Monday, December 30, 2013

These Days

I will say it again - that I just love these days between Christmas and New Years.  A time to regroup and lay low.   It is even easier to do with a virus keeping me quiet for a day or two at least. 

The goats are enjoying the Christmas tree.

We've been blessed with another bounty of birch.  The ice storm left birch trees hanging in the road so the road crews cut them down and left them on the sides.

The temperatures have dropped dramatically today so that the windows are icing over.  But the pond, after 40 degree weather yesterday and some rain, is perfect!

I was able to get a sweater off to a now-not-so-new cousin.

And I am finally catching up with letter writing and some holiday cheer using handmade note cards stamped with a stamp I made at a class this past summer.

I am thinking lots over these last few days if there is such a thing as too simple.  I mean we can go days without leaving our home except to do mailings.   Is it ok to miss out on all the world has to offer?  Or is fulfillment more a state of mind.  So many people I know (and I used to be like this) think that the grass is always greener.  Not that living out one's dreams isn't admirable and truly what I think we are supposed to do during this one life we have.  But, what if your dreams are small now and maybe all the little things really are big things - I guess it just depends upon how you look at it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

By Hand

While we bought far too many gifts (mostly online) this Christmas, there was a bit of handmade going on.
I knit Emmy's rabbit a cardigan and crocheted Emmy a lap blanket for when we snuggle on the couch.

Abby made me this inspiration wreath.  I will hang it by my desk to clip photos and other bits of lovely.

and she knit me this purse.

Abby asked for this bracelet making kit.  She said it is the latest craze.  Using this plastic contraption and following different patterns using colored rubber bands, you can make all kinds of designs.

She made this organizer of cardboard to organize the bands.

We bought Sarah a needle felting kit and a needle felting bird book for Christmas.  She has started making some birds.

Some window star making

Thomas' girlfriend, Sam, knit him this sweater.

Plans are already under way to change things for next year.  To make ahead for our business so both Mike and I can package orders (so he doesn't have to be in the basement making as much and I don't have to spend hours each day just filling orders).  To make more ourselves for each other which means planning and starting now.  I am also considering just filling stockings (start finding thoughtful little somethings now at thrift stores and here and there) and then one handmade gift under the tree for each and one new family game.  If the children want to buy things for one another, that will be their choice, but maybe they will be inspired by a simpler way if we lead by example.

Were you able to maintain your family's values this holiday season?
Warm wishes,

Friday, December 27, 2013

In the New Year

(We have an overflow from our well that runs constantly into the pond.  The ducks swim in the little bit of water even in the coldest of temperatures.)

So many thoughts are going through my head now that Christmas Day is over.  

I appreciate the New Year as a time of reflection.

Thinking most of all of how to work along side each of my children better - to nurture their gifts, encourage them to take risks, and to develop more of a rhythm and calmness to our days especially for the younger ones.

Organizing every nook and cranny of our house has also started and will continue through the end of next week.  Thinking about what we need, what we don't need.

I have been thinking about working to spend less money in the coming year (that will also result on less stress on the earning side).  Making and growing more, and also using up what I have.  Thinking about what would be really special for each child that I could make throughout the year so I don't end up purchasing so many gifts for next Christmas.    

The more I listen to and read David Platt, the more I am convicted to live radically.  I am thinking about the idea of keeping our living expenses within a set framework and then giving the rest.  As Americans we have been blessed with much and are so rich. God surely did not intend for us to use that wealth to destroy his creation with more and bigger stuff.  

Mike and I have been thinking about our business and how it fits into our family's vision  - whether it takes up too much of my time and how to work out that balance so that we don't lose our core family values.  

Sitting and planning and praying about how to approach homeschooling this second half of the year to meet the state's requirements  while wanting our children to love learning.   Going through the book, Leadership Education, with Mike to give us a framework.  
You can see a family living out this method at Renee's blog, FIMBY.

Looking forward to the New Year and sharing bit of our family's days here and how all these thoughts actually play out.
Warm wishes,

Monday, December 23, 2013

An Ice Storm

Saturday night we had an ice storm, painting every nook and cranny with ice.  ...just beautiful.
We lost electricity for a little over 24 hours - a blessing to have all seven children together, without the older ones going off to look at a laptop, but instead play board games and draw.

