Friday, August 31, 2012

A Sweet Surprise

I went to the library yesterday afternoon for a bit and when I returned home, there was an apple pie baking in the oven.

The children, with a friend, had picked apples from our trees, made the apple filling, the pie crust from scratch (even looking up the recipe I use - No Fail Piecrust from The Amish Cook).

A special note of appreciation to Mike for accommodating the flurry in the kitchen that I am sure occurred during the process of making.

It was delicious!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Time for Homesteading

We have been enjoying a few weeks of record sales with our business - autumn wedding order mostly.  While being thankful for the money and doing our best to save it to use toward the big three "needs" we have - property taxes, a woodstove, and a new used really old car; it has been really hard but we have learned some things we wouldn't have learned if we didn't have this spike in our business.

We have learned is to be more efficient - Mike with some of his production techniques and me with my packaging of orders.

But truly we have learned that we need to keep focused on why we have chosen to pursue a homeasteading simple life.  

It is so easy to get caught up again in the consumeristic trappings of the world - oh so easy.

We have learned that it is ok to say no to business  - when it interferes with being able to spend a bit of time with family;  when I am struggling to sit down to get all my  homeschool plans on paper;  when gathering and preserving food becomes hard to keep up with; and, when homestead building projects keep getting put on hold.

  Life, of course, happens, but I think God wants us to use wisdom to make the decisions that are right for us - what is right for our family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So Thoughtful

On my 43rd birthday bits of thoughtfulness were sprinkled throughout the day -

fresh flowers picked from our homestead from Mike in the morning

a note at my laptop first thing in the morning from Nolan letting me know he would be doing all the dishes for the day

love notes

gifts made of wool and clay

pizza for dinner (as much as love preparing healthy food for my family, a night off was a treat)

cake and ice cream shared with 12 college students and Thomas (a brief surprise visit from college!) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This Girl of Ours

Sarah.  She is a worker.  She exhausts us with her unending energy, ideas, and projects.  

She is my expert vegetable slicer.  (Cutting each one with a knife by hand.)
 She has single handedly sliced every cucumber that has gone into all 25 pints of pickles so far.

Here she decided to take on the task of sanding and finishing her desk.  When an idea strikes, she has the attitude of - "let's do it! - and right now would be perfect."
Her desk did come out nicely!

Monday, August 27, 2012

At Our Kitchen Table

Sharing a meal with friends one night last week

Starting in on math this morning - just math this first week.  They were eager to begin this morning.  The moans and groans will come, that is for certain.  But, I hope to make learning as pleasant I can.

And under the table....

What has been going on at your kitchen table?
Warm wishes,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Off to College

A small room that he shares with a roommate - who seems to be  a really wonderful young man and a Christian.  God is so good.

It is a small college with very nice well kept grounds with beautiful views.  

And because he is only about 30 minutes away, I did not shed any tears, instead I am so excited for him as he begins a new journey.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slowing Down

With my first knock down episode of mastitis since having Emily (almost a year), I was reminded once again of what is important in this short life we are given.

It certainly is not how much canning I get done this season, how many knitting projects are finished, nor how much money can be made.

How I just have to stop sometimes - stop and have a cup of coffee and a slice chocolate chip zucchini bread, stop and give a family member a compliment, stop and remember to get together a gift for a friend.

What matters are the relationships I have - between my husband, family and friends and what how my children will remember their mother.  Will they remember me as being grumpy and hurried trying to get a million things done at once? or Will they remember me as a mother that worked hard but always had time to stop and listen, read a story or play a game?

  I want to be the mother in the second option and sometimes spending the day in bed realizing that life continues to go on with or without me - is the best medicine of all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Knitting and Reading

I am so excited to have learned how to knit a top down sweater!  And you know what - it can be very simple like this pattern.  It was intended for a doll, but I used size 9 needles using the yarn I dyed with goldenrod, and I it will fit an infant, probably newborn to 6 months.  Now I have to find some large circular needles (you need circular to hold that many stitches since it is knit in one piece) so I can make some larger.  Does anyone have any patterns for a simple top down sweater?

I am slowly working on the April Showers Scarf.  It is so hard for me to sit and count, but I am determined to do at least one pattern set per day because it really is beautiful.  Does anyone know of a pretty scarf pattern that doesn't require counting?

Finally, I am still reading Out of the Saltbox and enjoying the pure simplicity of a time passed.

