unschooling

a Wild Storm

A few nights ago there were very high winds here overnight and through the next day. There were gusts up to 100 mph in our valley and not quite so high here at our house. The noise was intense, especially seeming so while it was dark. Our trees all stayed upright with just a few branches down but nearby there were hundreds of big and small trees cracked, uprooted and knocked over.

We saw trees leaning at strange angles everywhere and driving was pretty exciting the next day, the trees blocking entire streets and making wide roads into one lane roads.

We visited our river trail where we saw many trees down and Gavin noticed the water level was extremely high. We think it’s because of all the trees and material in the water suddenly. We hauled some big branches off the trail on our way and cleaned up some trash too on our walk.

The following day we went up the hill from our house about a half mile and visited some uprooted trees on the Capital grounds. It truly is amazing to see how the wind can uproot a hundred or more foot high tree. I wondered why these ones came down and not others close by and if the trees root systems or health affected their chances at all.

 

We played a bit with perspective.

Leading up to the storm the smoke from wildfires states away was making the air terrible here and a strange orange color so I was glad to see blue sky after the wind. I’m grateful our yard and house fared so well and I’m amazed by the forces of nature! It will be fun to go to some of our usual walking areas and see how they have changed.

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Gavin is Fifteen!

We celebrated Gavin’s birthday with my parents and sister and her boyfriend. We made lasagna for dinner and chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting. We brought Gavin’s nerf arsenal over to my parents and Chris and Lilah and Gavin snuck around and tried to ambush each other with rainbow darts while my sister helped me set up a scavenger hunt for his gifts. I tried hard to make up difficult clues to locations but almost without fail, the kids figured them out so quickly! Lilah has requested a scavenger hunt for her birthday and I will need to make it much sneakier and harder. One of the clues was Search in wintry terrain to lead to the snowball bush and Lilah knew instantly what it meant! Gavin immediately figured out that Imagine you are very tired and need a boost. Where would you look? was leading to where the lawn mower battery is kept.

At fifteen, Gavin’s favorite genre is Science Fiction. His favorite board game is Terraforming Mars. His favorite band is Blacklight District or Gothic Storm. He can often be found with his phone playing music around the house. In fact, I usually know he’s on his way by the arrival of his music.

He loves MineCraft and Lego and Dungeons & Dragons. He loves playing online with his friends since he can’t see them in person over the summer.

Some of his goals for the year are to build a computer, learn how to drive, hang out with his friends as much as he can. In the future he wants to be a programmer, a game tester or game designer.

His choice for president is Not Trump. Maybe Obama again.

Something he thinks needs changing is someone to lead our country who knows what they’re doing and more research about how to stop the Covid pandemic.

He’s 5 feet and 6 inches tall which means he’s nearly as tall as I am now, but not quiiiiite. He has had the same hairstyle for several years now: one side shaved short and the other about chin length.

The pandemic has been very hard for him because he hasn’t been able to hang out with friends. He says that it’s kind of scary to think that friends or family might get sick or die.

His favorite books are End Game, The Calling by James Frey or The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. His favorite movies are Nausicaa and Guardians of Ga’Hoole.

He has a laugh that carries across the house. He loves animals, especially owls. He doesn’t like quiet time. He always gets holes in his socks. His voice is changing. He dances to his music when no one is watching. He gets out board games at 7 a.m. and plays them solo. He likes Beyond Burgers a lot. He can identify a blue jay from its screech and he asks me how I’m doing or feeling several times each day since my leg injury. He’s always ready for a game.

 

 

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a long strange summer

This summer has been odd. Partly it’s because the corona virus pandemic has kept us home and away from places we’d go and friends we’d see. Partly it’s because in early June I fractured my tibia and have been recovering since which involves a whole lot of sitting around and waiting to heal.

My family has been so supportive and helpful and I’ve been well cared for but we would all have preferred to do things differently this summer in so many ways.

We’ve played a bunch of board games in my bedroom and read and read and read. Lilah has stitched her unicorn hoodie and painted and knit and screen printed a cat on a backpack and sewn me a special bag so I can carry things on my crutches.

Gavin has done chemistry experiments and done sudoku and planned his computer building class.

I’ve done some painting and lots and lots of reading. We’ve watched the quail families wandering through the yard and watched the apples grow and the beans climb the trellis tunnel. We’ve watched the orioles and the hummingbirds visit the flowers and the feeders. We embroidered a fox and a shield and swords onto some velvet bags to give friends. Most of all of these activities have been in my bedroom to include me in things.

