Filling the Spaces


I mentioned that we have now marked our first year here in the Annapolis Valley. We often are asked why we came here. That is a complicated question to answer and makes us look a little crazy no matter how we answer. We are a little crazy by the way. Often, it feels like our life here is temporary in the same way that each place we have lived in has been. I have a hard time settling into the reality that we are setting down roots and that I have time make my mark on this land and home. The difference is that there is nothing new on the horizon. We have no other plan, no we are doing this until… And oh how that scares me sometimes.

Can I be perfectly honest? Sometimes, I am so very, very lonely. I miss my mom. I miss my siblings. I miss my friends, especially the ones just a walk up the street. I miss familiar faces and places. I miss simple shopping. I miss familiar roads and towns. I miss cactus and flat fields even though I don’t particularly love either. I miss the music at church on Sunday. I miss what was comfortable. I miss being loved.

Most of the time, I just swallow the missing back and keep going. Because if I acknowledge the missing, it hurts that much more. And if I admit how much I miss than it might seem like I regret being here. Or that I don’t realize that the ones I belong with most are right here with me. So it’s easier to ignore it. Yet, somehow like a wound festering, the missing can only be ignored for so long. So I have been trying to acknowledge it more, facing it the same way that I faced my fear of ticks.

Last week, I went with a group of ladies to Frenchy’s (an great thrift store chain) and out for lunch. For the first time ever, I left one of my babies with a bottle in the capable hands of her daddy while I spent a day shopping with other ladies. And this felt a bit more like home.

On Sunday, we had friends and an older couple from church over for supper. And this felt a bit more like home.

Tonight, we walked over to our neighbor’s to borrow some ingredients for making cheese. Aneliese and Cecily laughed and played with their older children who set things up and dove into imaginary play with them. And as we walked home, this felt a bit more like home.

The missing is still there, but the spaces are slowly being filled. Not because I am ignoring what I am missing but because I am being shaped by it. And we are slowly making a home.

Opa

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Dan’s Opa (grandfather) died on Thursday morning. This is one of those times when our choice to live here in Nova Scotia is hard. At a time when we long to be with our family but when the life choices we have made don’t allow us to.

Our neighbor baled our hay for us and I had wanted to get it stacked on Wednesday evening, but somehow time got away on us and we didn’t get to it. So Dan got up on Thursday morning and decided to go out and get the hay in case it rained. At about 8:30 he and the girls were out there loading the bales on the truck while I milked the goat and did the morning chores. I joined them for a few minutes and they told me about how Dan remembered helping Opa get in his hay. Opa would drive the tractor while the others threw bales on the wagon. Dan was saying that it would be nice to have Opa with him out in the field. It was a brief, sweet sharing of childhood memories. I don’t have grandparents so I am always a little envious of all the memories Dan has and I have loved having two sets of grandparents the past years who have welcomed me as a granddaughter.

Just a couple of hours later, we got the message that we needed to call Oma and we knew that it must be about Opa. He had died that morning.

In the very moments when Dan was remembering and we were out in the field talking about Opa, he was taking his last breaths. I don’t believe that was coincidence. God has a way of making connections in unexpected ways.

When it rains


It’s been dry here for the past few weeks. I’ve even had to water my garden and parts of my lawn is brown. When so many that we know make their livelihood off of the land and as we become more conscious of the work that goes into our food production, the weather patterns have become so much more significant.

This morning we woke to dull grey and the energy of a coming downpour. I didn’t manage to finish morning chores before the rain began to stream and I was soaked within minutes.

As I stepped into the house and water puddled on the floor from my dripping hair and clothes, I smiled because I felt so alive. I love the sun and warmth but my body and soul were parched for the cleansing of rain.

As of the fifteenth, we have been here for a year. Its been harder than I can express but so filled with good. There has been a heaviness that we are only just beginning to put our finger on and it has been hard to push forward under that heaviness and yet like the energy of the storm this morning, there is life just waiting. I feel it in my bones…well maybe that is just my arthritis (seriously, I’m only 28)…and I long for it, it keeps me going.

