Category Archives: homesteading

little bird turns five + two of twelve

 

 

 

This weekend we celebrated Poppy’s 5th birthday. Excuse the cliche, but my, oh my, where has the time gone?

On Valentine’s Day we went to watch the Lego Movie and pick up your requested birthday present; a Princess Anna dress.  On your birthday, we had planned to go for a play at the YMCA, but they were calling for freezing rain so we stayed local, picked up some party favours for your guests, made pizza at your request, and watched the Disney Planning DVD that arrived.

On Saturday, you finally got to wear your birthday party dress.  Clementine wore her Elsa outfit and Silas had to be bribed to wear his Kristoff/Hiccup outfit for a photo opp.  You spent the morning twirling and singing “It’s my BIIIRTHDAAAY!  It’s my BIIIRTHDAAAY!”,  ”Happy Birthday to Poppy!” along with “Let it Goooooo” from Frozen and you could barely keep your fingers out of the frosted blue cake we made.

Soon the house was filled with friends and family dressed as fairies, princes, dinosaurs, unicorns, butterflies, and princesses.  Nana made a bunch of the cutest edible Olafs and brought fresh eggs for everyone to take home along with their party bags.  You were rather confused as to why people brought gifts and asked who they were for.  You were just so over the moon to have your dress and a house full of fun people.  There were a couple impromptu story times and a couple crazy accidents (a cracked rib and a somersault down the stairs, but everyone is recovering well).  Overall, it was a loud and happy time.  It felt like an important party for you; as though you suddenly went from being a baby to a little girl.  It made our hearts swell to see you so happy with your friends.

That night, and the next night,you slept in your party dress.  You finally took it off and wore jammies to bed last night.

  • Your love for your sister grows more intense with each day and you go to great lengths to get a giggle out of her.
  • I had no idea you found a bow tie I mad a few years ago and placed it on your kitty, but I got a good laugh when he sauntered out of the kitty litter box what had to be hours later, looking very dapper indeed.
  • You love reading the Scooby Doo books,  Jillian Jiggs Treasury, and the Robert Munsch treasury.
  • You love watching Barbie, Equestria Girls, Frozen, How to Train your Dragon, and Clifford.  You love playing with your growing collection of My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, Merida, Anna, Elsa, and Rainbow Dash.  (There is a sentence I never thought I’d be writing when my parenting adventure began!!)
  • You’ve been singing songs from Frozen nearly non-stop.  When I ask if you want to learn more of the words to it you say “No, you learn it.”.
  • You adore painting.
  • We discovered that your 6 year molar (46) is making an early appearance!
  • Last week, we traced your bodies and then drew onto your bodies whatever you pleased.  You gave yourself chicken pox, because you’re rather obsessed with drawing chicken pox.  You then drew the path your food takes through your body.  You asked me to draw a heart in your chest.
  • You love watching the Disney Planning DVD to see where the princesses and Captain Hook live.

  • You’ve always been one to prefer household objects to toys and I’ve started documenting your rather interesting and entertaining sleeping buddies and quotes.  It has turned into a little project that has been enjoyed on Instagram and Facebook.  Daddy and I decided if we were to ever create a book out of these pictures and conversations it would be called “Bed Folk + Pillow Talk with Silas”.
  • The other night, he wanted to sleep with Poppy. I thought it would be endless playing and giggling, but they fell fast asleep as soon as the lights were out. Silas hates it when the lights first go out and Poppy comforted him saying “it’s ok Silas, you can see me. I’m with you.” I love their love.
  • You really do say the darnedest things.  Here are a few more examples:
  • Silas: I was talking to The Perogie Man.
    Me: Who is the Perogie Man?
    Silas: Um, just the yummiest guy in the world.
  • Poppy: Mom, I want a brown baby.
    Me: Well, we don’t have brown skin so we can’t make a brown baby.
    Poppy: Oh, right. I love our baby.
    Silas: I want some brownies.
  • Me: Do you guys want some milk?
    Silas: Does it have Vitamin D in it?
    Me: Um, yes. I think so.
    Silas: Oh, great! I love Vitamin D.
  • You hate having your hair washed.  The other night you said you didn’t want your hair washed “…because it would turn into a girl’s hair”.  After it was washed, you were distraught that your hair “looked different now”.
  • Just yesterday morning, you woke up early with Daddy and wanted to wear some red mittens and a toque.  Once they were on you exclaimed “Look at me Daddy!  I’m gorgeous!”.
  • There is no jealousy or animosity, but you keep a safe distance from little Clementine.  Every once in a while I see you two sharing a flirty little smile though.
  • You love reading the Scooby Doo books, the Jillian Jiggs Treasury, and the Robert Munsch Treasury.
  • You love watching Equestria Girls, Clifford, How to Train Your Dragon, Clifford, Barbie, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Dinosaur Train.  You play with pretty much anything that isn’t technically a toy, but do enjoy playing imaginative games with Poppy.

  • You remain super happy even though I think your teeth are coming in and you have developed a rash/eczema on your back and tummy.  We are trying to get to the root of the rash, but can’t be sure yet.
  • You don’t often make strange with people.  You seem to take your time watching them carefully and then smile.
  • You usually wake 1-3 times in the night and nurse right back to sleep.
  • We finally captured some giggles on video.  It’s adorable.
  • You’re now wearing 6 month clothes.
  • We’ve started giving you little bits of food (the rash began before food was introduced), but you’re not overly enthused.
  • You love playing with the remote and crinkle-taggy blanket I made years ago.
  • You seem to have super human ab strength and can do a full sit up.

