Author: allkat24 (page 1 of 2)

Hiking Mailbox Peak!

This past weekend I decided to do a solo hike in the Cascades. When I’m hiking by myself, I like to find trails that are heavily trafficked, but still pretty difficult – Mailbox Peak is just perfect for that! This hike is just an hour and 40 minutes from Olympia, and is just East of Seattle in case you want to get a bite to eat after hiking 😉

Looking into the Cascades from the top.

The trail is about 10 miles there and back and features pretty steep switchbacks all the way up the mountain. The last mile and a half is pretty brutal because the switchbacks end and you have to walk straight upwards to the peak, but the view at the end is so worth it. On a clear day, you can see the Olympics on one side, the Cascades on the other, and Rainier towering right in front of you. The peak also features nice rocks to sit down on and recover from the journey, so I highly suggest bringing a snack to refresh with.

The hike gets its name due to the mysterious old mailbox that appeared there many years ago. Now, people use it as sort of a ‘shrine’ to the mountain. You can find anything from stickers from other national parks, to trinkets, to food stuck in the mailbox as a way of giving thanks for the beautiful view. The mailbox is actually known to go missing every now and again, but always mysteriously reappears.

Hiking culture here on the West Coast of Washington is always super friendly and I end up making lots of buddies when I go alone. There are lots of people from the city who like to spend their weekends out enjoying nature, so I expect to have many nice conversations when I head out into the mountains. There are, however, many trails around here that are less frequented if you are the kind who likes to use hiking as a way to get away from the world too!


Procession of the Species!

This past weekend in Olympia was particularly special because it happened to be the annual Procession of the Species downtown. The procession is a community-run parade that snakes through downtown featuring floats that highlight different species of animals across the globe in honor of Earth Day. The parade was started in 1995 and has since earned national recognition – other cities and states have also started their own processions!

Octopus float!

All of the floats featured in the parade are handmade by members of the community. Most people spend the whole year working on their float in order to impress the crowds that gather to watch! A lot of different groups throughout Olympia will sign up to represent a different species each year. For instance, a former professor of mine and her percussion group always do an incredible show at the end; this year they were blue macaws. Even Evergreen programs will get involved – I have a friend who is in the acting intensive program and got to operate the huge red-eyed tree frog float in the parade this year!

The red-eyed tree frog float.

The Procession of the Species also happens during the same weekend as Arts Walk. This event is an opportunity for businesses to open their doors and host different artist from the community to vend their art. There’s also often different music shows going on throughout the weekend and lots of fun activities all over town. Every Arts Walk I seem to discover a new restaurant, store, or hangout spot!

Events like these in Olympia are always fun because the town is small enough that you always run into people you know while you’re wandering through the different streets seeing what there is to see, but it’s big enough that you can always expect to meet new people and discover places that you have never seen before.

Sign Painting for the Organic Farm!

This past week I was able to help the organic farm on campus with a super special project! For three quarters out of the year, the farm vends its produce in a market stand out on red square. Because a lot of money is involved in retaining organic certification and ensuring that what we grow on the farm is done in the most sustainable and nutritious way possible, our prices have to be on par with what you would expect high quality produce to cost. We’ve been grappling for a long time about issues of inaccessibility when it comes to getting students (who are mostly all on tight budgets because, well, students) organic produce from the farm without having to charge them prices that are higher than conventionally grown produce prices. It’s taken a while to finally come to a solution, but this past month the Clean Energy Committee approved a proposal that a friend of mine and the farm manager presented to them. That proposal asked that the CEC subsidize the farm in order to allow them to give a special 50% off rate specially for students. As of this past week, it is officially approved and put into action! So, I spent Wednesday with a friend who works on the CEC helping to update the advertising signs to make sure the word gets out to the student body here at Evergreen.

Our painting studio set up in the garage at the farm.

