A beautiful view of…nope.

smoke from fires

This isn’t fog, it’s smoke from the wildfires around us. Normally you can see a crystal clear mountain ridge line that is just 1200 feet away. Not today. Our prayers are with the families affected by the fires here in the northwest as well as all the firefighters and their support teams. I’m really hoping some rain will come and wash some of this smoke out of the sky. 🙁


It seems like every day there is a new wildflower popping up around here. There are so many that some areas look like they were planted on purpose because they are THICK with a variety of flowers! God is a great gardener. 😉

I don’t have time to work on a Charlotte Mason style / artist / sketchbook / nature journal right now, so I catalogue what I find via pictures and pop them into a Microsoft Word document with info.  Hopefully someday I’ll have more time to whip out the watercolors and make a physical journal. At least for now I’m learning the names of everything as well as the common uses, or if something’s edible, etc. I really enjoy taking at least a little time to observe and learn about nature! It really recharges my “batteries,” especially when I’ve been working on the computer for hours everyday (making an awesome grammar curriculum / workbook for you all)! P.S. Don’t judge the grammar in my post, lol…This is the casual Jenn, not the working Jenn. 😉

We don’t have the $$ to buy one of those fancy closeup lenses for my Nikon, but my husband managed to score a little screw-on lens (that goes over another lens) that seems to do a pretty good job. I took it out for the first time the other day and it beat trying to take pictures with my tablet. Here are a few pictures I took of things that are on my property for my “plant catalogue / guide.”

We have two types of wild roses (Nootka and Woodsii). They are everywhere! There are a few huge thickets with lovely blossoms, as well as tons of bushes in random places. I can’t believe how fast they grow. We’ve had bushes pop up on bare ground that are nearly 2 feet tall already. I love both colors:

We have yarrow growing everywhere. It has pretty, feathery leaves and clusters of white flowers:

This is cinquefoil (Potentilla). I love the lemony-yellow petals.

Lupine is everywhere right now. We have a small bit on our property, with new plants popping up all the time. They grow in clusters and sometimes you see fields full!

I was so thrilled to find thimble berries growing in a section of our property! They make these huge white flowers and giant leaves that look like huge maple leaves. I can’t wait to eat the delicious berries later in the season!

I think this is orange hawkweed. It really stands out!

These Mariposa lilies are all over. They are so delicate looking and totally at home in the forest:

We have a small bit of hairy vetch. It’s everywhere else in abundance. I love seeing huge clusters of it along the roads. Vetch is in the pea family and is a nitrogen fixer. It’s good for the soil!

I believe this is narrow-leaf collomia from the phlox family:

We have wild honeysuckle!!! This is stuff people PAY for to put in their yards and it grows wild in mine, lol.

We also have rosy pussytoes (or cat’s paw). I think it’s such a unique and lovely flower that looks like a little bouquet:

This is a blue damselfly. They are pretty common and flit around here and there, along with dragonflies and an abundance of butterflies. They add a little extra splash of mobile color. 😉

I love having so many wildflowers and pretty things growing on our property! I love that the rain waters them and they look beautiful without a lick of work. 😉 I can’t wait to see what emerges next week and the week after that! It’s like a non-stop show around here!

Spring in the forest

We had a very long winter, here, as well as a slow spring. But, finally! Spring is here in full force with new wildflowers popping up every day and tons of forest eye candy. I thought I’d share a few pictures!

The hummingbirds here are crazy. They flock around our feeders 5-6 at a time. Sometimes, in the evenings, there will be NINE floating and buzzing around, fighting for a bit of sugar water, and they actually SHARE a feeder. I posted a video on my Guest Hollow FB page of them landing on my hands. Click the linked text, if you want to take a look. They are practically tame, and I’ve never seen hummingbirds act like this where we lived before.

My husband took a picture of this calliope hummingbird – the smallest bird in the United States:

Picture © Charles Guest

They are like little jewels and always darting everywhere. I have a feeder hanging right out the window where I do all of my Guest Hollow work, so I can see them and their aerial acrobatics all day. It always sounds like subtle, tiny chainsaws right outside my window.

It’s a very physical existence here, with tons of outside work, but we manage to squeeze in time to learn more about the forest. Even though I’m no longer homeschooling, I still love to learn. 😉 One of the things I’ve been learning is how to identify the local plants, and other botany related topics. I’m learning permaculture principles, as well, and how to apply them to the “food forest” / garden / orchard we are working on creating.

We were really fortunate to get to tour our new friends’ homestead and see permaculture principles put in action. Monica and Sean of The Prepared Homestead invited us to join one of the tours they put on for one of the classes they teach (they also give tours to groups & individual families). We learned more in that hour tour than hours and hours of reading! It was wonderful to actually see firsthand how a permaculture oriented homestead works, and to walk through their amazing gardens & food forest.

They are now opening up a new bed-and-breakfast in their home: Huckleberry Mountain Homestead & Breakfast. I was privileged to see the beautiful rooms they put together. If you are ever looking for a unique bed-and-breakfast experience, I highly recommend them. They are friendly, kind, and knowledgeable folks!

