Journey for Pure Life

That we may be overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty of it all.

Category: Homeschooling (page 2 of 3)

A Day in Edenton

Please read the very first 100 NC Counties post for background info on our quest here.

We hadn’t planned on spending the day in Edenton. We drove two hours north of home to Bertie County to deal with some family matters, but literally the second we arrived plans shifted and we were left with nothing to do but turn around and head directly home. Um, no.

I began to rack my brain for what was in the area. At the time all I could see was corn field after corn field, with a tobacco field thrown in here and there. Then I remembered Edenton, rumored to be one of the South’s prettiest small towns and a place I couldn’t remember ever visiting. We headed about 15 more miles northeast into Chowan County, across the Chowan River and made a day of it.

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We started on the waterfront, at the Barker House. Built in 1782, it was owned by Penelope Barker, one of the 51 women who were a part of the Edenton Tea Party. The women didn’t dump any tea into the Albemarle Sound, but they did let the British know they would be having no more of their tea. It was a big deal for the little town.

The house is a welcome center and it was there that we picked up information on the trolley tour, the lighthouse and other activities.

It was also there that we saw our first mayflies. As the day progressed we saw hundreds of these bugs, maybe thousands. My little bug-lovers were captivated.

We headed to Colonial Park, steps from the Barker House, to burn off some energy. The park is waterfront and has showers and bathrooms for those who dock their boats in Edenton’s harbor. The gnats fly pretty thick here; bug spray will be premeditated next time!

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After leaving the park we did a little shopping on Broad Street. It was a hot day and we soon found ourselves inside an old-fashioned drug store that advertised ice cream and orangeades on their sidewalk sign. We’d never been inside one and I was fascinated. At the back of the small building was the pharmacy for prescription pick-up, at the front was an old-style soda fountain, and in the middle you could find everything from perfume to toilet paper to Little Golden Books. I was in The Andy Griffith show and loved it! Walgreens has nothing on a quaint, friendly, family-owned store.

We picked up a few things at a cute little children’s shop called The Silly Monkey before heading back towards the water for our trolley tour.

I was a little worried about how my nine, seven and three-year olds would do on the hour tour. The stars must have been aligned just right because we had no problems, even though it was mid-afternoon.

We saw the home of Joseph Hewes, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. We saw graveyards, each with interesting stories of their own. One had been moved, all the bodies dug up and carried to a new location, save three or four. One had people buried under the church and one on top of the other.

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We saw what was recently discovered to be the oldest house in the state, a tiny little thing near the old cotton mill village.

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We even saw one of the old Sears catalog houses. Ordered in 1900, it cost $400.

Our tour didn’t last the full hour and each of my kids left the trolley happy. Whew.

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We walked a short distance to the Roanoke River Lighthouse, originally built in 1886 and moved to its current location over Edenton Harbor in 2012. It is now the last standing original screwpile lighthouse left in North Carolina. For a small cost we toured inside, which had a parlor/living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, and the actual lighthouse light, which was not available for viewing.

After our lighthouse tour we stopped at a few cannons placed along the waterfront for my youngest to see. He pretended to fire cannons at the enemy. It was after we left that I learned a civil war battle was fought precisely where he was firing. Hence, the cannons.

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We headed back to Bertie County, where we were staying for the night. We picked up some southern cooking at Heritage House in Windsor (“best place in town,” Grandaddy B told me) and took it back to a cottage on the Chowan River, a place where some of my most vivid childhood memories were made.

The cottage hadn’t changed one bit since I had been there many, many years ago. The kids got to see the place they had often heard about…the place where I would catch fireflies in a jar and sit them beside the little bed I slept in at night….the place where I would lay in the screened-in porch hammock for hours with a book…the place where I stepped into a wasp nest while exploring the hillside woods and then screamed my head off until Aunt B came out with tobacco from her cigarettes to put on my multiple stings…the place where I swam, at the very bottom of a steep, winding road, in the river with my sister and whatever other children were visiting the other cabins at the time…a happy place where there was always family and perfect pancakes on a griddle and sips of coffee and love. I just called it The River, and if I knew we were going then all was right in the world.

