Category Archives: Nature

Preparing for Harvest

I know it’s still summer, but I’m already thinking about autumn. It’s my favorite season, not only because of birthdays and anniversaries but just for that beautiful, almost wistful feeling I get watching the days grow shorter and nature beginning to fall asleep.

Summer is a time of growth, and heat. But I also see it as a time of preparation. All the fiery summer festivals have an aspect of pointing to the future: St. John’s Day — making the path straight. Midsummer — a time to burn away what is unneeded and ask for abundance in the coming season. July 4th — the beginning of a new American nation. Bastille Day — a turning point in French history.

I feel that I am in a strong period of preparation in my own life. We’ll soon be buying our first house, and our finances are being radically transformed. We’re making plans to buy what we’ll need for the house, and I’m already thinking of next year’s gardening. Next week, school starts for my kids, and the week after, I return to the college classroom for the first time in 16 years.

What are you preparing for?



Filed under Deep Thoughts, holidays, life, Nature

Vacation; or, We Attack the Pacific Northwest

N.B.: I’m stealing the format of this post from Tammy, because it’s a great way to do this quickly given that we took about 4,000 pictures.

We drove from Pocatello to Port Townsend, WA (1,700 miles) to visit Grammy and Grandpa for 2 weeks (the kids staying an extra third week). We hadn’t been to Washington before so this was a great treat. Turns out, Anthropapa and I discovered it was ideal there, and we now have a 5 year plan to relocate to the Seattle area! Must get master’s degrees first, though.

A is for public Art. This was at the Seattle Center, and even had one tube the kids could climb inside:

B is for Beach. Grammy and Grandpa live above a private beach, complete with a sand dollar colony and 40 bazillion shells. This picture is from a day trip to Dungeness Spit:

C is for Clouds. We had beautiful weather except for one cloudy day, but the sunsets were gorgeous. This is the view from the back deck:

D is for Doughnut machine. SillyBilly has been reading Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, which features a doughnut machine run amok. We were thrilled to see this one in the Public Market on the waterfront in Seattle:

E is for bald Eagle. Grampa says there are one or two bald eagles flying by quite often, perching over the sound watching for fish. They are awe-inspiring. Sorry, I have a very lame camera. Squint a little:

F is for Fourth of July. We went up to Port Townsend to sit on the beach and watch the fireworks at Fort Worden. We could see fireworks from at least three other spots around the sound. The Fort Worden show was simple, but lasted much longer than any show we’d seen before:

G is for Columbia Gorge. We drove up the gorge on both ends of the trip. Coming west we kept seeing Mt. Hood peeking out at us. Going east we had a slightly less fun time (went the wrong way on the highway, before we could get off we saw a tanker truck on its side blocking the entire westbound side, had to backtrack all the way to Portland, two-hour delay leading to being on the road 12 hours). But we won’t blame it on the beautiful gorge. This is the view from the Washington side, westbound:

H is for Hat. Though the temps were cool, the sun was very strong and I needed my hat! I almost forgot it in the ferry terminal leaving Seattle that day. I remembered at the last minute, and when we went to get the hat from the bench where I’d left it, we found a young man trying it on! I waited to see if he really wanted it (I would have gladly left it behind, even though I like it) but Anthropapa ended up asking for it and the man gave it back a bit sheepishly. Now my little blue hat has a story:

I is for Interesting. Anthropapa and I snuck away one day to Seattle while the kids stayed with their grandparents. We had lunch with old friends (Hi Erin and Kensuke!), found some treasures at a Tibetan store (certainly none of that in Pocatello), parked ourselves for a few hours at the awesome Elliott Bay Book Company, and saw some amazing installations and exhibits at the Seattle Art Museum, including some Helga paintings by Andrew Wyeth, beautiful Northwest native weavings, and this installation in the lobby, which inspired some interesting conversations about meaning in modern art:

