Sunday, November 22, 2015

Family Vacation and Carroll family history

Well, geez I've missed you guys! I have a couple good excuses for not posting for two months. First my computer broke and it took six weeks for the shop to get around to looking at it. (Somehow during that time and since, we have gone from a one computer household to three laptops- so this should never happen again!) Second I don't know how it happened exactly, but now I don't have the photo shop (on any one of the three laptops) that allows me to downsize and crop pictures, so that they are small enough to post- so no pictures till my husband sits down with the computer and fixes it for me. Then we just took a lovely vacation and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

First we flew from Fairbanks all the way to Portland Maine, and then drove to my grandparents home, which is on Contention cove between Surry and Ellsworth; two small towns near Mt. Desert Island (think Bar Harbor). My grandparents were both born and raised in Maine, as were their parents, and their parents before them. They relocated to Oregon long enough to raise four children and then they moved back to Maine and built a home in the same location that my grampa's parents had lived since the mid nineteen hundreds. This is the second time we have traveled to Maine with our children, both times in early November, and both visits we have experienced warmer than usual temperatures. We were blessed with sixties and seventies, sun, oak leaves and hazelnuts and laden apple trees everywhere. I absolutely adore Maine. Due to the balance of seasons, the climate/growing conditions, real people, old houses, history, rural living, the woods,ocean and wild life; it is one of the few places that I think I could move to. The main drawback being it's distance from all our friends and family.

One of the clinchers for me, as far as whether we could fit in, was a trip to the Blue Hill farmer's market, where, I visited with a woman selling fresh and aged goat cheese; who not only raises goats, but is a potter (an occupation I hope to take up again someday), and her son was home schooled and also went to the Waldorf school up the road. When I hear Waldorf school; I equate that with knowing that there are like minded families with similar values and lifestyles - which, is so important when considering locations one could transplant to. As I stood in the midst of this small quaint farmer's market; admiring the products available; local maple syrup, heirloom apples and cider from wild apples, vegetables and charcuterie, and as equally important the back to our roots vendors, I looked around and wanted to shout, "I've found my tribe! You could be my people!" As I selected beets, parsnips, shallots, winter squash and salad greens to turn into dinner that night, I was just bursting with contentment and wanting to meet everyone and see their farms. I was also reminded of how much more relaxed the regulations are in Maine for making and selling your own fresh and aged cheese and cured meats, which is so much more difficult to do here - legally.

The highlight of our trip (for me and probably me only) was a guided trip inside the Carroll Family homestead on Mt. Desert Island. A generous park ranger had told my grandparents if they ever had family in town that wanted to see inside, he would show us inside the homestead, which is usually only opened for family reunions and special occasions, and he held true to his word. Let me back up a bit, The Carroll family homestead was built by my great, great, great, great grandpa; John Carroll, who moved into it with his wife and their young family in 1825. He had immigrated from Ireland in 1790. It was eventually passed on to his son, Jacob Carroll and then his son, another John Carroll, who moved out of it with his wife and family in 1917. Eventually it was given to Acadia national park and has been cared for by the park service. To this day visitors and school classes visit the homestead to get a glimpse of what rural Maine life was like. The homestead began witha 21x25 foot dwelling, with a root celar and attic.There was a hand dug well, a kitchen garden, larger vegetable fields, hay fields, a barn and a well. There were usually chickens, sheep, a milk cow or two and a horse. In 1880, they recorded seven acres of tilled land, twenty acres of pasture and meadow and fifty three acres of forest. There were paths down to the ocean as well as a view of the ocean from the yard - which is no longer there as the trees have grown up.

I have grown up fascinated by the Carroll homestead and have visited on a few occassions, but have never been there when the house was open. On this occassion, we got venture down into the root celar, as well as the main floor and even into the attic, precarious with it's rotting boards and spider webs. As you can imagine, I turned this into a homeschooling activity for the kids, with the help of a book that was written about the homestead, called Four Generations in Maine, a  Carroll homestead school curriculum written for Maine classrooms, as well as a video taken of my great, great aunt and uncle speaking about life on the homestead. By the end of it all, my kids had their fill of this part of their family history - I on the other hand, can not get enough! Back to my roots, indeed!

