Anticipation

Timeline of a Lovely Pink Lady

Day 1:  Saturday, April 14:   My son and I spotted the first sprouts of what we hoped would turn out to be the Pink Lady’s Slipper flower like we had seen in that area last year.



Day 4:  Monday, April 17:  The bud has appeared, and we are sure this will be the Lady’s Slipper!  We hope!  How long will we have to wait?  I sneak out the woods every day, but nothing seems to be happening quickly!  It is hard to wait!



Day 5:  April 18, Wednesday:  No change!  Why am I disappointed?  Just a few hours have passed, and I still would like to see a major change!  My boys laugh at me as I rush out to take a quick look before heading out for the day!



Day 7:  Friday, April 20:  The bud is beginning to open!  I have sent my boys out to check, and they keep saying, “No change” but I have to go see for myself!  I can definitely see a change!  I have hope that maybe for the Sabbath, we will have a bloom!



Day 10:  Monday, April 23:  My son’s birthday!  We are so close!  It’s teasing me!  I can see the shape, and the beauty emerging, but it’s still going to take some more waiting!  It will be worth it!



Day 11:  Tuesday, April 24:  I headed outside first thing in the morning, just like I did yesterday!  I hardly hoped, but there it was!  What a jewel!  I do still think it may open a bit more!  It’s much paler than I thought it would be!  But I am super excited at how it looks!  I took pictures in the early morning light, and after it had rained in the afternoon.  I really like it after the rain!  Tomorrow, I will go check it out too!


Day 12:  Wednesday, April 25:  OK.  I couldn’t let the day go by without seeing how the orchid had changed!  Today is the best day by far!  The color has deepened to a nicer pink shade, and now you can see inside the flower!  I think it is beautiful–obviously!  My son told me that I geek wildflowers!  He’s right on!

As we walked down the driveway, I got to thinking that if we have these orchids on our property, I’d bet that the neighbors have the same type of environment.  So, I started gazing over towards their side of the driveway.  You know, the grass always promises to be greener on the other side of the fence, and all.  Well…suddenly I did see a bloom on their side!  It’s not opened as far as ours yet, but time will bring that beauty out!  And now I have another flower to watch!  We actually have about 9-11 more growing on our property in the woods, but they are just leaves so far.  I read that not all plants make a flower every year, but I hope they all make one here!  But I might get more done if they don’t bloom!

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Here is the flower on the neighbor’s side!

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I know that some of my shots are a tad fuzzy.  I am basically just shooting with a poor old IPhone 5!  My good camera keeps fuzzing out on me, and so I’m just doing this for my pleasure and memories!  But I am happy with every shot that I have of this exquisite specimen of God’s handiwork!  The wait has sure been rewarded, even if my family thinks that I have gone off the deep end!

Get outside and enjoy God’s world!

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Trillium & Other Surprises

img_9217-1My third-born son and I are becoming Nature Nerds.  I wear that title with pride, and I think he kind of just gets roped into these outdoor adventures.  But he does take it with a nice attitude, and is learning all the way, even if he doesn’t quite gush enthusiasm for flowers, if you know what I mean!  After all, he’s eleven!  That might not be cool to be too interested in flowers.  But, remember Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver, Elliot Coleman, and other fine men who appreciate wild things, and you will see that flowers and plants are for everyone!

Well, we took an excursion yesterday to see the wildflowers.  We hooked up with two dear old friends (old friends, not OLD friends, as in old ladies) who happened to know bunches about all things wild! You never know what you will stumble across out on the trail–I just figure you have to get out there and start looking, because the flowers are there, whether anyone sees them or not.  When you do come across little patches of beauty, it is such a treat for the eyes and for the soul!  If I miss these beauties, it’s kind of my own fault, because there they are, just blooming for all they are worth!

We came across some neat finds!  Some stumped us, which led us to scour the field guides and good old Google when we came back to the cars, but, as the Good Teacher said, “Seek, and ye shall find.”

