--William C Bryant
Well, graduation has happened, father’s day has come and gone, and I think we’re all ready to get in the swing of summer in the country. I need to make a bucket list. I have all these things I want to do now that we’re back in the country after so many years. I can’t possibly do it all, so I need to just write it all down and pick off what I can.
Don’t ask me what The Girl in the tiny bucket is doing. She has an entire pool behind her, but this is how I found her, huddled in a little bit of water in a little plastic bucket. Her “pool” is actually an unheated hot tub, sort of an upgraded kiddie pool. In the process of having it fixed/serviced, our suspicions were confirmed that the electrical had not been originally set up properly. I believe the technician’s actual words were that he was “shocked no one had been electrocuted.” (No pun intended.) So, until the parts arrive, it’s a small pool for the kiddos.
Is it just us, or are there butterflies EVERYWHERE this year? We have an assortment of butterflies that grace us with their presence each summer, but the main one is the black and yellow swallowtail. I have many fond memories of these flittering little lovelies in abundance when I was a child. We’d find them dead all over our property, and each time such a treasure was found, I would bring it inside and perch it on this big floral wreath my mom had in her dining room. I thought it was delightful, but as an adult, I’m now proud of my mom for letting us kids putting dead bugs on display on her decorations. Now grown up, I was starting to think that butterfly abundance of butterflies was just childhood’s tendency to see everything as bigger, or longer, or in bigger quantities than things actually are, because I never seem to see more than about two swallowtails flying about each summer. But THIS year, holy cow. They’re everywhere. And they’re not shy, and they’re kind of drunk. We found our first dead specimen since those I found when I was a kid, we have it saved in a shoe box for special display someday, or for a homeschool science or art study.
Summer seems to happen all at once here. It’s like we go from this halfhearted winter, to an almost spring, and we’re waiting and waiting for REAL spring to happen, and all of a sudden, wham! Early summer is here instead, with gobs of flowers, yellow sunlight, warm days and warm nights, strawberries, butterflies and bees and birds, and green green GREEN everywhere.
Around here, we have green in every shade in succulents, all over everywhere outside. They’re like bunnies, you get two and you end up with 200. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t think you can have too many succulents, with their flower-like shapes, strange alien-like projections, and every color of green under the sun. My mom rips half of them out, though. If you want some succulents, come on over, because she rips out enough for a plant nursery’s supply every year. They’re so pretty, though.
On the studio table, we’re seeing a lot of farm toys – cows, pigs, chickens, farmers. I wish I knew more about where all these peggies were going. Will they be toys, added to some child’s farm set? Will they be toppers for a farm-themed baby’s first birthday cake? Or maybe someone just loves cows? It’s a mystery.
I have been informed that tuna arrives in a week and a half. We’ll be travelling a few hours to Westport to pick up our fish, and take it home for canning. This year, I plan to learn how to can the tuna. My mom says there’s just nothing to it, you just do this and that, and you’re done. But what she doesn’t realize is that us kids don’t know this stuff (at least, not enough to actually be able to do it on our own), and it is her obligation, her matronly duty to pass down this knowledge before she croaks. (Yes, I do remind her of this often). Now that we live only 3 miles from her, we’re really excited to be able to take an actual hands-on role to all the harvesting, canning, juicing, and dehydrating this year.
Do you have canning plans for the summer? Do you like succulents? What butterflies do you have where you live? Do you have a summer bucket list?
P.S. You can see all of our Peg Dolls here
Here we are in late March, and many of us are just now starting to see signs of spring. As recently as a week ago we had delays in shipments due to massive snowfall in areas of the country - in March!! While we have not had the joys (or not) of snow in the Seattle area recently, we're enjoying the usual rainfall that is standard for our springs here - which I never mind, because with it comes the flowers!
A few weeks ago my 9 year old and I set out to obtain photographic evidence that spring had arrived, as it usually had by then. I was surprised to see that it really hadn't! Normally by then we'd have lots of happy little greens poking through the earth, but we had to walk for about a mile and a half in our neighborhood to come home with photos of just three places showing any green shoots.
So, we didn't really find what we were looking for, but it was a pleasant walk none-the-less, and we knew spring was coming, even if we couldn't quite see it yet. We played at the park, said hi to the ducks, and examined the buds on all the various bushes and trees in our area.
