Friday, October 30, 2009


When we moved to Vermont four years ago, we did so deliberately

~to live in a rural area where the cost of housing is affordable

~where we wouldn't be alone in choosing to work toward a more self-sufficient, local economy

~where we would be reminded constantly about the need to rely on God (living close to nature and not relying on a 9 to 5 job)

When our family made these decision, we also decided that earning money, while a reality, wouldn't be our family's life. In doing so, we chose to leave a lifestyle of consumerism and chose to conserve, re-use, and make-do.

Our first year in Vermont was not so radical as we rented a house in a small northern village.

Our next two and a half years were spent in our off grid mobile home three miles down a gravel road. Now we are just one mile further down that gravel road. We have been blessed with a rustic cottage that is large enough to fit our family, friends, hens and soon - goats, sheep and gardens.
Now, more than ever, we are deliberate and thoughtful about how we spend. We don't spend unless it is absolutely necessary and has been well thought out.

What this is leading to is the projects that we to attend to around our homestead. There are many, many areas where one does not see beauty. However, I have a vision of what it will become. We don't have money, though, to hire backhoes, buy landscaping plants, buy materials for walkways, fences or even to fix up our barn right now. I am not sure if we did have extra money if that is how we would choose to spend it either. (with six children, someone always truly needs something).

We make-do. We also wait and pray and it is amazing that the very thing I had been praying for will either be offered to us from a family member or friend or we will find in a free pile or at a yard sale or thrift shop.

After we bought our home this summer and had a foundation put under it, we have been left with lots of ugliness. There are piles of soil, some with the large concrete foundation blocks that the house used to rest on. Here is an example:
(That wheelbarrow was one that was thrown away. My husband built a new handle and it is an often used tool on our homestead!)

While digging around this area, I discovered a neglected garden with excellent soil. (A wonderful find when much of the ground is full of clay.) This will become our herb and early greens garden. I didn't want to look at those big ugly concrete blocks, however, so I am in the process of building a branch fence to put right in front of them. I will plant sweet peas in front of the fence and I can envision the beautiful flowers and green vines climbing over the fence this summer. I piled up rocks around the well head as a worked in the garden. There was trash to remove. I found some flat rocks to add to our entryway walkway. (The chickens enjoyed finding insects and worms while we were cleaning up!)

While I don't have a lot of beauty to share today, I can imagine the beauty that will result from the work of our hands.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And the answer is...

a splinter.

I am at the library this afternoon and will post more about what is going on around our homestead tomorrow.

Warm wishes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My children love puzzles and riddles. As the librarian at our library/museum, I have been able to look over some very old rare books. One set of books, in three volumes, titled St. Nicholas is a compilation of years of a children's magazine from 1873 - 1876.

There are wonderful old fashioned stories, articles on animals and nature, early reader selection, beautiful illustrations, and these amazing puzzlers. Children were expected to be able to use their brain more. This is my perception. Perhaps I am wrong. However, I also use some very old school books for our children's home education and what I like most about them is that they require more of the child. Not to mention, they have moral lessons weaved throughout the academic lessons.

Here is a riddle we have had lots of fun with today:

"I went into the woods and I got it. After I got it I searched for it. But I had it in my hand all the time, and at last went home because I couldn't find it."

What am I?

Answer tomorrow.

Enjoy. Warm wishes. Tonya

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Poppa

We had a wonderful whirlwind trip - a five hour trip down to Massachusetts - arriving in time for my father's 60th birthday party hosted by his gracious girlfriend, Sheila. It was his request to have a small party with just my sister's family (she and her husband have two children), my Mom and step-father, and us (all eight of us). It was so very sweet for my father to include my mom and step-father as there are far too few times when my sister and I are both together and she got to enjoy the special moments as well. Not to mention it was also my sister's birthday just the day before.

Here is my father -
Here are my two oldest son's singing a special song they wrote for their Poppa - there were a few teary eyes in the room -

Finally, the eight grandchildren (six of which are our children)

I am so grateful for my parents and their love and commitment to our family.

Back to business here on the home front. We have just completed a custom request for a 100 piece building block set which has been fun to put together.

Yesterday, we planted some bulbs by the pond. The bulbs came from a perennial grower just down the road from us.

We talked about how the bulbs need to rest all winter and then as the sun warms the earth in the spring they will awaken and begin to sprout and shoot out of the ground.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Friday, October 23, 2009

Needle Felted Banner

I have been working on this for the upcoming birthday celebration tonight. We are having a party for dear husband this evening. His birthday is actually tomorrow, but we are off to Massachusetts for my father's 60th birthday celebration.

I (with the occasional help of a child or two) needle felted inside a heart cookie cutter. The key (as my nine year old daughter informed me) is to keep flipping the cookie cutter over. Needle felt a bit on one side and then flip over and keep repeating until nice and firm you have the desired thickness. Then each letter is needle felted while still inside the cookie cutter.

