Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beautiful Homestead Film: The Better Angels

A Terrence Malick film and true to his traditional style, it is immaculately slow and quiet. It is a vignette on the early days of Abraham Lincoln living in an eastern hardwood forest with his family. There is always something to glean from movies like these, that portray rather accurately, what it was like to live "back in the day" whether it be a new idea for fencing in pigs or planting corn or teaching children to read. Watching this after a long day of weeding, planting, mothering and animal tending, it was like a massage for my soul to sink into the beauty of this film.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sacred Sunday

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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Still lambing and some haircuts

I'll be the first one to admit that I still feel very much like an amatuer when it comes to raising sheep. This is to preface my apologies to our dear ewe, Loki, who was chased around the pasture for a half hour while in labor by yours truly. Mothers: can you imagine having contractions with your baby's head crowning while running laps simultaneously? Loki sure knows what it's like...

Fortunately, I have a good reason for this ridiculous series of events and I'll explain...Shaun called out about 7:30 pm that we were having another lamb. I thought to myself, "that's great and, geeze, it's about time!" So Lars and I headed out there to watch our newest addition be pushed out into the world on a warm, spring evening.

The contractions weren't getting the baby out though, and as I neared to get a better look I could see the lamb's face was covered in dirt and there was no movement. Shaun said he had not checked on the sheep for hours and I started to think that perhaps mama ewe was struggling to birth a stillborn. As the contractions went on with no progress, I confirmed this was the case and approached Loki to help her get the little lamb out. My heart sunk and I quietly grieved the dead baby and the mother who would also grieve her little lamb (sheep can feel heart-broken too).

Loki is a pretty skittish ewe, however, and she wouldn't let us near her. We proceeded to walk/chase her around the pasture for quite some time. She would lay down to have a few more contractions and was back on her feet before we could near her. As we finally realized that we would have to make a proper catchment system and took the time to do so, Loki lay down once again and finally pushed her lamb out.

It lay there for, what seemed like 3 or 4 minutes, when the legs started to twitch. I was still uncertain as to whether the lamb would survive despite the small movements but after putting Lars to bed and checking on the pair an hour later, Loki's little ram lamb was up nursing and twitching his tail with all the vigor of a healthy newborn. What a relief! I do wish that I would have not gone into panic mode and just let the birth be. It's a challenging role, as caregiver to these sheep, to really know when to let them be, especially while delivering lambs. We'll just keep doing our best and keep this experience as a little nugget of wisdom for next lambing season, I guess…

As if that wasn't enough trauma for one week, shearing time (occurring a few days prior to the lamb incident) was imminent and the girls got their bi-annual haircuts. They were starting to look pretty miserable under all that wool during our lovely 80 degrees days we've been having.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

100% Juice

Sitting in our freezer for the past 9 months, were almost a dozen bags of aronia berries that were harvested last season. Now that the 2015 berry-harvest season is upon us, I decided some room was needed for all those delicious strawberries that are just about to ripen. 

We've been making aronia berry juice for the past few seasons. The first year was wonderful- we harvested them in late August and had over a half dozen 5-gallon buckets full.to.the.brim. The juice was frozen and we had more than a year's supply.

The next year's harvest kind of sucked. We harvested the berries too early due to our excitement for more delicious juice and ended up with similar amounts but it was much too astringent. Only on a rare occasion would I dare to test the juice hoping for a sweeter flavor. But to no avail....

Last summer, we waited patiently and harvested the last week of August once again. With our move from Oregon to Idaho occuring the same week I decided that I would just have to make juice another time, when life settled. Well, it's as settled as it's going to be and with another 80 degree morning, juice-making seemed like the only appropriate thing to do!

The gloves are absolutely essential unless you want your hands looking like they're profusely bleeding for the nest two weeks. As a massage therapist by trade I decided to go with the gloves...Although it would probably make an amazing dye (I'm thinking all those white dresses and skirts that I can never wear anymore due to their whiteness).

With a half gallon of freshly sqeeezed aronia juice and a very stained toddler shirt going in the rag bin, we all took a break from the hectic business of our little farm to enjoy the sweet, sweet flavor of a late summer harvest.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Barn Sweater

Here it is! The very first adult-sized sweater to be completed by these two hands! I feel like I've gone through some kind of knitting rite-of-passage. It's hard to believe that after all those long nights and long car rides that I am able to finally wear this piece of work. And just in time for summer of course…

This is Carie Bostick Hoge's lovely pattern that I found some months back in an edition of Taproot magazine. It can also be found on Ravelry. This particular design struck me for the simplicity, the 3/4 sleeves, and functionality of it. It's important that my knitting projects be worn until they are grown out of or there are holes in the heels. Although I love the act of just knitting and purling and watching the garmet come together, it feels even more satisfying to make use of something I have made. This sweater will be no exception.

