Wednesday, July 14, 2010

weeds

Why do I fight it - that inevitable chore weeding.

Now, many of you will say - "duh, 'cuz it's no fun!" and I'm sure many if not most gardeners would agree.

But.... I love weeding and I forget that until I'm elbow deep in the mud, with streaks of dirt across my forehead, dirt so deep under my nails that the ends of my fingers feel the pressure, and knees sore from kneeling. I love it!

This is one of those chores that I should look forward to since when I'm in the thick of it I really enjoy it, but somehow I forget. This is a job that can be such a pleasure. Close to nature, reveling in the dark black dirt, feeling the tides of the seasons, sweat dripping down my brow.

Now, I don't like sweat. I think I may be one of those people who is allergic to their own sweat - or my diet isn't healthy enough yet, so the toxins leaving my body through my sweat glands make me itch. I really hate to sweat, but somehow in the garden it's okay. I'm focused enough that the sweat is just a slight distraction.

Weeding keeps the hands and body busy, but leaves the mind free to wander a bit. Dreams of the harvest and the beauty of the bed when all those yummies for the body and soul fill in keep it interesting. I'm reminded every time I do this particular chore why I want to be a farmer - working in harmony with nature, feeling the tides of the seasons, feeding the bodies and souls of others. All valid reasons to want to farm. I've actually begun doing research to figure out what kind of farm I want to have - of course, Beloved, ever practical, keeps bringing up all the challenges and hurtles. Yet, while I'm weeding all I have to do is dream and nurture these wonderful plants that have agreed to share their lives with me at least for this growing season. The bonus: weeds make great compost!

This is what I sing to my garden as I work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QTj45cTB4U

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

lazy? depression?

Well, it's been awhile. Things have been somewhat busy here on the homestead. The second bunch of nuggets are growing (these are dual purpose roosters, so they won't be ready for slaughter until November or so and surprise of surprises we didn't lose any of them). The first group of pullets are starting to assimilate in with the established flock and our 3 more layers are still hanging with the nuggets, but I think we'll start free ranging them this weekend. I have to admit it is nice to have them all outside and not in my living room, though ;}

The garden is doing pretty well. We've planted lots of different types of tomatoes, some peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, spaghetti squash, bush beans, potatoes, onions and of course the peas. The peas are basically done now - next year we will have to plant lots more. We've started stocking the freezer with peas from the farm stand/market. Looking forward to local peas in January! Eating almost entirely local now - love the summer for good food.

Starting my own seeds was a complete bust - feeling really stressed about all the seeds I bought and the fact that unless they went into the ground - I didn't get anything from them. Also was unable to grown any greens - we're still working on reconfiguring beds to hopefully be more successful later in the season. I've also had a hard time finding seedlings of the medicinal herbs I want to plant :{ - we managed to winter over our chives and some thyme and I purchase some lavender and some basil to put in the garden. I also bought a really pretty ornamental yarrow for my "pretty" bed in front of my bedroom window, but I haven't even been able to figure out where I want to plant my nettle. I'm feeling a bit stumped and like I'm running out of time. The strawberry plants did not come back and I'm now thinking of pulling them out and just not having any - they are plentiful in our area, so I'm thinking that we should just purchase them at a upick farm for the freezer and jam.

Lately, I seem to be focused on what I haven't accomplished rather than what I have and this makes me feel lazy and depressed. I think all in all I'll feel much better once we have the garden fenced in - then I can really be weeding and checking on things and maybe get something more planted - I'm afraid to plant anything else right now because the cheeckens or the ground hog will probably eat it (what we've planted so far is fenced in with temporary fencing until the whole garden is done).

I have managed to remain pretty strong in my commitment to only line dry our laundry - we've used the dryer twice in the last few weeks, so I guess that's an accomplishment. However, I've really dropped the ball in my sewing projects and herbal studies. I've also fallen out of my spiritual practice and studies. I'm really feeling like I'm in a holding pattern, maybe even back tracking a bit.

I know this path is about adjustment, releasing old habits and learning new ones, but I have to admit I'm just really tired and find it hard to fight my old habits - I'm just really struggling right now. Maybe working third shift has just caught up to me?

