September.

This is, undoubtedly, my favorite time of year. Just a few weeks ago, I thought I wasn't ready for summer to end, but somehow, by the time autumn has really arrived, I feel okay about it. Happy, even.

I somehow manage to forget, every year, that things don't actually slow down at this point...they just shift. I feel like a squirrel, packing my freezer, basement and shelves with goods from the garden, woods,  orchard, etc. I'm feeling a little frantic about not being able to keep up with it all.

The animals know too. The laying has slowed down from the chickens and ducks, and the mornings are crisp. The farmer's almanac predicts a big winter, with lots of snow. But, we'll see...they said that last year too, and were very wrong for us, up here in Maine.

The goats are sheared, and the sheep will be soon. The basement is filling with winter squash, and the freezer with chickens, berries, broth and the last of some summer vegetables. The shelves are filling with jams, preserves, tomato sauce, salsa, and apple sauce. The porch is overflowing with garlic and onions, drying. Dry beans are being gathered from the garden.

How can we not feel grateful for all these gifts?

Mercury Retrograde.

Last week was not kind to us. 

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that we are only dealt what we can handle. But, after the week we've had here, I'm not so sure. The short list is: Poison Ivy all around (including me...the person who has never reacted to it in her life...), having to make the decision to cull two goats, losing said goats, burying beloved pets, a broken wrist (and with it, a night in the ER and surgery), and a 50 year old stove that bit the dust while I was in the middle of canning a batch of jam.

So, here is my lemonade list (as in, "when life gives you lemons..."):

1. Our neighbor gave us about 7 pounds of beautiful pears from his fruit trees, with which I made quite possibly my favorite jam ever; Ginger Pear Jam, sweetened with honey. (It's from the book Canning with Pomona Pectin). And since I adore ginger, I will double the amount called for in the next batch!

2. We had just finished a batch of Jewel Weed Salve two days before we all ended up with bad cases of poison ivy. The itching could very well have driven us all mad without that heavenly cream! Somehow our bodies knew...

3. Out of the stove disaster, came a new stove. And it made me realize that I don't think I've ever had a properly working oven. The bread baked for exactly the amount of time it was supposed to. For the first time. Ever. The amount of italics in this sentence should tell you just how happy I am about that. 

4. The day after Cora broke her arm was filled with obligations. And I couldn't do any of them. Need I say more? 

5. I'm not sure I have been able to make lemonade out of the goat situation. There were difficult decisions to be made for the benefit of the entire heard, and I suppose there's not much more to it than that. We grieved, but mostly feel that our decision was the right one in this particular case.

     But, before all of that happened, way back in August, we had a much needed little getaway as a family, and it was exactly what we all needed. Our only vacation as a family for the year, and we took full advantage of the five days we were gone. 

The Shift.

Though we have had drought conditions for some time now, I cannot complain about the temperatures. Most days recently have been in the 80's, but the nights have cooled down into the 50's, which is lovely for sleeping. Even so, despite those warm days, I felt that shift a few weeks back...the one we wait for, the one that makes us remember that summer is so very, very short here in the Northeast. It begins with a change in the light, and leads to crickets chirping all day instead of just the evenings. I feel as if I can actually smell it on the wind, and feel it across the surface of my skin. Every one of my senses is aware of it, every time it happens. And it doesn't seem subtle to me...it always happens overnight. The scales tip toward fall.

And, at first, I think "I am not ready", and I am very sad. But, somehow, in the course of the following month, I gradually live my way into being ready. Though I could happily have my hands in the dirt year-round, I am usually prepared for a rest by the time autumn arrives. 

We have some new faces around the farm, much to our delight. Meet, from left to right, Minerva, Zelda and Ophelia.

These sweet girls are very shy, and we are working to get them comfortable around us. Lots of treats, holding them, talking to them, and just sitting with them. They have been here about three weeks now, and Minerva allows us to pat her all over now. Zelda is quite precocious, and is no shrinking violet when it comes to food. Ophelia has been the last to earn our trust, and is still pretty nervous.

Otherwise, we have generally just been trying to squeeze in bits and pieces of "summering". It seems to get harder as the children get older, to find whole days when we do not have an agenda of some kind. With either swim team or soccer five days out of the week, plus animal care and gardening/harvesting/canning, I have felt this summer slide by us a little more quickly than past years. But, we have snuck in some lovely days with friends and trips to the beach.

