Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Giveaway

Well, opening an etsy shop is a lot harder with dial-up and I am still trying to figure out all the technical computer stuff. But I thought I would give you a taste of what will be in the shop. All the garments are knitted on a Singer 360 knitting machine in sport weight yarn. The designs are original.

As a celebration of the season and an opening of the shop I am offering a hat. They are made with Maine wool, with a cotton lining on the brim. Just leave a comment by 8pm. Sunday, January 2nd. I will announce the winner on Monday morning.

Happy New Year!

This moment..with strings

Can you guess what Evan got for Christmans...yes..a ukelele:)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

oh Christmas....

Such a fickle time of is a struggle between the Currier and Ives version of the holidays and the reality that we are able to create. Over the years, I have learned that one does not equate to the other but that does not mean that I don't try. And even though over the last few years I have had moment of brilliance; last year was a homemade Christmas for those near and dear and those more far afield. This year I have fallen far short. The mail will be late...

There are reasons. We have had a difficult year. Life became far busier. Money is short. We've been hit with some big bills at a most inopportune time and then..the dog ate the Christmas zucchini bread and the little vintage skier from my childhood. Okay, maybe the bread eating thing is not the end of the world and yes the skier is just a thing, from my childhood, that my estranged mother gave me...If I was buddhist I could let it go...but I am not..but I digress...

What seems to be missing from this year is not the STUFF of the holidays but the community of the holidays. In our old home, we would get together with some friends for Solstice. Regardless of the weather we would trek into their off-grid home, share wassail and a fine potluck and bonfire. On Christmas eve we would join our congregation for a potluck and service. With both missing from this year we are trying to make new traditions.

Tomorrow, I will start a lamb roast on the woodstove.My hope is that we will be able to get a cross country ski in before dinner and then enjoy a good meal. We will be having a pierogi making party in the kitchen. Pierogi are a breakfast tradition from Mark's family. In years past we have bought store made but last year we made them for the first time and good. And if all hands are able to help then we can have them for several meals while Mark is home on vacation. We like to make homemade Icecream for Christmas. For Christmas day we will slow cook ribs on the woodstove. I hope that we can get a good long walk or ski in the woods in. Maybe some games later in the afternoon. A nap would be nice...

We have been so busy just getting from one day to the next lately. Mark has been gone a lot, I have been busy getting Tristan where he needs to be. I think this school vacation will be nice to spend some time at home, share some soup with new friends and maybe one day trip somewhere like the mountains or the sea ( ahhh Maine)...

So, yes, this year is different and trying to find the a new ways to manage the different can be a challenge but maybe in the process we'll find new traditions....

Maybe a soup feast at my house next year??

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you all! Please watch this space next week for a giveaway and the announcement for my Etsy Shop opening.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


We began our morning with a walk in the woods. We have been following the ongoing drama, told in foot prints, of the struggle between the pack of coyotes that inhabit the woods around our home and the snowshoe hair that sustain them. We find small mouse prints in the snow. They seem to bear witness to the primal struggle between predator and prey without necessarily participating in the tangle of claw, fur and flesh.

Mark and I are in the lead while Evan tags along behind; stopping to pick up every stick, singing songs to himself as he stops for every footprint in the light layer of snow. This is a familiar trail to these men in my life. It leads to the moose skeleton, the small cabin in the woods, to the top of the hill. I am rediscovering it in this new season at our new home. I find beauty in the leaves spread down like a collage framed in snow.

It is Sunday and we are taking a reprieve from driving in a car. We have a long list of to-dos. So as we walk we plan to put up more firewood for the winter. I ask if I can chop some wood. The division of labors have never been clearly defined in our home. We all just assume those chores that speak to our strengths. For me this is work in the kitchen. For Mark it is putting the wood up, anything mechanical. Recently, I had a conversation with a woman who shared that when she needs to let off a little steam she chops wood. It never occurred to me that I could chop wood. This act of putting up wood has always been a partnership between the man who cuts the wood with the chain saw and chops it and the woman who stacks it.

So after a light lunch and settling a wee one down for his nap, Mark and I head out to the wood pile where there is a small pile of logs to be chopped. I watch as Mark skillfully lifts the ax over his head and swings it down hard on to the log balanced on the chopping block. With one blow he chops it in two. He explains every thing he is doing. Balance, safety, aim. I then take the lighter ax, lift it over my head. It is heavy. I can only think about how to control the ax, I can only think about aim. The ax falls and lands on the corner of the log, it falls to the ground. I try again and a small chip is freed. My third blow falls to the left of the chopping block. My fourth try splits the log in two. Mark stays with me while I try another and then head off to take care of some work with his chainsaw. I stay with this work until I have created a small pile of kindling. Oh well...practice, practice, practice.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This moment..

Keep your eye on this space. The photos are taken, the paypal account is awaiting confirmation, and I am just waiting for the library to be open until I can upload the photos to my etsy store.

But for now I leave you with this peaceful moment!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Building Community with livestock and chainsaws

The other day Mark, Sploge and I took a ride out to a farm. Sploge is our Black Romney/ Dorset ram and his "services" are required for a flock of ewes in Farmington. It was quite an adventure! There was no problem getting him into the back of the car. He sorta surfed in the hatchback all the way without a baa to be heard. When we arrived we put his harness on and lead him into the barn where the ladies were waiting for him. We put him into the pen and our mild mannered rasta ram turned into a rambunctious cad. He chased the ewes around the pen. Two of the ewes escaped through the cattle panels that made up part of the pen and the third ewe jumped out of the window! Sploge ran after them and chased after the three sheep and the three heifer belted galways around the pasture. He finally realized that he would not catch them and ran off towards their green houses. We managed to tempt him with some grain and put him back in the pen. We all decided that a little courtship between our ram and their ewes might be a better approach. In exchange for Sploges visit we will receive a large round bale of hay and I can use their drum carder to card some of the wool I washed this fall.
The other night I took Tristan to his meeting for the blacksmithing association that he belongs to. I usually take this time to get some knitting done. In the process I also have learned a lot about blacksmithing. I am tempted to join and learn the skill myself. A woman; who is a member and a knitter, was telling me about the work she has done with her property. She has been building up a pasture area for her horse and harvesting trees from her woods. She has about 10 cord of trees that need to be cut. She said she was looking for someone to cut it for her in exchange for 3 cord. I volunteered Mark. Three cord of wood is equal to 600.00 or so, depending on the market. It would give us a good jump on firewood for next winter. Mark thinks he can get it cut up in a couple of days during Christmas Vacation.

These two separate occasions have resulted in a fair barter for us. It saves us some money. The hay will allow us to get a little hay ahead for the winter. Something we have not been able to do this fall. The firewood will provide some security in the future should we not have regular income next winter. But these barters do something more for us. They create connections for us.

After chasing Sploge around the farm the other day we were invited to join our farmers for a cuppa tea. We spent a good while around their kitchen table just talking about the state of affairs. It was a nice break from the hectic life we have been living lately. They have grown up in the area and shared with us stories and histories of the area. We asked questions about making a living as farmers.

It feels good to finally feel like we are making connections since moving out here. We have been so busy with jobs and kids that we have not had many opportunities to meet folks. But in our efforts to live a sustainable life; in our efforts to do what we should do Anyway, we need to be connected to our community. Human capitol is important in the informal economy. Not only for the benefits of barter but because when we are connected and building community, we can fill needs for others when we can and we can glean a sense of security by knowing that if we have a need, someone might be able to help us too.

