Baskets, Bobbins, and Piles Of Things Not Yet Finished

Sitting on my desk is this basket…

img_2249

Still full of Tour de Fleece handspun yarns that I haven’t shared with you. What can I say? I just haven’t quite gotten there yet. There’s a shawl the back of my chair that’s in the same boat, too.

Sitting next to my spinning wheel are these bobbins…

img_2252

Plied and ready to be skeined and finished, these are my spindle spun singles from the Tour de Fleece.

On my wheel, a true spinning WIP…

img_2250

This is the latest Top of the Month Club fiber from Three Waters Farm. I think I’m in love.

Across the room, my yarn and fiber stash…

img_2253

Freshly sorted, cataloged, and rearranged. Note my mannequin has been binocularized. I know what ladies do to earn bead necklaces at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so I’m kind of afraid to know what my mannequin in Central Wisconsin did to earn her own binoculars.

And in my knitting bag is this start of a shawl…

img_2246

This will be a shawl for my mother in-law. She really liked it and bought all the components, but hit some roadblocks in the pattern-writing, so she asked and I agreed to take it on for her. Now that I’ve got the pattern memorized, I’m cruising an enjoying it

Sitting next to my desk is this humongous pile…

img_2248

School books and school supplies, just waiting to be organized and distributed to various shelves throughout the house. I’ve got the preliminary schedule set, books are purchased (obviously), and I am working on getting whatever components exist online set-up. It’s also prime time for me to familiarize myself with where we are starting and how the new programs we’re trying will work. Starting school? That will be a piece of cake, the weeks of preparation are the busiest time for me!

Feeling school and a busy September bearing down on us and all that comes with the fast-approaching end of summer, we took a couple nights this weekend to spend time at the family cabin up in the Northwoods. There is no running water, let alone cell service or wifi, and we’ve come to really appreciate spending time there. We love being in a spot where we get to set down our smart phones & be unreachable for a while. A place where we get to make the kids step away from their screens without the usual resentment toward us for forcing the issue. We play board & card games, read, hike, and — introverts that we all are — generally enjoy the quiet. Inspired to check it out after attending an author event for Michael Perry at our local library, I read 2/3 of one of his latest books, Danger Man Working.

img_2254

It’s a collection of essays he’s written over the years and it’s a great way to get a feel for his writing, I think, as he touches on a wide variety of topics.

Before homeschooling, I read a lot. Since homeschooling full time, it’s been very hard to find time to read for my own pleasure because I’m constantly side-tracked and in the middle of any number of other topics and stories. I’m also generally drained at the end of the day sometimes. These essays are just the right length for me to be able to sit and read and actually finish a story line before being derailed. I wish this book wouldn’t end. I laugh out loud, I cringe, I identify with people, I have vicarious low-level panic attacks, I tear-up — it’s good stuff. A great way to spend a quiet weekend. I did a little sock knitting while I read, but that project is still buried, waiting to be unpacked so I’ve got no updated picture for you today.

We did find a new hiking spot. I mean, of course we found a new hiking spot…

img_2228

Mr. Knitting Sarah loves trails that are more game trail than human trail. I… well, I am learning to dislike them less. My main beef is that the poor footing wears out my faulty hip a lot faster than the more groomed variety, so I get frustrated when pain starts to seep in sooner than I’m ready for it.  But these thick woods…

img_2227

They are beautiful and generally worth the effort. Any frustration melts away when I stop to take in the scenery…

img_2229

Because there are so many little wonders all around.

We did not see any bears or wolves or other large carnivores and while Mr. Knitting Sarah is always a little disappointed in that, we did see more than our share of deer and fawns and I was lucky enough to see an ermine lope across the road in front of us. Oh, how I love those guys!

From this beautiful spot we watched at least 15-20 Cedar Waxwings catch flies…38513908_10155339465112000_8363549941024423936_o

And a Red-eyed Vireo darted down from the tree tops to see what we were all about.

