Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

One of the benefits of currently living on the Forgotten Coast here in Florida is enjoying all the natural beauty around us.

This weekend we took a family field trip to nearby Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located near East Point, FL just before you drive over the Apalachicola Bay to St. George Island, this Reserve has an incredible Nature Walk, an Overlook for observing the Bay, and a wonderful Nature Center with lots of specimens, exhibits as well as aquariums.

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Welcome to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR)!
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The littles exploring the Nature Trail.
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Purple Martin houses near the Bay Overlook.
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The kids loved looking across the Apalachicola Bay at St. George Island.
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After thoroughly exploring the Nature Walk and the Bay Overlook, we headed up to the Nature Center.
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The boys were amazed at the size of this whale backbone that was found.
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This wonderful interactive map showed the various boundaries for nearby parks and reserves and sensitive areas.
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Aquarium residents Horseshoe Crab and Atlantic Stingray. We loved watching them interact!
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Aquarium resident Diamondback Terrapin.
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ANERR collects rain water and it’s quite the show! There are two pipes for observing water moving from the roof to cisterns below the building, where it is used for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses.
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My book worm already working on the Activity Guide she got from the gift shop.

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Mondays With Frost: A Girl’s Garden

Today I wanted to share one of Frost’s poems from his 1916 Mountain Interval.

A Girl’s Garden

A neighbor of mine in the village
      Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
      A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
      To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
       And he said, “Why not?”

In casting about for a corner
      He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
      And he said, “Just it.”

And he said, “That ought to make you
      An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
      On your slim-jim arm.”

It was not enough of a garden,
      Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
      But she don’t mind now.

She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
      Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
      Her not-nice load,

And hid from anyone passing.
      And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
      Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
      Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets,beans, pumpkins, corn,
      And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
      That a cider-apple tree
In bearing there today is hers,
      Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
      When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
      A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
      How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
      She says, “I know!”

“It’s as when I was a farmer…”
      Oh, never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
      To the same person twice.

We’ve got a bit of a patchwork garden going here, and the images that are evoked when reading this poem are just priceless.

I have children of my own – one of whom has also in seasons past asked for her very own garden bed. Her best crop ended up being the bird seed she planted…

There are so many images conjured up with this poem – a child wanting to try something new, willing to do the grittiest of tasks but embarrassed if she is seen doing them, and somehow with the confidence of youth, feeling as though one try at something has made her an expert. I can certainly see myself in her!

One link to share this week. Robert Frost spent years at his Derry Farm home, and it is a Historical Site now. The website has wonderful information, about his life and his works. It is worth exploring. One link I wanted to include was the Teacher’s Resources, which includes lesson plans and ideas to incorporate Frost poems into various subjects.

Robert Frost’s Derry Farm – Teachers’ Resources

One resource listed, of interest to me, is using Frost in a more unconventional manner, to teach global warming, astronomy, botany, among other subjects. The link listed in the Teachers’ Resources is broken so here is the live link.

Robert Frost In The Petri Dish

Mondays With Frost: Hyla Brook

Here we are in the middle of June, so I though this poem would be fitting…

Hyla Brook

By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow) –
Or flourished and come up in jewelweed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent,
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat –
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

I love this… the image it evokes. Here in Florida, we aren’t even in summer officially yet and we are almost hitting 100 degrees F in the afternoon. We live close to a bog, and when I step outside in the evenings, I hear the noise of insects, crickets, and of course the frogs! I don’t know what kind of frogs we have in this area, maybe they are also the Hyla breed mentioned in the poem.

Last week, I shared a link to a fascinating article regarding a character attack on Frost. I had no idea some people felt so harshly about him. I’ve done some more reading, and I found a more detailed biography which speaks about Frost’s dark tone, and suggests the dark tone found in his later writing could be attributed to a decade-long series of personal tragedies.

Here is another story, this time in the Washington Post, about the Oates short story that took aim at Frost.

And here is the short story itself, published in the November 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. I will say, it is tough reading a work of fiction about a real person. As you read, you are left wondering, where the truthful depiction ends and the fiction picks up. Taken with the various criticisms of Oates’s short story, it would appear that this picture of Frost is grossly exaggerated. But it is worth the read.

In Common: Surprised By Joy

My 2016 reading plan has gone off the rails, thanks  to  my return to work. Even with working part-time, I am struggling to keep up with my self-imposed pace.

But that’s okay. My reading list should work for me, and not the other way around. I have been reevaluating my list, and have been deciding which titles are must-haves for the year, and which ones can be postponed.

My current Read pile includes a couple of titles I’ve been working on slowly since January, as well as a few new ones that I’ve just added.

