Archive by Author

Photo Adventure: Ten Lakes Redemption

20 Jul

On completely separate occasions, both my friend Daniella and I, had kinda lousy experiences at Ten Lakes. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Camping in Yosemite is still preferable to many things, even if it does involve blood loss, sickness, missing persons, and monumental amounts of whining.

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But looking back on the experience several years later, I still remember amid all the complaining, the jaw dropping view from Ten Lakes Pass, and the view of the lakes. It was time for us to give Ten Lakes another try.

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Glacial Polish

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In the early evening we heard rockfall off of this wall.

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The moon, Jupiter, and Venus reflecting on glacial polish

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The wildflowers were so fluorescent they could have been painted by Lisa Frank.

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I was apparently obsessed with glacial polish on this trip.

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Blue Conness

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Redeemed.

~Robin

Photo Adventure: The Best Camera

25 Jun

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Tenaya Lake Encased in Fog

These pictures are from all the way back in May when I took a weekend trip to the Eastern Sierra.

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Tuolumne River, sadly bare of snow

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my camera battery, or rather, forgot to pack the battery I had charged….and forgot to bring the car charger I bought specifically so I could recharge my camera batteries during road trips. Awesome.

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Sunset at South Tufa

(Also, a jar of Nutella was pretty much the only provisions I brought for the entire trip. Either I wasn’t at my smartest when I packed my food, or I was a freaking genius. I can’t decide which.)

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Storm Clouds over Mono LakeIMG_1195_2
Snowy June Lake Loop

Besides I couldn’t skip posting these, look who showed up!

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Aprilly!

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Aprilly and Greg!

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They brought better food than I did, and even managed to make baked brie in a dutch oven in a downpour. Left to my own devices, I probably would have just eaten spoonfuls of Nutella in my van. I’m glad they endeavored because it was soooo good. (I offered to spread some of my half-eaten jar of Nutella on it, but for some reason they declined.)

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The next day the weather cleared enough for us to hike into Lundy Canyon.

It turns out Greg and I have differing opinions on photo orientation. He hates anything that isn’t landscape. This immediately made me want to champion portrait orientation as the superior choice in photo layouts. But then I realized that I’ve been shooting more and more in a square format since I started goofing off on Instagram, and I kinda like that too. So here it is, I’m stating it for the record: I’m pro photo layout diversity.

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~Robin

P.S. I miss you!

One Dead Person Who Is Definitely On the Invite List to My Imaginary Dinner Party

30 May

Today I want to talk about someone I admire. She lived over a century ago, her name was Lydia Maria Francis Child, and she was a 19th century badass.

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Portrait from her collected letters

Most people have never heard of her but they probably know the first verse of a poem she wrote:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Knowing only that, you would probably picture her as a silly Martha Stewart-esque house wife. Cheerful, rosy cheeked, with an annoying inclination for “the way things used to be”. This picture is far from correct.

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Hale Farm and Village

I learned about Child when I did an internship at Hale Farm and Village years ago. I was encouraged to read her book The American Frugal Housewife Dedicated To Those Who Are Not Ashamed Of Economy. At first I only paged through it, unimpressed by the random list of tips for 19th century housewives. But when I finally read it properly I was grabbed by her introduction. In it she says:

“The writer has no apology to offer for this cheap little book of economical hints, except her deep conviction that such a book is needed. In this case, renown is out of the question, and ridicule is a matter of indifference.”

“The information conveyed is of a common kind; but it is such as the majority of young housekeepers do not possess, and such as they cannot obtain from cookery books. Books of this kind have usually been written for the wealthy: I have written for the poor.”

Every piece of advice in the book is intended to be one hundred percent practical. Child is practically poetical on the topics of frugality and economy, and she had little patience for frivolousness or vanity. When writing about how to maintain combs she advises:

“The jewellers afterwards polish them by rubbing them with dry rouge powder; but sifted magnesia does just as well- and if the ladies had rouge, perhaps they would, by mistake, put it upon their cheeks, instead of their combs; and thereby spoil their complexions.”

That, my friends, is nineteenth century sass.

There are even a few tips and “receipts” that are still practical, or at the very least intriguing, including one that has been all the rage on pinterest. Rather than a modern day Martha Stewart, think of her instead as the life-hacks queen of the 1830s.

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Hale Farm and Village

Of course, the majority of the book is outdated today. Very few of us need her advice for keeping butter in brine, making our own lye from ashes, or her three different preventions for lockjaw. (I like to think that if she were alive today, we would share zealous opinions on the subject of anti-vaxxers.) The America of Child’s Frugal Housewife was very different from our own, and struggling with it’s own contemporary issues. Yet, even today, her devotion to economy is still valuable. American Frugal Housewife was a great success for Child, and led her to publish other domestic manuals.

But she didn’t just publish domestic manuals. In fact, she was a prolific writer who published works in a wide variety of genres. Over her career she authored works of historical fiction, children’s literature, comparative history, political opinion, and romance. More importantly, she was a driven activist, fighting not only for women’s rights, but also for the abolition of slavery, prison reform, and against Indian removal. Certain aspects of her activism make me think that she would be right at home among modern feminists, particularly the way that she campaigned for the rights of less privileged minorities. She seemed to understand that there was a connection between white supremacy and the rights of women. That was something that other prominent feminists didn’t always get.

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Photo shamelessly plundered from Wikipedia

She gets even more badassery points because she managed to use her writing to support herself through her husband David’s rocky legal and political career, even during a period of time when he was jailed for libel.

Sure she is not without her flaws. Her style of writing, while probably entertaining for her intended audience, today seems a bit trite. Today’s women might be annoyed by how freely she issued parenting advice considering that she did not have children herself. But I admire her because she didn’t shy away from controversy, and used her talents to create positive change.

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From a letter about John Brown to Virginia Governor Henry Wise.

In a society where talking about money was borderline profanity, she saw that women with limited means couldn’t learn how to manage their households. So she wrote a book for them. She wanted children to have both constructive ways to play, and reading material that was entertaining and educational. She published several children’s books and took on an ambitious project: the first American magazine specifically for children. She saw that slavery was entrenched in American culture and scandalized polite society by writing against it, advocating for the black right to vote, even for interracial marriage. She was unapologetic about her controversial beliefs in a society that expected women to fade into the background.

And Lord help you if you ever found yourself at the receiving end of her sarcastic italics.

~Robin

From Reading Green to…. Sleeping Outside

20 May

The day April posted that she was going to take on a challenge to read harder I found myself squirming with guilt. Should I take on the same challenge? I love reading, and I should try to diversify what I read.

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To tell you the truth I feel like I already have. During our month long earth day celebration I read several books that would not have gone to on my own. For the most part, they were great. I was glad that Earth Day gave me the incentive to pick up treasures like The World Without Us, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or Trash (which I thoroughly enjoyed but never got a chance to review.) Still by the time the end of April rolled around I was counting down the days until I could put the blog reading aside and finish the Magicians series and dive into Wildwood.

But there was another thing that drove me nuts all through the month of April: I was spending way too much time chained to my laptop. I wanted to get out more, but April is a busy time for me, and I’m a slow writer, so I spent the majority of my limited free time staring at a computer screen and slowly going crazy. In a few months I’m going to start taking classes for grad school, and I’m sincerely worried that it’s only going to get worse.

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Less of this….

But I just happened to wander over to Semi-Rad that day and Brendan had issued his own challenge. Spend 31 Nights between now and September sleeping outside. Quite honestly, accepting his challenge feels a bit like cheating. This challenge is genuinely impossible for people who don’t have the money or the means to get them to a park that allows camping. Not everyone has a backyard to sleep out in, or they live in areas where it’s unsafe to sleep outside. I just happen to be one of the lucky people who occasionally gets paid to sleep outside. And my backyard is a park. I’m spoiled, and it’s something of a travesty that I don’t enjoy it more often.

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So I’ll take that challenge. Even though I probably should be setting goals that are just a little bit harder, I genuinely want to do this. Because even if it only manages to drag me away from the glow of the computer screen and into the outdoors for just one night, I won’t regret it. Not even a little bit.

~Robin

P.S.
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Definitely more of this.

Kitchen Adventure and a Recipe

13 May

Somewhere in the middle of April my friend Grecia invited a bunch of us over to show us how to cook.

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Grecia makes amazing dishes that she learned from her grandmother who grew up in Michoacan Mexico, and we happily eat her food at potlucks while moaning in gastronomic ecstasy. But Grecia is heading to the Marin Headlands soon (lucky gal) and she was gracious enough to teach us how to make a few of these dishes before departing.

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It was a delightful afternoon of friends, laughter, and amazing food.

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This is Marya’s excited face!

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I don’t remember what was happening here, but it was apparently really funny.

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We spent forever trying several different ways to get that stupid lid off. Then Grecia swooped in and rescued us. Yep, she used her teeth.

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Marya is still excited!
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She seriously could not contain herself.

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Flautas con Salsa Verde de Aguacate or Salsa de Papa, y Queso Fresco

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Mole con Sopa de Arroz

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It was an amazing feast.

Grecia even gave me permission to share her recipe for Tamarind Water.

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I wish I had gotten a picture of the tamarinds. I had never seen one, and the bowl of them caught my attention the second I walked into the kitchen. Within a few minutes Grecia had us peeling them and turning them into a delicious sweet and refreshing beverage.

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Agua Fresca de Tamarindo
Ingredients:
2-3lbs of tamarind
Sugar
Water
Intructions: Peel tamarinds and set to soak in water (overnight
preferably). Add more water and squuuuuuezee the juice out with
your hands. Keep adding water until you have squeezed all the juice
out and the seeds are left behind. Strain the juice into a container
and add sugar to your taste. Enjoy!!

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Katie works the tamarind magic.

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Food time. Out of our way!

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Many Good Noms.

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Clean up? No problem. Mila is on it.

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Such a great afternoon.

~Robin

Karma Project: Nepal Earthquake Relief

1 May

Several years ago my friend Glen became friends with a sherpa named Karma in Nepal. Together they created the Karma Project to provide employment, healthcare, and education to Karma’s community. Last Sunday’s earthquake dramatically changed the scope of the project, and now they are using tents and other resources meant for alpine expeditions to house people who lost their homes in Kathmandu.

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Glen has organized a fundraiser to help Karma evacuate his family to a safe location and deliver supplies to the villages of Paiya and Sibuje.

The situation in Nepal is bleak and will become worse. Glen is the calmest and most level-headed person I know. I’ve seen him calmly climb things that scared the crap out of me. Last year he encountered a mountain lion on an evening run, and instead of going home and vowing never to venture out of the house again he continued jogging. The amount of worry he’s shown this past week worries me more than anything else. Any donation (even to another relief organization) would be greatly appreciated.

~Robin

Earth Day: Sharing Nature with Children

30 Apr

Read Green 6.

As I mentioned earlier, children benefit greatly from exposure to nature. If you want more information, I would recommend starting with Richard Luov’s Last Child In the Woods or The Nature Principle. But I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually read either of these books cover to cover, and that’s not exactly the topic I wanted to talk about for my last Earth Day post.

Instead I’m going to assume that you already have a vested interest in sharing natural places with a child in your life, but don’t know how to get started. Maybe you are the parent of the child in question, or lead a scout or youth group. Or maybe you are the cool and/or crazy aunt or uncle who just wants to teach the little nugget to appreciate the outdoors. The good news is that you don’t need an advanced degree in ecology to create meaningful experiences for children in nature. All you really need is a healthy dose of common sense when it comes to safety and some basic knowledge of how to reduce your impact in your natural areas of choice. Once you’re armed with those, feel free to dive into these resources:

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The first, Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children is such a classic that I couldn’t help but steal it’s title for this blog post. More than thirty years after its first publication the activities in it are still pure gold, even for a generation of kids who grew up being amused by computers and video games. I challenge you to find a child under the age of eleven who doesn’t enjoy playing Camouflage, Bat and Moth, or Meet a Tree.

The activities are divided into three categories. (And in true outdoor educator form each category is named after an animal. That is how you know this book is really legit.) Bear activities are calm and often introspective, crow activities encourage observation and physical activity, and otter activities encourage playfulness.

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Another great book that uses a slightly different approach is Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. The first part of this book is geared more towards expanding the skills and perspectives of the mentor, (that’s you,) and the second half dives into activities. It is definitely intended to be more of a curriculum guide than a collection of stand alone activities but don’t let that scare you away. It also focuses more on tracking and survival skills than Cornell’s book, but includes meaningful activities about awareness and community building.

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When my friend Sal described this last book to me, I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way a book existed that connects children with natural places using outdoor activities and books. And yet it does. The book is called A Sense of Place by Daniel A. Kriesberg. While this book is definitely more geared towards teachers, I don’t think the activities are too complicated or difficult to be useful for the rest of us. Plus, if you’ve stuck with us all the way through the month of April you clearly have an interest in books and the environment; it would be kinda great if you could pass those on to the next generation.

Those are just a smattering of the resources I know and love. If you want more ideas I am happy to chat about it. Leave a comment or send us an email.

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Thanks also to everyone who read along with our annual month-long Earth Day celebration. Thanks especially to Mara for writing a guest post, commenting, and also for always being awesome. To Lisa and Rebecca for their proof-reading rescues. To Bethany and Jamie at the El Portal Library who helped me find and check out a huge mountain of books. To Sal, Rebecca, Ayla, Becky, and everyone else who told me about awesome books I should read.

<3 ~Robin

P.S.

Earth Day: The Wild Trees

28 Apr

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Rebecca recommended The Wild Trees to me a few years ago. I picked it up and was immediately sucked in. It tells the stories of a team of researchers who endeavored to learn more about the coast redwoods….by climbing them.

Don’t worry, it’s not a research paper or an expedition report. It’s a wonderful story about the personalities and the lives of the people who were drawn to these trees. My friend Kim recently read this book, but had one complaint: it was keeping her awake because she couldn’t put it down to go to bed. My roommate Ayla saw the book lying on the table last week and she has already finished it. It really is that good.

I don’t know how else to convince you to read it, other than saying that reading it fills me with the same sort of wonder and reverence I feel when I watch this video:

Seriously, go read it.

~Robin

P.S. It’s also just happens to be the book that I reached for when I needed a chunk of text for the Read Green artwork that’s been plastered all over this blog for the past month.

Earth Day: Books in Nature

26 Apr

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Everyone in Yosemite is slightly relieved that we finally got some precipitation this past week. It isn’t even close to enough to relieve the drought, but every little bit helps. We’ve seen the effects of the rain most dramatically in Crane Creek, which runs smack through the middle of the burned area from the El Portal fire last summer. With no plants to hold the soil back the deluge of water has filled the creek with sediment.

The book in the picture is Your Water Footprint by Stephen Leahy. It provides a good overview of current water use issues, and includes a pretty extensive section on the water footprints of everyday products. It also provides several suggestions for how to reduce your individual water footprint, and well made visuals accompany the information.

In truth, I wanted to review more books about reducing water footprints, and after scourging the local libraries, the shelves of Barnes and Noble, the collections of other Central Valley libraries, and even the library of the environmental organization I work for, I was disappointed by how little I found. You would think that in a place in such a dire state of drought, resources like this would be in high demand. Friends, this does not bode well for us.

~Robin

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Earth Day: Nature Journaling

24 Apr

Read Green 6.

You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of dragging art supplies out into the woods. Nature journaling gives me an opportunity to practice my art skills and refine my observations of the natural world, but that’s not why I do it. I really just enjoy hanging around outside and seeing where my eyes and my paintbrush will take me.

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The only hint that I can really offer about nature journaling is that it’s more fun if you don’t pressure yourself to create a masterpiece. Make sure you’re having fun even if your painting of Tissiak ends up looking like an inbred armadillo.

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For everything else I’m going to refer you to a few books on the subject:

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I would start with Keeping a Nature Journal by Charles E. Roth and Clare Walker Leslie. It takes the “no pressure” approach to nature journaling. It focuses mostly on tips and techniques for seeing and observing the world around you, and only scratches the surface of technical drawing skills.

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If technique is what you want, The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson will deliver. It includes techniques for drawing and painting in a variety of mediums.

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Grinnell journaling is a technique that incorporates science into the journaling process through methodical recording and observation. I was blown away by How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson. She managed to write a book that seamlessly incorporates science, art, and outdoor ethics.

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Maybe you still can’t imagine why someone would ever want to make a nature journal, or you just want inspiration. You should pick up Barbara Bash’s True Nature. It’s a little hard to read, but that’s only because every time I try to sit down with it, I find myself wanting to go outside with my paints instead.

Grab your art supplies and get out there and color!

~Robin

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