Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Knitting and Reading

I finished the Matinee Jacket.
pattern from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies
hand dyed yarn from Springtree Road (a barter)
buttons are our own handmade from maple
I am inspired by this pattern and have begun to work up my own version.

And reading, I have just finished a great book that I am sure many of you have read or heard of - 
Twelve By Twelve by William Powers.
Wow! Reading it will make you think - and think some more.  It is about the author's personal experience of living in a 12 x 12 off grid cabin in South Carolina which happens to also be just 5 miles from a mega-chicken processing plant.  
The message that came through strongest for me - to apply to my own life - was the teaching of Ghandi - that there should not be a gap between your convictions and your actions.

In this book the author introduces the reader to people he calls, wildcrafters; people that shape their inner and outer worlds to the flow of nature rather than molding the natural world into something that is usable by the industrial/consumer-model world.  They listen to their inner voice as their guide.  (For me  it is God calling us to care for creation.)   He asks us to consider how do we find the inner strength to resist "ecocide"?

Ultimately, the author points out, there are no easy or straight answers.  Instead we must "be" in order to hear.  He learned much about mindfulness from his time at the cabin.   For each of us the answers will probably look different and should be uniquely our own.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moments from the Week

The garden is coming along well.  I have about 100 onion starts planted, have started to eat the lettuce, the kale, snap peas, radishes, and carrots are all coming up nicely.   The garlic looks beautiful.  This is the first year we have our own garlic.    I had hoped to plant beans, corn (excited about trying some this year!), potatoes, dill, basil, squash and this weekend but the weather is going to be cold and wet - perhaps only a high 45 tomorrow.  Everything is so very wet so the planting will have to wait.

Mike put the slide right into one of the dirt mounds (from when our basement was dug out) instead of on the platform with ladder like steps so Emmy can go up and down on her own.

Right where you are... great reminder.

A young lady, friends of our older boys, is a budding photographer and was here on Wednesday.  She took the last three photos.

This "moments from the week" was inspired by Jules.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More of the Cute Ducks

their first pond outing

they follow the children - or at times the children will run and the ducks will run
after them

Mike is working on the duck house in the background.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Work and Play

We let everyone know on Friday that Saturday morning from 9:00 - noon would be a work morning.
Before everyone was out of bed I the morning baking done - 2 loaves of bread and some cookies.

Firewood was gathered, cut, split and stacked.
The driveway was leveled with a pick ax and iron rake.

The laundry was hung.

The amplifier was brought out to listen to some music while working and then Car Talk at 10:00 am.

For lunch - bulger, bean, corn, and tomato salad, and broccoli, carrot and feta salad. 
For the fussy ones - grilled cheese.

After lunch Mike and I organized the porch and then all nine of us headed into "town" to have an ice cream sandwich or ice cream bar, play some tennis and play at the playground.

After dinner, we watched the season finale of Season 3 of Downton Abbey.

 I love the feeling of finally sitting  down at the end of a full day - feeling tired, content and happy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Moments from the Week

I got to see Thomas perform his tap class final.

On Mother's Day Sarah told me to sit down - that she was making dinner, and she did.

Hazel (our cat) has been joining the goats for their afternoon snooze.

Thomas is home for the summer and it is wonderful.  He is the activity director here and had everyone out playing hit the wiffle balls over the house to the others on the other side within an hour of being home.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Self-Imposed Expectations

I think I have finally figured out what has been eating at me this last year or so, why I have been feeling so discontent.  I have been afraid of others thinking our family is poor.  Because of the choices our family makes each day, from the outside we do probably appear poor by the standards of the American Culture.

Just after reading the first few pages of Saved - How I Quite Worrying About Money and Became the Richest Guy in the World, by Ben Hewitt, I could relate so well to a man in his book, Erik. 
In 2007, when our family ended up settling on 3 leased acres of land and buying a 1984 mobile home to put on the leased land and then living in that mobile home with no electricity or running water for over two years with five and then six children, I never felt poor but oh my goodness, did neighbors and church members assume we were.  It was very disconcerting when the day before Thanksgiving a church couple shows up at our door with a Thanksgiving dinner box - you know the frozen mega-farm turkey with the boxed side dishes and canned veggies.  (Now, there are truly people in need and what a blessing this would be, but we were not.)   It is so true how our culture relates your status to appearances - how nice your house, clothes, car are....   and if you don't meet these expectations then you are surely poor and down trodden, just like Ben Hewitt mentions in Saved

Our family would be enjoying a pasture raised fresh turkey that Thanksgiving that probably cost nearly 10 times that of the frozen one because we choose to use our money differently than many.  We would rather have one local, pasture raised turkey per year than a weekly chicken raised with antibiotics and fed who knows what at a commercial farm.  We politely declined the food box and told them that there were surely more needy families than ours. 

