Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Creative Alternative??

October 24, 2011

I finally finished the scarf I’ve been working on!!

I was able to get a lot of it done yesterday at the festival where I had a booth.  Once Megan got there, around lunch time, I handed over the reins and sat in a chair to knit.  I do find it very difficult to just sit and knit but since I didn’t have any other responsibilities, I thought it would be the perfect time to work on this scarf.

It’s true – knitting does get faster the more you do it and pretty soon I was zipping along….

well, maybe not zipping, but faster than I had been!

I was so close to finishing and we had to tear down the booth and head home.

Later, the kids wanted to watch a movie – I wanted to go to bed but then I remembered the scarf.

Of course I’ll watch the movie!!

And I finished knitting the scarf –  pleased with how it turned out.

However, there’s one slight problem…

I don’t know how to get it off the knitting needle.

So, being the constant problem solver that I am, I decided perhaps the knitting needle would look good as a fastener for the scarf!

What do you think!!?

Lion’s Club International Convention – Seattle WA July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Ahhh, Seattle, WA – the city I traveled to when I went to Alaska by myself in 1982, the first place I lived after I was married, the place where 5 of my children were born, the place where I began my homesteading adventure, the place I left 10 years ago…

This July, Catherine and I flew back to Seattle to celebrate the conclusion of my father’s year as International President for the Lion’s Club.

We stayed at the Westin, on the 47th floor, in the Presidential Suite.  I joined my sister and 2 brothers, their spouses and ALL the nieces and nephews.

We took up all the rooms on the top floor.  We had to arrive at the elevators 10 minutes early to get us all down the 47 floors and make it to the events on time.

Catherine with my folks.  I have to tell – my mom recently turned 71!  I hope I look that good when I’m her age.

Each night was a dress up occasion for either a formal sit down dinner or a reception.

L-R:  Cora (sil), Lee (brother), me, Sid Scruggs (Dad), Judy (Mom), Monica (sil), Kevin (brother), Debbie (sister), Russ (bil)

Mt. Ranier at sunset as seen from one of the rooms we stayed in…

One of the many ferries that take people and cars to various islands in the Puget Sound.

My folks have traveled 321 days around the world this last year as ambassadors for the International Lion’s Club.

The Lion’s are the largest volunteer organization in the world.

My dad gave his final charge to the 20,000 members who attended this year’s International Convention.

They showed a slide presentation of some of what he and mom had done over Dad’s presidency and it was awe-inspiring.  I was so proud of the both of them for the work and all the lives they were able to touch and help during Dad’s office as President.

Dad was in charge of this year’s convention and he requested to have Condoleeza Rice speak as part of his closing ceremony.

I have a great respect for her and what she’s accomplished as a woman…. and what a phenomenal speaker!  It was a privilege to meet her – one of the perks of being the daughter of Sid Scruggs!

Dad presented her with the crystal lion statue as thanks for her humanitarian work.

After Dad conlcuded, it was time to pass the gavel and the ring to the incoming president for 2011 – 2012.

Dad with Tam, the next President from Hong Kong, China.

There was a huge celebration and more dress up events.

I love this picture.  These are my nieces and nephew and Catherine – the blonds, with Tam’s children.

It just goes to show that silly faces for photo ops are universal and understood no matter what the language!

Catherine with Tiffany – Tam’s daughter.  They both were about the same age.  Tiffany spoke beautiful English.  She had just finished studying design in France.

Another night of celebration was about to begin….

I swear – I blinked and my baby has grown into this beautiful woman!

Catherine admitted that she liked all the glitz and dressing up – but the favorite for both of us was meeting and talking with people from all over the world.  An incredible opportunity.

My sister’s older 4 girls with Catherine.

And without us 4, my folks would not have the 16 grandchildren who call them “grandma” and “papa.”

L-R:  Cyndi, Lee, Debbie, Kevin

Seattle at night…the Space Needle and…

Pike Place Market.  Both pictures taken from our room windows.

I have the most wonderful sister in the world.  My only wish is that we lived closer.  She’s in NH with her 6 kids and husband.

The oldest and youngest grandchild – Catherine and Liam.

Truly – this was the only time I was able to hold him.  With all the older girl cousins, you had to wait in line to get time with him!

How wonderful to be so loved.

We awoke to a gorgeous morning on our last day in downtown Seattle.

The Olympics to the west…

In April, I took my younger 3 to an International Board meeting in Raleigh NC.  Michael, Megan, and Alexandra loved meeting all the people.

It was there I met Gowrie and we hit it off.  I was able to spend some time with her in Seattle.  Wonderful lady doing some incredible humanitarian work in her native land, India.

The convention was held in Key Arena – it was packed with people from all over the world.  Lion’s Club is represented by 206 countries and lots and lots of people who do an amazing amount of work helping others.  It’s an incredible organization that touches many, many lives.  If you want to know more about the Lions, check out their website:

http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php

And while we were all celebrating a year’s worth of accomplishment and the hope for a new year,

the sun rose on Seattle.

