summer wool gathering

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A couple of weeks ago we made another field trip to a local sheep farm, Bovidea Farm, with some good friends tagging along.  The last time we visited it was December and the ground was dusted with snow so it was delight to see the farm in the summer foliage.  The sheep had just recently been shorn and their fleeces have been sent off to the mill.  Farmers Jim + Rose were in good health and cheerful, welcoming our big gaggle of children and abounding in knowledge to share.  I had hoped to purchase a good bit of yarn to dye naturally and be able to share with you all in my little etsy shop.  This time around I decided to purchas a small quantity to see how I like dyeing with it, and what your interest in it might be.  I knitted Phoebe a flax sweater in the worsted weight yarn, and I knit my Tales from the Isle of Purbeck shawl in the sport weight, as well as the shiftalong hat.  I really love their wool, it is very sheepy, rustic and springy.  I am hoping to knit a nurtured sweater for myself in it soon!  The only place to purchase their yarn is by visiting Jim and Rose’s farm yarn store, but Jim was graciously willing to allow me to play around with dyeing and selling it so that others of you can access it also!

Phoebe, Noah and Philippa all wanted to use some of their own spending money to buy themselves each a skein of yarn.  Phoebe set right to work knitting hers up and bound off her first finished object by the next day.  She made a cape for her doll, Kaya.  Noah is working on making a green scarf for one of his animals, and I believe Philippa is also.  It is quite dear to this mama’s heart to see them catching my love for wooly things, however long it lasts.

After leaving Bovidae we went to visit Echoview Fiber Mill since it was just 10 minutes down the road.  We picnicked in the grass there and then did a short mill tour.  It was neat to see the process of milling the fleeces, and I was happy to purchase a couple skeins of their lapidary base to try.  Their yarn shop had so many treats and lovely things in it, and one can’t help but admire their passion for caring for the earth, sustainability, and natural dyeing.  There were a couple of women processing dried indigo on the patio by the front door, many beautiful samples of sweaters, hats, and shawls to try on, and all manner of beautiful, useful objects.  The children were quite wiggly at that point and it would probably be more enjoyable to go back next time without them.

Now I’m doubting myself for attempting to dye and sell such a small quantity of yarn, and with all the heat here lately I haven’t been inspired to dye.  But I’m hoping the inspiration will strike and that some of you may be interested in trying out this special wool.

sweaters and swimsuits

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Looking at these pictures today made me chuckle, the juxtaposition of sweaters and woolens with sprinklers and swimsuits.  We had a few cooler days (more like 80s instead of 90s) last week and cooler evenings, and thankfully here we can escape on the Blue Ridge Parkway to higher elevations and it is usually always chilly.  I’m thankful for those little respites from the heat, the glimpses of fall.  On the weekend we went for a picnic with my parents and of course, I didn’t pack enough warm layers because I couldn’t imagine it being that chilly, but it was.  The fire was so cozy and we hope to get out camping soon, soon!  The kids helped hunt for firewood and good climbing trees, and played hide + seek.  We lingered in the beautiful evening light and Brandon did a short, impromptu map + compass lesson with the older three.  Time up there in the quiet wilderness is always refreshing to my soul.

Meanwhile at home, flowers are growing, the garden is still giving its gifts, and bored sweaty children plead for sprinkler games.  I’m in the thick of planning for the coming year, and I’m getting excited for school days to begin soon.  I mentioned on instagram that I listened this week to the Charlotte Mason Poetry podcast latest episode (from Jul. 23) titled “Habits for Life” and was so reinvigorated by it.  I highly recommend it!

Anyway, these are simple little snippets from my week.  It is the first of August now, and the last days of summer freedom are upon us.  May we savor them!

July things + Deer Mouse vs. The World

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It is Friday and another summer week has flown by.  As I type, a half-drunk mug of tea sits besides me, thunder rumbles low in the distance while rain patters on outside.  In all my grumbling about summer, the heat, and how deflated it makes me feel, I am reminded of the many things I do really cherish about summer.  There are few things as lovely as a summer storm in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I treasure their almost-daily predictability and the coziness and reprieve they lend to the hot days.  I am grateful for the produce of the garden, though it has reached the unruly stage where I feel like a gardening failure every time I step foot in it.  It’s only because I can’t keep up with it and manage it perfectly, but really, is that what defines a good gardener? Perfection?  Hardly.  We are still harvesting good food for our table with enough to share, and that is a blessing and a sweetness I always miss come cooler weather.  I savor the long bright days where children can play well after dinner outside and we can enjoy late walks in the cool of the day.  I’m especially grateful for the shift in our schedule, the setting aside of our formal school work and the embracing of the quieter rhythm of learning by inspiration.  My mind so needs the break from the churn of teaching, planning, executing, analyzing, and the children do also.  Lately they’ve been “playing school” and admitting that they are missing it, and it’s always important for them to experience that, I think.  I was reminded at a homeschool conference I attended recently that our brains are able to receive and connect concepts best in our REST.  Over the summer our little children’s minds are marinating the concepts we have taught.  So many concepts click and seem far easier when we pick up our school books again come Fall.

