this weekend

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This weekend we accomplished a couple of homesteading tasks. Of course a tool met its demise at the hands of Kevin, who has left an array of broken implements in his wake over the past few years. Today’s casualty was the push broom we were using to clean out the winter chicken coop. I kid you not, he was simply sweeping and it broke in half, just as the hammer snapped while he worked on the deck and my dad’s shovel splintered in two as he dug out the old hydrant while moving the water lines this past summer. His new farmer muscles seem to be twice as strong as his old, gym-built ones.

I plan to be back later this week to tell you what else we did today.

Here’s hoping your weekend was good and all your tools remained intact.

-L

embrace- January 31st

It has been excruciatingly cold. The wind has done nothing but howl, the animals have taken to quickly running from their shelter to grab and drink and a snack and then retreating back.

There have been few eggs laid, and those that have been are frozen and cracked by the time we get to them. The kids and I hadn’t left the house until Thursday, our busy day filled with errands, music lessons and doggie classes, and we only reluctantly went out because of those obligations and because we were running low on important things, like toilet paper…and sanity.

Anything between January 2nd and some time in April (when our world thaws usually) is a bit trying in our neck of the woods. Most winters we can get out in it and participate in winter things, sledding, snowboarding, winter hikes and so on, all of which help to ward off the cabin fever. The below zero temps we have been experiencing this year and little kids just don’t mix, so we have been cooped up and forced to hibernate.

Fortunately, we have made the most of it and embraced our time inside. This weeks list is best shared in pictures, here is was we have done to embrace our time inside …

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Basking in the winter light. At least it feels warm when it’s shining inside.

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We enjoyed PJ reading a few stories to us.

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We hung out with our girl, Fenna, and worked on her obedience homework.

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We longing stared at the noonday sun, which looked oh so warm and inviting. On this particular day, I believe that the the temp, with windchill, was some where around -18F.

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We’re enjoying the beautiful sunsets that have started showing up more often again.

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They colored, painted, drew, practice writing and did puzzles in their giant workbooks.

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PJ created a city. I love how is drawings are evolving!

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Now that we have our sheep’s fleece here and processed into rovings, I finally took the plunge, pulled the spinning wheel back out and decided to focus on getting better. Thanks to YouTube and Kevin, who kindly allows me an hours time, daily, to practice, I am learning and getting a little better every day. Here, I am spinning on of our lower-grade fleece, from our former sheep, Olive. It’s just right for practicing and working out the mistakes.

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Best of all, we got to spend a lot of time together, as a family. Drawing courtesy of PJ.

And Finally, on one day when we were relaxing in front of the fire PJ asked if we could show him how to tie his own shoes. We used this technique. It took about two hours and he was a pro at it. We all decided that the method was so simple and quick that we would all adopt it as our tying method of choice. He wanted to make a quick video and have me share it here so that all of you could hone your ninja-like shoe tying skills, as well. It will probably save you a whole 30 seconds getting ready in the morning, which, if you only were to tie your shoes once a day will, will gain you a whole 3 hours with which you can do so many other beautiful, fulfilling things with. You’re welcome. Also, this was his second take. You will understand after you watch. 😉

What were you thankful for being forced having the opportunity to embrace this week? 😉

embrace- January 24th

Embrace.

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That is what I want 2014 to be all about. I need to get past looking for perfection, for everything to happen at just the right moment, in just the right way. So, I’m going to actively work at embracing it all.

Truth is, with a change in life circumstances I can’t expect for things to always go the way I want. The nature of this disease of mine is the proverbial crap shoot (at least for now while we are still figuring it all out.) One morning I can wake up feeling like a million bucks and the next I can be zombie. So it is imperative that I change my mindset. I’m not someone who has ever been able to go with the flow, now, the current of life is getting even stronger and I am no longer capable of fighting against it.

Every week  month I would like to come here and jot down a little list (hey, have I ever told you how much I love lists? 😉 ) and work at the practice of embracing it all. If I check in here, with all of you, it will help to keep me on the path of moving forward and gaining perspective.

Great! So, now that you have agreed, here it goes…

::All of my people got sick this past week (as did the dog). Thankfully, it was staggered (except for the dog). It helped me realize how lucky I am and just how much Kevin does on a daily basis. None of this would ever work without a partner like him.

::Also, the dog never had an accident in the house and she has mastered ringing the bells by the door to let us know when she needs to go out. Major win! She is feeling much better now, by the way.

::While Kevin was sick I got some one-on-one alone time with each of the kids. It still amazes me how different the interaction can be when all of your attention can be focused on to just one of them. While there were moments that were exceptionally hard, I loved hanging out with them and doing nothing else. I think we will be scheduling more of that into our daily lives now, especially solo dates between all of us.

::This past week, as many of the farm animals moved on to their new homes, I realized I was feeling a little more relief each time I watched tail lights leave the barn driveway. Everyone who has picked up animals seems more than nice and totally invested in giving each of their new charges a good and comfortable existence.

