southern africa adventure

I got back from my 2 week trip to Southern Africa just a week ago!  With my mother, and through the company Natural Habitat Adventures, we visited Zambia (Livingston), Botswana (Okavango Delta region in the north), and South Africa (though that was almost entirely the Jo’burg airport!).  I learned an impressive amount of information about the ecosystems, animals, politics, and culture of the areas we visited.  Our guide was amazing, and the whole experience was wonderful.

Be warned, this post will be very photo heavy, and may take a few moments to get them all uploaded.  I practiced my amateur photography on this trip, and there were a few things I should have done differently.  First, as much as I love my 50 mm lens (and love the uses I have for it), I should have rented at least a 300mm to take on this trip.  It would have helped me to have clearer photos and I think given me more range in what I could have photographed fairly well.  I am happy with what I got, though, and I enjoyed having so much time to learn and practice.  I used my DSLR Nikon D3200 for most of these, though I also have a Canon Powershot SX260 point and shoot which has a zoom feature which I used for the first few days before the battery ran out (second thing I would do differently would be to take a universal camera battery charger, and not my extra lens that was no better than the 50 mm).  It was nice to have a light, simple, high functioning  point-and-shootcamera for some of these moments.

In a village we visited in Zambia
beatiful girl
Sweet child who accompanied us through her village tour.
eating and snorkling
We saw many elephants in the Okavango region of Botswana, though this was on the Chobe River.


cleaning grass
The elephants swish the grass through the water to clean off sand before they eat it.
crocodylus niloticus
Quite a few crocs along the river bank of the Chobe River,
As well as beautiful birds, like this Malachite Kingfisher.
hippo with cut
Hippo (with a cut under his eye) in the Chobe River
lioness drinking
Lioness drinking at sunset.
sunset at linyanti
Sunset at the Linyanti Swamp.


Warthog in his den



fork tailed drongo
Forked tailed drongo
hidden spots
Hidden spots . . . this leopard in Gomoti.
basket making
I learned a tiny bit about traditional Botswana basket making from these wonderful women. They weave baskets with grasses and palm fronds dyed with natural materials they gather in the Delta. And, they use a very sharp needle to make the holes to weave!
baskets traditional
Some of the baskets. Traditional designs include “tears of the giraffe”, “water lily”, and “urine trail of the bull”(!)

lily in the delta

sunset at pelo
Sunset at Pelo


sb storck
Saddle-bill stork


upside down yawn
lion brothers lounging
lemme and mom
Mom with Lemme, our guide during the trip. We went on a walking safari this day, and getting out of the vehicle and walking through the bush was quite nice. Looking for ants, not lions.
morning with one of the brothers
He was waiting on a lady (lioness) who was displeased with his attentions.
kudu reflection
kudu crossing
baboon reflection
baboon reflection at a watering hole – the whole family was there
sunset tubu
sunset at Tubu

This was an amazing trip, and I am missing the landscape, the openness, the beauty, and the people.

I hope to get back someday – maybe with my whole family.


Easter (spring ) in pictures

a ands

a e s




egg tree









I have been very negligent about downloading the pictures from my camera, but I did so tonight and was rewarded by some great, beautiful (and stereotypical?) images of Easter.  Easter in a way that is just so spring.  My funny boys (can you tell Hythe dressed himself for Easter?), and my growing girls.  A unexpected Easter chick who will listen to Vivaldi.  It is an adventure and a mess – a beautiful mess.

homework time* a typical after school scene at our house – snack and water, homework and art, Steven trying to get in the middle of it, me helping with the problems, and a pile of laundry that needs to be folded on the couch.


snow days







I’ve not written much here lately.  I seem to go through a super busy phase each fall now.  Then, I was gone for half of November and December and at the end of December, I bought a business, which has kept me quite on my toes. But,I want to make writing more of a discipline, so I will try to be more active here!

Anyway, we had a couple of snow days last week, and by definition in the South anyway, that means everything stops and you don’t do much of anything but play in the snow, drink tea or hot chocolate (or something stronger), cozy up by the fire, and maybe do something dangerous out in the snow (driving; getting pulled on a sled/snowboard/etc behind a truck or horse; stuff like that).