I grew up in a part forest, part wetland, part prairie area that was less than a mile away from Puget Sound, so we had a little of everything. When I was a child, very February/March without fail I would explore all over our property looking for signs of spring showing - I'd run to all the usual places where the flowers appeared.
In order, this is how they would arrive - always first were the snowdrops, then the English bluebells came next, as well as tiny purplish pink bleeding hearts (all wild flowers). The first of the planted flowers were hundreds of daffodils (one of the very few things the deer didn't eat), and yellow primroses passed down from my grandmother that are older than I am (my mom still has them - she moved them with her, twice!).
We had a few tulips that braved the bunnies and deer, and they came next - and later a couple of peonies. But for the most part, the glory of spring was the purples, pinks, and yellows of daffodils, bluebells, plus cherry and apple blossoms.
What does spring look like where you live?
Back in late September we were gifted a whale watching trip as an anniversary gift from my parents. The day turned out to be an absolutely beautiful, sunny, and fun day - literally filled with whales!
We left Anacortes midday, and proceeded on a roughly 45 minute boat ride north to look for a pod of Orcas that had been seen earlier in the day. We ended up within site of Victoria, BC (hey, we honeymooned there!) and we found the pod. It was amazing to see these beaufitul creatures in the wild... One of our favorite things to do in the evenings is to put on a Blue Planet, Animal Planet, or some other form of educational tv.Ben's favorite to watch has to do with sharks, but we've seen plenty of whales, and while our views from the boat certainly didn't get as dramatic as the footage captured for the documentaries - seeing them live was simply wonderful.
As we pulled up, there was a young one that was playing and jumping all over the place - unfortunately, he (she?) tired out before we were close enough to really appreciate it. But we did spend well over an hour watching them just going about their lives.
On the way back to port we made a large loop, and saw some harbor porpoises, as well as many animals on the islands.
Shortly before we reached port, we decided to drift a bit in an area where a humpback whale had been reported earlier in the day. We drifted for about 10 minutes waiting for to see the humpback, and our captain spotted him a ways away. We followed and watch (and, of course, took photos). We watched what was to be our last view of the whale (we had to get back to port) and watch it dive. Everybody turned away except one woman, who suddently shrieked - I literally spun around while holding the shutter on the camera, and managed to capture a full breach (where the whale completely leaves the water)!
It was absolutely spectacular, and definitely the highlight of our day on the water. Our tour was with Outer Islands Excursions (http://outerislandx.com/), and we would highly recommend them. We sat up top with the captain the entire trip, and learned so much about the whales, as well as the history of the area. What a great gift. Thanks mom and dad!
This year, we spent the 4th of July weekend down at Janene's mom's place. From homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade to sparklers and sunsets, it was a relaxing break from the craziness of life.
What did you do with the holiday weekend?
Over the Mother's Day weekend we went down to Janene's mom's place along Hood Canal, in Washington. One of the favorite things to do there is to visit the local "farm stand and nursery" - it's great for everything from fresh produce to local ice cream to plants and flowers... to all the animals they have for people to visit. During the harvest season they have the requisite corn maze, pumpkin patch, hayrides, and harvest fun. It's part of a working farm, so they have animals that transition in and out, too. Check out their website and Facebook
Ben, in particular, is such an incredible homebody. He just loves being at home, being peaceful and calm, and doing things as a family. He LOVES the farm, and farm animals, and talks about when we live on a farm (which is great, as it's one of our goals, and - in particular - Chris' passions).
So, naturally, when we go to Hunter Farms, we always go visit the animals. This season we managed to catch some newly born babies, which Ben (who is addicted to all things "cute") truly adores.
And, of course, we always have to get an ice cream cone...from Olympic Mountain Ice Cream
Are you a country soul or a city soul?
Is Sprummer a word? Or Summing? You know, that time where it's not quite spring anymore, but not exactly summer yet. If you live in Western Washington, that sort of describes the springs we've been having for the last couple of years. A master gardener friend of ours says that we're running about 2 months ahead of schedule this year. Hopefully that means lots of produce, sooner rather than later!
For a while there, I was holding my breath a bit, afraid that a frost would come and kill all these early blossoms, like the strawberries. You never know what's going to happen around here in the spring. We won't have a single snowflake all winter, then have our version of a snow storm in March after the apple trees have decided to blossom (that was a sad year for apples). So far this year, things have been warm, mild, and wonderful. Around these parts, we've been enjoying a mixture of spring and summer activities.