::I found a local organic CSA about 10 minutes from us. They offer an excellent variety of fruit and veg (except for potatoes.) If we do decided to buy a share, or two, we will only have to plant a few things in one of our 4 garden plots- giving us an opportunity to compost the remaining three heavily and amend the soil, which will pay off in a few years when we can get back to the business of growing all our own.

::With all the tending to the sick, which forced all plans that would have taken us outside of the house to go on hold, I was able to finish another Fair Isle hat, this one for PJ.

::In our attempt to whittle down the livestock count we decided to cull 4 sheep and take them to our local butcher. It was a hard decision, one we did not take lightly and something we were not thrilled with having to hire out. However, I am grateful that soon we will have a freezer full of lamb, especially since our stock of beef and venison will be gone at the end of this week.

::Our week of convalescence also afforded me a lot of time to sit and think. I was forced to be still (with the exception of rocking one sick kid or the other) and work through all the things that have been swirling around my head for a weeks now. There is still more I need to sort out but, for now, I am riding the momentum and moving forward- as opposed to wallowing in the stagnation I had felt a couple of weeks ago.

And now, I leave you with this face. Happy Friday. Here’s to embracing it all next week!

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What did you embrace this week? Leave a comment and share, you just might inspire another lovely soul. 🙂

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. 🙂

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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.

december 28th- {together}

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Together he and I went out to run a few errands. He needed to go to the feed store, I to the mill who processed our fleeces from last year.

Sans kids, just the two of us taking a short ride intending to quickly check things of that never-ending list of ours.

We laughed and joked, stopped for less than kid friendly snacks for the road, enjoyed a leisurely perusing of the wares being offered by our local farming outlet (yes, the things that excite us these days- Muck boots, water bucket deicers, goat minerals and so on.) We had unintentionally stumbled into an impromptu date.

As we loaded up the Jeep to head home I noticed the setting sun appearing just under the overpass, next to a rather ugly spot where the railway runs past the far side of the store. The rare winter sun shining warm and bright through weeds growing up the incline on the side of the road, next to a freight train sitting quietly on the tracks nearby. In the least likely of spots, where the unattractive surely outnumbered the attractive, such beauty that I asked him to wait while I climbed the hill and crouched awkwardly to snap the above picture.

A recurring theme I have found in my life. The most beautiful things, most beautiful moments, catching me of guard, occurring in the least likely of places.

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 27th- {joy}

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He is joyful because he was really ready to cut his hair and feel lighter. I think it also brought him a great deal of joy (as it did Kevin and I) to be able to give a gift to someone, a gift that we knew would mean so much!

There were no tears, no regrets. The morning of the 27th he asked if it was now long enough, and knowing that it was, decided today was the day he would cut all that hair, the hair he had been growing since he was two and a half.

He had been defined by his hair for years. Sometimes good, other times not. PJ and his long hair just always seemed to go together. It was almost as if it was a part of his personality, a dry sense of humor, a loud booming voice and blond curly hair- flowing behind him as he ran from one adventure to the next.

Truthfully, I think he was ready to cut it a few months ago but he was a couple of inches short of the donation guidelines so, he hung on a little longer because in his words, “there is some little girl who is going to need it and I’m gonna grow it for her!” I know that’s not the way it works, but he was so sweet and who would ever want to argue with the sentiment? Not me, that’s for sure.

The hair is gone. It’s no longer sun-bleached blond, it doesn’t hang in front of his face as he sits playing with his cars or running after chickens. It was time, he is carefree, no hair to untangle or put up before bed. No, now it will be there for someone else who was dealt an unfair hand; now they will be able to run from one adventure to another with flowing, curly, blond hair trailing behind them.

Joyful.

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 26th- {rest}

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Nursing their Christmas “hangovers,” a product of too much sugar, too much excitement and not nearly enough sleep. Also, PJ spiked a fever late in the day yesterday (his sister had one the day before Christmas Eve- with no other symptoms, as well) which broke sometime while sleeping last night.

So, Mama’s orders were to stay inside on the particularly cold and blowing day to work their way through playing with all the gifts they were blessed with.

Thankfully, that was acceptable to them and, hopefully, everyone will have a run of good health for the next long while. Fingers crossed!

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 24th- {light}

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May your day be filled with awe.

Merriest of Christmas and Happiest of Yules to all who celebrate.

 

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 23rd- {white}

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I know white flour is the enemy (and I only dare whisper the word gluten) but it is Christmas after all, and my children are part Italian and it would not feel like Christmas morning without my mom’s Panettone; lightly toasted and slathered in butter, of course!

So, here we are, mixing and kneading at nearly 10 pm so that the bread may rise next to the wood stove over night. Tomorrow we will add the nuts and candied fruits- baking it and filling the house with the smell of my childhood holidays.

Happiest of Christmas Eve-Eves to you all!

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 22nd- {darkness}

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The longest night and first full day of winter were dark, dreary, cold and coated in ice.

As it should be!

I am glad to have spent it with family- safe, warm and surround by thousands of twinkle lights.

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well.