Feb 152017
 
 This post contains affiliate links.  While they will not help support this blog, they will help my kids earn points towards magazine subscriptions.  I thought it only fair to let you know. 😉calendar coffee computer
As I drink my artificially flavored, because it had to be clarified on the bag in case I did not figure that out on my own, Chocolate Mocha Coffee this morning, I reminded myself to not throw the grounds in the trash, but instead to use them in the landscaping.  
As I sat down to the computer, I came across this article from Recyclebank concerning recycling coffee filters. How timely. (To read the article, you will need to sign-in apparently. Sorry for the confusion.)
From their website:
Whether you’re joining Recyclebank as an individual interested in learning more about waste diversion or you’re part of a community that offers our recycling rewards program, we’re all about helping you move down the path toward a waste-free future. From blog posts to quizzes to recycling resources, we’ve got all the tools you need to help keep even more materials from ending up in landfills.
Recyclebank is a site I began using … well, years ago.  We’ll leave the exact time frame alone.  Let’s focus on the fact that I keep going back to their site because it is fun, informative, and easy to use.  I have learned new things over the years, and been rewarded at various times.
Currently the rewards vary between magazine subscriptions, % off at certain websites, money off at restaurants, or even a free item from a particular website.  The rewards are always changing, which helps keep things exciting.
 
We do not currently use coffee filters, though if I got out our drip coffee maker I would.  However, I have started adding coffee to the front landscaping.  If you come to my front door, only to realize there is a fair coffee scent in the air, you have been warned.
Nov 102016
 

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This poem is very timely, speaking of two different seasons we are currently experiencing.  The first season has to do with this quarter of the year, with falling leaves and cooler nights.  The other season is one of things not lasting but “new beautiful things come”.

The picture above was from a vacation 5 years ago.  We were on Lake Superior, taking a boat tour of ship wrecks.  It was fun and the kids had a blast.  This old church is on an island, privately owned or else I would have suggested renting kayaks to go visit this old building.  I love history.  I love how we are all tied together.  I love how some things last and how today is built on someone’s previous present.  I love the reminders that some things do not matter as much as others.

When this lighthouse was in session, there was probably someone there who took loving care of it.  Now, does it matter if that person wore matching socks every day?  Probably not.  Do it matter that they did their job?  I think some decedents of past boat workers, who were kept from potential wrecks, would give a resounding “YES!”

At one point, this light house had a garden of some sort, whether it be flowers or vegetables or a fruit orchard.  There was something near it.  Standing where we are today, looking back a hundred plus years, do it matter if it was weed free and had a perfect border around its edges?  Not really.  Does it matter that some of the food was shared with those who may have been wanting?  I would like to think so.  We may never know exactly who benefited from it, but I feel confident in saying that those relationships and interactions held longer lasting waves than a pretty boarder, no matter how nicely painted.

While I am not against nice borders and matching socks, the relationships in our lives make larger, further carrying waves than other details in our lives.  If given the opportunity to spend 20 minutes more arranging your seasonal porch decorations or 20 minutes making muffins and visiting the neighbor down the street, I vote for the muffins and the neighbor.  Even if they are not chocolate.  Even if it is not my door you will be knocking on.

We are currently saying goodbye to beautiful things, seeing the old things go.  Keeping in mind that “new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind”can be difficult at times.  Trusting can be difficult at times.  Yet, we still trust.  The wind keeps blowing.  The leaves keep dropping.  “…and the old things go, not one lasts.”

Aug 172016
 

A young man, camping in a National Park, is attacked and killed by a bear.  Who is at fault?  Is anyone at fault?

This is the question asked in Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith.  Instead of looking at the immediate setting or what has happened in the past few decades, which is considered fairly recent in the natural resources world, Engineering Eden takes a look beginning back at the time before National Parks were even created.  Following the path of decisions made and prominent thinking of the times, we are shown how we ended up in the world Harry Eugene Walker and the bear found themselves one late June night.

The natural world we find ourselves in today looks quite different than it did after the Dust Bowl.  It looks different than it did back at the start of our nation.  It looks different than before the Native Americans populated this continent.  So which is the true ‘nature’ we are striving towards and what is the best way to achieve that goal?  Is the purpose of nature to be our playground, being utilized to entertain us and removing the things less desirable?  Or should we take a hands off approach, even when it is very much not convenient?