J is for Joy. So many things to be happy about on this trip! Being with Grammy and Grandpa, discovering things large (the Seattle Aquarium) and small (the Port Townsend Marine Science Center), seeing wildlife (seals, eagles, deer, elk, sand sharks, sculpin, crabs, sand dollars, goldfinches, gulls, jellyfish) and many wildflowers. This is a tiger lily among lupines up on Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park:

K is for Kids playing. Lots and lots of that. This was at the Seattle Center:

L is for LEGO Liberty, also at the Seattle Center:

M is for Multnomah Falls, which Anthropapa and I stopped by to see on our way home. So beautiful!:

N is for Nibblers. We saw deer in the backyard, deer in open fields, and a few rather saucy deer who were clearly looking for handouts at the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge:

O is for Olympics. Truly awe-inspiring. Next time I hope we have time to explore more. We just had time to go on a quick hike,ย  a little taste of the beauty of these high mountain peaks:

P is for Playground. Even on vacation, sometimes it’s nice just to take a little swing:

Q is for Quiet. So often we had the beach to ourselves, or sat on the back deck watching for sailboats with just the birds to accompany us. Even on our hike on Hurricane Ridge, with lots of other people there enjoying the sunny day, it seemed quiet. Maybe it was the beauty all around us, like this avalanche lily:

R is for Rivulets on the sand. We went out on the private beach during low tide to explore the sand dollar colony and go beachcombing. I was entrance by the shapes the retreating water had made in the sand, and realized later that I saw very similar shapes in eroded mudflows by Mount St. Helens:

S is for Seattle Skyline. We went over twice on the ferry from Bainbridge Island. What a fun city, not too big or small, quite clean, and with friendly people. Lots of culture as well as amazing outdoor opportunities. We’ll be back, for sure:

T is for Transportation. We took several ferries, and rode the bus, a monorail, and a trolley. It was great fun to take the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry, seeing lots of sailboats, container ships, and even some jellyfish!:

U is for Unusual. We did many unusual things (for us), including staying up late, eating fried clams, watching movies, and playing with light-up light sabers on the Fourth of July:

V is for Volcano. Anthropapa and I scouted out Mount St. Helens National Monument on our way home. Yet another awe-inspiring mountain! I’ve always been interested in geology, and we both clearly remember the 1980 eruption (Anthropapa even remembers the ash fall in Montana). The visitor center has some great displays, and a rather frenetic film, but the star of the show is the mountain herself. Pictures really do no justice in this case:

W is for whirlpool. One day we noticed these beautiful water forms as the ferry left the terminal:

X is for eXciting! For the kids, even simple things were so very thrilling. Grammy took them fishing off the nearby dock several times. The first time, Napoleona almost immediately caught a sand shark! She couldn’t keep it (all six-gilled creatures must be released back) but was so amazed at herself. She and SillyBilly went on to catch several sculpin. Unfortunately, though they are edible, they are almost all head. Nobody wanted togut and clean them! They might look calm and cool, but really they were quite thrilled:

Y is for Yikes! As Anthropapa and I left Seattle on the ferry, we noticed this boat following us, resplendent in jaunty red and accented by a machine gun! The public address system notified us a few minutes later that this was a routine Coast Guard escort. Hmmm. Funny that we hadn’t seen one before! One time we watched the boat almost stop to intercept a sailboat that was unwisely heading toward the ferry. They wisely turned away, as I’m sure they noticed the nice man with the big gun out front:

Z is for blast Zone. The ridge where the Johnston Ridge Observatory now sits across from Mount St Helens was directly in the path of the pyroclastic flow in the 1980 eruption. It’s hard to conceive of that much earth moving so fast and so far. These trees, several feet in diameter, were simply snapped off at the base by the force of the blast:

And if you’ve read through all this, you deserve an award ๐Ÿ™‚

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Filed under art, Books, Family, Food, friends, Napoleona, Nature, papa, play, Science, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly, travel


Life seems very busy right now. I feel like I have no time or energy to blog much. But I do want to….