And the garden. My favorite place. Every year we expand it a little, and every year, just when I think I've got it under control, mother nature reminds me that I am, in fact, not in control the majority of the time. This year it was potatoes. We were gone for a week when the potato beetles were at their worst, and in those seven days without the resident bug pickers at work (ahem. my children.), they moved in and took over. Oh well. 

The look we all get when squishing potato bugs.

The look we all get when squishing potato bugs.

These Summer Days.

I know it is cliche to say "the summer is flying by", but it's true. It's not so much that the time is passing quickly, but that I've had my head down so often, trying to accomplish things, that when I finally looked up, I realized how much time has passed. We have not been to the beach once, and I am having a hard time with the sensation that I have not had enough "down time" lately to enjoy this most lovely time of year. Some of it is commitments with swim, violin and a week of summer camp thrown in, but mostly just day-to-day tasks; animals, garden, etc. I have once again expanded the garden, and therefor doubled the workload, and as the flock/herd of sheep/goats grows, that too takes more time. I keep thinking that I haven't spent enough time with the children, or gone to the beach enough (or, at all...ahem.), or gone hiking.

All of this has been on my mind. And then, this morning, I realized quite suddenly, that this window is short. Not in the way that I expected to feel; the usual guilt-laden thoughts about how I should have enjoyed it more, or just relaxed a bit. No, it was more of a memory about how very long the winter is, and how much time I actually do spend with the children cooped up in the house during those months, and that actually, what I am doing right now is how I want our summer to be. Maybe for us it doesn't mean going to the beach every day, or owning a boat and drinking beer on the weekends, or even getting to travel a bit. But, these days are free. In the absolute sense of the word. The entire day, most days, for the children, is spent exploring, playing in the woods, in the treehouse, foraging for food, making hideouts, running, laughing, picking flowers. Yes, we love the beach, but the thoughts that come to us in the darker, colder months of the year, are the memories of how we spend these days, and for us, this is it.

Happy June!

I don't think I have ever been so in love with this month, as I am of late. The weather has been downright, dare I say it, perfect. Dry and warm, but with lovely breezes and cool shade. I have been feeling so vary grateful these past few weeks, for so many of the blessings in my life, and those greatly in part to this land that we live on and with. I don't believe I could have dreamed up a more beautiful, magical place in which to raise these two children of ours. This place offers so very much in the way of exploring and adventures, and as we slowly come to know the various parts of the property a little more intimately, it keeps on surprising us with its gifts.

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I knew, even before we had made plans to move from our old home, that we needed to be here. I didn't know why, it just felt right. We had no plan to sell at the time my parents purchased the property, but as life has a way of presenting us with what we need, a series of unfortunate (at the time) events led us to be here. And I could not be more happy. 

Much of our time this spring has been spent foraging, which the children always equate to an adventure. There are so many things that I have thought about wanting to plant or have access to, only to have those plants appear somewhere on the property on their own. I do not believe in coincidences, and there is a reason that the woman who lived here before us, and her husband, had wanted to erect a chapel where our garden now sits. 

Cora collecting clover for tea.

Cora collecting clover for tea.

A week ago or so.

A week ago or so.

So, here we are, almost halfway through June! And I am trying so very hard to store the memories of these days somewhere easily accessed when we are in the middle of a long New England winter. I do so adore this place, but without the ones I love surrounding me, I am sure the experience would not be quite so sweet. 

Prairie Fire

Despite the fact that we have no actual prairies to speak of here in Maine, this pattern caught my eye. As it turns out, I think it may be my most favorite test piece yet for this yarn. Just barely finished (and still unblocked), and Cora could hardly wait to pull it on. Once on, she promptly proclaimed it was soft enough for her to wear next to her skin...without a shirt underneath! That, my friends, is the true test. And, she actually asked to sleep in it tonight, which, of course, I had to say yes to...

The Pattern is Prairie Fire, by TinCanKnits (Ravelry notes here). And the yarn is our 60/40 blend Finn/Mohair.

Today. Or, yesterday.

It feels like today, but at 12:23am it's actually yesterday. And I can't fall asleep because my mind is too busy asking me if I really know what I am doing. I have this nagging worry that things are going to implode; that this delicate balance of work, homeschooling, child-rearing, farming and gardening that I am just barely managing to hold together, is going to erupt into chaos or fall apart at any moment. The interior of the house is already at that point, and I'm feeling a bit...well...out of control.

