Summer Update 2016

What a summer it has been so far! Wet and wonderfully lush; when the clouds fill the sky and rain descends, it is easy to smile and lift our hearts in gratitude.

We felt the peak of the summer season right around the solstice, back almost a month ago. The intensity and fullness of life was felt on all sides, culminating in a joyous and deeply nourishing Fairy and Human Relations Congress. It is funny to count all the different people who have commented to me that they felt skeptical about the Congress, concerned it was just an “airy-fairy” event, only to remark that the the Congress was a life-changing experience focused on communication & relationship with nature, understanding and working with the natural intelligence in all life.

Our lives are so tied to the cycles and seasons here – just a few days ago we noticed that the song-birds have once again started to migrate back whence they came. The morning symphonies and evening revelries have quieted some, although the brightly colored western tanagers still flit among the trees, and a nest of tiny new-born fly-catchers sits perched on the bottom limb of the apricot tree. We’ve taken to whistling when we pass the tree, cautiously gathering the golden jewel-like orbs (ripe apricots!) that have fallen to the ground; at first the mother would alarm and fly about to distract us from her precious babes, however now we are just part of the peaceful scenery, and feel the grace that is trust from a wild creature.

We are working to preserve the harvest, especially gathering and drying all the different medicinal flowers, herbs and seeds for making herbal tinctures, elixirs, and teas to last us through the cold time to come. Bags and jars of calendula, chamomile, milky oat tops, borage, and yarrow abound. We are canning cherries, apricots and black currants, and enjoying our share of pies, cobblers, and jams.


I am working on the next issue of “From the Pines”, our in-house newsletter. This month I am delighted to share an interview with Danielle Creeksong, a gifted healer and conduit for Nature and Nature Intelligence; as well as I am pleased to be able to publish original poetry composed here at Skalitude, courtesy of participants of PeerQuest’s Cascadia quest, this past June. Stay tuned and connect with us! We are looking forward to profound and nurturing fall and winter retreats.

Skalitude | From the Pines – April 2016

Our April newsletter is hot off the press!  Here is an excerpt below – follow the link at the bottom to view the full version, including upcoming events, photos, interviews, and more.  Want to subscribe?  Fill out of the form on the right!

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Two weeks ago I wrote this entry:  It’s a beautiful sight today – a light dusting of snow on the eastern hills, layers of fog drifting in and out of the pines; a mystical backdrop behind the flowering cherry tree, smiling at me from outside the cabin.  This is spring!  The arrowleaf balasm, wonderous yellow flowers of joy, have been reaching their sunny faces to the sky.  Carpets of delicate spring beauty flowers abide under the shade of towering firs; a few days ago I saw the first signs of the lupines emerging from their slumber.   ~  Now, nearing the end of April we are having days in the 80s and it seems like winter’s mantle has been thrown off once again…

We are in the throes of spring energy – cleaning, revitalizing, planting, and growing.  The hoop house is now the home of many vibrant seedlings, awaiting the go-ahead from nature for their final planting.  The melting of winter’s snow has revealed fallen trees, fir and pine; dry sunny days find us gratefully processing and stacking wood, knowing it will provide much warmth for us and our guests come the colder months.  We’ve been hanging new prayer flags, sewing new peace flags, re-stacking rock cairns that tumbled over the winter, and renewing the inside of the lodge for another magical summer season.

The air is filled with songs and buzzing, humming, and chirping.  Many migratory songbirds have returned to their summer abodes; since the creek opened up, the frogs have held chorus by the pond – reveling in the seasonal rushing waters.  Dawn and dusk are the hours of concert, the sounds soothing to the soul and enlivening to the spirit.

Talk about uplifting – the arrowleaf balsam is a sight to behold, adorning the hills with a golden hue.  The sunshine they bring to us is a kind of inner luminescence, welling forth from the earth.  Many medicinal plants are thriving in the warm weather – lomatium is covering the hillside next to the lodge; we have collected the spring buds from aspen and cottonwood to make the Balm of Gilead for sore muscles, aches and pains; juniper berries are ready for picking after many many frigid winter days and nights; first year mullein rosettes are ready to send up their flowering stalk; yarrow is easily found in most places on the property – always happy to help us with accidental cuts and scrapes, staunching the flow of blood and easing the sting; and sage – the noble and powerful aromatic, that cleanses and uplifts our spirits and surroundings.  So much wild medicine is available right our our front door (and back door!), in the future newsletters we look forward to featuring more about our green neighbors and allies.

There are a lot of exciting events coming up this late spring and summer and we hope that you will join us here on the land!

To see the full version, follow this link: Skalitude | From the Pines – April 2016

North Cascade Institute at Skalitude

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past week the lodge and land were filled with the vibrant, vivacious energy of the North Cascade Institute graduate students, led by program director Joshua Porter.  The group made Skalitude their home-base for a week-long winter program here in the Methow Valley. The students explored the diverse arena of winter skills and knowledge – tracking, shelter building, avalanche safety, just to name a few – all the while enjoying amazing spring skiing right here in the hills flanking Skalitude’s meadow. With sunny warm days and frigid clear nights, the snow pack is still very present, offering a soft top layer for excellent day-time Nordic and alpine touring conditions. With fingers crossed, we hope to see this last as we head into March!

