Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Secret Codes?

Mr. Jack decided it would be fun to learn about secret codes.  What is the purpose of secret codes?  How are they used?  Have you ever used a secret code?  He asked the kids and got a wide range of responses.  He then explained to them how secrete codes were used during the Revolutionary and Civil War.  This really got them excited.

Next, he explained how a code wheel worked for sending secret messages.  He told the kids how it was important to change the code often, to keep the enemy confused.  Usually, codes were changed several times a month.  In some cases it was changed weekly.

He gave the kids instructions on how to make a code wheel and they began working on their own wheels.  Some made their wheels different from the others.  They found out this was a problem when trying to translate the code made on a different wheel.  Mr. Jack explained to them why it was important that the parties sending and receiving coded messages had the same code wheel configuration.

This was a neat learning experience for the group.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Why Do We Have Trout Hatcheries?

We visited the Pisgah Wildlife Center and Fish Hatchery to learn more about why they raise different varieties of trout.  It was very interesting and the kids had a great time learning about the workings of the hatchery, the environment that trout like, and the importance of hatchery fish for the local streams.

Ranger Daniel was very enthusiastic, as he told the students about the habitat trout like to occupy.  He explained the difference in native trout and hatchery trout to the kids.  We learned that Rainbow trout are not native to our mountain streams.  They were brought to eastern streams from the western U.S.  He also told us that the Brown Trout are natives.  They are actually from Europe!  He asked the students to try and figure out how they got here.  It was a wonderful brainstorming session.  The Brown Trout or German Trout as natives in Appalachia like to call them came here over 150 years ago.  No one is exactly sure how they were brought into the country.  Brook Trout are native to our mountain waters.

Ranger Daniel took the group on an exploration hike to a few stream locations and had the students identify habitat requirements of the trout.  He explained how tree cover, erosion, and pollution all effect the trout population.  The kids had fun looking for trout in the water.

Next, he showed the students the raceways where the maturing trout are kept.  He discussed with the students how the raceways were not well thought out when made in the 1930s.  They were placed in direct sunlight and not protected.  Hopefully, one day there will be funds to help redesign the raceways.  He had the students identify the different trout and gave them pointers on how to remember each type.

Back in the classroom, he explained the process of raising trout in the hatchery.  He gave the students a brief lesson in genetic diversity and its importance.  We learned that all the hatchery trout are sterile, except for the breeding stock.  Ranger Daniel passed around vials for the students to see the different stages of development from eggs to fry in the trout.

The hatchery raises trout in order to protect native populations of trout in the streams.  The mountain streams are maintained and regulated in order to ensure success in native trout populations.  In highly populated trout fishing areas, hatchery trout are constantly being stocked to allow fishing.  Harvesting these fish is encouraged and a wide variety of tackle can be used.  In remote areas, stocking of hatchery trout is less and stricter regulations are enforced for harvesting trout.  Tackle is more specific and harvesting numbers are limited.  This was very interesting information.

We love attending Pisgah programs!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Enjoying the Camping Life

We just can't get enough of camping on the weekends!  Time seems to slow down and relaxation is a must when in the great outdoors.  Just our little family went up to Orchard Lake this go around.  We haven't been by ourselves this camping season, so it felt a little strange.  We had a great time and enjoyed each others company.  If you have a chance, check out Orchard Lake.  The kids will have a great time.  Oh, so will you!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Frugal Way to Stock Your Travel Trailer

Camping can get quite expensive when you sit down and think about all the items needed.  Oh, there are some that rough it quite well and only need a back pack, sleeping bag, small tent.  However, most of us like a few luxuries on our excursions.  Especially those of us that have decided to take the plunge into the RV side of camping.  So, how can you reduce the cost of the items you need for your travel trailer?  Here are some of the ways I frugally stocked our travel trailer:

1.  Pots and Pans:   Scour your kitchen cabinets.  Do you have duplicates?  You don't need every size of pot or pan.  One large pot with a lid, one small pot, and a large skillet are typically what is mostly used.   Timing was everything when we purchased our first travel trailer.  I had received new pots and pans for Christmas and hadn't donated my old set.  They were sitting in a box, in the garage, and I had forgotten to load them into the SUV.  The set fit the camping criteria for us.  1) They weren't in bad condition.  2) They were light weight.  3) They didn't cost much.