 

 

 

  • Mike saw a big moose sauntering down the middle of the road on his drive home one night.
  • We had our big load of logs delivered.  $875.
  • We’ve begun planning and saving for our Disney Trip 2017.  We are super excited.
  • We’ve begun working through a grade 4 french workbook to see what we remember.
  • Mike continues to enjoy playing his ukulele.
  • I am struggling to find my balance in many aspects of life.
  • I am starting to wonder if my hair will ever stop falling out.
  • In an act of self preservation, I am not allowing myself to even think about spring right now.
  • We are hoping to get a YMCA membership for the family.  It is over an hour away.
  • Our community is lobbying for a recreation center and indoor pool, but I won’t hold my breath.
  • Making plans to get the kids and I out of the house more often throughout the week.  I am thinking one day out locally (Early Years, Kinder Gym, etc), one day out in either Peterborough or Lindsay (Early Years, Chapters story time, YMCA drop in craft or gym time, groceries, YMCA land class etc.), and one day out as a family to do swimming lessons and other errands.
  • I don’t regret moving to the country, but I still struggle with feeling so isolated.
  • A second car is what dreams are made of.
  • In all honesty and if we had our time back, we would have approached my parents about buying a tiny plot on their farm, and built a tiny home so we could help with farm work and they could spend more time with the kids.
  • I often daydream about finding another family to build a tiny house in our woods so we could begin our own intentional village.
  • I made my first batch of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  It was delicious and simple.  A game changer.
  • I still hate meal planning.
  • I crave meditation and jogging.
  • I have grand plans of writing letters and sending care packages to friends and family.
  • I suck at blogging these days.
Also posted in 365 photo project, 52 portraits, celebration, family, feather + anchor, frugal living, homeschooling, life, our cabin, photography + writing, the anchor, Uncategorized, wellness | 3 Comments

foraging

Perhaps it is because we miss having a garden (some may even call it guilt for not putting in a garden).  Or it could be that it appears to be a bumper year for all the things that grow.  Or perhaps still, it is the most delightful warm Autumnal weather we’ve been experiencing since the deadly July heatwave.  Whatever the reason, we find ourselves pulled into the woods and trails in search of berries this summer more than ever.

Of course, we made batch upon batch of tasty apple butter in our first summer here, but the jars that weren’t eaten right away went bad.  There were a number of things we could have done wrong.  We could have tightened the rings too much, I am quite certain I heated the lids more than once, I washed the jars, but didn’t sterilize them, and lastly, I didn’t “process” them in a boiling bath after sealing.  We will do it differently this year with the help of Ashley English’s book  (in fact, her whole Homemade Living Series is a wonderful resource) and some diligence.

In June we picked and froze 15 quarts of organic strawberries from Ellenberger Organic Farm and made a wonderfully large jar of garlic scape pesto from the large bag of scapes they graced us with.  I made it just like a basil pesto and we ate it over pasta with tomatoes.  With the leftover scapes, I blended them in the food processor with olive oil and froze them in ice cube trays for cooking throughout the year.  It made about 35 cubes.

We own about 4 acres, but are surrounded by about 80 more which is owned by a lovely couple who only camp here a few time per year.  I have fond memories of picking the abundant blueberries while we visited Mike’s home of Newfoundland, so we were quite excited to find a couple handfuls along the shore of the pond a week or two ago.  They were no comparison to Newfoundland’s berries, but it was a bit like finding treasure.

We have both pin cherries and choke cherries here as well, but this is the first year they have produced like this.  Chokecherries don’t taste like much when eaten off the branch and the seed apparently contains cyanide, but when made into a jelly, they remind me of childhood and fall.  We were able to pick 3 quarts from the two small bushes behind the house and made 12 125 ml jars plus a pint.  We went by the book this time and they all sealed successfully.  We have plenty more on the property so another batch or two may be in order.   I think they will make nice Christmas gifts this year.

While picking the chokecherries we noticed crazy amounts of blackberries (or what we assume are blackberries) growing fairly low to the ground on what we assume to be young bushes.  We are a little unsure now as we found two types while we foraged for our dessert yesterday afternoon.  In abundance, we found the smaller berries low to the ground, but then we happened upon some larger/taller bushes with the more characteristic shape and size of blackberries.  Both taste similar, and both types came off with the rasp inside (unlike a black or red raspberry where the rasp is left on the bush).  No matter how you slice it, they tasted decadent, still slightly warm, atop our Kawartha Daily french vanilla ice cream.  The kids were in their glory despite the mosquitoes and scratchy bracken that was often taller than them.  Berry loving Poppy was especially happy to pick to her heart’s content which she quietly did while Silas made sticks into swords, put rocks in his basket, and saved himself the tedious task of picking the berries himself and thieved from mama and daddy’s baskets.  We covered a lot of ground and spent over an hour for only a quart and a half, but it was fun and we figure we’ll be going out each night for our dessert until they dry up.

The apples look a bit small, but oh so abundant and just beginning to blush.  We’ve purchased a clamping apple peeler, corer, and slicer in preparation for our apple-filled fall.

So though we may not have a garden this year, and though we’ve only made it to one farmer’s market this season, we are still enjoying the fruits of the season and we’re ever so grateful that so much of it has been found in our own backyard.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

Also posted in celebration, earth's best sundays, ellenberger organic farm, family, frugal living, homeschooling, life, our cabin, wellness | 1 Comment

anger + motherhood

This moment didn’t actually make me angry. I just laughed at what they were able to do in the two minutes I had locked myself in the bathroom so I could actually talk to the bank on the phone.

“Take or leave ‘attachment parenting’ as you wish but raising human infants is not supposed to be done in isolation by a single caregiver, and yet overwhelming levels of individualism combined with conservative gender roles have positioned us in exactly that place. In our suburbs there is no-one else in the room when a mother reaches the end of her tether – there is no-one left to negotiate with – it is just an adult and a baby, crying in each other’s faces, desperate.”

I read the above quote about a year ago and felt instantly understood; instantly heard.  I have been seeing and reading a lot about anger and yelling in motherhood on Facebook and Pinterest lately.  In the world of social networking, perhaps this is our way of breaking the silence and/or asking for help…or perhaps just starting a dialogue of support.

