Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Intentional Living









As many of you know that have read this blog for years,  we have made our living through selling products made primarily of tree branches and just a wee bit from my hand knitting.  We don't have to earn as much money by making some of our food from scratch, growing a garden, staying home a lot, rarely buying anything new, etc...  We do many of these things, however, not just for financial reasons.  We eat mostly organic and make our food from scratch because it is good for our bodies and good for the earth.  We avoid buying new unless necessary because it is good for the environment.   We stay home a lot so we have time to cook and bake and grow and make.  Less driving is also good for the environment.  We do our best to live by our principles and of course, sometimes we utterly fail.

So as our etsy businesses decline - because you know - you can order many of our woodland wedding decor items on amazon for nearly 1/2 the price and with prime you get free shipping!  And how wonderful to receive your special items for your wedding or home all the way from the beautiful country of China.

Sorry for my sarcasm, but it is true.  We have let Amazon take over our spending habits and in the process created a monster (the owner is the richest person in America, has a $600 M contract with the CIA, owns the Washington Post), put thousands of small and larger businesses out of business, put thousands of people out of jobs, etc.   The thing is, is it all worth it?  And why oh why do small businesses including homesteading types, become Amazon affiliates?  I don't get it.  There must be a way to hook up with independent businesses to work out some sort of similar financial benefit.  I would even wager to guess you might make out better.  I guess what I am saying is - if you care about your health, our earth, the thriving of small local businesses, please put your money where your heart is... line up your principles with your spending habits.

So my challenge for you today isn't to order something from a local small business or online family business or something from our business - my challenge is for you to really consider the impact of every dime you spend.  Remember, as I have written before, how we spend our money is the most powerful form of activism.  And I also bet that if you take the time to consider your purchase or make the item you need yourself - you will find a deeper connection to either the shop owner or community that you shop at.  Or, if you make the item yourself, the immense satisfaction over your accomplishment.

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Full Day of Work Even With the Snow and Mud and Inspiration from the March for Our Lives












What a wonderful work day we had yesterday.  Despite the snow cover and the mud, we were able to get so much accomplished.  I am so thankful for our health and the ability to use our bodies to work.

*The goat stalls cleaned out

*More sap collected and over 20 gallons boiled down.  We made about 1/2 gallon of syrup yesterday.

*Some window trim replaced and some painted (that was directly in the sun.)

*Hay picked up from a nearby barn where Mike and Isaac had to use a sled to bring the bales from the barn to the car but we are thankful for a nearby source of hay

*Because of all of the snow I am not sure when I will get the lettuce seedlings starts planted so I separated some to see if that will help them to continue to grow while inside

*Oh, and I spotted a little woolly caterpillar - spring must be coming soon.


On another note, I haven't been going on twitter or facebook lately so I wasn't aware of the scope of the March for Our Lives.  At lunch as Mike and I were checking on things online, we noticed that there was live coverage of the DC march and we watched some of the young people speak as we ate.  Later that evening, we watched a few more. 

So many sad stories - so much needless violence and death.  What I found so encouraging and hopeful was how the men in the video I link to below, were sent to Parkland shortly after the shooting to help them cope with the aftermath of gun violence - it opened the Parkland students' eyes to the fact that so many young people in the cities of our country, are living with this same trauma every day of their lives.  And the Parkland students realized their privilege of being heard and being able to utilize financial resources to make themselves heard,  and they realized that so many others do not have this privilege.  Together, young people from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds, are coming together.  Such brave and heroic people with the bottom line being that we do have the power to make change.  It is called voting and being in contact with your elected officials.  It is called standing together such as so many did yesterday.  Our country has an amazing foundation - the constitution  - which makes change possible.  I want to share the video of two young men that we found particularly moving - especially the second speaker in this video

Warm wishes,
Tonya




Monday, March 5, 2018

Just Catching Up

 

I can't believe it has been nearly a month since I posted.  From this day forward, I am making posting regularly a priority.  Just last night Sarah was looking through the blog's archives and showing everyone pictures from five to eight years ago and we all laughed and were amazed at how everyone has changed.   So not only do I want to share bits of our life with all of you, but I want to preserve our family's growth and milestones.