When Mike and I decided to embark on a journey of not relying on a high income to support our family and instead work, play and learn  together as a family, we also decided that we would commit ourselves to not supporting corporate America and do our small part by making and growing as much as we can ourselves, keep our bodies healthy through working the land and daily chores, and find joy in the simple pleasures of life.    We committed ourselves to not going in debt except for our rustic cottage (in which our loan is now just $55,000 and will be paid off in 9 years).  Sometimes it can be hard having a very old car and worrying about it being reliable but to have a car payment and then the extra insurance that is required and then really, why not drive a car until it is completely used up - that seems better for our earth anyway.

When we first bought our home almost four years ago, it was such a feeling of euphoria - to have more space and land of our own.     It  has been so easy to let the feelings of inadequacy creep in - the house needs new siding, paint, a new roof - what are people going to think? 

What is with that - what are people going to think???  Boy do I need to get over that and realize how blessed I am that we live on little, have no debt except our home, and eat healthy food and live in a community where so much local food is available.   
I feel myself being revived, rejuvenated, and refreshed as our family discusses our goals and values and reassesses where we are at and where we would like to go.

(Full Disclosure:  I was mailed a copy of Saved from the publisher and will be reviewing it some more when I finish reading it.)  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Knitting and Reading

Still working on the last ball of yarn for the rustic rainbow blanket.  I finished a hat for the Kenyan school and have cast on another.  On a car trip to meet my father in Woodstock to pick up Isaac I started a new project.  The Matinee Jacket from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies.  I am using some beautiful merino hand dyed yarn from a barter with Springtree Road Yarns.

I splurged and ordered a new book, On God's Side - What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good,  after hearing the author, Jim Wallis, on NPR.  After listening to him for just a few minutes I knew he was speaking my language.   I have long had a hard time with many churches, people, factions, etc that call themselves Christian.  While it is not for me to judge, and I do my best not to, I have never understood why so many only stress salvation in order to have eternal life.  Please don't misunderstand me, this is huge but I never felt that - that was all.  I just knew that God's main purpose of sacrificing his son was not just for what is to come but was also to teach us what we are to do now, during our short stay here in this world.  Why would God waste his time making such a beautiful creation if we are not to care for it?    Didn't Jesus teach us to pray saying, "thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  I know that it is not enough to be kind, go to church, accept Jesus into our hearts.  I always have felt that so many American churches are getting it wrong.    Jesus' main teachings are to take care of those that need to be taken care of... the poor, the forgotten, the rejected.    That is where I am at in my faith.  I am praying for God to show me every day how to serve and how to make even the smallest decisions, like  should our family be concerned about what we want or need and to question spending money God has given us,  when there are children in orphanages that don't even have a pillow to lay their head down at night.   Jim Wallis really gets into how much better it would be if everyone would forget their agendas (political, conservative, liberal, etc..) and instead, work for the common good. 

I especially like this comment on the back cover ~
"Thank God this is not just another book about God blessing us.  It's a book about us blessing God by caring for God's people, especially the most vulnerable ones among us." - Shane Claiborne, author, activist and recovering sinner;

Joining in with the Yarn Along today at Small Things.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Forks Over Knives

Have you watched this movie?

If not, I highly recommend it.   It was great watching it with Isaac (age 14) and Abby (almost 13).   Isaac hasn't stopped talking about it - about how eating a plant based diet can actually reverse some types of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.    Of course he like to share the more graphic open heart surgery scenes.  Abby made a list of the vegetables and fruits she likes.

The studies didn't seem to say that having a pasture raised burger once a month or even a glass of raw milk each day is harmful, but what is harmful is the quantity of meat, sugar, and corn syrup the average American consumes and of course this is now relevant to people all over the world as more and more adopt that American diet.

It amazes me that more doctors don't work with their patients to change their diets before prescribing drugs, or maybe it really doesn't.    Are doctors not aware that diet is key, or are they really getting large kick-backs from pharmaceutical companies, or has the health care system made it so that they cannot spend a decent amount of time with each patient to even consider nutrition counseling.   

I do believe that ultimately it is the responsibility of each of us to take the time to learn what works best for our bodies and most of it is truly common sense.  

Did you see this movie?  What did you think?

Monday, May 13, 2013

When You Forget You Are Living Your Dream

Our family has been going through a bit of a time wondering if we should put our small homestead on the market and move two hours south to be closer to family and also to be a little bit more in "civilization".  Is there any way we could sell our small homestead, use the equity to get a larger mortgage in order to buy a place with land? (Go into more debt????)

We have been asking ourselves if we are denying our children opportunities by not being around a larger population where they can take art classes, computer classes, be more likely to meet mentors?  Or, perhaps I just have a bit of wanderlust; wanting to experience new areas.

Another reason we have been considering new options is because of the demands of our business on me.  I worry all the time that I am not meeting the needs of our children - being fully present, keeping up with creative activities to do with them and supporting their interests (educational opportunities that arise organically).