Looking forward to all of the sharing today with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Dreams

Just 7 years ago, our family felt called to pick up and move to northern Vermont with no savings and no job.  We knew, though, that God wanted us to work toward a simpler, family and home centered life.  A life where brothers and sisters truly enjoyed being around one another, where Mike and I would be able to see one another more than just a kiss goodbye in the morning and then again at the dinner table (if he didn't have to work late), where we would have time to give, and where we could some day afford to buy our own place.

We knew that there had to be another way and reading about others that were living just such a life inspired us - money never has.    We have had to work through some really tough times during our transition but I know that each of the challenges was God pushing us harder and making us grow just a little more.  

Now that our business has grown to a nearly unmanageable pace, we are back to thinking about where God wants us to go now.  We have established our family culture, developed many homesteading skills and applied them to our daily life (but do have so much more to learn and now our business is so busy it has been hard to spend as much time in this area as we would like), and have established a steady income stream by the work of our hands.

Mike and I both feel we are moving toward a new kind of life.  Yes, we will still be creating rustic decor and toys, but it is time to start moving back toward our original goals of living more simply (perhaps off grid again), growing more of our own food, learning new old time skills, and now - sharing all of this with others.  We are ready to share our family with others - to let them see in real life how our family lives by staying with us.

image from

This will require a move - a move to a homestead with larger acreage (we have 3 here and more than 1/2 is wet).   Enough to gather all of our own firewood, provide material for our business, more room for gardens and fruit, and, to put up tent cabins for others to come and stay with us for a simple living vacation.  

That is our new vision - a working homestead where others can come and learn the skills of yesteryear.  We don't know when or where, but know that if it is God's plan it will all fall into place in His time.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

In the meantime, we will keep learning and putting into practice our homesteading skills and be conservative with what we are given in order to  see where our new dream takes us.

Warm wishes,

Monday, August 20, 2012

In My Kitchen this Morning

As there is nothing new outside my kitchen window, I have decided to share what is in my kitchen this morning.

On the counter I have two loaves of bread rising and a zucchini chocolate chip bread and my healthy treat waiting to go in the oven with the bread.

Today my "healthy treat" consists of - 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup millet flour, 1 cup oats, 1 cup cashews, 1/2 cup dried cranberries.

Also new to our home is this beautiful table.  My father brought it up from his home in Massachusetts last weekend as a surprise gift for my birthday (which isn't until next week).   Words truly cannot express how much his thoughtfulness means to me.  This table that he spent countless hours milling a piece of red walnut, sanding and more sanding and finishing and more finishing - a place that is truly the center of our home.

I am sure it is to become an heirloom to be passed on to generations to come.
This morning the table is scattered with remnants from last night - the Sunday Boston Globe, crayons and papers, and an erector set in progress.

What is happening in your kitchen this morning?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moments from Last Week

Emmy and Poppa

I found 4 bags of potholder looms at a treasure shop for $1.25 each!

Zucchini with tomato, garlic, basil and mozzarella, and potatoes baked with olive oil, salt and pepper for a dinner with friends.

Just noticing these young men of ours.

Warm wishes for a beautiful weekend,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Natural Dyeing with Goldenrod

I think it would be so wonderful to get all of the colors we need from nature - and I suspect that we probably could.  Just last night while reading the book I shared in my last post, I came across this - 
"When Ruby and her mother decided to stencil the front-room walls, Seth gathered the elder twigs and chewed their ends for the brushes.  He helped, too, to gather the huckleberries and prepare their rich purple juice into which the brushes were dipped to work the color through the tin stencils onto the plaster."  (from Out of the Saltbox, by Ruth Rasey)

With lots of goldenrod growing all around our homestead, we gathered the flowers

And then using the directions from here, and using Peace Fleece natural yarn, we put the goldenrod in the canning pan and added enough water to cover, then heated to a simmer and left for about one hour.  I left the goldenrod to soak overnight.    The next morning, I drained the flowers out and heated up the dye bath to a simmer again.

Meanwhile, I filled another large stainless steel pan with water and added the alum which is the mordant.  This is used to keep the yarn colorfast.   I then soaked three skeins of yarn in the mordant and then one at a time, added them to the dye and let sit for about an hour.  I probably should have left them to soak in the dye bath over night - as they did come out a little light.

I am trying to decide what to knit with this soft lemon yellow color.   Any suggestions?
Have you done any natural dyeing?  (There has been some  natural dyeing going on at this blog.)
What have you used?
I am thinking that it would be wonderful to plant a dyers garden next spring.  

