Author Archives: skalitude

Get Springy!

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Hi Everyone!

Surprising fresh snow on the peaks and saturated smells of spring have come early this year. We are taking in every beautiful warm day to dig in the garden, walk on the uncovered earth, and soak up all the fresh pure energy this time of the year brings.  It’s so incredibly beautiful, we can hardly believe it.  We hope you can all take a moment to be bewildered by the essence of spring.  It brings so much freshness and color into our lives, and slips by so quickly. Take the time to notice the different sounds and smells. Ahhhh….Isn’t it great to be a human? Rejoice!

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Dissolving into Nature

milkyway2Skalitude has always been about having a lesser impact on our planet but, this past several weeks  have been all about what we as humans can learn from nature. Where does our connection with this life force we call Earth begin and where does it end? It’s not something that just everyone recognizes right away, with all the hussle and bussle in today’s society . If you really get out, stop, and really listen, I think you will find there is no beginning or an end. It is more like a pulsing of all life together to keep such a delicate but fierce balance. From the microbes to our immense galaxies everything must work together so we can live in a stable world.

Recently we had a vibrant group of young people from the Alderleaf Wilderness College who really embodied and captured the meaning of “dissolving into nature”. They happily lived, for five days, in an ever changing climate among the beauty of nature foraging and building snow shelters as their temporary homes.  We Interviewed these ever so eager students to see what it was that attracted them so much to the wilderness.

David-  “People need to know how to take care of the Earth. Keeping these survival skills alive in our culture today and stretching our comfort zone to live outside in the winter is just what we need!”

Anonymous –  “this kind of living provides a whole new perspective of how we interact with nature. You learn to see yourself as part of a symbiotic relationship with mother earth as a whole.”

Maya- “If you sit at home grinding your teeth staring at a TV that’s your imagination leaving you. But, at night the stars smile down at me and I wonder how it all began.”

“Most are oblivious to the effect we have on the outdoors. Just seeing whats out there, to appreciate the sacredness of the land. I see it getting worse and worse. This is about shaping my skills to live the way we are suppose to live! We are one living planet.”

These are just a few of the Testimonies and they all stressed the importance of our connection to our planet! Get outside, be inspired, feel the Earth beneath your feet. Now is more important than ever for us humans to embrace her and not destroy her.

skalitude retreat center winter recreation

Thriving in Winter

 

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Winter greens, frosty grays

Frigid sunsets and shorter days.

Wandering about the snowy land,

Contemplating life’s secrets- oh so grand!

Critters tell stories in the pristine snow,

Oh where do they come from, where do they go?

Shivering sparkles mimic the night sky,

Hoping this moment will never pass us by.

Holding hands up the impossible mountain,

Reaching the top and it is impeccable Zen.

Insatiable thirst for boundless change,

We find our heaven in this colossal range.20150108_154609-PANO

Gratitude Time

Tis the season to be grateful!  On that note (pun intended), I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks for the Black Forrest Guitar Camp that has come to Skalitude the past two years.  This is an amazing group of high school students – I hesitate to use the word ‘kids’ as their maturity and poise frankly blows me away.  I wish I had half of their confidence when I was their age, or even now for that matter!

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Guitar practice on the roof of the bermhouse!

They come as a group of about 12 students and three grown-ups and play music for a week.  They are given challenges by teacher Eric Branner, founder of Black Forrest Music School, based in Seattle.  Some days they write their own songs, other days they learn  cover versions of popular tunes both old and new.  They work as teams or on their own.  By the end of the week, they had recorded a whole album!  You can listen to it here:

https://soundcloud.com/pchyz/sets/camp-branner-year-2/s-5SvYr

Eric and his partner Alyson also bring their two children, Edie and Huck.  Edie wrote us a wonderful note this year:

Dear Skalitude,
I love this place so much.  This scene is awesome!  Kids including me Edie have fun here.  There is no place like Skalitude.  I have never been here when its snowy but its probably beautiful.  I hope to come here every year.  Thank you for letting us land here.  You are
awesome.
love Edie Branner

guitarcamp3Playing together around the campfire is the highlight of every day

I am so grateful to have experienced this fine group of people, to know that kids and programs like this exist in this crazy mixed-up world!

Fall Musings

We follow the rhythms of nature here at Skalitude, and Fall is clean up time!  Time to clean up from the activity of summer, and prepare for new growth next spring.  The fires here this summer really made me look at the vegetation around our buildings, and I was highly inspired to clean and thin the excess.  I had heard that the bitterbrush was particularly flammable, we have quite a bit of it growing between the lodge and bermhouse so I pruned all of that back thoroughly.  I have hardly touched these bushes since moving here 15 years ago, so there was alot of material to remove!

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This photo shows one out of four or five loads we brought to the burn pile, and boy did it burn well!  Very satisfying!

