Thursday, July 30, 2015

Exploring Arizona: Wupatki

Filling out his Junior Ranger packet  
Working with friends on the Junior Ranger packet
Checking out the blowhole near the ball court at Wupatki
Wupatki Ballcourt
Getting their Junior Ranger badge for Wupatki
A short drive from Sunset Crater is Wupatki National Monument. In this seemingly barren desert people lived, building homes and raising families. The pueblos clustered in this area are from the ancient ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and other puebloan people. The structures are truly fascinating. The main pueblo would have had 100 rooms. The people who lived here were farmers as well as hunters. There is evidence of trade among the ruins, and the existence of a ball court shows that peoples in the area traveled and shared cultural interests. It became a gathering place for people within fifty miles. While walking through the site, the kids found pottery shards by one of the gathering places. It was an amazing discovery that they were able to share with the Ranger, who encouraged their interest. The shards were set back where we found them once we looked at the design and felt the smooth face. I found it interesting that this pueblo housed different peoples over the course of time. They maintained the pueblo constantly and had areas for food stores preparing for eventual crop failures. Water would have been scarce even then, so buildings were erected with water preservation in mind. Archeologists have found huge ollas that were used for water storage and collecting runoff from the buildings. We spent a bit of time talking to the ranger. He was full of interesting information and even shared his journey to becoming a park ranger. We would like to come back and explore again in winter to see how the landscape changes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On to the Sleeves

I have been zipping along on my Naima sweater. I did order another skein of yarn, because I misread the yards versus meters requirement. I am so used to having yards come first, that I didn't pay attention. I have the right amount if I was using meters, but not enough yarn for my project since I ordered based on yards. Why oh why can't we just use metric. Oops!

This sweater has been a quick knit for me. I hope to have it complete by the end of the month or soon after. I am getting much quicker at purling and am even able to read while I knit again. It helps that I have had blocks of time to work on it. Eamon and I spent some time at the comic book store this week, which meant I could read and knit while he played Magic the Gathering. I finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It started well, but had a bit of trouble in the middle and ended a bit abruptly. I also read a bit of The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds while waiting for Eamon. It is for our homeschooling co op and quite good. Back home, I chose Men Explain Things To Me and Fangirl from the large stack of books I have here. I figure they offset each other. I started both yesterday but did not get very far. Have you read anything good lately? I spend a bit of time making lists after reading and knitting along with Ginny.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Exploring Arizona: Sunset Crater

Recently our family took a detour to explore Sunset Crater. We were fortunate to be joined by friends, one of whom has an deep interest in geology. Sunset Crater is the result of a volcanic eruption over 900 years ago. The resultant landscape is one of twisted Ponderosa Pines and cinder deposits. You can see the flow of the lava that devastated the area. When we first arrived we discussed the bleak landscape so different from the forested areas nearby (Flagstaff, AZ is 12 miles away). Each of the kiddos picked up a piece of cinder noting how lightweight it was. We talked a bit about pumice and the air pockets in the rock.

As we meandered along the trail, wildlife and flora became more apparent. Between rocky crags, small plants emerged. We noticed desert shrubs and the beginnings of tree stands. Our friend acted as our guide pointing out other cinder cones, splatter cones, and gas vents. He mentioned that a lava tube, currently blocked, was once accessible. The kiddos noticed how cool the air was near the boarded up opening. Although the region was populated with farmers (the Sinagua), no human remains have been found at the site. It seems that the peoples of the time had warning of the volcanic activity. It was interesting to surmise what warnings they had and their keen observations of nature. The kiddos really enjoyed exploring the site. They worked a bit on their junior ranger packet as they skipped and ran ahead. It was really a nice trip to an impressive geological site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Competitive Side

I have been furiously knitting this year inspired by a contest called the Yarnathon at Eat Sleep Knit. I have purchased on and off from ESK, but this year I am spending my whole yarn budget there. I am not planning on finishing the yarnthon (a marathon with yarn), but I love the added features this year. There are 12 KALs (knit alongs) to go along with the contest, which I love! There are also badges for knitting achievements like casting on over 400 stitches, knitting while binging watching a show, alternating skeins of yarn in a project, crocheting, spinning, and a whole host of other challenges. So far I have completed nine of the KALs and am well on my way to a tenth. I also have enough badges to reach silver status this month. It is all crazy fun, and this program touched on my competitive side dragging me out of my knitting slump. I love it.