Snapping Turtle by the Creek

May 27, 2011

A couple of friends had called this morning about trees that had gone down on their farm.  For one friend, the tree blocked the driveway making it impassable.  For the other, trees hit two spots on the fence and the steers were out!

I decided I should probably have Michael check out the fence line too.  After a bit, I got a phone call from him…. ( love those cell phones!)

“Mom!  You gotta come down to the creek!  I found this huge turtle and he’s really cool!”

“I’ll do my best – I have a Homestead Tour in about 15 minutes.  How ’bout I send Ali down with the camera?  (Thus, a couple of fuzzy pics).”

“Well, that would be okay but you’d really like this turtle. (my kids know me so well!).”

I never did make it down to the creek before the group got here – wish I had after I saw the pictures!

This is the biggest Snapper I’ve seen around here.

Apparently Michael tried to touch it and the turtle whipped his head out so fast it scared Michael – only a very little bit of course.  But enough that Michael said he wouldn’t try it again 🙂

Look at the webbing on the legs, and the tail, and the claws, and the spikes, and that massive head!

Yeah – sorry I missed this one.  Sure is a beauty!

My Mother’s Day Gift

May 10, 2011

I wish this blog began with a cute little story about how my kids made me pancakes and eggs and woke me up with breakfast in bed; how we snuggled and laughed in my queen size bed; how we told stories and then got ready for church and attended as a family…

But it’s not.

Mother’s Day 2011 will forever be a special day of remembrance for me and for my family… a weekend of sobering life lessons.

Let me go back a few weeks to give full understanding of why this particular Mother’s Day is so significant.

Spring is the busiest time of the year at the farm with classes and events, planting, baby animals who need a bit more care, intensity with beekeeping, homestead tours, and the general everyday up keep that comes with spring time.

Spring also means the beginning of the end of a school year for each of the kids – final exams, drama productions and extra rehearsals, a myriad of extra errands, and the added anxiety and excitement of being finished with school.

In the midst of all of this, Dave had the amazing opportunity to travel to Brazil with Crown Financial to document the trip through the lens of a camera – both photography and videography.  Dave was away for almost 3 weeks.

I knew what was ahead for me for the month of April and I took on the challenge with my usual “no big deal, I can handle this” attitude.  I’m not afraid of work, in fact, I love to work.  Often I will push myself to the limit, recharge, and start over again.

However, by the end of April, I was hitting the wall of exhaustion.  I set my eye on Mother’s Day knowing that Dave would be returning, the kids would be completely finished with school, farm classes and events would be concluded until June, and at this point, I could finally recharge.

By Friday last week, I was more than ready for the change in schedule and really looking forward to a slower pace.  The last month and a half was truly the hardest I had ever pushed myself and the 3 -4 hours of sleep at night was beginning to take its toll.

Friday last week was an early morning – I had to finish preparing for a pre-school homestead tour at the farm.  After a fantastic tour with 17 preschoolers, siblings and parents, my kids and I and a friend of theirs who had spent the night, were going over to another farm to help put in posts for an arena.  First, I dropped the kids off and headed to another farm to check on my bees and take care of animals since the owner of this farm was out of town.  Finished the bees and headed back to the other farm to help with posts.  4:30, got Ali, left Megan and Michael, and drove into Athens to meet Lauren.  She and Ali were going to go shopping and out to dinner – girls’ night!

After I met up with Lauren, I drove back out to the country to meet up with a friend for dinner.  She was delayed.  I didn’t mind – I walked around the square, looked in windows and realized it had been a long time since I’d been by myself with nothing to do for a few minutes.

My friend arrived and we went into the restaurant for dinner.  We had a wonderful time talking and visiting…..

Toward the end of the meal, I felt “funny”, like someone had drugged my food.  My tongue felt weird and my speech didn’t sound right to me.  I was dizzy and light headed, my right arm tingled and felt a little numb.  I mentioned to my friend that something was up.  We decided to go.  It was difficult to walk to the counter to pay for dinner, I could hardly hold the pen to write my name.  It all seemed so surreal.

I kept thinking, “It’s not my left side, I should be alright.”

My friend drove me back to her place – it was about a mile away.  I lay down and rested for a while.  All the symptoms went away – my tongue taking the longest to subside.  I still had to go pick up the kids from the farm where we’d been working and then drive home – about an hour or so of driving and it was close to 11pm already.

I called another friend when I got in the car and told her what had happened…

“Have you talked with Catherine yet?”

“No, it’s late.  She drove to Greenville and back today and I’m sure she’s in bed.”

“Hmmm.  I really think you should run this by Catherine and just see what she says.”

“I think I’m just tired but okay, I will.”

Catherine, our eldest is a nurse.  I called her and told her what had happened.  I kept thinking, “What a difficult predicament to put her in.  I’m her mom and I’m the one who’s always taken care of the kids and now I’m asking her to take care of me, tell me what to do.”

