well that’s that…and a word

Hello everyone and Happy New Year to you all!! So, I had the intention to ride the lovely momentum that the Capturing December project had created for me here in this space. However, the fates had other plans. This post has sat in my draft box, in one form or another, since the day our last holiday guest left. I contemplated not ever hitting publish on this one but then I stopped and realized I had spent the entire last month of 2013 opening myself up, sharing authentically (whether the day, the shot, or myself was perfect or not) and accepting, no, embracing all the beautiful/ugly, ideal/imperfect, helpful/inconvenient everything. Picking a word of the year that speaks to you is something a lot of my blogworld friends participate in annually, my beautiful and talented girl Tracie is the one who introduced me to the practice. So, I’m hitting publish, speaking truth and choosing to EMBRACE it all, with a little help from you, I hope. ūüôā

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With the first full week of the new year coming to an end, so did our holiday celebrations (with the exception of one, which had to be postponed until a later date.)

It was, all in all, a relatively calm holiday season.

We visited, we ate, drank, laughed and reminisced. We gave gifts we produced right here on the farm or, at least, with our own hands. We weathered two below zero forecasts and two snow storms. I completed a goal of recording a picture a day in December, while at the same time cultivating some beautiful friendships with some lovely ladies who joined in, kept me company and kindly provided encouragement throughout the process.

In the quiet pockets of time, between meals to prepare, waiting for visitors to arrive, caring for livestock and children, healing from one illness after another and contending with piles of snow, we brainstormed. We talked about what we wanted to plan on for the coming year, what we wanted to eliminate, what we had to do, what we no longer wanted to participate in and how to arrive at that oh so beautiful place we call balance.

With the hurricane of the holiday season dissipating reality is becoming quite evident in the light of the new year.

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I am not getting better…yet. My Hashimoto’s is actually progressing rather than remitting, as are my symptoms. The past few weeks are apparently going to take sometime to recover from, evident in the fact that today I didn’t drag myself from bed until late morning, spent most of the day under a blanket, on the couch, snuggling with either a puppy or child all while dirty dishes laid waiting to be washed, laundry baskets overflowed and decorations begged to be put away. I barely even touched my latest knit project (which is very unlike busy-minded me.) With each passing day it has been a little bit harder to get out of bed in the morning, my joints have increasingly ached, throbbed and swelled, my mind has become more sluggish and my mood has swung sadly low again. The worst part is the normal healthy me is trapped inside this wasted, sad excuse for a 31-year-old, watching it all plummet and feeling as though she can’t do anything to stop it.

I think I did a fairly good job of hiding it throughout the season. However, those of you who visited might not necessarily agree. I know while we ate very well at most meals, I did indulge in more sugar and refined flour than I would have any other time of the year. I also slept less and was on the go more, which probably hasn’t helped. Many changes are being instituted in the hopes of relieving symptoms, maybe, if I am lucky, reducing my antibodies, but they are going to have to be big changes that require a lot of support, often readjusting of everyday occurrences and instituting of new habits.

On top of all my health issues not only has my mother been suffering from health problems the last six months but now my father is also. None of it seems to be life threatening, thank goodness, but all of it is pervasive¬†enough to put both of them out of commission. Not only are they unable to help around the homestead but they are both in need of help from Kevin and I for, not only everyday needs, but also in their non-farm business.¬†My parents still do their best to help, in many different ways, but currently have neither the time nor the energy/ability to do what we had all initially intended. (It was, of course, always the plan for us to care for them as they grew old, which was the entire point of us all agreeing to cohousing, I just don’t think any of is expected that need to happen so soon, nor occur all at once.)

Circumstances have drastically changed since our move here two years ago. Not only am I less than helpful with our usual farm task, leaving most of that on Kevin’s shoulders, but our attention is now desperately needed in places that are, albeit just as, if not more important than our dreams of homesteading and self-sufficiency.

So the short of it all is, things are quickly being recalculated and rearranged in order for Kevin and I to have the time and energy to continue raising the kids in the way we had always intended and something has to give. That something seems to be the majority of our homesteading lifestyle.

