a season of homestead projects

I found that sign in the barn, face down and caked with mud. I decided to hang it in the laundry room. Isn’t it great?

Speaking of which, we stacked the washer and dryer, and it is so much better. There was even room for a tall shelf to store our shoes and extra household supplies. It is such a tiny room that I was racking my brain. Problem solved.

I sat in my living room last night and watched the sun go down behind the Rockies, outside the windows, in a gentle fading of light. Blue to lavender to pink to orange to dusk to night. It was better entertainment than most of the things we call entertainment these days. Truly refreshing and contemplative. I started out on the front porch. It was peaceful and cold and quiet, save for a little breeze blowing through the still-bare branches of the birch tree. The dogs were running around, occasionally barking at various things, and I was wrapped up in a thick ratty old cardigan that I can’t seem to get rid of, but I still got too cold and had to go in to watch the show from the window. It is important to watch the sunset from time to time, the whole process of it’s setting, and allow our hearts to steep a while in the evening’s lessons.

It has still been cold off and on, though the days are warming up. I am so antsy to get out there in the garden and dig in the dirt. Not yet.

We got our fence! It is exactly the thing. Now the whole perimeter is fenced securely and the dogs cannot get out. Also, all the cross fencing is gone and it feels more unified out there. A whole piece of land, reconnected. We had the fence guys take the corral down too. Our next project will be to take down the rickety old privacy fence in the back that fences off part of the yard right outside the back door, and fence the vegetable garden in properly. We plan to do that ourselves, though I am still thinking the various budget-friendly fencing options through. We have bunnies and deer to think about, and I’d like to incorporate a garden shed and chicken run into my plan somehow, which may or may not work. It just seems like it would be good to keep the chickens fairly close to the garden for manure access and insect control.

I am working on a baby cardigan right now from the book 60 Quick Baby Knits. I am knitting it in lavender Cascade 220 Superwash. This is my first time using that yarn. Usually I use just regular old 220 which cannot be machine washed or it will felt, but as this is babywear, it only seemed right to give my friends at church a washable gift, especially since this is their first child. They are very young. I remember when I was their age and already had two babies and another on the way. Now my three are teenagers and I will be celebrating the big 4-0 next year, yikes. I don’t mind getting older though. I enjoy the wisdom that comes with the years, and every year I appreciate more my husband and children, my memories, my time and abilities, the love and mercy of God, my dear kindred spirit friends who I seem to collect slowly in life, like pearls, and my many, beautiful, ordinary, extraordinary blessings. I even appreciate the hard seasons I have been through. I know that life can be painful and lean and tragic and frustrating. But it is also very beautiful. Even the hard stuff can be lovely, when you look at it differently, or after some time has passed and your heart has healed a little.

I kept seeing those birds everywhere, on walks and even hikes up in the mountains. Black-billed magpies. They’re big, over a foot and a half tall, and very striking with the black and white and blue. Finally I looked them up. They can mimic dogs and cats and even people. They are smart. Reminds me of that genetically engineered bird in the Hunger Games books. Mockingjay?

Now we just need to go on a bird hike soon to try to spot and sketch one. I love the bright, dark blue on their black and white wings. Gives me good ideas for quilt designs 🙂

To homestead is to embrace stewardship of the land, and to really see a house for all it can become, a home, and to tend and build and hope and pray. To acknowledge that a home can have a soul, a story, a voice.

We women give it that soul and voice, and take seriously that story. It is an honor to fill a house with its truest sense of home. To love and warm and care for it as an expression of our hearts. One could even say that it is a calling.

In my next post I am going to give you a healthy and yummy stew recipe I have made several times this winter and spring.

I hope you are having a lovely spring, or “sprinter” as my friend Stefanie calls it. When winter ever so slowly becomes spring.

spring is (slowly) creeping in

The weather this week was indecisive. It started out warm and friendly, with the strong hint of spring in the air, and then twice, unexpectedly, and on days that started bright and sunny and replete with birdsong, it suddenly snowed!

I can’t say it wasn’t beautiful, seeing the whole world again frosted over with a thick layer of crystals. Perhaps it was more beautiful because of impending spring – it is only a matter of days now.

The fence company came and dropped off the materials. Because of the snow they cannot start the work until early next week. I am quite excited to have the whole 6 acres fenced, a vast playground for our children and dogs, and, well, us too. I am especially looking forward to the sprouting of the pastures, because I have spotted a dozen or so wildflowers and grasses, dried and brown from last summer. I have my flower field guide standing at the ready, to identify and learn them all. I have given strict instructions to all males living in our house not to mow until I give the green light. A girl needs to know the plants she’s living with.

I already have a fondness for my land. We have been here less than 2 months, but oh how it fits already. When I drive up to the house after a long day out and about, it is as though my soul finally exhales. Ah. I am home. A refuge for my soul and a place to recharge and process the stirrings of my heart. Home should be a refuge. I am so grateful…I pray that you too have this blessing of home. If not now, then may it unfold at the perfect time, in a way that is so right and true, there is no doubt in your soul that God was orchestrating the details of your story.