Well, after a delightful week with my grandparents, we flew to Florida to visit with my husband's family. We were blessed with another week of warm sunny weather, seventies and eighties and humid! We divided our days between the pool, the beach and the docks, where my husband and son enthusiastically caught blue crabs to take home and eat, while Avery played on the playground with her cousins and I stared at the water entranced by the non stop wave on manitees and dolphins that passed by. We took the week of any indoor learning field trips and just spent as much time in the sun and outdoors as our skin would allow. Getting out early and coming in during the middle of the day to rest before heading back out.

After two weeks of travelling we are happy to be home. It is a winter wonderland here, all frosty and white. I am content to be home and going into winter. I want to do more crafting and baking than is possible in the next five weeks, so it is time to get organized and prioritize. I look forward to sharing pictures of our crafting and advent preparations with you! Happy baking and cooking and giving thanks week to you and yours!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Broccoli, Cabbage into Sauerkraut and Local Sweet Corn

 Broccoli SIDE SHOOTS!

In my last post I shared a picture of some large broccoli heads. They are Fiesta Broccoli heads and while I've grown this variety multiple summers, I'm sure these are the biggest heads I've ever grown. Well above are the side shoots from the same plants, and they just keep comming!

I'm noticing a general trend in my garden this year and that is that my vegetables are bigger and producing more than they ever have before. I'd like to think that it is all the composted goat manure I've been adding each year. But in truth, the one thing I did differently this year than in past years is that I bought 2oo lb. of AK fish bone meal at 25$ a bag (which was a score and why I did it) and I spread that fish meal in every row before I planted this year. And that, is what I think has made all the difference.

I have a romantic notion of having a biodynamic farm; where all the nutrients come from our homestead and are produced by the animals we raise or by cover crops. On a biodynamic farm you don't buy soil ammendments, no fish meal, no kelp, rock phosphate or greensand, all weighing a ton and costing an arm and a leg for the shipping of it. I would like to think that composted goat manure, chicken manure and other poultry manure in addition to our garden and household compost would be enough. But what I am slowly realizing is that neither the clay rocky ground that is our reality, nor the peat mix we bought by the truckload and dumped on top of our clay rocky bed have the necessary minerals and nutrients in it, even with animal manure added. The soil is still deficient. The manure adds nitrogen. Over the years I've noticed phosphorous missing the most. Onions and garlic don't bulb up well and my peas don't produce well, unless I add bone meal which is high in phosphorous. Last fall I added bone meal to my small garlic bed and to the pea rows. Unfortunately I hadn't decided where to plant onions. As a result, my peas are doing great. I have three and a half gallon bags of shelled sweet peas in the freezer. I also harvested good sized garlic bulbs. But my onions are small and I'm wishing I'd bought another bag of bone meal when I'd planted them this spring.

We left town for six days to get away and do some fun things with the kids in Southern Alaska. I tried so hard to stay on top of the garden, especially the peas and zucchini up until the day we left. Yet we still came home to splitting cabbages, woody peas and monster zucchini.

Avery made sauerkraut. I thought she was just going to help me but she ended up doing it all. With the help of the food processor she shredded it, added salt and tossed it, and despite her mother telling her she probably didn't have the strength to pack it firmly enough, she went ahead and did just that.

I've been thinking: where else do gardeners harvest and shell peas at the same time the sweet corn is ready to pick, the tomatoes and pepper are ripening and just about everything from zucchini and broccoli to cucumbers and onions are done and need harvested within the space of a month??! While I'm not complaining, harvest season is really and truly crazy here. I have shelled so many peas in the last couple weeks that my right thumb nail is separating from the skin and I had to figure out a different way to shell peas than rely on my right thumb yesterday. I'm picking raspberries, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, fava beans, broccoli and romanesco every two to three days and trying to deal with them all. Next on the list, the basil needs pureed with olive oil and frozen because there is still plenty of dried from last year. I need to start blanching and freezing kale not because it's in danger of being nipped by frost, but rather there is just so much of it I'll feel good to put a dent in a few rows.

