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Yesterday was the last time for me to be in the woods with the goats for two weeks as I am going to music camp tomorrow.  I wanted to post a little updates on how the forest is looking nowadays.

A lot of poison ivy has sprung up on the path as you can see in this photo which makes it rather difficult to get to the black raspberries you’ll see in the second photo.

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Below we have some self heal in the first photo and Hildegard and Morisot in the second.

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Hildegarde eating sassafras in the first photo and tickwood treefoil in the second.

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Konmari’s Magic Manga

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The great tidying genius Marie Kondo “Konmari” has another book out.  The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up gives the reader all the main points of her other books in a story format.  The main character is a 29 year old messy houser.  She has never invited a friend over to her apartment because she is embarrassed by how cluttered it is.  Spurred to action by her neighbor (a cute boy who gets a glimpse of her atrocious entryway), she signs up for Marie Kondo’s tidying lessons.  The book tells the story of how her life changes after Konmari walkes in.

The following post is revised from one previously posted in 2016.

Did you know that you wear about 20% of your clothes about 80% of the time?  This is a statistic that has been floating around the internet for years.  It means that you could get rid of four fifths of your clothes and not really notice much of a difference.  If you used the Konmari method, you would probably only notice that all the clothes in your dresser and closet were ones that you loved.  You probably wouldn’t miss most or any of the clothes that you discarded.  That seems pretty crazy.  To me though, it is totally believable.

One of the most widespread reasons that people accumulate stuff is that they do not know how much they have.  A lot of us keep stuff on hand even though we hardly use any of it just because we think it may come in handy.  Think back to the Stone Age for a moment…All you would have had would be the necessities.  One, maybe two sets of clothes- all you needed could be carried on your back.  These days, we’d be lucky if our stuff would fit in two truckloads!

By all that, I don’t mean that everyone has that much stuff, or that people who have lots of things aren’t happy.  Everyone is different.  I get by just fine with four long sleeved shirts and four pairs of shoes, but someone with a different lifestyle or different age might need only two long sleeved shirts and ten or more pairs of shoes.  It all depends on what you need and what brings you joy.

Some people love living in a rather “messy” house, while others want every surface to be bare.  You don’t need to make yourself uncomfortable.  If you are unhappy or embarrassed by how much stuff is in your house or room, then you could consider looking into the Konmari method.  If you like your house like it is and don’t like having a barer living space, then keep it the way it is.

Another great thing about tidying is that it’s easier to clean when you have less stuff.  I once asked my mom what her goals for her bedroom were, and she said “dust free,” then “less brick brack.”  I told her that once you have less brick brack, it’s easier to dust since you don’t have to pick up decorations to get at the surface.  You don’t have to dust all those decorations either.  Once you get rid of things, cleaning is much easier and faster.

Maintenance is, of course, kind of hard, but if you do a bit every day, like a ten minute pick up of your things every evening, then your surfaces stay tidy.  You also have to keep unnecessary things from coming in, like gifts.  Those are hard, but if you truly want your space to stay tidy, then it won’t be so difficult that you give up.

Goats in the Woods!

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This morning, my mom, the goats and I were all in the woods.  As I posted last month, this summer I have a job as a goatherd which involves taking our goats to a retreat center (in our hatchback) to eat invasive species in the woods.  Here are the photographs that I took of them doing their job (my job was four pages of math).

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Above, Morisot is a bit itchy, here.

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Reaching over mom for some good eats.

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Going to town on some autumn olive.

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Cinquefoil.

0604181148  The raspberry is in bloom.

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As is the multi floral rose.

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Dame’s rocket.

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Fresh bear corn.

Controlling Invasive Species with Goats

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If you were looking for me this morning, you’d have found me sitting in the woods with our goats.  Twice a week from now until October my mom and I are taking our goats to a nearby retreat center to eat invasive species in their woods.

