Tag Archives: adventure

A bad day turned good

We reached our limit camping in the Rocky Mountains… The snow was too much. Day time temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures dropping to -6 was a little too low for the Dean kids and the bad mood of the youngest who is unfortunately cutting her last teeth was taking us to the edge of reason and sanity. So despite loving where we were and gaining so much from the fantastic knowledge and experience of our host, Robin, we took the decision to move on to warmer climates for camping. We are heading back to the Appalachian Mountain range.


Camping in the snow with a toddler is a step too far for even for us.

We had a brilliant time at Earth Knack and achieved lots despite the weather and toddler tantrums. We dug flowerbeds, build bridges, Rob did some tree work and the kids always love watching him working with a chainsaw. We potted up seedlings, prepared communal meals and emptied the compost toilets. We also made great new friends with Gray and Suzannah, the interns there now.


The bridge Rob built with Suzannah and Gray


Watching daddy working… and freezing!

We were a bit sad packing up but as the two younger kids decided to really step up the bad behaviour we knew the decision was the right one and we cracked on. But we decided to head to some hot springs to get clean and have some fun. It worked and we emerged clean and refreshed, ready to hit the road.


Breakfast in the snow!

It’s funny how things turn out though because at this point things improved… Not only did we find the most delicious Chinese food in America a little cafe we happened to stop at but we then spotted a Golden Eagle feasting on it’s freshly caught prey in a field. We were able to stop right by the edge of the field and get an incredible view of it tearing the dead creature to pieces. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Golden Eagle and it was spectacular, breath taking and skin tingling.

Driving late into last night we drove along snowy mountain passes as the temperature dropped around us. But snugly in the car we knew a warm motel bed and indoor toilet awaited us instead of a freezing tent.

This morning, refreshed we headed to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The vast majority of it was shut due to the heavy snow but we went ten miles into the park in the hope of finally seeing a bear. Sadly the bears still elude us but we did spot moose, pelicans on a lake and some yellow bellied marmots which more than made up for the closed road and lack of bears.

Heading East again now past Denver we’ll be driving through Kansas tomorrow and on to Tennessee, the Appalachians and warmer weather. We might make it right over to the east coast for a beach day… We haven’t seen the sea for months which is a strange feeling when you’re used to seeing it from the kitchen window at breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Brilliant Bushcraft at Earth Knack!


We arrived in the afternoon on the Tuesday with plenty of time to set up our tent, arrange some dinner and settle in. But the place was deserted! Certain we were in the right place on the outskirts of hippy-ville, (otherwise known as Crestone, which makes our home town of Lostwithiel look positively un-hippyish!), we waited a while to see if our host, Robin would appear. We made a fire and as all Brits do in such circumstances… we had a cup of tea. Eventually my phone graced me with the ability to make a phone call (a rare luxury with an iPhone!) and we got through to Robin’s voicemail which confirmed she had been delayed in her journey from California which should have seen her return the night before. So we pitched our tent, found the compost toilet, made dinner and when to bed, optimistic that our new warm sleeping bags would keep us toasty warm.

campfire at Earth Knack

A fire is an important moral booster for outdoor living!

After a long night freezing our butts off we rose to find Robin had arrived home in the night and after introductions and explanations we settled in. Later that day some other people arrived for their “internships” learning primitive skills. We spent the day getting to know each others stories and learning the ways of the Earth Knack camp… how to empty the buckets of “communal compost”, how to avoid a bear trying to share your tent and other such delights.

Earth Knack, Crestone

The communal camp area with the outdoor kitchen in the background

Earth Knack

Bridge over carefree waters

As family wwoofing goes, this is spot on. Robin is like a child whisperer and instils calm and respect from all three of our increasingly feral children. She believes strongly in including the children in the adult work and they are encouraged to stoke the fire, partake in the primitive skills and ask questions. As such the work is arranged so that the while family can join in. We are mainly digging over and weeding a set of flower beds to be planted next week and there is a communal garden in the town where we are all pulling, digging, chopping, rotorvating and generally getting filthy. Other tasks include collecting wood and preparing the communal evening meal.


Collecting firewood as a family affair – Orla is in her element!