An additional knitting bridge was crossed when, for the first time, took the time to actually block something I have knit. I tend to loose all patience when it comes to the binding off phase and want to immediately have the piece on my body and worn for the next twelve consecutive days. But after $120 worth of yarn (I know, I know…it's crazy) and countless hours and cramped fingers, I took the time to set, pin, and steam it. 

All of the time and energy was well worth it. I have made my first sweater and even better, it's a combination of wool, silk and alpaca. Pure bliss...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sacred Sunday

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Always Making...

We're in the midst of working on several semi-completed projects; almost done, but not quite. I get the sense that both this table and compost toilet will be happily put to use within the week and I wanted to share my anticipation.

While living in our yurt in Oregon, we did not have indoor plumbing and became very accustomed to our lovely compost toilet tucked back in the forest, overlooking the ravine. Visiting friends would try to "hold it" on their drive out to the farm just so they could enjoy the view and the pleasant sweetness of the cottonwoods surrounding the little toilet house. But most importantly, we were taking human waste and converting it into humanure: both functional and fruitful for the land. 

Now we have a indoor plumbing, a septic system and not one, but TWO toilets in our new home. Believe me, this is quite a luxury and I do enjoy having it but we can't help but think of the waste that is just festering in that tank out back, slowing leaking into the land. We could be making a yield with all this poop, so while I was putting on the finishing touches of our new dining room table, Shaun started in on an indoor compost seat. Stay tuned!

Our previous compost toilet

Monday, May 11, 2015

Slowing Down

Last week, Shaun's parent's flew across the country for a week long visit. This visit gave us a much needed break from the multitude of projects on our To-Do list and most importantly, gave us a chance to just spend time together. Of course, there was still the watering of the garden to attend to, a bit of gardening and keeping the chickens and sheep watered and fed, but for the most part, our days were spent reading copious amounts of Beatrix Potter books, lake hiking, playing in the sand, a bit of self-tattooing, and riding bikes. 

Although I don't consider our lives to be mundane in the least, the constant upkeep of farm chores, our careers, meals and such can feel less than desirous at times. With the snow melted and wild edibles coming on strong I was wondering when we would ever get a chance to just slow down and enjoy the beauty in an ambling, wandering kind of way, with no focus or intention or goal, except perhaps to find some tasty morels along the way! So that's what we did- ambled our ways through the days with many stops for good food and naps. After traveling about the terrain outside our five acres, I've forgotten how giddy I am about the move to this northern land with alpine slopes, dry sweet air and mountain-fed lakes. It feels like home. It is home!

Having our family back together again for a substantial amount of time was really refreshing and I feel renewed- ready to get back to the "mundane" routines of work, farm and family that also nourish me deeply.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sacred Sunday

The day I became a mother. 

More transformative than I could have ever imagined.

Happy Mother's Day to All!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our New Farm Tool

I can't say I was all that enthused when Shaun showed me a craigslist post the other day of this truck, implying that this was "the one". We've been talking about the need for a more powerful farm vehicle in order to more efficiently haul wood, compost, timbers for building and even a flock of sheep if need be…we've been borrowing my parent's tow-behind trailer since moving here and it has been more trouble than it's worth often times. When talking about the purchase of a new (used) truck, I imagined a shiny coat of paint with room for two children in the back and a quiet engine. My husband, on the other hand, had a "working-man's truck" in mind as he calls it. And boy, did he get one.

And by the way, I'm not sure whether it's comedic to keep the plate frame or pass it on...

We'll be able to do most all repairs with the help of youtube.com tutorials and a manual
We can haul one TON of whatever our hearts desire
We fit into the North Idaho scene even more now

It's annoying loud
There's a lot of repairs to be done
I can't fit two babies in there with me
and here's the kicker…8 miles to the gallon (I think all our energy-efficient, homesteading efforts will now be off-set by this beast)

The original color was this (shiny) apple green and as a compromise, Shaun has agreed to paint the truck in the same fashion. If you're going to drive something like this around, at least do it in style, right? To be honest, I can't believe I even care and it's hard to believe we've come to a place in our homesteading process that we feel the need to have such a powerful vehicle as this one. When we first started this way of living 6 years ago, everything we did was by hand. It was quiet and peaceful. And we were really tired a lot of the time from the manual labor.

There's a balance to be made when a large majority of the time we are physical exerting our bodies while working in the forest, the garden, with the animals, and building. We also want time for play and energy at night to do the crafts we've been longing to partake in since waking. So I think this new tool will prove to be a helpful one and one that frees up a bit more time to spend with Lars in his backwoods fort or spinning on the front porch midday because we got the chores done more efficiently…Just look at all the wood we can haul now!