As this third pregnancy progresses into 24 weeks, I have the distinct feeling that shit just got real.  All of this is really happening and though we know the love will be instant and true, with it being our third time around we know all the other stuff that comes along with it.  The sleepless nights, the endless worry of sickness and injury, the guilt, the baby blues, the aching bleeding boobs, the baby weight that clings, the healing c-section wound, the adjustment period of jealousy and curiousity.  Of course, in the end it will all be fine and dandy.

Earlier this week, I took the car and the kids for a full day (7:30 am until 5:00 pm) in town.  I don’t know why I do this, but I am stubborn and sometimes the need to get out of the house wins out over wisdom.  It was a gong show and as I chased a shrieking  Silas through half the mall and halfway through a department store while dragging a giggling Poppy behind me I wondered 1) how I will ever leave the house without help again after baby #3 arrives and 2)  Will we all survive this?!

I am not great at dealing with stress…or heat…or messes…or bugs…or not being listened to…or being pregnant…or lack of reason.   Waaaaah!  I know, poor muffin!  Then why on earth would you sign up for the ultra intense gig of stay at home mothering in the country, dummy?  The truth is, even after the most intense day, it still feels like the most natural and fulfilling thing I could ever want to do with my life.  Most jobs are hard and tiring, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t right for us.

I have made my decision to stay home and to homeschool and I stand by it despite it being a struggle in almost every way.  Blame it on the Ellenberger’s stubborn gene.  That being said, I am also letting go of a few things I thought I never would.  For example,

  • I love a lot of the ideas (though not all) of Waldorf, but have come to the realization that I don’t see it as a perfect fit for us.
  • I decided against buying the expensive Oak Meadow curriculum and went to Chapters where we picked up a large assortment of learning/teaching resources for the kids for much less money.
  • I realized that we can be both homeschoolers and unschoolers because the days are long and varied and that is what sits best with us.
  • I picked up some instant oatmeal for the kid’s breakfasts because they like it and because I don’t always want to make food they won’t eat or spend an hour making crepes or apple fritters each morning.
  • I let them watch tv because sometimes I need the kitchen to myself as I make the meals.
  • We have let go of the ideal vegetable garden with lovely raised beds, a solid fence and heirloom varieties this year.  Instead we will plant mainly potatoes and a few basics that always do well.  The bugs, the kids and the budget mixed with the fact that our harvests have been a bit disappointing since moving here and we are slightly disheartened all played heavily into that decision.  Instead of paying out money for plants that would likely just turn into compost, I bought a Dutch Oven for 70% off so I could make more yummy Dutch Oven Bread.

Sometimes we romanticize the olden days and try to hold ourselves to that ideal, but forget life was also structured quite differently back then.  Neighbours were your family and vise versa.  There were often more generations living under one roof and they shared the work with each other.  We are living in a very strange time in which technology and old time values are merging.   We are inundated with blog posts and photos of picture perfect parenting/crafting/cooking/home decorating/partying/traveling moments and think we have to be doing something wrong because our kids/clothes/meals/homes/parties/etc sure as shit doesn’t feel or look like that.  I am guilty of it too.  I take pictures of the scrumdiddlyumptious,  made from scratch chicken pot pie, but neglect to photograph the nights we eat Kraft Dinner or cereal and chips for supper.  As much as I want rhythm in our house, it really is just perpetual motion peppered with guilt,  frustration, giggles, apologies, tears, and heart wrenching love and affection until we all fall down again.  I am coming to terms with the fact that that, in a nutshell,  is what parenting feels like for everyone.  We’re not doing it wrong, it just is what it is.

I know it isn’t ok to yell at my children or lose my temper because my expectations are too high for a 4 and 2 year old.  It’s not them, it’s me.  They are tiny and perfect and trust me completely, and yet I still yell.  Why?  Because I am always alone when I “…reach the end of my tether…”.  And that isn’t about to change in any drastic way anytime soon.  Our small extended families are quite spread out and busy with their own lives.  All we can do is keep doing the best we can with what we’ve got while trying not to wish it was anything different (though we often do).

As I try to tame the Orange Rhino inside of me, I fully realize that anger is a part of life too.  It is important to teach our children the big emotions and how to apologize when we’ve hurt someone.  I don’t get angry when Silas tries to hit me or tells  me he doesn’t like me.  I feel nothing but empathy, I soften and tell him it is ok to be angry with me,  I let him know that sometimes people get angry with each other, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop loving them. I also let him know it is not ok to hit.  I see an instant and remarkable change in him when I say this.  His face changes from anger and he always comes in  for a hug.  When I yell, I always seek them out and apologize within minutes of it happening.  I tell them in the simplest way I can that I was frustrated or hurt or scared and that I never want to scare them.  We hug and often cry on the floor together until it feels ok to get up and move on with our day.

It isn’t a perfect system by any means, but it is what we have right now.  I hope that through it all, they feel the immense love, devotion, and respect I carry for each of them.  I hope that they learn how to be gentle with others and themselves.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

Also posted in family, homeschooling, life, Uncategorized, wellness | 11 Comments

counting my blessings

Today we had planned to take the kids out to the free admission Peterborough Zoo and for ice cream.

Last night we found our car won’t start.

It isn’t the battery.

The car gods must have heard we are planning to trade in our car for a slightly larger family vehicle this Wednesday.

This sort of thing, this feeling of powerlessness and frustration, tends to send me in to a panicky tail spin.

Mike is piling and splitting wood to burn off the worry.

I thought it may be a good idea to count my blessings and compile a short list of what I am grateful for.

