First light

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First light: Remember yesterday, when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it. (prompt from DailyPost)

Maybe not first light so much (it’s coming soon and I promise to take a picture) as much as first notions.

It must be spring because my head is filled with more ideas and new life for old ideas than I can handle. It’s almost completely overwhelming. I have been keeping notes on my phone, on scraps of paper, in a little spiral journal I uncovered while cleaning off my desk. 

I think I’m going to take over this blog and get into the habit of writing every day. I love to write. I’ve written a novel. I teach writing. I love to read and read and read. So I’m going to write using these handy prompts a few times a week and then write more about permaculture principles and how they apply to how we parent our children or, in some cases, how we could parent our children a little bit better and more intentionally than how we do right now. When I began studying permaculture I realized that much of what I’ve done as a parent, and as a person too, has always gone along with the principles of permaculture.

I’m also going to apply to begin earning my EdD in transformational leadership. My intent is to focus on applying the permaculture principles (yes, again) to educational institutional change. 

So, this blog has a newer look to it and I may change and tweak it some more before the sun’s first light has even come up over the mountains. 


Gazing and grazing on Williams St

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On Thursday evenings, Saskia Esslinger of Williams St Farmhouse has been hosting tours of her yard, explaining the systems and the principles of permaculture.
It was a treat last night to go with my parents – the sun popped back out just for us! There was a big crowd, with lots if kids and lots of food questions.
For a suggested donation of $25 this is an educational and beautiful two hours. As always, Saskia’s home is inspirational and fun.
















Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone


Global warming’s terrifying new math: To keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius warming – the last possible safe threshold – we can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon. The fossil fuel industry has 5 times that on the books, ready to burn.

That means we’re at a reckoning. It’s either the planet, or the industry’s bottom line that goes.

Read the article here:

via Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math | Politics News | Rolling Stone.



There is an amazing permaculture class scheduled for August in Homer, AK, but I just can’t make it there for two weeks. I want to learn more about permaculture though, so I’m going to create my own self-study project that I can do with year-long/semester-long research project I have my students complete.

Anyone want to join me? 🙂 I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more resources

What is permaculture? “Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.” (thank you, Wikipedia)


Gaia’s Garden

Urban Homesteading

100 Best Permaculture & Homesteading Books: The Ultimate Reading List for Sustainable Living

Facebook Pages

Permaculture Design Courses


Introduction to Permaculture – 40 hours of Free video lectures

Local Resources

Alaskan EcoEscape courses

Red Edge Design courses

Alaska Permaculture Ning Community

Environmental Health Resources

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I have spent the past few months reading books, digging through websites, and watching documentaries. Below is a list of my favorite resources. My next step is to start sharing what I have learned as well as sharing the ups and downs of my journey towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Our Impact on the Health of the Environment

Stuff Happens with Bill Nye:

McKibben, Bill. (2010). Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Toxins in the Environment & Their Impact on Human Health

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:

The Environmental Working Group:

 Toxins in Your Home & Their Impact on Human Health

Baker, Nena. (2008). Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being. New York, NY: North Point Press.

The Environmental Working Group:

Lourie, B., and Smith, R. (2009). Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint

ZRecs Guide to safer children’s products:

 The Health of Our Food

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Environmental Working Group.

Food, Inc., the movie:

McKibben, Bill. (2010). Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

O’Brien, Robyn. (2009). The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation Into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply–And What Every Family Can Do To Protect Itself. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Pollan, M. (2009). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing.

What’s On My Food? A searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable:

Green Cleaning and Body Care

Briggs, R. (2009). Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable, Nesting Skills. Portland, OR: Microcosm Publishing.

Siegel-Maier, K. (2008). The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Gardening & Growing Your Own Food  (These are books I’ve found helpful as a novice gardener)

Madigan, C. (2009). The Backyard Homestead: Produce All the Food You Need on Just a Quarter Acre! North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing

Buckingham, A., Whittingham, Jo. (2008). Grow Vegetables: Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Roof Terraces. New York, NY: DK Publishing.

 The Story of Stuff Project

Leonard, Annie. (2010). The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health–And How We Can Make It Better. New York, NY: Free Press.

Story of Stuff Videos:

  • The Story of Stuff
  • The Story of Cosmetics
  • The Story of Bottled Water
  • The Story of Broke
  • The Story of Electronics
  • The Story of Citizens United vs. FEC
  • The Story of Cap and Trade

Please feel free to post your own favorite resources!

Graduate School Journey

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I grew up camping and hiking with my family. Thus it was only natural for us to camp and hike with our three children. I found that I love camping, hiking, and exploring with my kids. They see things differently and their enthusiasm for nature is contagious. As an added bonus, when they spend time outside playing freely in nature, they get exercise, they sleep well, their sense of curiosity improves, and they’re overall just happier. After watching the healing power nature has on my own children, I decided to begin my Masters in Environmental Education and Interpretation through UW Stevens Point.  My goal for my masters is to create resources to assist both parents and educators in getting kids outside in nature (I’ve already been compiling a list of our favorite parks and trails in Wisconsin).

I began my first two classes this spring: Environmental Health and Ecological Lifestyles. Both classes have sent me down paths that I was not expecting. I’m reading books on everything from toxins in everyday household items (Slow Death by Rubber Duck) to pesticides in our food,  as well as GMOs. Each book would bring new questions and would send me to the library for more books. My stack of books to read (based on my own curiosity) is growing exponentially and is beginning to become overwhelming.

Books I have read, am reading, or want to read.

As I sit here, I am staring at quite the pile of books and am not quite sure where to begin. In front of me are many winding paths–many intersect, and all seem equally important. Where do I begin? Detoxifying my home? Going back to my original focus of simply getting my kids outside as much as possible? Switching to a local and organic diet? How about simplifying our lives so we use less stuff? What do I do about my goal to supplement my kids’ education due to budget cuts and increased class sizes? To be honest, I can’t decide where to begin and have actually started reading about 10 books at once. Which is not very productive and hasn’t gotten me very far.

Thus, after much contemplation, I have decided to expand my initial goal of helping kids get outside. First, it’s hard to make time to get outside if life is too hectic and busy (thus my interest in simplicity parenting). Plus, what’s the benefit of enjoying fresh air outside if we’re ingesting produce that is full of pesticides and harmful chemicals? I have decided to give myself two years to read through the materials and pull out the most important nuggets of information–stuff I can use and share with those who don’t have the time (or interest) to read through all research and books. I do plan to apply what I’m learning on my own family, so I can share what worked and what did not work so well.  I’m not entirely sure how I’ll pull this all together for my masters project yet, but I’m sure it’ll come to me. In the meanwhile, I created a sister site for my Masters work called “Winding Trails.” Let the journey begin!

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” –Edward Abbey