And in the process we might have stories of randy rams to share:)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflecting on Anyway..

Since deciding to participate in the Anyway project begun by Sharon Astyk, I have been thinking that I should take some time to really reflect on the different catagories that the project asks the participants to consider. We are asked to consider what we should (or in my case would) be doing anyway; regardless of external forces such as resource depletion, economic disruption, climate change. For example, even without all these considerations we really should recycle or use less or be wiser with our dollars. Basically, it is what we should do anyway.

For us this really is what we would be doing anyway; only we have lost our way a bit and need to really consider the life we want to live. Our family has been functioning over the last year or so reacting to circumstances. Really bad neighbors, new job for Mark, living separately last school year, worries over a potential job loss; we have done well to react to each challenge that has come our way over the last couple of years. What has suffered as a result of this is our hopes and dreams. We have stopped asking ourselves if this homesteading pursuit is working in all areas. We instead have fallen in the familiar rhythm of the seasons: planting in spring, preserving the summer bounty, putting up wood for winter and hibernating in winter. Now that we are in a better location, with more land, stronger community, better soil, and fruit trees; it seems that we can take the lessons we have learned from our first 4 years of homesteading and improve our efficiency and self reliance. In the process maybe we can reach some of our long held goals.

So this is why we are doing the Anyway project. Each category can be a challenge to us to consider what the goals for our life and homestead are. Sharon's original idea for the challenge was Whole Life Redesign. And for us, it may just be the impetus to realize our original intent when we began to homestead.

So the first category, domestic infrastructure on the surface seems an easy topic to think about. A short term goal for us to finish the shed that Mark is building in order to get our tools undercover for the winter. There are just a few more boards needed to complete the siding. We have a temporary roof on it right now and will put a better roof on it in the spring. Next summer we are planning to build a barn. We have begun to send the word out to friends and family that we will be hosting an old fashion barn raising. Long term building goals are to replace our roof and extend the roof line so that we have more usable space upstairs. Ideally, I would like to build a small insulated, passive solar shed for a studio. I do not have a good work space. I would like to get my knitting business up and running and earning real income for us. But I do not have a good space for my knitting machines to be set out right now. I would also like to build a root cellar and greenhouse. I also need to put a fence around the garden in the spring. We have apple trees but no fallen fruit on the ground; something (deer) must be eating them.

As for regular household infrastructure. I would like to start painting some of the interior of the house. This seems like an economical alternative to tearing walls down for the moment. We have a lot of old tongue and groove pine and it makes things pretty dark. We have concrete floors on the first floor. These are no friends to any falling glass. They are painted gray. I would like to investigate what alternatives might be available while still maintaining the passive solar integrity of the house. These floor work as heat sinks and we want to preserve that quality.We are getting by with a small dorm fridge and our cold room and this is working pretty well. But I would like to see if we can get better use out of the cold room. This is going to require some venting in summer and a thermometer to gauge the temp differences during the changing seasons. Until I get a studio built I need to really think about a better work space for my equipment and materials.

And of course, the ultimate of this will be to have all the projects done economically while paying attention to quality. If a project is done right the first time, we don't have to do it again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Handmade Christmas 2010

SPOILER ALERT!!! If you are a member of my family please find another web page to read. I suggest something like this website for its informative content:)

We are busy busy planning and making our homemade gifts for this holiday season. While my knitting needles are busy with small wooly projects for those near and dear, we are also busy making small gifts that the kids can have a hand in. Here are a few of the projects we are working on.

Evan is planning on making a blank book for his dad. There are some great book making instructions at this website.

We saw these great ornaments on Magic Onions. I also plan on making some of these little seed pod candles as well. We are able to get local beeswax for this project so it will be a completely local craft. How cool is that?

Another project that Evan and I have been working on can be found in Amanda Blake Soule's book The Creative Family. It seems suddenly Evan's art is very representational. Small little trucks and funny little people are appearing on piles of paper. I have traced some of his art work and I am embroidering them. They work up really quickly and they use materials I already have around the house and in my stash. I thought these pictures would be nice gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles. He has a new boy cousin this year that might receive a picture of all the sorts of trucks he has drawn lately.

We have discovered a great resource in our community for very inexpensive and recycled craft supplies. It is the Everyone's Resource Depot in Farmington. So many of our kid crafts are very inexpensive to make this year.

As for knitting years past I have had a better jump on having small projects. I would start earlier in the year and make at least one item per month designated for a holiday gift. Between the move and my MS exacerbation earlier in the fall I do not anticipate knitting any large projects this year. But I do have a list of small knitting project that are quick to knit, can use yarn from my stash, and will be practical to the person receiving it.

These round hot pads are nice, quick and will be fun to make given the play with color. I can use small bits of yarn for these as well.

I have several requests this year for wool socks and have few pairs finished already.

These fingerless gloves are great winter driving. I have a few friends and family I think will get a lot of use out of these.

I have 2 preschool nieces. I plan to make them a gift they can share this year. My thinking was that I would decorate a box and include items for a Waldorf Nature Table. I can make up a few gnomes in different colors for the seasons. We will put some of our pinecones and seed pod candles. Maybe tie dye some muslin. I would include an insert on the idea of the table so their mom could help them with it.

I think the new babies will receive some wooly booties.

We also plan to bake this year. Our cookie list includes, snickerdoodles, chocolate krinkles, ginger snaps and welsh cookies.

We will also include some photos of the kids with everyone's gifts.

Well this should keep us a good way:)

How about you? What are you planning to make this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Anyway project

If you have been following this blog for a while you know that I have participated in the Independence Days Challenge(IDC) started by that very smart woman, Sharon Asytk. The basic premise of this challenge was to follow the wise words of Carla Emery;from her book Encyclopedia of Country Living, every day during planting season, plant something, and then every day put something up. Sharon extended the the challenge to include ways to support our local food systems, reduce waste, basic preparedness. The IDC began at the beginning of my homesteading adventure and has been a valuable guide during the growing and food preserving season.

Sharon Astyk has a new project now. A very timely challenge for our homestead again. The project is called the Anyway Project. It is the sort of project that challenges us to take long dreamed of plans and goals and put them into action. The project also helps us strengthen those elements of life that will build in resiliency: community, home infrastructure, economic security.

The categories are Domestic Infrastructure, Household Economy, Cottage Industry and subsistence, Resource Consumption, Family and Community, Outside work, time and happiness. It is a monthly challenge. At the beginning of the month I will post goals and later in the month I will post an update. Since tomorrow is the beginning of the month now is a good time to start.

Domestic Infrastructure: Mark has been working on building a shed to keep our tools undercover for the winter. He will get that finished. Our local lumber supply store has tarps that are used in transporting lumber. They give these away for free. I will see if we can get one for the door of the shed. I need to get a thermometer for our cold room and keep a log on the temps in the room three times a day for a week. I would like to use this room more efficiently. I hope to post on our cold room and how we are using it.

Household economy: ugh money. Times are tight right now. We need to start tracking our expenses to see if we can squeeze a few more pennies. So for December we will write down every penny we spend to see where it is all going. Working to have our handmade Christmas.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: I am taking pictures today and opening a separate checking account for the etsy shop. Everything is made but we have been so busy it has been hard to get our act together. Enough excuses. Also we need to think about more firewood for the winter. The kids and I are going to get some fresh air and find more dead trees to cut.