After I finished all of the letters, I strung a sharp, larger sized needle and threaded with a long piece of hemp. I first strung a larger wooden bead on the end and tied in place. Then with the needle, string right through the side of the heart, add a small wooden bead, and continue.

Here is the birthday cake. I took out the cake decorating supplies and had numerous requests from the children to have a turn at decorating. I, of course, said yes. (Someday, I do look forward to decorating cakes myself, but for now I think a child-made cake is just perfect).

May your weekend be filled with beauty and love.

Warm wishes.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

With Gratitude

Suzy, owner of Hip Mountain Mama, and a sweet mother, crafter, natural living advocate and much more, has written about our family on her blog post today.

I had happy tears in my eyes as I read what she wrote.... many thanks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zucchini to Apples to Pumpkin

The food our family eats depends much upon what we are harvesting. We had zucchini everything for awhile and then apple everything and today we start in on our pie pumpkins.

This morning I peeled and cut into our first Pie Pumpkin, separated the seeds out – some to roast and some to save for next year’s planting.

The pumpkin flesh was then cut into pieces and boiled in water until soft. Drain the water and then mash the pumpkin and use in your favorite recipe.

Here is the Pumpkin Bread recipe:
(Makes one medium loaf or three mini pans)

In a large mixing bowl blend liquid ingredients together:

1/4 C. Oil

1 C honey

2 eggs

1 C pumpkin

In medium mixing bowl thoroughly blend dry ingredients:

1 3/4 C. whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/4 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1 1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. ground clove

Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until thoroughly combined. I added 3/4 C. chocolate chips and 1/2 C. oats to this recipe.

Fill greased an and bake large pan at 325 degrees for 55 minutes - for the mini pans, I would guess about 35 minutes (until tester comes out clean).

On a side note ~
We all had a good laugh this morning when Abraham clipped himself on the nose with the play clips. I missed snapping a picture of the moment but the laughter will remain within us today.
Have a happy day.
Warm wishes,

Monday, October 19, 2009


A bit of an update on some recent handwork.
Here is Isaac's handmade cribbage board for his Poppa's (my father's) 60th birthday party. We are headed down to Massachusetts on Saturday. He and his Poppa look forward to playing one another whenever they get together.

I finished up Abraham's mittens using Peace Fleece Siberian Midnight.

I washed the wool sweaters I found at the free clothing swap and am now thinking of what they may be used for....

On the needles are a hat for my father - a very simple one with a nice soft variegated wool yarn in shades of gray. A ribbed bottom and stockinette stitch up to the top.

Warm wishes. Tonya

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Continuing the theme of a day in our life....

Another icy morning. A little beauty out the front door at 8:00 am -

This morning daughter Abby (9 years old) and I left bright and early to go to a clothing swap and drop. On Friday people and organizations dropped off their excess clothing and Saturday all the clothing is free. Now we live in a very rural area and it was amazing the amount of people rummaging through piles of clothing.

We found a bit of this and a bit of that for various family members. I also grabbed some wool sweaters to felt and save for some new creations. Abby was quite patient with me and after an hour and a half of searching, I had to finally agree with her that I had had enough too.

After a couple more stops we headed home to find that everyone had forgotten that it was now past lunchtime and I made a quick lunch for all.

This afternoon the children had some chores to do outside. The previous owner of the home left us hundreds of tires - ugghhhh - and they are moving them from the now very visible barn area to a remote area and we will be bringing them one to two a week to recycling. Also, they helped to rake up some leaves to jump in - of course!

Dear husband has been spending much of the day cutting branch pieces for our Vermont branch block sets that we sell. We received a custom order for a one hundred piece set with some unique pieces. It has been fun to go searching through the woods for branches.

Our evening will end in baths and showers as we prepare for church tomorrow morning and a special treat of icecream with the hot fudge I bought shopping today, and a bit of knitting. Abraham needs some knit mittens. Have a wonderful evening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homeschooling Days

I decided to simply share a bit more about our daily life - this time in terms of our learning times.

With my fourth and sixth graders we have been using What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know Series for Geography/History. There are good springboards to get into other topics and they also do cover the basics. For example, today I was talking with Isaac about mapmaking, and we talked about the first flat maps made by Mercator. He wanted to know if and where one could find the originals. We did a quick google search and he was immediately intrigued by how much money some of the originals ones are selling for.

Here is some craft time with the girls and myself included. We are making the paper mache bowls as described in Amanda Blake Soule's Book, Handmade Home. The glue recipe is wonderful and the bowls are coming out nicely so far.

For art study, we hang up an artist's print on a bulletin board hanging in our dining area and each day the children are each to hang up a new fact around the edges of the print and share it at mealtime.

Warm wishes.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Day

A fairly typical day in our home begins with breakast, usually dear husband and I are up first and then one at a time each child comes down and either helps themself to some cereal or cooks themself a pancake with the batter I have already made. I bake the daily bread and get each child's homeschool materials together for the day. The older two boys do this for themselves now. I have their weekly plan done for them, hopefully, by Monday morning.