Today, the rain has given me the breath to say that I won’t be held under the spell of grey. There is LIGHT. There is LIFE.

Six months of Sweetness

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Our Kathleen Claire is six months old! I feel like these months with my baby girl are flying by. And we all love our sweet baby so much, she is such a fun girl! She is one of the happiest babies that you will ever meet. She wakes up with a smile and noises and goes to sleep with thumb being sucked and a contented grin. Since she got over being sick, she rarely cries and then only when she is tired or has a dirty diaper. She loves to be cuddled and played with especially by her sisters. I won’t lie, I have been completely enjoying having an ‘easy’ baby as my other two were far from that. I love all her happy noises when she wants to be held and that she ‘talks’ when she wants something. The way that she already gives hugs and how her whole body moves when she smiles just melts her mama’s heart.  She has been such a gift to us. And we aren’t complaining that she sleeps through the night.

  • Like her sisters, everything goes into her mouth!

    posing for a smile

 

but this is what really happens

  • Enjoying her one and only baby gadget (aside from my ergo carrier)

    chubby feet…

    loving life

    First time in the swing!

    Sweet girl

    She moves by rolling and a caterpillar like move.

Felted Wool Finger Puppets

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I shared this tutorial several months ago on a lovely crafting website, WeeFolkArt. I thought that I would share it here as well. The truth is that my wool has been sitting untouched lately but if you would prefer to purchase rather than create, you can visit my little store, Chickadee Swing.
I discovered my slight obsession with wool felting during last years long, cold prairie winter. I had stumbled across a bag of raw wool in a thrift store and finally tracked down a felting needle. My first project, a ball for daughter’s first birthday, was a miserable failure. But a little perseverance, a couple of online tutorials, and a lesson from a crafty friend later; I had discovered the beautiful Custom Woolen Mill and was holding evening felting parties.

The most popularly requested lesson was the felted finger puppets that began creating for my daughters and their little friends. They are made entirely from felted wool using both wet felting and needle felting techniques. Quite simple to make and a natural play toy; these puppets are well loved by children…and adults who still like to have fun. As a teacher even before I became a mama, I love the idea of making these little puppets to go along with stories and topics that we are currently reading/interested in.

Duck Finger Puppet

 
Part One: The Body
You will need:

Wool Roving (for the duck, I used bright yellow)
Medium Felting Needle
Foam Block

Take a long, thin strip of wool, fold once over the index finger tip and finger length.

Begin winding around your finger (not too loose or tight) and continue until it is the desired thickness, just remember that it will get thinner with felting and you do want it to be sturdy.
Give a little squeeze to hold the fibers.

Lightly needle felt to hold the wool together for wet felting.
 
Part Two: Wet Felting
You will need:
A large bowl
Hot water
Dish Soap
Towel (for wiping drips and soapy elbows)
Fill the bowl ¾ full with the hottest water that your hands can take (hotter helps speed up the felting I find) then with the puppet on your index finger dip in the water until thoroughly wet.
Drizzle a bit of soap around on the puppet.
Gently rub with other hand to start the wet felting process.
As the suds form and the puppet begins to feel more felted or tightened, alternate dipping in the hot water with continuing to rub while applying a little more pressure. Shape the top by rubbing it in the palm of your hand.
Take the puppet off of your finger and rub the inside to felt it; add a drizzle of soap if you feel you need to.
Round and level the bottom of the puppet, rubbing to felt it as you turn the bottom on.
Once you are satisfied with the felting, dip the puppet in the water and then gently squeeze, give a last shape and allow to dry standing upright (usually overnight) Sometimes I put the puppets on the heat register or outside on a sunny day to speed up the process and I will do multiples at once.
Part Three: Adding the Face and Details
You will need:
Wool roving (For the eyes, I used black and white, while for the beak I used orange.)
Finger puppet body
Medium Felting Needle
Foam Block
Make sure that the body is felted enough. Sometimes I will needle felt the bottom/inside a little more.
Take a small piece of orange roving and fold it to be about double (or a little smaller) the size that you want it to end up.
Fold it to round it into half of the bill; leaving enough roving loose to needle felt it to the duck.
Holding it on the foam pad and using a straight up and down motion, needle felt it until it is firm, smooth and the size and shape that you want.
Gently lift off the foam, it will stick a little and be fuzzy, and needle felt the other side until smooth. You may need to hold it and lightly needle felt the edges with the needle angled.
Repeat step 3 for the second part of the duckbill.
Place the two parts together and needle felt a line across, leaving enough roving end to attach it to the puppet.

