We saw a bear!

We saw a bear by Sargent Creek a few days ago.  It was, honestly, pretty cute.  A juvenile, as far as we could tell, much more interested in chasing after salmon than even acknowledging his onlookers.  I feel like I really do live in Kodiak now!  There are approximately 4,500 bears in the 4,000 square miles of Kodiak.  Most live in the National Wildlife Refuge, but they do venture out to check how the salmon runs are doing in other areas of the island.  They occasionally venture into town or onto base in hopes of devouring some trash, but since all the trash is put in dumpsters, they generally don’t have much luck.  In my Alaska gardening book, it said that one of the many reasons it is difficult to grow apples in Alaska is that bears will raid the orchards!

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First day of K-3!


We started homeschooling!  Rachel will be 4 in December, so we are calling this year K-3.  Next year will be K-4, and I think K-5 will be after that; it depends on whether we skip straight to “first grade” at that point or not.  I love the idea of a 3 year kindergarten, and it meshes so well with the best points of Montessori and Waldorf education.  There is no pressure.  My only goals for this year are that 1) Rachel continue to love reading and learning 2) memorize a few traditional Catholic prayers 3) memorize a few poems 4) count reliably to 20 5) participate fully in our circle time each morning 6) be able to approach a child on the playground and ask if she can play.  Whether she can recite the alphabet, write her name, or read anything is inconsequential to me at this point.

We have years of school ahead of us.  I can teach her all sorts of things.  What I can’t teach her is creativity, curiosity, and abundant imagination.  Those are aspects of her personality that I am working hard to foster, and working hard not to squelch with an early emphasis on academics.

We are doing a Waldorf circle time each morning from Seasons of Joy by Annette Frontz, and in the afternoon we are doing “homeschool” by following the Alphabet Path by Elizabeth Foss, with most of its supplemental books.   We are taking a pretty relaxed pace of one letter every 2 weeks, and adding in lots of art and cooking and handwork and housework and playtime and hiking and exploring and free reading.  My mom’s advice to me was “Don’t do anything academically that takes away from time outside” and we are taking that to heart.  I plan on repeating the same curriculum next year, just more in depth with higher expectations.



I get to live here.  Isn’t that amazing?  Sometimes, on the drive into town, I am just overcome with how beautiful and rugged it is here.  These pictures are from a hike around Gertrude Lake at Ft Abercrombie.  The rainbow photos are from my back porch, looking at Old Woman Mountain and Barometer.






high bush cranberries

high bush cranberries



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Steve and I (and Allison) made it up and down Barometer Mountain today.  It’s 2500 vertical feet in roughly 2 miles.  It was a tough hike, but certainly not the most miserable I’ve ever been on.  The bugs were super annoying and frustrating  The trail is very obvious but rocky, gravely, and muddy.   Nicely, though, it isn’t very closed in.  Some of the trails we have hiked are so surrounded by brush and alder that you can’t see anything till you get to the top.

Not that I was too concerned about seeing anything as we plodded and pecked our way up the mountain ridge.  I think the average grade is 60% and there are a few places where I gave up on my trusty trekking poles and clambered up on all fours.  However, those few stretches were less than 20 feet each, so it wasn’t nearly as treacherous as I thought it would be.

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Coming down was worse than going up.  It always is, I think.  And  my poor knees think so too!  Steve carried Allison on his back in the kid carrier; he was faster getting up but I was faster getting down (mostly because I could scramble more easily without a child on my back).

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We’re glad we did it, but we’ve no desire to do it again.  The view from the top is pretty amazing, thankfully!  I mean, who wouldn’t hike that to hang out with such a cute baby?  Oh yeah; there’s some mountains and ocean and trees and stuff too.  And even more thankfully, I get to hang out with this baby all day.  All night, too, but that’s another topic.

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10 Books

There’s a “thing” going around Facebook right now asking people to list 10 books that have made an impact on their lives.

So, here are mine, in no particular order

1. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin (ok, maybe that is number 1!)

2. Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flowers

3. It’s OK not to Share and other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids by Heather Schumaker

4. Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

5. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

6. The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

7. The Mozart Season by Virginia Wolff (probably by all-time favorite novel)

8. The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

9. Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

10. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

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Bear Tracks

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Everyone on the “Outside” (aka the lower 48, plus Hawaii) asks if we’ve seen a bear yet.  Steve saw one in the distance on his bike ride yesterday.  And today, the girls and I saw bear tracks down at Boy Scout Beach.

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I still can’t fathom the size of this creature, even after putting my hand in its print.  If you’re curious, the little notch marks/imprints at the very end of this track, beyond the hump of sand that is beyond my fingers, are claw marks.

I’m eager to see a bear, but I sincerely hope it is just on the side of the road, NOT on a hiking trail.  Because even bears prefer trails to scrubby alder underbrush…and that trail isn’t big enough for all of us.

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Salmonberry Jam/Jelly/Syrup/Compote

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A few weeks ago, we went camping at Ft Abercrombie for the express purpose of picking enough salmonberries to make jam.  And we did it!  It was slow going, since Allison is a salmonberry eating machine.  She can spot them on the bushes, and will point and gesture and fuss and grunt and carry on until you give her one.  She eats them really fast, too, so it’s hard to keep up with her demand and fill a bucket at the same time.  But we managed.

Rachel and I made salmonberry rhubarb jam and salmonberry jelly.  I thought that the salmonberry jelly had not set up despite the hard boiling and addition of pectin, but it actually gelled pretty well.

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We put it on our French toast tonight, and I’m eager to have it in oatmeal this winter.

It’s almost the end of August, and the salmonberries are all done for the year.  The fireweed is almost all dead, too.  The northern slopes of the mountains are becoming more tan than green.  Fall is on the way–so strange, compared to living in Florida where August is the height of heat and humidity!

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We’ve been harvesting lettuce for a month now.  It is thrilling!  It tastes good, it is fresh, it is organic (except for the MiracleGro potting soil) and Rachel is willing to eat it!  As long as it is slathered in copious amounts of ranch dressing. It is the first time ever that I have put something on my grocery list, looked at my garden, and then crossed off the item because I was growing it, and didn’t need to buy it!

The vicious slugs have attacked, but I am rather successfully baiting and drowning them with Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Glad they’re cheap drunks.


This is what happens when you your family doesn’t watch TV/Movies/Netflix/iPad games.  Your children watch the washing machine instead.

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And play in the rain.

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And, in an effort to get everyone outside, you all don hiking gear and hit the trail for some quality family bonding.

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And you read books.  Lots and lots of books.

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And enlist their help in chores.  And read more books.  And play Candyland.  And laugh as they raid the laundry baskets and parade around with random articles of clothing on their heads.  To spare my dear daughters future embarrassment, I don’t have a picture of that!

A lot of people assume that we must watch a decent amount of TV, at least, because it rains here a lot.  It has rained 5 days in a row, and it doesn’t look like it’s letting up anytime soon.  We haven’t seen a scrap of blue sky or sunshine in 5 days, which is tough in the beginning of August.  But at least it’s light out, and not too cold.  Honestly, we are so busy in our small world of naps and meals and art and books and laundry and cleaning and hiking and playing and swimming (indoors!) that I don’t know when I would fit TV in.  For our family, no TV is the answer to a lot of potential problems.  Hopefully I still feel the same come January!



Summer Curriculum

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Rachel can correctly identify:
Chocolate lily
Spruce cones
“Not Pushkie” aka Queen Anne’s Lace

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 We are working on:
Purple harebell
White bog orchid
Alaskan chamomile
Watermelon berry
Enchanter’s Nightshade

Take that, Common Core!