roughin’ it

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December Greetings!

It’s been quite the few months we’ve had, with living in a tent for a month and a half, and then upgrading to living in a camper. . . which is where we are now. I am pretty surprised with myself and how I’ve adapted and found peace with “living with less”. It’s actually pretty cozy, with the help of being hooked up to electricity.

Originally we were going to start our homestead on raw land. We had tossed around the idea of buying a really cheap, retired school bus to convert into a camper/house bus. We had also considered just finding a cheaper camper. Well, we didn’t really have our plan completely worked out when we found this piece of land with a small A frame, off-grid cabin on it. We decided to just jump into it and work everything out as we went. We knew that the existing cabin on the property would require a major renovation, but we saw potential in it and the property.
As first time “home-buyers” (I wouldn’t exactly put us into that category, since we were going for something very much not mainstream), we made some mistakes and overlooked some things when going through with buying the property out here in the Arkansas backwoods. We gutted the house down to frame and found damage, to our dismay. But we have pulled it off so far, and we have rebounded from the disappointment of encountering issues. Having this structure on the property is better than raw land, as it has a lower level that is bermed into the earth. It’ll make a good root cellar and storm shelter.

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The conception of this mutual goal happened maybe 7 or so years ago. It’s been this sparkly vision in the forefront of my mind for as long as I can remember. It turns out, as with everything else, putting the thing into practice looks much differently than I had thought it would. I am the dreamy idealist and, thankfully, Brian is the practical sort. Even so, living on our own little piece of earth, while living cheaply and nearly being debt-free, is just where I want to be.
Living in a tiny space appears much more romantic than it actually is, you know. Some days are harder than others. Mostly though everything is good and peaceful. About mid-September, our family gifted us a comfortable camper to live in over the winter (thanking our lucky stars). The cabin was left in pretty bad shape (all of the previous owners’ junk left everywhere), and had been vacant and neglected for a few years. So– we can begin major improvements to the structure once we get a shed built and all of our tools moved into that.
There are so many things yet to be learned. I would really like to connect with others who are on a similar journey. . .

lately

Whoa, hi! It’s been a while.

At the end of April we brought home a tiny chocolate lab, that looked slightly like a little bear. And now she is growing by leaps and bounds into a big chocolate monster– weighing in at 45.5 lbs! It’s been fun watching her grow. Her name is Juneau, and she has more energy than any of us combined. ALSO. . . I fulfilled a basically lifelong wish to get my SCUBA certification at the end of June! We did it! Now I’d love to get myself into the ocean somewhere. I wouldn’t even mind a trip to the Florida Keys, if we are talking budget scuba. That way I could stop off to snorkel with manatees and take a fan boat ride through the Everglades. But currently that’s neither here nor there, as we are kind of focusing all of our energy and funds on the new HOMESTEAD ADVENTURE that we dove into. We closed at the end of May and have been working on projects, and now the time has come to get our full-time homestead on. Right now we are calling our little A-frame and 12 acres of woods Fern Gully Farmstead. That’s subject to change, but we are liking how that sounds. 🙂 There may be a bit of a learning curve as we discover how to live off-grid, but I’m excited about it and open to learning all of the things!

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I intend to share bits of the experience. In the meantime, I’ll be swatting off mosquitoes and packing in all of our water, so wish me well! Summer in these Ozarks woods is a doozy.

missouri botanical garden

A few weeks ago, I was in St. Louis with the brother under less than ideal circumstances, but on a bright and sunny Friday we took a trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Wow, I can’t recommend this place enough! As it turns out, the garden is massive and we ended up not being able to see everything with the short (3 hour) time frame that we had. The parts that I did go through, though, were stunning. I got real caught up on the Climatron rainforest, as you can probably tell from the selection of photos I’m sharing below. But I would love, love to go back any old time I’m up near St. Louis. There are so many spots to just hang out, relax, and take in the botanical oasis. My highlights were the Temperate House, Climatron, and the excessive amounts of cacti in the Linnean House. I’m really sad that I missed the observatory, mausoleum, and the Bavarian Garden.IMG_6281 IMG_6282 IMG_6292 IMG_6293 IMG_6296 IMG_6298 IMG_6337 IMG_6346 IMG_6348 IMG_6379 IMG_6392 IMG_6399 IMG_6408 IMG_6409 IMG_6411 IMG_6424 IMG_6432 IMG_6434 IMG_6449 IMG_6452 IMG_6455 IMG_6460 IMG_6461 IMG_6469

 

Hope you enjoyed the quick little tour through my lens! (I was bummed the whole time that I didn’t have a wide angle, or my regular lens with me). This place got me rip-roaring excited for summer and all of the plants! 

