On The Trail

Homeschool Hiking


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Knitting in the woods

IMG_0999We had so much fun last week in Virginia! You can read all about our visits to Monticello, Appomattox Court House, The Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Vernon here. One of the fun parts of our stay was the cabin we rented at Bear Creek Lake State Park. It was so lovely! My favorite part was the wrap around porch which is where I went with my knitting whenever I had a minute! Mostly that was in the early morning before Brian and Maddie were up. I worked on another hexipuff and got quite a lot done on my shawl (in the picture above). We also did a lot of nature journaling, especially with trees since we had just been to forestry camp! The leaf is from a tulip tree. I was reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes in addition to all the field guides! Our last day we added to the Cabin Journal. We had so much fun reading everyone’s comments and reasons for being there. So many good stories! Now we are back at work although Maddie is done with school and enjoying more free time! What have you been reading or knitting?

Joining Small Things for the Knit A Long


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Thomas, George, Grant & Lee plus the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last week we headed off to visit Virginia. Last summer Maddie asked if we could visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Brian did a lot of research and found a cabin for us at Bear Creek Lake State Park in Virginia. It was located in a central spot so we could also visit Appomattox Court House and the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as being a beautiful spot itself. The cabin had a great room, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a lovely wrap around porch.

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This was the view from the porch the first morning we were there. Isn’t it beautiful? The birds were making quite a racket! The night before we had taken a small walk down the path to the lake. We saw a pileated woodpecker, song sparrows and a Great Blue Heron catching a fish for his dinner!

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Monday morning we took a small hike around the lake. We were trying to identify trees and had fun checking out the other plants. We also saw a butterfly and several other insects.

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We used our field guides to identify the butterfly as a red spotted purple. It was really cool…..more on those later! Maddie was very busy with her camera throughout the week. We will put her photos in a post of her own!

In the afternoon we headed to Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. Here we learned, contrary to every class any of us ever took regarding the Civil War (including the history major!) that the surrender didn’t take place in a courthouse but in a private home. Court House in this case is 2 words and means the county seat not a building. We were struck here by the obvious respect Grant accorded Lee. He was given the larger desk and more comfortable chair. Maddie worked very hard on the Junior Ranger booklet. This was easily one of the hardest ones we’ve ever done but she did get it done! Her reward was a special junior ranger badge for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, some cards with photos of the buildings on the site and a printing made on the old printing press that is a copy of the parole the Southern soldiers received.

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On Tuesday we spent the day at Monticello. We had a special behind the scenes tour. The tour lasted 2 hours and was very enjoyable. The guide was knowledgeable, cheerful and loved Maddie’s story of her first memory of Thomas Jefferson. We told her about it on the way to the kitchen. It was a book called Thomas Jefferson’s Feast and explained how much he enjoyed cooking and that he introduced macaroni and cheese to America. Of course, the more she learned about him the better she liked him until he became her favorite founding father. Our tour took us through the house everyone gets to see plus the upper floors where most people do not get to go. We couldn’t take photos in the house but we were able to take photos on the grounds. Maddie loved every minute of that and was very busy trying to get photos of the house without people around and got her macros lens out when we went around the garden. It was very hot that day…almost 90! We really enjoyed the house and grounds despite the heat. While we didn’t learn anything astounding and new, we did learn little bits that made Jefferson seem a little more real.

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On Wednesday we headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We spent time on a short section ending at Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. It was another beautiful day with temperatures in the 70s. We had great visibility at the overlooks and saw more butterflies than we could keep track of! Most of them were red spotted purples and tiger swallowtails. Maddie had her aquascope to check out some of the creeks. Maddie completed the Junior Ranger sheet for the James River visitor center earning a badge for the Blue Ridge Parkway and had a great conversation with the supervisor of rangers at the Peaks of Otter Visitor center. He told Maddie that he became a ranger because he couldn’t sit still in school and this let him be outside all the time. Maddie responded with “I know exactly what you mean!”. Maddie also told Brian and I later on how much she appreciates it when the rangers really check her work on the junior ranger book.

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Thursday we checked out of our cabin. When I made the last walk through I noticed a piece of paper on the desk in Maddie’s room and had to take a picture. I hope whoever checked our cabin and took the laundry enjoyed their note!

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After checking out we headed to Mount Vernon.  The house was really neat and the farm had a unique 16 sided barn of George Washington’s own design. We also enjoyed the museum. They did not live up to Monticello however! The staff was not as cheerful and it was so much more crowded it was hard to think!