To perhaps get myself back into the swing (though we are about to go on another vacation, so we’ll see if I get to blog anything for the next week or so), I will just do a little dump of random happenings here.


A few weeks ago, Anthropapa and SillyBilly went to an air show at Hill Air Force Base near Salt Lake City. They had some nice “boy” time together.

A lot was going on up in the sky

And they went into the belly of a whale big plane


SillyBilly is going to a “Summer Adventure” program four days a week. They do little things like ride the city bus to the library, eat lunch at the park, and have swimming lessons at the gym at ISU. But then they do bigger things, like go cave exploring at Craters of the Moon, and last week, fishing at Lava Hot Springs. SillyBilly caught this rainbow trout, big enough for an entire meal for four, with his very own fishing pole. We fried it up for dinner and it was scrumptious. Wild food!


On Father’s Day we took a walk through the Edson Fichter Nature Area in South Pocatello. It was sunny but cool, and we saw and heard lots ofย  birds. The Portneuf River was quite full after all the rains of the last month.

Napoleona loved that she could run really far on the trails.

SillyBilly took a quiet moment by the river, perhaps hoping to see some fish like the one he caught out of this same river many miles away.

I was happy to see some beautiful wildflowers, including (for the first time) this lovely but poisonous black henbane.


While we were in California a few weeks ago, SillyBilly had a very, very loose tooth. He didn’t lose it until we returned home, so per Nana’s request, here is a picture of the craziness of an almost seven-year-old’s mouth.

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Filed under Family, Food, Napoleona, Nature, papa, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

Southern California, May 2009

The kids and I took our annual pilgrimage to see grandparents at the end of May. Then this year the trip came hard on the heels of SillyBilly’s kindergarten graduation, and Anthropapa did not come with us (saving his vacation time for an even bigger trip we’re taking in a few weeks, out to Seattle to see other grandparents).

Plus this was a working vacation for me, since I had one deadline to meet right in the middle of the trip, and another one right on its heels. And SillyBilly had major allergies and asthma from Nana’s dog and so required lots of medication the whole time, even after we decamped to Grandpa’s house for the last few days. And I kept forgetting my camera.

So, I’m kinda beat. I’ll make this short.

We spent lots of time just relaxing at Nanas. Note the groovy shirt custom made by Grammy!

We spent lots of time just relaxing at Nana's.

The kids, along with Nana and a neighbor, made $15 on one pitcher of lemonade (the other pitcher got kicked over by mistake) and the lemons came free from a neighbors tree.

The kids, along with Nana and a neighbor, made $15 on one pitcher of lemonade (the other pitcher got kicked over by mistake) and the lemons came free from a neighbor's tree.

We went to the Getty Center with Grandpa Walt. We didnt see a lot of art, because the kids wanted to make their own. Here, SillyBilly explores the possibilites of tube sculptures.

We went to the Getty Center with Grandpa Walt. We didn't see much art because the kids just wanted to make their own. Here SillyBilly explores an interactive tube sculpture in the Family Room.

Napoleona in the Getty Center Sketching Room, copying a French bust.

Napoleona in the Getty Center Sketching Room, copying a French bust.

We also saw an amazing exhibit on a 1600s polychrome wood sculpture, made by a Spanish sculptress. Watch amazing video about the techniques used to make it, including the natural paints shown here, at

We also saw an amazing exhibit on a 1600's polychromed wood sculpture, made by the female Spanish court sculptor La Roldana. Lots of info including on these natural paint sources, at

We had a great day at the awesome tide pools of Leo Carillo State Beach. (Photo by KnaPix.) Unfortunately along with (legally harvested) shells and stones, we also inadvertently brought home...

We had a great day at the awesome tide pools of Leo Carrillo State Beach. (Photo by KnaPix.) Unfortunately along with (legally harvested) shells and stones, we also inadvertently brought home...

Crabby! Specifically a Blue Banded Hermit Crab. We thought we had picked up only empty shells, but as we rinsed things out back at Nanas, this particular black turban shell started walking. Unfortunately there was no way for him to survive away from the ocean. RIP, crabby.

