december 14th- {tree(s)}

20131214-223416.jpg

Today’s capture courtesy of the kids. PJ’s on the right and Shaelyn’s is on the left. Each tells you everything you need to know about their respective personalities.

Shaelyn is a tornado wrapped inside a hurricane. Always going, from the moment her feet hit the floor in the morning until her body finally gives in to sleep at night. She does what she must so she can move on to the next thing not worried about results, only concerned with the ratio of effort to fun had. Fun better sure as heck outweigh effort, or it isn’t worth it to her!

PJ is, well, living up to his namesake. From the moment he began talking we have been wondering how it is possible for someone to be reincarnated that isn’t dead…that’s how much he is like my dad. If he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it perfect and, for that matter, if you are going to do something for him you are going to do it perfect too! He was the baby who couldn’t stand to get his hands dirty when he started feeding himself and when he went to take this photo he quizzed me how to get the mitten focused and centered in the frame. Oh my!

It’s been a crazy week. I’m hoping everyone is finally on the mend and this week is going to turn out healthier and calmer. 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 8th- {a cuppa}

20131208-190138.jpg
A holiday parade that we were 15 minutes late for. (I was never late, until I had kids. Now, I am never on time!)

A tree lighting ceremony that we missed the moment of lighting for because we were standing in line for refreshments and facing the wrong way.

And finally, fireworks, which we managed not to screw up, enjoyed with an obligatory cup of hot cocoa for all.

While my first inclination was to beat myself up for fumbling my self-imposed parental duties, Kevin reminded me that the only thing they are going to remember is the cool light show, the huge Christmas tree aglow in the middle of town and spending it with us- nibbling on chocolate chip cookies and sipping their sugary concoction.

Of course, he is right. For that, for them and for him I am thankful!

*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. 

book review: Raising Goats Naturally

D7K_4863

I know that many of you who stop in (whenever I finally get around to writing, as of late) are interested in raising your own food, maybe even homesteading, and when I found out Deborah Niemann  was releasing another book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and then share it here with you.

I was first introduced to Deborah’s writing, back when we were preparing to move to the farm, through her book Homegrown and Handmade. It was just what I needed at the time; it boosted my confidence in the idea that yes, we could take on so many new challenges…and succeed. The book felt like a comforting and reassuring friend every time I curled up on the couch with it while dreaming of our someday homestead.

Shortly after acquiring our goats I found out that her new book Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk. Meat and More was about to hit the shelves. It felt serendipitous to say the least. Being that we choose to raise all of our livestock organically, and as close to naturally as possible, this book was just what we needed. Rather than spending hours scanning the internet for information, and making one too many phone calls to our very patient and kind vet, the majority of answers to our (sadly frequent) questions can be found in this lovely resource.

The book is well laid out, covering a wealth of information in its over 250 pages. I love that it is filled cover to cover with scientific based information and that it also contains firsthand (often humorous) accounts of Deborah and her family’s experiences during their ten plus years of keeping goats on their homestead. (A little commiserating always goes a long way. Don’t you think?) She covers everything from breeding, kidding and pasture rotation- to milking, soap-making and butchering, along with recipes that she has created or tweaked using both milk and meat. The book also delves into feeding, parasite control, herd protection and fencing all while emphasizing natural practices. Helpful and informative pictures are also included throughout, especially in the birthing chapter, which is beneficial when you are in the midst of a birth wondering if what you are seeing is, well, what you should be seeing!

While the text is dedicated mostly to dairy goats, which is what Deborah’s herd is, I still found the book helpful in regards to our meat goat herd. The health, parasite and feed chapters are ones I will go back to, over and over, in the coming years. If you are interested in transitioning your current herd to more natural practices, are already keeping goats or are looking to establish a herd of your own this would be an indispensable resource to have in you bookcase. Once again, Ms. Niemann has provided me with reassurance and a boost in confidence…this time that we can give our goats what they need, and what will make them happy, while they reside here with us.

If you are interested in purchasing Raising Goats Naturally (or one of her other two books for that matter) you can do so here, straight from Deborah’s website. If you want to read more about all aspects of her and her family’s homesteading experience check out her blogs here and here.

