Thursday, May 3, 2018

Wouldn't Change Anything



So as I have written here before, we struggle financially sometimes because we don't know how much or when our next order will happen.  We have faith that God will always provide, though, and we have always had healthy food and kept mostly up with our bills.  But as I have written we are not able to do many things we want to do - all the lessons for the children, all the art supplies, etc... but the hardest part for me when finances are tight, is that we are not able to visit my mom and dad and older two sons as often as I would want.  That is the trade off.  That is the hard part.   But that is the choice we have made and I know that God has provided for us on numerous times to travel.  And we were even able to have a large family weekend get together here on our farmstead at the end of last summer.

What made me really sad recently and why all of this has been on my mind the last couple of weeks is because we weren't able to meet with my mom, step-father, and my sister and her family in southern Maine a few Saturdays ago for my mother's 70th birthday, because of the weather.  I was over taken with the idea that, well, why don't we just go down to her place and spend the night in Connecticut and then my sister was going to have a little celebration for her at my sister's home near Boston.  Well, although I knew we were struggling financially, the orders had picked up the previous two days, so I told my Mom on Sunday that we would make the trip on Friday.  Well the next two days there were no orders at all and we just had enough money to buy food, which I am thankful for.  Mind you, we don't have any savings.  I had to let my mom know we wouldn't be down and that was so hard.  (You see, we also have just one old car that could use some repairs so we don't want to risk something happening and not be able to afford to fix it.)  That decision made me so sad. 

Over the last two weeks our business has picked up and for that I am grateful.  But over these last two weeks I have been thinking so much about how our family lives.  We obviously don't fit into the cultural norm and we don't have a regular paycheck and now that Mike and I have been out of the workforce for so long, we are hardly employable except at a starting wage which is about 10.00 around here.  And, overall our business pays us more than 10.00 an hour.  We earn about $43,000 or so a year.

So I have been thinking about the trade offs that we have made - one being not always being able to say yes to travel - but on the flip side there have been many times when we have been able to say yes.  We don't often buy new things, we don't have any kind of financial security (but who really does anyway, right?), we have to stay home much more often than I would truthfully like to.  There might be a festival going on 30 minutes away - but the travel, the food, etc.. - it often doesn't work out for us financially.

Now the good stuff - we are together as a family.  Our children all tell us they are really happy.  I am really happy when I am not worrying so much.  Just the last couple of days Emily and Abraham have been using branch scraps to develop new products for us to sell in our shop.  Emily has even been putting the branches out on the metal that Mike uses to dry the wood and then carting them around in boxes like he does.  So sweet.  Abraham has his creative pursuits with his Legos and amazes me.  He asked me today if we could save $2.00 a day for him so we can get him a Lego Robotics Set - the big one.  He also is asking to work for us daily and so he can save money for it as well.  Sarah loves her chickens and her instagram community and has friends from a homeschool group.  Abby has her camp community where she helps out during school vacation camps and spends the summer there as a counselor.  Isaac is 19 now and says he is very happy.  He helps with our business and with homestead work and then spends the balance of his time doing computer related things such as music composition, video editing and gaming. 

We have a beautiful place to call home (although it is on the market as we hope to return to Vermont, but that is all in God's timing.  More on that in another post.).  We are expanding to market gardening.  We are developing some friendships with some other families, although this has been slower than I had hoped.  There is so much good.

Living this simple, but not easy lifestyle is amazing in so many ways and I am a million times over thankful for all of the fruits it has produced and the daily beauty I get to experience.     Sarah just brought me a bouquet of daffodils that she found in our field, on the edge of the woods.  A sweet surprise.

All we have is this one life to live and I guess I am one of those people that wasn't willing to wait ... to wait until we had enough saved.... to wait until all our bills were paid off... to wait until the kids grew up .... to wait until we retired.....  I want to squeeze as much as I can out of this one life and to inspire others to do the same.

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Intentional Living









As many of you know that have read this blog for years,  we have made our living through selling products made primarily of tree branches and just a wee bit from my hand knitting.  We don't have to earn as much money by making some of our food from scratch, growing a garden, staying home a lot, rarely buying anything new, etc...  We do many of these things, however, not just for financial reasons.  We eat mostly organic and make our food from scratch because it is good for our bodies and good for the earth.  We avoid buying new unless necessary because it is good for the environment.   We stay home a lot so we have time to cook and bake and grow and make.  Less driving is also good for the environment.  We do our best to live by our principles and of course, sometimes we utterly fail.

So as our etsy businesses decline - because you know - you can order many of our woodland wedding decor items on amazon for nearly 1/2 the price and with prime you get free shipping!  And how wonderful to receive your special items for your wedding or home all the way from the beautiful country of China.

Sorry for my sarcasm, but it is true.  We have let Amazon take over our spending habits and in the process created a monster (the owner is the richest person in America, has a $600 M contract with the CIA, owns the Washington Post), put thousands of small and larger businesses out of business, put thousands of people out of jobs, etc.   The thing is, is it all worth it?  And why oh why do small businesses including homesteading types, become Amazon affiliates?  I don't get it.  There must be a way to hook up with independent businesses to work out some sort of similar financial benefit.  I would even wager to guess you might make out better.  I guess what I am saying is - if you care about your health, our earth, the thriving of small local businesses, please put your money where your heart is... line up your principles with your spending habits.

So my challenge for you today isn't to order something from a local small business or online family business or something from our business - my challenge is for you to really consider the impact of every dime you spend.  Remember, as I have written before, how we spend our money is the most powerful form of activism.  And I also bet that if you take the time to consider your purchase or make the item you need yourself - you will find a deeper connection to either the shop owner or community that you shop at.  Or, if you make the item yourself, the immense satisfaction over your accomplishment.

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Full Day of Work Even With the Snow and Mud and Inspiration from the March for Our Lives












What a wonderful work day we had yesterday.  Despite the snow cover and the mud, we were able to get so much accomplished.  I am so thankful for our health and the ability to use our bodies to work.

*The goat stalls cleaned out

*More sap collected and over 20 gallons boiled down.  We made about 1/2 gallon of syrup yesterday.

*Some window trim replaced and some painted (that was directly in the sun.)

*Hay picked up from a nearby barn where Mike and Isaac had to use a sled to bring the bales from the barn to the car but we are thankful for a nearby source of hay

*Because of all of the snow I am not sure when I will get the lettuce seedlings starts planted so I separated some to see if that will help them to continue to grow while inside

*Oh, and I spotted a little woolly caterpillar - spring must be coming soon.


On another note, I haven't been going on twitter or facebook lately so I wasn't aware of the scope of the March for Our Lives.  At lunch as Mike and I were checking on things online, we noticed that there was live coverage of the DC march and we watched some of the young people speak as we ate.  Later that evening, we watched a few more. 

So many sad stories - so much needless violence and death.  What I found so encouraging and hopeful was how the men in the video I link to below, were sent to Parkland shortly after the shooting to help them cope with the aftermath of gun violence - it opened the Parkland students' eyes to the fact that so many young people in the cities of our country, are living with this same trauma every day of their lives.  And the Parkland students realized their privilege of being heard and being able to utilize financial resources to make themselves heard,  and they realized that so many others do not have this privilege.  Together, young people from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds, are coming together.  Such brave and heroic people with the bottom line being that we do have the power to make change.  It is called voting and being in contact with your elected officials.  It is called standing together such as so many did yesterday.  Our country has an amazing foundation - the constitution  - which makes change possible.  I want to share the video of two young men that we found particularly moving - especially the second speaker in this video

Warm wishes,
Tonya




Monday, March 5, 2018

Just Catching Up

 

I can't believe it has been nearly a month since I posted.  From this day forward, I am making posting regularly a priority.  Just last night Sarah was looking through the blog's archives and showing everyone pictures from five to eight years ago and we all laughed and were amazed at how everyone has changed.   So not only do I want to share bits of our life with all of you, but I want to preserve our family's growth and milestones.

We have been collecting sap and have, so far, have made nearly 2 quarts.  I also planted lettuce on February 21 and they are growing so well.  I used organic potting soil and planted in salad mix containers that I have been saving this winter.  I have since planted more lettuce and will keep starting more every 2 weeks or so.  I also planted onions and they are coming along well.



These are what we use to collect sap - it may not be pretty - but it was free.



Here is what it looks like in our backyard today.  Those are piles of compost on one of our garden areas.  The snow is nearly gone but we are supposed to get quite a storm this coming Wednesday night into Thursday.



I posted this page as part of my instagram post today and was asked where I found it.
Here is the link.    We fold three pieces of copy paper in half and make little booklets to make our monthly "books".  Randomly throughout the month we add a poem, a drawing, etc...




"March winds and April showers bring
forth May flowers."

And it has been windy here!  There has been all kinds of kite making.  None of the prototypes have been to Abraham's approval, but he keeps trying and researching.  

This afternoon, Abby led Abe and Emmy with some windy tarp play.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How are you getting ready for spring?

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Knitting and Reading




Ginny is hosting the Yarn Along again.  She is posting the first Wednesday of each month and I am happy to join in and am looking forward to seeing what others are knitting and reading.

I am knitting Emily a sweater, at her request.  She wanted it pink and purple and I am writing up the pattern as I go.  I already have some revisions for the next one.  The yarn is knit picks Wool of the Andes.

The second photo is of socks for Mike - it is a free pattern from Purl Soho.   I am using Westcountry Tweed Yarn from Blacker Yarns.    These are the first of my #HandmadeHoliday2018.

