Red Squirrel

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Ruth finished her little needle-felted squirrel.

IMG_0555What it looked like a few days ago: natural wool for the core.

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Over the top went a white front and orange body,

IMG_0646and finally peaked ears, and eyes.

She’s very happy with it, and George liked it so much, he has requested she make him chipmunk for Christmas.

 

 


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Winter White Knitting

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As is the Wednesday ritual: linking up with Ginny’s Yarn Along and the KCCO.

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The past few days, I’ve been re-reading The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading, and pouring over the plans in Build Your Own Barrel Oven.

IMG_0531A barrel oven seems like a very, very cool project for an outdoor oven, but after reading the construction details and seeing how one operates, I think we will stick with our original plan to build a simple cob wood-fired bread oven next summer.

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I finished a little wool soaker for a friend having a baby.  It made for a nice break from the Christmas knitting projects, and baby garments are my favorite thing to knit.

IMG_0525The winter-white wool yarn is from the thrift store, so I don’t know the brand.  I suspect it has a little mohair in it, and it is quite soft and warm.

More soon:  this afternoon the kids and I are making pfeffernusse cookies and I hope to share our recipe later in the week.

 

 


Posted in Books and Reading, Knitting | 1 Comment

Little Tomte, Wooly Squirrel

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Astrid Lindgren’s The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox are two of our most-cherished winter-time books.  I adored them as a child, and am very glad my kids love them, too.

A few years ago, Ruth made a needle-felted fox and little Tomten, and the boys still look forward to playing with them while I read the stories.  IMG_0548

The Tomten cares for the creatures of the forest and keeps watch over the animals of the farm.  He is a gentle, quiet little gnome and these simple stories of his unseen interactions on the farm resonate with young children.

My children have enjoyed their little Tomten and Fox playset so much, we have begun a tradition of felting little Tomte as Christmas gifts for friends with young children.

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I set out everything to begin making a few, when Ruth decided to put the materials to better use:  crafting another friend for her own Tomten:

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IMG_0557She wants to make it clear that he isn’t completed yet, but her little squirrel is beginning to take shape.  He still needs color and detail, but when finished, he will make a nice little addition to the Tomten play set.  Perhaps we can make a few more forest friends to join him, but for now, it is back to crafting a few more Tomten men.

Joining the KCCO today.  Back tomorrow with some knitting and books.

 

 


Posted in Advent, Books and Reading, Crafting, Giving | 5 Comments

Christmastide Yarn Along

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I’ve been enjoying this book in the quiet of the early morning.  The prayers and passages are perfect for that time of day, while I knit a few rounds of a simple pattern and contemplate the season in which we are immersed.  IMG_0508[1]

The simple knitting that has kept my hands occupied while my mind is engaged with the reflections of Christmastide has been a pair of uncomplicated red mitts.  The mitts above are a pattern I have enjoyed making many times before.  These are for a gift exchange, and will get gussied up with a bit of needle-felting before they are delivered to their recipient.

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Red always seems like a good color for mittens.   My favorite mittens as a kid were a pair of red wool ones my grandmother knit long before I was born.  She ran out of wool before completing the last thumb, so it is a different shade – I always loved the quirkiness of that turkey red thumb against the vermillion of the rest.

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The children continue to read and re-read the large stack of library books piled up in the sunroom.  Hal, age 6, has really enjoyed An Orange for Frankie.  The pictures are lovely, and the story is one he likes to hear over and over.

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We picked up two big bags of satsumas this week, and I’ve kept a bowl of them out on the table for the kids to enjoy whenever they wish – it has already been refilled a few times.

After reading And Orange for Frankie, Hal and I read up on the tradition of giving citrus at the holidays – something we have in such abundance was once a cherished luxury.  St. Nicholas brings the children each a stocking on Christmas morning, and always leaves a tangerine in the toe – in Christmases past, it would have been the most treasured part, discovered last in the end of the stocking.

We were sure to really pause and savor the satsumas we snacked on as we read An Orange for Frankie one more time.  Hal also asked if we could make candied orange peels again – something we haven’t done in a long time.  I think that sounds like a very good idea.

Joining Ginny for the weekly Yarn Along, and also Frontier Dreams’ KCCO.


Posted in Advent, Books and Reading, Knitting | 5 Comments

Needle-Felting Kit

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The girls wanted to share about a recent birthday gift they made for a friend: a simple needle-felting kit.

My kids – like many kids – really enjoy playing and crafting with bit of wool and yarn.  Ruth, in particular, has enjoyed needle felting ornaments and little animals for her siblings for quite a long time.  Ruth wanted to make a gift for her friend -who is also quite artistic – and Ruth thought she might enjoy making little wooly creations, too.

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First, we found a basket at the thrift store that met with everyone’s approval.  Then, the girls cut a block of foam from our stash of dense craft foam.  We added a needle-felting needle (Needle-felting safety rule #1:  Always store the needles in their block of foam!)

IMG_0521A visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store provided the necessary collection of bright wool for decorating, while I included some balls of white and natural grey/brown spinning fiber to be used as the base over which the bright colored wool will be felted.

Very proud of my girls and their creative gift ideas.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they have made for each other and their brothers for Christmas.

If you have Handmade Holiday projects to share, please post a link in the comments – I would love to read about what you are working on!

 

 


Posted in Crafting, Giving | 3 Comments

Early December Nature Table

 

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Today it really began to feel like Christmastime in our home:

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Bea and I converted the nature table  from autumn to Advent.

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The Nativity figurines were a gift (from France!) and the conifer candle, picked up at the farmer’s market, is made from local beeswax.  The perpetual calendar is from MamaRoots.

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I potted up a Christmas Cactus cutting from my mother.  Hopefully, by next Christmas it will be in bloom.

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Ruth and I began decorating our little table-top tree.  (We always get our tree from the L’Arche benefit sale.)  The lights and star go on, and tonight or tomorrow we will string popcorn and cranberries.  Later in the week, come the ornaments.

More soon, but now we are off to Ruth and Bea’s Holiday roller derby scrimmage.

Hope you are enjoying the beginning of the Christmas season!

 

 


Posted in Advent, Changing Seasons, Nature Table | 3 Comments

Grey Stripes and Good Books

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Slowly, slowly, we are beginning to decorate for Christmas.  Advent candles and readings at dinner…working with Grandpa on a new homemade Advent Spiral (because we currently use a little birthday ring from my preschool years in Germany)…Christmas toys appearing in corners of the house where the boys are sure to find and play with them.

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…and Christmas knitting continues in earnest.  George is growing like a weed and needs new hats.  While watching a documentary or two late at night, I knit up a little stocking cap for him (no pattern, just wingin’ it).  It is a study in grey, using leftover Kilcarra of Donegal tweedy yarn, and Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted I’ve had in my yarn dresser for years.  George is really into wolves at the moment, and I am deliberating adding some ears to the top of the hat.

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In order to get library books in time for the correct season, I place holds on them 3 or 4 weeks ahead of time. We discovered years ago that if we wait to visit the library for books right when we need them, they will all be checked out.  Ordering well in advance is very important not only for seasonal books, but also to make sure we get homeschooling resources in a timely manner – and we have a home educator’s library card so we can place a hold on 40 items at a time.

This week, more than 20 winter books came in for us, and we have been pouring through them.  Right now, most are Arctic and winter nature books,and Waldorf-y books, but a whole stack of Christmas/Nativity-themed holds should be in at the library later this week.  With the darkness descending by 4:30 in the afternoon, we have plenty of quiet time to read through every book we’ve checked out.

Joining Ginny for her Yarn Along today.


Posted in Books and Reading, Knitting, Learning | 4 Comments

Healing Salve Recipe

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‘Tis the Season to make Christmas gifts, and Bea and I started yesterday morning, making another, larger batch of comfrey-rosemary salve.  (Joining the KCCO today.)

Comfrey, also known as knit-bone, is touted as having strong healing properties.   I have used it daily on my broken ankle once the stitches healed (don’t use the salve on open wounds), but it is also commonly used on bruises and other injuries.  It is a soothing salve to rub onto bumps, bruises, sore muscles, etc – all of which are common place in a house with 3 roller derby girls and very active, energetic kids.

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Bea and I made this batch early in the morning before the other kids woke up.  At ten years-old, she can work with the hot wax and oil safely (with a little supervision, of course).

We have a $0.25 pot from the thrift store that is used only for beeswax-based projects.  Most of the jars were also from the thrift store, as well as some baby food jars given to me by a friend.