Warm wishes,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Knitting and Reading....

I finished up the Plain Vest with all of the leftover bits of Peace Fleece wool yarns and am happy with the rustic feel.

I have cast on a Christmas gift for a family member - it is called April Showers Scarf and I am using a dk weight yarn in beautiful green shades with size 8 needles.  This pattern does require counting so I anticipate that it will be on the needles for some time as I will probably save it to work on during car rides or quiet nursing times.

So I am having fun looking my through my stash, trying to come up with another simple knit to cast on.

On Monday, I was able to go to a sweet treasure shop and found this book, Out of the Saltbox, The Savour of Old Vermont.  The author writes about a house that was home to one of Vermont's first settlers and then remained in the family for five subsequent generations.  It is nonfiction, based on research, but reads much like a story of simpler (but often much, much more challenging) times.

Looking forward to sharing with Ginny and many others in today's yarn along.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Out My Kitchen Window

Each Monday I thought I would share a photo or two  - from our kitchen window - of a scene I captured while going about my daily work of baking, cooking, and cleaning in the kitchen.
I thought it would be fun to pay attention, to observe the changes of the seasons, and to appreciate the small bits of beauty that surround us.

This one I took at 6:30 am this morning when all the house was quiet.  Mike had just let the goats out and they were enjoying their morning hay.  

If you would like to join in, please leave a link in your comment.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moments from Last Week

Thomas reading them one of his favorite books, Mr. Elephant's Birthday Party.  He let me know that he would like to have it when he has his own children some day.

Emily is taking a few steps at a time now.

Abraham and Sarah brought this inside for me.

Isaac finished building a dock.  They are having a great time running and jumping off the end into the pond.

Abraham and Sarah harvested the onions for me.

Emmy has been getting lots of rides!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sunflower Wreath

After the petals fell from our cut sunflower, I noticed how beautiful the remaining sunflower still is and wired it to our grapevine wreath.  When it dries out, it will become a treat for the chickens.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Knitting and Homesteading

I am still working on the Boneyard Shawl - just loving the simplicity.  Now I am wondering when to stop?  How large do I want it?  I am going to keep this one for myself but I would like to start another for someone special for a Christmas gift.

Also, so not to get too bored, after cleaning out a yarn drawer, I found myself with many little left over balls of Peace Fleece and started knitting another Plain Vest in stripes.

As far as reading, I took a book off of our bookshelves to re-read, How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty by Janet Chadwick (1979) and am really enjoying it this time.  It is neat when you pick up a book you haven't looked at for a couple of years and find all kinds of ideas and tidbits that would work for where you are in life now, but probably didn't when you last read it.  Does that make sense?

Our family has something exciting going on - some plans for the future - and much of the plans involve getting more immersed in the homesteading lifestyle - and to share our skills with others.  I will be sharing our new dreams in the coming months here.

Joining in with Ginny today for the Yarn Along.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Healthier Zucchini Bread

As I work toward eliminated white and brown sugars from my diet and using less for the rest of the family, I did a google search to look for a zucchini bread using maple syrup as an alternative.

I doubled the recipe, and added walnuts to one of the loaves.  
Delicious!  - even husband and child approved.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Outside My Kitchen Windows

Each Monday I thought I would share two photos - one from each of our kitchen windows - of a scene I captured while going about my daily work of baking, cooking, and cleaning in the kitchen.
I thought it would be fun to pay attention, to observe the changes of the seasons, and to appreciate the small bits of beauty that surround us.

If you would like to join in, please leave a link in your comment.

Warm wishes,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

More Pictures of the Chicken Coop

A reader asked me for more complete pictures of our coop addition.

This is the front view.  Mike built it coming straight off the side wall, using hemlock logs as the frame from our property.
The "barn" structure was here when we moved in - a bit of a ramshackle mess - filled with trash, leaning a bit.  But we have done what we could within our budget and work on balancing what we really "need" versus what we want.  
I am sure many people would have burned it or torn it down but it works for us.
The barn keeps the elements out, the goats in at night, stores our hay and garden tools - we are grateful it was here.

This is the view from the side.  We are using the back portion to store bicycles.
For the windows we bought heavy duty window screen by the yard and then when it get colds, we will be ordering plexi-glass to screw over the screening for the winter.

Warm wishes,