Bonus Herbal Adventures recipes

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In less than two weeks, Herbal Adventures will begin shipping out to all of you who pre-ordered your copies. I’m so excited to share this book with each of you! It was honestly an absolute joy to create.

Since it’s been a long wait for some of you, I thought it would be fun to send out some bonus recipes now, to tide you over until the book arrives.

These bonus recipes are not included in the book, and are only available to those who pre-order.

To receive your free recipes, simply pre-order your book, then sign up through the form below or click here for more details about what’s included.

I’ll send you access to the extras right away!

20171119-DSC_3258Thanks again for supporting me along this delightful path.

Warmly,
Rachel

Digging roots

It had been raining on and off for more than a week. Sometimes a cold, driving rain, others a depressing and meek but soak-you-through-anyway drizzle. I had planned to dig roots, but nothing about an unseasonably wet, windy October was calling me out to take on the task.

Finally, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out, and the roots (and leaves, and flowers) called.

We went for it.

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From New England asters and mountain mint to one last abundant round of nettles, to roots of burdock, dandelion, chicory and yellow dock, there was so much to harvest–it was hard to know when to call it a day.

Finally Sage’s voice drifted down to the stand of asters where I was crouched, slowly picking, down in the creek bottom. “Mama, dinner’s ready!” (My kids each cook one dinner per week. This was his night, affording me the time to slip off and forage, since he’s self-contained in the kitchen.)

It was music to my ears. I picked a few more sprigs and headed home through the marsh.

20181003-DSC_764020181003-DSC_760120181003-DSC_762820181003-DSC_763320181003-DSC_7634tableBack in the kitchen, Sage’s meal enjoyed and the dishes done, processing time began. We scrubbed roots, chopped leaves, filled the dehydrator, and jarred up fresh tinctures and oxymels and elixers.

Lupine’s gigantic burdock root (pictured in her hands above) was the crown jewel of the day, and she carefully scrubbed away the soil, then tucked it into the fridge, researching recipes for her bounty. She’s considering giving it to Sage to use in his next batch of root beer, or perhaps making sweet-and-sour gobo, pickled (live-fermented) burdock root, or chopping and drying for tea. She’ll decide soon, then we’ll work on it together.

And today, I expect, we’ll set out again–this time to the garden for elecampane, marshmallow, and horseradish roots. Destined for homemade elecampane cough syrup, dried marshmallow root for winter colds and tummy aches, and horseradish to add to our fire tonic.

Oh, I do adore this time of year.

What’s happening in your kitchen, garden, or forest this week?

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P.S. For those of you who pre-ordered my book, Herbal Adventures, they’re shipping soon! (Squee!)

Be sure to tag me on any social media posts when your book arrives with #herbaladventuresbook, and let me know which recipes your family is excited to try first.

To the ridge top

20180930-DSC_7521It’s not always easy- to leave the comforts of fireside and head out into autumn: wind, drizzle, and all. To feel the weather on our skin without the buffer of walls, roof, and wood stove.

But Lupine and I have begun to make a habit of it: heading outside for nature medicine and movement therapy. (I think some just call it “going for a hike”.)

I’ve needed it lately, my heart heavy with the happenings of the day.

So we head to the top of the goat prairie above our house, cleared only last winter of invading honeysuckle and junipers. It might be our favorite perch, with a view of the valley for miles around.

The farm dog (Grandpa) followed. Though he’s old, he can navigate this hill with more grace than I, and we let him lead the way.

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As we headed up the hill, a barred owl in the forest beyond the creek had much to say, and we listened with rapt attention. We felt the thrum in our chests as a flock of sparrows – moving as though with one mind – danced and wove beyond our reach. They’re thinking of autumn, too.

Barely audible, the creek whispered her song to rock and tree. And maybe to us as well.

And I exhaled.

Near the top, I found a cluster of a plant whose identity has eluded me all summer long.

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Despite multiple attempts, I failed at keying it out in books or online. I only took photographs however; never picking a sprig to get to know her subtleties.

Finally, last night (the flowers long since faded) I paused again to wonder at this plant. Who are you? I crushed a leaf between my fingers and inhaled her scent. Normally my first instinct when getting to know a new plant, I had missed this simple, often vital step, and missed the trait that would hint to who this plant might be.

With this fragrance still on my fingers, I found her name after just a moment’s search. Narrow leaf mountain mint – Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. It grows in abundance in our prairie and pasture and the scent is reminiscent of bee balm and oregano. Full of the medicinal components that make thyme such a potent ally during times of cough and cold, we decided to taste for our selves.

