family life

But does March really go out like a lamb?

I considered this age old adage about March as I drove back from a grocery pickup run (one of the perks of the pandemic is that now all our favorite grocery spots have curbside pickup–the salvation of busy mothers). The only time I have seen a lion is in captivity, and all said lion did was exhibit the same amount of energy as our cats–sleeping on a rock on a hot afternoon. The video we received of the lambs we will soon add to the farm menagerie showed a lot more energy and rambunctiousness…

Not saying a lion is inactive, just wondering…

But March here, in this place, did open with a lot of wind, and it now closes with a gentle rain, so we will consider that it entered as a roaring lion and exits as a bleating lamb, and not think too much more about it.

I am probably the only person thinking too much about it anyway, so I digress…

Family News:

Three weeks with Pippka! Thank you to all who prayed; she came home mid-March! You can see I’m having lots of fun with the milestone stickers. While on the subject, I’ve also been having fun filling out the “Be A Heart” baby calendar for this little one. I wish one like this had existed for every child I’ve ever had. It would have been so much easier to record milestones! (This is an unsolicited review–I’m just a happy mom of many reveling in a quick way to give the littlest a ‘baby book’ of sorts). But back to the main point: since the NICU graduation, we are all readjusting to the needs of a little one around the house, which isn’t too hard in the end, especially while the coffee maker still works. 😉 Everyone adores her and there are no end of eager siblings to hold her and older siblings who want to help. She passed all her exit markers with flying colors and at her first pediatrician visit I was told she didn’t need to come back for some of the early “NICU-graduate style” visits but could wait now for her one month checkup. We have been told a million times that you cannot possibly spoil a newborn, and I hope that’s truly the case else this one will require a red carpet a mile long everywhere she goes! 😉

On the Farm:

Ok, so “Chick Days” happened at the hardware store and Tractor Supply, and we simply cannot resist those peeps and cheeps… plus we missed the ducks that the coon robbed from us. So, welcome a baker’s dozen of poultry to this Crazy Poultry Lady’s Barn…

On the needles:

I am still working on the “bobble sheep pillow,” or at least I was until Pippka came home. I know I shall pick it up again soon, but lately I’ve been busy with all the Spring Cleaning I didn’t get done during the Extreme Nesting Phase of the Third Trimester (mainly because at 40, great organizing ideas did come but the energy to execute didn’t). I even bought material to make Easter dresses for the younger girls! This will, I hope, transition into dresses for birthdays yet to come, for in the end I caved and sought refuge in buying dresses online during a 3am bottle feeding session with Pippka (who I assume approved all my decisions since she will possibly get a hand-me-down or two out of the deal).

So instead of showcasing my hobbies, tonight I’ll give you a sample of Haus Meister’s latest fun thing: astrophotography. This is a glimpse he took of the Orion Nebula, atop the hill above our property.

Photo caption property of Haus Meister, who will likely get back with me on some cool copyright jargon…

Restoring Misselthwaite:

Did I mention Spring cleaning?!

This winter-into-Spring, I managed to accomplish an unspoken life goal, one I probably have had since I saw the animated “Beauty and the Beast” in theatres when I was 11 (brand new in theatres, mind you!). I distinctly recall that during the scene when the Beast gives Belle the library in his castle, my dad leaned over to me and said, “You would be in Heaven.” And yes, I would have been! Every time I read of a library in a house in any bit of English literature, I think I always wished I had a library of my own. And in this house, I now have one, thanks to a lonesome room that until this winter lacked its identity. It was a den, a drop spot for all our homeschooling curriculum, or was (as originally listed) a dining room, but as the latter it lacked a lot for us mainly because, as in nearly all the rooms, it lacked LIGHT. Two windows and zero lamps were what we faced when we moved in, and we learned quickly that a third (rather essential) window was blocked in by a built-in entertainment center. The two built in bookcases flanking the center we kept, but this January I begged Haus Meister to liberate the window. We needed LIGHT, and we didn’t need that center, as it was built for an owner who wanted a television in every room, and I’m fine with one in one room. Besides, what is more depressing than walking past your own blocked-up window when you’re leaving your back deck?!

Because this looks good… REALLY?!

Fortunately, the entertainment center was able to be removed and the window was perfectly intact (even though one of the older vintage). Last weekend, I moved every bookcase in the house save one into that room, and with the addition of armchairs and a vintage couch from the Habitat for Humanity Restore Store, we have quite the cozy reading area. Over the winter, a propane stove installed by one of the previous owners died out on us, and we learned that we couldn’t replace the parts for it at all. Luckily, we had found a wood stove on Craigslist back in 2018 and were waiting for a good place to install it (it was too small to be efficient in the main fireplace, and it never quite made it down to Haus Meister’s workshop–where there is an insert built for a stove someday). It found a final spot in the library (showcasing the beautiful brick in the hearth behind it). My official “Library” is taking shape, and more pictures will come as we get the paint on the wall worked out, among other things.

Last Thoughts:

Last March, I began my deck garden (potted plants and plants in the Veg Trugs) because we had found this was the best place to get the full benefit of sun and not be water logged in the marshy valley of the property or eaten by deer or wild rabbits. This year, learning from past mistakes, I asked for a greenhouse insert for my VegTrug for my birthday gift in January. Let’s not mention all the plants I bought in March last year that got blighted by a late frost during lockdown. I am so pleased that the early plants I started this year are doing well (and even better now than in this picture!) And yes, we do like brussels sprouts!

Also, the flowers are blooming! Spring is here!

Speaking of flowers, I have great ambitions to grow lovely homegrown seasonal flowers. Never mind that some of my daughters nab flowers as soon as they bloom. The geranium on the left is a exception. I can–and do–dream! As seen from my bookshelf this winter…

To close for now, Happy Holy Triduum, dear reader.

family life

March comes in like a Lion

I apologize in advance if this format Ian’s little less polished than usual. I’m writing on my phone, and that is much different than pounding this out on my laptop. On the other hand, I can get to some pictures much easier. But I digress….

