Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Great Family Camping Adventure...pt2 (finally)

It's the moment you've all been waiting for! (maybe) (I have been anyway).

As you may have noticed I've been gone for a while. I'm easily distracted. And I don't really like to type. But I do like to yabber incessantly to no one in particular and blogging makes that sooo easy. I suppose it would be easier if I could just let everyone hear the ramblings in my head. Then I wouldn't forget them by the time I got to paper and I wouldn't have to type. Of course, then I may be sedated and locked away somewhere, or else have no friends at all, because I'm a nutter. So maybe it's best that I just improve my typing skills.... moving on....

In case you have forgotten, our story left off with me, the non-camper, insisting that we will be camping, we will do it in our own front yard, and we will like it too, dag nabbit! (Here is part one, in case you need a refresher.)

the tiny white and black speck is my 'dog' Poppy

Was I totally mad!? I hate tent camping. I haven't gone in 12 years, we have no airbed to make the ground more bearable and the mosquitoes in our yard will pick you up and carry you back to feed their horrible little bloodsucking babies like some tiny Jurassic vampiric monsters. After drenching ourselves in bug spray and still being eaten I was seriously considering calling it quits. Or investing in something with lots of DEET. (I restrained myself on both accounts.)

We begin setting up camp in the meadow (aka "front yard"), the 2 older children helping Papa set up the tents while the 2 younger ones entertained themselves. I think I just milled around and took pictures for the most part. I don't remember being at all helpful. I do remember being obsessed with the horrible little bugs.

We brought much of the camp gear to our site and got set up for the night. All of the children were in the large tent with us the 1st night (it had started to rain at one point so we just threw all the junk in the little tent before we got to finish organizing it.) It was a little crowded and a little annoying with all the giggling going on on the other side of the tent.

After we set up our tiny little patio fire pit in the meadow and lit our campfire. We cooked a traditional cruddy family camping dinner of hot dogs and s'mores over our little fire and by the end of the 1st night the girls were smiling and enjoying their treats. And as a bonus, I get to pee in a real toilet, in a clean, familiar bathroom. We did not, however, shower until we 'got home' from our trip. We also didn't let the kids stay inside the house. Oh, they tried to convince a couple of times to let them watch a DVD,

"No, we're camping. We don't have TV."

"No, you can't use the laptop, we're camping an we didn't bring it."

This resulted in lots of tree climbing. Surprisingly, the baby went to sleep easily and even the girls didn't stay awake all night fighting.

Early in the morning (like 3am early) I awoke and was again filled with appreciation for the 'stay' part of our camping 'staycation'. It was just so nice not to have to stumble down an unfamiliar, most likely booby trapped, little path in the dark dead of night trying to find the nasty latrine. That horribly unpleasant place where, by this time of night, I'd probably have to wait my turn. I'd be right after the gargantuan hairy spider that's using the seat first.

The local coyotes have quieted down, the neighbors chickens are still asleep, but somewhere down the road, presumably on the outskirts of our little town, someone has a cow. This cow is hollerin' at 3 o'clock in the morning. What's up with that? As I drift back to sleep on the uncomfortable ground (despite the huge pile of cushions Gabe has found for me) the cow is still mooing. And at 5am when the chickens wake, the cow is still mooing.

Day 2
Our first camp breakfast is pancakes cooked on the little camp stove. We realize that we didn't pack a bowl to mix them in and lucky us!, we don't have to try to borrow one or buy one somewhere. 'Cause we're in our front yard. Awesome.

Breakfast was delicious. Gabe has packed a library book about tying knots, and a bit of rope. Despite my concerns he taught the girls a few of the knots that he's learned. Thankfully, he refrained from teaching them the hangman's knot. Even though they pleaded. (Twisted little monkeys)

I have been talking about a cute little garden canopy that I hoped Gabe would build for me for a couple of years. It's a simple thing, just a pretty bit of fabric and some poles. While I don't have the fabric yet, we do have the poles and an old sheet. Gabe wants to practice some knots he's learned so he finally agrees to build one for me. Just for practice. The poles come from some of the trees that we cleared from the yard, a fraction of the number that need to be cleared. But it's a start.

He had piled them up near an old crate in our garden area and when he began to move them this is what he found...

A hornets nest the size of a dodge ball. And he kinda annoyed them. Thankfully, we have a friend in pest control who offered to take care of it for us. (It was kinda funny watching him . We were safe in the house while he slowly, ever so gently, placed his applicator under the nest, gave it a quick pump of the poison and ran like the blazes to his truck and took off. He did get hit a couple times but I guess he's used to it.) A couple days later Gabe was able to remove the nest and all that was left was a sad little pile of perished pests.

Gabe spent the next couple of hours setting up the canopy. Perfecting the position, adjusting the knots, anchoring the poles and keeping the girls from falling off his ladder. Other than the brief moments on the ground to eat or help with the canopy, the girls spent most of their time in the trees. They talked Gabe into cutting off bits of his rope for them to practice with too and eventually they had a rope swing in one of the bigger trees.

The weather was calm and warm. It had sprinkled off and on since the night before which helped to discourage the mosquitoes from coming out for most of the weekend. That was a lovely bonus as well.

I had packed a bag with paper, pencils, paint and favorite magazines. I had joined a group of artists in a mail art project making 30 unique postcards to send out, and (hopefully) getting as many in return. (I've received about 21 so far.) I had hoped to be inspired by living out in the woods with the bugs and nature and stuff. After the canopy was up I moved my little table over and pulled out my pencils and chalk. Here is the 1st card I made, while sitting outside in 'the woods' enjoying nature...

For our 2nd nights dinner we made soup on the stove. I have to admit it was lacking something. That doesn't happen very often though. Camp food I guess. We finished off the rest of the homemade graham crackers for our s'mores and retired to bed. It's so much easier to go to bed at a decent hour when you're not tied to electricity. This time the girls were in the little tent. Much better.

Day 3
No one had even mentioned South Dakota. The girls were in the trees again and the oldest was smiling and playing instead of being all serious and moody. We opted for pancakes again, instead of eggs, and I snuck some zucchini in them for good measure. The kids gobbled them up and ran for the trees. Gabe lowered the canopy a bit so the shade wasn't so far from the base.

After lunch we cleaned up and started to break camp. We took down the big tent and packed up most of the gear, leaving the canopy and our small tent for the girls to continue using. It stayed up for another month and a half. By 5pm we were mostly cleaned up and a friend had come over with dinner to share so we didn't' have to cook after an 'extremely exhausting' weekend of camping. (Yes, he knew we stayed home. He offered anyway, who am I to argue?)

We were showered (finally), fed (generously), and had had a wonderful family weekend without distraction. Just us. Together.