The kettle boiled, and I filled our cups.

As night fell on the hillside above us, we sat by the fire (the first of the year), our mugs full of fragrant tea of Mountain Mint. Brewed from the sprig that I brought home, it tasted of summer’s end, of monarda, and of thyme.

It tasted of healing, of autumn, and of home.

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Back home beside the fire again, this wild tea in my cup, I am changed.

My fingers smell of mountain mint, bee balm, and wormwood; my shoulders have softened; the furrow between my eyes has gone. There’s medicine waiting out there – outside – beneath the cloudy sky.

And each time I hike this ridge I leave a heaviness behind, and bring home magic in its place.

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In my kitchen

20180917-DSC_722320180922-DSC_731420180922-DSC_7312Here in Wisconsin, the seasonal shift from summer into fall is taking hold.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Where last week there were cucumber-mint fizzy waters, and burgers and zucchini on the grill, today there are cups of hot tea and a simmering pot of chicken stock. My old  canner is rattling away on the stove as we slowly fill the pantry shelves with the last of summer’s bounty.

Below are five of the things that are making my heart (and tastebuds!) happy in the kitchen this season.

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Pesto

We had a bumper crop of basil this year and I set to work making a ridiculous amount of pesto. So much so that we’ll have to work at using it up before next July! We enjoy homemade pesto on eggs, our weekly homemade pizzas, veggie sautés, and pastas.

I don’t know how most folks store their pesto for use later in the year, but here’s my simple, handy method:

Make your pesto with whatever recipe you love (mine is your basic basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt).

Run through the food processor until you’re happy with the texture, then drop onto a cookie sheet (closely spaced) using the smallest ice cream scoop you can find. (Mine is something elvish like 2 tablespoons, and sold as a ‘cookie scoop’.)

Place the tray in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours, then remove pesto from sheet with a thin spatula.

Store in zip bags or mason jars in the freezer. Thaw those cute little buggers in any quantity you’d like throughout the year.

Easy! Convenient! Less waste!

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Roasted Red Peppers

Some years back, Pete and I were panini-crazed. Eggs, sharp cheddar, sausage, spinach, and roasted red peppers, all on sourdough bread, were our standard.

Since bread became a treat (rather than a staple) around here, we’ve mostly outgrown our panini habit, but we still love to have them once or twice a year for old time’s sake. Back when these were a weekly affair, I started canning our own lemony, garlicy, roasted red peppers. And we absolutely love having them on hand! These days they are often destined for salads, pizzas, and egg bakes.

My recipe comes from my favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation (afflink). I. Love. This. Book. Her recipes tend to be small, though, so I always double or quadruple.

Buy that book. It’s fabulous.

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Fermented Sriracha

We’re swimming in hot peppers over here. (I mean that figuratively, because: ouch.)  I bought some from my friend Mary last week and ended up with quite a few more than I was expecting.

Backstory: I’ve introduced you to Mary in the past. She’s an herbalist, an organic farmer, and a wickedly funny Amish mother of seven boys. (“Wickedly” is probably the wrong word here. You get the idea.)

One year I ordered organic calendula from her for LüSa. I told her I could take (and I quote): “a ton of it”. 

She politely smiled and nodded. (Some of you already see where this is going.)

When I came to pick the calendula up three months later, she said in a very serious voice, “Now back when I went to school a ton was 2,000 lbs.” She looked at me over the top of her wire rim glasses. “And you did order a ton of calendula this spring…”

My eyes widened.

She couldn’t restrain herself anymore, and broke up with laughter, along with her husband and adult children. I blushed, and breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, how we laughed!

There was a similar vibe when I picked up hot peppers last week. I told her the week prior that I would take “loads”, but carefully corrected myself and added, “Though not a ton.” More laughter.

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I know know that a “load”, in Amish Farmer Speak is something close to a bushel.

Because that was what was waiting for me when I came back for my veggies. I took the abundant hot peppers gratefully.

But honestly, a bushel is a lot of hot peppers (nearly a ton, in my estimation). What to do with so many?

Most went straight into the freezer for future salsas and hot sauces; but three pounds worth were trimmed and brined with garlic for a future batch of fermented sriracha.

I’ll share a recipe after I’ve taken this project through to completion, but for now you can find my canned sriracha recipe here.

