Summer.

Well, I'm going to skip right over the past few months until later, because, well, I can. And it's peony season. I think if peonies and lily-of-the-valley bloomed year 'round, we would all be better people...or, at least our houses would smell like heaven.

Most of the time, my photos serve as a tool to illustrate a story, or promote something, and that's okay. But, there are times when I remember that I can photograph for pleasure too. Sometimes that's hard for me, to not necessarily have an "assignment"...creative freedom can be a tricky thing for a perfectionist. And really, how can one possibly capture the essence of such a flower in a flat image? Well, that's the challenge, I suppose. And yet, the essence of an object is a bit subjective; it means something different to everyone. I can only try to create an image that allows the viewer to see an object the way I saw it, felt it, smelled it, lived it.

 

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Of prolapses and bottle feeding.

Lambing this spring has not been without its challenges. One of our Shetland ewes, who has been a great mom and had no trouble in the past, ended up with a vaginal prolapse three weeks before  delivering. While not dangerous in itself, the prolapse means that the ewe must wear a harness until delivery, to hold everything in. The ewe can be bred in the future, but chances are, she'll always prolapse, and will have to wear a harness every year. However, when Maple went into labor, she never had contractions. The bag appeared, and 20 minutes later, another bag appeared, and that was it. She kept looking behind her and squatting like she had to go to the bathroom, but nothing else. So, we brought her into the barn and when I felt inside her, the first lamb's head and hooves were right at the entrance to the birth canal and Maple was fully dilated. So, I had to go in and pull the lambs out. They are beautiful, healthy babies, but no more breeding for Maple.

The last ewe to deliver was our smallest ewe, Ada, and it was her first time. The short of it is that she rejected one of her lambs, and he's now residing in our living room. He's a tiny thing, and now five days later, I'm still not sure he's going to make it. However, there is no shortage of love for this guy around here...

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Leading Bird.

Cora has been begging me for a shawl, and how can I say no to a hand knit item that my children are asking for? I knew I wanted to use my favorite batch of yarn...'Phinela' is our 40% mohair/ 60% Finn sheep blend, in an amazing chocolate color. So very soft, and the luster is out of this world. I've actually considered keeping all the skeins I have left because I love it so. 

I agreed to make a shawl for my sweet girl if she would agree to model it for me...not an easy thing to get from her these days. Lucky for me, she was absolutely thrilled and has been known to "wear" it to bed several times already. And I have been know to, um, steal it a few times in the recent past to do the same...

The pattern is Leading Bird by Leah B. Thibault, and can be found on Ravelry. It's a beautifully simple shawl that perfectly shows off the yarn, which has the look and feel of hand spun.

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February.

There has been the tiniest shift in the air lately. Enough to give hope, which is all I need to get me through the end of this month. Indeed, the earth certainly knows its time to wake up - sap buckets are being hung, the sun is stronger, the days are longer - but sometimes it feels as if we still have so very. Long. To. Go. 

However, tomorrow is supposed to be near 70 degrees! I was scheduled to drive to PA to pick up our new Angora Goat buck (more on that later), but how could I spend an entire ten hours stuck in a car on such an exquisite day?!? Well, it's supposed to be overcast and foggy, but even that is exquisite in my book when the temps get so high in February! We did have snow the other day, however, and we do still have March to come...but it seems manageable somehow when you are able to have just one days reprieve from cold temperatures in late winter!

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Happenings.

What a whirlwind it has been the last couple of months! Usually, there is a little bit of a lull after the holidays, and very welcomed at that, but this year was different! Between shooting stories for Taproot magazine, traveling to Tucson, teaching a knitting class, and the New England Farm to Fiber show at the Boston Public Market this past weekend, I've hardly had time to catch my breath. 

Look at these little cutie pies on the back and inside of the most recent issue of Taproot. I feel so fortunate that my children are still amenable to my photo shenanigans! 

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The Boston Farm & Fiber show was amazing. A complete and utter success. I felt so honored to be a part of its first year at the Boston Public Market, and hope to return next year as well. Not a terrible thing, but those 7 hours just about wiped out my inventory completely! Thank you Boston!!

Bitter Cold.

Maine has had record-breaking, bitter cold for the past week, and it's not letting up anytime soon! Tonight's lows are down to -20 degrees, which is truly scary. The pipes froze in our kitchen, with fires lit and the heat on too, and friends lost a young goat last night. It hurts to breathe, and being outside is actually, physically not possible for the children. We are not equipped for these temperatures, even in the northeast. At least not for a sustained period of time. I have heat lamps on in the barn, which usually only make an appearance during lambing and kidding season, and even then only when necessary.

But, the sheep are just fine. Happy, even! 

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2017.

This year, in short, has been hard. There have been so very many good things too, in regard to the farm, the fiber, connections with people, and personal growth. Looking back, it seems impossible to say that it was a "bad" year, because the difficulty and hardship feel inextricably bound to the all the good. 

