Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dreams Realized, Blessed Beyond Words

So many times I have thought to post an update. So much has happened, and at a furious pace. I'm just now coming up for air, these two years later. But not without God's sustaining hand ever present on our shoulder, guiding, assuring us, every step, of His goodness and care, and desire to remind us of His love through even earthly blessings. Yet, we doubt Him listening, hearing our prayers. I feel so foolish when I forget to look back at the ways He has carried us, even lavished His goodness on us.
My short blog has few entries, but it doesn't take long to see my longings for a country life. I transformed our builder grade suburban home on a half acre into the farmhouse of my magazine pages, with beadboard wainscot on the walls of every hall, bathroom, laundry room, kitchen backsplash, complete with plate rail in the dining room. Checkered black and white floors replaced all the carpet in our living room, dining room, family room, laundry, and mainflor half bath. My country kitchen was to die for, with enough room for all my girls to help me bake, can, and dehydrate foods. I rendered lard on the back deck, spun wool by my freestanding Vermont Castings gas fireplace. I birthed 9 babies in our bedroom there, put in a garden, planted fruit trees. When allowed to opportunity, I kept milking goats on a dear friend's property, driving there twice a day to milk, bottle feeding kid goats, sneaking them home to keep in my bathroom when they neede extra care. We tried keeping chickens for a time, until a neighbor complained, concerned for the neighborhood well. Chicken were given away, and children cried. But the house was perfectly located for my husband's ferry commute to downtown Seattle, for soccer and baseball practices, for my parents to drop in for hugs. As the children grew, left home and came for family dinners with cars of their own, and the grands started to arrive, our culdesac filled for family dinners, rehearsal dinners, and engagement parties. We were outgrowing and overflowing, hogging the public space of our small neighborhood. It was all my children knew. Home. But I longed for more. I was tired of the fishbowl I felt I lived in for 21 years, careful not to step on toes, hiding in my "farmhouse" in the suburbs. I longed for space, and freedom to breathe, be myself, and be a good neighbor...from a distance. I wanted opportunities for our children to pursue small business, work with their hands, run and play with abandon. I longed for a fiber flock, eggs from our chickens, milk from our goats, a big garden, and an orchard. Getting that on Bainbridge Island would take a miracle. We drove to every possible new listing that might be able, with some creativity, to suit us. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize we could buy more "off island", as we call it. But that meant sacrifices, mostly to Louie's commute, already an hour door to door. He resisted for a long time, but then humored me with drives through off island communities, looking at land, foreclosures, looking for a deal so we could afford more land. Buying with cash was becoming more of a possibility with our shrinking mortgage, our time invested. But houses were small, run down, manufactured, or just raw land, with so much infrastructure required, making development costs just a risky guess. And then there was internal strife and resistance from our children still home, that no other place could be "home". Change is hard. Memories and community had been made.
Another big piece of land came on the market and off we drove to take a look. Wet, like lots of open land in our area, which makes property cheap and unusable, it was a shame that beavers have more property rights than we do. But the real estate agent on the sign was someone my husband knew, so we called. No, this wasn't what we wanted, but he had a few others we might like, and another coming on the market. Could he send us the information? It was Spring 2013. Our son had just gotten engaged for a September wedding, we had a summer road trip to Ohio planned for my niece's wedding, and I had bought tickets to go to England with a friend for my 50th birthday, in September too. Not the year to sell our house, with all that it needed to make it market ready.  But, then he told us about the property not yet on the market. Literally, we had drove past this farm every Sunday for 16 years a few doors up from our church in a sweet agricultural valley, known for it's pumpkin patches, and vegetable stand. Church family we knew had grown up in that house some 50 years before. It was more land than I thought we could afford, 9 acres with an old farmhouse, barely big enough to suit our children at home, but solid, quaint, and two barns, an old orchard, and a salmon stream. It had been owned for 45 years by the last family who raised their own large family there. It was tired, neglected, and yet the infrastructure was all there. And it came with an old John Deere, also waiting to be brought back to life. I couldn't get it out of my head. Fortunately the family was slow to part with all their parent's earthly possessions so we had time, and it wasn't yet on the market. But it would be in our price range with the cash we could get out of our house. A road trip to Oregon to the Black Sheep Gathering and a long talk with my friend encouraged me to bring it up with my husband again. He agreed to go look at it even after looking at photos of the house interior that were discouraging at best, compared with our shiny, brightly painted and updated roomy house. It would be a downsize of over 1000 square feet of house, but an upsize to 9 overgrown acres.
The rest of the summer was a blur of painting, purging, packing, scrubbing, and hauling junk to to dump. We managed with the help of many friends and family to repaint the entire interior, wash every surface, and repair every item on a long list in time to catch the last sale of the summer, and accepted an offer 9 days after listing. We signed electronically as we drove across country, returning in time to make inspection repairs, and put me on an airplane for England. All the while, we waited to put an offer in on the farm, in faith that it would be ours. Talk about nerve wracking. My husband was a basketcase without me, and I was trying to enjoy my birthday trip, knowing he was in agony for my dream. Ouch. I returned with only a week before our son's big day, a week before our house closed, and a month before we were to move out of our home of 21 years into the smaller, dirty, tired 110 year old farmhouse of my dreams.
Little did we know how God would continue to provide and make this place home. By some kind of miracle we have been blessed with the skills and time of our elder Keith, who loves a project almost as much as he loves Jesus and has poured himself into making this homestead into a working breathing farm, shoring up structures, replacing fences, building structures, digging trenches, burying pipe and conduit, putting in barn stairs, making old farm equipment work again. The list goes on. He answered long ago prayers for someone to teach my children skills that their father couldn't, no offense to my sporty, numbers guy of a husband. And Keith and my husband couldn't be happier about it. I pinch myself almost everyday.
Two years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today At My House