We discovered that what we initially thought was the Little Brown Jug plant was actually another in its family, the Southern Heartleaf plant.  I looked up pictures on the internet when I got home, but the photos I saw still look like they are mottled a bit differently.  Naturally, I think that the ones we saw are prettier, but that’s because they are ours.  Much like your baby always looks nicer to you than other people’s, and I think that’s just fine!  I think they are just neat-looking flowers.

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Southern Heartleaf Flower

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Aren’t they cute?

We were hiking around Hot Springs, NC, and explored three trails with our friends.  The Jack’s Branch Trail, which a friend had heard about for its wildflowers, we found overgrown, and a definite rugged walk!  Over logs, under logs, across the creek, through fallen trees and over mossy logs.  We didn’t quite find the official trail’s end, but knew we found the correct beginning point, at least an old point of entry.  Later on, we did find a new connection into this trail, which was plainly marked.  So, that will be an adventure for another day!

Along the rugged trail we spotted some lovely Silver Bells, which grow on a tree.  I had never seen this type of tree before.  We almost stepped onto a patch of Dwarf Crested Irises, in both light and dark purple!  They are quite lovely!  We found Yellow Bellwort flowers growing along the way, although I’m not sure what variety they were, as my pictures turned out fuzzy.  We saw many other Spring wildflowers that were so nice–the Fire Pinks bloomed abundantly, Blue Phlox, Star Chickweed, Wood Anemone, and lots of violets!  I learned more new names–The Purple and White Phacelia, and Bishop’s cap were among them.

All in all, we had a good experience–great company and and lovely day!

My son and I decided to take the scenic short-cut back home, and are we ever glad that we did!  We didn’t know that The Lord had surprises waiting for us!  As we drove the back road back along the French Broad River, we kind of started to relax.  We put an audio story on to listen to, and just sort of drove along slowly, enjoying the scenery.  Suddenly, a striped cat leaped across our path!  Wait, no–he was a Bobcat!  He sprang across the road, looking just like our tabby house cat without the tail.  Yes, he was a bit larger, but not considerably!  We stayed there in the road until he disappeared into the woods, but we felt excited to see one of God’s creatures that prefer to remain hidden.

The next surprise greeted us as we entered into the Paint Creek Corridor.  A banquet of white trillium flowers spread out before us, lining the road!  I was amazed!  I’d been hoping to see trilliums all week, and now, without really looking for them at all, there they were!  I couldn’t resist the urge to take pictures of them, and after snapping a few, I realized there were at least two varieties, although they do look similar.  We saw the Bent Trillium, I believe, and the Sweet White Trillium, which has the burgundy/dark center.  I thought we found another variety, the pink streaked one, but I think that is what they start to look like when they get older.  Honestly, I could be wrong about that, but I could not find any other trilliums that look similar to these streaked ones.  I personally think they are very beautiful flowers with the colored streaks!  I took a picture of the buds of some, and almost thought they were the Bent Trillium.  I believe they are all the Sweet Whites in the group that I saw.

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Sweet White Trillium

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Sweet White

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Bent Trillium

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Sweet White

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Sweet White Trillium

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Sweet White

We had just one more trail to check out, since a nature-savvy friend of mine had told me about a certain trail that often had Trailing Arbutus growing on it at very specific times of the year.  We were literally driving by the trail, so I thought we’d better try to see those!  If I hadn’t known what to look for, we’d have overlooked them for sure, because you have to lift leaves–dry and live to try to see the little pink flowers.  Imagine our disappointment to see that they had just bloomed and lost their flowers!  I said a little prayer for our hike, and whispered that maybe we could be permitted to see some of these flowers that we’d heard about.

Later along the path, we did find a patch, and with some poking around, found blossoms that were still fresh!  I made sure to bend down to take a sniff, and had my son do the same, for the fragrance was like nothing else!  Reminded me of a nice perfume!  Thanks to our Kind Father for allowing us to experience these little jewels.

Just after leaving the flower patch, we began to head down the trail.  As we hiked along, we both stopped short at a rather loud rustling sound just to our right, and down the ravine.  “A bear, my son gasped!  Yikes, I thought, and tried to follow the dark form with my eyes.  It scrambled up the other side of the ravine, across from us.  I felt tense as it didn’t move away, and blended into the shadows.

