Category Archives: homeschool

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

It has been most of the winter since James and I went out to take photos. The cold has kept us pretty close to home. Last week with the weather breaking for warmer temps we headed out. I thought I’d a share the favorite of the group and the one that is going to be printed in the local newspaper.



Spring 2017, a dozen and more projects.

This winter, while not as cold as some, the cold has lasted. Nightly, falling well below zero neighbors across the state have had frozen water and drains. Not just those in rural areas but towns and cities have had water simply creep to a frozen standstill. Up here on the mountain water has remained the same for us. Off grid certainly has its advantages.

The cold has however, eaten up the wood stack impressively. Last week when the weather gave us a break and we got above freezing it was cause for days outside. A dozen spring projects to began in a flurry of activity not seen since the last few days before the snow arrived. img_20170121_193401_714The unsold wreaths came down to start with. The ornaments and now dry boughs were all unwound and put away for next season. Thor decided the big ones made great beds after a day chasing snow balls and helping haul wood.

Large boxes from costso we turned into new indoor nest boxes for the ladies. They loved them at once and eggs started to show up.

img_20170121_192921_172The big dead tree by the driveway came down, was bucked up, hauled up the driveway via sled, and split. Shane came up to cut down the old Pondarosa as my chainsaws have deiced to stop running. They are both in need of carburetor, work so they look useful, but for now they do little. James and I saw to the rest of the tree and got it all stacked in one long afternoon. The beetle killed pine split so easy we had to remind ourselves not to chop it too small.

The deck had to be shoveled of snow and ice from almost record breaking snow fall. Of course a sled hill had to be tested… img_20170131_195319_546…sticks had to be tested for strength and bonfires had to be built.

We had four glorious sunfilled days before the snow returned last night and buried us under another foot. We will be back inside the rest of the week finishing up the long overdue sheet-rock in the Little Cabin.

Yesterday, however, was stunning. I woke up to a dozen types of birds all greeting spring, chipmunks were chirping, and the squirrels shouting their chatter. Thor hasn’t been so excited to get outside since the snow first arrived. I let him out and sat down to have coffee before James woke up.


After seeing to morning chores it was warm enough out the greenhouse to sit down for projects without even needing to build a fire.


The beadwork my grandma had started before she passed away this fall I finished while the chickens debated if it was truly spring or not.Craft supplies from the last homeschool kid co-op visit were sorted and put back in their drawers, and most of the glitter swept up. (I doubt it will ever be truly all gone. By time that happens I am sure a handful of little girls will be back for another art workshop.)


Thor on guard duty. he likes the snow this year if for no other reason than he can sit up very high and watch the driveway.

Waking up to snow this morning was very pretty but I will be glad for the next day with sunshine and thawing weather. I count the days to get the first seeds into the ground int he greenhouse. The thermometer is in the ground. It will be soon.



This summer has been crazy. It started all with a seeming utter collapse of health that led to my having to leave a great little job at the small town- family owned store. However, that in turn allowed for several things to happen all at once. The first and most consuming was that Shane had the opportunity to tear down a rather large green house and take it away. So as i was saying I needed to build one and seek to making a living growing herbs and veggies he shrugged and said he could help me make that happen. Tearing it down took us only a few weekends but the design was … shall we say… not well thought out.

After a little reworking and the use of an excavator the work began. Sonnet tubes set to help stabilize it no matter what weather gets thrown at the mountain. All the lumber cleared of nails and soon the posts will go up. I don’t think it will be done before the end of next month this gem will be year round and offer the smell of green and earth even in the long winter months this far north.

The green house hasn’t been the only project. The Little Cabin is getting face lift with wrap around decks (decking from the greenhouse that does not fit into the new plan) and the pond is under way. This week I hope to get the last few touches onto the drain and then the rest of the fill can happen.

James has begun to study for his GED as well as working on designs for his own room. It will be a small space but his. Gabbion walls will support bottle and cob walls, with a sod roof. Its hard work to build the walls but it will stand up to just about anything when we are done.

I also have had time to begin to edit again and pick up art that I have been remiss of in the last few years. Glass paint, pencil sketches (when my hands allow) and even a bit of clay… oh for a kiln and wheel. Today i will be working on the water tanks and securing them for winter so this year I need not haul water when -20 hits.

I haven’t posted for a bit as I hate to do so without pictures and a friend ‘helped’ me set up a google photo account and now I must learn how to access my photos for use anywhere else. If any of you know how to do that, Let Me Know! As soon as I figure it out, my usual number of photos, of work as well as the landscape will return.


Jupiter and the moon

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Last night Jupiter ad the moon went together across the sky.  It was so bright it was almost enough to read by.  I don’t have a tripod and my hands tend to shake so forgive the little bobble.  The pics aren’t nat geo worthy but thought I’d share anyway.

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James and I went out to watch off ad on, to see how they moved together, talking about how the orbits of Jupiter makes it rare that such a thing occurs.

feb 2015 018Being as remote as we are the night sky is much closer and personal than it seems to e for those who are locked under the canopy of light pollution.  This time of year we often have heavy haze or cloud cover at night but even the haze can not hide the stars, the moon, planets or the comets we have located in the last few months.   (Pop quiz coming soon for the homeschool boy… chart the constellations and the paths of the celestial bodies we have looked at though the binoculars.) Ilook forward to posting it.