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We had a great time! Planning may be starting for next year’s trip, once again centered around a national park.On the way home we saw this group headed to Washington DC. Maddie and I particularly enjoyed seeing the one lady in riding her motorcycle in the middle of the men! Happy Memorial Day!

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Yarning Along at Forestry Camp

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We spent the last weekend at 4H Forestry camp (more about that here). I brought along yarn to try making a hexipuff for the Beekeeper’s Quilt Pattern. I thought it would be a good way to use up my leftover sock yarn and it would be great fun to have a blanket made up of all my leftover yarn! The knitting was quite easy. I haven’t completed it yet because I need some fiberfill and to locate the right size crochet hook! The library called the day we left to say they had What the Robin Knows for me. Some of the moms in a book club for kids nature books were recommending it. I didn’t get very far along yet but what I’ve read has been interesting! I mostly sat to knit and read in the early morning before most parents and kids were up. I also did some during the day when I needed to give Maddie some space to make friends or work on her test.

The tag on the tree had answers to how big and how much volume the tree had so the kids could practice with Biltmore sticks.

IMG_0782We came home on Mother’s Day. Maddie and Brian had sent pictures to Knit Girl in Idaho which she then made into stitch markers for me! One is Maddie’s photo that I took and the other is from our trip to the Christman Sanctuary. I love them and put them right onto my shawl that I showed last week.

IMG_0793Joining Ginny at Small Things for the Yarn Along.

 


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Forestry at the Bat Cave!!

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Ok, well, maybe it was Camp Shankitunk not the Bat Cave exactly! We had a great time and learned so much. We also learned that we have so much more to learn! Yikes! All 3 of us are interested in learning it though and one of us may need it in future park ranger work so we are going to start working on 4H Forestry Curriculum at home.

We arrived Friday night at dinner time and got settled into our cabins. Maddie and I were in the Bat Cave while Brian was in “Welcome to the Jungle” with the other dads and sons. Brian said the amount of snoring certainly made the name appropriate! We brought dinner along with us to eat then Maddie started getting to know some of the other kids that we would be spending the weekend with.

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We didn’t realize until Sunday that Maddie had ended up making friends and hanging out with a group of kids who were 14-just turned 16 years old. They didn’t realize how young Maddie was either! Obviously they all met in the middle and were enjoying each other. Have I ever mentioned how much we love 4H kids? Friday night also included a bonfire and games.

Saturday morning we got up, had some breakfast then headed off to learn some things! First up was how to use a Biltmore Stick to measure the diameter and volume of a tree. Volume of a tree being how many boards you could create and sell from the tree. Its a pure estimate and not an exact science! First they had to figure out their pace which was how far 66 feet would be for every 2 steps they took.

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I had to take this picture because I was waiting for someone to yell “For Narnia!!!” and take off but everyone was very absorbed figuring out what they were doing and missed the opportunity!

After this session we went inside for tree identification. In my world that would be how to use a field guide. In Forestry world it is memorize what the tree looks like so you can tell me later.

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After that was lunch. Meals were prepared by one parent who was in charge of that all weekend with both kids and parents helping to finish up and serve. We all chipped in to make the weekend work because that’s what 4H’ers do. Once lunch was eaten and the kids had raced around a bit we headed out for a hike. This 4H camp has a learning forest directly across the street which was donated for that purpose. There are examples of both good and bad practices in forestry. It was also on the side of a mountain. I thought we would never make it back to flat land!

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Then we moved on to maps and compasses. These were not easy sessions. I probably would’ve flipped that to morning if I was given the choice. Lots of math, lots of trying to follow confusing directions. The plan at home is to work on topographical maps this winter. These two pictures sum up Maddie and Brian’s feelings about them!

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I was very proud of Maddie! She certainly got frustrated but she stuck to it and did get some idea of what she was trying to do !

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Sunday was dedicated to testing the kids on the skills they had learned the day before. Maddie didn’t do as well as she hoped to do. Brian and I reassured her that we were there for fun and to check things out, not to ace a test. Maddie wants to be good enough to go to the National Competition when she is old enough (14 years) so we said we would study at home and work toward that goal. Goals are good. Knowing how far you need to go to reach the goal is even better!

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Working hard on her test!

All in all it was a great weekend with good people!

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Knitting and Reading

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I picked up my shawl to start working on again. I got frustrated with it a while back but decided to pull it out, go slowly and do it when it is quiet. I’ve made some progress thank goodness and frustration hasn’t come into play…..yet! I am reading The Fiery Cross on my kindle which is part of the Outlander series. I’ve read them all once but have gone back to re-read them closer together which is helping my recall quite a bit! In preparation for 4H Forestry Camp we are reading The Woods Scientist.

