It’s that nice quiet time of the month (if you’re lucky to avoid the mad rush at some stores today). We ran the Turkey Trot yesterday, came home and cooked up a feast, and now turkey soup is simmering in the crockpot. The Advent candles are being unpacked and the wreath form brought out of the cabinet. I’m getting ready to bring out last year’s big project: the Fontanini set individually bagged up, to be unwrapped once a day when we light the Advent candles and say the evening Bible verse about the coming of the Messiah and the Nativity story. And of course, we scrambled together a family picture for the annual Christmas card (outtake at the end of the post). There’s a chicken in this one, but Pecksy the Second was no better at looking at the camera than any of the rest of us!
Docena enjoyed her first Thanksgiving (and the mashed potatoes) and gave me this perfect smile for her debut on the family Christmas card! She’s such a little darling, and everyone loves being a recipient of her “crinkle smile.” I wanted to get a picture also of Pippka and Docena in their matching dresses, but Pippka had discovered a purple marker while we were getting dinner ready and decided to turn her hands purple. So that picture will have to wait.
It’s not always easy to pin Pippka down for a picture, anyway. She is an up and doing sort of girl and likes to be up and doing all the things! (Picture above from our trip to the beach in August)
We have a new driver in the ranks here at the Haus! Around the same time as he got his permit, the truck he intended to drive decided to quit on us. I think it was afraid of being driven by a teenager. My van is more reliable, I guess… but I’m sometimes afraid of it being driven by a teenager! haha!
If you look closely up by the chimney, Haus Meister is on the lift continuing the repainting where the cold weather stopped us last winter. Haus Meister and the boys also cleared out a decaying side deck that probably was as old as the Haus and laid a mulch path where it used to be, between the barnyard and the Haus. Other than this, we’ve been doing small usual tasks to keep up the place, like replacing dryer heating units and stocking the woodpiles for winter fires. The woodstoves are wonderful! One night this month it was cold enough to get both going at once!
On the Farm
That time you go to take the trash out and feel like you’re being watched….
Earlier this year, I posted a picture of the mother hen and her three white chicks. The day after I posted, one chick was dinner for our big dark tabby, Oscar, and not with permission! A second disappeared one other day, but the third grew to be a handsome white rooster with beige tail feathers. Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve heard him crow yet, but I am not complaining!
Toward the end of summer, one of our hens tried to set a nest but gave up after two weeks. I was worried about any possible chicks, so rushed to Tractor Supply for a basic incubator. On a whim, I added two warm duck eggs from the barn (neither female duck minded). The chicken eggs were duds after all, but we managed to successfully hatch the ducklings! We’ve named them Quackers and Quacksley.
I ought to apologize for the long delay in posting anything to this blog. We’ve had the usual school busyness, and the ups and downs of life with fourteen people in the house. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, believe me! But there was an added bit of craziness in my life after I asked about an odd little mole on my lower left eyelid during a routine checkup this summer. That odd little mole turned out to be melanoma stage 1A, and over the autumn, I would end up having two surgeries to remove it and get clear margins around the area. Earlier this month, we got those clear margins and the first of two repair surgeries (the second is in early December). I am beyond grateful that this thing was caught before it got worse, and for all the doctors who got rid of it and who are continuing to look out for me. And of course, for my husband and family, who took such wonderful care of me when I was recuperating. There’s something about being faced with your own mortality that adds, or should add, at least, a deeper level of gratitude for what really matters in life.
Haus Meister reminded me the other day that the latest blog post still began with “April” in the Middle English, thus galvanizing me into action! Especially as August with all its busy-ness is hard upon my heels—it’s time to catch up on the doings around here!
