Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Make Your Own Drop Spindle

Yesterday we went to visit the mamas that gave us all of our wool and their new babies. This mama had triplets! It is common for sheep to have twins and not unusual for them to have triplets. Can you imagine?

The babies are not so gentle either.

We are thankful for the wool that the sheep so generously give with their annual shearing.

Our family has continued to wash, pick, and now card the wool using two dog brushes. We picked the kind of dog brush with metal bristles.

Three of our children and I have been enjoying our new handmade drop spindles. We ordered circular wooden disks (or large wheels) from this online shop ( They are 3 inches in diameter. Next we bought dowel and cup hooks from our local hardware store. When you order the large wheel, take note of the diameter of the hole because that is the diameter of the dowel you will need. In our case it was 1/4 inch dowel. For each spindle, you will need about 12 inches of dowel.

For the end hooks, buy cup hooks 1/2 inch.

Put some wood glue about three to four inches from the top of the dowel and then slide the wheel onto the dowel so it covers the glue. Some glue will ooze out - just wipe it with a rag. Screw the cup hook hook into the bottom of the dowel closest to the wheel.

Now if you have a coping saw or a small saw, you will need to make a notch in the wheel. Just saw into the wheel about 1/8 of an inch or so, this will guide the spun yarn.

Once the notch is made, make sure that the open end of the hook is spun in the opposite direction of the notch, this will prevent your yarn from slipping out.

That is it! Please ask questions if this isn't clear. I will show some pictures about how to use the drop spindle next.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Newsletter Being Packaged....

Isaac suggested we take a picture of the process.

We hope the new issue will be a blessing to all. Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, March 29, 2010

Farm Stand

We put out our farm stand on Saturday. Although we live on a relatively quiet dirt rode, we do get customers.

The children love to run down the driveway and check the jar for money.
We do have some work to do on it, like give it a fresh coat of paint...not sure what color though, any ideas? Or just leave it.....
Right now we just have eggs and cookies out. I use a cut branch to write the prices on in permanet marker - they don't blow away! (why didn't I think of that last year?)

Warm wishes, Tonya

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hand Spun with a Drop Spindle

Well, when you leave a pile of washed wool on a sheet by the woodstove to dry, you just never know what might happen.....

I looked into the living room and our 14 year old son had his drop spindle (that he bought with his own money two years ago at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival) and away he went....

A couple of hours later, our 9 year old, Abby was at it.

Our 11 year old decided that he would make his own drop spindle. While he was able to spin a bit, it was much to wobbly and I told him I would order him a "wheel" and buy some dowel so it would spin better. But I was impressed with his efforts.

That same evening I quickly knit up a little purse and added one of our handmade birch buttons to show them how much their handspun yarn was appreciated.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New in our Handwork Shop

After seeing tutorials for these on various blogs and in Living Crafts magazine, our family just knew it was something that we needed to add to our shop. We have an abundance of beautiful birch trees on our homestead so it just seemed natural that we would use birch for our buttons.

We have finished up quite a few sets and have added them to our shop.
But truly, it makes a wonderful project for you to do and you can even include your children to help with the drilling and rubbing the beeswax on, depending on their ages.

For those that don't want to saw, we have added sets of button blanks to our shop. These are not drilled nor finished.

I use the buttons for little purses, hat closures, and on vests I knit.

Enjoy. Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, March 22, 2010

Crafting Over the Weekend

We had a wonderful weekend mostly at home, and mostly working with our hands.

In our small kitchen garden at home, I planted a bit of lettuce and some snap peas.

Saturday afternoon we tilled our large market garden, it is about 50' x 40'. This will be our fourth year of growing here and the soil is finally looking like it should over most of it. While Mike was tilling, I raked and pulled out large clumps of weeds, etc..

We did lots of creating as well.

I finally finished this special order for a customer. The wool yarn used was all hand dyed. She wanted a set of rainbow gnomes in subtle shades.

Gathered scraps of fabric, chose yellows and blues and made this scrap fabric wreath, inspired by GardenMama.

Our neighbor raises sheep organically for meat and we were given seven bags of wool! (Certified organic as well.)
So... I could use some help with the best/easiest/simplest ways to wash and pick this.
This is a picture of our first batch that I washed and it still has to be picked through.

Finally, the girls helped me set up our Easter shelf.

Happy Monday and Happy Spring.
Warm wishes and joy, Tonya

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We have frogs

~ Abraham and Sarah filled with wonder as they watch their poor little captives ~
(which were released a very short time later)

Warm wishes and joy, Tonya

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring on our Homestead

Sarah in our kitchen garden.

We will be still using our garden plot one mile down the road and a plot on some neighbor's land as well. Our soil on our new homestead is full of clay and much of the area is wet. It will take some time to build up the soil. I am starting with an area that probably was a flower garden at one time. There are lots of roots to pull up but the soil is rich. We will extend this garden a bit more each year.

As we work the soil we have to fend off the chickens as they come right where I am working to get the worms as I expose them I worry that I may hit one with my tool by accident.

Here is a picture of one of the girls sunning herself after giving herself a dirt bath nearby where we were working.

We have eight maple trees tapped this year. Our new homestead was overgrown and as we clear out and open up the land a bit, the maple trees should grow at a faster rate. Right now they are on the small side. We had our first cup of syrup with our pancakes the morning before last and should have just a bit more than that for tomorrow morning.