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Sadly, I am selling almost all of my sheep herd and as of Saturday 10 will already be off to their new homes. I am just not physically capable of tending to a herd of 20, nor am I able to process as many fleeces come March. It also seems unfair for their care to fall mostly to Kevin, as it is his least favorite job here on the farm. (Most of our sheep are just that, sheep and with the exception of about 6 they tend to do the opposite of what we want them to.) So, we are aiming to sell most, butcher a few and, for now, keep only 4 ewes as pets/lawn mowers/fleece providers.

We are also selling or culling the majority of our laying hens. The plan is to put some meat in the freezer, decrease the amount of feed and care needed and keep only the best layers to meet our personal egg needs. Then we will add in maybe 3-6 new chicks to replace those layers next year. It will also mean a new, smaller coop, closer to the house which will facilitate in the kids and I easily taking over their care (no matter how I feel on any given day) and relieving Kevin of that chore, as well.

Thankfully, none of the cows ended up being bred this past summer (Yay, for the combination of being too busy and having a little bit of brain fog thrown in) so we do not have calving to worry about and the herd was already due to be decreased with the butchering of one steer in spring and the second in fall. We are also considering selling the three girls if things remain the same by late summer.

The ordering of two more pigs and a batch of meat birds has also been put off and we will be forced to outsource those meats to other local homesteaders and farms, along with our milk needs. That will leave us with our goat heard, which are fairly easy keepers, and our garden/orchard. The garden planning has not yet begun but I think I am going to have to force myself to keep it even smaller than last year and possibly supplement by buying a CSA share.

It is sad because we have all of this land and all the possibilities it holds and we are now back to living a not so self-sufficient life. I am beyond frustrated and swing from beating myself up for seemingly failing at our dream and curling up in bed wishing we had never tried. I have so many things I want to do, learn and become better at (as does Kevin and which I wish I was better at facilitating, or better yet, not interrupting!) but I can’t make my body or our current life situation mold to those needs and head in that direction.

I am also a little sad because I feel like this blog will no longer have a voice. There won’t be much homesteading occurring for at least awhile and that is really what the space was supposed to be all about. I do not yet know what the future holds for my writing here. Maybe a different blog? Maybe some time away while we regroup? I really don’t want to stop writing, photographing or sharing as it feels cathartic and I have met so many beautiful, wonderful friends through it, but this doesn’t feel like the right place to air all of that. Then again, maybe this is just another chapter in our story that needs to be told?

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So, how does one arrive at a place of acceptance when they feel like their body is abandoning them and their self is mostly unrecognizable both physically and mentally? Or when their dreams, at worst, fall apart around them, or, at best, get put on hold for an indefinite period of time?

They feel sad, they cry, they get angry and they ask why. Then they wake up and pull themselves out  of bed and start making an alternate plan. They sit across from their husband and talk about it, all day if necessary, until his outer dialogue becomes her inner dialogue because, heaven knows, the awful words she has been telling herself are not helping.

And then we make a plan, one that allows everyone to work on healing, keeps the kids from getting lost in what was becoming a manic shuffle and keeps an eye on that thread of a dream, until another day, when we can pick it back up and weave it into our lives again.

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January is Thyroid Awareness month. The butterfly is the symbol for thyroid awareness (as the gland is shaped as such.) My mother-in-law gave this ornament to S and left it nestled in our tree (yes it is still up) and I found it there earlier today. Approximately 1 in 1000 people suffer from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a disease that is, at least, 10 times more common in women than men. It is also a hereditary disease. Please go here to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of the illness because chances are someone you know is suffering.

a gift

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He goes by a few different names in this big house of ours, Dad, Grandpa, Pops and most recently Pop-Pop, which evolved from the mind of a little guy who couldn’t get the hang of great-grandpa and was a variation on “double grandpa,” a joke told to him by his Papa. From what I’m told, this man has mellowed with age but to me he’s always been my one and only grandpa. The one who played baseball with me in the backyard, who set up the sprinkler in summer whenever I asked and who made silver dollar pancakes when I stayed overnight on the weekends. Watching him take great joy in my little ones everyday is like reliving my childhood. The memories of walks up the street to the playground, trips to the library with him and grandma, a day spent across the street swimming in their friends pool or maybe just simply lounging in the shade of the huge maple in their backyard, eating raspberries I had plucked from the bush by the house. (My kids do that too, but at our house now, making sure none make it inside.) He was also the Pops who enthusiastically dressed up as Geppetto the year I wanted to go as Pinocchio for Halloween, holding my strings all the way around the neighborhood, going into to almost every house to have our picture taken, calling it a night only when I was ready to head back.

