impossibleway: (Children of the Forest)
If schools have snow days, we have sun days. There is a day every couple weeks (right now) that is just so nice that we can't bear to be inside. The children head out right after breakfast and my to-do list seems monumental, so it's time to call a Sun Day.  Yesterday was supposed to be sunny and warm, but that passed us by, or we just got the edge of the good weather.  All the same, the shorts came out and we spent time in the yard working on our little projects.  Today, the car is getting new brakes and the weather is turning wild and cold--time to stay in and do lessons!

Field of Violets

It's violet time.  So, so many violets.  We could pick all day long and never get done.

Violets

We all picked a quart for some violet syrup for sodas.

Blue

It's funny to think of violets as being blue, but there it is.
It will all turn pinky-purple when I add some lemon juice.

Hugelstarting

I got a solid start on my firt hugelkultur bed.  And a tick, but it didn't bite me.
That's what you get moving old wood around.

The Herbalists

We are all so excited lately--all the weeds growing, the "medicines" to make, the seeds waiting, the new treasures we find each day.  Laurel found the first morels yesterday, so we gave them to Carrie.  She was astounded at the violets we have across the street.  She kept offering some to us, but then she saw ours!  We are well-supplied.

I am feeling better about some projects, getting clarity on others--just household and yard things.  I'm going to dismantle an old raised bed that has filled with grass and add it to my mowing routine, along with the old pumpkin patch that now surrounds the apple and fig trees.  The old stone border now makes up the edges of at least one hugelkultur bed, though I have enough giant logs and old wood to make another one.  The leaves and straw that protected the fig trees all Winter will go onto the new beds.  It's nice to be able to begin a project with all the supplies on-site.

Well, breakfast!  Happy Thursday!
impossibleway: (Spring in the Stream)
It's the season of tiny white flowers, the first of the Spring ephemerals.  Some places in town and out in the country, Spring beauties cover the ground.  It is always such a joy to see them, ever since I first learned about them and saw them up at Elk Garden.  It makes me wonder, with things being ahead of schedule, when they will start to bloom up in the High Country.  Anyway, we went out to Hungry Mother Lake yesterday and this is what we saw.

Spring Beauties

This was the grass by the creek, full of flowers, and I felt a little funny walking on it.

On the hill

The woods looked quiet, as you can see, but they weren't.

Rue Anemone

Rue anemone is awake among the leaves.

Hepatica

Hepatica was blooming, too, the sharp-lobed variety.

Wood Anemone

And down the hill, wood anemones.  These seem to have a prominent place in Elsa Beskow books, along with Springtime in Noisy Village.

In the Laurel

Away from the hillside, the children wandered into the rhododendrons, locally called a laurel thicket.
It's a big, nearly impassable tangle for us grown folks.

Geocache

A particularly open spot yielded a surprise--a geocache!
We'd never seen one, so this was a neat experience.
We've just watched about letterboxing on Dartmoor on Edwardian Farm.

Trailside

And, of course, there was plenty of free time while I played some music.  There is so much to be done at home these days, that it really helps me to get away from all the things I "need" to do and be in a place where it is easier to focus on the present.  And with that, it's time for me to get a move on!
impossibleway: (The Flower Picker)
Violet wake up
Spring is coming, spring is coming
VIolet, wake up
Spring is coming here!


~Enki Grade One Movement


Spring is such a full time, after the long wait of Winter. Right now, I have many plans swirling in my mind--planning for chickens (real ones!), plants to get into the ground, seeds to sow, soil to amend, a bed to build, hugelkultur, more Spring cleaning, brush piles to move. . . For a week or two, what's happening here at home needs to take priority over what's happening in the woods.  Spring happens in the forest near the middle of April, so I'll take a pass to enjoy what's happening here at home where the sunshine has warmed the soil.  This is nature, too!

Violets

First up, violets.  Violets!  They're just starting to bloom, so the children were happy to pick jars full and pour honey over the top.  They really enjoy Susun Weed and were inspired to make their own.  We've made violet jelly in previous years, so we thought we'd do something new this year.  Violet honey for sore throats makes colds sound more pleasant, right?

