Lost in the Wild

IMG_4851We are not the Robinson family, although we do like to explore. We try to experience something new on our new country, when we leave the house, ever since we moved here.  It has been an absolutely fantastic adventure, despite some minor less fantastic moments – but let’s not dwelve on the darker times.

In recent months, we have talked a lot about getting more familiar with the great outdoors.  We live in the mountains, next to a huge state park, and pride ourselves of having joined the great scouts organisations for both girls and boys.  As such, we must learn and explore!

Last week we finally build up the courage to face nature head on, and go into the great wilderness – well armed with bug sprays, water, pocket knife and of course iPhone.

We found what we thought would be a good beginner and family trail, in the majestic Bear Mountains which is over 5000 acres of trees, lakes, rivers, wild life that will kill you and of course animals.

For this virgin trek, we even brought our loco brown 2 year old Labrador.  She hates other dogs, gets extremely hyper when she meets people and pulls like a bull.  It would be good for her to burn some energy and at the same time train walking on a leash like a normal dog.

The family SUV took us to the starting point and we prepared ourselves for a “short” trek around in the woods.  My dear wife sprayed all of us with insect repellent.  With the amount she used, mosquitos quickly became an endangered species in a 5 mile radius.

Hi Ho Hi Ho – off we go … we are family … we will survive” were tunes that we spontaneously started singing while climbing our first little ledge.  I personally prefer the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” but perhaps not relevant at that very moment.

The girls climbed large rocks, ran into the wilderness, looked at all insects and screamed by the sight of most insects.  It was a true family bonding moment.  Our son was less impressed as her prefers so watch movies about outdoors, and not being inside it.

Marking a tree in case we don't make it back!
Marking a tree in case we don’t make it back!

I felt awesome.  Putting my scouting experience to use and explained random things to the girls, hoping they would pay somewhat attention.  I showed them the markers on the trees, showing the trail we were on (little did I know that these would become essential for our survival 2 hours later) and was skipping along the path in my trekking sandals.

In hindside, none of us had selected the best footwear for this outing, but we still managed and took our time as we scaled various cliffs and streams.  We had fun and that was important.

As we got deeper and deeper into the wilderness, we encountered less and less people.  They obviously knew something we didn’t or had better trial maps.

2 hours in we finally met another family.  They asked us for direction and we joked that we were heading back to the car and pointed towards a wider trial.  It was only when their lead scout shared his map that I realised that we were slightly of course.  In fact, had we stayed on the trail, we would’ve ended up 10 miles from our starting point and car.

somewhere here
somewhere here

I tried not to panic in the presence of our kids, who all looked at me for guidance.  A nervous giggle emerged from my throat and I proudly pointed towards the path we just came from and exclaimed with a trembling voice “we are going back on the trial we just came from“.  Inside my head I as screaming “we are lost and will die!

Thankfully the kids did not argue and simply turned around.  They just turned, faced the path and started walking while humming.

The good thing was, we knew the path challenges already, and we could easily find our way back to the car as we followed the trial markers. I told you they were important!

Soon we could hear cars again and suddenly I spotted our car in the parking lot, and we had one bar coverage on cell network. It was a joyous and emotional moment being back in civilisation.

Part of me doubted my tracking skills, but my fatherly GPS senses kicked in and navigated us back to safety.  My wife actually kissed the car and hugged all of us with tears rolling down her face.

What did we learn from this family bonding adventure?

  • My youngest daughter knows how to pee in the wild
  • We need to wear better shoes
  • Would be ideal to have a trial map and compass
  • Bring more water and perhaps snacks
  • Prepare to be lost better!
  • Bring pen and paper to write letters home
  • The loco Labrador can actually work nicely (probably exhausted too)

All in all, it was a great afternoon spent with the family and we are absolutely returning to the wild in the near future.

Kung Fu Panda not included

pandaThe joys of being a house owner, amongst many cool and not-so-cool duties, is that we get to decide how wild the garden should be.  Are we going for the ‘garden of the year’ award or do we take a more relaxed attitude, believing in reinstating the natural ecosystem.

I’m probably torn between the two choices, and the only in-between option is called concrete. An option, but not a fan of concrete. My choice is unfortunately natural ecosystem, with some sprinkles of garden award.  Probably a fair 97-3 split.

However, on one of my gardening adventures, I decided to kill what to some is known as garden cancer.  It spreads like an evil network of underground roots, tightly intertwined with roots and tiles.  Literally impossible to get rid.  It also happens to be the favourite dish for the overly obese and cuddly panda bear.

Yes, you guessed it.  It is the fecking bamboo. It looks great at times, but a pain in the behind to prune or remove.

