Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Bit of Respite and a Simple Thanksgiving.

 i really don't ever remember a November that was quite this cold.  Last week the temps dipped down into the teens and it didn't get above freezing for several days. Our water pipes froze, and then burst again.  The toilet appeared to be frozen and possibly backed up, and even with the gas heat and space heater we just couldn't seem to stay warm.

So we (the husband) decided we need a break from camping.

He booked us two nights at a local Holiday Inn.  We had heat, hot showers and flushing toilets!! Truly something to be thankful for!

We even had an indoor salt water pool!  We were thrilled to find the pool all to ourselves, but after checking the water we realized it was cold.  It was too cold for me, but the kids had fun.

We stayed for the two coldest nights, and then headed back to the camper Thanksgiving Day.

  As soon as we got home i set to work preparing a simple meal. Including as much home grown food as possible is important to me, so i picked out some root veggies i had in storage and picked some fresh kale and carrots that were still in the garden. i was hoping for fresh lettuce, but the tops of the plants were all pretty burned from the frost.

With our lack of running water (we had water in jugs) and lack of space in the camper, i decided to just make a traditional simple meal.  i cut up the root veggies and coated them in a little olive oil. Then roasted them in the pan i used for our Quorn Roast. 

i heated up beans that i'd froze over the summer.  Green, purple and yellow. i love lots of color in my food. i also sauteed my fresh picked kale with some olive oil and garlic. We also had the Quorn roast with a vegetarian mushroom gravy, stuffing and rolls. It was a perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Despite having no running water, not going on our traditional turkey drive, forgetting to play Alice's Restaurant (another tradition) and the freezing temperatures outside, we had a wonderful meal together in the camper. Even with the challenges and set backs of this year, we were reminded of how truly blessed we are to all be able to sit down together and enjoy this abundance of food. So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Almost There.

 We are getting very close to being able to move into the new house. When we started the project the contractor said he could have us in by Thanksgiving. The house units actually arrived ahead of schedule, and had us optimistic that we might be in even sooner than that.

The camper has been working fine for us, up until the temps dropped below freezing. We've had an crazy cold Nov. with temps dropping down into the teens at night.  The camper is heated with a propane furnace, and we have an electric space heater. We do not run the propane furnace at night, but have plenty of blankets to keep us warm.  However, any time the temperature dips below freezing, our water pipes freeze, then burst. So that's been a challenge. Without water the camper toilet doesn't function, and well...yeah.

So as you can imagine, we are getting increasingly eager to move into the house. The exterior of the house is finished, but the inside still has a lot of work that needs to be finished.  Thanksgiving is coming up quick, and we were told last week that there is no way we'll be in by Thanksgiving.  So we are trying to prepare for another 2-3 weeks in the camper. The weather is supposed to be cold, and it's going to get crappy this week. i admit my patience is beginning to run thin.  Everything about this year has been challenging, and although we have gotten through and we make it work that doesn't mean it's easy. The colder it gets outside, the more brittle i feel inside. It's as if i am very close to cracking.

It's a strange feeling to see this house sitting where our old house was. It looks too big, too nice, too new and out of place. It is beautiful- that's what everyone keeps telling me. At yet, it seems so...plain, so square, so ordinary.  i've even had folks tell me how lucky i am to get to build such a beautiful house. When i think of all that i lost in order to get this beautiful house, i fail to see luck playing any part in it. Whether well meaning, or said with a hint of envy i'm not sure, but i do know that those comments sting a little. 

Our old house, was like a patchwork of pieces all put together. It had started as an old hunting cabin, and then rooms had been added on over and over until it was a mess of opposing roof lines, and a complete lack of symmetry. It had character, and carried with it hints about the folks who had lived here before us.  The living room wall was still sided in the wood siding from the original hunting cabin. The loft had rough handmade steps that didn't follow any of the safety codes required today. The kitchen had a decorative wooden post with the face of an old man carved in it, and thick grape vines wrapped around it from the floor to the ceiling. There was also a weathered barn wood beam across the ceiling where i would hang herbs to dry.  We had a wooden frame where we wrote the date and height of the kids through the years. The new house is new and shiny...and empty.  