The spot that I am taking the goats to had timber harvested about eight years ago.  As soon as the trees were cut, all the invasive species had the light and space to grow.  Since there was not a proper plan for the cleared land (such as planting more trees in tree tubes), the invasive species took off.  Now, the forest floor in that part of the forest is covered in multi-floral rose, autumn olive and raspberry–things that will take over if they are not eradicated.  Moreover, new trees cannot be established or planted until all these species are gone.

The retreat center was very against chemicals to eradicate the invasives, hence where our goats come in.  The retreat center used to have goats, but they were never put to good use, and the center doesn’t have them any more.  We live three minutes away and have three goats.  We were willing to make a test out of this forest area.  Our goal was to see how well three goats could control a couple of acres of invasive species.

We’ve taken our goats down five times now, and they just love the eating.  Since it is just a test, we don’t expect all the invasives to be gone over the course of these next five  months.  However, my hope is that once we have a fuller understanding of what goats can do to control invasive species, an appeal will be able to be made to the retreat center to have on site goats with a live in goatherd.  The goats would be able to be on the land all day every day and eat the invasive species down so that trees could be planted.  In the end, a healthy forest would be established.

I will be posting updates every few weeks with pictures to illustrate how this control of invasive species in this forest is going.  Hopefully you all will learn more about goats, plants, trees and sustainable forest management from them.

  1. Hildegarde enjoying the sun.
  2. Hildegarde again.  You can see the low, brushy invasive species in the background.
  3. May apple blossoms and leaves.  The goats don’t like them.
  4. Wild geranium.  The goats also don’t like this.

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Dreams for the World

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I believe that the safety, education and well-being of our children should be our highest priority.  Children are the ones that will carry on and work for a better world.  The children are the ones that need to be educated in peace and love.  If we want world peace, than our children should be taught to love one another and nature.  If we want our world to survive and be filled with love, then we should be giving the best of everything to our children so that they can carry out these dreams that we have for our world.

While, yes, there are millions of kids on this planet, any one of those kids killed in Texas could have been or grown up to be a future Gandhi, Lincoln or peacemaker.  To make this planet continue to exist in a way that is livable, we need to have all our children educated, happy, properly fed and alive.

Our president, Donald Trump, has the power to keep children safe.  He has the power to implement gun control laws.  He has the power to make our country safe for us all, not just children, yet he has done nothing of the sort.  He is always on Twitter, always on the internet stating some ridiculous thing, yet it appears that he knows nothing of what is actually happening to and in our country.

Since our president is doing nothing, we, as the people, should do something.  Although few of us have the power to change the entire nation in one sweeping move, we each can spread a message of love to others-adults and children alike-and in doing so, we all will change the country.  Together.

Benjamin, Our New Calf

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Last night at 9:30 my dad rushed in from the barn to tell me that Meg, our milk cow, was giving birth.  I had just taken my shower and was sitting on my bed looking at magazines with my wet hair up in a towel turban.  I leaped up and flung the towel off of my head and out I went.

The actual birth only took about ten or fifteen minutes, but we stayed out to watch the calf stand up.  I also helped Meg dry him off.  She used her tongue, and I used a towel (not the same one that had been on my head beforehand).

Today it has been very cold and rainy, but Benjamin and Meg seem to be fine.

 

The Hero’s Journey: Similarities between Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter

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Many parallels can be made between the stories of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy (released 1977-83 and created by George Lucas) and Harry Potter in the first seven Harry Potter books (published between 1997 and 2007 and written by J. K. Rowling).  Although these Harry Potter books have more installments, characters and plot twists than the original Star Wars trilogy, both stories’ protagonists have similar journeys.  Both of these stories are loved by fans around the world due in part to their fantastical and magical settings.  Star Wars is set in an ancient outer space war between good and evil forces while the magical world of Harry Potter is set in a late 20th century Great Britain that is filled with the destruction of an evil wizard.  Additionally, these stories are loved for the hero’s journey theme that has drawn people into stories for hundreds of years.

