I have WAY to many things in my studio. Too much fabric, way too much wool, and I have found that having so many things has been stifling my creativity. So, I have opened up an etsy shop to destash things that I am willing to let go of. I have included some incredible fabric bundles and some wool. I may add more things over the next few months. If you have a chance, please check it out.
I hope that everyone who engages in the act of mothering has a wonderful day filled with love and gratitude.
It felt like spring would never come this year. Finally, all of the trees and flowers are starting to bloom and the world is turning greener every day.
We love making meals from food we raise. We love making meals from food we find even more. Today we had a lovely wild lunch. I made a nettle soup (2 qts chicken stock, 1 large basket of nettles, one onion; boiled and then pureed; salt, pepper, nutmeg), dandelion tempura, and two tiny fish nuggets from a Calico Bass that the big boys caught today. We also had fresh bread, a salad with asparagus from the garden, and some baked sweet potatoes.
It was a great lunch on a lovely day and a nice way to start the growing season.
Our first blossoms are finally here. Our two Stark Sweetheart Dwarf Apricot trees blossomed over the last several days. It was truly a wondrous sight, given our long cold winter. We’re hopeful that our fruit trees will be big producers this year.
Miss C loves the smell of the blossoms. She’d smell them so much she started sneezing. We told her to be careful and not pull off too many flowers or we wouldn’t have as much fruit later on.
The rest of our trees (Apples, Pears, Nectarines, Peach, Plums and Cherries) are still pretty early. They have buds but no blossoms yet. Hopefully within the next week or so they’ll be in full bloom as well and it should certainly be beautiful. Given that today’s high was 44° F and it was breezy, I think we’re ready for spring to really get going.
More at Flickr.
Last April, we created a post showing the vast difference in the amount of rain we’d gotten in early spring. As a point of comparison, here’s this year’s pond:
Versus last year (April 2012), during a severe drought:
Versus 2 years ago (April 2011), “normal”:
Our pond goes through quit a variation during the year. For instance, during Summer 2010, it almost dried up (the lowest it’s been since we moved here):
And other years (Summer 2011), it’s looked lush.
It’s just a matter of the rainfall and weather patterns we find ourselves in. After moving to the farm and having such variation, we’ve come to the understanding that there is no normal weather. It’s always changing and every year and season is different.
It’s particularly telling when it comes to our fruit trees. April last year and the year before, the blossoms were out:
And this year, there’s barely a peep (so sad, but they’ll be here eventually):
If you like year-on-year comparison, check out these others:
We put some new beds in the front of the house, so we could move our berry bushes (blueberries and white and blackcourants) out of the front yard and to a more manageable location.
Here I am backing my 6-foot tiller into position. I only needed to make a couple passes on each side.
And the finished beds…lovely.
We hope they allow our berry bushes to fight less with the mower and produce better than they have in previous years.
We also moved our brambles (red/black raspberries and blackberries) to along a fence line — again from in the middle of the yard. This will make mowing so much easier and should allow the plants to really thrive.
We mulched our fruit trees* with last year’s muck from the barn.
*Someone asked what kinds of trees we have. Here what we have, split between two different areas: Cortland Apple, Enterprise Apple, Golden Delicious Apple, Granny Smith Apple, Stark Sweetheart Dwarf Apricot, Balaton Cherry, Emperor Francis Cherry, Ulster Cherry, Sunglo Negtarine, Flaming Fury Peach, Gloria Peach, Messina Peach, Atago Pear, Beurre Bosc Drawf Pear, Hosui Pear, Japanese Pear, Purple Pear, Seckel Pear, Fortune Plum and Methley Plum. We used to have some Brown Turkey Figs and a few other trees that died and we need to replace. We just need to keep an eye on the pollinators.
And we got our first-round, cold-tolerant plants in the ground (greens, radishes, carrots, potatoes, etc.). Here’s Jamie the rockstar digging the potatoes.
