Jun 05

Building Forts with Plants

by Hannah Holt »

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Forts are my favorite.

I loved building elaborate blanket forts as a kid, and I still like hiding away in nooks to read a book–when my kids let me.

This year we’ve been visiting historic forts in the Pacific NW, like Fort Stevens


and Fort Vancouver.

Elena and Josh Ft Vanc

While we were at Fort Vancouver this weekend, I noticed something cool in their vegetable garden. They grow their beans on birch tepees.

bean fort bare

bean fort1

Wouldn’t that make the perfect summer fort for a four-year-old?

In May, I started a corn fort:

corn fort

It’s basically the world’s easiest corn maze: the corn is laid out in a rectangle with one end open for a door. By August, the plants should be high enough to create a nice little hiding place. I’m thinking about putting a chair in the closed off end.

I also tied together some sticks and made a mini-cucumber fort in my garden boxes. But this one is more of a fort for lettuce than children. I’m hoping when the summer gets nice and hot for cucumbers, it doesn’t scorch my lettuce.

cucmber fort


Forts could also be made by planting tall flowers like sunflowers or hollyhocks in a circle. Just make sure you leave room for a door.


Plant forts are the perfect summer escape–right in your backyard!

Mar 13

Butterfly Life Cycle Poems & Coloring Page

by Hannah Holt »


Butterfly Life Cycle promo

Last year, my kids wanted to raise a wild caterpillar. We named him Greenie:


He’s that small sticky looking thing next to the apple leaf. We did lots of research, and we tried to make a good go of it. But it turns out we stink at raising caterpillars. R.I.P. Greenie.

Maybe sometime in the future we’ll order a premade kit and have better luck. For now, we’ll stick to the lesson we learned: wild things should be kept in the wild.

We did enjoy learning about butterflies, and I wrote a set of poems about the life cycle of butterflies. I’d like to dedicate them to Greenie (there’s a coloring page at the end!):


Monarch’s Nursery

With a leaf for a crib
and no nanny to beg,
so begins life
as a butterfly egg.


Dining Hall

 The sleepy little caterpillar loves to munch and munch,
laying on his underside for breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
Shedding skin that feels too thin, he eats leaves with a crunch.
The growing bigger caterpillar loves to munch and munch.


Dressing Chambers

 Pupa, pupa changing quick,
hanging underneath your stick.
First you’re green and then you’re brown,
trading kid-clothes for a gown.

 The Ballroom

 They twirl and glide, this dancing pair.
Then dip a curtsy in midair.
Waltzing wind, they flutter by…
I wish I were a butterfly.

And here’s a butterfly life cycle coloring page:

Butterfly Life Cycle Coloring

Here’s a pdf copy: Butterfly Life Cycle Coloring Page.

And here’s a color version with answers: Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle.

Jul 07

Free Fruit, Four Ways

by Hannah Holt »


Summer is blooming here in the northern hemisphere, and Oregon’s berry season is peaking. The strawberries may be gone, but thimble berries, raspberries, Marion berries, blueberries, and cherries are on. Give it a few more weeks and blackberries will make their annual appearance. This is hands down my favorite time of year!

Here are four ways to score fresh fruit without breaking the bank.

1. Go wild. You don’t need to leave civilization to find wild berries. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Within one mile of my suburban Portland home, I’ve found three varieties of wild berries. When we lived in downtown Salt Lake City, a mulberry tree grew in front of our apartment building. Now the tree wasn’t wild per se, but our apartment manager regarded it as a trash tree. She hated the inky bombs it dropped every summer, and she was more than happy to let us unburden its branches. (By the way, mulberry pie is delicious!) Tip: Never eat any berry you can’t clearly identify, and know the local picking laws before you gather. Here’s a list of edible wild berries in the Pacific Northwest.

2. Be neighborly. In Colorado, we lived near an ageing widow with three apple trees. Every year, we harvested the trees for her, and in return she let us have all the apples we could carry. I had enough apples to make applesauce for the entire year. In so many ways, it pays to be neighborly.

3. Look for vacancies. Sometimes vacant houses have fruit trees. It doesn’t hurt to call the Realtor and ask if you can pick from the trees. The worst they can say is, no. We called one agent, whose owner didn’t even know the property had a cherry tree. As a thanks for letting him know about the tree, he let us pick all the cherries we wanted. Note: never glean on someone’s property without asking permission!

4. Grow your own! Planting fruit trees and vines is a long term investment. However, the pay off is worth it. Even if your yard consists of a lone balcony, some miniature fruit trees and bushes may flourish. We have two fruit trees and a grape vine in our backyard. This year, we’ll do more sharing than gleaning.

Happy hunting! There’s nothing like eating freshly canned fruits and jams. Here’s my son watching the peach bath one year. Silly kid. Doesn’t he know a watched pot never boils?

Reading recommendations for young berry pickers: