impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
It's going to be in the upper seventies today, but the end of last week was a chilly and wet one.  There was snow in the air on Friday and, sure enough, the high elevations (the highest in our state) were wearing their Winter coats of rime ice and snow once more.  Mike suggested we go to see them Saturday morning, before they began to thaw out.  There was a troop of Boy Scouts unloading at Elk Garden, and it was quite windy there, so we opted to drive on to White Top.

Icy Road

We went until the road was too slippery for my comfort.  The children had never seen the mountain in the snow.  I've only seen it a time or two.  The road is often impassable in the Winter and not worth the hazards.

Coltsfoot in the Snow

The coltsfoot was blooming through the snow, showing the perseverance of non-native invasives.  It will be another month before the natives will bloom.

Spring Snow

The spring was snowy in Spring.  Or something like that.  It was flowing very nicely, so we were thankful.  Most of Virginia is still low on rain, but we have been very blessed since the wildfires.

Snowy Stream

As the stream flowed away from the spring, it picked up quite a bit of water.  It was so nice to hear it flowing, and so pretty to see the snow drifted along it.

In the Woods

Mike and the Big Ones enjoyed playing in the snow in the woods above the road. Laurel and I got a little wet (or a lot wet) in the stream, but our clothes kept us sufficiently warm.  She was more than happy to go back to the car and shed her wet overalls, while I stayed with Willow and Roan.  We took turns throwing crusty snow into the stream, which was really pretty fun.

While some of the snow is probably gone, I bet there's still a good amount left.  We had weeks of warm weather back in the Winter and could still find little bits of snow hiding here and there.  I'm reading an interesting book these days, The Appalachians, that talks extensively about this unique landscape in which we live.  We truly get a taste of all kinds of weather here--both arctic and southern.  I'll have to give my thoughts on it when I finish it.
impossibleway: (Warning)
Just down the road from the Ice Rocks, is Alligator Back. Being so close, just 2/10 of a mile, the conditions could not have been more different! It was sunny and warm. We sat at the overlook drinking tea and watched heat waves rise up from the grass.  But, like where we are, the climate of the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of great variability.  The wind often blew in clouds and cool air.  It paid to keep a hat on or have the coats piled nearby.

Traveler at the Alligator Back

The Arkansas Traveler and I took in the sights while the children climbed rocks.  You can see them in the link above.  They joyfully climbed and hiked for about two hours.

The View

These are views I never tire of.  It is interesting to note that the Parkway itself is a fairly narrow strip of land.  It feels like another world when you are on it.

Above the Ice Rocks

This is the area just above the Ice Rocks.  You can see them pre-road here.

Walking

So, the weather. A warm rain fell on us while we ate our sandwiches, just feet from the Ice Rocks where it was so cold. Then, the sun came out. The wind blew in fits and threatened to carry our tea cups off. The air was still. It was warm again. One thing we didn't see was fog, for once. Down in West Jefferson, we went to the Ashe County Cheese Company for Mike. We came out to find it raining, and then it started to hail as we were leaving town! I had just remarked about how we hadn't experienced hail yet, in all the changing conditions of the day. Back home, it felt warm-ish and then it started to snow that night.  Honestly, we are somewhat used to this kind of fluctuation and I really enjoy wild weather, when we are prepared for it.  Goodness, we had such a good time.
impossibleway: (Feet at the Lump)
The "Ice Cliffs," Grandad called them.  He always wanted to go see the Ice Cliffs.  They were on the list that we intrepid sight-seers made in the last years of his life--Buffalo Mountain, the Brown Mountain Lights, Stone Mountain, Burke's Garden, Roan Mountain, Cumberland Gap.  He and Grandma Lois had been prolific travelers in his post-retirement years.  The Blue Ridge Parkway was one of their favorite destinations.  We'd always had in mind to go to the Ice Rocks, but we'd never made it there.  By their very nature, their presence results in road closures.  No one wants to slide off the mountain going to see them, after all.  After a mild Winter with one big blast of cold air at its end, we were inspired to seek them out after looking at the icy cliffs outside our little town.

Ice Rocks 1

Having driven by them many times on warmer days, it was a simple matter of looking in my Parkway guides.

Ice Rocks 2

In it, they were called the "Ice Rocks" and found to be in Doughton Park.

Ice Rocks 3

I think we got there just in time.  I bet the last of the ice will be gone this week.

Road Ice

While it was a small show, compared with other years or earlier in the Winter, it was no less impressive.
The ice that had fallen showed some serious water at work.

