Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

We moved here for a reason and it wasn't all goats and chickens either.

Western Washington is a fabulous and beautiful place. It's easy to get so caught up in normal life, that you forget just how awesome it is out here.  Luckily, Sarah remembers these things and uses her special days to force us out of the bubble and into the actual, beautiful world.

We paid a visit to the Ape Caves just south of St. Helens. We hadn't been there for six years. It was our first visit to Washington when I did a contract in Vancouver.  There are a few pictures.

It was May of 2011

There was snow in the bottom of the holes on the first hike

We marveled at the ash under a fallen tree.

"It's not safe to go alone, take these."

We had a great time. Great enough to return again today. So we hopped into the new ride, Sarah finally let me drive, and headed south to Mt. St. Helens.

This time we had better cameras.

Our first stop, just like last time, was here.

It is a short trail with a boardwalk through an old lava flow. It has little signs that interpret what is going on and how the formations came about. It is a neat, short walk in the woods.

The place was the same. But we may have changed a little.


The rocks haven't changed.

There was still snow at the bottom. Probably not the same snow.

Max still had to climb in and explore.

The trail only takes a few minutes and then it was on to the Ape Caves a short way down the road.

Last time we came, we had snacks, a few dollar store lanterns and optimism. This time, we came a little more prepared with lights and cameras that might work.

The entrance is along the middle of the lava tube. It was discovered in the fifties after the roof caved in and a guy on a tractor almost drove into it.

Luckily they have made some improvements.

Luckily not too many though.

The tubes were formed with fast moving lava cooled on the outer surface of a flow,but the inner part stayed hot an fluid. The lava inside kept moving until the tube emptied.

Time for a walk inside.

Upon entering, there is a dark pit below.

There are stairs leading down into the tube. That's the last improvement
Then it was down into the lower Ape Cave proper.

In some places it is pretty big.

They boys had a great time. They loved lights out.

This picture shows how wet it was. There was a constant drip of water from the roof.

These pictures came out pretty well. There wasn't much light, despite what we brought. So, most of the pictures turned out like this.

But sometimes there were cool rock formations.

I imagine little dwarves commuting over the bridge.

And little ledges for kids to scamper down.

We found a few small openings

Then we found a bigger one and it sparkled.

Look closely and you can see tons of little sparkles on the walls.

The different minerals sparkled with different colors.
Eventually we made it down toward the end where the tunnel tapers down. Some places are large enough to drive a bus through.

And some are smaller

No, smaller.

Way smaller

And cold and damp enough to see your breath
The first time we came, it wasn't as wet and the boys and I belly-crawled all the way to the end. This time we turned around and went back to the entrance.

But, unlike last time, we went a little into the upper cave. The lower cave is pretty tame. The floors are mostly flat and there aren't any real holes. The upper cave has cave ins, holes, rock tumbles and even a lava falls.

We didn't have time to go far and we didn't get to go all the way to the lava fall. Darn it all. I guess we will just have to go back.

Back up to the land of light.

Happy Mother's day Sweetie. You're the bestest in the whole universe infinity I win.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.


I know, I know. It's been busy. I haven't abandoned the place, but is sure is dusty.

We are still homesteading in Washington. We have goats, chickens, ducks, a little bit of a lot. Things are keeping me really busy these days.

We got rid of one problem vehicle, the Subaru and are working on selling our beloved IRV. The place has wheels for a reason. If they aren't rolling, they're wasting away. Someone should use him.

I had an idea for a book that I am working on in the spare minutes I find, which is keeping me from blogging as much as I usually might.

But fear not.  Work progresses apace.  I shall return.

First night in the goat shed. The boys didn't wan them to be lonely

They were only four days old.

They have become more comfortable in their new home
 We had to build some fencing for the goats. Chicken wire only slows them down for a few days.

Max had to see what his voice sounded like in the post hole

Micheal too.

Gotta hold your mouth just right.

Did I mention the ducks?

Someone showed up on our doorstep with a mama and ten babies

Brother goats can be cute

Did I mention the chickens?  Seven chickens
Yeah, things have been busy.

Life on the farm.

