Sunday, October 31, 2010

Peace Like a River

the peaceful scene from our front door this morning

From "Worship in Song, a Friends Hymnal," I was pleasantly reminded of a song I had learned in my childhood.

I've Got Peace Like a River

Verse 1:  I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river, I've got peace like a river in my soul.  

Verse 2:  I've got joy like a fountain, I've got joy like a fountain, I've got joy like a fountain in my soul.

Verse 3:  I've got love like an ocean, I've got love like an ocean, I've got love like an ocean in my soul.

Warm wishes,

(Don't forget to check back tomorrow for the Handmade Holiday Post.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Food Budgets

As I was making lunch yesterday, Nolan walked through the kitchen and asked what was for lunch.  I replied, "Soup and just made bread."

Nolan (age 14) responded with, "That's it?"

Sarah (age 6), listening in the other room,  chimes in, "Nolan, we are on a budget you know."

The truth is, we really don't have a food budget.  I do my best to balance our financial capabilities with buying healthy and as much organic food and also as local food as possible.  Of course during the growing season, we eat all our own veggies and I preserve some food.  With our garden expansions each year this should increase, possibly even enough to sell a bit again.    Our goal is to add two goats to milk.  I moved the chickens from the barn to the smaller coops yesterday to bring us one more step closer to this reality.

But the truth is, we generally eat simple, healthy foods and still spend much more than I would like.  I make soups and cook  from our store of potatoes at least twice per week now.  We also eat pasta with vegetables, rice with vegetables and very occasionally organic, local meat.  For lunches we often have grilled cheese on homemade bread with pickles (that I have canned from our gardens).  Breakfast is either pancakes (usually without syrup as it is just so expensive), organic oatmeal with raisins, or Cheerios(started this habit almost 17 years ago with #1) with bananas (the last nonlocal fruit I buy on a regular basis to help with the children's nutritional needs).  For a family of eight, we nearly go through one pound of butter each day, nearly one gallon of milk, 1/2 gallon of juice (we do each have one cup of juice with breakfast), and about 1/2 - 1 pound of cheese each day. I generally buy monterey jack, non organic as the organic is still so much more.  (The goats should help with this too.)

Including dog and cat food, the few non food items we do buy (toilet paper, toothpaste, dish detergent), and then the food items, I  have estimated that we spend about $200.00 per week (a family of eight).  As we work toward making more of these food and nonfood items ourselves, I hope this will slowly go down, not just for financial reasons, but also to meet our goal of being more self-sufficient and living lightly on the earth.  Each packaged item purchased at market or the natural food store contributes in some way to pollution or the depletion of natural resources, even if I recycle every bit as recycling uses energy too.

What is your food budget, how much do you have to buy outside of what you grow and how many in your family?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Our two dogs enjoying the day's unseasonable warmth on the porch.  This photo was taken through the window from inside our home.

The warmth and sun brought the ladybugs into our home and Sarah (age 6) and Abraham (2), were enjoying their time observing them crawling and flying.  Sarah said, "Ladybugs are the most beautiful creatures God makes."

The children enjoying a wiffle ball game in our driveway area.  The warmth had brought two neighbors over to play.

Abraham enjoying the day.

I also enjoyed the beautiful day and spent time outside cleaning the chicken coops, and thinking that this will be the last time for a long while that I will be able to do so in the warmth.

Warm wishes,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birthday Celebration and Toy Shop Business

The Mister of Natural Earth Farm celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday.

With eggs, bacon and monkey bread for breakfast, nachos for a light lunch and a supper of local organic sausage, couscous, and our own butternut squash, finished with chocolate cake to celebrate - the eating was good.

Silly Poses

He and I then went to the newly built Jay Peak resort so that he could watch his beloved Patriots - just the two of us for two hours.
He told me it was his best birthday ever - oh that was so sweet to hear.

This is an order for Hip Mountain Mama

Our family has been very busy working in our "toy shop" filling our wholesale orders in time for the holiday season.  Now we are gearing up for our regular shop orders too.  My goal  is to fit in time to create for our family as well, which I am reminded every year as our shop gets busy, that I must remember to begin in January!  

Warm wishes for a beautiful day,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Handmade Holiday - 2010

From A Smile a Day comes the workings of a handmade Tree House.

A so sweet personalized soft book tutorial from The Sleepy Time Gal.

Sewn Birds from the Purl Bee

Some beautiful  handmade waldorf inspired cards from Our Waldorf Home

Continue to share your progress.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just Arrived

A load of sand!

And it's right near the newest garden area where I am spreading compost and preparing the plot for next spring.   Wonderful to keep Abraham and Sarah happily playing.  Oh, I have spied the older children in there from time to time as well.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Friday, October 22, 2010

Snowy Morning

With a the temperatures into the 30s, we woke to a blanket of white carpeting the ground.