I'm sure I'll figure it all out and start back on this important spiritual/practical journey - maybe I just need a vacation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

growing homestead

Our little homestead is growing. The next batch of cheecks has arrived - 18 more. That brings the total of cheeckens to 37 - yes we currently have 37 cheeckens. Beloved didn't believe me when I first did the count - I mean how can we possible have that many cheeckens?! There are 9 nuggets that go for slaughter next Monday, 15 new cheecks (5 days old) for meat, 3 more (also 5 days old) for laying + the 5 from the established flock with the 5 hens that were added with the nuggets - they are about 7 weeks old. Whew. So thats 9+15+3+5+5=37 - I'm not sure exactly how that happened ;}

Here are the newest batch of cheeckies:

We've also added a new puppy to the hopeful, humble homestead. Her name is Sheela Na Gig and she's about 8 weeks old. A true Mutt - a little border collie, some bull mastiff and a bunch of other breeds in her mom and her dad's some sort of hound. She is very cute and the first "big dog" we've had. Our other older dog is being very patient with her. The kids are being very responsible and doing most of the walkies and clean up. She is fitting in very well.

Of course the only way to get her picture is when she is sleeping - when she's awake all pictures are a blur. ;}


Monday, May 3, 2010

Beltane

Happy post Beltane all!

We had a lovely Beltane or actually a lovely May 2 with some friends and some gardening. Yesterday, Beloved stripped some sod up and prepped 2 new beds for me and helped me reconfigure my little viola patch. Today we planted onions in one bed and trellised the peas after stripping more sod. This is a bit more involved then you might think. The peas are enclosed in a "cage" of chicken wire to keep out cheeckens, so we had to open that up and put up the trellis. We also had to enclose the onions with a chicken wire "cage" and that took some doing. The girl and I also weeded the front perennial bed that is slowly being transformed into another herb bed ;} - that's where I'm planting some more medicinals.

Yesterday some old friends came over for a visit - yes I warned them that if they came by they would be put to work - they did pretty well for city folk ;} Then we had hamburgers and salad topped off by a fireside chat. All in all a good Beltane.

Lots still to do here on the homestead - the Nuggets go to meet the butcherman in 2 weeks and the next batch of cheecks comes on Friday, so we need to get the hens in the house out to the coop to open up the brooder for new cheeckies. They, of course are really too small to be with the big cheeckens, so we are trying to figure out how to cage off one corner for them until they're as big as the established flock. Should be interesting. Luckily we work pretty well under pressure.

We lost a tree in the woods to the side of our house last week in a big wind storm that landed on the utility line going into the house (see my last post for details). Unfortunately, the utility worker that took the tree off the line dropped it in my raised bed - urgh. Now I'm not really sure how upset I am about this because for the life of me I can not get anything but bush beans to grow in that bed. I can not get lettuce or chard or spinach to grow there - I can't figure it out. Beloved and I talked about it and think maybe the drainage in that bed is too good and the plants just aren't getting enough water. Maybe??? I'm starting to get a bit frustrated. We're talking about taking the bed down a bit to make it less deep and closer to ground level hoping that might help - I was hoping to use this bed for hoop tunnels to grow greens next winter, but not if I can't get any to grown this spring. We'll see - it's hard to get everything done 2 days a week, so I'm thinking we need to put more evenings in and I'll just take shorter evening naps.

Well, that's all for now - Happy Spring to one and all!

Friday, April 30, 2010

surprises

Okay so yesterday was a day about surprises. The weather was the start of it all. Woke to a chilly but beautiful, windy, sunny day - no surprises there, pretty much what weather.com forecast. Cloud cover quickly rushed in around 1 pm or so and the next thing I know, IT'S SNOWING! Wind is picking up - we hurriedly get the cheecks back inside (first intro to the great outdoors for our new laying hens) and hunker down. Snow mixes with rain and the sun comes out - not particularly surprising, I've seen the sun shine while it's raining many times before. Temp is quite low. The snow and rain stop - very short lived little squall - and the wind continues. Now wind is not surprising on our property, we live at the base of a "mountain" so we see lots of wind here. What was surprising is the huge CRACK that made the kids and I jump out of our seats. I went into my bedroom and looked out the window to find a dead tree had fallen on the power lines going into the house - SURPRISE! What is even more surprising is that the power did not go out and the lines did not disconnect from the house or the telephone pole. Thank goodness we had put the cheeckens in. Power company came and removed the tree at midnight - all is right with the world and we never even lost power!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day today by letting Father Sun dry my laundry as he warms Mother Earth. That and some knitting ;}

The kids are celebrating by riding their bikes for the first time this spring.