This is actually a pretty huge deal for the student body at Evergreen as well as the organic farm. Allowing the students to actually be able to afford the items grown on the farm will boost the levels of student engagement on the farm by a landslide. Allowing more students to become part of the organic food system on  campus, we’re really hoping to see even more students feel like the farm is a place that truly is on Evergreen for them. Whether its simply just enjoying a few tasty snacks from the farm stand, becoming a member of the permaculture club and helping to take care of Demeter’s Garden (the space on campus reserved for permaculture), getting a community garden plot, or taking Practice of Organic Farming for the quarter, the organic farm is a haven for students on campus and continues to try to be an example of how growing and eating nutritious food is something that should be accessible to everybody.

Independent Project – Growing Flax on the Organic Farm

For Spring Quarter I am doing independent research on different methods of clothing production. One of the areas that I have chose to study is processing flax into linen, so I was able to get permission from the Organic Farm at Evergreen to grow my own flax with the goal of creating linen! Because the farm on Evergreen’s campus is certified organic, I also got to learn more about the processing of sourcing seeds that are suitable for organic production.

This past week, my goal was to get the seeds for my fiber flax into the ground in order to be able to harvest them come July. So, I started the week by taking advantage of the break in rain to prep the bed for seeding. I received 1lb of ‘agatha’ flax seeds from Fibrevolution in Oregon, which covers one 10’x10′. I wanted to be sure that I had extra seeds just in case I run into germination problems with my first try, so I decided to use a 5’x10′ plot for my project – this only requires half of the bag of seeds that I have.

The flame weeder about to destroy the weeds.

The bed that I chose is in full sun and was pretty full of weeds when I started, so I opted to flame weed. I know that once the flax begins to grow, it will crowd out all the weeds so I am not too worried about them further down the road. Looking back, it would have been more efficient to simply tarp the bed to eradicate weeds and would have used less resources from a sustainability perspective, but unfortunately I needed to get the seeds in the ground as soon as possible so I did not have the time to do so. The ground was a little wet which compromised the flame weeding a bit, so afterwards I went over the bed and hand weeded the tougher ones.

Seeds about to go in the ground!

After weeding, I went over the bed with a rake to create indents in the soil in order to allow the seeds to better germinate. I weighed out 0.5lb of the flax seed and broadcasted the seeds evenly over the 5’x10′ bed and then used the back of the rake to cover the seeds. The seeds should take about 10 days to germinate and will be ready for harvest in 90 – 100 days.

I had originally planned to irrigate 1″ per week during germination, but we have received quite a lot of rain lately and are expecting more, so I made the decision not to irrigate at all. A great benefit to the sustainability of flax is the fact that (especially in the PNW) it requires very little water to thrive, so I am going to test that by not irrigating at all during its growth.

Over the course of my last two quarters here at Evergreen, I am going to be tracking the growth of the flax and how much resources it uses. I’ve collected a sample of the soil in the bed that I planted it in and will be sending it in for a soil test and will be repeating that process after the flax has been harvested so that I can get an idea of how much nutrients it takes to grow enough flax to create a finished products – through this I can weigh the pros and cons of the practice of monocropping flax.

It’s really rare that you get to experiment with so much freedom and support from people who are experts in the field, so I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to broaden my understanding of agriculture and how it relates to textiles while here at Evergreen and I am very excited to see the finished result!

Eval Week – Snowshoeing at Tahoe

As I mentioned in my previous post, our finals week at Evergreen is a pretty relaxing affair. Since a lot of the time we don’t have huge tests and multiple classes, it’s easy to get the entirety of finals done by Monday. Because of that, we actually get a whole second week off during breaks! For my final this quarter,  I had to give a presentation on the material I had covered during my 10 weeks of independent research. I was able to do that the Friday before eval week, so I had all week to adventure before Spring break even officially started!

