snow for a week

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Last week we had the biggest snow we’ve potentially had in many years here in North Carolina, and we personally had close to 16 inches.  It stayed on the ground for most of last week and today is the first day we’ve really seen the sun and the ground since then.  Everyone enjoyed it so much and somehow we managed to have electricity throughout the entire storm, while many of our neighbors went for days without power.  It was neat seeing the neighborhood pull together to help one another, checking in on the elderly and those without power and offering to help where needed.  We enjoyed a lot of time out in the snow and also keeping our hands busy inside with a few crafts like stringing up dried oranges for garlands both inside and out (for the birds), paper snowflakes, cookie making, painting, christmas movies, etc.  It’s been good to take a break from our usual school work to make time for these activities and just being together, but of course it isn’t perfect.  We still have a lot of bickering and momma getting frustrated with the soggy layers all over the floor and the messes everywhere I turn, but it has been good just the same.  I’m such a work in progress when it comes to patience and grace with my children, and I’m making a concerted effort to do things together this holiday season that are fun for them even if they’re a bit stressful for me.

We went to the Christmas pageant at our church, and we went to our small local mall to send off a package and walk around (i.e.: let the children run and blow off some pent up energy) and happened to visit with Santa while we were there.  I think it’s the first time any of my kids have sat on Santa’s lap and given their Christmas requests.  It was pretty cute and we had some good conversation afterwards, and I remembered so many visits to the mall with my family during Christmas time when I was growing up.

Yesterday we went into downtown Asheville for a Christmas brunch with my family that’s local, since we all help with my dad’s remodeling business in one way or another.  We usually eat out (when we do eat out together) at Posana’s restaurant because it has an entirely gluten-free kitchen and it’s one place we feel safe letting Phoebe eat.  It is a huge treat, thank you mom and dad!  It was windy and cold, but still fun to walk all around and see the Christmas decorations.  Phoebe wanted to take a picture of me (I’m wearing my Timber cardigan and Campside shawl!) and I’m thankful she did, even if I don’t love being in front of the camera.

Over the weekend we went to the annual open house at our favorite pottery place in Brevard, NC and then visited with our old neighbors there for a few hours which was such a treat.  (Elizabeth, if you’re reading, you know I’m talking about your grandparents!) 🙂

Evenings during Advent are spent gathered around our advent wreath, coloring ornaments for the Jesse tree as we read through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  Last night we lit the “joy” candle and it’s hard to believe we are just a few days away from Christmas.  Noah turns six on Thursday, Phoebe turns eight on Sunday and then Christmas is upon us.  It’s going to be a very full week ahead!

I hope you’re staying cozy and warm, enjoying these last few days of anticipation.

growing like trees

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A visit to our favorite tree farm which we’ve gone to for 5 years now.  Family pictures were attempted but mostly unsuccessfully.  Oh well. 🙂  Lots of little eyes and mouths needing to coordinate into one big looking smiling bunch and I have to laugh remembering my parents trying to take family photos of us when I was little.  Only then, we didn’t hear the wrath about it until dad got the pictures developed (back in the dark ages) and then he’d flip through them and realize they were all basically worthless.  This is a part of the journey a family makes–the quest for the illusive family photo–and really it’s better to laugh about it and accept defeat.  All of these pictures together paint a better portrait of us, anyway: in constant motion and with the full gamut of human emotion on display.

This tree farm is now a 30ish minute drive away for us so we packed a picnic on a Sunday after church and made a day of it.  We did eat more than chips but that’s all that was pictured, so there you go.  The children played hide and seek amongst the trees and the girls made bouquets with spruce clippings.  Everyone graciously allowed me to choose the tree–my specifications were that it be very fat and short.  You pay for height, you see, not girth.  We did end up with a $45 tree that is quite a bit wider in our living room than it looked at the farm, but we all think maybe it’s the best one we’ve ever had (though we say that every year).  I think next year someone else should get a turn to pick the tree since my skills are obviously lacking in sensibility.  Phoebe had Brandon and I pose with a bouquet of pine in my hand, which we did to oblige her as she snapped our picture.  This is how she sees us, how they see us, and we need to remember it.