Joining Ginny at Small Things for the yarn along. What are you knitting and reading?


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Rangers, Owls and Shakespeare! What we’ve been up to!

Maddie finished her PASS test on Saturday morning. As a reward for completing it we headed up to the Saratoga National Historic Park to see a program with a wildlife rehabilitator. She brought raptors for everyone to see! Maddie was delighted and took many photos. They were so neat and some of the information the rehabilitator shared was so interesting. Did you know that the barred owl’s hearing is so good that he could hear everyone’s heart beating in the room? I couldn’t imagine the noise inside that poor owls head…the room was packed!

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screech owl                                                falcon

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Maddie and the barred owl-her favorite!

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Snowy owl named Oz. He immediately coughed up an owl pellet much to Maddie’s delight and several groans and “EEEEEUUUU”s from the audience.                                     .

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Harry Potter display! Snowy Owl on the right and a European Eagle Owl on the left.

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European Eagle Owl which is Draco Malfoy’s owl in the Harry Potter movies! Maddie got shots of him flying across the room to his perch!

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Then we headed out to check out a used bookstore and have some dinner at The Farmer’s Daughter. I couldn’t resist this shot!

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After that it was back to the park for a walk with the park naturalist. We were supposed to be seeing woodcocks but unfortunately we only heard them. Our big news of the night was spotting a Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree then flying across the field. We were thrilled. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a good shot of the owl as it was too far away. We did try but really it looks like a blob in the tree! We did see a lot of other birds, heard a symphony of wood frogs and saw 3 deer.

Here are Maddie and Brian before the walk!

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Here are some of Maddie’s photos. We were out in the park until 9pm so we got to watch the sun go down while waiting hopefully for a woodcock to “dance”.

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Proof that Momma was indeed there!

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Can you spy the bird in the tree? It was a yellow bellied sapsucker.

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Maddie loves shots of trail or roads leading around the bend. At least they seem to show up often in her photos!

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It was a beautiful night. We could see all the way to Vermont!

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The photos above were all taken by Maddie at the Barber’s Wheat Field stop while waiting patiently for the woodcocks to put in an appearance!

We got home late, very tired but happy despite the woodcocks staying hidden!

Tonight we celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday (well, maybe…a best guess is April 23 but we haven’t had time until now). Maddie made some signs to hang up for Daddy when he got home.

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I made shepard’s pie which was the closest thing I could think of that would be easy on a weeknight to make for the time period. It may not have been exactly the right thing but meat pie was at least in the area! I used my new favorite recipe for shepard’s pie from The How Can It Be Gluten Free? cookbook. We also read some questions about Shakespeare’s life and some quotes from the plays to determine what the meaning might be. So many of our phrases and words today come from his plays. We had fun with that! Especially since many of them had some very silly incorrect answers.

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I also made cupcakes for dessert. The activity pack I purchased had the cards with questions, the poster and these cupcake wrappers among some other things.

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After dinner Maddie used her finger puppet theater to do parts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for us. That was a lot of fun to watch!

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(yup, I know she spelled his name wrong! We need to work on that I think!)

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I am quite please with how the Shakespeare unit turned out! Maddie is picking up the book by Charles and Mary Lamb to read the stories on her own now. She has read 2 of the plays using No Fear Shakespeare and liked them too. She is asking to read more of the plays so we will keep right on going! Brian was researching some of the plays that were made into movies so we can watch some too.

That has been our busy week! We are looking into more busy fun ahead!


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Yarn Along!

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I am working on a prayer scarf…well, actually several….for our church. I hope to have enough that each graduating senior will have one to pack for college. We often do prayer shawls but I had read about this idea and liked it.This particular one is for someone entering the military. My Ravelry notes are here. I am reading many things at once! The ones in this picture though are The Canterbury Tales which I am reading aloud to Maddie. Maddie is coloring in a coloring book about Chaucer while I read. We are both enjoying this version which quite surprised me! The other book is The Harp and the Laurel Wreath which I am reading to find some poetry for next year. I am not sure yet if I will have Maddie copy it over or memorize it or just read!

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I thought I would add this picture in too! This was the first really nice day of spring that we had last week. I was able to sit out on the porch for some knitting while listening to The Lord of the Rings on my Kindle. The sparrows were all quite upset that I was back out there in their world and lined up on the railing to let me know how upset they were! I tried to get a picture but I guess they felt they had said enough. The notes about the sweater are here.

I hope you are getting some spring weather too!! Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along!