We have been collecting sap and have, so far, have made nearly 2 quarts.  I also planted lettuce on February 21 and they are growing so well.  I used organic potting soil and planted in salad mix containers that I have been saving this winter.  I have since planted more lettuce and will keep starting more every 2 weeks or so.  I also planted onions and they are coming along well.



These are what we use to collect sap - it may not be pretty - but it was free.



Here is what it looks like in our backyard today.  Those are piles of compost on one of our garden areas.  The snow is nearly gone but we are supposed to get quite a storm this coming Wednesday night into Thursday.



I posted this page as part of my instagram post today and was asked where I found it.
Here is the link.    We fold three pieces of copy paper in half and make little booklets to make our monthly "books".  Randomly throughout the month we add a poem, a drawing, etc...




"March winds and April showers bring
forth May flowers."

And it has been windy here!  There has been all kinds of kite making.  None of the prototypes have been to Abraham's approval, but he keeps trying and researching.  

This afternoon, Abby led Abe and Emmy with some windy tarp play.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How are you getting ready for spring?

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Knitting and Reading




Ginny is hosting the Yarn Along again.  She is posting the first Wednesday of each month and I am happy to join in and am looking forward to seeing what others are knitting and reading.

I am knitting Emily a sweater, at her request.  She wanted it pink and purple and I am writing up the pattern as I go.  I already have some revisions for the next one.  The yarn is knit picks Wool of the Andes.

The second photo is of socks for Mike - it is a free pattern from Purl Soho.   I am using Westcountry Tweed Yarn from Blacker Yarns.    These are the first of my #HandmadeHoliday2018.

The last picture is my progress on the Sleepy Kitten from the no. 4 edition of Making.  I made a couple of mistakes already but I am also excited to have learned a new technique - as the legs, tail and arms are knit on - pretty neat.  The kitten is a Valentines Day gift for Emily.  The yarn is a new wool line from Knit Picks called Simply Wool Worsted and is described as an Eco Wool and all the colors are undyed.

Well we are expecting a snow storm today!  It will be nice as there really is very little snow on the ground. 

Warm wishes,
Tonya



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February Already!







While members of our family have been taking turns getting sick since shortly after mid January, that has not stopped the ambitions of spring from bringing bright thoughts about all the hopeful plans ahead.

The light is returning and with it eggs!  The twelve, 2-day old chicks we received last August are now laying.  In addition, our older girls, 15 in total, are picking up their production as well.  We hope to be able to sell 5 dozen per week and still have about 3 dozen for ourselves which would mean that we would be getting our eggs for free.   We have found a wonderful source for our grain.  A local Amish farmer makes his own - he sources all GMO free grains and then grinds them himself into a formula that works well for his 1800 layers!  So we are blessed to be able to buy from him.  With this feed, even in the winter, their yolks are nice and orange.

By the way, all our chickens have names (thanks to Sarah) and they live out their entire natural lives with us, well fed, loved and sheltered.

As far as the handmade holiday 2018 (#handmadeholiday2018) I don't have much progress to show, today, but I am almost done with Mike's first sock.  I have also been working on some other knitting including a sweater for Emily, which after working on several different sizes, am hoping to publish the pattern.

I gave in and bought my first flowers this winter.  When I go food shopping I generally try really hard to walk by the flower section - I love flowers!  I did really well, but it seems that each February, I give in.  I bought that little pot of begonias at the grocery store on Friday and it was worth the tiny investment to add a little beauty to our living room.

January was a really hard month for us financially.  Having a retail online business means that sales fluctuate quite a bit, but this January was slower than previous Januaries.  However, it is a great lesson about being even more conscious of using what we have, making do, and also formulating a plan so that we don't get ourselves in such a situation again next January.  (Like saving money!)  I know I have shared in the past, but while our life may sound idyllic to some, there are extreme give and takes.  However, even when we are on the brink of considering a job or a move, our hearts stay firm in this life and secure in the knowledge that God has always provided, we have always had healthy food, and our children, although I worry we aren't doing enough for them, they will tell you they are very happy right here.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Handmade and Current Works in Progress



I just wanted to talk a little about why I even bother to make handmade as much as possible.  Of course, the the most obvious is the personal satisfaction - the creative outlet - the joy.