The snow was beautiful, the temperatures cold, and it made for a fluffy, light snow that stuck around for a few days – though day 2 and 3 were pretty icy.  For the first year since having children, we sledded for hours and everyone was happy to be outside for long period of time.  Maybe that was because everyone had adequately warm winter clothing (and there wasn’t a baby who didn’t like the cold wet stuff).  I grew up where we did not get much snow.  Maybe once a year we got a dusting, and every couple of years we would get a couple of inches.  I heard tell of the “big snowstorm” from 1980 (I think?) when I was a baby where northeastern NC got nearly 3 feet of snow!  But, normally, we had sparse snow coverage.  And for some reason (finances? no-snow-expected? out-grew snow clothes too quickly?) we were never very well outfitted for winter weather when I was a child.  We played in the snow in jeans and cotton sweatshirts. My mother put us in trash bags if we got more than a dusting of snow so we could play longer without getting too wet and cold.  We put plastic bags around our feet before putting them in our shoes and that would keep our feet drier a bit longer. Now, there is winter gear for every age – and it is good winter gear: waterproof, insulated, etc.  I would probably rely more on trash bags with our children, but luckily William is a winter weather- and gear- lover and each year makes sure everyone has all the gloves, socks, boots, coats they need.  I take care of knitting the hats (each year I need to knit a couple more).  And, everyone is amazingly warm and happy to be outside for long periods of time.

Though the snow is beautiful and lots of fun to play it, I am always ready to see it go and life get back to normal.  I am torn between wanting lots more snow and hoping we don’t get any more.

What did you grow up with for winter/snow clothes?  Do you love snow or hope you don’t see much this year?


in the water

We have been in the water a lot this summer.  The Tuckaseegee River, the Chesapeake Bay, the Pasquotank River, and most often, the pool at William’s uncle’s house.  We call the pool the Fairview Country Club and try to get over there every afternoon that is not stormy.  It is a small pool with a diving board at one end, and steps decending into the pool at the other end.  The steps have been great for the younger children as they get used to being in the water.  They can touch the bottom and learn how their bodies work in the water while feeling safe.  As they get more confident, they leave the steps and start swimming.

This summer, Hythe made the transition from staying mostly at the steps, to swimming (dog-paddling) from the steps to an underwater bench on the side of the shallow end.  He paddled back and forth along the edge of the pool for a few weeks.  Then, he got up the courage to jump from the side of the pool into my arms.  A few weeks later her jumped into the pool on his own.  He was so excited to figure out that he could do it, that soon he was jumping into the deep end on his own and swimming all over the pool.  Within two weeks of learning he could jump into the pool by himself, he was actually doing flips into the deep end of the pool.  One day he said, “mom, watch this” and flipped into the pool.  I couldn’t believe it!  He’d not even been jumping into the water 2 weeks before!

He carried his flipping and love of jumping in to all the water we visited this summer, most notably, the Pasquotank River, where my mother lives.  The water there is too deep for him to touch, but deep enough to jump safely (we taught him quite a bit of water and diving safety once we realized he loved it so much).  He would jump, flip, and dive for as long as we stay at the pool or by the water.  He really grew up this summer, and I loved seeing his confidence and abilities grow so amazingly.









dying with marigold




I have been doing some natural dying this summer – and enjoying the results.  I dyed some garments I made with marigolds from my garden, and got a rich, bright yellow.  Then I made an iron bath (vinegar and rusty nails) and dipped the dyed cloth in that.  You can see the results in the last picture above.  It turned it a bit darker and slightly olive.  But, I did not think the contrast great enough for what I wanted, and I over-dyed the iron/marigold garment in a quick walnut dye bath.  And, that’s where I went wrong.  Either the mordant did not work anymore, or the iron made the shirt take up dyes differently, but I ended up with a dark brown-ish overall color with lots of spots of very dark brown or slightly light yellow. It would have been ok, except the dark brown spots looked like I dripped oil on it (and they were right in the front).  Nice contrast with the marigold yellow, but ugh! those spots!!  I did another shirt with red onion skins from Flying Cloud Farm, and got a little closer to the color I wanted.


I also dyed a bit of wool yarn to see what the results would be.  I loved the color and later dyed the same type of yarn with onion skins.  Interestingly,the color was really similar.  It seems quite easy to get some kind of yellow (or brown) color with natural dying with the things I can find around here, but I’d like to get some other colors too!

