Friday, February 28, 2014

Figuring It Out

Going down a hill inside the tube

(The wood pile is dwindling and it is still really cold!)

(Receiving these in the mail today was exciting.)

What has tired Mike and I most is that we become a slave to our bills, the very thing we were originally hoping to escape.  Along the way, we have slowly added a mortgage payment (that we consider much to large), homeowners insurance, property taxes (obviously can't avoid these but perhaps they can be kept lower depending on the property), large electric bills, and huge food bills (despite usually eating simply).   It is possible to minimize most of these.

We are both grateful for our business but at the same time the sheer volume we have to produce to support the above can, at times, feel paralyzing.  The enjoyment of working with the branches and creating unique pieces has been replaced with a system much more like mass-production.

We have fallen into line with most of our society and the consumer-driven mind set that more and bigger is better.  This didn't happen overnight.  It happened slowly without us even taking stock of where we were at or where we wanted to be. 

I think it is easy for people to say that they are stressed because they are "so busy".  While at the same time, if you are "so busy" doing what you enjoy doing, what brings you satisfaction, what falls in line with your principles and ideals, than for the most part, the negative stress should fall away.  

I would love to be outside more and not tied down to a computer screen so much and have my hands in the soil or doing animal chores and in the colder weather, creatively creating.  Mike would love to be outside as well - in the woods with a chainsaw, working with a tractor, managing a forest, building trails.

We are on our way back, just working on figuring out the steps to get us there.

Here is a quote from the book I am reading, True North by Elliott Merrick ~
(The author and his wife are in the wilds of Canada traveling by canoe and foot with experienced trackers in the early 1930's.)
"If she is growing strong and skillful, I am glad.  Should she stay at home forever washing dishes and diapers?  That is safe enough.  Why should it be considered touching and beautiful when husbands coddle their wives into a state of whining incompetence?  Why should wives teach their husbands to be careful?  They should teach each other to dare, not to fear.  For to dare is to grow."

(Please don't think I don't value being a mom or wife - I do, but life shouldn't be some prescribed formula as we are all made unique.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finished Sweater and a Good Read

Finished this little wool crocheted cardigan.  
The pattern can be found in this shop.
I love the little mock Fair Isle detailing.
The green-mustard color was from onion skin dyeing.
The buttons are crocheted as well.

I am reading, True North,  A Journey into Unexplored Wilderness by Elliot Merrick. 
After reading about this book here, I ordered a used 
copy from Amazon.
I so enjoy true stories of adventure, about people living a life
of their own making.

Joining in with Ginny today.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Week of Suffering

I would call this past week a week of suffering.  No, nothing really serious, but more a series of hardships.  

First we lost one of our beloved ducks.  While the four swam in the overflow water at the edge of the pond, we  think a predator (fox?) came and took her.  So now the three ducks will spend the rest of the winter safely (but not as happily) in their house.

Next, on Monday, Emily came down with a high fever, spiking over 104 degrees when not on ibuprofin.  We did take her to see the pediatrician on Wednesday to confirm that yes, very likely she had the flu.  This was a first for Mike and I to experience as parents.  We sure can be thankful for the likes of ibuprofin to give her little body a rest.  Thursday, Abraham succomed.  Emily is back to herself after four days of this very high fever and we are hopeful that Abraham is showing signs today of the fever not spiking quite as high and he is on his way to feeling 100%.  Needless to say, Mike and I are very tired.  But really in the scope of life and possibilities, this is such a minor blip.  It gave us the opportunity to nurture them a little more, read more books, rub their heads, and just hold them close.

And finally, probably the hardest thing, has been Mike and I coming to terms with the realization that the way we are living isn't working for either of us.  While we moved to Vermont to live a simpler life, it was really all along, my dream, not his.   He was going along with my plans because he simply couldn't make any after losing his job nearly 14 years ago.  So, as we have learned and grown and enjoyed so many aspects of our life, it is clear that he is not an entrepreuner and he and I have very different outlooks on life.  I look to each new day and see amazing possibilities and he looks to each new day and hopes to get through it with as few challenges as possible.  

In addition, our business really kind of just grew and grew without either of us planning for that to happen.  Mike doesn't enjoy the work for the most part and he is even allergic to saw dust.   

I am having a hard time handling all of the responsibilities that come with running a full-time business, family, homestead, homeschooling, etc....  My brain is overloaded and I feel weighed down far too often.    

