Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Meaning of Halloween

 Here is Desert Girl, dressed up in her ladybug costume. We went into Ely for a kids' Halloween party, which the kids enjoyed quite a bit.

To my parents: I know that you never drove us to go trick-or-treating because you said the candy wasn't worth the gas money. You were right. And if you're wondering why I drove 100+ miles to go get a few bagfuls of candy, here's the answer: it was a good excuse to get groceries. And the van tires changed. And go to the bank. And take books back to the library. And the candy made the kids behave the whole time, even though they each only got to have three pieces all afternoon. And mom got to have some candy too!

 Desert Boy decided to go as a skeleton, despite the costume being a little too tight, and Ava went as a cat. Oops, sorry, she was a leopard. And if anyone called her a cat, she was sure to correct them.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays as I like to dress up in different costumes and well, let's be honest, there's the whole candy angle. Yum. Who doesn't like to get candy for just saying a quick "Trick or treat?"

I teach religious education classes, and I always like to tie in events to make the classes more meaningful. So I did a Google search and learned all sorts of interesting things, some of which I have likely forgotten over the years, and other that I had never known before.

First off, "Halloween" means "hallow" or "holy" and "een" means "eve." It's Holy Eve, or the night before the holy day. What's the Holy Day? November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day. In some cultures, November 1 is Dia de los Inocentes, a day to remember children and infant deaths, and November 2 is Dia de los Muertos, a day to remember adult dead.

Although saints have their own feast day, there were many martyrs in the early Christian church who were unknown, for example those thrown to the lions for the Romans' entertainment. It made sense to pick one day to celebrate all these unknown martyrs, along with all the saints. In addition, the early Christians followed the Jewish tradition of praying for all those who had died. However, mass wasn't said for All Souls until 1048. With the Reformation, most Protestants dropped the doctrine of the communion of saints and praying for the dead.

Halloween is often portrayed with skeletons, ghouls, and other scary things representing death. When thinking about that the day originated with martyrs, perhaps this is appropriate. Of course there is a limit to what children can handle, and, I would say even adults, and it's up to everyone to decide what that limit is.

Trick or treating is a fun custom for many on Halloween. It originated in the Middle Ages, when it was thought that if someone died and hadn't made amends with you, they might turn into a will-o'-the-wisp or a ghost. They would appear suddenly, trying to jolt you into praying for them and forgiving them so they could move on to the next world. You might also try to provide some "treats" in order to avoid the mischief, or "tricks" of the offender. Eventually people started going door to door, masked and unrecognizable, basically wiping the slate clean for the coming year (apparently in case they died, they would already be reconciled and not have to become ghosts). They bargained for treats, hence the now common saying "Trick or treat."

Jack-o-lanterns also have an interesting history. To see details, click here. The short version is that the Irish and Scots carved scary faces into turnips and potatoes to scare away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. When they carried this tradition to America, the pumpkin was present and easier to carve.
One person suggested that Halloween is akin to Mardi Gras before Lent. It's the time to be wild and party, and then the next couple days are good for reflection about our own mortality.

However you choose to celebrate, Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Last Glimpse of Fall Color

 We went with some friends for a hike on Saturday to enjoy some last fall colors. We're supposed to have a twenty-degree dip in the temperature on Tuesday, along with wind and rain/snow. An early October snowstorm turned most of the high elevation aspen leaves brown, so I was feeling like I had missed my opportunity to see the brilliant colors. When we got to the trailhead and saw the vibrant yellows, my soul just felt better. I needed that brilliance before we enter the monochrome winter.

 Rose hips dotted the bushes with little specks of red. At lower elevations, the scarlet skunkbush looked like little flames bursting through the brown grass. It was just a terrific day for color.

 Fortunately Jenny brought her good camera, so I can't wait to see what photos she got. Little Isaac was a patient helper.

 Jenny had suggested this hiking locale, and the loop trail was perfect for the kids. They raced to be the leader, hid in the bushes, ran back and forth from Nomi to the slower little kids.

