Fluctuations

Posted on February 22, 2018

It was 71 degrees here yesterday, sunny and mild and springlike a good two months early. I felt the blood moving in my veins. I know Seth felt it too because when I came upon him and our assistant farm manager at lunchtime, Seth was full of giddy humor, in his t-shirt, practically bouncing on the balls of his feet in his happiness to be outside.

I love early Spring warmth. It makes me feel like cleaning out my closets — although admittedly, it doesn’t take much to make me want to clean things out. I tried a bit of knitting in the afternoon and though the yarn was fine and smooth beneath my fingers, my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted dirt in my hands. It was too warm to knit!

Mother Nature listened, I guess, because it’s snowing now. And settling down in a chair with my knitting for company sounds about my speed. If only the baby wanted to settle down too.

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Late winter

Posted on February 16, 2018

Goodness, late winter on a farm is an ungraceful time of year what with slushy mud puddles, dirt-crusted snow berms, and bare trees.  Our main color right now comes from the seed catalogs piling up in the farm office, and in our imaginations as we plan out the flowers, vegetables, and herbs that we’ll grow this year. Every morning when I feed the animals, crunching along icy paths, I try to picture the farm from an outsider’s eyes and the words “undeniably glum” pop into my head. It certainly doesn’t look promising as you drive by, but Seth and I know the land holds growth soon to come. It’s not quite mud season, messy harbinger of spring, more like mud season’s mud season. Thaw, maybe? Whatever it’s called, it’s a bit more time to prepare.

We’ve moved into the little one bedroom apartment that comes with our new farm.  We’re still sourcing some furniture, as we got rid of most of it when we moved into the tiny house, and we’re also sourcing farm crew (I use “we” loosely here, I’m an unpaid enthusiast), so maybe that’s why I keep looking at the land and house with fresh eyes.  I see so much to do, so much to grow and to update.  So much to hope for.

I’ve been learning about feng shui these last few weeks. The transfer of energy from house to person.  Houses hold cell memories, I feel, just the same way plants do, the way our bodies do and that’s why you hear of organ transplant recipients after surgery suddenly liking the same things their donor liked.  Houses are the same, except the house influences the people.  I like to think about creating flows of energy that feel good for me and for the people who live and work here.  I have no big changes, nothing mystical to report.  Just thinking, thinking as usual.

In all of this, a very dear-to-me man died this week: my great uncle, Uncle Bubba. It’s not quite right to call him a surrogate grandfather. We were friends and family together, unrelated except by marriage, and we didn’t often speak in person. However, I wrote him a letter every week or so for the past 6-ish years. How do you describe a person who has been in your thoughts so consistently? Beats me, all I have is emotion. And typically I withdraw into myself when I’m feeling low, but I don’t want to do that right now, for the most part. I have that fleeting clarity that comes with the loss of a loved one: What am I doing with my life? What do I need to do to feel full? Is it worth writing letters about?

Uncle Bubba was a good man, ready with jokes and stories. To his last day he was devoted to his wife of 59 years, though she passed away in 2014. I believe they were true best friends and partners. Bubba loved music and woodworking and ice cream, and he had room in his heart for a bond with a wayward great-niece, though he had kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids of his own, and though I’m one of maybe a hundred cousins (I think. Mom, help me out here?).

Seth and I have a Bubba of our own. It’s Addie’s nickname, and when the two Bubbas met over Christmas, I held my tiny human up to Uncle’s bed. The older Bubba observed to the younger, “You’re on your way in and I’m on my way out.” It was true of course, he had been declining steadily for more than a year. But it didn’t stop me from saying, “Oh no, Bubba, not for a while yet.” I wasn’t trying to give him false hope. Just pleading with him to stay for a while longer. Perhaps it would have been better to acknowledge it, or to have said, “Maybe, but you’ll never be out of our hearts.” Still, the heart doesn’t always know what to say at the prospect of imminent loss, and anyway Uncle Bubba gave me a small smile in response.

I like to think that we understood a great many things about each other, though really I don’t know a lot of what he thought. His letters were few and far between; Parkinson’s made it difficult to write. But he was a master conversationalist and excelled at making me feel at home when we talked. I will miss his steady presence in my life.

It’s late winter now, and I have a compost bin to build and a flower plot to plan. There are perennial herbs that need a new garden space — somewhere, I’m not quite sure where. I still have goats and rabbits to feed. And in spite of moving out of a tiny house, I have a load of things to declutter and organize. Natural ebbs and flows I guess, as winter draws to a close and growing season comes around again.