The first of March blew in over Misselthwaite quite literally. In the almost three years we have lived here, I half-jokingly considered renaming our home “The Farm on Quartz Rock Hills” or even the slightly less imaginative but quite literal “Windy Acres.” We get some good winds around here! Or through here!

I did intend to post something in February, but February is short and somehow the lack of two or three extra days gets away from me and then it’s March! Also, I confess I was preoccupied with extra doctor appointments that cropped up thanks to my constant thorn in the side, the one that returns when least wanted—gestational diabetes. I was going twice a week, until the morning of March 6, when a false alarm sent us to the local hospital. I texted my mother, who had planned to travel to our house the following day, and teased her that once again her grandchild was trying to beat her to the house. In the end I was sent home, but Mom was on her way, and that was providential because 90 minutes after she arrived at our house that night, I was headed back to Labor & Delivery.

And now Pipkka is here!

Our sweet baby girl arrived just before noon last Sunday. Owing to a tight nuchal cord at delivery, as well as being a tad earlier than every sibling except the Trooper, she’s been resting and growing in the NICU. One great blessing is that she is off all oxygen and medications and is only waiting to figure out bottle feeding (she seems to think it’s as good an excuse for a nap as anything). However, if you are reading this and would like to pray that she comes home soon, we are grateful.

Around Misselthwaite (not actually about restoring it this time…)

It’s been all over the news that today is the anniversary of when our country began to shut down due to the pandemic. What do you remember most from those early days of the virus? I remember how for a short time we had the feeling that we were all in this together. We encouraged each other to stay safe. I rather wish that had lasted longer.

But what I remember most, what I shall always remember, is Monday, March 16, 2020. I sat in one of the corner chairs under the large window on the second floor to check on my laptop for something for someone’s schoolwork, and while it was loading (country WiFi!), I pulled up my email on my phone and found a rather cryptic email from the parish about volunteering for Holy Week Masses “if we are open then.” I began a frantic internet search as Rascal passed by. Catching sight of my face, he asked what was wrong.

“We’ve just lost the Mass,” I replied.

Honestly, what could possibly have been worse? The day that summer when things opened up and we went back to Mass I did cry. Who cares that we wore masks?! We were back and Jesus was there and we had access to all the Sacraments again!

Subject change. No one wants to dwell on the dark stuff for too long. We all lost a lot, and we’ve lost family members, and we’ve all had to make many adjustments in our lives.

On the bright side, being “stuck at home” did have many positives, at least for us. We’ve been learning more about what works around Misselthwaite as opposed to what doesn’t. Usually that means we’ve ripped out something put in or neglected by a previous owner (that I’ll get to in future posts), and sometimes it’s as easy as finding the right hanging houseplant for a particular sunny corner. Or three hanging houseplants, because when one works…

Anyway. Ahem.

On the Farm….

This past winter, we seem to have hit on a fun solution to our kudzu problem. And do we ever have a kudzu problem! At the moment, we can see through our woods and catch glimpses of the communal pond at the lower edge of the property (where ten Canada geese have come to nest). Once the green starts to spread over the hills, our old enemy kudzu will be back, but this Spring will bring some help. Here’s a broader hint than I could share in my previous post.

Final thoughts

Pipkka’s arrival this weekend threw our schedules into quite a loop. I joked to Haus Meister that I could barely remember the day of the week, and what was it that I gave up for Lent again? (I think it was complaining. Oops!)

But speaking of Lent, tonight in my late perusings, I came across this gem, so I am going to leave it here. Until next time, dear reader!

Prayer Of A Soldier In France by Joyce Kilmer

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).
Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).
I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.
(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)
My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).
Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.
So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen

family life

Blowing the dust off the old tome….

After 692 days between accumulating snows (according to local news), these Southern born kiddos quickly remembered how to dress for SNOW, but after the picture was taken, of course!

Well, dear readers, I’m back.

I think I just spent a good fifteen minutes reacquainting myself with the mechanics of blog post design and updating the family sidebar with everyone’s current ages, and adding one more blessed bundle of joy coming our way soon. One of our neighbors commented last week that she thought Sunshine had grown a whole foot since she’d last seen her, but that seems to be par for the course for all the kids! Trooper has been taller than me for quite some time now, and both Rascal and the Squire decided to pass me up this year alone. Little Bit and Bright Eyes are both so much taller for their ages that Bright Eyes is often thought to be five, and Little Bit, well, even I forgot she is only six and three-quarters! And yes, Pipkka is coming! Her blog nickname comes from a Scandinavian version of her soon-to-be-baptismal name. As bouncy as she has appeared to be in utero, something spritely like Pipkka seems to fit our newest girl.

It took quite a lot of discernment and eventual disillusionment with Instagram, but I decided to cut the cord on the social media and return to what I loved best; telling our story here for whomever chooses to read it. I left Facebook in Lent 2019 and now Instagram in Advent 2020. I do miss seeing updated pictures from our relatives and old college friends, but all the same, the folks I love most did not post as often as the maelstrom of things I needed to see the least. And I tired of being played by all the doom news and panic theories, not to mention the algorithms and ads. I often joked to my sister that I could tell whenever the ads were reset because suddenly Instagram thought I watched horror flicks, or “Outlander,” and I don’t watch either. When I took the break from social media in Advent, I did have a week wondering what on earth I would do with my Internet browsing. Luckily, a few ladies whom I had followed back when blogging was “In” were still blogging, and it was enjoyable actually reading a whole blogpost while I enjoyed my nice cuppa tea in the evenings. Sometimes taking a moment to slowly enjoy one thing is more refreshing than trying to cram in a whole lot of things.

We all have a story to tell. I’m happy retreating to this slow corner of the Internet to relate a bit of ours.

Family news:

You can tell why she’s the Bright Eyes of the family.