Sarah requested permission to eat her breakfast by the woodstove.

Isaac shouted from his bed a little before 8:00 that he was going to be the first one to make a snowball this season and out he went.

Abraham was eager to get outside too.

Sharing in their joy has not been as forthcoming as we do see white for well over four months....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trip Highlights and Home Again

Seeing family and friends was certainly the highlight of our family's trip to Massachusetts.

We stayed with my father.  He was a gracious host and we enjoyed our visit with him.  My parents were divorced when I was quite young.

Mike and I went to my cousin's wedding on my mother's side that was held at a beautiful home on Cape Cod.    So wonderful to see family and visit with my mother and sister.  It was also special to spend time alone with Mike.
The newly married couple

They used our birch log holders.

On Sunday I dropped off the two older boys so they could spend some time with some close friends they have kept in touch.  Their mom and I are also very good friends and have kept in touch over the years we have left Massachusetts through many handwritten letters.  She was also brave and came to visit us with her four boys earlier this past summer.

We enjoyed the day together in and around Concord.  Such a beautiful town and just wonderful to visit and talk and talk some more.

She brought me a gift!  A ball of malabrigo yarn in just beautiful shades of green with a set of circular needles and pattern to make myself a cowl!  She is making the same one but in shades of blue.  So much fun to think of her as I knit something for myself.

On our way home we met my mom and step-father for a brief picnic lunch as they hadn't visited with the children during our trip.  They sent us home with leftover watermelon.

We arrived home in the dark, but the very next morning, Sarah and Abraham requested to make the chickens a special treat.  They were just so excited to get home to see the them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Apologies and Clarifications

I just wanted to say that I am sorry if I offended you with my previous writing.  That was never my intention and I now realize that I wasn't clear.

I work very hard not to judge others in any way, this is one part of my Quaker practice.  I listen to God speaking to me where I am at this moment in my life.  How others choose to live is up to them,  but I need to listen to what is right for me.

During my time in the urban area, I was delighted to discover that I, for the first time, was not overcome with feelings of worry and neglect over what my husband and I were "not" providing for our children.  It was the first time I was not slightly embarrassed by our very old and a bit beat up Suburban and our not stylish clothing.

I grew up in this busy  lifestyle of achieving with the purpose of earning money to buy a home, cars, and shop.  And I also grew up with a loving family.  The two can certainly co-exist.  But I was not brought up with the idea that there are other ways to live.  Many family members do judge our family and wonder what in the world we are doing and do not understand.

I was simply struck with the pleasant realization that I had grown enough in my own life choices where that last bit of longing had ceased.  It was a nice feeling.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Country of Excess

We are heading home today.  Many of the children are asking to go home now and I am ready, oh so ready to go home.  I have been observing much of my surroundings and people on this trip and thinking about how our small life back home in northern Vermont is just so different from what I have observed here.

I know there is poverty, I read about the statistics, that nearly 25% of American children live in poverty.  However, as I observe life around me in the more crowded populated area of eastern Massachusetts, I am struck over and over again of those living with excess.  The fancy cars, clothing, hand held devices, jewelry, accessories.... As the cars go zooming past my father's house, I wonder what job they are going to and when they will return home in the evening.

This visit has been a series of affirmations for me, things I have known in my heart, yet had still worried about and questioned.  More than ever I am confident that my children are  not missing out.  That they are not sheltered.  That they don't see this excess on a daily basis can only be a good thing so that they don't take this way of living as the normal state of life.  

No, there is nothing here in eastern Massachusetts that they "need".  Our simple lifestyle back home is giving them what they do need - relationships with family and neighbors and the time to create, learn, and play in a lifestyle less encumbered by the excesses.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Handmade Holiday - 2010

A post from Groovy Moments with some great ideas.

A post from Chocolate Fishes about here handmade holiday ideas.

Do it yourself holiday postcards from {tiny twist creative}.

Bags, stars and more from The Little Gnomes Home

A wonderfully thoughtful, creative idea for Holiday Heritage Cards from A Place Like This

Warm wishes, Tonya

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Into the City

Our family has arrived safely in Massachusetts so that we can spend time with family, a bit of a vacation.  Mr. PlainandJoyfulLiving and I are attending a wedding today on Cape Cod.  Our first time spending most of the day with only the two of us in twelve years.  Thanks to my father for spending the day with his grandchildren to make this possible.

The plans for the week include connecting with a dear friend and trips to Boston with everyone.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baking with Pumpkin

Each morning I bake two loaves of bread along with either quick bread, cookie, or pastry.

This morning I had the pleasure of using a fresh pumpkin.

I start by washing the outside and then cutting it in half and then in quarters and I scoop out the goopy insides which go into a container to be fed to the chickens.

Then I cut each quarter again and steam the pumpkin until soft.  It is then nice and easy to scoop out the good stuff to use in baking.