Attach it to the puppet:

If you wish to, you could roll up a piece of paper or use a small piece of foam inside the puppet at this point to keep from felting the inside together. Once you get a feel for it though, you probably won’t need to.
Lightly needle felt the bill and check to make sure that you are happy with the position. Then needle until firmly attached and the mouth is nicely shaped.
I usually needle felt inside the bill as well just to get it really secure.
Take two small pieces of white and fold them into the shape that you want the eyes to be. Very lightly needle felt and add a small piece of black to each one.
Positioning the eye where you want it, needle felt one onto the puppet and then the other. Make sure that it is securely attached.
And there you have your duck finger puppet!

The possibilities of other animals, bugs and even people are endless by needle felting on to the same basic finger puppet body. I love combining a set of five with an appropriate storybook as a unique child’s gift. For example, a farm set goes well with a book such as The Big Red Barn, Farmer Brown’s Birthday, or Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

Note: Because of the small parts that are needle felted on, I always recommend that either they are for directly supervised play or for children who are passed the exploration by mouth stages as well as the discovery by pulling apart stage. It differs for different children, so I just leave it to each parent’s discretion.

Eat & be Merry

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A while back, I talked about the way that we eat. After some conversations, emails, and questions with others, I realized that I had kind of missed the mark and I felt bad about that. My intention was to share some food for thought (haha) and perhaps I did for some but for others, it left them overwhelmed with information and feeling that they didn’t measure up or at least that I thought they didn’t. That wasn’t my intention and so I had started a couple of posts to further explain myself, or to dig myself a deeper hole, but then my computer died, taking with it all documents, recipes and pictures from the last six months as my hard drive hadn’t been backing up properly. And so a couple of months later, I am going to make an attempt at it again.

In case you missed the first post, I will summarize it by saying that I believe that a whole food diet that involves meat, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats (yes, saturated fats are healthy.). I think limiting grains and cutting out refined sugar, additives, and highly processed ingredients is important. We eat gluten free because that is what Aneliese, and perhaps the other girls, requires, but we still don’t eat many packaged gluten free choices.

So now that I have the basic premise out there, I want to talk about a slightly different aspect of my food philosophy. See, I believe that food nourishes our bodies and not just physically. It is an agreed fact that we need healthy (which is a broad term depending on who you ask) food to provide the nutrients that our bodies and minds need to thrive. But, I have also seen that my diet has a huge impact on my emotions and my spiritual well-being. I know from experience that when I eat well, I do better over all. I also know that it is important for the well-being of my children.

Interestingly, the past couple of months have been challenging for me in the food department. Financially, we have needed to make some changes in where we get our meat and such. I’ve needed to make some changes in how much time I spend preparing food. And frankly, I’ve been a little tired of doing everything the harder way. I enjoy good food and coming up with my own recipes, but it has seemed like I was spending so much time preparing food and thinking about preparing food. And eating eggs, oh, I think I need to write a book called 800 Not So Creative Ways to Eat Eggs. But amazingly enough, I really don’t think that life is all about what I/we eat.

Far more important to me is my relationship with others and having community with those that we are around. Food is a way of nurturing relationships with others. Inviting someone into your home for a meal indicates that you wish to spend time with them. A picnic with friends is a fun way to relax. Dinner and candlelight is a romantic date. Coffee and dessert is one of my favorite ways to catch up with an old friend. Potlucks are a way of bringing a bit of everyone’s unique love all together. Even in places where people have little, food speaks volumes of ones care for another, whether it is the chicken’s foot offered from the soup pot or the choice piece of yak fat in Tibet.