Well, 2021 finds us in the interesting position of guiding teenagers through high-school, navigating middle-school ups and downs, balancing elementary-and-pre-school work, and getting ready to welcome a newborn daughter to the mix. Not to mention Haus Meister is still working from his base in the home office corner of our basement, and hasn’t had to travel in almost a year. That’s been a great perk from this pandemic; he’s never been this long between business trips since we married! We are still managing our micro-farm of chickens, bees, and rabbits, with a new and exciting venture coming ’round the corner in March or April (besides the new baby). I will save that for it’s own blogpost.

I am still working with my sometimes cooperating laptop to enable me to get the pictures from my phone onto this page, and my laptop was only inching along through most of last year before we decided to send it back to Dell for updates and repairs. Fortunately, it’s now creaking along rather than inching.

Also, Haus Meister fixed my sewing machine last October, so I have been happy to have that back in my life again. The girls are beginning to think about Easter dresses (as am I, as a great way to keep busy in these last weeks before Pipkka arrives. The last month is always the hardest for me patience-wise, and that has NOT improved with age). Hopefully, I’ll have more to post about that in the future besides “Hey, I caught up on mending the 642 Princess costumes in the Haus”! This is an exaggeration, of course….

On the farm:

Bunny meets The Razor Crest LEGO… a deleted scene from “The Mandalorian” series?

We never ended up frying the rooster. This is probably because we are too tender-hearted, but also because combined efforts from many corners that ended up accidentally culling our poultry stock. We lost some chicks to a toddler’s hug; some grown hens to a hound dog’s over-eager efforts to help herd some free-ranging biddies back into the barn; and sadly, all three ducks plus five hens to a wily raccoon before we finally trapped him. So, since the rooster survived the toddler, the dog, a heat wave, and a raccoon, and as no one has complained about him, he’s still in residence.

Sam, the hound mix, is still guarding Misselthwaite. Bilbo and Oscar (formerly known as Puff-Puff), are still the cats in residence and have actually been ridding us of rats lately, so we are very proud of them. Tabitha, the feral pet stray, hasn’t been seen since the summer, and I fear she is gone for good. Either our cats chased her off or she was finally at the end of her nine lives, but I do miss our nightly food meetings on the back deck.

Rascal added to his rabbitry last June with the purchase of a pedigree Silver Fox rabbit doe now named “Pepper.” She joined “Dottie” and “Mumsy” and the buck “Giles” (all three latter being pedigree American Blues). Soon after she arrived, Rascal went with some of the family back to Tennessee to visit with family, and I had the unusual job of fishing a bunny out of the kudzu jungle behind the rabbit hutch, as Pepper had found an opening in the fence unusable by the fatter, older rabbits. She became an indoor pet for a while, and eventually established herself as the Best Bunny Mama of the lot when she happened to produce ten kits at the very end of December, 2020. Six are gray-blue like Giles and four are black like Pepper. They are so much fun to watch, but I do hope he is able to sell them soon!

On the needles:

A quick pic of Starshower before I sent it off in the mail.

I abandoned the sweater project for my mom as wool knitting is never fun in summer in the South, for me, at least. One would think that lockdown would have inspired more knitting time, but instead it, to be honest, led to a lot more doom-scrolling on social media. I did manage to make her a Starshower cowl which I enjoyed making, and she actually received in time for THIS year’s birthday! Once that was done, I whipped up a hat for Pipkka and am now working on a Bobble Sheep Pillow. I’ve been using spare stash yarn for these projects as I have been realizing this year brings me to a full decade of knitting… and I have so much yarn purchased to use… let’s not even start on the fabric stash… anyway…

Restoring Misselthwaite:

New stalls in the barn. The hose reel is attached to the well, and unlike most places that hang barn stars, we actually have a barn! 😉

This will be a new spot on my blog as I recount the ongoing saga of making this property come alive again. Happily, we have come to a point where we are doing more of what we want to do with this place rather than constantly repair the neglect from former owners (though, there’s occasionally that as well). In 2020 we began to renovate part of the master bathroom. We had to pause a bit last summer when the pool liner gave out and the men of the house learned how to install a beautiful new one! The pool never looked better (unless you count when it was installed, but we were raising toddlers and restoring the Old Haus back then). This year we are currently refurbishing the barn for all the fun; Haus Meister has installed a well pump so we can get the rabbits and poultry watered right away without hauling from the house (the barn was the original pump house for the well that used to provide water for the house as well, until it went on city water at some point prior to our arrival). We have also been rearranging the den of the house, taking out a mostly useless built-in entertainment center that was blocking a much-needed window, and putting in a woodstove to replace the propane stove that died this year (and no parts available to fix).

Last Thoughts:

Thanks for reading this far. It is, indeed, very good to be back.

family life

Febmarch (because I missed February and almost March)

This post may or may not be short owing to technical difficulties… For some reason, my laptop wants to only import half my photos.  Perhaps less IS more when it comes to my “pocket camera.”

(It appears my uploads failed, so until I have a second to call upon my household technology guru, The Haus Meister, who has retired early so as to conduct a way early am business call in this era of “Business At Home During Coronavirus…”, this is text only. Apologies.)

Reaching out to my readers, are you okay out there? Doing well, I hope? Be assured of our prayers as we, and the whole world, for once, altogether, maneuvers through the coronavirus.

But perhaps you’re sick of hearing about Covid-19?  I completely understand.  Miss M had a lot of tears today at the sheer reality that her First Holy Communion was about to be rescheduled to some vague time three months from now.  Looking at the stores, and our larder, I seriously wish I had that miniature cow I’ve always joked about acquiring (If you have one in milk, I’m interested, just comment! My kids could live off dairy! hahaha).  And we live in a world where toilet paper suddenly became the hot item on the shelves.

(C’mon, we laugh so that we may not cry!)