And our lovely early garden…
We’re not the only ones enjoying the warming weather. Our toulouse goose is setting a dozen or so eggs in the grow tunnel.
And our cows are truly basking in the sunny warmth.
March 2013. What can we say? Like most people in the Eastern half of the US, we were so glad to see this March come to an end. It was a bitterly cold month filled with bizarre snow storms and wind and freezing temperatures. This weekend was the first nice weather we have had all year. And while last year at this time, the temps were around 80F, we were just thrilled with 40s (and some 50s) and sunshine.
Yesterday we got out and cleaned up the garden. the kids helped rake the old stalks and plant matter and then Mike got busy dumping loads of compost. Today he made his first pass at tilling. We hope to get the early season crops planted sometime in the next week. Temps are still looking below normal, but hopefully the end of April will bring some warmth.
We did have out first bonfire of the year last night. It was lovely. Please enjoy these pictures from our weekend.
We had a rough week. In addition to having a house-lamb, we all ended up with some variation of a very fast-moving stomach bug that is going through our area. It definitely impacted everyone differently, with the adults getting the mildest version, and then the kids got progressively worse versions as they went down the age spectrum.
We were in need of a big diversion. Miss C LOVES doing crafts. She especially loves cutting and gluing things. We have had some fun doing some decoupage this winter, and I decided to take it in another direction. I had picked up a copy of the book below, The Fairy Tale Catalog by Sally Gardner during our last trip to The Book Barn. It is a cute book and since we spend hours engaged in story telling, especially involving princesses and fairies, I thought it would be a big hit. As it ended up, Miss C wanted to do a paper-doll sort of activity with the pictures.
So, we dissected the book. I felt REALLY bad at first, but once I had pulled out all of the pages and started cutting, it was easy.
The first thing we did was to make the paper dolls on popsicle sticks. We cut out the different heads and dresses and shoes and wands and Miss C put them together. There were a few large fairies that we cut out in their entirety. We cut the cups out of egg cartons and used them as stands.
We decided the ladies needed a stage, so we cut out one of the pages that looked just like a theater complete with a curtain and columns. We pasted it inside of an old perfume-set box that we had. Now the fairies can go to the ball and dance to their hearts content.
Each page was filled with so many amazing illustrations. We cut out a set of “fumbling fathers, missing mothers, spiteful sisters, boorish brothers, grumpy grannies, and sinister step-mothers” and made them into dice.
We cut out good and bad fairies and glued them onto little wooden figures I had gotten eons ago.
We cut out a set of houses and made a square.
We plan to make a game with them. Sometimes, with my kids, the fun is in the making. Even if we don’t end up making the game, it was a very lovely way to pass the afternoon. As I type this out M is playing next to me with them. He is re-enacting some fierce battle scene. Hopefully good will prevail over evil.
It has been a busy few weeks for us here on the farm. In addition to our twin lambs born at the end of January, we have had six more lambs born this past week. Each of our four ewes has had twins and we have a total of 5 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs. Seems like our ram Bambii has been a busy boy.
Our CVM ewe Francis and Leicester Longwool ewe Clementine both gave birth last Saturday morning. Francis had two rams and Clementine had two ewes. They are both wonderful mothers and we got them in some hay stalls inside the barn to bond with their lambs.
Our Leicester Longwool ewe Clarabelle has been problematic. She lost her first lamb (it was our fault) and her she rejected one of the rams from her second set of lambs (our wether Wilbur). I was very concerned with how she would do this time and watched her diligently. I kept her in the barn at night, knowing she would lamb any day and on Wednesday, I got to the barn just after she had given birth to two ram lambs, one black and one white. Her placenta had just emerged, and as soon as she was on her feet, we got her into the ‘nursery’ into a hay stall as well with both lambs.
