Saturday, February 27, 2010

of twigs and wool for spring

This is an easy little something to make for your spring nature table or seasonal shelf.

I gathered the ends of some birch branches and used some bits of wool roving to create this little wreath with a bird's nest filled with three robin's eggs and some greenery with little pink blossoms glued here and there.

Spring is coming!
Warm wishes,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow in Northern Vermont!

I know for many of you this is not an unusual sight this winter, but for us it is! Way up here near the Canadian border we just received our biggest storm of the season - probably about 16 inches. Until today, we have only received 2 - 4 inches at a time, a very unusual winter for the north country.

So I will bore you with pictures of the white stuff which is not boring to us at all. Although if it keeps up I am sure we will soon have had enough. But in the meantime, we are enjoying God's beauty! to get the heavy middle on the snow person....

...looking down our driveway... where do we begin to shovel?

Warm wishes,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Simple Play Corners

Keeping with our philosophy of very rarely buying new and when we do supporting small businesses, as well as making as much as we can with our own hands, I want to share some of our young children's favorite play things.

Our building branch blocks are a favorite. Our family makes them for our children and we also offer them in our shop and at Hip Mountain Mama.

Here is a little nook under our stairs.. the branches form fencing for the horses....

One purchase we made about 6 years ago was to buy a wooden kitchen. This kitchen has been used nearly every day and is right in our kitchen which offers pretend play while I am baking, cooking or cleaning.

This mop has become a daily favorite. A bucket is filled with warm water with just a touch of Murphy Soap and they get busy mopping our floors. We made the mop with a branch handle and hand crocheted cotton mop head that is removable to wash.

I enjoy knitting bunnies, gnomes and balls for our children as well as for sale.
Bunnies are filling our home, some to stay and some are hoping to find a home of their own.

What are your young children's favorite play things?

Warm wishes,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How To Make Yogurt Cheese

I am sure there are other names for this, but I have chosen this very simple name as it is so very simple to make and all you need is whole milk plain yogurt and then garlic and/or herbs for flavoring.

It is delicious on breads and crackers. And, did I mention - soooo simple!

To start, dump your quart of yogurt on a porous material. I used some clean unbleached muslin, but several layers of cheesecloth would also work.

Tie it up quickly as the whey will start to drip through and put it into your draining contraption.

This is what I made up using what we had available and I hung it from a hook in our kitchen ceiling.
Drain the whey in the bowl (it is the liquid from the yogurt) so that the bowl doesn't get too heavy.

Leave over night and in the morning take out and put in a bowl. Add the flavorings. For a healthy fight the germs winter version, add fresh cut garlic. As spring approaches you can add herbs from your garden - chives will be one of the first I will use and that will make a great spread on bagels.
Store refrigerated (it will keep for at least a week) and enjoy!
Warm wishes,

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crocheted Crown Pattern

I had shared this pattern with Living Crafts quite a while back and thought I would share here as well. It is so very simple and fun.
The picture above is of our Isaac nearly 3 years ago! To go to the patterns page click here and scroll down a bit to find it.
Enjoy and warm wishes,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesdays with Mike

Inspired by the family here, my husband is going to be contributing to this blog on most Wednesdays. Some weeks it will be based on a walk in the woods, other times about what it is like being a work at home dad and other times about homesteading and simple living from a dad's point of view.

Here is his post today~

The snow is lightly falling outside. I am in my favorite chair next to the woodstove sipping my coffee, ready to start a new day.

I have had to learn to think differently about my day in the life of running our business. I had always had a job outside the house, reliant upon other people for our income. I now have control over the decision I make throughout the day and my success is partly based on the effort that Tonya and I put in.
The biggest hurdle (please don't take that word wrong, we are truly blessed) is our family size and that Dad is present physically most of the day. Dad can't play all the time and sometimes the children might not understand that, especially the younger ones. On the other hand, there are many times where I am able to let them get involved and help. I am also learning that it is ok to mix in some fun at times. Recently, I was sanding some products and our son, Isaac, wanted to play cribbage. My first instinct was to say, "No, I am working," but instead, I agreed and sanded in between hands.
I had a revelation as I sat playing a game and working at the same time with our son at home in the middle of the day. This is pretty cool. I am in control of how I spend my minutes. I am with my family and I am having fun. They are learning it cannot be fun all of the time, but I am working on fitting some fun in when I can.
Best wishes, Mike

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Car Family

Changing the direction of our life was a gradual process, one that is still ongoing and I hope will continue to evolve.
One of the first realizations we made when considering the idea of homesteading was that we would need to live on less money. Step by step, we started to let go of the ideas of having more and having new.

Mike’s compensation package as a golf course superintendent always came with a truck, therefore, we did not have the “need” to purchase a second vehicle.

