Beavers and Ducks

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When we are not tackling junk piles or learning about forest management in Arkansas you might find us among the beavers and ducks.  This kayaking fun was brought too us by the handiwork of a few beavers and about 7 years of their time.  When my husband’s grandfather, Otho, was alive and kicking he loved to wage war on those long-toothed furry creatures, they were encroaching on his precious forest after all!  In the last year of Otho’s life though he came to see the beauty in the beaver’s efforts and happily gave in.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

5th generation is all about loving the beavers.

This wetland is a perfect example of what we are working to cultivate in Arkansas, which is conservation.  Forests are amazing filters and do wonderful things for reducing our carbon footprint, as most of us know, but beavers are truly amazing little environmentalists.  Their dams and wetlands help fight drought, create healthier environments for other species and fight climate change.

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Plus it’s getting me really close to that pond moment in “The Notebook”, so yes, I’m totally down with the beavers.


To Grandmother’s house we go

Changing leaves on the tree in the horse paddock.

Changing leaves on the tree in the horse paddock.

Happy kick-off to the holiday season!  I love, love, love this time of year.  We’ve been working like mad weekend warriors in Arkansas and have lots of exciting new developments to share (like why we now have a horse paddock) but for now just a few links to get me back in the writing saddle.

If you are doing some traveling this holiday season here are a few things that have made a HUGE difference in our routine.

  1.  Yeti is a cooler company, we’ve had their hard cooler for a few years and decided to add their cooler bag to our stash this summer, couldn’t be happier!
  2. The only thing that makes Yeti better are Ball mason jars.  No more soggy anything!  They are easy to clean, easy to reach in and grab, they look great and are unbelievably versatile.
  3. This next one may not be for everyone but it’s worth mentioning.  Mason Pearson hair brush, travel size.  Prepare yourself, it’s $100.00 for a hairbrush but this brush has saved me from packing shampoo and conditioner for our 3 day jaunts.  The brush glides through my kid’s hair removing debris and dirt from the day and distributes some of the oil (and sweat) away from their scalp.  I brush before they jump in a shower or bath, they do a good water rinse and that’s it……unless.
  4. If they (or myself) are left with massive tangles, Honest Company’s leave-in spray conditioner has been a life saver.  This may be one of the most forgiving products ever, my kids can spray half the bottle on their head and their hair still looks great.(Note: if you are over 12 years old a few squirts will suffice).
  5. Castor Oil – hexane free – I’ve only had a couple weeks experimentation with this magic serum but I’m using it to tame my ever frizzy hair, my newly wild eye brows, soften my lips and ease my dry cheeks, rub in my nail beds, remove eyeliner, I’m not rushing to try ingesting this oil but just these applications have made it a must in my travel bag.
  6. For the ride itself I’m a huge fan of audio books, now that my kids are 8-10 years old the book selection is huge.  Harry Potter of course is amazing, but we’ve also enjoyed Rick Riordan’s books, currently listening to and loving Wonder and this one was also a family pleaser.  When I try to get in some schooling on the road The Story of the World keeps us all engaged as well.

Hope every one has some time for relaxing this weekend, I’d like to copy my daughter and do some this.

Lyon' like a dog

Lyin’ like a dog.

P.S. You might remember an old post about my hopes for Arkansas, here’s a picture from a recent weekend.  This is the latest property we’ve acquired, we aren’t Pinterest or Insta-worthy yet as you can see from the junk pile but we love it, warts and all!  Plus you can see the ingenious chiminea hack my husband conjured from said junk pile!

What to do when the top of your chiminea breaks off and a face full of smoke is ruining your dinner.

What to do when the top of your chiminea breaks off and a face full of smoke is not on the evening agenda?  Grab some corrugated metal and bailing wire – Stand back Macgyver, we’ve got this.


Good Dirty Summer

My son on Uncle J's tractor

Boys on tractors

Jumping bales with cousins

Jumping hay bales

100 year old barn

100 year old barn

Hay bale meditations

Hay bale meditations

Muddy creek walks

Muddy creek walks

Potato digging party

Potato digging party

Girls on tractors

Girls on tractors

Unearthing gem colored coolers while emptying rooms at Addie's

Unearthing gem colored coolers while emptying rooms at Addie’s


Arkansas adventures

AR breakfast

Our last trip to Arkansas yielded some very nice firsts!  We had the chance to break in this nifty Lodge grill for instance.  It was love at first breakfast, the charcoal starter thing-y had us up and scrambling eggs before I could finish slicing bagels – THAT’S FAST!  Normally my problem with charcoal grills is all the waiting but this thing makes it a breeze!

This was the first time we were able to sleep in the house (on the floor), eat in the house, go to the bathroom in the house (figured out the toilet has a crack though), wash out dishes in the house, clean ourselves at the house (sort of) – in short we were able to be at Addie’s without leaving for anything!

That left more time for exploring!

AR kids creek

As we were walking the land behind Addie’s we came upon this creek.  When we visit Addie’s we usually have a LONG list of stuff we’d like to get done and most of the time the kids are working right along with us.  So when the opportunity to take a muddy break presented itself I couldn’t say no.  Watching my kids negotiate this very wild, non-manicured, non-saftey checked creek was the best part although I’m sure my kids would disagree.  Armed with a stick to check for snakes (water moccasins would be common) and check water depth they very carefully explored.  It took 5 minutes just to get used to the squish of the creek bottom and non-stop bugs swarming them and the cool temperature of the water.  They became pretty bold after that though, testing that tiny vine as a swing (above), exploring deeper waters, so much braver than their mom!  We still had to walk back to the house after this creek adventure which brings me to a product review.