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And that’s how my children and I spent the evening, in The River. Clothes and all, because you can’t miss out on memories made just because you didn’t pack a bathing suit. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

The next day we spent a lovely morning eating blueberry pancakes and exploring forts and fields and attics with precious family that we see far too little of. Sometimes life requires that you surrender your plan, go with what’s in front of you, and let the blessings pour out.

Lions vs. Humans. A disgusting title.

I am shocked and heartbroken that within my circle of people and even in my beloved New York Times that it has become a thought in any mind to compare the value of a human life and an animal life. I literally didn’t even think such a thing to compare the two, as if there were a problem to be sad about both. Why is that a problem? Why do some people groups think that to think of some things you shouldn’t think of others? I have cried for people lost this past six weeks more than I ever have in my life, and I am also so hurt to hear of the African lion killed this week, when there are fewer and fewer all the time (which affects the food chain, which affects the delicate balance of life God created for all of us, which affects my life and your life and our children’s lives…it’s true. Environmental science. Study up). If you know me, you know it doesn’t begin or end at Cecil the Lion. I am horrified every time I drive down a road I haven’t in a few weeks to see another forest leveled, a habitat for many and a great resource of air quality for us. I cringe to know that today’s children are being medicated and sedated with screens instead of working hard on the land and spending peace-producing hours outdoors.

I care deeply about people, especially children. I have spent time with children living in the throes of poverty and time with children living in foster care. I know the horrors and the hardship. I also feel very strongly about our creation, which we are destroying more and more quickly with our growing population of 7 billion, while lions have declined by up to 90% just since 1975 and are now at a mere 30,000, if that. It makes my heart so sad to know that there are people out there who are angered because we care also about these 30,000, put here before us on Earth, majestic, wild, free, untainted by our human ways, a minority to be protected. We are busy getting angry, living our lives, removing THE creation, replacing it with concrete and castles in the sky and photo after photo of our tiny little selves and chemicals and self-righteousness. We are our own downfall, since the garden of Eden. Why are we getting angry at the animals? What is the threat? I see the threat clearly and it isn’t the animals.

30,000 lions vs. 7 billion humans. I cannot believe this is even a comparison to be considered. Are we so detached from our natural world that it enrages us that the death of a lion is sad to some others of us? Are we so detached from our God-given natural world that we freak out and post a photo to facebook every time we see a snake? Are we really so detached that these things cause our hearts to panic? Each of us is but a breath on earth, the world keeps spinning long after we are gone. Hopefully.

For my children’s sake and future, at least, I hope some of us DO stand up for Cecil the Lion, and for the health of our planet.

Life Lessons in Stokes County

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This past year I attended the most beautiful baby shower I have ever been to in my life. The mother-to-be wasn’t pregnant. She had adopted one little girl, was in the process of adopting a brother and sister, and was awaiting the placement of their baby brother immediately following his birth. All four children would be under four years old. Wow. I think the whole room of supportive women felt that way. In awe of this beautiful woman who saw a need and just simply said yes. Complete unselflessness.

I got so sick that night. The flu or something. So while I sat there I could feel my body breaking down and getting worse by the minute. Before long it felt like I couldn’t handle my body anymore, like I was hovering somewhere above it. Despite how awful I felt I will never forget what this woman stood up to say. She pointed out another, equally selfless, woman in the room, my now dear friend Arica. Arica was one of the first to adopt within this particular community of people. She and her husband adopted two precious children, and when they did, I’m sure they had no idea that God would use it to affect many more lives than just their own. The mother-to-be let Arica and everyone know how incredible, inspiring and important her example was. So many are afraid of adoption. Arica gave everyone a first-hand view that where there is love, there is nothing to fear. Since Arica’s journey, many more families have stepped up to foster and/or adopt.

