Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I love the first seed catalog. It arrives in November just as the wood pile is starting to show a small dent. It is always in color just as the last hints of color have been scrubbed from the horizon.  It says hope. This year more than other years. The last year has been a year of angst and turmoil.  Separation, hopes of reconciliation, rediscovery of self as myself and not wife, job hunts, car woes, learning curves and shame at the condition of my gardens as life got so busy that the garden was at the bottom of the priority list. 

And yet there is hope. Why? Because for the first time in ..oh…9 years…my wood is chopped, stacked and under cover before the snow flies. That's right! This girl got it done ( with a little help from the big kid)! I kinda think that when life is actually just one foot in front of the other and not a balancing act then it is easy to focus on what I find important.  Either that or I am just going to get this done out of spiritual spite. Grit. The inevitable result of getting what you want is that you sometimes just have to do the work to keep it. In my heart I know that if I can keep a productive garden, boil some sap down, get my wood in, tend my apple trees, grow some meat birds and layers; somehow by all that effort I will be keeping the amount of actual money I need to get by on down.  Not that I won't need some and at sometimes I will need a lot.

So this is the puzzle I will try to solve. Because right now I am challenged. Grace is something I am trying to tap into a lot of these days. Grace for me has always meant,"Karin, Try to walk across this floor without tripping." I am naturally clumsy unless dancing. But Grace can have this divine touch to it. It is facing hard times with composure, no catastrophizing. Not easy some days. 

For example, I am now a member of a very exclusive club. I have my third car in one year and my second blown head gasket. I went through a couple of really challenging months with my prior car. I was blessed by the good neighbors and friends who gave me rides or let me borrow their cars. I was blessed with the generosity of my aunt and uncle in procuring the current car.  Last Tuesday my new-to-me car started smoking. A bad habit for humans and cars. I now have to figure out what I should do next. I will look at this current predicament as a challenge. Single motherhood is always a test of problem solving skills. This current situation is not karma kicking me in the butt. I am a good person. I try to think of others, I work hard and  I am a good mom. It is what it is. 

So on this evening after I write this blog post I will go up stairs and knit some hats.  I will be offering on my etsy shop a discount on hats. I normally sell my hats for 30.00. I will be offering my hats on etsy at the price of 25.00 plus shipping if you buy the car repair hat. The car repair hat will be listed in either masculine colors or feminine colors.  They will be listed in sizes small, medium and large. All the wool is local to Maine. They are lined in an alpaca wool blend. The designs will be the surprise when you open your package.

And then tomorrow I will write my list of seeds that I will plant in my garden next spring.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eat from the Garden, Pray the Electric Doesn't Get Turned Off and Love your Children Fiercely

Life falls around you . The roof leaks,you find our kids smoking pot, your marriage not just dissolves but it implodes most gruesomely around you and you find yourself rebuilding what you knew was not a perfect life but at least a life you could live with.  

If you are lucky to have girlfriends who lend you books like Create the Marriage You'll Love then you'll find comfort and hope for a little while that you might be able to put things back together, " If he could only read this book he would see how we could make it all work out !" You slip the book to him in a box of his stuff that you found in your now spacious closet. Then have to mumble a," a please may I have the book back? I have to give it back to my friend." after you are served with divorce papers. 

There are the forays into romance and bodice rippers as your body grows accustomed to a more spacious bed.  Your favorite at this time is the Outlander Series because really who can resist a tall strong Scottish man in a kilt named Jamie. Your best friend offers some erotica from her bookshelf with a wink and a caveat," For when Sex in the City  and a glass of wine just won't do it"

You think it must be kismet that Sharon Old's Stag's Leap is published and win the pulitzer the same year you are divorcing and rediscovering your poetic voice. Some days you grieve with her over the dissolution of her 30 year marriage. yet somehow her divorce seems so mature and reasonable while you swing from depression, anger and extreme highs of self-confidence in your ability to be an adult.

