Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Holidays

Here's how the Christmas break began... We had exam week which is not exactly the most fun week of them all, but I had finished my exams the week before so it wasn't too bad. The weather reports were saying that we were going to get a nice snow and it would start that last day - Friday. Well, Friday looked fine - we had a half day because only one exam had to be given. As the kids left, there was a nice rain falling. I thought this kind of stunk because I rode my bike to school - I was ready for cold, but I didn't relish a wet ride home. I did however, haul out the mountain bike because I hoped there would be a dusting of snow for my trail ride home. This will become a bit prophetic later. Well, we teachers move to the cafeteria for our Christmas luncheon - it was nice - great food. While there we notice that in the rain are a few snowflakes....

Well, lunch ends and I check my box and take the outside path to my class. There is an inch of slush on the parking lot.

Hmmm. I think. Just about that time, the rain changes completely to snow and within just a few minutes all the slush is a really nice, rather deep snow. Reports are coming in like crazy that the roads are in terrible shape and everyone gets ready to go.... and get on them. Hmmm, I think again.

I decide that the roads are the last place I would want to be and so I get ready to ride the Creeper trail home. How bad can it get in an hour? This also becomes prophetic.

Riding in the snow is one thing. Riding 13 miles in 4 inches of snow is just plain epic. It felt like riding uphill in thick mud.... for almost 3 hours. Except for the fact that on the trestles it was like riding on grease. I would concentrate - trying to stay perfectly level and invariably at the end of the trestle, I would do a 360 and hit the ground. It was beautiful however and fun in its own way - but epic nonetheless. Its been a long time since I have been that tired. Thank goodness I spent $4 on candybars before I left school. I ate 3 on the way home and was washing them down with snow because I didn't bring anything to drink....

Here is my ride home... trying to get back to "Spare Oom" (little CS Lewis ref)

Going for a walk the next day - we got about 8 inches I suppose - but I hear Boone got hammered with 20+

Snow T-Rex. If you notice, Zoe put a little prey in its mouth:)


Yes, this IS the perfect spot for "Time Out"!

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Video of sledding in the back yard... we later fitted the run with a jump of course... it became known as the "spine compressor"

Then the solstice came about and I always wanted to keep it in some way - I heard that in the Norway they build a bonfire on the snow on the solstice - so I built a nice fire and we roasted marshmallows into the longest night....

Then Christmas came - here is our great ol tree that I made from dead locust branches

Maw Maw came to stay with us Christmas week and we all had a great time - Jon got the garage finished (shown in the pic - he did an amazing job) and we now all think the garage is the best room in the house... I am writing this in the garage right now - the wood cook stove is in here - it quickly became the heart of the house. There are more Christmas pics if you go to the web album

And speaking of the wood cook stove, I really need to take a minute here. This thing was really expensive, but I will never be without one ever again. I now rank it second only to a roof in terms of importance. This stove is situated in the garage (which is now a wonderful south facing room) and the garage is two steps lower than the rest of the house. Jon took out the transoms above the doors and now the little drop causes the cool air in the house to drop into the garage and the warm air rises out to the rest of the house in a wonderful convection current. But we now do most of our cooking on this stove - from quick eggs and toast in the am to Boston butt ham, to pizzas, to soups, and we even boiled and canned 11 chickens on it a few days ago. And all this time while we are cooking and heating the air, we are also heating a 20 gallon tank to clean dishes and an 80 gallon tank which feeds our water heater. So many people around us have really had some problems by having no power for a week or more and for the first time in my life, I realize that my family really will not be inconvenienced much if the power goes out for a day, a week, or a month. I have never loved an appliance, but I love this stove. If you ever find yourself looking for ways to become less tied to the grid, you ought to look into the wood cook stoves of today.


Oh, here is a Christmas Stollen that Carole made in the stove. Amazing. No sacrifice here. The Sharestead continues to eat well.



And just a couple of pics of the kids - Have a Happy New Year!




Saturday, December 5, 2009

Basically November

First off, CONGRATS REID! You did it, IRONMAN. Your journey was a lot longer than 140.6 miles - Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey to Arizona - I am super proud of you. Triabetes rocked the house again, 2009 - the documentary premiered and was amazing, I hear. The triabuddies (diabetic kids who paired up with Triabetics) had an amazing coastal trip. More on all that stuff in a later blog.


