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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Knitting and Reading

Finished another Plain Vest using bits of leftover wool yarn.  I am finishing up a Pebble Vest using a heavier worsted weight wool and size 10 needles.  The vest making is for an arts and crafts fair December 7th.

I am still reading Happy Hollow Farm, published in 1914.
Here is a quote ~
"... a plan was made for the farm.  We have stuck to that plan..... The essence of it is this:  First of all, the farm must furnish food for our own table - not in a roundabout way, mind you, but directly.  Ninety percent of the farmers in our neighborhood were supplying their tables from the store - buying canned stuff, buying flour and meal and potatoes and salt meat, buying practically everything they ate.  The only way they had of paying their store bills was by selling their corn and wheat - which they did for a considerable loss.  Only a few of the farmers knew how to put up sugar-cured ham and bacon.  Gardening seemed to be a lost art....
We intended to change that.  No matter how much of our land it would take, we meant to make the farm furnish our table directly with milk and cream and butter, the best of meat, poultry and eggs, fruits and garden stuff.  Our land must do that for us in the end; so, we argued, why not let it be done directly?  In quality and cost we could do better for ourselves in that way than if we got our food second-handed.  The largest item in the cost of living must be taken care of first, and in a way that insured the greatest possible economy."

Joining in with Ginny.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Easy Isn't the Answer

(Photographs courtesy of Isaac Gunn)

When things get so busy on our little homestead, I need to remind myself of why our family has chosen the life we lead.  I need to remember that freedom from being tied down, freedom from the rat race, and free to make our days as we choose are invaluable.  Sometimes I think that my life would be so much easier if Mike got a regular job and I didn't have to figure out how to juggle children, housework, cooking, a very busy business, homestead, and husband - oh and maybe, just maybe a little creative time thrown in for myself.  But then I just reflect back on all of the steps we have taken to get where we are now and why we chose this life.  It may very well be easier if Mike did get a "regular" job.  But you know what?  Easier is seldom ever better.  Easy rarely accomplishes goals.  Easy seldom equates living ones values.  It's hard work.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking of Consuming

So just a few minutes ago, not knowing what I had posted this morning, Isaac started to figure out how many hours, days, weeks, and finally years worth of time people have spent viewing this one youtuber, Toby Games.  Isaac and Nolan have told me before about him.  What he does is film himself playing a video game.  So, people that watch his videos are watching him play a  video game.  When I first learned of this I truly could hardly believe it.  But this one youtuber is  number 13 on youtube in terms of most subscribers.

(By the way, the number one subscriber does the same thing! and from what Nolan, who is almost 18 has told me, his language and the violence of the games is really terrible.)

So what they calculated was that so far, about 30,000 years of time have been spent watching the 13th most popular subscriber.  
30,000 years watching someone play a video game!!
Now that is consuming at its worse I think. 

Producing More Than We Consume

(Isaac's green screen for his movie making.  He has figured out how to put in a different background using the screen.)

(Sarah's horse coral)

I remind myself and my children that we need to produce more than we consume.

For myself that means thoughtfully considering each purchase and learning and putting into practice new skills relating to food production and practical hand work.

I tell my older children that if all they do is view all the "neat" youtube videos they are simply consuming.  I remind them how much more fulfilling it would be to recreate some of the ideas they see or come up with some of their own and they are.

How do you balance this in your life?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Spaces Inside

With the long dark days upon us (not to mention cold), I changed around all of our living spaces yesterday.

Of course, there were probably more important things that could have taken precedence but when I set my mind on something I am usually full steam ahead for better or worse.

Our house is very rustic (some people have even suggested that we may want to tear it down and 
build new - not that that is even an option for our budget.)

We like it, though, and are not caught up in making everything new and improved when for the most part it works just fine as it is.  Yes, there are some things that will need to be done such as resurfacing the very splintery wood floors and replacing some terribly inefficient windows.

I do find it fun, though, to change things up from time to time.

Our main living area is very open but is made up of four areas - the entry, kitchen, dining, and living.  
The living area became the dining area so that we could now get cozy by the woodstove and watch our Little House on the Prairie episodes from netflix.
The dining area is now by the windows to keep it lighter for projects.

Even though I think we have very little "stuff", I find myself overwhelmed with what little we do have when I go through this process. Makes me rethink what is important and what isn't.  I have even started to consider utilizing netbooks/readers to help minimize all of the paper as books and magazines are what we seem to have the most of.