As the day marched on toward lunch and our stomachs started to grumble we turned back to the car, to a picturesque picnic spot that Moose loved…

img_2235

And ultimately back toward the baskets, bobbins, and piles of things not yet finished. Believe it or not, they are all right where I left them and ready to be picked back up again.

 

Go North, Part 1

Last Sunday my family & I pointed our van North and started driving. Our destination was Gooseberry Falls, a state park just north of Two Harbors, Minnesota which is about a half an hour drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth. We were packed to the hilt for a week of shoulder season camping along the North Shore — tent, cots, cold weather sleeping bags, food, knitting, sweatshirts, raincoats…

img_0860-1

The list goes on (and on and on). I’d like to point out that the SPAM and allergy pills are for Moose. After his severe allergic reaction to black fly bites a couple years ago, I pack the meds and the SPAM (which he is not allergic to and I can shove the pills into and he’ll eat even in the throes of severe allergic distress) whenever we head out beyond the city limits with him, just in case. The rest, well, knitting, book, water bottle — check. Essentials for a week of camping!

In any case, with our van full of gear and SPAM and allergy pills we made excellent time and were crossing the state line into Minnesota by mid-morning. Did you know there are mountain in Minnesota? Complete with tunnels that go through them?

img_0864

It’s 100% true! They aren’t the bare granite peaks of the Rockies, but more like a small version of the Appalachians rising up from rock that is beyond ancient.

We left early and arrived a bit before lunch time to do some hiking around along the Gitchi-Gami, the Ojibwe name for Lake Superior…

img_0870

For those who have never visited the Great Lakes, they really are not unlike gazing across the ocean only they smell like fresh water instead of salt water.

img_0893

And no matter how many times I walk up to the edge of Lake Superior, it’s always something I have to stop and take a minute to take in; to breath in its depths, soak up its colors, and lose myself in its endless peaks and troughs. It was the perfect start to our vacation because the kids played and bounded along on the rocks and burned off their kid energy while Mr. Knitting Sarah and I had time to just be.

Moose waited patiently, tired from an afternoon frolicking in and around the Big Water, while I set up the tent and Mr. Knitting Sarah started working on gathering water and getting the kids set-up.

img_0906

And eventually, we all settled down to the classic camping tradition…

img_0907

The campfire.

We awoke from a very brisk night — it was somewhere in the mid-30s — shortly after 6am. We quickly made coffee and got moving. Getting going, of course, is the best way to get warmed up. Coffee in hand, we hopped in the car and headed up to Tettegouche State Park for a hike up to the High Falls.

img_0924

By the time we got to the trailhead, the sun was up and it was chilly, but one of those days you could feel would warm up. We hiked along serenaded by the Sapsuckers, Chickadees, Robins, and a lone Pileated Woodpecker, with the reverberating drumming of the Ruffed Grouse in our bones, a sound you feel before your ears recognize what it is.

Up, up, through the big woods and across a footbridge suspended over the Baptism River rapids…

31945989_10155163196332000_2381104159228166144_o

And for all our efforts, we were rewarded with this scene…

32105466_10155163196307000_143559062825467904_o

On the way back to the van, I was moving slower and I used the slower pace to see all the little details…

img_0921

Warmed by the sun and the activity, we headed back toward Gooseberry Falls for lunch and then struck back out to explore more. We checked out the beach near where the Gooseberry River empties into the Big Water and spent some time viewing Northern Flickers and a Red-Necked Grebe and we found…

img_0925

SNOW! We spent a little time hanging out, looking around…

img_0926

And I soaked up the colors of the ancient rock that surrounded us.

We ended our evening with a short drive up to the Split Rock State Park and a little rocky beach…

img_0931

In a word, this place was perfect. We found a piece of wood along the shore and tossed it in the water and took turns hucking rocks at it. It’s a favorite family game to play when we’re at a rocky beach. It never gets old.

