If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always had.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crunchy Sunshine

I'm not a competitive person. I like to win things, of course, but I don't go out of my way to participate in competitions, especially when it's 97* and I'm in multiple layers of clothing. A dessert contest was a little too much temptation. My friend Linda and I collaborated on an entry based on something we make at The Day Job. The required ingredient was kiwi, which we mixed with tropical mixed fruit, vanilla yogurt, and trail mix with nuts parfait style in fancy candle votives. We were pretty pleased with the way they came out, and very pleased that the judges had to work to pick winners. In the end, we took 2nd place. 1st place had chocolate, and that's a little hard to complain about!

(I'm actually a little amazed that the photos are as clear as they are. I had to snap them quickly so we could cover them up before the flies found them.)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Last Straw

Saturday night the rain moved out for good. We had breakfast and started trying to dry things out before Eric and the kids packed up dirty clothes and headed home for work and the last week of summer school. I walked them out to the parking lot, and when I got back, Dad was spreading straw over the mud. Turns out he’d talked to the guy in charge, who talked to the nice people at Rockome, and we were able to buy two small bales of straw to soak up the mud. We spread it carefully to cover as much mud as possible without clogging up the trenches, which we’d already begun calling The Moat.

The straw made a huge difference. By evening, the high traffic areas were evident and we knew the straw was working. The next morning, I went looking for a pitch fork, which caused a fair amount of amusement among the campers and park staff. We moved the dry straw aside so we could get the wet straw out, and then covered the still squishy spots with fresh straw.

There was one draw-back to all that fresh straw. The flies loved it. I think we inherited a few stow-aways in the bales, along with all the other flies in the area. That’s when we learned a very important lesson. We’d bought a box of borax when we’d shopped for groceries, which I’d sprinkled around the tents to try to keep the ants down. What we learned was that a mild borax solution used to scrub tables and other surfaces deters flies from landing on them. We don’t know if the flies don’t like the borax itself or if the borax cleaned so much better than plain water that there was nothing left to attract them, and frankly we don’t care. The bottom line is that we decided that borax needs to be a permanent part of the camp kit. Fly strips are good, too, but not period correct. In a pinch, scrap strips of fabric, tied to tent ropes and soaked in honey with a little water will also work, but hang them where they won't get rained on.

In spite of our borax miracle, by Tuesday we were rather tired of flies and went to get the pitch fork again. The mud was as absorbed as it was going to get, so the straw was pitched out away from the tents. The ground was just damp at that point, and the sun finished drying out the mud. Luckily, it was indeed the straw the flies liked and not us!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A River Runs Through It

Friday started sunny and humid. Eric and the kids were due late in the afternoon, and we had plenty of work to do. We got camp set up and headed out to buy groceries. By noon, clouds were beginning to gather and the humidity was high. Eric and the kids arrived about 3:00. We got their gear stowed and took the van out to the parking lot just in time for the rain to start. Perfect timing!

We didn’t think much of the rain for a few hours. When the ground under the fly started to get soggy we realized that although we’d chosen what looked like the best site, it wasn’t as good as it could have been. We had a little ridge going through the middle of both tents, but overall we were on a downhill slope, and the rain was going under the tents and through what was, effectively, our living room. It was the start of my latest learning curve, and the first lesson was Do Not Be Lulled Into A False Sense of Security.

Saturday morning was sunny, for which we were grateful. The ground was saturated, and we were glad to have a shot at drying things out. For the first time since I started camping, we had earth worms in the ‘living room.’ You can see from the picture why we thought we were camping practically on the river bank. The kids shucked their shoes and went off to find others of their kind, coming back to eat and stomp through the mud under the fly.

Late in the afternoon, the rain started again. The quagmire deepened and my morale plummeted. Dad and Alex collaborated on a civil engineering project and dug a trench to drain water away from the tents, which worked somewhat but might have been more effective if it had been done sooner.

Dinner was cooked in the rain, and as soon as the food came off the fire, the big coffee pots went on to heat shower water. It stopped raining while we were eating.

Dad assigned the order of showers based on the ‘snit scale’. I got second and promptly passed it on to whoever was behind me. I just couldn’t handle the thought of getting clean and stepping back out into the mud. Instead, I toughed out the evening and washed my feet just before I went to bed. I almost cried when I crawled into bed and heard rain on the canvas.

At least the kids had a grand time.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Sea Horse Spawn

We arrived in Arcola Thursday afternoon. Our host was Rockome Garden, in the heart of Illinois Amish country. The site we chose for our camp overlooked what we thought was the Kaskaskia River. (Turns out it was a Kaskaskia River flood plain, swollen from recent rain.) We set up camp and went to have dinner. Before dark, the neighbors began to call. There are no strangers at a rendezvous, only friends you haven’t met.

As we chatted, we could hear a horse trotting, but the sound was coming from the river. Logically, we concluded that beyond the river and the tree line was a road down which someone was heading home. Of course, that’s not the explanation we gave to visitors to the park through the week. What we told them was that it was sea horse spawn season. No one believed us, of course, but it makes a good story!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back a little early

Yesterday, when the nice man came to pick up our trash before we opened the gates to the public, he told us about a change in the local forecast--rain and thunderstorms Saturday night and most of Sunday. Literally, I was standing there chatting, and the three remaining adult heads behind me came together and decided to pull stakes a day early. Took them about fifteen seconds to decide, which blew the record for the fastest decision all week. (The previous one was when I suggested that ice cream at 2:00 in the afternoon would not spoil any meals and pointed out that it's served in air conditioning.)

This was my longest rendezvous yet, and as usual I've come home sun burned and bug bit. We brought home easily twice what I went out with, which we expected, and I'm pretty sure that now we could camp on our own. We need to buy a shower and a fire bucket. Vicky has decided to become a pirate, so I need to make her some britches, but I have to wait for the pattern to get here. Eric had fun and is looking toward the logistics of going to Ohio in October.

Today we have to spread out canvas and floor coverings to make sure they get dried completely (it rained some while we were packing) and figure out how to store the new toys. I think I might be especially glad today that we have an extra day to do that. I have posts planned on the particulars of the week, so check back with me through the week.