Sun Setting On Our Field, by Rainer

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we've learned most of what we know. Recently, we've waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
-Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Winding Up For Winter

We grew this food!

Just decorated these:

Went to Ashland, OR, to see the Shakespeare Festival, and fall colors like this:

And saw the tame deer in Lithia park:

So we all pledged to memorize this passage from The Tempest:

And cherish our moments at the shore...

 ...celebrating life with friends (Lesl Sleeth-Keppler).
 Frida is 9 now and Rainer is 14. So we sometimes go up to the roof to gain perspective.

 We are lucky.

We are grateful for our gifts. (Hey, thanks for the boat, Andy!!)
We can look at all the species and understand the role every creature plays, even if they scare us half to death or have a cute name, like "pumpkin spider".

We are noticing that something is always in bloom, no matter what the calender says.
Trusty borage!

Mexican sage, exploding once again with no help from us!

The incredible ever-bearing raspberries just want to please people, just want to keep going!

And the unstoppable Calla Lily, getting started at the end of October!

It all makes a person love being an animal. Like, say, a cat named Garfield, or a Four-Armed Goat Man Who Brews the Best Potions.

And you just sing your annoying goat song until no one can take it anymore! Because you can't help but be you.

And that's how we know everything is alright here.

See you next time for an update on our unschooling journey.
Happy fall, friends and family!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Phenologically and metamorphically speaking...

We're back here at the blog. Happy spring everybody!

The ants are back, too, with green plants growing all over their nest. They are adapting to the change very well.

So much sunshine here and flowers everywhere!

We're busy in the yard with several projects.

There is a research group guiding citizen scientists to record phenological observations:
Phenology: key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year—such as flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds—especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate. We didn't know what the word meant before this project.

We're observing the minute changes to three plant species: common lilac, Himalayan blackberry and California poppy. In our region we're having another warm, dry spring. Are the plant cycles coming on earlier? It sorta feels like it. We'll see as we get the hard data. Here is the common lilac with a breaking leaf bud, from Jan. 31, 2014:

Same plant on March 11, 2014:

Rainer's frog project continues. He's collected a few egg sacs from abundant habitats in McKinleyville and Arcata. 

Seems like the tadpoles emerging in this pond will be salamanders. A new species introduced to this wild back yard!

And the main frog city, functioning well, and loud:

Nice shot, Rainer! This is a great view of the back yard looking east from the top of an alder tree that is close to the house. So much space still could be cultivated. Growing more food is a big goal this summer.

Frida has a great little bed on the side of the house, in a very sunny spot. We separated the overgrown strawberries, reconditioned the soil with our bunny fertilizer and rich compost, and replanted many strawberries, plus added chives in between.

We've planted a lot more willows along all the fence lines, all from cuttings from older willows, which were cuttings from friend's gardens, or harvested by us from along the banks of the Mad River.

We planted the willow close to these baby redwoods, hoping a little shade would relieve the stark conditions for the moisture-loving redwoods. They are really stunted, but at least they are surviving.

Raspberries are growing well and need an occasional clipping to maintain a row to walk through. Thanks for the help, Rainer.

Redwood burl Rainer's got growing on the deck are so interesting. They sprout multiple new trees from the smallest little chunk of burl.

The coyote bush rocked out in January! So many flowers bloomed in January.

Twenty more feet for these eciums to be full-grown.

What is this huge specimen? We couldn't figure it out exactly with our books. We need better books.


We added a blog to the list of resources: Down on the Garm: Adventures in the Dirt, written by our neighbor Colin. He's making a sustainable garden/farm in his yard, doing a more precise job than we are, and he lives down the street! We couldn't be more excited to learn from someone who is as meticulous and conscientious as Colin.

What fun to babysit our neighbor's chickens recently! They just started laying again as the light changes.

Frida was so inspired she sewed a little chicken coop, a hen and a rooster for the one-year-old boy named Leo who lives there.