All of this biomass got me to thinking about how nature just loves to grow – it is the impulse of life to expand and reproduce.  Humans are part of nature, so we have this urge as well – to continue to grow and reach for new experiences.  Unfortunately in the humans’ case this urge for growth has gotten a bit out of hand in its materialism and greed, but it felt important to acknowledge that it really is part of our nature, as a species we just need more intelligent ways to fulfill it.

The ponderosa pine trees here also have a tendency to get over-crowded.  To get nice big trees they like to have about 20 feet of space between trees, but often little trees will sprout right under bigger ones.  So I also thinned a bunch of little baby trees, triggering another human trait of being ‘anti-death’.  I feel so bad killing these poor innocent baby trees!  But if I cut them out, the big mama/papa tree has a better chance of having a long, healthy life.

So when I cut them I explain to all the trees that I’m doing it so the bigger ones will be healthy, and I explain that the little ones will be chipped up and the biomass will be spread on the land somewhere else that needs a little extra organic matter, so they are going to a good end.

So then I wondered if humans could ever see themselves the same way.  I suppose the trees don’t thin themselves, so maybe it’s too much to expect that humans could thin themselves.  Currently cancer and other diseases are our thinning agents, but maybe with increased consciousness life can come more into balance.

Trees are sentient beings too!  An Italian photographer has taken some wonderful photos just using a camera and a mirror, found at http://culture.viralnova.com/amazing-mirror-photographer/

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Alternative Lodging

Skalitude’s mission is all about re-connecting to Nature, in the myriad ways that can happen.  We especially like to focus on not just visiting Nature, or seeing it as a pretty backdrop for activities, but really living closely with it on both physical and energetic levels.

One of our winter guests is Alderleaf Wilderness College, from Bothell (www.wildernesscollege.com).  They come over for a four-day outing to learn about winter living skills – from how to set up a tent in winter, to building a snow shelter, to making snowshoes from willow branches to using those snowshoes for tracking wildlife.  Last winter the snow was a little thin early in the season, so instead of a snow shelter they built this beautiful Pine Bower.

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It is made by leaning Maple branches up into the lowest branch of a big Ponderosa Pine tree.  Maple branches are used because they are long and straight, and they grow around the edge of the meadow.  Then additional Pine and other branches are piled and woven around it to make quite a robust structure.  Both the upper branches of the Pine and the branches of the shelter itself offer protection from the elements, so it stays quite dry inside.  The floor is covered with a thick layer of dried grass, offering some insulation from the ground and making it very pleasant to lie on.  It is big enough for two people to sleep comfortably.

Skalitude is home to far more beings than just humans!  One of our more famous and favorite occupants are the fairies.  They are so playful and creative!  They also have their own homes, built by John Curtis Crawford of Fairy Woodland (www.fairywoodland.com)

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These photos were taken recently by a visiting friend.  They were taken within moments of each other, at the exact same place.  But notice the difference in lighting in this second photo!

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The light in the upper left corner is from the sun shining in at an angle, but the orb in the upper right is, well, an orb!  Orbs have become quite common phenomena since the digital camera has become widespread.  Notice how bright it is compared to the sun spots, and how the wood behind it is a different shade than below it.
No one knows for sure what orbs are, but the way they appear and disappear in photos taken within moments of each other suggests that they materialize from another dimension.  Some people think of them as fairies for that reason.  They also seem to appear more when people are having fun, singing and laughing.

You never know what you might see during a visit to Skalitude!  Many people describe it as ‘magical’, and we’re so happy they recognize it!

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Treat and Re-Treat

“Treat yourself well, give yourself a treat by taking a retreat from everyday life”

I recently looked up the etymology of the words ‘treat’ and ‘retreat’, wondering if they are related. In the above sentence, the verb and noun versions of ‘treat’ are related, but from what I can tell, ‘retreat’ has different roots. But despite that, in their modern meaning and usage they are for sure related!

This fall we had two retreats that were both deeply refreshing and rejuvenating treats for mind, body and soul. The first was the Creative Renewal Retreat, led by Elizabeth Dennis, Janet McGillivray and Lindsey Swope. This intent of this weekend was to find out what lights us up, so that we could have ready access to our inner light and inspiration as we head into the dark half of the year.  We used yoga, dance, art, creative writing and shamanic journeying to discover new directions and outlets for our authentic selves.

creative-renew-artDecorating orbs under the shade shelter

creative-orbsDecorated orbs, lighting up the night!

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Colorful orbs and inspired people!

Two weeks later, Joanna Dunn came from Leavenworth and led a group of 16 women on a replenishing yoga retreat.

“We found
new space and ease
in our bodies and our lives
for joy and light
to flow and fill”

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And the good news is that both of these retreats are scheduled to return in 2015!  Joanna will be back again on the first weekend in October, we haven’t yet settled on a date for Creative Renewal but it will be sometime in either September or October.   If you sign up for our newsletter we can keep you posted when it gets decided!

Fall colors!

