Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You Don't Have to Keep Growing

Mike and I got away over night Saturday to attend the Forestry weekend in Woodstock, Vermont.

This, by the way, was the first time just the two of us have had a night sans children for three and a half years.  

With regards to the forestry part, Mike and I both enjoyed a guided walk at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park about George Perkins Marsh and we bought his book Man and Nature which was written in 1861.  He is considered one of the first environmentalists by some, although known by very few.   I will, perhaps, share more of his writings here as I get through his book which is not very easy reading.

We also attended the woodworking show where woodworkers and forestry types showcased their goods.  There were several different organizations represented and Mike and I did talk to a couple of people about our business and where we are and where we would like to be with it.  I have written here before about where we are at a point of desiring a new homestead with land to selectively harvest for both our business and firewood and to increase our food production and also one with a suitable workshop and studio/office space.   One of the men we talked to was just amazed about what we do with so little and practically no overhead and very little expenses and that we did it all without going into debt.   

The hard part for us right now with our business is that we really don't want to grow it - we just want to make it more efficient.  And the thing is, all the organizations that give loans and grants want to hear is how we would expand, market, hire, increase, etc.  starting with a business plan detailing how all this would happen.   

I, on the other hand, want to share with people that you don't necessarily need to go into tons of debt, don't need to do things the way the world tells you you should do business-wise, and that there is nothing wrong with having a modest business that allows you to be at home with your family, gives you time to work on growing your food, get a year's supply of firewood cut, split and stacked, learn and discover with your children, help out in the community, and pursue creative outlets (need more time for this though!) - or whatever your own priorities are for you.  

This isn't to say we won't change how we do things with our business, or learn new ways of marketing, or even need to get a loan at some point, but it is really the thought process behind the typical business model in our country and probably elsewhere - that you have to keep growing, growing, growing.  For our family, that just doesn't fit.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Non Intrusive Learning

Snapshots from yesterday - 

I bought this book last Friday at an independently owned bookstore in Johnson (I am trying to support small local businesses, but books are really hard for me because there is usually at least a 30% difference in price between Amazon.  But then again, a book store on Main Street with a real person to talk with, real books to look through, I think the extra money is worth it.)

Anyway, I was looking through it at lunch and Sarah was interested in looking at it herself the minute she read the title.  She spent the better part of the next hour or so figuring out how the book was set up ("oh they are alphabetical mom", she informs me as I am cleaning out the side barn).  She grabbed her side kick, Abe, and off they went foraging.   One thing we have a lot of on our property is cattails (which you saw the other day - oh, we also learned that cattail fluff does not make a good pillow stuffing - worms, little white ones - yeck!).  So she pulled one up and cut off the root and boiled it and tasted it.  She told me it was ok - not bad, not great, but ok.
I, of course, noticed the nice brown water it left after boiling and tried to dye some yarn, but it didn't take.

Sarah collected some leaves while she was outside to do some rubbings.

Abe relaxing after doing some spinning - surely his brain is spinning too.

Abby made these rabbit toys.  She took two maple branch slices and drilled 6 evenly space holes in each (she had to divide fractions) and then hammered down the dowels.

I am working on documenting what goes on each day so I don't forget that lots of good stuff really does happen without my interference but with my support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Creative with Cattails

This activity has been keeping Sarah and Abraham busy the last two days.  They have now collected enough cattail fluff for Sarah to stuff in a pillow she hand sewed today.

I love watching and observing them as they go about their days and am grateful for the time, space and freedom they have to explore and discover.

I am not always sure how all of this will carry over in their adult lives, but my heart tells me it is all good.

Here is an interesting article about how Steve Jobs limited his children's screen time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Over the Weekend

Emmy turned 3 on Saturday

and Nolan was baptized on Sunday.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Friday I felt it - I felt it more than I ever have - connected - connected to family, homestead, and Creation.   

Today wasn't all that different than most.  But the air was very cool, crisp and energizing.  
I felt quiet, at peace, knowing that what I am doing to care for our family and homestead is full of meaning - not in terms of money - but in terms of the interconnectedness and results.   

Between shoveling the compost we get from the goats to put on the garden bed I am preparing for the garlic planting next month, to pulling and peeling the outer leaves off the leeks and feeding them to the goats.  The leeks will be used with our cabbage to try out the Cracked Pepper Leek Kraut recipe from the most recent issue of Taproot.

By having our son, Nolan, and his wife Rachel come by while their car is being repaired.  Nolan goes down to the workshop to work for our business for a couple of hours and Rachel picks apples from our trees and makes apple crisp with Sarah and Emmy.

By eating our first butternut squash for dinner and giving the guts to the chickens for a treat.
Jars of dried calendula and lemon balm ready to be used for the winter's tea.