Love the earth, love the spring, loving life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

spring moves on


Well, it's been interesting here at the hopeful, humble homestead. We just had snow a couple of days ago - quite a bit, an inch or so. I can tell you driving home in the snow squalls at 2am was not fun (oh the challenges of third shift life ;)


The biggest news is that the nuggets are out of the house!!! YAY!! WOO HOO!! The smell in my living room is already so much better. The best part was how the family pulled together and worked to get the coop addition built, so we could get them out of the house. It was a wonderful afternoon of family cooperation and then the pleasure of moving the "franken cheeckies" outside to their new digs.... What a relief. I love crossing goals off the list. That was a big one for the spring.





The peas are coming up and looking great. My chard is very small, but still growing as is the lettuce. There are a couple of spinach plants peeking out of their bed, but no sign of beet greens yet. I love having the hoop tunnel in place, so if the temps are going down significantly we can cover them up. The temps this spring have really confused my garden. Heck - they've confused me. We haven't removed the straw mulch we wintered the herb bed with yet and the chives have already grown up through. It's neat to see the green peeking up through the straw - makes me smile and reminds me that nature wins - always nature prevails.

However, the tomato seedlings are not happy - they were growing happily for a while and now the leaves are curling and blotchy - thinking maybe over watering? Not sure - still trying to remind myself they are just seeds and we can always buy seedlings from the garden center to plant if we need to. Meanwhile, the other seedlings seem to be doing well.

I've also made a new commitment to hanging laundry out on the line when ever I can - I'm hoping I won't be using the dryer at all by winter. Beloved put up a second line for me because I realized the reason I didn't use the line last year is because it just wasn't big enough for an entire washing machine load - now I have enough for a load and a half or so - 2 loads if they are small. I've only used my dryer once in the last 3 weeks! Exciting! Laundry on the line makes me happy ;}


Thursday, April 8, 2010

loving overcast days

I have to admit it - as much as I love the longer days and the warm sunshine, I'm not a sun worshipper in the sense that I sit out in it. Those of you who have met me in person know that I'm, how shall I put it... a red headed ghost; the sun's rays are not necessarily my friend. I've had sun poisoning and it is not fun. Anyway, all this means is that I love the sun, but have to be very careful when enjoying His light. Yesterday was a hot sunny day and I enjoyed it, from inside. Today however is overcast and a bit cool, a perfect day to be outside in my book, so I did some gardening.

I'm still new to this whole gardening thing and with my hands still a bit in recovery mode, I have to leave some things up to Beloved. He does the clearing and digging and moving, I point, explain and do the planting. It's a good system, but it means I need to be patient if I want to start a new bed. Today, as much as I see the need to get the new beds prepped, I know I'll wait til Beloved is available to help. The Girl and I can certainly plant in beds that are ready though and that's what we did. We had already started our raised bed and our peas, but I left room in the raised bed for succession plantings, so today we did another row of lettuce, beet greens, spinach and swiss chard. I thought that I had jumped the gun and was going to have to replant some items, the peas, spinach and beet greens because everytime I've checked there has been nothing, but low and behold today SPROUTS OF EVERYTHING! YEAH! I'm very excited.

Our seedlings are doing well in the bathroom, I think the rosemary may even be considering sprouting. Rosemary, from what I've read is difficult to get to sprout - I was beginning to give up, but a few little bits of green are starting to show. Unfortunately, the broccoli was squashed by a cat trapped in the bathroom (Beloved accidently locked him in there - only broccoli was lost) so we do need to start over with those.

The cheeckies continue to grow, the nuggets have already by passed tender and moved on to small game hen ;}. I can't wait to get them out of the house! Beloved has begun the coop addition, hopefully the "franken cheeckies" will be out soon.

