Sunday, April 20, 2014

easter for atheists

Despite being not Christian at all, we love Easter! For us it's about spring and growth and family; joy in new life and resurrection of the garden!

Most of us got together for our traditional Easter-time nettle picking!

And the Easter Rabbit did not disappoint the children!

(comparing quantities of chocolate eggs)

Rhiannon made a paper egg-hunt for the parents earlier on the weekend, and Markus found the last missing egg on Easter morning.

We bought some gorgeous local aracauna coloured eggs from a friend (for old time's sake; when we were children we had green- and blue-laying aracaunas, too), but since Tali is allergic to real eggs, we made him a sausage-and-apple-stuffed woven bacon egg, instead. I think he approved; he ate the whole thing! I got this idea from Mike at Atomic Shrimp (who is also a wild food enthusiast!). But his was quite large. This is my smaller, 1-person version, filled with natural pork sausage and sauteed apples.

(See our colourful eggs?) And I think we were all pleased to finally have a dog sleeping under the table, again. 
What a joyful day! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

life these days

Rhiannon made a trampoline for Mela
This is another photo dump. Our spring has been wonderfully busy, full of various activities at home, as well as Wild Art, circus school, homeschool field trip, visiting with friends, and... a puppy!! Kalea is not our puppy, exactly; she's my parents' little golden retriever baby, but we quite like to babysit and play with her, and you will probably see quite a few fluffy golden photos, from now on...
Tali got somebody's discarded (but functional) record player and has been experimenting ever since.

Both puppies and 9-year-olds LOVE to play in the mud!!

If you ever doubted that our home was once a trailer... now you know. Despite it's rather house-like features, it is still decorated with 2 steel trailer hitches! Markus is removing a sword fern from inside of one, here.

Sometimes Kalea's walks are rather slow...

We are building new garden beds on the east side of the house.

Ahh... what could be better than reading on a sunny day!

Well... if you are Tali you might just pretend it's raining...

Kalea thinks she helps with gardening, but... just like the merits of a sunny day, it's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Time for a photographic update of springtime at our house... :--)

oregon grape blossoms
peach blossoms

budding magnolia tree

star magnolia


ladyfern fiddlehead

Rhiannon's hyacinths

some kind of buttercup
grape hyacinths
flowering current

skunk cabbage
red legged frog

red legged frog tadpoles hatching

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Preteens: How to Play

We seem to have an idea in our culture that we need manufactured objects for play. Even when we do play outside, we tend to stick to manufactured spaces like parks, sports fields, trails, etc. It seems so bewildering to imagine what we would do without these things. But kids don't have that problem.

The things the kids in my world get up to with a bit of wilderness and no rules are really quite beautiful. They develop the most complex socio/economic systems which basically mimic those of their parents. They take whatever the wilderness offers them and weave it into their play, taking on various jobs, trading for services, objects and 'money' (this week it was alder catkins), hiring each other and volunteering, maintaining the spaces they create and filling in their world with creativity, philosophical/moral conversations, and a whole lot of laughter.

These aren't 6-year-olds. These are 9 to 13-year-olds. They are squatting bare- and boot-footed in a creek (above), diverting clean water for a handwashing station, and creating moss-on-bark sponges to scrub their handmade wooden planter pots which they plan to sell at the pet (slug) and variety store over to the right, on a log. On the surface, to those of us accustomed to the commercially-available expectations of preteens, it looks like their play is childish. But if you really pay attention you see that the things they're working through here are in fact very mature. I heard conversations ranging from impacts of climate change to fair wages to questions of morality in petting zoos and circuses and ethics of catching wild animals, to gender equality, particle physics and nutritional values of wild foods. Really. With 0 adult input, these are just a few of the conversations that came up in 4 hours of wilderness play, yesterday.

I could not dream up these things. I can only give them space to do it themselves.

This is what happens when you leave the manufactured toys, spaces and rules behind and leave kids to play with nothing but time and lack of constraints. Oh -- and some wilderness at their disposal. Some trees to climb. Creeks to get muddy in. Nobody standing around injecting teachable moments or safety concerns.

Kids don't need us to tell them how to play and learn. They need us to get out of their way.

Book Review: The Golden Spruce

I think this may be my favourite book of all time. I'm currently reading it to the kids -- and to my husband! I read it a few years ago, and while it completely captivated me, I thought the kids were a bit young for it. But not any more!

This book will give you a deep narrative-based understanding of BC's history, forestry, resource-based economy and west coast ecology... all while being a truly gripping read. I think that's enough! It's wonderful. I am thoroughly enjoying this second read - maybe even more than the first one, as the kids interrupt frequently with questions and philosophical explorations. In addition to being an amazing read, The Golden Spruce is an amazing thing to share.

Catch up with author John Vaillant here:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Save the World! Stop Raising Tadpoles!

Raising Tadpoles: Maybe I was wrong.

