a visit to Bovidae Farm

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You guys.  I am so excited to share a little about this beautiful local sheep farm we visited a couple of weeks ago.  The last weekend of October is the big Southeastern Animal and Fiber Festival (SAFF) in our town, and literally I was planning on going to spend my yarn dollars at one booth only, the Bovidae Farm booth.  My friends and I were all super bummed when we realized they weren’t at the festival and made plans to visit the farm instead (because you can only otherwise purchase their yarn at their farm).

My friend Jennifer and I planned a visit together, Jennifer having been there before and also introducing me to their wool through her designs with Appalachian knits where she worked to highlight the fiber of the Appalachian region.  We drove out (about a 45 minute drive from our home) one frosty Friday morning, a light dusting of snow was on the ground at the farm.  We had packed a picnic lunch and I told the children this would be a homeschool field trip and to ask as many questions of the owners as they could think of.  Rose and Jim were so generous and kind, having opened their little yarn store (which is the downstairs of their home) just for us, setting out some blocks for the children and a few sheepy toys.  It was an absolute delight to meet them.  They have been shepherds for 30 years, with a flock now of 70 Dorset sheep on 100 acres.  They care for them entirely on their own, but mostly the work is done by Jim, as Rose’s health has limited her.  Phoebe told Jim he reminded her of Peter from Heidi, and she also told him her “where do sheep go to get a hair cut?” joke (answer: the Baa-baa shop).  I think that warmed them up to us pretty quickly. 🙂  It was incredible to see their many spinning wheels and learn about their different functions and uses.  I regret that I didn’t get to try spinning because I mostly had Wren in my arms, but I hope to maybe give it a try the next time we visit.  Rose mostly uses fiber for weaving and had a couple of large looms, while Jim mostly spins.  He spent time letting each of the children try out all of his wheels and teaching them as much as they were interested in learning.  He let them run around and explore on their property, invited them to help him move the fencing, and let them pet and feed a couple of the rams.  He also let them sit on his tractor, which made Noah’s day for sure.

We hope to go back in the spring/early summer for shearing, to watch the whole process and spend some more time there.  Jim told us that they usually send their fleeces to a mill in Maine to be cleaned, dyed and spun.  I have been so eager to get my hands on their wool, and so happy to support a local sheep farm.  I bought a few skeins of their worsted weight yarn for some Hyak socks for myself and Brandon, and maybe some mitts for the children.  I couldn’t resist some of their pink worsted weight yarn for a wooly cropped flax sweater for Phoebe.  I cast on already but it seems the neck is really wide and I might knit it with a larger needle as it has been hurting my hands a bit to work on it at such a tight gauge.  It is the sheepy-ist and most rustic yarn I’ve used, quite squishy, dry, and full of lanolin.  I love it so much, and love knowing that knitting with it supports Jim and Rose’s work and care for the sheep.  Oh, I also bought a couple balls of their sport weight wool with plans to knit the Isle of Purbeck shawl.  Cannot wait!

It was so life-giving to spend time there, and I couldn’t stop talking about it with Brandon for the next few days.  What a wealth of knowledge those folks have and what a gift it was to be allowed onto their farm, to explore, learn, and get our hands into wool and take some home with us.  If any of you are interested in visiting their farm and yarn store, please know you are more than welcome, simply contact them via email or phone to plan your visit.

We are all looking forward to our visit in the spring and to spending some more time with these lovely folks + sheep.

a Thanksgiving birthday

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Sorry for the overload of photos, but I just can’t resist their sleepy head hair and puffy sleepy faces on their birthday mornings.  They wake each other up at the crack of dawn on each of their birthdays and run out to open presents.  Philippa likes to take things just a *bit* slower than the other two usually, so we hid a few of her presents around the living room for fun and also to help slow down the gift opening just a bit.  It worked and she thought it was a blast to find presents!  For a while she’s been asking for these two dragons she saw in a magazine, and every time we asked her what she wanted for her birthday she would mention only the dragons.  Philippa is my girl who loves girly things but also scary monsters and dragons.  🙂  For a while her favorite color was black.  She’s just her own little person.  We also gave her a book, the sweater I had knit for her (which wasn’t much of a hit but I am happy with it, at least 🙂 ), and a magic sketch boogie board.  Simple little things, but she seemed happy with it all and especially happy to have family come over later for Thanksgiving dinner.

