Our Story

Small-scale Wilderness

The garden chaotic

Unfortunately, we don’t live in the wilderness. We are lucky, however, that our yard links up with some large fields and the remnants of old family farms to form a green corridor rich enough to support foxes, wild turkey, woodchucks, rabbits, coyotes, and, as we discovered this spring when our apple trees were nearly chewed to bits, deer. Except for the deer, who were not welcomed by Sean the apple farmer, we are happy to be able to hear the occasional yipping fox late at night, and to  watch the rabbits hopping around when we go for walks in local conservation lands. We’ve tried to encourage most wildlife in the yard, and have hung birdfeeders, beehouses and bat boxes to encourage natural pollinators and help the migrators along their routes.

This year we knew we’d be pressed for time to tend to the extensive vegetable gardens we usually grow, so we decided to turn one of our large garden spaces into a wildflower garden that could help support the local bee/bird/butterfly population. All summer, the garden has been alive with activity. I’ve seen hummingbirds sparring over choice blossoms, goldfinches going crazy on the coreopsis seedheads, and bees and butterflies flitting about by the dozens. The sunflowers will provide seeds for the birds to eat come autumn, and to re-seed the garden for next year’s crops, and the milkweeds will provide a valuable food source for several life stages of Monarch Butterflies.

This 200 foot square piece of yard has literally been buzzing all summer, and we’ve been thrilled to watch the tiny insect dramas playing out among the plants. While Liam is too little to fully appreciate the garden right now, as he grows I imagine we’ll spend time learning about the butterfly life cycle as we watch it play out in front of us, track bees across the yard  and talk about the physics of hummingbird flight.

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Walking on the shores of the bay…

The other night we decided to head out to one of our favorite places along the bay and see how the conservation lands had handled Tropical Storm Irene. Even though we got hit less directly than originally predicted, we still had some fierce winds and about 4 inches of rain, and I expected to find a lot of debris along the shores. I was surprised to see the shores looking pretty much as they usually do, piled with seaweed and the occasional chunk of driftwood. I think we’ll see more trees and other items showing up in the next few weeks as they come down the rivers and empty into the bay, and I wonder how the oysterbeds will fare with all the toxins that usually get flushed into the bay during high water events.

 

 

It was a perfect night for no-see-ums and mosquitos, so we got out our little mosquito netting cover and bundled the Kiddo up pretty tight. There was enough of a breeze to keep him clear of bites when we were on the shore, but as soon as we got into the woods the swarms started coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were back at the car as the sun was setting.It wasn’t a dramatic adventure: no deep thoughts or brilliant inspirations. Just a peaceful night along the shore. I’ll take it.

 

 

 

 

And now, a video with a special guest star…

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One Trail, Two Paths

Hiking is EXHAUSTING.

My feet don’t make much noise on the damp pine needles as I climb up the steep hill that marks the beginning of my favorite local trail, the one I used to run laps around when I lived down the street from the small state park, ten years ago. On this trail, I am used to pushing myself. The hills aren’t long, but they are steep, and covered with roots that make you dodge and weave. It takes complete focus to run top speed on a downhill stretch covered with pine roots and not wind up on your face, or worse, tumbling down a steep embankment into the tidal river.

Over the past week, I’ve returned to this park several times as part of my plan to take the Kid out for at least an hour a day to explore someplace wild. This is also part of my plan to get in pre-pregnancy shape as fast as possible so we can do some bigger hikes in the mountains this fall. The trail is longer than I remember, and the small hills are harder to climb, even though I’m walking and not running. It could be the ten pound meatloaf in a carrier on my chest, but I find myself gasping for breath and having to stop before the top of small climbs I would have powered up a decade ago. As I get further along, though, some of the old me kicks in and I find myself thinking ‘faster, go faster, push up this hill, go, go go’ . My pace quickens. My heart rate rises. I feel some of the same endorphins kicking in that used to keep me running till my feet hurt. I blow by a couple of women leisurely walking up ahead of me, and it feels good.

And then,  I slip on a root. My reflexes kick in and I do an awkward tap dance on root tops until I catch myself. I stop, heart pounding, hands shaking a little, and take a deep breath before moving on. The Kid is still asleep in his carrier, no idea how close we came to falling.

The flat parts

There is a constant battle between the old me, who wants to push-push-push for the best workout, the fastest run up the hill, the hardest route, and this strange new me, the Mom, who has this tiny little creature sleeping against her chest and completely trusting her to take care of him. I’m going on instinct these days, and my instincts are screaming at me to slow down. So I do. We finish the hike at a more reasonable pace, and he finally wakes up a little. He stares, entranced by the light in the woods, and then turns and smiles right at me.