Resource Consumption: Our electric bill is a lot more expensive at the new house than at our old house. It used to be 30 a month for a family of four and now it is closer to 80.00 a month. We have an electric water heater in our cold room. Insulating the water heater has been on our to-do list for a while now. We need to get an aerator for our kitchen sink. We've been taking baths since moving in the house. We need to think about installing a shower head so that we use less water to bath. We need to fill the propane tank for the cookstove this month as well. Since we will not be plowing our drive or the bit of road to our home his winter we need to get really conservative with our LP use because the truck will not be able to get in till April.

Family and Community: This has been a tough one for me lately.We have been trying to find a new church since moving. There is no Unitarian church in our immediate community. One church was over an hour away. Another church was larger than the church we had come from and I found it a little overwhelming. Our former church was where we found community and well we like to sing. I have been considering joining a Time Bank and there is also a local food coop that is serviced by Crown of Maine Food coop.

Time and Happiness: Many of our holiday traditions have been centered around our friends from our old church and the services that were held around the holiday. We need to find new traditions this year. I am going to have to think on this one for a bit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On my soap box....

My preparations for our Thanksgiving meal began this morning with the music from our local public radio station. The classical music program began with the Shaker Hymn "Simple Gifts" while I was helping Evan prepare his part of our meal; deviled egg boats. I love this hymn. I love this holiday. It is our feast day to celebrate a good meal with close friends and family. It is a holiday to give thanks for our blessings...

And then we shop??

Tomorrow is Black Friday. This day received its name because retail businesses rely on this day to help put them into the black. For far too long it also put the consumer (not citizen?) in the red. To me the message to get out there and find a good deal during the wee hours seems shrill and disconnected from the reality of many people. There are still plenty of folks without jobs. While Maine's unemployment number has fallen, the number of people who are discouraged workers has increased and are not considered in the tally. Foreclosures in Maine are rising. We did not have the subprime mess that many other states have had. But now folks are losing their homes because their incomes have fallen or they are unemployed for longer periods of time. There are still grim headlines about food insecurity in our state. And yet the message is to buy buy buy!

On the one hand some of the news stories about the shopping season (what? not Holiday season?) are encouraging. Credit card use is down and more folks are using cash. Folks are sticking to a budget. The projected growth in sales for this shopping season will be better than last year but are not expected to reach the heights of the bubble. But the over arching message is still the same. Buy Buy Buy!

Many smarter folks than I agree that the shock our economy has experienced is a paradigm changer. The figures that come from the government are not all entirely pointed in the same forward facing direction. There is still too much volatility in the global economy to provide a firm foundation for "growth". I would argue that the idea of "growth" that we are sold has caused great income disparity, harm to our environment and depletion of many resources. I don't know what the answers are but I am pretty sure that none of them requires a trip to the mall.

Maybe I'm wrong. I do live a different life than most people. We don't have a lot of money. We don't shop as a pasttime. Major expenses are purchased with cash. We don't use credit cards and this year we plan to continue our tradition of a handmade holiday. For us this just feels right. We want to be giving. We want to share our bounty and love in ways that convey the true spirit of the holiday. So while the huddled masses are lining up outside the Walmart. I'll be sitting quietly in my living room with a cuppa tea knitting a few more rows on the vest I am making for my new nephew. Till by turning turning I come round right....

Friday, November 19, 2010

This moment..

Weeks Mills Road

Late autumn days. I drive my car down back country roads. The leaves have fallen from the trees which has allowed the landscape to open up and reveal small cabins tucked away in the woods. The grass has faded from the vibrant green created by heavy rains to the dormant fade of green and brown. But still there are cows grazing on pasture on these last few blessedwarm, sunny days.

This road rises up to follow the contour of the foothills but off in the distance I can see the mountains. I could take the main route home. Follow the river home. But I choose this back road home because of its simple beauty. Old farm houses, wide open hay fields, wooded hollows and grand views. A little music on the radio, the momentary slowing as a tractor pulls a hay laden trailer behind it; the speed limit is 45mph but the road requires you to slow and enjoy the ride.

It would be easy for my thoughts to travel to the to-do list. Outside chores still beckon. The orchard needs to be cleaned of dropped apples and leaves to prevent apple scab. The handmade Christmas list needs to be completed and those plans need to implemented. Phone calls need to be made. Wood needs to be stacked. Photos for the etsy shop need to be taken and the question of internet access needs to answered.

But for this moment, in the car, traveling this road, I just follow where it leads me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On being Self- Sufficient

We have been having conversations over the kitchen table these days. These conversations are inspired by warm sunny days in November when we finish up chores before the snow falls. Some of these conversations project into the future what plans should be made if Mark is not rehired for next school year. Some of these conversations stem from the excitement of projects we are in the middle of right now. Some of these conversations inevitably come down to money.

Each week we sit down and look at our budget. The amount of money coming in from Mark's paycheck has not grown over the last 3 years as school budgets have not allowed for any cost of living increase. We are grateful for the job. But just because inflation has not occurred in the broader economy does not mean that our expenses have not increased. Oh, and that inflation in the broader economy(Consumer Price Index) does not include volatile energy and food prices. And for us ,those costs are increasing. Gas was 2.94 a gallon the last time I filled up. Thirty dollars did not fill up my car they way it did a month ago. We are paying more for health insurance this school year and receiving less benefit for the cost. Our grocery bill has increased considerably this fall as we feel the effects of not having a big garden while we moved to our new home. Hay for our sheep is more expensive this year because we were not able to get the lower price that comes from buying it in the field. We do not have chickens right now.

Some of these things we do on our homestead seem quaint and something we do for a hobby but they really do make a difference to our bottom line. Chickens eat all sorts of food scraps, provide nitrogen rich fertilizer for our corn, eggs and meat for the stew pot. The garden has provided a winter's worth of potatoes, winter squash, garlic, shelves of pickles, ,soup ingredients and a freezer full of food. In the past we have grown a pig. Piggy has provided a years worth of meat for our family of four. Our sheep mow our lawn, provide rich manure for our garden, give us wool for use and barter. The wood Mark cuts means we do not have to pay for petroleum based heating or pay someone else for our firewood.

When we began this homesteading journey we dreamed of becoming self-sufficient. To the extent that this is possible is an evolving prospect. At first it was enough to try to grow a big garden and provide some of our own meat. As we look towards next year at our new home we know that the necessity to ramp up our own self sufficiency will be imperative. Maybe Mark will keep his job for another year. Maybe he won't. But by trying to reduce our need for money for those things we need, we provide ourselves with insurance.

So we sit around the kitchen table and talk, make plans, dream .For the next growing season we will be building a barn for the sheep. We could also make enough room in it to grow meat rabbits if need be. We will grow another pig next spring. We will find some more laying hens and also plan on growing some roasting chickens. We are planning to grow some mangel-wurzels, pumpkins and dent corn for fodder. We have some big pine trees on our property that we are going to harvest and have milled for the wood for our barn. We have a good maple stand and will work to manage this over the next winter by harvesting the wood that is not maple in the area. This wood will warm us next winter. We plan to put in 50 taps for maple sap this coming season with the hope of making 4-5 gallons of maple syrup. We are learning about proper organic orchard maintenance so we can maximize the apple harvest next fall. Seed saving is a skill I have dabbled with in the past but I plan to learn more about it this coming year. Most of our garden will be planted with seedlings we have grown ourselves. We will install a few more rain barrels around the homestead. And if time and funds allow we will build a small greenhouse for extending our growing season. At the very least we will build quite a few more cold frames. It is my hope that our garden will provide all the veggies we need this year with the exception of some strawberry and blueberry picking.

