February 04, 2008

Touch of Nature to host Women's Heritage Weekend

by Christi Mathis


CARBONDALE, Ill. — What would living the pioneer lifestyle be like for today's 21st-century woman?

Ladies are invited to experience another place in time at the "Women's Heritage Weekend," set for Feb. 29-March 2 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center. At this brand new event, participants will try their hand at maple syrup tapping and outdoor survival skills, enjoy cooking on an open fire, spinning, knitting and much more.

"This promises to be a fun adventure and a great way to break your cabin fever," said Vicki Lang-Mendenhall, program coordinator at Touch of Nature.

The action begins with registration at 6 p.m. Feb. 29 and continues until 11:30 a.m. March 2. The cost is $160 per person if paid by Feb. 22 and includes two nights lodging, four meals, classes, equipment use, program materials and a one-year subscription to "Women in the Outdoors." The magazine comes from the Wild Turkey Federation's outreach project of the same name. As a bonus, registrations with a postmark of Feb. 8 or before get the "early bird" discount price of $150. Registration is on a first-come basis and class sizes are limited.

The weekend could be a great bonding and learning experience for mothers and daughters too. Teenage ladies 14-17 are welcome if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The cost is the same for all ages.

Friday evening will include group activities. On Saturday morning, women get to choose which session they'll participate in with seven options available. They can learn to build a fire and cook over the open flames in a Dutch oven. A take-home recipe book is a bonus. Or, they can work on their outdoor skills, learning how to read the environment around them encompassing clouds, weather and animals and how "everything that moves leaves a trace."

Other sessions include trapping, a fiber art course that serves as an introduction to crafting bobbin lace with linen thread, spinning and knitting, and "Winter Tree ID," which helps women learn to identify trees by their shapes, bark, buds and seeds. Participants will test their newly acquired knowledge outdoors.

Some will enjoy the Southern Illinois craft of creating nature wands or sticks using cuts from the invasive bittersweet vine, festooned with beads, yarn and nature's jewelry. Some will even test their mettle gathering materials and building an outdoor shelter sure to survive the elements.

That afternoon, all of the women will enjoy Touch of Nature's popular maple syrup workshop. Participants will learn about maple trees, tapping, saps and syrups, tree "cookies" (cross-sections) and how Native Americans and early settlers harvested sap and created maple syrup. The weekend features a silent auction and raffles too.

The Little Egypt Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is hosting the event. For more information about Women's Heritage Weekend or registration details, contact Vicki Lang-Mendenhall at 618/453-1122, ext. 231 or by email at vickil@siu.edu. The registration flyer also is available at www.womenintheoutdoors.com under "events."

The scenic Touch of Nature Environmental Center is about seven miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road.