We put the tree up that evening and decorated it the next, all before the first of December.  I like to have the tree up after Thanksgiving but definitely before December and the beginning of Advent because it’s so wonderful to have our advent readings by the tree.  Brandon and I are getting better at figuring out ways to simplify and keep December as chaos-free as possible and this includes getting birthday and Christmas shopping done early in the month (I have everything for birthdays + Christmas already purchased and wrapped at this point except for one gift for Wren) so that we can savor the season.

Anyway, we decorated the tree, myself unwrapping ornaments in crinkly tissue paper and handing them out to each child from the couch, while Daddy stood at the tree to help and lift children.  It was Philippa’s year to put the star on the top, her first year, and she was so proud.  It’s the best time of year, having a bright pungent spruce in the home, remembering our tree-farm-one-day dreams, making memories for our children and teaching them all the little traditions that are special to our family.  I keep snapping photos and writing these words, bundling the memories up and wondering why I keep at it, and then I look back at old posts like this one and this one and this one and I remember.  Here I am, just trying to nail down the memories and the moments while they spin by me.  These days are going by in a blur and how did these babies transform into these big lanky kids while I blinked?  Everyone says it–it goes by so fast–but it is only becoming more and more true in my experience.

(Also, in the farm pictures, Philippa is wearing her birthday sweater that I knit in the yarn I dyed myself.  So love it, though she sort of doesn’t.)

Is it too early to say Merry Christmas?  I don’t think so.  Merry Christmas, friends.  May these days be merry + bright!

yarn along

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For some reason I keep forgetting to pass the slipped stitch over on some of the stitches on the front panel and as a result I’ve made a bit of a mess of the front of this sweater after I split for sleeves.  The dilemma: rip back to where I split for sleeves and redo (but I’m not great at ripping back without dropping stitches/making mistakes) which will likely cause me not to have this sweater done in time for phoebes birthday, OR live with the mistakes on the front and keep going.  I don’t know what to do yet.  A couple of mistakes wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve done it several times and it makes the eyelet rows look off kilter.  Can you tell at all in this photo?  😦  Anyway, what I want to do is just avoid it altogether, but I have been trying to work on this monogamously so that my sweet girl has a birthday sweater on her day.  I am, however, really loving knitting with this yarn I dyed naturally myself with marigolds (and there are skeins of it available in my new little etsy shop which I shared all about in my last post if you’re interested)!  The variegation is really pretty I think and there is a sense of pride in knitting with it, knowing the work that went into achieving the bright cheery color!  It reminds me of citrus in the winter, just what is needed to dispel the gloom.

Still reading What the Land Already Knows and enjoying it so much.  Seriously so wonderful to read just before bed.  It’s wintery, Christmasy, and rich with insight.  I definitely recommend it and plan to get the other books in the series of stories from the Farm in Lucy.

Oh, also our recent blizzard here in the mountains of NC broke quite a few large limbs off of our big magnolia tree.  If I had more energy or time I would make a wreath or garland with them (I would have enough for several, actually!) but I’m afraid I won’t get around to it.  Any other suggestions?  I hate to just waste all the beautiful limbs and leaves.

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.

 

wool + home co. : winter light

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Introducing my little etsy shop, Wool + Home Co. to you today!

It was about two years ago now when this idea to open a little family handmade etsy shop came into my mind.  I had quite a few friends and family members asking me to sell knitted items for them, and while I really aim to knit mostly for my own little family, I do love that others value handmade items.  Knitting is meant to be a slow craft and I will never be able to mass produce a bunch of knitted items, but I believe it would be fun to offer one larger seasonal item per shop update, and maybe a few smaller items sprinkled in when I feel up to it.

I love making things, finding beauty in ordinary places, paying attention to the seasons and the world around me.  In this little home + family shop, I hope to offer you seasonal updates with things we’ve made that reflect both the season and our home.  That’s why this first update will reflect winter light.

In winter time, especially now as we move toward winter solstice and the darkest/longest day of the year, it’s the time of year when we burn a lot of candles in our home.  I have come to only burn these beeswax ones that we all roll by hand, thankful for the healthful benefits they offer as well as the warmth and light.  Right now I am using them in a simple homemade advent wreath, as you can see pictured.  I always have a few around the home and I find them to be beautiful even clustered in a jar on my kitchen shelf.