It seems like a ambitious list born out of necessity but fulfilling our original aspirations. What it comes down to is that for every dollar we save by doing for ourselves means one less dollar we rely up earning from the “real economy”. Self-sufficiency also needs to be approached like a job. Most times it is hard work but one that grants moments of stillness, communing with dirt with seasons of busy-ness and seasons of hibernation. Unlike most jobs the fruits of our labors are lined up on the shelf. I won't pretend that this is a strategy that will keep us out of the real economy. It is not going to fund a 401K by any means. But during these uncertain times it can make those dollars we do have coming in go further. And maybe in the process fulfill a dream....

Business and a Thankyou!

I just want to thank everyone for their kind comments! I am feeling much better. ThankYou!

I am also without internet at home again. We are trying to get dial-up but parts and computers are having a difficult time interfacing. I hope to have this resolved soon and will be able to have my etsy shop up at that time.

Again, thankyou all!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This moment..

Well, phooey

This is where the writing is today; lost in my head and not on the page. My mind is clear but my body is rebelling against me. So please indulge me...

Each day that goes by in this little life of mine has a small reminder that; even though, I may walk with a normal gait, use my hands to grow food, craft and cook, fill some days with the to-do list of super-mom, I am a person with Multiple Sclerosis. Every day this small thought enters my head. Every day.

When I am chasing sheep around the yard, tilling a garden, stacking wood, I am still a person with MS. When I am sitting quietly, savoring the fatigue that comes with good hard work at the end of the day, I am reminded of the fatigue that used to plague me in my early 30's when they symptoms of MS were a constant part of my every day.

And every once and a while;thankfully fewer whiles than in the past, I have an exacerbation that takes a month from my normal life.

There really is only one way to treat the exacerbation. A course of cortico-steroids. This miracle drug restores feeling and function to that part of my body that has decided not to work to full capacity. This drug raises my blood pressure, raises my blood sugar, robs my body of calcium, retains water, temporarily depresses my immunity also takes away the limp, numbness and restores balance.

They also do something else to me. They put me in a dark place. They tap into the fear that I can forget when I am in an extended period of wellness. It is the fear that this might be the one exacerbation that leaves me with a permanent limp. It is the fear that after a life time of MS my elder years will be spent like some of the residents at the nursing care facility I cared for; unable to care for myself, in a wheelchair with a hands and feet in braces. I can rage against this damn thing. I have given up running long distances, dancing for hours and savoring summer heat because my body can not tolerate extreme heat. This time my hands have taken the hit. They are numb and unable to do what I want to do with them. I can rage at the unfairness.

Yup, it gets that dark in this little brain of mine.

This too shall pass. I have had MS since I was 29. I am 43. I am doing pretty well. My last exacerbation was 2 years ago. The one before then was 7 years. I have made significant changes in the way that I live, eat and treat myself. I am aware that sometimes no matter what I do I will get sick. Other times it serves as a reminder that I have to slow down and pay attention.

I am blessed with a good husband and kind children. I am blessed with a good spot of soil and overall good health despite the MS. I am blessed with good food in the cupboard and a great new community. I am blessed with the learned lessons that MS has taught me. To slow down, listen to my body, eat well.

I am blessed.

Thanks for indulging me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This moment...oh silly Vivian!

Well we are going to be without internet again. We will be exploring other options. The toggle from the Cell Phone Company was really slow and not worth the money it cost. I am going to try to write several posts and post them a couple times a week at library until we find...sigh.. a dial-up service. Such is the life at the end of a dirt road. I would not trade it for anything though:)

Also, keep and eye on this space because I will be opening My Esty site with in the next couple of week and you can see what I do in my spare time;)

Monday, October 25, 2010

This morning...

I woke this morning to the song of Evan's voice as he sought the warmth of my bed. A quick, blurred check of the sky out the window informs me that it will be a cold, gray day. I lovely day to be at home. Mark left for work early this morning and I have no place to be....

Already, my mind goes to that forever to-do list. This may a good day to finish preserving those apples. I should probably work on someone's Halloween costume. After living here for two months, I am still trying to find a place for everything in this small house. There are couple of more corners I could organize...

I fumble for my glasses as I share a conversation with Evan about his plan for his day. We head downstairs. I read two chapters of Stuart Little to him. We make a plan to finish reading it today.

It is chilly. So I decided to start a small fire. I will close off the upstairs room. There is a door at the top of the stairs and a vent in the ceiling over the stove. If I close these then the downstairs will get warmer, quicker. I am learning how to use this passive solar berm house. I will open the vent and the door this late afternoon so it is warmed for our bedtime.

I put the kettle on for tea, slice some sourdough bread for our toast and ponder this weeks grocery list. I would like to get some pie pumpkins to preserve some puree for quick soups and breads. Our days have been busy and our regular evening dinners have been interrupted with Mark's and Tristan's schedules. So I need to have ingredients that are easy to use so some quick meals could be easily pulled together but still wholesome. The farmer's market is nearly done for the regular season. So I try to think of any other crops I might want to get for preserving for the winter. Maybe some more carrots for pickling or maybe some beets.

Tristan joins us around the breakfast table where boy banter gets around to plans for playing with legos. But first Tristan will tend to the animals and take care of some studying.

After breakfast I find Evan some clothes to put on and I begin morning chores. I fold some laundry that has been hanging on the rack. My regular housekeeping routine falls apart on the weekends and I play catch-up on Mondays. Sweep the floors, tidy, make beds. Evan shares his desire for Blueberry Muffins and I agree if he will help me. He is a willing assistant both in the preparing and the eating.

I throw another log on the fire when the eternal question of," What is for dinner?" is answered in this regular chore of tending the fire. I will bake beans on the woodstove and make a pot of corn chowder later in the day. Maybe a small green salad with the arugula and spinach I found at the farmer's market the other day. The beans will be made with local maple syrup and applesauce, local leftover pork. The corn will come out of the freezer. Our local dinner.

While the muffins bake and I prepare the beans for the stove, Evan plays with playdough. My kitchen table becomes a major construction site. Until...the muffins are out of the oven. The boys enjoy their share and I save a few for Mark to take with him with his lunch tomorrow.

As I write this post I realize that what was going to be a record of our morning is a study in home economics. Sometimes I find that I take what I do at home for granted. As a stay-at-home mom I do not always give my work the same credit as Mark's work outside the home. But it is the work I do at home that saves us money; feeds us real, wholesome foods; keeps order in our home and takes care of my family.

The muffins are eaten and I am going to turn an audio book on for Evan while I tidy the kitchen from our morning. It is almost lunch time...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The beginning of the ending of a long journey...

Tristan is in his final year of homeschooling. For me this has been a time of reflection. The time where I find out if the rubber meets the road or hydroplanes into a ditch. Oye!

I began homeschooling Tristan when he finished kindergarten. The year of Kindergarten was not bad, but it wasn't ideal. He went to a public school, a block from our house, for 1/2 a day. A couple of afternoons a week he would be picked up from an after school program while I worked. I was a single mother at this time. I worked in a hospital on day shift. I volunteered in his class once a week.

While sitting in his class I saw little kids who came to school without coats on really cold days. I saw 5 year olds with really bad bottle mouth and no snack at snack time. I saw kids hitting each other over and over again without adult intervention. Meanwhile, there was my quiet little guy not getting any attention from the teacher and her aide because they really had their hands full with the other kids who had much greater need. I can really see how kids can get lost in a system.