Sarah and I scooped through the slime to save the seeds to roast.

The counter in the morning with the yeast in the background poofing and one pumpkin bread in the pan with raisins added to the rest of the batter for another.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks I was blessed to find at a yard sale years ago - Uprising, The Whole Grain Bakers' Book - the recipes are a compilation of handwritten recipes and illustrations from small independent bakeries across the United States, Copyright is 1983.

Baking with seasonal food is so very satisfying.

(Words cannot express my appreciation for the kind and supportive comments from the last post.  As we have chosen this path rather deliberately, the guilt of not providing enough can sometimes creep in despite my heart knowing we are doing ok.)

Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


When our family decided to take the road less traveled, we knew that our income would be less than if we had continued on with our life centered on career goals and the demands of my husband's job and the self inflicted pressures of living in suburbia.

Selling what we create with our hands, eating and selling some from what we grow on our homestead, and the occasional odd job have given us enough income to eat well, have a simple shelter (home), be clothed, educate our children simply, and provide the occasional extra.

A concern that often creeps up, probably far too often, is the worry that we are not providing our children with all the tools that could enhance their gifts.  I think of the instruments for the musicians, art supplies for the artists, science kits for our scientist, and movie making equipment for the future director.

As the oldest boys are now nearing 15 and 17, they have been called on often by neighbors to do odd jobs such as stacking wood, raking, taking care of animals, etc.  In addition, they have been able to earn money helping us with our business as it has grown.   As a result, they are saving to buy themselves the tools they need to work toward their goals.

Thomas is an excellent keyboard player but he has always wanted to play drums.  While living in our off grid mobile home, a drum set was not an option.  However, in our home now we could make it work.  (I cringe a bit thinking of the noise, however.)

In the interim, while he saves, I was inspired by this temporary set up ~

Sorry for the blurry picture - He used the top of our oil lantern on his microphone stand, and I think you make out the rest - even the drum sticks are branches.
My hope is that his creativity and innovation will be carried with him throughout his life.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, October 11, 2010

Handmade Holiday

A great project for children to make as gifts - felted rocks from Joy at You Know How We're an Art Family

An introduction post from The Little Gnomes Home about her handmade holiday plans.

A knit star pattern from Duo Fiberworks

From Tiny Twist Creative comes these handmade wooden figures to accompany her daughter's favorite story, Blueberries for Sal.

 I would like to share ideas here for handmade Christmas and holiday cards next week..  Do you have any thoughts?

Warm wishes, Tonya

Friday, October 8, 2010

{This Moment} A rainy autumn day

Inspried by Soulemama, I am joining in today.  - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Before and After

Our local hardware store had a special on barn red paint (just $16.00/gallon) so we gave our barn and chicken coop a $48.00 face lift.


and After

and the little chicken coop painted to match.

Our family has had to work on our home and outbuildings step by step frugally, often making do with what we have and keeping our eyes out for freebies and sales.  It is amazing just what a coat of paint will do.  
This little chicken coop we found for free on the side of the road a few years ago.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Handwork in Progress

I am working on a pair of mittens for Abraham using this beautiful new shade of blue from Peace Fleece.  I have started offering some of their yarn in our shop.  They have a wonderful mission of paying smaller farms all over the world a fair amount for their wool.  Peace Fleece is based in Maine.   This picture didn't capture the blue as beautiful as it truly is.

Sarah is working on a wool felt alphabet banner.

Abby made this two finger puppet from the book Feltcraft for Abraham's Christmas gift.  Two fingers fit in the pants to make him walk.

Warm wishes for a beautiful day, Tonya

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Harvest Fair and Homestead Chores

Sarah with some friends...

We went on an hour drive through our rural back roads to visit the annual autumn fair in Danville on Sunday.
What a picture perfect October day with brilliant blue skies and temperatures nearing 60 degrees.
Isaac eating Fair French Fries - a special treat

Abraham enjoying a bag of popcorn

There were many, many artists and vendors and so many people.   What a nice change it was to be among crowds of people as that doesn't often happen up here in northern Vermont.

Today is another brilliant autumn day with the most amazing blue skies and after lunch we will be working around the homestead ~ finishing up the painting of the barn, painting the small chicken coops, weeding and mulching the strawberries, and putting the gardens to bed.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, October 4, 2010

Handmade Holiday

From those joining ~

The Queen of the Butterfly Ball is up to it again - creating beautiful handmade natural toys for her children.

A seasonal bandana hand towel from Love, Lizzie.

A sweet knit pig from Field Work.

A self-striping fun scarf from The Woodland School.


From Honor Crowned Crafts comes this wonderful idea of making mini scrapbooks for those family members and friends that live too far away to see very often.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn Table

Grateful for ~
 many delicious meals of potatoes and butternut squash harvested from our gardens shared at this table with beeswax candles burning as the skies darken earlier each night
Thank you God.