Doing some art outside, painting signs....
Taking lots of walks, and finding sweet discoveries like this....
...and this! This is a duck egg. Did you know duck eggs came in Robin's Egg Blue? I didn't. (A friend pointed out that maybe robin's eggs come in Duck's Egg Blue. That blew my mind.)
Flea Markets have begun!
Ice cream! It's not too early for ice cream. (I think it is always a good time for ice cream).
Warm sunny weather is great for staining! Staining some new signs....
How are you enjoying your Sprummer/Summing??
Well, "al fresco" means eating outdoors, not painting outdoors, but This Girl's artistic process always involves the passion of a good feast, so I guess it works anyway.
Apparently, here in Washingon State, it is almost summer. Sort of. I recall last year that we never really had a spring, it just went from winter right into summer. Last Saturday, the kids bought lemonade from a children's lemonade stand down the street, and had Popsicles in the afternoon. In March!
I had forgotten how wonderful a babysitter a warm sunny day can be. Being work at home parents, it is always a challenge to balance our workload while caring for our 3-year-old - to work and also give her attention. Happily, this weather has tipped the balance a bit!
This girl is a PAINTER. Throw her in some grub clothes and set her outside, and she'll happily go to town for hours. While she does have a set of washable watercolors, she typically prefers craft acrylics. I bring her over to my drawer of paints, and she selects her own colors - 10 of them, one for each cup in her plastic palette.
When The Boy was young, I bought a set of tempura paints, but neither of us were all that happy with them. They definitely have their purpose, and I do still have them on hand. But so many wonderful paints are made these days - they are inexpensive, easy to clean up (while still wet), readily available in an enormous variety of color options, and these days they'll stick to almost anything - paper, wood, cardboard, metal, rocks, flower pots, glass, and more.
She only started painting about two months ago, and I had no idea she'd take to it so quickly. I have a lot of projects in mind, which I'll be sharing here over the coming weeks as we complete them. I encourage you to try them yourself, in collaboration with your children! Kids are like creativity steroids - they bring out the artist in you that you never even knew was there!
(These cards were painted by The Girl, and will be part of a future collaborative project...)
(On to our next adventsure - today's walk! Wearing our brothers' old pants, backwards, and a pink fuzzy hat. What else would we wear?!)
I think the adventures of our own neighborhood often go under-appreciated. How often have we heard things like the people who live in Seattle never go to the Space Needle, or folks that live in Anaheim rarely go to Disneyland? I think we think that explorations involve going away somewhere, which of course is true. But there is plenty of discover to be had near our own homes, if we just look for it.
(So many trees....we love trees....)
(Moss is so very very pretty)
Today's walk took us to a nature trail within walking distance of our home. Chris made the comment that he'd lived here his whole life and had never known this was there (we live 5 minutes from where he grew up).
(What kind of critters can we find under these rocks??)
(What's a fish ladder? This is a fish ladder!)
I personally was extremely happy to find such a place so near our home in the suburbs. This is the kind of place I grew up. My sisters and I spent just about every sunny day (and many rainy ones too) outside with our feet in the creek, or lost in the forest.
(The road less traveled....and yes, we took it!)
So finding a place so close to home that is so like home to me was a delight. It will be wonderful to visit again and again throughout the year to see how foliage changes and what new kinds of critters we find. This was The Girl's first creek, and after that she wants to stop by every water we passed. "Can we touch the water, mama? Can we touch it??"
(My kind of graffiti!)
(Walks are awesome!)
Earlier this Fall we were able to have an epic day. It started with a trip to Craven Farms down in Snohomish. Then we made the trek up to The Plant Farm, a local nursery that we've loved that is closing its doors (*sad*). When we got home, Ben was crazy excited to get started painting his pumpkins.
Before we got to Craven, we explained that we were not going to be purchasing every single pumpkin that we found. Ben insisted that he NEEDED to paint one of every Angry Bird. So we settled on a compromise - he could get the mini pumpkins, and he could get 10 of them. He and Janene dug through the entire field of mini pumpkins and found the perfect ones.
As soon as we got home, Ben vanished to put on some painting clothes, and he set himself up at Janene's art desk. This year was a great learning experience for him, as we covered some technique that gave him better results - he's learning to be patient and to do the job right, instead of rushing through to have a finished "product" that isn't up to par.... *grin*