Dave was still in Brazil and out of internet service and I really didn’t think there was any need to cause alarm, especially when I had no answers.  I really believed this was happening because I was so tired.  Except for the tongue thing – that worried me a little.

Picked up the kids and drove home.  The kids were laughing and joking and I was silently praying that nothing more would happen while I was driving.

Catherine met me at the house and by then I really felt that all I needed to do was go to bed…until I took my blood pressure.

I have a cuff at home.  Ever since my first baby, I’ve been borderline hypertensive.  My pregnancies always ended with concern over my blood pressure.  I’ve been on medication, had times when it would spike but for the most part it was under control.  I’d heard all the info – it’s the silent killer, it affects women, watch your weight, be careful with your diet….  I half- heartedly gave acknowledgement to the statistics and the warnings.  I had been taking my blood pressure meds sporadically and had noticed that my bp had gone up a little recently. I kept telling myself, Mother’s Day I will slow down and get everything for myself back on track.  Just hang on to Mother’s Day.

When I took my blood pressure at home Friday night, I realized I needed to go to the hospital.  It had spiked and I didn’t have the meds at home to bring it down.  Catherine drove me to the ER.

It was difficult leaving the kids.  It was late at night.  Dave was in a foreign country, Victoria in South Carolina.   I, the strong one, the backbone for the family at this time, was headed to the hospital – what a horrible feeling.  My kids, especially Michael, rose to the occasion and took charge at home.  Lauren was already in bed asleep because she had to work the next day.

We arrived at the hospital and Catherine knew the routine.  She mentioned a possible stroke and they whisked me away to start getting vitals.  Blood pressure was very high, EKG normal, all symptoms from earlier were gone, and I had no headache – never had had one.

They sent me for a cat scan.  Result – a small spot of bleeding on the left side of my brain.  The doctor called it a “brain bleed.”

I was told I would have to spend the night in the Neuro Unit.  I was not happy.  I wanted to go home.  They wanted to observe me and make sure my bp was going down.

Catherine stayed with me until I was settled in the room.  She left around 3:30am or so, Saturday morning.  What an incredible support she’d been – so strong.  It wasn’t until the next day that I would find out that she cried almost the whole way home and prayed for my safety. …ahh, my heart.  What a horrible burden to put on a child.

My reality check came a few hours later when the Doctor of Neurology walked in the room.  I was intent on getting out of the hospital – I wanted to be with my kids, I had jobs that weren’t finished, people depending on me.

And then she told me straight what had happened, how lucky I was, and the severity of the situation if I didn’t heed her cautions and instructions.  I broke down and cried…

My mortality stared back at me.  I could have died or been left an invalid.  My mind was reeling with questions, the precious faces of my children before me.  Oh God – why???

It’s amazing how in a split second, all your goals and dreams become rubble in the light of eternity.  All that seemed so important to me vanished as I began to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened to me hours before.

I had pushed too hard, I was not invincible, the health I had always depended on was failing me…I was devastated.

An overwhelming thought loomed before me…

If I’m dead, I can’t be there for my children, I can’t hug them and comfort them, laugh with them and cry with them, I can’t even drive them around.

If I’m dead, Dave would be a widower….

If I’m dead, the farm and all I’ve worked toward won’t exist anymore.

Sobering thoughts, emotional valleys, tears of despondency and despair.  This was my wake-up call, my reality check…

I’m for the most part, a very optimistic person.  It took a couple of hours before I could start to see the good in all of this and begin to make heads or tails of my situation.  I refused to live in fear and I needed a plan to hang onto to ensure that changes would be made.

The irony about all this is, I had been contemplating the changes that needed to be made before this incident had happened.  How many family and friends had warned me that I needed to slow down?  But the Lord knows how stubborn and hard-headed I can be and gave me a physical reminder as to why it was imperative that these changes be made sooner than later.

I discovered the greatest Mother’s Day gift as I lay in that hospital bed.   The gift of my life and taking care of myself.  If I’m not well or here, then I have nothing to give back to those that mean the most to me.

The look on my kids’ faces when I left for the hospital, the tears that flowed when Ali crawled up next to me on the hospital bed,  the desperate hugs from Megan,  the anguishing cry of Victoria on the other end of the telephone line, the emotional strain on Catherine’s face as she sat with me during the doctors’ visits, the tenderness of Lauren’s voice as she whispered in my ear, “Momzie, come home soon.”, the tired eyes of Michael from a sleepless night, the exhaustion  my kids felt because of the added stress and chores – all this was the result of my negligence to take care of myself.

Part of being a mom is self-sacrifice, putting kids and husband first at the expense of what I need or want– it just comes with the job description, right?

Not any more.  I’ve learned that the fall-out from that kind of thinking is more costly in the long run for everyone.

So together, as a family, we’re making changes – life changes.

I’m making personal life changes – changes that will affect every area of my life.  The changes won’t come quickly – it takes time to be permanent.  They won’t come all at once, that just adds stress…but they will come because my life depends on it…literally.