We have had just one car for our family for many years now. There are many advantages. One advantage is that we save money - only one car to keep up with repairs and maintenance, pay for registrations, insurance, and so on. We make careful choices about where we go and when as we have to consider all family member’s needs and plans. Therefore, we use less gasoline and are driving a vehicle less which is good for the environment. Having one car keeps us closer as a family because we can’t split up and go in different directions. We don’t have that option. One child can’t be taking a class at the same time as another, for example. As a result, we spend more time all together. We have more time to spend on our homestead doing the necessary chores that help to sustain us.

The car we drive now is a 1992 Suburban with 236,000 miles. We were blessed to find it two years ago this March for just $1500.00. With the birth of our sixth baby, we all could no longer fit in our 10 year old mini-van. While we bring our Suburban to our mechanic every few months to give it a look over (to make sure nothing is about to break from rust, etc..) and we have had to do some repairs, all and all it has been wonderful for our family.

Having one vehicle has been a necessary step for our family on our journey in order to keep our life simple and our expenses down.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart Branch Pieces and Winner

Happy Valentines Day... while we don't get caught up in buying things for one another, our thoughts are definitely focused on love today.

~Some birch branch slices from my husband~

"Love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Love is not selfish, irritable, or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrong but in the right. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things."

~I Corinthians 13:4-7


The winner for our 200th post give away is Faith from the blog, Faithfull Mama.

Thank you for all of the sweet comments.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Friday, February 12, 2010

200th Post Give-Away

I just want to share a bit of goodness to celebrate my 200th post. I am grateful for the community of caring and sweet people that contribute and share here.

To enter, please leave a comment and I will be picking a winner by random number generator.

Here are the goodies -

A vintage apron (found at our local thrift shop), a skein of Peace Fleece yarn (which we offer in our fiber shop), a set of two of our handmade birch hooks and a handmade little purse I knit of a beautiful soft merino wool with a repurposed wooden button.

I will pick the winner Sunday evening at 7:00 pm.

Warm wishes,


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fun and Healthy Snacks

Hmmm, there sure have been a lot of posts about food lately. The long winter draws us inside more which offers time for trying new recipes.
Our daughter, Abby (nine years old) has been reading through a book we have on one of our bookshelves, The Busy Book for Toddlers. With Abraham now two, she has been looking for fun activities to engage him.
The book also includes some fun recipes and she has made two recipes that involve bananas.
Bananas are the only foreign fruit we buy year round. Otherwise, we buy seasonally and avoid buying oranges except for at Christmas and lemons just on special occasions for lemonade on a hot summer day or to make a loaf of lemon tea bread.

Back to bananas - here are two wonderful snacks to make with bananas that we made over the last week.

Banana Cookies

Slice bananas into circles and roll in crushed graham crackers

Bananas, Honey and Wheat Germ

(They gobbled these up so fast that I didn't get the camera quickly enough.)

Mix some honey with a little milk in a small bowl if it is very thick. Put a small amount of wheat germ in a second bowl. Cut a banana in half and cut into smaller "stick" pieces. Dip in honey first and then wheat germ.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, February 8, 2010

Homestead Life

We have been joyously busy with our handwork business and sending out the rest of the winter newsletters with hand stitched hearts.

When we started our journey toward this intentional life just five years ago this October, this is the life we imagined. We had many bumps and bruises along the way and sacrifices and hardships but through it all we kept our minds on God and what plans he has for us. "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:2. There were many times I thought that maybe Mike should just get a "real" job and we should abandon our dreams.

Choosing a less followed path has required a great deal of faith ~ faith that God would be with us every step of the way. We are continually reminded to listen to our inner voice, that of God, leading us.

Although I feel overjoyed about finding and living in our forever homestead, I just know that God has more challenges in store for me and that I will need to stretch myself even more to make a difference.

With the blessing of our home, comes the responsibility of hospitality. I am working hard on relaxing more when getting ready for company to come over. No matter how busy I am with children and business and the endless chores, it is important for our family to open our home to family and friends.

We had our third weekend in a row of hosting. On Sunday with the skating conditions perfect and having found the switch that turns on the outside lights that shine on the pond, we just knew we needed to host an evening skating and potluck. It turned out to be a great remedy for the cabin fever that has been invading area homes. About seventeen people came to share in the delicious food and to skate. It was magical to watch the children skating once night had fallen as the light shone on the pond with the big puffy snowflakes coming down all around.

A little extra work for me, yes, but worth it - worth every beautiful memory.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sour Dough Bread - Success

After building up my sour dough starter for about five days, adding 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup unbleached white flour and warm water each day, I decided to try the following recipe from my favorite homesteading book.
I used the Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread Recipe with some changes.

The night before, I combined 4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup starter, and 3 1/4 cup lukewarm water. I left this in the bowl upstairs where it is stays a consistently warm temperature. Early this afternoon I added 1 t. baking soda, 1/2 cup oil, 2 t. salt, and enough flour to make a kneadable dough (about 5 cups - I used white flour for 3 of these cups). The dough does tend to be sticky. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter and divided evenly among three bread pans. Then the dough was divided into three loaves and I coated each loaf with the butter in the pan and set the pans by the woodstove for about 2 hours. Next they were baked in 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.

