, Shane Brown.

Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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Shane’s Corner – July 2019 https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/08/13/big-oak-canyon-highlights-july/2923/ Tue, 13 Aug 2019 17:15:17 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=2923 Shane Brown is the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. Follow his adventures here!

Garden highlights

The orchard garden is expanding. The apples and nopales are ready and abundant! The Oaxacan green corn that I planted in April and May is tasseling, the peas that Forest Kindergarten planted are ripe for snacking, and the golden giant amaranth, sorghum, popping sorghum, garbanzo beans, squash, melon, and gourd plants are quickly growing. We did an experimental application of compost tea to the garden and fruit trees, brewed from Jodi’s home compost! (For more about compost tea, visit Dr. Elaine’s website)

Golden giant amaranth and garbanzo beans
Flowering squash
Flowering Oaxacan green corn
Compost tea brewing

I harvested and retted my little patch of fiber flax, to be made into linen with future classes! They didn’t grow as tall as I hoped, so next time I’ll try planting earlier and in better soil. To learn more about this process, check out this video.

Wildlands highlights

The Cooper’s hawk chicks that some of us witnessed in the nest in June have fledged and can now be regularly seen around the canyon calling to their parents and learning to hunt. Sticky monkeyflower and Heart-leaved penstemon can still be seen in bloom. Elderberries have started to turn blue, and tiny acorns are starting to grow! We found a smashed and dried carcass of a speckled rattlesnake during the Spanish immersion promo class! The creek is full of all sorts of animals including tadpoles and newt larvae.

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk in an ash tree
Male California tarantula out exploring in the evening
Humboldt’s lily near the creek
One of the biting flies out in the hot weather
Acorns just starting to grow

Craft Project – Straw Weaving

I have almost finished weaving a new hat from wild oat straw. Stay tuned for an instructional video.

Almost complete wild oat straw hat

Trivia Questions

What animal at Big Oak makes wide and flat burrows that go into the earth at a shallow angle?
What planet is right above Scorpio in the evening sky right now?
What wild plant with sweet, edible fruits and nuts will be ripening at Big Oak in the month of August?
How are rattlesnakes different from other snakes in the way they reproduce?

All of these questions will be answered in the next Big Oak Canyon highlight blog by our caretaker, Shane Brown.

Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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Support one-of-a-kind nature community in Southern California! https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/03/15/blog/158/ Fri, 15 Mar 2019 23:20:42 +0000 http://ochomeschooling.com/earthroots/2007/09/23/i-am-just-testing/

Click Photo: Earthroots’s 39-acre property, Big Oak Canyon was purchased mid-2013 thanks to the generosity of our community. We look forward to tending this land for generations to come. Photo: Silverado Creek at Big Oak Canyon

Mission:
Earthroots is a non-profit 501(c)3 education organization dedicated to cultivating a sense of care and connection between people and the natural world.

Earthroots inspires life-long dedication to environmental stewardship & community through deep nature connection mentoring.

In our creative learning environments, Earthroots participants gain a better understanding of how all of life is connected. They experience how our actions influence the world around us. With this understanding, we hope that individuals then make choices in their daily lives to improve the health of the earth, themselves and each other.

Programs:
We offer classes, workshops & lectures year-round for toddlers, homeschoolers, teens, adults, private and public schools, scout groups and summer camps. Outdoor classrooms include local organic farms, gardens, wilderness parks, green kitchens, beaches, and creeks. These programs are an exploration of our natural world and extend into our connection with all things. Orange County programs meet at new locations each week, ranging from San Clemente to Huntington Beach and east into the Santa Ana Mountains. Each year, we also travel out of our region for family camping trips & adventures.

We build trust and confidence through adventurous challenges and by enjoying the peaceful abundance of the natural world. Some of our favorite seasonal projects include starting, growing and eating from our garden; harvesting acorns, practicing survival skills; weaving with natural fibers; identifying marine tidepool creatures; identifying and eating edible plants in our local wilderness areas; following and identifying animal tracks; understanding bird language; building with natural materials, creating a journal documenting our discoveries; and finding places to be quiet in nature.