I’ll keep trying – I am enjoying the process.



busy summer fun

I was away from this blog for a bit over the summer.  School let out and it felt like we were off at full tilt.  We had cousins visiting nearly all of the summer break (when we weren’t visiting them!).  It was fun and occasionally exhausting!  We loved visiting with so many wonderful little cousins and their parents, of course – as well my mom, sister-in-law and brother-in-law!  There was a lot of happy screaming, lots of play time, and fun suppers.

Over the summer break, we spent nearly a week by a remote river in our area (Tuckaseegee), playing with friends for a few days, then playing on the river just as our small family.  It is such a beautiful, peaceful place where we read, play games, explore the river, swim, and fish.

Then, we had a couple of weeks at camp here at the farm, then a week on the coast, and back home for a week of “nothing to do” (except William and I had to work, Anne had a camp, and Evva came up with some major outing everyday).  Then, summer break was over.  We are back to a routine, which is good.  Summer certainly does not feel over though.  We have weeks left of swimming, melon eating, and running around barefoot and that is nice.

I’ll catch up here with some of my doings soon, but I leave some pictures from some of our favorite summer fun (excepting the beach, where I did not bring my camera – sun, saltwater, sunscreen, and 7 kids running around convinced me to keep the camera at the house).








second falls




top of waterfall

Off to camp – they could walk to farm camp everyday.

wildlife at our house (cute and creepy)


turtle and kids


The other day, Evva found this tiny turtle right behind our house.  She thought it was a toy until she saw it move.  It was the cutest little turtle I’ve ever seen.  We had a hard time sending it back out into that large scary world, but we did so (and very quickly since we didn’t want to disturb such a little creature).

Then, the next day, we found a large black snake slithering across our front porch, and a few minutes later, another in the driveway.  The kids followed them around for a little while until they lost interest (kids, not snakes).  I hope they (snakes, not kids) go eat the voles in my garden (and not the baby turtle!).










I made a vat of indigo dye the other day, partly to practice for a class I am going to teach next month on natural dying, partly because I needed something creative and fun for the kids to do, and partly because I hated the dull gray linen napkins we use all the time.  Those napkins looked like dirty dish water and I was getting to the point that I wanted to give them away.  But, they are so useful, large, and we had LOTS of them.  I gave two to each child and showed them what the possibilities were with the dye and rubber bands, and I let them go.  They came up with some pretty great creations, which they were so very proud of – “here’s MY napkin”, “mom, put MY napkin in my lunchbox”.  It was a lot of fun, and felt almost like magic to take the napkins out of the dye vat looking bright green and watch them turn dark blue as the pattern was revealed when the rubber bands were taken out.  A pretty great afternoon activity – and that dye bucket is still going – hopefully for most of the summer.  I’m thinking I’ll dye some stained clothes, fabric, more napkins, etc.

snacks in the yard






We’ve just ended cherry and shell pea season, but blueberries, raspberries, and black raspberries are starting up.  And, mulberries, which seem to last nearly all summer, have just started up.  All these berries (and stone fruit and peas) mean that the kids can go out in the yard and snack whenever they want.  One of the favorite places to snack is at our large and flimsy-ish mulberry tree that leans over the rock wall where the blueberries are planted.  This means the kids can stand on the rock wall and pick mulberries to eat.  But, the more adventurous one(s) head up into the tree to snag the ripe berries and to shake branches so other ripe ones will fall on the ground for their siblings to eat.  It is a treat, and since the berries ripen individually, over time, rarely do any berries make it into the house.  They are all eaten “in the field”.  And, a tell-tale sign of the snacking are the purple stained fingers and hands.  They are such a treat – the berries and those precious hands!.








I sewed up these two rompers last week at the requests of our two daughters.  I made one for Evva last year and she wore it often.  This year, Anne wanted one and I realized Evva’s was getting very short, so I decided to make two.  Anne knew exactly the fabric she wanted and I picked out the fabric for Evva’s.  And, I had a bunch of chambray left from another project to make the yokes and cuffs.  I found the pattern (from Figgy) fairly easy, but not terribly intuitive (and with a few extra, and superfluous (in my opinion) steps).  I made modifications to make it go a little faster and got these done fairly quickly.  I love these rompers and the girls are delighted.  They have been wearing them often since they came off the sewing table, and that is gratifying as well.

Love these cute sisters!