Crabby! Specifically a Blue Banded Hermit Crab. We thought we had picked up only empty shells, but as we rinsed things out back at Nana's, this black turban shell started walking! Unfortunately there was no way for him to live away from the ocean. RIP, Crabby.

We also went to the park and the bookstore, ate lots of good food (sushi! Mexican! blintzes for Shavuot! frozen yogurt!), picked blueberries in Somis, picked strawberries and roses in Grandpa’s backyard, did some woodworking (SillyBilly and Grandpa made a box — pictures to come once it’s shipped here and painted) and probably lots more that I’m not remembering.

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Filed under art, Family, Food, Napoleona, Nature, papa, SillyBilly, travel

Random Things I Thought I’d Share with You

1) SillyBilly has dived full-bore in to reading. He insisted on getting a chapter book yesterday at the book fair at school. I’ve been steering him toward the simpler, early-reader type books… but no, he wanted a big kid book. He picked a Magic Tree House “Merlin Mission” book, which is a series I know nothing about, other than it appears to be fairly inoffensive compared to much of the dreck publishers seem to think kids want, like books based on Pokemon or Barbie’s adventures in Pinkalotta Land. He’s been reading it (silently to himself, I might add) in pretty much every spare moment.

While I feel deep joy that he loves reading and has willingly embraced it, part of me does not want him to read as much as I did when I was a girl. So, while I will encourage and praise his reading, I will also be booting him outside whenever possible. And he’ll be going to a “Summer Adventure” program four days a week starting in June, which will not involve much indoor activity at all except for the public library once a week. Now I just have to pray that he’s not going to need glasses in addition to hearing aids.

2) SillyBilly is also teaching me a lesson in Not Freaking Out Over Weird Physical Symptoms. When I went to pick him up from school today, I noticed he had a spotty red rash on his face. When it was revealed that he also had it on his arms and torso, we immediately went home for further examination. Turns out he has a spotty red rash pretty much everywhere, but it’s not raised or blistering or itchy, and he doesn’t have a fever or any other symptoms. So I’m chalking it up to him needing to process something out through his skin instead of his usual M.O. of mucus production. He did something very similar when he came home from the hospital as an infant — he was covered with a fine red rash for quite a few weeks as all the various drugs and antibiotics worked their way out. I’m refusing to worry about it unless more symptoms arise. And trying not to be disappointed that it’s not chicken pox, which I’d like both kids to get sooner rather than later.

3) It’s wind season in Southeastern Idaho. We had a few weeks of a nice pattern of rain storms followed by sunny cloud-watching weather. But now it’s all about dry air, sneezing from pollen, listening to the amazing sounds of the pines, and the treat I had this morning of watching a hawk hovering over an empty field, searching intently for his breakfast. It was so windy that for much of the time the hawk was either totally still in the air, letting the wind keep him completely steady without moving his wings at all, or letting himself be carried to another part of the field with a few flaps. At one point I also watched him rise up and repeatedly dodge a smaller bird that was clearly harassing him.

Unfortunately I could not get close enough and the light was not right for me to tell what kind of bird exactly it was, but I know it was a hawk of some kind, possibly a dark morph. I was close enough at one point to clearly see the shape of the bird’s head as it intently peered down to the ground, hoping some field mouse or rabbit would unwisely reveal itself. I couldn’t stay long enough to see if it made a catch or not, but as it’s somewhere I pass by every weekday morning, I’ll be keeping my eye out for sure.

4) Also on the nature study front, in the last few days Napoleona has brought in the shed skin of a snake’s tail section (looks like a rat snake to me) as well as several largish pieces of what appears to be robin’s egg. Time to clear off the nature table for some real treasures!

5) Funniest Quote on What Is Otherwise a Very Serious Subject:

We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects โ€“ Hatred โ€“ Terror โ€“ Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.

โ€“ C. S. Lewis, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” God in the Dock.