Soon though you know you are going to have to read THAT divorce book. And for one glorious week you  fall asleep with visions of Gelato, meditation and beaches.  Yes, you admit you read Eat Pray Love. For one week you could imagine yourself as Julia Roberts( you pretty woman) at the same time holding on to the words of  your therapist's, " You will not believe how you feel in one year."  Only Eat, Pray, Love is a fantasy. At least for you. Not that fantasy is bad. On occasion you  admit to occasional trips to fantasy island. It is called buying a lottery ticket. For the 24 hours before the numbers are called you can fantasize about paying off your mortgage, buying a brand-new car, and replacing your front door. ( Ever the practical yankee). But there are few fortunate women who have the resources to take a year off from life to heal. You  are too busy volunteering in your kid's schools, nurturing a new relationship with your crock pot and trying to accustom yourself  to the reduced circumstances your checkbook( ever the book that is always being written) relays to you. 

Which is why when you saw Bootstrapper by Mardi Jo Link  at the bookstore you told yourself that once you  got caught up on the phone bill, electric bill and gas bill you would treat yourself to a book. Bootstrapper is a divorce memoir about a woman with dreams of farming and how by TRUE GRIT she gets through that year of living dangerously. You can relate to the worry about how her kids are doing through the schism. You laugh along with her as she surrenders her wedding gown to an ex-con. You can empathize with the personal discomfort that comes from accessing services that are meant for other people, not you.You cry along with her heartbreak that comes when dreams are redefined. And when you turn the last page you know you will have to read the acknowledgments at the end of the book just so you can still hear her voice.  This is the book that tells you that it will be alright. This is the book that tells you that you can keep the homestead  (farm). Because Mardi did it and you can too!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Adventures

Well, life is very busy! Evan started school. I am getting more hours at the bookstore. Fair season has started for the knitting business. And I have started a new class! I am taking an Organic Vegetable Production class as part of this Umass online Small Farming and Sustainability Certificate.

It is a very exciting venture for me. I am not sure yet what this will translate into for my future but it feels like a good step forward. I hope to either find a job working to support farming or perhaps transfer to Unity college for an Enviromental Writing Degree. Regardless of what the future holds I think the knowledge will help me look at my land and home in a new way.

This blog started as a homesteading blog. I have shared trial and tribulations. I have shared the quiet pleasure of watching things grow and joy of raising my sons. I have shared what has happened in my garden and the amount of food I have put up over the many seasons that this blog has been going.

Now it feels like this blog can be a record of something else. The question I have been trying to figure out for myself over the last summer as the weeds have overrun the garden and the shelves are bare for this time of year is how does a single mother manage a homestead on her own. Is this something that needs a couple in order to be successful. Is it worth it? Do I have to sacrifice my dreams and principles because I am on my own?

I resist this kind of thinking I guess.  Stalwart independence perhaps. But homesteading has always just made sense to me. Perhaps I will have to compromise in some areas. I will have to recalibrate expectations. But I have to acknowledge certain truths that have always made sense to me. First and foremost, the more I produce from my own hands the less money I need.

 The one commodity I feel lacking right now is time.  It could be the time of year, it could be the schedule I have right now, it could be I need to let somethings go or perhaps I just need to find time to relax a bit so I can make better use of the busy time.  It is part of the work ( in the inner work) I am trying to figure out right now.

Either way I feel renewed energy. I feel like I have untapped resources that I can explore right now.

On the homesteading front, I am excited to have new laying hens. It has been several years since we have had some.  It is is such a treat to go to the coop and find a clutch of eggs. I took the old ram shed and turned it into a chicken coop. A bunch of friends came over for a work part and helped me fashion a coop out of scrap wood. I call it ramshackle chic!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Captain Curly

This is why I have children. Because when I come home after a frustrating day at work; when the mechanic tells me my car is not fixed, when I have to beg another ride to work, when I keep adding and subtracting numbers that never quite come out the way I need, my little boy bolts  across a field ,his blond curly locks boinging off the top of his head ,as he welcomes me home. All I can think about is what i have in the larder  to prepare for dinner that I can prepare with the least amount of effort. I have not been to the grocery store in days. There is no butter, the milk is low and there is just enough cheese for the boys lunch tomorrow. The new laying hens are hungry for laying mash but with no car and no money they are getting left over grains and scrap from the  kitchen. At least they eat.  