However, we now live in a world where we actually have to think about someone else. On January 1, I blithely walked into my church for the 12:00 midnight Mass. I hadn’t experienced ringing in the New Year in this way since high school, and was so looking forward to starting out 2020 with Jesus first.  I sat a bit away from everyone, as one of the reasons I attended this Mass solo was because some of the kids had cold symptoms. Myself, I had a few unalarming symptoms that night but I resolved to keep away from the thirteen other people besides me attending Mass.  Good thing; that wasn’t a cold we had, no, it turned out to be ‘Flu B.  And I regretted in retrospect putting anyone in potential danger from that action of mine, but hindsight is 20/20, as they say.  It’s just that you never know, you never think that your mild sniffle could spell danger to someone else.

Until Covid-19 turned our world upside down.

Who’d have thought, you know? I grew up during the Cold War. Wasn’t it going to be a nuclear incident that set the world on edge?  Instead, it’s a germ.  It’s a virus.  It was a small something rather beyond the control of almighty mankind.

Ack! No! Wait! “This isn’t another Covid-19 email!” ( Don’t you love when you get those? I’ve had three this week alone!)

So…

On the farm:

I want to fry the rooster.  This may or may not be because Haus Meister and I have given up meat for Lent (including Sundays), but the rooster is… ahem… cough… tearing up my hens.  My hens give eggs.  He is just loud.  They pay rent, and he doesn’t… So… (cliffhanger)

In my last post, I wrote about our cat rescue.  Oscar, ala “Puff-Puff,” was reunited with his owners.  Miss M asked me for a kitten every day for a fortnight after.  Then, one evening, after I had left food for Tabitha as usual, I saw a totally NEW cat (they must have a feline signal system set up, I’m sure). As I rushed out to check about the newcomer (who had faded into the night), I was shocked to find both Tabitha resting in my garlic patch in one of the two VegTrugs I have set up on my back deck… but behind her, still sporting the collar I had bought for him, was Oscar/Puff-Puff, or “The Puffscar.” Ever since that day, he’s been here.  The owner had my phone number from the vet, with my permission, and two days later she called and said she’d give me his paperwork if I wanted, as he wasn’t happy the two weeks she kept him inside.  Apparently he made a beeline for our place as soon as he was let out.  I agreed to meet with her, but then Covid-19 hit, and as this isn’t supposed to be a Covid-19 email, just know that we are keeping the Puffscar happy and well-fed, and Miss M has stopped asking me for a kitten because he likes sleeping on her bed, and she had missed him a lot.

Bee-line reminded me… If there’s a random swarm of honeybees in your area and you are in the Piedmont of Virginia, also comment here because they might be ours! Yep, we had a swarm, and I had the interesting experience of trying to track a vortex of honeybees through the woods, until I just couldn’t.  Fortunately, the other half of last years hive seems to be going strong.  Two new nucs may arrive in May, social distancing procedures being followed, of course….

On the needles… I wish I could say I was farther on my mom’s sweater than I am, but I am farther.  I just spent the last week rereading the news after the kids’ bedtime, and as it doesn’t update instantly, is an unproductive exercise.  Still, I do a bit a row at a time and that is great.

Last Thoughts. Well, may we always remember how we looked out for each other more at such a time as this.  May the ache in our hearts lead to a greater faithfulness when our churches can offer Masses/services again.  May we love our homes all the more for the extra time we have spent in them.  And may we love each other more, for in the end…

we are all in the same boat.

(yes, this has turned out to be another Covid-19 email)

family life · farm life · my thoughts on the subject · The fine art of crafting

January

I have decided to update at least once a month, as things get crazy and it’s no good waiting until they aren’t. 😉

Our Sunshine, in a nutshell.

Around the Haus…

Turned almost 40, cut my hair three inches shorter, have to confess I love the 30s more than the 20s. Life is just good overall, my friends.

Some of us are another year older. Trooper turned 16 in December, Sunshine and Squire had their joint birthday this month, and I had my own two days later. One gift-to-self was Blessed is She’s “Gift of You” course. I rarely get the chance to attend a retreat these days, and even though I watched the sessions while doing laundry triage, it was well worth it and so refreshing.

This, in a nutshell, is the third teenager in the family: The Squire.

Laundry triage…. My sister’s husband got to see our house for the first time this past Christmas, and as I gave him the tour, I also apologized for the laundry room. Matter-of-factly, he asked me why I should apologize for not being caught up. “You have ten kids!” Point well taken. It is what it is. Luckily he didn’t see it after we all came down with ‘Flu B at the beginning of the New Year! Fortunately, Haus Meister had repainted our bedroom (Behr Natural Grey) and we splurged on LL Bean flannel sheets as a Christmas gift, so at least if we were down and out, we were down and out in comfort! But ugh… ‘Flu B….

Recovery Mode. “The Dean’s Watch” by Elizabeth Goudge is now one of my all-time absolute favorites. I read it yearly. Next up is “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden.

That begs another question. After we recovered, Haus Meister and I pledged that next year we would endure taking all of us in for a flu shot. That has definite merits! On the other hand, just as we recovered, headlines screamed, “Flu Shots May Not Be Strong Enough for this Year’s Flu!” Can you win for losing? I don’t know anymore.

But I digress…

(That should be the tagline for this blog)

Around the Farm….

The hens survived the molt season and are giving 6-8 eggs a day even in winter (despite the one oviraptor in the flock). The rooster likes to think he rules the roost. The ducks are also doing well. Two of them are laying pretty regularly. Duck eggshells are thicker than chicken eggshells, but I can just imagine they’ll make beautiful pysanky next Easter…

The bees… I hope I mentioned the bees. Haus Meister invested in two prime nucs last Spring, but one was lost due to pesticides toward the end of summer. The other has been doing all right. At least, they’re still buzzing!