The good news is that everyone in my family loved it. The bread did not have a super strong sour dough taste which some of the children had not been overly fond of with my old starter. It made a nice and soft, moist, tasty bread with a slightly crunchy crust.

I will continue to feed the starter each day - about 1/4 cup flour and nearly 1/2 cup warm water. If I know I won't be using it for awhile, it can be stored in the refrigerator without feeding.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beauty in the Home

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
~William Morris

In our pursuit of freeing ourselves from an attachment to "things" our family has and continues to work towards simplifying what we do have. As I consider whether or not to keep something or if we really "need" something I keep the above quote in mind.
I want to share some beautiful finds from our local auction house this morning. They had some goods from antique/thrift shops that had gone out of business and were selling items at very reasonable prices. We carefully searched through the piles on the tables and dug through the boxes on the floor. I found two more glass bread pans which makes my total four. Now I can bake three loaves of bread and one breakfast bread all at the same time.
I found some bits of notions and fabrics, a glass canister which will hold our homemade granola, the wooden bowl pictured above, and some beautiful hand embroidered linens. They are used in our home on our meal table, on counters and during afternoon tea times. I paid $10.00 for all of the above. I almost never buy items new and spend very little unless it is absolutely necessary. It was worth the money to add a bit more beauty in our home.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our Small Change for February

Inspired by Suzy at Hip Mountain Mama, our one small change for January was quite successful. Our goal was to make our coffee on our wood stove instead of using the electric stove. Well, not only have we done that, but we have also been cooking lots of meals on top of the wood stove. We did this for over two years in our off grid mobile home, so why had we become lazy???? That is one reason we chose to live as we did off grid. We wanted to deny ourselves the temptation to spend money that we didn't need to spend and to not use our natural resources any more than was absolutely necessary. Well, in our new homestead which we affectionately call our "rustic cottage" we do have electricity. As a matter of fact the previous owner left a nearly new electric stove/oven. So, why on earth had we stopped using our perfectly wonderful wood stove top while the wood stove is being used to heat our home anyway? That is why living without makes simple living so much easier. When more conventional options are available, living simply and conservatively has to be more purposeful and with discipline.

We have enjoyed cooking many of our meals on the wood stove. The little extra walk back and forth from the living room to the kitchen is good for me as well. We will continue doing this until our wood stove is no longer needed for heat. I forgot to mention that our electric bill was reduced $10.00 as well!

For February we are going to commit ourselves to buying our milk twice a week from Butterworks Farm. Currently we are only getting up to the farm once per week. At about 8 miles away, we need to do this twice per week. Not only is the organic raw milk much better for us, but we will no longer need to buy conventional milk which means no more plastic gallon containers. We need to make this our new habit.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Use it Up Veggie Burgers

While we do spend a good percentage of our income on healthy organic food, we are also very careful to use all that we have and to make the most of the more affordable wholefood options.
One popular lunch meal in our home are these -

Use It Up Veggie Burgers

(for approximately 3 - 4 cups brown rice)

Please note: I seldom measure and so the measurements are all approximate and you will need to play with them to suit your family's tastes.

Leftover Cooked Brown Rice

Shredded Fresh Vegetables on hand (Carrots, Onions, Cabbage are what we use a lot in the winter)

1/2 Whole Wheat Flour

2 Eggs

2 T. Braggs or Organic Tamari

1 t. Hot Pepper Sauce

Combine all ingredients. When we have rice for dinner the night before I just leave the leftover in the pot. The next day I add the ingredients for the veggie burgers right to the pot.

Heat up some olive oil in the bottom of a saute pan and form patties. Drop into hot oil and cook each side (you may need to put a cover on the pan for a bit to cook in the middle).
Even the young children in our family enjoy this.
I will be sharing more tomorrow about our family's One Small Change for February, and then continue with our adventures with sour dough starter after that.
Also, keep checking because I am very close to my 200th blog post and will be offering a giveaway featuring our family's handwork.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sour Dough Starter Part III

Successful thus far, at least it appears to be coming alive nicely. After keeping the mason jar covered with a piece of muslin held on with a rubber band, in the bedroom above the living room (where our woodstove is), and where the temperature tends to keep a steady 70 degrees, there are bubbles forming and it has risen maybe 1/3 of its original height.

Today I am going to feed it a bit more than might be required to keep it going as I want to get a nearly full jar before I use half to make my first loaf of sour dough bread. I am adding 1/3 cup unbleached organic white flour and 1/3 cup warm water. And then stir it with the handle of the wooden spoon and leave in our kitchen counter now which can get cool, but I think it will be fine.

Warm wishes, Tonya