Overlooking our pond

Finally, we all need a little rest after a hard day's work. Our neighbors didn't want these chairs. They were still in their boxes and our 11 year old son, Isaac, put them together for us. Can you believe that they are the same color as our home? .....

Warm wishes and joy, Tonya

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things aren't always what the seem

Another nature posting from my husband, Mike -

In my travels to gather material for our business, I learn quite a bit about the trees I use. It's easy to just cut the tree down and bring it home to make the product and then sell it, but for me it also interesting to learn something from the tree.

This photo illustrates the fact that you cannot judge the age of a tree by its size.

These pieces were cut from two different ash trees. At first glance you would think that the larger sample is twice as old as the smaller. However, after taking a closer look (we all remember counting rings on large stumps), I found that the smaller piece is twice as old as the larger.

As best I could count, the larger piece (2" diameter) was 15 years old and the smaller piece (1 1/2 " diameter) was 30 years old! These small trees were found in the woods where there is a dense canopy, thus these trees did not receive much sunlight because of the taller trees above them. The two tree grew contently and happily yet very slowly.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Before 9:00 am

As our house was its usual flurry of activity this morning, I thought it might be fun to document all that is going on before 9:00 am.

We have pancakes many mornings for breakfast. For our family of eight it is an affordable, healthy choice. We use our chicken eggs in the batter as well as some whole wheat flour, wheat germ and milk. For toppings we have honey, cinnamon, yogurt, and jelly. We have maple syrup only occasionally as it is expensive and not in keeping with our budget for food. I make the batter most evenings before I go to bed.

It is Abby's morning job to do the morning chicken chores. Usually at 7:00 am there is just one egg and that was the case this morning. By the end of the day we should have collected about 15.

Abby and Isaac were excited to check on the sap buckets this morning. They went out bright and early and gathered about 2 1/2 gallons this morning. We only have eight taps out this year as our new homestead doesn't have too many mature maples. However, we are clearing out around the maples to give them lots of sunshine for healthy growing in the years to come.

Abraham helped himself up to the counter to do some early morning sketching.

I do my computer work, last minute home learning planning, and some handwork first thing in the morning. My goal is to be up and out of bed by 5:15 each morning. This is my work area. It is in the kitchen but overlooks the open living and dining area. This is what it looked like this morning.

Thomas, at sixteen, has come down with the chicken pox. Five of our children spent the weekend in the Boston area with their Poppa two week's ago to see the Lion King and he must have picked it up while there. He is not feeling all that well, but thankfully he does seem to have a fairly mild case. He is eating his breakfast this morning. (We are keeping in mind that the next several weeks in our household will probably involve caring for children with the chicken pox as each child comes down with it - at least we are hoping they do.)

Starting the process of my almost daily bread baking.

Nolan beginning his math upstairs on his desk.

Mike's early morning work area (the workshop will be nice....)

Now, Abraham doing some beading.

And the on the woodstove top this morning - sap to boil off and butter melting to make cookies.

What are your early morning like?
Warm wishes, Tonya

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Simple Sunday

~Sarah lost her first tooth, just before her sixth birthday~

~Abraham in the reading corner~

Wishing you all a simple and joyful Sunday. Warm wishes, Tonya

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chickens and Felting

Yesterday I made some simple curtains to go over the chicken's nesting boxes. One of the girls was eating an occasional egg and our hope is that if it is dark in the boxes that will no longer happen. The fabric came from our local thrift shop.
Throughout the day, I dyed some wool roving and wool yarn in matching spring pastel shades to begin wet felting Easter eggs with the children today. I will be following the steps from the tutorial here.

So, just a little of this and a little of that going on here as the snow melts a bit more each day, being replaced by mud. Spring is nearly upon us, even up here in the north country. With warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nature Hike with Mike

After two weeks of a persistent stomach virus, I finally feel well. I am so thankful to be able to enjoy the day. Getting out in the woods with all of my boys and little Sarah, with Abraham on my back and Sarah keeping us all in line, we were off.

The weather here has been beautiful. Pure blue sky and in the 40's. We have snow still, but in the woods where it is cool, we stayed on the surface to make the hiking easy.

The older boys spent some of the time in the woods filming their latest short film.

We saw an old rusted car/jeep sticking out of the snow. The area looks like an old homesite. We'll plan to investigate this summer.

I pointed out some tree scrapes to Sarah. One was near ground level which was probably a young buck or doe and then another scrape at five feet up a small maple - likely a moose.

We also came upon an old hemlock trunk that had three leaders at one time. Smack dab in the middle of it is a yellow birch, about 2 inches in diameter and healthy.

There is so much to see in just a short hike that began in our backyard - so peaceful.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beginner Carving Project

Here is a very simple carving project that is perfect for beginners - both children and adults alike.

My son, Nolan, designed, carved, and finished these little gnomes with watercolor paints. The carving was done with a pocket knife. (Remember, to always be very careful and use proper supervision.)
Warm wishes, Tonya

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This Day - Sunshine, Chickens and Syrup

The morning sun shines in through our large windows and I snapped this picture of the mid-morning yogurt snack.

As the day called us outside, it was so nice to see the chickens venturing more and more beyond the confines of the barn as the snow begins to clear in the walkways.

We went for a walk to check in wtih a neighbor to see if he might be burning sap.

Guess what? He was and we came home with a courtesy pint. Pancakes for Sunday breakfast!
May your weekend be filled with beautiful moments.
Warm wishes, Tonya