Dandelions

Willow wanted to make dandelion vinegar, too, so we prepared a small jar, enough for a batch of salad dressing on that first lettuce.  When I told her she'd actually have to try the vinegar, she acted a little surprised!  Not the most adventurous eater, she will eat salads, so I am hopeful.  Willow really loves to pretend to be an herbalist and will spend long periods making various concoctions. I think it is meaningful to use this enthusiam to really make things the family can use.  Children love knowing they are doing something real, as much as they love to pretend.

Our little projects will be ready to strain on Roan's birthday, which is often a celebration of the season's best.  Spring is at its height around his birthday and May Day, and we often have vases of flowers from our yard on the table.  I really love the timing of my children's birthdays, honestly, so near to times of the year that are significant to me.  Roan wastes no time reminding us that his is coming soon (just five weeks!). 
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
To open and close Winter with a visit to the Snail Place and the sight of rime ice seems fitting.  I think that is what we have done, this time around.  I never really dreamed that the strongest parts of the season would be at its beginning and end, but that's the way it's gone.  It was very windy yesterday, but we bundled up to enjoy one last(?) romp in the snow. The ice had blown off, but I could find signs of it on top of the snow, little branches with frost going to one side.

Snowy Ridge

The valleys were clear, as you can see, but the mountains still had plenty of snow.  Just take your pick!

In the Wind

It was quite windy along this little ridge.  I was quite glad I'd made the last-minute decision to put on a second pair of socks and grab a pair of Mike's mittens to put over mine.  He's always off in some warmer place, so I'll use them for him.  We were all wearing scarves (me in my cowl), but the wind was so swift that I had to shield the side of my face with my hand.

Up the Hill

The children made themselves busy up on the little rise where their den was built.  You can see it on the right in the background.  They would climb the little hill (a road cut) and slide down.  Nature's Playground :: the Original Playground, I like to call it.

Snowdrift

I enjoyed the drifted snow.  You can see some of it flying in the picture here--Laurel was coming up beside me when I snapped this.  I really like this photo.

Snowy Road

After that, I took a walk up the tower road, just a bit.  Walking in overalls makes a person a bit stiff, though quite warm.  It was a good, short workout, trying to heft myself along.

Tea in the Snow

Back at the bottom, Willow and Laurel had snow in their boots, so it was time to head home.  We enjoyed our tea first, and I made the sad discovery that I broke the Thermos.  This one was new to us and I dropped it by the car when I was getting it out.  Holding it up to the light confirmed that the glass inside was shattered.  I've never had that happen before, but I've always been very careful.

Brambles

If I were to sum up one goal for Nature School, it would be Love of Place.  It took me a long time to get to this, from the early days of camping with my parents.  Twenty-five years, I guess.  For a long time, I wanted to know the names of things, to catalogue random tidbits, to get to the top of the mountain or the big waterfall.  The over-all mood of a place: the feelings it gives of peace or nostalgia or wildness (like trees stunted by the wind)--those are the quiet gifts.  I guess they do take time to come to fruition.  Certain places wouldn't be quite so special to me if I didn't have a long history with them.  They've been there through the years, both the same and changing, and that has been a real blessing.  I want my children to have a personal store of memories in natural places, of relationships with the land, that they can draw from later on when the human version of life gets to be too much.
impossibleway: (Picking Blueberries)
We're supposed to get three to five inches of snow tomorrow night!  Looking at these sunny photos from yesterday, it's a little hard to believe!  The winds blew in rain during the night and they'll blow again this afternoon to carry the cold this way.  Most of next week looks solidly like Winter and I am formulating how to protect the blueberries, whose little leaf buds are opening just a bit (and who could blame them!?).  Putting out a tarp in the wind--perfect!

Edge of the Wilderness

We visited the Raccoon Branch Wilderness yesterday day, just off the Appalachian Trail.  Really, just off of it.  Children will certainly show us how to appreciate a small patch of land!

On the Fallen Tree

This is the same wilderness area that joins up with the campground we visit so often.  It's the newest one in our area, as you can tell by that nice sign.  Just up the hill from where the children were enjoying this fallen tree, my dad and I picked dripping wet wild blueberries after a strong Summer storm fourteen years ago.  You can see it in my userpic.  Those were the days.  I suppose I ought to make plans for that this Summer.

In the Tree

Being mountain folks, with one leg longer than the other, we spent our time on a steep hillside enjoying this hollow tree.

Hollow Tree

The stump was pretty impressive and the children made a lovely fairy house in it.  That's one of their favorite activites these days.

Moss

I carefully picked my way back down the hill and enjoyed the sun sparkling through the trees.

White Pine

This morning feels cozy--oatmeal is in the plans, which always pleases me. I couldn't eat it for the longest time, so I am careful to make sure we have it every week, often with grated apple stirred in. I was looking over the Susan Branch newsletter from Winter and her journey to Vermont for Valentine's Day. Now, I'm properly ready for being just a little snowed in and in a Christmas-y mood. I have a feeling we'll roast hotdogs by the fire and enjoy some hot chocolate.

Happy Friday!
impossibleway: (Spring in the Stream)
It was seventy-nine degrees yesterday!  Seventy-nine!  That is just unheard of for this time of year, or it is one for the record books.  I'm sure we broke records yesterday.  Meanwhile, the wind came rushing in this morning, blowing the empty garbage cans around and making the tarp on our front porch look as if it were alive.  We're expecting a cooler rainy day with a frosty night and more reasonable weather in the coming couple weeks.  And that's your weather report from our neck of the woods.  Now, nature school.

Rich Valley

We drove through Rich Valley to the cabin yesterday.  The valley is full of rocky outcroppings.  Roan and I declared it would be perfect for sheep.  I think we saw a few there, in fact.

The Cabin

Climbing up the mountain to the cabin, it was sixty-four degrees.  My parents's cabin is on Flattop Mountain in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area.  Though we haven't spent a night there in several years, I'd really like to.  It's such a special place.  This ridge, if you kept going, takes you over to Laurel Bed Lake.

Lots of Acorns

There are numerous cabins on this small strip of private land, so we puttered around on the road and in the yards.  It's still a pretty wild place--we've seen bears many times, along with other wildlife.  All the wildlife, in fact, is part of the reason my parents don't use their cabin much any more.

More Acorns

All the acorns covering the ground show that last year must have been a real bumper crop. Many were beginning to swell and sprout, and we brought a few home.  They were absolutely everywhere.  Well, it's time to get on with the usual Saturday chores here and then head over to the library to find some books for St. Patrick's Day.  We're getting excited!
impossibleway: (Winter)
A last little bit of Winter, I think.  The forecast for the next while shows lows being what the highs should be.  If ever there were a time to consider the very real possibility (or reality) of climate change, I think now is it.  And it's probably too late, in many ways.  I often wonder if my children will still see regular snow later in their lives.  This Winter has been the one that wasn't.  I've tried to seize every possible moment to enjoy the cold and snow, knowing it won't stick around long.

Flowercicle

For now, though, ice and snow on the Appalachian Trail.
Here's a frozen coneflower from the dripping eaves at the "Ranger House."

Partnership Shelter

And here's Partnership Shelter on the Appalachian Trail.
This one boasts a shower and a sink.  And a phone nearby to order pizza.
It was just right for a week when we all had sniffles.

On the Trail

Oddly, the trail was clear in the snowy woods.
Willow and Roan played in the woods, while we walked.
The snow was pitted from all the dripping and melting.

Needle Ice

There was considerable needle ice, too, which is nice to see.  The ground is still cold and there will likely be some snow in March, right?  I don't like feeling that the natural world is just as up in the air as this human one.  This is the most unsettled I've felt in some time.  Spring feels like it has sprung here in town, and I've taken down the insulated curtains.  I needed the sunshine, anyway.  If Winter won't stick around, it's time to embrace Spring.  I guess we get an early one this year.
impossibleway: (Winter)
Snow on Sunday, at last.

Snow Outside

Monday morning was the perfect time to cozy up with Christmas at breakfast.

Farmer Boy Christmas

Sledding was the order of the day, after stories and handwriting and dancing.

Sledding

We had a great time in this sinkhole/empty pond near our house.
Steep hills and fast sleds.  Laurel loves sledding with great gusto.

Up the Hill

The snow was melting fast in the afternoon,
so I promised to take them to Fairwood Valley yesterday.
This is at the Lewis Fork Wilderness trailhead.
Mike and I went sledding here many years ago now.

Snowman

While there was a good deal of melting,
the woods were still snowy and there were drifts a foot deep.
We made three snowfolks.  Here is Roan's.

Down the Hill

We found the perfect spot for sledding, too. Up on the hill by a big holly. I don't imagine he'll fit in the baby sled much longer, but he does love it.  I went down only once this time and it was fast!
impossibleway: (Winter)
My dad gave Laurel her own kite on Sunday, one that was in his collection that had never been flown (similar to this one).  We have plenty of wind around here, but it stops and starts in fits.  It gusts and howls, but it's not steady.  All the trees and variations in terrain baffle it.  We'd tried to fly it a couple times with very little luck, so I thought we'd use the good weather on Wednesday to our advantage.  Back up to the crest zone on Whitetop!  And look!  Snow!

SNOW!

The winds were gusty and about 20 mph.  I later learned that most folks don't fly in that kind of wing.  Oh, well!  Let the maiden voyage be a good one!  Laurel's kite pulls a lot more than Roan's, which was a real challenge that day.  Mostly, we were flying down in a little bowl-shaped cut in the mountainside.  This turned out to be a very good thing!  I let out all the string on both kites--500 feet--just to see how they would do.  I was marveling at them when I saw Laurel's flutter down.  She wasn't holding the winder any more and the kite was no longer in the air.

I spent a good amount of time winding up Roan's string and getting his kite down, while Willow and Roan went to look for the kite.  500 feet is a LOT to wind up!  Laurel and I moved the car up the road to where Willow had found the kite, quite close to the trees.  I started winding and Willow got it in the air again, which presented quite the challenge.  It pulled and fought nearly the whole time I was winding it.  It was hard to do and avoid cutting myself on the tight string.  I was also trying to keep it away from the trees you can see above.  There was one lone tree that looked like it would very much like to eat the kite!   Looking back, I think flying down in the bowl and all the thornless blackberry brambles save the kite from being going into the wild blue.

Flying Kites

Twenty minutes later, I had it all wound up and out of the air. It fell for the last bit of winding and that was so nice, so much better than having to fight to wind up 8 inches at a time! By this time, the children had drunk up all the tea and covered themselves and their parkas in hazelnut spread, so it was time to go home and wash up. On our way down, we witnessed a couple getting engaged on that blustery day. I wish them many happy years together. Being married is probably a little (or a lot) like flying a kite. ;-)
impossibleway: (Once)
It was in the low sixties yesterday, otherworldy, really.  Nature school with no coats or hats or even sweaters.  We drove just a couple minutes from our house to The Elysian Fields, as my dad once called them.  There are always deer here, grazing, and a big flock of vultures.  We went here a couple years ago to collect some big feathers.  I'll admit that I had high hopes for this place, but we were all just a little grumpy.

Kite Flying

Laurel only wanted to fly the kite.  I suppose it must be quite interesting to hold onto something that stays up in the air (most of the time) and flutters around.  It is fascinating for me, too.  This is one of my dad's favorite spots for flying.

Quarry Climbing

Willow and Roan were happy to climb on rocks from the old quarry nearby.  I expected we would walk up the hill and find a rock cliff of some kind.

Pavement Piles

Nope, we found the place where the town puts all the pavement they break up fixing leaks under the roads.  What a funny place that was!

Three

Look at this sweet trio.

I think we were all put off by how warm it was.  We found a tick on Laurel back at home!  The children said they felt like they were walking through the desert and started asking if we could get out the Summer clothes.  I'll admit that this weather has been tremendously unsettling to me, even though it matches the predictions for the Winter--warmer than usual and wetter than usual.  That's El Nino weather for you.  I'd rather skip it.  But, things are supposed to get back to normal at the end of this month.  I am counting down the days and hoping the fruit trees don't suffer too much.