Farewell to “Brockhall”
Just about this time of year in 2020, this lovely chestnut oak, a full and rich green in its day, suddenly decided to go dry brittle brown on us and it wasn’t a drought. No signs of life from it in 2021, we were at the mercy of the local tree men who were themselves overbooked after several Spring and Summer storms, not to mention the resurgence of Covid. Finally, at the start of this summer, a crew came out and took down the tree the kids had named “Brockhall,” after a giant tree in the Redwall book series. Gone but not forgotten, it lives on in the five deep stacks of logs waiting for the autumn splitting, and two huge stacks of milled wood in our workshop waiting to become furniture as the need arises.
Meanwhile, back on the Farm
The barnyard has been in a state of flux lately. In June, Rascal sold his entire stock of rabbits to a family who were interested in homesteading. That officially ended the rabbit chapter here, unless one of the little girls wheedles for one—and only ONE—rabbit in the future. ;). We all learned a lot about the furry beasties, and which of them were good mothers, and which were not. Also which little blighters managed to exploit unexpected exits in the rabbit hutch.
I just realized this picture had been taken before the Rouens and Khaki Campbells had grown out their adult feathers. They really are a striking set, except it turns out there are five males and two females in that set.
The Pekins and the two roosters hatched last November became meat birds as we began a “farm to table” aspect of the farm life. However, on the very day those seven birds went to processing, an Orpington hatched seven chicks in our hayloft! Fortunately, we were on to her before any chicks made a leap out of said hayloft, and they had a happy start on terra firma. Only three survived the first week, and they are already running all over the barnyard and add a good deal of entertainment. Amusingly? Mama Chicken decided as her chicks grew that their ideal roost would be in the rafters next to the hayloft ladder. She wins in the end!
As in workshop news, that is. Haus Meister and Rascal spent a week at a Blacksmithing Institute building a Tire Power Hammer to complement our home smithy. It was a fun week for the two of them! Rascal is definitely meant for that kind of work and we’re intrigued to see where his discernment path leads as he progresses through high school.
“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in switch licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (So Priketh hem Nature in hir corages), Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages”
So did Geoffrey Chaucer begin his “Canterbury Tales.” And so did a few of us learn to memorize this passage some two decades ago in my Anglo-Saxon Lit class. Was it for extra credit or just credit? Blast. But hey, Dr. Rice, I still remembered part of it before googling it!
Anyway, one of April’s shoures, I mean, showers are falling outside tonight as I type and while we aren’t exactly going on pilgrimage this year, we have been full of wonderful events at church. Likely before I post again, the class I’ve had the honor to help teach this past academic year at our parish Faith Formation will celebrate their First Holy Communion, and our Li’l Bit will be among them. Meanwhile, in the same weekend, Docena received her Baptism (wearing the family heirloom gown). And the Rascal had his Confirmation, taking as his patron the rather unknown St. Dunstan, patron of blacksmiths. I should say St Dunstan isn’t as well known on this side of the Atlantic, for the gift we gave him of a replica medieval badge of the saint came from the UK.
Around the Haus…
Pipkka is 1! And no sooner did she turn one than she decided that she’d take it to the max. Climbing stairs? Check. Speech? Her vocabulary increases weekly. Walking? Coming soon. I should have been more nervous about that bottom right picture in this birthday montage (newborn + two of her first birthday) because this girl is plowing onward and not looking back!
After all the sacramental festivities, my mom went back home again in Indiana (those who know can’t say that without hearing Jim Nabors), and we thought we were going to settle in to a “new normal,” as it were, but lo and behold a new seasonal cold descended upon us. Haus Meister had it the worst with a diagnosis of bronchitis and a trip to get x-rays and make sure it wasn’t worse (it wasn’t). Fortunately, we were still able to celebrate Posey Pie’s 9th Birthday and our own familial 4th house-aversary on the same annual day last month.
It is hard to imagine that four years before, we were gathering in the same kitchen with the food that our lovely realtor had bought for us and left as a homecoming gift. Never had a tray of cookies from Sam’s Club tasted so sweet! Everything was so different and foreign four years ago. Now it’s delightfully familiar, and we still rejoice.
Around the Farm….