Ralph has really done a lot of damage to the girls this winter and spring - he is not gentle in "having his way" with them. The RIR hens are completely bald on their backs, both Barred Rock hens are bald on their heads and one is beginning to get a bit bald on the back. He's also begun to chase the Girl. What's difficult for me, is that as much as I don't want him intimidating the Girl, he is exhibiting the exact behavior I want of a rooster - he's protecting his girls - I have no doubt he would take on a rouge dog, skunk, raccoon, hawk, raven or any other predator that goes after his girls. If he were a dog, I'd do some training or rehome the dog to a more appropriate environment for his temperament. A rooster is really not very trainable - they are to an extent, but instinct is the driving force for a rooster and dominating other roosters and protecting his flock is what a rooster does. I think he sees the Girl as more of a threat as a competing rooster than as any real threat to the flock. Anyway, it's quite a dilemma. Maybe an Australorp rooster may be in our future. In the meantime, we have to figure a way to separate Ralph from the hens or make saddles for the girls. The Girl and he have made peace for the time being, she just avoids him. She has informed me that she can run faster than he can, so she's fine for now.

I'm loving that my kids have so completely changed their attitude about food. Today for lunch we had brown rice and sauted vegis in local raw organic butter - yummm. Just a year ago they'd have asked for chicken fingers and french fries or mac and cheese, and complained when I said no eat this - of course then they'd ask "where's the meat? Can't we at least have some hamburger with it?" Now all I hear is "Mommie this is delicious!" and "Mommie this is AMAAZING!" These changes we are making are beginning to be embraced by the kids. Last year I had to struggle to get the family to eat any vegis other than corn, green beans, raw carrot sticks (only baby ones and only raw), celery, peppers (preferably red) and tomatoes (as long as they were in spaghetti sauce). I was really happy with that - Beloved wouldn't eat all of these, but the kids would. I just saw so many kids not eating any vegis, that I was glad mine ate these. Now after we began trying to transition to mostly local (at least during the summer ;) the kids and even Beloved with eat a couple of different squashes (spaghetti is the fav), peas (that was a battle, but now after eating fresh local they love 'em), beet greens, chard, spinach, I could go on. It's really exciting to see my kids and my hubby getting excited about healthy food and to be interested in where our food comes from.

I have to admit, I love my life - I love the changes we have made and that we are together and supporting each other with this little "homestead". I love my cheeckens and that I've found the courage to change my life. I love that I get to spend so much time with my kids (even when I'm exhausted from working) and I get to celebrate the milestones of learning in the moment. I love my friends and family and their ability to support me even when they don't understand. I'm just in love with life. :}

Now I have to go feed the cheeckies - they're out of food AGAIN!

Friday, April 2, 2010

the fragility of life


Well, we're down to 9 nuggets. One got very lethargic, had some runny white coming out of the vent, went into spasms and just died. All happened in less than a hour. The poor little guy was a bit lethargic this morning, but got up wandered around and had some food, so I thought he'd be just fine until about a hour ago. The Girl is the most matter of fact about it- she feels bad, but she really seems okay with it - she was patting him before we put him away for burial later today when Beloved gets home. The Boy barely noticed; he borrowed a Nintendo DS game from a friend and that's all he has any interest in right now.

Now we'll empty out the brooder box, scrub it all down with hot water and apple cider vinegar, add new shavings, and clean food and water dishes with hot water and apple cider vinegar.

Having grown up on a hobby farm and next to a working farm, I know that a chick dying is just part of the experience - there was probably nothing I could have done differently and the chick was probably just not very strong - chicks die, but now I worry that I did something wrong and I'm afraid we may lose more. big sigh.... Besides, as the Girl says, "Now we can't eat him."

All this talk of my brooder box reminds me that I don't thing I've ever shared pictures, so here you go if you're interested:




...and I built it myself last year when the first batch of chicks outgrew there previous "home" and the coop wasn't finished. I think it came out well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Shine, shine, shine, let it shine!"

YES! THE SUN HAS FINALLY RETURNED TO POLAND, ME. Oh happy day.

Checked on my plantings under the hoop tunnel - quite warm and dry in there, so we (the Girl and I) gave them a good long drink and pulled back the plastic until we have another cold snap.

Plans for outdoor housing for the Nuggets are underway - hopefully construction will begin this weekend. Our "weekend" is Sunday and Monday, not Saturday and Sunday, so hopefully I'll get some pictures up for the Nugget addition by Monday evening.

