Spring in Maine

Welcome Back Me!

Spring is in the air! It’s been above 40° for 48 hours, I’ve had 2 new goats kids born in the last 24 hours. I heard birds singing when I woke up this morning! Yesterday I started prepping garden beds for radishes, kale, garlic and peas. Am I dreaming? Is this real life? Life feels amazing, doesn’t it?

After spending the (oddly warm) Winter indoors, incubating my brain – meat ideas and waiting for Spring, it is finally here, and I’m back at the blog.

Peep is now 9.5 months old and  nearly walking. It’s seems that the older she gets, and the busier things get around here, the more my creative juices flow.

I’ve spent years incubating a small business idea. As my interests have changed and grown, the little idea has grown and changed, too. I never really gave up on it, but i never really took it seriously, either. It was always more of an “if I break a leg or my back and I’m incapacitated, then I’ll get going on this” idea, than a “let’s write a business plan and do this sh!t!!!!” idea.

Over the years, I’ve surrounded myself with women I consider strong, independent, and successful. Most of them are small business owners of one sort or another. Some are farmers. Some are farmer’s and entrepreneurs.

(If any of you are reading this and think to yourself “me?”, yes, you!)

I’ve watched them, studied them, listened to them, and learned as much as a quiet fangirl can.

I’ve patiently and quietly obsessed over yarn, knitting, sewing, clothes design, needle AND wet felting and pretty much anything related to wool, including sheep and angora rabbits. I’ve refined and honed in on my skills and talents, taking my time since I’ve mostly just been entertaining my hobbies.

Today I took a huge step and I feel like I’ve finally crossed over the threshold from “maybe, someday I’ll do it” to actually starting.

Years have passed in an instant. I had no idea where I was headed most of the time, but suddenly all those side trips make sense. Suddenly I’m making something I’ve only dreamed about. Suddenly I’m actually living my dream, and not just dreaming about it.

I’ll be less vague in the future. I just have a big happy and needed to share.

Barn/Greenhouse Update

Phew. It’s been a slog. I’m happy to report that this huge project is about 95% complete as of November 30.

This weekend we finished shrink wrapping the exterior, raked up all the gravel inside for a future drainage pipe project, fenced it in and started moving the creatures in.

We split the inside into 3rds. The front third will be for a small stash of hay, grain buckets, our rabbits, and my milking stand. On the left side is the goats, and on the right side is the pigs.

The goat side is a little cramped currently, as we still have 5 goats to butcher next week. The pig side is pretty empty, as we only have 2 8-week old barrows in there. I’m slowly weaning the piglets off Meg so she doesn’t come down with mastitis. Mid-week I’ll move the other 2 piglets and our boar, and move Meg in with our other boar. She will stay with him until January when we butcher the boar she is with, and then she will move into the round barn with the other pigs.

Later this week I will start moving the rabbits into the round barn.

I’m so thrilled to have nice, warm, well-lit housing for the animals this winter. My husband is amazing, and this would never have been possible without his mad scientist genius.

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Gratitude

I find it hard to say “today I’m especially grateful for. ..xyz” because I live my life in a state of gratitude. We live hard lives and we work hard to sustain our lifestyle. We are grateful every time we pull a carrot out of the ground, every time we butcher an animal, every time my husband brings a paycheck home. I am grateful every time my daughters laugh or smile or hug me and say “I love you.”

I’m grateful that I wake up each day and have a kitchen to prepare food for my family in, clean diapers for my baby, wood for the fireplace to keep us warm, clean water to drink, clothes on our backs, friends to laugh and cry with, a “comfortable” bed to sleep in, and a roof over our heads.

I’m grateful to all those that came before me that allowed my life to be possible. You can’t look left or right, read a newspaper or turn on the tv without seeing all the ways the world is falling apart around us. But I know that those of us that walk a path true to our souls, those of us that choose to live a life full of gratitude, will help bring about the changes needed so desperately on this planet.

I’m sorry for what my ancestors have done. I don’t know much about my lineage. Did they have slaves? Did they help kill the people native to this land? We’re they native people that came to be harmed or enslaved? Were they just average Janes ans Joes trying to get by? How did they survive the famine times? How did they celebrate when they had plenty?

I know this land has been hurting for a while, that the people that loved it were dispossessed of it at some point. The land I live on has been logged and clear cut at least once in its history.

