Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Knitting Vests

Finished up the Plain Vest with my hand painted wool yarn and added some of our hemlock buttons.

Now I have started a Pebble Vest in some bartered yarn from Springtree Road.

Vests are my favorite article of clothing to knit - fairly quick and also very functional.  Really the perfect item to add to a young child's wardrobe during cool weather as it allows their arms to be free while a sweater can sometimes feel restrictive.

I haven't been reading a specific book lately because I have been working through getting our portfolios together for the state of Vermont as well as planning next year using  mostly a Waldorf inspired approach which I will write about more soon.  (I love the concept of unschooling and will certainly let much of that natural learning continue to flow through our days but I have to meet the state requirements and I think Waldorf is one of the more gentle approaches.)

Joining in with Ginny today.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Perfect Weather For....

firewood collecting!  
It has been just beautiful lately with an energizing temperature around 70 degrees or so and no humidity.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Animal Update

The meat bird that Sarah brought home is growing fast and has become almost a pet, we let it (we don't know if it's a girl or boy) free range all day and it likes to follow us about the yard.  The only thing I don't like about Polly is that it chases the ducks.

The duck that broke her leg is doing amazingly well.    We kept her in a cage for three days to let the break area heal so as not to bleed again (her bone was completely broken - a compound break).  She has adapted to life with just one leg and can swim and hop about.  She does usually lag behind the other three and sometimes has to stop and rest.     

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Good thing I ran into my friend at the library the other day to answer my garlic questions.  I had bought a few pounds of garlic from her last fall and planted about 50 cloves.  After seeing the chickens digging around the area I had planted and wondering if the soil was any good, I really didn't have very high hopes.

But grow they did!  They added beautiful greenery to the garden in spring when it is still looking pretty brown and then in June we enjoyed the delicious garlic scapes we cut from each plant.

Lately I have noticing the bottom leaves dyeing off and started to wonder when it is time to pull.

I asked my friend how to tell when it is time and  she said when there are about 5 good green leaves left on the stem (the bottom ones start to die off - which mine were).

Today after I pulled the first one, I nearly cried - tears of joy, of course! 
A beautiful, good sized head of garlic!

So now they are drying on our porch and we will wash and peel the outer layer in a couple of days so that they will keep well.

We have about 50 heads and will use the largest cloves to plant in October.

We will be buying more garlic from my friend again this fall and plan on planting 200 cloves all together.
In addition to supplying our family's year-long needs, I think braided garlic would make great Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Knitting and Reading

Still working on the same two knitting projects that I wrote about last Wednesday, but added one more project into the mix.  I hand painted some yarn last year and am not really sure if I like it, but don't want to waste it either.  But after rolling it into a ball and knitting it into a Plain Vest, it is growing on me.

Mike and I are reading The Resilient Farm and Homestead, An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach by Ben Falk.  It reads very much like a text book, but if you are interested in taking a hard look at what you have in terms of your homestead, and utilizing it in the most productive way while respecting the natural resources, then it is a great resource.  The authors's farm is in central Vermont so much of the information is very relevant for us, but truly much of it could be applied to any climate.  One of the points, though, is planning and doing for the long-term, the long-haul, the future.  That is one thing that because our homestead is just 3 acres, we haven't made up our mind if this is our family's long term home site.  We have pretty much maxed out the fire wood potential, for example.

There are some great things to learn from this book ( I can apply the food preservation ideas right away, for example) and even if we do end up on a new farm, we can feel good about leaving this little homestead more productive for the next family.

Joining in with Ginny.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Financial Considerations

Sometimes life can seem so overwhelming - right now it is financial for us.  Yes, we are paying our bills, yes we are eating healthy, yes we are getting Abby to rehearsal each night (45 minutes each way), yes we paid for Isaac to go to camp for a week - but we have absolutely nothing - no savings, and very little in 
our checking.

Yesterday, we were blessed to receive $300 in orders with our busiest month, historically, coming up in August but still, money can seem so hard to figure out.

Sometimes I have such a hard time figuring out how much to save (property taxes coming due, replace our ancient wood stove, car seats for the children, etc..), how frugal to be, how much to deny, how much to give away.  And all the while I am holding on to faith - the knowledge that God does provide.  

How do you prioritize?  Do you budget?  We spend so little on anything extra, but when it comes to our children, when do we say yes and when do we say no?  When it comes to extra trips - when can we afford to do it and when can we not?   I know having our business makes these questions harder to answer, but I would love to hear how others manage their money.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

All Seven

This morning I felt such a peace having all seven children home, laughing and talking, getting ready for church, getting ready to return to camp counseling, and one getting ready for his last performance.

