away together at the lake

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Last weekend, the very last days of summer, we drove a couple hours away from home to Lake Santeetlah.  A very kind client of my Brandon’s had gifted us a weekend at this lake house and we truly had the best time.  My favorite childhood memories are from summers spent on the Muskoka lakes in Ontario, Canada with family.  There will always be a fondness in my heart for lakes!  We realized we hadn’t been away together alone as a family (without other family or friends) for years.  It was so good, just so good. We hadn’t told the kids ahead of time what was happening so they were totally surprised.  They enjoyed an upstairs bedroom with bunkbeds (!!!) and they loved having their “own” little porch balcony overlooking the lake.  Our stay was just so short, but so very good.  Lots of swimming, exploring, fishing, paddling, and enjoying was had by all in a beautiful area that was new to us and not so far from home.  I hope one day we can return, the children are already planning our next trip!

mountain farm museum

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Maybe they were some of the last hot days of 2019, and if so, thank goodness!  As we left the campground the other weekend, we stopped by the Oconoluftee Mountain Farm Museum down the road eager to explore the little old homestead.  The historic log farm buildings were moved to this sweet valley tucked beside the Oconoluftee River in 1950, and it was neat to peek inside this old home built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight hit our mountains in the early 1930s and 40s.  I found the home to be quite charming and marveled at how much of that lifestyle from over 100 years ago now appeals to me (and many of you too, I would guess).  It would be a beautiful little spot for a real homestead.  The children enjoyed running free and seeing the free-range chickens and the smelly old sow in her picket enclosure by the river.  And of course, the elk again with the sweet fawns, so close to our car.

Afterward we had planned to begin the drive home but the kids begged and pleaded for us to let them swim in the river again before we left.  It’s truly a beautiful river so we let them swim one last time before heading home.  It was a really sweet, fun weekend (even though camping with kiddos is a ton of prep and work!) and a good way to make the best of these last warm summer days.

maiden voyage

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About a year ago, a very kind neighbor of ours gave us their pop-up camper.  It has since been an eyesore in our backyard for lack of a better place to store it.  We’ve set it up a few times in the yard, but it took us this long to finally take it out on it’s maiden voyage.  It is pretty old but they kept it in mint condition and made many happy family memories in it and they wanted us to be able to do the same now that their kids are well out of the home.  Isn’t that so generous of them?

We went to a beautiful campground that is close to Cherokee, NC with my brother and sister-in-law and their daughter.  It was their first time camping as a family so it was a maiden voyage for them, also, I suppose.  The weather was beautiful, there were no bugs pestering us and there was a good breeze.  The daytime was warm and sunny, the evenings and mornings were cool enough to be cozy.  We enjoyed all the things that make camping special — strong coffee, food that tastes better cooked out in the open air, hanging out around the campfire, hiking, swimming in the river, s’mores, and good conversation.  Phoebe made a sweet little friend named Holly which worked out well because she had hoped to have someone her age to play with.  We also enjoyed watching the elk nearby, and I loved hearing them bugling in a field just a short drive down the road from the campground.  So neat to be able to share that with the kids and see their wonder and excitement to be so close to such majestic animals!  (They were really close at times, right up near the edge of the road).  We also had some rowdy campground neighbors who kept us up late into the night, but we paid them back with early morning screaming babies.  Good sleep is not something you can typically expect while camping, but it is truly all worth it.  Coming home tired and smelling like equal parts sweat and campfire is all part of the experience and we truly loved it.  It was a treat to have some extended time family, and I could really see Brandon unwind, too.  The pop-up is pretty fun but I don’t mind tent camping at all either.  We didn’t get to use too many of it’s fanciest features (we didn’t hook up to electricity or water) but it is fun to dream about taking it on a longer voyage one day.

(I’ll share a few more photos from camping in another post, this one seemed long enough.)

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.

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! 🙂

reorienting

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When life crowds in and all the pain and hurt breaks our heart, sometimes we need to escape.  I don’t know what it is about the wide open spaces, the heights, the familiar trails, the quiet of the wilderness and the piercing fresh air, but it truly does wonders.  We are facing some hard things personally and I asked Brandon last weekend if we could spend the day Saturday out hiking somewhere.  I didn’t have the energy to think about where to go, and somehow he knew just to quietly drive me to one of my favorite areas, Black Balsam and the Shining Rock Wilderness area.  We speak few words to each other, I knit on the drive, snap photos while hiking.  Mostly we just enjoy the respite from our every day landscape.  I think about place, and why familiar places can minister so much to our souls, all the memories sewn into the landscape.  I have been coming to these trails since my childhood, but mainly since my high school days when I first fell in love with backpacking.  I have come to these trails many times to be with God, to be in the wide open silence, the whipping wind, the other-wordly play of light and cloud.  Now we bring our children along as we go, feet tracing routes we know like the lines on our hands.  We hike most of the day, five miles in all I think, in which their little feet kept up with our pace with barely a complaint.  We get back to the car around 3 in the afternoon and eat lunch all piled in the hatch of the van, wet and muddy, tired but refreshed.  Souls reinvigorated.  I am so thankful for this little tribe of mine, the way we explore and sojourn together.  These children are so precious to me and I’m so proud of them.  I pray they learn to endure when the way is foggy and unclear, when the weather turns from sunshine to storm.

The mountains feel a bit like they’re moving under our feet and we find ourselves reaching out for that which is immovable and certain.  I can never express how profoundly grateful I am for the scriptures, for the God of the scriptures who is THERE, who speaks, who is unchanging and wholly Other while being intimately close, and for His word which is sure and will endure forever.

I turn to these old words from a treasured commentary by Walter Brueggemann called The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith:

“Land is a central, if not the central theme of biblical faith…There are no meanings apart from roots.  And such rootage is a primary concern of Israel and a central promise of God to his people.  This sense of place is a primary concern of this God who refused a house and sojourned with his people (2 Sam. 7:5-6) and of the crucified one who had ‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58).

A sense of place is to be sharply distinguished from a sense of space as has been stressed by some scholars.  ‘Space’ means an arena of freedom, without coercion or accountability, free of pressures and void of authority.  Space may be imaged as weekend, holiday, avocation, and is characterized by a kind of neutrality or emptiness waiting to be filled by our choosing.  Such a concern appeals to a desire to get out from under meaningless routine and subjection.  But ‘place’ is a very different matter.  Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations.  Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny.  Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued.  Place is indeed a protest against the uncompromising pursuit of space.  It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Whereas pursuit of space may be a flight from history, a yearning for a place is a decision to enter history with an identifiable people in an identifiable pilgrimage.  Humanness, as biblical faith promises it, will be found in belonging to and referring to the locus in which the peculiar historicity of a community has been expressed and to which recourse is made for purposes of orientation, assurance, and empowerment.  The land for which Israel yearns and which it remembers is never unclaimed space but is always a place with Yahweh, a place well filled with memories of life with him and promise from him and vows to him.”

Yes, maybe that’s it.  When all is spinning, we need to return to places that remind us of who we are, where we are going, what is sure and unchanging.  Maybe returning to those places is what helps to reorient us to the God of the place, and the promise of His presence with us in all our sojourning.

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.