A tiny house update

Posted on January 25, 2018

This winter, we’re much warmer in the tiny house compared to last year thanks to our work filling in the air gaps and adding more insulation. We’re still heating with the electric box heater because the walls aren’t up enough to install the wood stove, and anyway the chimney parts we need were on backorder for the last few months. We’ve finally ordered our parts and we’re now waiting for them to arrive. These things are all fine, except for one thing: we have a condensation problem. Our roof drips.

We have a lot of moisture in our tiny house because of all the cooking we do and the fact that we reduced most of the air gaps in the house.  And, you know, we breathe, the four of us. Mold is an ever-present concern because of my health history, so having a drippy roof is alarming.  Is our roof sheathing rotting above the insulation?  This is a big unknown, one that we really need answered.

We thought we’d muddle through the winter, install the wood stove which will definitely help dry things out, and use the two vents we have installed (which we’ve been using minimally because they vent out all the warm air, and while the electric heater does the job, it does the just just barely). Then some time in the spring or summer, we’d pull down the roof insulation, check the status of the roof sheathing, remediate any mold, re-install the insulation, and install the final ceiling pieces of wood.  Kind of a big task when you have a young baby, you’re living in the 200 square foot space where you’re working, AND you’re a full time farmer.

Well, we’ve come up with an unexpected solution to fix these problems.  It’s certainly not something we were considering so soon, but we’re going to move out of the tiny house.  Seth was offered a job that comes with housing on the farm where he’ll be working.  So we’ll be moving into a one-bedroom apartment that’s about twice the size of the tiny house.  Then Seth will be able to do the work at his leisure instead of cleaning up the tiny house between tasks and trying to do the work around the baby’s schedule in the middle of the farming season.

It’s not an ideal situation.  We love the tiny house and we’ve put a lot of work into it to get the design and finishes just right for us.  But it’s unrealistic to live in the tiny house with the baby while it still needs work, and the stress of it is wearing. However, it’s very nice to know that we’ll be living on the farm where Seth works. Such a big change, one that will be most welcome in the summer when Daddy is at work all day and Addie misses seeing him.

We’ll be moving at some point in the next few weeks. Once the snow melts and the ground is firm, we’ll park the tiny house at the farm as well. I don’t know what the future holds for us and the tiny house, but I am glad we’re not giving up on it. We’ll just have to take it as it comes.

The homemade gift roundup

Posted on January 19, 2018

Now that we’re well beyond the winter holidays and I (gulp) finally finished all of the homemade gifts, I can write about them here. It’s an accomplishment to have made at least one thing for every person on my list, I remind myself whenever I get down to crunch time and I’m frantically weaving in ends or whatever. And if you don’t think you can frantically weave ends, then you should hang around a knitter the day before a holiday gathering. Somehow, despite my best planning, there is always some project undone at the last minute.

First up, the hats. I knitted eight hats for my eight nieces and nephews for Christmas. Did I take pictures? No, of course not. I forgot before I wrapped them which was, surprisingly, quite early. They were assorted colors, patterns, and yarn weights, and everyone seemed to like theirs. They all popped them on their heads after opening them, anyway. That’s the way to a knitter’s heart.

For Addie I made a pair of leg warmers for her birthday, and a lined hat for a belated solstice present. My dreams of a sweater for her didn’t come to fruition, and I’m kind of bummed. She’s got no idea though, and I had no time for it anyway so it’s worked out. Turns out Seth’s sweater took more time than I thought it would. And his wasn’t done until the new year! But it’s done and blocked and quite cozy, so he says. I also knitted a lined hat for Seth’s solstice, which he asked for and which I was thrilled to make. He doesn’t often ask for knitted things so this was kind of a special year.

I sewed up a little scissors case for Seth’s mom’s Christmas, and then whipped up a squooshy knitted hat for my youngest brother, who hosted us over the holiday. There was also a bit of homegrown popcorn and homemade snacks in his stocking.

Am I missing anything? Oh, herb bundles for a few dear friends, which I was almost more excited to share than the knitting. Goodness knows I love pretty things, and playing with my plant materials in the dark of winter is an excellent remedy for feeling a little glum.

On the needles now is a shawl for me! And shortly to follow, a scarf for my mom in some beautiful yarn she supplied. I must say, switching to continental knitting this year has improved my knitting speed. These projects don’t take nearly as long, so I have more time to knit all the things.