Also, Happy May Day!

washington part 5 / mount rainier & mt. baker – snoqualmie national forest

I’m still reflecting back on the beauty we saw in Washington that is so unlike everything here in Arkansas. It’s been 6 months since I’ve seen Mount Rainier, but looking at the photos takes me back to how epic it was to be hanging out next to the mountain. We went to the Sunrise visitor’s center, which is the highest point that be reached by car, at 6,400 feet. Up and up a winding road we went. . . it was so much fun. The trails at Sunrise are dreamy, and at times provide 360 views. You can look out over the Cascade Range, and it’s just hard to pull your eyes away from all of the stunning sights to be had at each turn.
After Rainier, we drove to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and found a campground to set up camp at. We found a pretty sweet little spot backed up to the Snoqualmie river, which Brian promptly fell into the next morning. Aside from that mishap, it was an extremely peaceful spot in September. There were only a few other campers scattered across the campground that we never ran into. I was too excited about the copious amounts of mushrooms littering the damp forest floor, and we had an abrasive chipmunk intruder that was sort of cute in spite of his lack of manners. In short, it was one of the best days I can remember.

camping gear necessities

There are a few items that we have come to rely on while camping. No doubt, investing in outdoor gear costs a pretty penny, but if you do your research and wind up with some tried-and-true equipment it’s definitely worth the cost upfront. I love these camping items and probably couldn’t make it without them (at least for more than a few days). I’m super happy with durable things that actually serve me for years and years. Yes!

camping gear necessities

1/ Marmot Limelight
2/ Grand Trunk double nest hammock
3/ Jet boil
4/ Neo air Thermarest sleeping pad
5/ Keen boots
6/ Black Diamond Lamp
7/ Princeton Tec Headlamps
8/ Stanley mug

Seriously though, one of my favorite things is having coffee in the morning after crawling out of the tent. So, that’s always a must. I will save different methods for coffee brewing while camping for another day! What about you guys? Do you have outdoor gear standbys that really make things comfortable for you? This February cold has me yearning for summer– all I can focus on is how to keep warm! What gear makes winter camping doable for you?

a new year, a fresh start

I’m proud of what I accomplished in 2014. There were too many good things that I didn’t keep track of, as it was another whirlwind year. But I did document some of the best memories that were made.
Highlights of the year:
Seeing Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell live!
Growing a bountiful garden, and canning some of that bounty
Caving at Lost Valley in Kingston, Arkansas
Graduating college
Went kayaking
Playing with manual mode on my camera
Snooping around a castle
Spending a week camping in Washington
Volunteering
Celebrating my loved ones
Outlining my fiction saga
Learning how to weave
Attending a mushroom foraging class
Visiting Terra Studios
Going to the Little Craft Show
Downsizing our possessions
Making pottery
Wrapping up the year with a short camping trip to Petit Jean, in Morrilton, Arkansas
2015 is looking pretty promising so far! I hope to share the good stuff right here on this space. 
Happy New Year!

washington coast part 4 / tacoma

I’ve neglected this little space again, but no matter. I’m still not done posting photos from our Washington trip. So! After spending the night camping at the ocean at Kalaloch campground, we drove through small towns until we arrived at Olympia. While in Olympia, we visited Wolf Haven International. Then on to Tacoma to check into the hotel room we went. After checking in, we decided we still hadn’t gotten our animal fix, so we went over to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Later on, we had some amazing Greek food at Ammars Mediterranean Grill! Warm pita and hummus, waffle fries layered with feta and basil sauce, and some perfect gyros.