My bamboo bush had taken over parts of the garden and was slowly moving across the garden pathway, finding little openings between the tiles and slowly expanding.  So began the battle of the bamboo.

Only minor problems.  I do not have access to koala bears, pandas or sloths.  And, it was close to 95F/35C during the past summer.  It was a battle I was destined to lose.

There are a few ways to kill or get rid of bamboo.  They mostly require a lot of patience, plenty of time and interesting chemicals.  None of which I poses.

But, I discovered the best trick in the book, which came to me in a dream.  A dream that involved my old biology teacher, who was laughing through his Santa beard.  Freaky I know.  It was basic schoolboy knowledge that proved to be the trick to break the neck of the overly enthusiastic bamboo bush.

What was it?  Well, I will give you this DIY trick for free, and also share that you will lose weight while killing your friendly neighborhood bamboo bush.  It is simply photosynthesis!

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation).

Bamboo bushes uses all it’s leaves to regenerate and expand.  You can cut away at the edges, pull up roots, but you will lose unless you remove the opportunity for generating photosynthesis.

The trick is, which reminds of the old Metallica song ‘fight fire with fire’.  You have to fight photosynthesis with photosynthesis.  It’s simple my friends.

Step by step instructions in your photosynthesis battle.  Something that Syn Tzu forgot to mention in his ‘Art of War’.

  1. Find your garden handsaw
  2. Put on work gloves
  3. Put on long-sleeved shirt
  4. With one hand, grab a bundles of bamboo, and cut it about 5 inches from the soil
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have eradicated the bamboo bush
  6. Inspect the bamboo patch for ridiculous amount of sprouts
  7. Remove all small bamboo sprouts and leaves you find
  8. Repeat step 7 every other day for two weeks
  9. Take a shovel and start to dig up roots

Step 9 is a very tiresome exercise, which is excellent cardio and fat burning.  I spent several hours a day, over the course of three weeks, and honestly believe I lost 6-7lbs.

I’m sure you can use chemicals to do the killing faster, but I do not like to pollute my garden, and is a strong supporter of hard labour – except when I have to do the work!

In the end, it was my awesome and creepy biology teacher who in my dream taught me to fight photosynthesis with my knowledge in biology :-).  Sometimes you can actually achieve a lot with stuff you learned in school.

Other options include inventing recipes for eating bamboo, building a bamboo raft, build a bamboo shed, design cool pens with bamboo casings, weave baskets, create matts, design furniture … the options are endless.  Only your imagination sets the limitation, and of course your ability to do it.

(btw, my old biology teacher was actually a pretty alright dude, and he did not do anything to freak me out)

killbamboo

Surviving the Party

diy birthdayYou want to make your child’s birthday special, no matter how old or young they might turn.  My wife and I are no different.  However, we also have a budget and don’t just splash out on insane Sweet 11th kit; professional dancers, DJ, party decoration, catering, etc.

Nope – we go the DIY family realistic budget route instead, doing a lot of the activities and food ourselves.  We generally stay away from crafting our own decorations, mainly because I tend to cut the pieces too small or get frustrated and tear them all up again!

Our daughter recently turned 11 and as she decided to invite her closest friends over for a sleepover.  I assumed it would be 2 girls, but somehow we ended up having 5 girls volunteering to celebrate our daughter.

Not a big problem really.  We have a nice big basement, and we simply needed to prepare it by getting rid of the biggest spiders and tidy up the toys that had been scattered around by our 4-year-old wonder kid.

  • Outdoor Christmas lights does wonders to any room
  • Party City has some good cheap paper decorations
  • Christmas table-cloth looks good on any occasion
  • Praise the plastic cup and paper plate inventors
  • iMac in the corner pumping out Now! 53 tracks, with screen saver, kick-starts any pre-teen birthday party

Within a few hours, the basement looked pretty awesome if I had to say it myself.  All we needed now was the screaming pre-teen girl invasion.

What do you feed a horde of 5th grader girls?  Easy guys!

Doritos, Cheesy Puffs, Brownies and chicken & beef fajita party.

Feeding-FrenzyIt turns out that the snacks were extremely popular, and within seconds of putting the bowls on the table, a hurricane of fingers started to dig into the snacks – picking the bowls clean, and asking for more.  I have been to the reptile section in the zoo seeing alligators rip into their meat lunch, but nothing compares to pre-teen feeding frenzy.

The girls headed back into the basement after dinner, and started to listen to strange YouTube video/songs, screaming about cute kittens, and singing along to the new Annie movie.  It was awesome to see how these girls had so much fun, but scary that I could not hear anything for several minutes after emerging from the basement.