So, anyway, we are constantly learning about something new. My husband remarked to me the other day that he has NEVER been interested in identifying bird calls, until now, lol. We are constantly surrounded by bird song, and it’s fun to know who’s doing the singing. 😉

He’s less enthusiastic about learning to identify all of the flowers, lol, but he puts up with my constant chatter and pointing out the many new things I know. He encourages my love for this type of learning and supports all of my efforts in that area.

Here’s a picture of some fairy slippers (orchids) growing wild in the forest:

Picture © Charles Guest

A close up:

Picture © Charles Guest

We are chickens when it comes to eating wild mushrooms, but I’ve at least seen my first morel!

Picture © Charles Guest

I love all of the wildflowers that grow in the forest, like this trillium:

Picture © Charles Guest

Even though many of the smaller seasonal snow-melt creeks are starting to disappear, the rivers are full and wild and beautiful:

Picture © Charles Guest

The biggest treat, though, is that we got to see the northern lights!!! I’ve always wanted to see them!!

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

At first there was just this odd subtle tinged green glow in the sky, but there was not a moon out, and it was midnight, and we don’t live near any big cities. My husband looked at his aurora notification app and there was a higher than usual chance of seeing them….but there was just this odd glow and nothing spectacular. He brought out his camera and started capturing it via long exposures. We were able to confirm via the pictures that it was indeed the northern lights.  We were out there a long time, and then around 1:00 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. there was this distinct glowing band that formed. It was not long after that that the magic happened, and we saw what you’d consider the typical aurora (at least a mini version) where they shimmer and undulate across the sky. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. There were a few bursts of red and sometimes a long streak would flash up in the sky. It was almost like it couldn’t be real, lol…like someone was playing with special effects in a movie.

I love our new home, and I love all of the new things I’m experiencing and learning. I’ll post soon about the hugelkultur bed we’re building!

Life in the Forest

When I’m not working, I’m looking out the window, because, well…there is a LOT to look at via our new home in the forest! I don’t think a day goes by where my husband and I don’t gawk at something outside. We have plenty of visitors like this guy who decided to lick the salt off our truck:


Then he proceeded to try to eat our truck antenna and ended up bedding down nearby after a dinner of bare winter branches. He (or one of his friends) came back and feasted on my little compost pile just this morning!


We were also visited by a baby and mama moose. Here’s mom nibbling twigs, standing in our driveway.

moose mom

Her adorable baby was struggling through the snow in what is going to be my garden (hence the ribbon markers and the windmill base).baby moose

You lookin’ at me?

moose calf

We’ve also been visited by a flock of turkeys who decided to roost in our trees a couple of times:


I never saw a turkey FLY until this winter:

flying turkey

There are also a few resident red squirrels. This one is living in the squirrel hotel (logs that came from trees cut down for our homesite). They like to scold us with their incessant chatter.

red squirrel

There is also a downy woodpecker who regularly visits the peanut butter I smeared on a nearby tree. She’s such a pretty bird! I say “she” because she doesn’t have the red head markings of a male. 🙂 I’m having fun learning about all of our new “friends”.

downey woodpecker

We’ve also seen some ruffled grouse browsing some of the snowberries and such:

ruffled grouse

Sometimes we aren’t looking at animals, but at the scenery. It’s raw and peaceful, with mountains all around and a forest stretching in every direction.

If I’m not looking at the scenery, I may be watching my husband who has new chores like shoveling the roof. No one told us we’d have to have the roof shoveled!!! Living where it snows as much as it does here is a lot of physical work. Our house is heated entirely by wood (our choice), so there is trekking to the wood pile, digging paths so we can take the dog pee and get to wherever we need to go in our yard, shoveling and snowblowing the driveway, chipping away at 5 inch thick ice that is melting and starting to flood the garage, and so on…Those of you who live in the snow are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Yeah, so?”, but this is all new to us.

My husband is my hero with all of the brawny work he does around here. 😉 I help, too, but I don’t do nearly as much as he does!! Yay for husbands, lol!

Check him out on our roof. He had to get as much snow off as possible because of creepy things like ice dams that can ruin your roof and flood your house walls with melting ice.

Don’t think I’m whining about all of the extra work. There is something so satisfying about seeing the results of genuine old fashioned labor vs. sitting around working on a computer. I know my husband doesn’t miss his previous 2 1/2 hour commute (ONE way on a GOOD day). We were made for this.

I can’t describe how much we love it here. It’s like when you are on a vacation and you look around and wish you lived wherever it is you are…well, we are living THAT. We live where we dreamed of living. If you are in a situation wondering if you will ever get THERE, wherever THERE is, don’t give up. You never know what God has in store for you down the road. Just hang in there and keep working toward it. Don’t let dark days and difficulties cloud that distant hopeful view. God is GOOD. Keep trusting Him and you’ll get to where you need to be. <3

That’s a little slice of our new life in the forest. We will be very busy this coming year building the infrastructure for a garden, small orchard, and so on, as well as working on Guest Hollow, which has started to really take off now that we are working on it full-time! I’ll post more about our life here, as time permits, as well as Guest Hollow updates.

P.S. My husband took most of the above pictures. 😉