The sheep have been sheared! While I was posting my previous blogpost, we had been researching the best way to do this, and as we debated this set of shears over that, Haus Meister found a man who travels around shearing small flocks like ours. He literally goes up and down the region and had already sheared 400+ sheep before he came to our house, set up his rig where we requested and within the briefest time, divested our ewes of a year’s wool growth! Haus Meister and the kids learned how to wash and “skirt” the wool (removing any dirt and hay left behind) and soon we shall take our four bags full to a fiber mill north of here where it will be spun into yarn!
And in other farm news, the population of ducks increased by four with the addition of four Khaki Campbell ducklings to the three Rouen ones mentioned in the previous post.
The Khaki Campbells are the solid ducklings while the Rouen are striped.
By now we are all either intent on keeping track of, immune, or dismissive of the news coming from Ukraine. I’d argue we better darn well pay attention, because in this small world nothing can really happen anymore without affecting all of us (pandemic, anyone?).
Or perhaps I’m biased in a sense because on the ‘net page of this blog for several years has been the widget featuring a toddler picture of a little boy with red hair. We have been the prayer warriors for him for quite a while. His name on the Reece’s Rainbow website is “Clark” and he lives in Ukraine, if he’s there at all right now. And who can guess? Who can guess if a ten year old boy with cerebral palsy made it out to a refugee site? I pray he did. He’s the same age as our Miss M after all. Same sort of red hair, same sort of brown eyes (I saw him on another website with recent pictures, that’s how I know he has brown eyes). And CP, well, we know a bit about that, also. Small wonder I signed on to pray for him. May God in His mercy grant that boy a good place tonight.
We at Misselthwaite stand and pray for Ukraine. 🇺🇦
Welcoming “Docena,” our petite princess, who arrived a little more than two weeks ago into our home and hearts. Unlike Pipkka, she didn’t have to stay any extra time in the hospital. The whole experience was marvelously uneventful and we’ve just been enjoying our littlest (and trying to sleep when she sleeps, but really, how often does that work after the first baby?!).
Around the Haus…
March is promising to be very event-full, with two birthdays and two sacraments in one week! Not to mention Lent, school, springtime farm chores, figuring out sheep-shearing…. wow! Fortunately, my mother has been visiting for three weeks now to help us with our transitions so far. We’re going to miss her even more than usual when she heads back to her home! 🙂
Pipkka is really easing into her big sister role rather well. It helps that as I type, she’s a week out from her first birthday and learning so many new skills that she really doesn’t mind if I’m holding Docena unless it’s while the latter is having a bottle. Pipkka, like Dibbun before her, sees all bottles as her personal property and will even valiantly attempt to sneak sips from the tiny size 1 bottle while she, of course, is used to things rated 9mos+. This too, shall pass…
On the Farm…
While we figure out a routine here in our new “new normal,” things have not been idle on the Farm. Rascal’s rabbit had a new litter the week before Docena arrived. Right now, we call them The Tribbles because they are cute, small, furry, and show up in the unlikeliest places.
I warned my family not to allow me to walk into Tractor Supply or Ace Hardware unattended until further notice as Chick Days are back. I simply cannot be trusted while my two springtime addictions are out on sale (peeping poultry and garden plants). The fact that the sheep ate two of my apple saplings last Spring gave me pause and prevented me from grabbing a Honeycrisp one outside Tractor Supply. And luckily when I did happen to make a late evening run to TSC for barnyard needs, there was a sign saying the chicks wouldn’t go up for sale until the next morning at 10. Saved!