Change is never made in a vacuum so I will thank all my family and friends, whether near or far, for their patience as I work through the different areas that need to be dealt with.  My family will be stronger, my relationships richer, the farm and all it entails, more efficient, and my physical, emotional, and spiritual health will be greater.

Your support, encouragement, and love will be the sustaining factor in the months ahead.

And when I tell you, “I love you” – it is heart felt with a deeper understanding of the privilege it is to have breath to utter those words.  Life is a precious gift…relationships a treasure to cherish.

I am grateful for my Mother’s Day Gift – it’s not what I would have asked for but it’s exactly what I needed.

In the Beginning – Part 4

November 11, 2010

The weather has finally turned cooler, the leaves are changing with the impending season of fall, and my thoughts return to the “falls” of yesteryears.  I admit that fall is by far my favorite time of year.  I’m sure growing up in New England has something to do with that love for this season!

I recently returned from a hiking trip with 2 of my girls and along the trail we were reminiscing about all the hiking we did when they were little kids.

I remember distinctly when I decided that I was going to give my children the opportunity to fall in love with the out of doors.  My friend Jan and I had taken our girls up to the lodge on Mount Rainier in Washington state to do some walking around.

http://www.mtrainierguestservices.com/accommodations/paradise-inn

It was a gorgeous day and the vistas were breathtaking.  Together, we walked along the paved pathways around the lodge.

I had Victoria in a backpack, Lauren (2) and Catherine (4) holding on to my hands.  Jan had Olivia on her back in a backpack.

Jan and I got to talking about all the hiking we had available to us and why did the fact that we had kids keep us from doing something that she and I both loved to do?!

On the drive home we decided we would start researching hikes around the area and what it would take to hike with kids.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this new venture so we had to be smart about our purchases.

Jan and I each researched different hiking books.  We finally decided on a hiking book of easy to moderate hikes in the Cascades.  We also bought a book of hikes for children.  This book had some great tips about hiking with children.

Next, I went to Goodwill and bought backpacks for Catherine and Lauren – the ones who were walking!

I couldn’t afford great, expensive hiking boots for my girls so I bought the best ones at a discount shoe store.  I did want them to last for a couple of seasons since they would be passed down to the next child.  When other people found out we were hiking, they would pass their kid’s boots along to us.  It wasn’t long before we were the “go-to” family if you were looking for hiking boots.  I kept ALL sizes to be passed from child to child.

Each child had a hat, a whistle and a towel for their backpack.  They also had to carry their own lunch and water, occasionally, a special blankie.  I usually had a baby on my back and couldn’t carry all the extra stuff for them.

Jan and I decided that we would hike once a month from May – Sept.  We switched from year to year, taking turns putting the hiking schedule together.  When other friends heard about our hikes, they wanted to join us.  We handed out schedules but it was funny.  A few went once or  they wanted us to take their children with us on the hikes while they stayed home.

Wading in the water with the kids after we ate lunch. That's me in the white shirt with Michael and Victoria. Jan is behind me in the yellow shorts. Cascades, WA

We had 3 rules which all children had to obey when they hiked with us:

  1. No whining
  2. Take it in, take it out
  3. Never get so far ahead that you can’t see an adult

Sometimes when we had a large group (Jan and I were suckers for taking kids without their parents), I would make badges for the best hiker or there was a prize at the end for those children who obeyed all the hiking rules.

We had the best time and the kids were wonderful!!  Jan and I agreed that our own kids had grown so much in character from hiking.  They often surprised us with their stamina and drive and good attitudes in “not so pleasant” conditions.

Our goal - the lake. Even though the water was cold (glacier fed) we still let the kids get in if they wanted to - their choice. Cascades, WA

Some tips that helped to motivate our kids –

  1. We chose hikes that had a goal at the end – a waterfall, lake, or river
  2. I’d read that special snacks were motivators.  I would buy something they wouldn’t normally get and we would stop at different intervals to partake of the special snacks.  I.e., if it wasn’t too warm, I’d get chocolate kisses and we would stop every 20 minutes or so to eat 1 or 2.  This was used more so in the beginning when we were training them to “keep going!”
  3. Sometimes they could invite friends, although they found out quickly which friends were fun to take and which ones weren’t 🙂
  4. I’d buy special treats for lunch like juice boxes.  It didn’t take much for them to be excited about hiking until it was time for lunch!
  5. Jan and I always made a big deal about our hikes and the fun we were going to have out on the mountain.
  6. She and I each wore a whistle.  Whenever the kids heard that whistle, they were to get to us as fast as they could.  We’d have practice drills every now and then to see how the kids would do and they loved it.

Victoria had just turned 4. Mt. Rainier in the background.

Once my first two girls got the hang of what was expected for hiking, it was a snap for those that came along after.  The younger ones never questioned the rules – it’s just what you did when you hiked!

Jan and I began to learn the different flora and fauna for our area and taught the children to identify the plants and trees.  We talked with hikers we met along the trails, our kids always getting kudos for all the hiking they had done.

