Entries categorized "life"

a few recent happenings.....

Spring was a whirlwind of events here on the farm.

Joe's much-anticipated gathering to celebrate his retirement from the Coast Guard was canceled due to the covid19 pandemic. He packed up solo at his apartment in Massachusetts, had a small informal retirement ceremony at work, and left. Four hours later he showed up at the little co-op I work at in his fancy dress uniform. We took photos at home in the yard, and that was the extent of his day. Definitely not what we expected, but memorable none the less I suppose.

Only a few days after Joe's arrival home, our farm-in-a-box arrived from Fedco with over 100+ plants. This spring we planted 20 fruit trees, a dozen blueberries, 3 dozen raspberries, a strawberry patch, a dozen more medicinal perennials, lots of veggies in raised beds near the house, and rows of potatoes and onions in our field. There were also far more shrubs, bushes, flowers, and medicinal herbs than anyone could keep track of. Something like 500 plants minus the veggie garden. And then it didn't rain for about 8 weeks so we (mostly Joe) spent 20+ hours a week watering all these new little plant babies. It was busy, to say the least. The reward is here though, lush green plants and baskets full of food.

We bought two greenhouse kits this spring, only one of which we got up before the planting extravaganza mentioned above. Soph and I started a couple of hundred veggie, herb, and flower seedlings in it. I'm hoping we'll get the second one assembled soon so we can get winter veggies started in early August for greens and such. My friend Bliss has a lovely little greenhouse that she picks salad greens and kale from all winter. Such abundance in January. 

We bought 8 chicks during the first part of social distancing and we just added another 16, plus four baby ducks. Fluffy = stress reduction! By the time this batch is ready to join the flock outside, the two dozen meat birds chicks will be here. This is our first time raising meat birds and we opted for Freedom Rangers which will grow slower and enjoy foraging.

Infrastructure projects included three new garden beds, cattle panel trellising for peas/beans/cucumbers, a chicken coop, and 300+ feet of deer fencing around the new orchard. Joe used a rototiller to till three forty-foot rows for potatoes and onions in the field next door - and then we spent hours picking rocks out of the soil. So. Many. Rocks. Joe installed recessed lighting in our dining room and living room as the first part of a bigger project - finishing the attic space! We're adding two small bedrooms and storage upstairs. The kids will move into the new rooms, Sophie's loft will become a guest space and sewing nook, and Luke's old room will become a much-needed studio space for Sweetbrier Farms Apothecary! All these projects pushed Joe's garage + pottery studio project off until next spring, he definitely took one for the team putting all of our needs before his, he's like that.

I suppose that pretty much has you up to date on the farm. Oh, one last thing. A sneaky photo taken by our kiddo on a recent sunset walk. It really is a little slice of heaven here on the farm.....

Until next time,

~s


community + tramp roaches.....

Our winter farmer’s market slows down quite a bit. The gift of this slower pace - and being in closer quarters indoors - is the chance to shoot the breeze with other vendors. There is a lot of sharing and a lot of joking. Once, a lone brussels sprout was tossed from one side of the building to the other during the slower moments. We joked we should sell tickets at the door for crowd control. Someone would always offer a midday coffee run to get us all through. Our regulars would come visit in any weather though, happy to chat and support their much loved little market.

After our very last market of the season, we gathered at the taproom next door to celebrate with food, local beer, and kombucha. I sat looking at the faces of these hard-hard working folks and laughed at their stories with a humbled heart. After a few months of slinging my wares, I had found community. I was sitting at the ultimate cool kid table.

Among these faces, there was a fleeting one. Cooper. A community farm in Vermont has a whole crew of young fresh-faced interns, just kids really. They show up ten minutes before the market starts and in a flurry unload several crates of beautiful bread and the best hummus you’ve ever had. Over the summer, I rarely saw the same face twice…. but without fail, one usually wandered over to my herbal concoctions and I would offer a trade. Bread and hummus for tinctures and soap.