Tristan's Dad and I discussed options at the time. There was an alternative school inside the city school system that was more child focused, multi-graded, arts based. They chose students by lottery and Tristan was accepted. However, they would not bus kids who lived out of the district and we did not have a car at the time. I could not figure out how we could manage the transportation piece without starting our day really early on public transportation or ending our day really late for the same reason.

Another consideration to this possible arrangement was that I would never see my son. I would have to stay on day shift at the hospital in order to get Tristan where he needed to go. He would still spend every other weekend and a couple of afternoons with his dad during the week. What time we did have would have been spent shuttling him somewhere, a couple of tired dinners and bedtime and every other weekend. Ultimately, I realized that whether he went to the school down the street or across town I would have every other weekend with him and a couple of evenings a week. I wanted to be the one to raise my son. I wanted to teach him the values that are important to me. So we decided to homeschool. I switched to evening shift at the hospital so I would be home with Tristan during the day. I had a babysitter for those evenings he was not at his dad's. Life slowed down.

I am not going to sugarcoat the travails of those early years of homeschooling. One of the challenges that I faced early on was Tristan's dad. To say we have a history is an understatement. The relationship ended with me calling the cops on him. His issues of power and control have been a part of my life for a long time. First, he agreed to homeschool and then he didn't. We ended up in court and I was given full parental rights on matters of education. It was a long and drawn out process. I know that it affected my approach to homeschooling because I was always fearful that if Tristan and I did not have "paper" to prove he was being schooled then I would be back in court.

As for the learning it happened. I would have liked to unschool those early years but we didn't. Instead, I used a variety of subject curriculums. Tristan learned to read when he was 8. He explored sharks, insects, pyramids, dinosaurs, Greek and Roman Mythology. He took swimming and ice skating lessons, Art camps at the Art Museum and art school, summer reading programs. He had a group of neighborhood friends. Tristan and I spent many wonderful hours reading a great many books together.

We moved north in 2003. At that time we still used a variety of subject curriculums. He joined a 4-H group for homeschoolers, he took archery lessons and our new local library had many great reading programs for middle school aged kids. Eventually, as he grew older, I loosened the reigns until by the time he was in highschool he was unschooling. I am not going to pretend that he would get stellar grades on a standardized test. He is not very strong in math. I know that there are some holes in his learning if he were compared to someone going to school. But homeschooling for us was never meant to be just like school. My ultimate goal was to raise a lifelong learner; someone who enjoys learning and knows how to seek the resources for gaining the knowledge he wants.

And so here we at the the last year of school. At this point I am solely a facilitator ( or taxi driver).Tristan is excited by the blacksmithing he has done this year and is pursuing this knoweldge by being a member of the local blacksmithing association where he gets plenty of open forge time. He also gets to demonstrate his skills at local fairs and living history museums. He will be taking a classes at the New England School of Metalwork starting in January. He is taking a welding class through the local adult ed. He is working with a metalsmith at local jewelry store. He is trying to find a job. He is pursuing his GED where he is going to get some of the math he missed. He is an avid photographer and an avid reader.

And he is a pretty cool kid:)

This home

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Craving, Doing, Grateful...

  • the company of women
  • a chance to sing
  • a knitting pattern that is challenging but not intimidating
  • more time to write
  • Reading lots of picture books
  • making applesauce
  • playing taxi for a teen
  • knitting simple quick patterns for Christmas and Birthdays
  • My good kids
  • cool fall days
  • my new peaceful home
  • the good food that has graced our table
I am passing this on from Wendy...I hope you can pass it on too:)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


These are days are full. A small voice wakens me while I burrow deeper in the blankets hoping; if not a few more minutes of sleep, at least, a few minutes of quiet, still, cuddles.

The house is chilly and a cuppa tea is my first priority of the day. We have given up the favored daughter, coffee, and settled for its stepsister tea. Warm and milky is the bottom line in our home and it is good enough. I dress the dog in his harness and bell for hunting season and let him out for his morning romp; hoping that he stays close so I will not have to holler for him to "come" in my bathrobe. I can forgive his early morning wandering. The mornings are crisp, the air heavy with the smell of leaf decay. This is October. The month of passings.

For now our days are a mix of busy and quiet. I am busy because this is Teen's last year of homeschooling and it is a busy one. He is going for his GED so he can move on to other learning adventures with ease. He is also busy with blacksmithing, welding, metalsmithing with a local jewler. He is looking for a job as well. As am I.

My days as a stay at home mom may be numbered. In our home, we struggle with trying to be in the moment as well as keeping an eye to future. We look at our debt; which isn't much, and think that if I went to work we could have most of it paid off in a 6 months. So, if Mark were to lose his job, as a result of budget cuts, we would be in OK shape to weather the storm. If I went back to work for 1 year we would have our debt paid off before Evan began kindergarten. One of us would be able to be home with him to pursue his homeschooling career. Mark could pursue his music career. Coulds, Maybes, Hopefullys. It seems funny to me that after the year we have had that we are still functioning at this level.

A sign of the times, I suppose.

But this is what I do know. This is what I can count on... Each evening, Mark comes home. Eats a dinner I have made for him. He has a "music party" with Even upstairs (lots of singing, guitar and tamborine). While downstairs, I sit and listen to "Fresh Air" and knit quietly.

This is the moment and I am in it...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Independence Days Update

The nights are chilly and the house is chilly too. We are trying to hold off as long as possible before starting a fire in the stove. We've had several storms come through that have stripped many of the leaves off the trees in our yard. It is October and chores tend to preparing for winter.

Plant: nothing

Harvest: Kale, Apples, tomatoes, acorn squash

Preserve: Nothing

Local Food: Farmer's Market, Our local feedstore also sells many local meats, veggies and cheeses.

Eat the food: I made a yummy vegetable soup with local sausage, home preserved spinach,corn, home canned tomato and chicken stock, plenty of garlic and onion from our cold room. Still making sourdough bread. But we are also trying other sourdough recipes. This week we tried Sweet Potato Sourdough pancakes.

Waste not: Our neighbor and person we are buying our house from is building a Sap house. He has harvested the wood from his land. He hired a man to come to the work site with a mini-woodmill. The process is amazing and it is going to be a beautiful building when it is done. Anyway a by-product of the milling is slabs of wood with the bark still on them. He is letting us take what we need from this pile to finish off our sheep sheds. There is also enough there to build a small shed for storing our tools in.

Want not: We picked up the pieces for hooking up our woodstove and found that we were just a few inches off from the chimney. A neighbor had a spare piece for us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


We are discovering the region we live in. Technically, our home is in the foothills of the western Maine Mountains; which, in practical terms, means we are close to the state's skiing region and great hiking. This past weekend we took a drive to Mt. Blue state park to hike Mt. Blue. This was Evan's first big hike. He made it up the mountain mostly on his own. Which is quite an impressive feat (given the huffing and puffing his parents were doing)

Evan did get a ride down. Thank goodness the Ergo has a 90 pound weight limit. Maine really is a beautiful state. This time of year is just amazing!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Independence Days Challenge...ahh Autumn.

This morning Evan and I took a small walk up to our mailbox. On our way we slowed our steps so we could shush our shoes through fallen leaves. We heard Canada Geese over head honking their farewell until spring.