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Filed under Books, Health, Napoleona, Nature, Nature tables, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

First Spring Hike

Sunday afternoon Anthropapa had the brilliant idea of taking a hike. You see,


We walked a short way up Chinese Peak — we’ll be working our way further and further each time, but it’s going to take work, because that is one steep hill. We’re all totally out of shape, though with the warm weather lately the kids have had more time outside and SillyBilly has become a master bike rider.

Mysterious caves off the side of the trail

Mysterious caves off the side of the trail

This is an Idaho-style driveway :-)

This is an Idaho-style driveway ๐Ÿ™‚

SillyBilly getting his cowboy style going

SillyBilly getting his cowboy style going go...on.... Except when I get to run back down the mountain. go...on.... Except when I get to run back down the mountain.

Our reward: the view of the Portneufs above Pocatello

Our reward: the view of the Portneufs above Pocatello

We had a fine time, petting dogs making their way up the mountain with other hikers, finding amazing rocks, investigating a rather busy anthill, and wondering how many times we’ll have to try the hike before we make it to the top (many). The kids got some sun on their faces, and we all slept well that night.

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Filed under Napoleona, Nature, papa, SillyBilly


Discriminate, v.

1. trans. To make or constitute a difference in or between; to distinguish, differentiate.

I am an indifferent winter driver. I just don’t have that much experience yet, so I’m very cautious. And the plowing around here leaves something to be desired.

Unlike the guy in the monster truck in front of us at a stop sign the other day, who wanted to peel out fast like he usually does, except it was icy and so all he accomplished was peppering us with sand. And unlike the guy behind me this afternoon, who I watched fishtailing as he took the corner too fast and then tailgated me down a steep hill.



Discern, v.

5. trans. To distinguish (an object) with the eyes; to see or perceive by express effort of the powers of vision; to “make out” by looking, descry, behold.

Over the weekend we finally got some more snow after a few weeks of sunny, balmy weather. (By “balmy” I mean above freezing.) The tail end of the weather system has brought us some high, icy cloud formations, and by extension, some amazing sky phenomena.

Yesterday morning we saw a 22ยฐ solar halo, kind of like this one:

Then this morning we saw a rainbow segment on the horizon and a sun pillar, a bit like this one:



Disease, n.

2. A condition of the body, or of some part or organ of the body, in which its functions are disturbed or deranged; a morbid physical condition; “a departure from the state of health, especially when caused by structural change” (Syd. Soc. Lex.). Also applied to a disordered condition in plants.

SillyBilly got the cold first, last week. We immediately began managing his asthma, and I can say with some measure of triumph that we only had to give him one dose of the icky oral steroid, and he didn’t miss any school.

That triumph is tempered by the brutal fact that he then shared it with the rest of us. Napoleona stayed home from daycare on Friday after she started coughing, and she’s been home yesterday and today too. Anthropapa and I got it over the weekend, but of course there’s no “stay home and rest” for us.

Now the kids are going bonkers from being inside for so long (we dragged ourselves out on Sunday to go to lunch and the bookstore, but that’s been it besides school for SillyBilly, and it’s too cold now to play outside), and we all sound like pack-a-day smokers.

“Disturbed or deranged,” indeed.


Definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary, online.

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Filed under Family, Health, Napoleona, Nature, papa, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

My Recent Little Adventure -or- How to Waste an Otherwise Lovely Morning

Yesterday morning we were treated to some lovely fog along the Portneuf river. The Bannock mountains behind were lit up in the sun, the beautiful colors of the snow highlighted by the dark junipers. The view across the valley from SillyBilly’s school is particularly nice, as is the panorama as we crest the hill between our house and Anthropapa’s work.

I’ve often thought of stopping to take photos of these views, maybe even taking many shots over the course of a year to compare and possibly even inspire some artistic work.

So yesterday morning I remembered to pop the camera in my pocket amid the rush out the door. We didn’t have time to stop on the way to work, but after I dropped SillyBilly off at school, I noticed the view there was looking particularly good, and that the fog would be likely to move and obscure things later. So, I took my chance.