The next day we woke up early and explored a little more of Tacoma near the glass bridge before venturing out to Mount Rainier. Seriously, I keep thinking about how many fun memories came out of this little travel, and how different Washington is from Arkansas. Honestly, I wish there had been some of the classic Northwest rainy weather going on while we were there, because that’s my favorite weather. I think I could adjust to the Northwest lifestyle. 🙂 (Rainier snapshots to follow in the next post on Washington).

washington coast part 3 / forks, hoh rainforest, & kalaloch

Tuesday was a big, long, beautiful day. We got up pretty early and left from our campsite near Port Angeles and drove to Forks, Washington. The picture above is Lake Crescent along Olympic Highway 101. It was sparkling in the early morning light and beckoning to us to stop off and take it all in. Once we were back on the move, the main destination near Forks was Second Beach at La Push. It was quite the drive, but we eventually found the little parking lot that was marked ‘Second Beach’. We hiked through a rain forest with mushrooms aplenty and then descended down to the most picturesque beach imaginable.

The ‘privy’ advertised by that little wooden sign was simply a wooden box with a toilet shaped thing inside. No door. I wasn’t tempted to use it, as I thought it would be a bit like sitting on a throne out in the open. Privy aside, the 3/4 of a mile forest walk was something like a scene from Jurassic Park. . . it was so spooky and stunning. After hanging out and exploring Second Beach, we headed towards the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. This temperate rainforest was the popular place to be that day apparently. I’m guessing any old day is probably busy there, because it was basically a moss-covered enchanted forest. We did the touristy thing and hiked the Hall of Mosses trail, a quick .8 mile loop through some old growth mossy giants. I don’t regret it at all. It was lovely.

Our end destination was Kalaloch along the coast. We had some lunch at the lodge, that might have included some delicious salmon BLTs. It was nice, but our appetites were a little out of control from all of the exploring and driving we had been doing. Suffice it to say that we fired up the jet boil later on after doing some tidepooling on the beach. The grey, blustery weather was the perfect backdrop for spying on all of the tidepool creatures. While we were walking along the beach, we accidentally walked up on a baby harbor seal that was hanging out waiting for its mom. You are supposed to stay at least 300′ away from seals on the beach, but this little guy was so well camouflaged that we only spotted it when we were probably about 15′ away from it. I loved camping at Kalaloch campground, even though it was relatively full on a Tuesday. It was an incredible camping experience on the ocean.

pumpkin patch

Going to the pumpkin patch is one of my favorite fall traditions, and I usually can’t wait any longer than the first week of October to fulfill my pumpkin dreams for the season. That’s exactly what happened this weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it, per usual. There’s this great place in Springdale, Arkansas called Farmland Adventures. This is the second year in a row that I’ve hit up this place, because they have a corn maze, concessions, a ton of interesting animals to feed (a camel, water buffalo, a zebonkey– zebra-donkey hybrid, etc.), and even pig races! They always have a fun selection of pumpkins.
And then I rounded off the adventure with some pumpkin iced coffee from the new Dunkin Donuts. Don’t mind if I do.
What are your favorite fall rituals?

 

washington coast part 2 / dungeness spit & port angeles

washington coast part 2 / dungeness spit & port angeles

On our second day in Washington, after waking up in the tent we packed up early and took the ferry back to Anacortes on the mainland. This little tracker ^ was spotted along highway 20 as we drove south on Fidalgo island down to Coupeville. There we took yet another ferry to Port Townsend. We stopped in Sequim and went out to Dungeness Spit, which was really peaceful and nice. The spit extends five miles out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lighthouse at the end of the five mile stretch has been there since 1857! We didn’t hike the entirety of the spit to see the lighthouse, but it was a really nice place to just hang out. It is a wildlife hot spot, being a refuge for endangered and threatened bird species. The short stroll through maritime forest was beautiful. And as a plus, the people that worked here were extremely nice people. I wish we could have  stayed longer. But let’s talk about these blue skies:

 Later that evening after exploring and tuckering ourselves out, we camped at Heart of the Hills campground just outside of Port Angeles, Washington. It was very quiet at the campground, almost in an eerie way. Everything was covered in moss and the ground was spongy to walk on. It was kind of surreal. We heard a few other campers off in the trees, but didn’t really see anyone. The campground has over 100 campsites, and I would love to go back and camp there. There were, of course, bear lockers and warning signs posted so we tried to be cautious with food. But our only animal encounters here included some chirping chipmunks that didn’t appreciate our close proximity to them as they foraged.

It was such a good day!