Ice Rocks 4

It was fifty-five when we arrived, but the wind sweeps ups these stone cliffs with some ferocity.
That quick trip I made back to the car for coats and hats--that was a wise one!

Ice Rocks 5

It was like being in a great freezer with big fans blowing on you.
The wind was so swift at one point, it was hard to walk.

Windy Face

I had given Mike my hat and put up my hood.
The wind was trying mightily to blow it off my head.
I thought this photo was too funny when I saw it.

Ice Rocks 6

You can see here the better part of the ice that was remaining at our visit.  The cliffs go on a bit more, with a little fringe of ice at the top.  You can see photos of them during a more typical year here.  While it wasn't much, comparatively, we all found it to be a powerful, magical place.  We have firm plans to come back next Winter to see them again.  Roan was thrilled at the idea that the ice would come back and probably be more next year.  He kept sharing the news with great excitement and really wanted to bring a big piece home.  That is what I find frightening about climate change--the security that we have known, both for food production and for simple seasonal joys from nature, is at risk.

This wonderful write-up gives a good history of the area.  It tells that the facilities in the Doughton Park area have been closed for some time.  Indeed, the coffee shop where we ate with Grandad in 2008 was not only closed, but appeared to have the glass out of the windows.  It's heartbreaking to me to see our public lands lose funding to keep things in operation.  The current political climate is even more depressing.  I've written here and there over the years about facilities and staffing falling by the wayside, and it seems things will only get worse.  It does, however, drive me to spend more time visiting these places.  We vote with our dollars, after all, and visitors to National Parks matter in a big way.

I don't mean to end on a sour or sad note.  Despite the complexity of the Parkway's beginnings and the uncertainty of its future, it holds a special place in my heart.  It calls to me in a very deep way, one of my great loves.  Now that the children are beyond the baby years and into the bouldering years, I think it's time we spent more time there again. 
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: (Barefeet)
Old Picnic Table

Old picnic tables give way to moss.

Walking

Walking together.

Sign

History in signs.

On the Gate

At Mike's request, we've recently taken up more time outside on Sundays.  With most of his week spent traveling, then coming home to unload and repack supplies for the next week, we don't get as much time all together as we might like.  Last week, we visited Backbone Rock, where Mike and I got engaged.  This week--Beartree Recreations Area.  We both worked here in the Ranger Brandy days.  My dad visited this spot in the late sixties with his dad on dirt bikes.  My parents spent part of their honeymoon here.  I celebrated at least one childhood birthday camping here, as well.  It is a family place.

I suppose this is where I go off course and talk about public lands and how they are cared for.  It is easy to see where our leaders place their values when you visit National Forests.  Structures are long-empty, there is little staff on hand to help (or only intrepid volunteers), and there's an over-all mood of the place having passed its hey day.  Our areas used to have two big offices that looked after the USFS land here (and we have a lot for this part of the country!), and now they've been condensed to one with no new hires in the foreseeable future.  It was sad to give up my dream of being a full-time Ranger Brandy, but the reality quickly revealed itself.  I couldn't spend years wandering the country as a seasonal employee, waiting for something to open up.  I wanted, and had, roots.

So, we are now fans of our public lands, instead of aspiring to take our livelihoods from them.  The places are full of memories, of course, and still there, in their silence, waiting for new memories to be made.  We walked up an old road yesterday that I have traveled numerous times, back when I had one of those magical Master Keys that Unlocks All the Things.  On foot at the end of Winter, it was a different place than by car in high Summer.  We found frog eggs and ice, wee green leaves and lots of birch bark.  The children really had a good time with that old road.  I have plans to come back in the Summer and spend the whole day there--there's a lake, several camping loops, a picnic shelter (where we had our wedding reception), and some beaver flats.  I'm looking forward to it.
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: (Children of the Forest)
Winter showers, winter rain,
Wash the Earth all clean again!

Wash the Earth all clean again!

~Winter :: Gateways

For all the rain we didn't have last Summer, we have had it since then end of November.  I've joked that we've moved to the English countryside.  It's drizzling nearly all the time and the sun does not stick around for long.  This rain, however dull it has become, has been so necessary to get us out of the drought.  We're now just abnormally dry!  Haha!  It feels abnormally wet.  It is a good thing, though, and I am thankful for the rain.  We have been enjoying the weather as much as possible and spending lots of time in the woods.  It does wonders for brightening spirits, which I have needed a fair amount.