I whispered a prayer that God would help this crazy mama and her boy, seeings that we were hiking all alone in the park, no cell service, and no one knowing where we were!  I wondered how far to the end of the trail (I knew it wasn’t a long trail, but long can be relative, depending on whether you are being chased by a bear or not)!

We couldn’t exactly see how big the bear was, which made me nervous.  I knew it didn’t look huge, but all the trees made it difficult to see if it was a cub or grown-up.  If it was a cub, I knew Mama Bear was somewhere, and I did not want to meet her!  The bear ended up moving along and away, and we decided that we would be wise to do the same!

Our day in the Wilds ended, we came home refreshed!  We stopped along the driveway to take a shot of the Pink Lady’s Slipper bud that we’ve been watching.  I am trying to be patient for the flower to open, but it is taking its own sweet time about it!  It will be worth the wait, I am sure!

Double take

 

“I bet that butterfly will come out today,” I said to my husband as I jostled the little jar that held our chrysalis. The dark form jerked around as the I bumped the jar on the windowsill.

I turned around to clear the table, giving directions to the boys. When I came back to the sink, “oh, a bug has gotten into the butterfly jar!  I’d better get it out,” I exclaimed, as I saw the black insect flapping around at the bottom. “Oh, the chrysalis is empty–it’s the butterfly!”

Just like that, transformation can happen. Turn your head away, turn back, and things have changed. Isn’t life like that?  What you think is predictable, maybe isn’t.

There is a lesson for us. One for you and another for me. Here’s mine for today:  Pay attention to little things that look ordinary. Take little snapshots in your mind. Life won’t always be like it is today. It might be better, but never the same.

Like the case of the caterpillar, change brought beauty and freedom. Let your change, however uncomfortable, bring joy and not bitterness.

Enjoy the journey.

 

simple. practical. timeless

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A couple of months ago, our homeschool changed focus to more of a practical preparedness approach. We are loosely using the Prepare and Pray curriculum, but as usual, life has kept us busy with different twists and turns, preventing a completely consistent use of Prepare and Pray, as it’s written, anyway. The focus is still there.

With our Pathfinder Club, the boys have learned many useful skills, like knots, camping skills, and  rescue, just to name a few.  I am extremely thankful that we have a good club!  Since that’s finished for the year, the boys really have purposed to learn more of these practical skills this Summer, in the form of more honor patches.  Having a little incentive to motivate them sure makes a difference!

But last weekend, our whole family had the opportunity to participate in a really wonderful time of learning!  The whole focus of the five day camp meeting was Preparedness–with the focus being on the time, which we believe is soon, when things in our world will be very different from the way we are accustomed to.  The Bible calls it the Time of the End.  Now, we believe that Jesus is our only Refuge in the storm that is coming.  Yet, if we know that we can learn skills that will help us to better deal with what we know is coming, when our modern conveniences won’t be able to be depended upon, then we are wise to consider taking notice.

The name of the  camp meeting was Total Preparedness Camp, and was put on by Jim and Becky Buller, of Preparing to Stand Ministries.  We attended in Liberty, KY, but they hold these camps in different locations throughout the country!

Our family was only able to stay for 2 1/2 days of the time, but in those days we learned so much!  Daily, we learned from the Bible about people like Noah, who moved with fear and built an ark because he believed that God would do what He said He would do.  Morning and evening time were the Bible study times.  The middle part of each day was for learning practical skills–very hands-on!

I was amazed at how engaged our boys became in the topics being presented, even if they’d already been exposed to it before!  By the end of our time, they were actually volunteering to hurry up and clean up our camper so they could attend EVERY meeting possible!  This does not always happen with my boys.