It's getting close though. A few more weeks and we should be able to move in. Even though it is just across the yard, the thought of moving again terrifies me.  The camper has been our home for 6 months.  We've been in 4 'temporary' homes since the house fire. Each time we left one we were overwhelmed by a mixture of emotion. Excitement, sadness, uncertainty and a sense of loss.  Although we were excited to move back to our property, saying goodbye to the rental house and our kind neighbors there was still very hard.  Transitioning from the camper to the new house will bring similar feelings. More change, more adjusting and even a bit of sadness. For 6 months this camper has been our home, so walking away from it isn't going to be matter how 'beautiful' the new house may be. 

We've been hoping to be in the new house by Thanksgiving, but there is no way that we will. There were no workers here on Thursday or Friday, and next week i believe they have off for the holiday.  So we are in the camper a few more weeks at least.  Our thanksgiving meal will be simple, but we will be here all together. a constant reminder of how lucky we truly are. 

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.  ~Anatole France

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Sitting Tree- Artist Feature and Giveaway!

i have been a fan of the beautiful works found at the Sitting Tree for a very long time. 

 Liz and her husband Mike, the talented artists behind The Sitting Tree,  live with a trio of wildly creative and beautiful unschooled boys, an English Setter called Bailey, and a reclusive black cat.  They had a dream to raise a family. To live and work off the land, connected to the earth and each other. 

This last spring  they bought 10 acres of land on a dead end road, nestled into the woods of Northern Wisconsin and are working hard to make their dream a reality!  They are building it all from scratch  and using as many recycled materials as possible. They are  also paying for everything in cash, so the process is slow going.  You can follow along on their journey at The Sitting Tree blog.   

Liz has a deep love of fiber and knitting. She offers beautiful hand dyed yarns and knitting patterns in The Sitting Tree  Etsy Shop. Her husband recently  joined in to help  crafting handmade soaps and creates natural buttons and ornaments out of recycled wood.

 In the Etsy shop you’ll find a wonderful variety of natural, sustainable products including  homemade soaps, tree branch buttons and ornaments, upcycled clothing, knitting patterns and hand dyed yarns. The knitting patterns come as a PDF file that can be downloaded upon payment.  

The handmade soaps are all natural castile soap. They come in a variety of scents like pumpkin spice, wild mint, lavender baby and more.  Each soap is neatly packaged in a 100% recyclable boxes. These make great stocking stuffers!  At The Sitting Tree they make each of their products slowly, naturally, and with sustainability in mind. 

These tree branch ornaments are one of my favorite items! Each design is original and drawn free hand with a wood burning tool. They are made from birch wood that is sustainably harvested from their homestead.  They only use trees and branches that have fallen naturally. Each piece is finished with a homemade non-toxic beeswax polish. These beautiful ornaments are heirloom quality and would be especially perfect decorating a woodland or rustic themed tree. 

At the Sitting Tree, they are inspired by everything nature and try to make sure that every product reflects the love and respect they have for mother earth. Every purchase you make helps them along the path to their dreams.

You can connect with The Sitting Tree at any of the link below.

Buy it!
 Like what you see? Found something you can't live without?  Head over to The Sitting Tree shop where you can purchase some of her wonderful products!

Win it!!

Liz has generously offered  a set of 5 Tree Branch Ornaments to one lucky winner!

To enter, please use the rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 8, 2013

Craft fever has hit!

Every year, around this time....the craft fever hits.  i blame it on a combination of the weather, the lack of garden and the whole impending season of gift giving.  As soon as the garden dies back and the weathers turns cold, i curl up with my hot coffee (or tea) wrap up in a blanket and pull out the crafts! 

Even with my lack of space here in the camper the craft projects have started to take over. i'm trying to get a head start on gifts for my kids, teacher's gifts, trying to make up extra stock to sell and i have a handful of other folks i'd like to make gifts for.  So November is the beginning of the crafting craziness. 