I suppose that the only thing I can control, is that I have actually, on my own, chosen all of those passions to pursue.

But, despite all the lavender I surround myself with tonight, it's just been a tough day. 

Garden tilled and waiting for me to play. Also included but not in view, two more plots to make room for some expanding crops.

We have two new friends! Violet and Lucy just joined the flock, and they are pretty amazing. Softest coats, and sweetest personalities. They are not so sure about the guinea hens, however.

May.

Oh how I love this month! While the general chore load has increased exponentially, the weather at least makes it thoroughly enjoyable. Daffodils, tulips, dandelions, violets, birds singing, bees humming, black flies biting...

Well, there's always an antagonist in a good story, isn't there?

These littlest ones work hard, play hard, and sleep hard. I woke up one morning to find this helper in our bed. (Oh, to know what her dreams were of!)

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I came across these images from last summer, and was reminded of what is to come. When we are in the midst of the working, sweating, harvesting, canning and freezing, it is sometimes difficult to remember that this lifestyle is a choice, and one that I would not trade for any amount of money. It is what grounds me, and awakens my soul. By the end of the season, I feel fulfilled in a way that cannot be described to anyone who has not had the experience of being weary to the bone by the end of the day, with fingernails and hands encrusted with dirt and smelling of sunshine and warmth.

I am ready.

Surprise!

Snow! At the end of April! It went as quickly as it came, though. And, I am once again reminded that nature always wins, no matter how grand our technology and accurate the predictions. 

Can you see all the snow outside the window?! Nonetheless, we enjoyed having a bit of a reprieve from outside chores and garden prep. A fire was lit in the wood stove, and serious play and creativity ensued. Dress up, tea parties, snowman making, yarn spinning, and, of course, knitting. 

And then there is all of this yarn. There has been a whole lot of experimentation in that department as of late, both with colors and patterns. I feel that with each dye project I fall a little more in love with this blend...the mohair gives it such luster and depth of color. And with each knitting project begun and completed (or ripped out and started over), I am learning which patterns, needle size, and design elements work best for this line.

I am in love with that orange-ish color...dyed with yellow onion skins and madder root, especially next to some of the blues, dyed with indigo. That gray-ish color in the second photo (actually a little green in real life) was black beans. I had a very, very smelly kitchen for a few days.

That one above is Cora's variegated indigo skein. I'm a little bit envious. 

That yellow colored skein was dyed with red onion skins. It's really quite lovely outside in the sun...it makes my mouth water. Its pure golden sunshine.

These two were meant to be together, don't you think? Now to find a pattern..

Happenings.

I sit here this evening with the warmth of a little sunburn tingling on my skin. I feel happy, content and filled to the brim in only the way a days work outside and in the earth can provide. Today was a day of seed sowing and yarn dyeing, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

Surprise! We have two little Finn ewe lambs joining our flock next month. This was a part of the plan that would take place next year, but really, when these two girls became available in our own town, how was I supposed to say no? And joining them in July, will be three more Angora goats. Oh my. On a personal note, I feel that angora kids are quite possibly the sweetest things on earth. 

And yes, this little one appears to be hugging my son.

Spring and other things.

Today, dear neighbors and friends of ours lost their entire house to a fire. My intention with this post was to write about Spring and its blessed arrival, but my mind and heart are filled with sadness and grief for this couple and their loss. Today was a beautiful, warm day, humid and full of the smells and sounds of the earth waking up. All day I was so grateful for the changing of the seasons, and, maybe just a little, wishing for more (after today the temps plummet again to the 30's!). 

And tonight, I am not wishing for more. I am just thankful for what I have. Thankful that we have our home to surround us, in all of its 70's-era avocado green glory. A place to contain our memories and keep us safe. I am so very grateful that we were able to offer food, shelter, love and whatever else, to these two dear people.

And so, dear and lovely spring, I give thanks to you for what you are. I will not wish for more, or different, I will just be. 

Of indigo and lessons learned.

I am so deeply in love with this fiber. Really. Perhaps I am biased because the majority of it is from my own goats, but seriously, I've been carrying these skeins around every day, everywhere I go, because I love to just be with them.  