The morning usually passes quickly with helping each child with their assignments, reading aloud to the younger children, household cleaning, extra baking, finishing up some orders and packaging them for shipping, and assessing what needs to be done for the afternoon homestead chores.

Yesterday after lunch, Abraham and I tackled the chicken coop. Not a fun job but very rewarding when the chicken coop has a fresh layer of hay on its wooden floor.
Happy chickens outside~

We keep our chickens in the coop until after lunch as they have been laying their eggs in nests throughout our property and we have yet to find most of them. One nest that we have discovered is on top of the hay bales in the barn and it is a pleasure to send a child out to check.

Bringing the hay to the coop~

Sarah found these little beautiful blossoms among our perennial flower garden~

A glimpse into our home in the early evening as I am preparing supper ~

Warm wishes.


Monday, October 12, 2009


After being part of an outdoor market on Saturday and catching up with household work and some family togetherness on Sunday, today we are weaving in our weekday routines.

I do want to share a photo of our tent and set up from the market - we sold our handmade goods and organic honey. That is Sarah sitting on the chair behind the tables. It was a blustery cold day but we had lots of people stopping and sold quite a bit. I always enjoy meeting people and sharing a bit about our family and the goods we create. The most popular items were the hand knit baby booties and hats and the honey.
A little Abraham goodness - we are loving his cuteness (is this a word?)

I'm not so sure that Alice looks very happy about this.....

Friday, October 9, 2009

Preparing for the Farmers Market and Fair

We are busy preparing for a farmers market/fair that we will be at this weekend.

I am putting tags on items, finishing up almost done projects, and sewing up some bags.

Since the Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday, our children have been busy needle felting inside cookie cutters, adding their own artistic touches, and my daughter, Abby, has been making them into necklaces. She plans to sell them this weekend.

I will take pictures of our tent and set up to share Sunday evening and share more about the blessings fom our weekend.
Enjoy yours~

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Issue Mailed

The autumn issue of Plain and Joyful Living is complete and has been mailed to subscribers.

In it are articles about old fashioned simple living, recipes, handwork ideas and tidbits of interest.

Additional copies are available (please read the on the side panel of the blog). Plain and Joyful Living is a not for profit newsletter. Our mission is to spread the joy of homemaking and a more simpler lifestyle through a hard copy newsletter that is handwritten and copied and mailed through the postal service. If you have a financial hardship, simple email me privately.

On a side note, the days have been filled with alternating periods of rain for over a week now. However, yesterday we enjoyed a rainbow right from our front porch!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sheep and Wool Festival

We took a leisurely drive down to Tunbridge for the annual Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival yesterday. The foliage was breathtaking and we enjoyed the drive, avoiding the highways and instead, going through small Vermont towns.

The pictures tell the story.

Gorgeous hand dyed yarn~

Abraham having a drink break ~

Bobbin Lacemaking , amazing~

Abby needlefelting in a cookie cutter, sponsored by a local waldorf school~

Needlefelting in a windowpane~

Sheep Shearing~

Beeswax Pumpkin Candle Winner is.....

Stitching Under Oaks

Congratulations - just email me at with your mailing address.

Thanks everyone for sharing your October plans.

Warm wishes,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Saying

Our read-aloud book for the younger children is Little Twigs. Our little library has many old and rare books and as the librarian, I have the opportunity to peruse them and I found this gem among the collection.

I so enjoy the language of older books. They do not use short cuts and they speak much more eloquently and proper. Much of the writings for children are filled with life lessons and stories to teach morals.

Little Twigs was written in 1882 by Cousin Ella.

Here is a quote from a selection that moved me. In it, two young girls are sitting beside a mill that is powered by a wheel.

"You see how the wheel keeps going all the time. Into the water and out again, into the water and out again; and sometimes in the winter when it has rained, the creek is big and dark and not as warm as it is now. And I thought just as the wheel went into the water, so did we; not just like it, and not into the real water, of course, Jennie," she added in pity for the big startled eyes. "But life isn't always happy. A good many people have hard things to bear, and whether they want to or not, they have to go under the water of trouble;" and the child's lips quivered as she glanced at her helpless foot and tiny crutches; "and I thought if we did it cheerfully, tyring to believe God knew best even if the water did look dark and cold, we'd come up presently into the sunshine of his love, and even our pains and troubles would be brightened by it, like the drops on the wheel that sparkle n the sunlight."
Warm wishes,

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy October Give Away

To welcome in October, I am offering one of these pumpkin beeswax candles to the lucky winner.

These are handmade by a farm just a few miles from our homestead.

Beeswax candles burn clean, actually helping to purify the air and they smell wonderful.

To enter, please just leave a comment about what special plans you have for this glorious month and I will draw a number at random on Sunday evening at 6:00 pm EST.

Warm wishes,