Thursday night we had a special visit from Methow Valley astronomer David Ward. He shared his comic wisdom with us and the NCI students – pointing out constellations, nebula, the Andromeda galaxy, and the glowing light of Jupiter as it rose in the Eastern sky. Those utilizing the spotting scope were lucky enough to view one of Jupiter’s moons.

Friday night was dinner at the snow-camp; the students built many different shelters, as well as a beautiful outdoor kitchen compete with sculptures and a center island for food prep, all out of snow. Dinner and fellowship were shared under the stars, and while we headed back to the cabin and a warm bed, everyone else snuggled into their sleeping bags for a restful night inside their hand-built abodes.


At their departure this morning, we feel we have made wonderful new friends, and are left with fond memories and the echoes of laughter in the meadow.  Thank you Joshua and all the North Cascade Institute grad students!  We look forward to seeing you again!

Alderleaf Wilderness College Visit

This past week we were host to a great group of faculty and first-year students from Alderleaf Wilderness College! The students slept outside in tents and later in their own hand-built snow shelters, while spending their days learning winter survival techniques and animal tracking. We were kindly invited to sit-in on the animal tracking lecture, and had the pleasure of joining an early morning snow-shoe hike to Lookout Mountain, 2.5 miles up the ridgeline from the Bermhouse.


The excitement and energy from the students added to the natural magic of the land itself. Sharp eyes identified tracks from many different wild animals – bobcat, coyote, weasel, mouse, and cougar just a few. Much laughter, conversation, tears of joy, and words of inspiration were shared among the group.  It is our pleasure to be able to offer Skalitude as the place for such profoundly nourishing education!


In this day and age, when we are losing much of the planet’s precious wild lands and wild beings, we are incredibly grateful to the teachers at Alderleaf College, and other similar institutions, who re-build the link between humans and the wilderness, bringing focus to our innate connection with nature, and re-awakening the skills that are deeply interwoven in our heritage, no matter where are roots may lie.  We very much appreciate the time and energy shared by this fantastic group of young adults!

Snow-bundance and the Gifts of Winter

Winter morningWe are blessed this winter with an abundance of snow!

Mother nature has graciously been giving us lots of precipitation in the form of white fluffy shimmering snowflakes – and plenty of opportunity for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, scouting animal tracks, and enjoying the quietude of the blanketed forest and hills.

Night walks are especially magical this time of year, when the light of the moon is reflected in the snow-crystals; on clear nights, the ground becomes a galaxy of shining stars, mirroring the twinkling celestial lights above.

Winter is foremost a time of inward turning, and the signs of wintertide’s purpose are ever present.  The landscape sleeps with all potential that spring promises fomenting in the deep winter dream-time.  From the smallest plants to the most ancient trees, the forest enters a state of deep quiescence, as the green energy gathers in the roots.  Tiny animals snuggled in their nests relax their incessant warm-weather activity, and gently release into the embrace of colder days and nights.  Somewhere in the hills, the black bear enters its own kind of dream-time within a patient and nourishing sleep.

Snowy Lodge

Sometimes it is hard to slow down.  For us humans, our wit and intellect has given us technology that allows daily life to continue in a steady routine, regardless of the weather or time of year.  Sometimes this can be a blessing.  However, many times we forget (or I sure do), that slowing down, turning inward, and taking time is part of the same cycle that gives us the seed bursting into new life, abundant growth, and the ripened fruit.  For some seeds, it is the darkness and profound cold that enables them to awaken victorious come the spring, bearing all the gifts that nature intends.

Thus, it is with gratitude and purpose that we welcome the silence of deep winter into our hearts, allowing the gifts of this cold and quiet time to permeate our daily life.  The friendly crackle of the wood-stove as we warm ourselves, the cloooking call of the raven flying through brilliant blue sky, the winter moon shining bright and unimpeded – all timely messengers bringing us back to the simplicity and beauty of being.

We call you by the winter winds that chill our bones

And awaken our minds.

We call you by the warmth of the hearth fire

That gathers and comforts.

We call you by still waters, whose mirror leads us to inner journeys.

We call you by the quiet earth that waits and dreams.

We call you by the visions we make and love we share.

Great Goddess, who contains all things, bless our rite

As we celebrate the rebirth of spirit.  Blessed be!¹

juniper root crystal moon


¹ Barrett, Ruth: Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: “Invocation for the Winter Solstice”

Improvements and Evolution

Life and Nature are constantly evolving, and so we at Skalitude also follow this forward-moving trend.  This year we’ve had several very exciting improvements, the most dramatic of which is the addition of another 1.2 kilowatts of panels for the Lodge solar system, doubling our input!

The batteries over there are approaching their life limit.  We have noticed that in winter they really can’t hold a charge for more than a couple of days with guests here, although in summer they seem to do just fine.