Low down areas could be expecting a frost any clear night now. Thankfully we usually have till early September before the squash, tomatoes and cucumbers take a hit here. However, I notice that with the cooler temperatures we are starting to get, more and more sixty degree days than seventy degree days, the tomatoes are about to be at the point where they ripen faster indoors than out, and the squash are beginning to stay about the same size. So, I'm guessing my heat lovers only have another week or two tops in the garden before they need to come in for safety.

Another dilemma I'm facing is that we have been storing our root crops in a friend's root cellar. But their root cellar is not usually cool enough until late September. So, I can't really get a jump start on harvesting any of the root crops which are already plenty big enough, because I have no where to put them. My second fridge is full of cabbages that were splitting. 

Which brings me to my most recent epiphany; which is that considering that I love to eat fresh vegetables and would prefer to be doing so year round for health and taste, rather than eating them canned, frozen, dried, pickled or fermented (with a few exceptions), and given that we basically have an abundance of fresh vegetables for just a few months, I'm living in the wrong climate!

Well, despite already feeling overwhelmed by the garden, I still couldn't resist when a friend of mine was having a u pick sweet corn day at his farm. So the kids and I stopped in and picked 27 (someone miscounted- we were going for 25) ears of Yukon Chief sweet corn. It was a splurge and a treat. We grilled most of it and ate it on the cob or in fresh veggie salads. I realized after buying this sweet corn that my own is almost ready to pick and felt kind of silly for paying for corn when I had my own. But, how often do you get to walk through a corn field in Fairbanks Alaska?! And my own corn plot is very small.

If the garden dries out and I'm able to hack through the weeds to reveal the vegetables, I'll share some pictures of the garden in my next post. Happy Harvesting!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Salmon Processing and Garden Vegetables

I'm enjoying another foggy morning. Foggy mornings are not very common here, but do have them more often in August and September, something having to do with the cooler temperatures we get this time of year. Foggy mornings remind me of childhood vacations on the coast of Maine. My mother's family is from Mt. Desert Island in Maine. We would fly all the way from Oregon to Maine every few years to visit my great grandmother, great aunts and my mother's godmother. I remember eating breakfast in my great grandma's kitchen when I was eight, and looking out at the thick fog. And that same week taking walks to the harbor and exploring the coastline in the fog. 

Then on the complete flip side, fog also reminds me of vacationing on the Oregon coast in the winter, of which I also have fond memories; getting away from the snow and cold of Eastern Oregon and camping in the rain on the coast, off season, and having the coast and campgrounds mostly to ourselves.

Well, I am using the foggy morning to catch up with you guys. I have some pictures of salmon processing and some garden veggies that have made it to the kitchen, to share with you while I procrastinate tackling my pantry which is on my morning list of things to do. 

Dustin took his annual trip to the Chitina river a couple weeks ago with his good luck fishing buddy. This year the limit was greater than in past years. Head of household qualifies for 25 salmon and then ten additional fish for each family member. So, we could have gotten 55. He came home with  45, I think. We gave some away that first day to close family and friends which took us down to 36 which is a good number for us. We will eat it all and probably have none left next early summer to have to deal with. 

Dustin leaves the heads in Chitina and brings back just about everything else, including the eggs. We freeze the eggs and feed them to the chickens throughout the year for protein. This year he taught the kids to scrap the back meat off. Most people don't know about back meat and just throw it away. We pack it into jars, press saran wrap on the top, leave clearance for expanding and freeze it. Then we use the jars for salmon cakes and salmon chowder. I believe we had about 8 pint jars of back meat that the kids scraped off.

This year I was dealing with early pregnancy on salmon processing day, so Dustin and the kids did most the work. I even took a two and a half hour nap during the middle. We put about five whole fish in the freezer. They keep the best that way and have the least freezer burn when we pull them out in January to eat. The rest we vacuum sealed with the meat facing together. We will try and eat all those packages before mid winter. We brined and smoked the rest. I froze one large batch of salmon jerky - extra dry smoked salmon - for easy, not too messy snacking. Then canned three flats of smoked salmon for salmon and crackers, salmon goat cheese spread and smoked salmon salad. 

Avery scraping back meat.

 Smoked salmon canning morning.

 This is our second or maybe third year noticing these little worms. I don't know anyone else who has even noticed them. And I wonder if it because most people I know are freezing their salmon and then pulling it out to smoke later. Or when they eat their salmon fresh, they mistake the worms for ligaments or other things. But, these worms gross me out. I looked them up last year and can't remember what they are called, but I think the salmon get them from sea mammals while they are in the ocean. Supposedly these worms need a salt water mammal host, so thankfully, we shouldn't suffice. I have noticed these worms dried out on the top of the smoked salmon. This year was the first time seeing a worm that had survived the smoking process. This worm pictured above, was actually wriggling around for at least an hour while I cut up salmon. It makes me a little concerned about eating the smoke salmon fresh before canning it. Likewise, about eating salmon lightly cooked off the grill. Freezing the fish first, would be the obvious answer for those who are concerned about the worms. I haven't spoken about these worms in front of my kids. I don't want to give them a reason to not want to eat their fresh salmon.

 We had two of our "old" goats back for about three weeks. Denali and Ember came back for a visit while their owners were on summer vacation. I enjoyed having them back. I did not necessarily enjoy milking them twice a day. Man, that's a lot of work. I've never been a big fan of milking twice a day, even if you do get twice as much milk out of your animals. I'm a morning person. I turn into a pumpkin after dinner. While I had these girls, I had my two weeks of nausea and I was super sleepy. I was trying to milk them close to twelve hours apart, but then we had soccer games and practices at various times three nights a week. So, I tried. And they did well for me. Denali gave us about eight pounds of milk a day. She is a two year old second freshener. Ember gave about five to six pounds a day and is a one year old first freshener. I did enjoy the abundance of milk and managed to get a good amount of chevre and milk in the freezer.

 First straw flower picking. I really need to learn how to make wreaths with them while they are fresh and pliable.

A fraction of my third and final carrot thinning :) 

 Hullo lovelies. Gosh, I really just want to eat all our broccoli fresh. But when I let the heads get this big and then pick them at once, that isn't really an option. So, I blanched and vacuum sealed some for winter soup. I like frozen broccoli pureed in soup form and that is about it.

 I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but these cabbages are approaching basketball size.

 And this would be at least a three meal cauliflower head - for our family anyways. Yesterday I made a white bean, kale, parmesan soup with about a quarter of this head. Next, I think I'll make a Aloo Gobi with Indian spices and potatoes. Then maybe steamed with cheddar cheese sauce. 

And now, I must motivate and get on with my morning duties.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Our summer in pictures and a surprise!

 Avery with her cousins at the Botanical Gardens. And with our friend's daughter Juniper, above.

 We have had a wonderful summer. And if I sound past tense at all, it is because the end of July does mark the end of our hot days and the beginning of our cooler days and dark growing nights. I have not been making the time to download pictures let alone take the time to write anything cohesive. Instead we have been on the go catching up on doctor and dentist appointments, spending time with friends and family, scrambling to catch up on house chores on the rainy days and occasionally I manage to eek out a fee precious hours in the garden.

Most of these pictures are from June. Avery had a wonderful first week at Wild Rose Summer camp.