Michael in the left bottom corner. This is the day he hiked for 2 miles all by himself! Mt. Rainier, WA

Jan and I both homeschooled our kids and this outdoor classroom had the greatest impact!  We also used the car rides to the trailheads for teaching – spelling games, math computation contests, music with grammar lessons or names of presidents.

Discovery!! Lauren (5) squatting down, Olivia (Jan's daughter), Victoria (4) in the white shorts, and two boys I don't remember. Cascades, WA

I loved sharing my appreciation for the outdoors with my kids and it’s been wonderful to see that appreciation carried with them throughout their growing up years.  Hiking with my children when they were small had so many benefits.

I personally loved the break from being inside and sitting at the table for school lessons.  When we were walking, there were a myriad of questions, “Mommy, what’s this?  Why are the mountains so big?  What is that bird?  Where does the water go?  Where does it come from?  Why is there snow in the summer?”  It was endless… and wonderful!

Catherine - had just turned 8. Cascades, WA

I loved the exclusive time with my kids, discovering, and exploring.  I wasn’t competing with a phone or the pressures of running a household when I was out in the woods with them.  They had my undivided attention.

It was a great time to spend with my friend, Jan.  Not that we had a lot of time for any deep conversations but just the fact that we were sharing this time together made our friendship stronger.

The physical benefit to our kids – unbelievable.  One time we were hiking in the Cascades and Michael was 2.  He really didn’t want to be in the back pack so I let him walk.  He hiked for 2 miles along the trails, climbing stairs that were steep, and he never complained!  I was amazed.  Competition with his sisters started young 🙂

Michael (age 2) in the backwards baseball cap. We were crossing a marshland. Mt. Rainier, WA

One of the greatest benefits from hiking?!  Those sweet, sleepy, tired faces after a warm bath in the evening.  My kids slept great and usually slept a little longer the next morning, and that meant a little bit of cherished alone time for myself.  Well worth all the planning that went into hiking with my kids.

I know I’ve kept track of all the trails we did through the Cascades and the Olympics in WA, but my favorite way to remember is to listen to my girls and Michael tell the tales – the time we got lost and walked a few extra miles; the time we went over the mountains to Eastern WA and hiked a VERY remote trail, crossing 20 some streams and how unhappy the daddy’s were because we were out of cell service and got home late;  the time our battery died way up on the mountain and we had to make a sign to see if someone would stop to help us; the time Lauren threw up on the way to the hike because the road was too windy; playing in the lakes until it felt as those your feet would fall off because they were so cold.  Priceless, precious memories…

I highly recommend hiking with kids.  Yes, it takes a little extra planning, and yes, it takes some training to teach them proper hiking behavior but in the end, it is so worth the effort.  It’s an activity you can share with them no matter the age. The memories for both you and them will last forever.

Len Foote Hike Inn – Day 2

October 28, 2010

Saturday morning….

I’d been awake and waiting for others to start moving around.  At the first rustle and the glow of an i-phone showing over the edge of the top bunk – I knew it was time!  I get so excited about morning and especially this morning cuz we were going to hike again!

There’s a ritual at the Inn.  Just before sunrise, they walk by all the rooms gently beating on a drum.  It’s really a nice mellow sound.  This is to let everyone know that the “show” is about to begin and if you want a front row seat, then you better get moving …

And what seats we had!!

Nothing like morning faces for early morning pictures,

and a flash doesn’t help either 🙂

Lauren and I were reminiscing about her Senior trip to Maine and the morning we were up at 4am to hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.   At 1532 feet, it’s the highest point along the N. Atlantic seaboard.

I love watching the transformation of all the beautiful mountains and…

…within minutes, the scenery changes.

Amazing….

So soul quenching….

We began to take guesses as to where the sun would first peek into this new day.

Right smack in the middle of those two mountains!

The colors were phenomenal!

The hues on the horizon changed so quickly…

The illumination spilled over into the valley….

Good morning, Dahlonega!

The experience of watching such an incredible sunrise is truly indescribable…

Watching the landscape and the ever changing shadows…

As the sunlight seeps into all the nooks and crannies….

Stretching her light to the heavens….

It was absolutely breathtaking…

 

And we were so grateful to be able to share this moment with one another.

When the sun was well on her way to her zenith, the breakfast bell rang!

Megan got creative in identifying her mug 🙂

After a breakfast of biscuits, garlic grits, scrambled eggs and sausage, we headed back to our room to get ready for the hike back to civilization.

First, we had to strip our linens and put them and our towels in the hamper on the porch.

Let me explain these canvas bags….I thought  it was a brilliant idea.

When we checked in, they handed each of us a canvas bag and inside was a set of sheets, bath towel, and washcloth.  It was great for use when we needed to go to the bathhouse and didn’t want to carry our whole back pack or fumble around trying to contain in our arms all the various items we would need to use.

And they got washed right along with the rest of the sheets and towels.