Project 6 – “the butt warmer”

Everyone, I’m sure, has seen the posts about the terra cotta pot warmers.  The little “heat your room with a candle’ posts from Face Book to Pin and it and just about anywhere else.  This is not exactly that.  A friend of mine gave it the name James and I have taken to using, the butt warmer!  You see he works in a rather chilly little building where a little extra heat is called for.  He made a heater to go under his chair (a camping chair, so the heat came through) and referred to it as a butt warmer.  James and I decided to experiment with design and waited for the coffee to run out so the can could be used.1.15.15 015

armed with the coffee can as the outside, and inside can and the ‘holder’ can we discussed why the terra cotta was a better option if one had extra or felt it worth the cost to buy new.  Thermal mass and heat absorption was the conversation as holes were punched and a healthy scoop of cold ash was put in the bottom of the coffee can.

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James lit the puppy chewed candle and set it in inside.

1.15.15 020It didn’t take long for the heat to start coming off the inner can.

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Just to test how hot it was a little bit f water was put on top.  It took about 4 sec for it to start to boil and sizzle away.

1.15.15 035After a number of cans and patterns of wholes this is the one we learned worked the best.  Lots of little holes on top, a few medium  holes on the top of the sides and big holes at the bottom of the side.  A number of other patterns just but the candle out or did not send the heat out very well.  This spring when little garden pits go on sale we plan to buy a number of terracotta pot with plans to help take the chill off the green house with candle heaters.


In the wood shop Oz decided to make a cribbage board for his dad as a chistmas gift.  The tools and skills Oz has begun to use in the shop is wonderful to see.  dec 2014 003Instead of making a standard board or eve using wood, Q brought in a moose antler.  The planning and the math began.

samsung 12.15 008After having the plans worked out they were glued on and the drilling began.

samsung 12.15 047Working 6 hours das twice a week Oz was determined to have it done on time.

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After two days of polishing the antler and making the pegs, Yes he made those as well, he had it done just in time.

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A storage space for the pegs was even part of the plan.

late dec 14 011Oz also learned to use a scribe to put on the lines and to sign his work.

late dec 14 019I have to say I am extremely proud of my boy and very grateful for Q.

Dec 18/ work on the cabin dec.

Today we got logs for the Solstice fire stacked up by the fire pit.  Then we started with the decorations. The boxes came out of the back top of Shane’s tool shed and ornaments collected over the years began to emerge.   dec 18 001

Having an inside tree, fake or real, in a Tiny House is nearly impossible.  There just is not a lot of extra space for such things.  When you are surrounded by trees it makes it seem just a little less of a good idea. So we choose a cute little tree (about 15′ tall) just outside the front door and set to work.

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Oz picked out the best stars and a few other ornaments to go on the tree.

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We even got a star on top.  There was no good way to hang it so we have to use a bit of sinew to attach it.  I am pretty sure we have the fanciest tree in the woods.

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It took us about an hour with a lot of up and down on a very unsteady ladder.  The ground is all but a sheet of ice and not great condition for the use of a ladder.

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The project done we took a picture in the fading light and moved inside.

After a friend came to spend the night with her kids and news my mother might be headed over to spend the night I decided it was time to start the bench.  The bench will be the thermal mass for the rocket stove that will be built next season, but for now it will serve as the frame for a ‘guest bed/couch.  As the lumber used will eventually be swallowed up by cob I didn’t think I needed to buy new wood.  I have a stack of old wood, mostly picked up for free from friends who wanted the ‘scraps’ out of their yard; that is what I used.

I asked Oz to take a few pics so I wouldn't have to stop working.  Its an odd angel and doesn't show much... next photo less on will be on how to take pictures to show construction details I think.

I asked Oz to take a few pics so I wouldn’t have to stop working. Its an odd angel and doesn’t show much… next photo less on will be on how to take pictures to show construction details I think.

It not pretty and the ice on it made a lovely mess on the floor, but it is solid, will not have to be replaced for the rocket stove and dried out quickly enough once inside.  For the bench surface I used 3/4 plywood that was once the fold down bed in an old camper trailer.  Due to the wood stove the bench had to end at 6 feet.  Anything longer would put it too close to the heat.  It is 25′ wide with the ability for the surface to slide forward with the ‘back’ able to drop down.  It becomes a twin sized bed at that point.  The support for the slide out part will be made of logs from the yard.  I have not found the right ones.  They matter as they will be exposed even when the cob is done.  In the mean time and for this winter I have a place for company to sit and an extra sleeping space.

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homeschool papers

A friend of mine asked about how hard it was to home school and wondered if I was “making it up as I go” or if I had a curriculum.  She was curious how many home school parents shared resources with each other.  I thought it would be a great idea if more did.  I thought I would begin to share some of the pages I have made and keep in a folder for easy printing in a file named HomeSchool.


