Wednesday, July 7, 2021

She Earned Another Made-Up Badge: The Girl Scout "Homesteading" Badge


When my Girl Scouts were younger, I'd hear the leaders of older Girl Scouts gripe about the small selection of badges available for Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors. I didn't get it at the time, because goodness, there were more badges around than my Brownie and Junior could ever possibly earn, and a whole slew of retired badges and fun patches, to boot!

But now that I have a Senior and an Ambassador Girl Scout, I see that the problem isn't so much the smaller selection, because there are still more official badges than my kids could do during their time in Girl Scouts, but the variety. Kids are always going to be super excited about some stuff and not excited at all about other stuff, but if you take out the not-so-exciting badges from the official GSUSA line-up... well, those gripey leaders had a point.

So I've been happily, unabashedly letting my entire troop remix or just plain make up badges. GSUSA doesn't have a current older-level basic camping badge, so I bought a set of retired Camping IPs and we made up the requirements to earn it. GSUSA doesn't have a badge for encouraging kids to have an immersive experience with books, so when a subset of my troop was into Percy Jackson, we bought a made-up Percy Jackson badge and made up the requirements to earn it. GSUSA doesn't have a travel badge for Ambassadors, so I'm right now in the process of collecting some retired Traveler IPs and later this year... yep, we'll make up the requirements to earn it!

Will is interested in various homesteading skills at the moment. Some much older retired badges do cover some of those skills, but there was nothing that was affordable, not too precious to put on a busy Girl Scout vest, and covering the skill set that interested Will the most. However, we thought this made-up badge would work quite well as a Homesteading badge, so I bought it--and we made up the requirements to earn it!

And here they are!

1. Research the square-foot gardening concept. Create and grow a square-foot garden for one season. 

For this step, I gave Will several cinderblocks, bags of soil, and newspapers, and showed her how to make a quick-and-dirty raised bed garden. She raised herself a fine crop of strawberries in it!

Other possibilities for this step were creating and growing container gardens, or helping an adult build a cold frame and using it to grow out-of-season greens.

2. Learn how to make your own jam. 

What to do with that fine crop of strawberries? Make jam, of course!

For this step, I taught both kids how to make freezer jam and cooked, canned jam, and the additional trick of laying out washed, topped strawberries on a cookie sheet, freezing them, and then tumbling them into a larger freezer container. Since they're already frozen, they won't stick together in that larger container, and you can just scoop some out whenever you want smoothies or muffins.

It's that life hack that has become an unconscious standard practice!

3. Learn how to use the dehydrator. 

I'd thought that Will might like to learn how to dehydrate her own dried fruit and fruit leather, but instead she ended up helping me deal with a sudden bounty of herbs and greens. I'm going to be really happy this winter that I have so much raw kale in the freezer and all those jars of dehydrated kale and dehydrated oregano in the pantry. 

Other possibilities for this step were learning how to make pickles or sauerkraut, both of which are super easy to do, and my kids LOVE them. 

4. Carve something useful from wood.

Here's Will at our most recent troop camping trip working on her wooden spoon:

She used her pocket knife while at camp, but mostly she used this wood carving kit that is probably the best gift the Easter Bunny's ever brought the kids!

She carved herself a quite serviceable spoon, lightly polished with olive oil and beeswax and absolutely perfect for all of our rustic culinary adventures. 

Other possibilities for this step were learning how to knit or crochet and making a washcloth to prove it!

5. Learn how to make cold-process soap from scratch.

This was definitely our most time-consuming project! I came into it with a big head on my shoulders, having made cold-process soap a few times before, and having taught Syd to make it just a few years ago, but I definitely got knocked down ALL the pegs when our first TWO batches of soap didn't turn out!

What I finally learned after doing the Googling that I should have done in the beginning is that it was my decade-old lye's fault. And now I own a brand-new five-dollar giant bottle of lye, so I guess my goal is to use it up in soapmaking sometime BEFORE the next decade...

Well, we got a good start this summer!

Will made a lovely soap with olive oil, coconut oil, and powdered milk--

--and that lye, of course! Check out its pH, because you KNOW we never pass up a chance to test some shocking pH:

If you don't try to use sus lye, cold-process soap actually IS very simple. It's mostly stirring--

--until you reach trace--

--pouring it into an empty oatmeal canister to finish saponifying--

--removing it from the container when it's hardened and slicing it--

--and then leaving it to cure, every so often admiring how beautiful it is:

Isn't it gorgeous? It's actually inspired me to want to try some different recipes, but I've got to figure out what I'd put it in, because that was our only oatmeal container!

6. Bake bread from scratch.

Have you noticed yet that most of Will's activities are ones that are suspiciously very helpful to ME?!? Mwa-ha-ha! But yeah, I hate to cook, so I am always looking for ways to encourage someone else to cook instead of me. I taught Will to make this no-knead bread, which also happens to be the easiest, most delicious bread in existence, so now that she knows how to make it, I hope she makes it for us lots!

Other possibilities for this step were learning about rain barrels and helping her dad reinstall and maintain ours, or letting me teach her how to sharpen knives. I would appreciate having someone else around who can sharpen knives, but it's also nice to eat homemade bread that I didn't have to bake myself!

7. Level up your animal husbandry skills.

I left this option kind of open, mostly because there are, in my opinion, SO MANY animal husbandry tasks that need to be done around here! The pets are about as feral as the kids!

Will chose to focus on her chickens. She spent a lot of time making a nursery area to keep the pullets away from the big chickens (they defeated her gatekeeping system almost immediately, but so far the big chickens just seem to ignore the little ones), and then giving the whole flock more entertainment options for those days when she doesn't allow them to free-range. Got to be unpredictable so you foil the foxes!

And that's how Will spent part of her summer learning some very useful skills! Now she can start and grow a garden, preserve what she grows, bake herself delicious bread, make herself gourmet soap, and carve the spoon she can use to spread that homemade jam on that delicious bread.

OMG and now I'm realizing that I should totally go and have her do exactly that! If you can celebrate completing a badge by eating bread and jam, then you really HAVE made up the perfect badge!

No comments: