Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sacred Sunday

A day of rest, family, connection, friends and relishing in the sweetness of life

Friday, November 28, 2014

With Our Bellies Full

This year has left me feeling more full of gratitude than any past year. We have a beautiful new home with indoor plumbing and insulation (we moved from a primitive-ish yurt). Grandma and Grandpa, brother, uncles and aunts, cousins and old friends all live within an hour's drive now from us, we have friendly and helpful neighbors, our son is vibrant and totally rad. We have a freezer full of meat and berries. A storeroom full of winter squash, potatoes and apples. Creativity is flowing in our household. Love is here.
I'm very aware of the not-so-pretty historical side of Thanksgiving, it's true origins, but really, for me the essence of gratitude and abundance are what excite me about this precious time spent with family and sharing rich food. In the quiet of the morning while food is not yet attended to, there is a shift that occurs, causing this day to be less than mundane for me. Not typical. There is a childish anticipation for the cars to pull into the driveway with family and friends carrying armloads of food and drink to share.  The knock on the door, greetings and hugs, smiles, stepping thru the threshold of the door into a warm and inviting kitchen and smells of rosemary and wood smoke. 
This simple shift from normal day to holiday is profound for me. After being tied to the daily rituals of work, the garden, my child, and housekeeping, these celebratory days allow me to shift my energy and focus on what's before me. It's easy to say that focusing on gratitude for the day of Thanksgiving is cliche, but really, we live close to the seasons and with these seasons carry a spirit, an essence.. allowing for personal growth and reflection. This is what I love about this time of year, that it's heavily laden with space for reflection, space to slow down and gather, space to say "thank you".

And we are full to the brim….

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Simple Sheep Shelter

Today was the day to finally get started on our new barn for the sheep. With plenty of building supplies and a lot of enthusiasm for building on this chilly morning, we went to stake out the perimeter and dig holes for the corner timbers. Unfortunately, we were a week too late. The ground is solid. Frozen. Not- getting-through-until-spring solid. So after a bit of pouting that I won't get to look out the back door to a  crafty little barn for the next five months, I went ahead with Shaun's idea to make a temporary, yet practical, shelter. We constructed it mostly in under three hours with some scavenged supplies and some bought. And honestly, although it's not worthy of the cover of Mother Earth News, it's super sturdy and protective (unless we have another surprise Christmas lamb!). This project is something I would recommend to any shepherd using pasture-rotation methods or doesn't want to invest thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars into starting their own flock.

So here it is: a simple frame made from 2x4's that came off of some old pallets we found. The bottom pieces have a 45 degree angle cut so they can act as skis when moving this shelter around the land. We nailed two pieces of rigid cattle fencing (some of our favorite versatile farm materials around) to the sides of the skis. It's a little wobbly without framing in some vertical 2x4's, and for extra protection, we added a plywood backing. This is where I got to continue my apprenticeship with power tools!

We added two large tarps and attached them with zip ties. The plywood still needs to be painted to protect the already rotting (but free!) plywood. However, I'm not sure that paint will set at the temperatures we have been having, so….in addition to my slight disdain for tarp-y structures, I get to look at ugly plywood all winter long. 
Sarcasm aside, this really is a wonderfully versatile farm structure. Hay or firewood storage, a jug for new lambs and their mothers, a mini garage for 4-wheelers? Use your imagination...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest Post: How to Make Chaga Concentrate

