unschooling

owls, bison and ghost towns

We’ve been heading further out lately to enjoy the fall weather and look for wildlife and ghost town remains and beautiful views.

Antelope Island is an amazing place to see bison, antelope, birds of all kinds. We found an owl but missed the burrowing owls and plan to go back soon and look again. We had fun looking at the old farm machinery and buildings and spotting so, so many animals.

We drove south to see if we could find the ghost town remains we’ve heard rumors about. It took us two separate trips to find what we were searching for but we got lucky and found a great spot with old mining town remnants. Most of the structures we found were collapsed but Lilah found some pottery, we found some old metal mining cable, and this that was still upright.

I love ghost towns. I love the mystery and romance of them and knowing that what I see today may be gone by next year, or not. I love watching nature regain her territory, root and branches, wind and snow and time.

I love exploring and I love watching my kids enjoy exploring. This Earth is such a beauty filled place!

 

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out to the great salt lake

We adventured out toward the Great Salt Lake with friends. We stopped at Golden Spike Historic Site, where the transcontinental railroad completed it’s route across the western U.S. They brought out the two engine cars and we got to see (and hear) them driving along the tracks.

Spiral Jetty is not too far from there, out on a dirt road. It’s a land art piece that is at the edge of the lake, except with current drought conditions it’s about a half mile from the water line. The kids enjoyed walking the spiral path and looking for lizards who love to sun themselves on the dark volcanic rocks there.

The Great Salt Lake is very salty indeed there, so much so that the bottom of the lake is huge, hard crystals of salt that are tough on feet. It’s pink from the halophilic (salt loving) bacteria and very beautiful and strange looking. The pink waves and white land is so striking! I dug out a few crystals while I was walking around.

They make for sharp stepping and cuts and scrapes.

In a few places there was foam from the waves which was also sparkly with super high salt concentrations. Fascinating!

The kids enjoyed it until the salt began bothering their scrapes and cuts and stinging.

We even spotted some more wild horses!

Afterward we stopped at Willard Bay on the way home which is another part of the lake but is very much less salty so better for swimming. We washed off the salt and the kids played games in the water until it was undeniably late and we headed home.

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strung together

There are so many moments in each day, some notable, some not. Sometimes I ponder my own memories from childhood; what I remember, how it was important or not important but still remembered. I wonder what my kids will remember of their experiences. I hope they will remember love, connection, wonder, delight, comfort, strength. I hope they will remember kissing their cats goodnight, singing silly made up words to songs we know, hugs when they are sad or scared, the excitement of spotting elusive animals and plants, the smell of sunshine in pine trees. I hope Lilah will remember how we go into the public bathroom stall together (her choice) and make funny faces or do dances or pretend our toothbrushes are hairbrushes, microphones, carrots to entertain each other while we wait. I hope Gavin will remember cuddling in our bed and looking at cute and funny animal videos together, having waterfights in the backyard and playing hammock swing tag with Lilah (one of them is on the swing, one is in the hammock nearby and they try to tag each other.  I hope Gavin will remember the time he tried black olives thinking they were mushrooms and discovered he loves olives. I hope both of them will remember becoming other people in other worlds and times for a few hours while they read a fantastic book.

Here are a few moments and hours strung together here that are memorable for me from the last weeks:

We went up to Idaho for my Grandmother’s memorial service and spent some good and fun time with family, enjoying their company and remembering my Grandma. I have so many special memories of time spent with her. A few that come the quickest are: her love of crosswords and reading, Christmas baking projects with help from overeager grandkids (me!), her weavings and her helping me with weaving and beading projects, her laugh, her beautiful white curly hair. While we were in Idaho, Lilah showed off her crafting skills and Gavin thoroughly enjoyed playing long complicated games with family. The drive was beautiful, with fields in bloom, golden and looking like they were aglow with light.

I painted a scene of the glowing fields from our drive for my dad.

Lilah wanted to go to the park and try going down the hills in our wagon. Why not?

Gavin went to a dear friend’s birthday celebration and we made plans for more time together soon.

We harvested some of the first garden bounty. Lilah’s most excited about strawberries and lemon cucumbers. Gavin’s most excited about spaghetti squash and eggplant. I am excited about all of it!