**I am not receiving compensation from any sales that result from this post. I simply think it is a fantastic resource and wanted to share it with all of you! Now what are you waiting for? Go get a copy! 🙂

the july garden

D7K_3162

D7K_3226

Our new, improved and smaller garden is in full swing as July comes to a close. We have already harvested and pulled our shelling peas and sugar snap peas to make room for our winter beets. As much as I enjoy pulling peas right out of our backyard, the time, energy and space that they take up is hardly worth it when I can buy peas locally for a nominal price. I think we will most likely forgo planting both types in the future.

D7K_3215

D7K_3182

Yellow squash, zucchini and round zucchini are all producing abundantly. PJ has become skilled at identifying when each is ripe and can be trusted to harvest all three on his own. Now if only we could get him to eat them as well!

D7K_3230

D7K_3269

Mountain after mountain of green and purple beans have been vacuum sealed and tucked away in the freezer for winter. I also planted a row of wax beans so that we could make my great-grandmother’s cold bean salad for lunches .

D7K_3178

D7K_3231

The baby lettuce and Kohlrabi are both doing well and thanks to the small-scale of the garden this year we have been successful in decreasing our garden workload by laying down grass mulch in between the rows. My dad, very kindly, sweeps up the clippings after mowing and makes me a pile which we (usually with the help of PJ) distribute; laying down a nice thick layer after initially weeding each individual space. This year I also think we finally figured out the correct schedule for succession planting of our carrot patch, which should mean we will start harvesting full-grown carrots this fall and continue well in to next year with proper mulching and over-winter care.

DSC_2581

D7K_3181

The potato plants have grown lush and green in this year’s steamy weather. I am hopeful that all that beautiful growth above the mound is a sign of things to come at harvest time. Our early season Yukons are beginning to die off, so by next month our potato diggin’ treasure hunt will commence. Next door the corn is also growing tall and green and I have spotted ears on some of our earlier varieties.

D7K_3232

D7K_3241

Cherry tomatoes have slowly been ripening and PJ has enjoyed them for a mid-afternoon snack most days. As much as I wish my kidlets would pick up their own messes, I secretly love finding little tomato stems laying about the house; evidence of some nutrients being consumed by the same child that has firmly entered the “all beige” dieting stage.

D7K_3219

D7K_3248

The most exciting news coming out of the vegetable garden this year is the presence of cucumbers. With total crop failures the previous two growing seasons, we are finally, once again, swimming in cukes! Granted, I had to buy our starts from a local organic nursery (all of mine died this year) but I’m still going to count this one as a win. We have eaten them fresh at almost every meal but we have also canned dill pickles and sweet pickle relish. Next on the agenda is some bread and butter pickles. As there is no end in sight, I would welcome any and all cucumber recipes that you might be willing to share.

D7K_3170

D7K_3192

We are still pulling everbearing strawberries from a few rows in the patch and a handful of raspberries from our tiny plants. The weather here, in our part of the world, has been perfect for fruit growing this year. All around us local berry farms and orchards are have a fantastic year and bumper crops. Happily, we finally found a huge area at the back of our property covered in wild black raspberries that we have been harvesting and freezing and we will soon be gathering wild blackberries from a neighboring spot as well.

D7K_3063

D7K_3260

What are you harvesting, foraging, pickling, fermenting, canning and/or freezing this month?

*It’s been one year since I started on the adventure of writing this little blog. I am grateful for the people it has introduced me to and the insight and reflection that it has afforded me. Happy Blogiversary to us and thank you for all the love and support you have shown us over the last year!

Much Love -L ❤

joining a yarn along

DSCN9636

I have been wondering how to include my knitting projects here for a while now. I am not a master knitter, we are not processing our own fleece yet and this is decidedly not a knitting and crafting blog. However, crafting, in all it manifestations, is a part of all of our lives, usually on a daily basis, which is why I would like to share a project here and there. I do not create patterns from scratch in my spare time (maybe I would if I had spare time?) with the exception of some Elizabeth Zimmerman sweaters. If you are unfamiliar with knitting, they are made using a predetermined calculation for sizing the sweater with different neck options. You take measurements of the person the sweater is for, figure out gauge and input your numbers into Elizabeth’s equation and, like magic, you have all your pertinent stitch counts.

DSCN9639

Anyway, I am a fairly new reader to Ginny’s blog, Small Things, but her Wednesday Yarn Along seems like the perfect way to post updates on my knitting projects, also infusing each week with incentive to make progress when motivation begins to wane. All while affording me a way to not only include what I am reading at the moment, but to get some great inspiration and ideas, both of the knitting and book sort, and, at the same time, sharing it here with you.

