Monday, February 21, 2011

A Good Day for a Hike

Yep, it was a good day for a hike. Of course, the weather is changing from the gorgeous sunshine we have had for the last several days, but we got our hike in before the rain started. We met Sarah and her boys at the Tradition Plateau Trailhead at Tiger Mountain. I even was able to drag the hubby along for this one. He had the camera most of the time, so many of the pics on this post are actually from him.

My wonderful husband

Beginning our hike

We tried out some new-to-me trails at Tiger - the Swamp Trail, the Big Tree Trail, the Wetlands Trail, and the Around-the-Lake Trail, with part of the Bus Trail thrown in for good measure.

It's good to have a map along for all the cris-crossing trails

Though most folks trek up to the top of the mountain, or at least farther up on its flanks, we stuck to the lower sections for these flatter and easier kid-friendly paths.

There are story boards along the Swamp Trail

Smiles from the baby

Walker sticking his tongue out

There weren't as many folks at the parking area as I expected for a holiday, but we did pass several people throughout our walk.

We ended up going about 3 miles, I believe. Kids of all ages did well - the baby slept much of the time in the pack, the 4-year-old is stronger now than last fall, the 8-year-old was speedy and uncomplaining, and the 13-year-old put up with everyone. We made one little stop for lunch and a rest, at Round Lake. The kids threw rocks in the water and later sticks for a dog to chase.

This is about the only access to Round Lake

Walker gets his lunch

Annika takes a break. We bring along inexpensive foam mats to stay dry. She's only half on hers, and was already wet and muddy from playing in the lake.

Gabriel's hands got chilled

We visited The Bus - it's looking a bit worse than I remember - and enjoyed our stroll.

Gabriel checks out the mysterious bus "artifact"
Good thing his tetanus shots are up to date!

The kids and adults appreciated how green and mossy many parts of the trails are. It's kind of neat in the swamp area, and the Big Tree is, actually, big.

The Big Tree

How this giant escaped logging, no one seems to know. Annika really liked all the ferns we saw. A few plants are beginning to bud, but otherwise it still looks like winter in the forest.

A rare photo of me

Whenever I get out with the kids, I get to thinking about all the other places I want to take them this summer. I hope this is the year we really get our groove on, as far as hiking goes. We all benefit from making the choice to get out and enjoy nature and move our bodies. And it is a choice, really - to stay home and work on laundry and dishes some more, or to leave the dishes in the sink and come back with more dirty laundry in exchange for great memories and fun experiences.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Recent Knitting

I have not kept up with recording my knitting projects on Ravelry the past several months. I'm not even sure I got photos of all my Christmas knitting. So with the sunshine today (which washed out all my pics) I tried to get photos of what I've been working on lately.

I started this Swirl Shawl almost 2 years ago when Aaron was in the hospital. It consists of 82 individually knit hexagons. I enjoy working on it, but it has hibernated for months at a time, when I would get bored of it. I have one more row of hexagons to knit, and then it will be done. I told myself I have to finish this one before I work on my next shawl.

Here is a detail of the swirls. Aren't they lovely?

I've enjoyed Hansi Singh's book about Amigurumi (knitting creatures). I made 4 sea stars from the book; 3 for Christmas gifts that I didn't take photos of. But when my Grandma saw one of the stars, she said she'd like one, too. Here it is, made from Cascade 220. The colorful underside is from natural colored Cascade 220 that the kids and I dyed with food coloring a year or two ago. I'm glad I found a use for it! I've got 2 skeins of it, and am not sure what to do with these interesting colors!

Then there are these silly little mitts. They are from Malabrigo yarn, which I adore, and the pattern is simple enough, but apparently I can't count. Oh well, it makes me happy to wear them. I wear them more than I thought I would. It sure makes a difference keeping the drafts off the wrists.

And finally, the first hat I made for myself. I forget the yarn I used, but the pattern is great, and I get lots of compliments on it. I made the same hat out of different yarn for my Mother-In-Law, and I really like it.
Oh, there are so many more projects on my list, and drool-worthy yarn in my stash. So much knitting, so little time!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From earlier today, a quiet moment in between.

I have been seeing hummingbirds more lately. Today one visited our clematis. I'm not sure what it was looking for. The plant is a mass of brown stems and withered leaves. Fluffy seed pods cling to the branches like discolored cotton balls. The hummer poked its beak into several puffy seed balls, but left disappointed. There are green shoots growing, but they are only a few inches long. It always surprises me how early this plant buds out and begins growing, but it seems impervious to frost.

Not much in the clematis to attract a hummingbird

The light and shadows have been changing all day. We'll get a sun break, then dark clouds will pass over and a cold, soaking shower will fall onto the saturated ground. At one point there were even snow flakes mixed into the rain. It didn't last long, of course, and soon was sunny again.