I’m here. I’m alive, living with a heart full of gratitude for what I have. It’s a scary world out there. I hope I can share what I have.
To quote my mother, my prayer is “thank you. “

Treeline Cardigan – Finished

I finally finished knitting the Treeline Cardigan for Peep. Now I am on to working on some commission christmas gifts, and then my plan is to knit another Treeline to test my notes, and get the official pattern typed and ready for pattern testing by others. I’ll list the extra Treeline Cardigan for sale in the etsy shop.

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I downloaded this great app from the Google play store called Time Meter that allows me to track progress/time on multiple projects at a time, and calculate a wage based on an hourly rate. I’ve been using it to keep track of how long my different projects take me to knit. I’m surprised by how fast of a knitter I actually am. Also, I thought I knit a lot more than I actually do. There is an extension you can download that syncs the time meter app with your Google calendar, so anytime you use the time meter app, it makes a note of it on your calendar too.

The other thing I’ve been busy with is learning about pattern writing and how to properly price my crafts. Based on everything I’ve seen, we (collectively)aren’t charging enough, and under charging can give buyers a false sense of. ..ummm…lack of quality.

So – we under charge, telling ourselves we need to be competitively priced, but when it seems too cheap, potential buyers might pass thinking is cheap because it’s cheaply or poorly made.

So, expect to see my prices go up, even though I don’t really have anything for sale yet. The prices in my head just went up lol.

Here are some of the links I’ve been perusing.

Fair Pricing for Handmade Items
Craftsy has a class I want to take called
How to Say It: Pattern Writing for Knitters
And What the Craft has a great FANTASTIC article on Pricing Your Handmade Goods. Really, if you sell your stuff, it’s a must read.

Finally, I’ve been bitten by the Traveler’s Notebook bug, big time. My mom gave me two of them, one a passport size, and one a personal size. They sat on my shelf for a while because they are neat looking but I don’t like to “use up” gifts from my mom too fast, and I didn’t really know what to do with them. Then I stayed playing with them a little, making my grocery lists in one insert, then my “I wannie” list in another insert, then I started doodling some embroidery ideas in another insert, and suddenly I was hooked. Now I’ve got some really great ideas in the works for some inserts of my own design. I can’t wait to show you what I come up with!

I’d you want to learn more about Travellers Notebooks, here are some great links.

Organize Your Soul
Inserts, Inserts, Inserts
Traveler’s Notebook Forum

Ho-hum Holiday Blues

I really want to love the holidays. Really, I do. But I get so apprehensive this time of year. November and December are there, glaring at me from the calendar all year long.

My birthday frustrates me. It’s so close to Thanksgiving, I always feel lucky if I even get remembered at all. I always want more that I feel I deserve, which is 100% successful in leading to disappointment.

Thanksgiving food is delicious, but so much work for one person to create a feast of that magnitude.

Christmas. Well. Christmas is a lot of work. I always want to give more than I have time and money for. After all the wrapping paper is collected in trash bags, the empty boxes can leave me feeling so empty inside too. Like all that effort, planning, hoping for positive reactions to the gifts I took such time to make, has it been appreciated? Was it worth it? All that time and money I spent on others, and I really want to spend it all on myself, just for once. I want to treat myself to as nice of a Christmas as I try to give others.

Is this feeling of longed – for selfishness normal? Does it make me a bad person for feeling that way? I know in my head that I shouldn’t want STUFF, but I do. I can’t help it. I have an amazon shopping cart with parked items almost as long as my wish list. Things I want to buy for myself, and can never justify spending the money on.

The holidays bring all this up for me, every year. I’ve actually gotten better! I used to dread December so much, now it’s more like a rain cloud on the horizon and less like a tornado of tormented feeling bearing down on me.

Who can say why I feel the way I do. I fight it. Feeling worthy is one of my inner demons. I fight with it, I want to feel worthy, I want to say to myself “yes, I love gifts! Please, shower me with presents, I deserve it.” But I just can’t.

Honestly. Maybe gifts is one of my love languages, and that particular cup isn’t getting full enough. It’s hard to be against blatant consumerism while at the same time wanting gifts. I’m such a hypocrite.

Another reason the holidays are hard is because I want to decorate and bake. My home is just too tiny to decorate and without electricity I can’t really justify running Christmas lights outside. We have no room for a tree, or even a wreath. I have no (real) oven to bake delicious things for my family in.