Realizing on this beautiful morning that I might have a chance to get a picture of all seven, I begged and pleaded.  None of the pictures came out with all of them looking at the camera, but that is ok.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Moments from the Week

After Jen sugguested Bee Balm for natural dyeing, I picked some from our yard and set it out in the sun and it made a beautiful pink dye.  I used alum as a mordant but the yarn did not pick up any of the color.  I will have to try something else.  Any suggestions?

Sarah working on an outdoor play area for Polly.

More tiny house building going on.
I am sure we wouldn't be able to do these things in many suburban neighborhoods and sometimes I have to resist my need for order to just let them create  - another reason to be grateful for our little
hidden homestead.

With our porch floor in tough shape, I decided to use what we have - some joint compound to fill in holes and some leftover floor paint to at least make it presentable for now.

One of our sweet ducks, Shadow, has a broken leg.  It is bad - the bone is completely cut through and I fear she may lose complete use of her leg.  She is eating and drinking well, though, so we are hopeful.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Knitting and Reading and Dyeing

Because the weather got so incredibly hot here, I needed to start a light knitting project and put the Boneyard Shawl on hold until it cools down just a bit. 

I am working on an Old Shale Scarf in some really soft natural colored yarn that I think I bought at a yard sale for $1.00 years ago.  

The other day after cutting up a red onion for a quinoa salad, I decided to put the skins in a quart canning jar filled with water and leave it in the sun.    The yarn came out yellow in a cool shade of yellow more on the green side.   I am still anxious to find some natural dyes that come out something other than yellow:)

The book, Five Little Peppers, I was excited to find at a library book sale after remembering Renee recommending it.

Joining in with Ginny today

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


We have a new addition to our ever growing homestead - Polly, a chick that is usually raised for meat.

But not Polly.

After returning home from my peaceful parenting group last Friday with Sarah, I noticed her getting out of the car with a basket in her hand and inquired what she had.

Well, of course, there was Polly.  I asked her if she had asked Christine if she could have her and Sarah informed me that she had and that Christine said it was fine as long as it was ok with me.  (Sarah just forgot that part.)

She wanted to save her.

So now we have a use for the top part of the duck house and just put chicken wire across when we open the door in the morning.

(She gets lots of attention.  The other morning when I went to let the ducks, I found an empty top floor, only to find Polly on a box next to the sleeping Sarah in her bed.)

On a side note - check out this link
If this is for real - oh my goodness - we are in trouble.

Monday, July 15, 2013


This is a post for anyone that may live anywhere within an hours drive or so from the Montpelier, Vermont area.

Our oldest son is involved with this amazing community theater company, Quarryworks, that puts on professionally executed shows at this neat little place in Adamant, Vermont.

Fully funded by donations and fundraisers as well as with the help of the main two benefactors, all the shows are offered for free in an intimate setting that seats 50.

I saw Thomas in their first production of the summer, Two By Two, which is a musical.  Thomas has been in many, many shows ever since he was seven, and this was by far the best I have seen yet.  (Please note that it is not appropriate for children at least under the age of 13 or so - but their next show this summer is Aladdin.)

So if you get a chance there are five more shows this coming weekend.  Bring a picnic lunch or dinner before the show and enjoy the gorgeous grounds.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Not Going It Alone

We just had such wonderful visitors over the last two days that I am looking at our little homestead and family through different lenses.

I am also realizing that families weren't meant to do this whole parenting thing on their own.  I mean it really seems that we were meant to live in a community - even a small one that might be comprised of multi-generations with grandparents, an aunt and uncle.  Or maybe with some other families (with whatever make-up that may be - single, couples, with or without children).

Each of us has been given such a unique set of gifts.  You may not even realize what those gifts are.  It could be as simple as reading books to a child, sharing stories of one's life, a gentle voice of support, a home baked pie - or more tangible gifts such as music, knowledge, or a specific skill.  We each have something to share.  These gifts are not meant to be kept to ourselves. 

  God has blessed each of us and as human beings I think we have an innate desire to interact with one another, to commune with each other - to form community.   

This is a challenge and one that I want to embrace and develop in our family's life, right here on our remote little homestead.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It is so nice to have my cousin, Hilary, and her partner, Sun-Kyu, visiting for a couple of days.  
So neat to get to know the young woman she has become from the 16 year old I remember.

Both she and her partner are interested in local eating, farming, and also foraging when they can.
After visiting the swimming hole near us yesterday they noticed some mushrooms under a grove of evergreens and we walked down later to gather.  These are golden chanterelles.

Emily brought along a basket and filled it will treasures she found along the way.