We did have a few small indoor projects to fix up before Docena arrived, and I will get to them in later posts. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a lot of nostalgic reflecting as we approach the fourth anniversary of our leap of Faith relocation to this beautiful corner of the Blue Ridge. Old “photo memories” on my phone have been showing pictures of much smaller girls running in the yard of a house that is no longer ours, holding armloads of daffodils that I hope still come up to cheer the current owners. Out here, my bulbs have just come up and the daffodils have not bloomed yet, but they are coming! I cannot wait to start my cool weather garden in a few weeks. Winter still comes to us here, and lasts just a little longer than we were used to back there. And I still love getting pictures like these (taken in January):
We are enjoying a lovely Christmas season here on the farm. The weather didn’t cooperate with the girls’ wishes for a white Christmas (by a long shot!), and supply chain woes hit–of all things–the local Christmas tree farms! That’s not a joke: droughts in 2008 & 2010 and early cuttings last year when everyone stayed home for Christmas caused the local area farms to close down before December 5! So Haus Meister took some of the kids and visited the tree vendor next to the local ice cream & coffee food truck. We got a wonderful tree, the kids had wonderful ice cream, and a new tradition may just have been inaugurated.
The Advent wreath looked a little different this year because I was using spare beeswax candles we found last winter at a local candle shop (and had our priest bless on Candlemas). They lasted very well throughout Advent.
We also tried something new with the Nativity scene this Advent. Thanks to my mom and some of the girls, who sewed up cloth bags over Thanksgiving vacation, we turned the Nativity into a big Advent calendar of sorts. Each night as we gathered for night prayers and lit the Advent wreath, one of the kids would pick the bag assigned for the day, read the paper Bible verse ornament inside (then hung on the artificial tree above the stable), and pull out one or two figurines. By Christmas Eve Mass, every figurine was out (the kings are still en route through the house until Sunday). I don’t mind the girls rearranging the figures, and as you can see, Rosebud is patiently waiting for me to get the official Christmas Eve picture before she does so.
Our parish hosted a Living Nativity this Advent, and quite a few of our children participated. Princess caroled with the choir; Rascal and the Squire were Wise Men; Lil Bit was a sheep; Sunshine was Mary at the Annunciation while Miss M was Gabriel; and Posey, Rosebud, and Bright Eyes were also angels at various other stations. I did not post pictures of those stations as I didn’t get permission from the other actors in the scene. 😉 Suffice to say, it was very fun despite the foggy weather, and we were proud of everyone. I will just add that it was amazing to think that Sunshine could take on such a role, and sit in place for an hour and fifteen minutes! Our parish has been great helping her along the way as she makes such great progress. I couldn’t have dreamed she’d do this four years ago!
Around the Farm…
The population of assorted poultry is up by five now. The three hens on the left–the “Three French Hens”–were rehomed here from a neighbor’s coop as she wanted to start afresh with young chicks, and we had more room for older hens to retire gracefully despite being a few years older than even our first round of chickens. We’ve named them Pat-a-pan, Jeanette, and Isabella (yes, after French carols).
In November, one of our newer Buff Orpington hens suddenly decided to go broody and managed to hatch two chicks right around Thanksgiving (despite the fact that it was cold enough to frost outside). The chicks have a Silver-Laced Wyandotte for a sire, so we are calling them the Orpingdottes. They are quite a few weeks older now, and almost all their yellow feathers have turned white with some interesting black lacings on wings, tail, and the tops of their heads. I’m a bit worried that both are roosters, but we will see.
Meanwhile, on Christmas morning, I was tickled to see as I visited the parish manger that the smallest sheep looked very much like our “Lou,” down to the brown face. The sheep are doing well and getting very fluffy! We’ll be researching shears soon….
The house painting went well this Fall! The main color of the house is “Into the Stratosphere,” and the front doors are “Parlor Rose,” both from a local paint store. We are very pleased with the lovely new look for Misselthwaite’s exterior. Indoors, Haus Meister installed a wood stove into the main fireplace that is much more efficient and heats the house wonderfully on the frosty nights. It was a craigslist win from last winter. The previous owner had only used it a few years and was ready to convert to propane. We were happy to help!
Outside the sky is growing darker, so it’s almost time for barn chores. We’ll then gather round a shrimp pasta dinner, and see how things go progressing toward midnight. The teens want to play board games with Haus Meister (in particular, “Clank! In Space!”), and I guess we shall see how the younger set fares. I think I am at the stage where I could ring in the New Year watching a live feed from London long enough for Big Ben’s tolling, and then turn in for the night, but the kids are not at that stage yet so there we have it.