The shawl is called the Campside Shawl by Alicia Plummer (and I did ask for her permission to sell a shawl knit from her pattern).  I have one in yellow which I wear daily ever since I finished it.  It is the coziest and softest yarn, warm but light enough to not be hot because of all the eyelets.  I wear mine when I’m home around my shoulders, usually grabbing it first thing when I wake up in the morning.  If I’m headed out, often I wrap it around my neck like a scarf.  I think it’s beautiful worn both ways.  This one is knit in Madelinetosh DK Twist, in a color called Doe Eyes, a hand-dyed yarn.  The color is a silvery grey with a hint of blush and lavender.  It is 100% merino wool which means is it very soft and luxurious, and also a natural fiber that I recommend you hand wash gently and lay flat to dry (though honestly it wouldn’t need to be washed very often at all).  I had quite a few people ask me about my yellow one, so that was why I thought this would be a good shawl to knit up for one of you.  It is very hard to price an item like this, as the yarn cost alone was $70 and it takes months to knit an item of this size.  I hope that it would lend some coziness, comfort, and warmth during these winter months.

Phoebe has been making potholders for awhile now and recently began making these with a wool/cotton blend fabric.  Though they are smaller, they work far better than my potholders from ikea 🙂 and I use them under a steaming mug of coffee or hot cocoa for the kids, as well as lifting hot lids in the kitchen.  She comes up with her color choices on her own, and I think she has a better eye for color than I do!  Of course, the proceeds for whatever she sells in our little shop will go to her.  May they bring a spot of joy and color to your kitchen in the dreary winter months.

I’ve been using these little lavender satchets in every closet in my home, tucked in with my yarn stash and in drawers.  When they seem to grow less fragrant if you simply squeeze and rub the ratchet around a bit, the scent is released a fresh.  I love anything lavender, and these were made with 100% organic food-grade lavender flowers in a cotton muslin bag.  Every time I open closets and catch a whiff of them I remember the warm summer days soon to come.

Last, but certainly not least, just a tiny bit of my own hand dyed yarn!  I never thought I would be interested in dyeing, but natural dyeing is so much fun and so very satisfying.  I absolutely loved dyeing up these skeins for matching sweaters for my girls, and planned to dye a few extra to sell here.  The pink are skeins dyed with avocado pits and skins so it has a mauve-y brownish pink color.  The yellow skeins are dyed with marigold flowers from our garden and is a bright chartreuse yellow.  I think they actually pair really beautifully together!  Of course, this is a bit more of a rustic 100% worsted weight eco-wool (minimally processed) so it isn’t as soft as merino, but I do believe it’s still nice against the skin.  It’s very squishy and plump and had quite a lot of lanolin in the skeins when I first got it.  I hope this wool brings some cheer and color to your hands as well as warmth.  I am currently working on Phoebe’s sweater in the marigold dyed yarn and it literally makes me happy every time I work on it because of how cheery and bright the yellow is.

This first update will be quite small and simple, and I guess we’ll see what happens from here.  After working for months to get all of this ready, I’ve been second guessing myself a ton and have nearly bailed on this idea multiple times, but Brandon has been firm in encouraging me to keep going and give it a brave try.  There are makers far more talented than I, but these are simple offerings from our home to yours, things that we’ve made with a lot of joy and love, and that we’ve been excited to offer to you in hopes that they would likewise bring your joy.  Of course, your support helps support a single-income homeschooling family of six and we so greatly appreciate it!

Oh, and as for the name.  I think picking a name has been the biggest hurdle so far, and it’s not perfect but I like it’s simplicity in summing up that we will offer a few wooly items and also things from our home for your home.  I hope you find something you like or maybe a good gift item for someone in this Christmas season.

May you find the light in your winter days and savor it!

xo
Martha + fam

 

yarn along

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Is it already the 5th of December?  I can’t believe we are already almost a week into this month.  We are busy slowly decorating the house, getting back into the swing of Advent readings and activities together, as well as finishing up our last week of school before we take a long break for Christmas.  I am looking forward to the freedom of slower mornings playing games together or doing crafts, reading more together, and enjoying this special season.