Last year for my birthday, Haus Meister gave me some VegTrugs. One is just full of dirt at present and serves as a pseudo-sandbox/mudpie arena for the girls. The other I’ve planted garlic in, and so far it seems to be doing well. Of course, I’ve never planted garlic before, so how do I know? It’s NOT DEAD YET. 😉

As I mentioned in a long ago post, I often leave food out on our back deck for our resident feral cat, Tabitha Twitchett. However, last October, a larger tabby showed up at her spot. He was so large, I thought at first it was the raccoon, but then he turned and looked at me with a look (I thought at the time) of pure deviltry. We had been watching the 1940s Disney “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” so we named the newcomer “Brom Bones.” Brom returned once or twice between October and November, but began to show up regularly toward Christmas.

This time, the kids noticed he was a good deal more friendly and used to people than Tabitha. In fact, one night, when the temperature dipped below freezing, they snuck him in behind our backs! Brom’s name changed to Oscar, after James Herriot’s “Oscar, Cat-About-Town.” We tried “Thorin,” keeping in our Tolkien pet name tradition, but ultimately Oscar won out. As it happens, that was appropriate. In that story, Herriot and his wife find out that Oscar has a family, and so did we today. We brought Oscar in to the vet at long last (now that we were no longer sick and the schedules eased up), and it turns out he had a microchip! His owner was contacted and was so happy to hear he was found, as he had been missing since Thanksgiving! So we got to be the happy ending for this cat, who, it happens, was originally named “Puff-Puff.”

C’mon, do I look like a Puff-Puff to you?!

On the needles

Keeping a little knitting accountability here, I’m currently making the Hinterland Sweater as an extended birthday present for my Mom. I’m using a wool yarn from The Philosopher’s Wool that Haus Meister brought home for me from a business trip an age ago, that was just waiting for a project like this. I’m super excited about it, and have every hope, being the eternal optimist I am, that Mom will enjoy her sweater as summer fades into autumn.

Last thoughts….

This winter, compared to last winter, is definitely comparable to our Tennessee winters, with one valuable exception: it’s been cold enough to kill the mosquitos. And on that note, see you in February!

family life

At Summer’s End

Greetings, dear reader! For the record, this is the fourth attempt I have made to summarize our family’s doings in the last four months, so hopefully in this case, fourth time’s the charm!

At the end of May, we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary.

That shell has a story. One of these days I will tell it.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Rosebud (back in June)! You keep things happily hopping!

This was one of my “surprise sunflowers” that Sunshine planted in a front flowerbed, right next to a bean bush and a bell pepper plant, because she didn’t want to wait for my container garden to be set up! 😉

We have not been idle at Misselthwaite! Well, there have been many days of poolside enjoyment once Haus Meister found out the botheration that plagued us with this pool last summer. I could definitely sum up our fine summer weekends as “Chlorine, Celtic Music, and Cookouts” as we enjoyed the two great things a previous owner left us: a poolside charcoal grill and speakers installed on the workshop adjacent the pool. Haus Meister could stream his favorite Celtic Music podcast (Thistle Radio on Soma FM, for the curious) while the kids swam and we supervised both the kids and the cookout. So many fun summer Sundays this year!

Meanwhile, our farm bustles with activity. The chicks we ordered in April arrived and were duly added to the Home Science/Economics course we joke that we run on the side. Sadly, one chick, very likely a Sicilian Buttercup rooster, passed within three days of arrival. However, his loss was accidentally supplemented by the hatchery, who seems to have inadvertently added a male to our “straight run female” order. Enter “Brewster: The Accidental Rooster” to our poultry flock.

Chicks dig watermelon rinds.
Gretchen, Jemima, and Rebecca. That pic was taken a while ago; their yellow feathers are now white and that trough has been replaced by a kiddie pool.

Oh, and magpie ducks. They just seemed like a good idea.

We worked on fixing up our automobiles, since last summer was spent fixing up our house. Here and there, we tried to do improvements on the property. One thing I love is the Mary Garden we dug into the hillside in front of the house, which I do not have an adequate picture of at present but for which someone made a significant sacrifice:

his first broken bone!

My parents, my husband, myself, and the Rascal were the main movers behind this project. Haus Meister had parked our old pickup truck between the house and barn with the plants and everything else we would need to accomplish said task in the truck bed. However, he had to work on the day we were clearing the area and missed the action. Around the time we were discussing lining the grotto area around the yard statue of Our Lady with stone from our property, Rascal recalls a certain huge quartz rock in our woods that would be “just the thing.” After hauling it over via wheelbarrow, the barrow tipped and the rock began hurtling toward aforesaid pickup truck (that he and his dad spent the winter with initial restoration and repainting), and he tried to catch it with his arm. That’s when things went wrong for him, and a month out of the pool!

Not all bad for the Rascal, who turns 14 next week. He thought a puppy might round out the farm well enough, and exactly a month to the day before his birthday, he got to bring home Samwise Gamgee, a hound mix from a local shelter. Sam has been a fun and interesting addition to the farm. At heart, though, I am a dog person, so I’m automatically biased.

Rascal’s ambition to raise and breed rabbits for his own entrepreneurial purpose has resulted in the addition of “Giles” to the farm crew. Giles is much younger than either ‘Dottie” or “Mumsy” but he is a likable rabbit buck. The rabbits have been enjoying the summer in a rabbit tractor framed by Haus Meister and finished by Rascal.

Pre-Giles.

Another interesting happening was that a wandering PEACOCK visited our house in May for a few days and gave us the air of a British Estate before moving on. I wonder where he is now. He was a beauty. Have you read Patricia Polacco’s “Just Plain Fancy”? It was one of our favorites before his arrival and has been immortalized since.

Bilbo, the Adventure Cat, did try to catch the peacock. I am forever grateful I witnessed the encounter. Suffice to say, the cat figured out that this thing was no ordinary bird, and ran with what dignity he could muster.