During this season of life, I am finding myself drawn to books that focus on educational philosophy, parenting, and Christian faith.

One book that I am wrapping up this week (finally!) is C.S. Lewis Surprised By  Joy.

While I have been exploring the writings of C.S. Lewis, it has been incredible to read about his childhood and early life experiences. So often, we have a one-dimensional view of authors; we only know them through their writings.

C.S. Lewis is of course known for his writings on Christian apologetics, but to read about his transformation into an atheist and eventual discovery of true Christian faith is quite moving.

Lewis shared about his time living with and being tutored by a family friend Mr. Kirkpatrick, or Old Knock as he was sometimes called. He wrote of his time reading and studying Homer in Greek.

In our homeschool, we are just getting started with Latin, which I am quite excited about since I studied Latin all through high school.  We have also learned the Hebrew alphabet and are still in the early stages of learning vocabulary and basic grammar.

This passage, from Lewis’ time with Old Knock, really struck me as we work on learning new languages.

The great gain was that I very soon became able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. The very formula, “Naus means a ship,” is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.

As I find myself getting stressed out because I have less time available for personal scholarship right now, I am reminded of another passage, again from Lewis’ time with Old Knock. Reflecting on the ideal day of study and reflection, what he terms “settled, calm, Epicurean life.” This ideal schedule, defined by set study times and minimal interactions and distractions, sound wonderful to someone seeking a scholarly life. But as Lewis points out:

It is no doubt for my own good that I have been so generally prevented from leading it, for it is a life almost entirely selfish. Selfish, not self-centered: for in such a life my mind would be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself.

These words will serve as a comfort as I try to find that perfect balance between family, faith, work and personal scholarship.

In Common: The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic

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This week my daughter and I finished up our current read aloud, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic.

This was a truly epic story.

It was chock full of heroes, life lessons, moral messages, and good old fashioned adventure!

Though the story focuses on the adventures that Persimmony experiences as she struggles to save her island and its inhabitants from a sleeping giant as well as themselves, there are several supporting characters that have adventures of their own and moral lessons to share.

It it so easy to see our own character flaws and weaknesses in the characters of the story, and learn from their experiences

And… it was just a FUN read! We have been in hysterics the whole week as we’ve been reading. And my daughter and I have been having a blast perfecting our thinking pose:

King Lucas was in the middle of a philosophy lesson. At the moment, Professor Quibble was busy getting into the correct posture, which he had to get exactly right in order to concentrate as a philosopher needed to do. First he bent one knee upward and rested the foot on his other leg. Then he held the bridge of his nose delicately between his thumb and forefinger and raised the other arm upward in a graceful curve like a half moon. “Now, where were we? Oh yes. We were about to discuss the most ancient philosophical question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

 

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In Common: Sleeping Giants

IMG_2964I’ve been juggling several books – education philosophy books, history books, parenting and theology books.

I haven’t sat down with a Sci-Fi book, just for fun, in months.

I’ve just joined the Litsy online community, and my first day there a post about a new book, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, came across my feed.

I saw several posts about this book and my interest was piqued. I placed an order that night and my book arrived just a couple of days ago.

This book focuses on a presumed alien artifact that was unearthed almost two decades ago, and how the person who accidentally discovered it comes full circle to be the lead investigator in its origins and meaning.

I.am.hooked.

I am really enjoying this book and I am especially glad it’s the first in a series!

I tend to fall in love with characters and storylines and hate when they end after only one book.

Written as a collection of interview transcripts, journal entries, newspaper articles and mission logs, this format just works. And it is a creative way to tell the story from multiple points of view.

An excerpt from an interview with the main character, Dr. Rose Franklin:

And you now know what it is we are looking for?

– I haven’t the faintest idea. But I think that’s a good thing. I think those who looked at it before failed because they knew too many things, or so they thought.

Sometimes we need to step back from our weightier reading selections and just enjoy some fiction. This is my book treat!

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In Common: The Heirloom Life Gardener

At any given moment, I am cycling through a tall stack of books – books on parenting, history, education, theology, even fiction when I can squeeze it in.

I love the idea of sharing short excerpts of what I am am currently reading. Look for these updates each week as the feature In Common.

This week I am excited to share a new book that arrived just days ago.

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If you garden at all you may be familiar with Baker Creek Seed Company. They specialize in heirloom varieties of everything imaginable (or least it seems that way).

Flipping through their catalog is one of the best ways to pass the colder months while you dream of a spring garden.

Don't let the abundance of awesome pictures fool you. This is not a coffee table book. It is packed full of information!
Don’t let the abundance of awesome pictures fool you. This is not a coffee table book. It is packed full of information!