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On a normal day, though, I don’t even remember that Arica adopted two children. I just think of them as her children, and I know that she’s funny and patient and super chill. So I like her. And my daugher, who has her for a CC tutor, likes her. And I also like her children, who are well-mannered and always smiling. So when she says to me on the last day of CC, “I’m going to the mountains this week…wanna go?” I like her even more. Smile

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What a brave soul she was. There was this one time that my husband and I went on a trip with people I didn’t know so well yet…and I barely spoke to them again. It went that badly. I knew there was the same chance, because I didn’t know Arica very well yet.

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There actually were some rough spots in my trip. I was traveling at a particularly horrid time of month, in which I become a particularly horrid sort of person. I also pulled my beloved pop-up camper up there, which had a couple of issues I hadn’t tended to before leaving. And then, seeing children stare at screens when there are wide open spaces and other people to entertain themselves with always makes me cranky. But that’s my own issue. My ideals are of little value if I don’t have love. Feel free to remind me of that each and every time you see me.

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When I lost patience, Arica never lost patience with me. She calmed me, she helped me, she encouraged me. I even had glorious heat in my camper on the last night of our stay. When each night was a forty degree one.

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She was so accommodating and gracious, as was her mom, whom I have yet to meet but who allowed a stranger and her three children to stay on her eleven acres while she honeymooned. (Yeah, she probably wasn’t worried about much.)

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She helped my daughter find a new love for horses, which she had never been around in her life. She was a natural, as Arica is with all the animals.

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She drove with us out to Hanging Rock State Park, which was beautiful and had waterfalls, one of my favorite things now that I have discovered them! We could have spent hours and hours and hours exploring Hanging Rock, but having young children makes for shorter day trips. We could see Pilot Mountain in the distance during our drive to the park, and though we didn’t make it to Mayberry (uh, Mount Airy, I mean, Mount Airy) this time as it is to the west in Surry County, I was able to breath in the presence of Andy Griffith and have Arica listen to all of my nerd talk about him.

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Stokes County was a breath of fresh air. For me, for my children. And I am glad to say that even after seeing some of my ugly, Arica does still talk to me. And I have one more friend that I admire for the peaceful, giving, accepting, loving way she lives her life. She is like the breath of fresh air that her home county is. There is a reason her children are always smiling.

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Down East Dairy Project!

 

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About a year or two ago I began researching my family history quite heavily. I stayed up late many nights because the more I found, the possibilities of what could be found grew. One of those things I discovered about my family line is that every one of my traceable eastern North Carolina ancestors was from the Greene/Lenoir area and every one was a farmer or lived with a farmer at one point or another. Every single one grew things from the earth and/or raised livestock of some kind. Then, with my generation, it suddenly stops. I know many whose fathers or grandfathers farmed the land, but I know almost none that continued on that path. Many of us are far removed from that lifestyle today, though it was only a generation or two before us that depended on it for a living.

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I admired that life from afar as a child, during my regular visits out to the country. I fed turkeys and walked down a long dirt path to see a big hog, only to walk back up the path a few moments later. I sat on a fencepost and watched a bull grazing in a field. I walked through and, let’s be honest, played in the cow patty and muddy mixture of a nearby creek (the same creek which, interestingly enough, a tornado tore through on this exact day four years ago, I was just reminded by the news). I hung out amongst the goats and the rabbits and deeply inhaled the smell of the chicken houses as I stepped out of the car into my grandma’s yard. Somehow I love that smell. But never truly lived that smell. I want to live that smell, and I deeply want my children to, as our culture transforms more and more into something I don’t recognize and don’t connect with.

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Therefore, when Greene County 4-H, whom cannot be given enough praise for their level of commitment to the community and children, offer up something “farmy” we can do, I’m all in. I signed up for the Down East Dairy Project as soon as they opened registration. The children, alongside their parents, would meet at a farm once per week, learn all about dairy cows and actually handle calves, learning how to walk them, present them before a judge, clip them, etc. At the end of our couple of months at the farm, the children would be judged on showmanship and on their calf’s presentation at the Pitt County Fairgrounds.

We don’t even live in Greene County, or Lenoir or Pitt, the surrounding counties included in the project. But Greene County has my heart and if we had to drive the hour and a half out there once a week from Carteret County, I had no problem with it.