I don't have a lot to say - I'm going to go out and enjoy the sun - I suggest those of you who can take advantage do so as well ;}

Blessings from a sunny day in Maine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

knitting and cheeckies


I have to admit that working third shift has its challenges - lack of sleep for instance. However, there are some "perks". The night shift at this time of year tends to be quite slow - no, I take that back - veeerrrrrryyyyy sllllooooowwwwww. Last night I finished Beloved's new socks; he's actually wearing them at work today. Here they are:
I think they came out well, especially considering I haven't done any knitting in over 2 years. I rarely even had to look at my pattern - Beloved asked while I was working on them whether I felt like there was a "relearning curve" and I had to admit it was like riding a bike only easier. When I didn't ride a bike for a long time and then started again, I had to refigure out the whole balance thing - it only took a little while, but with knitting, honestly it was like I never even stopped - I really didn't even need my toe grafting cheat sheet. Now on to socks for the Girl and myself. I still have to find the right yarn for the Boy - then I'll make him some ;}

One of my co-workers used to raise chickens for meat and he just loves to tease me about my cheecken journey. He laughed at me when I talked about how stinky these cheecks are this time around and how fast they are growing. As much as he teases, he also has given me some good advice about the cheeckens. Last night's was that I should move them out of the house as soon as possible (he never had his in the house, but I think he has a garage he could keep them in). I have to admit I'm seriously considering moving them to the basement. The Girl is quite upset with me about even considering it - she just doesn't understand that the heat lamp with keep them warm where ever they are.

I was sharing with all of you just the other day how much the Nuggets have grown and decided I would share a couple of photos showing the differences in size between the layers and the meat birds. Remember, these cheeckies were born on the same day:


In other news, I have given up on my broccoli seedlings - they are far too leggy and have starting falling over - we should definitely have put the grow light up sooner. I'll just pull them out of the pot and start over - Love SEEDS!

All in all, in spite of the stink, life is good. :}

Monday, March 29, 2010

it's raining again

Well, not too much is happening here in the homestead. Rain kinda stops things in their tracks when trying to get things done outside, though we did manage to get deer fencing up along most of the right hand property line to keep cheeckens out of the neighbor's yard.

We do have some growing green seedlings in the bathroom and after a week Nuggets 1-10 have almost doubled in size. They are stinky in my living room too. The pullets are growing, though not as noticeably as the "Nuggets". Life continues unabated.

Beloved is a little worried about the late spring/early summer because I keep expanding the garden plans. He looks at me with worry every time I buy more seeds ;} mostly because he does most of the prep work and it means lots of prep work - we're (by we I mean me;}) planning 3 new raised beds and 2 other regular beds as well as fencing to keep our friendly neighborhood ground hog out. I'm thinking of taking the last weekend of May off from work to get everything all set - or as all set as a garden gets. Of course it helps that the Girl's birthday is that weekend as well.

Knitting continues and still fills me with unbelievable joy. I bought another skein of sock yarn for a pair of socks for me because Beloved's first pair are almost done. I will probably knit a pair for the Girl before starting mine though. I'm just that kind of mom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

cheeckies look dead when they sleep

Cheeckies look dead when they sleep - minor heart attack when I look in the brooder box. Don't worry they are fine - just sleeping ;}

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

rainy day on the "homestead"

Well a rainy day means cheeckens are in and so are we. It also means the girl is having a hard time leaving her brother alone - time for something creative for her to do. Time to practice letters in her workbook then maybe some ATC art.

I'm making more granola - yum the last batch is all eaten up, everyone seems to have enjoyed it. It's quite cool today, so the oven is helping to heat the room up, which is always a good thing.
Today is a great day for art and knitting, so that's what we'll spend the rest of the afternoon doing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the next day

Well our Ostara was truly blessed by beautiful, warm weather and we got much accomplished. Our raised bed is planted with lettuce, kale, spinach and beet greens. We decided today that we should go ahead and hoop this bed - we have freezing overnight temperatures forecast for later in the week and besides the hoop tunnel is cool!
We also dug up and tilled the newest bed to add to the garden - peas! Yum. The kids and Duane finally gave fresh peas a chance last year from the farmer's market and they all decided they love them, so we're growing our own. It felt wonderful digging in the dirt and luckily we still had some compost left from last year, so the soil is now nice and yummy and rich. As soon as we finished I realized that the bed is now prime cheecken scratching space, so we put them in the coop and fenced the bed in this morning - sorry guys - those peas are for us! Eventually the plan is to fence the whole front yard in, but until then the temporary fence will do the job quite nicely.