Taking a short break after struggling to go up steep hills for the past two hours

A fellow classmate/co worker and I decided to make the long  road trip down to Reno, Nevada to visit another friend and classmate of ours that has recently graduated. We got to do a lot of fun things, but my absolute favorite was snowshoeing up at Lake Tahoe. I have a serious love for mountains (in case you hadn’t noticed from my other posts), so being at such a high elevation and hiking through snow that was so deep we were walking over bushes was a much more preferable way to spend my finals week than at home cramming for tests.

I fell through the snow and got my foot caught in a bush 🙁

We left Nevada at the end of eval week and made it back to Olympia in time to hang out, relax, and work during Spring break. I feel super lucky that I get to live in a place as beautiful as the PNW. Not only because of its incredible nature, but also because of how relatively close we are to so many awe-inspiring natural places – even if you have to drive 10 hours to get somewhere, the entire drive is beautiful enough to make it completely and 100% worth it. While driving through the Sierras and then through the Cascades we got some really wonderful views so the drive flew by!

Week 10 at Evergreen

How do you know its week 10 at Evergreen? Ah yes, the smell of Thai takeout wafting through the library packed full of students working to finish their final projects. The final week of class each quarter is actually pretty laid back compared to what a lot of other school’s finals weeks look like but, there is definitely still work to be done. The majority of programs here at Evergreen have some sort of final project (whether it be independent or a group based) that students are asked to present at the end of week 10.

For the final aspect of my independent research project, I have to give a presentation on the different aspects of my research and the conclusion I came to over the past ten weeks. So, I’ve been hunkered down in the library all day getting my ideas out and tying up any loose ends I had with my finished project. I’ve found that teaming up with someone helps to keep you on task when studying, so my friend, who is also working on a final project, and I got together to go to the library.

The library at Evergreen offers quiet study rooms where you can rent out a key to work away from any distractions – the ones in the basement actually have a tea and cookie station outside, so those are my preferred study haunts. I find that these rooms are super useful when you have a lot you want to get done. My friend and I ordered Thai food from Basil Leaf restaurant (their Mom’s Fried Rice is a must try) in Westside Olympia and rented out a study room to set up shop in. Four hours later, and we are both almost done with what we set out to do!

Guest Lecturer: Veronika Irvine

Not too long ago I had the privilege of attending a guest lecture by Dr. Veronika Irvine – a computer scientist and fiber artist. At Evergreen, students have the opportunity to attend lectures by candidates for teaching positions at the school and to provide feedback as to whether or not we believe the candidate would be a good fit for the academic style of Evergreen. It’s pretty rare that you get to have such an important voice in the hiring process of your school, so I always feel honored to be able to participate. As a student currently researching traditional vs. industrial methods of textile production, I was really excited to have the opportunity to go listen to a lecture so relevant to my current academic interests right at Evergreen!

Example of bobbin lace created by Dr. Irvine.

This particular lecture was incredibly intriguing and even more relevant to what I am studying than I originally anticipated. Dr. Irvine gave a brief history of bobbin lace and the significance of it’s versatility as well as it’s difference from traditional weaving methods which proved to be very useful to my deciphering the different textile practices.

Her main point of the lecture was to explain how she has successfully “coded” the pattern of antique bobbin lace and passed around examples of her own work. This is a particularly important accomplishment because she mentioned the fact that there are only a few hundred fiber artists who can still create bobbin lace alive today – largely due to the mechanization of textile production. So, the ability to record a patter to do so is crucial to keeping the art alive.

Coding example with the pattern it creates.

I was really surprised by the complexity associated with creating designs through weaving and other production methods I have been observing and the comparative simplicity of lace making. It’s quite easy to think of textile crafts and mathematics/computers as mutually exclusive entities – a point that Evergreen tries hard to make clear. When you really look at the mechanics behind those crafts, it’s very obvious that textiles are, in fact, their own form of mathematics. With this knowledge it’s suddenly easy to understand why and how that particular craft was industrialized so quickly as well as how the knowledge behind how things have been made in the past in fading at a rapid pace.

I’m really excited at the prospect of having a professor that will be able to integrate traditional fiber arts with modern-day computer science and look forward to the different kinds of programs she could potentially teach.