Yes, we do love each other and in many ways compliment one another, but the life we are leading now will be changing.  I have begun to mourn my vision for a holistic family business and lifestyle knowing that I can't do it without an equal enthusiastic partner.    I know that it will all be ok and that God has plans for us - good plans - but for right now I am learning to let go and embrace the change that will come as Mike finds himself and I will be there by his side to support him along the way.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chalkboard Paint with a Branch Frame

Another new addition to our home - I painted a rectangle with chalkboard paint and Mike cut down some birch branches with his table saw to make the frame.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crocheting and Reading

Finishing up the sleeves on this fun crocheted sweater.  The green/yellow yarn is some of the yarn I dyed with onion skins and I think it goes well with the pink.  

Still working my way through Soil and Sacrament and enjoying it.  Here is a quote from the epilogue which I can really relate to where I am right now in my life ~

"How we hunger is who we are.  We are each one part pain and one part desire, and we should not be ashamed that our ache to be filled is so great, so overwhelming.  God gave us this hunger, and we should not squander it on lighter fare."

Joining in with Ginny.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Small Change



Sometimes a small change can feel good.  As we are going through every nook and cranny of our home to get our possessions down to the very few, I thought to take a large wooden book case that was upstairs holding books and bring it down to the somewhat sparse kitchen.

Over the weekend, I painted it and then was able to put our plates and bowls on its shelves to make more room in our small pantry.  I also filled it with garlic, onions, and some pretty things that make me smile, pretty - but useful.  A welcome, warm change.

We never buy anything new - at least very, very seldom.  So I am often thinking about ways I can rearrange what we have or how we can utilize what we have to make improvements.

It is easy to say that we seldom buy new and instead buy second-hand or wait until we are given the cast-offs from friends, neighbors and family because of our value of caring for the earth.  You know - re-use, recycle, repair, etc... Yes, this is so very important to me and it is the basis of many of my decisions.

  Sometimes, though, I wonder how much harder that would be if the fruits of our labors gave us rich earnings.  I think the value would remain but I think it would be more challenging at times.  Sometimes I think it is just easier to not have money.  It offers less options in some ways and more in others - opportunities for creativity, for example.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day

Our family enjoys celebrating Valentines Day - in small ways.
Mike and I exchange handmade cards and maybe some dark chocolate.
Each of the children receive a valentine and a little treat (just a small something to eat).
This year Abraham made a card for everyone.
We decorate with hearts.  Valentines day comes when winter is feeling long and it is nice
to add a little festivity to our table.

I'm enjoying my loves today.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Practicing Gratitude

So even when going through a bit of a rough patch, I work hard to practice gratitude.
It may not get me back to where I want to be right away, but it will often do the trick
for the moment.

So as I went through my day yesterday I made myself look for things to be thankful for - 

- creative children 
-Abby baking macarons
- tea
- an amazingly beautiful blue sky
- our small man made (from when our basement was dug out) hill that provides a place to sled
- sweet ducks (just watching them makes me feel happy)
- an artisan well that has an overflow into the pond which gives the ducks a place to swim year round
- dead trees that will give us enough firewood to get through this very cold winter
- encouraging and supportive blog friends, thank you

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Crocheting another sweater - this time in a fingering weight fine wool that I obtained from a barter, to make an infant's size.

Reading - 
Soil and Sacrament - this was perfect timing for me as I have been in a very low place lately - so completely not my usual upbeat, positive self.  I have been struggling to get through each day, each moment really.  There are probably many, many reasons and some are probably too personal to get into here.  But I will say that our family is at a place of change.  This business has become more than I can handle or want to handle or maybe it is just that it isn't where my gifts are being utilized.  My brain has been overloaded for too long.

I think that maybe I need to simplify so that I can be a wife and mom which includes cook, baker, facilitator, homekeeper, grower, giver, preserver, etc...

Perhaps part of my struggle is our family's isolation both geographically and because of many of our counter-culture lifestyle choices.

So back to the book - the author shares his own experiences on his quest to find an authentic life, asking himself - What does it mean to follow God? and How should my life reflect this?  He discovers that faith is expressed in the work of his hands as well as minds and hearts and that in community we can feed a hungry world.  That word - community - I know that is what is missing in our family's life.  So we find ourselves seekers right now, wondering if it is possible to find more of a community besides this online world and wondering where this seeking towards a more authentic life will lead us.