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We hosted my parents and my brother and his family at our house, my parents made the turkey and we made the rest but with many hands helping.  It was really sweet and fun and my favorite moments were the final frenzy in the kitchen, all of us bumping into one another and divvying out tasks left and right as we got everything onto the table.  Later we sang happy birthday to Philippa over chocolate cake, homemade ice cream + berries.  What a sweet, full happy day.  I hope that it was a happy Thanksgiving for all of you as well, gathered with family, friends, loved ones over full plates that represent how well our God provides and cares for us and our daily needs.

Dear Philippa Ruth, my little sweet snuggly baby who is getting so tall and grown and lanky now.  I was the most afraid going into labor with you after having such a traumatic birth with Noah.  But you came so easily and you were born as I was laughing.  We’ve called you “the boss lady” from the start because you are determined and you know what you want.  That being said, you are such an easy-going and happy spirit in our home, usually the one to share the most easily and to play happily with whomever is around.  This year you grew from a toddling little girl to a big girl, it seems.  You learned how to go potty and now you’re giving up night time diapers.  You learned how to ride a bike and became a big sister.  You love doing school with Noah and often are learning right alongside him, even though you don’t need to be yet.  You love to laugh and you bring a lot of laughter to us all.  We all adore you and I’m thankful to God for your life and the unique gifts and joy you bring to our family!  Happy 4th birthday sweet girl.

graybeard + this year’s fall color

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I shared a few posts back about damaging my camera and needing to replace it.  Well, I did!  It wasn’t a major upgrade at all, but the camera is a slightly newer model than what I had and I am still trying to figure things out on it.  It was so wonderful to be able to get out last weekend for a day trip to nearby Montreat, NC where my husband and I went to college, met and married.  These trails used to be our daily bread, our common language, and now we are so rarely in these woods!  It was ministry to us both.  It’s therapeutic to get away from home and our usual work for a bit, particularly to get outside together.  We hiked for a little ways, looking for a good spot in the river to stop and let the kids play.  I think our kids are pretty decent hikers considering their age; Philippa does well keeping up with the older two, though she can often tire out far sooner than the rest of us.  As much as we’d like to go farther, we have to be content with shorter hikes and more stops and curiosity.  After playing in the water for a bit the sun dropped below the mountains and the temperatures grew cooler quickly.  We headed back to the trailhead and the picnic area just below it for a cozy warm fire and dinner.  It was a treat for me to play around with my camera throughout the day, and I was thankful for the opportunity to capture a bit of this year’s fall color, and these simple sweet moments together with children who are growing lankier every time I turn around.  Fall, the turning of seasons again, and these days slipping by so quickly.

On growing up

 

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We were gathered at the kitchen table over breakfast, and I pulled out the bible for our morning family reading time.  As we were discussing that day’s reading, I asked the children something and Phoebe’s response was, “Well, I just don’t read my bible that often.  I don’t find I really have a use for it.”  Words that made my heart sink.  Is that what she sees in us, I had to ask myself?  Does she not see her father and I clinging to God’s word, making USE of it in our daily lives?  Where are we exemplifying it’s practical use and purpose?  I’m thankful she was being real and honest, and I think if most of us are honest, we don’t feel too much differently than she does.  We don’t read our bibles much because we don’t really see the use, right?  What good is it anyway?

But then the hard days come.  The shock of bad news, the financial burden, the unexpected need.  The broken heart, the anxious nights–and those of us who are Word-people find that only God’s Word breaks through these hard life realities.  Only God’s Word helps, soothes, and brings hope.  I hope I can show my children that there is nothing like God’s Word, like hearing truth that divides so perfectly (Heb. 4:12) and brings light (Ps. 119:130) and literally imparts strength to the listener (Ps. 119:28).