Picnic

We took a picnic up to The Road on Saturday.  It's on state land above Hungry Mother State Park, just goes out and quits with a fire ring and some big rocks at the end.  We walked just a little way into the woods and found this very nice rock.  I took a wool blanket to protect us from damp spots.

Waterfall

As we ate, we heard a stream nearby.  This wasn't flowing during the Autumn months.  The children really enjoyed all the little waterfalls and pools.

In the Woods

They were content to roam freely while I did my own exploring and carried the picnic supplies back to the car.  There were a few flies and bees out!

Wet Moss

Walking back, I heard a continuous dripping--it was this moss on a rock on the hillside. It is so good to see things nice and wet again. It makes me feel so much more hopeful about our garden this Summer.
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
We spent a good long time in the snow yesterday.  It made the children so agreeable the rest of the day!  It's too bad snow therapy isn't available all year round.  Water play is a close second, but it can get pricey if you have to run a hose instead of playing the creek.  Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time and really soaked up all the joys that Winter has to offer.  Everyone was thoroughly tired afterward and we went to bed quite early!

Snow Heart

There's a rock in my yard that always make a heart in the snow.

Michaelmas Daisies

The Michaelmas daisies made lovely shadows.

Snow Sparkles

It's been so cold that the snow hasn't melted much.
Today, it will!

Big Icicle

The sun did some nice thawing yesterday, and clearing of roads.
It also gave us some champion icicles!

Icicles

These are my warm, shaggy mittens.  I got them at a yard sale.
I can't decide if they are hand or machine made.

Queen Anne's Lace

Last Summer's Queen Anne's Lace in the blackberry patch.
It looks so empty now!

Old Apple Tree

An old early apple tree with a long, curving trunk.

Squirrel Hole

And here's sweet little squirrel hole.

And now, all those who were early to bed are quite early to rise!  Time to stir the rice pudding!
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

In the Wind

Oct. 7th, 2016 07:10 am
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
I saw the light of Winter yesterday.  The children and I went to the Snail Place for nature school, after a stop over at the Swing Place.  Call it tying up loose ends, if you will, one last stop before things turn really cold.  I plan to keep on with nature school, but traveling over big mountains in the Winter can be unpredictable.  It was already cool yesterday-- in the fifties and terribly windy.  The children weren't too happy about it, though I reminded them about Springtime and how I'd be chasing them with hats and mittens in thesame weather.  Last week I was unprepared for rain, this week it was wind.  Sweaters just don't do much in the wind.

Club MossLately, I've been a little better a perseverance, or restarting things.  It's easy to just put up your hands and let it all go, and I've certainly done my share.  Yesterday, when it was cold and Willow wanted to go home, I suggested we walk up to the television and radio towers at the top of the mountain.  She and Roan happily went on, though Laurel was not happy at all.  She walked and held my hand and said how she hated it in her tiny voice.  She's the most articulate of the two year olds, for sure.  I carried her for a bit, and then she decided to walk and she and Roan watched a caterpillar for awhile and all became golden.  We all climbed the very steep road to the towers and, sure enough, got warm.

I didn't have my camera card in all this, the golden light and the changing trees and the excited children.  I suppose I was meant to experience it without distraction.  Willow made proclamations about the sloping mountainside and Laurel kept giving me mullein leaves.  There was a little part of the path where the light was grey--the light of November and December.  It reminded me of this picture that Mike or I took nine years ago now.  We'd ridden through the woods and come home to a cozy supper and a quiet evening.  It was good, that time, and this was, too.  I rather like taking my children to cold places and warming them up with excercise and bringing them home to our little house. Next time, though, I'll bring hats and mittens!
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
We had a picnic at Comer's Rock yesterday to celebrate Country Flag Day.  There was talk of camping, but the weather looked wet.  So, we had a fire and leisure and hamburgers without the tent.  The weather is super dry and hot--the rain must be slow in coming!

Smokey's Place

It seemed fitting that we take along the Smokey salt and pepper shakers to season our food.  We sang his song, too, to celebrate.  Call it our form of patriotism.  I pledge allegiance to the trees and to the forests in which they stand. . .

Fire in the Chimney

We made a fire in a very old chimney by the shelter.  It helped to keep the bugs away and got the children interested in collecting sticks of various sizes.  We pretended a little path in the woods led to our coppice.  Roan told me it was my ranger work, and that I can still do ranger things, even though I'm not one any more.

