Monday, August 22, 2016

bees in my backyard

This past summer is the first time I've ever had space to plant my own garden. It's my pride and joy, and I am just so delighted every morning when I walk into it and see it filled with bees and butterflies. Recently I have become fascinated with bees (if we're friends on Instagram, you might have seen my bee postings!), and have been reading all about them in addition to studying their antics in my own backyard.

Learning about the massive amounts of bees that are dying is quite troubling, as bees are an integral part of our ecosystem. (Watch the documentary More Than Honey on Netflix and observe humans in parts of Asia pollinating blossoms by hand because there are no more bees - it's horrifying.) Though I don't eat honey anymore because I'm vegan, I am seriously considering adopting some natural backyard hives in the next year or two (check out this book if you're interested, too!). I am just so mesmerized watching bees go about their daily business, and I'd love to help their cause in any way I can.
Psst...this photo is available as a print (and more) for purchase in my shop! It's one of my favorite photos I've ever taken.

Monday, July 11, 2016

black bears in Upper Michgan

Last month Jasper and I took an extra day off of work to take a short trip to Upper Michigan with the sole intention to visit Oswald's Bear Ranch, a bear rescue in Newberry. I was excited to snap some photos, and I'm happy to finally be sharing my favorites with you. Last year when we visited the UP on our road trip around Lake Michigan I fell head over heels in love with these beautiful animals. Over the winter, much of my time was spent at the library, scouring for as many books about bears as could be found. Now, as a more knowledgeable individual, in addition to the photos, I'd also like to share a little bit more about bears and Oswald's Bear Ranch. (See my Bear Ranch post from last year here!)

I don't believe in zoos, and I choose not to support them by buying tickets because I don't think animals should be kept in captivity and exploited. Oswald's Bear Ranch is not a zoo, however, it is a bear rescue. All of the bears living on the ranch (29 all together) have been rescued as lost or abandoned cubs, or as neglected "pets." It is against the law in Michigan to breed bears, so once they reach sexual maturity the males and the females are kept in separate "habitats." These habitats are a third to a half mile in perimeter, each, and there are two other enclosures of a quarter mile perimeter for the yearlings and adolescent bears. All of the bear cubs are raised by humans and grow quite familiar with human interaction, and for this reason, they can never be released back into the wild. They live out the rest of their lives in the beautiful woods surrounded by two layers of tall chain link fence where tourists can come, and, for twenty dollars a carload, see them.
American Black bears (Ursus americanus) are the most common bears in the world. They are omnivores with a diet that fluctuates dramatically based on what is available to them at any given time, mostly based on season and location. Black bears vary in color, as is evident in these photos. Their coats are known to be brown, blond, cinnamon, and even white. These bears mostly occupy heavily forested areas, though do leave the woods occasionally in search of food. Black bears (including those at Oswald's Bear Ranch) hibernate during the winter months.

The black bear population is likely more than double that of all other bear species combined. Along with brown bears, these bears are the only ones considered not threatened with extinction. While this seems like good news for the black bears, this is a terrible statistic for bears globally. Especially in Asia and South America, bear species are severely threatened (only about 1.600 Panda Bears exist today).
At the bear ranch humans are separated from the bears by a very tall double layer of fence. Some of the bears hang out next to the fences and raised viewing  areas because they have been conditioned to understand they might get treats (apples) from the onlookers. There were times when I was only three feet away from these animals. It surprised (and delighted) me to observe all the different personalities between the bears, along with all of their distinct and unique appearances. We'd regard each other from our opposite sides of the fence until one or the other decided it was time to move on. As our eyes would meet, I didn't find myself staring into blank and empty voids. The beautiful brown eyes gazing back at me were surprising soulful. There was an intelligent and thoughtful air between us.

I was sad to observe a few of the bears suffering from mild zoochosis (a psychological condition that can affect captive animals). I observed some pacing and neck twisting in the adult bears, while the cubs in the smallest enclosure with no grass or green, were quite quickly and compulsively pacing until someone would come along with the staff to have their photo taken with them. It brought me to tears to observe these behaviors, but my sadness was slightly mollified to know that these bears are living a better life than they would have in the wild where most of them, as cubs, would have died from starvation. Nuisance bears would have probably been euthanized. Being reminded first hand about the sadness of captive animals just drove home for me my belief that, whenever possible, wild animals should stay wild. I support rescue, rehab, and release programs, and I do understand that in some circumstances, such as with these rescued bears, animals can't be released into the wild. I am thankful for the kind people who care for them and use their time with them to better society's understanding and appreciation of their species.