 In June my brother and his wife had their third child, a daughter named Petra Rose. Below the kids are holding her for the first time. Above is a little sweater vest I made for her. It is a free pattern on ravelry called "Louise". I had some issues with the pattern, so if anyone tries making and runs into trouble you can email me :) 

Avery and I made it out one day shortly after summer solstice to "bark" our Birch trees. I hope I got enough bark for all the winter crafts I am hoping to make. I meant to get out one more time and find a few bigger trees but I'm pretty sure I've missed the window by now.

 We were invited to pick Honey Berries with friends. That is Avery's haul. She made a pie, mixing them with some peaches and cherries. I picked maybe a gallon and a half. Put most in the freezer. In case you've never heard of Honey Berries, they grow on a hardy shrub that is cold tolerant. They produce fruit early. I think we picked at the end of June or early July. Right about when the strawberries first came on. They look like an oblong blueberry but have a different and distinct flavor. The Botanical gardens here in town has several varieties growing. The bushes we were picking off of were probably four or five feet in diameter and about six feet tall. I was impressed with their yield and earliness.

 Avery picking Arnica flowers to make a fresh infused oil.
This perennial spot is one of my favorite areas in my garden. The bees love it so much I have a hard time working in it. I have to watch before I grab and be careful where I step.

And yes, that is my pee stick! We are expecting our third child! 

I am guessing that this won't come as a surprise to some of my long time readers. We have been making gradual steps towards this outcome for a couple years now; everything from teeth mineralizing diets and cleanses to downsizing on our animal diversity and numbers. We wanted to be in a better financial position so that we would not be overwhelmed by financial stresses. We also wanted to simplify our life so that we can really just savor each day with our children and the one to come. We had hopes to sell this home and move before having another child but the house that we want to buy isn't available until next summer, and we just couldn't wait any longer. As you can imagine the kids are very excited - especially Avery. She says things like, "I can't believe you are building a baby for me! and Noah and Dad and you." I myself am so excited I have trouble falling asleep at night sometimes despite how tired I am all day. And there have been some nights I wake up and remember and then can't fall back to sleep, because of how thrilled I am.

So, we will be having an early March baby. I am about eight weeks along and thankfully have already wrapped up a couple weeks of queasiness (during which we butchered chickens and processed salmon) and am just tired now and don't feel like cooking with all the amazing produce we should be enjoying. 

We've had a few rainy days. This morning was foggy. I made gluten free zucchini bread and my first batch of feta in a couple years. But the sun has just come out and is calling to me. I will share pictures of my beautiful garden soon. 
Best wishes to you!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer thus far

I am celebrating our first drizzly morning of the summer with a cup of tea and a short post. I was hoping to hear the sound of rain on the roof last night. A sound I can't remember hearing since last summer. Alas, we've just got a drizzle, but I'm hoping to hear steady rain at some point over the next few days. Our summers here in in the Interior of Alaska are typically hot and dry, and this one is proving hotter and drier than most which is why our State is up in flames at the moment with fires everywhere. I have been enjoying the warm weather immensely. I believe we've had a couple weeks of eighties and sun, and so I have celebrated them by wearing as little as possible while at home, testing the limits of my skin's sun capacity even while wearing sunblock, feeding the kids watermelon and cherries and ignoring house chores as much as possible.

The kids and I have spent most of this month of June driving to and from various camps and soccer practices and games. Fortunately I got the garden in during the first three weeks of May, because during the last week of May Noah's soccer practices began and Avery had her first week of camp ever. She attended the North Star Ballet's creative dance camp with a girlfriend. It was a half day camp and she absolutely loved it. Then last week she went to Wild Rose Camp which is a wonderful camp that takes place at Wild Rose Farm. It is located at the top of some beautiful hay fields which we've bought great hay from, and is also situated next to a vegetable CSA garden. The kids do lots of beautiful crafts, play games in the fields, play in the mud and do other camp things like learning new songs and taking hikes. Avery is super crafty so from what I can tell she did every craft as much as possible all day long. She made pottery that they fired in a small hand made kiln, she made a tie dyed t shirt, as well as other dying projects. There was also batik, wet felting, paper making, and her favorite was marbling which is when you make a design in water with paint and then press a paper in it to pick up the design. Avery made eleven marblings in her first day.