I have to admit, though, that I was quite relieved when it came back on this morning around 10:00 am.  
While we lived for over two years without the convenience, I have become accustomed to it and we simply do not have the proper systems in place.  Although I am sure we could come up with some if it was necessary.  It reminds me of how easy it is to take convenience for granted.  I cooked all the meals on the wood stove while we were with out and washed dishes with just a pan full of hot water to wash and then a pan to rinse.  (The hot water heated on the wood stove as well.)  When one isn't forced to do something, it sure is hard to be disciplined to do so.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


The holiday rush is over!  We keep things so simple for Christmas, but our business more than makes up for any craziness.  As the last 9 packages went out the door this afternoon, I let out a few whoops and now feel like my mind can open up to the possibilities of this last week before Christmas.  The buckets of soap and water came out and along with my two best cleaning partners, Sarah and Emmy, we have started some long overdue housework and organization.  

Tonight we have caroling at the town green and tomorrow night a holiday and solstice concert also in our little town.

As far as knitting - I am excited to start doing more of it in the coming days.  I did finish a few projects recently.  One is another plain vest with some yarn I painted last summer.  I finished a hat with angora inspired by the pattern in the new issue of Taproot.  And, finally, a crocheted wool bowl that made it out in the pile of packages today for a very patient customer.

If you need a little last minute something for a baby or young child, here is a link to my gnome baby pattern.

Joining in with Ginny today.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Moments from the Week

lots of skating

Abe came downstairs the other morning and sang me the "A,B,C's" after writing them.
Learning happens despite our business taking over our days right now.

free style crafting

a little bit of knitting 

playing with Little House paper dolls

reading in the onion basket

Nolan turned 18.  We now have two adult children. 

This morning I am baking bread and cookies with Emmy.  We are trying to stay warm but at -15 this morning, the woodstove struggles to keep up.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You Don't Have to Get Paid to Be Who You Are

Mike and I were talking about how a man at our church that does the announcements usually goes off on telling a joke or a story and Mike said, "He could be a story teller."  

Well, I thought about that for a few moments and replied, "He is a story teller.  You don't have to get paid to be who you are."

Isn't amazing how conditioned we are from our culture?  Even our family that lives quite differently from the mainstream, we also live under so many influences that we probably don't even realize.   

Monday, December 9, 2013

At the Markets this Past Weekend

This is how I spent much of this past weekend.  Saturday Mike and I and the four youngest were in Craftsbury as a vendor.  

Abby and Sarah set up their own small table and sold handmade ornaments - Abby's made of beads and Sarah's stamped on maple branch slices.  The both sold a lot!

Yesterday I spent the day at a Local Holiday Market in Lowell.  
These were the first fairs we have done for our business in a couple of years primarily because we are plenty busy with our etsy shops alone.  

I wanted to do these this past weekend to be a part of the local communities, support the Art House (a nonprofit that hosts art workshops for children and adults in Craftsbury), and meet people.   Meeting new people, catching up with those I haven't seen for quite some time - that was really nice.  

There was also another great reason to be a vendor at each of these events - to shop from the other vendors!  
The money we made selling our products - much of it - was in turn handed over to local farmers (an organic chicken, organic pork, maple cream, organic beans, salsa, jam), local artists and crafters (cheeseboards, soaps, note cards).   That was the best part of the weekend - coming home with delicious healthy foods and some nice gifts for the holidays.

Now we are back to filling orders at home, getting orders shipped off as fast as we can.
There is skating going on - which is a blessing.
I squeeze in bits of time to read Christmas stories aloud.
My head is filled with all of the things I want to do and I keep pushing them aside, telling myself to come back to the present and keep on doing the next thing while practicing gratitude for all I am able to do.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I love to barter.

This time of the year especially, it is a wonderful way to get new things for family members without exchanging  money.
I recently had a wonderful trade with Funny Farm Toy Barn and received these great hand crafted catapults to give to Abraham for Christmas and some handmade soaps.

Do you enjoy bartering either with your local economy or online?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Knitting and Reading

Last night after a very busy day, I sat down and cast on a hat - the pattern was in the new issue of Taproot which arrived the day before.  Of course, I converted the pattern to use straight needles which will mean sewing up the back, but that is ok.  The yarn is really soft, some I found at a Habitat Humanity Restore for 25 cents.