 

  • We are all healthy and well.
  • Two vibrant, happy children and another on the way.
  • Mike’s wonderful job with wonderful benefits.
  • Our house in the country.
  • I get to be a stay at home mom and homeschool.
  • Poppy’s empathy/sympathy and resislient nature, wild hair, and sticky-uppy toes.
  • Silas’ intensity, eyebrow playing, story telling ways.
  • All of our secondhand furniture.
  • Free Slacker Radio (specifically the Billie Holiday and Classic Country Station).
  • A freezer full of organic beef, pork, homemade quiche, and corn.
  • Well stocked cupboards.
  • Our line of credit which saves us in situations such as this.
  • Being able to pay our bills.
  • Our large front gate is finally fixed.
  • The wood pile (that will keep us warm next winter) is slowly getting sawed, split, and piled by this wicked cool husband of mine.
  • Only using 2-3% of our propane tank last winter.
  • Our Hydro bill equal billing is going down.
  • I found a way to shave $411 off our yearly home insurance premium.
  • After much debate and research, we will be getting a white 2013 Nissan Rogue on Wednesday with a fair trade in price for our Versa.
  • New cars, their warranties, and all their new bits and perks.
  • Pachouli perfume.
  • When Silas farts and grins a surprised grin while saying “Oops!  I burped in my pants”.
  • The return of our “honey bird” (hummingbird).
  • Winnie the Pooh movies.
  • The lilacs and peonies and apples that grow around our house.
  • The two chickadees flitting about in the cedar tree as I write this.
  • Nag Champa.
  • I finally reached the bottom of dirty clothes mountain and found that was in fact the horrible smell lingering in our front room…ahem.
  • Our two clothes lines.
  • Every month, we get a little further out of debt…most of the time.
  • Our interest free loans from parents.
  • Friends.
  • That the kids’ adoration and excitement for dandelions exceeds even my own.
  • Being able to (slowly) build a new website and facebook page for Ellenberger Organic Farm.  They help us in so many ways and we enjoy being able to pay them back in tiny tokens such as this…until we can pay them back for real.
  • My anchor.
  • Kind cottaging neighbours who don’t get mad when Huck goes for a swim at their cottage and tears around like an idiot.
  • Our abundance of eggs.
  • Lemon meringue pie.
  • Play sand.
  • Netflix.

I know I am just scratching the surface here, but it does make me feel better.

Now, a no complaining + no whining policy is in effect for the rest of the day.

I swear.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

 

Also posted in ellenberger organic farm, family, frugal living, homeschooling, life, our cabin, the anchor, wellness | 4 Comments

playing catch up

Firstly, I apologize for my absence and secondly, I thank you warmly for your kind emails to check in on me.  At 5 weeks of pregnancy the all day nausea hit me like a tonne of bricks and the depression that always accompanies it followed close behind.  Up until now, even the thought of signing into my blog account made me feel nauseated.

Alas, I am 19 weeks along and aside from feeling a bit gaggy in the mornings, I am feeling much better now.  Phew, that was a rough ride!

I am a little ashamed and saddened that I have only a handful of ho-hum photos from the past 3 months, so indulge me while I attempt to record a few snapshots to remind us all of what these month looked like…