Lilah has spent hours taking her cat out in the yard on leash and harness.

We have a quail family with seven chicks strolling through most mornings and evenings and a pigeon nesting under the deck. There are dragonflies buzzing overhead every time I go out to the garden and hummingbirds zooming about. In the yard today I spotted orioles, hummingbirds, house finches, goldfinches, robins, a woodpecker, and some chickadees.

There’s been a lot of this:

We visited a local ghost town called Ophir with friends. It was a mining town and has equipment, tailings, interesting old buildings and so much to explore. They mined gold, silver and other things and we found a bunch of pyrite nuggets and some chrysocolla in the tailings.

We’ve been trying to deal with ants in the house. Ugh! They come in every summer and look for water and sugary foods. Cinnamon and vinegar do pretty well at dealing with small incursions but not larger ones. We finally hired a company who uses pet and people safe, environmentally friendly treatments to try and get it under control.

Gavin been going to a nature camp a few hours every morning this week with a good friend as well as a Harry Potter camp called O.W.L. camp put on by the county library. He had a wonderful time at both and came home as a Gryffindor, very pleased. He told us he received points for his house for having purple hair.

Lilah and I finally made it to the cat cafe, where you can enjoy coffee, tea, and cats for company, most of whom are available to adopt. It was delightful and we successfully left without bringing any cats home.

We signed up for the local library’s summer reading program. It involves a lot of reading. The kids completed it in about a week and are now doing extras. I’m so grateful that both kids love reading and will do it for love and research, not because of prizes promised.

All four of us have been playing Magic the Gathering, including a draft with the newest set of cards which Chris got for Father’s Day.

The kids hauled out a bunch of large blocks, two chairs, several scarves, the mini-trampoline, a balance beam, a few soccer balls and some other items and set up a cat themed obstacle course game for themselves. It was awesome!

We hiked up in the mountains and saw so many wildflowers! Also, we spotted deer, a moose with two very young… I need to look up what a young moose is called… calves, a weasel or a marten, and lots of chipmunks.

 

We spotted bunches of wild forget-me-nots. Here are some with a paintbrush flower. Perfection! Enjoying the connections between people and moments and nature and choosing how to weave your own life experience and story is a wonderful adventure.

 

 

 

 

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Midsummer

We celebrated summer solstice late but very happily.

We made sun cookies with edible flowers from our garden. We used rosemary, chopped fine and put into the dough, pansies, california poppies, roses, lavendar on top of glaze colored with turmeric. Next year I hope some of our newly planted garden spaces will have even more edible flowers to use. We all enjoyed this so much that I definitely think we’ll be doing it again. Mmm.

All four of us ventured into the canyon for a flower spotting hike. We cooled our feet in the creek and explored and smelled and spotted beautiful wildflowers.

We created flower crowns and pretended we were fairies,

and we played Firefly the boardgame which Gavin deemed appropriate because the solstice is about the sun and the planets and space. We thought it was a great idea!

We read the summer story from the Brambly Hedge collection by Jill Barklem at bedtime.

It was a beautiful, delicious day.

 

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a week in early spring

Lilah’s been playing her ukelele.

Gavin’s been doing chores to earn money for Lego. Here he is cutting down and getting our old bamboo ready to put into the yard waste bin.

Lilah built a dinosaur out of Lego. It’s pose-able and can open and shut it’s terrifying plastic jaws.

The kids worked hard on their “MineCraft Live” game, creating rules, world, background and very detailed characters, drawn in the square form of MineCraft. Can you tell which is Lilah and which is Gavin? Lilah’s character has red hair (like her) and cat ears and tail (which she often does too) and Gavin’s character has special armor (which he loves designing and researching) and long hair one one side (like his).

We went to a farm to see baby animals and ended up watching a goat give birth to three babies as well as feeding goats and calves and Lilah was patient enough to hold still with feed in her hand for a good two minutes until some chicks were brave enough to eat from her palm. The kids also got to bounce and go down a huge slide with friends.

The fruit trees are blooming and it’s alternately 70 degrees and sunny and then snowing. Ah, spring in Utah is so variable!

We celebrated my mom’s birthday with a scavenger hunt in teams because my mom is amazing & therefore has amazing birthday wishes. Lilah and I were a team and we sent lots of silly pictures of our hunt to my mom.