I am living a life that I love. I feel blessed with the sheer number of wonderful, giving, talented, kind souls that have made their way into my life. Though difficult at times, homeschooling has become a part of this lifestyle, as opposed to it being just another commitment. I am able to use my creative inclinations almost on a daily basis...whether with photography or knitting or just in the way I choose to fold the laundry. My life has become one of deep connectedness to the natural rhythms of the earth, seasons, life and death. 

Those words, life and death, are scary for the general public, I believe. We tend to think of them only in terms of what they represent in the physical realm. Anyone that farms can tell you many stories of life's beginning and endings, as we have no choice but to face them on a daily basis. We are all quite matter of fact around here when a chicken meets its demise with a fox or fisher, and the children even more so than I when we lose a goat or a sheep. I still weep when I recall our first trip to the butcher with the lambs this fall, and I don't know for sure that it will get any easier. And I think that's okay. What helped me to get through it was being handed the still-warm skins to prepare them for drying. My tears mixed with the salt I was scattering, and as I witnessed the twitching and death of the nerve endings, I felt I was being given the opportunity to truly worship the process. I gave my thanks over and over and over, and even now, as I have the softest and most beautiful reminder of that life and death process beside me, I question it all. I question my right to take their life, I question my right to even raise them. But, as I watch so many of todays children and adults become more and more comfortable with not questioning these hard things, it feels right. How can we learn not to fear the most difficult of topics unless we understand that its all a part of a much greater picture?

This year, in other ways, has been a year in which I have had to truly question many things, as those closest to me are aware. A year that demanded major life-changing decisions and deep, heartbreaking talks with many tears. A year of hurt, of healing, of grief, of growth and ultimately, the birth and death of self

As this year approaches its end, I am ready. It has been long, and hard, and wonderful and sad, filled with sorrow and joy and excitement and frustration. I am grateful to every single person that played their part, little or big, in the story of 2017. Time to move forward.

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Common Ground Fair Recap

I grew up attending the Common Ground Fair. The annual trip was more the gateway to fall than any other significant event, day on the calendar or particular coffee flavor. As I got older, the fair changed...it got better, and bigger and more important to me as I began my own journey into homesteading, parenting and now farming. I always felt I couldn't get enough...I longed to partake in every workshop and hear every speaker. My children and I have camped for all three days of the fair for the past few years; volunteering, socializing and eating our way around the grounds.

And last year something changed. By the end of the second day, I was finished. I felt as if I had done everything, and I was ready for something different. It turns out that what I was ready for, specifically, was a change in my role at the fair. 

This year I was honored to take part in a different way, with my own booth, selling fiber from my own farm. I can't say I ever thought my future would hold this, but it felt like the perfect, natural next step. My children were able to take part (though I did not see them for four hour stretches at a time, busy as they were with friends!), and knowing that they, too, are growing up with this fair as a part of their lives gives me the greatest pleasure of all.

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Despite record breaking heat (in the 90's all three days!), it was a perfect weekend. And people still bought yarn! I guess they know that winter will come eventually, and there will be many a snowstorm to knit through...

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Aren't these flowers amazing? I have a two very dear high school friends who have just started a flower farm, and made the most beautiful bouquets I could have dreamed of for my booth. I had so many people just stop to take photos of the flowers!

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I finally got everything I have left after the fair posted to my online shop, and will also be attending a few holiday shows in the month of December, so stay tuned for more info about that! In the meantime, here are a few of my absolute favorites :)

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Can you believe this is dyed with Calendula and Coreopsis?!? So beautiful!

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This chocolate brown is probably my favorite of everything I have in stock...there is just something about it. Super soft and squishy, with an amazing luster that is magnified by the slight color variations of the mohair/finn blend. 

September.

September has been so very busy! Shearing, harvesting, photo-shooting, article-writing, homeschool-prepping, traveling (Mother Earth News Fair with Taproot magazine!), kids' sport practice transporting, fiber-dyeing, Common Ground Fair-ing...and we're only half way through the month! I am utterly exhausted, but trying to get through and remain healthy.

I'm feeling like my poor garden got the short end of the stick this summer, and I am missing it sorely. Of some things we have plenty, but many others we have none. Successive plantings did not happen, blight caught the tomatoes for the first time, the weeds took over, and plenty of insects had their way this year. 

Well, I suppose we can only do what we can do. There is always next year!

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Scotland Part I

I have a complete and total infatuation with all things Scotland. And no, not because of the Outlander series (although that did reaffirm some of my reasons for loving that great, beautiful, magical country of kilt-wearers). 

My family has strong ties there with our Scottish heritage being very directly linked to both Clan MacKenzie and Clan Hamilton. It is the only place I have every traveled to where I feel like I am home. Like I belong, and not only that, like I have belonged for hundreds of years. Like these are my people, and this place resonates so deeply within my soul that I would drop everything and move there in a heartbeat.

Scotland calls to me when I am not there, and when I am there, I cry. I weep because it is the place I feel as if I spent my entire childhood searching for. It truly feels as if every trail leads to a magical portal, every stream to a fairyland, and any moment a unicorn could come stepping through the fog. 

