late fall bits :: leaves, love, and bears

maple against a fall-blue sky :: a few weeks ago

we hope a screech owl may decide our nesting box is a good home

sourwood in our driveway (also, weeks ago)

a fall favorite :: beeswax-dipped leaves strung up on the mantle (these are being replaced bit by bit with holiday cards as they arrive in the mail)

goodies from a recent swap that I hosted :: smoked sea salt chocolate chip cookies, body butter(s), essential oil blends, homemade wine, soap and lip balm, glassware dipped in sea glass paint (there was also some lavender-coconut tapioca pudding that I ate before I had the chance to photograph it)

there were faint flurries right around Halloween- it set her immediately to the serious business of snowflake-cutting.  soon, all of our windows will be covered I'm sure

grain-free, egg-free, dairy-free (but my goodness they actually do taste good!) pumpkin muffins. yum, yum, yum.

hot cocoa :: coconut milk + cacao nibs + cinnamon chips + cocoa powder. strain and add coconut sugar and a splash of maple syrup.  cayenne if desired.  yumyumyum

someone has decided her loved ones are getting little handmade "love" pillows for Christmas this year.  someone is working rather hard at it.

this last week or two has seen us starting to feel the coming shift from late fall to the start of winter- it is colder, there are many frosty mornings, the wood stove is being put to work nearly as often as not.  the bright, crisp fall-blue skies are still around, though now without the vivid backdrop of brilliant leaves that it had a few weeks ago.  we've had a flurry, several freezing nights.  winter stars and constellations are coming back into view.  the fall swap has come and gone.  there is much hot tea and time with books and quilts.  hot cocoa, pumpkin muffins...

we rehung our bird feeders and suet, excited to start Project FeederWatch again this year.  and then a couple nights later we had some visitors who were also interested in the suet- a mama black bear and her three cubs.  we've long known of bears in and around our neighborhood. we even put an electric fence around our hives last year because they were getting into some of the trash cans at our neighbors' houses.  but beyond a quick sighting now and again, we hardly saw them and they never came into our yard.  until one recent night.  around 11pm I kept hearing weird sounds and eventually looked out on the deck to see shadowy figures and hear something that sounded like raspy whispering.  it was a bit........ creepy.  I ran back in for a light and shined it upon three little (relatively, they were actually the size of large dogs, the cubs) bear faces, busily munching away at some spilled sunflower seeds and a suet cake they'd grabbed down from the suet cage.  I quickly looked for mama and spotted her in the yard.  I was about 20 feet from the cubs and 30 feet from mama.  I made sure not to get in between them or stray far from my doorstep.  they wandered around a bit, one ending up in our small pond for a few moments (accidentally?).  I ran in to wake Mike and we watched them for a bit.  he woke the little one and she seemed excited for a few seconds then crawled under the covers and went right back to sleep.  he and I went outside and by that time mama was no longer in the back yard.  we shooed the cubs off the deck and they plopped into the garden to finish off the suet.  mama was walking through the yard next door.  I banged the flashlight against a metal water bottle and shooed them away so they'd go off to meet mama bear.  one cub ran right into the bee fence on the way and yelped then shot right up a tree.  after another 10 minutes they were all ambling along through the neighbor's yard and the excitement was over.

I took the suet down for about a week before deciding to give it one more go.  If it lures in the bears again, that it'll be it.  so far, so good- we've been watching and recording the birds and the woodpeckers that come for the suet are definitely a favorite.  watching and monitoring the winter birds is a favorite for us, but I feel it's far more important to do what we can to help keep the bears wild.  alas.

now, with the calendar turn to December, we are beginning to make merry.  her simple advent 'calendar' is hung, there are a few decorations here and there.  we watched the town parade today and have begun to listen to some christmasy Pandora stations.  tonight we watched the Muppet Christmas Carol.  soon we will get a tree and tape snowflakes in the windows. and other wintry things.


