Sunday, September 22, 2013

Goodbye to Summer and Hello to Fall

Here are some of the last projects we did this summer and a few of the first things we did for "school".

Planet soaps! Fynn had a lot of fun- they are milled soaps, so I stayed up late the night before grating them with a cheese grater so they would be ready to mold into planet shapes in the morning.  I used those colored glycerin soaps so we wouldn't have to worry about adding colors (and Fynn LOVES colors) but they were artificially scented, and by the time I finished grating the last bar I was almost sick! (Don't tell Fynn that) Next time we will use natural soaps for sure. (Don't worry, they're not so bad now that they're just sitting on the bathroom sink :))

 This is another one of the first "official" planned school projects we did this year- it's a "balloon slide" made from cardboard. Balloon slides (aka inflatable slides) are one of Fynn's favorite things. We colored this slide with markers together, complete with the "ladder-in-the-middle" and taped it to another box so it made a functional slide!

It was awesome to see Fynn and Rowan both climbing up and sliding down (sharing happily!) but the most magic of moments was when we were creating it.  Rowan was napping and it was just Fynn and me coloring together and I just had this sense that here was this special little boy with all these wonderful magical things that he loves flying all around him-  balloon slides, planets, stars, whales, numbers, all at his service, if you will, and I felt so blessed and humbled to be a part of it.  This phenomenon occurs to me every once in a while. I believe it has something to do with his strong sensitivities to what is around him, and that the things he loves are more than just hobbies to him, but they are important things that maybe symbolize who he is and who he will become in the future, and I think when I help to nurture his creativity, it opens the door for his little spirit to soar!

And here is another balloon slide we made together- a smaller model :)

And here's some pics of the kids at the New West Fest balloon slide- the highlight of summer for Fynn:

And now, Rowan will play us a proper farewell song to Summer...

Happy Fall everyone!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September School Crafts & Projects! (part one)

On a whim, Fynn and I decided to paint planets on his backpack.  It was formerly a Lightening McQueen backpack complete with flashing lights-  the lights make great shining stars, see the shining star next to Jupiter?  I painted the black background and white shapes for the planets, and Fynn colored them in with paint. It turned out awesome! (It's really a good idea to start with white shapes when painting on a black background cause it helps the paint to show up better) At the top it says something about "speed" which is funny because Jupiter, who we featured as the center of our painting, spins the fastest of all the planets!

Not necessarily a school project but  I thought I'd share that I sliced open this delicious heirloom tomato from Revive Gardens and inside was... JUPITER!

Here's the little artist/scientist/silliest at work...

And now, a totally new obsession... Fynn's first VOLCANO!  Of course, we couldn't just do one, we had to do 2, no 3... the third is Mt. Tabor. It's just paper- it doesn't explode... The red one is Mount Olympus (on Mars) and the blue one is Mt. Hood...

Vinegar, red food coloring, baking soda, you know...

We've been watching volcano shows on youtube the past 2 days and Fynn is learning so much so fast!

"Mount Hood" - Fynn built this- I am amazed at the structure of it! If you look inside, there is an orange block (molten lava), though the real Mount Hood is currently sleeping...

Fynn climbing to the top of Mt. Hood

If you'll notice, Rowan is wearing his dinosaur and volcano shirt for the occasion:)

And speaking of Rowan, he's busy reading his book for school time:)

Well, that wasn't nearly all... more to come, so stay posted! -Beth

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Planets, Homeschooling

Our Solar System, made from spokeshavings

So- our homeschooling of Fynn has evolved into a very dynamic and exciting style of follow th' leader. The "leader" being Fynn's interests. What ever he is interested in can be used as a tool to teach just about any topic. We of course had a summer break from official schooling, but kids never stop learning. Fynn's current passion is planets, our solar system, and stars larger than th' sun. He's been making model solars sytems and covering our back porch each day with drawings. We've learned so much about planets that we never knew before, it's been really exciting following him on this new venture. So here's some photos of planets and whatnot that he's made, as well as some interesting facts about space that we've learned through him.

 Fynn with Jupiter painted on his face, and a drawing of Jupiter, it was too big to fit on th' page. That black dot is a moons shadow. Jupiter also has a ring. I didn't know that. Jupiter is large enough to hold all the other planets combined. It has 64 known moons. It also spins so fast that it's not round, it bulges at th' equator creating something of an oval shaped planet. Jupiter is so large that it could contain all th' planets combined and still have room. It's gravitational pull is so great that it is actually drawing asteroids and debris from the asteroid belt between it and Mars towards it, which may account for why it has 64 known moons. 

 And here is Uranus, discovered in 1781. It's th' coldest planet in our solar system, even though it is not th' farthest from th' sun. It spins on an axis nearly perpendicular to the other planets.