I am blessed in ways that I am just, now, trying to understand. I carried a load down the drive. My basket full of hats to sew together and bits and pieces of food that I will use to supplement dinner, my computer ( ever faithful companion ), and this burden of car repair and disconnected means. Evan runs to greet me. 

"mom,mom!" he shouts at me " you've got to see this!"  He leads me down the path to our house and cuts a sharp right, around the fire pit and  into this little shaded patch of grass where there are at least a dozen dragon flies swooping vigorously around. I see what he sees; this small little connection in the food chain enjoying a buffet of mosquitos from my tall unmowed lawn.  All I can do is be grateful that my little guy has found this moment for me. It is truly a gift.

Yesterday I called the crisis hotline.  The last call from the mechanic was not good news. The water pump turned into a radiator repair. Ex showed up to pick up Evan without a word to ask what is going on with the car. He knows that this is a challenging time for me.  I have not asked more of him than what he has offered. But I don't think that he comprehends that what occurs in my life also affects his son. So I find myself always in a position of having to ask for his help instead of accepting his help when it is offered. This doesn't feel good to me and adds to the weight I carry right now. It feels like he has power over my life. This is the work I have to do with myself, I know this, but I feel a great resentment towards him right now, that I am having a hard time moving past.

 And then there is just the grinding weight of all that is happening right now. Just divorced a week ago, panicked that I won't be able to make my ends meet this month, humbled by the generosity and care of people and hoping for just one break in the stress this week. My car needs to be ready to drive today, PLEASE let my car be ready to drive today. I just want to be with my friends tomorrow. I want Evan to see his friends tomorrow Iwant to plant flowers in my 
therapist's garden so I can feel like I have paid for my session. 

so he pulls away with our son in his working truck…and I call the crisis hot line, overwhelmed by my circumstance and the creeping anxiety that comes when it is the 20th of the month ( my wedding anniversary, yay me). Every penny I have earned; including some of  what my ex gives me,  has gone into some sort of car repair.  I have to make my mortgage in 11 days and it is going to be close.  Never mind gas for the car when it finally works and oh..this thing called  food

So I call weeping. I just need this week to be over. I need this moment to be over. The hell with living in the moment. Who wants this moment, this here and now?? Not Me!

the kind man who speaks in validating language just listens, asks if I am going to hurt myself "No, I just need to get beyond this moment.  It can only get better right?" I try to convince myself, but after this string of really rotten luck it is really hard to convince myself of this.

I know what I have to do next. I have to have a plan. What is my plan? My plan is go for a walk. No, my plan is to go for a run. I haven't been for a run in a good year but I am in pretty good shape from all the haying I have done over this past summer so I run. One mile, two miles, up the Glenn Harris Hill no problem…to the pavement, turn around…no keep on going. the running is easy, my body is needing this.. finally 5 miles my body says enough, I walk the last 2 miles home. The tears still come but my body feels released from this grip of stress that has it in knots.

The next afternoon after Evan shows me the dancing dragonflies I  get home and get to work on dinner.  Evan is plinking on the piano. I can tell that he is feeling some anxiety because he is extra cuddly these days. At one point his background chatter gets really quiet . Soon he is in the kitchen and on his face is a paper mask; ringing the mask are his sweet, sweet blond curls.. He wears a white jumpsuit that he has had since he was two and has been the vital element to several homemade Halloween Costumes. The sleeves are up to his elbows at this point. The pants are higher than high waters. Around his neck is a blanket he has had since he was a baby. 

" I am Captain Curly!" 

What can I do? But enjoy this moment. This simple goofy, kind magic that comes and pulls me up for just this moment…

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Making Hay

So here is the burning question I have to ask....Who would actually roll in the hay? This was the question I asked myself as I was hauling bale after bale onto the wagon. My arms were etched in hay rash. Every inch of exposed skin felt like I was sunburned. Sweat compounded the sensation.