It’s another beautiful autumn at Skalitude.  It seems like this could be one new feature of a globally warmed world, summers might be warmer but fall will be a new extended season!  Here are a selection of photos from our Fall so far…wedding-color1

this one and the one below is from a wedding earlier in September.  The colorful fabric around the flag circle really added to the festive ambiance!  It also helped that many of these folks and just come from Burning Man the week before.  Creativity levels were high!

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this one is from the opening Gratitude circle at the Saskatoon Circle gathering.  They had gorgeous weather this year! sask-grat-circ  a pinky sunset from the end of Septembersunset9-2014

One of our favorite local hikes is to Crater Lake.  The trailhead is just at the top of Gold Creek Road, so not too far away.  The hike is 8 miles round trip, a perfect day trip even when days are getting shorter.  It’s just not fall until you’ve seen the glow of Larch on the mountains!larch6 larch3

and finally, one more wedding in the flags, this time with a beautiful arch and walkway:

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We are seeking a couple to serve as Caretaker/Managers!

The position has been filled!  Thanks to all who applied!

We are looking for a couple for a long-term, full-time position, however November to May is the minimum commitment.  The position requires people who are competent and capable with good communication skills, strongly self-motivated and self-disciplined, who enjoy being creative, physically active and getting things done.  Skalitude is a place where people come to have fun while experiencing a sustainable life in harmony with nature, the hosts need to be of a similar mindset!  Ability to be self-reliant is a must, as caretakers will be working on their own for half the year.

The two main areas of need are:
Basic maintenance and upkeep of all systems (electrical, plumbing, mechanical): caretakers are the main on-site contacts thru the winter, so solid handyman skills are required to address issues as they arise
Marketing: maintaining an on-line presence, taking photos and writing newsletters, looking for ways to strengthen our brand.  We have a good existing client base but for the business to stay strong we need to keep reaching out.

The main winter duties are:

  • clean lodge and bermhouse between guests: make beds, vacuum, mop, clean bathrooms, kitchen, maintain composters, empty garbage/recycling and compost, stoke fire before guests arrive
  • laundry – either wash at home and hang to dry in living room, or take to town (depends partly on weather and size of load)
  • clear driveway of snow as needed using 55hp tractor with PTO snowblower, being mindful of weather changes (warming trends, more snow coming) and guest needs
  • feed and walk two dogs, keep dogs in when guests are arriving
  • basic office work: deposit checks, enter income and monies spent in spreadsheet; collect mail and file appropriately; answer phone calls, provide reservation information for coming year
  • buy gas and diesel for ATV and tractor, propane for BBQ, condition diesel fuel for winter temps as needed
  • groom trails as needed using ATV: as least once a week so they are fresh for guests, and every 6 inches of new snow.
  • take fun, scenic pictures and upload to facebook page, contribute to blog
  • take garbage and recycling to town
  • shovel snow from around lodge, around greenhouse, in front of cabin, from lodge roof (if needed), clear panels of fresh snow (power and SHW)
  • monitor power and run generator as needed, monitor water and fill cistern as needed
  • Possibly forestry work if weather allows: burn piles
  • send weekly email reports with info on weather, snow conditions, battery/power status, guest experiences, any other news

This works out to two quarter- to half-time jobs.  Even though it’s not a lot of time, it works best to have two people as sometimes multiple tasks need to happen at the same time.

For the long-term, our ideal is a couple who would like to expand on this to create additional income streams, such as:

– catering for guests
– serving as guide for our soon to be installed zipline
– providing other guest services (massage, teaching, etc.)
– event production
– farming/gardening
– other independent artistic endeavors that would complement the business: photography, graphic design, writing, carpentry, crafting.
We hope to build additional small, rustic accommodations, so long-term folks will help with that too.

Housing is provided in a two-bedroom house with great passive solar exposure and wood heat.  One bedroom may need to serve the business as an office/craft space until an additional space can be created.  Utilities are also provided.  There is a large garden space and a 10 by 20 greenhouse.  Position will start on a contract basis thru the winter, long-term we prefer a profit-sharing arrangement – the more business you pull in, the more you get paid!

To apply, please send resumes and letter of interest to skalitude@gmail.com

Thank you!

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Off-the-Grid power at Skalitude

Many of you may know that Skalitude Retreat is an eco retreat, But did you know it is mostly solar powered? This is a brief glimpse of the solar and passive solar system at the property.

 A bright sunny day collecting clean power from the sun. This panel tracts the sun throughout the day.

 Solar water heater on the roof, heats the floor system and hot water tank. The roof faces south for maximum heat absorbtion.

 Inverter and central command. It’s not pretty but it does a good job. All the guts are contained in a closet so you don’t have to see them.

 The Berm House has bermed earth all along the back and sides to heat and cool geothermally. It has solar panels along the top for light usage. There are propane wall heaters in each room. The whole building faces south for maximum solar gain in the windows.

This solar array supplies power to the caretakers cabin. Good sunny days make us happy!
Living off the grid makes us aware of our power usage and what is necessary and what is wasteful.
Hope to visit with you all soon!

Cindy Ruprecht – Caretaker