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Simply Natural Creamery of Ayden, NC leases space on the beautiful, fourth generation farm of Sammy and Connie Bunn for their dairy cows. Calves and heifers (female cows who haven’t yet had babies) are often kept at the Bunn Farm before being moved over to the dairy. Amazingly, it was the creamery who approached Greene County 4-H with the idea of letting children in the community “borrow” calves for a show. More amazingly, the children took the task seriously, showing up in their muck boots ready to take control of an animal several times their size, whether it was 70 degrees and sunny or 40 degrees and wet.

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When I sent our registration info over to the 4-H girls it crossed my mind for a moment that this was one of those things that would either be completely amazing or way out of our league. New it was, for sure. Chewing the cud is an actual thing, not just an old hick phrase as I had thought. Jersey cow milk is higher in fat and protein than the more common Holstein milk. Calves are, essentially, babies and will flop themselves on the ground or dig their little hooves in and refuse to budge. Particularly for a six-year-old, 46 pound child. They have withers and hooks and several stomachs and hocks. We knew none of this before, and we certainly didn’t know how to present a calf in a ring in front of a crowd. Despite this, it was amazing and my children who, by now, are probably accustomed to my most random activities for them, did a great job. They never grumbled or complained as they do everyday with math and spelling. They connected with another creature and knew that, on some level, it needed them. Mom wasn’t doing all the caretaking anymore. Now, they were needed to do the caring. Even my husband got involved and truly appreciated the people, the cows, the experience. We all did. The calves were shown this past Saturday, and as we left the fairgrounds with ribbons and chocolate milk, my heart was full knowing that the work of so many generations before us in this beautiful farm country is being held onto tightly by willing little hands.

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*This project enabled us to highlight two more counties on our North Carolina map! Obviously, we have been to both Lenoir and Pitt Counties before, but we wanted to see it with fresh eyes and only count it when it really meant something to us and represented something special and appropriate for that county. You can read up on our county goal at http://journeyforpurelife.com/?p=469.  For more information about Simply Natural Creamery visit their website at www.simplynaturalcreamery.com and for more info on Greene County, NC 4-H visit their website at http://greene.ces.ncsu.edu/greene-county-4-h-clubs-and-groups/.

I heart Avery County.

First stop, Linville Falls. Word to the wise (which we were not): get a trail map and take food and water! It is NOT a short hike. You WILL be sore the next morning, especially if you carry a two-year-old the entire way back from the falls to the car.

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Linville Falls, as pictured above.

 

Grandfather Mountain, as pictured below.

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Luckily, instead of a miles long hike as Linville Falls is, Grandfather Mountain was a terrifyingly skinny, windy, hairpin-turn road to the top.  The kind that makes me yell out every 20 seconds, “Ohmigosh! Look at that view! No, look at THAT view! Ohmigosh!” The kind that makes Ma cower, half-crying and half-laughing, as close to the center of the car and me as she can.  Have I mentioned she’s afraid of heights? As in, every time we cross a normal bridge she is terrified? I’m a horrible granddaughter.

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But so worth it, that super sketchy drive. My six-year-old is doing what the rest of us feel like doing at the top. Beauty beyond words. Beyond a photo. I don’t have a wide-angle lens; I didn’t even try.

 

And Christmas trees…for miles and miles and miles. One of these very trees sat in our living room this year. There wasn’t great cell phone service up here…maybe that’s why I loved it so much. Winking smile

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100 NC Counties: The Quest

     A memory came to me recently of something I must have said over 20 years ago. I was a little girl, and one day I turned to someone I loved and said, “When I grow up, I want to be an explorer.”

“I think everything’s already been found,” he said, shutting me down right there. What he and I both failed to realize at the time is that those places and people that had already been discovered or “found,” hadn’t been explored by me.

A year or so ago I had been really praying about the direction God wanted me to take. I should be “doing” something “big” and “successful” with my life after all, right? It isn’t as often that I feel I hear from God now (who can hear anything with all these kids around all the time?) but I feel like I clearly heard Him say two things.