Noah has soccer three nights a week. These past two weeks he has gone to the Fairbanks Drama camp. He was expressing an interest in putting on plays, so we made an impetuous decision and enrolled him. He has enjoyed himself for the most part. I think he has really enjoyed meeting new kids and making new friends. Which has brought me once again to question whether his needs are being met by being schooled at home. The more he does away from the home with boys and kids his age, the more he wants to be away from home doing things with kids his age. I'm realizing that in order to meet his needs and continue home schooling, the reality is that I'm going to spend a significant amount of my afternoons and evenings year round driving him back and forth to practices and games and pursuing other areas of interest. I'm just going to keep digesting that fact and maybe someday it won't be so difficult to swallow.

In other news we have fifteen pullets that are happily growing. We had nine that had made it to six weeks before a Silver fox (black) found a way into our chicken tractor that no fox has breached in seven years. So we had to start all over. We have fourteen Freedom Ranging chickens that are still under close confinement do to the fox scare. I was hoping to put them on pasture for their second half of life, but I'm pretty sure this Fox is keeping a close eye on the chicken tractor and these chickens now and I feel we've already contributed to her growing family as it is.

The garden is looking great for this time of year. Everything is just off to a record start; peas blooming, carrots forming, baby zucchini's and squash starting. We've been harvesting salad turnips, the most beautiful radishes I ever did grow, head and cutting lettuce and kale for a couple weeks now. I picked the first Hungarian Hot Wax pepper and there are green tomatoes and beans growing. I have three gardens now. The main one in addition to two more in old goat pens that we've tilled and planted potatoes and greens in. I'm hoping to spend July in my garden, weeding, weed wacking, digging up and potting raspberry canes, strawberries and perennials in anticipation of moving next year. In July we have no camps, just soccer for Noah. I will be goat sitting two to three of our old (young) milkers for almost three weeks. So, I'll have a good excuse no to leave the homestead for a while. I'm looking forward to a month of goats and the garden and hopefully more sun and heat and water play and playground days with friends.

When I find my camera I'll share some pictures of our summer thus far. I look forward to hearing about how your summer is going as well!

Monday, April 20, 2015

April decisions and pictures

This April has been less hectic than normal here. April is Noah's birthday month. For the past seven years April has also been our biggest month for goat's kidding. So usually I'm up at all hours watching the goat's closely, helping with kidding and then the after care that goes along with balancing a barn full of mama's and their little ones. Most years goats kidding coincides with Noah's birthday which also coincides with chicks hatching, hiving bees and filling up the indoor seed rack. This year our chickens weren't laying when it was time to set eggs. I ended up getting reckless and setting ten Toulouse goose eggs instead....even though I have no idea what I'll do with them if any hatch. I haven't been able to make up my mind about bees. I have the registration form filled out and ready to mail. Each paycheck Dustin get's we've been paying for one big spring/summer expense. Seeds, soil and fertilizer, check. Noah's soccer, check. Avery's creative dance camp, check. Chicks and chick food, check. Next in priority is swim lessons followed by either another camp Avery wants to go to or Bees. 

This has been my spring for indecisiveness in regards to animal husbandry. The reason being, is that we may be moving sometime during the summer or in the fall, hopefully before winter. This homestead we have made our home is beautiful and I love it dearly. I love our view, the warmer winter temperatures, the gorgeous Birch trees all around us. I love our garden and I could just go on and on about how much I value this home and land. We have decided however, that we want full southern exposure, a well and a bigger, finished house with lots of windows. It has to have a garden space. And we'll want to continue to keep layers and honey bees.

I wrote recently of shifting priorities. I want Dustin to be able to spend his evenings and weekends with us doing fun things and not repairing fences, building or fixing animal shelters and all the other odd homesteading chores that pile up. I want to spend most of my energy homeschooling, keeping house and planning fun activities and trips for my family.