I did save the best news for last, however, and want to share before she arrives in a month or so.
A very Happy New Year from all of us to all of you, and God bless you in 2022!
Tonight the wind was out of the west-nor’west and gusted down our driveway, past the front of our house, into and over the barn and through the woods beyond. If it were stronger, it ought to wail a bit and at least one little girl would need reminding that it’s just the Fall winds coming in. High time, too! We’ve had cooler days, and honestly, my Southern-born children sometimes still think they need winter parkas when the weather is in the mid-to-upper 60s. However, tonight the wind brings a cold front that means some modicum of business, and justifies the start of the colors in the leaves and the (7) pumpkins on my porch steps.
Pippka at 5, 6, and 7 months. (No sticker for 7 months because I temporarily misplaced it)
Around the Haus…
Little Pippka continues to grow like crazy and tick off all her milestones right and left. Since turning 7 months old, she has decided to begin the “army crawl” stage and gain a second tooth. She delights her siblings by reaching for them when she wants to be held, especially if I’m the one holding her. She is sitting well in her little chair and is starting solid food. It’s funny how the regimen of baby foods have changed since Trooper was the red-headed baby of the Haus. With him it was strictly rice cereal first (thickened in his case, but still!), and now it’s “whatever you’re having, just mashed.” I first realized this at a friend’s house where I was visiting while expecting Pippka, and I was surprised to see her little girl playing with spaghetti and soft carrots at 7 months! Suddenly, even though it’s been about four years since last putting a baby through solids, I felt like I was a generation behind in my parenting methods! Is this how our grandmothers felt when they were told it wasn’t allowed to feed infants orange juice until a certain age? (All in good fun, folks!) Now Pippka is exploring pancakes (without syrup) and other things while we keep an eye on her. I can’t say that she’s eating much of it, but she’s entertained.
Back when we were beginning to pack for our move here, I ordered several camping friendly wildlife and nature cards for our new home state, as the kids had been enjoying the nature cards I had given them long before for our then home state. The day the cards arrived in the mail happened to be one where they were feeling blue about leaving everything familiar for the unknown, and I hoped that they would be cheered up by what they saw. The results surprised me. The kids took the cards and dutifully took a gander, and then sat up in amazement. “Mama, Mama, there’s dolphins in this wildlife card!” “Seashells! Seashells! How come this state has seashells?!” I hadn’t thought at the time that they were moving from a landlocked state to one with a coastline, and informed them. Immediately, the kids were excited about this move and new plans were set. “How far to the beach?” We have yet to see a dolphin, but we do have a favorite seaside location that we visited in 2019 and again this summer (skipping 2018 due to moving and settling in, and last summer due to lockdown). It is just far enough to make an epic day trip event of it, where the entire family can get away for a few hours and listen to the ocean, gather the seashells, play in the surf, and get toasted, and still make it home in time to shut the barn doors for the evening.
Top left: Haus Meister and Trooper establish Base Camp. Lower Left: assorted children enjoying the seaside. Right: Bright Eyes after having her hair styled by Madame de la Mer (in other words, Bright Eyes came ashore with a wave that swirled her hair a bit).
The Cats of Misselthwaite…
“What?” You ask, “She has 24 chickens, 8 rabbits, 6 ducks, 4 sheep, and that ridiculous dog, and she’s talking about the cats again?!” If I were to ever go back onto social media, I am tempted to begin an Instagram thread with the above title and find my posts going viral because everyone likes cats on the internet, right? Well, I will be discussing the farm animals as we go, but since our last post the cat population increased by one. This one was a true rescue! Meet Ruby, pictured the day she turned up on our back porch, and then a month later! She has now been with us three months and is quite a fixture. Her name was the result of a misunderstanding. As “Tabitha Twitchett” had been taken by our (by now likely departed) feral stray friend from our first year here, I combed through my Beatrix Potter and decided on “Cousin Ribby” for our newcomer since she was really very emaciated when we met her. However, at adoption the vet tech heard “Ruby” instead of “Ribby” and it stuck. She is a spitfire of a feline gem, after all.
