Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Small Change

Suzy at Hip Mountain Mama is initiating this movement which involves making one small change each month, blog about it, and follow through with it for that month with the hope that it will become a permanent change for the good in the life of your family.

You can read more about it and join here.

I will be blogging tomorrow about the change our family will be making for the month of January. This goes along quite nicely with our family's plan of working toward an even more sustainable, family and community centered life.
Happy New Year - may it be a peaceful one.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Buy Milk Straight From the Farm

This is our first goal in the new year. We found ourselves not making it a priority to fill our half gallon mason jars at one of our local organic dairy farms. We are blessed to live in an area abundant with farms (although not nearly as many as there were at one time).

Our favorite milk comes from Butterworks Farm where they raise Jersey cows primarily for their yogurt. The milk is delicious and nutricious. In addition to the yogurt they make from the milk, they also make cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and cream.

Butterworks is a wonderful example of a sustainable organic farm. The Lazors work tirelessly to take great care of their cows use the compost to grow beans, wheat, corn and sunflowers. Thus, they have flour, dried beans, corn meal and sunflower oil.

It is wonderful that we are able to take advantage of these amazing food offerings just 5 miles away from our homestead.

Organic, local food is not the least expensive option, but it is the best option for health of our bodies and of the health of our local community and for the health of the earth.
Butterworks Farm does not advertise; you won't see an ad in the local paper or a flyer hanging at the general store. I have to call ahead to order my 25 pound bags of flour and 10 pound bags of cornmeal. When we go to purchase, they have an honor system yogurt cup and once they show you how to get the milk you simply go in and help yourself. And don't forget to bring the children around the corner to say hello to the cows.

If you are not sure what is available in your area it is best to ask around. Check out Google organic farm and then the name of your geographical area.
Warm wishes. Tonya

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Relaxing and Refreshing

We had a joyous few days of rest and play. Our new favorite family game is Bananagrams (given to our two oldest boys) and have played countless rounds over the last three days. New books are being read. We have had many hours of skating on our pond with hockey games that included Mom, Dad, and Poppa.

I am ready to take down the tree today and clear away the few decorations and make ready for the new year. I was amazed out how clear my mind became with each passing hour on Christmas day. I had not realized that I was consumed with all the details building up to Christmas.

Now my mind is free to explore new ideas and goals for our family's homestead and business and homeschool plans for the coming year.
I will be putting the winter edition of Plain and Joyful Living together over the coming week. This issue includes writings by one subscriber and an essay by a homesteading neighbor.
Here are some glimpses of the last couple days....

~ Abraham helping Poppa open his stocking

~ the joy of painting with a new set of paints

~Sarah with her new (second hand) cowgirl hat

~a snowperson inspired by the book Stranger in the Woods, complete with nuts scattered on his hat for the birds and a carrot nose for the "big buck" to come and eat

I am working on some new and exciting projects and ideas to share on my blog as our family continues on our journey of a simpler, less traveled path.

Warm wishes and blessings, Tonya

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The cookies are made and being delivered to neighbors...

with plenty left over.

The stockings are hung on the stairs with care.....

knowing they will be filled with special treats by morning.

May you all have a joyous Christmas and be filled with love and peace.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22

In addition to the daily dishes, baking, cooking, getting our almost two year old out of things he shouldn't be into, hanging clothes to dry, adding wood to the fire, wrapping a gift or two, snuggling by the woodstove to read stories, finishing up some last minute orders to ship, checking on the chickens, cutting some more evergreens to refresh indoor decorations, lacing up skates ~ we have also been up to ~

~ designing a gnome knitting kit for our shop, it includes a hand woven basket, wool for stuffing, enough Peace Fleece yarn for knitting the main body and the skin color, and the pattern ~

~ making three dimensional snowflakes that look lovely hanging from our beams ~

~ inspired by GardenMama, making candied orange chocolate peels. (Can you tell that the children did the dipping?)~

~ discovering that under the chocolate advent calender that my father gave the girls is a plastic mold and wouldn't it be lovely for making miniature beeswax ornaments ~ (how did they discover this when it isn't Christmas yet?)

Blessings and warm wishes during this beautiful time.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to Knit a Cork Gnome

These little gnomes are so quick to knit up and would make a great little stocking stuffer. I think you can finish one in under 30 minutes.

Using size 2 needles and finger weight yarn –
For the hat, cast on 16 stitches and in the stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) for 6 rows.
Row 7: Knit first two stitches together, knit across, knit last two stitches together
Row 8: Purl
Repeat rows 7 and 8 until 2 stitches remain, bind off, leave a 12” length of yarn and sew up back of hat.

For body,
Cast on 16 stitches and in stockinette stitch knit for about 1 inch. Bind off. Leave a 12” length of yarn and stitch up back seam. (It may be easier to wrap body piece around cork and then stitch in place as it will fit snugly.)

Using hot glue, adhere hat in place.
You can add hair of wool and I am sure many of you will come up with other creative ideas. Please share if you make some.
Warm wishes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Boxes and Books

Who needs presents when boxes are much more fun....

Who needs screens when...
... "Reading a book is like a movie in your brain. You just space out because you are so into it," said eleven year old Isaac.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Living Deliberately

I just want to share a wonderful post at the Down to Earth Blog. It is about living your life deliberately. It is the way our family has chosen to live. We also often posed the question - how is it possible to do this with children? Are we sheltering them? Not giving them all they "need"?

One way that I respond to these queries is that our children can always choose the world's way, but by being raised in our simple, hands on learning/working environment they will have lived a different life and now have a choice on how to live their lives as they mature. Living deliberately won't be foreign to them. They may choice to opt out even more than we have or they may choose to be in the corporate world, live in the suburbs and go on extravagant shopping sprees. Whatever they choose we will love them with all our hearts.

It is possible to consider everything that we do and be deliberate - with or without children.

Read the article here - it is great food for thought.

Warm wishes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Granola for Giving

We give homemade food gifts to family, friends and neighbors. One of the items that we often include in the basket is granola.

The recipe I made with 5-year-old Sarah is from this sweet cookbook.

For each recipe there is one side for Moms and the other side giving directions for the child.

Easy Granola

4 cups oatmeal

1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

1 stick melted butter (1/2 cup)

1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup)

1 t. vanilla

Combine above ingredients in a large bowl. Spread in a shallow pan (jelly roll or cookie pan) and bake at 275 degrees for 25 minutes.

After baking add the following (or whatever additions you desire)

1 c. raisins

1/2 c. cut up dried pineapple

1/2 c. cashew pieces

Ladle into canning jars and finish with a homespun tie.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview and Giveaway

Our family's business is featured in an interview and giveaway at GardenMama.
for this ~

Blessings on your day.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Friday, December 11, 2009

Re-Purposed Bird Ornament

From time to time I enter give-aways that are being offered at some of my favorite blogs.

Up until just a week or so ago, I had never won but had truly never given any of the give-aways a second thought after entering.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I won this beautiful bird ornament at Morning Sun Rae's Blog. She designed this as part of the Living Crafts ornament exchange. The pattern is in the winter edition of the magazine and is hand sewn of a felted wool sweater.

It has found a special place on our tree and we are grateful to her for sharing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8

Cones....another gift from God....

We made an amazing discovery - at least to us....

On our walks down our gravel country road we have been collecting cones lately. I had been hesitant to pick up these cones that were very skinny and long but as that was all I could find along the road on our last walk and I wanted a bunch to adorn our mantel, I collected many and lined the edges of our mantel that is above our woodstove hearth. A few days later, the cone began to open and the most beautiful cone of all has formed. The heat opened the cone up.

Now for the magical part... I picked one up to look at it more closely and out dropped the little seeds spinning beautifully down to floor (like a helicopter's blade whirling around). They are small, less than an inch long and a golden color. As you shake the cone, more come gently whirling down....

These type of cones are from the Norway Spruce.

Here is a pinecone that our daughter, Abby, decorated with pieces of wool felt in rainbow colors. Each color she glued a small piece of felt to the tip of the cone and continued up in a spiral. The result is a beautifully decorated cone and as you spin it the rainbow colors merge into one another looking from the top.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7

Snow! Although just an inch or two the joy is ringing loud and clear at our home. Everyone was outside right after breakfast.

Our project last evening was to string popcorn for the tree.

Warm wishes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 6

We awoke this morning to shoes filled with special treats, Christmas lights twinkling in the dim light of the morning, and snow lightly swirling down to give the brown earth a light frosting.