In the history of National Parks, these questions and more have been debated, researched, and theorized.  At various times they have been applied in some fashion or manner, often without a full understanding of the complex interactions. For many decades, the National Parks were not even run by those interested in the interactions of nature; their goal was to make the public happy and help the process run smoothly.  As time has passed, the original picture, whatever it was, has been blurred.  We now are left with the results of actions by our forefathers.  This makes the process even more complicated.  As time has passed the study of natural resources, the interactions between different animals and plants, has grown, yet still leaves much to be desired.

I knew part of the history Smith wrote about in Engineering Eden, though a lot of the finer details and some of the players were new to me.  Along the way, side stories were explained, giving a broader explanation to the whole picture.  Rarely is any decision black and white, but often a result of many smaller decisions, interactions, and influences.  Smith  took that knowledge, weaving together the National Parks’ history and the story of Harry Walker.  The result was a smooth and natural look at broader story, not a forced and dry recall of events.  At no point in the book did I find myself bored or reading repeated sections.

If you are looking for a light, easy read this book is not for you.  There is quite a bit of research mentioned, though not in language you will need an advanced degree to read.  It will make you think and consider the view you hold. Even the look of the book, a non-slick dust jacket and pages that have a rough cut appearance, lend to a natural, real feel for the story.

While Engineering Eden ultimately is focused around the events leading up to the unfortunate encounter one June night, I believe it holds even more important truths for us all, both in regard to our interactions with nature and for ourselves. One of those truths Smith shared at the end of the book’s Afterward:

And if order prevails in nature, then it prevails in my life, and yours.  And if this is true, then the beautiful world – the care of which incited such bitter argument between the people in this book – has a purpose, and so did the life of Harry Walker, and so do ours.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  This post contains affiliate links.

Jul 162016
 

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During a summer job in college, I was blessed to get to spend hours each day walking through nature, being exposed to sights and sounds many may never see.  When it is just you and the forest, animals appear that normally would not, you hear things that often get lost in the noise of the day, and you are able to sort through thoughts and ideas that you may otherwise not have time to consider.*

One of my constant thoughts was that the beauty of nature, the unique aspects on the minute scale as well as the large, were not randomly placed together.  They work so smoothly, with such grace and awe, they are a tribute to their creator, the Great Artist of our world.

While the different aspects left me in quiet admiration many times, I never thought to stop and worship them for their beauty, unique qualities, or graceful flights and songs.  Instead, I often felt small, reminded of how silly we often make things with our pointless worries and whining; how our focus is often taken off the original plan by circumstances which have caused flaws to appear in the initial design.  If the Great Artist can plan such large scale workings in such small, accurate detail, who am I to think I know better? What makes me so great as to assume everything around me must stop and focus on my whimsical desires? What makes me worthy of the grace shown in moments of need, when I was not even sure what to ask for?

I stood in the middle of a dry creek and watched water from a two-day-prior rain storm begin to fill the spaces between rocks, getting higher and higher till I had to move; in the middle of a pine forest watching humming birds fly between the trees; silently on top of a hill in a hardwood stand while two baby skunks wrestled and played their way to who knows where; along a hunting trail as a mama turkey tried to distract me from her baby chicks hiding in the nearby grass.  I passed old homesteads and new houses; daffodils growing in old forest openings, planted by somebody long gone, and walked through new openings filled with plants, fighting to be the first to reach the now plentiful sunlight.

If these creatures have been provided for, how much more so have we been blessed the the Great Artists’ plan?

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This Is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

Click here to read a bit of background to this story and see a picture of the song writer.

*While I may have had weeks to “consider my thoughts”, that does not mean I came to a conclusion about everything. Specifically whether I thought my then romantic interest would lead to marriage and what I would say when the time came.  Turns out this inconclusive thinking caused great concern for a particular someone sooner than I anticipated, and over a decade later I am still teased about it.  Oh well, he can tease me for decades to come if he likes, and I will still do his ironing and cook him peas; both activities that should demonstrate exactly how much I love him.  😉

Jun 022016
 

This post contains affiliate links.  All opinions are honest and are my own.

mosquito bites sucks

There are few physical traits I can brag about to my siblings.  I am several inches shorter than the next tallest, my hair is very straight, I do not tan well, I wear glasses, and have big front teeth (just ask my kids).  However, one of the things I really like, something I had no say so over, is the fact that bugs do not often bite me.

As someone who loves being outdoors, to the extent I even went to college for an outdoor job, this fact is very important. I am able to enjoy gardening and yard work in relative ease.