A highlight of the summer was our trip to the seaside. Back in the winter of 2018, when we first knew our relocation destination, I bought laminated field guides of the state’s wildlife and nature for the kids. They were amazed to see ocean life on those guides, after living their whole lives in a landlocked state. Everyone from Miss M up had seen the ocean in Maine in 2012, but Miss M didn’t remember, and there had been four girls since, so this past May we made a day trip to the seaside in our new home state.

They want to go back every year now.

But now it’s the middle of August. We have hosted many fun guests this summer. My parents have been in and out. Local friends dropped in for our cookouts. One of my college roommates visited with her family. The next weekend, Haus Meister’s college roommate visited with his family. Rounding it out, our parish priest, and old friend, from our old hometown came up for a few days to hike and canoe with our crew. Just before he left, he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our family room. It was less than 24 hours before our new school year began, and if any greater event could end our summer, well, there could not have been. Not ever.

Hilariously, I realized too late that I had so few all-white linens in my house. So often, thanks to 10 kids, I avoid WHITE LINEN. But what is generally used for liturgy? Ah well, we improvised.

We had a great summer. I hope you did as well.

family life

Sacraments and Special Needs

This past Sunday, our Sunshine received her First Holy Communion. It’s an amazing day for any child growing up in the Catholic Church, but for those who need a little extra help/patience/encouragement/etc., it’s a triumph.

This Sunday was all hers.

Picture by Grandpa Mark

A little over a year ago, we were saying goodbye to dear Ms Connie in the nursery of our previous parish. I gave Ms. Connie my tried-and-true recipe for Cranberry Cider Jelly since she had liked it and we wouldn’t be there at Christmas to gift her another pint. She has been working Sundays at the nursery for a couple of decades, watching rambunctious young ones so the parents can attend Mass. Or, in our case, hugging the enthusiastic ASD child who towers over the wee ones and who came every Sunday with her little sisters to play in the nursery while I watched Mass on the big screen TV until Communion, when one of my older children would relieve me as soon as they had received and I rushed into church, hoping not to be late. That was our season at that time and at that place in our lives. Sunshine was too loud and fidgety in the pews to often sit through Mass, and if a toddler was overly rambunctious we often resorted to the nursery, and of course she came along, for she remembered the toys.

As we prepared to move, I realized we would likely be in a unique position with no other help besides “homegrown family help,” and no nursery with a big screen Mass viewing TV!!! Masses are still our weekly lessons in humility as we still have toddlers. And Sunshine still fidgets in her seat, still wants to greet babies near her, and examine the rings of all ladies in a certain radius of her chair.

BUT.

The first Sunday we attended Mass here last year we had to motion to the Deacon that she wasn’t able to receive Communion despite her willingness. After Mass, he asked me how old she was, and I admitted she was old enough chronologically, but academically she was in first grade thanks to developmental delays, ASD, etc etc. He smiled at me and said joyfully, “Anyone who wants to receive Communion that badly has a right to receive. Let’s see what we can do about this.”

Another tiny victory: the last time I had a picture of her with that hairstyle was in 2012. She seems to have gotten past the self-haircut stage…

I was in shock. As we drove out of the parking lot, I turned to Haus Meister and asked, “Do you think she could?”

She not only could. She did.

March 23rd she made her First Confession. I had prepped her in advance by working at home with the church’s course (DynamicCatholic.com) and through a little comic book I made for her of ‘[Sunshine] receives her first Sacraments.” She loved it and wanted me to read it often. On her First Confession Day, she wrote out her small transgressions on a piece of paper. When it was her turn, she entered the small chapel where confessions are heard with her face beaming. We could see her through the glass doors, and the beatific smile on her face is something I will carry with me forever. The DRE put a hand on my shoulder and whispered. “She’s doing great!” At that moment I saw Sunshine hand Father her list, and she smiled all the time, and he blessed her, and I realized that if anyone in the church at that moment wasn’t breathing, it was me. So I reminded myself to breathe.

Seconds later, Sunshine came out of the chapel and fist-bumped the air. “I did it!”She shouted. ‘I remembered everything!” Then we went into the main church and she recited out loud one Our Father and one Hail Mary, which in itself is a huge matter as she does not ever willingly pray out loud. The only fly in the ointment was that I had forgotten to mention in our comic book just HOW MANY Sundays would elapse between First Confession and First Communion. The book made it look like it would happen immediately. After she cried at the end of Communion the next day because she was so ready, we made a countdown on the kitchen calendar for her to see and every Sunday I’d remind her that it was 5-4-3-2-1 Sundays until the day.

6:30am May 5. “Mom? Can I put on my dress and veil now?” For a 10:45am Mass!

This photo stole my heart. She was so nervous and happy all at once. And the azaleas seemed to hold out just long enough for this moment.

I approached the First Communion rehearsal with some trepidation. Her ASD + ADHD had prevented her from sitting in regular 2nd grade CCD (so much more fun to be with her sisters in the K/1st room where there was a kids’ Bible and crayons EVERY week). I figured she would sit with us in a pew and I would go up to Communion with her. But I reckoned without her. She sat with her class. She processed in–and out–with her class. And when the glorious moment arrived when, as she reminded me before Mass, “The King of Heaven is coming to my heart,” she was there on her own. Our pew was across from the pews of the First Communicants, and as the rest of the parish filed through the Communion line, she whispered, “Mom? Did I win?”

“Yes,” I whispered back. “You won. You did it.”

She did it. And He helped her. Because when someone wants to receive Jesus so much, there’s no reason to keep her in a nursery! Not toddlers or folks who get annoyed at her involuntary loudness or fidgetyness.

She won.

family life

Recovery

Is it harder to recover from an illness or to recover from recovering from an illness? That’s the question that has been occupying me this week.

Sunshine enjoys the last snow of the winter this past March.

Ironically, I’m not the one who was very sick. In fact, few of us were, but when a viral cold hits a family hard, all of us are affected in some small way. Monday morning I looked down from the “gallery” or “top deck” or “open foyer” and wondered when the last time that was cleaned. Or that. Or that, that, THAT. Ack!!! Time to get down to brass tacks.