  • We had our 18 to 20 week ultrasound on Monday and found out that we are having a GIRL!  The kids have been saying girl consistently whenever we ask them so it was no big surprise to them.  We waited to find out for our first two, but thought it would be fun to find out for our last one.  It feels really nice to know…though I do have that nagging thought that they do make mistakes.
  • The all day nausea lasted from 5 weeks until about 15 weeks.  I made the whole 10 weeks without throwing up and then randomly at 18 weeks, I barfed my guts out.  The same thing happened with Poppy.
  • If I had picked up my camera you would likely see pictures of Silas dressed in a straw hat and lady gloves while exclaiming “Iiiiiit’s show time!” and you would see Poppy dressed in her flapper hat, lady gloves and a purse declaring she was ready to go to the bush.
  • We spent a great deal of time laying on the couch watching movies.  The funny thing is that I felt so guilty, but the kids were happy…likely because they had me all to themselves to snuggle and play with.  I also realized just how well they get along and play together.  They almost never fight and almost always share there food and toys with each other with a simple offer or question “You wanna share with me Silas/Poppy”.  They really are the best of friends and I am so glad they will be homeschooled to foster that relationship.
  • I wonder how this new little girl will fit into the mix and dynamic.  Both kids are excited and ease my worries when they bring toys for the baby, kiss my belly, and shush each other so as not to wake the baby.  Silas found a play stethoscope at the local thrift store and immediately held it up to my belly and said “I’m just checking your baby.  I’m a doctor.”
  • There was lots of lego, books, and puzzles by the fire.
  • Evening games of Uno in which Poppy actually began beating us until she lost interest and left the game after 4 or 5 hands.
  • The Waltons
  • Poppy has become quite crafty and resourceful.  When I take to long to fill a bowl with water for her to use her watercolour paints, she will spit in them and begin without me.  She used the same principle just yesterday when she wanted water for the mud pit they love so much.  She peed in it and I was able to stop her as she was about to proceed playing with her new mud.  Don’t worry we promptly filled the area in with 10 bags of play sand last night.  The black flies swarmed us, but with bug nets over their heads, they played happily for nearly an hour without so much as a single bite.
  • Speaking of the mud pit, one warm day this week they were able to strip down and become completely coated in dark, rich mud. All was fine and dandy until Silas snuck inside, waited until I spotted him, slammed the door and ran squealing into the front room and onto the couch where he flailed around until I could get him off and into the tub where he surprised us all by pooping. He has never done that and I think he was more shocked than Poppy and I.
  • Poppy has been sleeping in her own room, but Mike has been staying with her until she falls asleep, but about a month ago she started asking to go to bed and falling asleep by herself.  This is a very big moment for us as we have never wanted to let her cry it out.
  • We have been moving Silas to his own toddler bed in their shared room after he falls asleep, but most nights he finds his way back into our bed.
  • Poppy loves to draw, but shows more creativity with paints.  My favourite pieces are a portrait of Daddy and a colourful caterpillar.
  • She has also begun spelling and writing her name by herself and has learned the sounds all the letters of the alphabet make.
  • Our 9 hens are laying well and we can barely use up all the eggs.
  • Our red headed rooster has started to attack us.  It began with Silas, then Poppy, then Mike, then me.  He isn’t brutally aggressive, but enough to be annoying.  The good news is that when he attacked Silas and Poppy, Huck was there and gently pulled the rooster off of them by the tail feathers.  We are hoping to find a new home for him or he may end up in the freezer.
  • Huck has been a frustratingly stubborn dog, but he is wonderful with the kids and keeps a watchful eye on them.  If they run out of sight, he will follow and sit with them.
  • Our area had a lot of run off water, rain, and flooding this spring.  We weren’t affected by the flooding rivers at home, but our basement did gather some water which was frustrating, but so many people were evacuated and likely have severe water damage to their homes.
  • Mike and I will be creating a new website for Ellenberger Organic Farm.  It will have a lot more comprehensive information on it.  I will let you know when it goes live, but if you’d like to see more up to date photos, videos, and what is available when, etc, be sure to like their new Facebook page!  It was a great maple syrup year for them.
  • Mike’s Mom and her partner were up for a visit as they made their way back from Florida to Newfoundland which meant that Mike and I were able to get into the big city for our first night away alone in over four years.   We visited the St. Lawrence Market where I nearly passed out due to low blood sugar.  I sat on their lovely outdoor patio area where Mike fed me strawberries, cookies, meat sticks and water until I recovered.  We then walked on to the Distillery District.  Then up through a sketchy part of town and through Cabbagetown until we reached our hotel (An old Victorian house that Ernest Hemmingway lived in while in Toronto).  Once talking to the kids and freshening up, we made our way through the posh, douche chill inducing streets of Yorkville to a little Indian Restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely, quiet meal while simultaneously remembering why we like and love each other.  We then sipped on coffee and hot chocolate and strolled through aisles of books.  In the morning we rose early and enjoyed a stroll back down Bloor until we arrived at the ROM.  We sipped more hot beverages and ate a small breakfast while chatting and people watching until the museum opened.  With one set of butterfly wings, one set of dinosaur wings and a dinosaur mug, we made our way back to Union Station by way of the bustling Yonge Street.  My feet still hurt, but the simple memories are good ones that should carry us through to our next getaway in another couple of years ;) .
  • Turns out that making baby girls makes for a fatter sicker mama. With Silas I was able to wear the same pair of non maternity jeans throughout the whole pregnancy. With this one, I peed on the stick and my pants stopped fitting.  Sweet lord, it is going to be a long summer!
  •  There are so many lilac blossom promises this year.  How I love the wild flowers and perennials that grow around this little house…wild roses, peonies, poppies, lilacs, daisies, cherry and apple blossoms, and black eyed Susan’s, oh my!  My mason jars shall runneth over this year!
  • We are hoping to get honeybees next spring.  I do love the dear little creatures, but would like to get the family allergy tested before we get them to make me feel better.
  • Mike is still making his way though our giant pile of firewood logs which means Mike ventured into chainsaw ownership and use.  He was pretty excited.  We hope to save up for a much more efficient wood stove this fall.
  • We were very pleased that we didn’t owe any taxes this year!  We got a $10 return, but paid $80 to figure that out.
  • Poppy has a new habit of posing very seriously for photos.  It is hard to explain, but it often translates into a very sad looking little girl even though as soon as I take it she breaks into a smile and asks to see it.  It is as though she is being artistic beyond her years.  Just yesterday she spotted the patch of cheerful dandelions in the yard and ran out to pick them in her fairy jammies.  She brought more and more in and then arranged them ever so carefully in a small mason jar.  Of course there were some very stoic poses for mama and her camera, but I did manage to capture a couple candid joyful faces.
  • Silas’ favourite new word is “dirt bag”.  It is something we lovingly call him from time to time, but it likely sounds horrible to onlookers who watch Mike take him into the washroom of the restaurant to wash his hands while he hollers playfully in protest “Let me go you dirt bag!”.  Funny stuff.
  • I purchased a 5 year journal on our little getaway to the city and look forward to recording a little bit about our everyday days.

Well, there you have it.  I know I’ve forgotten so many tiny good moments, but now I will have something to come back to this winter as we work away on our annual Poppy, Silas + Little Girl (We have a name picked, but will attempt keeping it secret for now) book for the grandparents.

I hope to see more of you these days and catch up on your own spaces again.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

Also posted in 365 photo project, 52 portraits, celebration, ellenberger organic farm, family, feather + anchor, homeschooling, life, our cabin, photography + writing, Uncategorized, wellness | 8 Comments

thirteen

Hot chocolate in my coffee

work for mike

a trip to the hardware store

a pretty new paint colour with a rather disappointing  name

rock cookies

chicken pot pie from one of our very own chickens

more rain

more of the same

hunkering down

Our thoughts have been occupied with our newly implemented budget.  We sway back and forth between feeling empowered and hopeful to tired and a little sad.  The good news is that the money is there for us if we use it wisely.   We are so glad that me staying home is even a viable option; I know so many people would love to be home, but simply cannot make ends meet.

I found this blog while searching for ways to stretch our dollars and for about 15 minutes we thought maybe we could really hunker down and get ourselves out of debt.  Then we realized we are already bare bones with the only place to cut the fat being in our groceries, fuel, and “entertainment” ($100 – so far our entertainment includes paint and a fire detector).  It would be years and years before we saw the light of day and it would be a miserable existence.  All that to say we will be taking all our monthly disposable income and laying it down on our line of credit for the next several months.  After that is cleared, it will be going into our savings and paying off our freezer full of organic grass fed meat.  We also have a truck load of wood and a chainsaw to buy as well as our income tax coming due from my adventure into home childcare.

