Bledsoe Creek State Park, TN.

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We wrapped up our eleven nights at Bledsoe Creek State Park. This was our base camp while Dear Husband finished up his last weeks at work, we visited with friends we won’t see for a while, and we ran some last errands. The weather was back and forth from awful to excellent to awful. We had cold, rain, warmth, sun, snow,  you name it. On the best days we rode bikes ( from across the lake we could see our Tracy), fed the ducks (our camping chickens), played at the park, swung in the hammock and so on. On the cold or rainy days we ran errands, knitted, organized, and watched movies. Of course laundry and schoolwork don’t care about the weather and I wove that into our days as well.

Bledsoe Creek State Park is full, and I mean crazy full, of wildlife. Deer stared at us as we walked past them to the park, ducks raced up to see if we had treats, even a heron waited patiently on the dock as I walked Mack on by. I guess they enjoy seeing the people as much as the people enjoy seeing them. I’ve never seen such diverse wildlife in one state park and I wonder if I ever will again. It made our camping and waiting for our big departure delightful.

Our truck, trailer, and spirits are ready to roll. Off we head to explore.

Mammoth Cave National Park and Visiting Stephen Bishop’s Grave.

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Last month we finished up Journey to the Bottomless Pit: The Story of Stephen Bishop and Mammoth Cave by Betsy Mitchell. The boys and I were fascinated by Stephen Bishop’s discoveries in Mammoth Cave. We were intrigued by the owners of the cave before it was a National Park. We loved hearing about the excursions, visitors, and news in the 1800s. Finally, when we read he was still buried in a little cemetery at the park, I thought it would be crazy not to go one last time and see it.

Last week’s warm Friday provided the perfect chance for a visit. We arrived around noon and spent time surveying our National Park passport options. Our first book is weathered and needs to retire. We thought new books for this road trip was in order. The boys settled on the blue passports (they have different kids versions or larger more elaborate versions) because they have ample stamping room and are pocket-sized. Each fella got his own book to stamp as he wishes at all the National Parks (and probably State Parks) we’ll encounter. The store employee was incredibly helpful and instrumental in helping us decide.

We then met up with some school friends for a hike to the grave site and around the grounds. It was a quick walk to the site and with clear signage we located his stone placement easily. We headed just a bit further to Sunset Point and looped down and around to the natural entrance. Little fella kept breaking off icicles in large sections. Dear Husband and my older son walked ahead at Mack’s (our dog) pace.

After the hike, we meandered into the museum. I was thrilled to catch a short movie about Stephen Bishop and his two fellow guides Mat and Nicholas. It spoke to their adventurous spirits and contributions to Mammoth Cave. I watched it through and then found the boys and watched it with them as well. I’ve not seen this movie at the museum before and wonder if I just didn’t notice it or if it was new. Either way, we enjoyed it.

Feeling satiated, we headed back for the evening. Passports in hand, their first stamps and National Park clicked off, we were ready for another National Park the next day.

Sorting it Out.

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Dear Husband is finishing out the month at work, so we are living “on the road” locally. That’s actually worked out fabulous for us. We have had our share of kinks to work out. For instance, my muck boots failed miserably. Who knew they were so leaky? New muck boots located, check. We realized our wheel chocks were a big fail, as Tracy literally hopped forward while we had the jacks setting down. It wasn’t as scary as it sounds, but, yes, we had new wheel chocks shipped in.

Plus, the closet situation is failing. It has a “false” floor with a hidden storage bucket underneath, but darn it, that lends no support for actual “stuff” because it’s not solid. I had two plastic drawer storage containers in there that were just weighing too much. They shoved into the bucket, pushed that down, it collapsed. I removed one unit, it collapsed, I removed more,  it collapsed, well, you get the idea. I had to switch some things around. I think I found something that will work. Let’s see, our Berkey water filter broke too. Then I’m also adjusting to Dear Husband’s laptop computer. It’s been very hard for me to check photos for clarity, because every time the screen moves, the photos look different. Well, that wraps up most of the fails.

It’s not all tragedies though, in fact it’s been pleasant with this wave of warm weather coming in. Waking up with the sweet flock of ducks (including unique Muscovy ducks)  has been a treat. My youngest son said they take the place of our chickens and requested we have some ducks when we resettle. I washed dishes outside the other day while a dozen or so ducks had their heads tucked behind their wings and rested just at the shore beyond our site. It was darn adorable. The boys are on their bikes more than they ever have been (me too and my thighs are feeling it!) and the park is the favorite hang out as of late. The weather warmed up so much that the barren campground awoke and flooded with campers and campfires galore. I sure do love checking out those fellow Airstreams! (I think I’ll be sharing sweet rig photos in their own posts.) We also got the hammock up, but the boys are in it so much I still haven’t had a chance. I think we may need another hammock. In fact, I think that will happen quite soon.

At night, Dear Husband and I are planning our trail and revising as needed. We are also planning a fun upgrade to the trailer this week. (Dear Husband was checking some wiring for said upgrade.) The boys are getting anxious to “really” start the trip. Just a few more nights and we’ll be heading out.

Volunteering.

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Last winter I searched the local National Parks for volunteer opportunities. Being an avid National Park camper and hiker, the thought of volunteering at one was a dream. Fortunately, just about an hour away, Stones River National Battlefield has an outstanding volunteer program. Scrolling through the listings I found “photographer” and about jumped for joy. I contacted the park, took some required online classes, got my uniform, and started shooting.

One year later, I’m remembering the days I’ve lingered there with camera in hand. I can’t express how fun it is to slither along the ground on my belly to shoot bike riders on the trails, or river side trying to capture floating leaves. It’s wonderfully fulfilling to pursue and capture shots in not only natural surroundings, but at a park with historical significance as well. Civil War era reenactments provide so much photographic interest. Finally, to be honest, it’s also just darn nice to do something I love, without interruptions.

Through the past year I gained a better appreciation for the Civil War, the land and river where the battle was fought, the cemetery, and the people who continually share its stories. I’m ever so appreciative for Stones River’s rangers and volunteers who work daily to keep that history and land alive for all passersby. I am delighted to share the stories through photography.

Check out Stones River National Battlefield for hiking, bike riding (they even have ranger led bike tours!), reenactments, and a peaceful, tidy cemetery walk. Follow them on Facebook and/or Instagram you might catch a photo or two of mine. If you get a chance to visit, give Ranger Jim a high five for his encouraging volunteer program too.

Snow Play.

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It snowed. A lot. The most we’ve seen since we relocated South to Tennessee. I got a text from my friend back “home” in Northern Illinois who said she was jealous. I assured her she’d get to play soon enough. But, for the past few days it has been our turn.

In between chores, Dear Husband toured the boys and the neighbor kiddos around in the jet sled. In between jet sledding, the boys and neighbor kiddos played outdoors or shed every sopping wet mitten, hat, scarf, sock, boot liner, and other layer somewhere across my tile floor in piles as they warmed indoors. In between helping Dear Husband with chores, I cleaned up said sopping items, dried and cleaned, and repeated the process. I won’t lie though, I got a run in the jet sled too. It was fabulous.

Dear Husband confessed to me this afternoon, “I miss snow.” You already know I’m a fan. Like my youngest wondered aloud to his older brother, “There is so much you can do with snow!”

Ice.

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“There’s no snow today.”

“We are getting close,” (upon sighting of frost.)

“When is it going to snow?”

These are the common first phrases I hear these mornings. At last, this morning I could respond with, “Well, the pond is frozen.” Really it’s just a thin top layer, but it’s still pretty and one step closer to the snow they are hoping for. It will come. Winter has just begun.

Wreaths Across America.

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This past weekend I took the boys to Stones River National Battlefield near Murfreesboro. My main motivation was to shoot the wreaths, but the weather was scary beautiful, so I brought their bikes and we hiked/biked first. We finished up at cemetery for a half hour or so of wandering.

It was only when I got home that I realized that Wreaths Across America supplied the wreaths, not Stones River. It is such a touching tribute. I saw several families bring their children to walk among the wreaths and shoot their own photos. I even saw a dog posing stone-side. I’m not the type to like to linger at cemeteries, but this cemetery just feels so peaceful.

Seed Stitch Wreath.

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What better new wreath, than a knitted one? Right?

To make this wreath I stripped down my old wreath for the metal frame. Then I just knitted (a K2, P2 seed stitch) a long rectangle (really a short scarf) to pull over the frame after I fastened the started and finished ends (the short ends) together.

Wanna make one? Here’s what I used. (Please don’t go out and buy yarn or needles to make one. Use up the bulky/chunky yarn you have and the biggest needles you’ve got.)

Gather:

1 metal wire wreath frame (Note: You may want to spray paint it a color that will match your yarn.)

Scrap bulky/chunky yarn (I had Oatmeal color Lions Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick on hand.)

Size 17 needles

Knit:

Holding two strands of bulky yarn together, cast on 7. (Or more or less depending on the size of your frame. My frame measured 1 1/4″ wide. My knitting measured 3 1/2″ wide.)

Row 1: K2, P2, K2, P1

Row 2: P2, K2, P2, K1

Repeat rows until you have enough length to fit around your wreath VERY snuggly (definitely do some tests as you go). Tightness ensures no need to affix besides slipping it on and creates a nice roundness.

Bind off when you reach desired length. Sew the two short ends together and pull over your frame. Celebrate!

Outdoors in October.

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The boys and I have been out and about quite a bit. We’ve been out apple picking, pumpkin picking, learning sweet moves at sword fencing class (while Dear Husband and I spectate), playing at school group meet ups, visiting with Grandma, and just running plenty of errands. We’ve also had our very first flat tire together this month en route to fencing class, too. Oh my, did I forget to mention my sister and nephew’s visit too?  We did the Foo Fighters concert in Nashville. Phew, I do feel like we are squeezing every drop out of this beautiful month!