It's such a tricky issue!! YES, it's possible, and if everything goes to plan, and you look after them really well, then you may be doing them a favour, and certainly, if you couch the whole experiment in conservation, then you can educate children and adults so that they care about the frogs in the ponds, and the ecology (on a broader scale) of our whole community and planet.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing!
My mother used to raise tadpoles at the preschool, now I do it with the kids I teach, and I have, in the past, advised teachers of other programs on how to do it well. Eventually I became aware that people were trying it at home, and egg-clusters were dying en masse, as people didn't know how. I recognise that these people were trying to do something very good: give some tadpoles a head start and raise ecologically conscious kids. So, to help this problem, I published instructions on how to do it properly with Red Legged Frogs, including notes on conservation, because Red Legged frogs, while abundant in our neighbourhood, are blue-listed. In fact most frogs are threatened, to some degree, because of the ecological devastation and habitat loss that our rampant human population growth and over-consumption is causing.

Now it seems that my instructions are spreading all over the place. People are trying to raise tadpoles across this whole island, and on the mainland, too. People are tromping through wetlands and ponds and lakes in search of frog and salamander eggs, and disturbing the very areas we'd like to protect.

I was wrong. 

Although I think that raising tadpoles is still very beneficial for education, and even conservation, when done properly, I do not in any way think that every family should have an aquarium full of tadpoles at home.

Everything in moderation seems to apply to... well... everything! It's probably just fine - even healthy - to drink a beer once in a while, but 10 beers maybe not so much. Plastic was a miracle invention for various reasons, until we started using it for everything, and now our beaches, oceans, soil, and air are full of microscopic plastic particles, wreaking havoc for every species on earth, including humans. For thousands of years humans lived in symbiosis with the rest of the flora and fauna; now there are too many of us, and we're causing devastation. Everything in moderation. A tank of hatching frog eggs - maintained carefully - in most schools was a beautiful thing, and the kids who examined the wetland they came from learned to care for their own ecosystem. That was a good thing. But a tank of eggs (or a few tanks) in every home... some leaching plastic chemicals into the tadpoles' water (which causes reproductive issues) and some just simply dying due to a simple mistake or lack of understanding... that's too much. And it's not good.

We need to know the wilderness not as other, but as part of us. We need to understand it so deeply that the rain doesn't keep us from living in it, that the forest is a better playground than a gym, that we recognise the changes that happen all year long and see when something's off, and that when something's off we do something about it, because we know that our lives depend on it.

Something is off with this raising tadpoles thing.
Save the world. Stop raising tadpoles and get out in the wilderness.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Neverland Tea Salon

Gluten Free has become normal for us - except that we don't go out. We don't go, not because we don't like going out, but because it's so incredibly hard to get good food, especially good food that's gluten free. This isn't a dietary fad for us, as some people seem to think. Three of us suffer quite seriously (to varying degrees) if we eat gluten, and the risk of accidentally ingesting gluten at a restaurant is not at all worth the pleasure of dining out.

But Rhiannon and I decided to risk it - because she wanted to experience high tea. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much. I've gone out for high tea a few times, and it was always a little disappointing - even when it was full gluten and ridiculously expensive.

This time was different. Rhiannon invited her dear friend along... and, well...  
Neverland Tea Salon in Vancouver completely blew our minds.

$15 for a 3-tier 1/2-size gluten- and dairy-free high tea service (plenty for one hungry kid), plus endless selection from the very long tea list. $30 for a full service, which was way too much for this hungry adult. I'm picky about my food. It takes a lot to impress me. The food was by far the best high tea I've EVER had, and the teas were wonderful; steeped to perfection. The service was understated and thoughtful; the food was quick, and they tipped us as we left, with a tiny bag of their Neverland Tea blend to take home.

And they have style. 

beautiful steeping teas

1 tea service: 5 different amazingly delicious sandwiches, 5 different desserts, and one scone - definitely the best I've ever eaten - served with cream and homemade jam. And gluten and dairy free. Why is it so good? Because they make everything in-house. It's fresh. It's real. It's AWESOME. And the girls were completely delighted. O.K. So was I!


So... you know... after high tea, and while wearing the fanciest gowns and fairy wings and grandmother's Russian fur hat... the proper thing for ladies to do is...


Oooh! Let's jump off this bank!!

Oh oh -- lost something!

My shoe!!!

Never mind. Might as well go sockfoot!

Or barefoot.



Monday, March 17, 2014

We have a new singer in our family...

She's not really ours -- so not residing in the Phantom Rickshaw house -- but she is Nana and Opa's, and we visit with her every day, much to our delight. Today she demonstrated her singing skills!
Kalea is a gentle, cuddly golden retriever, only 6.5 weeks old, having been weaned early because her mother had mastitis. And Nana is clearly overjoyed. :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Days of Igloo

Remember that igloo I posted about 2 days ago? 

Well here's an update.

Now it has three rooms.

This is what happens when you just let go...

Spend three days building with family and friends and get all exhausted and soaked and frozen ... get vehicles snowed in and have to have whole-family sleepovers (much to our mutual delight), and come out of it all totally pooped with chores undone but...

And when mothers roll in snow!


Whoosh! Bye bye, plans and intentions. 

Hello, adventure!

Squirt paint at snow!

Bliss out in cathedral-like stained-ice and snow-muted peace:

And have coloured snowball fights:





Rock on, beautiful people!

Cherish this beautiful world,

the time we have

and the joy we make, here.