Now back to normal family blog stuff. November and December kind of went by in an instant. Somewhere around the end of October, we all went up to Whitetop mountain to do a little hike from Elk Garden to Whitetop. This is on a rather beautiful stretch of the AT.

Elk Garden looking away from Whitetop - Mount Rogers and Grayson Highlands are that way.

Ash on Whitetop overlooking the transition from Blue Ridge (left) to Ridge and Valley (parallel ridges in distance). This whole area is pretty amazing - we are standing on an ancient volcano and off in the distance is old ocean floor limestone. On the way home from this trip we stopped to pick up some rock made from glacial deposits. On down the trail is Buzzard Rock.
Buzzard Rock - that stuff was lava... not magma... lava.
So Halloween came next, and my camera did not want to behave. So I pretty much don't have any pictures of the Adia and Zoe in their amazing costumes that Ashley made!

You know what they say - "If you can't have fun with pumpkin guts...." actually, I don't know what they say...

We walked downtown Damascus and had a blast even though it was raining. Many churches had fun things to do and main street kind of had that halloween feel that I remember... before trick or treeting was done in malls.


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Here is the only shot of Adia on halloween - she is pretty enthralled with the popcorn maker


Mid November, Zoe came with me and the Environmental Awareness club to do some trail clean up in Alvaredo.

Then we had Zoe's 6th birthday. We had some beautiful weather and did our little party outside with MawMaw and a wonderful local family that we have become good friends with. It was fun all around - I think I hooked a few of the kids on unicycling. One daughter tried to get convince me that jumping rope on a pogo stick was where it was at - I will let her keep that talent. It was rather amazing, however. And yes, the cake was a Steve Ahn special... and that's supposed to be a horse even though it looks a little like Nessie (of the Loch).

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you...

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Zoe's gift was a new bike. First off, I have a problem when it comes to bikes... I love them. But I justified it because she rides with us to town all the time. Its a neat little Specialized Hotrock - they make the best kids bikes... and I don't mean bells and whistles - they are aluminum where most are cr-mo (which means they don't weigh a ton) and the parts are just quality. Since we will be passing the bikes down the line, quality really matters. This is the second one we have bought and I would recommend them to anyone.... and they sponsor amazing groups like Triabetes.

Just a good picture. I think we were picking pears next door.

Same day. Smile.

We went to Greenville over Thanksgiving and took a hike at Paris Mtn with Morgan. Thanksgiving was good - we went to Rock Hill (where I took no pictures) for turkey day and then went to Greenwood on Friday - where the only pics I took were all bleached out. Ah well, Thanksgiving week was filled with seeing family and that was really wonderful.


So it rains for a couple of days and then the whole system blew out suddenly leaving us with an amazing double rainbow (the picture does not do it justice)...

And an amazing sunset in the other direction. Jon is pointing to the Rainbow.

The skies here have been amazing - I thought we were giving up interesting weather when we left Boone, but the opposite has been true. Every day, new show.

Then today it snows - really pretty day. You can see the limestone cliff behind the river here.

Zoe had her first sleepover this day as well. Dang, its all happening rather fast.

Adia says, "till next time, happy trails."




Saturday, October 24, 2009

Not much, how 'bout you?

Well, its certainly been awhile. I don't think I can begin to fill you in on the amazing journey our family has been on, but I will try to give you the short, short version.

It all begins with a decision to move from our beloved Boone to Damascus, VA. We had been working on this move for the last 4 years. Our goal was to find a place where we could buy a few acres, live a little more simply, and share a house with our friends, Jon and Carole. Well, after much ado, we finally did it.


Our place is located right on the Virginia Creeper Trail and the South Fork Holston river. The creeper trail is a wonderful old railroad trail that runs 30+ miles from whitetop mountain to Abingdon, VA. Damascus is about the halfway point. We are about 12 miles from Abingdon by trail and 3 miles to Damascus.. by trail.

Damascus has more bike shops than roads. So needless to say, I was pleased. The late summer started was all infrastructure - fences, painting,

putting in garden space that we would plant and then end up waaay too busy for and would let the weeds claim - however the potatoes did great... until they blighted... oh well. Next year we'll have our game face on.