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Laughing at Thunder

Sacked out in the Peapod

Ten minutes after I pushed the last tent stake into the dirt, the first raindrop hit the fly, immediately followed by a slow growl of thunder. Liam was lounging in his car seat a few feet away, and I ran to get him under the safety of the tent before he was soaked to the skin.  His eyes grew wide and his little arms jerked in a startle reflex at each crack of thunder. Just when I was afraid he’d break into tears and screams, his lips turned up at the corners, and a slow smile grew on his face.  Yup, this kid laughs at thunderstorms. For the next twenty minutes or so, I sang sea shanties and he listened to the rain and  watched the shadows dance across the tent fly, smiling and cooing at the strange turn of events.

The storm was also the beginning of his love affair with the tent. He woke early both mornings, but instead of fussing to be held, he babbled quietly to himself, and stared at the tent, engrossed in the patterns of moving light and shadow across the fabric. I think that he spent more awake time inside the tent than any other time during the weekend. He slept all through the hikes, the river games, the campfires (with the exception of one minor screaming fit during dinner on Saturday night, which was resolved by retreating to the tent). But the TENT, man, that was the best part. It was also the part of our first campout that had me the most worried initially, as I had visions of him screaming all night long, and angry neighbors storming into our site with pitchforks and torches.

We have a longer trip planned in a few weeks, a possible backpack, and I’m hoping this infatuation continues. In the meantime, I’ll keep on with playtime in the Peapod out in our backyard, and daily mini-hikes in the conservation lands near our house. But so far, we are off to a great start.

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Getting Into the Swing of Things

First trip to the beach at 9 days old.

The Kid will be 6 weeks old tomorrow, and we’ve been slowly getting used to the chaos of having a  newborn running our lives for us. He’s a pretty mellow kid most of the time, and we’ve been able to take him on a lot of short walks in local woods and out along the ocean. He sleeps through most of these little trips, and it seems almost silly to drive over and load up the carrier just to have him sleep someplace new. I’m hoping that he hears the sounds of the ocean and woods in his sleep, and when he can stay awake long enough, they will seem familiar, though he won’t know why.

This weekend we will be heading out for our first camping trip. I’m a little nervous, but not because we are doing anything too terribly difficult. We will be car camping at a place we’ve been to a hundred times, with other families at the same site, and are planning to do a few short hikes in familiar territory. The two things freaking me out a bit are that he’ll cry all night long and wake everyone in the campground up, or that he’ll get too cold, especially since we can’t put him in a sleeping bag.

This camping trip was also supposed to be the debut of my brilliant plan to make the tent a familiar place for the Kid. We bought a Kidco Peapod Travel Bed, which is basically a tiny little tent that you can set up for babies to nap in…kind of a much more flexible and lightweight alternative to a pack-n-play. The idea was to get him used to sleeping in the Peapod, then put the Peapod into our regular tent and presto—-strange tent becomes a familiar sleeping place and the Kid’s routine is maintained, all while we make a  place for him to sleep in the tent where he be safe from having to snuggle with a stinky dog . Unfortunately,  he hates it. To be fair, he hates sleeping anywhere that’s more than 6 inches away from a parent, so I still think my plan has merit. It just might take him a little longer to get into the swing of things. We’ll see how the weekend goes…

This is the model we got, but not our baby...image from Amazon.com

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Welcome to Everyday Wild!

North American Porcupine, Creative Commons

When I was about 5 years old, my family moved from a mid-sized city to a house in rural New Hampshire. There were neighbors in sight of us, but we lived across the street from a wide stretch of open fields, forests and ponds. Our backyard had woods which, at the time, seemed a vast, unexplored wilderness.

One of my earliest memories from that house is of my Dad coming in to my room one night and waking me up to go outside so he could show me something. I slipped my bare feet into boots that felt rough and strange without socks, and followed him out into the backyard, still wearing my nightgown under my coat. At the edge of our driveway stood a tall tree, branches silhouetted against the sky. Halfway up the tree a porcupine crouched in the crook of a branch, his bunched up form dark against the moonlit sky. He moved slowly, if at all, as we stood there and watched him for what seemed to be a very long time, until the air got too chilly and I was whisked back to bed to dream about sleeping in trees.

Thirty-two years later, that moment is still with me as I imagine the life Sean and I will create for our soon-to-be-born son. We want him to know the woods and the water, to spend weeks living in tents and paddling down rivers and coasts, and to wake up in the middle of the night and watch animals come out of of their dens and feed. We want him to problem solve his way out of tricky situations, and grow up into the kind of man who doesn’t hide inside just because it is raining, or the path seems too slippery to walk on. We want to maintain our own connections to the wild world, and see having children as a chance to increase our experiences with nature, rather than a step backwards towards a life trapped inside walls. This blog is our way of sharing both our own experiences, and the information we’ve picked up along the way. Check in with us to find helpful information, stories about our experiences, book and gear reviews and links to other families involved in this same movement. We can’t wait to hear from all the rest of you out there wandering down the same crooked trail…

To learn more about where we are coming from, check out our About page.

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