Momma’s Workshop

Boy oh boy, have I been busy these past few weeks! Once again, I did not start my Christmas gift-making in August. No, rather than learning from previous years, I put off my gift-making, getting started only as December closed in.

Once a place for sleeping, my bed has been taken over by sheets of fabric, balls of yarn, scissors, needles, felt, and wool stuffing. Each night I push myself until I can’t stand to keep my eyes open anymore, then I gather everything and put it away so the kids suspect nothing when they wake up in the morning.

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While the late start means plenty of midnight dates with my sewing machine, things are coming along nicely and I think I will get all of my gifts finished in time.

Several months ago I purchased a great book of toy patterns called Wee Wonderfuls, by Hillary Lang. When it arrived in the mail one day in July, my children flipped through and enthusiastically pointed out which toys they would like me to make for them. I filed their requests away in the back of my mind, and have dredged them out of the recesses of my memory now that the holidays are upon us.

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My first project – a teddy bear for Robin. I crafted it from wool felt that was purchased from Bear Dance Crafts, and got the bulk of the teddy finished in one night.

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He’s still in need of a face and clothing, but Robin’s teddy is mostly finished. The teddy bear has been joined on the shelf by two wool-felt mermaids, one with a fuchsia-coloured tail and brown hair for Lynden, and one with a lavender-coloured tail and blonde hair for Raina.

There have been several knitted projects as well, but their recipients might be reading this blog… so you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to see what I’ve crafted!

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The kids each wrote a letter to Santa. I was pleasantly surprised by their very modest requests. I half-expected to hear them ramble off a long list of things they would like, but they only asked for two gifts apiece. Lynden politely requested a sword and a hamster (his beloved hamster died last week), and Raina wants a pink shirt and a skateboard. Robin wants a train. After the letters were written, we talked about how blessed we are to have such abundance in our lives – healthy food to eat, a strong roof over our heads, a warm house to sleep in, a loving network of family & friends – and the kids told me all of the things they are grateful for. They were pretty thrilled when we made the trip to the post office to drop of their Santa letters!

Another Handmade Holiday

I can’t believe it’s already that time of year again. I feel as though I was *just* blogging about my holiday endeavours, but that was already a whole year ago! Yikes!

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming holidays. I’ve got lots of fun ideas in the works for handmade gifts! My knitting needles are flying, my sewing machine is whirring, my scissors are snipping. For several years, I have given handmade gifts for Christmas, but still purchased gifts too. This time around, I’ve decided to take the plunge and make it an exclusively handmade holiday. This mama won’t be going shopping! Not only do I have zero interest in being part of the consumer frenzy, but I have better things to put my limited money toward (such as saving for a down payment on our “forever farm”).

So far, I’ve completed a little bear with moveable arms & legs for Robin, made from an old flannel pyjama set of mine. I had taken several lovely photos of the little bear to share with you, but my kids got their hands on my camera and it is nowhere to be found. When the camera resurfaces, the bear will make its online appearance!

Raina saw a picture of a mermaid doll and is begging for one of her own, and because Raina wants a mermaid doll, Lynden does too. I’ve been putting outgrown clothing aside to cut apart and turn into dolls, and as soon as I find a moment I’m going to get started. Raina’s also been asking for a teddy bear, because she lost the one I made for her two years ago and is rather heartbroken about it.

The adults on my list have some warm, fuzzy surprises coming their way, too, though they read my blog so you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to see what I have created for them!

What are you creating this holiday season?

Some Days

If I am to be honest, there are days when I am overwhelmed by the tasks that lay ahead of me. There are days when mopping the floors or washing the dishes or folding laundry seems so insanely futile, when I feel like it’s pointless to pick up the toys scattered about the living room, when I wonder why I ever bother making the bed. I know that when I wake up tomorrow, there will be absolutely no evidence that I did any of these things today. There will be more toys on the floor. There will be muddy footprints leading from the back door to the bathroom. There will be a heaping hamper of dirty laundry waiting to be washed, and the sink will be full of dishes. Tomorrow I will spend my day going through the motions – again – cleaning the same messes that were cleaned today & wondering how I will fit the gardening and the meal-making and the child-loving in around the endless housework.

Most days, it’s ok. It’s life. It’s just the way things are. But some days, some days it’s enough to make this mama feel a little more than crazy. Some days it’s enough to make me want to stay in bed all day with the blankets pulled up over my head. But I know all too well that avoiding the dishes only makes it harder to face the task, when every last dish has disappeared from the cupboard and made its way, filthy, to the sink. Avoiding the laundry means I’m stuck with a pile that I can never get to the bottom of. And I can’t relax in bed, anyway, when there’s laundry on my bedroom floor and the bed sheets are crinkled & begging to be washed.