Simple but not easy.  Hard work but rewarding - both for the soul and body.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Knitting and Reading

I am knitting another little top down sweater with a pattern from Elizabeth Zimmermann's book, Knitter's Almanac.

This one I am making more of the yoke in garter stitch and then am going to switch to a shade of purple for the rest of the body and make long sleeves.

I am ready a really great book that I found at a library book sale,  As soon as I read the recommendation on the back by Barbara Kingsolver, I was hooked.  It is a memoir in which the author at age 50, questions many widely held assumptions of our culture.  While I certainly don't agree with all of her views, I appreciate her rawness, her honesty, and her beautiful writing.  Has anyone read this?  I would love to hear what you thought.

Here is a quote:
"Sometimes speedy life whizzes you along so fast that nothing registers, like landscape from a speeding car or meaning in a speed-read text, so that every saving in time is paid for in lost experience."

Joining Ginny today.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just Grateful

(Our first pumpkin pie - recipe for filling and crust from Nourishing Traditions)

This September weather has been so amazingly beautiful.  The skies have reached their peak of blue.  The sun's warmth is still felt but the air has a crisp fresh feel.   The nights are cool enough for wool sweaters and snuggling.

This past week I was reminded to be grateful for health - health of body.  I did something ridiculously foolish last Tuesday.  A woman stopped by the library to donate books and she had them in a large tote in the back of her car and said she needed help bringing them in.  I, of course, being the strong, capable woman I am - offered to do it myself.  My lower back felt the errors of my ways almost immediately and for the rest of the week I suffered in pain.  I was reminded to be grateful of how seldom I am in pain and cannot imagine how others deal with chronic pain.   I was reminded of how caring and helpful my husband and children are when push comes to shove.

Then Saturday night Emmy woke at 3:00 am complaining that her stomach hurt.   I lay with her in our bed comforting her, rubbing her belly, praying that God would give me wisdom to discern if it was something serious or just a temporary bug.  About an hour later I had my answer when she sat up to vomit.  Although we had to change our sheets and bedding, I felt so grateful to know that it was most likely a passing stomach bug of some sort and although it meant that I needed to be vigilant for the next hour or so (because as most parents know, generally another episode of vomiting is imminent), I was comforted and felt at peace.  

Today Emmy has the sparkle back in her eyes and color in her cheeks and the energy of an almost three year old.  And I just might carry my first bucket of water to the animals after nearly a week off.  All is good.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Favorite Zucchini Bread Recipe

1 1/2 c. grated zucchini
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. melted butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped nuts

I just combine all of the ingredients and pour into a greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 - 55 minutes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

One Day

Emmy painted rocks.

Abraham received 2 magazines in the mail and chose to do some work in a workbook.

Sarah found a Woolly Bear and she looked up what to feed it and then got to work on building him a house.

Busy with business and then we all worked together in the afternoon to get the "shop" cleaned up.

So much more happened, of course, but all of this is pretty typical of our nonstructured but routine daily life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Knitting and Reading

I have been enjoying lots of knitting.
The vest on the left is the Shalom, and is for me!  I used size 10 circular needles and Peace Fleece yarn.

The pattern for the little sweater vest on the right is one I adapted from the Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I am looking forward to working up different versions of this top-down pattern in many sizes and some with sleeves as well.  I need to sand the maple buttons Mike made for me and then sew them on.

I am reading through Cold Antler Farm and love Jenna's writing - her humor and passion is contagious.  Keeping the dream alive!

My more intellectual reading is Creation of the Heart of Man.  This is a study on the Orthodox Christian perspective on environmentalism.  I am working on my own study of environmentalism and Christianity because my heart tells me that the two go hand and hand, so I am digging into what the Bible says about this topic and am reading viewpoints and thoughts from other authors.

Joining in today with Ginny.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not Giving Up

No matter how hard I try to push it aside, it keeps coming back.... I dream of being a farmer, a small-time farmer growing and raising food to feed our community.  I tell myself that our family should make-do with our small holding, that farming is some crazy dream and that owning land will cost too much and we will have to go into more debt.

But, the dream won't go away.  

 So while I learn more both by reading and growing our own food, I am hopeful that we will figure out a way to buy a small farm.  A place where we grow not only enough to feed our family but our neighbors too.  A place with enough forest to heat our home year after year and maintain a small hand craft business from the trees growing on our own land.  A place where we can plant an apple orchard and hundreds of blueberry bushes.  Pasture enough to sustain a small dairy goat herd.   A place where we can build a couple of guest cabins so that we can share our abundance with others.

Do you have a dream?  Are you working on making that dream a reality?