1. Focus in. Focus on my family, my children, my husband. Focus in. Not out at the world and things I think I should be doing to be “somebody.”

2. Enjoy. Enjoy the beauty of creation and all that has been given to me. God created this amazingly gorgeous world for us and so often I get distracted by what MAN has created that I forget to relax and take it all in and stop doing and simply enjoy it.

That memory came to me around the time of my 30th birthday, and it has helped me begin to understand myself and my tendencies, to know that they are deep-rooted, to peacefully know that God made me just as He did for some purpose that I usually don’t see, that He put some desires in me that haven’t changed for 20+ years.

I get excited by new and different things, people and places. I get bored with the familiar. I thrive in the sunshine and outdoors. I am passionate when learning new things and gaining new skills. I lack passion when I’m not. My decision to homeschool was made in a foreign country and with the motivation that we could go and come as we please. I live on whims and when I get an idea in my head there’s usually no stopping my determination until the thing gets done. I, of all people, know these traits can work in favor of good OR evil, and have done both countless times. But I am what God made me and if I let HIS creativity flow, there’s no limit to the beauty that will result.

There’s another “explorer” I know of, Chris Guillebeau, who wrote The Art of Non-Conformity, among other things. I read his book and then watched through his blog as he completed his goal of visiting EVERY country in the world. All 193 of them! Of course I thought, “I am totally doing that!” But then I remembered my three kids…and our local business…so, scratch that. Besides, that was HIS thing. But the inspiration stuck.

Then, last summer we visited some friends in Florida. While it was lovely to see them it was a long and hard trip with three children, one of whom still wasn’t (and still isn’t!!) sleeping through the night, by myself. After some challenges on the long drive back home to NC, I had never been so happy to see Carolina pines in all my life. I had always wanted to drive AWAY from my home state, never towards. But God had been working behind the scenes to give me fresh eyes with which to see my home. Furthermore, over the past year I had been digging into my family history only to find some rich and affirming information about my family line and where they all came from…and where I come from. It may have taken 30 years but suddenly NC had captured my heart in a way it never had.

With American history coming up on the homeschool agenda for the 2014-2015 Classical Conversations year, I realized what my new practical, completely attainable goal for my family would be (that’s another thing, I like to have a goal and a vision at all times!):

     We will visit all 100 counties of North Carolina!

Obviously, we have already been to many. We will start at the beginning, with fresh eyes, and a focus on history, culture and recreation as much as possible, and thoroughly enjoy all that our state has to offer to us as locals, as visitors and as homeschoolers. We won’t be thorough, of course, but will highlight what is special for our family during a particular visit. Tag along if you like, and please, throw out suggestions if you have stops in mind that absolutely shouldn’t be missed!

Keep reading to hear about COUNTY #1: Swain County, and our new favorite NC spot within it.

The town of Cherokee is technically located in both Swain and Jackson counties, as is the reservation. For my purposes, this post will only be on Swain County.

Indian Dance in Cherokee

Cherokee was a hopping little town while we were there during Memorial Day weekend. We saw Native American dances, we danced Native American dances. We met a guy in the KNIVES and LEATHER store that Carver had to go in who showed us an old New Testament written entirely in the Cherokee language. He taught us how to say Cherokee in the native language. I assumed he was a native but, “no, I just have a deep appreciation.”

Gem Mining

We went gem mining on the main strip in Cherokee, and it proved quite educational and informative. The kids spent hours in creeks afterward looking for similar stones and gems. Carver came home and, at the suggestion of some other homeschool moms, immediately made himself an organized rock collection in a tackle box. Rock-savvy I am not, but we are learning.

Mingo Falls

From the town center we then headed 10 or 15 minutes northwest to Mingo Falls. At 120 feet tall, I gasped when I saw it. Located at the end of a dirt road and up a steep staircase/trail, it was my first waterfall. Ever. And it was perfect. Absolutely stunning and, as everyone on the way up told us, “worth the climb!” I think even my grandma, who had to stop and rest a few times, would probably agree. There’s a fun little trail off the main trail. It’s a bit sketchy and I ended up scaling the space between a mountain rock and a tree to reach the top because we thought the kids had gone through there. They hadn’t gone through there. They were waiting patiently on level ground at the bottom. Of course.