For the second half of our eight-week winter market session, we had Cooper every week. He was just one table away and we had the chance to get to know him. He’s 21 years young, the same age as our oldest daughter. We talked about farming and traveling and finding your way in the world. My kids have taught me two important things about young people. One, shut up and listen. Two, ask questions, but don’t offer advice. I found out Cooper is the youngest of two boys. He’s traveled quite a bit. There was some crazy story about sleeping with only a tarp for shelter in the desert which involved waking up in a pile of sand after a windstorm. He grew up in Maine. He’s attended some really cool folk schools. He has the most lovely spirit that is half old soul and half something else I can’t quite put my finger on - beginner’s mind, adventurer, I can’t quite find the words. He bought some Christmas gifts for his mom at my table while I joked with him about always being the baby, even when he’s 30 someday. He gave the same half-smile, half-laugh I get from my own kids when I say the same thing to them.

On our last day, at the potluck, he talked about his plans for a quick trip home to see his family for the holidays and then hitting the road. Hitchhiking around the country with a group of friends, some instruments, working at farms along the way to make some money.

I told him to look up John Craigie.

Joe asked him if he had a tramp roach.

No one at our table had ever heard of a tramp roach or Utah Phillips. So, of course, the following story ensued. If you’ve never heard Mess With People, by Utah Phillips, it’s truly worth listening to. I’ll share an excerpt, but it’s worth the time to listen to Utah tell it, it is his story after all……

"I carry things around with me to kind of rag people, um, well let's see. God, well, I wouldn't leave home without my cockroach. I always have my roach with me. There's a rubber cockroach; it's a tramp roach, Frying Pan Jack calls that a tramp roach. He gave that to me. He says, "You know, if you're poor, and you haven't got any money, you're out on the street and you're hungry, you, you go into a restaurant with this, and you put it in the bottom of a bowl of soup, and then you eat down to it and say: 'Eccch! What's that?' and you storm out, and you say, 'I'm not gonna pay for that!' and you leave.”

Save you a lot of money! That little jewel'll save you a lot of money! Little feelers sticking out the side of a sandwich, god, you say, eat half of it, say, "Look at that!" Leave it!

The whole table was laughing at this point, Cooper was loving this story and I was thinking to myself, I think we’re giving this kid advice, and I’m not sure if it’s good!

“You can only use a tramp roach in a real emergency, like if you’re starving!” I say.

“Of course, of course,” he says laughing.

Oh my.

And then it’s time to pack up and part ways. Most of these folks we will see here and there throughout the winter, and regularly once market starts up late next spring. Cooper though? Who knows.

“Can I give you guys a hug?” He asks us.

“Yes,” I say, hugging him, “don’t forget to text your mom.”

“Happy travels man, be safe, have fun,” Joe says hugging him.

Later on that week I listen to Utah’s song/story. In it, he talks about being near Greenwich and Cambridge. He references Connecticut in the song, but when we shared the story with Cooper, we were sitting in a taproom in Cambridge, NY - just a few minutes from Greenwich, NY. I couldn’t help but wonder if it hadn’t really been us giving advice after all, but instead the spirit of another traveler reaching out to the next generation. That might sound a little woo to some of you, but I do believe stories have somewhat of a soul of their own and find their way to the ears that need them.

To Cooper’s mama, you raised a lovely human. We sure enjoyed his company.

To Cooper, happy travels kid. May the road treat you well.

 

More Soon.
 
~s

 


nothing much......

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The last few weeks have been a blur of activity.

Birthdays, visitors, beach trips, fall festivals, apple picking, our oldest moving back to the East Coast.......

(The sweet little girls in this photo turned 15 & 19 - oh my. Plus look at that belly, ha!)

Joe had knee surgery the first of the month and has been home resting. He's just now walking around a little - it was a much tougher recovery than he anticipated. Also, he is a terrible "sitter". For someone who doesn't knit or really enjoy reading.... that pretty much leaves watching tv. I think by the third day he was done with both Netflix and the internet! Uffda.

To add excitement to the chaotic one parent circus - I pulled a muscle in my back attempting to weigh the dog - she's 73 pounds, in case you wondered. Which apparently is a few too many pounds for me to hold and balance on a bathroom scale. Sometimes the decision maker part of my brain fails me, what can I say? So I've been stretching and hanging out with a heating pad. I might be better at sitting than Joe, but I'm a bear when I feel like I "can't" do all the things

We've made quite the pair.

If you can imagine Joe and me walking, both sort of hobbling and laughing, trying to loosen up our stiff muscles - - - that's about the extent of any excitement here. You just have to laugh, it sure beats complaining.

I have had a great deal of guilt-free Pinterest time. So there is that. 