The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally is a wonderful book published in 2011, and tells the history of Baker Creek Seed Company and of its founder, Jere Gettle.

The motivating story of how someone grew up with a passion for seeds and heirlooms and has turned it into his mission.
The motivating story of how someone grew up with a passion for seeds and heirlooms and has turned it into his mission.

But it’s so much more than a history of the company. It’s a plea for the return to a more natural way of gardening, before the richness of heirloom varieties are lost to the forward march of agroindustry, GMOs and monoculture.

You don't have to live on 174 acres in the Ozarks to grow your own food! Gettle includes ideas and suggestions for growing your own food and supporting local agriculture even if you live in a city.
You don’t have to live on 174 acres in the Ozarks to grow your own food! Gettle includes ideas and suggestions for growing your own food and supporting local agriculture even if you live in a city.

This book is a wonderful introduction to planting, growing, harvesting and seed-saving. An A to Z Growing Guide, including many heirloom varieties (many you’ve probably never seen or heard of before!), rounds out this fascinating and colorful book.

Prepare to be amazed. This guide includes crops you are familiar along with many heirloom varieties you've probably never seen before.
Prepare to be amazed. This guide includes crops you are familiar along with many heirloom varieties you’ve probably never seen before.

Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 3: Seeds in America:

A hundred years ago, children spent time in a garden while they were growing up. If you wanted to eat lunch, you often needed to work in the garden. Hundreds of schoolschildren visit Baker Creek each year to take tours of our Bakersville pioneer village. Many of them have never planted seeds or even seen a garden up close. I love watching them giggle when they see our big old turkeys wobbling around – because although these kids may have eaten a fair share of turkey sandwiches in their life, this is the first time they’re getting to see where the turkey comes from. When they see our gardens, they are excited. Wow, they say, I can actually grow my own food? I can plant a garden all by myself? The idea of getting something to eat anywhere outside of a supermarket, convenience store, or fast-food restaurant is fascinating to them. Their eyes nearly pop out of their heads when they see what we’re growing and realize what it is possible to do on a farm.

I am at once encouraged to hear about children’s excitement when seeing gardens for the first time and saddened about their ignorance of something as simple as the source of their food. This book is motivation to not only garden for the sake of gardening but also to play a part in the preservation of our future food supply.

 

 

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Marginalia: The Complete Poems of Robert Frost

In some circles, old books have been relegated to the scrap pile – good for nothing more than stylish decor for bookshelves (seriously, this is a thing…) or for crafting material. While I would certainly agree that there are some books that are worth little more than tinder, regardless of age or condition, I believe that older books can and do hold immense value.

Older books are often fine examples of the craftsmanship that was commonplace long ago. It just wasn’t as common to find quality literature in cheaper paperback form, like is the case today.

Older books also have HISTORY. I just love the idea of a book having been read, studied, and loved so many years ago. I know I have so many books in my personal library that are, to me, treasures, and I imagine someone long ago cherishing these older books in just the same way.

To truly make a book yours, to have a conversation with the author, often requires jotting down notes, writing commentary, underlining, referencing other works.

Part of the pleasure in discovering older books while booking (yeah, that’s a word now) is finding a previous owner’s notes. I am still kicking myself for not grabbing a pocket edition Shakespeare play (A Midsummer’s Night Dream if I recall) that was filled with ancient pencil notes throughout.

I love my copy of The Poetry of Robert Frost (left) – it’s paperback and has a 1979 publication date. But I recently found an somewhat older hardback, with a most recent copyright of 1964. This was a well-loved copy, with extensive notes throughout.

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A minor detail, but one that adds that “something” in a hardback.

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IMG_0578 The introduction, entitled The Figure a Poem Makes, and signed R.F. The previous owner’s notation drew me immediately to the paragraph on the left. “It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” sigh.

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The previous owner went through and notated all poems that were included in another student addition.

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One poem that isn’t included in this collection is pointed out.

IMG_0581The previous owner, at several points, make notations like this, connecting words to reinforce the relationship between them.

IMG_0582I have had a harder time deciphering some of the other commentary found throughout. The script is a little too sloppy.

IMG_0583Notations in Two Witches: The Witch of Coos. An interesting reference to the 1946 two-act opera The Medium, written by Gian Carlo Menatti.

IMG_0584Here in A Star in a Stone Boat, heavy notations. Connections made between words, and several illegible comments. I wish I could make out what the owner had to say about this poem!

IMG_0585Even the year of publication for each collection was added in by the owner.

I have so enjoyed going through this copy of Robert Frost and seeing how well-loved it was. And I am even further motivated to keep my own marginalia neat enough for future readers!