An 11 pound chaga!
I ran out of chaga a while ago so I’ve been drinking tea from purchased tea bags. And then I ran out of those, too. We were on our way out of the woods after deer hunting when Steve spotted chaga on a birch tree. He stopped (as in slammed on the brakes) and cut the larger of two pieces off the tree. It weighed 11 pounds. When chaga dries it becomes difficult to break without a saw so I needed to get it into manageable chunks as soon as possible. No problem! The wood splitter was handy and in five minutes it was down to size.
It doesn’t look appealing, does it?  Chaga Mountain provides the health benefits on their website. I use their tea when I don’t have my own chaga. You can orderchaga chunks and other items on their website. Your health food store might also carry chaga. I looked at Natural Living Center in Bangor yesterday. They’re selling it for $29.95 a pound.
You can grind chaga into a crumble to make tea if you have a rugged grinder. I wouldn’t use my Magic Bullet, food processor light weight coffee grinder for the job, especially if the chaga is dry. Break it into quarter sized pieces if possible for a nice cup of tea.
I broke mine into baseball sized pieces to make concentrate. Chaga is porous and will absorb water if given enough time.
The largest piece is about the size of a baseball.
Put the chaga in the small crock pot early in the morning. Fill it with cold water, cover it, and set the heat to high. Leave it alone until the water starts to simmer. Remove the cover to let the water evaporate. The chaga will absorb water and eventually sink to the bottom. Turn the heat off before going to bed and let the chaga steep. Half or more of the water should be gone by now.
Chaga concentrate
Chaga concentrate is as dark as black coffee
Next morning, remove the chaga and pour the liquid through a strainer. You probably won’t get all of the crumbly bits out and that’s okay. They’ll settle to the bottom of the jar. I heat one quart of concentrate until just before it boils then pour it into a hot canning jar and seal it. When the lid pops and the jar cools, store it in the fridge. I pour the rest into smaller jars to use fresh, storing it in the fridge.
If you don’t have enough chaga to make concentrate you can steep it for tea. Taste test as you go to determine the strength you like. You can use your pieces more than once!
I add one tablespoon to my coffee and tea and usually consume two or three tablespoons per day minimum. More is fine. It might take up to three months to help build your immune system. You should notice by the end of three months that you don’t catch every virus going around.

Check out Robin's Blog for more great how-to's and beautiful photography!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sacred Sunday

A day of rest, family, connection, friends and relishing in the sweetness of life.

What does your Sunday look like? Post a picture in the comments below...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

First Snow

It's here. It's just a bit, but it's enough for me. I feel like we're ready for this cold, white season. The sheep have shelter, the food is stored, Lars has a really cool wool hat that Papa made, plenty of firewood and there is a steady stream of birthdays for the next month filing me up with a celebratory spirit. We still have a few major farm projects to complete before I really sink into being home, but soon, these crafting days are going to start to pick up again. Although I sometimes wish I could have been knitting and spinning during the fall days, sewing sweet little clothes for Lars, painting and playing music, there was just never enough time in the day while the harvest was at large and the canning jars waiting to be filled. So I left these inspirations and picked them up when I had a moment or two throughout the day. But now, n o w, there is space away from food storing, moving sheep fencing, and all those 2014 farm projects get bumped into a thawing 2015. 
The deep nestling into home can happen now...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sold Out

Today, I successfully sold our last bit of sheep fleece for the 2014 fall shearing. Between Etsy and Craigslist, all of this fleecy goodness went into the hand of crafters all over the world and within a month's time of being advertised! It felt so decadent when we hired a professional shearer this year but when I saw how much cleaner and nicely shaped these Icelandic coats were, I knew they deserved to be processed in a way that met the quality of the shearing.
It was a gamble for sure. Spending what a year's supply of hay would be on some nice roving, that might sell, was a gamble that I couldn't hold off on any longer. So often, my fleeces get stored in large plastic bags in the barn and about half of them get processed. Another quarter of the processed fleeces get stored in a rubbermaid bin in my bedroom closet. Part of the problem is that I go to the yarn store for some stitch markers or some cotton yarn and somehow find my way to the roving and, well, who could pass down a silk/merino blend on sale? Surely not me…The roving builds up and then, sure enough, it's time to shear again!
So this was the year to test out a little wool business and we, surprisingly, made a tidy little profit. Enough for the first round of winter hay, at least. We break even and we're all happy- the sheep, me, my husband (for getting off the hook from shearing this year!) and the buyers ( I hope!). 
I plan on contacting the various buyers- from Washington State to Norway- to see if they would like to send pictures for a post of their creations. From sheep to…oh, I'm curious!