I hadn’t thought to change my lens at the bottom, so I couldn’t even attempt to capture its entirety in a frame. Unless I climbed back down and back up again with two kids and a toddler, which I wasn’t. Just go there if you ever have the chance. Go there first.

And then, we came to the best place of all. The simple flyer had said “Trout Farm, No License, No Limit.” It sounded great for us beginners but I hesitated a little because I wasn’t sure of the quality of the place. Located down a looooooooooong dirt mountain road just outside of Bryson City, you are met at its entrance with quaint cabins on a large property with a well-stocked rainbow trout pond. When we came through to the farm it was even more glorious because we had just come back DOWN the mountain after taking a wrong turn. The signs said all the way in, “Stay to the right” and “follow the creek.” Well, eventually the brush gets so thick you can’t see the creek. Long story short, I took a left when I should have STAYED BY THE FRICKIN’ CREEK and was in full panic mode trying to get my minivan up steep, pot-holed, Costa Rica-like (I was having flashbacks) mountain roads. I can barely breathe just writing about it. So, today’s lesson should you ever visit Cooper Creek Trout Farm, never go even slightly left!

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The staff were super helpful, on the phone as I was freaking out, and when we arrived. They helped the kids fish every step of the way. I was able to take pictures and take care of my littlest one. They had everything we needed, fishing poles, bait (worms), everything. $2.00 per person to fish, $4.50 per pound, you must keep what you catch (rainbow trout don’t have scales as other fish do and will die after handled), $1.00 extra for cleaning. I realized quickly that we could easily have spent several hundred dollars that afternoon. Fish were on the hook almost as soon as the line was cast. The kids were ecstatic. (I had to get a fishing license almost as soon as we got back home.)

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The owner spoke with me for a few minutes as I was admiring the farmhouse on the property. Built in the 1860s, he is doing the necessary upgrades to make sure it and its original stone chimney (unseen in the photo below) remains standing.

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There is also about a 1.5 mile trail leading to falls on this property. We weren’t able to get to it this time, but hopefully on our next trip. We’ll have to start training grandma now.

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We were even able to see fish eggs as the trout were being cleaned. Yum.

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When I asked the kids what their favorite part of our trip was, Cooper Creek Trout Farm was their answer. The property was beautiful and the staff were awesome. They were friendly, helpful, and they made it possible for my 6 and 8-year-olds to bring home dinner that night, and for many nights in the future. We will certainly stop in again.

I called my husband at one point, who was surfing in Hatteras while we were fishing in the mountains. “I feel like I’ve had a mini-vacation in another country,” he said, refreshed and stoked on his trip. I felt exactly the same way. North Carolina, you are pretty good to us after all.

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Thanks for reading and please share your favorite NC spots with us!

PURA VIDA!

Me, Two Chickens, Three Kids

This is who I informed my grandma (“Ma”) would be coming to Snow Hill over the weekend. And that, obviously, I would need HELP! Juggling a camera, a baby and a chicken is no easy task, my friends.

 

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Around Easter I had been looking for a 4-H club to get involved in. After getting the run-around from local groups I came across some new clubs in Greene County (the small-town, farming community where I was born). They were offering a project called Greene Chicks, in which a child would receive two baby chickens, learn to take care of them, and show them several months later at the 4-H Rabbit and Poultry Show held during the Sweet Potato Festival in Snow Hill, NC. Perfect!

 

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I had seriously been wanting to add chickens to the homestead for some time. Only two problems.

1. We aren’t allowed. Nasty HOA and everything.

2. We couldn’t tell if the chicks were male or female. Roosters or hens.

Solutions to said problems?

1. Did it anyway.

2. Called my friend and next-door neighbor, Norma, who knew exactly how to “fix” our little problem when one chick loudly went through some changes.