We harvested edible flowers and herbs and baked rolls with dill, chives, rosemary and lavender topped with flowers. We made a mandala with items from our yard.

We watched fireworks with my parents and listened to a sprinkler hitting a pipe and making the most magical noise and slid down the railings afterward.

We went to the lake for an afternoon and the kids swam, Chris and I paddled in an inflatable kayak that I was able to get my leg into and we found and tried to help some baby birds. Lilah carried them off of the hot cement and put them in shady places under the trees nearby.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve finally been able to get out a little bit more and so Chris and I have been up the mountain to see flowers and deer and out toward the lake to see birds. Our yard is lovely but it’s so wonderful to get out into the wider world! I even got to use my macro lens some. Mother Nature dresses well!

On weekends we’ve been able to get together with my family to chat with masks on and from a distance. This week my parents got out this foosball like game and the kids loved it. Another favorite has been a bucket of water with old rags to wet and then throw at targets. Once Lilah was throwing backwards and the rag ever so gently alighted right on top of my dad’s head. It was hilarious. She’s tried since to repeat that magical moment but it’s not so easy.

 

This week I’ve finally felt well enough to try yoga asanas again. It’s been two months and I can’t put weight on my right leg so it’s extremely limited but it feels so good to move my body more. Next week I can begin to walk with half weight on my leg and crutches.

I’m looking forward to a whole lot more adventuring outside soon!

 

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up to the high mountains!

The road up to the Uintas finally was cleared of all the remaining snow so we got to head up for an adventure. It was still quite snowy in places and wet and absolutely gorgeous. We heard so many birds and frogs and the flowers are just beginning there. Our shoes got soaked but it was well worth it. I especially liked seeing plants growing in a melted footprint.

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late may

We are making great use of the kids new bikes and biking up and down the Jordan River Parkway Trail which is a lovely, shady paved trail next to the river that runs through town. We’ve been going out a couple of times a week and going around 15 to 20 miles total which is so fun! There are so many birds out there and flowers and we’ve spotted some goslings and ducklings on outings too. Our last trip out we happened upon a fledgling owl with a parental escort. Also here are some turtles enjoying the warmth and an oriole nest.

We’ve gone out on some hikes, on less known trails, enjoying fresh air, sunshine and spring.

We went on a fossil hunt locally and found, after much rock inspecting, some teeny tiny sea star fossils.

We’ve been reading, reading, reading.

We celebrated spring by making flower crowns and bracelets, making cookies with edible flowers from our yard and decorating our apple tree and wishing it good health this year.

My aunt sent a few lovely puzzles to us and we’ve been happily but slowly working on them. Sometimes the cats join in, usually by sitting in the box with pieces but sometimes by grabbing loose pieces and trying to throw them in the air or bite them.

We celebrated Mothers Day with my family, outside, with masks and distance but it is lovely to spend time with them however we can do it.

Lilah made some paper with a Tinker Crate project and then made that into the covers for some journals she put together and bound.

There’s a trilobyte quarry down south that we ventured down to with my parents one day. It was hard work but we found quite a few fossils!

Gavin’s started mowing my parents’ lawn and earning money he’s saving up to buy parts for and build a PC next fall. He’s got it planned out and is working hard to make it happen. He’s also been doing chores around our house like cutting down the bamboo.

We’ve played Oceanos and Ravine and Wavelength.

We went on a short camping trip with my parents and sister and her boyfriend. It was so nice to get away from home and be outside. We were careful to keep distance between us and washed and sanitized our hands a lot. Happy Birthday, Meara!

The garden is growing! This year we have two kinds of beans, swiss chard, radishes, basil, tomatoes of four kinds, eggplants of three kinds, lemon cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, sunshine squash, arugula and strawberries. The tomatillos are just starting to sprout all over and I think we currently have a thousand but we will only keep six or so.

The kids are always storytelling together. Here are some drawings of characters they are working on at the moment.

The orioles are back and visiting the feeder along with the black chinned hummingbirds. There’s a downy woodpecker who I think is nesting in our boxelder tree too but sadly we have no view into the spot where it keeps disappearing inside the tree. Maybe we’ll spot little woodpeckers out and about soon.

Gavin’s been working on a project: designing and building a drop ship. He’s spent hours and hours on it, planning, building parts, finding there are issues and reworking it. It’s really neat so far!