Except, however, for during the heat wave this past summer.

It turns out that solar panels are much less efficient in higher temperatures, so while in winter we may get 40 amps out of our existing panels, in June of this year we found the most we got was 25.  With everyone running fans 24 hours a day to try to mitigate the heat, we just didn’t have enough power.  We know that someday (or year!) soon we will have to buy new batteries for both the Lodge and the cabin, we hope that by adding more input we can keep the batteries at a higher state of charge allowing us to squeeze another year or two out of them.  By waiting another year or two we hope the technology will have improved and the price dropped so that buying new batteries won’t be as huge of an investment as it is now!


The next biggest improvement is the new hot water heater in the Lodge.  Our last one broke last winter, it took a while to find a new one and re-engineer the system.  We are very happy with the Navien heater we ended up with, it is SO quiet it makes me think it must also be very efficient!!

We also re-engineered the system so that it also seems to be more efficient.  In the old system, the propane heater provided back-up heat to the hot water tank by circulating hot water thru a copper coil in the middle of the tank (the solar loop circulates thru a copper coil in the bottom of the tank).  Now, the Navien provides back up heat by taking water from the top of the tank, heating it up and putting it back into the bottom of the tank by means of a copper pipe descending down thru the tank, so it also transfers some heat on its way in.  We noticed today it took about 5 minutes to heat the water from 112 degrees to 118 degrees.  Pretty good for a 100 gallon tank!!


The most exciting aspect is that our propane bill for 2015 was less than $1000!!  That is fuel for the generator, hot water for two buildings with a total of four showers, and cooking.  Our main source of heat is two wood stoves, if we add in three cords of wood at $150 each (we buy in spring when it’s often cheaper), our total energy bill is less than $1500.  We’re impressed!!! (it does help that propane is only $1.50/gallon these days….)

Finally, the smallest but still noteworthy improvement is that we replaced all of our flush toilets with duel-flush toilets.  Our last toilets weren’t that old, they were standard 1.6 gallon flushers, but with the drought we decided to go ahead and be pro-active in regards to water conservation. Our new toilets use just 1 gallon for a small flush, and still 1.6 gallons for the large flush.  If we have 20 people here all peeing three times a day, that’s 60 flushes, so if we save 0.5 gallons per flush that’s a savings of 30 gallons per day.  Since it takes power to pump the water, it also saves on our power usage.

Life is good, and continues to get better!!

Fall Renewals

We hosted two wonderful events this fall – the first was our second annual Creative Renewal Retreat, led by Elizabeth Dennis, Janey McGillivray and Lindsey Swope.  This weekend combines yoga, creative writing, art, dance and shamanic journey, as we explore what inside of us wants to be expressed outwardly.  It was refreshing and inspiring for all!

This quote arose from the creative writing sessions: “As we sing and dance, we toast each other’s perfection in the moment of seeing clearly”

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The following weekend was the Wilderness Guides Council.  This retreat has been held in California for the past 24 years, this year was the first year to bring it to a new area.  They plan to continue to move around the country to inspire and attract more guides to participate.  There were guides from California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Norway and Japan.  Ann Linnea, of PeerSpirit, who has guided here at Skalitude for the past six years, reports from the gathering:
“For 24 years, the Wilderness Guides Council has been a loose affiliation of people who are passionate about promoting meaningful, earth-based rites of passage at the edge of modern culture. It is a pretty eclectic bunch, with a strong streak of independence, but also allegiance to the pattern and ceremony of questing: that’s our core. Once a year we gather – usually somewhere in California at a park or private retreat center – to share program ideas, workshops, ceremony, and conversations about our work. Because we were meeting further north this year, many guides from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho attended. At our opening ceremony half of the people present stepped into the center as first time attendees. And I noticed about 50% of the group was comprised of young guides – under 35. I am excited how this will broaden and strengthen the work of questing.”

You can see her full report in their Circle Tales newsletter, here



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A great hike!

I am kind of cheating this week, posting a link to Teri Pieper’s blog with photos of our hike up Lookout Mountain two days ago.  I have been ‘camera-challenged’ for over a year now, wanting to buy a new one.  So i finally did buy a new one at Costco last month, and it turns out it won’t download the photos to my computer because my operating system is too new!  So that’s my excuse!  I hope to have a REAL post later this week, telling of our amazing Ayurvedic Cleanse weekend – stay tuned!!

These photos were taken by the same Teri Pieper who is mentioned on our wedding page as a wedding photographer.  She is excellent at her job, and you can see from this blog her passion for her art.

A Great BIG Thank You

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

This winter season has been incredibly amazing and now charming spring is upon us ! In just less than a week it seems impossible that we as the caretakers will be continuing onward in the beautiful journey of life. We owe so much to all of the people, wildlife, weather, and vegetation that make this place so darn special. Thank you all, Skalitude dwellers, for igniting a flame within us each time you passed through.  We are so grateful to have had this wonderful experience and welcome Lindsey and Will back to their peaceful home. Thank you again, we are so grateful to have met you all. Come back soon:)

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