Because of the lack of space, i have hesitated to purchase a whole lot of craft supplies. i've been trying to use up what i already have, which right now is a lot of felt.  i made the dragons to replace the ones i made my kids a few years ago. i will be posting some for sale on my fb page sometime before xmas. 

 i made the wolf mask for Halloween, and loved it so much i decided to make a fox mask too. These were inspired by the patterns Oxeyedaisy is selling on etsy!  That store has some of the best patterns for felt masks i've ever come across. Definitely check them out, if you are wanting to make a mask of your own.  

i wanted to make Sage a Totoro plushie forever, and finally got around to making one. i searched around for some ideas and came across this really easy tutorial with a printable template.  i had so much fun making it, that i decided to make a couple more. i have a few friends i'd like to surprise with Totoros. :) 

i've also started on some crocheted dish/wash clothes, although i need to pick up some more yarn. i love to give handmade dish/wash clothes with a bar of locally made soap as gifts. 

November begins the Handmade Holiday posts! i'm in the process of putting together a handmade Holiday Gift guide, i will also be featuring several of my favorite crafters/products, and you can expect to see a few giveaways as well!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

House Construction Progress Nov 3rd

It's been a while since i've posted a house update. We are currently still living in the camper. The contractor seems to think we'll be in the house in another 3-4 weeks.  i hope so.  Living in the camper really hasn't been bad at all. We adjusted quickly to the space, or lack there of...and just being back on our property it immediately felt like home.

The idea of moving into the new house is both exciting, and a little scary.  It is a very different space than our old house. It's not quite as we imagined when we picked these floor plans. The main living area has an open floor plan, which i'm not sure i like and the space is really quite a bit smaller than we were imagining. It's strange to have this new significantly bigger house, that feels so much smaller on the inside. i'm hoping that once we get furniture in it, it will feel comfortable and not cramped. i keep reminding myself that we have the basement,and once we finish it we can have a normal size family room down there.  It's all just so different, and i know it will just take time.

The crew have been working on finishing the outside of the house.  These past few weeks they've been working on the deck, and the siding. 

We have a covered porch/deck across part of the front. Then it wraps around in front of the side with the french doors.

All the way around the back of the house. This is what we had planned for our old house, once we finished the addition.  So having the wrap around deck with a view of the woods was always a dream. Since this is probably the first and last time we'll ever build a house, we made sure to just do it all at once.

For me, the green metal roof and cedar siding were important. These were things i really loved about our old house, and wanted back.  i didn't want to end up with vinyl siding and shingles, not that there is anything wrong with's just not want i wanted. i loved the cabin look of our old house and really didn't want something traditional. The front of the house still seems a bit boring to me, i was not expecting that ugly electrical box right on the front. This is actually considered the side, even though it faces the technically it's on the side.  i'm planning to plant something big and bushy there to hide it. Any suggestions?   i'm hoping that once we put in a flower bed and get some flowers planted it should look more like home:) i'm also planning to swap out that door for one in a matching green.

Three out of the four sides are now sided. We won't be staining any of it until spring. We're planning to stain it the pretty red cedar color that our old house was. It really does look nice on our property. It fits in the spot that old house had been in almost perfectly. It's just a few feet longer, and not quite as wide. Although i'm not 100% in love with the foor plan, i think we did the best we could in the amount of time/ price range we were given. Of everything else i looked at, this was the only one i liked.  There are many similarities to our old house, but it is also quite different to. i'm bummed that i won't be able to look out my kitchen window any more and watch the goats in the pasture. In fact there are no windows on the main level that look out towards that part of property. The set up of this house, is pretty much the reverse of our everything is facing a different direction. i know it will just take some time.

This week the crew will finish the siding and then start on the floors. The rock for the chimney is in, so the mason should be back to finish the chimney soon.  Appliances have been delivered, so we are getting closer. Just a few more weeks.

Halloween 2013

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. i love making costumes, decorating and of course candy. ;)   i asked the kids a couple weeks ago what they wanted to dress up as, so i could get a head start on the costumes. It's not unusual for them to change their minds several times before the actual day. My boy wanted to go as Saruman and my girl wanted to be a wolf. 

i started scouring the thrift store for a white robe for the boy. i figured his costume would be pretty easy. i purchased a white beard/wig  combo from amazon, and knew making the staff would be easy. So i focused on Sage's wold costume first. 've seen quite a few really cute wolf masks on etsy, and knew i could make one east enough.  i did a search for different wolf mask ideas and came across this pattern from oxeyedaisey.  Her masks are some of the most detailed i've ever seen. i also like that she offers patterns rather than completed masks. Definitely check out her shop if you get a chance!