While we were sitting on the beach, Mr. Knitting Sarah noticed a bumblebee struggling in the water. We found a downed branch, extended it out over the water and it was able to grab on…

31961634_10155163575497000_4429448503063740416_o

And on his little rock, he proceeded to clear himself up and dry himself off. We found him a protected spot away from the water and the beach to get his bearings and took our leave.

We headed back to camp and made some dinner while the kiddos read about astronomy, hoping for a clear night.

img_0954

But with clouds rolling in, we opted instead for another campfire…

img_0961

Because we had a pretty good idea what the next day would bring.

 

Part Two of Go North will appear on the blog later this week, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

In the Badlands: The Final Two Hikes

Warm and clean and with a good night’s sleep under our belts, we decided to undertake the Notch Trail after our first night in the cozy cabins of Cedar Pass Lodge. The recent rains had awoken a number of wildflowers…

IMG_8965Which brightened our hikes immensely and kept us from being too disappointed in the near constant threat of rain.

Now the Notch Trail has some somewhat steep drop-offs and requires a trip up and down this fantastic ladder…

IMG_9009… but we were rewarded for our bravery and exertion (it really isn’t as steep as it looks) with a secluded canyon all to ourselves and some more spectacular views…

That’s me, getting a healthy dose of perspective and looking for Townsend’s Solitaires.

My son, he gave this particular hike…

IMG_8994Two thumbs up.

As we wound up this hike, it started to rain again and we headed to the infamous Wall Drug for lunch and I was treated to a famous cup of 5cent coffee and a delicious pecan roll.

IMG_9034Really, these are so incredibly good — De-lish!

The following morning brought more rain, but since it was our last full day and we had the warm cabin to return to, we decided that we’d go for another hike. Little did I know, the clay-y mud would make the hiking roughly like ice skating. On mud. We had fun with it though…

This camper was ecstatic that she had earned her own hiking stick this trip and was having an absolute blast, yelling out things like ‘Mind the chasm!’ when there were big drops to avoid and ‘Happy Birthday, Little River!’ for all the little run-offs streams.

No one does cold-rainy-mud-hike quite like us!

Of course it was not all fun and games when this one decided to try her hand at ‘mud-skiing’…

It was all excitement here…

Then the sliding happened…

And the full on mud-tumble…

IMG_9045Followed by sobs of embarrassment and anger at her failed attempt (and muffled hysterical laughter from the rest of us). The full coat of head-to-toe mud she now sported did not help her mood. Thankfully, the very, very sweet Mr Knitting Sarah picked her up and carried her back the one or two miles we were from the car. I am impressed because mud-skating with a 50lb kid on your shoulders cannot be easy. The rain was actually pretty cold though so giving her a lift got us to car a lot quicker than if we’d have had her trudge it out. We delivered her straight to the warm shower and final fresh pair of pants she had. Clean, dry, and warmed up we went back for another lunch at Wall Drug after which the little lady & I went to the bookstore…

IMG_9039Twice.

My girl is a voracious reader and after a little lobbying she got to pick a chapter book on Sacagawea for the ride home. She’d already read the 3 chapter books we’d brought for her, so it was really only fair.

We drove slowly back to the cabin, enjoying the brilliant colors of the Badlands one last time…

The colors are made more intense by rain and it was kind of the perfect end to our trip, to see this gorgeous place all lit up.

We awoke early the following morning, packed up, and headed East toward the sunrise, toward home. And I clicked away on my Togue Pond

IMG_9044For which I’m very excited to report is knitting up quickly and was a most excellent car knitting project. It turns out the 1700+ yards of yarn I wound and carried on the trip was maybe just a little bit overkill…

IMG_8752-0But at least I didn’t run out while I was on the road.

And now? Now we’re home. We’re tired and a little sore and a little sad that this grand and extremely memorable adventure is over. For as much as I love to laugh at all the mishaps and mayhem we experienced on this trip, I can honestly say it was the time of my life. I’ve never had more fun and I’ve never loved my little band of misfits more.