Sadly, this is not so for the rest of my family, biological and otherwise. Where I might swat one or two mosquitoes away, they devour my kids, leaving large welts behind. My husband seems to attract them from this county and the next one over; he can not get away from them. This becomes a problem (for me) when we are going camping, hiking, playing outside for the afternoon, or any other activity that requires one to interact with nature in above freezing temperatures. If left alone it results in whining, pleas for relief, and assurances that the person must surely be dying from their ‘war wounds’.

My old standby was a bottle of spray that works great. My husband did not like it. “Do you know what is in there? You are NOT putting that on our kids.” I insisted it worked and that was better than bites, but he really did not like that reasoning. So, I began looking into alternative methods.

I had heard adding sulfur to your diet works well. You sweat it out, creating your own repellent. I have always been interested in trying this method, but never enough to find a source of powered sulfur to add to my pb&j sandwiches.

So I kept using the “kid friendly” poison in a bottle, knowing that sometimes you have to chose the lesser of two evils, thereby also saving your sanity.

When I came across the BlizeTec Mosquito Bracelet I had hopes this might be an answer to my search. The bracelets claim to be “All Natural Non-Deet Wristband with Glow in The Dark Function.” I liked the first part and thought my kids would like the second half.  After all, who doesn’t like things that glow in the dark?

I ordered a pack of 5 and waited for our next outing.

As it turns out, the next outing involved sister and her son joining the kids and I for a hike.  As we also had a foster kid with us, the numbers worked out well.  Each kid received a bracelet, as did my sibling.  I was the “control group”, though in the end I wore one as well.

Upon opening the package, I noted the strong scent several other had mentioned in reviews left online.  It was not over powering, and somewhat reminiscent of a citronella candle.  The scent did stay around, though in less intense forms, as I noted it later in the day and the next morning.

I passed out the BlizeTec Mosquito Bracelets, one color per kid.  There was enough variety for everyone to find a color they liked.

blizetec wristband hiking kids

The first problem appeared within a few minutes.  We had not even started down the trail and already one kid complained of it falling off.  We moved it higher up his arm. Nope, did not work.  “How about around your ankle?”  One kid took us up on the offer, while another eventually just gave it to me to hold, then went on with life.

The bracelet fit both of us adults, which may be who they are targeting.  There was some give in the material, which would help if you have thick wrists.

In the end, I am not sure how much these helped.  I think for now we will stick with the patches we had been using, though I really like the idea of a wristband. It was easy to get on and off, something we have had issues with concerning the patch.

And yes, it did glow.  Turns out it was just enough for George to find his in the camper when he dropped it that night.

 

This product was provided at a discounted price in exchange for my honest review.

Mar 052016
 

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What to do with four boys, ages 6-8, who have been insde all day and are ready to drive everyone crazy? Send them outside of course.

The cold, misting rain had stopped and supper was eaten. Pottys breaks had and coats put on. Out the door they ran. Bird feeders were visited, a slow-to-move bird was observed, and a pail was picked up.

A quick tap and “You’re It” is all it took for a 30 minute game of tag to ensue. It would have kept going but for the signs of future wars appearing on the horizon.

The council of 4 Boys and a Girl then convened by the swing to tell stories, laugh at jokes containing bodily sounds, and learn to implement Brotherly Love to those you are not particularly feeling love towards right at the moment.

Sounds of anquish at having to return to the confines of indoors were made quieter by the promise of cake and ice cream.

Some building time, teeth brushing, PJ adornment, and a wonderfully drawn out bed time story led to the end result.  I now sit here listening to the night time sounds of the country, along with music mothers like to hear – snoring of little heads in bed.

I am just as exhausted and plan to join them in The Land of Mod very soon.  Night.

Oct 222015
 

 

outdoor education campingGeorge’s school has parent-teacher conferences Friday, therefore he has no school.  My husband has a paper or two to write, as well as several to read this weekend.  The weather has been nice lately, so I though I would take the kids to a local park to go camping.  I could ‘rough it’ a bit with them, allowing them to learn different skills without my husband being focused on, well, having to focus and be comfortable.  The weather is not too hot nor too cold at this moment.  We may do some winter camping this year, but I am going to hold off on saying for sure one way or the other.