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When these days of overwhelm hit me, I force myself to find little things to appreciate. It doesn’t always work, but dang, I do so enjoy hanging laundry on the line when the sun is shining and a soft breeze is blowing. And I do so love the satisfaction I feel when I gaze upon a basket of freshly-folded towels, crisp and smelling of the sun, just taken off the line.

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Some days little moments of beauty are in greater abundance than one could ever expect.

The Days After

ImageGaia is now 9 days old, and every bit as perfect as the day she was born. I wish I could say that I’ve been enjoying a blissful babymoon, but the truth is that things haven’t been all rosy for me.

I mentioned in Gaia’s birth story that I gushed quite a bit of blood just after baby emerged. In the days following Gaia’s birth, the blood continued to flow too heavily and I began passing a lot of large clots. I was not feeling well, and on my midwife’s recommendation I went in to the hospital. My blood work showed a very low hemoglobin count, and an ultrasound revealed a great deal of clotting in my uterus. A D&C was performed and I was sent home feeling quite a bit better.

Now, four days after the D&C, I find myself with a uterine infection that has led to another day at the hospital, some pretty nasty cramping, and more blood loss.

If you know me, you know that I do not have a fondness for modern medicine, hospitals, and doctors. However, sometimes, in some situations, modern medicine can be a blessing. For surgical procedures, broken bones, and other emergencies, hospitals can and do save lives. The problem is that we don’t have a health care system, we have a disease treatment system that revolves around pharmaceuticals with horrible side affects. Our disease treatment system applies band-aids instead of promoting healing at the root cause of the problem.

I was pretty frustrated to find myself back at the hospital, but now that I know exactly what my problem is, I can formulate a plan for healing. To start, I’m taking my trusty Echinacea extract to boost my immune system. I’m drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea several times a day to help my uterus out a bit, and Nettle tea for extra iron, vitamin K and other hemoglobin-building goodness. Our Nettle patch is full of new leaves right now, so I’ll be substituting half fresh Nettles in recipes that call for spinach (such as our family favourite, eggs florentine).

I’m also considering a purchase of Black Cohosh, though this particular herb has never been tested for safety while breastfeeding. So far, my research has led me to believe that Black Cohosh hasn’t ever been proven harmful while breastfeeding, but I don’t want to take any chances. A trip to my local herbalist, who can answer my questions more in-depth, will help me make up my mind on this one.

Because I was given IV antibiotics before my D&C procedure, I’m consuming plenty of kefir and kombucha, two awesome fermented drinks that are loaded with pro-biotics (I consume kefir and kombucha regularly anyway), to help restore healthy gut flora and boost immune system function.

You may have noticed that the prescription for antibiotics that was given at the hospital hasn’t been mentioned in my game plan. Antibiotics upset the balance of beneficial gut flora and increase the likelihood that Gaia and I will develop thrush – a fungal nasty that we do NOT want to deal with! Prescription drugs also tend to interfere with the body’s natural methods of healing, and can actually delay the body’s return to true wellness. I won’t throw out that script just yet, but I won’t fill it unless I *really* need it – when all else has failed, and my body tells me a little more assistance is required. For now, I prefer to help my body do what it does best – restore and heal – using Nature’s gifts.

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Now that it looks like I’m done with the hospital for a good while, I’m going to settle into bed with my sweet baby girl and get started on that babymoon. It’s been 9 days coming!

Chicken Dinner

You may recall that some time ago, our long-time vegetarian family made the decision to eat some of our chickens. We love our birds, and are so grateful for the eggs they provide our family, but the truth is that sometimes some of the birds have to go. It’s not possible to maintain a closed-loop system without eliminating some of your animals from time to time, and after a lot of discussion we concluded that it would be easier on our consciences to slaughter our chickens here at home as humanely as possible than to sell them and have no idea what their fates would be.

I will admit it was hard for me to come to terms with slaughtering our chickens, at first. Equally hard to come to terms with was how much I loved that first chicken dinner we had. I was not expecting to enjoy chicken so much! Now that chicken has become a somewhat regular part of our diet, I decided it was time for me to help Jae with the slaughtering process, to take responsibility for the birds I raised and the food on my plate. Until now, Jae has done the “dirty work” without me, often with a friend lending a hand. This was weighing heavily on my conscience.

So, with rations dwindling in the kitchen and a rather tight budget for the week, it became apparent that it was time for another chicken dinner – and it was time for me to help Jae with the slaughter.