Fireplace

The children played Roxaboxen on the many rocks around the campground.  Roan would put down his head, Willow would knock with a stick, and they would all visit.  Laurel's house was right next door to Roan's.  I used a hollow stump for my big soup cauldron.  It is fun to play.

Roxaboxen


For now, we are having a fairly quiet holiday. The children have challenged me to put on my bathing suit (the first in seven years!) and run through the sprinkler with them. The neighbors are gone, so I think I'll do it!
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
After a hot and stormy week, I think we are in a spell of perfect weather.  It's cool this morning, but the day will be plenty warm, just like yesterday.  We went to Whitetop to take in the clear skies and quiet fresh air (and to celebrate Mike, of course!).  There were a fair amount of people up there, but we finally found our own place to be--my children are quite accustomed to experiencing their favorite places in solitude.

Mike and Laurel

I suppose if we are giving out "place" names, I suppose we could call this "The Climbing Place."

Tree Climbing

The bulk of our time there, they were climbing.
These big rocks were the main event and the children gave them names,
like in Happy Times in Noisy Village.

Rock Climbing

Laurel was quite the intrepid two-year-old climber.
She sold "pupcakes" from the summit.

Selling Cupcakes

Me, I would call it "The Rambling Place," since that's what it makes me want to do.
I think we may try a Nature School Expedition down to Buzzard Rock this Summer.

Down to Buzzard Rock

I'm looking forward to the shortening days and all the harvesting that lies ahead.
We're back on our daily raspberry picking routine. And with that, Happy Summer Solstice!

Inchworm

Another lovely view
impossibleway: (The Flower Picker)
It's a dark and cloudy morning, with just a hint of rain in the air.  I'm hoping for a real shower to get my gardens jump-started.  There are still squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and beans to sprout.  Here are some clicks for this quiet morning when everyone(!) is at home and in bed.
Now, it's time to get started.  I hear the rumble of little feet!
impossibleway: (Best Resting Place)
New River GorgeWe managed to pull it all together and take our family trip to West Virginia this week.  A change of scenery was helpful, all around.  The paint in the living room dried and we had some good experiences.

Our first stop was the New River National River, where the children began their Junior Ranger work.  They finished with gusto and, the next day at Seneca Rocks, we had our own little ceremony where they received their badges and patches.  They had given me the materials so that we could have it all together in case we didn't stop by the visitor center again.  I did Junior Ranger programs years ago in my time as Ranger Brandy, so it was interesting to be the parent (and "ranger") this time around.

It was windy and snowy on Tuesday morning, a cold 21 degrees.  Like here, the season for visitor centers opening daily is still over a month away.  Still, we enjoyed Seneca Rocks and the West Virginia landscape.  Here, we live in not-quite coal country.  There, well, it is obvious at almost every turn.  Trains and coal and lots of trees.  Lots of steep highways, too, to contrast with our many small winding roads.  We have hopes of going back for an overnight trip (more free lodging!) and seeing some trains.

Driving home, it warmed up the whole way, topping out at 55.  We are due for some snow here, so Winter has not left us entirely.  Mike's spare phone broke as we were getting gas on the way out of town, but he managed to get a free phone to hold him until his screen arrives and he can make the repairs to his old one.  I don't know how he does it, but we are thankful.  Traveling so far from home every single week requires maps and GPS and assistance with hotel stays.  My new grain mill is in the mail on its way here, too!  I have really been missing the home-ground flour, even in this short time.

Our trip wasn't without its challenges and grumpy moments, but I think we made some happy memories.  It's good to be home and in our own beds, as always.  My little tomato plants grew and Laurel ate the ripening strawberry we had!
impossibleway: (Movingthe Soul with Color)
I finished up a sweet trio of rabbits as the Easter sun rose in the sky.  My own little bunnies were up soon after to enjoy them and some pistachios and chocolate eggs.  Around here, there is no bunny to bring treats, but the Tomten usually comes through.  During our weekly Cream of Wheat breakfast, we chatted on the phone withe Mike and his mother before he started on his way home.  He and his sisters had given her a surprise 70th birthday party the day before.

Easter Rabbits

After breakfast and tidying up, the children made turkey sandwiches for us all and we set out on a picnic.  Living in our little town, we can walk many places.  Behind a giant Baptist church (well, giant for us), there's a playground and the oldest cemetery in town (1747).  There's also the oldest public oak, the Royal Oak, for which many businesses take their name.  We sat under the old oak for our sandwiches.