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Those are the mile markers of my youth. The moments that I forget until they come rushing back with a little nudge from a familiar word or glance, no longer meant for me but for my babes.

By the time I showed up on the scene he was retired and more laid back. More relaxed, less stressed and more fun. He was the only one I remember seeing plant a garden each year, lining tomatoes along the kitchen windowsill to ripen just a little bit more. The one who blew my little eight year old mind when he showed me how garlic grew under ground. And while it was a small garden, tucked against the back of their split-level house in the middle of suburbia, looking back now it was still amazing to me that you could grow food like that right in your backyard.

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Now look at us!?!

He has been so many things in his 91 years, a devoted husband who took care of her, night and day, until she quietly and peacefully slipped away with all of us around her. A hardworking dad who often had two jobs and gave up a management position for a factory position because he couldn’t fire the guy down on the line who, like him, had a wife and kids at home. He was a son who took care of his mother for another 20 years after his father past away. A son-in-law who didn’t think twice about having his mother-in-law come to live with them. And a grandfather, who loves each of us and who proudly displayed photos, school papers, and letters we had written him, in the house he owned for over 60 years, until you were unsure if there was even a refrigerator underneath them.

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But before all that, before all of us, he was a kid at a time when the world seemed to be falling apart. He signed up and ended up stationed in England, facing backwards out the end of a B-17, sitting on a milk crate, a gun between his legs watching the enemy fly right at him. He finished his 25 missions, only ever sustaining minor shrapnel wounds, and came home alive, unlike so many others.

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He came home and grew a family.

And while I don’t agree that war is ever the answer, I do respect the hell out of our Pop-Pop because I don’t know many other people who have the fortitude to do what he did 25 times in a row.

When PJ was an infant we had the pleasure of accompanying him to the WWII memorial in DC and be witness to an extraordinary event. After we had finished our walk around and were about to leave, a large class of high schoolers were making their way into the memorial when their teacher spotted my grandfather, and upon realizing he was a veteran, asked if he would speak to the students. They talked for what seemed like over an hour, him telling his stories, the students engaging and asking questions unlike any high schoolers I had ever encountered. They took pictures with him, shook his hand and thanked him, not only for his time that day but for his service decades before. I sat near by in the shade, rocking my firstborn, in awe of the gift I was witnessing. These kids, who were likely, at least three generations removed from that time, experiencing history right before their eyes and a man who had come home after a scary, albeit extraordinary era, who had gone back to living his everyday life (creating three new generations of his own in the process) being honored by them.

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My children have the great honor of spending some part of everyday with this wonderful man. How special it is for them to have a tangible link to a time that now seems like the distant past. How beautiful it is, that through them, he has a window into the future.

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Today we thank you for your service…our Veteran, our Hero, our Pop-Pop.

Happy Veterans Day to the hero(s) in your life.

Rustic Pear Tart

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Ok, I am pretty sure I promised you all this recipe sometime last fall. Unfortunately 2012 was a pretty depressing year for fruit in our area and I was unable to get local, unsprayed pears. This year was a drastically different growing season and we have plenty of apples and pears available to us right now.

Ye olde family in the big house is pretty partial to my mom’s apple pie (a recipe that I am also getting pretty good at myself) and, if my math is correct, that we may have consumed- oh, maybe four times already this apple season. Well, I was looking for a change and a slightly easier (read,¬†I was short for time…the pears were about to turn…and I needed something fast and not fussy) and I remembered the tart that I had thrown together, on a whim, a couple of years ago when I was sadly in the same dinner situation as previously mentioned. Will I ever learn to be more prepared when it comes to the dinner schedule? Probably not, at least not while the kidlits are little. Happily, my disorganization is your gain.

Anyway, I wanted to share it here with you because I am guessing that all of you wonderful, creative, busy and beautiful people sometimes find yourself short on time, big on hungry, looking for a tasty hassle free dessert that you don’t feel guilty about later. I mean, it does contain fruit that has to count for something, right? Right?