I was expecting to have our house done by Christmas this year. Considering it’s the last week in November and all we have is a stack of lumber sitting in a spot of cleared land, I guess it’s just one more thing I won’t get this year.

Ugh, I just feel like such a Debbie Downer. So many problems in the world and I’m upset because I have a birthday near a major holiday, I don’t get as many gifts as I want, and I dont have a bigger house. Boo-hoo. First world problems I guess.

Double “S” Curve

Most of you probably don’t know this about me, but I have scoliosis. It was discovered when I was about 10 years old during a routine school screening. From then on it was monitered. I’ve been given exercises to do, tried weight lifting, yoga, massage and chiropractic care. I was told I have a double “s” curve type of scoliosis with idiopathic origins. Which means my spine twisting around on multiple axi, and it started just because.

At different times in my life, I’ve had to take both over the counter and narcotic pain killers, muscle relaxers, alcohol, and/or Marijuana to help me cope with the pain. I have tried massage therapy and chiropractic care. I’ve considered braces, surgery and most recently, corsets. Most of those only offer short term relief, quite a few are moderately to extremely expensive, and several are worse for my health than the benefit I would receive from the therapy in the form of pain relief.

Obviously, massage and chiropractic care, coupled with a flexible brace offer my best hope of allowing me to age with maximum flexibility and grace. But a flexible brace is thousands of dollars, and massage therapy and chiropractic care would be even more expensive in the long run. And i dont have insurance other than the VA. The VA will only see me for care related to the injury I received in training that led to my medical discharge,  the VA hospital is an hour away, and it can take months to get an appointment.

Scoliosis has been such a major part of my life for so long that there is a constant low level of pain that I barely even recognize most days.

But not today. I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard physically  and emotionally lately. When I do that every once in a while my neck kinks up, and suddenly I can’t turn my head for a few days. Work grindit, s to a stop while I hold myself rigid and try to relax.

I am just about 10 days away from being 34 years old. I’m worried I won’t be much of a homesteader in a few years as my back ages faster than the rest of my body. What will I be able to offer my family, my husband, when I can’t even carry a bucket of water to our livestock or change a propane tank when the heat runs out in middle of the afternoon when my husbeast is at work?

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I don’t know what to do. I wish I had medical insurance. The kind that offered me the therapies I need, not just the ones that are the most profitable to the insurance company. I wish I could afford to take care of my body.

I wish I lived in a country that wanted to keep its citizens healthy, and not worry as much about keeping wall street’s bottom line healthy.

I wish my back didn’t hurt today.

Slaughter Day – Graphic Images

We finally decided it was time to start slaughtering some goats. We raised six on pasture this year to be butchered in the fall. We mostly pressure can it as stew meat and for whatever dishes we want, but we save the rear legs to freeze as roasts.

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If you’ve never had goat, you are missing out. Plenty of people have had a bad experience with “goaty” flavored goat milk or meat. But that is not the goat’s fault, usually, most of the time it is due to bad preparation or storage.

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We had a goat that was going lame, so we, obviously for humane reasons, decided he needed to go first.

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Pip is fascinated by the whole process. I love watching and helping her work through her emotions. I truly believe this is a very important part of our life. Not eating meat is not an option for us, and factory farmed meat is something I am loathe to feed my family. Unfortunately, pasture raised meat is very expensive. It’s even more expensive to raise, but our costs are spread out over the year in labor and hay.

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Labor I have, hay we can afford, and we ate willing to do the hard part. It’s never easy, and that’s how it should be.

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Hard Times Breeds Creativity

For the first time in my adult life I have found myself to be in near complete isolation. I’m not alone, I have my daughters and husband here with me. But I’m also not going anywhere. I live 20 minutes from town in a car that would be traveling 50 miles/hour, my driveway is nearly a mile long, I have no car and my husband works three towns away Monday through Friday. Also, given the length of the hours that he works I can’t just drive him into work, as it would require getting both kids up and dressed much earlier than they are used to and then I would have to come home for several hours getting them ready for the day before I could go out and do the things I want to do only to have to get back to his work at dinner time to pick him up. The hassle it isn’t worth the reward.