Family wwoofing at it’s best when we can all join in

After a couple more freezing nights we obtained a couple more blankets, found our warmer winter clothes from the roof box and have learned how to wrap ourselves in such a way that the last couple of nights have seen us warm and cosy and sleeping just lovely.

After watching the interns, Grey and Susanna, learning to use a bow drill, Alfie has been utterly determined to have a go. So last night Rob and he worked hard preparing their bow drill set and set to practising the technique – with huge success! Fire from friction surely has to be one of the most satisfying skills one can learn.

Bow drilling

Alfie learning to make fire by friction with a bow drill – aged 6

As the weeks go on we’ll be learning more about the edible plants in the area, Alfie will have a chance to make a bow and arrow and I’m hoping to have a chance to learn some basic flint knapping techniques to take home. Talking of home…. You’ll have to wait a little longer to hear….


Let me paint you a picture

Meadow wouldn’t move. It was just after 9 am and Rob and the kids were listening to Derby versus Forest, which, bizarrely, is easier to listen to in the depths in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia than it is to pick up in Cornwall. I had collected the metal milk bucket and soapy water to wash her udder with and left them in the barn, now all I needed was Meadow to plod serenely ahead of me into the stall as she does each morning without question. This morning she wouldn’t budge. I sighed and turned around to give her minute more chewing the cud… And there they were… An adult bald eagle and a young one!

They swooped silently into my view and the adult landed on the grassy bank opposite me. Far less graceful on the ground I wondered if there was a reason for her landing there so I crept forward trying not to disturb her yet aware that she knew exactly where I was. She called out to her young eagle and he flew down next to her… They were eating! Pulling the dead creature apart into strips, I couldn’t see what it was but hoped it wasn’t one of the chickens providing our eggs at the moment.

Utterly spell bound I watched for 20 or so minutes as the adult took a seat on a high branch above the river and watched as it’s successful offspring enjoyed his new wings, flying back and forth along the river. Then in came another infant. Two baby bald eagles after a harsh winter, how wonderful! Well done you magnificent bird.

I’d been watching for a while and the Adult eagle knew I was there so I decided to try creeping through the gate in the hope of the clearest view a few feet away. From the mass of trees on the slope opposite me a second adult appears and let the first one know it was time to go, perhaps I got a little too close.

A family of four right here on the river! Tingling with the excitement of what I had just had the once in a lifetime opportunity to witness I went to milk Meadow, who happily walked with me to the barn to be relieved of the two and a half gallons of milk in her udder.

I felt like I was in my very own nature programme, living the dream.

Oh and the Bald Eagle’s Barmy Army won 5-0!

To see a short video I took of the eagles follow me on Facebook Adventures of Muma Dean

Our nomadic life begins…

The house was sparklingly clean and our belongings pack away. Tearful good byes had been said to our best friends over a quick breakfast at theirs. Orla’s god father gave her a beautiful locket with Cornish quartz in and Hippie Jo came to join the waving off party…

Bodmin moor was glistening this morning with strange frozen hail which was covering the signs and backs of the tough moorland cattle.

Our hire car is comfortable and roomy… Roomy enough for all the mixed emotions filling it up. Mainly we are very excited. But there is a little sadness about the friends we will miss and our dog Ethel. And there are nerves… Naturally.

We are now officially home schooling our children and are basically living nomadic lives with just the few belongings we have with us… Which already includes wee soaked jeans when one of the boys missed the Travel John… Our boys do seem to wee with incredible frequency which doesn’t help with the already tricky car travel element of the adventure… They’ll get the hang of it though, they’ll have to!

As I write this we are going over the Severn Bridge into Wales for our first night away, staying with friends near Swansea. Tomorrow evening we push onto Derby.

Itinerary planning


It’s 2014 – the year the Deans take off!

Christmas was a very practical affair when it came to presents this year, consisting of items such as base layers, binoculars, a survival kit for Alfie, head torches, winter coats and stuff sacks! Without a TV we are relatively free from the bulk of the “but I wanted a super-spiderman-hi-fi-ds-wii-pod-thingy” and our children are easily pleased.

I got Adobe Photoshop Elements for Christmas which I am now beginning to find the time to play around with… as demonstrated above! Expect some fairly random photos for now though as I’m just enjoying taking them. They’ll be more topical once we are State side I promise.