Luckily, these little ladies have put on a few inches of wool since this picture was taken, just in time for the first snows!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Woody Projects

Starting a little homestead from scratch (besides the cabin) isn't cheap. Animal shelters, hay feeders, chicken coop, fencing pastures, fencing a garden, compost toilet, orchard, it all adds up. And really fast. So, we're doing our best to collect the materials for free or barter. Pallets and timbers are easy to come by if you know where to look or have a forest permit to harvest from. But lumber is another story. 
Quite randomly, some neighbors from across the way saw our little building projects in the half-way phase and asked if we needed some more building supplies. They said to bring our trailer and we could fill it up, so by the grace of neighborly generosity we are now rich in 2x6's, a few 2x12s and lots of siding and plywood. Thank you kind neighbors!!

This hay feeder is just about done. Shaun plans on cutting some cedar shingles for the roof but I think the purchasing of the froe will have to wait while more essential tools are acquired. This is by far the best hay feeder that Shaun has built. There is little wasted hay, good cover and everyone gets a fair share at feeding at the same time. We used a swatch of rigid cattle fencing, some old plywood, thin timbers, a tarp and a few 2x4s. I love what intuitive building manifests! 

And…the moveable chicken coop project that is going painfully slow…but more on that later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For the first time in two years, Shaun and I had the house to ourselves. Lars went for an extended weekend stay with Grandma and Grandpa while we began to feel the inklings of what is what like to be young 20 somethings galavanting around town as we pleased. Well, we didn't really galavant, but we did go contra dancing which felt completely liberating driving to town, staying up (a bit) later than we're used to, and without the worry of the common 5:45 am wakeup nose tweaking we're accustomed to by our dear little Lars. 
With the days wide open, I can't say I accomplished a lot. My tendency is to catch up on chores, time-consuming projects and organizing the farm and house. This time, though, I gave into my lazy American self and watched Downton Abbey in the middle of the day while knitting and making ample baked goods to snack on. It felt soo good and completely satisfied that couch-potatoe part of me that rarely gets to express itself. By Sunday morning, I was tired of sitting and believe it or not, tired of knitting (that was a first). So, I fed the sheep some old Halloween pumpkins, assessed the hay situation (we're definitely going to need more!), and found some left over Flicker feathers that our barn cats caught. I'm amazed at how slow the days go by without Lars nearby. I do love the pace of being on my own but somewhere deep in my being I knew something was missing, not quite full. 
We're reunited now and although I wasn't prepared for a 5:30 am wake up this morning, there is nothing like a warm little body smothering your face demanding oats and play.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another Stocking

These stockings are such a joy to be working on with the onset of this unwavering frigidness. The pattern is interesting because of the many designs you can choose for each part of the stocking. It kind of reminds me of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series : ) There are about 10 or so nordic-like designs to use for the top band, the body and the toe. I think I've mentioned it before but it's a goal of mine to use up the rubbermaid bins, yes it's plural, binS…of scrap and collected yarn that wouldn't cut it for a whole project. If I wasn't such a yarn hoarder then I probably would have chosen different colors but they're stockings, so they should be bright and merry! 

This is a free pattern from Ravelry.   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


My husband is a master at finding ways to not go to Home Depot for construction projects. Sometimes the outcome of these projects is less than desirable but often they look more like works of art, unconventional yet sturdy, natural and beautiful. 
It surely is going to snow any day now and we really, really need to put up a sheep shed before that happens. It's going to be a timber frame shed built with pallets and old cedar siding from my parent's cabin. But first things first- the timbers. 

It was one of those days where Lars was in a great mood and happy to step on every mushroom he could find, crawling over logs without the least bit of annoyance for a loud chainsaw or chilly weather. Shaun did the chainsaw part and we both carried out our larch and cedar timbers. The outcome exceeded our initial estimate as we kept telling ourselves that just one more would only take a minute. And it really was quite easy! Shaun is starting to scheme on a rustic log cabin for his "man-cave". We worked until dark and with sore shoulders and tired legs we got home just in time for some homemade chicken soup and an invite for a wood-fired hot tub with friends. Life is good...