I just feel unsettled, in general, lately.  I am trying to push all the worry aside and acknowledge that things are fine, we are all fine.  I'm trying to find beauty whenever I can, and I'm trying to hold onto the the rhythms that carry us through our days.  This homeschooling adventure is as much for me as it is for them, whether that sounds selfish or not.  I am growing and learning and improving each day, and it is real work.  I don't want to trade it for something else, but I do have periods of feeling weary of life.  It will pass.
impossibleway: (Winter)
The warm spell blew in last night and I awoke to hear the sound of water dripping down the gutter.  Even though it's in the low thirties, it's raining and that's the plan for the next little while, about ten days of temperatures in the fifties and wet.  But yesterday, it was a day on the ice.  Have any of you read A Day on Skates?  What an interesting story that is, and what stamina those chidlren have!  All that ice skating up the canals!  Well, this is our small version with no one falling in (yay!).

Snow Fairy

I brought along a sweet someone from the Magic Fairy Lady.
She'd told me she'd never seen such snow.

Hungry Mother Lake

The lake at Hungry Mother State Park often freezes over in the winter, so it's a wonderful place to visit.  It's not completely frozen, as you can see, but that cold snap over the weekend helped quite a bit.  I imagine it will all thaw in the next week.

The Long Bridge

So much snow!  The children are well-versed in getting ready to go out by now, since we have used every possible opportunity to enjoy the snow.  I was thinking it must be funny to be three and see the world frozen and icy.

Icy Leaves

I really liked this little spot where you could see the leaves through the ice.

On the Ice

We all took turns standing on the lake (right by the edge).

In the Tree

Our little friend watched from a tree while the children played on a fallen one.  The children had complained that I never took them to playgrounds, and I don't very often.  I take them places like this, instead, and I have to drag them away.

On the Log

It was at the tree that Roan and I began to track a bear.  I figure the bear had been at the tree looking for insects under the bark.  We followed the bear around the park and lost the tracks at our car.  It was convenient.  No one wanted to leave, but my feet were getting cold.  I needed thicker socks.

Bear Tracks!

But, oh, the stream.  Just a moment at the stream before we go.  All that lovely ice with such beautiful patterns running through it.

Icy Stream

Willow picked up a piece that looks like an artist's palette.

Icy Pallette

It was such a nice day, really.  The children and I seem to be in a really good place lately, like the snow brought so many wonderful things (like exhaustion!).  It is so healing to have a happy period after all the developmental shifts the past few months have brought.  At the end of the day, we were lighting candles and admiring this postcard.  A day on the ice, yes, it was.

A Day on Skates
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
Ed Davis on Skiprock Pond

Nine years later, I returned to a little Forest Service pond with my children and a dear college professor.  I was aiming to take Dr. Davis someplace he hadn't been in a long time, or ever before.  Travelling toward Crawfish Valley, the largest roadless area in the Jefferson National Forest, we turned onto Oriole Drive and found this small wildlife pond.  Walking around it, we came out onto a point of land covered by many flat stones.  Dr. Davis began skipping rocks with great skill, impressing us all, and we had such a good time.  I told him he made rocks walk on water--St. Edward!  Laurel loved him, Willow thought he was beyond funny, and Roan shared his cooking stories with him.  Some people are just so good at connection and it can be so encouraging to visit with them.  That's why I claimed him as my second dad, after all (plus, we had the same last name).  We have plans to go back at the end of the Summer and I know we're all looking forward to it.
impossibleway: (A Winter's Solstice)
I was asked to share some basics about our Nature School time, so I thought I'd pair it with a regular set of pictures.  Of all the weekly tasks in our school rhythm, Nature School is the one that I try hardest not to miss.  It is this time which is really healing to me, which has the best memories attached to it.  There are times when the children are grumpy, but we are nearly always glad we have gone out and often a little sad to go home.

We went to White Top yesterday to fly Roan's new kite.  It's a sled kite from Premier Designs and I ordered it from Nova Natural Toys.  The kite has no frame to break and flies in winds about 10 mph.  We were probably in about 10-20 mph winds yesterday.  It was perfect and the kite stayed up in the air a good long time.  My dad, who is by now an expert flyer of the amateur kind, says this is a great kite from a reputable maker.  All that aside, Nature School!

Down to Buzzard Rock

Most weeks, we go in the mornings after our basic routine is completed.  Sometimes, we have our movement circle and Willow does some work with her story, and other times we just go.  Morning trips are shorter, naturally, and there are many times that we are gone for just a couple hours.  This is certainly true on very cold days, which I think would be below thirty for young children.  I believe I would stay home when it's colder than twenty, simply as a safety precaution and a consideration of the clothing we have on hand.  Yesterday was an afternoon trip, since it takes about 45 minutes to drive to White Top.  I timed this for our usual rest time, and Roan and Laurel slept in the car.