It turns out that this area is amazing when it comes to being amazed - tons of wonderful festivals - like this 4th of July (amazing fireworks) celebration, Trail Days, the VA Highlands festival - this one goes on for weeks - it just goes on and on.

and Saltville (this was Labor Day in Saltville) - speaking of being amazed - Saltville is perhaps the most historical place I have ever been to - and it begins about 14,000 years ago when people were living here eating mammoths. Saltville sparked my interest in the geology of this area - and it has consumed me. I would go into the amazing-ness of the geology here, but I don't have that kind of time... patience

We settled into life here and quickly realized that the best thing about our location is our next door neighbors - Homer and Evon - they are wonderful people and master gardeners.. and they kept us in fresh food all summer...and fall...

And more festivals - the Washington County Fair is indeed a County Fair. My students at school were all excited about the fair because most of them had entries or were showing livestock, etc. The agricultural roots here still run deep - and I love it. The Fried Oreos weren't bad either. Adia is riding a pony above - and if you know Adia, she has some link to horses that is imbedded in her soul. The bottom pic is a duckling water table - the kids have a blast, the ducklings... eh, not so much.
Time goes by, babies like Esme start crawling around, eating food, creating havoc, but somehow through it all...
She remains a-dor-a-ble.

Zoe learned to ride a bike (this is from the first day she rode) and then within a week, she was riding to Damacus with us - 6 mile round trip. Riding with Zoe has been a dream come true for me.
Food has been great here. The Sharestead eats well.


I got my chickens to raise chicks - which is a whole lot easier than that dang grow light. We did get an order of meat chickens - and they were tasty, but of the 25 meat chicks I got and the 6 hens I got for my friend, Richard - only a handful made it. It was heartbreaking. I think I will let mama do it from now on.


Here is my world - I was happy to get this shot when someone wasn't crying ...


The paddling from our house to Alvaredo is a beautiful ride (class I with a couple of II's) along limestone cliffs. One day when my folks were up, my dad and I went down the river with Zoe and Adia. Zoe is a great swimmer and Adia I keep tethered to my life jacket... you probably know where this is going. I usually only paddle with the kids and I forgot how tippy a canoe cand be with 2 adults.. well we went over in the only rapid of any consequence. And when I popped up - I looked at the over turned canoe and saw... nobody. I gabbed the tether and followed it under the canoe and grabbed Adia and pulled her out. Then I still didn't see Zoe, so I turned the canoe over and there she was smiling. All this time we are going downstream in a decent current. Dad was at the front and somehow caught the paddles as he bashed his way along the rocks:) This probably only took less than 10 seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime. Its funny now... but just barely:)


Ash and Zoe searched and searched the milkweed for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars - it wasn't a big year for them, but they found a few and hatched them. Then Ash took this amazing picture.

I got a job at the last minute at Abingdon High School and it was one of those things that just seemed to be ... perfect. I had already traded my car for this little 250cc Ninja.... (yes, the ninja rides a ninja)... and when I had finally let go of my expectations of what I wanted (a job here) - what I needed happened. This little lesson has been taught to me over and over and over. My goal is to ride to work on 2 wheels all year long. In the worst case, I ride the motorbike and get close to 70 mpg.

And on the best days, I hop on my trusty singlespeed - hop on the trail at the bottom of our yard and ride 13 miles to work... all on the trail. That's about infinity mpg. Notice the sweet yellow fenders. I can't believe I ride a bike with fenders, but it really is the commuting way to go. I folded the sprocket yesterday, however. This pic is Ash coming up the chicken trail by the round gardens.


Speaking of round gardens, here they are. There will be much more on these later, but the idea is really intensive gardens and really good soil. There is about 18" of manure, hay, and cardboard - just waiting for spring.


My buddy at school, Lisa A.. (who prefers nicknames... she calls me "cycle-man" and we all call her "momma") invited us to this amazing thing her family does. Its a massive molasses-making, apple-butter stirring, ice-cream churning, meat-grillin community event. They do this so that the young people can still see how things were done. It was inspiring. After that we did our fair share of pear butter. Mmmmmm-mmmm good.

Then Halloween came. We went to Wytheville and went through a corn maze (below) and went on a hay ride and did some pumpkin picking. The corn maze is below. We spent halloween in Damascus and had a wonderful time going up and down main street. It had a hint of how things used to be.

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So that's it for now. Reid is off to Ironman in 2 weeks and the Triabetes documentary will debut there (Arizona). I will write more on that later. Hope you all are well. Hopefully I will keep this up a little better from now on.