Picnic

I think this captures my three pretty well.  Willow, always so lovely; Roan, with his sly grin; Laurel, on the move with Oreos in hand.  Our picnic reminded me of the essays in Lifeways.  It was a simple affair, but really so enjoyed.  I hope we can repeat it, our own tradition in the cool hopefulness that is Easter.  I want my children to know and feel special places.  There are so many.

Headstone

Most of the stones in the old cemetery were without carvings on them, such as it is with limestone and the like.  It was a time to remember people who have been, in many ways, forgotten.  They, too, were once lovely, mischievous and busy.  They exist in inventories of the local cemeteries, painstakingly researched many years ago by devoted amateur historians.

Spring Beauties

There were thousands upon thousands of Spring Beauties blooming.
The ground was also full of day lilies sprouting up.
This place is so cool and green in the Summer (with a touch of poison ivy).

The First Bride

The Wassum name is prominent in Marion, with their descendents still living here.
The land where our house is was once part of their farm.
There's a lot to think about with this piece of granite.

Balancing

We skipped the playground that day, choosing to utilize the fallen trees, stumps, and logs.
Sometimes, children need just a bit of modeling to see what is there.
Other times, they need nothing at all but open spaces.

Tall Stone

They often ask me to read tombstones for them.
We are not sad about it.  It is what it is.
Life was bursting forth and renewing itself all around us.

Watching the Train

We watched a train for some time, as this little knoll overlooks the tracks (and a defense plant).
The world rushed on around this little forgotten island of ancient oaks.

Peeping

Laurel, that girl.
She was looking in an old woodpecker hole.

Founder

And here's a tribute to the woman who helped preserve the cemetery and the Royal Oak.
Little did I know that I would visit her special place and walk nearly every inch of it looking for my pentatonic flute.
I didn't find it after we got home, so we went back and looked again.
Becky came over and offered to go look, with no luck.

Searching

After Mike got home, I looked for another hour before supper, taking a rake along. I walked in rows, up and down, back and forth. He went back after supper. I called the Baptist church to see if anyone picked it up in the parking lot and turned it in. Nothing yet. I am sentimental about few things, but this really got me. Such sweet flutes the Choroi ones are. I've been planning a recorder post for some time, hoping to weigh in on how they compare and my preferences for teaching music to children. Oh, well. A replacement will be had some time.

On that note, I'll move along.
impossibleway: (Sap Bucket)
The mountains are calling and I must go.
~ John Muir

Snow Drops

We finished up reading Sugaring Time this week and the children and I were thinking about maple syrup.  Roan had been collecting sap from the dogwood tree and boiling it down on the front porch.  I made chocolate chip pancakes for Mike on a rare weekday morning at home.  After lunch, we left Mike at home to just be while we went on a mama-venture.

Collection buckets

We went to the Whitetop community first to see if anyone was at the sugar house.
No one was, so we went back up to Elk Garden.

Brier Ridge and Mount Rogers

This hillside.  I cannot say how many times I have photographed it.
It changes with the seasons, of course, but it is unchanging, too.
Sprinkle my ashes here.  Let the winds carry me away one last time.

Ferns

Roan, who handles details, checked ferns for spores.
He really does remember just the littlest things, like the way Christmas ornaments smell.

Puffball

Willow and Roan took off up that hillside and Laurel and I picked our way along.
Or, puffed our way along.  There were so many!
It made me remember coming here with my dad twenty years ago.

Climbing 1

Laurel would not be outdone by Roan and Willow.
They may have had speed, but she had skill.

Climbing 2

She chose the very rockiest places to climb and did very well.
Only toward the end did she get a littel frustrated and come over to me.
I think this says something interesting about her character and what her life may be.

On the hilltop

When Willow is in a mood to travel, off she goes.
We finally caught up to them here.

In the wind

As we were working our way down, I saw a flash of a truck in the woods.
Sure enough, there was a fire truck with a load of sap coming out!

Sap truck

You can see that we are not wasting governement dollars here.
I told Roan that these firemen make maple syrup, molasses, apple butter and grilled chicken.
He was sold on the idea of becoming one.

Collection tank

We heard an engine in the woods, so we went down the little road to check.
At the collection tank, a pump was running.

Pumping sap

I figured the sap was gravity-fed, but no.
It was spraying into the tank.

Sap pump

Here's the generator and the pump. We'd never seen it run.
My guess is that they turn it on when they have people to collect sap.