She did well initially, cleaning them. But, after a few hours and no sign that she had allowed them to nurse, we had to hold her still and put both lambs to her. They both nursed vigorously. We repeated the same scenario a few more times that day until she seemed to be fine with both of them. However, when we went to the barn the next morning, she was clearly pushing the white lamb away from her and not letting it nurse. Any time it tried to latch on, she would walk away. We had to hold her steady and put the lamb on numerous times that day to get it some milk.
When we went out the next morning (Friday, 48 hours after the lambs were born) the white lamb was lethargic and cold. We tried getting him to nurse, but he wouldn’t. Jackson was with me, so he ran the lamb inside to get warm and get an electrolyte system into his body while I quickly finished the chores. I was very worried the lamb would die, it had dropped two pounds since its birth and looked very weak. After getting a serving of electrolytes into his system, he started to shiver.
I wasn’t sure if this meant he was dying or coming back to life. Thankfully it was the latter. I had to go to work, so Mike and the kids went and got some Sav-a-Lamb and gave him a bottle which he drank with gusto. That first day in the house he slept and was still pretty weak.
We gave him another dose of electrolytes that evening and made him a crate with blankets to sleep in at the foot of our bed. Of course the kids loved having him in the house. He has been doing great all weekend, eating and sleeping in his favorite spot behind the chair next to the wood stove.
We gave all the lambs their first round of shots this morning and in a month will give them a booster and dock tails, neuter, etc. We will keep the CVM ewe from Cameo and would also like to keep her twin brother or find someone to use him for breeding stock. All of the crosses (except Dash) will be for the freezer and we would like to find homes for Francis’ two CVM rams. We are glad lambing season is over, but next year we will time things better to have this happening in spring during warmer weather.
There are tons more pictures in our Flickr stream.
This past Monday morning, I got a very excited phone call from Mike while he was out feeding the animals. Apparently, a baby lamb had been born that night, which was a pretty big surprise to us due to the fact that we didn’t get any lambs the season before. Our CVM ram Bambii was brought to the farm in November of 2011 as a young ram, having been born that spring. He should have been able to sire lambs despite his youth, but for whatever reason, he had not yet been successful with this. Ironically, the day before this lamb was born, we had been discussing his fate as while he has always been an exceptionally polite and friendly ram, that week he had gotten fierce and had been bumping Mike and I when we went to feed the flock. Now we know why.
I ran out to the barn after I hung up the phone to see our CVM ewe Cameo standing with a lovely little grey and black lamb. We got them into the barn by having Mike hold the lamb in front of her to lead her in. Cameo is our most skittish ewe and we normally can’t get within twenty feet of her. This fact had a lot to do with this lamb being a surprise. I can check the other ewes, and they look like they will likely lamb in about a month, but I can never get close enough to Cameo to check her except when she is fully penned up or restrained.
We were unprepared to deal with a winter lamb, but we managed to construct a hay-bale stall and get her fed and watered and in with her lamb in under thirty minutes. The lamb was a little ewe and was already nursing and had pooped and peed, so we felt relieved. She was a tiny lamb, weighing in at only 7lbs. In 2011, Cameo had one single lamb who weighed 13lbs at birth. That morning, we both had appointments off the farm. When we got back a few hours later, we went to the barn to check on our pair and they were great. The new lamb was nursing again and everyone looked content. It was a cold day and beginning to snow, so we were thankful to have them in the barn and in their warm hay stall.
The kids and I went back a few hours later to do another check when we got the hugest shock. I had gotten as far as the pond when I heard a lamb crying from over by the gate to the cows paddock. I could also hear Cameo going crazy in the barn. I thought that somehow the little lamb had managed to get out of her hay stall AND the barn. I sent the big kids back to the house to get Mike with a warming blanket as I was very worried that she had been out in the bad weather and would develop hypothermia. I took off at a fast run to the source of the baaing. I was removing my outer jacket and as soon as I saw the grey lamb, I immediately shoved it under my shirt to warm it and ran to the front of the barn. In that moment, I had a tiny thought that this lamb somehow felt a bit heavier and maybe had some different *equipment* down under its belly.