Heather Wombacher has a blog that has inspired me to participate in posting her URL, as well as answering the following prompts.

Above is a picture for thought that I'm sharing...
It is a photo of my newly reorganized sewing and spinning/fiber studio. Sorry it's dark in the photo. Isn't it nice to have a place to create, that is just yours? It could be a wardrobe, or a bookcase, filled with inspiration. I happen to be blessed to have a whole room right off our master bedroom that we converted from nursery to this. Now I have space to invite some girlfriends to spin with me, or to teach sewing to some of my favorite girls!

Outside my window...
Is my vegetable garden, which I call my "le Poteger". In it, is growing espaliered apple and asian pear trees. There are potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, onions, beets, carrots, broccoli, beans, turnips, squashes, peas, rhubarb, and chives. In addition, there are herbs for tea, seasoning, and garnishes. It was planted in the "Square-foot Gardening" style.

I am thinking...
About what it would take to put our house on the market again. Daunting. Purging, painting, pressure-washing, primping.

I am thankful...
For this time of having my 3 big boys still home. I can feel the times changing when I won't see them daily, and they will strike out on their own.

From the learning rooms...(if this applies)
Time to enforce more summer reading, outloud and individual.

In the kitchen...
I have a Lasagna in the oven, and fresh baked ww bread on the counters.

I am wearing...
A green t-shirt from Sonoma, and khaki shorts with clogs.

I am creating...
I have two bobbins of CVM to divide and make into a 3-ply, and on my needles I am plugging away on my Brandywine shawl, a remembrance of our last baby, which we lost.

I am going...
To my 30th high school reunion this weekend. It seems to get easier the more the time passes.

I am wondering...
Where the summer has gone? Only a few days of really sunny weather, but rather alot of busy-ness has made it fly by.

I am reading...
Magazines, blogs, emails, FB, Twitter, and sadly not my Bible as often.

I am hoping...
To begin again with a new routine for the rest of the summer, plan the next school year, set a schedule for fall, put up a fence in the backyard, touch up paint inside, process all the fleeces I have, to get them ready to dye and spin, and finish my shawl, by the end of August. Ambitious, I know.

I am looking forward to...
Going to Roche Harbor on a float plane with my husband the weekend after next, and relaxing with him.

I am hearing...
Nolan and his big brother Clayton playing a chasing and tickling game.

Around the house...
Our orange tabby is swishing his tail on the front porch,and children are playing with neighbor friends, while we wait for dinner to be done.

I am pondering...
My 11 year old son's desire for more playmates and exciting things to do. Considering Boy Scouts again with a wonderful Christian troop, perhaps while little girls do Awana. It's tough when you have 3 sisters above you, and 3 sisters below you. The house is always filled with girls.