The kids pulled out the Ed Emberly drawing book and spent hours putting pieces together into fun scenes.

Gavin made some hash browns from scratch. We were out of pancakes and he did not want cereal.

Lilah’s been using perler beads to make bubble wands.

We started a family Never Winter nights computer game campaign. It’s been fun so far.

We went cross country skiing for a second time. It was still very hard, very fun and very expensive. We will definitely go again lots next season but in the mean time I will be trying to figure out if we can find some used equipment to buy so we can save some money on rental fees.

Gavin did some crystal growing.

We took a hike up to one of our favorite spots and saw glacier lilies!

Lilah did some circular weaving.

Life is great!

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big rock candy mountains

We got the chance to head down to Southern Utah this week to relax, hike, explore and enjoy a few degrees warmer weather than at our home. We visited Capitol Reef and Fremont Indian State Park. Big Rock Candy Mountain is an actual place that we drove through on our way around and about and when you see the colors and textures and beauty of the surroundings nearby, you can see why.

Capitol Reef is full of amazingly beautiful rock formations as well as historic Fruita, an old fruit growing town. We stopped at the Fruita school house and blacksmith shop and spotted happy deer living in the orchards and big marmots chewing grass in the picnic area near the river.

We spent a lot of our time exploring slot canyons, which I particularly love and have apparently passed my love on to our kids as they requested more and more slot canyon hikes. We also hiked some of the scenic narrow, but not slot canyon narrow washes that are easily accessible in the park. The kids are strong and energetic enough to hike about 5 to 6 miles total in a day now which lets us explore some areas that we haven’t been able to reach before. (We go fairly slowly and make a lot of stops though, to allow the kids to rest and to enjoy the scenery!) We went up Capitol Wash through the narrows, past the historic pioneer register and up to the tanks. We even happened upon an arch when we hiked a little way off trail to find a place to sit and eat our lunch.

We hiked up into Cottonwood Wash to some beautiful slots. Gavin did some photographing which is fun to witness both the process and the outcome. My favorite is the one where he had Lilah put her hat with the pink tentacles so it was just peeking out from behind the rock.

In between hiking we played Power Grid, worked on puzzles and had a few egg hunts. There was a rabbit that liked hanging out right next to the place we stayed.

 

We hiked through Grand Wash, exploring some of the offshoot canyons, spotting petroglyphs and spotting geodes left and right in the wash. The kids are fascinated by rocks, especially crystals and fossils so we were enjoying spotting geodes, both closed and some open ones lurking everywhere. They often remark on the minerals or formations of rocks while we are out, wondering if the red rock is full of iron and the purple manganese, the greenish could be lime stone. They got bracelets on the trip with mini compasses on them so they were comparing their compasses to the car’s compass as we drove and looking at which direction were were heading on trails as well as wondering if iron in the mountains was affecting their compass readings.

We have plans to do more rock hounding as it’s fun, fascinating and gets us outside and into new places. I need to find more local resources and get us some better tools. I wish we had our own rock saw so we could slice some beauties open without having to go somewhere and have someone else do it.

We spotted so many lizards, birds and this hummingbird moth.

We drove out on Burr Trail through the Waterfold Canyon and it was an amazing drive. I was drooling over all the amazing rock formations, washes and canyons to explore. We spotted deer as well as a herd of cows and their cowboy along our way. We made it out to a fairly remote spot where we had lunch up on a huge rock bench before heading out to find Headquarters slot canyon. It was a fun, pretty easy trail through a deep dark beautiful red wash up into a slot that was one of the narrowest I’ve been in. We spotted lizards galore and Lilah even saw this huge beauty, around a foot long!

I loved noticing all the dried flowers from last summer, now a beautiful gold color decorating the edges of the trail, waiting for the rains to cover them in green again.