The budget means cutting the tiny bits of fat most people wouldn’t think twice about.  Reducing grocery trips to the larger town a little over an hour away to 2 times rather than 3 or 4 times per month.  It quickly becomes clear why going into the grocery store less is just better.  Mike is capable of going in with blinders and only getting the milk or onions whereas I get creative and think of the possibilities.  It means making our food from scratch.  It means using electricity less.  Ultimately, it translates into me staying home more and spending even more time in the kitchen.

Anyone who knows how much time I spend in the house as it is may think that is ludicrous to spend more time at home, but it is a reality and I am preparing myself for it.  I need to switch my perspective a bit.  I think I have a higher than normal tolerance for being home and being alone so it shouldn’t be too hard.

I really like being home, but Ido need a few things for it to be more sane:

1) I need a project to do; big or small, just something that makes me feel productive.

  • painting nearly every surface in the house within an inch of its life
  • reorganizing the cupboards
  • baking/meal prep
  • planning and implementing a functional pantry space
  • meal planning
  • sewing
  • repairing, patching, and slipcover-ing our furniture
  • painting or drawing
  • reading
  • knitting and crocheting
  • blogging
  • art
  • jewelry making
  • etc

2) I need a shower – it makes me feel more productive, more pulled together, and less grumpy/disgusting

3) I need my house to be pretty and cozy (which goes hand in hand with number 1).

4) I need something other than kid’s movies to watch especially in the winter.  This one is hard to admit, but I miss watching things like Martha Stewart and would also love to watch things that we can all learn from like BBC programs, documentaries etc {this isn’t to say we don’t watch things like Shameless, Californication, and The Dragon’s Den when we can}.  We are looking into ways of doing this without cable (we have not had cable for nearly 5 years!) and may be able to do something with some Christmas money and dip into our entertainment budget.

5) Adult interaction.  Lots of options here between friends and homeschool meet ups, I just have to plan things out, and firm up plans more often rather than just saying, with good intentions, “We should totally get together!”.  This also means embracing social media like Instagram and Facebook.  I often wonder why I post pictures of random things for no real reason, but I do it to connect to the good people who may live far away or that I simply don’t get to see a lot.  It staves off the crazies more times than not and can pull me back from the edge when Silas gets an early start on his throw-downs.

To some of you this may sound perfectly normal and realistic while others may think we are insane for not just doing things normal-like.  send the kids to daycare and then school while we both work.  Not only is it not how we wish to do things for a number of personal reasons, but there are high costs to that as well.  The truth is that some days are hard and even boring, but then I think about going back to a job that I hated and spending much less time with my kids, and my perspective is regained.  I would rather do tedious and sometimes mundane tasks for these two little bosses than for a stranger, besides they pay me well in cuddles and say way funnier things.

go gently + be wonderful

e.

Also posted in 365 photo project, family, frugal living, homeschooling, life, Uncategorized, wellness | 17 Comments

day one of 365

Time again for another 5 year plan.  It makes me happy to think of our lives and future together as a family and a couple.  This one will take us to 2018 though it seems impossible to believe.  So many of our dreams and goals came to life after we created our last one in 2007

We found our sweet and feisty rabbit “Sugarfoot” dead under the cedars today.  It appears it was of natural causes as there was not a hair out of place.  He has been spending 90% of his time outside since July or August when he started hiding when I came out to fetch him for the night.  I figured he may have a shorter life living outdoors, but it was definitely a happy and full one.  He grazed in the long grass with the chickens, humped our cats, put the run on Huck, enjoyed plenty of scratches and pats and ate lots of kitchen scraps all while good naturedly letting the kids chase him around the yard.  He had built a burrow under our porch and never strayed far.  As the days grew colder he would come in for a snack and a nap then out he went again.  His coat had grown nice and thick and he was healthy.  He had simply laid down and died.

I have always wanted to do a 365 photo challenge, but always think of it too late or don’t start because I lack the staying power.  This year, I was reminded on New Year’s Eve that I should get started.  Of course, I hope to stick with this, but we all know the year is long and life gets busy, but I have started anyway.  I originally thought I would just post a week’s worth here on Saturdays, but since I have been neglectful of this space of late I hope to find a way to simply blog it from Instagram.  Some days it may be one phone or camera photo while other days may be a smattering of photos paired with a few words about our day.  I may go weeks just keeping a photo journal and I may become inspired to leave a recipe or a fawned Friday or some thoughts.  More often than not I feel I have nothing of great substance to say on the blog or have so much to say, I don’t know where to begin.  I figure this might loosen the blockage.

I seem to constantly be changing directions with the blog and my ideas…I tried the sponsor thing and though I enjoyed it, it was a lot of time spent organizing, emailing, and posting for a very little bit of money and it seemed to dominate my blog space.  I tried the tutorial thing, but again, it was a great deal of effort and time.  I continue to walk the fine line of trying to find creative ways to bring in extra money and blogging for myself and my family.  I keep coming back to the inevitable truth that my time is best spent trying to save us money rather than trying to make money (for now anyway).  I would love to be a paid writer or photographer, but the reality is that those things are just hobbies I enjoy and not necessarily easy income.  They take a lot of time and energy to do on top of trying to drum up interest (which seems to be non-existent).  I read an excellent article on pricing your services and it really put things into perspective for me.  I could take pictures for a song, but it isn’t worth the time I lose with the kids.  So if I can’t find clients willing to pay, I won’t be doing it.  Simple really.

This time of year is for turning inward.  Our finances are at the top of the list this year (inspired by this post).  It is time to get serious about our grocery bill and stop nickel and diming ourselves to debt (ha!).  Usually I find the process of creating a budget empowering, but this time I am a little nervous, because we will be on a bit of a spending strike for the next few months in order to afford our truckload of wood, a very necessary chainsaw, and our taxes that will inevitably come due.  We will also concentrate on paying for our freezer full of organic beef and paying down the line of credit that we were forced to dip into over the last year and a half.