Speaking of Pinterest..... before I killed my back, I made these pumpkin bars, and they were the-bomb-dot-com. (Joe says I can't say this, so I'm saying it ALL the time now.)

I'm off for my hourly mini yoga session to free up these creaky muscles.

xo,

s

 


do this one thing now......

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These pictures are from a visit to the farm in late spring of this year. The leaves were just beginning to pop on most things and the apple tree was full of blossoms. I'm not quite sure if this is an on purpose apple tree or a wild apple tree. I guess mother earth doesn't really differentiate between those two, does she? Just those of us humans hoping for "decent apples" do. Next time I hope to make time (and remember) to look for a grafting scar at her base. This spring, I stood underneath her and looked up at the sky through her branches. Overcast. Damp cold air. Magic light streaming through. Soaking in the energy of the land we will someday call home.

Progress is slow going on the farm. We have cleared brush. Filled our bellies with dewberries. Identified plants we know. Forged paths. Cleared a space for a tiny cabin. It might happen this year and it might not. I'm doing my best to be patient and let it all unfold in its own time. Easier said than done.

Joe & I took an apple grafting class this spring and successfully grafted 10 apple trees. So far they are still alive. I think we'll baby them here over the next year and plant them up north spring of 2019 - the same spring we plan to put the Massachusetts house on the market. We have blackberries, grapes, apple trees and raspberries that all need to be slowly moved north too. And about two dozen medicinal herbs. It's kind of overwhelming to imagine where to put anything on 4-5 acres of pasture. I guess we can always move it again though. Getting it there is the first part. Which kind of reminds me of my current life mantra - do this one thing now. It's easy to get caught up in the millions of things between now and two years from now. And sometimes if I think too much about it I feel the empty heaviness of anxiety pressing on my heart - but one thing? I can do one thing, now. And eventually, all those tiny things will add up. 

Do any of you remember the Shel Silverstein poem, Melinda Mae? It's a favorite of mine.... I'll share it with you (if you haven't shared Shel's poetry with your kids, do check it out. The audio was a favorite of ours!)

 

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,

Who ate a monstrous whale?

She thought she could,

She said she would,

So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said, "You're much too small,"

But that didn't bother Melinda at all.

She took little bites and she chewed very slow,

Just like a good girl should...

...And in eighty-nine years she ate that whale

Because she said she would! 

    ~Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends)

 

I love it so - a good message for living by.

So I'm just kind of trucking along these days. Trying to remember to do this one thing now, and also to stop and look up at the magic light streaming through the branches.

 

xo,

s

  


corners of home.....

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This marks our fourth winter in this house.

It seems that each time we move and settle in, the time zips by more quickly than the last.

Didn't we just get here? Oh goodness, look at those little faces!

We're once again in the waiting phase after filling out the list, though this time we didn't put anything on it other than a request to stay here longer. Joe's command is trying hard to keep him. I am hopeful, but not counting any chickens so to speak. I think we have a good chance of getting one more year. And while I am grateful for that..... a one-year extension sort of just stretches out the waiting game even l-o-n-g-e-r. Instead of 6 months of worrying and waiting - you get 18. And so it goes.

Right now I am looking around this too big house that has held our family with the soft, kind eyes that I always do when leaving is on the horizon. With gratitude. I am grateful for this house & the people around us we have called home. Tidy, messy... all the corners of this space. I am excited to think we might be closer to starting our life on the farm and sad to think the time is nearing to leave. Again. Bittersweet, this leaving.

All these feelings mixed up inside my heart and belly. And my long time go-to for dealing with them? Tidy, organize, purge. I've actually laughed at myself quite a bit this time around at how predictable this has become - at least according to my family. 

I guess that's mostly all for now.

 

One last thing, a few bits to share.....

Honey Sweetened Marshmallows (top photo in sunday-morning-mochas - the BEST marshmallows ever!)

Currently on my needles (fluffy, squishy, goodness)

A Holiday Book List (c)heck the comments for even more books)

Squam Art Workshop Announcement (last call!)

New Facial Goods (by me!)

 

Happy Weekending to you....

xo,

s

 


softly......

Softly

 

The renewal is up for the blog this month. I looked over the last year and realized I had posted a small handful of times. Less & less in the latter half of the year. 