Okay, perhaps ‘roughing it’ is pretty overstated.  We will still have a tent, a lantern, fire starters, maybe even a camping stove.  I plan to take the cooler and flashlights, and a shower house will be nearby.  It isn’t like we are hiking into a national forest … we will work up that.  🙂

So, tonight (Wednesday) I figured I should go online to make sure the campground is not full or such.  I felt silly doing it, as this particular campground is often more empty than full.  Turns out it was a good move.  Two sites were available for reservation!  Hmm.  Not exactly the solitude I thought we would have.  Okay.  Plan B … what is Plan B?  I asked myself the same question.  Seems I was a bit too confident that others would not like camping in this weather.

After deciding to go to another campground a bit further away, and looking at some details on their website, I realized the problem.  This is the last weekend many of these campgrounds are open.  My timing could have been worse, I could have waited another weekend and found most of them closed. 🙂

Plan B, as it stands right now, entails me telling the boys tomorrow afternoon what the plans are for the weekend.  Then we will get things together. And yes, it is going to be ‘we’ not ‘me’.

  • I will help them pack their own bags.
  • We will put together their own mess kits.
  • We will gather and load all the other supplies into the car.
  • Then we will pick up the house to leave it in good shape.

Friday we will head out right after my P-T conference and drive to the campground.  If all goes well some of the first-come-first-serve sites will still be open.  If not, then on to Plan C – find some reserve-able sites that are not reserved yet or look at one of the other local campgrounds. I will take that info with me just in case.

Once we get a site, camp needs to be set up:

  • The kids will help set up the tent.
  • They can unload their stuff and arrange it inside the tent.
  • Camping chairs need to be set up.
  • Firewood will be stacked outside the car?

I am thinking we will not take our bikes this weekend as it may be fairly crowded.  Though, there is a trail they might be able to ride on … I need to sleep on this one.

red bicycle

Once things are arranged at camp, a trip to the visitor’s center and a trail hike will be in order.  This is a great opportunity to reinforce some of the geography/map reading skills we have been working on, as well as nature study which I have been slacking on.  George will love getting to participate in the ‘home school field trip’ … sometimes it is all about the marketing.

Other plans for the weekend are:

  • An area-wide singing time at a local church Saturday afternoon.
  • Putting together and cooking meals.
  • Making banana boats for dessert; one of the kids does not like s’mores.
  • Star gazing.
  • Reading around the fire.
  • Story telling.
  • Singing/teaching camp songs.
  • Knot tying?
  • … and other activities I need to remind myself of in the Girl Scout materials I used to use to teach other adults this stuff.  Wow, that seems almost to have been a different life.

night sky stars

I am hoping the theme for the weekend will help them stay focused and regulated.  This is the first time I am going to take them camping by myself.  We usually meet up with my parents to go camping.  While we normally sleep in a tent, my parents sleep in their camper and have more of the things that make it nicer to be living outside for a spell.

They also have years of experience doing this, so can often help us avoid certain pit falls.  Though I do remember a camping trip as a kid where tent poles were forgotten.  We got pup tents out of that trip.  Another trip held a week of constant rain for us.  There was not much we could do, but were glad for the air mattresses under out sleeping bags, as it kept us out of the nightly river that ran through the tent.  The lesson from both of these?  Take things as they come and do not get bent out of shape.  You can deal with almost anything for a few days.

AND just in case, always know where the local hospital is.  That was lesson learned on a different trip, but I will spare you the details.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Linked up at The Modest Mom.

Oct 102015
 

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird

Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell is unlike any other book of birds I have read.  Reading the descriptions I could almost see and hear the birds, as well as their personalities.

Most of us understand that different dogs have different temperaments and personalities, but have you even thought about that in relation to owls?  Matt Sewell captures these personality difference and uses them in a way which makes learning about the bird seem like meeting someones family.

“Oh, there is old ______ over there.  He might sound harsh, but really is not that scary.  He keeps to himself most of the time and just likes to frighten others away.  Now, the one you do have to watch out for is ________.  He will steal your dessert faster than you can can say “apple pie”, and he is super quiet doing so.”

As I was reading through the books, I realized that this was a book George would love.  He remembers things a lot better if you put them in story form rather than facts, especially dry facts.  I would guess that most of us are like that, really.

The drawings were the things that surprised me the most.  Not only did Matt capture the personalities and characteristics in words, but also in visual form.  The water color pictures of each owl adds another dimension to getting to know these charming birds.

This book is not so much a story as it is a collection of the various owls from around the world.  Each turn of the page reveals a different owl in and its description.  For a bird lover this would be a fun read.  If you are looking for a list of character traits and maps of regions then you are in the wrong place.

I enjoyed reading through Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell and getting to know some of our owl friends better.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.