What follows is not much of a recipe, maybe more accurately a set of suggested guidelines that could easily be morphed into what sounds good to you on any given night.

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Rustic Pear Tart

what you need:

  • 3-4 pears, or what ever fall fruit is sitting on you counter perched on the edge of turning.¬†Apples and Quince would also work.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of wildflower honey
  • 1 small cookie sheet with sides

what you do:

  • Slice your fruit into 1/4 inch slices. I used a combo of red and green pears here just to make it extra pretty. Place in large bowl and toss with cinnamon and cardamom. Let sit while you prepare the crust.

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  • Make your favorite pie crust recipe (my mom always used the Betty Crocker recipe or you could try this gluten-free one), enough for two 9” regular pie crusts. Roll out into a rectangle slightly larger than the size of your cookie sheet. Transfer to sheet.

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  • Place fruit in two lines, long way on crust, with lines facing opposite directions. Sprinkle fruit with nutmeg and drizzle with honey. Roll the crust up and over the edges of the fruit. Place 3-5 pats of butter evenly over fruit if desired.

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  • Bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

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You can change this to your taste. Try switching up the spices, maybe allspice instead of cardamom? You could also play with the sweetener. Maple syrup is another one of my go-to substitutes for white sugar. Make changes, make it your own and definitely make it tonight. That sad bowl of forgotten fruit will thank you for saving them from a less desirable fate.

if it’s not working…

Change it!

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The new garden plot.

Well the last couple weeks have been all about reconfiguring. Reconfiguring our plans, our wants, the things that we truly need and, most of all, our (often times unrealistic) expectations.

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Kevin preparing the soon to be potato patch.

Truth is, things had gotten a little out of hand; stuff on the homestead had seemed to take on a mind of its own. We were trying to do so many different things, in the hopes of being guided toward that which fulfilled us and that we honestly enjoyed. On the contrary, we were each being pulled in so many different directions that we were all suffering. Oh, the perks of restructuring you life and mindset all while in your 30s, raising two kiddlets and completely overhauling one’s living arrangements. We also found ourselves drifting away from some of our original intentions which had, of course, led us to this lifestyle in the first place. We were so busy everyday that Kevin and I found ourselves with little time and, unfortunately, sometimes even less energy and patience to really engage with the kids, what with constant farm chores, three meals a day to prepare (often times from scratch), businesses to attend to and any other general tasks all of us have to do in our daily lives. We also found that we all had little time left to pursue our individual creative endeavors, those things that refill each of our respective cups, allowing us to return to the group refreshed and recharged. The environment that we were unintentionally generating was in direct contrast to how we so badly wanted to live.

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Last year’s garden partially turned back into pasture.

Late this winter while discussing this season’s upcoming pasture rotation schedule we came to realize that the front pasture we used for our garden last year would need to be reseeded¬†and transitioned back into grazeable land. I officially started off spring feeling deflated and firmly planted behind the proverbial eight ball. After all the work and soil amending we had done on the space, with tremendous help from the pigs no less, we faced the 2013 gardening season back at square one.¬†We also sat down and discussed which livestock groups were working here, which we would like to possible add, and those that we would rather transition away from. Taking into consideration ease of keep (especially during the winter months), upfront and subsequent feed costs, resale value and whether or not the products that each inevitably provided could be purchased from other farming friends at a reasonable price, we started laying out slightly adjusted plans for the future.

I hope these guys get to stay!

I hope these guys get to stay!

As is usually the case, the further we move forward with these new plans of ours, the more the resulting benefits become apparent. We have scaled back the vegetable garden, finally convincing my father that we would never be able to make a living from market gardening if Kevin and I were the only two working at it. However, we can save quite a bit of money if we focus our efforts on the produce that we eat all year and put our energy into growing those crops well, then preserving them for winter. The garden is now much closer to the house which makes taking the kids out with me to tend to it much easier and tremendously more productive for me (this girl of ours is a runner, a daredevil and a huge majority of my days seem dedicated to keeping her from mortally wounding herself during one of her stunts). It also seems to be much more enjoyable for the kids, thanks to their play set and other toys soon being moved near by and a new picket fence that is being erected, allowing them to play safely within its confines, without me having to chase after the littlest every two minutes (that two minutes is not an exaggeration, by the way). We have already established various fruit trees and bushes, including a large strawberry patch that Kevin and I planted on the slope of a small hill, near the new garden area. As the new layout and design unfolds before us, my creative heart is happy with the aesthetic we are achieving, as well as the resulting increase in efficiency and more realistic goals we have set for ourselves.