If you don't have duplicates, consider looking in consignment stores or thrift stores to stock these items.  A good scrubbing and run through the dishwasher will put less of a dent in the wallet.  Many campers prefer cast iron cookware.  That is fine if you don't mind the added weight and you are going to be cooking over a campfire.  

2.  Electric Skillet, Hot plate, Instapot are three items that I use every single time we camp.  I had two electric skillets in the house and never used both at the same time.  I put the smaller skillet in the RV.  I stumbled upon a never used double burner electric hot plate at the local thrift store.  It was an older model and never used.  I picked it up for $11!  The Instapot is another favorite of mine in the house and in the RV.  I was taking mine from the house and into the RV each time we left on a trip.  My sister had bought one and decided she didn't like it.  So, she gave it to me and I now have one for RV!

I know I got lucky with the Instapot and most won't be that lucky.  Slow cookers are just as good and can be picked up at consignment sales for just a few dollars.  They are well worth the investment.

3.  Plates, bowls, silverware, cups:  I didn't have extra sets sitting around in my cabinets of these items.  During the summer months when all the stores have their summer themed plates, cups, etc. out and marked low, I picked up great deals to stock the RV.  Also, look for dorm specials at the big box stores.  Plates for $1 or less, cups $1 or less, bulk silverware.  So, if you don't have extra sets around the house, this is a good option.  Just don't go overboard on dishes.  Consider one plate, one bowl, and one cup per person.  If you typically bring a guest or two, buy for them.  I keep six plates, bowls, and cups in our cupboards.

Paper plates and disposable cups are great options, too.  Quite frankly when I don't want to be doing dishes all weekend, I opt for paper plates.  We typically go to Costco and buy the large package of disposable paper plates.  They last almost all camping season for us. 

4.  Serving utensils and knives:  I hunted through my kitchen drawers for duplicates and found a few.  Next, I took a long hard look at what I really needed for our typical camping meals.  Space is always dictating practicality. So, 1 slotted spoon, 1 solid spoon, 1 pasta spoon, 1 slotted spatula, 1 solid spatula, small set of nesting measuring cups, tongs, and 2 spreading spatulas.  I bought a set of knives that came with a knife block.  I am not crazy about the knives, but they work okay for now.  I will probably replace a couple of the knives, but still use the block for storage convenience.

5.  Can opener, knife sharpener, and bottle opener!  Don't forget these!  We have a manual can opener that gets the job done very well.  The bottle opener keeps the hubs happy!  The knife sharpener is an item not often thought about until the knife is dull and of course you have nothing to use to sharpen it with!  I bought a very small one that easily fits in the utensil drawer.

6.  Towels and wash cloths:  Again, I got lucky and had received new towels and wash cloths for Christmas. The old towels and wash cloths weren't in super bad condition.  There were a couple that were fraying. However, for camping use they were a great fit! I have one towel per person and two wash cloths per person in the RV.  This works out fine for a weekend trip.  On week long excursions, I typically do a load of laundry mid week and wash the towels and wash cloths.

If you need these items, consider replacing the towels in your home with the new towels and wash cloths.  You might as well treat yourself!

6.  Linens:  You probably have an extra set or two around the house.  We had sets that I had bought for our blow up mattresses when we tent camped.  When we upgraded to our new RV the queen sets still worked.  The twin sets were too small for the kids new bunks.  I needed full size sheet sets.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any in the house.  I lucked out and our local Camping World had just put full size sets on clearance.  I purchased the sets for $14 each!  They even match the interior of the camper.