 

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Above is said chick who soon became a rooster. We couldn’t exactly tell because he still looked just like the other Cornish/Buff Orphington we had picked up. But I was pretty sure he was the source of all the noise. And I was settled on what his fate would be. Smile Any guesses?

 

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Yes, I wanted to cook him up. It may sound horrible, but think about it. Most of us eat meat several times a day, and those animals are raised (and killed) much less humanely than mine was. Plus, he was raised and fed completely naturally. Perhaps out of sight is out of mind but it doesn’t change the truth of what goes on to most animals.

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Norma, who grew up on a farm, came bearing her knife and pot. She did the actual deed and then a very pregnant me helped to pull the feathers off. All the children watched. It was actually a second for my children. But what a learning experience! And quite yum, when all was said and done! Oh yes, and we were happy to learn that this chicken was the suspected rooster. Whew. Apparently the male parts of a rooster are found inside the bird.

 

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After living with Mike, Yerlin and Michelle on their butterfly farm in Costa Rica one summer and having fresh eggs every single day, I was dying for them myself. Above is Carver holding our very FIRST egg! Exciting times we live in. Winking smile

 

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Emma showed her hen, all grown up now and whom she named Emily, in a laid-back setting to an NC Cooperative Extension’s Livestock Agent. This was a first poultry show for many other young children that day as well so all was kept low-key.

 

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Carver showed off a feisty Madeline the Hen. This one likes to peck.

This is one adventure that wasn’t exactly on the bucket list (never thought we would actually show a chicken), but it’s been great. I adore hearing my grandparents talk about farm life when they were young. I love getting back to basics and sharing in a tiny piece of that.  A big thanks to Emily Herring and Eve Honeycutt of Greene County 4-H and NC Cooperative Extension for allowing us the opportunity. For more information on involvement with Greene County 4-H clubs, visit http://greene.ces.ncsu.edu/get-involved-in-4-h/.

PURA VIDA

Hangin’ With the Cicadas

If you were ever curious to know what a cicada looks like while molting or just after, here it is. After finding dozens of shells on our trees we happened to come across one little guy in the act.

 

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To tell you the truth, until this year I never even knew what a cicada was or that it was the little creature that left those shells behind. All I know is that during my awesome preschool years we would find those little brown shells and walk around the playground with them stuck to our shirts. Yeah, I don’t do that anymore. Ok, I did show the kids once. They didn’t get it. I wonder if anyone else from preschool remembers doing this…

 

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It was a pretty cool process to watch as Carver held the little bugger. When it slowly came out it looked a little funky because its wings were kind of folded up. It eventually unfurled them to reveal light green, super fragile wings. We made sure not to touch them and set him under a nearby bush at that point. Be free, little Cicada.

 

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Carver shared these pictures with his group at Classical Conversations a few weeks ago. We hope you and your children can enjoy them as well!

 

PURA VIDA

A Week-Long Quest to Find Local Fun For Free! (or almost): Day 2

Day Two:  Fort Macon

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Fort Macon, which took 9.2 million bricks and eight years to construct, was used to fight against pirate attacks, during the Civil War and World War II, as a prison, and is now a state park located at the eastern tip of Bogue Banks.

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I happen to love historical houses and buildings, so to walk across hundreds of years old pine wood and through original archways and thick wooden doors gets me excited. You would think that maybe the kids wouldn’t be quite as excited. Yet, they were! Really! They loved exploring the little nooks and crannies of the fort, some of them super creepy. They loved climbing in one former cannon hole and out another. They loved looking out from the very top of the fort, to where they could see Beaufort Inlet, the ocean, and Shackleford Banks, where their daddy was surfing at that very moment. They especially loved the cannons, climbing on them and pretending they were firing red hot cannonballs at enemy ships.

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There are tours held at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. We did listen in on about the first ten minutes of a tour, until the kids were ready to explore themselves. I listened intently while I could, knowing I would later hear questions about the very same information we were being given. Now I was able to tell them that, no, those aren’t doggie doors but wicket doors. They were the only way a soldier could get out of the fort at night once the heavy wooden ones were locked with an enormous key. And no, those aren’t tiny windows but holes where soldiers would stick out their muskets and fire against the enemy. Carver loves anything to do with guns and weapons. (Is this all boys?)