It's a work in progress...

It’s a work in progress…

All of this reconfiguring has also allowed Kevin and I to begin focusing on creative endeavors that before had only received a fraction of our attention while we worked mainstream jobs and before we began cohabiting and pooling all of our respective resources. Our move here was supposed to allow for pockets of time, and interpersonal support for each of us, to rekindle these talents. I am so thankful that we were able to step back, re-evaluate¬†where we wanted to end up, accepting where we currently were and having the courage to say “this is no longer working for us, we need to change it.” Sometimes the choices are tough, other times the decisions are a no brainer, what’s important is that we realize when things are heading in the wrong directions and have the strength and confidence to turn the train around. Granted, admitting that I can’t accomplish everything on my list(s) is certainly not my strongest quality but that is why I have Kevin. He, thankfully, plays the part of my brain (which I dreadfully lack) that tells me when I have reached the reasonable limit of things that can be accomplished, figures out which of my “to dos” really do not matter in the grand scheme of things and identifies those that will need to be left until another day.

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Sunset over the apple orchard down the road from us.

I have a feeling that exciting things are on the horizon and I think we will now have the time and energy to enjoy them.

What’s new with you? Has Spring’s arrival inspired exciting changes in your neck of the woods?

a much needed reminder

Discloser: This post discusses the processing of one of our feeder pigs. The butchering of our meat sources is a part of our everyday life and I have struggled with a way to share it here both accurately yet gently. While it is not the main subject of this post and I write about it in a very general fashion (no photos of the process), and without much detail, I believe I should let you know in advance before you begin to read. If it is a subject you don’t agree with or would just prefer not to be exposed to please skip this post and come back another day.

We processed our first pig this past Sunday. But this post isn’t really about that. It is about finding something, something I really needed, in the most unlikely of places.

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Let me start back at the beginning. You might not have noticed but I have been very quiet in this space for the better part of this month. I want to blame it on being busy, on the downhill slide that inevitably follows the holidays, on the cabin fever that is setting in after being stuck inside for so long, on my obvious lack of Vitamin D or maybe on spending the majority of January swimming in a sea of tax paperwork but I don’t think I can. Truth is, I have been questioning our entire lifestyle. It has felt really hard lately. It has felt like we run from one thing to the next, doing none of it particularly well. When I spend time doing farm stuff I feel bad for not spending time with the kids. When I get caught up with the kids I feel bad for not putting more of an effort into making time for just Kevin and I. When I put time into cleaning the house I feel like it’s a complete waste of effort because I know in an hour it will be a mess again. Don’t even get me started on the lack of time for my much loved hobbies (writing this blog being one of them) or the fact that I haven’t been taking very good care of myself. It’s been a long winter! Personalities, which this big house of ours has in spades, are bumping up into and pushing off of one another. I feel like I get nothing accomplished in my day but by evening I’m in desperate need of a break, and from what? I’m getting nothing done during the day so why should I deserve a break at night? I have nothing to show for a whole day’s worth of busyness except for the fact that I usually manage to get dinner on the table (breakfast and lunch don’t have to be eaten at a table to count, right?) and have kept the kids from mortally wounding themselves before we tuck them into bed at night. One of them is more apt at getting into precarious situations but that is another story for another day.

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It’s been hard. There are days when I have wanted to quit, when I wished I could pretend like I didn’t know all of the things I had spent the last 6 or so years learning. The same things that brought us here in hopes of providing a better quality of life for our family. It has been lonely as well. We are relatively new to the area and are still trying to find people with common interest to interact with. I worry that the kids will be too isolated, that I will be too isolated, by the fact that so much of our new life revolves around taking care of this place, producing as much as we can for ourselves, and putting the majority of our energy and time in to our home and land. “Did we make the right choice” is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately and probably asking Kevin more than he would care to remember. We weren’t born into this farming life. Everything we have learned so far has been gleaned from a book, read on the internet, taught to us by an unsuspecting farmer/homesteader or some convoluted combination of all three. I worry that if I buy a loaf of bread at the store, or feed the kids yet another box of mac and cheese (organic of course) that I have failed at our chosen lifestyle.