Want to learn more about what is affecting and threatening bears worldwide? Here is a helpful article.
Check out this short documentary about zoochosis, I can't recommend it enough.
To become involved and advocate for the protection of these wonderful animals, take a look at these sites:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

the wind longs to play in your (pit) hair

A few months back I took up an "experiment" and I stopped shaving. The biggest reason was because I was starting to become downright curious to see what my body looked like in its natural state. It bothered me a little that I didn't know.  As someone who has shaved multiple times a week since I was about fourteen, it was a little hard for me to not reach for my razor every time I was in the shower, but now that I'm months in, I'm not sure if I'll ever go back!

It really doesn't make sense to me that society's reaction to women with armpit hair (or pubic hair!) is "gross," or "unhygienic," and yet men with pit hair is completely the norm. Having armpit hair didn't suddenly make me a dirty person. We shouldn't make sudden judgments on someone's appearance simply because we are startled and shocked by it.
Shaving is a habit that women are conditioned to uphold from an early age. There is nowhere on tv, in magazines, or advertisements that shows a woman with hairy pits or legs (even the porn industry has us all about going bare "down there"), so it's easy to see how young teen girls feel like they need to remove that hair if they want to be "normal." (Even though "normal" would seem to me to be the state your body is normally...) Women with hairy legs and armpits are seen as controversial - as if a woman in her natural state is something almost taboo in our culture. It is about time that this changed, so my words and photos are here to help spread the message that IT IS OK NOT TO SHAVE. You don't need to be hairless to be feminine, beautiful, sexy, or powerful.

I'm not writing the post to say that I think all women should stop shaving and embrace their hairiness. I think that if you want to shave you should! I completely understand some people would never want to have have hair on their legs, arms, lady bits, ect., and that is a personal choice, just like choosing not to remove your hair is a personal choice. I want to live in a world where my daughter (if I ever have one) can feel comfortable in her own skin, and not feel forced to look a certain way by the media, advertising companies, and the people around her.

Please, let us all make an effort to embrace individuality, to accept bodies in all degrees of size, color, and hairiness, and to let people do, and not do, to their bodies what they will without judgement. We are all different and unique.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

preparing to say goodbye

I'm currently home in Door County for the summer. I'm working my days (and nights) away to be able to save enough for a longer trip this winter. In my free time I've been enjoying soaking up the sun outdoors, either hiking or getting my hands dirty in my garden.

I sold my car to help out a friend who needed it more than I did, so I've been driving Trixy daily. I don't like driving the van for every day use because it's huge, and the gas mileage I get driving around town is terrible. However, I have developed a different kind of appreciation for the old girl having spent so much time driving her lately.

After the fiasco in Florida, Jasper is very adamant about the fact that Trixy can no longer be used for van life. She's too rusted underneath for repairs to be made simply, and undertaking any excursion too far away from home would be foolish. Of course, he is right, but my heart breaks to admit it. I've slowly been coming to terms with the fact that this summer might be our last together.

It might be hard for some people to understand, but Trixy means quite a lot to me. I decided to buy her on my own, and though friends and family thought I was crazy, I bought her anyways. She immediately became a symbol of adventure, freedom, and rebellion. I have had such wonderful experiences traveling across the country in her, and thinking of selling her in some ways makes me feel like my days of independence and adventure are somewhat behind me.

We've been searching for a new van, and I am certain we'll find a good one (one that was stored in the winters this time - no rust damage!). It still feels different. I'm no longer the single girl making crazy and brave decisions on her own. I'm a part of a couple now. Perhaps that will make for a more sound purchase, and I'm sure I'll appreciate that in the end.

For now we're taking as many little overnight trips as we can. We love to park by the lake and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shore. We remember fun times we've had, and plan adventures yet to come. Here's to summer, working hard, and planning well.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

harbor fog

The sight of the harbor floods me with memories of warm humid nights, rocking slowly along with the lapping of the waves. We gazed over the harbor at the lights of the town from the deck of the small boat, and then up at the stars. We were naked. We were young. We were wild. We were free.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Florida Road Trip 2016 // The Everglades

 When I was planning this trip I didn't give The Everglades a second thought until I was asking Jasper what he wanted to do while we were down there. He wanted to take an airboat ride. I had never heard of an airboat before, but it sounded kinda fun, and it wasn't too expensive, so we added it to the list of things to do.

We were warned by some locals about the "boring" drive from Tampa to the Keys (around five hours), but our path took us through the Everglades, which boasted some pretty scenery and lots to take in for a couple Midwesterners. We decided to stop at a random airboat tour stop - they are everywhere down there - and we couldn't have asked for a better time for forty dollars ($20 each).