I love shopping.  I know, it doesn’t seem to fit with the lifestyle we are trying to live, but it is true.   I have dreams about shopping sprees on a weekly basis I kid you not.  That being said, I am also a bargain and thrift store shopper so I have managed to score some sweet deals over the years.  I don’t leave the house all that often and when I do, I am rarely organized enough to think of snacks and drinks etc to get us all through the day.  On my odd day out with the kids I will buy a snack or two, a drink or two, and a meal for us.  I will often pick up some small items just because (clothes for the kids at Recycled Kids or a few items at the drug store), factor in the extra gas (it usually involves at least two extra hours of driving).  We pick Mike up from work at 4:30 after being out all day so supper is either a bowl of cereal and some toast or we buy something on the way home.  So you see, a day out per week can quickly add up against our monthly budget.  I usually have hopes of doing our grocery shopping in the bigger town since it is so expensive around these parts, but trying to concentrate with two squirmy and demanding kids can be tough and I often end up being incredibly inefficient.

I know I will be ok without shopping.  I love baking and cooking;  there is snow to play in; we have bookshelves overflowing with unread books; I have a ton of clothes, fabric and yarn, purchased over the years, to use up; puzzles to be assembled; walls to be painted; movies to download; kids to chase and teach.  It is just that I use shopping (as thrifty as I may think I am) as a reward for everything else we go without; an extra car, convenient propane heat, trips or getaways, cable, brand new clothes, and for staying home all day every day with two small kids.  I talk myself into the fact that I deserve it, but when it hurts our bank account I can hardly justify it.  Our goal is to get out of overdraft and pay off the smaller debts we owe and then begin saving up for bigger ticket items we want or need without guilt.  Guilt and worry is far too heavy to carry around for another year.

Well, that was much longer than I had anticipated, but there you have it.  Our plans, goals, and new directions and attitudes for the blog and the new year.

 

Make it a happy one.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

 

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with a heavy + grateful heart

This task has been hanging over us for some time now.  We knew when we bought these chicks from Andrew and Kira back in June that we would be putting the roosters in our freezer.  They had a happy and natural life in every way.  They free ranged by day and roosted in a large coop by night.  Aside from the odd game of harmless chase with the children and dogs, they were free to be chickens.  Because they had lots of space they very rarely even picked fights with each other.  It really was a good life punctuated with a not so great final 30 seconds.

Andrew and Kira had offered to show us (by that I mean Mike) the process they use.  They arrived early, we chatted, sipped coffee while the kids played on the ice and followed our tame outdoor rabbit Sugarfoot,  and then proceeded to get ready.  I thought I would stay away entirely, but decided at the last minute to watch the process.  It ended up being Kira doing the task and the teaching.  There is something comforting to me about a woman doing the job.  She is a calm and gentle soul and it gave me an even deeper sense of peace with the whole process.  Once the ball was rolling, the task went quickly and Mike told me later that Kira makes for wonderful teacher.

Poppy was a bit confused, but we took turns explaining what was happening in the simplest terms possible.  She seemed to understand to some extent and innocently said to me “No, you can’t eat animals, that’s yucky”.  Silas took that time to have a complete melt down so I took our kids inside for a snack where we checked on things from the window from time to time.

I was relieved when it was all over and now that we have 7 chickens in our freezer neither of us have an appetite for chicken.  I remember my dad telling me about my Gramma not being able to eat her chickens for quite some time after processing them herself.  I guess we just feel it proper to give it a window of grace.  A moment of quiet gratitude.  A moment to process our own emotions.  A moment to allow it to cross some arbitrary threshold where it becomes meat rather than a living, breathing creature that once grazed on our land.  Mike was a bit quiet and reserved for the remainder of the day, perhaps processing his first experience with killing something himself.

My issue is not in this method of raising and killing animals ourselves, but more with the bigger question of if I should be eating meat at all.  I came to the realization that if I am to eat meat, I am responsible for the death of an animal regardless of whose hands do the deed.  To send them away or to buy from the conventional market simply makes it easier for me to continue with the easy disconnect.   That being said, if it were left to me and me alone, I would not eat meat again and wouldn’t find it to be a grave hardship.  I have always struggled with eating meat on a personal level and this practice has brought me face to face with that issue; just as having a responsible, respectful organic beef farmer for a father and a responsible, respectful hunter for a step father has done throughout my entire life.  I believe that chickens and other animals are capable of forming bonds and “friendships”; they know the primal sense of pleasure of warming themselves in the sun; they break off into their own groups and have roosting buddies; comforting bonds if you will.  It may be on a primal level, but just because they cannot contemplate these bonds and attachments, doesn’t mean they don’t occur.

The Hoff and the ladies laid low under the cedar tree for the remainder of the day.  Usually Mike shuts the coop door each night, but that night I went out to say goodnight and thank you.  The 4 Barred Rock ladies were sitting on one roost while the 5 Wyandottes sat on a much higher roost.  The Hoff sat alone and alert on his own looking a little disoriented.  He watched me cautiously as I talked in a soft voice.  I told him I needed him to remain a gentleman and he curiously cocked his head and looked me in the eye.  I hoped we had reached an understanding and so far he has held up his end of the bargain.  I went out again a little later just to look in the window and he had snuggled right in with the older girls on their roost.  I was glad for that.

This way of doing things isn’t for everyone, nor is it emotionally easy, but for us, it is right.  When I think of how conventional meat ends up on the table the decision is easier.  This was not something we took lightly.  We are grateful for the meat, we are grateful for organic farming parents and friends who help and support us so fully along this path we are choosing.

go gently + be wonderful

e,

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wood warms you thrice

There is a saying that wood warms a person three times; once when you cut it; once when you stack it; and once when you burn it, but we are quickly learning the other benefits of heating with wood.