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Kevin, the wonderful man that he is, does his best to reassure me, telling me that it is just a side effect of the annual mid-winter slump that we northeasterners refer to as the months of February and March or that it will all get better, and have more of a rhythm, when we are truly settled, when we are no longer doing all of these things for the first time and it all just becomes second nature. Part of me knows he’s probably right, and that my need for him to constantly remind me is purely due to my innate lack of patience. However, there is the other part of me constantly worrying that we just can’t do it, the learning curve is too steep, we aren’t smart enough or knowledgable enough, that we aren’t made of the “right stuff” for living self-sufficiently.

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So about Sunday. Every weekend this month we have planned to processes at least one of the two pigs that has reached market weight and each weekend we have had either below freezing temperatures or an epic snow storm foil those plans. So this past week when we saw that they were calling for highs in the 40s for the coming weekend we wrote it on the calender. Our neighbors were nice enough to introduce us to another neighbor who was not only willing to help us through the process but who also agreed to lend us use of his personal butchering facilities and walk in cooler. We read and watched and read some more, hoping to learn all we needed to know to proceed properly. We talked and planned, running through what we would do and how we would do it. Together he and I, with the help of a new friend set to the hardest farm related job we have done yet, not because we had grown attached to the pigs like one would a pet, but because we wanted to do it properly, doing our best to honor this animal who would feed our family for many months to come. We wanted to treat him with as much care and respect in his death as we had during his life. In the name of full disclosure, I was simply the helper, the encourager, the extra hand and the cleanup crew. Kevin was in the thick of it. He dispatched him quickly, accurately and cleanly. He took his time, he took care to do it right and as humanly possible. He worked carefully and methodically, insuring the best results one could have from butchering a pig, nose to tail, for the first time.

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And at that moment, in the most unlikely of places, standing outside in a snowstorm with the wind howling and the mercury racing toward 20 degrees (oh yes, I forgot to mention that it was indeed 40 on Saturday but not so much on Sunday) and him, literally and figuratively, elbow deep in this homesteading life of ours, I realized that I had chosen just the right person to walk this unusual path with. He’s everything that I am not. For all the research and fact gathering that I have ever done and my ability to put a plan down on paper, he is the one who makes it all happen in real life. For every issue or worry I find, he leads me toward a solution. I’m not sure if he is ever scared or concerned when we walk into yet another new and seemingly unusual situation (goodness knows I am) but none the less, forward he goes, holding my hand and taking me with him. When we first came here it never crossed my mind that, on most days, living this dirty, grity, back to the land life would would turn out to be a love story, our love story.

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I’m not sure that we will succeed at being farmers, homesteaders, self-sufficiant livers but I was reminded that our only chance hinges on us doing it side by side, together. Me and this man of mine.

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baby, it’s too cold outside

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We have had quite the cold snap around here as of late. A week with temperatures feeling like they are below zero, or colder. Hence, we have only done the absolutely necessary outside (breaking water in the few unheated waters, delivering daily meals and collecting eggs), you would too if, while milking your cow, the milk was freezing to the side of the pail almost instantaneously! Instead we have been attending to indoor chores (ugh, I’m getting tired of looking at tax paperwork) and doing our best to entertain ourselves while being cooped up for what looks to be a relatively short period of time. I have never been so happy to see a HIGH of 20 in the forecast.

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The sunrise is beautiful but I would rather be curled up inside, in front of the fire, with a hot cup of coffee.

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That 6 degrees on there, it actually felt like -15.

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They have spent a lot of time staring out the windows, wondering why we won’t let them go out to play in the snow.

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When we do venture out we are constantly looking for a quick escape from the frigid temperatures, this day we linger a little longer than usual in the barn wishing that sunlight streaming in actually felt warm.

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Through it all the ladies have kept up their laying and we have been fighting to keep the coop feeling warm for them. We do come out to a few frozen and, consequently, cracked eggs everyday though.