Ask family members or friends if they have extra sets they don't use, shop the clearance section, or look at thrift stores for linens.

7.  Entertainment:  My kids don't tend to play board games at home, but while camping they love it.  I just put several of the games into the camper.  I keep an eye out while shopping and if I find a good buy on a fun game I will purchase it.  I just bought an outdoor bean bag toss, ladder toss, washer toss combo game on clearance for $10 (regular $20).  It folds compact and is light weight.  Don't go overboard with the games, just a few and you can always trade them out for different ones after a few trips.

8.  Fans:  You can never have enough fans!  We had a box fan for our tent.  It is now in the RV.  I love this fan!  It circulates the air well and doesn't take up tons of space.  It fits on the dinette table perfectly.  We purchased on clearance a table top rotating fan.  We use it outside mostly.  I have a small box fan that is perfect for our bedroom.  My mom gave it to me since she didn't use it.  The kids needed small fans for their bunks in our new RV.  We bought the fans on sale and saved a few dollars.  I looked everywhere to find the clip fans cheaper, but didn't have much luck.

9.  Chairs:  Sitting around the campfire is nicer if you aren't on the ground.  Luckily, most camp chairs can be purchased relatively cheap.  However, the cheaper the seat the comfort level isn't always the best.  If you don't have extra lawn chairs to take with you, pick up each family member a $5 camp chair at Academy.  This will get you off the ground and enjoying the campfire.  That is what we did.  We have upgraded to the Zero Gravity recliners for the hubs and myself. My parents surprised us one Christmas with these.

These are just some of the major needs for camping in your travel trailer.  I didn't mention all the necessities and will post later about sewer hoses, chocks, leveling blocks, etc.  Camping in the travel trailer doesn't have to be expensive, if you use your creativity.  Always begin 'shopping' in your house for items you need.  Ask family and friends if they have the item.  They may give it to you or sell it cheap.  Next, look at thrift and consignment stores for items.  Then move to the box stores.  Shop the sales and clearance sections.  Never pay full price!  If you have to pay full price, make sure it is a need that you just can't wait on for camping and don't have the item to place in the RV from home and take out again when you return.  Lastly, put those items you would love to have on your birthday or Christmas list.  Feel like a kid again opening up the present and finding something exciting to use for camping!  Stocking the RV doesn't have to cost a fortune if you take your time and assess your true needs.

Cradle of Forestry

We went on a field trip to the Cradle of Forestry.  What a wonderful place!  The park staff were friendly and very helpful during our visit.  We were able to check out backpacks to explore the Adventure Loop.  Our group of kiddos were a bit too old for the packs, but for younger kids they would be great.  Also, if we had not taken the wrong trail, we may have used the materials more.  We ended up taking the Forest Discovery Trail and hiked 2.1 miles.  This is a moderately strenuous hike and although the trail is paved, I would not enjoy pushing a wheelchair up the 350 foot elevation change.  Everyone decided we need to really get into shape after this hiking experience! 

 We found the Moon Tree Story quite interesting!  

 The Moon Tree!

 We took the Forest Discover Trail and not the Forest Festival Trail.  
Don't make our mistake especially if you have small children
or mobility issues!

The indoor scavenger hunt was a hit with the kids.  Again, it was more for the younger set, but our older kids had a great time looking for the items.  I took plenty of pictures of all the displays and plan to make a scavenger hunt for the older set.  I want them to read, learn, and explore the wealth of information.

We were unable to watch the film about the history of the Cradle of Forestry.  It runs at the top and bottom of every hour and we were trying to beat the weather before the round of severe thunderstorms hit.  So, the film is on the list for a future visit.

We didn't get to explore the Biltmore School trail due to the weather, so it will be a wonderful incentive to come back and see more.

This is definitely a place we will enjoy many more times and learn more and more each visit.