So strong…

So adventurous…

So beyond their years in leadership & maturity…

And… well, and so fun…

To an extent, we go on these adventures in search of something. Freedom. Peace. Challenges. Perspective. This trip provided all these things and we did our best to meet each of them with good humor. And while perching on the edge of a cliff staring out at miles of rolling plains or sharing space with a 2-ton beast that is giving you the stink eye certainly serves up a healthy dose of perspective in an instant, I don’t think any landscape or hike could make a person more humble or feel more lucky than spending a week with 3 such amazing people and, of course, Moose. To be a part of this group, is to be a part of something truly extraordinary.

We’re busily planning our next two big adventures — one up near the Boundary Waters and one to Glacier National Park (and if you think I am ridiculous about being wary of bison, just wait until you hear my thoughts on vacationing in grizzly bear country). We’re checking out trails and fishing gear and pricing new camp stoves and figuring if we can use a tent we already have. And I am, of course, starting to think about what yarn I’m going to bring. Most of all, though, I cannot wait to be in those moments, making those memories with my favorite people (and dog) on Earth.

In The Badlands: “Camping”

So. On a cold, wet morning, our 13year-old camp stove finally died. We knew it was failing, but had hoped it would survive a few more trips. It did not. A lukewarm cup of coffee for both my husband and myself and warmish a cup of hot cocoa for each of the kids and that poor contraption made the short trip to the dumpster. And we headed out, reconsidering our options now that we were down both our tent and our stove. After a brief debate, we found a spot where we had internet reception on our phones and made a reservation for the final three nights of our trip at the new Cedar Pass Lodge cabins.

With warmth and showers in our future, we spent the morning in a new spot, Sheep Mountain Table in the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands National Park. Admittedly, the minimum maintenance road up to the top of the table was a little terrifying after the heavy rain the night before, but it was worth it.

IMG_8861The views were hands-down the most breath-taking in the park.

It was still quite windy and cold, so I stayed looking in awe until my hands were frozen and then we headed back toward the campground just to clean up the last of our things, have a quick picnic lunch, and another hike down into Sage Creek…

IMG_8884where my hubby & son found a fossil baculite.

Along with a few other small fossils. We reported it to the rangers and although this is a pretty common fossil to find, they still let our son fill out the paperwork locating the fossil and took his photo for their wall of fossil fame. He was pretty excited.

We did another small hike in the Yellow Mounds area…

IMG_8903before checking into the cabin…

IMG_8964 My daughter claims this still counted as ‘camping’ because we were ‘still in the middle of nowhere’. I’m not going to disagree since I got a hot shower and a cold beer out of the deal. The dog was clearly relieved to have a real bed again.

I have just two more memorable hikes to share tomorrow and I promise you will finally get the details behind this…

IMG_9009And this…

IMG_9045And I promise, it’s as funny as it looks.

In the Badlands: It Was a Rather Blustery Day

Day two in the Badlands started here…

IMG_8793What a peaceful start to the day.

Once the sun was up, we hustled for a short hike up the hills behind camp. The view from the top looked like this…

IMG_8799You can pretty much see forever. And there were gorgeous rocks, like this…IMG_8797… with whose loose bits I built a small cairn…IMG_9041Of course.

I also found evidence of the ever-present bison…

IMG_8804I’m pretty sure they stopped at this overlook to gaze at our campsite and vibe me. Or to look for fresh sprouts to munch on. One or the other. For those who haven’t been in the presence of the great American Bison, they are big. They are generally 6-12ft long, up to 6ft + tall, and weigh anywhere from 700 to 2,000lbs. I tried to take a photo of all four hoof prints of this set of tracks, but there was no way to do so and also get my foot in the photo for scale. And for such large beasts, they are actually quite nimble which in my opinion is equal parts cool and disconcerting.

We spent a good hour tramping around the surrounding hills, occasionally stopping to call for coyotes…

Our youngest is the most particular about how to properly call coyotes. For such a young kid, she’s pretty darn good at it.