So I now find myself in a situation that requires more of me emotionally, energetically, and physically than ever before. It has been a challenging adjustment to make. I’m used to having a car and being able to hop in it and drive whenever I feel like it and go wherever I want to. This newfound solitude is requiring me to dig deep.

It isn’t such a a bad thing as the isolation has truly sparked some creativity within me. And not being able to go do things when I’m looking for a diversion has allowed me to focus more on getting things done around the house.

This week I have managed to finish a sweater repair, the Treeline Cardigan for Peep, get one of my older patterns typed up and on ravelry.com to he test knit, as well as opening my ravelry store, and making Pip’s tall bed into bunk beds. Additionally, we butchered two of our meat goats, skinned them, brain tanned both hides and cleaned two skulls, and pressure canned all the meat for later dinners.

Who knows what I will manage to accomplish next week. Maybe this isolation thing isn’t so bad after all.

From Trash to Treasure

I needed a new grow out cage. Leaving the baby bunnies with their mothers for 16 weeks meant that I was only getting two litters per year from each doe.

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My rabbits would be pregnant for a month, each raised her kits for four months until they reached the weight, size and coloring I liked for butchering, then each doe rested for a month before re-breeding. It wasn’t very economical for us, especially when rabbits are supposed to be our main source of protein. Rabbits can out produce cattle, goats and chickens for meat in a year on much less feed pound for pound. But I was falling short.

I decided to take a trip out to Tractor Supply to pick up a 30″x30″ rabbit cage for my french angora doe that is due to kindle in 2 weeks. I wanted to test one out and see how I liked it. I like that the cages are stackable, but they seem pretty flimsy to me. I don’t think a cage like they sell at the store is dog or coyote-proof, and I know for a fact they aren’t Pip-proof, as she proved today when she told me “the bunny cage won’t close…”. I know I left the cage latched, and Roseberry is smart, but she’s not THAT smart.

Lobster traps are predator and Pip-proof, but they are heavy and not as tall as I’d like. I want the bunnies to be able to sit up on their haunches. The obvious solution is to make better cages, but until the house and barn are done that just isn’t an option right now.

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So I took two defunct lobster traps that wouldn’t make one whole lobster trap on their best day, cut them apart, patched the holes and turned them into one double wide lobster trap cage for our grow outs to get weaned in. Now I can wean them at 8 weeks, and rebreed their mothers sooner.

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All it cost me was some scraped knuckles, a few hours of my time, and some hog rings to attached the two traps together. It’s not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but it is undoubtedly the most practical thing I’ve made in a long time.

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Yay! Food security!

Pots in the Fire

I love spinning yarn, but I’m slow at it. I’ve been working on this merino silk blend for almost a year now. Really, I’m not a slow spinner, just an infrequent one.

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I’ve got too many pots in the fire between farming, preserving food, parenting, knitting, spinning, needle felting, mending clothes for myself, my family and on commission, and trying to start a (very) small home based business making spirit/altar dolls. (That’s the sorry list, too! ) I also wish I had the time and space to sew clothes for myself and my daughters.

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I’m a creative goddess of the fiber arts. I’m a stay at home mom to two children under the age of five, so most of the things I want to do only happen in my head, or during the elusive moments when I have both hands free and I’m caught up on housework.

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There is no easy solution, unfortunately. Timeis really what it takes. As the girls get older they will require less intense supervision and care which will free up my time to indulge in my crafts.

I don’t think it’s necessary to stop crafting either, those creative outlets are important for me and my children. Today, watching me spin yarn, Pip asked a lot of questions and showed interest in learning to do it too.

Moving into a bigger home will help a lot too, because it will give me a bedroom with a corner of my own that I can set up with my supplies. Supplies that will be out of reach of little hands, supplies that I can leave at a moment’s notice and come back to when I have free time again. Supplies I don’t have to clean up because company is coming over our I need to clear the table for dinner.

Besides, once the house is built, the yurt will be my new creative space next year. It will get moved out of the center of the yard and into the treeline,  and either recovered with new canvas or permanently sided so it doesn’t get musty inside when it rains.

Creative outlets are important for everyone, but I think they are truly vital for women like me: at home with young children, working off their land, or confined to a small space for whatever reason. It allows us to escape the confines of our lives and grow and explore, to not feel trapped by the mundane daily tasks of daily life.

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But you know, I’m no expert. This is just an opinion piece. Maybe I’m just making things harder for myself.

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