Nature Net News

Calendar of Events

November 2006

"... we are pioneers embarked 
on a wonderful journey,
exploring and experiencing 
the physical world.”

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Dear Reader,

It’s easy to see the impact of Dane County’s early settlers all around us.  From many of our major roads and original farm houses to lakeside settlements, Dane County residents have always been attracted by the abundance of natural resources and quality of life.  

Learn about early inhabitants’ interdependence with nature - from beavers to metals to the great soil that supports many of our industries to this day - in Instant Outdoor Expert.  Reconnect with our pioneering history and heritage by exploring the Lussier Family Heritage Center.  And act like a pioneer  - and put your hands to work in crafting a loaf of homemade bread or get your blood pumping by performing some old-fashioned daily chores.


Kathe & Betsy
The Folks at Nature Net

Did you know.....
Cranberries, a native Wisconsin fruit, were likely served at the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621? The name cranberry is shortened from the original "crane berry" so named because the flower bears a likeness to the neck and head of a crane.

What to Do This Month:
Harvest (or purchase) and cook with root vegetables - an important pioneer staple.

Watch for deer - they're busy during this time of year because it's their mating season.

Take a trip back in time on a Wisconsin Rustic Road.

Check out family events at area Nature Net sites.

Tricks of the Trail for Parents:
Pioneer Travel
Even those most intrepid little naturalist may ask, “Are we there yet?” on your journeys to fall explorations.  Make the trip seem shorter by discussing how early pioneers traveled - compared to today.  If you were traveling by horse or covered wagon, would you be closer to your destination?  If you were traveling on foot, how far would you be right now?  How long would it take if you had no road?  You’ll find reaching your destination takes no time!

Instant Outdoor Expert:
Pioneering Ways
Though Wisconsin has been inhabited since the end of the last glaciation 10,000 years ago, the first Europeans to land on the shores of a Wisconsin coastline were indeed pioneers - new to the land and surroundings of Wisconsin.  Jean Nicolet, a French explorer seeking a water route to the Pacific, largely thought of as the first European to visit Wisconsin in 1634, established relations with the Winnebago Indians, but it was not until over one hundred years later that the first permanent Wisconsin settlement was established. During the interim years, Wisconsin was sparsely populated by rugged fur-traders who helped fuel the notable beaver-skin hat craze in Europe and eastern North America. In the 1820's, when lead was discovered in Wisconsin, Europeans finally began to create settlements in our state and themselves pioneer a new way of life here. Around the year of 1848, when Wisconsin joined the Union, becoming an official state, communities were founded to support the mining population and farming became the new way of Wisconsin living. The records, diaries and journals of these migrants tell amazing stories of discovery, hard work and adversity.  Read some of their excerpts on the University of Wisconsin's Digital Collections website

Also read about the life of a pioneer child who grew up not far from Wisconsin, just outside of Toronto, Canada to get a sense of life 200 years ago.

Daily Chores

Early pioneers got exercise in almost every daily activity!  Imitate what it would be like to wash clothes on a scrub board, pumping your arms and scrubbing up and down vigorously.  Sweeping was also a daily activity.  Take a broom (or just pretend) and swish it back and forth, back and forth.  How fast can you go? If you have pails or buckets with handles, fill them with water and walk two hundred paces in your backyard.  How full can you keep your buckets?  How many trips from the "lake" to the house would you have to make to fill the kitchen sink? To fill the bathtub? For more ideas on children's responsibilities and chores to get you moving, check out the Bureau of Land Management website about kids who traveled the Oregon Trail, or the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum website devoted to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Featured Nature Net Site

Nature Craft

Lussier Family Heritage Center
The Lussier Family Heritage Center aims to encourage the discovery of the history, culture, and resources of the Dane County Region, the Nine Springs E-Way, and Lake Farm County Park through recreation, interactive programs, special events, and interpretation. Like a windmill, with the many blades of nature, culture and recreation working together, the Heritage Center is driven by the "winds of the community" to create energy and momentum for the region.

The Lussier Family Heritage Center is located in Lake Farm County Park, the gateway to the 3,600-acre Nine Springs E-Way Corridor Resources Protection area, which runs from Verona to Lake Waubesa. It is also the junction of major regional bicycle trails, including Glacial Drumlin Trail, Military Ridge Trail, and Madison's Capital City Trail.  Lake Farm Park is itself a part of the new Capital Springs Centennial State Park and Recreation Area.

The Lussier Family Heritage Center is a seven-minute drive from downtown Madison, one mile south of the Beltline (Hwys. 12-18-151):
From the West Beltline go south on the South Towne Drive Exit (exit 264) and turn left on Moorland Road, which turns into Lake Farm Road. The Lussier Family Heritage Center is on the left: 3101 Lake Farm Road.

Homemade Bread
In pioneer times, the tasks were divided between boys and girls.  Though bread making was a woman's job 200 years ago, don't let that stop the entire family from joining in on this hands-on, old-fashioned experience.

Start by mixing the following two ingredients:
   1 tablespoon yeast (or one packet)
   1 cup warm water
Feed the yeast with:

   Honey or brown sugar (about ¼ cup - no measuring cups back then)
   Salt (about 1 teaspoon)
   Oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Wait for foam to appear on the top – this reaction is caused by the yeast eating the honey and creating gas – that’s the gas that makes our dough rise and our bread fluffy. Add:
   3 cups flour

Mix well with a wooden spoon and then turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead like crazy.

Now shape the dough into a ball, place it into a large oiled bowl and lay a moistened cloth over the bowl.  Place the bowl in a warm location (near the fireplace if you're really sticking to the old-fashioned way) and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size (about an hour).  Punch the dough down, knead like crazy again and bake in a loaf pan at 350º until the top crust is nice and brown.  Enjoy with homemade butter and touch of Wisconsin honey.

Learn about other Nature Net sites

Nature Craft Archives

Suggested Reading:
"B is for Badger: A Wisconsin Alphabet" by Kathy-jo Wargin  (ages baby-8)

"Christmas in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (ages 4-8)

"Winter Days in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (ages 4-8)

"Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (ages 4-8)

"Caddie Woodlawn's Family" by Carol Ryrie Brink (ages 9-12)

"On Top of Concord Hill" by Maria D. Wilkes (ages 9-12)

"A New Little Cabin" by Maria D. Wilkes (ages 9-12)

Find Family events on the Nature Net Calendar of Events

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Nature Net News is brought to you by the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's Nature Net: The Environmental Learning Network with special thanks to American Girl Fund for Children.


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