I told you I would tell what yarn I used for that hat, only now I cannot find my label. It was a wool blend, very soft, that I picked up at a local yarn shop. The pattern is One-Night Hat by Stitchnerd Designs. I found it on Ravelry. I made this for a friend. I kept thinking I might keep it, but it kept telling me it was destined for another head. Haha. Yes, the yarn speaks at times 🙂 Finally, I finished it, blocked it, and tried it on and that’s when I knew for sure that it would be a gift. I shall make another for myself when the weather becomes cold again later this year. I love the pattern of little triangular knobs. It is thin and lightweight, while being quite warm and cozy at the same time. A great hiking hat.

Yesterday the fog came rolling in, thick and oppressive, but still eerily beautiful at the same time. Hubby went down to the barn to check the chickens. I stood and watched him walk down the hill, and suddenly he was swallowed up by it. Everything was still and quiet. I could not see far. All the air was cold and gray. It was like another world, mysterious and creepy.

This week I have a list of projects I would like to accomplish. One of them is to stack the dryer on top of the washer. Our laundry room is teeny tiny, and serves as a mud room too. One has very little room to take shoes off or put them on or even turn around. In order to put a shelf for shoes, and hopefully a hamper for random articles of dirty clothing that seem to get tossed on the floor and then walked on, and a drying rack, I am going to have to make use of vertical space. We will see if that makes a difference in the flow of the room.

I saw a bright blue bird this week while I was out for a walk. I haven’t figure out yet what it was, but I have narrowed it down to either a tree swallow or a mountain bluebird. Stay tuned for more on that.

spring fever and yarn along

I have had major spring fever all week. My seedlings are growing, though I think next time I start seeds indoors, I will have grow lights and a table set up. Having pots in sunny windows has proved to be too much temptation for the cats.

I am reading At Home in Mitford again. I have already read this whole series, but I love it so much that I have decided to read it through again. I find it peaceful, contemplative, comforting, and the characters are so true to life while being lovable at the same time. It is quite humorous too! Jan Karon (author) has a gift for funny stories and great dialogue.

I have been knitting like crazy, maybe as a form of self-medication for lingering winter. I have been longing for spring deeply, wanting warmth and green and afternoons spent outside. I finished the shawlette and wore it to church on Easter. This was the Zuzu pattern out of the book Sock-Yarn Shawls II. I knitted it in Happy Feet 100 Splash hand-dyed sock yarn. I love how it came out. It is soft, drapey, warm without being stifling, and has great stitch definition. I also made a hat, and I’m working on a baby cardigan for a friend at church. More about those later.

We went for a hike in the mountains recently, and I thought, like I do every time we go hiking in the mountains, that I really need to incorporate more of that into my life. I feel so restored when I am walking through the forest. There is so much to look at, to smell and hear and touch. It is a feast for the senses. It grounds me. It heals me from the stress and weariness and confusion that life can sometimes hold.

My chickens are still living in the barn, though we are talking about having someone build us a pen for them that is outside, predator-safe, roofed, and big enough to enclose their coop. This is their coop. I am going to paint it barn red with white trim. It is very well-made. The previous owner left it for us, and it is a work of craftsmanship.

We are having a fence installed around the perimeter of our property this week. We talked about doing it ourselves, we discussed at least a dozen options, but the reality is, we would like to focus our time and energy on other projects this summer, and as the dogs keep escaping and need to be contained somehow, a fence is an immediate priority.

moving in

 We are slowly getting moved in. It seems to take me so long to move into a house and make it mine, and it is not something that can be rushed. You would think, since we have moved so many times over the years, that we would be better at the settling in part, but we aren’t. It just takes time, and can be a little stressful too, with all the boxes full of random stuff and stacks of wall art leaning against walls – oh, where to put everything?! Also, it is one thing to go from house to house on city-sized lots, and quite another to go from a city lot to almost 6 acres!
I got hens right away, and have already lost one of them to a predator. We had them outside in the coop that came with the house, and had its own fenced yard. But there is a stray cat in the area, and he has been killings chickens. After losing one of my beautiful black australorps to him, I moved all the hens into the barn for the time being, until I can come up with a plan for a predator-proof run.
It is quiet out here in the rolling prairie, and the quiet is so pronounced, that I would almost say it is loud, if that makes sense. A loud quiet, ha! Still, I love it, and the night sky is bright with stars. I am looking forward to our first spring here.
I am only getting 2-4 eggs a day right now from the girls, and as the weather is just beginning to warm up and the days are lengthening, I am thinking that will change soon.
I have begun to plant seeds, slowly, wondering how my garden will be different from other gardens I have tended, with the difference in elevation. I am looking forward to having tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peas, kale, lettuce, peppers, cabbage, and spinach. I’m sure that list will grow through the spring. It is quite dry here, so I find myself hoping for rain and checking the weather forecast frequently.
Right now I am knitting a shawlette that I hope will be finished and blocked in time to wear it to church on Easter. I am knitting it with sock yarn. I will give the specifics in the next post when I have completed it.