These blends are everything I thought they would be, and more. But when all the skeins arrived smelling like cigarette smoke, I was heartbroken, to say the least. Luckily, the mill took the fiber right back to rewash it, and sent some sample skeins back for inspection before continuing on with the rest.

As we all like to believe, every negative experience we have is a chance to learn (someone said that, right?) And with this one, I actually came away with a bulleted list.

1. Ask your mill if anyone smokes, and if so, let them know you want the fiber stored well away from the source at all times. This seems kind of obvious, but I learned the hard way.

2. Ask if the mill has insurance. (This was brought up by a friend of mine, and makes a great deal of sense if you are dealing with larger batches of fiber!)

3. Visit the mill. I wish I had done this.

4. Ask for an itemized receipt. This did't seem necessary at the time, but I wish now I had a more detailed description of each item I was charged for. In this case, I feel certain that I was charged fairly, but when the fiber came back smelling as it did, my first thought was to sit down and make sure everything added up. 

And now, on to the fun stuff.

I did two batches (two different yarns), with an iron mordant. This resulted in two very different shades of indigo blue. Both with incredible depth and luster. This photo is from the first batch, which has a bit more green in it than the second. It's more muted, and when side-by-side with the second batch these colors are everything mysterious and dark and magical. Mostly, I am reminded of the deeper, darker parts of the ocean, where it is quiet and still. Whales calling, seaweed drifting, twilight.

So very, very lovely.

It's here!

Well, some of it, anyhow. The journey this fiber has taken is a post for another day. These are the two skeins I have in my hands right now, and the rest is on the way. But, I feel these two deserve some blog space. They are two different blends, and I am absolutely in love with them. I feel a bit maternal about the whole batch, which I suppose is normal, given that much of the fiber comes from our goats, and the majority of that being the babies.

So, without getting into the details of their travels too much today, here they are.

The skein on the left is our sweet Odin's fiber blended with Finn sheep's wool. Finn is oh-so-soft, and the 50/50 blend has an incredible luster to it. It is like a silky cloud on the needles. The Skein on the right is a 50/25/25 blend, with the greater portion being our adult mohair, blended with shetland and alpaca. I am partial to this one because of the color and softness. It has a little more loft than the other, and should take a natural dye beautifully!

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And what skein of yarn isn't improved by a fresh flower? Thanks to my young apprentice for the reminder...what would I do without those helpers?

March.

I tried to find a quote, or a poem, to best describe how I feel about this fickle month. But nothing I found would do. Is that perhaps because there isn't really any way to describe it? Dull to look at, the ground still bare, brown and mostly frozen, there is nonetheless a quivering, electric undercurrent to the air and earth. There is no way to describe how this time affects the senses, other than it just does. 

The sap is flowing, the seeds orders are arriving, the onions have been started, the days are a bit longer and the sun a bit warmer. The garage has been cleaned out to make room for new babies, the remaining squash and potatoes are being sorted through and used up, the makeshift greenhouse has been patched and reenforced, and winter clothes are being packed away.

So much preparation going on, that I feel giddy with anticipation. I am certainly not wishing time away, but oh, am I ever glad that Spring is here.

The beginning.

And so we begin another year. I never really consider January first the beginning of a new year, but rather the start of Maple Syrup season. Somehow it seems more appropriate, as the world is just waking up and showing signs of Spring. And truth be told, this winter was so very mild here in the Northeast, that I am still waiting, just a little, for a few big snowstorms. I am by no means complaining...in fact, even though I love me a good old fashioned white Christmas, this was the first year I was (secretly) thanking the weather gods, mother nature, and all her employees for such a gentle season.

So, I find myself thinking, "Do we really need this? Do we need more Syrup?" (especially since we still have some left on the shelves from last year!) But then, as it happens every year, the children help us load the buckets, drill the holes, and wait impatiently for those first few cold drops on their tongue. And I realize, yes. Yes, we do need this. We need this to feel connected to the farm and to one another. We need this because it is teaching us lessons about patience and gratitude and the sheer wonder of nature's gifts.

And we need this to get us through March. 

And so, here we are again.


eight.

Somehow, this happened. Somehow, eight years have gone by since this person chose us for his parents and came into our lives. Somehow, he has has gone from being a beautiful, tow-headed, sensitive, loving, kind, gentle and special little boy to this. This young person. So, actually, not much has changed except perhaps a few inches... 