Flying the Kite

I choose places based on what suits my mood or what I feel the children might need.  It's a balance between the two, since teacher health is very important.  I also base my selection on what the climate of the spot is like--it's better to choose the woods on a cold, windy day and so on.  I felt we needed an open place with good winds, and that I wanted to see White Top one last time before March.  The weather there was perfect for this time of year, as odd as it might seem.  Nature School won't find me braving dangerous roads in icy weather.  We'll stick closer to home when it's snowy.

Laurel Flies

Having packed too lightly some weeks, I make sure to overpack most of the time.  Yesterday, it was around fifty degrees at home, and it was in the low forties on the mountain.  Considering the wind, some of us wore two pairs of pants, and we all wore thick socks and boots (I wore felt shoes).  Cold feet are nothing to mess around with.  The supply list was hats, mittens, and parkas to keep out the wind.  We wear snowveralls (as we call them) when it gets below thirty.  I often apply Weleda weather protection cream when we are going into cold and wind.  It's easy to get wind burned here.

Pouring Tea

Snacks are simple.  I think I can get Willow to go anywhere if I bring a thermos of tea, usually herbal.  We got some wee mugs from Montessori Services for Christmas and they are just perfect.  The size is a little humorous, but it's really less to spill.  I sometimes make peanut butter crackers to take along, but I also think hunger is the best sauce.  Meals are cozier and eaten better after we've been out in the weather.

Walking

When asked if I have an agenda, I often don't.  If I do, it's something really, really simple.  As Ranger Brandy, I found people really just needed a starting point when they were in the woods.  So, climbing a big rock, building a simple den, or walking in the stream easily expands, and the children are happily integrated into their own discoveries and fantasies.  Laurel was quite the narrator yesterday afternoon, and she is well-versed in moss and baby trees and fairy ponds.  There's generally very little direct instruction, but it's obvious they have learned a lot from the land around them.

Practice

I do often take my flute along, weather permitting.  I use this as a time to work on some new songs we'll need or pick out things to use in future months.  Since I am free from the pressures of home, it's easier to do.  Sometimes, I knit, but I also keep in mind that I need to explore and enjoy, too!

The View from Here

Ideally, I try to stay until one of the children says they are ready to go home, truly ready.  There are times that a sudden shower comes up and cuts things short for us (like when we don't have umbrellas, but they live in the car now), or when we got a late start and need to get home to cook a meal.  Mostly, though, it's a fairly free time and I try to keep my expectations out of it.  We've had only one time where it simply didn't work out at all, and we had to drive home. We went back another day and had a marvelous time.  It's not all sunshine, but it's also teaching my children that nearly all kinds of weather is fine to be out in, with careful preparation.
impossibleway: (Winter)
With the promise of freezing fog in the forecast, I thought it was worth a try to drive up to the Snail Place.  This is the closest high elevation spot to our house, about fifteen minutes away.  It feels otherworldly, like the perfect breath of fresh air in the midst of everyday life.  It was the perfect antidote to all the busy work of Christmas preparations and the generally grey mood things have been in lately.


Rime Ice 1

I felt a little worried we wouldn't see anything, but right neare the top, we did!

Rime Ice 3

This was an impromptu trip, just a jaunt, really.  I'm so glad we went.

Rime Ice 2

It was absolutely exhilerating.  I cannot explain how full of wonder I was.

Rime Ice 4

Every stem and leaf became a new treasure to discover and wonder over.

Rime Ice 5

The sun was touching the trees, as you can see, and the ground was already littered with the falling ice.

Rime Ice 6

Nothing gold can stay, after all, but I think this day will be like the day we flew the kites.

Rime Ice 7

The fog stretched across all of Rich Valley, miles wide.

Rime Ice 8

Willow said she wanted to go out in it and float away.  Me, too.

Rime Ice 9
impossibleway: (Club Moss in the Leaves)
See deep in the mountains where the wind blows wild,
There sits Holy Mary and cradles her child.
She rocks the cradle with hands so white,
she needs but a touch for the babe so light.