Mike and I both have fond memories of wood heat in our childhoods, but there was a long stretch of time in which we lived without one.  When we moved into this house it was early spring and shortly after, we had our insurance adjuster through for an inspection.  He found that the WETT certificate we received during the purchase of the house was in fact for a different stove.  He told us it would need upgrades before we could safely use it.  It was going to cost over $500 dollars to fix it, so we decided to wait and simply use our propane furnace.  After our first $600 tank refill in November we decided we needed a new game plan.  We hadn’t ordered wood so we only had what the previous owner had left.  We were paying through the nose to keep it at a chilly 64 degrees.  The windows and ceiling upstairs was getting condensation on it due to poor insulation.

In January we shelled out the money to have it fixed and WETT certified.  In February we ordered our $825 truckload of logs.  In March, we paid $450 to have our furnace fixed when it conked out in the middle of the night.  We ended up spending $1600 in propane last winter.  We were using approximately 1% of the tank each day and refills usually cost about $400.  It was an expensive winter to say the least.

In an effort to save money this year, our goal is to not turn on our furnace until we absolutely must.  So far so good,  though it has been a mild Fall.  We still have some late winterizing to do such as creating a room around our water tank in the cellar basement, putting plastic over our drafty front door, and adding insulation under our floor.

Yesterday, my step-mom came to take care of the kids so Mike and I could get out for some Christmas shopping and time to ourselves.  It was so very much appreciated.  When we arrived home she told us she cooked supper (potatoes and sausage) on the woodstove.  I was thrilled.  After all, I had been meaning to try it, but thought it would take hours just to cook some potatoes due to the double plate on top of it, so it hadn’t been a priority.  Today was a rainy day and it felt fitting to heat our lunch on the woodstove.  It worked brilliantly.

It occurred to me how intricately wise the old ways can be.  Our wee, basic, and rather inefficient woodstove warms our house, dries our clothes, resolves the humidity/condensation problem, and now cooks our food.  At first glance one would think that technology has streamlined and simplified our lives, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here does it?  For it has effortlessly replaced or reduced the need for our furnace, our dryer, our dehumidifier, and our stove.  Depending on the type of day we often hold temperatures around 70 to 75 glorious degrees.

Over the winter I will be making it a new habit to turn our electric stove on less and using the woodstove to make what I can.  I am thinking morning oatmeal, Christmas day cider, and hearty soups.  The one “issue” would be that it is at the opposite end of the house to our kitchen so it means a lot of running back and forth.  It also requires a bit of counter space.  To fix this, I will be digging out my cast iron frying pan, creating a makeshift counter top on top of the woodbox, and gathering a few essentials such as a cutting board, oven mitts, salt and pepper, wooden spoons and a flipper to hang on the logs for easy access.  Someday, we will upgrade our stove and I think a small cookstove will be in order, but that won’t likely be anytime soon.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a rather perfectly rainy December Sunday awaiting me.  Lasagna to heat up, crocheted washcloths to make, and two wee ones to cuddle.  Perhaps we will end off with a little more Christmas caroling as Mike learns new tunes on the ukulele.

Happy Sunday, friends.

 

go gently + be wonderful

 

e.

 

 

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the hoff

I know I shouldn’t let it happen, but this guy has found his way into my heart.

He is one of the 14 Gold Laced Wyandotte chicks we bought from Andrew and Kira in June.  We ended up with 5 hens and 9 roosters plus our original six barred rocks.  About a month or two ago we found one of the Barred Rocks dead under the roost for no apparent reason.  Then in the past couple weeks we have had some sort of hawk preying on our free range flock.  He (or she) was sitting on the woodpile one morning and we lost our first rooster the same day.  It doesn’t eat too far away because the dogs, who stay fairly close to the house, found the picked apart carcass and brought it back to us.

The most recent loss was on Monday.  The kids and I went out to play in the fresh snow and I noticed the chickens were quite spooked and still hiding.  One Barred Rock was under the cedar and she screamed as the dogs playfully chased her.  I caught her and she stopped squawking, burrowed into the crook of my arm and closed her eyes.  She was alive, but terribly frightened so I placed her in the coop with Bumblefoot (long story short – she had Bumblefoot in the summer, but after we preformed a wee surgery she healed up.  For some reason in the last couple of weeks the others pecked her neck raw so she has been taking refuge in the coop until she heals) and they snuggled up together in the cat carrier (also known as the nesting box which is currently out of use as the old girls molt and the young girls mature).  I could only count 4 Barred Rocks and Mike was able to confirm the loss was in fact Goose (She came with the name, but she was easy to pick out as she had a missing talon on her middle toe) when the dogs once again brought back the carcass.

All this to tell you that this silly, fearless, ginger headed rooster (whom I have named The Hoff) has stolen my heart.  He is always the first one to come when I offer up kitchen scraps and the most stubborn one who jumps into the feed container at feeding time.  His “mane” is a brilliant orange unlike any of the others and he likes to ruffle it up often which always makes me think of a slow motion hair flip reminicent of Baywatch (hence the name).  He is fearless, but not aggressive.  Usually they  nearly knock me over in the mornings when I open the coop, but since the latest brutal attack they have been a bit hestitant to go outside.  I will often find The Hoff sitting on the smaller roost with Bumblefoot, the spooked chicken, and one of the other Wyandotte hens.  I can tell he has a tender heart and is kind to his ladies.

The time to process our chickens is drawing near.  The original plan was to process all the roosters and just keep the heans, but we will now attempt to keep this kind and curious gentleman (and hope that he stays just so without the others to keep him in line) and hope he keeps the “cockadoodledoos” to a minimum.

My heart is heavy at the thought of killing and eating our chickens, but I know they have had a much more natural and happy life than any chicken we would ever find in the grocery store.  I know it will be harder, but maybe it should be harder, especially if it means I have a more grateful heart.

 

go gently + be wonderful

e.

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