It’s been a hard few weeks around here.  I don’t only want to share the good in this little space, because of course you know it isn’t all good!  I’ve been feeling increasingly frazzled and stretched and overwhelmed lately, trying to juggle more than I ever have before and feeling at capacity, if not beyond.  I dropped and broke my camera which is a source of joy and also income for me.  It will cost as much to fix it as it would to purchase a new camera.  I was planning to open a little etsy shop this month but now can’t photograph the items I want to sell (I can use my phone, but it doesn’t do the same job as my DSLR).  One of the children had lice, resulting in a total house scrub down and a billion loads of laundry.  A few days after that discovery, the vet informed us Rose (our kitty) has fleas and so the house underwent another big scrub down, and despite my great dislike for the use of any chemicals, a terminix guy came to resolve the issue.  It seems to take a lot for me to break down and cry lately, but I cried a good bit that morning from equal parts exhaustion and discouragement.  Fleas + lice make one feel like a domestic failure (and I hesitate to share it here because it feels so yucky/shameful)!  Also, I think because “home” is so important and special to me and also my primary place of work, it hits hard when home is infested, you know?  Couple all of that with a baby who hasn’t been sleeping well and my own little bouts with insomnia lately, and you can imagine the toll that that takes.  Because of the cleaning and flea resolution, we had to cancel another family camping trip attempt.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up, what it feels like to realize you are a grown up when all the while you still feel like that same child.  Our spot of earth is tilting away from the sun and my soul needs the reprieve, the wide open space of barren forests and quiet land.  Autumn comes and I hear the strain of the familiar song — geese crying out against an iron sky.  Leaves turning from green to ochre, rustling dry on the limb.  Hearing the geese, it makes me sing that song from my childhood by Michael Kelly Blanchard every time — A view out the window is just a piece of the sky.  The song triggers a memory and suddenly I am driving out with my family to Burnsville area as a child, hiking the Roan Mountain bald and drawing it in a notebook, trying to capture that fall glory with my 8 year old hand.  There’s the ache and longing to just be that child again when life was simpler and felt safer.

A few weeks ago I went to bed fighting anxiety and overwhelm over some pressing needs with our children.  I picked up my current read at the time, Rebecca Reynolds book which I recently shared on this blog, Courage Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World.  I just so happened to be reading a portion that evening about watching our children walk through their own underworlds and rebellions and not trying to manage or methodologize life for them but to hang in that liminal balance of trust.

She writes,

“I wish I knew how to help kids understand desire for the Lord without also learning what it’s like to fill their bellies with husks left for the pigs.  I don’t want young people to take King Solomon’s approach, plunging into one futile experiment after another until they are finally exhausted enough to declare, ‘Vanity, vanity.”  If I could choose for them, I would give all young believers the way of Enoch, that dear old man who walked small and honest beside God until he woke up one morning and found that he was walking in his eternal presence.  What a beautiful way to spend life on earth!  ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be Enoch, and his is the path I’d want my kids to take if I held the game controls of their lives.

Yet fear and compassion drive me to that desire as much as faith.  As much as I hate spiritual disaster, I know God can work with it because so many of my favorite writers have been there.  Lewis was an atheist, and he was likely immoral for years.  Dorothy Sayers had a child out of wedlock.  Chesterton left his childhood faith only to grow madly in love with orthodoxy in the end.  Bad choices can leave ugly scars I don’t want my children to have; however, God is a master of chasing wandering souls through terrible decisions.

This idea that darkness can be commandeered for good stands fiercely against most of the books I’ve read on raising kids right, and doing marriages right, and living life right.  Method manuals have filled me with guilt and fear, and some have nearly driven me mad with self-doubt.  But as much as I love my children, as much as I’m willing to give to help them, I’m not strong enough to be their savior.  God didn’t make me their choreographer; he made me their mother.  So whether they live robust, trusting lives, or whether they wrestle the Lord until he wins their hearts, I still need the living God to complete what he began in them.  If that involves a journey into the underworld, I have to trust the Father to chase them into the valley of the shadow of death.

My husband keeps reminding me that the fatal flaw of most writers is trying to make sense of things before they have come to their proper end; rushing a story is the dark side of the creative nature.  But when we try to jerry-rig the natural progression of events God has planned–either in our lives or in the lives of those we love–we aren’t trusting him.  We are trying to pull the moth out of her cocoon three days too early and then command her to fly when she cannot.  We are trying to compress billions of nuances of grace into six tidy paragraphs.  We are skimming over our first, giant, reptilian sins; rushing the crude lines of our faith’s first cave paintings; reading the CliffNotes on our early renaissances; bouncing over our nuclear winters of backsliding; and jumping straight into ‘They lived happily ever after.  The end.’…

When we are willing to depend upon a God who lives, forgives, redirects, and upholds, we begin to realize that we don’t have to frantically strain to rewrite the meaningless seasons of our lives.  We can cling to grace at the center and learn to preach the gospel to ourselves in small, honest ways.”

I had a small moment of panic in realizing I’m the adult care taking for these four little souls and yet feeling very much so like the child who still needs her own parents.  My dad brought me creme brûlée recently, just out of the blue because he knows it’s my favorite dessert, and later that evening after I put the kids to bed I realized I hadn’t really thanked him for it.  I found myself crying again, feeling seen and loved in a season where I don’t often “need” my parents like I used to, but then realizing actually I do.  Does that make sense?  I’m an adult now and things have changed yet there’s still this child in me who feels just like I did as a little girl.  I was once dependent and carefree, hanging in the trust that my parents would always come through and take care of everything.  Now I’m an adult with my own children and I’m supposed to provide that sense of security for them.  They view Brandon and I in this way, and yet I know the reality of how fragile our financial and emotional well-being is at times!  Sometimes when life presses in, I still want to run to my parents to bail me out, but it’s not their place any more.  We are grown, and our help is in the Lord.