If food shared can be such a vital way of sharing love and community, it can also be a way of tearing it down. In my case, especially when it comes to “healthy” eating (I use quotations because I realize that many wouldn’t not consider what we eat healthy) it is so easy to cause people to feel judged or that we are so “healthy” that we wouldn’t want to eat their food. I’ve realized that this is especially true of those who read my blog but don’t spend much time with us in person. I was really enlightened to this during our visit to PEI when my dear friend wanted to get some food for us before we arrived but didn’t think she could because we would need organic, etc, etc. I was so glad that she asked and her gift meant so much and it made me even more aware of what some perceive of my food choices and opinions.  So I would like to clear a few things up and offer a few challenges if I may.

1. Aneliese has a serious food allergy, which means that if we are not extremely careful, she will become ill. When sharing meals with others, we are happy to provide food for her and Cecily if it is too daunting to prepare food which we completely understand. However, we always try to include something even if it is juice from the meal provided so that our girls understand that our food is not “better” or that the other food is ‘bad”.

2. We eat and enjoy whatever is offered to us. Really. If it is something like a potluck, yes there are some things that I might not select but we all have preferences, right? I don’t talk about the nutritional value of anything there or offer food opinions. I think I have done this unthinkingly in the past and I try to be more sensitive now.

3. I don’t share a meal at your house and then talk down your food choices, however differing from mine they may be, with others. If I do, I have a much greater problem, called gossip and/or judging.

4. I won’t offer you unasked advice on how you should eat or foods that you could add to your diet. Unless you read my blog, but I consider that you asking!

5. I like organic, I think it is great in principle. I currently eat little that is organic.

6. Especially keeping number one in mind, I feel incredibly loved by any effort made to make a meal or treat that is gluten free. Even if you attempt and make a mistake, please know that your effort is well appreciated.

7. We limit our kids’ sugar intake. However, I appreciate the kindness in the gesture and will generally give them a small amount. In turn, I ask that you don’t feel hurt or offended if after that small amount I put the rest away.

8. I read labels all the time. I have to if Aneliese is going to eat something out of a package. I won’t talk about the ingredients that I don’t like and then eat it.

9. I’m human and I’m learning. If you feel that I am out of line, you can tell me. If I hurt your feelings, tell me. If there is something that you think I could benefit from, please share.

10. I like food. I like people. I like people and their food. I LOVE the community of eating with people. I don’t ever want food to become a barrier in friendship because of my actions.

And I think that is it for now. I know that I could and am tempted to give all kinds of explanations and disclaimers of how and why and what, I had planned on a few simple suggestions to starting a better way of eating, and I could tell you plenty about the challenges. I probably could add a lot more but I probably should stop.

Do you have anything that you would like to add or suggest? Is food a way that you connect with others? Do you ever feel that it keeps you from community with others? I’d like to hear whatever you have to share.

Tired thoughts


It’s been raining for the past couple of days and a busy work week for Dan (does starting a new business always mean that your husband comes to bed at insane hours like 3 am?) so today I am just feeling tired. I took some time this afternoon to head into town to the cafe where I spent some time with a cup of tea, pen, and paper. It was nice but as a result I have several half finished blog posts about 1) When people tell me that I am busy, 2) Gender and Roles; thoughts from Lego, 3) a term I just learned in relation to food and health; “orthorexia nervosa“, and 4) faith as a child sees it. A couple of these are a little on the controversial side and I am not much into controversy in the world of social media but they are topics that have been churning in my brain these past rainy days. I like a good discussion and I have plenty of opinions but they do change and/or expand regularly. As soon as one’s words are out there in the world wide web, they are hard to take back. So unless I can really succinctly express my thoughts, they may never leave the pages of my note book. I do want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts on my last post, I really enjoyed reading each comment *I always do, but it was really great to hear the dreams and thoughts of others who I care about.

In other news, I distinctly did NOT like being a farm girl this evening when my goat Hazel decided to plant her back foot squarely in the bucket of milk. Her poor choice saw the entire bucket being dumped out save for the bit that I gave to the cats. What a waste.