When I first stepped outside and saw the chosen hen sitting calmly on the porch, I nearly lost my nerve. A panicky feeling settled in on me and I thought, “I can’t do this! I’ll have to go back to being veg!” I took a deep breath and held the chicken in my arms. She looked at me, calm as can be, and I stroked her feathers. I thanked her for the eggs she’s given, spoke words of gratitude to her, and as I looked into her eyes I felt myself calming down. The hen wasn’t panicking, why was I?

I held the hen out in front of me, her head resting lightly on the chopping block. Still she was calm; I could feel her heart beating steadily, not racing, not alarmed. A split second later, Jae’s axe came down on her neck and it was done. No squawking, no panic, no distress. Just a calm bird who was with us one moment and gone the next.

Jae told me he’d be alright to finish the job if I felt I needed to go back into the house, but I wanted to see the whole process through from start to finish. I was surprised by how very OK I felt about what had just happened (truthfully, I had thought I’d be a mess of tears). It felt good to take responsibility for my dinner, and I was so relieved to see first-hand that the hen had not had one moment of distress or suffering.

So now I know how to slaughter, clean, gut and butcher a chicken – and if you have the stomach for it, you can see the process for yourself.  If you’re a staunch vegetarian or someone who hasn’t faced the reality of what it means to eat animals, you might want to skip past the following photos.

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Renew & Repurpose

We’re always trying to cut costs around here without cutting our enjoyment of life, especially since Jae quit his job in favour of being home doing freelance work. So when we ran out of toilet paper the other day, I decided not to buy any more.

In my sewing room, I collect clothing that is looking too worn to make it back into the drawers or the donation bag, in hopes that I can cut them up and re-purpose them. There’s plenty of soft flannel piling up, perfect for making cloth “butt wipes”.

The first thing to come off the top of the pile was an old pyjama shirt of mine, acquired second-hand. It may be too worn to bother patching and fixing up now, but it’s perfect for cutting up! The remaining buttons went into my button box, and the shirt was transformed.

Snip, snip & sew, and VOILA! I give you…

Washable cloth butt wipes, quite possibly the easiest thing a mama could make! They look quite lovely, neatly folded on the back of the toilet. It’s a shame the lighting in the bathroom is so poor.

There you have it, a simple way to reduce waste, cut expenses, and reuse old materials!

Handmade Holiday – Buying Handmade

Let’s face it, dear readers, try as I might, I won’t be able to make everything I had hoped to for this holiday season. Luckily, there are plenty of other folks out there who are making their livings as crafters and artisans, and I’m happy to be able to support them.

For Raina, I just couldn’t resist these items from Ontarian Etsy sellers:

A doll sling, for her babies! Raina loves her dolls, and I’m fairly certain she’ll love carrying them around just the same as mama carries babies. This beautiful little handmade sling is from SewFunky, by Tanja Mackenzie in Guelph.

A Leaf Baby! When I saw this, I immediately envisioned it hanging from Raina’s neck. She swoons over dear, tiny little things. I can’t wait to see her reaction when she discovers this wee precious babe on Christmas morning! It is from EvesLittleEarthlings by Eve Geisler in Guelph.

And of course, I’m still busily crafting away, trying to get everything finished in this last week that I have left. I said it last year (and failed to follow through), and I hereby declare it again – next year I’m starting my holiday crafting in August!

Handmade Holiday – Garlands

My kids saw a photo on the computer of a garland someone had made, and are crazy about the idea of making holiday garlands to string around the house. So, in the spirit of a handmade holiday, I’ve collected our favourite garland-making tutorials for you to enjoy. When we’re finished making ours, I’ll be sure to share our finished product!

Lynden’s favourite type of garland is a felted-ball garland – here’s a great little how-to that results in all sorts of lovely – Felted Garland from MegaCrafty.

Because Raina loves anything to do with paint and paper, she voted on this lovely Leaf Garland from The Present Family, though she’d like to do snowmen and top hats instead of leaves. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Here’s a beautiful paper-craft garland from Oh My! which I love, but realistically won’t get done in time for the holidays. This garland has made it’s way onto my list for something to do in mid-winter when we’re going stir crazy and we need a little something to brighten up the house – I’m thinking dinosaurs and fairies for the kids’ room.

I really love how into it the kids are about our handmade holiday, and how enthusiastic they are to create things with their own hands.  How have you been incorporating handmade into your home & holidays?

Circle of Life

Some time ago, I mentioned that our vegetarian family was making some big decisions about eating more sustainably and providing for ourselves in an effort to reduce our dependency on the grocery store.  Our goal is to become self-sufficient, and let’s face it: eating grocery store food is not self-sufficient. It’s not Earth-friendly, it’s not wallet-friendly, and it’s not sustainable in the long term.