One of my favorite things...
Is my little Longaberger basket I use as a purse. It is so cute. Looks like a little picnic basket. Very "me".

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Finish washing walls, baseboards. Exercise daily. Ply and empty bobbins. My young moms group comes over on Thursday mornings to hang out and talk about Biblical Womanhood, based on Victoria Botkin's cd. Love those gals!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Knitting Cables

Last time I told you about some of the projects I have going. I finished Rowan's socks and they will fit perfectly soon! In the meantime I haven't done much spinning, so the cabled scarf is still waiting for me to finish the Icelandic wool so that I can spin up more of the wool that I am spinning from a fleece I acquired. I'm washing that in bits and spinning it from the lock since it's all so neatly lined up. I really dislike carding by hand, so that eliminates that step.
I started another knitting project out of my handspun that has been sitting around. Two dear friends are going through cancer treatment right now, so I was inspired to knit a hat, in case one of them might be in need of one. I had picked up this pattern at my LYS by Jared Flood, that is meant for his yarn that looks like handspun, so I have substituted my own handspun! I'm using this beautiful heathery grey/brown BFL (Bluefaced Leicester). It is so soft, perfect to go against the skin. I tarted this project at home, but brought it with me on my 3 day trip to San Francisco with my buddy Barbara. She needed help getting stated on a project, so I thought the hat would be a nice little pattern to work on while we drank tea and sat by the fire in our little boutique hotel. What I have learned is that this pattern takes alot of attention and concentration. I like pattern, but there is no getting in a real rhythm with this. So, the only solution is just to really pay attention. I'm very happy with how it's turning out, as it's only my 3rd cable project, and my second hat. May it bless and bring comfort to the recipient.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's on my needles and in my teacup?

I have quite a few projects going, and some days I just don't get to any of them, so I thought that if I posted my progress, it might help me to get a few things accomplished!
Currently I have some very cute 2x2 rib socks going for my granddaughter Rowan who has the cutest little chubby legs and has a hard time wearing socks because they strangle her ankles! Her mama and daddy like green, so I'm making them a light two tone green. I keep trying to upload a photo of them, but am frustrated to find that I have forgotten how, or it just isn't working right. I also have the rest of a bump of natural brown Icelandic wool roving that I spun Tasha Tudor's shawl out of, that I need to spin up. I have discovered that I have just 3 bobbins to do my spinning and plying on, and if I make the mistake of spinning two different wools, I have to wind one off onto a temporary bobbin by hand in order for me to ply efficiently, with two bobbins full of the other wool. So I am anxious to finish spinning this wool so I can start another! I have several other breeds of sheep's roving I want to try out, including Wensleydale, CVM, and Corriedale. I also have bags and bags of sheep wool that is waiting in the wings to be washed, and then carded. I'm going to try blending it with some of my friend Sonja's mohair. Very excited about that!
Nothing is done with out my companion cup of tea. Lately, my favorite find is Bewley's Dublin Morning Tea, which steeps beautifully into the same warm brown that I have been spinning. And it is a deep, full-bodied tea that goes perfectly with turbinado sugar and milk. I give a big sigh when I have my first cup in the morning. Bewley's Dublin Morning Tea is a lovely everyday tea. I picked it up at my lys Churchmouse Yarns and Tea. Thank you John!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Hens and Chicks"

I have been frustrated that because our house didn't sell, that I am limited to the 1/2 acre suburban lot that we are on. I can't have livestock, not even chickens because we have the neighborhood wellhouse on our property. I dream of a day that I can have some laying hens, broilers for my freezer, and a fiber flock of colored angora goats, sheep, a few milk goats, and a horse for my daughter.
Today while visiting the Kingston Arts Fair, I came upon a vendor selling these! Not quite the same thing, but I couldn't resist! These little succulents are so darling, and it was a ball to assemble a little collection of them. "Hens and Chicks" are just the right kind of plant for me. I can put them in the sun and neglect them, and they'll still multiply happily in their container!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How Has Your Homeschooling Changed?

Our Homeschooling Journey

If you have homeschooled for more than a few years, you've probably changed your philosophy or methods at least once. Over the 20 years that we have homeschooled, our "school" has changed ALOT. I can't say that I have arrived, by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure has improved. I have a longer term goal - raising up a family that sees that they were created for God's glory, who are building His kingdom, and who are mandated to take dominion over every aspect of their realm of influence. How we implement it may be adjusted, but that is the long term goal.