Joining in with Ginny.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A New Day

We are still listening to Anne of Green Gables in the morning.
I love this quote from Anne that I heard this morning -
"I love to think that tomorrow is a new day without any mistakes yet."

Wishing you a beautiful new day,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

More Onion Dyeing

I am having lots of fun dyeing.

So, what I do is...
when I cook with onions, I make sure to use three onions so I can put the peelings in a saucepan and cover them with water and simmer them on the woodstove and then keep them soaking on the mantle for a day (staying warm).

Then I strain the liquid and put it aside.  Next I soak some yarn - not sure how much - but probably about 25 yards or so - in just enough hot water with 1/2 - 1 t. of alum (mordant).

Next, I put the reserved dye in a saucepan and heat it to hot but not boiling and remove from the woodstove and put on the mantle.
I take the yarn out of the mordant bath and put it directly into the hot dye bath and leave it for a couple of hours and then rinse and dry the yarn.

I am making another granny square pot holder using some of these yarns.

And, just arrived is this book to read with Sarah about Benjamin Franklin - really an inspirational man.   
How wonderful if we instilled in our children the joy of experimentation, curiosity and the desire to be life long learners.

Joining with Ginny today.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Just when I really feel like crying - when everything feels like too much.....

I call upstairs to ask Abraham to please come down and bring his plate and cup from the dining room table to the kitchen counter and to put away the ketchup.  He calls down, "Ok." 

I answer back in a loud and cheerful voice, "Oh, my favorite word!"

As he passes me in the kitchen while putting his dishes where they go, he says, "I like making you happy Mom."

I bend down, knees to the ground and give him a huge hug as tears roll down my cheeks and he says, "I love you."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feeding our Families

It is seed ordering time. 
 I vary what I order from year to year and have yet to keep a garden journal so I often forget from year to year.  Some years I am more experimental than others and there have been a year when I didn't even get a seed order off (money was probably in short supply) and ended up buying High Mowing Seeds from our local organic farm.

This year I am planning and I have my seed order ready to mail.  I am choosing seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and probably just for ease of ordering all in one place.  I also like to order from Fedco and High Mowing. 

            Baker Creek seeds are all  non-hybrid and non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented.

We eat only our own produce from June - November.  I would like to expand this over time but we do have some limitations that include very little tillable land and the time constraints of running our business and large family.   However, it is very important to me to nurture our soil with one shovel full of our own compost at a time that will then support the plants that will feed our family even for just those five months.  

I am in awe every spring as the seeds sprout and then the garden slowly gets crowded (with weeds too!), and I am filled with joy when I can go out in the garden in the evenings and pick what will become our dinner.   It is  a great lesson for the children to feel connected to the rhythm of the seasons and to their food and to also see what can happen with consistent work and effort.  Gardening really doesn't take as much time as one might think.   For me, 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there seems to work.  

So this year my seed order includes:
Bush Beans - Beiree De Rocquencourt  (wax) and Cantare (green)
Beets - Chioggia and Golden
Carrots - Chantenay Red Core
Corn - Dakota Black Popcorn, Strawberry Popcorn (for fun - decoration and popcorn)
I will buy sweet corn from High Mowing
Cucumber - Boston Pickling
Wheat, Emmer (for a fun lesson with the children)
Lettuce - Rocky Top Lettuce Salad, Forellenschluss and Lolla Rossa
Kale - Blue Curled Scotch
Melon - Minnosota Midget
Parsnip - Half Long Guernsey
Summer Squash - Zucchini Black Beauty, Zucchini, Golden
Winter Squash - Butternut-Waltham and Connecticut Field Pumpkins
Swiss Chard - Bionda Di Lyon
Turnips - Boule d'Or
I will buy tomatoes and peppers from our local farm because we have such a short growing season and they usually even already have flowers on them when I buy them the end of May.  

I invite you to visit the other blogs sharing their ideas on Feeding Our Families:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Making Lately

wood burning lots of tea light candle holders to fill orders

wrapping them with a birch bark heart tag

stamping and finishing ash coasters for the History Museum of Western Virginia

Abby made fingerless gloves with her rainbow loom

that bunny is made of 3D origami and stands about 4 1/2" tall and is made of hundreds of little folded triangles - another of Abby's creations

sweet knit baby hat 

What are you making?