We adapt our classes to the interests of our students and allow the spontaneity of the day to guide us. Small groups allow for deeper and more powerful experiences in nature. For the children’s classes, parents are welcome to participate or to drop off. In most situations, younger siblings may accompany parents during class.

Earthroots is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. We welcome your referrals on grants that support getting more kids outdoors, smiling and muddy from head to toe!

Earthroots
P.O. Box 504
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

admin@earthrootsfieldschool.org
(949) 709-5777


Earthroots PSA Commercial Sponsored by Cox Communications:

We are so excited to share our PSA with our community. Look for it on Cox networks within the South Orange County footprint (i.e. Food Network, MSNBS, VH1, ESPN, Bravo, CNN, MTV, Oxygen, etc.)



…. Earthroots is making a big difference in our lives. Brian is responding so well to the experiential learning. He loves being outdoors and enjoys all the hands on activities. I have watched him bring home rocks from Earthroots and sort them by color, add, subtract and divide them. It is amazing. Just one day a week at Earthroots has allowed him to “connect the dots” on all his other learning experiences. Keep up the good work.

-Todd S, January 2009

Jon Young for Earthroots from Rev. Sandy Moore on Vimeo.

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Instructor Highlight – Shane Brown https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/03/12/instructor-highlight-shane-brown/2172/ Wed, 13 Mar 2019 06:04:58 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=2172
Meet Shane Brown, tracker, craftsman, environmental educator and caretaker of Earthroots’ 39-acre property, Big Oak Canyon.

Shane started volunteering with Earthroots when he was a teenager in 2011. He is dedicated to learning and sharing the skills that it takes to be a human living in deep connection to other living things. This has led Shane to attend Teaching Drum Outdoor School, study wildlife biology at Humboldt State University, work on various wildlife management and research projects for agencies and universities, learn regenerative farming and land stewardship practices while living at the Oak Granary in Mendocino County, work on prescribed fires with The Nature Conservancy and Forest Service, become skilled in tracking, music, wild foods, animal processing, fiber arts, and other ancestral arts, and teach hundreds of kids at summer camps and nature connection programs. He has a calm and humble personality and loves a good story.

What is your educational experience?

I worked sporadically with Earthroots from 2011 to 2017 teaching toddlers, homeschool-age, teens, and adults. I taught 3 weeks of summer camp for ages 8-12, and 2 weeks of teen camp at The Oak Granary in 2017 and 2018. I taught 8 weeks of residential summer camp for ages 9-12 at Hidden Villa in 2018. I taught workshops for adults at the Elderflower Earth Skills Gathering and the NorCal Permaculture Convergence in 2018. I currently mentor kids ages 5-12 for 360 Youth Diversion in Santa Ana and teach Forest Kindergarten for Earthroots. I used to work as a field technician for wildlife research and management projects. 

What is your role at Earthroots?

I am the caretaker of Earthroots Big Oak Canyon property and an assistant for Forest Kindergarten classes. I will soon start leading volunteer days at Big Oak and lead the Ancestral Arts Series.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering/working at Earthroots?

Some of my favorite memories from Earthroots include making fire in the rain with Forest Kindergarten, the all-night fire at the Winter Solstice campout, watching the kids watch marmots and deer on a high Sierra trip, sit spots at the mouth of San Mateo Creek, and teaching a teen camp with my brother in Trabuco Canyon.

Do you have something to share about yourself that would surprise us?

I grew up in Orange County, yet I never learned to enjoy its beaches.

Why do you enjoy working at Earthroots?

I enjoy working for Earthroots because I can bring my uniqueness and passions and gifts to the community every day, and I get to be energized by the bright eyes and minds of children.

What are your favorite things to do in nature and what locations?

Some of my favorite things in nature are close encounters with wild animals, gorging on abundant patches of wild fruit, and witnessing the diversity, resilience, and beauty of every place I go. Some of my favorite places that I’ve been include Cache Creek in Northern California, the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sonoran coast, and the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

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Wildlife at Big Oak Canyon https://earthrootsfieldschool.org/2019/02/06/wildlife-at-big-oak-canyon/1979/ Wed, 06 Feb 2019 07:23:30 +0000 http://earthrootsfieldschool.org/?p=1979 Last year, my partner and I were granted permission to set up wildlife cameras at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots’ 39-acre property in Silverado, CA. After watching multiple wildlife camera enthusiasts on YouTube, we were inspired to start our own journey into the mysterious world of motion-activated cameras.