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There is now a visitor’s center at the fort, including a small museum area and gift shop. There is no cost to visit the fort, and there are even frequent musket demonstrations, cannon firings and ranger-led hikes.

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Just up the road is a huge beach access, bath house and picnic tables. We brought our packed lunches to the tables before heading the half hour back home.

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As a kid I had visited the Fort plenty of times, but certainly hadn’t been in years. I felt just a tad touristy, and yet my heart is happy when my kids give me the chance to experience something like it’s the first time. These days my body basically feels like it would like to stay on the couch and do nothing, but their fresh excitement and constant joy makes any effort I give so worth it. No couch-lying can can give me what they do in those moments.

For information on this and other parks, please visit www.ncparks.gov.

 

 

A Week-Long Quest to Find Local Fun for Free! (or almost): Day 1

After two weeks of busy, busy, busy at camps (that I signed up to help with at 8 months pregnant in the middle of summer for some reason), we decided to take it a bit easier and have fun at our own pace. We are spending plenty of time at home with inexpensive, local thrills thrown in. Call it Mama’s Day Camp, if you will. Particularly since the baby will be here in four weeks or less, I feel the need for fun times now. Once #3 arrives, those times may be put on hold for several weeks!

All this week the kids and I will look for a few hours of fun each day out in the community, and we will share our adventures with you! Our goal is little to no cost.

DAY 1:  Cedar Point Trail

 

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On Monday we hit the spot where we recently went camping, Cedar Point Trail in the Croatan Forest, not far off of HWY 58. This time, we knew just what to bring! Water shoes, bottled water, snacks, and bug spray are a definite plus if you plan to spend any time on the trail or at the water’s edge. Only one viewpoint has a decent place for the kids to play and chase the thousands of fiddler crabs that live there, but there are also shells and larger crabs in the shallow water. Watch your step!

Also, unless you want to end up carrying a hot and tired toddler on a miles-long trail, stay to the left when you first hit the trail. NEVER, EVER go right!

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Obviously, the trail is totally free. The kids spent about two hours running along the shore trail, collecting fiddler crabs (even finding one that was as tiny as a “piece of dirt!”), swimming, and identifying poison ivy and poison oak (a recently learned skill from Boy Scout camp).

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For those with more time and energy, take the scenic long trail. Plenty of dog walkers and runners do. Or, bring some kayaks and take the ramp that’s just left of the trail. Pack a lunch and hit the picnic tables afterwards.

Sometimes the simplest trip down the road can turn into the best day. I’m currently reading Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, which states that my generation didn’t grown up in the outdoors. That may be mostly true for some of us. But I did. And I remember my outdoor times more fondly than most others. I didn’t move to Morehead City, NC and an actual neighborhood until I was about 4. Before then and during those growing-up years I spent a lot of time at my grandparents, which was out in the country, surrounded by fields and woods. I played for hours, alone, in a creek I called “Cow’s Creek.” I’m now pretty positive I was also playing in cow’s poop, but hey, what’s done is done. I’m still alive. I ran through tobacco fields. I pretended I lived in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh. I tamed kittens, fed goats and chickens and rabbits. I walked the paths and made new ones. I found places behind the usual fields and trees I had never seen before. And I had the absolute best time.

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We think our kids need more stimulation. They don’t. Monday I gave my kids a bucket in a salt marsh and set them free. Their growing minds were free to explore, become curious and creative, and gain knowledge and appreciation for the world around them.

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I still remember what it felt like to be a kid in a corn field. Free, with the natural world and endless possibilities all around you, places and creatures to explore in every direction, one-ness with something much larger than yourself, peaceful, content, full of wonder and awe.  I want my kids to know that very same feeling, and as often as possible.

 

For more information on camping and hiking at the Croatan National Forest Cedar Point Trail, please visit http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/southern/crocmp.htm.

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