Just after Uranus is Neptune, now considered th' last planet. Pluto, as Fynn says, has been delisted.
But Why? Well, Pluto belongs to a group of objects, known as Trans-Neptunian Objects, that orbit around the perimeter of our solar system. The group together is called the Kuiper (kyper) Belt, and holds an estimated 77,000 "planetoids" or large asteroids, as well as much dust and debris. The orbit of the Kuiper belt is on a diagonal plane compared to the orbit of the other planets, and at some points actually intersects with the orbit of Neptune. What that means is that for a while Pluto was actually closer to th' sun than Neptune. Pluto has a moon named Charon, but Charon doesn't really revolve around Pluto, they kinda revolve around each other, making some scientists consider them a binary planet. Pluto also has two smaller moons that orbit it.

Notice Saturn's large rings in th' picture below, but did you know that th' clouds around th' north pole of Saturn form a hexagon?

Fynn has also been playing with scale models of th' planets, which is great for imagining how far apart they really are. For example, if the earth were shrunk down to th' size of a basket ball, the moon would be th' size of a tennis ball- and can you guess how far away that tennis ball would be from that basket ball to be an acurate comparison of the earth and moon? 21 feet! Mars would be 83 feet away from that basketball Earth! We've had a lot of fun holding a basketball and having the other person walk th' required distance away with a scale model, it really helps to put those vast distances into perspective.

Here's a couple drawings of the planets in space, space being th' charcoal he takes from th' firepit.

The Universe is so large it boggles the mind. But is it really? The fact is that size is a comparison, and we can look infinitely large or infinitely small, so really we have no idea how big we are, or anything else for that matter.

The two extra planets seen in th' picture below are MakeMake and Eres, which is bigger than Pluto.

He'll even make square planets.

He's also very excited about stars larger than th' sun, as this video shows...

and last, but not least, is a solar system that Fynn drew at one of our farmer's market booths.

Well, hope you've had fun learning a little bit about our solar system and universe, there's so much more to know...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


"When two or more wood bowmen find themselves together, whatever conversation ensues is largely veneer. Their most important communication is subterranean and worldless. It's a shared sense of the bow's mystery, of ties to an ancient, authentic world, of quiet kinship. Become a woodbow man and you join a band of brothers stretching back in an unbroken line to you 500th grandfather. A time when, unlike our present competitive world, your life and the life of those close to you depended on the sharing of knowledge, goods, and danger. Become a woodbow man and you see that ancient spirit resurrected, other bowmen share with you their secrets, their help, even wood and tools. And maybe more surprising, you note that without calculation or conscious will you yourself becoming such a person too. If this evokes even a whiff of primal familiarity then it's entirely proper that you step at least tentatively onto that ancient path: Make your first bow and see what happens."
 First, locate your tree.

Chop it down. 

Split it into as many pieces as you can, still leaving ample room for bow layout.

Peeling th' bark while green is easy, and it rolls up into nice tubes that look like limbs, but are hollow. With elm at least. 

From here i chop them out to thick rough dimensions, then let them sit on racks in my garage for two weeks, then i start one at a time with them on th' shave horse, taking them down to beginning tiller dimensions. From this point th' wood dries quickly, and with th' low relative humidity here, i can go from live tree to finished bow in a month.

First pull on th' tillering stick shows one limb bending more than the other. After much trial and error, i've figured out a system where i can draw out th' bow and carve it out and have it very close to finised before i even string it. But i mean much trial and error. Many many bows. Many of them broken. Heartaches. Lessons learned. Now i naturally avoid many of th' mistakes i used to make, just because i made them so many times. I spent six years making these things and i've finally gotten to a point to where i am beginning to understand bow design. Every time i learn something new, a new technique for safely removing wood, a new trick, a new layout, and i take a step forward, i realize how much i have yet to learn. Bows are amazing, and i give thanks to those who've fed their families by th' skills of their hands making these things. They are so simple, just a bent stick that launches an arrow, but sometimes it's so hard to be so simple.

Make th' limbs bend evenly, shoot it a few hundred times, re check tiller, then grease it up with lard, pine pitch, beeswax, and oil. 

sinew backed hackberry
shadow tillering

meare heath bow at (my) full draw

I do make these on comission, so if you'd like one just let me know.

And now i'll leave you with some parting thoughts.

"In every Indian wigwam were kept bow staves on hand in different stages of readiness for work. Indeed, it has often been averred that an Indian was always on th' lookout for a good piece of wood or other raw material. This, he thought, will make me a good snow-shoe frame, or bow, or arrow and i will cut it down. These treasures were put into careful training at once, bent, straightened, steamed, scraped, shaped, when ever a leisure moment arrived.
As a rule, however, th' savage mind had as it's problem, not that of the modern of ransacking the earth for materials and transferring them to artificial centers of consumption, but the development of the resources of each culture area, to make the bow and arrow that each region would best help him to create. His was an epoch of differentiation."

~North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers by Otis Mason 1893