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. ūüėČ

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

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.

december 31st- {self}

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This wasn’t the photo that I had intended to take but, as usual, the day got away from me; guests were due to arrive, other things had to get done to prepare for more celebrations and I ran out of daylight. So, here I am, reflected in the mirror I inherited from my late grandmother, in less than great light.

I have so many thoughts bounding around in my head (which I think you can see in this photo.) Thoughts about this past month’s project, about 2013 and about what the coming new year holds for us and this homestead.

Hopefully I will find time to sit and write it all down over the next few days to share not only for you but also for posterity.

I wish a beautiful close to the year and a bright and promising 2014 for you all!

Much love as always,

Laura

december 29th- {glisten}

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I have loved sitting in the warm glow of the tree during these dark winter nights.

I’m not sure I ever really noticed the pretty pattern that the star reflects onto the ceiling.

Thankfully, we have three more Christmas celebrations to go, so I have another week to bask in it.

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 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 25th- {family}

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Meant to share this yesterday.

The kids woke us at 7:30…later than expected! We spent the entire day in our pajamas, took all morning to leisurely open gifts and stopped in between to play with each one. We enjoyed a brunch prepared with products mostly grown/raised right here on the homestead, took naps and then watched movies, snuggled and snacked on the couch until it was time to crawl into bed again. Perfection!

I hope your day was as relaxing and sweet. ‚̧

*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. 

december 21st- {gift}

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We visited with family, celebrated the shortest day, participated in traditions, ate delicious- homegrown food, played a new (and now much-loved) game by the light of the tree-in front of our solstice fire and then all drifted off to sleep early.

A perfect and Happy Solstice was had! Many Blessings to you and yours as the Sun gains strength this winter season! ‚̧

 

*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.