With every challenge there comes opportunity (that’s been my daily mantra as of late after all) and with our extra time inside we have been…

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Making future plans.

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Grabbing a nap when we can.

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Taking time to play games, Trivial Pursuit for the adults, Crazy 8s or Go Fish for the younger set and Scrabble for the bunch of us.

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Cuddling up in front of here whenever possible.

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Taking the time to sit and create when the urge strikes us.

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Being warmed by the sweetness that the kids show us. PJ brought this back to me after a trip out with Nonni. I think he learned that from his daddy. I’m glad he’s been paying attention.

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Been waking up to this in the slow cooker for breakfast, hoping it will help us to warm up on these very cold mornings. Overnight Oatmeal: Steel Cut oats cooked in milk and water, your choice of fruit (in this case Ida Red apples) cinnamon and maple syrup. Yum!

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And when nothing else was able to warm us up we indulged in a glass of this¬†(Rhubarb Tea is on the agenda for spring.) It’s delicious and if you haven’t tried it yet you should grab a bottle, your sweetie and cuddle up under a blanket, preferably by a roaring fire.

Here’s to staying warm. Cheers!

December 13th

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My maternal grandparents, sometime in the forties.

If you look at yesterday’s post and then at the tree in the above picture they look remarkably similar, don’t they?

Everything I know about interior illumination (and christmas tree decorating in general) I learned from my grandfather, via my mother. He was the decorator, not my grandmother, and to this day is the first one, out of us all, to have his place done up for the season. He always went out and picked the tree and, from the stories I heard, spent days decorating it just so. His tinsel hanging process was epic, and required such precision that if anyone was caught “just throwing it about” they were immediately released from any decorating duties for the remainder of the season.

For the first 25 years of my life every single christmas, with the exception of two, was spent with them. All of my holiday memories are filled with the sounds, smells and sights of them and their home. The traditions that my parents and I had and, in turn, that my kids now have contain them both in every facet. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away just before PJ was born but my Pops has spent every christmas with both of my kids. He is a constant feature in both of their lives and will forever be imprinted in their memory. And many years from now, when they are decorating their own holiday tree, or come across an old family photo from holidays past, they will instantly know why their lights must be situated just so and their tinsel must hang just right.

It runs in the family.

December 12th

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Trimming the tree with Nonni.

The tree is decorated and we couldn’t be happier with it. The kids bounced in and out of the room, helping once in awhile or, in Shaelyn’s case, mostly grabbing a round ornament and throwing it across the room, while loudly exclaiming “Ball.” Thankfully, I know my daughter and had the presence of mind to separate out all of my grandmother’s 60-70 year old vintage glass ornaments, along with my collection of crystal ones, and put them safely back in the attic before attempting to decorate the tree. Without those beautiful additions, I think it still turned out lovely, even if it is shaped more like a¬†Whoville¬†tree and less like a christmas farm tree.

Creativity was the order of the day when it came to decorating it. Putting lights on a tree with very spaced out branches was trickier than first thought and may or may not have entailed another run (or two) to the store for more lights and hanging the heavier ornaments usually took more than one try to find a branch sturdy enough to hold them (again, thank goodness all breakables were not in use.)  This tree of ours has personality all its own, much like a certain someone I know, and both, will of course, always hold a special place in my heart.

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Happy 12-12-12!

How’s your decorating coming this holiday season?

December 11th

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Our tree being delivered right to the front door.

I think this might be my favorite yet. Harvested from our land (it’s actually the top of a 20 foot tree that needed to be cut down to thin out a tree line by our middle pond) it is quite unique. Not shaped like a typical christmas tree that you would find for sale today, but reminiscent of what I imagine old German or Victorian holiday trees looking like.

When Kevin brought it in the house both kids were instantly excited as if its arrival is what officially marked the beginning of the season.

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And look, we almost guessed the measurement just right! Nothing a ladder and a quick snip off the top won’t fix. Wait until you see it all dressed up in its holiday attire.

December 10th

December 10th

Our holiday cards are stamped and in the mail heading towards their intended destinations. I adore the idea of sending love and well wishes, especially at this time of year, to those we don’t get to see often but love … Continue reading