Freelance With VisitSouth

8K4A3020So sorry for the recent lack of posting, my life has been crazy the past few months.

But great news! I just recently became a freelance writer for VisitSouth- a travel website designed to give people ideas for things to do and places to see while visiting in the southern states. I am one of their Virginia writers, predominantly focused on writing for the Williamsburg and Virginia Beach areas.

So please check it out! And feel free to leave any recommendations/comments/critiques on the writing and topic choices!

Virginia

Williamsburg

VA Beach

 

– Seana

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Camping at Cunningham Falls

On July 4th weekend, Brian and I met a group of his friends and family up at Cunningham Falls for their traditional weekend of hiking, camping and relaxing. We had the best time.

I used to go hiking at the falls every year when I was younger with our family friends, but I hadn’t been back in a while and I had never been there to camp. The campsites were some of the best I’ve seen- ours backed up to a hill of climbable boulders and it was flat and shaded. The weather was great the entire time, it was early July and we had mid-80 degree weather, we felt like we were cheating the system or something.

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All of the hiking trails were connected at some point along the way, so it was easy to make hikes as long as you wanted them to be. We did a seven mile hike the first and second day, and the last day we finished our time there with a shorter (but just as strenuous!) 5-miler. Every night I went to bed exhausted and it was a great feeling.

Thanks again to Brian’s family! Here are a few photos I’d like to share from our weekend of adventuring, thanks for reading!

– Seana

A Time for New Beginnings

Happy spring!

The past two weekends were our first weekends for planting at the property (as you can probably guess by the blinding paleness of our arms and legs).

We had perfect weather and all of our seeds came in on time, so we were able to start planting right away. We prepped the garden by rototilling each quadrant and raking away old leaf mulched used to keep any weeds from growing early in the season. We’ve decided to plant my organic seeds with the Burpee seeds side-by-side this year, based on vegetable-type, instead of me having my own quadrant. It seems to be working well for us so far. It’s much easier to stay organized and to remember what is planted where, especially since my labeled spoons didn’t work out how I wanted them to.

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So far, we have planted potatoes, onions, lettuces, spinach, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli and snap peas. Within the next month or two we will start planting the warmer-weather plants like tomatoes and peppers.

Here are a few quick snapshots of what we’ve been up to- this is the prettiest time of year at the property with the redbuds and daffodils out, and take note of how funky the starts of the asparagus plants look!

Until next time, happy planting!

– Seana

Blackfish

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I’ve always had a soft spot for whales, orcas in particular. Writing this post has been difficult because I have so many conflicting thoughts about this documentary and the subject it discusses.

Blackfish came out in 2013. By telling the story of Tilikum, a large male orca whale taken into captivity, it highlighted the differences in lifestyle and behavior of wild versus captive orcas.

I didn’t watch this documentary blind- having been through two semesters of oceanography classes in college, I knew the basics, I knew that orcas are extremely smart and sensitive animals. Through scientific study, they have been found to be the most intelligent marine mammal, and after humans, they are the second most widely-distributed animal on the planet. These whales are social animals and have an extremely complex system of sounds for communicating and hunting food. Some studies have gone so far as to say they may have a “sense of self” and a more complex range of emotions than humans, because of an extra lobe in their brain that is believed to be used for emotional processing.

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Although this “killer whale” has been given the stereotype of feared predator, there are no records of an orca doing any harm to humans in the wild. The opposite is true for those in captivity. Tilikum, as well as other whales previously free and captured for the use of various sea life attraction parks all over the world, have been the unfortunate end to dozens of trainers. Can they be blamed? As the documentary said, “If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?”

I remember visiting SeaWorld in Orlando when I was a child, I remember the Shamu show. I remember, even then, feeling strange while watching the show. Looking back now, I was struggling with conflicting senses of awe and heartache as I watched these massive creatures swimming around their miniature fabricated habitat, as I still do today.