When all the housekeeping had been taken care of, it was time to get ourselves ready to head out.

Lolo had started to get a blister before our hike.

So I had gotten special band-aides for blisters.  These had a gel-like pouch on them which went over the blister.  The heat from the body helped it to form over the blister and kept it from anymore friction.

And just to be sure, we added some extra protection.

Time to hit the trail!

Another glorious day in the woods….

Even overnight, the trees seemed to have changed, a little bit brighter.

Lolo and I commented how different the trail seemed going the other way.

We talked about all the hiking we did together when the kids were small, laughing at some of our favorite memories.

Lolo and I ended up hiking together and we had the most wonderful conversations!

In the quiet and peacefulness of the woods, we shared our hearts without any disruption from people or cell phones.

It was a perfect day for hiking, the perfect place for quality time with my daughter, and the perfect moment to tell her how much I loved her…

Precious time together which happens less frequently as they grow older.

As we continued walking, I found myself slowing down to enjoy all the subtle sights…

The colors of the leaves were just too difficult to ignore!

All the creeks were filled with leaves, making the water hard to see.

Some of the leaves decided to hitch a ride 🙂

And just when I thought I could restrain myself from taking another picture….

I’d find another leaf…

And I just had to stop….

I never worried about losing my way.  The green blazes were everywhere

and so were the people who were headed up the mountain.  We met quite a few people who were going to hang out with the trees and the colored leaves.

And in way too short a time, we began to hear the voices from crowds of people and motorized vehicles.

Admittedly, we were tempted to turn around and quickly head back into the woods.

Our time on the way back out?  2.5 hours in 5 miles, slowed by a camera-happy, picture-snapping hiker.

See the shirts the girls are wearing??  You can only purchase them from the Len Foote Hike Inn!

So next time you see someone wearing a shirt from Len Foote, ask them how they enjoyed their hike!

…or where the Goodwill is where they shop 🙂

We were just a little ready for lunch by the time we reached the bottom and by the time we took off our packs, we were really hungry!  We decided to brave the crowds and head to Dahlonega to find something to eat.

Did I mention how hungry we were?

We enjoyed a quiet ride home as we chatted about our hike and the fun we had during the last two days.

Conclusion?  We’re going to do this more often.

Next hike?  The day after Thanksgiving!

Len Foote Hike Inn- Day 1

October 26, 2010

A friend had told me about the Len Foot Hike Inn and I was intrigued.  It sounded like a great hike and my girls were old enough to handle the “moderate” rating of the hike.  I made reservations at the very beginning of April since they recommended 11 months in advance.

Finally, the day arrived and we were so excited!  Lolo helped Mae Mae get her hiking hairdo on…

Everything we needed for the next two days had to be carried in our backpacks.  I’ve since made notes about what I WON’T need the next time…

Before we started on the Len Foote hike, we thought we should see the waterfalls before Saturday came.  With all the gorgeous fall colors, we knew the “peepers” would be filling the Amicalola State Park.

We walked to the bottom of the stream…

And then walked up ALL the stairs…

Till we made it to the beautiful, very tall,  falls!

It’s hard to get perspective with a camera.  See Mae Mae and our friend at the bottom of the picture?

But we did our best to capture this incredible view.

The blue of the sky, the brilliance of the trees – it looked as though Someone had plugged in the day!

After we took all the pictures we wanted, we walked back down ALL those steps and drove over to the top of the falls.

The view was spectacular!

Finally we arrived at the parking lot for the Len Foote Hike Inn.  We visited the restroom, checked our backpacks, and loaded up for the 5 mile hike to the inn.

And we stepped into the quiet solitude of the woods…

After the first mile, tired of listening to our growling stomachs, we stopped for lunch!

Food never tastes as good as it does outside in the woods 🙂

We had a visitor who joined us for lunch…

a Hover Fly.

And to prove his namesake, he hovered so I could snap this photo of him!  It’s funny how he tucks his little legs up beside him and his wings are so fast, you can’t even see them!

The trail was marked with a lime green blaze.  The Appalachian Trail was blazed with blue.

We met some wonderful new friends along the way.  These ladies were from the Atlanta area and headed to the Inn also.  One of the gals had this hike on her “bucket” list and her two friends came for moral support.

The scenery changed constantly.  We loved the “tunnel” feel of this grove of Laurel and Rhododendrons.

Don’t be fooled by that smile on R’s face.  Look at Mae Mae’s face and harken the caution seen there!

The trees’ foliage was spectacular – reminded me so much of New England as we hiked through all these colors!

Noticed this pretty little flower along the pathway.  I believe it’s a Stiff Gentian.

I love being in the woods- exploring, wondering, thinking, listening to all the sounds, watching the way the light from the sun plays among the branches and leaves…

The Sassafras tree was everywhere with it’s funny shaped leaves – the ones that look like mittens are my favorite.

The mountain side undulated up and down as we hiked along, some hills steeper than others.

When the hills were a little more of an incline than we were used to, we stopped for a little rest 🙂

And then when we all were in a really great hiking rhythm, we hiked right into the Inn!