My brain is so often consumed with our business because I am the one that does the online work and that is the source of our income - presently the only source.

Finally, despite our business growing by huge percentages the last three years, it still seems as though we are just getting by.   I am grateful we can pay our bills and eat healthy food, but there is nothing leftover to save for the huge list of needs (sawdust collector, table saw, wood stove, new roof, car repairs, fuel efficient car, milking stand, baby buck) and wants (cure that wanderlust and visit family more often.)

So Mike and I have been considering what our options are - do we go back to him having a "regular" job and move to central Vermont?   That option isn't making a lot of sense though as it really goes against what we have worked so hard to achieve.   It can seem alluring to be around “culture” more – to be able to browse bookstores or sit and have a coffee at a cafĂ©; to visit art studios and attend fairs.  We have even thought maybe we should just buy a simple house in a small village town .
But, what would we be giving up?

Our business does allow us time on our own terms.  If we can afford to take a day trip or go for a hike or attend a homeschool event – we can do it.

The satisfaction of working with natural materials that are most readily returned to the earth feels good to us – it feels right.

Our small rustic homestead is on 3.5 acres (the desire to also own more land is on our wish list so that we can work toward being more self-sufficient) – but perhaps we can talk to neighbors (neighbors up here means within a three mile radius) and barter firewood, for example.    Maybe a neighbor wouldn’t mind if we tap ten trees next March.  After getting more than enough birch for our business from the electric line clearing lately, I also wonder that we perhaps could continue to find ways to make our business work. 

This little homestead IS providing more of our needs each year.  For example, we are so excited about all the blossoms on our three year old blueberry bushes this year.

So many wants are “of the world wants” and probably even several of what we consider to be needs.  Working through the blessings and the desires of our hearts and reminding ourselves that we are living our dream will help keep us on this path – a path that is narrow and overgrown – one where I often feel like an alien on planet earth but after considering the alternatives, will continue on.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Sarah reading in the morning light (with her nightgown still on).

Abraham helping to cut the lawn:)

The ducklings are getting big but still as cute as ever.

Some cherry blossoms from yesterday's walk.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Knitting and Reading

As our days are spent more outside, I bring my knitting out too, getting to do a row here and a row there in between digging and planting.

I am working on some hats for children at the Anajali Primary School in Kenya.  It was all started by one woman from northeastern Connecticut and now she and some others make a yearly mission trip over in June to distribute various items and to help out with some projects.   This year she is asking for knit hats.  My Mom, who knows this woman and sponsors a child, sent me the flyer about the knit hats.

Here are the notes in case you would like to knit one up and get it off to me by the 20th of May.
Needles #8
Yarn:  100% acrylic in worsted weight
Cast on 68 stitches for small; 72 stitches for medium; 76 stitches for large
Work knit 2, purl 2 for 1 1/2" of ribbing
Then knit stocking stitch for 7" small; 8" medium; 9" large
Knit 2 together across row
Knit next row
Knit 2 together across row
Gather stitches and and sew up.
(If by chance you do, please just email me at and I will give you my mailing address.)

I really enjoyed Barnheart and have now started on a book that has been on my bookshelf for years - Christian Unschooling.   

I am working my way back to where my heart is, in terms of natural learning and slowly letting go of my fears.

Joining  in today with Ginny.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

By the Creek

Just a five minute walk down the road - a nice spot to cool off at on a summer-like spring day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

With Emmy

It has been peaceful to be outside in this amazing weather with Emmy.  I have been chatting away to her as I garden.  We pulled up dandelions and then stopped to feed them to the chickens.  The garden may not get planted as quickly but this time with her is more important for right now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Working Lately

Mike has been working on the duck house.

Sarah painted a sign for the garden.

The birch continues to be collected from the power lines within a mile or so radius that the electric company cleared.

I have been working on the blanket the last two evenings while the little ones play in the sand pile - a bit of heaven on earth.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Knitting and Reading

Happy to be sharing again this week with Ginny and so many others.

A few days ago I received a sweet, thoughtful package from Mama Ilse and in it were some circular needles.
While I am still working on the rustic rainbow blanket, I just "had to" start another blanket with some of the new needles.  I remembered seeing the Two Lights Blanket pattern in Issue 4: Wood of Taproot and using some organic cotton from Knitpicks, got started.  The pattern is simple, yet offers enough variety to keep you interested and the result is a neat chevron pattern.  The organic cotton from Knitpicks is affordable and really soft.

I am reading Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich and am enjoying it like I knew I would.  Farming is in my heart and soul.   One inspiration I have just from reading about 1/3 of the book, is angora rabbits!  On our small homestead, they may be a good addition.  We can't realistically have sheep here because we don't have pasture and much of the 3.25 acres is wet,so this may a wonderful alternative to having our own wool! 
Does anyone have any experience with angoras?