Joe asked me awhile back why I stopped writing. Not here on the blog so much, but real writing. In notebooks. On pages stuffed into notebooks. I didn't have a real answer. I'm just so busy, I said to him. He nodded. 

The blog has become this strange thing for me - it's mostly in my head mind you - but because I wrote less and less real life here..... it started to feel separate from me. A memory of what was. The kids growing older. My career path popping up and taking hold of my time. It's funny really, this sense of self and how we paint it with words on screens to people we've never met. How much truth do we tell? What stories do we share? How vulnerable are we willing to be - or can we be, while still being mindful of the way our stories are interwoven with those around us.... Are we just another voice in an already loud and busy place? Perhaps.

I'm not sure of any of these.... but I've been thinking about them over the last few weeks. Debating the level of my bravery to show up here in the moment I am in and share that. I mean, posts about good food and living creatively and pets in sweaters are great - but for me - they become fluff if there isn't a raw-truthful-uncut-holy-shit-it-isn't-just-me bit every now and then. Soul connection, you know?

So I ask myself (renewal looming) how to start again.

And the answer comes.......softly.

 

xo,

s

 


blooming and growing.......

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A common theme on my camera and to-do list these days.

Water, weed, bloom, repeat.

Every time I blink another week has slipped past and I find myself wondering how on earth this summer is zipping by so quickly.

It's just the pace of the days with a house mostly full of teenagers, mixed with the mama holding down an official part-time commitment to plants.

Saturday Markets. Gardening. Homestead chores. Herbal product making. Eating. Driving school for the big girl. Work schedules and play dates and camping trips squeezed in the midst of it all. And more eating, because let me tell you four growing kids need a lot of fuel. I've been looking at the hammock wistfully.... but there just doesn't seem to be time.

And somehow - I am okay with all of this. It's new and settling in slowly.... but juggling all these beautiful pieces of life is starting to feel balanced.... if that can even be a real thing. Can it?

I flipped the calendar ahead to our fall plans and was slapped by the reality that my oldest is just a few weeks away from being 20. Next oldest 18. Two adults. TWO! One headed to her freshman year of college this fall (but still staying home for now as the school is local) and the other looking at packing a bag and heading somewhere. He tried college one semester and being a prep cook for a year and after saving some money is thinking of traveling around a bit to see what's out there. Still in the finding himself phase of growing up. We're encouraging this. If he gets stuck in some place a few time zones away and needs rescuing, we'd do so. Though I doubt we'd need to. 

I have these moments where I am completely caught off guard by how much the kids have grown. Our other upcoming birthdays are 14 and 10. They'll all be double digits this month, it feels kind of huge. Kind of amazing. I can't believe I've been parenting for two decades.....

Which reminds me, I sat next to this rather peculiar man at a fancy dinner party (for Joe's work) and he asked me a million questions about our life. You know when someone goes a tad beyond casual conversation and you start to feel a bit like you're being interviewed? It was one of those. He was so surprised to learn we had four children and even MORE surprised when I told him they had all homeschooled at some point and two still were. 

Goodness, he said to me, we sent ours off to school as soon as they were old enough. 

Trying to be polite I said, well I suppose it's nice to have a break a few hours every day. 

He laughed and said, oh not locally, to boarding school.

While I am usually very well behaved at events my husband is attending in a professional matter, this comment caught me so off guard that I answered him before I thought much about it.

Oh, I really enjoy my children. In fact, I genuinely like their company and who they are becoming as human beings. I said.

He looked a bit stunned. And then carried on with his questioning. Fortunately, the auctioneer started up and was too loud for the conversation to last much longer.... 

I'm really not even going to bother with any judgment about this man's idea of raising children. I actually just want to hold onto the part where my own truth jumped out - and how good that felt, and how after all this time I still regularly look at these four of mine with such amazement and such gratitude. Blooming and growing into their own selves as I do my best to water, weed, bloom, repeat. 

xo,

s

(edited to add, I have no issue with what families choose for their children's educational paths - it's a very personal decision and we all do what is best for our own family - I do however question parents who outwardly express their dislike of their own children.)