I woke the next morning to these words by Emily Freeman in her podcast, The Next Right Thing, and was struck by the timeliness of them.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them:

“So what does growing up feel like?
It feels like torn lace, like smoke, like wedding mints melting on your tongue,
like distraction,
like worry,
like chasing but not quite catching,
or trying to remember but seeing only through foggy panes.
It feels like wider hips and thinner lips,
and laugh lines starting to show up around the curved edges.
It feels like sorrow and joy.
It feels like courage, and sometimes regret.
It also feels like freedom.
We are still growing, even though we’re grown.”

We are still growing up, even though we’re grown–and it is hard to feel like we have much to offer another who is growing up when we feel impossibly like we are still that small child ourselves.

I don’t have a tidy way to wrap all of these thoughts up into a neat bow or happy ending, but it’s just what I’ve been processing lately and I thought maybe someone else out there has been thinking about the same things.  About how hard it is to grow up and be an adult sometimes, how the load of it is far heavier and weightier than we ever imagined as children, and yet nothing has really changed–God is still the same God as He has always been and will be.  He will carry us all the way, and our children.  So here we are, going on from day to day, depending on God, looking to Him as a child, receiving from Him, growing as we go.

fresh mountain air

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Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

first day of fall

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Last Saturday was the first day of fall, my favorite season officially arriving at last.  I had hoped to make the day an autumnal celebration, but as is so often the case things went differently than planned.  Philippa wasn’t feeling well, I had only gotten a few hours of sleep, and Brandon was working so the thought of pulling much together was exhausting.  Still, I was thankful I had a few things ready beforehand so we could still make it special.  The children hung a leaf banner for me on the mantle and I pulled out little baby pumpkins for them to paint, which we’ve done for a few years now.  I had hoped to plant some flower bulbs around our property but couldn’t muster the energy.

For me, the coming of fall is much anticipated, bringing all its beautiful colors, crisp air, and coziness.  I don’t mind winter and the cold short days one bit, in fact I crave it, but I know many people dread the long season of cold and dark.  It will be my first time planting bulbs this year, and it struck me a bit poetic, planting for spring now just before winter.  Planning and anticipating the season that will come because of the work of the season I’m in now.  These flowers need to overwinter in the soil.

I had woken up that Saturday morning with so little sleep behind me and another long day ahead, and I was fighting discouragement.  When I’m in that place, I should know better than to give much credit to my thoughts, but I was feeling overwhelmed by all I’m trying to juggle lately, I was feeling discouraged about this blog space.  I feel like I have less and less time to write, which is why I primarily began blogging (a space to share everything God teaches me along the way, a place to pay attention to His presence in my ordinary days).  I feel like my purpose in blogging gets muddled, and who really reads along anyway?  For so much work and effort squeezed into such little pockets of time, is it really worthwhile?  There is so much on the table, and so little I can feasibly give myself to.  Yet that very morning, God sent along some particular encouragement to keep going even if I can’t see where it is all headed.

You see, we do important work in our winters.  There are some things in us that simply MUST overwinter before the fruit is born.  We can’t rush the story.  We can’t see now where our faithfulness in this present season will take us.  We need to stop worrying about our destinations so much, and instead trust the process that will lead us there.  Be faithful here, plan for spring, hope for blooms, but carry on into winter.

This past Saturday was a much better day.  With the children, I planted a couple varieties of tulips, allium, and daffodils, along with some clematis plants a friend had given to us.  We will be eager to see them in spring, and will think often of those little bulbs all snug in the frozen soil throughout the winter.

“Gardens are born in winter.  Not only in fireside dreams, but also in the messy work of tending small pots on sunny windowsills.  And in the harsh work of planting early seeds in cold soil…

I long to see the glory of God in this place, to taste it even, but for everything there is a season.  These are still planting days.  These are the early days of small beginnings.  Days to sow, quite often in tears, hoping, believing, that we may one day reap in joy.”

-Christie Purifoy

Also, the maple pumpkin custard I made for dessert to celebrate the autumn equinox recipe was found here and it was easy and a big hit with everyone!

making progress

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.