 Here they are making a train. I was curious to see how this would work.

They chugged along in sync for a few steps.

Eventually the train decoupled and they ran up the trail, ready for the next game.

Then it was time for the inevitable question:

"Can we have a snack?"

We were ready for this, and told them they could have a snack at the bridge, which was the half-way point.

Before we got the snacks out, we asked the kids to sit for a photo. Here we have Isaac, Desert Girl, Charlie, Desert Boy, and Ava. Like how Ava is already barefoot? She had some plans.

It didn't take her long to convince Desert Boy and Charlie that they should join her in shucking their shoes and socks. They tiptoed through the cold mountain stream and commented on just how frigid it was.

Then Desert Boy fell in.

Fortunately Nomi had extra clothes he could wear.

Nomi was also the cuddle place, and the three bigger kids had so much fun cuddling in her lap.

Jenny and I took photos for a bit.

Then we got back to the bridge. Desert Boy had warmed up and wanted to go back into the water. I explained that we didn't have any more dry clothes, so if he wanted to go back into the water, he had to take off his clothes. He thought this was okay. Then Ava thought it was too. I sure hope this is a phase they will outgrow in a few years, and not a precursor to teenage behavior!

The underwear-clad little four-year olds hopped back into the creek and decided they would try to cross the rickety old log across the creek.

Their balance wasn't the best, but at least they didn't get any more clothes wet! The temperature was perfect, and we could warm up quickly, but not get too hot.

Isaac and Emma cooperated and laid in the leaves for a photo.

Then, after a lot of convincing, we got all the kids to lie down in the leaves.

I could have spent a long time looking at the fantastic patterns in the leaves. No two were exactly the same.

When a gust of wind blew, the leaves fluttered down to the ground. Desert Boy tried to catch a leaf, but didn't quite manage it.

Then it was time to start heading back, which meant heading downhill. Desert Girl and Isaac, despite missing naps, were eager to hike.

I followed the older kids, who were still full of excessive energy. They tore down the trail, enjoying the several bridges. Then Charlie tumbled on the trail and came back with a worried expression on his face. I checked out his scrape and told him Desert Boy had a first aid kit.

Desert Boy was eager to get out his first aid kit, which he had packed that morning. He had a handful of bandaids and a few gauze pads. He had wanted to pack more, but I had told him that would be enough. He also really wanted to pack treats for his patients if they were good, but I convinced him that really wouldn't be necessary.

Desert Boy patched up Charlie quickly.

Then they discovered that Ava had an owie. And it wasn't just any owie, it was a blood owie. That definitely required a bandaid.

Ava got patched up too. Then Desert Boy improvised. He didn't have the suckers for his patients, but he did have some chips, so they all ate some chips for being such good patients/first aid providers.

All us moms were trying not to giggle too much as the whole scene unfolded in front of us. It was infinitely adorable how they were solving their own problems with such calm.

Then we went back to hiking.
I found more beautiful leaves.

The leaves were coming down quickly, so we were all happy to have had our outing to commemorate the beautiful fall. The hike was especially fun because we were able to do it with friends. Now it will be a little easier to face the coming of cold weather.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bagging Silage

 This long white bag that looks sort of like a mutant worm leaving some excrement behind is really not that. Course, you probably already figured that out, being the intelligent blog reader that has chosen to come to this site.

What this bag signifies is that it's harvest time! These are silage bags, and they cost a lot, like several hundred bucks each. Who knew a little plastic could cost so much?

 This machine is called the bagger, and it's being used to put silage (ground up corn) into the bag. The idea is that the bag will create a moist environment, allowing the silage to ferment a bit and increase the protein content. And if the cows get a little tipsy, with fermented food, cheers to them.

 The silage truck backs up to the bagger.

 Then it opens its gate and tips the bed.

 This is what the silage looks like coming out of it. Hard to believe its good food!

 Jose operates the bagger.
 Malcolm puts on a big grin in the silage truck.