Wool Spinning Class at Arbutus Folk School

For the past month, I was able to take classes on spinning wool at Arbutus Folk School in downtown Olympia to learn how to spin wool as part of my independent learning contract for school. Arbutus is a very cozy space dedicated to all things crafty, ranging anywhere from fiber arts to building boats. The teachers and staff there are always incredibly warm and welcoming – its definitely a space that allows you to feel comfortable trying out new skills!

The drum carder we got to play with.

In class, we went over the basic methods of spinning and the various materials to use. Then, we learned how to spin (on a drop spindle) the fiber and then ply it into yarn. After we had the basics down, we began to dive into ‘carding’ and ‘picking’ fibers (basically different ways to process them before spinning).

The instructor was kind enough to bring both her drum carder and hand carders with her to class, so we were able to get hands on experience. The drum carder is just a mechanized version of hand carders – instead of manually brushing the two up against each other, you simply turn the knob that spin circular carders against each other, thus creating the same effect in a much more efficient manner.

The first yarn that I spun and plied!

We were encouraged to experiment with the different fibers that the school made available to us. So, I had a lot of fun blending different colors and textures of wool together to create the roving that I thought suited me best.

I started off as a total beginner when it comes to spinning wool, so I’m really excited to have had the opportunity to have this hands on experience. The community at Arbutus was so welcoming that I was able to have the confidence to see that adventure through, and I do think its a skill that I will be using for the rest of my life.

Snow Day in Olympia

The temperate rainforests in Olympia are a great climate to live in because they are, well, temperate. Its never too cold or too hot…always somewhere in the middle, which is definitely a preferred weather pattern  if you ask me. That being said, we don’t get too much snow that actually sticks around here, so when we do, it is a super exciting experience for someone who absolutely adores snow like I do.

The farmhouse peaking out between snow covered trees.

Yesterday, we saw snow fall all throughout the day and transform Olympia and its beautiful forests in to something right out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I am lucky enough to have class in the farm house (which is essentially like going to class in a cabin in the middle of the woods), so it was incredible to watch the snow fall from the cozy atmosphere of the classroom. We actually even had a potluck planned for that class period, so I was able to watch the snow fall with a hot cup of tea and a delicious plate of raspberry chocolate cake. Definitely could not get any better than that.

After class I went for a bit of a walk around the snowy woods surrounding the farm house. There aren’t a lot of experiences I love more than walking through woods that are so silent that you can hear the snow falling, so I was not about to let the one opportunity I have per year to do that slide by. I was able to take some beautiful pictures, though, photos can never truly do that experience justice. Overall, it was a super lovely day in Olympia. Just enough snow to make the world look magical but not enough to disrupt the regular flow of day to day life.

Studying in the Olympic Mountains

This quarter, I am doing an ILC (Independent Learning Contract) based around textile crafts. Because of the independent nature of the contract, most of my “class time” is actually just me sitting in the library reading book after book and compiling research. I’m really passionate about the subject that I have chosen to study so its quite a lot of fun, but weeks of sitting in the library studying any subject can get a little monotonous. So, this past week I decided to switch things up and go up to the mountains to read.

The road at about 1,500 feet in elevation – the mountain peak in the distance.

I drove up to the Staircase area of the Olympics and drove as high in elevation as the snow would let me. Then, I hiked a bit until I found a nice vista to park myself and read in the serene quiet of the mountains (a lot of layers and some tea in a thermos was helpful for staying warm). My study session was incredibly productive – it was a welcome change from sitting in the library and a surprisingly refreshing workout from trudging through the snow and dragging my books along with me.

The southernmost access point to the Olympic Mountains sits just 40 minutes North of Olympia. Studying in the mountains is something that has seriously gotten me through even the toughest of study assignments throughout my education at Evergreen. The Olympics have become a second library and haven for me and I feel incredibly grateful to have such a beautiful backyard to adventure in as part of my college experience.

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