Bean boots AR

The kids received these LL Bean boots as a Christmas present.  They are expensive and not many boots can do what the Bean boot does….or is supposed to do – good for walking, perfect for wet ground, really, really good looking.  The only thing I can stand by is the way they look, they are a very handsome boot.  But getting them on and off is a pain and walking in them is a nightmare – two things that put them in the NOT buy again category.  What I’ll try in the future are another pair of Blundstones (you totally saw that coming I’m sure) worked over with a little magical product called Obenauf’s.  Although not marketed for waterproofing, with trial and error we’ve found it to be a good protector of the already water resistant Blundstone boot.  Perhaps we’ll need rain boots for the crazy wet days but for day to day needs, we’re back to Blundstone.

The work at Addie’s still overwhelms me, there’s so much to do, so much for me to learn.  But one day, I’m hoping to sit down at a table like the one below, with friends and family and tell stories of our early misadventures with this land and this whole process and marvel at how far we’ve come.  Sounds good right?!

photo via the old white house tumblr

photo via the old white house tumblr

 

 


Stop, Drop and Roll

Burn pile behind Addie's house

Burn pile behind Addie’s house

Back in Arkansas our projects continue.  The very first time I visited Arkansas a fire was involved.  At that point in my life, fires were something to be avoided at all costs, something scary and dangerous, the only fires I saw growing up were in fire places.  So at the age of twenty five when my soon to be husband took me to met his grandparents in Arkansas I was not sure what to think when “burning the brush pile” was on the agenda of our visit.  Coincidentally, this first fire took place behind Addie’s, my husband’s family gathered together to clear out the damage done by folks who had been renting the sweet old house and then set it all ablaze in the back yard.  Is this good for the environment?  No.  Is this how they do it in the country?  Yes. Is it exciting?  YES!

We made a burn line so the fire was unable to jump into the forest and we manned different parts of the fire armed with shovels, our faces covered with masks or bandanas, ready to smother any fire that looked uncontrolled.  I thought the whole thing was wonderful, the purposeful work, everyone coming together to help, the efficiency of the fire.  I didn’t think years later we’d replicate almost an identical scenario with our own little family but that’s exactly how it happened.  Over a decade passed since that first fire and in the meantime, Addie’s house was ignored, brush grew and took over what once was a meadow and fruit orchard.  From time to time a family member would drop by and attempt to control the overgrowth, cutting brush and piling back in that same spot in the back yard, over the years the pile grew and grew.  When my husband and I decided it was time to tackle this pile it was mammoth.  We called in some help, waited for the right conditions, grabbed a little diesel and a lighter and got started.  The kids categorize this day as “the best day ever”.  They covered themselves in soot, helped light fires, fanned flames, smothered errant flames, burned the bottom of their boots, smiling and sweating all the way.  They felt powerful and helpful and they were!  It was the type of experience we hoped our kids would gain in Arkansas and they are ready for more.

 

 


What 7 and 9 looks like

7 and 9 on their first ski lift

7 and 9 on their first ski lift

Over a year ago I did a post on what 6 and 8 looks like and it’s something I find myself going back to read over and over.  So before these years pass me by here’s a snapshot of 7 and 9.

My 9 year old daughter now poses for pictures, she talks about how the zoo offends her, “I mean what if you were a lion, do you want a million kids passing by and tapping on the glass while you are bored out of your mind?!?!  It’s just wrong.”  She’s ready for more independence, walks around the neighborhood by herself, bikes to the park on her own, wants more time with her peers.  She still likes a hug first thing in the morning.  She still has her brother sleep over every night on the couch in her room.  Tears have started to fall for incomprehensible reasons, she calls these moments growing pains and it’s terrifying when I consider adolescence in this force that is my daughter.  She’s one of the coolest people I know.

My 7 year old son dances when no one (except my daughter) is watching and boy can he move.  His “R” sound is still soft and it makes him seem younger than he is.  He gets frustrated when his sister is able to catch on to things faster than he can (like skiing) but his careful personality pays off when he explains how NOT to fall off a ski lift to his older sister (which, of course, she did).  He asked me this week if I knew the bad word that rhymes with “buck”.  The bad words he’s currently aware of include “stupid” and “shut up” so times are changing!  He still cuddles and is generous and thoughtful like his dad.  He’s one of the kindest people I know.

This crazy parenting experience provides something new with every passing year.  I wonder if anyone ever feels like they are good at this job/role?  On one hand I can’t believe I have the privilege of helping these little beings grow, on the other I cannot believe the challenge of helping these little beings grow – what a mix!  To all the parents out there, here’s to us!


Stop me if you’ve heard this one

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Here I am day 4 of homeschooling.  Yes, we are teaching the kids at home now.  I cannot believe how many spelling/phonics rules I’ve never been privy too.  Sure maybe you can rattle off, “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when pronounced ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh”.  When my kids were small they loved Starfall, and I learned the handy jingle, “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” (Like in meat or treat).  But this week while getting familiarized with Spalding’s, “The Writing Road to Reading” I’ve picked a gold mine of this stuff, for example:

1.  ‘c’ says ‘s’ when filled by e, i or y

2.  ‘v’ and ‘u’ can’t have the last word (meaning in English we don’t end words in ‘u’ or ‘v’

3.  ‘g’ may say ‘j’ when followed by ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’

There’s about 29 of these rules, about half I’d never heard before!  Although my children don’t seem to be quite as enthused as I about this fascinating new world where the English language has started to make more sense, they did say they are having fun at school again!  That alone would have been worth it but knowing that many vowels have more than just short and long sounds also rocks.