Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest blogging, and Gramma and Grampa are here. But not the pigs any more.

Melissa, a friend of mine who owns "Honeybee Holistics", likes my blog and asked me if I would be interested in guest-blogging and reviewing her products for her. 'Oh, no, I can't possibly do this', I thought. 'I'm not good enough.'
But apparently, I am now her guest blogger, and her product reviewer to boot. She makes incredibly high quality body care products, all natural, all wild crafted, and I love them. You can read my first entry at Honey Bee Holistics here.  And the best thing: You can leave a comment on her blog to win the product I reviewed for her - her amazing Organic Coconut Citrus Scrub!  
You all should go to her website and shop for Christmas gifts in her online Etsy store. Do it right now!
No, wait. Finish reading this, and then go!

This week, we are blessed with Steve's parents' visit.  They will be here for two weeks, one of which Steve and I will be gone for.  I kind of didn't want to tell you about this, in case you got all jealous.  But here's the news: Steve and I will go to Mexico for a week, where Steve's brother has a time share at a fancy hotel.  I cannot believe we get to bask in the sun for a week, WITHOUT CHILDREN!!!  I can't write about it now, I get all jittery thinking about it!
We have a whole barrage of people lined up to help at home: Gramma and Grampa, neighbors, and friends.
In the meantime, the kids are already having fun with their grandparents.  They are getting a lot of attention, and we already took them on a tour of the farm.  Today, we showed them the pigs - and also said our last goodbyes.  The butcher is coming tomorrow morning.  I admit, I am kind of sad.  But this is what we raised these pigs for: bacon, pork chops, meat.  Yes, it's good.

Showing off the sauna the neighbors are building with wood and a stove we donated.
Gone are the days of walking out to pasture on frosty mornings, prying the feed lid open with frozen fingers, being attacked by pigs when I throw their feed in the trough... Hearing their squealing noises when they pig out on their breakfast... Schlepping water buckets from the standpipe to their pen, because the water hose is frozen...

The weather has been incredible. One day, Kai and I bicycled up the forest service road out of our back yard. When the mountain became too steep and gravely, we hiked. It was an incredible experience, full of macho endorphins, sunshine, and bonding with my oldest child. He is not a child anymore, really. Anyone who manages to kick my butt mountain biking is not a child.
These are the views we enjoyed that day:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

One year - success!!!

I started my blog exactly one year ago. I was terrified to do it, because I didn't think I was good enough, English being my second language and all. Also, I was afraid that there wouldn't be anything to write about. Ha! Look at me now! I can't shut up!
I love this blogging thing. I love sharing our life with you, showing you pictures, and inspiring you. I have readers from all over the world, including South Africa, Germany, England, Switzerland, South America, New Zealand, Russia, Malaysia, Russia, and Canada. Many of you have written to thank me for writing my blog, to ask me questions, or to sign up for one of our classes.
I can't get over it, I really can't. I mean, I've been working on my self worth for years, but this big success, thousands and thousands of page views in one year? It blows my mind and humbles me, and sometimes, it makes me very, very nervous about sounding like a bumbling idiot, or about offending someone, since we all know I have strong opinions on pretty much everything.
So thank you, dear readers, for helping me find my writing voice, and for making me feel like a part of a big community of awesome people!

This week, we've had our first hard frost – the kind of frost that makes the grass crunch underneath your feet. The kind of frost that freezes the animals' water buckets and the duck pond, and my kale in the garden. The kind of frost that has us cranking the wood stove all day, or pull wool hats over our ears when we venture outside. When I go out to the pasture to feed the pigs in the morning, their steaming bodies are arranged next to each other in a big pig pile.

Asparagus fronds

A miracle has happened with all the cold, clear weather: the sun has come out! Which means my mood is finally greatly improved, which in turn helps the whole dynamic in our family. If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.
The transition from being outside all day in the summer and fall to being cooped up in the house with weeks and weeks of rain and darkness is always a difficult one, especially for the South European sun worshipper that I am. But I think we have found a groove. Self care is important for my sanity: exercise, a little time alone each day, chocolate. Walks in the woods when the sun does show herself. And part of why I am knitting like a knitting machine is because it's my therapy. Color, wool, texture, creativity?  Bring it on!  And of course I knit to make money. My discount for my blog readers is still valid here.  I just finished a really pretty scarf with very unusual yarn.

I leave you with a picture of Kambucha fermenting in my kitchen.  If you don't know about this stuff, you should!  It's incredibly healthy, and incredibly expensive to buy at a health food store.  It costs very little to make at home!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

At the end of my rope

My darling, beloved four year old daughter has turned into a psychopath.  Now, I am very aware of the fact that being four years old is a hard lot in life, especially when you have two older brothers who are so much more capable than you, and who get so much more attention because they are homeschooled and get to do one-on-one lessons with their mother.  I understand how frustrating it is when you have so little control over your life, just as you are starting to realize you are separate from other people.  Believe me, I have a lot of empathy for her.
I also have a lot of empathy for me, who is stuck in the house with her every day, all day, tearing myself to pieces trying to be patient with Her High Maintenance Majesty.  I am still working on overcoming my strict German, Roman-Catholic upbringing steeped in guilt and shame.    
So when I notice myself ignoring my four year old because she is driving me up the wall, or when I start yelling even, I cringe.  I always promised myself that I would do things differently than my parents. I now understand why my parents did what they did. (At least I have never, ever spanked my children.  Wait.  Maybe I should...).