 


keeping up

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My youngest is a mover and a shaker. If homeschool had yearbooks he'd be voted as most likely to take things apart or maybe most likely to be hanging upside-down from a tree branch. When he learned to read, it was with his legs flopped over the back of the couch and the rest of him twisted sideways to see the book I was sharing with him. Usually his antics make me laugh. It's the blessing of being the baby in the family I guess. This time of year though, he tends to get himself riled up to the point of driving his teenage sisters a little batty. More often than I care to remember someone is shrieking at him.... and usually for good reason. Sometimes I ignore it and let them settle it themselves.... sometimes I get involved and play mediator.... other times the only answer is to give the girls some quiet time and take the boy outside. I tell my mom he's like a puppy, he needs to be run! (These are literally my father's words coming out of my mouth!)

So run we do. Over the creek and through the forest. The tables turned with him on a mission and me looking at every little thing. He wants to make it to the water. Stomp over the bridge. Chase the dog. Throw sticks through the last bits of ice. Move, move, move. I'm bumbling behind, wondering if those last shrooms were turkey tails or not. And talk! He talks the whole time. Rarely needing an answer from me, but more so just needing to voice all the things in his little mind. I listen to talk about Legos, his recent obsession of the Simpsons (even though he's never seen an episode), his confusion about why people litter, and his wondering about fairies in the woods.

These days it's a mix of becoming for him. I see him figuring out how he fits in this new world of being a big kid. Flitting back and forth between the two as his siblings did before him, as all kids tend to do around this age. I remember our rock days, and I hang onto these last bits of little as much as I can. The over exuberant hugs, the magic, the messes, his rare need for help, his nightly snuggle under my arm while I attempt to knit.... all of it.

It's been said a million times over, but oh how time flies....

xo,

s

 


all in a week.....

Chick brooder

Baby chicken flock

Art studio

Art class

Organic herbal tea

Working at home

Sweetbrier farm products

Baby chicks

Color affection shawl

There's an ebb and flow of busy-ness these days. I recently found my plate to be too full and had to let some things go. It's easy to bite off more than I can chew... especially when really wonderful things come available. But the older I get, the more I realize I need down time and days that have no plans at all to balance the busy ones. It's tricky though....

Art class started again the beginning of March. Once a week my studio is filled with 8 extra girls along with my own. I feel pretty lucky to hang out with these super cool young ladies and do my best to find art projects to inspire them. This next session is 12 weeks long and we've decided (the girls & I, that is) to hold a little art show at the end to share with their families. So I'll be compiling about half of our art over the next 2 months and then displaying it all at the end of May. I'll share some bits and pieces as we go along.

The chicks are growing! The first picture is from last week and the second from today. It happens so quickly! I can't believe it's been a week since our little one hatched out and we purchased a few friends to join her. If luck is in our favor there are at least 8 hens in the little flock of ten we have inside. We know there is one rooster for sure, and two of our chicks were straight run so it's a wait and see sort of thing. We're hoping if one of the Swedish Flowers is a rooster we can take him up to Grandpa's farm. This year we chose Cream Legbars, Swedish Flowers, Cuckoo Marans & Blue Cochins to join the flock. I must admit we really get excited about having different types of chickens in our flock. We purchased ours locally, but I linked to photos if you would like to see them. We bought a huge galvanized tub as a brooder this year, Joe said he was tired of buying plastic totes, and that at least we could use it as our future bath tub!! It sure is a nice place for the little peeps to hang out for now. (yes, I quite enjoy having my farm critters in the living room for now - ask me in a month and I might have a different opinion.)

I redesigned our tea labels this week. We got new bags with windows and I had to tweak everything a bit to make it all fit. I'm happy with the new look! I also got a heat gun and shrink labels for the salves & tinctures. That's a bit of a learning curve! It sure makes everything look more professional. I *think* I have two wholesale accounts in the works (eek!), so it's a must to have things sealed properly. And markets! I just signed us up for a monthly farmer's market throughout the summer. Things are filling up, and I'm trying to keep balance in planning out summer dates.... making sure there are still lots of days for lounging in hammocks and heading to our favorite beach spot. The important stuff you know.....

Knitting is calling.... trying to sneak in a few rows on the shawl before my pillow is calling.

xo,

s

 


holding on.....

Walnut

We have some really big things going on that I can't wait to share with you. All good-wonderful-stuff, for sure. And it's so close! Like a million tiny pieces in life all coming together. In the meantime any positive energy you can send our way to help us during this time of great anticipation would be so much appreciated.

(oh this waiting patiently thing, I have not mastered it yet!)

I'll be back soon.

xo~
stephinie