Or tried to.

I pulled the car out of the parking lot and down the road about 50 feet where I could pull off and not have power lines in the photo. I put the car in park, but thought (as I never usually do) that I would leave the car running since I’d only be a few moments.

And I got out of the car, and shut the door firmly with camera in hand. Shut the door firmly, thereby locking my purse inside with the engine running.

After cursing my inattentiveness and overall foolishness, I walked quickly back to the school office, and tried to call AAA to see if they could send out a tow truck. No dice–they couldn’t find a record of our membership. Maybe it had expired since we moved from New York. The kind lady offered to transfer our membership to the Idaho region, if only I had a debit card handy….

Next I called our auto insurance, USAA. Now, though USAA membership is only available to those in the armed forces, military retirees, and their families (thank you, Grandpa Al!), I always make a point of praising their customer service, which is excellent, so that anyone I know who is eligible might check it out. Their security measures are exemplary, and their call centers are too.

Here are some examples of that excellent customer service:

  1. Their operators are always very well-informed and their databases must be quite efficient. It took the person mere moments to find our account, even though I could only give her my social security number, name, and address as every other applicable bit of information was locked in the car. It took only moments to confirm that I indeed had roadside assistance coverage.
  2. The operator took the time to explain my situation to their roadside assistance department while I was on hold, so that I didn’t have to repeat myself.
  3. The roadside assistance department was equally efficient, completing the transaction in just a few minutes.
  4. Both ladies asked me if I was in a safe place before discussing anything else, given that I was locked out of my car.
  5. I received an automated follow-up phone call within 5 minutes giving me the name of the local towing company, their phone number, and the estimated arrival time. I also received a call about 5 minutes after I arrived home stating that the tow truck should have arrived by then.

In any case, the tow truck did arrive, the nice man used his little pump and pillow thingy to pry open the door and the little wire loop thingy to pull open the door lock (the whole operation took about 3 minutes) and I was on my way.

Later when I came back to pick up SillyBilly, I told him the whole sad story and then we pulled over in the same place to take some photos, as the fog had not yet obscured the view. This time I turned the engine off and put the keys in my pocket.

The camera batteries were dead.


Want to see what those mountains look like, before I get the batteries charged and my brain back in place? Look here!

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Filed under life, Nature, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

When Crafters Get Riled Up

I get a daily email from’s blog with all kinds of crafty goodness. Today’s edition contained something of a bombshell:

Earrings made from squirrel feet.

Normally very few people put comments on these posts, but this one has received over 50 comments so far. Some people are mightily offended, some people are so offended that they are canceling their subscriptions. Others think it’s an artistic expression, not something they specifically like, but neutral as an art piece. Others have pointed out the hypocrisy in the unlikelihood that the offended people are also vegans and therefore never consume or use animal products. Several people also pointed out the hypocrisy in speciesism: only the ugly animals are OK to consume.

My thought? If you don’t like it, scroll down. Or unsubscribe, if you feel compelled to do so. But don’t knock Craftzine or the artist for doing something you don’t like. Unless you’re the artist’s patron, you got nothin’ to say about what they choose to do.

Craftzine is full of crafty, artistic goodness. Today’s edition also included a birdseed skull, Japanese temari balls, felted oven mitts, and a stuffed cloth turkey. And squirrel feet.

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Filed under art, Crafting, Nature, Rants, Silliness and Mayhem

Early Winter Haiku

A gang of six crows
Looking for sandpit treasures–
Where are all the kids?

Dusting the mountains
Little pellets hissing down
Wintry mix outside

Leaves hang in brown shreds
Waving in the icy wind
And low clouds darken

Wet mittens and gloves
Glasses steaming up inside
Piles of boots and hats

Cutting up carrots
The boy works so carefully.
Pot roast smells so good!

Staying up too late
Two laptops glow and chirrup
It’s election night!


Filed under haiku, Nature, Poetry