The temps started rising, so it was time to get back to the car for the pup. As I mentioned yesterday, dogs aren’t allowed on trails or in the back country in national parks, so if we all go off hiking our Moose waits in the car. Of course, this can’t happen if temps are warm, so when that’s the case my hubby & I take turns hanging out with him while the other hikes and plays with the kids. Honestly, if he wasn’t such an extremely good car dog (he goes pretty much everywhere with us, weather permitting) and wasn’t so clearly happy just to be with the family, we’d have boarded him for this trip. He is part of the family, though, and with the exception of this first full day in the park it was slated to be cool enough for him to hang in the car with no worries. He’s not a huge fan of camping (he’s kind of indoorsy), but he’s happy & relaxed enough just being with us…

IMG_8836So we took turns babysitting this big lug while the other hiked.

The kids & I spent a fair bit of time running around here…

IMG_8843And I played with the panoramic function on my new phone.

IMG_8842And when my leg tired, my hubby took the kiddos on a slightly longer hike along some game trails…

While the dog & I enjoyed the glory of the sunshade…

IMG_8830

And I cast-on a new project…

IMG_8839Togue Pond by Pam Allen in Quince & Co’s Kestrel. It turned out very appropriate as we probably saw somewhere around 75 kestrels in the park. This bird, however, is a nemesis for us when it comes to photography.IMG_9021This is pretty much what we get when we try to take photos of this beautiful bird. They tend to fly as soon as we get the camera out as evidenced by this photo, so for an actual photo where you can really see there bird, click here.

Now we did know that we had a wind advisory and it was clear that it was very (read: VERY) windy. We headed back to camp somewhat early because we thought there was a fair chance that despite lashing it down very well, the wind might blow the tent away a little. As we drove up, we were relieved to find the tent in place. The relief was short-lived, however, as there was tent flapping where there should be no flapping, so we knew something was wrong. It turns out the high winds had literally snapped one of our metal tent poles and grossly bent 2 others. After brief attempts with the mini-sledge hammer to straighten the bent poles and using our resources to try splint the broken pole, we admitted defeat. The zipper had had issues in the morning, too, so the tent was just beyond repairing. My husband headed into the collapsed tent to recover our things.

IMG_8833Poor sad broken tent!

We had a few options — including making an hour drive to Rapid City to buy a new tent — but at the end of the day, we did some creative reorganization and turned out 4-door hatchback into a mini-camper. This exercise was actually really fun and surprisingly not as uncomfortable as you might think.

The following day had much cooler temps and we enjoyed more hiking & wildlife viewing including…

Bighorn Sheep,

A coyote basking in the sun, numerous birds, mule deer, antelope, and more bison.

IMG_8855Rain loomed, however, and as it started to fall we decided to drive into the town of Wall for some dinner and to hopefully see a badger out and about as darkness started to fall on the drive back to camp. We saw no badgers, but it did rain rather heavily that night and it was chilly. The possibility of snow was not out of the question, but thankfully did not materialize. Making lemonade with our lemons, we agreed that in this second night in our improvised mini-camper that it wasa wonderfully  water-tight shelter.

Unfortunately this cold, wet morning was when our camp stove died.

To be continued…

In the Badlands: The Arrival

I long for the ocean and my husband would prefer the mountains, so somehow when it comes to planning vacations our go-to landscape is the Plains. I can’t explain how, but it works for us. This past week was our annual trip to Badlands National Park — parts of the park were formed under an inland sea 75million years ago and the formations kind of look like mountains, so maybe that’s it.  In any case, normally we split a week between camping in the Badlands and the Black Hills, but this year since we were planning to take time in April we opted to spend the whole trip in the Badlands. The Hills sometimes still get snow this time of year and although prepared for it, we did want to try to avoid that possibility. Correction, I wanted to try to avoid that. My husband loves winter camping and would most likely be delighted to roll out of the tent to find freshly fallen snow outside. I am without a doubt a much more of a fair-weather camper and waking up to snow would most likely just make me cranky and send me running from my sleeping bag to the heated car as quickly as possible.