Fremont Indian State Park is a fairly small park but is full of amazing remnants of the Fremont Indians who lived in the area long, long ago. Unlike many of the other native peoples who lived in our area, these groups lived in homes underground. They came upon a huge collection of ancient homes and artifacts when they were clearing the area to build a road through and from that discover the museum and park came to be. There are thousands of petroglyphs, right next to the road, right next to each other, utterly fascinating and awe inspiring, also lots of other artifacts and an ancient granary you can see into and an underground home you can climb down into and explore. We also visited the labyrinth, a spiral that isn’t really advertised or well marked that you have to just happen upon while wandering in the park. It’s created with the local lava rock and stumps of old trees put together oriented to the four directions and really fun to walk into and out again, contemplating the mysteries of life now and for people living thousands of years before us in ways we may never fully understand.

On this trip we ended up talking a lot about graffiti, petroglyphs, historic markings, what constitutes damage and what doesn’t since we saw all of those things plus a little girl drawing on small rocks in a remote wash as well as a grown man trying to throw a huge soccer ball sized rock into a hole in a protected canyon rock wall, near historic markings. (The impact of the girl will be small, easily erased and not seen by many. The impact of the man will be possibly quite damaging to an area which hundreds of people walk by to admire the scenery of said rock wall every day.)

As we drove through the park and there and back we listened to The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love exploring new books with the kids. They eat up most everything we listen to and often the stories and concepts are things they use in their imaginative collaborative story play.

 

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desert adventures

We ventured south to Arizona and Nevada for a week, stopping at Prescott to explore Watson Lake, Tucson to see an early Real Salt Lake game and Saguaro National Park and in Overton to explore Valley of Fire State Park.

Lake Watson is a bunch of granite boulders all put together this way and that, which they added a dam to one end so it is filled with water. There were so many birds and every few feet was a whole new world of rocks and water. It was very much a shame that we were too early to be able to rent kayaks and paddle boards but it was fun clambering around, bird watching and launching fleets of driftwood into small ponds and larger bays in the lake. We even spotted a few road runners while we were having lunch one afternoon.

One afternoon we drove out to Jerome, a ghost town nearby and we enjoyed exploring there. It was cold and getting dark soon so we didn’t get to see as much as we’d like, which just means someday we can go again and explore further.

Here Chris and the kids are reading about a jailhouse that slid down the hill.

We all brought our fan spirit to Tucson and enjoyed seeing our beloved soccer team, Real Salt Lake trying new configurations and putting new players to the test.

Saguaro National Park was as amazing as the last time we visited. We saw so many cacti and birds and nests and an old mine and petroglyphs.

 

Lilah figured out that she could play the barrel cactus! Each curling spike makes a different noise when you gently tap it.

Valley of Fire was gorgeous! It was also fairly crowded for being a state park in winter but it was fun anyhow. We explored on and off the beaten path. We even got to see quite a few big horned sheep. There were amazing petroglyphs, pretty orange sand to play in, a slot canyon, lizards,

and ravens and songbirds and squirrels, so many colors of rock. We saw white, yellow, purple, pink, orange and red rock, and in some places they are right next to each other! There was an area with waxy looking and feeling rock too. I would like to find out more about that. I wondered what it all looked like when it was wet. I bet the colors are even more vibrant.

The petroglyphs were some of the most distinct and amazing that I’ve encountered. The kids’ favorite glyph was the one known as Mystical Bat Woman, which is the one right in the center of this picture that has sort of clawed looking feet, a skirt and sleeves and two horns or antennae on the head.

Lilah especially loves to play in the sand. She made a sand rabbit:

We saw lots of tracks. Here is a bee making tracks:

We also noticed lots of holes in the ground and speculated about who lives in them. Gavin thought this one looked like a burrowing owl hole, with some debris scattered in front to lure in tasty smaller animals to eat. He did some research about how to identify a burrowing owl’s burrow.

Gavin decided he wanted to try being a photographer on our trip so we have quite a collection of photos that he took with our camera. I’m really looking forward to watching him explore photography more! Here are some of my favorites:

As we were driving away the last time two adult big horned sheep followed by two babies crossed the road right in front of us! Wow! What a special moment!

 

On our way home we stopped at the Hoover Dam which was big, impressive and really expensive to park at, visit the Visitors Center or take a tour. Gavin was interested in taking the tour to see the inner workings of the dam but we didn’t have time on this visit. It’s right next to Las Vegas though so not too far from many of our usual routes.

When we got home, the kids spent some of our settling back in time to play with their lego stop motion animation book. Here’s a video Gavin made one morning:

And here’s one by Lilah:

 

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