 

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out and about on our own

The kids got new bikes from the bike collective that gets used bikes, fixes them up and sells them or offers them to community outreach programs. The kids are now each the proud owner of a new-to-them Diamondback! Thanks so much to my sister for helping us narrow down the choices and for traveling out to check out the bikes with us! One has road tires and one has mountain tires and they are both so thrilled to be able to ride faster and with more ease. It’s been really fun taking them out as they enjoy it so much and we can go much farther and faster. We rode about seven miles with my sister this week.

We took a drive to Fish Springs to look for ghost town remnants and see the Wild Refuge (as it’s termed on a sign on the way there). As a bonus we got to drive past the geode beds, where Lilah dearly wants to go soon, and through some groups of wild horses which are amazing creatures to watch. Sometimes they come fairly close.

We didn’t see any of the old houses in the area so we’ll have to check again. We did see several blue herons, egrets, lots of redwing blackbirds and yellow headed blackbirds as well as ducks and swallows. It was a fun place to bird watch! We did spot fish in the pools as well.

We drove down to Chicken Rock. I’m not sure why it’s called that because it certainly didn’t look chicken-like. You can see it off in the background here, a bunch of tall rock pieces jumbled together.

But we went to find some abandoned farm buildings and we certainly did. One was still mostly standing though it was more of a trapezoid shape than a rectangle.  Gavin and I had a conversation about whether or not it used to be straight angles and how a building shape could change over time.

Nearby there were some huge old willows overlooking a pond. There were so many birds and we even spotted six big frogs. I used my telephoto lens to get a close up of a few guys or gals. I think they were northern leopard frogs. We found some yellow flowered violets (I’ve only ever seen white or purple) on our travels as well as some old and decrepit cattle enclosures and some big feathers.

On the way home we listened to our audiobooks, stopped to check out a few tempting spots and saw a big hawk dive straight into a juniper tree and emerge a second or two later chased by two ravens. The kids guessed the hawk was after the raven’s nest in the tree.

We are making plans to go hunt some fossils and some geodes and possibly obsidian in the near future. We are enjoying making the most out of our free days and the spring weather to go places we’ve never ventured out to before as well as enjoying time at home, gardening, reading, playing online with friends, watching the spring flowers bloom.

 

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warrior in red

So we’ve been chasing a pictograph for the past few weeks. We had heard there was one spectacular image, all by itself, not too far from us but there is no sign, no trail and only a few clues to help people discover its location. It goes by the name Red Warrior and was created in a Fremont style and is amazingly well preserved as it’s protected from sun, people and a lot of weather as well, being on a cave wall. We’d been comparing images of nearby landmarks and following hunches and general directions which led to many fascinating spots and moments but this time, we found the pictograph! Success is sweet especially after sleuthing and lots of hard work hiking and checking every cave (which in this area means a LOT of caves).

Here’s a fossil covered with lichen we found on the way up and a view from the mountain we scaled.

We found the warrior and it was spectacular to see in person. It’s marked in dark red ochre paint, with no known other similar art in the area. Fascinating! We wondered about its origins and about the people who passed through or lived in these areas long ago. I was so, so excited to finally find it!

On our travels we spotted two ravens nests and a hawk nest. The bugs are beginning to get bad so I don’t know if we’ll make it out there again until they die down but it was fun.

On our way home we spotted two owls, a pair we imagine. The kids initially thought they were burrowing owls because the first one we spotted was similar colors and small in size. We took some pictures and Gavin identified them later as short eared owls with his books. One of them flew right over us!

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things we do while keeping our distance

We’ve been baking and reading. We’ve made about 6 batches of cookies since we’ve been keeping ourselves to ourselves. So far: peanut butter cookies with chocolate tops, spicy hot chocolate cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cranberry chocolate cookies, macaroons. Mmmmmm.

We’ve been playing badminton in the yard

Looking for early flowers and signs of spring

We’ve been visiting our sit spots from our cancelled nature classes and walking and visiting our sit spots in our own yard.

Gavin started some new chemistry experiments which I’ll write about separately soon.

Lilah has been drawing and making videos and working on her doodle crate projects. Here are a lantern and a finger knitted dragon.

They’ve been telling collaborative stories.

Gavin and Chris printed a mask. It got a little warped so they are planning to try again.

We started a family D&D night.

Chris started an adult D&D game by message service.

We’ve been doing some yoga, hula hooping and Just Dance on the wii, trying to stay active.

The kids and I have been practicing our fox walking skills and tracking skills. One afternoon at the cemetery we fox walked carefully enough to get within about twenty feet of a bunch of deer.

We’ve been visiting some of our most secret wild spots and trails so we can enjoy sun and birds and fresh air but not with virus risks.