I love the changing pace of this time of year. Gears shift from busy summer to a more routine pace. Some chores take on an urgency as the days grow shorter, the harvest wanes and the temperatures cool. But others are a welcome addition. I really could stack wood for a living. Washing fleece for winter projects is a new process I am enjoying. Knitting needles are busy busy.

Plant: Garlic, jerusalem artichokes, alium bulb, crocus, tulips, daffodils, anemone bulbs. Winter Rye.

Harvest: Kale, Last of the Basil, tomatoes

Preserve: tomato salsa, tomato puree, chicken stock

Local food systems: Farmer's market

Eat the food: I made a yummy squash soup from a butternut purchased at the farmer's market. Lot's of sourdough bread is being baked in our home right now. Most of our meals consist of mostly local foods now. We truly live in a rich foodshed now.

Waste not: We finally got a compost bin built for food scraps and some yard waste. My long term plan is to build a bigger bin system in the spring so we may really work our piles. But we needed something right now for food scraps. We have curbside recycling in our very rural location. How cool is that? I've been transporting our recycling for the last few years to a transfer station; which has the unfortunate side effect of recyclables piling up.

Want not: Okay I am going to brag a bit about my sourdough experiment. Rye flour and water. Cover with muslin or cheese cloth. Feed more rye and water once a day. In one week I had sourdough starter. I no longer use as much commercial yeast as I use to. The process itself is a wonder of nature. All these little microbes live in the air and help to leaven. Truly wonderful. And the bread is tasty too:)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Tonight I am sitting here wondering at the ways of modern technology. I am now connected to the internet in my house. Our new home is at the end of a very long dirt road. When the telephone company came to hook up our telephone, a month ago, the technician commented on the old connections on the house. Cell phone coverage can be spotty. We are at the end of the line. We investigated radio internet, dial-up and finally decided on a toggle from a cell phone company. So now we are connected and this space should be filled with more of my ponderings again.

In the time that I have not had regular internet access, I have been busy. I've been planting garlic, sheet mulching new perennial beds, cooking dinners, reading an incredible amount of Roald Dahl to a certain 4 year old, knitting up abandoned projects and discovering the joys of making sourdough. An absolutely amazing process. I've been ferrying the teen to many days at the blacksmiths forge.

Which has me pondering the juxtaposition of this life between the old and the new.

This homesteading life embraces the old skills. Each year I learn a new skill that harkens back to a more traditional self sufficient time. Sewing on a treadle, growing my own, knitting socks and leavening by the microbes in my own kitchen. These are skills that save me money, mean I am less dependent on an external system to provide it for me, give me the satisfaction on doing for myself.

I was also reminded of this paradox of past and present this past weekend. On Friday evening we went to the Farmington Fair. It is a fair that Tristan had been working all week giving blacksmithing demonstrations. It is a fair with animals, exposition hall and carnival rides. Evan had a ride on a carnival ride. He enjoyed that novelty of the experience. The following day we went to the Common Ground Country Fair. There were animals, an expositions hall, blacksmithing demonstrations but instead of the carnival rides there were piles of hay for kids to jump in, a dress up parade for kids, and cardboard scraps for kids to slide down a berm.

I am glad to be able to be back in this space, connected to the interwebs and all the information it provides. But this respite from the modern technology has been productive and valuable in lessons it has provided me. I have found stillness again. I have discovered old technologies.

I don't know if I can tie this thought process into a nice neat bow. I will keep on the homesteading path. Each year gives me new knowledge. Some of those lessons will be gleaned from from the internet and some from native knowledge and quiet life I am living. It is what is is for now...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

I love this time of year. The canners are busy, the knitting needles are busy, the kids shift gears from outdoor fun to quiet, rainy days inside with books open. Leaves are starting to turn and fall; emitting “that” smell of the season. We anticipate fairs. We stack wood.

Life is good. Quiet in a sense of returning routines. We are so very aware of what a blessing this routine is.

Plant: I am trying a little experiment in the new garden this fall. We have tilled up the space. I have planted spinach and will be planting garlic and Egyptian onions soon. But there will still be plenty of time and space for weeds to move in. I usually plant some winter rye as a cover crop. But I have yet to get any. So I decided to use some of the organic hard red winter wheat I had in the cupboard. I was thinking that I would let it grow and go to seed next summer. After it is harvested then I will plant a succession crop in its place, maybe kale or other season extending crop. I can use the straw as mulch in the garden.

Harvested: tomatoes, basil, acorn squash, apples from our own trees. I am using these apples for preserving. They are pretty buggy and some have scab. I plan to go to an orchard for long term apple storage

Preserve: chicken stock, tomato puree, tomato salsa, pear butter, dehydrated apples

Local food systems: I bought bulk tomatoes from my local farmer for salsa and tomato puree. Local chicken, local milk,. Local beets. Local butter, local carrots from the health food store.

Eat the food.: I am immersing myself in the book Nourishing Traditions right now. I have made a beet Kvass which will be ready tomorrow. It is a tonic for general well being. I made homemade yogurt and yogurt cheese. I have used the whey from the yogurt cheese in the kvass. Local chicken dinner. I then made chicken stock from the left over bones. I add vinegar to the water as I boil the stock. This draws out the minerals from the bones. Another reason I love this time of year is the time I spend in the kitchen. All our meals are from scratch again. If it is a chilly day I get most of my canning and baking done later in the day so that our home is cozy warm in the evening.

Waste not: using up those bones, using the whey from the yogurt cheese. We are using up the emptied boxes from moving in our sheet mulching of perennial gardens. Recycling, stuff to the thrift store.

Want not: I pulled out winter clothes and clothes I stashed away for Evan to grow into. He only needs a few things for the coming season. I am writing up my to-do list for our handmade Christmas and checking to see what we have available for materials. Stacking wood for standing dry wood that Mark is harvesting. Well, tis mid-September and I had the hardest time finding regular sized canning jar lids. Finally found some and stocked up on a few boxes. But I think that next year I will try to get some reusable lids.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On and off the needles..a little of this and that...

Life is settling down. Without regular access to the computer I find that I am returning to better habits. A tidier house, more attention to the present and the finishing of languishing projects. I know that this is a good thing on the whole but I miss my regular connections to the blogging world. We hope to have internet access by next week. However, I have been grateful for the break. Some connectedness has return as a result of not being connected. My challenge will be to find a better balance between the two worlds. I heard this story on Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago. It was sobering and well worth a listen. In retrospect, my time online has been used as a coping mechanism for our last year. But now that we are settling into a new life it is nice to find grounding in a life I want to live; which for me, means more balance.The situation at the old place had not been healthy for a long time before our neighbors became a problem. Living in the country can be isolating. Being a new mom can be isolating. I am generally a social creature so adaptation took a while. The computer helped me for a while but I don't want it to be a substitute for making real connections in the world I live in.

However, I also love writing. the blogging has helped me rediscover this passion again. So this space will be busier again but I hope richer in content.

Anyway, that is where my head has been lately...

My hands have been busy while my mind has been pondering these things.

I finished Evan's fall sweater. It is the Modular Tomten by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I LOVE THIS SWEATER. It was fun to make and looks so nice on him. I have had the unfortunate luck the last few years of starting his sweater in the spring, so I he would have his sweater when the weather cooled, only to find out that he had grown more than anticipated. The sweater would be just right for about 2 months and then he would no longer fit in it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

Our busy summer is behind us. Mark has returned to school today and the kids and I are trying to navigate a new routine. I love this time of year. Summers are always so busy and the last few summers for us have been full of hard work and some angst. I am looking forward to settling into a quiet home routine with regular excursions into town for the kids, errands and classes. Our new community has lots of things to do. Contra dances, poetry readings, u-pick farms, knitting dinners at the local yarn store.