That evening we had our very first outdoor camp fire with the girls, while roasting marshmallows.  We had to keep feeding the sugar rush and the girls loved sitting outside chatting (giggling) about awkward potential boyfriends – or just talking about who the other girls liked.

Bedtime was approaching, mine that is, and I was hoping the girls would turn down the music humming from the basement.  My eyelids were getting heavy when relaxing on the sofa, and it was only. 10.30pm.

I’m not too sure when the girls finally collapsed, but I do know that my wife was awoken around 1am by two girls suddenly standing in our bedroom saying they couldn’t sleep.  I’m confined my wife thought it was the ghost from ‘The Ring’ standing in our bedroom, and I’m sure she screamed, but I slept right through that event.

Another early morning, as I had to prepare breakfast for the masses, consisting of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and juices.  Sounds easy, but not when you have to feed an army of kids.

Then they went hiking in our little forest and visited the neighbor’s farm, bringing back all kinds of lovely smelling animal sent and poo footprints on the tile floor.  Oh well, they had so much fun and that’s what matters the most.  I had warned all the girls that they might step in dog poo, and to be careful, but somehow that advise was completely ignored within a few minutes.

I think they have agreed to make this a regular event, so have to prepare mentally for the next sleepover party.


Happy birthday to my lovely daughter!  Hope you enjoyed your Bday party.  Your parents (us) survived another pre-teen invasion 🙂

… I’m too old for this shit!

scavenging

Not the Wilderness Family

Although we love being outside and walking in the forest, hiking with the kids has only been a quarterly event at best, with a few small treks into the wilderness with the family St Bernard.  We are not the most avid trekkers, but do our best to be one with nature … blend in with the wildlife and pretend we know how to survive.  We watch “Naked & Afraid“, “Bear Grylls” and of course the awesome “Dual Survival“.  The latter makes me laugh just looking at the dude pretending to be a native indian.  I’m sure he can survive any environment, but not sure he needs to have braids!

It has to be said, the family dog is rarely impressed being dragged through the wide forest paths, shrieking at any strange sound or movement from the forest.  A squirrel runs across the path and one would think the dog would be flying after it, but not our dog!  When doing her business, her lazy gaze scouts the perimeter making sure no evil chipmunk or other animal with teeth is ready to attack.

Now, let’s talk about the family and how we “blend in” and become one with Mother Nature.  Let’s be clear, we are not the Wilderness Family!

Pale Alien Toes
Pale Alien Toes

I for one is probably 30lbs overweight, pale as chalk, dehydrated within the first mile and tend to forget my actual walking shoes and end up walking the entire trek in my flip-flops, plus sweating a fair bit which makes my clothes look like patchwork.  I’m a true tourist in this wast scenic country that’s build for proper explorations and not the back garden of a Dublin (Ireland) estate where the meanest animal is a black crow.

My wife, aka Amazing Gordita, tend to wear her runners, jeans and a designer t-shirt … you gotta look sharp in the wilderness.  She will often start humming and singing, pretending she’s in some sort of Disney movie, explore the berry bushes, snap some cool pictures and help our song along.

Our oldest daughter who one would think that, based on her eager involvement with the Girl Scouts, she would be naturalist in the family … and she is, but only through her obsessive iPhone photo lens or surfing National Geographic.  Well, most times she might be watching some strange Disney show.

My son hates walking in the forest, especially because the roads are uneven, there are way too many flying buzzers of all sorts, he dislikes the shrubs, sweats profoundly and he is determined to find the quickest way back to the starting point.

Then you have Xena the Warrior, our youngest girl, who is natural-born predator.  She hunts around in the forest, with stealth like tactics, sneaking up on wild life and various berries, exploring the undergrowth of the forest – and ninja punches mosquitos.  I’m sure if she got stung by any insect, she would pee on it to reduce the itching.

brixwitch projectDespite our in abilities to blend in with nature, we love exploring the wild.  At least from the safety of the Costa Rican tour bus or Six Flags Safari tour.  We do love spending time in the camp where we are members and have plenty of battles with the aggressive mosquitos when trying to visit the outhouse.  Any bug that might swoosh by will send shivers down our spines and cause uncontrollable arm movements, while trying to get the spray or zapper.

We are NOT the Wilderness Family, but we enjoy life 🙂

I survived

For my daughter’s recent 10th birthday, we had offered a few options for celebrating it.  Either with style in the local amusement / restaurant, a DIY party at the house or just wait until the weather gets warmer so we can party at the local pool.

What did she pick?

Well, she picked a dad’s worst nightmare – a sleepover party with four of her best friends.

dont panic Continue reading I survived