Happy 2019 “Sibling Day” to my little sister, the only person in the world, besides my husband, and our parents, who can “get” all my jokes. I love you, Kiddo.

We had an excellent March, dear reader, mostly because the month gave us Spring Break in the form of two extended visits from both sets of grandparents. My parents came first, bringing as a surprise for the cousins, my sister and her children (we hope Uncle Dan can come out soon as well, but as a tax accountant he was much needed at work)! It was the first time we had all been together since Bright Eyes’ Baptism in Sept., 2017. Fortunately, everyone got along as if no time had ever separated us. The teenage/preteen boys tried to pull pranks on their Grandpa Mark, but they soon found that you can’t kid the champion kidder. Mwa-ha-ha-HA.

Posey thinks grandparents, an aunt, and cousins, makes a 6th birthday just that more special!

Haus Meister’s parents came to visit at the end of the month and we had a jolly time with them as well. Hikes, sewing for Princess & Grandma, teepee building, and board/card games filled our extended weekend and we were, as always, so sorry to see them go.

Ugh, sick days are bad. Until someone turns on “Kipper the Dog”!

Fortunately for them, however, they left just in time as Viral Cold 2.3 hit the children. Bright Eyes and Rosebud tested our new pediatrician office’s ability to handle dual sick kid visits on a Monday (they pass!). One by one, everyone fell prey to it in varying levels. I was probably the last man standing through most, through a mix of sheer stubbornness, turmeric, bone broth, and the grace of God. Not to mention the fact that Rascal and I were registered to run a 5k race last Saturday, and neither of us wished to miss it. We probably could have done better had both of us admitted to our condition, but neither of us did, and despite that I’ll have nightmares about the second hill until I run it again, he scored second best in age group, and I even managed a personal best, so what’s to lose?

That boy in the white shirt beat his ol’mom by about a minute and was so upset he missed his target time…until that moment, when his name was called for second place.

But as I said, Monday arrived, and I saw all that had been undone in a week of sick-care, and as we were all well enough to go back to school and chores, so we did. Our life may be chaotic, but though it may sound silly, one of my life’s goals is to provide coziness to a home, and too much gone awry shakes even my incredibly complacent self. Suffice to say, Monday shook it. Now, on Wednesday night, as I type, we are as relatively close to normal as we can get. HA.

Don’t kid yourself; one of the girls picked this flower long ago.

That being said, the notice arrived from the hatchery that our postal label has been created. Our new chicks will arrive soon! Our littlest one can barely stay inside and hangs around the barn like a child in a Tasha Tudor painting. We scramble to finish assignments and tests. Our back porch container garden is slowly coming to form. The kids are planning for summer break, and I am looking over enrollment forms and marvel that, come August, I will have both a high-schooler and a kindergartener in our 21st century “1 room Schoolhouse.”

“Normal,” for us, is certainly a lot different from what is “normal” for everyone else. And as I try to ignore the chaos in my laundry room, I lift my glass and declare that it’s all just fine.

And it is.

farm life

Animals down on the Farm

My social media reminders reminded me that apparently it has been one whole year since Haus Meister brought home the box of chicks from the hardware store. I thought for a moment that it couldn’t be, but yes, it was ten days from our move-in day… we still didn’t have our furniture then… the movers would place things, with a chuckle, around the makeshift brooder we set up in the basement. So, on that note, how about a look at the animals on the farm?

And may I add a laugh on me? When the last of the corgyn fellowship passed away in Sept. 2017, having slipped a disc in his back after jumping out of the bathtub and never recovering, I was DONE with pets. I said we would not have another pet until Bright Eyes was in kindergarten. Of course, I had seen Fredregar killed in a hit-and-run just in front of our mailbox in 2011; the black labrador rescue gone sour the same year; my favorite corgi Meriadoc died in front of me after a cruciatus tear to his knee exacerbated an abdominal condition in 2015; and then Pippin… well, it was quits for me and the animal kingdom.

Until December, when we visited a farm owned by some friends, and Sunshine picked up a cat. Fortunately, she alighted upon the most placid cat in existence who didn’t mind a bit that this strange girl was carrying it around everywhere while she visited. Sunshine decided from that afternoon that we, also, needed a cat. She repeated this often. She went on walks in the neighborhood looking for a stray to rehome. We didn’t think cat + move = good idea, so we tried promising a cat AFTER the move. The second time she went in search of a stray, we decided it was time to just adopt a cat.

Guarding his domain? Or sleeping in the late afternoon?

Here comes the laugh on me. March 3, 2018, enter Bilbo. He was a sweet, quiet kitten for about five days but ended up being an agile, hilarious critter. He likes warm hearths, warm blankets, or warm windowsills bathed in sunshine. He also likes to attack when least expected, or when we are showing the slightest attention to the outdoor cat. When seated, he resembles some Egyptian statue and wants us to recall that his ancestors were worshipped as gods. He thinks he’s fierce, but he also has only brought home one rodent and a pile of crickets. He also hogs the dryer top in the wintertime.

I said we only needed one cat. That much is true. However, last August, after a few weeks of rain and storms, my parents were in for a visit and reported that they had seen a gray cat outside their bedroom window. Two nights after they had left, I saw the cat myself, meowing and rubbing against the screen of the sliding door in our kitchen. I had seen an orange stray meandering before then, but he always ran at the sight of anyone. This one stayed put, so I feared she was lost and needed some food (I am a sap, I admit). I went out to give her a bit of cat food, and she was skittish as I grew close. She even now will rarely let me pet her, but she comes by every night and she has proven a good pest controller–better even, than Bilbo– so I keep feeding her. It’s not like the cat food provokes raccoons or opossums any more than the fact that we have garbage cans on the property, anyway.