Even though the last month has been full of packing boxes, moving them and unpacking, I have been able to put some food up for the winter. Mark and I both feel the pull of what this season really means for the kind of life we live, preparing for winter. Mark has been cutting down some dead trees on our property for firewood. I have been putting the canners to work.

Plant: I am still transplanting perennials from the old garden. We have a couple more trips to make there. Transplanted rhubarb, purple cone flower, sorrel, asparagus. Planted fall spinach.

Harvest: There is a local u-pick farm for high bush blueberries. We've picked about 18 pounds so far. We may try for one more bucket before the season is done. Basil, Kale from our little raised bed we planted in June. Potatoes from the old garden. Pears from our own pear trees. There were not many but more than we ever had before;). Apples from our own apple trees. These trees have scab and bug issues but there is still lots of really good apples on them. I am investigating a permaculture practice of planting guilds under the trees. The idea is that all the variety of plants work together to address all the needs of the tree. The plants include bulbs, aliums, food perennials such as rhubarb, and some herbs and flowers.

Preserve: Frozen corn, frozen blueberries, blueberry syrup, blueberry jam, chicken stock, roasted tomatoes, dehydrated onions, dehydrated ontario peaches. We were local when we bought the peaches.

Eat the food: I made a cold pea soup from peas from the farm job. I served it with homemade biscuits, sliced tomatoes from the farmer's market and local cheese. Our stove was hooked up this past week and we have been enjoying many from-scratch meals.

Local foods: Gee ,where to begin?? I bought a share from a farmer at the farmer's market. I have used this to get corn and tomatoes, local eggs and other in season veggies. The local farm where we get our feed sells all varieties of local meat. There was that great blueberry u-pick. Before we had our stove hooked up we were buying bread from a local farmer. Mark and I celebrated 5 years of marriage this past month. We treated ourselves to a nice block of local cheese. This week I am going to explore the local milk options. There is one farm that sells organic milk for 3 dollars a gallon. I want to start making my own mozzarella cheese and get back into making our yogurt again. I am investigating joining a food coop that is supplied by Crown of Maine.

Waste not: We have curbside recycling on our rural road! Our last home we had to collect and deliver it to a regional location. It was something of a hassle. Now it is much easier. Still donating stuff to the thrift store.

Want not: We got the new garden tilled. Mark has been cutting dead trees on the property for firewood. I am busy with Christmas knitting already and hope to get my sewing machine going with a few projects this week. We are enjoying our new library cards and have enjoyed listening to books on tape in the evening while WE ( yes, we, Mark is knitting:) knit.

We are still not hooked up to the internet at home yet. We are at the end of the road and many services have yet to make it to our end of the road yet. There are options we are looking at but internet is not high on the to-do list yet..still need a compost bin. So for now, I am writing at home and posting at the library.

Recipe: Cold Pea Soup

2ilbs of peas
1 quart of chicken stock
another cup or two of peas
garlic chives

Bring to a boil 2lbs of peas and chicken stock. When peas are cooked run through a food mill or food processor. Chill in fridge for several ours. When ready to serve add remaining peas and garnish with chives.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Catching Up

So finally we are moved. Our long travel from last fall to this coming school year is complete...nearly. There is still some flotsam at the old house, strings that need to be tied up with the old house, boxes to be unpacked,but, in time, it will all be settled. In the meanwhile we are discovering our new community, making plans for the new home, settling the kids with classes, playtime and swimming lessons. We are reaching for new healthier routines. We are enjoying our time together without the concern that when school starts we will not be together at dinner time.

It would be easy to take the calm that has descended over our life for granted at this point. No longer do we have to worry about the politics of private road maintenance, the worry of what games really bad neighbors will play, the angst of family separation, the rush to get things done in the limited time before Mark heads off to work. Everyone in our home seems relaxed, at ease...finally.

So our tale..

So, 2 weeks ago the finally haul of stuff was crammed into a U-Haul truck. The week before we had moved the sheep. The week before that, we dismantled and salvaged the wood from the old tilting pole barn that was on the property, to make sheep sheds for the winter. Mark made 2 trips with sheep in the back of our farm vehicle...a 96 Subaru legacy. The car still smells of their earthy, wooly goodness (a euphemism for sheep poo and hay). Reports from the driver and a friend who witnessed a hatchback full of sheep suggest that it was a comfortable ride. All the ovine arrived to enjoy a good munch in their new pasture. The chickens were donated to a kind neighbor at our old home. We hope to build a fancy chicken coop and start a new flock by the time we go to the fair. The cats, in true dramatic fashion, had a rougher ride but are settling in well and have cornered a mouse of two. Our prior rodent problem is no longer a problem:)

Our new home has needed several improvements in order to make it comfortable. We have installed the claw foot tub. We need to connect a shower head eventually but for now we enjoy deep warm bathes. We bought a new-to-us cookstove for the kitchen but waited to hook up the propane line until yesterday. This as been a great lesson in adaptation. We have used a small alcohol stove for heating up water. We have cooked many meals on the grill and we have a small electric griddle that has been my trusty kitchen companion for quick meals. But I am finally enjoying the luxury of the cookstove. We made homemade pizza last night. I was able to can some roasted tomatoes and tonight I will be able to bake bread and biscuits. Our diet has been heavy on foods that although easier to cook has been neither from scratch nor as local as we have been accustomed to. I can now get back to putting food by for the winter.

I have been transplanting perennials from the old garden to a new sheet-mulched bed for the winter. Yesterday we staked out where the new veggie garden will go. Mark mowed it down to a pretty close shave and was going to use the tiller to till it up a bit before I pulled out all the roots from the sod and planned where the permanent garden beds would be put. That was the plan until he tilled up a hornets nest. For now we are pondering our options. There really is no other really good space for the garden at this point. But eradication of the nest might take a while until the weather is cold enough. We also need to explore options for non-toxic to soil pesticides...ahhh a learning experience. Meanwhile I have to think of another way to get my fall spinach in the ground.

So this is where we are. Here, not there. We are embracing the work of the season, canning, putting wood up and getting ready for the school year. We are unpacking, cooking, knitting and writing. I have missed writing in this space and look forward to sharing with you all that we are discovering about our new home and community. I don't have internet service at home yet and when I do it will only be dial up. But I do have pictures to share..of course the cord for the camera is there, not here..such is moving:)

Monday, August 9, 2010

We are still here..well..there..

Just a quick note to let you know that we are in the final push of our move...Phew!

And then an little summer getaway...I hope to be back in this space by the end of next week!

Happy Summering, Karin

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

So this is where we are ...the inbetween. Yes one word. Inbetween. Two words smooshed together to connote the Nearly-there-but-not-yet feel that is our lives. We have a pedestal for the new tub built. But it needs another coat of paint. We have a new propane cookstove but it will be delivered on Saturday. We are working here and we are working there...

So my update will be quick..

Plant: transplanted Evening Primrose, comfrey, rose, lemon balm...

Harvested: Basil, carrots, garlic, onions, black berries

Preserve: dilly beans, frozen beans, peach salsa, dehydrated peaches, frozen blackberries, garlic, dehydrated onions. I am sure there is more but I can not remember. I did make sure to add it to my growing list to the right.