Listening

We walked around the tubes for a little bit and I discovered that you could actually hear the sap coming down.  What a special day it was, one to remember like the day we flew the kites.  The children were integrated and happy and full of wonder.  Me, too.  Roan said it was better than fluffing peat moss, which we had done that morning.  Fluffing peat moss (which comes in compressed bales) is better than getting toys or being a cowboy, so I think that is a pretty high compliment.  We closed the day with a campfire to burn up some old, rotten wood and then fell into bed.
impossibleway: (Winter)
.
The warmer weather of earlier in the week blew out with the March winds.  It's been snow, off and on, since then.  We haven't really done much cold weather hiking this year, so we've made up for it this week.  We took a walk on the River Walk on Monday.  It's a little path just 3/4 mile from our house, a tiny strip of nature along the river.

River Walk 1

Given its proximity to houses and association with the local garden club,
the River Walk has its share of cultivated plants.
These crocuses are so hopeful, even in the snow.

River Walk 2

The children collected lots of bark for fairy houses.
Roan built a fairy ladder, slide and plank.
It now occurs to me that I haven't shared a picture of The Plank.
I'll take care of that soon.

River Walk 3

Anyway, here's a snowy little hole, probably belonging to a groundhog.

Lake 1

We went out to the lake yesterday, to visit the island and look for ice.

Lake 2

Roan happily brought us piece after piece of ice.
He even found one that was stuck on a large stick, looking rather like an axe.

Lake 3

The children enjoyed making silly faces through the wavy ice.
Today, we've got someone coming to measure our (snowy) roof.
I'm not sure if we'll get out or not, but I hope so.
impossibleway: (Dodecahedron Lantern)
That was our Candlemas, full of variable weather.  It's been like that before--there is no real way to predict an early Spring or another flight of Winter.  It is still fun to speculate, of course.  We enjoyed the weather, in its variations through the day, and kept cozy in the house when strong winds drove the warmth away and brought more rain.

Candlemas Hike

We took a hike around a portion of the lake, to see the ice and work out some energy.
Laurel fell in a creek, thankfully while wearing rain pants.

Icy Lake

The lake is mostly ice.  I am curious to see what today's heavy rains did.

Candlemas Light 1

An evening by candlelight (and the morning, too).
It's not really a Candlemas thing, I guess, but it does have a nice, deliberate feel.

Candlemas Light 2

We have had plans for a bonfire, but rain and strong winds have kept us waiting. Maybe later in the week.
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
We've had a fire burning since Sunday evening.  It was 9° F yesterday morning and I think it will be colder this morning.  It's supposed to be 45° later, so I'll let the fire go out and clean the fireplace.  It's a small one, the kind meant to burn coal, so it can't accomodate a lot of ashes.  It's not a very efficient fireplace, but it takes the edge off of the cold and offers a place where the children can snuggle up and get warm when they need to.  We burned up the Christmas greenery, as you can see.  Most of the festivity is gone now.

Fire on the HearthWe got back to school yesterday instead of Monday.  There was just too much to do and things just weren't right for a beginning that day.  I can tell that Willow has very much needed the intellectual work.  She has been out-of-sorts for weeks now.  We're easing in with a language arts block, starting with a fairy tale verse reader of "Bearskin."  Early reading here looks like learning all the letters and their sounds, of course, a box of sightreading words, work with poetry and gestures, verse readers, some Dick and Jane, and word family stories.  Willow is close, so very close, and I think that she is buoyed by that.  We are mostly at the sightreading phase right now, remembering what words look like.  Word family stories in the coming weeks will help with learning more sounds and putting words together that way.

I am thinking ahead, of course.  Roan is approaching kindergarten age and I am considering when he should begin.  He has started counting things, but writing is a ways off.  In Enki, kindergarten is not the place for writing, so there is no pressure there.  For the Summer, I am envisioning considerably more order than last year.  What a bizarre, wild time it was.  Summer was definitely an outbreath for our family, too much of one.  I think I may have squandered too much time on chores, too, so I'll need something to put me outside more often.  The Kamana curriculum is catching my interest for now and seems appropriate for Summer, probably multiple Summers for the series.  It would be nice to have it as an annual tradition.

I learned a lot in the last year.  We all did and always do.  My biggest teacher is observation and noticing.  I'm working on keeping my observations to myself and turning them to action instead of grumbling.  With that, it's time to act on some reading and enjoy the last of the flickering flames.

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