The dilemma remains; how is one to plan a garden and and the summer livestock raising and butchering schedule when you don't know if and when you may be moving? I'll be taking it easy this summer. We currently have nine new layer chicks in the chicken house. The current layers are doing well. We will butcher them in the fall. We may or may not toss in a few meat chickens into the mix. And if I pick up bees, I'll be hiving them at a friend's house in town.

Here are some pictures of our last couple weeks:


 First goat kids of the season, at a friend's.

 Noah, tapping Birch trees.

 Birthday Boy! Nine years old!

 Xanadu kidded to a nice pair of twins, one buckling and one doeling. Her seventh season kidding! Zuri and Denali also kidded two twins, also a buckling and doeling each. Ember kidded to a single buckling and is a great first time mom. All does and kids are doing well.

 Noah helping make his birthday cheesecake.

Kids reading dad their journals and showing off their workbooks from this past year. They finished writing their last journal entry this morning.

We have had such a great home schooling year. I'll have to sum it up in an upcoming entry. We still have about five weeks left to go before we start letting up a bit for our summer schedule, camps and planting the garden. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

So long Winter, Hello Spring!

We are saying a slow goodbye to winter here in Fairbanks Alaska. We did have a pleasant drippy last few weeks of March, followed by a week of cooler weather. There is still a good bit of snow in our woods though, as there usually is at this time of year. Indoor we are thinking spring though. Our Spring tree has sprouted leaves, chicks are peeping from their tub, the incubator is filled with goose eggs and the seedling rack is filling up. My last few weekends have looked like the top picture: me, sitting in the sun, carefully selecting which seeds to start, and then getting my hands dirty for the first times since last fall, sometimes even with a glass of wine or cider in hand.

The other day we pulled out water pants and rain coats. As we got ready to meet friends for ice skating one last time, the kids declared that they were done with winter and done with their snowsuits. The following pictures are from a few weeks ago. Hopefully they'll be the last snowy pictures I share for a while, because we are all done with winter here.

Change. It's that time of year. A time of re-birth and re-newel, and I am feeling it like never before. A strong desire to create, make, change...  Being a mom and wife has become my sole focus this winter. Trying to do my job to my utmost ability. Being in the present with my family. Tuning in. This entire past year has already been a time of change for our family. Before we had kids, Dustin and I wanted to be self sufficient more than anything else. We wanted to live on land we owned, build our own house, grow our own food, raise our own meat, honey, milk, make our own cheese, and in general harvest, forage, and make anything we could and to have as much control over the products we put on and into our bodies and homes. This is a noble goal, and continues to play a strong role in our lives. BUT, now we have other goals; spending as much time with our children as we can, homeschooling, doing fun things together as a family on the weekends, traveling together. As with all things, we are trying to find the balance.

Dustin has been working more this winter than usual and as a result has had less time at home. When he is home he is busy plowing the driveway, chopping and hauling firewood, hauling and pumping our water and if he has a block of time, trying to finish some aspect of our unfinished home, this spring he has been mudding and taping our bathroom.

 I had an epiphany this spring. And it was this: We could sell this homestead and buy a finished house. A house on less acreage but south facing, with a well and a shorter driveway. A place out of town where we can still have a flock of chickens, but doesn't involve as many winter chores to keep running. In this home there would be no ongoing construction projects indoors. We would have more time to do fun family things together on the weekends and not have to share Dad with as many outdoor chores. We have always planned to sell this homestead and move lower down and have "real" farm land, as only when we can grow our own hay, grain and legumes and put our animals on summer pasture, will we be truly self-sufficient. I'm realizing we don't have to go from this to our dream home. We could have an in-between home while we continue to save up, work towards and plan for our "dream homestead". So, we'll see. I tend to feel this way every spring and as soon as I'm in the garden I'm content until winter. This year I'm hoping to keep the momentum rolling. I am ready for change.