How incredibly blessed we are to have him in our lives.

Wintering.

What's that? This old thing? Oh why thank you, yes, actually, that is a new logo up there. A sweet little bit of artwork from the lovely Sarah Burwash.  I feel so honored to have her touch grace the pages of this blog. If you have a moment, do go and check out her website.

 Oh, and very exciting news (for me, anyhow)...our first batch of fiber is being processed into yarn!   Andy, from Aroostook Fiber Works, actually drove down here all the way from Presque Isle just to pick up the order. It doesn't get any better than that! So, needless to say, I am looking forward to seeing what beauty comes of all that wonderful fiber. I think a road trip to Northern Maine is in order for the pickup, although Andy did offer to drive it down. 

And what else is going on around here? Lots of planning. Seed ordering. Snowshoeing. Skiing. Sledding. Knitting. How very grateful I am to live where we do...I wouldn't have it any other way.

A Baby Sweater.

Before we get any further: no, I am not having a baby. But, that does not stop me from loving hand knits for little ones. My own "little ones" are not so little anymore (meaning it takes more than one skein..or two...or three...to make a garment for them now) and a bit more, shall we say, specific about what they will and will not wear. 

Also...I love neutrals on babies. Besides no clothes at all, I really believe there is nothing more beautiful than natural colors next to their sweet, soft complexions.

I did not finish this sweater in that late night of knitting, nor the next day during the baby shower though I furiously worked to complete it. But, we musn't rush these things, I say. And so, I give the gift of warmth as a loving welcome to this new little life!


a winter's day.

Today we hunkered down. We recovered from a very long week of traveling, events, playtime with friends, and general busyness. I am chomping at the bit to do some sewing, but first, first...there is always something more pressing! Right now it is a knitting project I began only a few days ago (yikes!) for a baby shower tomorrow, telling myself I work better under pressure. Hmmm. I had planned to sit down and spend today on it, but alas, there was this beautiful snow outside just begging to be played in...how could I say no? (Not to mention a house in desperate need of attention, a sink and counter full of dishes, etc.) And now, I predict a late night of knitting in my future...


Fiber Love.

Three of our goats have been with us for just under a year, and the other four, affectionately referred to around here as "the babies", only since July. The adults' first shearing after coming to live with us did not actually yield any useable fiber, as they were severely matted. So, this past fall, along with the first shearing of the littler ones, gave us approximately ten pounds of mohair.

It has taken a while to decide what exactly what to do with the fiber. Do I blend it? What do I blend it with? What percentage of which fiber? Have it made into yarn? Or just washed so I can spin it by hand? In the process of this decision-making, I feel as if I have really gotten to better know the goats as individual beings.  

Loki is our adult male goat. He is very pushy, but sweet, and his fiber is the softest of the three adults. It has several colors in it, which, I believe, will give an incredible depth to whatever natural dye color we choose to use, if any at all. The tips are a bit frosted, which gives the whole effect that of a recent visit to a salon.

Dharma, Loki's sister, has courser fiber, but with a lovely little curl to it. Dharma is sweet and gentle, and I think her locks would benefit from blending with another fiber.

Then the Babies. Oh the babies. Their fiber has the most lovely, soft, baby-fine texture I could ever dream of. Three of the four are siblings, and they all have a similar color and texture, though each is individually slightly different. Two of the three siblings, Clementine and Ezra, are quite precocious and curious, and not even a little bit shy. But their brother, Opi, will only come near us for a treat, and is the loudest and most dramatic when we have to trim hooves or shear.

Our last baby, Odin, is very special. He's a bit aloof, and does not like to be touched. He's always been very quiet, and was larger at the start. Though the same size as all the others now, I think his system seems to be the most sensitive to external stressors, such as weather, illness, bullying, etc. But his fiber. Oh, his fiber. By far the most luxurious of all our angoras, it is silky and soft as a cloud, and the only all-white. My mother and I have a theory that his body is working so hard to produce lustrous locks, that he needs a bit of consistent extra attention to make sure he is getting what he needs to keep him healthy. Odin's fiber is going to be kept separate, it is that special.

We have finally decided that the yarn will be a luxurious blend of Finnish Landrace sheep from Maine and our own Mohair, processed at a mill also right here in Maine. I am so very excited for this first batch, and as always, grateful to our animals for giving us these gifts.