So, those are some of the really wonderful enjoyable parts of summer.  Picnics on the parkway, muggy hikes, the way we cherish a breeze.  Pool visits weekly, farmers markets.  So many things really, why do I complain?  But the truth remains that I am a winter girl through and through, and the best part of summer is the anticipating of fall, the turn, the cozy evenings, the camping, the daily fires, the hot stews and soups, the opening of school books, and all such loveliness.  I feel more inspired/creative in those seasons, more myself.

I don’t often enroll my children in activities mostly because of cost and secondly because of my own need to keep a simple and open schedule.  I am content to keep our running around to a minimum.  However, as our children grow, they need all sorts of experience and enrichment, don’t they?  We mothers will stretch ourselves so far and wide for these little ones we love so much.  So this summer has been busier with activity than normal, and that has been good.  I am feeling the adjustment of children who are getting older and needing different things, outlets and experiences beyond what I can provide at home.  And I do believe we will be introducing more activity this fall, though I will still fight to keep it simple and manageable for myself.

Phoebe spent last week in Drama Camp and finished the week performing in her very first play.  It was truly so special.  She is much braver than her mom!  She played the part of “the farmer” in “Deer Mouse Vs. The World.”  When she was ready to say her first line on stage, she took a big breath with a grin on her face like for a second she was overwhelmed with joy, nerves and excitement.  I held my breath, too, wondering if she would freeze or forget her lines, but she dove right in and did such a great job.  I am so proud of her and marvel at the way she is changing, growing up, transforming right before my eyes.  I can’t help but miss the little Phoebe she used to be but also feel so much joy and excitement about the stage we are in and what lies just ahead of us.  Motherhood stretches us in incredible ways, doesn’t it?  Always, this capacity to increase, to rise to the next challenge, to expand and make more room, to go farther than we thought we could. Always, this holding of our breath as our child takes a new “first step” and we watch them soar.

California (pt 2): to the Golden Gate and beyond

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Most of the week we spent nearby the house where we were staying (my aunt and uncle’s beautiful home).  We would head out for walks and short adventures in the mornings, then spend the rest of the day by the pool.  Meanwhile I had been hoping to get to explore a bit more, driving on Rte 1, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, and visiting the nearby yarn store A Verb For Keeping Warm.  Brandon and my dad worked some extra evening hours so that we could spend Friday out on those adventures before we flew out Saturday morning.

No trip would be complete without a forced “down day,” and Thursday was that day for us.  Phoebe and Noah both woke up with high fevers.  For the first time ever, neither of them got out of bed for an entire day.  They slept and laid in their sleeping bags listening to audio books, managing to listen to 1 1/2 books from the Narnia series.  They must have felt super awful and neither of them really ate.  Noah’s fever broke Thursday evening, Phoebe’s lasted until Friday morning.  Thankfully they were well enough for us to do our day of adventuring.  We drove again to Half Moon Bay to hit Rte. 1, then drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, marveling all along the way at the beautiful weather and beaches.  Driving across the bridge was unforgettable and we all thoroughly enjoyed taking it in.  Then we drove to Muir Woods, but hadn’t reserved parking ahead of time so we had a picnic lunch and then just hiked around above Muir Woods area.  It was still so beautiful, and the trail was covered in huge bushes of wild dill and eucalyptus!  Wren slept during the hike.

Then back in the car to drive through Sausalito to Oakland, CA where the yarn store was.  Brandon happened to find a parking spot right in front of the store, so Phoebe and I hopped out to explore.  I had some birthday spending money and was able to splurge on some really nice yarn.  I cannot wait to knit with it but I’m also hoarding it a bit because it is so, so lovely.  Experiencing AVFKW was well-worth the drive.  As I said in my last yarn along post, it was full of inspiration and beauty, the staff were very helpful and welcoming.  I could have spent an hour or two in there, but because everyone was waiting in the car I went through it as quickly as I could.  Then we drove back to the house for our last evening there.

Seeing the sights and sharing the west coast with our children was a big highlight, but spending time with my California family was also a real treat.  We don’t get to see each other very often and it was good to catch up and reconnect.  The children absolutely loved being doted on by their great auntie and great uncle.  We felt very spoiled to have had such a fun week together in all that west coast beauty.  ❤  Now, back to ordinary life here in the Appalachians! 🙂

California (pt 1): farmer’s market + half moon bay

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We had an unforgettable, extravagant week last week, quite out of our usual ordinary if you couldn’t tell from the photos!  Brandon and my dad were doing some remodeling work for the week at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in the Bay area in California.  My parents generously offered for us to all come along, and we couldn’t pass it up!  It was quite an adventure for us and required a good bit of planning on my part to be sure Phoebe would have what she needed (food-wise) for the long day of travel and the time away.  Being that we don’t usually do this sort of thing, I was a bit overwhelmed but it was such a good experience.  I’m hopeful that it communicated to Phoebe that she doesn’t have to be limited by her (celiac) disease.