The last picture is my progress on the Sleepy Kitten from the no. 4 edition of Making.  I made a couple of mistakes already but I am also excited to have learned a new technique - as the legs, tail and arms are knit on - pretty neat.  The kitten is a Valentines Day gift for Emily.  The yarn is a new wool line from Knit Picks called Simply Wool Worsted and is described as an Eco Wool and all the colors are undyed.

Well we are expecting a snow storm today!  It will be nice as there really is very little snow on the ground. 

Warm wishes,
Tonya



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February Already!







While members of our family have been taking turns getting sick since shortly after mid January, that has not stopped the ambitions of spring from bringing bright thoughts about all the hopeful plans ahead.

The light is returning and with it eggs!  The twelve, 2-day old chicks we received last August are now laying.  In addition, our older girls, 15 in total, are picking up their production as well.  We hope to be able to sell 5 dozen per week and still have about 3 dozen for ourselves which would mean that we would be getting our eggs for free.   We have found a wonderful source for our grain.  A local Amish farmer makes his own - he sources all GMO free grains and then grinds them himself into a formula that works well for his 1800 layers!  So we are blessed to be able to buy from him.  With this feed, even in the winter, their yolks are nice and orange.

By the way, all our chickens have names (thanks to Sarah) and they live out their entire natural lives with us, well fed, loved and sheltered.

As far as the handmade holiday 2018 (#handmadeholiday2018) I don't have much progress to show, today, but I am almost done with Mike's first sock.  I have also been working on some other knitting including a sweater for Emily, which after working on several different sizes, am hoping to publish the pattern.

I gave in and bought my first flowers this winter.  When I go food shopping I generally try really hard to walk by the flower section - I love flowers!  I did really well, but it seems that each February, I give in.  I bought that little pot of begonias at the grocery store on Friday and it was worth the tiny investment to add a little beauty to our living room.

January was a really hard month for us financially.  Having a retail online business means that sales fluctuate quite a bit, but this January was slower than previous Januaries.  However, it is a great lesson about being even more conscious of using what we have, making do, and also formulating a plan so that we don't get ourselves in such a situation again next January.  (Like saving money!)  I know I have shared in the past, but while our life may sound idyllic to some, there are extreme give and takes.  However, even when we are on the brink of considering a job or a move, our hearts stay firm in this life and secure in the knowledge that God has always provided, we have always had healthy food, and our children, although I worry we aren't doing enough for them, they will tell you they are very happy right here.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Handmade and Current Works in Progress



I just wanted to talk a little about why I even bother to make handmade as much as possible.  Of course, the the most obvious is the personal satisfaction - the creative outlet - the joy.

But what I want to talk about today, is the fact that how we choose to spend every cent can be an act of resistance or an act towards changing our economic systems.   Who we support with our dollars means everything.  So many people think their actions will not matter - but that is crazy thinking.  If we all stopped buying at Amazon, then Jeff Bezos would stop being the richest person in  history, the CIA would stop paying him, he would cease to own the Washington Post, and he would stop buying out smaller companies.  One person should never have so much power.  Ultimately, though, the power is in our hands.  I know this hard but it is so possible.  I think our income may have us very close to the poverty line for a family our size - but we are hardly poor (to me poor means without hope).  It is truly a matter of priorities for most (not all - there are many that are not as healthy as we are, don't have any hope in their lives - for many cheap is truly the only option.   Please don't think I am judging. )

So, when I create from raw materials, I am supporting the maker of those raw materials and the business I purchased them from.  I definitely don't choose to buy those materials from Amazon (although I have, such as paper - and I am committed to not doing so again).    I sometimes buy my yarn from Knitpicks and although, I would much prefer to buy from local stores and small fiber farms, with the amount of knitting I choose to do, I could not afford to do so.  However, when possible, I do often buy yarn from my local yarn store in Belfast.  Her prices are not any higher than most online stores.  This way I support a shop on Main Street, I support an individual that is sharing her passion with others.  In addition, when I attend a fiber festival I enjoy supporting the local vendors depending on what my budget can afford, which is such a treat.   I am also challenging myself to use up textiles that I come across that would have otherwise been trashed, such as when our children out grow their jeans, recycled jars that can be made into holders, and bits of old clothes that can be used to make quilts.

The pictures above are my works in progress.  The first is my first handmade holiday gift.  It is a pair of socks for Mike.  Although he sees me knitting them now, he will for sure have forgotten about them by Christmas.  The pattern is free from Purl Soho and I am using some yarn I had purchased this past December.  My goal is to finish by February 15th or sooner.

The other is a gift for Emmy for Valentines Day.  She was looking over a Rite Aid flyer that came in our mailbox and saw stuffed animals holding candy boxes and thought that would be a wonderful Valentines Gift for herself.  I commented that it would be so much better to have a handmade little animal holding a small box of sweets.  So, a Valentines Day cat is in progress.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and what you are making.

Warm wishes,
Tonya