Detail of sunshine on tree bark

Groups of juncos flit through the trees in the back corner of the yard. The sun glints off their white rear feathers as they move form one branch to another. The sun makes the yellow and grey lichen shine on the tree branches. Combined with the freshening red of the dogwood stems, the effect is brilliant.
Red-twig dogwood, showing its color

The kitchen smells of the cookies we just baked - Gluten Free cutout cookies, a few days late for Valentine's Day. The black-eyed peas are just beginning to simmer, and their smell swirls with the steam from the pot. I know I should wipe down my flour-covered countertop, but I step outside for a moment first.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Wild Ginger Leaves

An acquaintance of mine on Facebook posted a few photos of heart shapes in nature today. I am going to totally copy his idea, and put up some of my own. It's amazing when you start to look closely at nature, you may just be surprised what you will find.

Fabulous Rock in the Talapus Lake Trail

Hosta leaves in my garden

Lamium sp. leaves in the garden

Morning Glory leaves along the back fence (a nasty weed)

Some kind of pumpkin or squash in one of our past gardens

Epimedium sp. leaves in the front yard

Wild Violet leaves along a mountain trail

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What season is it?


We had our first mud pies of the year today. Or, I should say, Annika did. (I wish I could remember where I read this week about someone's assertion that young women might be sicker than young men because they don't get dirty enough as little girls. That won't be the case with this child.)

The best dirt for mud pies is right in the middle of the path off the patio

We had a nice afternoon sun break, and the kids were both grumpy (so was I), so I pushed us all out to work in the yard a bit. Sometimes it actually helps, but this time both children were in tears after only 10 minutes had gone by. We smoothed that over, but Gabriel went inside for a rest (I made him stay in his bed if he wasn't going to be outside). So, Annika cut the grass with some trimming shears while I worked on the weeds. One of the side effects of living in a climate with mild winters is the weeds start growing before you're ready to be outside.

Shotweed/snapweed blooming already!!

By the time I'm ready to weed, I've already lost the battle. I thought maybe I'd try to keep up with them this year. I was able to get part of the hedgerow cleaned up, and even put down a bag of bark mulch.
The hedgerow. To the left are some strawberries that need a new home, and to the right is bare ground that needs some cover. The big, bare bushes are native wild roses. They will eventually fill in along the fence, I hope.

The ground is too mushy to mow, so hubby is off the hook for a bit. Though some of our neighbors have a yard service come by to mow every week, and they were on duty today. I weeded till my fingers got numb (the temp was slipping down below 45 degrees) and then we went inside for hot cocoa. My mind is turning about what I want to do in the yard this year. I'll be sure to update you as we make progress!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Looking Closer

Gabriel checks out the blackberry thorns.

This afternoon, when we were finished with our school work, I brought out a package I had ordered and received a few days ago. I've been intrigued with The Private Eye program for some time, and finally ordered some of their loupes and a case.

One of the loupes from The Private Eye

I found the educator's guide at our home school library, so I can wait to order that if I need to later. Gabriel and Annika were both intrigued by the loupes, so after an introductory lesson in how to hold them, we went outside to see what we could look at. We had a brief window of sunshine, which made it fairly nice outside. We looked at the clematis plant, some blackberries, leaves, moss growing in the grass, wood, and other things. I didn't want it to be too academic, since we were just starting with them, so I didn't push too hard. Gabriel had shorts on and got cold quickly, so we didn't spend too much time outside, but it was a good start. I like the concept of interdisciplinary learning, and look forward to combining science, art, writing, and other topics.

It always surprises me how early things start waking up for the spring around here. The hellebores are blooming, the clematis is budding, and the bulbs are popping up.

Hellebores in the front yard

Clematis on the back porch, green budding in the midst of brown, dry leaves

Daffodil bulbs popping up in the back yard. I got these from my grandmother after we bought our house. Gabriel helped me plant them.

Every year it seems too early, but I think I have photos from the past several Februaries that look almost like the ones I took today! January is often a time of turning inward for me, but when the plants start showing signs of new growth, I, too, begin to feel the stirrings of more of an outward focus.


In the kitchen, Annika helped me cut up some ripe bananas to dry them in the dehydrator (there were bunches of ripe ones on sale at the store last week).

Annika cutting and arranging bananas for dehydrating

I also figured out how to be successful with making yogurt. I just needed to add a bit of heat (a heating pad) and leave them to ferment a bit longer.

My yogurt set-up - high tech!

We've now made 2 successful batches of yogurt - one of goat milk and one of cow. I can't believe how easy it is - the most time-consuming part is watching the milk while it heats so it doesn't burn. Yay! Another skill to add to my repertoire! Here is the link to the website where I found the clearest instructions.

We're starting another semester at school this week, with some new classes. I'm looking forward to only going 2 days a week instead of 3. I think it will help me manage our home and our own studies better. Gabriel expressed relief, too. He gets stressed out when the schedule is too busy.