Talking about being at the end of my rope:  Something else was on the end of my rope the other day.  We picked him up on a rope from our friend, so he can live with us for a month.  His name is Ben, and he is very, very handsome, albeit a little small.  But who cares about being small when you are so extremely stinky.  Meet Ben:

Usually, when you introduce a new goat to a herd, they fight and head butt to establish their pecking order.  I was concerned about my girls beating the crap out of poor Ben, considering how small he is, and considering how bossy my goats are.  But when he arrived, there was instant harmony.  None of my goats are in heat right now, which means they are not very taken by him yet.  But once they come into heat, they will be quite enamored with him.
For now, things are more peaceful than they have ever been in my goat barn.  Now there is a man in the house, and even though he is not huge and bossy, he has a good influence on the ladies.

Speaking of man in the house:  My husband did it again.  Steve blew people away with his skills and knowledge, mostly small people this time.  He taught a class about wilderness skills at our kids' homeschooling program and brought an assortment of dangerous show and tell bootie: bows and arrows, flintknapped knives, fire making kits.  The kids were enthralled.  He even demonstrated making a friction fire, huddled outside the school doors so the fire alarms wouldn't go off.  The kids oooohhed and aaaahhhed, while I nervously stood by, thanking the God of fire for not making this skill a very easy one to copy at home.

Kai and Lukas' social standing just went through the roof because of their cool Dad.

I bet this is a first at this school.
What else is happening at our house, aside from terrible cabin fever with all this dark, rainy weather, and going insane because of all the chaos and mess and four year old psycho drama?
Well, thanks for asking.  Here is another doozie: All the chickens that we painstakingly raised and fed and then slaughtered, in other words: put a lot of effort and money into?  We put them into our freezer in the pole shed.  Steve noticed the other day that it had been unplugged.  All the chickens and other meat in the freezer were defrosted.  We don't know how long it has been like this, but we suspect a friend of ours unplugged the cord, not realizing it went to the freezer, because he had to use a power tool.  If this is the case, the chickens have been defrosted for two and a half weeks at 40 degrees.  I've been on the phone with the Extension Service and many other people, seeking opinions about the safety of all of this.  Are they salvageable?  I really don't want to throw all this meat way, but I also don't want to poison my family with salmonella.  My friend Bo suggested I cook up a chicken and feed it to the guy who unplugged the freezer.  If he lives...

Do you see why I'm freaking out this week?

Other happenings at the farm?  Picking up free, organic pumpkins from Cascadian Farm to feed to our pigs.  A haircut for Lukas, with "help" from his sister.  Anything to stop her from throwing a tantrum, really.  Yes, give the kid scissors to cut her brother's throat hair.  I'm just kidding!  Of course I didn't give her scissors!  And progress with building an extra room.  The concrete pour (in the pouring rain) was successful!

Interesting, isn't it, that I am a life coach, and I help women transform their lives.  I can see the patterns in their lives and help them identify what is needed and what needs to be learned to create a different experience.  The other night, I had a mini-breakdown, bawling in the arms of my very own life coach: Steve.  I felt so overwhelmed and pre-menopausal or PMS-sy or whatever it is that my hormones are trying to pull on me right now.  By Steve holding space for me to lose it, I was able to apply the principles I teach to other women, and I was able to come up with a list of things that I need to do in order to pull out of this.
One of the things:  I want a treadmill.  That way, I can exercise inside of my house, without leaving my kids to kill themselves to fend for themselves without an adult present.  A treadmill would infuse my life with endorphins and Mama time.  So all I'm saying, if you have a spare one sitting around somewhere, would you mind passing it on to me?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A gift for you

It looks like some people are already shopping for Christmas.  Saturday, I spent hours at a huge arts and crafts fair in Burlington, selling my felted hats, handspun yarn and goat milk soap. A lady who bought one of my felted hats said, "I'm already done with all my Christmas shopping, but I just can't resist this hat of yours."  I smiled politely while swallowing my impending panic.  People are already done with their Christmas shopping?  I haven't even remotely started thinking about it yet!
Since I'm the marketing person in our various family enterprises, I think I should get my butt in gear and give you, my blog readers, a Christmas gift.  I know there are many of you, judging from the amount of daily pageviews my blog gets, so here's the deal:

I want to offer you a coupon code, so when you go to my Etsy store, you get 20 percent off everything: felted hats, handspun yarn, goat milk soap, fingerless mittens, knitted accessories, all hand made by me.  And if you get your Christmas shopping done in my store, you can feel good about supporting my family.  Your purchases will go towards buying Christmas presents for our kids.  And hay for the goats.
Go to my store and at checkout, enter the coupon code BLOGGIFT and automatically receive 20 percent off.
Here are some of the things I make:

Felted hats with needle felted art on it.

Felted purses
Fingerless mittens
Knitting patterns of my own designs for mittens, hats and scarves
Handpainted, handspun yarn

Capelets and shoulder warmers

Super creamy goat milk soap

Forgive my shameless advertising here, but it's for a good cause.  And don't forget Steve's Etsy shop - there are lots of great gifts as well!
May your November be filled with stress free Christmas shopping, lots of time in front of a warm fire, and lots of hugs from loved ones!

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