I jumped over the gate into the barn and saw that Cameo had actually knocked down a wall of her hay stall and was frantically pacing the barn looking for her lost lamb.
And then, I saw her little ewe lamb sleeping in the hay stall, all snuggled up and cozy.
And I realized in that instant that I was holding her twin brother. My heart, already beating fast from the running and the excitement also doubled its beat.
I immediately got him under Cameo and milked her into his mouth. He was alert and walking and if I didn’t know how long he had been out on his own, I would not have guessed based on his behavior. Thankfully Cameo took to him immediately and started cleaning him. She is an amazing mother. Mike and the kids made it out with the warming equipment, but in that moment, the lamb seemed fine and I didn’t want to disrupt the nursing that was happening. We stayed with them until we saw him poop and pee and then we went in to give them some space.
We went back out about an hour later and I could see that he looked cold. He was shivering. I was very concerned that he would die. I am generally a “wait-and-see” type person; I try not to intervene unless absolutely necessary. This seemed necessary. We brought the lamb in and spent an hour sitting by the wood stove, passing him from lap to lap until he warmed up. Mike went to get some milk replacer from our friends and neighbor and we managed to get a few ounces into him. As much as I don’t like him having anything but his mother’s milk, I knew he had to get some energy into his system. It would have been better to have a dextrose solution, but we used what we had. We took him back out an hour later, not shivering, and thankfully, he started nursing immediately and Cameo did not seem to mind the disruption or the strange smells. We went back every hour and checked and then, right around 11pm, gave him a few more ounces of milk replacer, just in case, before heading in for the night.
It was hard to sleep that night, but exhaustion overtook all of us. Jackson was up at the crack of dawn and he and Mike drove out to check on the babies. Thankfully, they were both great, nursing and acting just the way lambs should. We decided then that both of these lambs would be breeding stock. Talk about amazing genetics for both hardiness and good mothering ability! Couple that with the fact that they both have the most amazing grey fleeces and you have almost the perfect sheep. We will keep the ewe lamb, who we are calling Black Meadow, and we will figure out something for the ram. Hopefully we can find him a great flock nearby. He weighed 9lbs that first day, so for twins, those are good stats.
After a few days in the barn, we let them out to be with the flock. We put coats on both babies as it is February and they are still little. Our ram seems exceptionally gentle with them and you can often see him go to check on them and make sure they are okay.
This was a huge surprise. We are so glad to know that our ram is productive and so thankful that these amazing lambs lived. Their story is incredibly inspiring, just what is needed in the deep, dark days of a New England winter.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!
I have two weeks from the end of the holidays until I go back to work as an adjunct professor at the local university. I have been doing a lot of sewing for myself during the past week. I have so many, many thoughts roaming around my head about bodies and fashion and style and clothing. I have been inspired by so many different sources with regard to both my aesthetic and the ethics of clothing production. As with many things, my preference is to make it myself. There are many reasons why this works particularly well for clothing. I can get a perfect fit and choose just the exact print/fabric that I like. I know who made it And, I like engaging in the process of making things.
I have spent so much time over the past year thinking about who I am and the image that I put out into the world. Part of this starts with what I do. I am, in order of hours spent engaged in each task, a mother, a farmer, a professor-psychologist, and a wife (meaning that I occasionally need something just right to wear on a date night out with my amazing husband). I need my wardrobe to meet these needs. I need to be able to look presentable and professional. I need to get dressed quickly. And, I need to have pieces that can mix and match and be worn chasing my kids around a museum and then in front of a lecture-hall filled with young adults. I also want to look pretty and sophisticated and have a recognizable style. I want to look like *myself*.
I have been in the process of losing weight and as of this moment, I am just shy of having lost 40lbs since May 2012. I am about 10-15lbs from my goal weight. I am now the size and shape I was in college, roughly. I am happy with my body and making these new skirts was a gift I gave to myself to celebrate my progress.