Unknown Parentage

Both Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker do not know the truth about their parents.  Additionally, they both find it out from someone who helps them to fulfill their destinies.  As the story goes, Luke has not been told that his father was a Jedi knight who fought to keep order in the universe.  After the death of his mother and the “death” of his father, Luke is sent to live with his kind aunt and uncle, who live on the planet on which his father, the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, grew up.  Little detail about Luke’s father has been given to him.

Like Luke, Harry has been given little information about his parents beyond that they were apparently killed in a car accident.  In contrast to Luke, the aunt and uncle that Harry now lives with are cruel.  Harry begins to receive mysterious letters around his eleventh birthday, causing his aunt and uncle to grow fearful of a secret that they have about Harry’s parents.  Soon, Harry’s uncle moves his family and Harry to a different home in the hopes that the letters will stop coming.  Hagrid, an intimidating but kind man who is a teacher at the wizardry school of Hogwarts, tracks down the family and tells Harry his aunt and uncle’s secret: the truth about his parents.

Like Harry, Luke’s aunt and uncle have kept the truth about his father a secret.  Luke’s uncle buys two droids not knowing that they previously belonged to Princess Leia, head of the group fighting against evil known as the Resistance.  Luke discovers a message in one of these droids from Leia to a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi and becomes infatuated with this mysterious princess.  The droid escapes to deliver this important message to Obi-Wan, and when Luke follows the droid, he is taken into the home of the renowned Jedi teacher Obi-Wan himself.  It is not Luke’s aunt and uncle but Obi-Wan who tells Luke about his father.

Special Powers

Hagrid explains to Harry that his mother and father, who were a talented witch and wizard, were not killed in a car accident but were actually murdered by an evil wizard because they were fighting against the destruction he was causing.  This evil wizard, who calls himself Voldemort, tried to murder Harry as well, but Harry survived.  It turns out, though, that the danger is not yet over since Voldemort may still be alive and seeking to kill Harry.  Hagrid’s use of magic intimidates Harry’s uncle’s family so much that it is finally negotiated for Harry to go to the wizardry school, Hogwarts (“magicality” is inherited, which means that Harry has the potential to become a talented wizard just like his parents).  Harry, although surprised about this turn of events, quietly takes it in and is overjoyed to be rid of his uncle’s cruel family.

Similar to how Harry is told about his parents by Hagrid, Luke finds out from Obi-Wan that his father was actually a Jedi and like Hagrid does for Harry, Obi-Wan helps Luke fulfill his destiny.  After revealing the truth about his father, Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s light saber, which is a weapon fueled by power from the energy field known as the Force (since Luke’s father was a Jedi, Luke has inherited a connection with the Force).  Luke is not too surprised by this new information about his father, but he is reluctant to go with Obi-Wan to help rescue Leia from danger.  In the end, Luke does decide to go with Obi-Wan, and while he is gone, his aunt and uncle are murdered by the dark side’s forces.  Therefore, in the end, there is no old life to which Luke can return.

Harry and Luke Start Their Education with the Support of Friends

On the train to the Hogwarts School, Harry befriends Ron and Hermione, who stay by him, even though it puts them in danger from Voldemort.  At Hogwarts, the headmaster is the brilliant Dumbledore, who becomes a mentor to Harry and counsels him many times.  Dumbledore also tells Harry more about his father.   A few months later, Harry anonymously receives an invisibility cloak that, like Luke’s light saber, had belonged to his father.  Both Harry and Luke are given special tools and weapons that they use to defend themselves and others.

Likewise, during his mission to rescue Leia, Luke becomes friends with her and Han Solo (like Hermione and Ron, Leia and Han later fall in love).  All through the trilogy Luke flies with them to many different planets to fight the dark side.  During this time, Luke has a vision of Obi-Wan, who tells him to seek the renowned Jedi master, Yoda, and thus begins his Jedi training.