So, i finish the wolf mask and Sage put it on, told me she loved and that she'd rather be a Leopard.  i can't say that i didn't expect that. i decided not to make a new mask, but instead to visit the thrift stores again. i was able to find leopard print pants, shirt and a sweater with leopard print trim.  i also picked up leopard ears and a tail from the dollar tree. She had black boot she was dying to wear with it, so i picked up some face paint and she was completely thrilled.

Nothing like waiting util the last minute. Up until last weekend i was still unsure what i was going to do for Sequoia's Saruman costume. i found a white cape at the thrift store, but he needed robes to go under it and couldn't find any. So two days before Halloween,  i ended up making basic robes from an old sheet. 
The day before Halloween, i made the staff. We found the ball for Saruman's staff at dollar tree. It is larger than we needed, but lights up when you tap it.  The rest of the staff s made from cardboard a piece of bamboo, hot glue and paint. i actually like the exaggerated size of it. 

i usually go all out for Halloween, with lots of decorating and spooky themed foods.  This year i just wasn't feeling it. i didn't want to go out and buy a bunch of decoration, and didn't have time to make them. We never even got around to carving pumpkins. Halloween morning i was feeling a bit bad about my lack of enthusiasm this year and went to the store early that morning for ingredients to make some spooky treats.  Shortbread witch fingers are super easy and fun.

i also made mummy dogs (veggie dogs wrapped in crescent rolls) and mini candy corn pizzas. It wasn't much, but i do this every year and the kids still get excited about it. In the past we have made all kinds of spooky foods, but the limited space in the camper made it more difficult (especially the lack of space in the fridge).  So this is all i did this year, but the kids didn't seem to care at all.

Sage wore the majority of her costume to school. As soon as she came home, we applied the face paint.  i think this has to be the easiest costume we've ever put together! She looked great!

Sequoia's costume was a little trickier. Once he had the robes/cape on we had to get the wig and beard on.  We'd tried it on when we first bought it and the wig didn't fit around his head very well, and the beard wouldn't stay up. So when i'd gone to town i purchased a $1 knit cap we hot glued the wig in place on the hat, and glued the beard to the hat. It worked out great!  He can also now take the entire thing off in once piece, and put it back on easily. Now if he wants to reuse it for a costume next year, he is all set. 

i really think they looked great! Sage has a tail too, it's just hidden behind her. i was a little bummed that once the ball was glued to the top of Saruman's staff we couldn't get it to light up. It needed to be tapped, but i was afraid we'd knock it off the staff if we tried tapping it too hard.

As soon we began to walk, Sequoia tapped the staff down on the ground and it lite up!! Sequoia's costume got a lot of attention! Everyone loved it, unfortunately most folks thought he was Gandalf the White!  Only two folks recognized him as Saruman, a couple folks called him Jesus and at least one person thought he was Moses. lol. 

So every year we go to Hillsville for their 'Safe Halloween'. They close off the streets downtown and the area businesses hand out candy. They typically have a bounce house, carnival games, a hay ride, costume contest and more. Most of the treats come with a business card, so it isn't unusual to get cookies, candy apples, popcorn balls and other homemade non candy treats. The kids have a blast, and We've always enjoyed doing this rather than the house to house trick or treating. Especially when the kids were little. 

However this year we were really disappointed by Hillsville's  Halloween fest. There were very few businesses handing out candy. The street was pretty empty. There were only a couple carnival games, and there just didn't seem to be any one there. We were there when it started at 5pm, and made the rounds in less than 1/2 hour, so we left while it was still light out and ended up doing the house to house thing. It was actually pretty fun, and now that the kids are older we may start doing this instead.

Even Kenan and i got in on the fun.  i couldn't let my awesome wolf mask go unused. i also made a matching tail. My mom had picked up the vampire outfit from a garage sale. i don't think Kenan was that excited to ear it, but the kids insisted. :)  Happy Halloween!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Killing Frost

The first  major killing frost frost of the season hit us on October 26th. It was actually a little later than i was expecting. We've had a few light frosts before this, but this was a very hard frost and ended the growing.  It killed all of the remaining plants and flowers from the summer garden, and even killed a few of my hardier fall plants.