Michael has hijacked the post. I have been procrastinating for months telling..uh... you guys, that we(I) got a new pet (drumroll please) Socks

she is a cat...obviously

she was a christmas kitten and is a nutjob, dedicated solely to the destruction of my brother

we dont have enough pictures of her but I have trained her to come and sit on command and walk on a leash.

on an unfortunate darker note the death counts of the ducks are a 6 and chickens 1

R.I.P duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck and guenevere

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homeschooling Life Skills: Budget

I wanted to start a series of blog posts for homeschoolers and perhaps even for parents that just want their kids to be prepared for the world when it smacks them upside their face.

And it will, we all know this.

I polled many of my Facebook people and asked what they wished their parents had taught them when they were young and that helped build my list of topics. One of the highest on the list was money. How do we deal with money?

So, here's what I did.

Today's subject was Michael. Michael is ten, almost eleven. I thought he would be a better candidate than Max, who at eight, sees money only as a way to get more toys.  His turn is coming. 

Thanks Michael, for being the oldest child I can experiment on.

I asked Michael to pick an occupation. I told him it wasn't a life choice, just something we could use for a lesson.

He couldn't think of anything. So, we had a brainstorming session. I had him think of ten or so occupations he could see himself doing, which was easier. Then, he picked one.

Animal trainer.

Sounds like a good choice, fitting for his personality.

We looked it up on the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  If you don't know about his little gem, you're welcome. 

Animal Trainer

The median pay for an animal trainer is $21,260 per year. I subtracted ten percent for taxes (I am a generous overlord) and divided that number by twelve.

We had a monthly income.

Next, I asked him where he wanted to live. He decided Seattle was a good location. So, I had him look up one bedroom and efficiency apartments in Seattle. This was a great time to talk about room mates and the problems and benefits of living with someone.

Next came transportation, groceries, insurance and so on. He realized pretty quickly that he couldn't afford a car on that paycheck in that apartment. So, he decided a bicycle and a bus pass were the way to go.

We worked the budget with some basics. The real lesson was about to happen.

Next, I asked him to look up another occupation he had mentioned in the brainstorming session.

Computer Programmer

The median annual pay for a programmer is a bit better at $79,530. I subtracted twenty percent for taxes (I am a benevolent overlord, but also somewhat realistic) and divided by twelve for a new monthly income.

Michael said he could probably afford three cars if he wanted them.

Then he noticed something. The education requirement for a computer programmer was a Bachelor's degree minimum. The animal trainer didn't require a degree.


So we looked up some other professions, nurse, doctor, accountant. And he discovered that the more education you had, the more you likely made.

Suddenly there was new light shed on all that math and science stuff we keep trying to teach him.

Then, we had a talk about value. Is it better to do something you love and get paid less or something you might not love and get paid more? Is there something that you think sounds fun that pays well? 

It was a good lesson, I think.

Round one in the books.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Still going

Just a bit more slowly.

Turns out the frenetic pace of getting the siding done before the rains started and getting the truck fixed before Sarah started yoga teacher training really takes it out of you.  Oh yeah, and winter here sucks about this time of the year. One dreary, rainy day after another. The only thing that sounds like a good idea is staying in bed.

Rainy, snowy, po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe

Motivation has been lacking.

Some motivation has been lacking. Some has been just fine.

Some small things are still getting done though. We are still working.

Spring is right around the corner and we have lots of plans.  It is about time to start some things that will be cool for summer.

So, after a rest period, things are still going.

One of our neighbors gave us some golden and red raspberry starts

We dug a trench, coated the bottom with compost, and planted.

The cardboard is to keep the grass and weeds from growing up around them.

Fingers crossed for yummy raspberries.

Oh yeah...

Michael got some walls.  A good start.

 Hopefully we can get some garden prep-work done.  I'll keep posting.

Winter is long.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

That was nice.

Enough work.  Time to get outside. 

It's been too long. 

Tumwater falls and some spring rain.  Enjoy the pictures.

But first, our barn cat Smokey dressed in the pelts of her enemies.

The water is up a little compared to last time we were here.

First long exposure waterfall of the year. May it not be the last.

The river was angry that day my friend

Caucasian totem pole

Camo kid