When we came back, we compiled a list of some of the skills we focused on.  I’m sure we missed some, but here are the bulk of them:  Sabbath, we learned about finding directions in the wild, and participated in an activity illustrating that even those of us who think we have a good sense of direction just don’t.  We can’t trust our innate sense of direction, because in almost every case, it led the person off track.  Interestingly, in children, it was more accurate.  On Sabbath, we also learned how to make a solar compass, took a wild edibles hike, learned how to identify flint rock, then how to use that flint with steel, to start a fire.  Our youngest son came back from the hike with pockets bulging and pants sagging under the weight of his newly-found flint collection.  We also discussed survival priorities that first day.

The next day was designated as No Buy, No, Sell day.  In essence, we got to imagine that, like the Bible says , there will be a time, when, if we are loyal to God, we won’t be able to buy or sell.  So, in a very small way, we just practiced what it would be like to live without  some of of our modern conveniences, and used no electricity, stoves, or fossil fuel–basically nothing that we couldn’t readily obtain from the land as far as heat and power.  I was a little nervous about this, but in reality, we only practiced this for a portion of that day, in the daylight hours, and nobody really felt deprived.  We really need to practice this one on a more lengthy time period to get a better feel for it. But, it was a good place to start, since few people live like this anymore.

We started by harvesting vegetables out of the garden.  This is not a big deal for some people, but there were some others attending who really had never dug a potato or pulled a carrot from the ground!  And they were so happy to get their hands in the dirt and do this simple task!  Their excitement made it fun for all of the rest of us as we were reminded that pulling food out of the ground really is amazing!

Next, part of the group experienced cutting down a tree with no power tools–only hand-powered tools!  I didn’t hear any complaints but I’m sure it was hard work.  We then used that wood for our fire, because lunch had to cook over it!  If I had to cook every meal over an open fire, I’d not get much else done!  It takes forever!  The “Camp Kitchen Crew”, of which I was a part, all worked in harmony–each preparing some tasty dish to share.  Our family just purchased a cast iron Dutch oven so that we could learn something new.  I’m so glad we did!  As I chopped potatoes and onions, I looked around for our sweet potatoes.  Those got left at home.  Almost as soon as I realized that, someone came along calling out, “Does anyone need any sweet potatoes?”  “Yep, right here!”  Before long, another brother brought corn, asking the same thing, so I added that to our pot, remembering the story of Stone Soup.

Soon, we had three Dutch ovens all stacked up on top of each other, with good things inside cooking away!  Someone had a rocket stove, so we got to try how that worked as one family cooked hominy, and ours gave a good effort at black beans.  We decided that we need more practice on the rocket stove, and some adjustments are probably needed.  But, we got beans and hominy for supper.

How could we squeeze so much into just one day?  I don’t know how, but I do know we packed a lot into that day.  We got to observe an energetic young man till/disc the ground using horse and mules for power.  It’s funny how this is the way things used to be done for centuries, but to us, it is really almost a spectacle to see people work!   I will say that he did it barefoot, which caused me a few shudders inside.  Also, we learned about shelters and saw how to make a simple shelter from a tarp.  We still need to practice that one.  I think they probably did that when we left.  But we have plans to construct our tarp shelter soon and sleep outside in it.  The boys do, anyway.

The last day we stayed, it poured down rain!  We were supposed to take a survival hike, but things got switched around and we did more inside learning.  We learned how to prioritize in a survival situation, how to make useful tools out of natural materials, and what to take in your backpack.  We learned how to make the charred cloth that is helpful for starting flint/steel fires and how to make a water filter.  We had a good lesson on how to sharpen knives and other blades, and the boys had the opportunity to make cordage (rope) out of natural grass-type material.   It’s funny that they learned this, because we recently had to learn how to make rope, but we didn’t really know how to do it from natural materials.

Listing all of these “skills” doesn’t give a full picture of our experience at this camp meeting.  There was just something about being together with like-minded people that was an encouragement.  We came from all over, but I believe that God brought us together.  I can only speak for our family, but we really feel blessed to have had the chance to attend.