We looked up on our walk and saw this nest! A hawk flew from it right overhead and it was beautiful. The nest was probably about 3-4 feet across. Huge!

We even found some pretty neat fossils on one excursion!

We have had video calls with my parents and sister and chatted for a couple of hours. Those were really great, not as great as actually hanging out in the same room but still fun.

I’ve been taking my tea out to the porch or deck to enjoy the birds and sun and spring air. I’ve been using iNaturalist and guide books and internet sites to identify plants and animals on our adventures. I’m still finding things to admire wherever I am.

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new abnormal

We’ve been struggling with the new corona virus situation. We are incredibly lucky so far, as Chris’ job seems mostly stable and they are working hard to keep it that way, we have a lovely yard we can go out in and enjoy, one of us has time to be with our children instead of working at the same time, we have health insurance, we are in a state where there is easy access to the outdoors far from other people. We have so much to be grateful for! But it’s also been hard. I’ve been worrying about my parents, other family and friends who would likely have a hard time if they contract covid19. We have had to cancel so many fun things we were looking forward to: vacations, spring celebrations, birthday parties, coffee dates, etc. We cannot safely see our friends and for the time being are trying to stay away from my parents to keep them safer. It’s made us feel sad and angry and worried and disappointed and just depressed. The kids are having a really hard time not seeing their friends. We try to get them together online when we can so they can play and chat. That helps a bit. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing with our time.

We’ve been reading a lot. Lilah is rereading a favorite called Nimona and Gavin is reading Flamecaster. I’m rereading The Glass Sentence series.

We’ve been playing board games and gardening. We tried a new game called Ravine which is cooperative and as a group you try to survive after a plane crash by using survival skills. It’s really fun and not too long so we played it four times on afternoon. We set up our badminton net in the yard and have been enjoying that when it isn’t raining.

Lilah made a window star and we delivered it to my parents to brighten their view.

Lilah’s been working on a unicorn hand puppet, sewing it together bit by bit.

Gavin’s been working on his D&D project he’s hoping to run in the near future and working on 3D printing designs.

We are trying to figure out how to run our interrupted D&D game online and get the kids together virtually for that next week.

We had an early egg hunt in the house.

We planted carrots, beets, swiss chard, lettuce and artichoke seeds. I have some radish seeds on their way.

We’ve been going out to remote nature locations to hike, explore, and adventure far from other people. We bring food, toilet paper, gas so we don’t have to stop anywhere except our destination.

We hiked up a ravine at the canyon one of our nature classes usually meets at and explored there and visited our sit spots.

We went to an old ghost mining location called Silver City and admired all the old building remains and knickknacks scattered in the area. Gavin even found what’s called scrip, which is mining currency tokens, only good at the company store. This one doesn’t list any denomination though it says PAY DAY on it.

We headed further out to an area called Devil’s Playground where the rock formations are amazing. There are lots of hollow boulders and bubbled rocks to explore. There were even a few very short slot canyons between huge boulders. We saw many deer in the area and some antelope on the drive.

There’s a lot of beauty and good all around to be spotted, if I’m looking.

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following the flowers

For the past several years my parents have made a trip to see the spring bloom in Arizona or Nevada or California, which happens much earlier than it arrives here in Salt Lake City. This year three of us got to tag along. We went down to Tucson where the hills and mountains had lots of blooms and more sunshine than Utah right now.

We explored Saguaro National Park, where we saw many kinds of cacti, penstemon, mallow, and other wildflowers, Lilah played the barrel cactus,

And Picacho Park with lupine and poppies and many other flowers,

And Catalina Park where we got caught in the rain and hail on our adventure and had to cross a river several times. It was pretty exciting! Here’s some purple owl’s clover. Someone joked on our hike about having ice cream later and Gavin was truly excited about the idea even though it was cold and we were wet so after dinner that night he and my dad headed out to bring back an armload of ice cream and sorbets for all of us to enjoy!

One rainy day we spent at the Biospere II, a place where they have and are still running many scientific experiments in controlled biological environments. It was fascinating and I’m glad that Gavin and my mom decided on something so fun to do on a not so great hiking day.

 

It was lovely to spend time outside (while not so cold) and to admire flowers and birds and to just enjoy time with my parents.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived home we had to face the realities of this changing corona virus situation so I am very grateful we had this time with family.

With all of our driving time, we listened to the second book of Tomi Adeyumi, Children of Virtue and Vengeance which was fantastic and also Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons by Ashli St. Armant.

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