Since Christmas our planning activity has revved up a notch and I now have a rough itinerary for the first few weeks of adventure.

Before we even leave the UK we are planning 12 days for visiting family and friends so on the 1st Feb we leave our lovely Cornish farm and head to Wales. From there we will visit Derby and Nottingham before a few days in London and the South East. We fly from Heathrow on 12th February and that’s where the adventure really begins!

After three days in New York we’ll be picking up our hire car and heading North West into Pennsylvania. Woodstock in the Catskill Mountains sounds like an interesting place so we may stop there for a night – unless anyone has other suggestions?

Pressing on through the Catskill Mountain Range we’ll then head towards Skaneatles by The Finger Lakes, which sound geologically interesting. The Finger Lakes are narrow channels gorged out by glaciers resulting in drumlins, waterfalls and deep gorges to admire.

By the middle of that week we’ll have made it to Buffalo where a life long friend of mine now lives. She also happens to be an archaeologist and currently works in conservation. From Buffalo we can make a day trip to Niagara Falls on the Wednesday and then press South to West Virginia via the Allegheny National Forest for a bit of bird and wildlife watching.

We are due at our first WWOOF placement on the Saturday in West Virgina. New Vrindaban, which I talked about in an earlier post.

A week or so settled at New Vrindaban will be a nice time to rest with the children, enjoy some physical work and catch up with the home schooling before we set off for Washington the following week.

This journey will take us through the Allegheny Mountains and onto the Shenandoah National Park, where we hope to explore the Luray Caves. Recommendations of places to visit on this leg are very welcome please!

We are visiting friends in Washington and I can’t wait to see them. While there we plan to visit the Capital and see the big sights. Our focus here will be on learning about American history and politics.

After that we’ll head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stay there a while to explore before heading way south to the Everglades in Florida.

That’s about as far as we’ve got with planning for now and takes us to about the end of March. We are trying to keep pretty flexible on the plan as we just don’t know how it will all go and how the kids will adapt to the long journeys. It may be that after 5 weeks of travel we want to stay put in the mountains for a while or we might be keen to get to the warmer southern climate to rest for a while.

Either way, we are open minded about how it will go and prepared for the inevitable exhaustion we’ll experience at times but we’re a pretty laid back family and our kids are easy going.


Base-Layer me up baby! My kids love the base layers from Muddy Puddles.

Carreg Cennen Castle – Wales


We went to Wales this weekend to visit friends. Setting off straight from school we made the 3.5hr journey in one go thanks to a well packed picnic and the ingenious TravelJohns
 I recently discovered. They prevented no less than three separate toilet stops and the boys thought it was hilarious!

Our friends live just off the M4 yet on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and Carreg Cennen Castle was a short drive across moorland and through valleys which reminded me of our pre-children hikes in the Peak District – intriguingly alternative to the Cornish hedges and green hills down here.

Built upon a huge limestone crag nearly 90 metres above the river Cennen the Castle has utilised the natural defensive qualities of it’s position. It dominates the skyline from miles around and it’s easy to imagine why people dating as far back as the iron age occupied it as a stronghold.

View from the arrow loops.

View from the arrow loops.

The Castle as seen now was build in stages during the end of the 13th Century and start of the 14th Century and has a bloody history of battles and wars, including the Wars of the Roses (1455-85). However it was deliberately ruined in the Summer of 1462 on behalf of the Yorkist king, Edward IV, who had just won it back from the a Lancastrian supporter, Gruffudd ap Nicholas who was using it as a garrison. They destroyed it so it would not be used by the enemy again. It has laid there in ruin ever since.

Interior at Carreg Cennen Castle

Interior at Carreg Cennen Castle

For me the magic was in the ability to see how people lived there. The domestic quarters are surprisingly in tact so you can make out the kitchen, various private chambers and even toilets – always fascinating to our boys (oh okay, us too). You can see various stair cases twisting up the towers and picture the people using them all those centuries ago. In the inner ward the massive oven is still visible and of the style of modern pizza and bread ovens which are still fashionable and functional today.