I have also been trying not to buy anything with regards to craft supplies. I have so much already and sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all that I have. I worked through a good bit this past week, probably using up 15-20 yards of fabric with these eight skirts. Next, I plan to make a few dresses for myself before I move on to (gasp!) pants and proper fitted shirts. It felt great to use up so many fabrics, many of which I have been holding on to until I got a bit smaller. The vast majority came from a vintage lot that I purchased two years ago from a woman who was a seamstress in the 1960s. Her fabrics are incredible. My style is pretty classic, with a touch of vintage thrown in. I love classic shapes for skirts (pencil, A-line) and like to keep a standard color palette. In this case, primarily black, white, grey, with tiny pops of red and yellow. Getting her stash was such a windfall for me. Her style and mine are almost identical.
If you want, you can check out full-resolution images of each picture in the following mosaics in my Flickr stream.
I started out making this black pencil skirt. I modified my most favorite dress pattern, McCalls M6609, using just the skirt portion. I made the skirt and then fitted it against my sides to get the shaping. I can’t run very fast in this one, but it looks pretty much exactly as I was hoping. A classic black pencil skirt. The fabric is a black ribbed twill. It has a nice texture to it that you can’t see in the pictures.
I then made another version of the same skirt without shaping the bottom into a pencil-silloutte. I used this lovely woven grey material that I have had in my stash forever. This will be a perfect work skirt. I love having nice deep pockets.
A made a third version of the same skirt in denim. I could honestly live in this skirt. It is so comfortable. This is exactly what I would wear when out with the kids. I feel like I could easily throw a blazer on with it and then lecture. I used a yellow-and-red plaid to line the pockets. You can’t see it, but I know it is there and I think it is super fun. The plaid is from Denyse Schmidt’s Aunt Edna line.
Next-up I tackled the ever-flattering A-line. I had gotten this Built by Wendy book about a decade ago, but was never small enough for the patterns. It felt really good to finally make something from it. I used some vintage white and black check (grid?) corduroy. I love EVERYTHING about this skirt. It doesn’t have pockets, but I think it is super flattering without. This skirt is also something I would wear with kids or at work. The instructions were really straight forward and I will be making more of these skirts. The great thing about this book is that she gives lots of idea of how to modify the pattern.
Another version of the A-line skirt from above. This time with a simple vintage black and white stripe wool. Comfortable and easy and a wardrobe classic. The drape of this wool was so simple and flattering.
Next up, I took a Gap skirt that I love and recreated it. I made front and back panels and four side panels and stitched them together. It has a side zipper and red bias-binding at the waist. I think the bias binding makes it pop. I love this Flea Market Fancy print and have been holding on to it for just this project. I can see make several more versions of this with different prints. Baby M was quite intrigued with the whole picture-taking episode this morning and wanted to get in on the action. I love the proportions of this skirt, you can see in the top-left picture that I can squat down and maintain some modesty. That is pretty important to me and this skirt is perfect in that regard.
A different gored skirt. This one has eight panels that are very funnel shaped. I wanted something that would be fitted through the hips and then flair. I may be a grown woman, but I still love a twirly skirt!! I used red bias binding on this as well. It is something that works perfectly in my wardrobe. The fabric was a grey brushed blend with a vine motif. It was part of the vintage stash. This might be my favorite skirt of the lot. The pictures just don’t do it justice, it is so much fun when it moves.
The last skirt I made was a wool circle skirt. You can find a million tutorials online to make these. They are so easy. Once you get your pattern piece made, the rest takes about 15 minutes. I used some of the same Aunt Edna plaid print from the denim skirt pockets for the waist band. It has a side zipper and is super twirly. It ended up being a few inches shorter than I would have liked, but I was trying to use a very specific piece of fabric. I think this would be perfect over tights.
I have learned so much about sewing and skirt construction and been inspired by so many woman willing to post pictures of themselves and their creations online. This is my attempt to give back. Making skirts is pretty easy and fun and if you haven’t tried it you really should!