~ Winter :: Wynstones

Fallen Tree

We had Christmas in the forest today, on the Two Ponds Trail.

Candlelabras

The running cedar was releasing its spores in celebration and the ferns were merry in the cold air.

Christmas Ferns

We even found a few stalked puffballs on the hillside, shining their colors like the sun.

Stalked Puffballs

Our hike was a cold twenty-nine degrees and we needed to keep our faces covered. The wind is strong now, bringing a terrible chill. It's a good day to roast several pumpkins and enjoy the sun blazing into the dining room. Laurel's taking a nap, so I think I'll fold some window stars.
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
The sun shines bright,
The stars give light,
Before the break of day.
God bless you all,
Both big and small,
And send a happy day.

~ A Star to Guide Me

Is it just me or do you happen to look up every so often and see if the sky is falling this week?  The world truly is too much with us lately, and I'm doing my best to beat it back.  I could say all kinds of things that will come off as divisive, but there's no sense in starting that now, not with the way things are presently.  I've spent the past nine years trying to find a common ground in this space and I'll keep that going.  So, wool and sunshine?  Yes!

Hats in the Pocket

It was COLD for Nature School yesterday, forty-four degrees at 10:00 AM.
Even if it is dry and forest fires are raging in neighboring states, it is at least cold.
And we have adequate clothing to keep us going and plenty of hills to climb.

Partridge Berries

The Raccoon Branch Wilderness Area (oh! wilderness!) was full of berries for our cold fingers.
The number of times I said "put the mittens back on!".
Many berries were small, but we found the fattest ones at the end of our walk.

Sun through the Leaf

And the sun, it was warm when we were in it, and that was such a blessing.
Then, the hats and mittens came off and were stuffed into pockets and carefully inventoried.
These are the days to count our blessings, to take stock of things, and to make some plans.

Two

We picked up sticks for our lantern walk today.
I am so in love with Laurel in this little outfit.  She's like a little Matreshka.
I'm thankful for sticks, too, and a part of the country that affords one
as much self-sufficiency as one is willing to grab hold of.

Hat and Mitten

I'll admit that I am feeling weary this week, so tired of some things that have been part of our lives for so long. There's no end in sight to many of them, but I feel glad that I can sew and knit for my children. It's a special occasion when they receive store-bought clothes that are brand new.  I'm formulating plans for the Winter and Spring, trying to sort out ways to squeeze more out of those proverbial turnips and take care of all that life demands.  There is so, so much to be thankful for, and so much beauty.
impossibleway: (Tulip Tree in the Hemlock)
Golden light is turning grey,
Mist begins to rule the day.
Bare their leaves, the branches lift.
Clouds of dead leaves earthward drift.
Deep below, deep below,
New life will spring!

~Enki Grade One Movement

There's been a big change in the woods since I was there on Sunday afternoon.  The treetops are no longer golden, as most of the leaves have fallen and those that remain are brown.  There's a new feeling in the air, even if it was unseasonably warm this week.  It's in the mid-sixties today, so that's much better!

Mushroom in the Leaves

We went back to Hurricane yesterday and took a walk on the Comers Creek Trail.
Arriving at the campground, the gate was locked and the place was empty!
Halloween is closing day for many things in our national forest.

Pine Needles

Never mind--a little extra walking was good for us!
We saw a very quiet Wilson's snipe and a very loud ruffed grouse.
Our sights were set on a bouncy fallen tree, having visited it last Autumn.

Trio on a Tree

I took photos of the stick gnomes (shop update Monday!), while the children played a little.
The last of the leaves to hang on are mainly these beech leaves.
They'll stay on until Spring, becoming ghosts of leaves over the Winter.

Beech Leaves

We walked a good ways, picking our way over the creek that is the trail.
Even with the dry weather, it was still plenty wet.  All those trees do a lot of sheltering.
I think the children enjoyed the challenge.  We are starting to become more adventurous.

Falling Leaves

This last picture has some falling leaves in it. It's so hard to capture them as they go; they are a treasure that must be seen in person.  You can see a change in the light in this picture.  I am so ready for cold, dark evenings!
impossibleway: (Club Moss in the Leaves)
Over branches without rest,
Runs the squirrel to her nest.
Gathering acorns every day,
Safe for winter, stored away!