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I grow loads of Russian Bocking Comfrey in my garden because it is a dynamic accumulator and sequesters all sorts of minerals in its leaves – thereby making it a great fertilizer in the garden, as well as excellent duck forage.  It has deep tap roots (up to 12 feet deep!), which help break up our dense clay soil, and its delicate purple flowers are a favorite of bees – blooming for a long stretch.

I had picked the comfrey and rosemary a few months ago and dried them, but you can also order the dried herbs online if you don’t have a source in your yard.

Once you have the ingredients gathered, the salve takes only about 15 minutes to make.  Here’s our recipe:

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Comfrey-Rosemary Salve

3/4 cup organic olive oil 

4 Tbsp dried comfrey leaves

3 sprigs dried rosemary (you can substitute 2 Tbsp dried lavender if you prefer)

1 Tbsp vitamin E oil

3/4 cup organic coconut oil

6 Tbsp chopped beeswax

10 drops tangerine or 4 drops patchouli oil (if using dried lavender, substitute with lavender oil)

Directions:

- Infuse the dried herbs in the olive oil.  This can be done two ways:  either place the herbs and oil in a double boiler and heat gently over water (do not boil the oil over direct heat) for 30-45 minutes, or place dried herbs in the oil, cover and store in a dark place for 3-4 weeks.  (Note: Do NOT use fresh herbs – the water in them will cause your oil/finish salve to mold.  Herbs must be thoroughly dried.)

-Strain the dried herbs from the finished olive oil and discard them in the compost.

-Place the chopped beeswax, infused olive oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil in a pan.  Heat on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until all ingredients are completely melted.

- Immediately remove from the heat, and stir in the tangerine oil.

- Pour into jars, and let cool with the lids off.  Once thoroughly solidified, the salve will keep in a dark place at room temperature for 6 months or more. (Our kitchen was very cold when we made the salve, and it cooled very rapidly, resulting in cracks on the surface of the salve.  Next time, I will wrap towels around the jars or perhaps cover them with a pot so they cool more slowly.)

Back tomorrow for the Yarn Along!


Posted in Crafting, Farming/Gardening, From my kitchen, Homemaking, Locally grown, Moderation and Economy | 4 Comments

Our Daily Bread

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We bake bread several times a week here.  When the girls were little, we only made bread once a week.  But now with four active, growing children, we can polish off a loaf every day – sometimes in just one meal.  Thankfully, it is an activity I have always enjoyed – especially when the kids help.  (One day, we hope to get a wood-fired bread oven built in the backyard that would be available for the community to use when we fire it up once a week.  But for now, we are content to warm the house on a chilly night by baking in the kitchen.)

IMG_8442Recently, I got together with some moms from our homeschool co-op, and a guest came to share her orange-glazed sticky bun recipe with us.  She also shared a beautiful poem
(found in an old cookbook) about the artistry and importance of the simple act of baking bread, and I want to share it with you:

Our Daily Bread by Grace Noll

An ancient rite, as old as life is old:

A woman baking bread above a flame

Its value is far greater than pure gold,

it is ageless, timeless, and the simple name

Of bread is wholesome as the summer sun

That has lit and warmed the fields that men might eat;

It is as clean as are the winds that run

Their light-food way across the waving wheat.

A loaf is only half a loaf unless

We share it, and unless we say

Our grace above it, asking God to bless

That bread that He has given day by day

O women, handle flour as you should!

It is a thing God-given, priceless, good.  

 


Posted in From my kitchen, Homemaking | 1 Comment

A Late November Pause

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Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along, and Frontier Dreams for the KCCO - Pausing from the work of the day to work on a warmer version of this scarf for a bit this morning – more Christmas gift knitting, of course.

The kids and I are still on a seasonal/ethical eating kick, and after finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, we have started this book CD, and I’ve been thumbing through Edible Perennial Gardening.  A Michael Pollan book seems appropriate in this holiday season of time-honored, seasonal, traditional cooking:

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With Thanksgiving just a blink away, that’s all I have to share today.  Most of the day is devoted to cooking and prep for tomorrow – pie crusts, cornbread for the dressing, cranberry relish…food is always the epicenter of a holiday for me – a way to lavish love and appreciation on family and friends.

Wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Thanksgiving!


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments