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675,000 gallons per second

Wanderlust has overcome me again, and so we’ve headed east. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Atlantic; we are ocean bound. With as little a plan as possible, we are easing our way along the southern edge of the Great Lakes—Michigan, Erie, Ontario. No such trip could be complete without a stop at Niagara Falls. Chris and I first saw the [singlepic=1207,300,300] Evening comes over the Falls Falls during our Canadian road trip in college. I remember it was our first major stop of the journey, as well, eager to get someplace beyond our familiar worlds.

Slow as we are (the near-noon departure doesn’t help) with our desire to drive secondary roads as much as possible (not much of a road trip on the interstate), we arrived in Buffalo, NY after 11pm, so we packed it in and set our sites on the Falls for the morning. We didn’t want to stay in the immediate Niagara Falls areas, as too much kitschy tourism can be pretty expensive, not to mention irritating, so we opted for the 30-minute drive or so from our hotel to the Falls—not too bad.

In the morning (okay early afternoon), we drove north to the Falls. After the battle for affordable parking, we took our time strolling around; the high temps and crushing humidity ensured we didn’t move too quickly. I’ve got to say, while the beauty of the falls is stunning, it was tough for me to see through the tourism and truly pushy people. Seriously, I’ve been to a few tourist destination in my time but haven’t been pushed around (literally) as much as I was at Niagara Falls. There were a lot of people in a big hurry, jockeying for the best views, to get to the front of this line or that, or just to shoulder their way past you. I grew tired of the experience rather quickly.

Chris and I had been to the Falls years before on the Canadian side. I remember tourism being pretty thick then, too, but I don’t remember it being quite so tacky. Perhaps we Americans like our garish gimcrack a tad more than our neighbors to the North, but even so, all those years ago Chris and I spent only a few hours seeing the Falls before moving on. (We couldn’t even afford the local campsites.) It all makes me a bit sad, because they are indeed beautiful. Why the beautiful Niagara Falls had to become the “Niagara Falls Theme Park,” I will never truly understand. It seems beauty alone isn’t enough without snow globes, overpriced tee-shirts, and souvenir DVDs. (Ahh, now I’ve turned all negative. I didn’t mean to.)

Honestly, I really was looking forward to experiencing the natural beauty of this landscape with Aidan for the first time. There is something pretty cool about sharing something you’ve experienced years before again this time with your child. Funny, though, as we walked around the park, Aidan mentioned that he’d thought it would be more remote—somehow more “natural” in its setting. It seems he and I aren’t so different in some regards.

Still, determined to make the best of it and embrace all the tourism (maybe not all) the park had to offer, we queued up for the hour and a half wait to board the famed and historical Maid of the Mist (dating back to 1846). This would be a new experience for us all. Despite the unbearably long wait (again in the heat and humidity), the 20-minute-or-so tour nearly under the falls really was worth it. It was a blast. Both Aidan and Chris screamed with joy and we all got soaking wet. Of course, Aidan never even put on his souvenir raincoat, being too cool to stay dry. Honestly, they did very little to keep anyone dry and it was so much fun feeling the force of the Falls so close and the mist covering us in all her glory.

In the end, we had a nice day at Niagara Falls, but we all agreed that one day was surely enough and set our sites on the next stop of our easterly, impromptu road trip.

backyard robins

Once again, our backyard has become a haven for spring robins. One attentive mother made a nest in the corner of our pergola by the
[singlepic=1191,350,350]rose bush. We’ve been watching her for weeks now, dutifully building the nest, sitting patiently, and now busy as heck flying to and fro to bring bits of worm and insect to her babies who sit there eagerly clamoring for more. They are very cute, and we are honored to have them as guests until they’re ready to spread their wings.

Each morning, Aidan runs to the window to sneak a peek and to see what new developments there might be. They are growing fast, and they’re getting louder. As we sat this evening beneath the pergola, the silence was broken repeatedly by a chorus of three hungry chicks as the mom swooped in to make a cautious delivery before swooping off again. I think we were making her nervous sitting so close to the nest, but I also like to think she’s beginning to trust us as mere curious but harmless humans.

a trip to angelic organics

Recently, we joined a group of homeschooling friends for an overnight camping trip to Angelic Organcis Farm in Caledonia, Illinois. It rained, but certainly not on our parade. Angelic Organics is a “a Biodynamic Community Supported Agriculture farm, growing vegetables and herbs for households since 1991.” Some of our friends had done this years past and had great things to say, so this year, we thought we’d join in the fun.

The farm is about 2 hours northwest of home–in the far northwest corner of the state. When we first arrived, we were invited to begin setting up a camp with the others—just down the grassy path past the barn, the goats, and the chickens. It was a nice setting with picnic shelter, fire ring, composting toilet not far beyond the garden, a cob oven, and good friends.

With camp set, we met our host for the next day and a half—Randy—a really nice guy with a lot to share about organic farming, community, and living close to the Earth. He explained to us where everything was, the basic guidelines to enjoy a safe visit, and laid out the plan for our time on the farm.

Going green doesn’t start with doing green acts — it starts with a shift in consciousness. This shift allows you to recognize that with every choice you make, you are voting either for or against the kind of world you wish to see. When you assume this as a way of being, your choices become easier.
          – Ian Somerhalderour

Over the course of our visit, we toured the farm, learned about its history and its eccentric owner, Farmer John. We helped with chores (the kids loved it), milked a goat, fed pigs, chickens, and ducks, collected eggs, learned about beekeeping, ate organic vegetables right out of the field, and learned about the methods used to run a community supported organic farm.

One thing I found interesting was the focus everyone at the farm had on feeding the soil. If you feed the soil, they said, the soil feeds the plants, which makes for healthy plants and healthful food, which makes for healthier happier people. The traditional farm across the road doesn’t feed the soil. It only focuses on the plant, we learned. This seemingly small detail makes all the difference in the world. I never felt soil like that at Angelic Organics. I held it in my hand. It was black, and rich, and smelled like the Earth. We learned that a handful of healthy organic soil can contain over 5 billion organisms—nearly the population of humans on this planet. This was all at once staggering and humbling. It stuck with me.

Between the epiphanies and the chickens, we also had some good-ole-fashioned camp fun, cooking [veggie] wieners over the fire, eating shmores, talking and laughing, and playing. It rained that night, but the tent stayed dry enough, and the next morning we all enjoyed a breakfast of farm-fresh, organic, free-range eggs. After some more fun, the kids made ice cream with the goats milk they collected earlier.

Finally, Randy brought us all together for closing circle, to share what we had all learned during our time there and to remind us of the importance of community. There was something special about Angelic Organics. I know we’ll be returning again soon.

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