DSCN9643

This is my version of a Textured Shawl Recipe, not a proper pattern, per say, but more of a guide in using different stitches while using your preferred method of knitting up a triangle shawl. My notes (what little of them there are) can be found here on my Ravelry page. I had bought some Malabrigo Worsted at my LYS, it’s not my favorite yarn to work with but it is soft and this particular colorway is quite pretty. Depending on the light it can appear anywhere from purple, to gray and even sometimes black. I had actually put this on the needles before the holidays but with the christmas knitting and crafting surge, which always takes hold in December, I set it aside until after the new year.

DSCN9632

If you asked Kevin about my knitting he would tell you that I am most definitely a frustrated pattern writer at heart because every time I choose a pattern to knit I inevitably have to tweak it. I tell him that is what all knitters do, hoping to attain a custom fit or to use a preferred method, but I have yet to convince him and his stock response is “If you aren’t going to follow the directions why don’t you just make a pattern for yourself.” (I am quite sure that I lack both in knowledge and creativity to make my own patterns so, for now, I will stick with using those written by others.) As usual this project was no different and with suggestions from Ravelry users I made a few changes, the biggest being that I decided to reverse the called for textured pattern on the left side of the shawl so that everything appeared to radiate from the center line knowing that once completed it would drive me nuts if it did not . I am happy with the result achieved, thanks to that minor tweak, but I think it caused the knitting to become tedious and slow (maybe that’s why the pattern writer chose not to reverse it herself?) I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to casting off soon and moving on to something else.

DSCN9644

As for the books, I am reading Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemakers, which I thought I had not read, then when I looked at the Kindle app on the IPad, realized that I had bought it over a year ago and had already gotten through over half of it. Since I have been feeling frustrated as of late, and in need of a little encouragement in this lifestyle we have chosen, I decided to reread and actually finish it this time. I also have been “stealing” Kevin’s abridged version of Henry Stephens’s Book of the Farm, a gift that I had given him for Solstice and that he obviously does not guard well. It is a book from 19th century Britain, a sort of “how to” of living life on a farm, which is broken up and organized according to the four seasons. It is loaded with ideas on how to work and live on the farm using old and often quite creative methods. I love it!

What have you been Knitting (or just crafting in general) and reading these days?

December 21st

20121220-194626.jpg
Our yule log this year. It is too fresh to burn in the wood stove so we improvised and we’ll save it for next year. Kevin split it so that it was flat on one side and then drilled four holes for the candles. I may actually prefer it, maybe done up with some pine and holly next year? It does make for a beautiful centerpiece. 🙂

Wishing you peace and light on this Winter Solstice!

December 17th

20121217-210322.jpg
My favorite decorations right now.

I got these after the holidays last year at the thrift store during a, very rare, solo mama afternoon. Now here is the remarkable part, I had been eyeing them at Crate and Barrel the year before but had refused to spend the money on them. Then one day wandering the housewares aisle at Goodwill, there they were. I grabbed them up immediately and here they sat, unlit, until now.

They make the perfect Solstice decoration. Pop a lit candle in them and they glow, celebrating the soon to be returning light, and the snowflakes adorning them appear, celebrating the quickly approaching winter season. The light always returns, banishing the darkest days and that is indeed what we will gather and celebrate Thursday evening and Friday morning.

What is your favorite decoration right now? Is there a special story behind it?

December 14th

No picture from this sad day. We spent most if it holding each other extra close, praying for peace and comfort to all those touched by this morning’s tragedy in Connecticut. I am thankful for the upcoming weekend to spend time together, quietly, as a family. I will see you all back here next Monday.

Blessings,

Laura

December 4th

20121204-185851.jpg
The view from our kitchen window.

Everyone was out grabbing a quick snack before the storm blew in while Kevin was doing his best to get all the daily chores in. I love when everyone is in the upfront pastures and we can watch them from the house. They will be staying up here for the winter months to easy our strain and to allow us to keep a close eye on those who are pregnant.

The littles were playing and laughing as I was planning dinner. Baked Mac and cheese using Lilac’s milk, made with kale from the garden, sprinkled with crispy bacon and homemade croutons. Everyday we get a little closer to providing for ourselves.