Last Friday was the first day of haying for the alpaca farmer down the road. As of yet I have not been able to find a job. Lots of seasonal farm work but that won't put food on the table in January. So in the meanwhile, I am grabbing any kind of work I can find. For the most part odd jobs. Farm sitting, gardening, house sitting, haying, computer instruction for the elderly couple down the road.  Not nearly enough but something is always better than nothing.

There are several  bonuses to this kind of work. I am getting pretty buff:) I don't need a membership at the gym (couldn't really afford it right now anyway). I love being out doors and I love hanging out with the animals I take care of. There is some flexibility with the farm/house sitting because I can bring Evan with me. This past weekend I was paid not only with cash but with eggs and wine! Omelettes served with a fine red for dinner! Cool!

While I am doing all this work I am still formulating my PLAN.  Gotta have a plan. So my plan is to find a part-time job, build Fleecenik Designs, and keep up with these odd jobs. Evan will no longer be homeschooled. This doesn't seem like a long term plan. No benefits, no health insurance,no vacation or sick time.  I'm forty-six and I am divorcing my retirement plan. Sheesh...All those silly statistics about women, divorce and poverty are definitely playing through my head these days. I don't have a college degree. So, well, what's a girl to do?

I have a friend who says," trust that the universe will provide. " For the small stuff I have found this is an okay philosophy. For the bigger stuff I believe we have to be a little more proactive. I gotta know my strengths and skills. I think I should probably look at going back to school and finally ask the question what do I want to be when I grow up? In the meanwhile, I'll keep pluggin' away with what I have...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fleecenik Designs

One of the parts of my independence plan is to make and sell sweaters, hats and mittens that I make on a knitting machine. I sell my knitwear at 4 different artisan shops in Central Maine and at craft fairs during the autumn and Christmas seasons.  This used to be more of a hobby that would bring in some pin money. It has been very exciting to see this little idea grow. This fall I will be entering the jury process for the Center for Maine Craft. I also have an etsy shop. You can also find my shop on FaceBook.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Well, this space has been rather silent over the last year. Sorta like I just dropped off the face of the earth. Much has happened since I last wrote an entry here.

Where to begin...

Well, I'm getting divorced. There I said it. It is not final yet. Lots of legal struggle ahead, I'm afraid but well...there ya have it.

I've been away from this space because the last thing I wanted to do was rant and rave on line. I needed time to figure out my own stuff: who I am if I am not a wife, what do I want my life to look like now that I am on my own, how did I end up in such an imbalanced relationship where I surrendered so much of myself for the sake of another. In the end I realized I was really unhappy in my relationship with my husband. I had needs that were never going to be met. I was empty. Now I am fulfilling. Yup, I am verbing it.

So what does that mean for Fleecenik Farm. How does one take a blog that was about herbalism, local living, gardening, homeschooling, wild crafting and general do-it yerselfed-ness ( new life, new vocabulary) and keep it going?

Do I want to keep it going? Yep, think I do.

Here is the thing. I still want to live this homesteading dream. Sure I have and will continue to make compromises. I've been alone on this land since last October. I struggle with learning all the things that Mark used to do. I struggle with the fact that try as I might I can only squeeze 24 hours out of a day. I struggle with the fact that, yes, I will have to find a job off the land. I struggle with the fact that I have been looking for a job for a while now and have yet to find one. I have an odd skill set that, as yet, has not translated into employment.

But, in the end, what has drawn me to this life style is the one thing that assures my success. I can live simply, I can grow my own food, I manage my time well and I am motivated to make it work.

Knowing this about myself I have had some successes over the last few months. I have really revved up my knitting business. I am in several artisan shops around Maine and I hope to have my stuff in a few more stores by the end of the summer. It is not providing significant income yet but by the fall I hope to be registered in several high-end craft fairs. The business is growing. It is just one piece of this puzzle. It is a significant one I am excited to watch grow.

I published a poem this past spring in a small poetry journal. I've been writing a lot of poetry. I used to write poetry all the time but blogging sorta filled that writing itch for me. Try as I might I just gotta write.

I am proud of Evan who learned to read this year. And Tristan is the fledgling standing on the edge of the nest flapping his wings. For the sake of his mother, let's all hope those wings catch some air soon:)

And so it goes...