After reading about Renee referring to this book many times, I finally purchased a copy.  There is much to think about and it will take time for me to go through it again and again, discuss it with Mike, and put some of the suggestions into action.  It is about not being on the conveyor belt but instead raising children who have the ability to be leaders no matter what they do with their life.  It is not about trying to achieve status either that is not the focus.  I hope to share more.

For the younger years, the authors suggest it is most important for us as parents, to be learning all the time and to share the excitement with our children.  This will in turn spread the joy of learning to them.  This seems like common sense, but I know I can do better at talking to my children about what excites me.

Joining in with Ginny today.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Branch for Hanging Stockings

Over the last several years I have downsized our Christmas decorations to just a few - one tote is all - and mostly all that it contains are our ornaments, lights and stockings.  Then we add some new things we may create during the season and some bits from outside brought in - real simple.

Nine stockings, if they are all to be displayed, do take up a lot of space.  This year I have hung them on a birch branch suspended by two branch hooks.

Monday, December 2, 2013

While We Work

There is so much making and packaging to do over the next two weeks.
During this time we ask more of our children.
More help with the cooking and cleaning.  (Isaac is making everyone french toast for lunch as I type)
More patience as my time and focus is spread thin.
I think, though, that they get it - that this is our business - this is how we make our living.
At least I hope they do.
I know that it is important for me to stay positive and cheerful because I want them
to see the many good parts of having one's own business. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013


This morning it was -4 degrees here.  So cold that even while out to do the morning animal chores the tips of my fingers were uncomfortable for a time.    When I jumped on the back of the rubber bucket to break the ice and water splashed on my boots, ice immediately formed on my shoelaces and then trying to undo them with aching fingers after coming inside was nearly impossible. 

The wonderful part about the cold is the skating.   Friends are over.

 In between preparing lunch and snacks for everyone, tightening skates, putting wood in the wood stove, Mike and I continue to work on our business.  I wood burn and package.  Mike heads down the basement to get some hooks done.  

This life of ours is a series of compromises.  With seven children (which yes we did choose to have a large family) we need a certain level of income to support the basics - our mortgage, keep our old Suburban running, some clothing - specifically shoes as the rest I can usually find at thrift shops, and some other random bills.  But the biggest expense for us is food.  This is a topic I am passionate about - about working towards growing and raising our own and what we cannot (which is the majority but we do a little more each year) we try to buy locally and then finally organic if I can make it work financially.  

 But, I make compromises constantly.  

Keeping up with every one's needs and the needs of our business, time is sometimes at a premium.  So for example, today we had homemade chocolate cake with frosting made of local organic cream (yum!) but the hot cocoa, boxed from the general store.  I know how to make cocoa from scratch.  But I have not had the time to source and purchase the organic powdered milk, organic cocoa, etc.... 

During this holiday season when our business is busy, I will continue to make compromises because for this season snatching moments of time with each other will be more important than being caught up in making every meal from scratch or making every gift by hand.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Home for Thanksgiving

The weather kept us home for Thanksgiving.  With no central heat (the woodstove is our heat source) and very cold temperatures (the animals' water would need refreshing because of freezing), and to top it all of we woke up to 6" of fallen snow Thanksgiving morning - a trip three hour day trip to my aunt's in New Hampshire was not to be.  

Not planning on being home, we resorted to plan B - eggnog, apple pie, sorbet with gingerale, and lasagna - with just the 8 of us.

The outdoors became our playground.  
Isaac worked on my antique sewing machine and made a belt for it with duct tape - it worked!
We played games.
Drank out of wine glasses.
Gave thanks.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Busy but Full

I haven't been here for nearly a week because my life has been pretty much looking like the above - busy.
I have a hard time sometimes looking at why I should be so thankful for the business instead of feeling guilty for not being the perfect mom....  I am really working hard on changing that.

A wonderful thing happened yesterday - the children ice skated on our pond - in November! So neat. 
Earlier in the fall, as I was reading through Tasha Tudor's book Through the Year, I though it odd that she had a picture of children skating for one of the November pictures...  perhaps years ago Novembers were  cold enough to skate.

I am so very thankful for this pond of ours and thankful for the gift of healthy activity for the children at a time when I am not as available as I would like to be.