Something happened after we came back from the Campmeeting. All three boys have suddenly revived their interest in their little gardens!  With no prompting by me, they are all outside, where they’ve been for the past hour, digging away, and scouring our closets for more seeds to plant!  I’m not going to discourage our eldest, who just informed me that he planted a row of pinto beans (from the store). I don’t know if they’ll grow or not, but whatever happens, he will get a cause-effect lesson, so it will be a win. 👍🏻

The boys took notes, and I’ll just share a little excerpt, because I believe it sums up the reason we feel like it’s good to keep learning new skills.

Most old people made their own food, but the people in this time don’t.  You need to grow your own food.

I’d encourage anyone who has the chance to check out one of these preparedness camps.  Here’s a link to the site where you can find out more about them and that also contains plenty of helpful information about survival and practical living

http://www.preparingtostand.org/

Keep learning!

 

Pray and Prepare…a new journey 

We needed a change in our homeschool. Interest and attention seemed to be waning, which, I realize is kind of normal; after all, how many boys would admit that they LOVE school?  Not mine, anyway. They look at it as something to be endured, until they get to go ride bikes and play around outside. Still…I do have a desire that they enjoy themselves while learning, and I knew this was possible.

I made the somewhat radical decision to totally change up our curriculum, mid-year!  It may be a crazy experiment, but I believe that whatever happens, we will learn from our time along this new trail.

Speaking of trails, that’s really what our new curriculum is all about–blazing trails, wilderness survival, and practical approaches to everyday life that will help us to meet whatever challenges the future holds. The best preparation, as Christians, is to have our hiding place in Jesus, who is the only one who can protect us ultimately. Yet there are prudent measures families can take to deal with emergencies and unexpected life events.  Taking a first-aid kit along while hiking, anticipating tornadoes and making some basic preparations, learning how to care for illnesses from what grows around us–all of these things are really common sense skills, but we don’t always give them much attention.

So, the name of the curriculum is Pray and Prepare.  You can get it here: Prepare and Pray.  It’s not very well-know, I’m finding, and so as I’ve tried to do some research on the curriculum, I haven’t found too many users of it.  That’s why I decided to share what we end up doing with it. Because it is a unit study approach, many subjects overlap, and every home using it will have its own unique way of carrying out the projects. It’s very much pick and choose, and since we are just getting started, I am having to figure it out as we go.

This is our third week into it, with one whole week housing a sick boy.  So, there have been some bumps in the road. I think the biggest bump so far is figuring out how much to try to tackle each day. Those first days, although they had fun activities, stretched out way too long into the afternoon, which was wearying. I’d been told to not try to tackle every project listed, but I tend to want to, and that leads to fatigue and mental overload. So, a couple projects per week is all we can really tackle, and concentrate on the basics the other times.

Our first week projects included making a bear bag, which is what you’d do while camping to store your food away from bears. I read the description of how to make it to the boys, and was content with that information. That’s my tendency. But I felt a prick of conscience telling me that I got this guide so that we could learn hands-on, not just read it & regurgitate it.  So, we toon the mesh onion bag, and packed it with food, got the tape measure, and had to go outside to hunt up the right size tree, then measure and hang the thing.  I can tell you which method the boys and I will remember–the one we did, not read!!  Lesson for me, who would often rather sit on the sofa than get up and go out!  Maybe this curriculum is more for me!!!

In our wild edible portion (you get to pick your own plants research), we studied the pine tree and mullein. We ended up learning so much about the pine tree and all it has to offer in a survival situation, that we needed the whole week instead of one day.  We actually harvested the inner bark if the pine tree and cooked it–we kind of liked it!  I don’t think we will be frying pine bark in coconut oil in a survival situation, unless we happen to be stranded on a tropical island, but it was good learning.

Also from the pine tree, we made pine needle tea, which we all agreed tasted more like medicine than Celestial Seasonings. And the tea left our mouths feelin dry, like when you eat an unripe persimmon. Not really a big hit here. But, it does contain five times more vitamin C than an orange, so don’t cross it off your survival list!!