Dark by 5:30

This morning the thermometer was stuck a 0, a bit chilly if nothing else. Snow came down in tiny flakes making a wintery view, like a post card in motion, out the windows. The morning was beautiful.  I sipped my coffee and watched winter settled in over the mountain. It seemed at that point I would get a lot done.

As soon as coffee gone, the work day began with a few hours at the Buddhist Retreat further up the mountain.  Then, fighting with the chain saws, (neither would start) and a debate with a generator that refused too stay running.  Too many pull cords for me today.  A lot of effort gained no reward, but there will be days like that. Walking away I headed down the mountain and spent  the rest of the daylight hours were spent helping put up more of the skirting on the 5th wheel.

Soaked from kneeling and sitting on the frozen and snowy ground, my knees hurt as much as my shoulders from yanking on pull cords earlier, I headed back up the cabin. Its cold and the sun is down by 5:30.  Tonight the sky dark with clouds so it felt like a rather long hike.

When I got home though the fire place is glowing with deep embers and its warm!  Gloriously warm! OZ (my son) has kept the fire going all day and has a bowl of soup ready for me.  The Dishes are done and the plants are waters.  I love my little cabin and what an amazing boy I have.

nov 2014 010nov 2014 007

We trek back down, to get online, he has a blog to post as his writing assignment for the day, and I think I’ll post one as well.  Then we are headed back up the warm little cabin to play games… Magic the Gathering or Kingdom Builders?  Perhaps we will opt to read one of the several books we have open and take turns reading out loud from.


After an evening of dealing poker (yes, Another, part time job) I joined the fire outside, table put away, chips locked up and shift over.  Standing around, most the people with a can of domestic beer in hand, enjoyed the unlikely pleasant October weather.  All of them I have known for years and could have followed any of a dozen conversations about the fire.  My conversation how ever went to my friend Joe. He and I talked about my rather shocking lack of firewood as of yet and other details of the little cabin.  In his 80’s Joe is one of the most generous men I have never met and he suggested I go up and check out his “junk yard”.  “…up the hill and past the old trailer, see what you find,” he said with a smile and a chuckle.  Today I will be heading up and see what gift he has in mind to put towards my projects.

After he stepped back inside to get himself another Kokanee a man I have known for several years gave me an odd look. “You really are doing it aren’t you?” he said with a very perplexed tone.

“Doing what?”

“The off grid thing.  You are seriously going to do it.  You truly want to.”

“Yes.  I am seriously doing it and yes,I actually want to.”


Why is a good question.  It is a question that anyone who is thinking about stepping away from the grid needs to truly think about.  There is always a very romanticised approach to off grid living, the tiny house movement and even home-school.  All these things I do and while I happy with each choice not everyone is going to be.

So why have I made this choice?  Firstly and beyond most peoples choice is the fact that the older I get the more sensitive to chemicals of all sorts I must get further from them.  That however, is not enough to make a person love the life style.  I truly believe that it is a spiritual need to know the sound of the forest, to seek to give back to a suffering planet and to stop being part of the abuse. A person can not wave their banners, and stomp their feet expecting things to change if they leave their starbucks cup on the side walk, drive their SUV back too their suburban house, turn on the sprinklers to water the lawn and watch fox new while they microwave dinner.  For those that don’t know how to start making a shift it starts with little things and a simple awareness of the world around you.

It is beyond choice to me at this point.  To be a part of that system is painful to me both physically and spiritually. We do not need to burn coal, we do not need to pull oil from the earth, we do not need to rush from task to task with the white noise of hate mongers and false wars being made into nothing but ratings.  We can be good to each other and to Gia and still have lights that turn on, internet to connect us, music of a thousand genres at a touch of a button, the freedom to travel around the world or even just down the road to visit a neighbour.

Every piece of food you put in your mouth, every piece of clothes, every square foot of space you occupy is a choice. If you are reading this blog you are aware, at least on some level, that there is another way of doing things.  If more people stepped off grid without becoming hermits and cut off from the world it would become easier for others to do so as well.  When my sister comes out to show her nephews that there is a place where there is neither cell service or flushing toilets it changes his awareness just a little.  So when people ask me why my answer is not all this, or nearly so long.  I simply say

“Because I can; because its right for me.”

It is not right for everyone or sadly not obtainable for what ever reason but if you cant take that leap at least try to be aware, support laws that help others to do it, stand up for them.  From gardens in the front yard, to solar panels, rain barrels to backyard chickens, all of this under pressure to be denied to all with the stroke of a pen from corrupt or simply ignorant governments.  When I mention laws and the ever building move against off grid, sustainable, and the first steps towards either, people often ask me if I vote and what party do I belong to.  I vote at local government levels, I attend town councils meeting and if the laws did not deny me I would likely run for the council.  I vote for the sheriff, I vote for the governor, but do I vote on a national level? No.  I do not. I do not, because not only does my vote mean nothing, it is not who votes that matters but who counts the votes. I will not vote for someone I do not believe is being handled or controlled by greed.  The “party” I follow is Ubuntu.  If you do not know what that means it is time you learn.  Take the time to learn and consider it, to imagine a world that we could have with such a shift of focus.