Beloved and the boy also raked the entire front yard, so the whole area looks much nicer now. The girl was just an all around good helper - she had so much fun helping me plant and was really good at spreading the compost in the beds.

We also notice buds on all our lilac bushes and blueberry bushes - yay they made it through the winter!
It feels really good to have started the garden - life continues anew. Blessed Ostara!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SPRING IS HERE!


Blessed Ostara to one and all. Spring is definitely here. The living room is filled with the sounds of peeping, the cats are clustered around the brooder watching the new cheekies, there are seedlings beginning to sprout in the bathroom (to keep cats out of the dirt), the first bed has been tilled, and seeds have arrived or are on order.
the newest batch of cheeckies.

Whew. Lots is planned for our humble homestead this summer. We are expanding our laying flock by 8 hens: a RIR, a Barred Rock, 3 Australorps (the cheecken of my childhood ;) and 3 Ameraucanas. We also have 10 Cornish Crosses - Nuggets 1-10 right now and an assortment of 15 dual purpose breed cockerels coming next month. Good eating for the family this Fall and Winter. We're hoping to raise all our chicken meat from now on - also exploring the possibility of a pig next year that we would raise, but split the cost and meat with some friends. We'll see how the cheeckens go.

We are also expanding the garden quite a bit, which after last year is very brave of me - I only got some herbs and bush beans out of my garden last year, so I'm really taking a chance with my skills. They're only seeds right? If it works out, lots of vegis in cans and the freezer, if it doesn't, I have two farmers' markets down the street. Gotta love living in the country. My beloved bent some electrical conduit for me to make hoop tunnels to start my cold weather seeds, but the weather is so good I'm not sure if I should use them now or wait until the Fall. It is possible that we could get another hard freeze, but it seems unlikely. I'm planning on planting this weekend, so I've got to make a decision and if it's the wrong one....well, it's only seed right?

Other big news at the homestead - I'm knitting again!!!! As my friend Jim says, "Hope is knitting, all is right with the world". It's amazing to me how much calmer I feel and more connected to all of life now that I can partake once again in my favorite pastime. I've already "finished" a lace scarf of homespun (I think it may need to be longer, so I may frog a bit and lengthen it) and yes this was my first post surgery project (leave it to me to start again with lace ;). I now have a pair of socks on the needles for beloved and I'd like to get 5 pair per family member knit by Yule, plus a sweater for the girl - thinking a cardigan I may try to design myself. As I knit and finish projects I'm happy to post pictures if anyone is interested.

Life is definitely good on our Hopeful, Humble (and Happy) Homestead.




Wednesday, February 17, 2010

bravery and health

Today is a beautiful day outside and after a bout of yucky tummy virus on Monday and then snow yesterday - I decided that today I would prioritize getting some sun. Sunlight is an important factor in the absorption of some vital vitamins and minerals, and I tend to avoid the outdoors in the winter - I just don't like the cold. This winter and fall have been particularly bad because of the fall out of this fall's surgery. Depression is not fun, but the good thing is that sunlight helps with that too.

Anyway, I decided that I would prioritize getting some sunlight today and I really dislike just sitting especially when it's cold. I could read or surf the web, but not fun in the cold. I'm also trying to get up of my big, curvy bottom more often, so what to do? In the vein of health I turned to an old friend that has supported my mental and spiritual health over the years - my fiber arts. Yes, I did it; I took a big deep breath and got out some spinning. Aaaahhhh, spinning on the deck of my house in the sunlight with my spindle, listening to my cheeckens cluck and crow..... some things could be better, but that was pretty damn close to as good as it gets.

See I gave up all fiber arts (knitting, spinning and the like) over 2 years ago when the carpal tunnel symptoms started - this was my first line of defense and I manage to stave off surgery for a couple of years, but.... those arts along with my sketching and painting have been a major source of mental and spiritual health - those expressions of myself help keep depression and anxiety away. I've missed them horribly especially knitting and spinning. My decision to have the surgery had a lot to do with trying to get those activities back into my life and until today I've been hesitant to try - fear that the carpal tunnel symptoms would come back held me back. But I did it - I stood in the sunlight looking for healing from a little sunlight and a little piece of wool and a spindle and you know what, I think it's working.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