~Enki Kindergarten Movement

Nature School this past week was Willow's pick, since it fell on her birthday. She wanted to go to the Snail Place, of course, so we went and worked on the den they are building.  It's time to get ready for Winter, especially if you go with the old idea of Winter beginning after Halloween.  The trees are losing lots of leaves now, so this was perfect for adding nice insulating siding to the walls.  Willow had the idea to put the leaves on and then hold them in place with more sticks, and we did just that.  The weather was cool, in the fifties and breezy, with intermittent rain.

Willow working in the den

Here, she was working on a carpet of leaves inside.

Gathering Leaves

This girl, she is a hoot.  So sweet and so wild.  So much perseverance.

Brother and Sister

The joy of siblings.

Acorns

I helped gather leaves, but I also picked up many acorns.
Bury me with a handful of acorns.

Birthday Girl

Birthday portrait.

Centipede Segments

The children discovered these segments of a centipede, I think, and they were fascinating. We always return home feeling right again and ready for lunch. I look forward to seeing what nature school will look like in the Winter. I envision lots of thermoses of hot chocolate and wonderful memories.
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
We spent our nature school time this week on a little side road, one that Mike and I cut wood on in 2007.  How much has changed!  It was less than a year later that Willow was born.  Mike often talks about our time before children with great nostalgia, but I am beginning to feel like they've always been here with us.  The woods, though they change and trees rot away, are a source of comfort and stability, which has been a help to me lately.

Rich Valley

Here's the view of the top of the mountain before we came back down.

On a Log

We followed a deer trail up a steep hillside.
This log was one of the few places to hang out with out sliding away!

When Mary Goes Walking

I practiced my flute, as always.
My books got a regular sprinkling of bark and leaves from the children climbing and tumbling by.

Building a Den

Roan and Willow worked on a den for a little while.
There was even a timber lot.  It's easy to find lots of dead wood.

In the Tree

Roan did a little climbing.
Later, he made a slide through a rhododendron thicket.
He showed us how a simple piece of land has endless possibilities.

Blaze of Color

These trees!  So rejuvenating in their last blast before sleeping.

The Road

I'd love to walk on this road some more. Maybe I can sneak in a little alone time for a hike this weekend.
impossibleway: (Once)
We hadn't been to Whitetop since July, and how the landscape has changed!  The lush grasses have turned brown and there are very, very few flowers left.  Just some gentian and a lone daisy.  The most prominent things, other than all the brown, were the mountain ash berries.  We call these the Roan Trees, since his name means "dweller by the rowan tree."  There's a superstition that says that a heavy crop of berries is a sign that the Winter will not bring heavy snows.  Time will tell.  I could sure do with some good snow after this long, hot Summer.

Mountain Ash

Trees aside, there was also a healthy amount of fog.  You can see it in the background below where a certain little fellow was having his picture made.  Laurel has taken up with the Tomten, but Roan is friends with the Arkansas Traveler.  A big, happy family all the gnomes are.

Traveler on White Top

Laurel is also friends with hot chocolate.  She was gulping it down and making "mmm" sounds the whole time.  I tried to be overprepared this time, bringing hot drinks and big parkas and spare clothes.  It was chilly when we arrived, in the upper forties, but the clouds gave way to the sun as we were leaving.

Hot Chocolate

If you look closely, you can see Roan by the trees.  It's a funny thing to look at a big meadow and think it is easy to walk through.  All those little plants along the ground are blackberries and Laurel found them impassable.  Still, it is nice for the children to find a bit of solitude in nature.

Boy by the Tree

Here's a new dress for Willow.  I made it using a borrowed version of the Old Favorite pattern.  She is so happy to have this dress in her size again.  I hadn't made one in two years!  I have a feeling I'm going to have to whip one up for Virginia before church this morning!

The New Dress and Sweater

We took the long way there and a shorter way back.  The long, cloudier way was so pretty and I didn't take a single picture.  The way back was a bit washed out by the sun.  Oh, well, the best things can never be captured by a camera, only in our hearts.

By Grindstone

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