Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter has arrived...

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~Bill Morgan, Jr.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Grayson Highlands

This weekend we decided to check out the Grayson Highlands State park. Besides it's scenic views and great hiking trails, it is also known for the wild ponies that freely roam the confines of the park. It is only about 70 miles from us, and i'm not sure why we haven't hiked here before. We are very accustomed to traveling an hour or so to go just about anywhere.
Oddly enough, we had just gotten out of our car when i ran into a girl i know, who had just finished hiking and was on her way home. She clued us in to where we could see a mama and baby pony on the Rhododendron trail.
When we first approached the trail head, we saw this sign. Wow! They were not kidding! The temperature on the balds really dropped! Thank goodness, i had decided to grab the kids sweatshirts on our way out the door..or we would have froze. Regardless, we were very under dressed. Next time we know better. :)

We took the Rhododendron trail, which is only about a mile. Up here on the rocks, we had a good view of the plains and were able to spot several of the grazing ponies. We saw the mama and baby not too far from us, and a couple other ponies farther up the trail.

We headed down the trail to get a closer look.

The wild ponies, were very accustomed to hikers and were not really very 'wild'. The came right up to us and followed us along the trail for a while.

We only hiked a little bit further before coming to a more ponies. We were all freezing at this point, and it had started to rain so we decided to head back and not finish the trail. Once we left the balds and returned to Massie gap, the rain had turned into more of a mist...and the temperature was about 10 warmer! So we decided to continue hiking on one of the other trails.

We chose the Cabin Creek Trail which is only about a 2 mile loop, and is follows a creek through the forest and is supposed to have waterfalls.

The scenery and colors were breath taking! The kids enjoyed pointing out all the pretty leaves on the forest floor.

The trail was gorgeous, the hike was moderate difficulty. Not exactly strenuous, but it was very rocky and everything was covered in slippery wet leaves. It seemed like a good trail for twisting an ankle or slipping and breaking something.

We saw several nice waterfalls. This one behind us is a split stream that tumbles 25 feet over the rocks into a clear, dark pool. It is much larger than it looks in the picture. Farther up the trail was an even taller one, but i was unable to get a good picture of it because of all the foliage. None of the falls were spectacular, but they were all still worth seeing, and the hike itself was really nice. There are many more trails here at Grayson Highlands, and we will definitely be back to hike here again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Goodbye summer.

i always have a hard time letting go of the summer. So every year, rather than letting myself wallow in end of summer sadness, i really try to embrace the fall season. This means noticing and appreciating the little things that define the season, the colors, the smells, the stillness. We absorb ourselves in fall leaf crafts, apple recipes and lots of hiking and time spent outdoors.

Today we went out in search of the last of the summer wildflowers, as a way to say 'good bye' to the summer, and welcome the change of season.

The cooler weather made it easy for us to accept that summer is officially over. (although i have not yet let go of the garden. :) ) We took a walk to the bottom of the hill in search of any last monarch caterpillars. We found none, and the milkweek has all gone to seed now. The kids gathered wild asters, knapweed, goldenrod, fleabane, chicory and ox eyed daisies.

Leaves are just beginning to fall and cover the ground, but the woods are not barren yet. There is still much green creating a canopy above us. The sound of birds and life in the forest is still everywhere.

We stopped at the rhododendron grove to climb trees for a bit.

The kids pointed out all the potential fairy homes, toadstools and just really cool looking fungus.

i snapped a few pictures of our favorites. These are the flowers of the fall, appearing everywhere in a variety of colors and shapes.

i believe this is called Turkey tail, but i'm never been good at identifying fungus. Most of them change so much as they grow, and many look similar so i don't really try to identify them.

Many of them appear to be blooming. :)

There were eight or nine of these fabulous toad stools all in line. Sequoia was the first to find them, and Sage wanted to hop scotch over them. We are quite certain the fairies dwell here.

As the weather turns cooler, we will be spending less time outside and more time curled up by the wood stove. As much i look forward to the quiet moments of cuddling, crocheting and reading with a child or two on my lap...i am already missing the butterflies.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day in Greensboro

Over Labor day weekend, my mom was in town visiting and the kids really wanted to take her to the Greensboro Science center. It is not too far from where we live, and the kids always really enjoy it.

The inside science museum has exhibits for all ages, lots of interactive hand on stuff. They have several really fun play areas that encourage imaginative play, and learning activities for kids of all ages.

Outside, in the zoo, they have a farmyard, and discovery center. The zookeeper took out a variety of animals for the kids to touch and interact with.

This one is a bearded dragon.

This Iguana was huge! Sage adored it! The kids also got to pet a ferret, bunny, rat, and ball python. They were encouraged to ask questions, as the keeper explained a bit about each animal.

Outside in the barnyard, the kids both tried their hand at milking.

We all had fun brushing the goats and sheep. Sage gave a kiss to every one.

There are lots of displays through out the zoo, with bits of information about the animals or interactive for the kids. These giants ears show the different ways that ear shapes/size affect sound.

It was a beautiful day to visit, and surprisingly un-crowded for labor day weekend. The Wallaby exhibit was closed, which was disappointing. ..but we were able to see many other animals.