I sewed the armpits of Noah’s sweater last night (yes, it’s done!) and wove in the ends and will block it today, so it is a relief to have that done well in time for his birthday.  I’ve been knitting on some socks for him as well, but with less pressure on myself to get them done in time for his birthday.  I cast on for Phoebe’s birthday sweater, she cannot wait to have a sunday sweater to match her sisters.  I’m knitting this with the yarn (100% eco wool) I dyed a few months ago with marigolds from our garden and I love the subtle variegation and the chartreuse color of this wool.  It’s very bright and happy for the winter months and in all this cold, it’s a reminder of the happy warm summer days.  Also, I dyed extra skeins of this yarn and also the avocado pink yarn I used for Philippa’s sweater to share with any of you knitters/weavers/crocheters out there who might be interested!  I will share more details soon, but those skeins will be listed in my first ever Etsy shop update hopefully this weekend, if all goes smoothly.  I’ve had hurdles and interruptions galore to my plans (which were originally to open this little shop in October!) and I’ve second-guessed and doubted myself a ton, and would probably have bailed on this idea except that I have invested too much to just drop it now.  So, it feels a little silly in a world where there are makers far more talented than I, but my heart is to offer some things made from our hands and home to you.  Hopefully I will have a post up on Friday with specifics of what we’re selling and lots of photos, so tune in if you’re interested in taking a peek.

For now, you can see a bit how this yarn knits up in today’s picture.  It is rustic and dry, yet still soft and very squishy.  I am not bored at all knitting this pattern again because the yarn is so bright and cheerful, and the pattern really is lovely.

I’ve been reading this book by Phyllis Tickle, What the Land Already Knows .  It is so sweet, quite a rich little book with short chapters that are great for reading just before sleep.  Brandon and I are also reading Lessons from a Christmas Tree Farm in the evenings together.  We are using Hallelujah and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as family advent readings.  We just stocked up at the library with tons of festive Christmasy books and we’re preparing for a big snow forecasted for this weekend (fingers crossed!).  We have lots to read and lots of wool for knitting, so basically we’re all set.

Linking up with Ginny’s Yarn Along and Nicole’s Crafting On.
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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.

yarn along

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I’ve was working fairly monogamously on Noah’s birthday sweater but I am just about out of yarn, so I’m waiting for another skein to arrive.  I didn’t check my gauge on this project but I liked the gauge I was getting with the recommended needle size and I also didn’t mind if the sweater turned out just a bit bigger than expected because it’s sized for a 4-6 yr old and my son is turning 6 and is quite tall for his age.  So, I figured 200 yards of yarn wouldn’t be enough, but all is well.  Since I had to set it down until the new yarn arrives, I’ve been working on Phoebe’s socks (which I’ll probably finish today).  I put them on hold for a bit because Wren got into my knitting bag and pulled the needles off the sock and generally pulled it all into a big mess, so I set it aside until I felt like fixing it.  Also, I pick up and knit a few rows on my Tecumseh sweater when I have a minute, which is just pure indulgence to work on.  I’m trying not to allow myself to work on it until birthday sweaters are done.  Although Phoebe has graciously given me permission to be late with her birthday sweater if need be. 🙂

I have still been reading (affiliate link) The Liturgy of the Ordinary.  I’ll share with you this excerpt which I thought was timely with our recent Thanksgiving celebrations:

“The word Eucharist literally means ‘thanksgiving.’  The Eucharist is the thanksgiving feast of the church, and it is out of that communal practice of thanksgiving that my lunchtime prayer of thanks flows.  The Eucharist–our gathered meal of thanksgiving for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ–transforms each humble meal into a moment to recall that we receive all of life, from soup to salvation, by grace.  As such, these small, daily moments are sacramental–not that they are sacraments themselves, but that God meets us in and through the earthly, material world in which we dwell.

The Eucharist is a profoundly communal meal that reorients us from people who are merely individualistic consumers into people who are, together, capable of imaging Christ in the world.  Of course, eating itself reminds us that none of us can stay alive on our own.  If you are breathing, it’s because someone fed you.  We are born hungry and completely dependent on others to meet our needs.  In this way the act of eating reorients us from an atomistic, independent existence toward one that is interdependent.  But the Eucharist goes even further.  In it, we feast on Christ, and are thereby mysteriously formed together into one body, the body of Christ.

Nourishment is always far more than biological nutrition.  We are nourished by our communities.  We are nourished by gratitude.  We are nourished by justice.  We are nourished when we know and love our neighbors.”

Amen, right?!

I hope you all have a lovely week and that you find a little time for making something, whether it’s your daily bread or a bundle of green clipped from your yard for a vase, or a garment for a loved one.  I hope you find a little time to make with intention, with joy, knowing you are imaging your Father as you create beauty.  And I hope you find some time to read, too.  If you feel like sharing what you’re working on or reading, I always love to hear from you!

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On today.