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An autumn-inspired shrub

Since I gave up my evening glass of red wine nearly a year ago, I’ve taken up a new (and arguably healthier) habit: shrub. A probiotic and alcohol-free beverage, I make a batch every week or two from seasonal fruits and herbs. (Some of you saw my shrub recipes in Taproot 27: BLOOM.)

This one is based off of that same vinegar-honey-fruit-spice blend that I outlined in Taproot, and is beautifully balanced with ripe, local pears; spicy fresh ginger root; and fragrant cardamom. Quite possibly my new favorite evening sip.

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Einkorn sourdough bread

And last but not least, sourdough bread. Einkorn sourdough, to be precise.

A year or so ago some of you tipped me off to einkorn as an easier to digest wheat and we gave it a try. (We had been on-and-off gluten-free for years and were just starting to dabble in wheat again at the time.) It turns out you were right! We find einkorn easier to digest then other wheat.

We still don’t do a lot of it, but we do love to bake and when we do, this is our go-to now.

The book we picked up is this one (afflink) and includes everything you need to know, including instructions on nurturing a wild sourdough starter (mine is pictured above).

Bread is a treat indeed, and this version is our hands-down favorite.

What’s happening in your kitchen these days? Share your favorite recipes, projects, or links below! 

 

Look what just arrived!

When Pete checked the mail this weekend, he brought inside a large padded envelope. Handing it to me he asked, “Are you expecting a package?”

My heart leapt.

The advance copy of my book!

Lupine squealed, found a pair of scissors, and stood beside me (literally jumping up and down) while I opened the envelope.

And there it was. My book! In my hands, for the very first time.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

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If I’m being honest I would admit to being a bit terrified as well. (What if it didn’t live up to my expectations on some level – the book, my work, or this long-awaited experience?)

But all of that fretting was for naught.

The book is big, beautiful, fun, and inspiring. It blew away more best expectations with how lovely it is! And to see my photos (and our friends!) glowing out at us from every page, well, my heart was in my hands.

Lupine and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

We laughed at some of the goofier photos of her, remembered many of the captured moments, and gushed over how lovely it all looked and felt.

My very own book. At long last!

To each of you who has encouraged me along this path, I want to express my profound thanks. To have found my niche and my voice and to bring together my love of herbs, my passion for writing, and my background as an educator–well, it’s a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And you helped me do that, by coming here and reading my words, by attending retreats and summer camps, and by otherwise connecting and encouraging me along. So… thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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As an aside, for those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $16, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

 

Home sweet home

20180904-DSC_706420180901-DSC_6415-220180905-DSC_706820180907-DSC_709120180903-DSC_661520180903-DSC_678920180903-DSC_663220180903-DSC_677520180903-DSC_6556We made it! We’re settling in back home after our trip (1/4 way) around the lake. There were quite a few bumps along the road between here and there and back again, but sometimes that’s just how things go. No, we did’t make it all the way around. Yes, there were issues. But there are certainly greater problems we might have faced than car and camper troubles. Don’t you think?

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Today we’re finding our familiar home grove (which involved drywall mud, a stock pot, einkorn flour, and a pressure canner, though not necessarily all at one time), as we watching the color slowly shift on the hill across the creek as autumn quietly announces its arrival.

And we’re savoring the simple pleasures of our own beds, our favorite view, and the rhythm of life at home. Since we returned home one week earlier than we planned, we’re digging in on some major projects here on that farm that have been waiting for years for completion. That’s a silver lining of coming home early!

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The floods, however, were as ruthless as we had heard.

The town our farm is devastated (again) as the photos below testify. It’s heartbreaking. Truly. We’re doing what we can to help, mostly in the form of donated soap, natural insect repellent, and other necessities from LüSa.

If you’d like to help, simply place an order of $25 or more and add a comment of “Flood relief:CLEAN”. For every $25 you spend on your own family’s needs, I’ll donate $10 or more of product to our community relief efforts.

Oh, Canada!

20180904-DSC_6856With our damaged trailer hitch preventing us from circling the lake with our camper in tow, we were still committed to making a trek across the border, and to spend a few days exploring the Canadian lakeshore.

I found us an off-grid cabin on Airbnb, and off we set!

And, well, it was glorious.

The lack of running water, grid power, or an indoor toilet did nothing to dampen our spirits. If anything, it only added to the charm. And to have a bit of space to stretch out in after living for a week in a pop-up, a morning coffee view that was nothing short of breathtaking, and the perfect Northwoods sauna might have just been the sweet spot of our entire vacation.