I like observing how everyone in the family is utilizing our new spaces and being creative with newly found toys and books.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reading and Knitting

Excited to be joining in with Ginny today.  She had a beautiful baby boy recently.

I am still on the knitting Plain vests run.
I just love the simplicity of the pattern and how practical they are and the newest one I started is going to be striped, using up bit of yarn.

I am reading a book that I found at our little library, Happy Hollow Farm by William R. Lighton.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning -

     "Suppose you had wanted some big thing with all your heart for all your life; and suppose you knew your wife had always wanted just the same thing in just the same way.  Suppose that in the fullness of time, when you were in the very prime of your years, with the joy of life at its strongest, this fond dream should become reality; and suppose that after half a dozen years of actual experience you should find the reality better beyond compare than the dream ever dared be.  Suppose all this, and how do you suppose you'd feel?
     Well, that's the story of Happy Hollow Farm.
     Maybe I'd better say right at the beginning, and have it over with, that ours is different from the general run of back-to-the-land stories.  There was no harsh or bitter fact in our lives that drove us to farming as a last hope.  I hadn't lost my job in town.  I wasn't facing a nervous breakdown after long years of faithful service of an inhuman employer......"

This was written in 1914.  I thought it was neat because those same words could have been written today.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Life has been so very full that I haven't taken the time to be online over the last several days except checking on our business.

Nothing all that exciting but just the regular kind of things that make up our daily living.

One small homesteading related thing I did was  when I cleaned the chicken coop the other day, I started a compost pile with the litter inside the chicken's fenced in area.  I got the idea after listening/watching this great talk by Mark Shephard.  He is the author of a new book, Restoration Agriculture, and he has some real neat ideas.  I love learning of something new that makes life easier while at the same time makes better use of resources.  Now with our compost pile with the chickens, they will turn it over and benefit from the insects and worms.

Business is getting busier as the holidays approach.  I am working hard on keeping focused on the task that is right before me and trying not to get overwhelmed.

Appreciative that said business made it possible to take time out to be useful to a family that needed help.

Emmy is going through a very needy time and if I don't pay close enough attention she might have all the toy baskets dumped out within a few seconds.   Working on figuring out what she is really needing.

The weather has changed dramatically here.  Today it is in the 20s  with a real fierce wind and snow.  Abraham keeps telling me it is winter and although I want to correct him that the winter solstice is still over a month away, I don't.  He is probably right that winter has arrived.

Warm wishes,

Friday, November 8, 2013

Polly is Paul

We heard the crowing yesterday - loud and clear.  Not once but three times during the day.
Still not sure how we are going to navigate having a pet meat bird that gets
beat up by the hens.
One day at a time I guess.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Beautiful Afternoon

Yesterday was a gift.
Well, everyday is really.  
But the sunshine and warmth on November 6, I call extra special.
A perfect day to clean the chicken coop - not a beautiful job, but satisfying when done.

These are pictures of our four ducks.  They are bantam mallards (I think...).  
 Glad to have two pairs and really hoping for babies next spring.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

(P.S.  Several people asked me yesterday about the Lego magazine.  It is free from here.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Learning Naturally

Just this morning...

Abraham made a Lego creation following instructions from the magazine that arrived yesterday.

Sarah read aloud about how our paper money is made after asking me to print out the information for her while I was at the library yesterday.

Abby made a recipe she found online yesterday at the library.  She had to look up some conversions such as grams to cups.

I am working harder at being a better observer of my children.  Making notes of what they are learning each day.  Working my way one step at a time toward what my heart tells me, that unschooling is right for our family.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Making Pizza

Isaac offered to make pizza for dinner last night. 
His first time making dough on his own.
He made the dough from scratch, used canned sauce and shredded the cheese.

He kept asking me if we really eat so much flour, not quite believing how few ingredients there are in dough. 
(Even though I make bread nearly everyday but usually at 7:00 am when he is still in bed.)

In no rush at all and so in tune with what he was doing (where I sometimes think of it as another task that needs to get completed), enjoying the process.  The kneading, the rolling and the spreading.

So now he has two things he can make mostly from scratch - pizza and apple pie.  

Monday, November 4, 2013


I appreciate  how when I spend a couple of days under the weather, that my perspective changes.  I see the beauty all around me, appreciate those around me, and am so grateful for what I am able to do when my health returns.