The coolest part for me was seeing the wild alligators. Guys, gators are pretty cool. I've seen them before, but never in their natural habitat, and never this close! I was surprised how much they looked like small dinosaurs with those little ridges down their backs. Also, their little legs are so cute. (Cute, but able to run and swim quite fast!) I was also impressed by how still they can sit. I thought some of them weren't even real before they slithered away from us into the swamp.
Just a lil' guy. He was SO. CUTE.
This gator is over fifty years old! He likes to hang around the docks mid-swamp.
Now I have to tell you a story. At the end of our tour I noticed a gator sitting over by a house on the river. It had been there before we left, too. I pointed it out to Jasper. The tour guide noticed me pointing and said, "That's Spike. Do you guys want to see Spike?" Well heck yeah we did. We walked over to the side of the river while our guide proceeded to call this gator over like a dog. "Spike, come here, boy! Come here, Spike!" The gator remained motionless for a few seconds before slowly getting up and wading into the water. He swam over, hopped up on the river bank, and opened his mouth. We could hardly believe it, it was a bit crazy. I will definitely never forget that moment, though. The pictures below are of Spike!

Monday, April 11, 2016

road trip tips // my hygiene essentials and how to pack them

Over the past couple of years I've taken a few road trips (and lived on the road in my van!), but it wasn't until my last trip that I finally figured out how exactly to pack my personal hygiene items. I found this plastic box thrifting, and I immediately knew I had solved my problems. (Now, I am trying pretty hard to not buy plastic things brand new (and in general), but I figured buying this used box wouldn't be so bad, considering I'm planning on using it pretty much for the rest of my life.) It is PERFECT for van life (and road trips in general) because it's easy to put my hands on, it holds everything I need all together, and if something breaks or spills it's contained inside the box and will be easy to clean up.
On the road, similar to my life at home, I like to attempt to be as green as possible. Pretty much all of my toiletries and such are all natural, and they're almost all homemade. Here's a list of my must-haves on the road. What are yours?

1. COSMETIC BAG // Used for small things such as lip balm, nail clippers, and any makeup.
2. OVERNIGHT FACIAL OIL (homemade) // A non-greasy moisturizing oil used before bed.
4. ROSE WATER // A mild toner, I use this before applying facial oil at night, and to refresh my face throughout the day if needed.
5. ROSE FRESHENER (all natural and homemade) // Can be used to mildly cleanse and deodorize "down there" (only topically, ladies) if showers are few and far between. 
6. TEA TREE ESSENTIAL OIL // Antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic (among many other things), and can be applied directly to the skin without diluting.
7. SMALL TIN BOXES // I reuse my old Altoids tins to store items such as bobby pins, floss, lip balm, band-aids, and hair elastics.
8. HAND SANITIZER (all natural and homemade) // Can also be used as a spray-on deodorant.
9. TOOTHBRUSH // This company, Preserve, makes their toothbrushes from recycled yogurt cups (razors with replaceable blades, too!)!
10.  PERFUME OIL // I use Jasmine essential oil (blended with jojoba oil) as a perfume on my skin and in my hair.
11. LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL // The most versatile of essential oils, this can be used to remedy practically anything (not including vehicle trouble, unfortunately, haha). It can also be used directly on the skin without diluting.

Friday, April 8, 2016

self portraits 4/07/2016 // bare

This is my face. No makeup. No beautifying filters. In fact, these photos have been altered to slightly enhance my "flaws" in order to make them easier to see in the photos. Freckles, blotchiness, runaway eyebrow hairs, wrinkles - they're all there. I'd say that this is my contribution to the "No Makeup Challenge," but I am happy to say that it is no longer a challenge for me to go makeup free.

I have never worn a lot of makeup in everyday life, mostly only eyeliner and mascara, and perhaps some lipstick or eye shadow if I am feeling particularly inclined. Don't get me wrong, I do like wearing makeup - to me it's a form of artistic expression - but I'm glad I've gotten to a point where I don't feel compelled to put it on every time I head out the door. I like being able to enjoy applying my makeup instead of just slapping it on because I feel I have to.

I'm not sick or tired in these photos, but I am sick and tired of people asking me if I'm sick or tired when I leave my house without makeup on. I am comfortable with the way I look. I feel good and I feel beautiful the way I am, with and without makeup on my face. I sincerely hope that all women are able to feel this way at some point in their lives. Obviously in our society today there is a lot of pressure, especially on women, to uphold a certain standard of beauty. People make comments like you look tired and you look sick  when we venture out sans makeup, but then when women do wear makeup they may be accused of wearing too much, or wearing a style that is too intense for other people's tastes.

Though, I am comfortable in my unmade up state, when someone casts a thoughtless comment at me (Aw, it looks like you are sick!) it does still sting. It may be a comment made out of sincere concern, however the suggestion that my outward appearance is somehow lacking makes me feel small. I wish if someone was, indeed, worried about my health and wellbeing they would instead ask, How are you feeling? This conveys concern without offhandedly offending. I also believe we should live by the old adage that if we can't say something nice, we shouldn't say anything at all. Let's not shame women for wearing a makeup look we don't appreciate.

What are your thoughts on the No Makeup Challenge? Do you ever go out bare faced? Has someone ever made you feel inferior because you weren't wearing makeup...or because you were?
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