kitchen witchery :: winter remedies and teas

Inspiration from the fall swap I recently hosted, and the simple observation that an increasing number of students at art class have been calling out due to illness have reminded me that 'tis the season to stock the medicine cabinet with some homemade remedies.  And so, fire cider, echinacea tincture, an immune blend tincture (I change it up a little each year but this year blended elderberry, echinacea, ginger, usnea, red clover, red root, and astragalus), elderberry syrup (with fresh ginger, cloves, cinnamon, reishi, astragalus and honey), and a few tea blends (one heavily inspired by a couple of Rosemary Gladstar's nourishing teas for women, a 'peace' blend, and a throat soothing blend) were recently made.  There will be at least one more batch of elderberry syrup coming (I give the little miss a spoonful daily along with a few other things), and I'll make cough/bronchial syrup when and if needed, but with these and the large batch of elderberry tincture that is already ready to use (and being used) I am feeling like we are fairly well stocked to ward off a lot of the funk that inevitably comes our way.

I started making a lot of our own medicines a few years ago and I've found it to be one of the most rewarding and empowering do-it-yourself kitchen-witchy things I do.  It is easy, accessible, and fun, and anyone can do it~

here's to winter wellness!

(I have found this 'key to winter wellness' to be quite useful when trying to pinpoint remedies and support for specific symptoms)


she and him

she had a big lesson the other day.  lots of firsts.  first jump, first time picking his hooves on her own (doesn't sound very exciting, but watching her lift and then balance that big foot all on her own was like watching a special kind of dance between the two of them), her first real bit of cantering, and...... her first fall.  her teacher (a good friend of ours) had been telling me at the last few lessons that I should be prepared for it, that it would probably come soon as she was starting to be more confident and taking on new things at her lessons.  she practiced emergency dismounts, just in case.  and then last week, after taking him over a little jump several times and with both of their energy levels pretty high and excited, she trotted and cantered him around on the lead rope for a while and as he came into the short end of the circle he started to break into a canter and things got a little wonky and off she came.  I had been trying to get a photo of her cantering and ended up getting that first fall.  it went as well as a first fall can go, I think.  she stayed pretty in control and slid/fell/jumped off, landing mostly on her feet and then rolling to the side.  he stopped.  our friend congratulated her on an excellent first fall (keeping things light, you know) and popped her right back on him to ride him around a bit stirrup-free (she had broken the safety strap on one stirrup) to get them both feeling better after the excitement (he seemed more upset by it than she did- he is good old horse who really looks out for his smaller riders).

I haven't been bringing my camera with me (generally, wherever we are) as much as I used to, and I'm so glad I did that day.  and I'm so grateful that she is able to have this horse, and these experiences, in her world.


up, up, up

('scenic overlook' in the misty morning fog and clouds- beautiful still, just another kind of lovely)
(ice on the branches up at Craggy Dome)
(icy, frosty firs atop Mt. Mitchell)

(for a bit of perspective- that fall is approximately 800'!)

Our Wednesday 'Forest Days' are (as I mentioned in the last homeschooling post) something I have so come to treasure.  They are a dependable and much-needed pause in the middle of our week, sometimes slow and quiet, sometimes bursting with play with friends.  Always, always good.  I'm writing this just after finishing this week's hike up to the top of nearby Lookout Mountain just in time to feast our eyes on the glorious fall leaves right here in our town while they are at their peak.  We were last up there three weeks ago and my what a difference these three weeks have made!  This post, though (and all of these photos), is about last week's forest day.  Claire and I drove an hour up the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway and met friends at the top of Mt. Mitchell, which happens to be the highest peak this side of the Mississippi.  We started off down around 2,300' above sea level and drove up, up, and over and around.  We drove through fog and mist and we were up in the clouds at some points along the way.  There were ice and frost-covered trees and flurries on top of the mountain.  It was a winter wonderland up there!  Driving back down we were again in a bright and colorful fall world.  What a beautiful morning it was.