We started with one camera to do test runs and location scouting. Our first videos consisted of grasses blowing in the wind, tree branches blowing in the wind, cars driving up and down the property, children walking back and forth during class….we were a bit discouraged with the results, but persevered onward. We finally learned how to properly place cameras throughout the property and found a perfect spot free of tall grasses, tree branches, and areas where children frequent. After reinstalling the camera in the new location, the magic began. Bobcats, foxes, various bird species, squirrels, skunks, and mountain lions! We found the mother lode of spots to place our camera!

Astounded by the amount of wildlife at Big Oak, we were reminded of how important biodiversity is for a habitat. Big Oak is ripe, healthy, and full of many different species. Having different varieties of plant and animal species help to keep the ecosystem sustained. We are so honored to share the property at Big Oak with the native flora and fauna.

After months with one camera, we decided to add additional cameras in different locations. Seeing the paths the animals take through the property remind me to look for clues when we pick up the camera footage. Sometimes we see evidence of animals left behind; scat, tracks, tufts of fur, rub/scratch marks on nearby trees. These are the spots where we like to stage our cameras.

We also see some regular residents, including one of our favorites, Zeb the bobcat. Zeb has very distinct markings on his front paws that are reminiscent of zebra markings. He’s seriously the cutest bobcat ever (I might be a little biased). Zeb was also one of the first cats we witnessed on our wildlife camera footage. I clearly remember being ecstatic to see this gorgeous wild cat. I’m a big fan of cats, by the way :)

Zeb the bobcat.

Back in November, we filmed one of our most important videos to date. Months went by with a plentiful amount of mule deer on our camera footage which prompted us to think about the bigger predators in the area. Our cameras were perched upon a tree adjacent to one of the roads that run through the property. Lo and behold, after months with no sign of any animal larger than Zeb, four mountain lions trigger our camera to record…and oh my! What a sight to see FOUR MOUNTAIN LIONS…it was a big moment for us. Mountain lions are known to be solitary creatures, so seeing four of them roaming together was a special moment. We believe the video contains 3 sub-adults and a mother lion.

Mountain lion family at Big Oak Canyon.

This video is also part of a California mountain lion series created by University of California, Davis. It’s an eight-episode mini web series illustrating the nature of mountain lions in California. This video and the previous videos from the series are worth watching. Many thanks for Winston Vickers from UC Davis for featuring our video in your beautifully done documentary.

It seems as though this was the last time we’d see them all together as a family. We are so grateful for our camera being there to capture this BIG moment. Protecting these elusive creatures is very important not only to Earthroots but also to the ecosystem. Mountain lions are an indicator of a thriving habitat, and Big Oak is just that. Thankfully, we still see one of these lions regularly on the property. The Mountain Lion Foundation states that “Cougars that occupy home ranges are called residents, and possession of a home range enhances a resident’ lion’s chances of more consistently finding prey, locating mates, and successfully rearing young.”

Big Oak’s resident mountain lion.

This property is a prime example of what a healthy habitat needs to thrive. Food, shelter, water, and lots of space are key resources for our friends to survive, and Big Oak provides these resources in abundance.

Big Oak needs to continue being protected, nourished, and cultivated for generations to come. Earthroots’ conservation efforts throughout the years are reflected by the amount of biodiversity it contains.

Would you like be a steward of this land and support our conservation efforts to help keep this property wild?

Volunteer with us at our stewardship events! We’d love to have your help in maintaining Big Oak’s 39-acre property.

Donate – any amount is appreciated.

Take a class with us!

Check out our YouTube or Instagram for more wildlife videos from Big Oak Canyon! Also, be on the lookout for more wildlife video updates on our website.

Blog by Chrisha Favors, Earthroots community outreach coordinator, Homeschool field class instructor, and wildlife camera enthusiast.

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