 It only takes a few minutes for the silage truck to dump its load in the bagger, then it heads back out to the field to get more.
 The bags are labeled and dated.

It was such a nice afternoon that we decided to head out into the fields to try and find the chopper.
 We found a few errant corn stalks that had evaded the maw of the chopper.

 Seeing the brown corn really made it seem like fall. The snow-covered mountain might have helped with that appearance, too.

 I liked how the road threaded its way through the corn field. We had to take it, of course. The chopper wasn't on the other side.

 We saw that the chopper had been there, though. So we looked for the dust of the silage trucks and continued on.

 Then, off in the distance, we saw the chopper at work, with a backup silage truck ready to take the first one's place as soon as it was full.

Aw, the joys of fall. My husband will breathe a huge sigh of relief once all the corn is chopped. The corn silage is all done now, with quite a bit of corn earlage left. Earlage is when the chopper just pulls the ears off and chops them up. Its higher energy for the cows and is harvested later than the silage.

And now you probably know more than you wanted to about bagging silage. But if you still want to know more, here's a post I wrote about it back in 2008!

Monday, October 17, 2011


It can be really fun to pose for a shadow photo. Even Henry got in on the action!
It's been a little crazy lately, with some awesome fall weather so we just have had to get out of the house. Plus we restained our house this weekend, which took longer than expected (don't all DIY projects turn out that way?) And the Internet isn't working correctly. So all that means limited computer time. It's kind of nice in a way, but I do have to feed my addiction periodically!

Hey, NaNoWriMo starts November 1. Have you ever wanted to write a novel? November is a great month to do it--the days are short, the evenings are long, and you can fill them up by writing. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that if you force yourself to write every day, you will finish your novel--or at least a really rough draft. I've participated twice before. The first time I finished a really fun young adult novel, Adventures in the Junkyard. I haven't found a publisher yet, but I have submitted it to a couple contests and received some helpful reviews. The second time I didn't make the 50,000 word goal, but it did help me get through insomnia and make me exercise my writing muscles.

This time I'm ready to go at it again. And for those of you who are non-fiction writers, there's a similar non-fiction challenge for November. I have a friend doing that one, and we're going to be encouraging each other. Who else wants to join the club?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

National Fossil Day

It's getting late in the day, but I just learned that today is National Fossil Day! Better get out and celebrate! After all those fossils might not be around for long (but we'll hope so).

For those junior paleontologists out there (like Desert Boy), here's a super fun Junior Paleontologist booklet for free, plus some more activities.

Ricks Spring

After visiting Logan Cave on our NCKMS field trip, he headed farther up Logan Canyon and stopped at Ricks Spring. The spring emerges from a large overhang and has a handicapped-accessible trail that goes up close to the springhead. Except that this isn't any regular springhead. As we watched, we saw a light in the spring, followed by a body. There were divers in the spring!

Even though I won't do cave diving as it's one of the most dangerous sports around, I'm fascinated by it. And it was interesting seeing these divers emerge with all their specialized gear in the 46 degree water. They said it was warm. They dive there all winter, and some of the water comes from the Logan River, so it can be really cold.

I wasn't the only one fascinated--our group watched in awe as the divers surfaced.

It was hard to believe that the passage continues, but in fact it goes back at least 2300 feet in the main passage, and they haven't even started exploring the side passages.

These cave divers have begun mapping the cave.

The cave twists and turns like most caves, and also goes up and down, making it a sporting challenge. These divers have done over 200 dives at Ricks Spring, so they know the tricky spots, like especially tight spots that require side mount tanks. They also know at what water levels they can dive the spring--during snow melt, the water velocity is too high to safely go in. This year all their guidelines were washed out by the super high velocities. They also have to dig out the cave entrance every year.

We listened to a USGS presentation about the geology of the area and what dye traces had shown.

Then we listened to the divers, Wendell Nope and Richard Lamb. They made it clear that they are very safety conscious and love what they do a lot. Then they showed a video they shot, which was awesome. If you'd like to see the video and some additional photos of this underwater cave, check out Wendell's website.
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