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It’s a confusing thing for spectators and trainers, as the documentary pointed out- we bring these animals closer to us so we can study them, interact, form relationships, and try to understand their species. Many of the people involved have sincere intentions, but even the best intentions can have negative side effects. Captive orcas face all kinds of health and social-related issues, many experience dorsal fin collapse and gashes and wounds inflicted by other whales in the tank. An animal that intelligent and powerful, coming from a family with its own language and way of life, an animal that previously knew wildness, is not genetically built to be confined to a tank.

090202213322-largeThis documentary will make anyone with a heart stop and think. It was haunting- it stuck in the back of my head for weeks after having watched it. I don’t know the answers to the questions this documentary raises, but I do think the interviews, video footage, and information presented in the documentary was a great representation of both sides of the argument and really shed light on many of the facts about orca captivity that do not come up in every-day conversation. I would seriously recommend taking a few hours out of your day to watch it on Netflix if you are at all interested in the issue, or even just trying to learn something and expand your viewpoints.

– Seana

Beaver Spotting!

IMG_5606 - Version 2Today was one of the very few times I have been to the property in the winter time.

There was a lull in the many snowstorms we have been getting this month, so my dad and I decided to head out to get some work done. It was a brisk 34°, but the sun was out, and the combination felt really nice once we started moving around.

Our main project of the day was taking down an 80-foot poplar tree that has been slowly rotting from the inside out. There is a stone bench overlooking a quiet, deeper part of the river near the tree, and it had fallen over, so I went over to look at it thinking the winds and weather may have caused it to break.

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It was fine. There was still ice on the banks of the river where I was standing, so I threw a few sticks at it to see how thick it was. As soon as I started hitting the surface of the ice, a shadow of a big animal swam out from underneath the ice and headed upriver. At first, I thought it was just an extremely large fish because from the angle I was standing I couldn’t see the tail. But as it swam closer, I could see it was a beaver! Seconds later, a similar but miniature-sized shadow came out as well- a baby was following its mother back into their home on the far side of the river bank. They were completely silent as they swam easily through the water, not coming up once for air, and slipping straight into their undetectable hole on the other side. This was only the second time in my life I had ever seen a beaver on our property, so it was a special moment. They have lived on our river banks since I was a baby, we see their handiwork on the trees up and down the property line, but they normally stay hidden when we are around.

IMG_5595The poplar came down no problem (and I got to drive the Polaris back and forth a few times, which is always the best part of forgetting supplies up top). We got it all cleared away and started splitting the larger pieces of wood before we left for the day. My legs are so sore currently from all the bending down I had to do, but it was good exhausting work, and the beaver spotting was worth any sore muscle I have.

– Seana

Thinkin’ About Seeds

imagesI just got my organic Seeds of Change catalogue in the mail this week. Even though it’s only January, now is the time I start looking through stores and magazines and planning out my spring quadrants- so exciting!

My lettuce, spinach and beets did horribly last year. I am not sure if it was because I tried the Seeds of Change seeds for the first time or if it was just a bad growing season, but I think I’ll stick with Burpee this year to be safe. The rest that we plant from seed – green beans, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, leeks – I will go organic. I’ll buy tomatoes, peppers and herbs as small plants closer to planting time.

Asparagus Two new additions this year! First, Sue and I want to replant asparagus! My grandma had it in the garden years ago and it did so well. It was one of the best growers we’ve had, but it has since been dug out. We are going to try again and buy some Burpee and some organic seeds and compare to see which grow and taste the best. Because asparagus is a perennial, we still have to plan out where we want to put it since it will stay there for a few years.

I also want to try growing brussels sprouts. I have been a brussels sprout fiend this winter, I can cook them perfectly now. I know they grow well up at my aunt’s house in Pennsylvania, but I want to try them out here in our climate.

Only a few more months to go until we are back in the dirt- happy planning!

– Seana

The Wilderness World of John Muir

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I just finished reading “The Wilderness World of John Muir.” I already knew a lot about Muir’s influence on our country’s conservation and environmental history, but the passages chosen for this anthology highlighted his character and disposition as well, which came as a welcome surprise to me.

