Friday, July 30, 2010

Early harvest?

This year, determined to get some more of our own pumpkins for Halloween, I planted a lot of them...Yes, there is room in the garden also for kale, rhubarb, some herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, and snap peas (alas, now gone), plus a random assortment of weeds which I've kept for photographic and culinary purposes. But maybe not as much as we'd like.

In any case, though, the having pumpkins for Halloween thing is clearly not going to happen, because they're all getting ripe, right now. I finally harvested them, seeing they were more likely to rot by October than get bigger, so it looks like pumpkin pie is in my future/freezer sooner than I thought. Global warming? Or poor garden planning? (and I know the eggs aren't directly from the garden, but I love that basket and couldn't resist including them)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not-so-lazy river

One of the many must-do activities we hadn't done yet since coming to Pittsburgh was rafting or kayaking at Ohiopyle. This seems to be one of the main activities at the park, and we've always wanted to do it each time we watched the rafts go downstream. Hazel is turning 8 and is now a decent swimmer, which made us eligible for tours we hadn't been able to sign up for earlier, so the time was ripe.

It surprised me how long that 1.5 hour drive feels at 8 in the morning, but still, we only hit the river at 10:30 or so. We paddled, and coasted, and worked our way off rocks. (The guide who gave our safety spiel explained about letting your feet float if you fall out, to prevent foot entrapment. She said at the time there was no such thing as "butt entrapment" but after all those rocks I got stuck on, I beg to differ.)

It was 3:00 before we reached our takeout spot, soaked, a bit stiff, very hungry (note to self: pack more lunch next time), but also very happy. Ready to do the whole thing again, before long.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Motivation and memory

I don't know what the girls would have said if I'd asked in advance, because I didn't. Last winter my mother-in-law asked if the girls would be able to handle a 12 mile hike to see the Burgess Shale, and I impulsively said yes, without asking them. They'd never hiked that far before, but why not? Plus, with a lunch break and a fossil hunting break in the middle, it should be OK, right?

As it turns out, the kid-led (with adult supervision) kids' hike to the Burgess Shale, one of the most diverse sites for fossils from early in the history of life, was a gorgeous, well-run trip, and easily within the kids' capabilities. Hazel and her cousin Thea were the youngest on the trip, but Hazel was hopping along even at the last mile. The adults were, well, a bit sore in the knees and toes by the end, but nothing beer and Advil couldn't fix (or simply cold packs, for my MIL, but that sounds less fun, doesn't it?). (The photo at left, alas, was not from the Burgess Shale hike, because we weren't with them for the hike - we were staggering along 30 minutes behind, since only 10 or so people can be on the Burgess Shale at once - that's from Mt. Revelstoke instead.)

I think for Brian and his brother, who knew best what to expect, the fossils were perfect. For me, as for the girls, they were a bit, shall we say, subtle - smudges on rock, easily enough mistaken for chalk drawings or rock fracture lines, at least to the uneducated eye. Emily said afterward that the hike was great, but the rocks were not worth all the effort. No one argued with her on that point, though she did acknowledge that the mountain goats, at least, were pretty cool.

I often wonder, during these family vacations, what the girls will remember. Will they remember the roadside grizzly, grazing shrubbery, or the view of Emerald Lake from the Burgess Shale? Will they remember the hotel pool at Lake Louise, or the stream behind our campside on the Kicking Horse River? I know I have ideas of what I hope they remember, and I'm sure that these ideas don't always match up with the reality.

This summer, though, I think what all of us adults noticed was how capable these kids are (our two and their two cousins). We hope that what they remember is that they climbed a mountain, crossed rockslides with ease, and scampered down afterward with nary a scratch. I myself had to take deep breaths and control my fear in places which they didn't think twice about. And maybe, whether they remember it or not, they'll carry with them a sense of physical capability. On the way down the mountain, Emily told her younger cousin about what a good job she'd done that day, and asked her if she knew the word "endurance." I don't quite remember how she explained it, but she explained it well, and when she finished explaining the word, she told her cousin "You had endurance today. You were tired but you kept on going anyway."

I think it might have even been fun, too, but I didn't try to convince them of that at the time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Riding along

Yesterday we packed the car with bicycles, drove to Washington's Landing (an island in the Allegheny, near 31st St from downtown), and took off down river. Hazel has a new-to-her bike, courtesy of one of Emily's soccer friends who outgrew it, and we took our first voyage with it. We arrived on the island, crossed one street, and *voila!* we were on bike trail for the rest of the afternoon.

The journey: across railroad bridge to the North Shore, along the river past lots of trees and weeds (japanese knotweed galore), past the old Heinz Plant, past the Warhol Museum and the hipster downtown condominiums, past the kayak rentals under Pirate Stadium, past Del Monte, Heinz Field (Steelers Stadium), the Science Museum, and finally past the casino. (Emily: "Why are they playing loud music the casino?" Me: "So gamblers can't hear their inner voice saying to stop losing money.")

But we made lots of stops, especially on the way back. First, we stopped just past Del Monte, at the water steps, which feature a tempting and apparently illegible sign saying "Slippery surfaces: Swimming and wading prohibited." It was clear from the number of children in swimsuits that many had brought their children for this particular purpose, so the girls waded in, cooling the biking grime from their legs. (I confess, I dipped my feet in, too) Then we stopped for pizza, just outside Pirate stadium, an early dinner which, had Emily had her way, would have turned into a full-evening activity, Pirates-Phillies game included. Among the trees, Emily spotted ripe mulberries (4 stops) and apple trees (2 stops). The mulberries were eaten on the spot, the slightly-green apples went into my backpack for a pie, later. A stop for looking at the river from an old boat launch, which gave me this view of 3 weeds together: purple loosestrife, covered with hedge bindweed, getting crowded out by japanese knotweed. Competition in action: the Pirates have nothing on these three plants.

Back up the ramp and across the bridge to the island, past the houses, past the restaurant/bar - I'd joked with Emily on the way out that if she exhausted me I might have to stop for a drink on the way back - and back to the car. We loaded up, stopped for grocery store pie crust on the way home, and recovered with apple pie, Brian, and a backyard campfire before bed.