Every corner of this cabin was it’s own work of art. Every drawer pull, every window sill, every handrail: intricately carved, painted, or otherwise adorned. We were entranced. And the birds just beyond the deck railing bordered on tame, nibbling seeds from Lupine’s hands and delighting us with their antics just a few feet from our chairs.

In short, it was perfect.

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The cabin, situated at the top of Sibley Peninsula, was perfectly placed for us to enjoy the Thunder Bay region and all that it has to offer, without our needing to set foot on the busy city streets.

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Rain! It’s the theme of this trip, I tell you.

But also there was sun. Thank goodness! Sun for hiking, sun for wading in the Big Lake, sun for picking rocks along the shore. And we relished it.

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After a few days across the border, it was time for one last lingering visit to the sauna, to sip a final cup of coffee on the deck, then pile in the car and drive south toward Minnesota once again. We took one more detour through Fort William Historic Park (a place I haven’t visited since I was Lupine’s age), and then rolled back into our friends’ driveway and our awaiting camper just before bedtime.

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This weekend we’ll be wrapping up our last few days of travel. We’re repacking our gear, saying goodbye to our over-the-top generous friends who have hosted us (and/or our empty camper) for the majority of this ill-fated trip, and heading back to the Driftless.

We’ll be home by Monday–one week and one circle tour around the Big Lake short of our original plans.

Plans change. And the theme we established for our first ever month-long road trip back in 2009, remains our road trip motto: “go with the flow”.

And so we did.

Plan G

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Well, hello there! It’s been a while.

Low on data on our cell phone plan and living largely WIFI-free out on the road, we’ve been off-line for most of our trip. It’s been both a treat and a challenge, depending on what’s going on outside of our little bubble that requires our attention.

Mostly it’s been a simple pleasure, like navigating with paper maps for the first time in more than a decade (I know! Paper maps!), and having abundant face-to-face time as a family, without phones or laptops or work to distract us.

Plugged in again today, I thought an update was in order.

20180830-DSC_609720180830-DSC_610520180829-DSC_606720180829-DSC_6083After a soggy few northbound days, we rolled into safe harbor: a friends’ homestead on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We set up camp in their driveway, dried out our gear, and did a few loads of wash.

What a difference dry socks, some home-grown/home-cooked meals, and a hot bath can make!

Pete even found someone willing to weld our trailer hitch back into place, hopefully in the next few days. (Did I even mention that it was breaking? This trip, I tell you. I’ve honestly lost track.)

With a few of our many troubles mitigated, we were able to lace up our hiking boots and take a proper tromp along the shore–at long last.

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A hike, some rest beside the waterfalls, and a touch of much needed sunshine worked wonders! And all the while our family mulled over our next move, contemplating what now must be plans E, F, and G for the remainder of our trip.

The flooding, you see, continues at home. More rain is coming tonight, and the river nearest our home is over the bridge once more. Our house, we hear, is doing fine, but it’s been terrible for so many of our friends and neighbors. We’re feeling the pull to head back much sooner than we originally planned in order to be there for whatever comes next.

I’m afraid I’m rambling a bit. It’s hard to go a week without blogging and know where to even begin! While I ramble, let’s jump here: a birthday just happened as well.

Without want of fanfare, Sage quietly turned 16 while we were on the shore.

The day was spent with friends in a bog (on a bog?), gathering yellow foot chanterrels (and a few pocketfuls of usnea and labrador), casting for trout, and otherwise being in awe of this wet, misty, magical wonderland.

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We arrived home tired, wet (again!), and more calm and centered than we’d felt we started packing for this journey north.

It was a perfect day made even better (because it ended with cake).

I feel so grateful for friends that welcomed our sorry, soggy lot in, help us get dried out and back in proper shape for our journey, share birthday festivities with us, and otherwise help hold our floundering little craft together.

Grateful, I tell you. May I be half this gracious when friends show up in similar shape at our door!

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And then? It’s off to Canada with us! More on that in the coming days…

Until then, stay dry, my friends. We’ll hope to do the same.

Love,
Rachel

The first few days

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 9.20.10 AMWe departed last weekend on what was intended to be a circle tour around Lake Superior.

The theme, in a way, was water, as we circled the largest freshwater lake in the world.

How much the theme would become water had yet to be seen.

Our departure was planned for 10 am last Saturday. Naturally, this means that by the time we finished loading the car and worked out the many bugs of pulling a pop-up camper for the first time, we rolled out of town at 5:30 PM.