And finally, a last thought before taking myself off to enjoy a cup of tea and a cupcake (store bought) with my dear husband. Dan has a graduation class photo shoot this weekend so he needed my help to set up. This picture was one of the test shots:

I have no idea what we were doing, I only know at one point I closed my eyes very briefly because I was tired. I do know that this picture is ridiculous and since it is good to laugh at one’s self, I am going to share it here.

Wishing you all a good night, where ever you are!

On Foraging, Farming, & Self-Sufficiency

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On Saturday the girls and I decided to walk the five km to the farmers market in our little town. It is a completely gorgeous walk, I still can’t get over how beautiful and diverse it is here. At the beginning of our walk, we discovered that the wild strawberries are just beginning to ripen and so the girls had their first taste.

Here they found berries that might have graced the banquets of Lucullus, great ambrosial sweetness hanging like rubies to long, rosy stalks. They lifted them by the stalk and ate them from it, uncrushed and virgin, tasting each berry by itself with all its wild fragrance ensphered therein. When Valancy carried any of these berries home that elusive essence escaped and they became nothing more than the common berries of the market-place—very kitchenly good indeed, but not as they would have been, eaten in their birch dell until her fingers were stained as pink as Aurora’s eyelids. ~ L.M. Montgomery The Blue Castle

Well, the strawberries we found weren’t large, they were actually quite tiny, but they had that same amazing flavor that only wild strawberries can produce. We are looking forward to more strawberry trips in the next couple of weeks.

As we continued walking, we noted that the wild blackberries are blooming profusely, promising fruit later this summer. I took note of many wild apple trees, Saskatoon bushes, and choke cherry trees. We already noted in our calendar to hunt for fiddleheads next spring and there are lots of oak trees (did you know that you can eat acorns?). While none of these things are going to produce in mass luscious quantities (my experiences last fall tell me that the wild apples will be horrid), I find it so exciting to add to our diet even in small ways. I like the idea of foraging for some our food in theory even though I know that it doesn’t work quite as well in practice. Mostly I just find it amazing what the earth can provide when cared for well or in some case simply left alone. I know that if everyone around went out and picked every berry or fiddleheads out in the woods that they would cease to grow but I love that they can be enjoyed wisely. I am also thoroughly impressed with some of the woodlots that have been in families here for five or six generations that because of careful practice and respect continue to provide income for those families. The lessons to be learned and shared are endless. It is just amazing to me, really.

And then home to our little farm. Our little flock of hens are laying really well, we are at fourteen eggs daily from fifteen young chickens. It’s a good ratio, I think. I am hoping to sell a couple dozen eggs weekly to offset feed costs. Sadly, our rooster died a few days ago. Possibly from age or maybe some sickness but thankfully our chickens seem to be maintaining their health. We have them pasturing freely in our yard which is fun aside from the poop that they enjoy depositing on our veranda and porches. I also don’t love it when they wonder into our house. Someday we will fence off where we don’t want them to go.

Our goat, Hazel, is producing enough milk to supply our dairy needs. I have made several batches of soft cheese and will make my first batch of yogurt in the next few days.  We had to sell our little guy, Rosko, because he was getting into mischief because of boredom. Plus we noticed that the flavor of the milk is better when he isn’t with Hazel. She is a bit of a grumpy thing and makes me really mad sometimes, like when she paws over her water FIVE times in a row because she is annoyed at me leaving her.

Our young bull is enjoying the pasture with his friends across the road and while we haven’t named him and he isn’t a pet, we like to go visit him.

Our good dog Molly is going to be having pups in just a couple of weeks and we are excited. We decided to breed her to another Australian Shepherd because we really love her and want one of her pups before she gets too old. Should she have a few pups, we will sell or trade them to good homes. A couple of pups are already spoken for should she have multiples. And our cats continue to keep the mice down if lack of evidence is any indication.  Lots of little things keep popping up to remind me of how much I don’t know and need to learn, for example trimming my goats feet. I could tell that they needed it but had little clue how to go about it so I was thankful that our friend who cared for her for a few days went ahead and did it for me.