Local Foods: I went to my new farmer's market. Bought fixings for salad. I asked about local food buying clubs and found out about a local food coop that meets at a local grange hall that uses Crown of Maine as one source of its food. I plan to buy a CSA Share at the farmer's market this coming Friday

Eat the food: Can one really eat enough salad?

Waste not: yes we are moving poo. I am adding composted sheep poo to the sheet mulching I am using for transplanting perennials. More and More stuff to the thrift store...YAY!

Want not: We don't watch a lot of TV but we do like a movie or 2 on the computer. We may not be able to get DSL at our new home. As a result we find ourselves spending quiet evenings knitting, reading, in deep conversation and playing cards. It may mean that my posting on this site may change a bit. But that remains to be seen. I love the practice of writing for this space and would not like to see it go. We are exploring options. I have begun to start knitting gifts for winter.

Well, we will be away for a few days and I hope to post again early next week...

Tis nearly there..

Saturday, July 24, 2010

on and on...

Please pay no attention to the messy room;)

We are returning to the balance in our home. The "Tad" settles into his routine. The "mama" is back at her work. Our lines of territory are falling back into place. Not that we are hard fast about who does what, where;but, rather, we return to our strengths and allow the other to return to their's. For me that is the kitchen and my work of putting food by. For Mark, this means tinkering on engines and finding the tools and materials we need for several projects.

When I returned to my jobs I realize that many things have changed.It used to be that I read stories at nap time. I would read three stories and sing some "Baby Beluga", occasionally, I would sing some "Waltzing with Bears". Tad was in charge of bedtime which entailed 2 books and some songs played on the guitar. In the time that I have been at work, "Tad" has read the stories at naptime and I have read stories at bedtime. But I have not had many occasions to sing my standard songs. Today, I found my voice for singing. Still slightly off key but my audience is forgiving as long as I provide snuggles:)

I have also noticed that the busy-ness of our summer has stolen those quiet moments of awe. Bodies have changed. I notice this in the face of the teen that has lost any vestige of baby softness; as his chiseled out features define his face as he enters manhood. Muscles are firmed and his stride has more swagger than I have noticed before, the intervals between shavings are shorter. Evan, too, has grown. Tonight, I was in charge of tub time. The boy enjoys his summer and wears it on his bruised and dirty legs. Those legs are longer. I wonder how pants will fit when it become a cooler season again. In the meantime, I have noticed that he no longer has a body of a toddler. He is longer and leaner. He runs with the confidence of a boy in command of his body, there is not hint of uncertain toddler gait. It is what these critters do, they grow. He is my last baby and he is no longer a wee one but a boy. He wonders at bugs and snakes, rocks and dirt. He negotiates over cucumbers and he has a mind of his own.

The weeks are flying by. Each day is filled with the work of our season. Each year I promise self that the next summer will not be a crazy-busy as the current year. I have visions of quietly and regularly working in the garden, slow days on sandy shores, meals shared with friends and family camping trips. Some summer I am sure we will realize this vision. But for now, it is now. After seeing the changes that happened before my busy unaware eyes this summer, I realized that this is the moment I should be paying attention to. So hard to do and so easy to forget in the flow of tide that this life is these days.

Friday, July 23, 2010

And so it goes....

Yesterday, it turns out, was my last day at work. The big push for picking peas, beans and berries has past. Since Tristan and I were the last ones hired, we were the first ones fired.

It's okay.

But I have sorta mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, we are in the process of moving and every day off from work has been filled with the work of moving. I have not had a sit-on-my-butt day off in about a month and I am plain tuckered out. I have piles and piles of food to preserve. No kidding. I have a pile of onions, a pile of garlic, a 5 gallon bucket of beans, 2 oversized zukes. Local corn is starting to come in and tomatoes too. So, soon the canner is going to be very busy. I still have carrots in the ground here that I would like to harvest before we move. I have a garden abandoned to weeds at the old house and a garden at the new house still to be planted for the fall.


I have piles of boxes and a stacks of paper with all the stuff I need to take care of in order to move.

And yet when the farmer said that her payroll was getting too big and she would only need a few of her more experienced farm helpers, I felt let down. I knew, by my own agenda, that the job could not last more than another month. I knew that I was getting tired of waking before my alarm clock at 5:30. I knew that I was lying awake at night wondering how I was going to juggle my work schedule with moving in August. I knew that I was missing my role as homemaker. I knew that my hands craved knitting. I have 2 new babies and a birthday in my family and I have not made anything yet. I knew that I missed posting on the blog on a regular basis as I had to prioritize what I could do with what I wanted to do. I knew that I was daydreaming about January. Remember January? January is when I write about snow, hand crafts and the soup de jour from food stores? Ahhh it is a glorious month...

But I loved that job. Hard work and all. I loved feeling like I was part of a greater process. I know more about how local food gets to the table. I have an enormous amount of respect for the farmers that grow our food. The folks I worked for were right there in the field with us weeding and harvesting and they have been doing it for 30+ years. I loved the fringe benefits of surplus produce and gleaning. My freezer is nearly full. I loved the quiet of the work and the intermittent chatter I could have with kids half my age. I loved the paycheck. It wasn't much in the grand scheme of our finances but it felt nice to contribute, in a different way, to our family's goals.

Today was my first full day off. We woke early and headed out the door to glean 10 gallons of beans from the farm, a parting gift from the farmer. We came home and put 5 gallons in the freezer. I filled one dehydrator with onions. I baked bread, made a quiche from our own eggs for dinner, I started to consolidate the piles into piles to be moved. I swept and vacuumed and added an inch to a sock that had been abandoned in my knitting basket. This is my work now, my noble pursuit....

Friday, July 16, 2010

This moment....

A Meditation on Raspberries

These days while I am at work on the farm I am picking raspberries. Big Big cultivated raspberries. Not the shy wild berries that I pick on our property at home that hide under thick leaves, but, big buxom in-you-face berries.

It never fails to remind me of the cycle of the year that when raspberry season begins I wax poetic. Snippets of lines run through my mind as I quietly set to the task of picking one small fruit jewel after another. This year is no exception, except that I am not just picking for my own freezer every other day but I am picking for the farm now.

There are three long rows of berries that I have begun to know intimately. The first lower row has a hornets nest in the middle of it. So all the berries surrounding the nest are left unmolested for the hornets peace. This row has a later variety that are just coming on. The fruit is firm and plentiful. The middle row has been heavy with berries for weeks, the south side is heavier with fruit than the north. There have been some mornings when after picking the row it seems that the fruit is ripening behind us and we need to go back and pick again. The last row has a lot of new growth and we have to dig into the row to find the fruit. But we are never disappointed.

With all the sun and heat we have had over the last two weeks the fruit is ripening early and fast and it can be hard to keep on top of all the picking. Today I was on the middle row picking not just the pretty fruit, but the ugly step sisters too. This fruit was not for sale in the farmstand but used for baking pies that will be sold in the farmstand. This sort of picking does not provide the sense of satisfaction that picking for the stand does. The stand berries are picked into half pints. Each berry box a picture of ruby fruit wealth. For pie berries I pick into quarts. I often put my hand on squishy berries. I pick off the little inch worms that have taken up residence in the berry. I pick the young beauties but I must also pick those entering middle age with a touch of gray and then pick the gray off. All along the way I am hounded by the moldy old crones who lament their misspent youth. Such is the life of a berry. Youth is fleeting...