Their visit reminds Mike and I of how blessed we are, as we see things through their eyes - the beauty of the area, the animals and gardens we are able to care for, and for our business which gives us the flexibility to visit with them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Knitting and Reading

I have been working more on another Boneyard Shawl.  The bottom half I knit with some Peace Fleece yarn I dyed with golden rod last summer.  The second half is just going to be natural.

The book, Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar, I was excited to find at the library on Monday.  Herbal healing has been a long time interest of mine.  What seems to happen so often, though, is that I get overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  This looks like a very good basic book for beginners.
I think it has motivated me to simply begin with what we do have around our homestead.

Joining in with Ginny today.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Girls' Self-Directed Projects

Sarah planted her own garden this year with little to no help.  She has a tomato and pepper plant, a small row of snap peas, 3 pumpkin plants, 3 butternut squash, and 3 - 6 kale plants coming up.  In this picture she is instructing Emmy that the kale is not a weed.

Abby continues to work on her own "tiny house".
She is using only materials found around our homestead.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mud and More Mud

Emmy and I went out this morning to do the chores in our t-shirts, shorts and rubber boots.  The air is thick and warm but we are rejoicing because the sun is out this morning.  Will we have a day without rain?   The forecast isn't predicting such, but we still do hope.

This is the wettest it has been since we moved here four years ago, wet, wet, wet.  The laundry pile is huge, the clothes are simply not drying in this humidity.  Our birch for our business is turning moldy.  The animals have to deal with this mud too.

The gardens don't seem to mind, though, and that is a good thing.  The other good thing I noticed is that the lack of sun seems to be keeping the pesky cucumber beetles away which is giving the squash plants a chance to establish themselves.

Mike is making buttons and we are experimenting with small items that are not bothered by moisture as much.

I have actually started to get used to being wet and muddy.  The dirt between my toes, in my fingernails, and perpetually muddy children.

Yesterday we didn't even retreat inside when another downpour began - instead Emmy and Abe continued to play in their sand pile and I continued to weed while water dripped down my sides and the top of my head from being bent over. 

It is really quite amazing out how well we adapt to situations and it is really true that we can make a choice each moment how we will respond - either with negativity or with possibility.  I do my best to seek out the possibility even in the soaking rains.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Knitting and Reading

I finished the medium size for my Simply Sweet Sweater pattern.   The yarn is this neat yarn called Renew Wool and is 65% Virgin Wool and 35% Repurposed Wool.  I bought it at our local yarn shop.

 Just dreaming up some buttons and an idea for a wool felt applique on the front.

I am reading another nonfiction, A Dresser of Sycamore Trees - the finding of a ministry - by Garret Keizer.  I found this book at a library book sale and thought I might enjoy it not only for the content but also because it is set up here in the northeast kingdom of Vermont.

Here is one quote from it that I highlighted and is from the author's thoughts while staying for a time at a monastery ~

"However a monk had come to be there, his coming had meant a giving up of something- and that made all of the brothers fascinating and some ways awesome.  All of them had refused to believe that 'you can have it all.'  In other words, all of them were challenging what has become the virtual battle cry of this culture .  That battle cry is also the complete antithesis of any notion of social or ecological responsibility, even though people who claim 'you can have it all' often affect to care about such things - why not, when you can 'have it all'?  Quietly the monks were saying, and have been saying for twenty centuries, 'That won't work'.  If other persons, peoples, species, and generations are to have justice, no one can 'have it all.'  There are choices to make and prices to pay for those choices."

Joining with Ginny today.

Monday, July 1, 2013

We are Rich

We watched the documentary, "A Place at the Table" last night.   It left Mike and I both feeling a bit angry and frustrated - angry at the government for spending 146 billion in subsidies to support the wealthy agribusinesses and yet allocates less than $1.00 per lunch for children's school lunches.  The program that supports the federal lunch program gets renewed every 5 years - and last year it was increased a whole 6 cents over the next 10 years!  And you know where they took the money from to pay for this increase? - the food assistance program!  

While our children learn at home and don't take part in the school lunch programs, I still feel strongly that the school lunch programs should be healthy.

Please take the time to watch this movie.  It can be so easy to get caught up in the attitude that people should be able to figure out a way to support themselves - but aren't we supposed to care for the poor, those in poverty, and even more so children?   (Ideally, we need to figure out a way to end the rampant poverty in our country and probably the best way would be to create a living wage, in my opinion.)

As we enjoy our salad for dinner with shredded carrots, sunflower seeds, feta, and baby turnips with an egg salad wrap, I am reminded at how amazingly rich our family is - we have never gone hungry.

How can we share our riches?  Maybe by helping others start their own gardens, maybe by teaching others how to eat healthy on a lower budget, or maybe sharing the bounty from our own gardens.