things newly considered

Okay - there are certain items in life that I never considered one could, would, should make. I mean the idea of a cloth shopping bag made sense to me when the plastic bags came along and though I've been a bit slow on jumping on the bandwagon, this was always something I knew I could, would, should make. (Of course now I work for L.L.Bean and get Boat and Totes inexpensively and they just rock, so our shopping bags are purchased for stupid cheap) I just recently made some produce bags for myself of muslin - I need to make about 5 more, but this is also an item that makes a lot of sense to me and doesn't shock or concern my more mainstream friends. But now that I'm drinking lots of herbal teas and yummy loose leaf black tea - I'm about to make an item that wouldn't have ever occurred to me even 2-3 years ago. I'm going to make reuseable teabags out of muslin and thin cotton cord/thread. I found these instructions online:
http://bp2.blogger.com/_734j__hVcBk/RcPVYqoHWtI/AAAAAAAAADQ/AEY5-Jymd6k/s1600-h/Pinch-of-Tea.jpg
and with slight modification - these will be my new tea bags. Mostly so I can take tea to work for use in my travel mug. My cousin seems mortified.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

enjoying the bounty of last years harvest

As many of you know, last summer was not a banner year for many home gardeners here in Maine. A very rainy Spring and early Summer made gardening challenging especially for vegetables. To top all those challenges off, this year was my first garden, so I did not have a whole lot to show for my gardening work this past year except lessons.

The one area that really flourished in my garden was my herbs. I had a ton of rosemary and thyme at the end of the season and I dried much of it. We have a string tied along our hall ceiling on which are hung lots of bunches of rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage. I also dried some rosemary and thyme in the oven, so have some in mason jar on the counter. The thyme on the counter ran out, so I jsut spent an enjoyable hour or so stripping thyme leaves from our hall herbs to store on the counter - very handy to be able to grab a bit out of the jar to add to my cooking - love it!

Now, the rosemary is still overflowing in our household. My herb garden was an attempt at a knot garden with rosemary as the hedge marking the line of the knot. I've mulched the rosemary like crazy in hopes that some may winter over, but this means last year I go a ton of rosemary - I actually threw out 1/2 plastic bucket (the kind you get a Lowes) because I couldn't process it quickly enough and it started to rot. Now, I'm researching medicinal uses of rosemary to use some of this up. Next year if I stick to my rosemary hedge plan I can use the rosemary to make wreaths and other gifts for next Yule/Christmas. This year the carpal tunnel really cramped my hand-made gift options.

The best part of my afternoon herbal activities is the joy that I grew this - well we grew this, the boy helped a great deal even using the herb garden as a homeschool project last year. It's an amazing feeling knowing that even this small thing I can use to feed and medicinally treat my family fills me with a calm and even a bit of pride. This whole gardening thing really rocks! It's time to start planning for this summer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

beautiful day in Poland, Maine

Yesterday was all about rain and I have to admit I usually love rainy days (my beloved calls me his duck), but rain in the winter is just depressing. When the snow started flying this winter I got very excited because not only is the snow pretty, it acts as a wonderful insulator for my little perennial plants that are overwintering - I visualize the snow as a warm comfy blanket for my plants - does this make me an "at heart gardener"? Now, so much has melted that I worry for my plants; it's only January - admittedly it is a balmy day, seems like it could be as warm as 50 out there and I have a bunch of windows open to air out - I know we are going to have another cold snap and without that comfy snow blanky, what will happen to my plants?! I'll get over it and replant plants I lose, but it still makes me worry.

Cheeckens are doing fine. Ralph, the Rhode Island Red Rooster, has a pretty serious case of frost bite - we put a heat lamp in the coop and it seemed to help for a bit, but then some very cold nights have done some damage. We built our coop to accommodate a least a dozen cheeckens, so I think the 5 we have, haven't been able to heat that space efficiently with their body heat alone - there needs to be more cheeckens! ;} Ralph doesn't seem to be in any pain - he'll let me touch the area with outcomplaint, so other than a herbal ointment I'm going to let it go for now. If it gets much worse we may have remove it - poor Ralph. The girls on the other hand are giving us an egg a day - that's 4 a day!

I found a gold mine at the supermarket yesterday - a 20 lb bag of local potatoes! I am a happy camper! Potato leek soup for dinner last night and lunch today - local food makes me so happy.