We’d made it!  5 miles of hiking in 2.5 hours!

There was an earned feeling of accomplishment 🙂

After we checked in, we headed to our bunk house.  One set of bunks in each room – we had adjoining rooms.

The accommodations were simple, clean, and a very welcome sight!

First things first after checking out our beds, the bathroom!

Real towels and hairdryers…but the best of all???  HOT SHOWERS!!

And…composting toilets.  The girls wanted me to tell you all that the pictures can’t begin to tell how it “felt” to sit on one of these toilets.  There was a constant cool draft that flowed through the big tube of the compost toilet.

After we took care of all the important tasks, we headed to the dining hall where we were told they had snacks waiting for us.

Corn bread and Sweet Potato Soup – it was wonderful!

What I really wanted was something to drink…

These were our cups the entire time we were at the Inn.

Oh, and another thing…no garbage cans anywhere at the Inn.  What you carried in to the Inn, you carried back out – even your garbage 🙂

We explored the Inn area before the Educational Tour at 5pm.

We learned that all the buildings were built on stilts so as not to disrupt the contour of the land and cause erosion.

And the view – worth every step along that path through the woods!

We took time to chat with some of the other guests who had arrived at the Inn.

Found this hanging in one of the trees…

The educational tour told us all about the formation of the Inn and how they are striving to be eco-friendly.

This is one of their worm bins and it was FULL of Red Worms – impressive!

Before dinner, R taught us all how to play horse shoes….

Such form…

…and finesse!

I like when my girls have an opportunity for a “first.”  Now they can say they’ve “tried” to play horseshoes 🙂

We were really excited when we finally heard the dinner bell ring at 6p.

An amazing meal was set before us – of course, was it so amazing because the cook was that good or because we were famished after our hike??  Umm, yes to both!

We had Black-eyed Peas, Collard Greens, biscuits, Caesar Salad, and Pork Loin with caramelized onions.

The meal was delicious!!!

This picture isn’t very good but I had to show you.

These 2 guys are playing the banjo and guitar and doing the kitchen dance.

Wanna know why?

Remember I said the Inn was eco-friendly?

After each meal, they weigh the scraps that are left on all the plates.

If there are 0 ounces, the kitchen staff does the kitchen dance!

Guess what?  We had 0 waste at our dinner meal 🙂

After dinner, we all went outside to watch the sunset.

While we were waiting, the girls decided to take a closer look at this formidable structure.

This structure took 2 years to be placed in just the right position.

During the Summer Equinox, the sun, as it rises, hits the circle at the top …

…and illuminates this room behind the structure.

There are large rocks placed on the ground around the structure to point out the directions.

Mae Mae is standing on the rock facing East…

…and Lolo is showing us the way to the Northeast!

Afterwards, we decided to check out the Community Room.

And a rousing game of Yahtzee broke out!  NOT!  We were all feeling the effects of hiking all day and we were ready for a hot shower….

And comfy beds!

Sleep well, my beautiful girls, for tomorrow we do the same!

Corn Maze!

October 22, 2010

As promised, we had a “fun night” after our day of working.  We all headed out to the Washington Farm Corn Maze.  It was a beautiful night, the weather was perfect and we were all ready to “play” after a hard day of work.

We donned out neon wrist bands and headed for the corn maze.

But first – the obligatory group pictures.

Made me laugh because after this picture was taken, Catherine said, “Wait!!  You know Mom’s going to blog this so we better do a serious picture too….

So here it is, although the previous picture is more indicative of the kids I know and love!

To start the maze,

there was a slide that dumped you down in the cornfield…

Toto is either being silly or she’s concealing the grimace from the pain of the these pvc pipes on your bum.

And here we were, right in the middle of 5 acres of corn.

“I think we should go……..this way!”

“Ummmm, not sure that’s the right way since we keep going in circles!”

I was assured of not getting lost from our group – I had all the snacks in the backpack!

Still wandering, but with a little more purpose 🙂

We finally made it out of the maze….after an hour.  And yes, we did ask for a little help at the beginning after circling the same spot several times.

Lolo works at the farm, has since she was 14.  She loves working here – even when there’s a bunch of freshman hanging out at her booth trying to flirt with her 🙂  It was comical to watch….

Alexandra couldn’t wait to try the “pillow.”  It’s a gigantic blow up that’s on the ground and you jump on it.

She loved it!

And of course we all had to try it.  I was laughing so hard I could hardly stand up!  My kids kept double jumping me – they thought it was hilarious…..and so did I 🙂

After 2.5 hours, we headed home – all of us a bit tuckered out from our day.

A good time was had by all…

Thanks kids for a fabulous day!!

A rose between two thorns??!

October Work Day with the Kids

October 21, 2010

I decided in August that we would start having “work weekends.”  One day a month we all would work together on different projects around the farm.  It’s worked really well and the best part – it’s fun when we all work together.