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The author explained that to prepare for his trips, he simply threw some tea and bread in an old sack and jumped over the back fence. He was a well-liked and strong-willed Scottish man with “legendary conversational endurance.” He was spiritual in a natural sense, never owned a car and disliked politics. He climbed the tallest of trees in the windiest of storms, slept outside without the comfort of sleeping bags and tents, and lived for the exhilaration of wherever his venture took him.

Muir’s writing style had an astounding eloquence and clarity to it. He experiences were eye-opening and he was so opinionated and humorous at unexpected times that I was laughing aloud and reading excerpts to whoever was in earshot. If you are at all interested in nature writing or the life of John Muir, I would recommend picking up this book. I’ll leave this post with a few of my favorite quotes from this anthology-

“‘Well young man,’ he queried, ‘You mean to say that you are not employed by the government on some private business?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not employed by any one except just myself. I love all kinds of plants, and I came down here to get acquainted with as many of them as possible.'”

“Lying down almost anywhere on the approach of night, and what glorious botanical beds I had! Oftentimes on awakening I would find several new species leaning over me and looking me full in the face, so that my studies would begin before rising.”

“The fly and grasshopper paid me a merry visit on the top of the Dome, and I paid a visit to the bear in the middle of a small garden meadow. He was a broad rusty bundle of ungovernable wildness, a happy fellow whose lines have fallen in pleasant places.”

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a show rid forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal suset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

– Seana

Infused Water Trials

IMG_20140104_141246I decided to try making my own infused water today- it worked!

It’s been all over the internet recently, and wanted to know what the fuss was about. I made three different kinds, and I really liked all of them. They had a very subtle flavor and tasted more natural than the fruit-flavored water you buy at the store.

Most of the ingredients I chose to use were already at my house and I split them between three mason jars in what I thought would make the best combinations of flavors:

  • IMG_20140104_141820Lemon, cucumber, ginger, mint
  • Rosemary, lemon, blackberry
  • Apple, lime, cinnamon

The combinations all complimented each other well. The lemon/cucumber had the softest and most refreshing flavor, while the other two were more in your face with the ingredients I chose. The apples, cinnamon and blackberries didn’t release their flavors as well as the cucumbers and lemon, so I’ll add more of them next time.

This will really be good in the summer when I have all of our homegrown fruits and veggies. I’m interested to know whether or not there are really health benefits to drinking infused water. By letting the fruits and herbs soak, I am not sure exactly how much of their nutrients are actually released, but they definitely made for a refreshing-something to sip on!

– Seana

A Little Inspiration

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This morning I ran into a little girl at a bagel shop.

With thick black-rimmed glasses and mini coffee cups dangling from her ears, she stood next to me while I was waiting for my breakfast and began to describe her early morning adventures. With a drive that you don’t see in most eight-something-year-olds, she went into detail about the beauty of the ice she photographed hanging off the tree limbs outside her house and her desires of becoming a photographer in the future- both of which I had been thinking about while looking outside the car window only a few moments before.  This short little snippet of conversation seemed to come with perfect timing, and I was inspired against all intentions of staying inside today to do some wintry discovering of my own.

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Seana

Billy Goatin’ Around Great Falls

54090010Last month my friends and I took a trip out to Great Falls accompanied by my cheap little fisheye and wide angle film cameras. They ended up capturing the spirit of the hike rather well- it was a pretty grey and somber day, but the falls were still beautiful and we were all in very high spirits knowing this may be one of our last opportunities to hike before it really started feeling like winter.

The river was the lowest I had ever seen it, and we took full advantage of that. It seemed like we were doing more rock climbing than hiking- Cameron took us off the trail and out to the middle of the river where he had climbed to a few weeks prior to our trip. Normally when the river is high you cannot get there because of how strong the current is, but we made it, found an awesome bench and had some food before climbing back up to the main path. We ended up finishing the entire trail before dark and ended the day with a stop at this little french bakery not far from the falls.

It was a great day and the climbing kept us warm and energized… until we made it to the car and the sore muscles and tired arms and legs started to set in.

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– Seana