Pine sap is useful in many ways, one of which is making a torch!!  As soon as my youngest two heard that, they shot off outside to cut a big stick and harvest some pine pitch!!  I think their eagerness probably led to some skipped steps in their torch-making process, because I never did see a very long time-burning flame, but I believe that understood the process.  Do remember pine pitch for any wounds or cuts while hiking, because it has soothing and healing , as well as antimicrobial properties, and makes a pretty good glue for your cut!

Mullein, we learned, had many useful properties too. The boys remember the “Cowboy Toilet Paper”!  We finally found some right out back today, so I harvested some for tea. While the tea is fairly pleasant, those tiny hairs from the leaves do not feel good, so I would think long and hard before I’d use the mullein for TP.  I need to mention that to the boys.  Not everything has to be experienced!

Not directly from the P&P, we have been studying camping skills also. So, yesterday, youngest camper showed how he could build and start a fire with just one (almost) match. The windy day did not help his one match, but it did ignite with just one!  Also, he needed to bake bread on a stick!  He gave a valiant attempt, but since the biscuit dough was gluten-free, it just would not stick to that stick!!  So…we got biscuits the ordinary way!!

Middle Man Bro build us a nice fork thing for hanging pots on over the fire. We haven’t made any soup on that fire yet, but one day we will try.

For writing projects so far, the boys have had to create posters detailing the nine survival priorities, which is very practical. Don’t worry about food if you don’t have shelter or water available, etc. The next week was a small research project on ducks. Is week we chose our own writing project out of our Bible lesson on Naaman. We are focusing on Little Maid and the preparation her parents obviously gave her before she was carried away into captivity.  That was a sobering thought for me–we are preparing our children for an unknown future.  That’s where the Pray really comes in.

I’m leaving out lots, but for now will just hit on some of the hands-on projects, because that’s what we are trying to fit more of into our learning.

Today we took another side trip because the boys are working in a Seed honor for Pathfinders. They had to collect thirty different kinds of seeds!  That would be much easier during a different part  of the year, but even on this dreary and cold day, we traipsed around and found enough.  No, we don’t have black beans growing in our back yard;  they were allowed to choose ten from household and seed packets. I was surprised but not surprised to see which of our boys really don’t into this project–my Middle Man!  He loved it! Sometimes I am at a loss as to what will motivate him–turns out it’s Nature!  The Little Man seemed to enjoy it too–they worked together!  Big Bro–my most motivated usually, did his part, but it was not really his cup of tea.

Here are a few shots from these first weeks (Unit one).  So far so good.  The major lesson is to not over-do the projects.

Organizing the seeds

Mullein from out back!

 

The cooking fork

Freshly harvested inner pine bark

Thirty-plus seeds!

Toasting the bark!

One match fire

Inner pine bark that we toasted

Up a tree harvesting pine bark

 

Look Around

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As homeschoolers, we can so often get quite book-focused.  It’s natural, and that’s because we see so much that we want our children to learn.  If we could just open up their heads and funnel the facts in, that would be a very efficient way to cram them full of knowledge.  Or, would it?

In reality, that would be about as efficient as opening up our mouths and shoving in the broccoli, bananas, and carrots.  It would surely get the nutrients in, but leave us exhausted and repulsed by the good food.  I dare say that mealtimes would be looked at with dread instead of delight.

I wonder; no, I don’t really wonder–I know that we sometimes approach school in this way, and wonder why our little fact machines don’t cheerily click out the math, language, and spelling information like computers with fully charged batteries.  Maybe they’re drained and need a recharge.  Nature is good for that.

We had to do that today.  My kids needed it.  I needed it–maybe more than they did.

It’s necessary to drill spelling, math, and reading.  But it’s also necessary to observe, take a deep breath outside, and notice.  Notice the strange bug that looks a lot like a hummingbird!  Observe the leaves as they begin their Autumn drama.  They won’t look the same tomorrow.

Just look around at what God has put in YOUR path because He loves you!!

Here’s a few of the gems we found today in God’s Nature Treasure Mine.

And the secret is that Mom and the boys had a happy ending to this day.

*pictures in slideshow are sideways because I can’t figure out this app.  :-/