Spoons up! revisited

Posted on January 8, 2018

IMG_6963IMG_4112Well it’s taken a while, but I finally pulled together the pattern for Spoons up! revisited, the knitted wrist warmers that I was working on last year.  I was hoping to knit up some samples in a local farm yarn, but I had to set that dream aside once the baby started getting mobile, and it never happened.  The perfect is the enemy of the good, you know?  These bad boys are knit in fingering weight yarn, with a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch, and they are warm and cozy.  I had a good time coming up with this pattern, which you can download here: Spoons Up 2.  And here is the link to the Ravelry page.  Enjoy!

 

Magic of the season

Posted on December 12, 2017

This is the first holiday season in a long time that Seth and I have had more than the bare minimum of cheer. We didn’t have strong traditions between the two of us, and anyway as two childless adults we felt there was no point setting up the miniature village on the back of the piano (figuratively, of course. There’s no piano in the tiny house). But now — oh, now! — this baby changes everything. She’ll be a year old this month. That’s old enough to want to instill some magic into the next few weeks. We’ve started putting up solstice decorations, and there’s a pile of presents accumulating.

More than once Seth has come home to find some project scattered over the kitchen table as I squeeze in a few minutes while Addie is distracted. We’re once again shuffling crafts from counter to table and back again. “What are you working on?” Seth asks every other day.

Well I’ll tell you. It’s something that I could probably go out and buy for $10. But instead I’m hunched over it for hours or days, or in the knitting’s case, weeks or months. Usually there’s Mod Podge on my fingers and bits of paper or threads lying in piles. With eight nieces and nephews and assorted family and friends, I sometimes feel like I’m running Santa’s workshop.

As the countdown dwindles to the bubba’s birthday, and winter solstice, and Christmas, I’m feeling the heat and I remind myself that I could go out to the store and buy these little doodads instead. But whenever I go to any store besides the grocery store, I am frozen with indecision. A panicky undercurrent. I made Seth and Addie walk across the craft store three times this weekend in order to compare notepads. Notepads! And then I hyperventilated a little while Seth helped me decide. There wasn’t even any eye rolling, just a knowing smile as he pulled the glitter glue from the baby’s mouth again and added the notepads to the cart.

I’m really not trying to complain. Come on. Culturally sanctioned craft time? Yes, I’m ready! And I’m not the only one. My browser history is full of things like “18 best Harry Potter ornaments to DIY” and “patchwork gifts for teenage boys.” These articles actually exist and I’ve read them. Guilty as charged. It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself.

Making presents, however much the time and money don’t add up, is my magic of the season. There’s something about slowing down and using my hands, picturing the recipient with the gift even as the radio hosts ask each other, “have you gotten all of your shopping done yet?” Maybe homemade gifts aren’t really in style with most folks. But they sure do bring me back to those days as a kid when I would sit down at the piano to play a Christmas carol and look out over tiny lights illuminating a snowy village street.

Holiday making

Posted on December 2, 2017

I’ve got a bunch of crafting going on here, but since most of it is for the people who read this blog, it’s going to remain a mystery. But it’s happening! I’ve picked up my needles once again and invested in some lovely yarn. Of course, a little bit of the yarn is for me. An early solstice present. Ok, it’s a lot of yarn for me. I couldn’t resist.

Addie features prominently in my holiday crafting, except I haven’t started anything for her yet, hoping to knock some of the other presents off my to do list. I’m planning on a double layer hat in this red wool and whatever matching scraps I have, and then a little vest to keep her core warm, and maybe a Tomten sweater like in that photo. There are 19 days until solstice, and 18 until her birthday. She’s not a big kid, her clothes should knit up quick! Totally doable, right? Especially if you don’t factor in the sweater I’m finishing up for Seth, which needs one and a half sleeves, the yoke, collar, and cuffs. But hey, it’s in big yarn! That should knit up quick too. Maybe.

Ok, so maybe Santa can loan out some reinforcements.

With gratitude

Posted on November 23, 2017

To my U.S. friends, family, and readers who celebrate it, happy Thanksgiving! This is one of the holidays we honor, and it is especially timely for farmers who are wrapping up the growing season. It’s nice to have one last hurrah before the dark of winter. The final CSA pickup and farmers market are bursting with fall and storage crops: cabbage, kale, potatoes, onions, squash. Time to cook good things and sit together in anticipation of a season of rest. Preferably with post-dinner knitting in hand.