It was so much fun and such an incredible treat for all of us!  To see the children experience the thrill of taking off and landing on an airplane alone was neat.

We flew out the day after my birthday, and on my birthday Philippa suddenly had a high-ish fever, so on top of last minute packing and prep I had to squeeze her in to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t something that would inhibit travel.  Thankfully, she woke up fever-free the next day.

The first day there was a Sunday (Father’s Day), and the only day we had planned to take off together (with my parents, too) to do some sight-seeing.  First we went to the local farmer’s market to get our fruits and veggies for the week.  So fun to explore a local farmer’s market any old place, but especially in California!  Afterwards, we drove to Half Moon Bay and happened to see horses along the way and then again on the beach.  Phoebe was in heaven and also very jealous that she wasn’t on horseback herself.  The beach was windy and cool, but very pleasant.  We walked around a bit, had a bite of sushi for lunch while watching a couple of seals in the marina.  Everyone felt a little groggy and off due to the time change, but they all did remarkably well!  I was blown away by the wild eucalyptus and massive nasturtium all along the roadside, as well as the beautiful garden at my aunt and uncle’s home, complete with avocado, lemon and fig trees!  It’s so incredible to explore a different part of the country.

a summer rhythm

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We have finished up another year of school and it feels so good to do so!  Last week was our first full week off.  I found myself both happy with the wide open free schedule and also feeling a bit odd/paralyzed without our usual rhythms to ground the day.  I mean, there are some structures that remain in place, of course, like quiet times after lunch, morning and evening devotional time and such.  Last summer I remember hoping to do a lot of reading and hiking in the summer, yet finding that it got sort of choked out as we weren’t super intentional about it.  So I came up with a little loose and easy summer plan, because that’s about all I can handle.  Something very simple, flexible, and attainable, with the goal of providing space and motivation to do those summer things we don’t want to miss out on.  (If you follow me on instagram you’ve seen me sharing a snippet of our daily rhythm in my stories for the last week.)

It all just sort of came to me the other day, so I wrote down the few major things I want to accomplish each week with the kiddos, the things I hope to emphasize this summer.  I’m trying it out and the children are loving it so far.  The part of me that likes to just have the freedom to do whatever we feel like each day is revolting just a tiny bit, but at the same time, I know we can toss the schedule out of the window when we need to.  (Like this week, when we are busy prepping and packing for a sort of big trip coming up this weekend.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share my little idea/venture here with you in case anyone else would be helped by it, or spurred on to try your own little summer rhythm.  On weekday mornings we have been having “morning time” after breakfast, where we do some bible reading, singing, and catechism questions.  I’ve put together little simple binders for each of the children to compile the hymns we are learning (one a month), and anything else we are memorizing or using during this time.  After morning time is over, we are implementing our “morning focus,” each day centered around one theme.  After lunch it is quiet time for the older kids and nap time for the younger two, and the rest of the afternoon is generally free play time, because I firmly believe children need hours of open play/free time daily without the management of their every minute by an adult.

Sunday: worship + rest

This is pretty self-explanatory, but this day is devoted to worshipping with our church family and spending the rest of the day resting.  Rest could look like getting outside for a hike, or it could look like being lazy at home.  Whatever is needed.  For me, it usually means leaving the laundry unfolded and trying to minimize my time in the kitchen, while giving myself permission to take extra time to knit, read, nap, or get outside.

Monday: tend to home

Mondays are days my mind is usually busy with catching up on housework, bills, and such, after taking a rest day on Sunday.  I’d like to pull the kids into helping more with house work/chores and help us all to remember that tending to our home helps to ground us and gives us a nice place to come home to after our fun outings.  Part of life is setting aside a little bit of time to care for what has been entrusted to us, and I think making this our morning goal on Monday helps me feel more free mentally to do other activities during the week.

Tuesday: read

During this time, we just loaf around and enjoy either independent reading time with some music playing, or I will read to the children.

Wednesday: create

Making time for art, hand crafts, baking — these are things that so easily get choked out of our week during the school year because schoolwork and household chores take longer than expected.  Setting aside a morning devoted to the theme of MAKING something together is really freeing for me, to feel like we have time and room to do so.  The kids absolutely love when I pull out paints, or invite them to bake cookies with me.  I plan to do a fun little “knitting class,” embroidery, writing haiku, or woodworking project with them, too.  (I have really enjoyed using this book as a help for seasonal craft ideas to do together that are simple, like leaf pressing, rolling candles, etc.)  Also, just letting them tell me how they’d like to be creative.  I think it’s important to stir up all of our creative juices over the summer!