The tenth KAL for me is a sweater free for all. I left it toward the end, because it seemed like a bigger project. Despite the oppressive heat of summer, I find I enjoy knitting sweaters at this time of year. I think it gives me hope that cooler temperatures will return some time in the future. A little bit of summer dreaming for me. I decided to knit the Naima sweater in Cascade 220. I love the pattern thus far. There are design elements to keep it interesting. I am currently finished with the body shaping and moving onto some short rows. I look forward to the pocket lining which incorporates a bit of color work. It feels like I am more than halfway through the garment, but I know the sleeves still remain. 
I took the sweater camping with me and was able to make a bit of progress on the drive. I appreciate all the stockinette, because I can usually read too. While sitting on the dock watching Dave and the kiddos kayak, I alternated between knitting and reading The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. The book is nothing new, but is a great reminder of what I already know. I had a lot of should in my life, which I am gradually shedding in place of my truths. I appreciate the author's recognition that one still needs to have shelter and eat, so incorporating must into your life doesn't have to be all or nothing. The idea that sometimes a job/career/employment allows you to pursue your must is very true for me. The book is more of a journal and is visually appealing utilizing color, art, and font for emphasis. I would recommend it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Summer of Camping

At the beginning of summer, I had one intention - camp more. Last year our family didn't take any camping trips. I was busy most Sundays helping my mom clean out her home after the death of my dad. This year I am still helping my mom, but my help is not as vital. I am able to carve out time for our family to hike, camp and explore our state. This summer, I knew we needed to get outside more, both for our sanity and as a summer survival tactic! I declared this summer, "The Summer of Camping!"

I mentioned my plan to a friend, who immediately pulled out her calendar and pushed me to pick weekends for camping. We settled on one weekend each month to camp together. I penciled in a few other times to camp as a family. Our first trip was to Lockett Meadow near Flagstaff, Arizona. The weather was beautiful for June. We left a bit later than usual due to an issue with our vehicle. When we arrived the campground was full, fortunately our friends had already found a campsite with room to share. We quickly settled into the space erecting our tent and pulling out our gear. Aine brought her small tent (a gift for her fourth birthday!) and promptly set it up with her friends. She decided she wanted to sleep for the first time in her tent with her friend.

Lockett Meadow is a gorgeous field surrounded by cinder cones. We set up chairs and a blanket in the meadow while the kiddos and dogs ran around the grass. Flowers, scattered throughout the meadow, caught their attention. The kids collected handfuls and quickly covered the blanket. With a little help, they crafted daisy chains - elaborate necklaces and crowns - for each other and the moms. A nearby tree swayed and bent under their weight as they climbed, looking like a group of orangutans. It was a fantastic moment.

After a bit of relaxation, our group set off for a hike along the Inner Basin Trail. The other dad had hiked it the previous day and promised snow at the top. The kids were ecstatic to see snow. They ran ahead and took mind pictures of the scenery. We wove our way to the top through tall stands of aspen. Their majestic canopies seemed to touch the sky. When we reached the snow, the kiddos were tired and done. After a bit of running in search of snow, they quickly regained their energy as they slid down the small patches of snow and built a snow mouse complete with baby carrot nose! When they had tired of the snow play, our friends suggested we hike a bit further. With promise of a view over the treeline only a few yards ahead, they persevered. The view was reward enough for all of us. We could see for miles. A few photos were snapped of our group and then we began the trek downward. Everyone did really well on the hike which ended up being a bit over six miles!

The kiddos continued to explore the campground throughout our stay. Eamon and Benton attempted to climb one of the nearby cones by themselves (under the watchful eye of mama and daddy on the ground). They made it partway up before turning back after concerns over possible poison ivy. Aine played with her friends and everyone hiked through the wooded areas. They found fallen logs and practiced their balancing. A hammock also occupied a lot of their time.

It was really a great camping spot, and we plan to return soon. We left renewed and eagerly planning our next camping outing.