So here she is: “Tabitha Twitchett”

The “barn” is actually a large shed/workshop built at the same time as our house. It was full of junk and leaning when we moved in but Haus Meister cleared the place, straightened it, replaced the rotting floor, and made it habitable for chickens…and rabbits, but not in the exact same spots. We repurposed a lot of wood in the barn for nest boxes and perches. These feathered idiots only truly like the top three middle nest boxes. Why did we bother adding more?!

And now, the chickens! When Haus Meister went to the hardware store last year and inquired as to the availability of chicks, he was proffered the deal of “buy 4 get 1 free” if we chose week old chicks instead of the day-old ones. So he came home with 4 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 5 Barred Rocks, and the last Ameraucana the store had in stock.

The Buff Orpingtons: Banana (deceased January 2019, thanks to a hawk); Pillow; Sunflower; and Polka Dot Sunshine Sleeping Beauty Princess (named by Posey. Note: there isn’t a single polka dot on this yellow hen).

The Rhode Island Reds: Galatea (named for the cow in Farmer Giles of Ham), and Speckles Worm-Bane.

The Barred Rocks: Pecksy, Eugenia Lincoln, Baby Lincoln, Polka Dot (the original), and Turkey Neck.

Ameraucana: Queen Spotta.

All of the chickens have been great with the kids. They may not always be kind to one another (“Pecksy” and “Turkey Neck” received their official names from a feather-plucking habit developed over the last four months). We’ve learned a lot about chicken keeping in the past year. The reason “Banana” is in a towel held by Rascal in the second picture in due to the fact that she suffered a vent prolapse after her first laid egg. “I just gave a chicken an epsom salt bath” was probably among the most surreal texts I sent in 2018. Poor Banana! She was the runt of the bunch and became my favorite.

It’s a fact that we have not needed to buy eggs at the supermarket since last August. We’ve given eggs away to friends, neighbors, and even electricians. All our current hens lay brown eggs except Queen Spotta, who lays a blue green egg. One day I opened our refrigerator to see that Sunshine had decided to have a bit of fun with an old nest we found in the woods, and one of Spotta’s eggs.

Another amusing story from our first year here came from the same weekend that we acquired the outdoor stray cat, Tabitha, mentioned above. My parents were due to arrive late in the afternoon of one particular Friday last August after a time which, as I said, we had a lot of rain and storms. A lost hen decided to visit our barn that same afternoon, and moved in that night. Luckily for us, she wasn’t carrying any diseases or ailments, and began to lay full size eggs in the nest boxes as if she had always known this place. Rascal said she was his chicken since she arrived out of the blue on a weekend we were celebrating his birthday. He named her “Candy.” I’m hazarding a guess she’s either a “Red Star” or “ISA Brown” hen. It really doesn’t matter, as we don’t plan on showing her at a fair anytime soon. What we find amusing, though, is that we acquired a stray chicken. That doesn’t come up in many stories! And yes, I did look around for a few weeks in case anyone was missing a chicken, and as no one seemed to be at a loss, Candy fits in well.

By this time, I had utterly forgotten anything I had ever said about when to get a pet, and was not surprised when, after unearthing and restoring a rabbit hutch from the woods behind the barn, that Rascal would save his money from pet-sitting for our neighbors and buy some rabbits! He has two American Blue does named after characters in the Redwall series of books. “Dottie” is the smaller of the two, more personable, and very sweet. “Mumzy” is more aloof, larger, and as I call her, “The Adventure Rabbit.” Haus Meister and Rascal plan to build a larger, more secure hutch for the rabbits next weekend after Mumzy the Adventure Rabbit decided this weekend to find a way out from under an old loose feeder and see the Great Outdoors. Fortunately, she only explored to a woodpile about ten feet from the barn door, whereupon she was returned to her hutch to nurse her offended dignity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the glimpse of our ongoing “nature study” here on the Farm. The joke on me will continue as April should bring us some brand new chicks (from Murray McMurray Hatchery this time) as well as a nuc or two of honeybees. Stay tuned!

Lent · The fine art of crafting

Yarn Along & Lenten Reading

The rosary is from VonClef creations on Etsy, where Kristin has a wide assortment of lovely handmade Rosaries. I chose this one because the centerpiece looked like the medal I wore on my First Communion. Also, St. Therese seems to be directing my Lent a bit (see sixth book down).

Lent Game On! I began my Lenten planning by deciding to fast from Facebook and I’m feeling the effects already as last night I had thought of two blog posts and I’ve been knitting a little today. You really don’t know how much time you waste/spend on an app until you delete it.

Of the books above, only ‘Relics of the Crucifixion” is one I carried over from last year. I’m going to read it with my boys as it reads like a mystery in a way. Most of the others are personal.

Knitting! I am so happy to participate in Yarn Along as not much happened successfully last year. I finished the first Maize mitten and began the cuff of the second. I spent the summer working on a tunic that I later frogged. In November I finished two quick simple hats for the girls who are so happy to live somewhere that snow falls, seemingly more than once a winter. Currently there are two other projects on the needles.

Top: A Temperature Scarf! I have seen many ideas on Ravelry but went with my own colors (all bought from KnitPicks). Basically I’m knitting two rows in stockinette with a color based on the high temperature of the day. It’s going to look very bright in the middle and very green on the ends! As pictured, I’m already a little behind because the yarn on the needles are for February 1! This is hopefully the loudest project I’ll ever make. I imagine it will be reserved for un-self-conscious preschoolers or snowmen in future years. Little Bit insists it is for her. Let’s see what she thinks come next January…

The second is a Swoop Beanie/hat done in Spud & Chloe Outer. I have had three skeins of that yarn around since I began to knit in earnest. In fact, I packed up so much yarn in the move that I acquired very little in 2018. The Swoop hat is for Princess and she is doubting my ability to finish it before the warmer weather.

To be honest, I am as well. Let’s see what I can accomplish before the next Yarn Along!