Miraculously, everyone was still smiling. A good sign for the (inevitable) future bumps along our journey.

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Despite our late departure, we couldn’t resist a couple of detours along the way, then spent our first night in a free public campground somewhere between home and the lake.

The next morning we drove the final stretch to the Big Lake, and began our circle tour in Bayfield, WI, at a friend’s coffee shop (which seemed a logical place to start).

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We went to the lake for a wade/swim, then started moving westward along the shore.

And then the rains began.

As we worked out way toward Duluth-Superior and our second camping stop, it rained.

And rained, and rained.

We set up camp in the deluge, our rain gear failing, our mattresses damp, and weathered the next two days of flash flooding, as our phones alerted us again and again to “seek high ground” from the storm.

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In that imperfect way that we humans so often do, we saw this as an inconvenience for us, dampening our spirits and soaking our camping gear. It was raining (as it were) on our parade.

In truth, we had it easy.

We received news the next morning that the flash flooding we experienced on the south shore was nothing compared to what was going on at home. The Driftless, which has experienced multiple 100- and 500-year floods since we moved there in 2006, was underwater once again, at record levels even for this flood-prone region.

Our farm-sitter reports that aside from our driveway being rutted by runoff, we’ve faired quite well, but many of our friends and neighbors have not been so lucky.

This knowledge of how things are going at home, paired with our wet camper and wet gear as well as some hopefully minor car troubles that I’ll space you the details of, makes us feel pulled back homeward, perhaps sooner than we originally planned.

As this trip is our plan C already (after the fires chased us away from the Southwest and then the Canadian Rockies), we’re now mulling over the idea of a plan D: going only partway around the lake, then doubling back toward home to clean up from the floods (if we can get home at all, with all the bridges that are gone, that is).

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Tomorrow there is more rain in the forecast.

Today, however, we have sunshine.

So we’re headed back to the lake. To hike, to pick rocks, to regroup, and watch the waves.

Where we go tomorrow has yet to be seen, but we’ll make the most of this break in the clouds, and send dry wishes home to our loved ones in the Driftless.

Off we go!

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Those of you who have been around for a while know that while I am a undisputed homebody, I also love to take long road trips with my kids whenever I can.

When they were just 3 and 7 we spent a month wandering our way nearly 3,000 miles across the country to the Outer Banks and back. When they were 8 and 13 the three of us embarked for another month on the road, heading this time to Vermont and Maine.

And then last September all four of us packed up, boarded our first plane as a family, and spent a month exploring Ireland.

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So, so good. Each and every trip.

And today? My nearly 16 year old, high school-aged kid is continuing his homeschooling path. We’re still together–nearly every day. But in just 2 years he’ll be 18, and Lupine will be high school-aged. Who knows? She many just might opt-in to formal schooling.

That means that than in just a couple short years, these luxurious month-long family road trips may be a thing of the past.

So we’re going for it. This year, and (I hope) every year until someone’s schedule dictates otherwise, we’re taking September and hitting the road.

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As for where we’re bound now, we contemplated a return to Maine, a return to the mid-Atlantic, and a trip to the California coast. Ultimately we settled on the Rockies. I’ll save you the details, but the fires and smoke out west had us change our plans at the very last minute, so instead of points westward, we’re heading North: for a trip all the way around our favorite lake of all. Lake Superior.

We’ll visit with friends, pick rocks, swim in waterfalls, get our kayak paddles wet, and otherwise explore this beautiful territory that begins just a few hours drive from home.

We can’t wait.

As for our digs for the month, Pete spent the summer restoring a pop-up camper that we were gifted. (The little 1990’s RV we bought for our trip to Maine is sadly too small to accommodate the four of us.)

An old and ragged camper in need of some love came into our lives a year ago. Once Pete dug in on the restoration we realized it had moisture issues and wasn’t easily salvaged. Amazingly, a second pop-ip of the same model was up for grabs from my parents, and between the two Pete was able to create one, beautiful new/vintage camper.

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* Before *

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* During *

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* After *

(I’ll share photos of the inside during our trip.) For now, however, I’ve got a car to load, some knitting to cast on, and a lake to visit.

Want to follow along? Subscribe to my blog below. Then I’ll send you an email each time I post about our trip around the Big Lake.  You can find postcards from previous roadschooling adventures here.

See you from the road, friends!

Love,
Rachel