And wonder of wonders, I got my garden planted on Saturday! It is definitely the most unplanned I have ever been with it. I normally plan it out to the smallest details of what plants should go together, what plants should avoid, plants to shade others, plants to protect roots or provide nutrients and so on while making it look pretty. Then Dan gets out there and we measure and mark so that we have straight lines. I still kept companion grouping in mind and I do hope that it will look pretty but basically I wanted to beat the rain so hurriedly drew up a plan which I adjusted as I went and eyeballed the lines. Not to mention it will be the first year of planting on lawn turned garden so the soil is in need of a lot of amending. I am hoping to keep the weeds from reaching my waist and I’ll be happy with whatever produce we get.

I think that it is probably obvious that much of what we do and hope to do is to provide for the needs of our family. So it means that animals will come and go; they won’t always be life long pets. We will do our best to care for them well and carefully. We are learning as we go which means that we will make mistakes with our animals as much as we try not to. Our children are learning about reproduction, birth, growth, and life’s end just by watching our animals.

I sometimes get asked if we hope to become self-sustaining and I think that originally I did have a vague thought of that. Over the last few years, I think that I have moved away from that thinking. We should be aware of where our food and needs come from and know how to provide it even but I am not sure that being self-sustaining (taking care of myself) is what I want. I do want to have animals and grow our own food in part but mostly I think that living in community, even for food, is my ideal. We want to work with those around us for what we need. We need to be realistic about what we are able and what we enjoy. For example, we have a spot to raise a beef cow but we don’t have what we need to raise pigs so we are making that trade with friends. Or, we are able to get the boards for our barn from up the father/son mill up the road. We offer what we have in exchange for what we need as we build relationships with people who think similarly.

I guess much of our focus is local but it also applies globally as we think about how, where, and who everything that we consume and use comes from and how we can work and care for others as well. I don’t think that everyone is intended for farming or rural living; we are all so diverse that our life work is also different. I love the quiet, I enjoy mucking out my goats pen, collecting the eggs, or pulling weeds from my garden. I enjoy raising cows with our neighbor, having people drop by unexpectedly for a chat, or asking wiser heads questions about animals but just yesterday we were chatting with my sister in law who is committed to their life in the city and they too are living well. I am glad for our bit of earth here in Nova Scotia and I am thankful that we were able to have it yet I realize that not everyone has that ability and/or desire.

We have lots of dreams and plans for our seven acres, many of which are being tweaked and reworked as we go. We are definitely dreamers so we are learning to balance our dreams with reality and that is good I think because we need both. I think that we are getting a clearer idea all the time of what we want to do as well as what we are able and choosing to accept where we are while slowly chipping away. It’s busy, it’s hard work, and often lots of setbacks, but we’re doing it and we are learning. Even if it doesn’t go like we plan, we have gained much.

Sorry, this was a long post with no pictures but it just kept coming. I would love to hear from you what your dreams and plans are. Is a farm life for you? Or do you love the city? What does community look like for you? How do you learn and teach your children about their food, the world around them, and how you and they relate?

PEI

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This past weekend, we took a much appreciated vacation to Prince Edward Island.  We were able to find caretakers for our animals and thanks to the generosity of friends of our dear friend Erin, had a home to stay in for a few days there. It is a little unbelievable to me still that we live within a few hours driving distance of a place that was a dream world to me as a child. I won’t lie, I still feel a little sad that Anne of Green Gables is fictional but I loved our time on her island. We also went there for our honeymoon and there was something sweetly fun about going back. The weather was beautiful, we played together, went to beaches with friends, went swimming, had ice cream, ate meals that I didn’t cook, had a date night, and I even had a girls night of “sharing hearts” with my college friends Britt and Erin. Our girls had so much fun and it was just very restful. And the best part? Being glad to come home after a great time away. Ready to keep walking in this life with all that it brings each day. I’m thankful.

We both brought our cameras but actually have very few pictures between us. I just have to share some of what we did take.

First day at the beach. Warm and beautiful.

Music on the singing sands of Basin Head

Cows Ice Cream (gluten free but no promise of cross contamination free); the girls wanted to kiss the cow and milk her.

Sooo excited to ride the ferry!

Watching the ocean through all the rain

here comes the rain…

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