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A Neighborhood Walk Turns into a Hike to the Muir Woods, Thanks to New Book

We didn’t initially intend to hike five miles from our house to Muir Woods National Monument and back, but the first day of spring arrived quite beautifully and, inspired by the new book, We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer (illustrated by Denise Holmes), my daughter and I set off on a pretty and hilly local trail. We loved the idea of welcoming the season with a hike, as well as the notion of leaving right from our house and walking to the trail head. We thought we’d walk one way, and had arranged for a pick-up at the end of the walk.

Keffer and Tornio are the authors of  The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book, reviewed here last year, and their new book, which delightfully arrived in time for spring, expands nicely on their theme of providing easy ideas that families and others can use to create their own nature adventures. The book serves as a journal, as well, with questions that prompt readers to think, write and draw about their nature time.

Our first-choice activity from the book? “Hike on a trail near your home and write about what you discover.” We added some photos as well.

Anna and me, setting off on our adventure.

Pride of Madeira plants were sighted while climbing our first hill out of our neighborhood.

A kind and creative homeowner shows the way to the Dipsea Trail, a trail that winds seven miles from a canyon in our town of Mill Valley, CA, to the sea at Stinson Beach. We will take the Dipsea partway.

We entered Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

Anna is at the precipice, eyeing the trail below.

We descended into canyons of ferns, redwoods and bay trees.

We spotted a spectacular Douglas Iris.

And a Beach Morning Glory.

We made it to the Muir Woods, about 2.5 miles from the start, feeling pretty accomplished.

Muir Woods has lovely creeks running through it that are home to spawning salmon.

Muir Woods is also home to thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. This redwood feel on Winter Solstice, 2012. A sign nearby told us that it was an elder that had had a good life and deserved respect.

Tired, but also reenergized from being in the beautiful woods, we traced our steps back toward home.

The hikers, five hours and a great adventure later.

Prompted by the book, and this hike, we immediately planned our next one! A few days later, we took the Dipsea Trail in the opposite direction than we had the first time and went into our town for a shorter (but stair-filled) loop walk. Later, we plan to keep going on the Dipsea Trail, past the Muir Woods to the ocean (and take someone up on that ride home).

Some other adventures we are eager to try from We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors this spring and summer include:

Design your yard and garden to be butterfly friendly.

Experiment with starting seeds.

Reuse an object as a garden container.

Find inspiration from nature, and then create a piece of art.

Swim with your family or friends at a local lake, river or pond.

Discover the night sky through stargazing.

Can’t wait!

Would you like to win your own copy of We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors and a pair of KEEN shoes? Enter the Destination Nature giveaway today.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
How to Save Nasturtium and Other Seeds
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
Nature Activities to Celebrate Spring

Go Green for Earth Day with Method Detergent

My family and I have been huge fans of Method home products for a long time. We particularly enjoy the bottles of glistening hand and dish wash, in pretty colors and scents, that grace our kitchen sink. We appreciate that Method has also started to make bottles  from recycled ocean plastic.

So, of course I was excited to learn that Method is now making laundry detergent and products in its signature and other scents and that I was being asked to give them a try.

I chose a 50-load bottle of Fresh Air scented detergent. I greatly appreciated the pump bottle and its ease of transport and use. I learned that Method laundry detergent is plant-based, yet ultra-concentrated. That means less production, product and packaging waste. (Because Method detergent is 8x concentrated, it uses drastically less water and 36% less plastic, and requires 33% less energy and oil to produce than most widely-available detergents. Its bottle, too, is made from 50% recycled plastic, which made our family very happy.

My local market offered Method detergent in two scents, “Free and Clear” and “Fresh Air”. While I normally lean toward unscented or lightly scented products for home use, I did want to try one of Method’s signature scents (and they’d never steered me wrong with their dish soap.) I opted for a bottle of “Fresh Air” detergent and immediately brought it home and put it to use. I loved the scent. I found it to be very clean without being cloying. It offered a subtle, lovely, “clean laundry” smell that I somewhat associate with detergents I’ve liked in the past, though Method’s is far subtler. For someone like me who doesn’t like laundry detergents in obvious scents, this is great. I’m eager to try their other scents, too, lavender cedar, sweet pea and spring daisy.

I washed multiple loads of laundry. white and colored,  for a trip, and everything turned out great. I decided to try Method as a stain remover on a stubborn stain that had occurred earlier in the week when the red yarn on a favorite sweater ran into the white during hand-washing. Even though this was a stain that had set in over time, Method worked phenomenally, after other stain removers had not. Method allowed enough improvement (with a pleasant smell!) so that I can actually wear the sweater.

This was a bleed stain that had set in! Method is tough on stains, but easy on the planet. Now you can enter to win a year’s supply of Method laundry detergent and products. I did!