Thursday: serve

During this day we look for ways to serve one another and hopefully also serve our neighbors or community in some way.  This one requires a bit more forethought and planning for me potentially, and pushes us all a bit out of our comfort zone.  Last week we took cookies to a neighbor, recently we did a neighborhood road clean-up, and we’ll see what other little ways we can find to serve those around us and reach outside of our home a bit.  Maybe we’ll deliver vegetables and flowers from our garden to neighbors, take a meal to someone in need, or offer to help a neighbor with a yard work project.

Friday: explore + play

I for sure want to make hiking, river splashing, or pool time a weekly event at minimum this summer, so this day is for those sorts of adventures.  Of course, if the weather is better for a hike on a day other than Friday we can just switch things around.

Saturday: connect

We often do house projects, yard work, grocery shopping and errands on Saturday, but I’m hoping we can remember that Saturdays are a really good day to connect all together since Daddy is home for the day usually.  So our aim is to do something that day to connect even in the midst of the work we also need to accomplish, whether its play a game together, picnic, walk, ride bikes, hike, visit the farmers market, etc.

So, we are trying it out and doing it without a lot of pressure or guilt.  I’m hoping it helps give us room to squeeze in all the fun things we want to do this summer.  It has been helpful so far!  Do share any fun ideas you may have or ways you’re trying to be intentional this summer to enjoy time together and make time for the things that matter to your family.  And if you’re thinking of trying out something similar, let me know how it goes!

spring energy

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These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago already.  My, how the days are flying by.  We have so enjoyed these spring days with cool weather and have all been outside as much as possible.  We’ve had a few short trips in the last month which is a bit uncharacteristic for us — a visit to Brandon’s parents in Myrtle Beach, SC, and an anniversary getaway to cabin in Banner Elk, NC.  In the midst of that hustle and bustle, we’ve felt that burst of spring energy (and exhaustion!) that everything seems to have this time of year.  You can nearly hear it if you listen close enough, the eagerness of shoots burrowing up from soil, the rustle of leaves sprouting out from limb.  It seems almost audible, the hurry of everything in nature to grow and produce.  I feel it, too, every spring, that sense that we are behind, that we need to hurry up and grow things.

We aim to improve and work on our small little garden spot every year.  This year, it was to put in soaker tubes for watering and to set up a rain catchment system to feed the soaker tubes.   We used an old barrel that was on our property when we moved in and it has worked really well thus far.  Also, we made more established walking paths between rows by laying landscape paper down and we are waiting on a drop off of (free) wood chips which we will cover the walking paths with in an effort to cut down on weeding.

We didn’t expand the garden area at all this year, but I did plant lavender and rosemary and a whole host of flower seed around the property.  Here’s to hoping it all comes up and does well!  Sunflowers, cosmos, bachelor buttons.  I have zinnia seeds as well but no more ground space, so I think I will plant a full raised bed of zinnias (maybe arugula too if its not too late to start it) because truly the zinnias brought me so much joy all last summer.  There are things to love about every season, to be sure, but summer is just not my favorite.  Keeping a garden and anticipating the growing of things helps me survive the summer heat, I’ve realized.

Brandon tackled a project for me updating/redoing our front door area (replacing the door and trim, painting, installing a new light fixture and house numbers) and we have quite a few other projects we hope to have time to work on this spring/summer.  Slowly, ever so slowly, plugging away on this little old home.

Also, I had Brandon take some photos of my finished Tales from the Isle of Purbeck shawl.  I finished it a little while ago but wanted to share it here with you.  I knit it with some local yarn from a nearby sheep farm I visited in the fall, so it just feels extra special.  Knitting is such a joy and comfort in these days where projects pile up and no end is in sight.  It is good for my sanity to work on small things and see them to completion.

Speaking of finishing, we are nearing the end of our third year homeschooling.  I feel so weary and I know the children do, too.  But I was reflecting this morning that I often think of summer break as just stopping and then in the fall picking up where we left off the previous year.  However I had to remind myself that no, in fact, I have successfully moved Phoebe through second grade and when we finish, she will be ready for 3rd grade.  And Noah will have completed Kindergarten.  I felt humbled and grateful to remember that — this isn’t just an endless work, though it is continuous and maybe the lines between grades are a bit fuzzier than in traditional schooling.  The years blur into one another and it all can feel a bit endless, but in fact, we are slowly plugging along and completing our work, bit by bit.

I hope you’re enjoying some of that spring energy today.  Maybe even some clover + chive tea made by chubby hands and offered to you in love.