So, how did we end up accidentally rescuing a kitten? On a Sunday in July, I let Sam (aforementioned ridiculous dog) out for his morning constitutional. Moments later, I heard him barking up a storm on the porch, and looking, saw him under the patio table aiming his snout–and barks–at the chair facing the door. Assuming he was giving Bilbo or Oscar a hard time, I went out to chide him (silly dog, those cats don’t care one way or the next what he thinks). There on the porch chair was a small kitten I had seen two days prior, running across our woods. I knew she had a collar but here she was again, on our back porch, all skin and bones and giving Sam a piece of HER mind (and it appeared calculated to be able to make a sailor blush, as the saying goes). I got Sam back inside and then went to meet the newcomer (pleasantly impressed already by the sheer audacity coming from such a small critter). Alas, her collar that I had spied from a distance was actually wrapped around her foreleg, cutting into her skin! There was no telling where she had come from or how long she’d been from home, and no identification on the collar, but I couldn’t just let her sit on our porch and stew like that! So we brought her in, and fortunately there was time before Mass to go out and get kitten food and a basic litter box. Over the next week we haunted the lost pet ads and played phone tag with the vet. The vet clinic five minutes from our house wouldn’t see her at first since she wasn’t ours, and suggested the Humane Society. The Humane Society wouldn’t see her because we were one mile outside city limits (and their jurisdiction), so we’d have to go to the county shelter forty minutes away. I somehow didn’t picture anyone going to look for her there, and so I called our vet again and asked if we could at least get her scanned for a chip. Meanwhile, I searched every lost pet forum and no one seemed to be searching for her. Obviously since we still have her, she wasn’t chipped, no one knew where she had come from, and no one really expected much from taking her nearly an hour away. So we adopted her then and there in the vet clinic and proceeded to take over her full care. She resides in the boys’ room, of all places, and likes holding sway over her domain. She tolerates Oscar alone of all the animals (I am not letting her run around outside yet, so I don’t know how she’d deal with the barnyard). Sam continues to get an explosion out of her, and she seems to have a perpetual enmity with Bilbo. Perhaps it is because they share a similar profile and build, the kind that suggests that their species were once regarded as gods by the Pharaohs, and they have not forgotten.
Now that it is Autumn, the pool is closed and so is “Celtic Music, Cookouts, and Chlorine,” which is our usual theme for summer evenings poolside. We generally don’t mind shutting down the pool on Labor Day evening because the days are shorter anyway, the evenings almost too cool to enjoy the pool, and the trees nearest the pool decide, rather obnoxiously, to begin shedding in advance. Really, by September it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure to keep the pool running any longer. Once the pool craze is over, it’s safe to turn our attention to other tasks that the summer heat, and the clamor of children for swim time, helped put off until now.
In July, Rascal helped me do a project that had been percolating in my mind almost since we arrived. Our upper floor bathroom looked fabulous in the realty pictures, as is the norm for everything in realty pictures, and it might have stayed semi-fabulous except it was the bathroom designed for the three bedrooms allotted to children in the house. The previous owners seemed to have given it better attention than they did the master bathroom (for which I could be thankful, actually). However, the large cabinetry made it hard to sweep beneath, the scrollwork caught any accidental toothpaste drips from those of preschool age, and the doors suffered a quick loss thanks to little girls using them as props to stand up on that interior ledge as a quasi step-stool (step-stools having no real room for maneuverability in here at the time). Plus, any splash from the bathtub whatsoever invariably made its way beneath the sink, and it was, in a nutshell, unpleasant. I finally decided that this summer we would tackle this bathroom before school began (other projects having precedent before now).