Happy Earth Day!

Other Slow Family posts you might like include:

What Our Kids Can Teach Us About Recycling
Live a Slower, Less Expensive and More Meaningful Life: A Teen’s 10 Tips for Recycling and Reuse
Back to School: Green Sandwich and Snack Bags
Earth Day and Every Day: 11 Ways to Make Gardening Extra Fun for Kids

This post is sponsored by Method. The views expressed are my own.

Taxes: An Ancient Practice

Tax Day is once again upon us in the U.S. Because income taxes are due on April 15, chances are that you’ve already addressed them in some way. Chances are also fairly high that you’ve not given much thought as to why our taxes are due in the middle of April each year. Neither had I, until my daughter asked me about this and I developed a theory.

Office for Emergency Management. War Production Board. (01/1942 – 11/03/1945)

 

Although the U.S. government didn’t impose our current income tax system until 1913 (and citizens had been taxed for a brief period to fund the Civil War), most governments throughout the world have taxed their citizens. The ancient Egyptians taxed cooking oil and went as far as visiting people’s homes to ensure that they weren’t using an alternative oil in order to avoid the tax. The ancient Greeks used rain gauges to measure rain and thus determine the tax bills for farmers — the more rain, the more produce, the higher the tax.

But when in the year did this happen? Was it in April, like it is today, or at the start of the new year, January 1? It turns out that, to complicate things, the new year has been celebrated on many different dates throughout history (and continues to be celebrated at different times by some cultures.) Ancient Egyptians celebrated the new year in August, when the Nile River flooded to provide water for their crops. The Mayan new year was in May, at the year’s agricultural high point. The Jewish New Year continues to coincide with the fall harvest. The Incans linked, and the Chinese continue to link, their new year to the winter solstice.

And the ancient Romans and Babylonians marked their new year at the spring equinox, itself a moving target in ancient times, before precise measurements existed. (The English new year continued to be March 25, a full two centuries after France’s Charles IX changed it to January 1 for most of the world in 1564.) Our practice of New Year’s resolutions goes back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians, who made sure to settle up accounts by returning borrowed farm equipment before their new year. It was these ancient people whom I surmised may have influenced our current tax schedule.

Ancient Egyptian Calendar

 

It turns out that the first U.S. income tax payments in 1914 were due on March 1 for somewhat banal, rather than agrarian or seasonal, reasons. March 1 was chosen because that date fell about one year after the 16th (tax) amendment was enacted. Tax Day didn’t move to April 15 until 1955. (And, if April 15 falls on a weekend, Tax Day is moved to the next business day.)

So, while it made a fine story, my theory that we follow many of the ancients by paying taxes at the rough equivalent of the spring equinox did not hold (rain) water. It did, however, inspire us to learn a little bit about tax history and ancient ways, and recognize the fact that, even as the calendar and customs have changed, taxes have remained a fairly constant fact of life.

1500s Aztec Calendar

 

 Artwork based on ancient Egyptian calendar

 

 

Images: Tax History, Dark Roasted Blend, PBase

You might also be interested in:

Tax day tips: Eight things to check before April 17 tax deadline
Tax day: 8 top tax breaks for parents on tax deadline

 

 

Happy Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras Mask and other Cookies

Happy Fat Tuesday! I love these beautiful Mardi Gras mask cookies from Sweetopia.

Wondering how to make pretty iced cookies of all kinds? Check out this cookie decorating tutorial from I Am Baker.

 

Shine on, Harvest Moon

Songwriters have crooned about it. Farmers have counted on it. A Chinese festival honors it with special mooncakes. It’s the Harvest Moon, which traditionally shines its all-night beacon to help farmers gather their crops. In addition to being timed well for the job, the October full moon travels particularly close to the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, so that it appears larger and closer than do other full moons throughout the year. It’s also visible for a longer amount of time than other moons — often all night — so that, especially before electricity, the harvesting needn’t stop at nightfall. And, if that weren’t enough, it also brightens the night sky for many successive days in a row.

All this week, those in northern latitudes have been and will be able to go outside on clear nights and witness the Harvest Moon. It’s due to be at its absolute fullest at September 30 at 3:19 Universal Time, or  11:19 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 8:19 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on September 29 in the U.S., so you’ll get good full moon shows all weekend, and fine shows throughout the week, whether you’re harvesting food, memories, or one of the last possibly warm full-moon nights.

Gaisberg_and_rising_full_moon

 

Photos: Roadcrusher, Matthias Kobel

You might also enjoy:

The Wheel of the Year: Summer Turns to Fall
Walt Whitman’s Ode to the Harvest
Fall Foliage at its Peak
Celebrate May’s Full Moon

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