This Swiss Chard in the main bed survived the frost just fine.  Swiss Chard is a good fall crop, it can usually stand temperatures down into the 30's and even high 20's.  Some of the leaves were a bit burnt from the frost, but overall the plants look pretty good.  Unfortunately, the Swiss chard planted in my cold crop bed was not so lucky.  It's in a slightly lower spot, and had less protection from other plants around it, i think. Most of it froze, and the frost/temp actually killed the plants. That was a bit disappointing, i really wasn't expecting the Chard to die back until at least Dec. i still have several plants in my main garden, and i may end up constructing a plastic row cover, to keep them around a bit longer.

Broccoli is considered a cold weather champ! It can tolerate some pretty cold weather.  This year's broccoli has been really bad. Both the spring planting and fall planting were heavily infested with cabbage worms. i deal with cabbage worms every year, but never this bad. Every year i say i'm going to invest in row covers, but i have yet to do it. Next year may be the year though.  i put in around 36 plants between spring and fall, and threw out most of it due to the worms. The green cabbage worms are easy to hand pick off, but the cross striped cabbage worms get inside the flower head and spin a silk that holds them in place, so even after soaking in salt water you still have to pull the heads apart and pick out worms. i was hoping that the cold snap would have killed off some of the worms, but t seems they just burrowed deep in the flower head. Pretty disappointing, and i'm usually able to freeze a bunch to use in broccoli cheese soup over the winter. The frost didn't bother the worms or the flower heads, but it did leave frost burn on the broccoli leaves.

i have a bunch of fall lettuce planted, and although it was heavily frosted, most of it survived just fine. i had one patch get some pretty good frost damage, while another patch that was planted maybe 6 foot away, looks perfectly fine. This is one of the reasons i like to plant in multiple gardens, rather than just one. Sometimes the frost is patching, and will hit one area but not another. Most everything that was planted in the lower bed was wiped out, while this upper bed sustained very little frost damage.  

The flowers that had taken over the garden finally froze, and have all died back. So now the garden clean up has began. We had a couple nice days this past week so i've been out in the evening trying to clear the bed, and already thinking about what i'll different next year.  It's a lot of work, and part of me wants to just leave it and let it sit until spring. 

Between the spring rain, the blight, the bugs's been a really rough gardening season.  i had one tomato plant survive, although it took so long for the tomatoes to develop i didn't know if i would get any. When the threat of frost was predicted, i stripped the plant of green tomatoes. i really didn't expect them to ripen. Although the plant didn't succumb to late blight like the others, i had removed several green tomatoes with the tell-tail brown blight i knew the plant had blight. i also knew from last years experience, that even if i pick the tomatoes green there is a good chance they will develop blight spots as they ripen.  
So it really felt like a small blessing, when all at once my tomatoes began to ripen.  We had quite a bit more than this. i was able to freeze about 2 quarts, and i've been having tomato sandwiches daily. Of all the green tomatoes picked, only two developed blight spots after they ripened. i do not know if we were just lucky, or if this plant is somewhat blight resistant. i'm pretty sure it is the Hillbilly Variety. i will definitely be planting them again next year.

After the killing frost, Mother Nature always teases us with another 3-4 weeks of perfect gardening weather. i definitely have come to expect it for this area, but it frustrates me none the less.  Thankfully not everything was killed, so i still have a few patches of leaf lettuce, swiss chard and kale.  My beets which are supposed to be extremely cold hardy, were looking pretty wilted. i think they'll recover, but i was surprised that the frost had affected them so much, and yet my young tender lettuce had very minor frost burns on a few leaves.

i planted a bunch of spinach, but it didn't germinate very well. i have a few really good looking plants, and a bunch of new spinach coming in. i also put spinach in the makeshift hoop house, soi'm hoping to get a good yield this winter. Spinach is really tolerant of cold weather, and i remember a few years back digging under a layer of fresh snow and finding the spinach still looking perfect. It's a heavy feeder, and i need to fertilize it a bit better this fall. Typically i like to add a load of manure and compost in the spring, and this year we didn't do either. i'm really  kind of amazed that i was able to grow anything this year. 

i have my fingers crossed that i do get those 3-4 weeks of good weather, i planted more lettuce, kale and spinach earlier this week. :) i guess i'm not quite ready to settle in to the routine of winter yet. i've got to hang on to that garden just a little bit longer.  

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.  ~Thomas Fuller