So we had to make some choices. Remain vegetarian and rely on the grocery store when the garden is out of season, or eat some of our birds & locally-caught fish and put a huge dent in the number of grocery trips we need to make.

We went with the latter.

Jae and I had many reasons for being vegetarian and raising vegetarian children, including a concern for the welfare of farm animals. We weren’t interested in sending our birds to the local abattoir, knowing that they’d be stressed out the entire drive there, stressed out moments before death, and killed by a stranger.  The only way to ensure that our birds were treated with respect and given a stress-free death was to do the killing here at home.

And so, with a sharpened ax and a friend to lend a hand, Jae slaughtered several of our birds.  He feathered them, gutted them, and put them in the freezer.  The kids and I said words of gratitude and respect to the birds, talked about the Circle of Life, and had a very lengthy discussion about why we had chosen to kill & eat some of our chickens.  Each time we have a chicken dinner, we say a few words of thanks for the life that was given to sustain our own lives.  We eat with consciousness and awareness.  We take nothing for granted.

I don’t really know what to say when people ask me why we’ve started eating our birds – the answer is too complex and emotional to sum up in a short conversation.  Our reasons for NOT eating meat were very long, and our reasons for eating our birds are just as many.  There are the issues of food security, animal rights, environmental degradation, industrial agriculture, economic freedom, health and well-being… and how each of those things ties into the next. The world we live in is so complicated and corrupted, and we’re trying to do the best we can for our family and our planet. A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought that would mean eating meat, but now I’m in a place where it just makes sense to do so. Life is funny like that – nothing is absolute, nothing is certain.

It was not easy to make the choice. It wasn’t easy to confront death, to become the bringers of death.  But once we made the leap, we knew we had made the right choice for our family.  In every ecosystem, there is a predator.  Our farm is an ecosystem in itself, and we are at the top of the chain.  That’s just life – everything in balance, everything a circle of birth and death.  The great Circle moves us all.

Giving Thanks

Tonight we enjoyed our most local Thanksgiving dinner to date – a stuffed chicken from our flock, mashed potatoes from the neighbour, wild peas foraged by Jae, and grilled zucchini from our garden.  Our absolutely delicious meal was followed by an even more delicious pumpkin bread made by my mother-in-law (thanks!!). We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Our list of gratitudes is very long this year. We have been so blessed, in so many ways, and I’m overwhelmed just thinking about everything we have to be grateful for:

~ New life. This year we’ve been blessed with another pregnancy and the anticipation of a new child joining our family. No matter how many times I go through this wild experience of growing a fetus, I never cease to be amazed by the miracle of life.

~ Garden bounty. Despite the craziest growing season I’ve ever experienced – flood-worthy rains late into the spring making it impossible to plant “on time”; a mega heat wave sweeping through in July (with not enough rain); a record-breaking wet and cold September causing the last of the garden not to ripen – we still got quite a lot of food from our garden.  We enjoyed tomatoes throughout the season, mountains of cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, salad greens, dry beans, peas, garlic, several varieties of chives, basil, and so much more. Mother Earth is amazing and we are so thankful for every bite of food She has provided.

~ Healthy children. ‘Nough said.

~ A strong roof over our heads.

~ Sheep and goats. We love our livestock. We enjoyed delicious, rich, raw goat’s milk in the Spring and I’ve carded up some delightful locks of wool for spinning. These lovable ruminants keep our grass (somewhat) in check, provide great company, and always give us a laugh.

~ Family togetherness. I never could have imagined how much I’d come to appreciate having Jae home every day. Quitting the rat race has been the best thing for our family, and I am so grateful for everything that comes with having two parents at home. With my horrible pregnancy sickness (which seems to be passing, hooray!), I’ve come to rely on Jae more than ever before, and I am eternally thankful for everything he’s done over the past two months. I can see how much the kids love having him home, too, and it fills my soul.

~ Abundance. Despite living on less money, our cupboards are filled with healthy, wholesome food. Our freezer is full of free-range, organically-fed chickens. I have a closet full of yarn for knitting winter wear. I have a sewing machine for creating new clothes. We have everything that we need, and everything that we want. Life is very good.

~ Loving and supportive family, on both sides. We are blessed.

~ Loyal egg customers. We’ve had so many steady & supportive customers purchasing our eggs, that our chickens now pay for themselves and bring in a some pocket change each month, in addition to feeding our family. We’re SO grateful for the folks who buy our eggs week after week, who send emails with awesome feedback, who spread the word to friends, and who support local & organic food. Thanks, guys! You add such an element of awesomeness to this life we’re living!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. I hope you are just as overwhelmed by the blessings in your lives. May the Earth always provide well for you!