But what I want to talk about today, is the fact that how we choose to spend every cent can be an act of resistance or an act towards changing our economic systems.   Who we support with our dollars means everything.  So many people think their actions will not matter - but that is crazy thinking.  If we all stopped buying at Amazon, then Jeff Bezos would stop being the richest person in  history, the CIA would stop paying him, he would cease to own the Washington Post, and he would stop buying out smaller companies.  One person should never have so much power.  Ultimately, though, the power is in our hands.  I know this hard but it is so possible.  I think our income may have us very close to the poverty line for a family our size - but we are hardly poor (to me poor means without hope).  It is truly a matter of priorities for most (not all - there are many that are not as healthy as we are, don't have any hope in their lives - for many cheap is truly the only option.   Please don't think I am judging. )

So, when I create from raw materials, I am supporting the maker of those raw materials and the business I purchased them from.  I definitely don't choose to buy those materials from Amazon (although I have, such as paper - and I am committed to not doing so again).    I sometimes buy my yarn from Knitpicks and although, I would much prefer to buy from local stores and small fiber farms, with the amount of knitting I choose to do, I could not afford to do so.  However, when possible, I do often buy yarn from my local yarn store in Belfast.  Her prices are not any higher than most online stores.  This way I support a shop on Main Street, I support an individual that is sharing her passion with others.  In addition, when I attend a fiber festival I enjoy supporting the local vendors depending on what my budget can afford, which is such a treat.   I am also challenging myself to use up textiles that I come across that would have otherwise been trashed, such as when our children out grow their jeans, recycled jars that can be made into holders, and bits of old clothes that can be used to make quilts.

The pictures above are my works in progress.  The first is my first handmade holiday gift.  It is a pair of socks for Mike.  Although he sees me knitting them now, he will for sure have forgotten about them by Christmas.  The pattern is free from Purl Soho and I am using some yarn I had purchased this past December.  My goal is to finish by February 15th or sooner.

The other is a gift for Emmy for Valentines Day.  She was looking over a Rite Aid flyer that came in our mailbox and saw stuffed animals holding candy boxes and thought that would be a wonderful Valentines Gift for herself.  I commented that it would be so much better to have a handmade little animal holding a small box of sweets.  So, a Valentines Day cat is in progress.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and what you are making.

Warm wishes,
Tonya

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Handmade Holiday 2018



So, has anyone started making lists and started in on their first handmade gift for 2018?  

I dedicated one of the three moleskin notebooks our oldest daughter, Abby, gave me for Christmas to make lists and keep track.  

I am going to be honest, here.  January, February, and March are very hard months for our family financially.  These are our businesses slow times.  I have been very negligent about saving money for the slow times.  This year I am committing myself to not spending anything for just this year unless absolutely necessary.  And, when business gets busy, to save money for these down times.  

So philosophically, of course, I believe wholeheartedly in handmade gifts.  I avoid big box as much as possible.  We enjoyed shopping in nearby downtown Belfast this past Christmas season and supporting local merchants.  But, ultimately as much handmade that can be made would be best as long as the recipient is going to appreciate it.    So back to being honest.  This past December, as our business was busy, I bought several gifts at Amazon - uggghhh!  Amazon is something I am committed to not using at all this year and instead, to plan ahead and support local small businesses or simply go without.

I also love making - that is another reason for a handmade Christmas.

Finally, I am challenging myself to use the materials and supplies I have on hand for making.  If I really dig and am creative, there should be few items I will need to buy.

And, I am going to share one of my harder goals for this coming year - to not buy any of the beautiful magazines - just for one year.  (I actually do like supporting those small businesses and the inspiration is wonderful.  This is going to be a very hard one for me!)   We need to get our finances in order and I know that I have a stack of back issues that have plenty of use still left in them.  Many projects and ideas I have yet to use.  I also have plenty of crafty books that I can find more than enough ideas.  Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the overwhelming amount of ideas on Instagram or Pinterest.  

I look forward to your sharing.  Let's use #handmadeholiday2018 if you like to share that way.

Warm wishes,
Tonya