In the end, my involvement was the inspiration and materials gathering, while Rascal did the hard work (I did get a fiendish satisfaction of personally hauling away the old sink parts to the local dump. As it turns out, it was rotting beneath the marble facade anyway). Rascal repainted the walls with some white paint we had left over from other rooms (we call it Northern Michigan White, in homage to a favorite extended family vacation cottage). The new sink and cabinetry are a basic model from Home Depot (and yes, one can put a step stool in front of this sink). The mirror is from Wal-Mart, but Rascal spray painted the frame and the light fixtures a nice bronze to update them. The signs next to the tub (first picture) came from Amazon, and the shelf in the middle picture is from IKEA (towels from Target). Originally, I hadn’t planned on removing the old mirror, but once the new sink/vanity was in place, we saw it just didn’t work. Amusingly, as we removed the mirror, a thin piece of folded paper fluttered out. It was an unsatisfactory report card belonging to the son of the second owner of the house (we’re the fourth or fifth owners), dated 1991. I have kept some things that were left behind around here (a cabinet here a side table there), but this wasn’t one of them.
Rascal did earn some goodly reward for his hard work, including a trip to the homemade cookie-ice-cream-sandwich place in town. I think he deserved it.
We are working on other projects that must wait for other posts, but here’s a sneak preview.
I do realize, as I close this post, that contrary to the title, it was more of a summer re-cap than about anything autumnal. No mention until now of sweaters or pumpkin spice lattes, and nary a picture of the maple leaves turning from green to red! However, the breeze outside my window as I type reminds me that autumn is, at last, once again with us. The Cosy Season is back, and while the summer was more hectic than not (the week that Ruby came also saw Bright Eyes having surgery on her finger after accidentally slamming it in a door, Haus Meister’s first overnight business trip since the lockdowns, and Vacation Bible School for more than half the family), it’s good to be here and resting with a hot cuppa tea at the end of the day.
Welcome to the Cat Days of Summer. As opposed to the Dog Days, although in looking up what the Dog Days meant, I realized they technically began on Saturday. The hottest, most lethargic days of summer. Indeed, the summer haze is out in full force and I was rather regretting that my morning run began at 9 this morning instead of 6:30. Whew! But while our cats enjoy a good coze, they also seem to have their moments of frenetic activity, and that seems to sum up the summer so far. On the other hand, you’d think there would be a break from winding up an academic year, but in between lazy afternoons or evenings at the pool, we’ve been catching up on all the routine appointments we don’t usually do during the school year (hello, well-child checkups and the mid-year dental appointments!). We’ve already hosted two cookouts and have one more on the schedule, plus much-anticipated extended family visits, Vacation Bible School is back, and this means July is already crowded on the calendar. It is a welcome change from last year!
But it doesn’t feel like the Dog Days. So, it’s the Cat Days. Plus, it was fun to use those photos, taken on the same day within ten minutes of each other. Oscar was on one of the boys’ beds and Bilbo was curled up in the laundry room, inside the basket of (clean, matched) socks.
Pippka is now four months old and received her sacrament of Baptism in April. She received it the day before Posey Pie’s First Communion, just as eight years before, Posey Pie herself was baptized the day before Rascal’s First Holy Communion. We like to do sacraments in bulk around here. Pippka was the perfect baby throughout the ceremony, wearing the traditional gown that has now seen about 21 christenings, and Posey was a beautiful First Communicant in the dress her paternal grandmother made for Princess’ First Communion five years before.
We’ve had two birthdays since the last post, both with their own personal flair. I was able to make Li’l Bit’s birthday dress (“Sintra,” from Little Lizard King) in my new sewing room (more on that later), and while I still need to sit down and get a few more dresses made for the little girls, Dibbun definitely preferred the ornate princess dress I found from the Little Adventures princess costume line. Li’l Bit also received her first official pair of cowgirl boots (not pictured) and she wears them everywhere, to church and store and home again. Rascal made her sawhorse horse that she named “Yankee Doodle.” Dibbun paraded everyone in the house with her light-up bubble wand and reigned regally over her day. No two birthdays in this house are alike but they sure are a delight.