 So long for now, family and friends! See you next time for an update on the wildness, the art, the science and the ants!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eye Witness News From Our Wild Backyard

A red hot poker to say 'hello', the Fibonacci way!

We all have a hunch the field in our back yard is the one Rumi is talking about.
Friends and family, this blog is a moment in the field.
So, all of us in our summer rhythms, here are many backyard fascinations we keep returning to. Like the wood ant nest:

See them?  They bite.  They send out warriors far away from the main perimeter.  If you go way over in the corner of the yard where they've had this nest for years, wear shoes and keep watching for their defenders to march up your leg and start biting.  They have their territory and we have ours, so there is mostly no trouble.

Also happening in our backyard:

Frida deserves credit for persistence at holding the untamed bunnies.  They are so calm and accepting of human touch now, thanks to Frida's continued efforts. 

Gorgeous portraits, no? A COLOR copy of the photo below hangs, FRAMED, in our house.  That's how much these bunnies are loved.

Check out the tiny pumpkin spider babies! Here they cling to the bunny's gate in June.  By September they'll be menacing us with their two-inch bodies and gigantic, orb-style webs! Rainer's only 13th birthday wish was a new bugzooka, so he could safely relocate spiders away from our backyard play spaces. When you plant a garden for the wildlife there is a constant negotiation between wild and civilized.

Whatever these caterpillars will become, they are always a teeming mass at this stage, and always on the river willow trees.  Sort of a pest when they are near raspberry bushes, but creepy fun, too.

Redwood burls can't help it, they just grow new trees if they stay moist. Our fascination with redwoods is so strong, we named our homeschool the Sequoiadendron Homeschool Academy, inspired by the biggest life on the planet.

 More tadpoles, that's the way now each spring.  Nice aquarium set up again, Rainer!
This sequence shows the tadpoles first in egg sacs, then stuck to the wall of the aquarium, then as huge swimming tadpoles, and finally one of last year's survivors--a LOUD little guy who lives in one of the aquariums right outside Rainer's window.
Photos by Rainer


As pond manager, Rainer made sure we had some goldfish to eat the mosquito larvae.

We must acknowledge the berry! This summer has been all berry, all the time. Planted in new beds for next year's picking: tayberry. Can't wait!
Also added to our list of plants: cleome, dianthus, lobelia, nasturtium and echinacea. We're going for color this year.

Hey, there are Frida, Nina, and Sarah napping in the fresh-cut grass!  Those three little gals are always together, in the garden and everywhere Frida goes.

That's Nina and Sarah enjoying a hike to the Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park in May, from the safety of their pouch. We do occasionally leave our nest to see other wild places, and Frida knew her dolls would enjoy things best tucked in.  She designed and sewed the pouch herself.

 Nina , Sarah and Frida celebrating the 4th of July on the Arcata Plaza, with pretend balloon dog who has a real collar.  At this point, does it matter what is real and imaginary anymore?
Below, they enjoy a warm summer afternoon row boat ride in a friend's wild backyard frog pond.  

Frida set down her dolls to get serious about fishing with dads on a father's day boat trip in Trinidad Harbor. She caught her first fish--no picture.  But Rainer's we got.


Rainer also wants to share a new addition to his frozen specimen collection.  This is a small lizard's tail, found one morning in the garden.  Now he'll have it forever!  It lives next to his frozen goldfish, which are totally different from his mummified goldfish.

Below, pictures of his wild and crazy robot friend, Robie.  After Robie plugs himself in, he lights up!  He also waves his mechanical arm around, dumps a load of marbles from his backside, and plays a loud country music station to annoy everybody.  And the noise from the blender motor is so loud!  He also eavesdrops on the household, or lectures you, endlessly droning on about politics, through use of an old baby monitor.  He's one of those robots!

One of Robie's favorite quotes, by Groucho Marx: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."

As you can imagine, we all enjoy Robie's company, most of the time.

Happy Summer Family and Friends!  Hug your robots!