At any rate, we left home shortly before 3am Monday morning. By about 3:15am we were pulled over, cleaning & sanitizing the car for our son had unfortunately gotten sick. As these things go we got off very easy, but still not really what you want to be doing at 3:15am especially on the very front-end of a week-long camping vacation. Once the unpleasantness arises, it feels like a roll of the cosmic dice as to whether this was just a random one-off event or it’s going to be a week caring for and then eventually contracting the flu while living in a tent 35miles from running water. I’m very thankful to report that aside from a bad cold which our boy valiantly ignored for the most part, this was the only illness with which we dealt all week. All cleaned up, we got back on the road for a wonderfully uneventful drive.

It’s a little over a 10hour drive time from our house to the park, so leaving when we did got us to there with plenty of time to set up camp and fetch water. When camping, we usually stay at the Sage Creek Campground which — aside from two well-maintained outhouses and a handful of picnic tables with sunshades — has no amenities. The nearest potable water is located at the Visitor Center about 35miles away via roads that take about an hour and a half to traverse thanks to only about half of them being paved and generally lower speed limits within the park. Because of the space limitations of driving a four-door hatchback containing 4 humans, a 75lb Moose, and all our camping gear, we needed to set up camp and then run to get our 5-gallon water container filled for the night. Preferably this all happens with enough daylight to then get back and cook up a delicious spaghetti dinner at camp. Even with the early start my husband usually drives the bulk of the way — he knows I like to knit and he gets a little stir-crazy in the car without a job to do, so I clicked away on socks for my daughter while we drove toward our destination.

I started them at home after my son showing off his new socks elicited a ‘But where are mine, mom?’ from my girl…

And just as we pulled into the park, I wove in the last end…

IMG_8791My girl was delighted and wore them happily until they had to go in the dirty handknits bag (that’s a normal thing for camping, right?).

As planned, we made it to the park by early afternoon and before we even made it to the campground, we spotted this guy in a tree about 300yards off the road…

Photo by Mr Knitting Sarah

My very first ever wild porcupine. Up a tree and munching away, he was exceptionally cooperative for viewing and photography.

We set up our home base…

IMG_9046and had a pretty uneventful evening aside from the ever present bison in camp…

IMG_9047…which are clearly conspiring against me. They are incredibly huge and have free rein of the park and, most notably, the campground where I was supposed to sleep. As much as I enjoy the outdoors, I have to admit that really don’t care for sharing space with enormous wild animals and my distrust of their intentions in general tends to border on the irrational and/or paranoid. But I digress. Spaghetti dinner was consumed just as the sun set over the hills and the bison moved around a bend to bed down for the night (and no doubt discuss how to torment me). The kids spotted Orion and some other constellations before we zipped them into their sleeping bags and we passed a peaceful night in our tent.

I awoke to the sound of coyotes howling in camp. Like just outside our tent. I was mildly concerned that Moose would make a fuss and propel us into some sort of situation (of which the general idea in my imagination is very bad, but the details of which I conveniently choose to not think about), but he just laid there, eyes wide and ears back. Clearly, he likes being in close proximity to wildlife about as much as I do. I dozed for a bit and then cautiously stepped out of the tent (checking for bison, of course) where Mr Knitting Sarah was making coffee. And aside from the glory of the Starbucks Via Ready-To-Brew packs I was greeted by this scene…

IMG_8793

Stunning, right?! Probably worth risking my life with enormous wild beasts nearby.

My hubby and I set up our comfy camp chairs and enjoyed the sunrise…

I was thankful for my comfy camp chair and my lovely Sprig Cloche & Welted Fingerless Mitts in Dyeabolical Id Squishy Sport Single. They were so cozy! If you haven’t signed up for the giveaway, definitely hop over and do so — entering is super easy and today’s the last day to throw your name in to win a skein of your own!

From here, the trip took some rather unexpected turns not the least of which resulted in this situation…

IMG_8833And this one…

IMG_9045And this…

IMG_9009Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days as I share the highlights of this grand adventure!