Our work day for October was Friday the 15th.  Our main focus – clean up and tidy up the farm!

All of us met at Kinderhof at 8am and we read off the work list.

For my kids, I’ve found they do better when there’s a list with all the jobs written out.  I broke up the farm into areas and the different tasks that had to be accomplished in each area.  The biggest benefit to this system?  Every time they asked me “what’s next?” I referred them to the clipboard!

Everyone chose a job that needed to be done in Kinderhof.

Megan volunteered to scoop mulch with the tractor.

Michael and his friend, J, raked the whole yard around the cabin and picked up pine cones for our fireplace – they make great fire starters!

Even Sawyer wanted to know what he could do to help!  Actually he was pleading with his mom (Tori) to get his ball back from Molly.  She’d stolen it from him and Sawyer was not happy.

After Kinderhof, we cleaned up the goat area and then moved to the front yard.  Tori cut up apples and we took a small break.

Catherine had come home from working night shift at the hospital and didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  Lauren had class in the morning but was home now.  Yes!  A bigger work force!

Catherine had the dubious task of trimming the front hedges of holly.

The rest of the crew started on the wood shed area.  They raked pine straw and moved cinder blocks and bricks to a different area.

All the pine straw went to the fire pit…

We had a fire going all day and the smell of campfire was wonderful!

Michael and J started taking nails out of recycled boards that I’ll use to build a picket fence.  Not a fun job at all but hey, some one had to do it!

Meanwhile, Lauren and Megan began hauling up the “yucky” wood from the wood shed area…

And we added it to the fire in the fire pit.

The two of them brought up a load of broken bricks and they found a guest who had hitched a ride!

It was just a baby so I picked it up so we could get some pictures.  Some of my kids wanted a closer look….

And others wanted to get as far away as possible!

After checking the internet, I think it was a Mole King Snake but I’m not certain.

With all the activity around the farm, the Guineas decided it was best to hang out with the meat chickens.

And, as happens every work day – a competition broke out…

This water barrel was broken and we were moving it.  Michael hopped over it so effortlessly and of course, my girls were not to be out done…

I must admit, his form was going to be a bit hard to beat.

Tori tried first….

…and tipped the barrel over and landed on top of it!

Megan tried next and almost made it….

…but she didn’t quite have the height and hit the back of her thighs on the rim of the barrel and boy, did that hurt!  She has some impressive bruises to prove her efforts 🙂

Squish had the right idea…

She cleared it with no problem 🙂

Okay, everyone back to work.

Meg and J worked in the garden weeding some of the squares.

Ali checked for eggs…

While the chickens checked out their new nesting boxes that J and Michael had hung.

At 3:45, we all met in the kitchen to peel apples for applesauce.  We told stories and laughed a lot and worked an hour longer than we were scheduled to work.

We processed a whole bushel of apples – many hands make light work!

All work stopped at 5p, showers were had, pizza eaten, and we left for an evening of fun and frolic at the Washington Farm Corn Maze, very pleased with all that had been accomplished during our work day.

Apple Picking at BJ Reece Orchard

October 19, 2010

Ever since my kids were little, I’ve taken them to “you pick” farms for the experience of knowing where their food comes from.  Apple picking has to be one of our favorites – I think it’s the time of year that’s really the appeal!

Lauren had Columbus Day off from school so the 4 of us set out to the mountains to go apple picking.  It was a gorgeous day and we all love the mountains.  Once we got to the orchard, we set our priorities in order and ate some of the fried apple pies and apple donuts.  These 2 faces tell just how yummy those treats were 🙂

Apples and apple products were everywhere!

Lauren had researched the different orchards before we decided on the BJ Reece Orchard.  Not all orchards will let you pick your own apples.

Picking is half the fun of going to the apple orchard…

And tasting the fruit of your labor 🙂

We picked Rome apples which I really like for applesauce.

It didn’t take us long at all to fill our 20 lb. bag.

The apples were so big!

The other apples that were ready to be picked were the Arkansas Black.  I use these for eating and for applesauce…

It was a little more work to get the bigger apples out of the tree.

But I had very willing volunteers to climb up into the tree to find the good apples.

We quickly filled our bags then headed back to the barn where we purchased more apples and cider to take home.

We love applesauce and it takes a lot of apples to make enough sauce for this family!

We were only a few miles from the Amicalola State Park when we left the orchard.  And because it was such a beautiful fall day, I thought the girls would enjoy the views from the top of the mountain.  We drove up to the lodge that sits on the ridge – incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Inside the main lobby, there was a Ranger who was lecturing about owls.

This is a Great Horned Owl…

And this is a Barred Owl – they were fascinating…

And of course, the ledge outside was a great place for jumping shots!

Looks like she’s doing the Irish Jig 🙂

“Look Mom, I’m flying!”

“Woohoo!!  We love coming to the mountains!”

We all had a great time picking apples and enjoying fall in the mountains.  How incredibly grateful I am for the beauty that surrounds us and for the health to enjoy all the wonders of nature.