Children inside the bread oven

Children inside the bread oven

Most intriguingly is a long dark tunnel which runs under the castle for some way but leads only to a chamber at the end. It’s not sure what the purpose of it was but, considering the effort it would have taken to create, there must have been a good reason for it. The tunnel and cave is covered in graffiti mostly from over 100+ years ago which is fascinating in itself. Not only picturing the medieval knights and princes but the Victorian tourists making their way along the tunnel with candles and ridiculous shoes, scratching their names and dates – claiming their own little victory over the Castle and mortality. I didn’t get a picture down in the cave because I was concentrating hard on getting both me and my kids down it and back out alive – sorry about that. You need to take a torch as it’s pitch black, although you can hire them from the shop.

After exploring the castle as extensively as possible with a gaggle of children in tow we headed down to the shop and café for lunch. Castell Farm surrounds the Castle and is run as a Welsh upland holding with rare breed sheep and cattle. The meats from the animals can be sampled in the café with Longhorn cottage pie and other hearty dishes. The kids were welcome and prices reasonable.

It was a fantastic day out, ideal for families of all ages as the paths are easy and the castle is interesting for all. You could probably do it with an off road buggy but we used an Ergo Carrier for Orla. You wouldn’t be able to do the cave with a pushchair or with a big backpack.

Prices and opening times available on their website


A great place to play knights and dragons!

A great place to play knights and dragons!

A medieval toilet. The waste just headed out of a hole in the outer wall of the castle.

A medieval toilet. The waste just headed out of a hole in the outer wall of the castle.

It's easy to see why they build it here with a defensive view from all angles. Carreg Cennen is an imposing feature on the surrounding landscape.

It’s easy to see why they build it here with a defensive view from all angles. Carreg Cennen is an imposing feature on the surrounding landscape.

Making new friends


An ambition for our travelling experience is to meet new people and make new friends all around the world. People from other places and generations, with different cultures and lifestyles to our own. People who have experienced different things to us and know about different stuff to us. Meeting new people and making new friends was one of our favourite things about having WWOOF volunteers on our farm and we are somewhat isolated from “new people” at the moment.

Yippee – our adventure will be starting early in this respect! We are heading to Dublin in half term to see my Father for a few days and to have a little “test run” of travelling with the kids, as lightly as possible in both mind and matter. It just so happens that one of my favourite family travel bloggers is over in the Emerald Isle at the moment and we will hopefully get the chance to meet up. Their kids are a similar age to ours and they have been travelling since May 2012, which puts them in the “mega” camp in my head. You can read about their epic adventures on their blog Travel with Bender.

I told the team about meeting new people who have been travelling for ages over tea last night and suggested we think about some questions to ask them about their experiences. They were as excited as me. Alfie thought of a question he would like to ask their children, “was it a little scary when they first set off on their travels?” I said I thought that was a great question! I’d like to ask the parents the same.

Reality hitting!


Well the cows passed their TB test and early tomorrow morning will be loaded in a lorry and taken to Exeter market to be sold. Suddenly it all feels a bit more real! Yesterday I read a blog by a woman, Kate Hand, who has recently relocated her family from Ireland to Spain and although on the whole it’s amazing, but the kids are struggling at times – naturally. Since reading her post, A Heavy Heart I’ve been pondering just how I will cope with all the “I hate travelling, I want to go home” ‘s I’m going to hear. And I’m sure I will hear a lot of them.

Alfie came in a few mornings ago from playing outside, kicking his feet about and looking sad. “What’s up Alf?” I asked with concern. “When we go travelling I won’t see Rosa for a whole year” and with that he burst into tears. Rosa is his best friend who lives with her mum in a caravan on our farm. Alfie adores her and she him.

And so a conversation was had about all the things we will miss when we are away and about the friends old and new that we will be seeing around the world. I’m going to miss Ethel our dog… BIG TIME! She’s old now and the reality is that there is a chance she may not be around when we get back. I’ll miss our house too as I love it here. Alfie wished we could take Ethel and Rosa with us and I explained over his sobs that we couldn’t. Missing things isn’t a good reason not to go. Over coming the fear of missing things is a great skill which can set them up for a lifetime of adventure.

And so with the sale of our cows, some of which we love like pets, the reality, both the good and bad is setting in. Their sale equals freedom to travel but I will miss them.