Yesterday I helped to create a holiday market at our library with lights and greenery, live music, handmade local gifts and prepared foods for sale, cider with treats to munch, and pinecones to decorate and snowflakes to cut out for the children.

Upon arriving home we decorated a beautiful tree cut from our land. We are blessed to be able to have this tree in our new home and the warmth and beauty it brings during this month is so very welcome.

Today we are preparing for a small birthday gathering as our second oldest son is turning fourteen on the eleventh. He is having six friends over for games and cake.

I have toys to package for orders we have received, more greenery to hang and a surprise wreath to make for a neighbor that has been away and will be returning just before Christmas day.

I also wanted to share a very special project orchestrated by GardenMama that can be found here - The Wellness Tree.

Please consider making an ornament. It is a simple way to make a difference in the life of another. May Kelly's strength be a blessing to all of you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 2

As we move toward Christmas we work on adding a bit more of the beauty of the season inside our home during this dark yet beautiful month.

Yesterday was unusually warm and it is very unusual not to have even a bit of snow on the ground by now. However, we took advantage of the bright sunny, mild day to spend much of the afternoon outside.
Walking around our homestead we ~
~gathered evergreens, mostly balsam and some beautiful pine that we found

~enjoyed observing our chickens who love this mild weather

~ built a little stone path to the barn ~ there is a wee little stream of running water under the rock bridge
~checked on our new 20 chickens in the back section of the barn.
We spent this past Sunday making a coop for them in the barn because some friends were moving and needed to find a new home for them. Our original 17 are still in the separate coop.

I stacked some wood and then put fresh hay in the chicken coops and then we headed inside for some tea cookies.

Warm wishes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beautiful Online Seasonal Magazine

Just wanted to share a friend's new venture - Rhythm of the Home. It is a beautiful seasonal magazine filled with articles on homemaking, handwork, and most of all, celebrating the seasons.
And... it is free.

Check it out when you have a moment.

Warm wishes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


My very dear friend made these beautiful note cards by carving a stamp. We are offering a set of six in our shop.

Here is a picture of the stamped image with the hand carved stamp.

She and her family moved to northern Vermont many years ago with six children and built a straw bale home with their hands, without electricity. They grow much of their own food and are a wonderful example of simplicity.

She also made our family a logo stamp for our farm and business.
Warm wishes during this beautiful season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Simple Advent

We went out and found a birch branch to drill four holes for our advent log and then stopped by a local farm to pick up four beeswax tapers. We lit the first candle on Sunday and will add an additional candle each Sunday until Christmas.

Yesterday we renovated the back portion of our barn to accommodate 19 chickens and one rooster that some friends needed to find a home for before they leave for four months. We have doubled our chickens and are hoping to hatch some chicks in the spring.

Warm wishes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Old Fashioned Day

We have made it our yearly Christmas season tradition to visit the Old Stone House Holiday Open House. (At our house we were not so fortunate as to have our first significant snow - it was all rain. But because of the higher elevation, we were able to enjoy the beauty of the freshly fallen snow.)

The Old Stone House Museum is located in Brownington, Vermont, in a quiet and picturesque Northeast Kingdom village, the museum includes six buildings on fifty five acres. Seemingly untouched by time, this hillside town is centered around a monumental stone dormitory, called Athenian Hall, built in 1834-36 by the Rev. Alexander Twilight, the nation’s first African-American college graduate and state legislator.

"I like the way the Stone House still looms up on that hilltop, where the wind blows all the time. There it sits, unshaken and monolithic, as I write this sentence and as you read it, every bit as astonishing today as the day it was completed. What a tribute to the faith of its creator, the Reverend Alexander Twilight: scholar, husband, teacher, preacher, legislator, father-away-from-home to nearly 3,000 boys and girls, an African American and a Vermonter of great vision, whose remains today lie buried in the church-yard just up the maple-lined dirt road from his granite school, in what surely was, and still is, one of the last best places anywhere."
Howard Frank Mosher ~ Vermont Life Magazine ~ Autumn, 1996

At the Samuel Read House we had cider warmed over the open hearth fire ~

The children decorated cookies and made ornaments to hang on their tree ~

And listened to music ~