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Taproot.

I realize that those of you who already read this blog are probably Taproot readers as well, so maybe this isn't much of an update or surprise. But, the most recent issue contains an article that I wrote and photographed, and I'm going to mention it here because it was probably the best time I have ever had working on a piece. Beautiful light, wonderful people, and amazing subjects. 

So, if you don't already receive the magazine in the mail, order it! If not for this article, then for the many other lovely articles and contributions from folks like me. 

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     Also, if you are interested in learning more about me, my farm or the article itself, head over to the Taproot Journal page for a little interview about it all! 

The Shift.

I think I write about this every year, but as any farmer or gardener will tell you, its kind of a monumental thing. Somewhere near the end of July, there comes a distinct tipping of the scales that has nothing to do with temperature, the name of the month, or even the proximity of the start of the school year for some. It is the very slightest and faintest whisperings of autumn. It's just a whisper, a murmur, at first. Eventually one cannot ignore the signs of fall, but this is different...it's not just feeling it, it's knowing it in your bones. It stops me in my tracks; the way the wind touches my face, the way the light comes through the woods at the end of the day. I envision, quite literally, a scale, and it has begun to lean a little heavier to one side. 

It can bring me to my knees, the sudden instinct to hold dear all of the memories of warmth and sun. This season is so fleeting in the North East, and there is something quite magical about the light in August. That hazy, warm evening glow is something I miss all too dearly come February, when you know you still have a solid two months of winter remaining.

Yarn!

I just returned from Connecticut with a huge and lovely batch of freshly processed yarn! Although I am excited about doing a lot of natural dyeing in the upcoming two months, I often find myself just sitting and staring at the natural colors piled in the living room. 

All of this beautiful fiber will be making its way to the Common Ground Fair this September, where I am thrilled to have a tent! The Fair is a special place, and holds a very large and important space in my heart and childhood memories. It feels so special to take part in this MOFGA organized event, and I am truly honored to have a presence there. If you are coming, please stop by and say hello!

Summer Days.

This summer is passing more quickly than any in my memory. It's been so very busy around here, in mostly good ways, that we have not even made it to the beach save for this one day on Chebeague Island at the beginning of June. And then, swimming was out of the question because the days (and water temp!) had not warmed up enough. Last year we only made it to the ocean once as well, and I mustn't let that happen again!

I keep imagining of ways to achieve the colors above with our yarn dyeing...I think I would call it "Chebeague". Pretty original, eh?

By the way, the above picture was taken at Maine Fiddle Camp. This was our first year attending, and it was magical. Beck and Cora have been playing fiddle/violin for almost 5 years and 3 years, respectively. For a nine-year-old just stepping into his own independence, this weekend could not have been better for all of us. He could check in with me whenever he wanted to, but felt so safe and self-confident that I barely saw him! 

Fiber Workshop

I recently held a six hour natural-dyeing workshop for eight kids. It was so gratifying. They were all "oooooh" when they got to wash the dirty wool, and all "aaaaaaah" when they watched the magical color change that occurs when fiber emerges from an indigo vat. In short, involving kids in these fiber processes is wonderful, as their natural curiosities shine when they are allowed to get their hands dirty. We only need slow down to their pace.

And so, in that spirit, I am offering a series of fiber workshops for children. 

May recap.

Whew! What a month! We are officially done with lambing and kidding for the year, which feels like a relief at the moment. Everyone is healthy and doing well, and I feel as if I learned a monumental amount in this first season of births here on the farm. In total, we ended up with 7 lambs and 6 kids. 

Some thoughts:

  • May was a lovely time for kidding...lots of green grass, and no heat lamps or sweaters needed!
  • Note to self: have some kid sweaters ready to go...just in case.
  • Need more lanterns.
  • Hand and feet warmers really were lovely during those evening hours of waiting and watching.
  • Sympathy births really are a thing.

This list will grow, as I think of things. I just learned today that the ear tags actually are mandatory, as in illegal not to have them...who knew? Maybe everyone except me? 

Cora insists, by the way, that shoes are not necessary when entering the barn and pasture. I pick my battles. Also, we've had lots of rain. This has been good for the garden and emerging flowers, but not so good for bare feet in manure.

Lots of yummy stuff coming out of the ground, both wild and cultivated. Cora has proclaimed that fiddleheads cooked in butter and garlic is her favorite food; "even better than ice cream". And I made a ridiculous nettle, potato and leek soup that is my new springtime staple.

I must admit, the poor garden right now is suffering a bit. I'm behind because I did not start seedlings this year. I was afraid that I would not have the time to water and care for them as I should, with the baby animals arriving. I just didn't know what to expect. As a result, I'm scrambling to find tomato seedlings, and throwing stuff in the ground willy-nilly. I have to remind myself that it's okay if I need to back off from that right now, but boy it's hard.

I hope, friends, that this Spring has been good to you.