As we were leaving, we noticed what looked like a pond at the back parking lot behind the Science center. So we headed over to see what what was there. We were quite surprised to find a lovely park. It has a large pond, with paddle boats and several different play areas, picnic shelters and hiking trails. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing here, and enjoying the outdoors before heading home.

As we started to head back up the mountain to Virginia, i snapped this shot of Pilot mountain behind us. This has become a familiar landmark on our weekend travels.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Growing more than vegetables.

i am so behind on this blog, you can expect to see a few older blogs come through while i play blog catch up. i actually have 5 or 6 half finished blogs saved in my drafts. So it's just a matter of me sitting down and adding words or pictures. The end of August was very busy for us. Lots of picking, freezing, canning and jam making. Sequoia started back at school, Kenan began a new work project outside the home (wow! what a transition to not have him here all the time), we are still working on house construction and my mother came and visited for several weeks. So although i continued to take pictures everyday, the blogging aspect was somewhat neglected.

Earlier this spring, i posted about our Kid's garden. You can find more ideas about planting a kids garden here.

Sequoia asked for his own garden this year, so we created a space that was about 5x5. i took him to the local garden nursery to pick out some seeds and flowers and gave him a few suggestions on where to plant, but otherwise let him do it himself.

The garden grew and produced extremely well. Here he is standing next to his sugar snaps peas as they began climbing the bamboo tee-pees.

First harvest, he picked enough green beans for dinner. He also picked a couple banana peppers, some chard, lettuce and broccoli. He was very excited, and even more excited to eat some, (not the peppers) of the vegetables that he grew himself.

This little garden produced two more meals worth of beans, at least a pound of sugar snaps, several small heads of broccoli, enough lettuce, cucumbers and yellow pear tomatoes for many salads, and lots of banana peppers. The only things that did not do well were the melons.

While mom was visiting, she helped Sequoia to pull the old plants and weeds, and get his garden ready for fall planting. He was pretty thrilled when we found some purple 'Sequoia' beans at the store, and has planted them in his fall garden along with spinach, lettuce and peas.

Letting kids have their own garden space is a great way to help connect them to nature, give them a deeper appreciation of the earth and where our food comes from, teaches responsibility and patience, and nothing can match the excitement and sense of pride a child has when he picks his first vegetable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Made with love...

i really love simple toys. Handmade, knitted, crocheted and wooden. i love them more than my kids, as they, like most kids...are far more drawn to bright colored plastic, anything with batteries..that lights up and makes annoying noises. However, that never stopped me from making them toys. So in our home, we have a happy mix of both.

Every great once in a while, they surprise me and put down the Legos and the Little people and pull out the toys that i made for them.

Sage preparing her tea party.

The tea pot and cakes were Yule gifts i made her last year.

The dolls were made for her, before she was even born.

Sage spent over an hour sharing tea and cakes with her friends the mermaid, faerie and gnome. It's moments like these, i can't help but smile.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rescue peeps

A day or so after our new chicks hatched both hens abandoned their nests, to take care of the surviving chicks. They take them out of the coop to scratch around in the yard and teach them to hunt for bugs. i had gone out that day to remove all of the old/unhatched eggs and was surprized to find a newly hatched and half dead looking chick laying on the floor of the coop. She was bloody from being pecked at, and her feathery down was dry but caked to her. There was no sign of a shell. We have a couple hens that are egg eaters if the eggs are not removed quickly from the nests, and we believe one of the hens actually ate the egg away...causing the chick ( that would have otherwise died) to hatch.

i brought the chick in the house and created a makeshift brooding box, to keep her warm and comfortable until she died.

i didn't take pictures when we first brought her in, because i never expected her to survive. However she did, and is doing well! We named her Lucky, because she is truly lucky to be here.

Our second little rescue chick, Bumbleberry, was brought in a day after Lucky. We believe he was stomped on by one of the larger birds. Kenan found him laying on his back in the mud outside the coop, both eyes swollen shut and dried blood around his head and beak. He was in really rough shape, and again we didn't really expect him to survive.

However, both chicks bounced back, and were comforted by each others company. The first night we had just Lucky inside she peeped all night, even though she had food and water and the temp was good...she was lonely. She would quiet as soon as i spoke to her. Once Bumbleberry was put in the brooder with her, she would cuddle up to him and they both stayed quiet all night.

We kept the chicks inside in the brooder for about a week, then decided to try and re-introduce them back with mama. i was really happy to see that she accepted both chicks, somewhat amazing as she had never even met Lucky before. Hens can often be very brutal to chicks that are not their own, and will peck them to death.

i re-introduded the chicks slowly, allowing them a few hours with mama, and then back in brooder for the night. After a few days of this, i realized they were ready to go back in the coop. i admit i was a bit worried about Lucky, who was smaller and more fragile than the other two chicks. She seemed to have a hard time keeping up, and with the amount of predators in the area...she would have no chance if left behind.

So, we were all very amused to see that Lucky has taken to hitching a ride on mama back anytime she feels she can't keep up.