Thanksgiving has some troubling origins that I think it’s important to acknowledge too. Native Americans in New England call this the Day of Mourning, and there is an annual gathering on the site of Plymouth Rock in protest of the way Natives were and continue to be treated. It’s important to us that we pay attention and raise Addie to do the same.

With all of this and recent events in mind, I’ve been cooking for today’s small but merry gathering. There will be just six of us, which is enough for a turkey. We’ll bring good cheer to the table, and shed some of the uncertainties that have been worrying us this month. It’s been harder over the last few weeks to pay attention and also to live a life somewhat out of the ordinary. We are tired at the close of this season. And yet I can’t help but feel all the more thankful for each other, our health, our house and the company we keep.

Cooking is relaxing for me. I can do it even through a migraine, and though the food isn’t fancy, neither are we fancy folks. Simple dishes, lovingly prepared, eaten together with people we love. That’s what we’ll have today, and what I wish for you too. Happy Thanksgiving.

Herbs forever

Posted on November 15, 2017

I've opened an Etsy shop for my herbs. Because the thing about herbs — I mean, I feel the need to explain since I'm the only one I know who's in love with them — is that they're some kind of magic. I was volunteering at Stearns Farm, minding my own beeswax, when I realized it. Just plugging along weeding vegetables every weekend. Then it struck me that I could learn what makes people say herbs are medicine. It seemed like a terrible waste to let Stearns's three herb gardens all die off for the winter without knowing what the heck they did.

Research is always the answer. One Kindle book later, I grew obsessed with lemon balm, which seemed like an easy one to identify, and it's pretty safe to try if there's nothing wrong with you. And Stearns had some! Cue the trumpets. Then I realized the farm had quite a few beginner-friendly herbs that I could play with: dandelion and burdock and red clover and comfrey (all this in addition to the calendula I began collecting around that time).

Over the winter, with my small store of herbs stashed in a drawer, I did more reading. And in the spring, I took over the herb gardens.

As I got to know the plants, I realized there were more medicinal uses than I would ever need, and that there's no point in taking medicines you don't need. All those wonderful plants, and I'd get to try only one minuscule amount of the non-culinary varieties.

Thankfully, history is full of herbal uses beyond eating: Luck! Protection! Love! Strength! The list goes on and on, and I read and learned and fell a little bit more in love every day. I could use them without having to eat them. For someone with food sensitivities out the ears, that is a very big deal.

I've done my fair share of reading and experimenting with my herbs. I love them all. It seems unnatural to me that they've fallen out of favor in our society (even as I know that's due in part to devaluing traditional women's knowledge and I could probably write a book about it. Or it's been done, right? Witches, Midwives, and Nurses. But I digress). In my small way, I like sharing these ancient uses for herbs and showing off how pretty they can be. And it's another way of supporting our little family, one that comes from something I've grown and made and can feel proud of.

Rainy days

Posted on October 29, 2017


Rainy days in the tiny house are a strange animal. The house seems smaller in this weather with the windows closed and no excuse to take the baby outside. Lily mopes on the bed as the scent of wet dog slinks down from the loft. A gray gloom settles over the living space. We have to turn on the lights.

Yet we can hear the rain's flowing applause on the metal roof, and it is one of the coziest sounds I've ever heard. It makes me want to curl up in a blanket, and also to hug Seth. After all, he put on this roof. He is the reason why we have such a snug, dry house. His enduring quest for perfection, his love of the craft combined with (ahem) my ability to score a mean Craigslist deal.

We set out through the patchy showers this morning to visit a potential new house site. It's set in among the woods, with horses nearby, and trees all around. As you can see, there's space enough for growing as well.

Will this become our new landing pad? We're not sure, we have a lot to discuss with the landowners and each other. There are neighbors to consider, regulations and rent and commutes and things. And that indecision is part and parcel of owning a tiny house. Where do you put it? Will it work? Will we be happy? And safe? The tiny house doesn't eliminate these questions. I'd hazard a guess that it causes more questions than a big house because everything is so out of the ordinary on the tiny scale. But if you disagree, by all means chime in. I've never owned a non-tiny house.

It's nighttime now, and raining in gusts and waves. The baby is asleep. Mama is nearly there too. Yes we have questions and uncertainties, the stress of finding a parking site when our house isn't universally accepted and a wintertime deadline. But we also have the swelling and ebbing of rain on the roof. And that counts for quite a lot.