Struggles Test These Future Heroes, and Plot Twists Leave Them Lost

Throughout his years at Hogwarts, Harry struggles to learn difficult magical spells and skills.  As he approaches his graduation from Hogwarts, he assists the headmaster Dumbledore in finding and eradicating objects that contain a bit of Voldemort’s soul (each object is called a Horcrux, and Voldemort can only be killed once all of them are destroyed).  On one of these searches, Dumbledore is weakened from drinking a potion and is ultimately killed by another professor when he and Harry return to Hogwarts.  Harry (along with the reader) is grief-stricken and does not know what to do.

Similarly, during his Jedi training Luke has a hard time learning how to control his emotions and his connection with the Force.  After these difficulties, though, Luke is more prepared to come face to face with the evil Darth Vader, which Yoda and Obi-Wan dread because they know something that Luke does not.  The whole Star Wars trilogy story reaches its most unbearable plot twist when Darth and Luke meet for the first time.  Darth reveals that he is Luke’s father, the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who was lured to the dark side by his desire for power.  Luke is shocked and devastated; his view of his father as a Jedi hero is shattered.

The Evil is within

For Harry, the plot twist does not include information about his parents but is equally painful. Harry finds out from the memories of a dead professor that the last Horcrux is actually Harry himself.  Harry will have to die before Voldemort can be totally annihilated since a piece of Voldemort’s soul lies within him.  Harry is furious and hurt that no one told him that he contained some of Voldemort’s soul or that he must die in order for Voldemort to die.

In similar fashion, knowing the truth causes Luke to doubt himself and to feel conflicted about his legitimacy.  Since his father was lured to the dark side, Luke wonders if it is his fate to succumb to its temptation as well.  Luke determines that deep down, Darth must still love him at least a little, and so he tries to make that love turn Darth against the dark side.  This does not work until the man controlling Darth begins to torture Luke.  In his rage, Darth kills his master and gives up his own life.

Similar to the destruction and battles that Luke faces, war with Voldemort and his compatriots ensues at the Hogwarts School, and many of Harry’s friends, mentors and fellow students are killed.  After the battle, Harry decides that since his death is the only way for Voldemort’s destruction to be checked, he must go to where Voldemort is waiting to kill him.  Voldemort uses the killing curse on Harry; however, while this does destroy the bit of Voldemort’s soul that is in him, it does not kill Harry himself.  Like Luke’s vision of Obi-Wan leading him to Yoda, Harry then has a vision of Dumbledore, who helps him figure out what to do.  Harry confronts Voldemort, and they duel, which results in Voldemort’s death.

So Why Do People Love These Stories?

While Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker have different goals and personalities, their stories have a surprising number of similar themes.  People tend to love strong characters with humanity and flaws just like their own.  Likewise, people tend to enjoy the hero’s journey, stories whose protagonists are able to conquer their enemies and inner demons in order to save the world.  These stories are also appealing because they excite the readers’ desire to be recognized for their own undiscovered talents and to be, or be saved by, a hero themselves.  It is through fantastical stories like these that readers can have their own heroic desires fulfilled.

Hello

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Hi!  I was reading some of my older posts on here and decided that I miss writing short little updates.  So I decided to try to do more of them, even if they are semi pointless.

Yesterday my family and I took a long walk down to a creek that is behind a small cemetery which is down the road from our house.  We sat on a blanket in the woods, and I read Oliver Twist to my parents while my mom drew skunk cabbage.  It was very warm and the sky was the most amazing, smooth blue.

Tomorrow I have orchestra and my British Literature class.  I have to say that they are really dull.  I really enjoyed them earlier in the year, but now that it’s been six months and they are stiiiiiilllll going on.  It has gotten old.

All our animals are loving the warmth.  Our goats are giving more milk and our cow is much less cranky.  She did get out the other day because my dad forgot to latch the gate.  She made a beeline for the taller grass by the road, even though it is all covered in dirt from the plow and is totally dead.

Our chickens have also starting laying eggs again.  They don’t lay them in the winter due to the decrease in light, but as soon as the days start getting longer, they start again.  We have gotten about four or five a day for the past couple weeks.

Anyway, my mom needs the computer to read something I wrote for English class.