My herbal studies continue - so much to learn! I'm planning on making my first tincture later today, Elderberry that I can store to make into batches of syrup as needed to help fight flu. I'm also planning a Angelica tincture, some research I've read calls Angelica an all around good woman's herb and I have had a lot of "woman health challenges" over the years and I've decided to spend the next year working with this herb.

The kids have been outside almost every day this month - the rain yesterday kept them in though. I find it's actually easier to get them outside to play in the winter - they love the snow. Sledding, throwing snowballs, just making their way across the yard is very enjoyable for them - I love it. Today they built their first snowman! I've encouraged them to build one in the past, but they've showed little to no interest. We now have a lovely little snowman in our sacred space - the boy keeps threatening to "kill" it with one of his sword/sticks. I told him to do that he had to build his own.

Winter plugs away, beauty is all around us, and the New Year continues to bring the promise of countless blessings.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lunch, local foods, and seeds

Well, the holidays have come and gone - this year was one of a lot of emotions. On one hand we were in our new house for our first holiday season, but I've still been recovering from my hand surgery so I couldn't pick up any extra hours at work during the busy time - paycheck was lower than usual for this time of year. I was also scheduled for Thanksgiving eve and Christmas night so that put a bit of a cramp in the usual plans. However, it was a very blessed holiday season all around. We attended a wonderful Solstice celebration with our community. Then, I started coming down with a cold Christmas day, so we opted to stay home instead of seeing our friends as we traditionally do. Yummy quiche made with our cheeckens' eggs wasn't exactly traditional but it was certainly filling both physically and spiritually. Lots of happy tears between my man and I sitting on the couch watching the boy and the girl opening their gifts - we finally did it, we have a house.

We've always had a home - anywhere we've lived has been filled with our family's love and that is what truly makes a home. Now we have roots and a connection with this piece of land - we are caretakers of a particular slice of our Mother Earth. It is an awesome responsibility and not one we take lightly. It feels wonderful though. Finding harmony with this particular place both physically and spiritually is challenging, but oh so rewarding. I just hope we don't let ourselves and our kids down by making bad decisions - all we can do is try - that is the true challenge moving out of our comfort zone and trying new things.

I have been researching more about local foods - my friend Wendy (hi Wendy) introduced me to this concept - I mean I've often shopped at farmer's markets and tried to shop at small independent business whenever possible, but I didn't know that there was any kind of "movement". Growing as much of our own food as possible has always been a goal of mine and now that we are here it's a goal we are working toward. First I have to figure out this whole gardening thing.

Not long after moving in to our new house. I read Plenty; Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet a wonderful book and then became more committed to eating locally, though sometimes it's hard and I have to admit this is a goal not an actuality. Today I gave the kids clementines with their lunch, not local by any means, but filled with fiber and vitamin C. You see, I've begun taking an online herbalism course with a very close friend and one of the last "chapters/articles" was about supplementation for vitamins and minerals. One of the vitamins most Americans are deficient in is Vitamin C - it is very difficult to get the recommended dosage of vitamin C in our foods alone - I have started drinking a lot of Rosehip tea because it is high in vitamin C and Rosehips are something I can grow here at home (yes roses are the big goal for this spring/summer). However, I'm struggling with the concept of removing a fruit the kids love from our diet because it's grown too far away especially while it is still affordable and most of what's available to me right now is already grown so far away - it's hard to get local vegis. I'm really wishing we had joined the winter CSA now. The goals for this coming harvest is to have a freezer and freeze and can much more local food. I'd love to be able to open a home canned jar of beans and add those to the many soups and stew we make this time of year.

I've discovered a Maine farm that grows and grinds grains into flour! It is in the far north and I would have to mail order, but at least it's the same state, right? Local flour is a big deal, I love making my own bread and did for years, but my hands have not been able to handle the kneading or shaping the last couple of years. Now that recovery is progressing so well, I'm hoping to start making my own bread again soon - it would be really cool to use Maine grown flour.

The seed catalogues have arrived! I just don't know what to choose! Those of you who have been doing this for years, I'm sure you can relate. It really overwhelming and some stuff has already sold out or gone on backorder. Johnny Seeds - my fav - has almost all their potatoes on backorder. I'm planning on getting some graph paper and colored pencils to map out the garden expansion. The gardening bug is buzzing - hasn't bit quite yet, but soon.