Around the Farm:
Harriet, Matilda, Charlotte, and Louisa arrived on May 15. They are Finnrace sheep from a farm in Northern Virginia, and they handled the long trip here just fine. For short, they are “Hattie, Mattie, Lottie, and Lou.” I got “Hattie, Mattie, and Lou” from the sheep in “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” Charlotte was tacked on because I just assumed it fit. When Haus Meister informed me that sheep can live as long as 18 years, I declared at that moment that *I* would be in charge of naming these new pets because I was NOT going to live 18 years with a sheep named “Sparklepoof,” (“Or Flufflebutt,” a son chimes in), and if you don’t think my girls would try that, just consider the names given to the chickens over the years. “Polka Dot Sunshine Sleeping Beauty Princess” takes the cake, but this year’s batch of 11 already includes “Mithrandella,” “Obsidian Falcon,” and “Caramel Latte.” I admit I did name one of the new Ameraucanas “Calico,” because like the cat of the same name, she’s all the colors, but I digress.
Lou is everyone’s favorite sheep. She is the absolute friendliest and will greet me even if she sees me puttering about my container garden on the deck (part of which looks down into the barnyard). She is Lottie’s twin sister. Lottie is also friendly–they all are–but Lou wins the prize for friendliest. Lou is also the mischief maker. We had to upgrade our feed bins because she found out how to kick the buckets open. Hattie and Mattie are half-siblings, as they have the same sire. Hattie is the dark one and Mattie is the one shown in the teaser photo in the previous blogpost. She has polka dots on her ears and legs and also those interesting rings around her eyes. The fiber artist in me cannot wait for shearing next Spring. Their wool is so interesting and variegated!
I’m also glad to report that the sheep (now that Lou can’t kick the chicken scratch bucket open) are finally getting the point that they are here to eat the kudzu and creeper vines, and they are beginning to make a start on the ever present threat of invasion. It may take a while, but it is still a start! 😉
As also stated, 11 out of 12 chicks are reaching adulthood. They still sleep in a separate area from the big chickens but during the day they can roam about freely in the barnyard with the whole menagerie. We lost one chick and one duck, and are not sure why about the chick but the duck became lame. I suppose we didn’t quite realize how top heavy Pekins are compared to the magpies we used to own, and the barnyard is hilly. One duck must have stumbled wrong or fallen off the ramp into the yard or something but no matter, it was sadly never able to walk again. Two others also had leg issues at first. One made a complete recovery and the other manages to almost literally hop on one foot but still gets around. We call that one “Hoppy Duck,” but no other duck has been named because we really can barely tell them apart.
It began with a new bed. One new bed moved into one room meant an old bed became repurposed in another room. Fabric that had been stored in drawers beneath the old bed needed a new place to exist until sewing days could take place. Enter what I used to think of as “The Ugly Duckling Room.” Honestly, it’s an odd room in an odd shape in the middle of the basement with three less windows than the boiler/electric/air conditioner room behind it, and until April it was really a dump station for things unless we had enough company to fill two bedrooms. As we didn’t have company that often in 2020, it exacerbated the problem. Somehow as we moved beds around, and sisters played “musical rooms,” and closets were aired and the rooms began to take on a whole new look than they had three years ago when we arrived and first arranged furniture, the thought came to me “Sewing Room!” And after all, why not?! I took a gloomy afternoon and rearranged things in that Ugly Duckling room. I dusted and vacuumed, hung pictures and placed books. The next week, I gave it a trial run and made a dress for Lil Bit’s 7th Birthday. It was so ideal! Three weeks later, I found a quilt cover for the bed that I liked better than the old set, and now there’s a pleasant spot for me to sew as well as a quiet room appointed for guests when needed. No more dump station! My cup overflows.
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…
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.
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?!
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 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.
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…
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
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:
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…
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).
Thanks for reading this far. It is, indeed, very good to be back.