That is not how we started though. When my oldest child was approaching "school age", it was clear that she was not ready for kindergarten, nor was I ready to let her go. She had been a premie, growing along at the 5th percentile, and was developmentally just barely ahead of her sister, 17 mo. her junior. Homeschooling seemed to be my answer and I found myself so relieved not to send my children away all day. My goals initially were simple. I just wanted to help my small children remember the alphabet and be able to count to 2o+, let alone read and do arithmetic. I was assured that they would get it by osmosis - I hung out with an "unschooling" crowd. For the most part they did learn the basics, but I also discovered that I had 2 children that were struggling. I constantly wondered if I should be getting them extra help, or if I was just impatient and needed to wait for their development to catch up. My children were pleasant, obedient, and well mannered. We had alot of fun with friends, exploring beaches, going to parks, and reading to them aloud.

When I was expecting my 6th child we got involved with a small group of homeschoolers who were exploring what services the schools might be able to offer us in terms of a meeting space for parent led classes, art materials and library access. It was the beginning of a growing trend for public schools to open "homeschool resource centers". It seemed innocent enough, and I could use some suggestions for my more challenged children. I met other moms like me, and we met other homeschooled kids for playmates. I was encouraged, and the teacher running it homeschooled her own kids, and was a great advocate for us. Services included tutoring, classes, and a growing library of resources, as well as a computer lab. As the services expanded, so did our obligation to record keeping, and then eventually the decision to enroll part-time or FTE (full time enrollment). Then there was more curriculum mandates, and more testing, and more questions, and mandatory meetings with advisors. It became cumbersome, and as my family grew, if each child just took one class each, we were either camped out there, or going back and forth which was interruptive to those at home. We weren't home enough to "homeschool". Ironic. I threatened to pull out several years in a row, and finally did after 10 years in the program. By that time we had made the decision to let the older kids go to the public high school. They struggled and were overwhelmed by the rigors of their college prep high school. It was an intense change for which they were unprepared. There were two solutions that made it work. One was the trade school connected with our district that allowed my boys to spend half of the school day learning carpentry and automotive technology. The other solution was our local alternative high school which allowed contracts and smaller class sizes, and advisors who cater to a more creative way to learn, and offered my learning disabled son an opportunity to get special services. My last public school student will graduate this June from that school.

Two years ago I felt the impending doom of sending my next daughter into the system. I had seen how I was losing my children's hearts. The last straw was hearing my older children recall daily chastisement for being part of our large family. I will not send them to the wolves anymore. I am more confident than ever that there are a miriad of ways to get an education. We have never lived in a time when so many resources are at our fingertips, if we only would look. I have used every curriculum under the sun. Some were duds, but I have learned that some workbooks keep us progressing sequentially through some basics. I like Explode the Code for phonics, Spelling Workout, Abeka grammar, Wordly Wise for vocabulary and Singapore math for younger kids. We are using a combination of Saxon,, and Teaching Textbooks for older kid's math. I have used several history programs, like History of the World, and Alpha and Omega for a time. I like reading biographies and even primary documents aloud, then supplementing with library books, although we do that in spurts too. Does anyone else struggle with returning library books? Seems we are always missing one or two. I hate fines! I would rather own books we love anyway. I have also discovered which is a Charlotte Mason website that is chocked full of resources that can be found on the internet or at the library. I love the out of copyright books available as audio books ( while we look at the illistrations from Project Gutenberg ( or the Burgess Project( I especially enjoy this with my younger children for nature science, as Thornton Burgess has two great books on birds and animals. There are even early readers available on the web. For older kids I love Apologia science books. Outstanding and very good apologetics too. This year Katherine and I have been participating in a humanities course studying Antiquities through a Christian worldview with another family that is yet unavailable to the public, but is so outstanding that I will commit to it for the next 3 years! I am learning as much, maybe more than she is. Lest I forget, the Bible, we are working our way through Proverbs for our half hour a day of copywork, and are reading the Bible through.

What I know is that although our "school" is far from perfect, we are mandated as Christian parents to instruct our children - not the church, not the government. Although my older children may feel like guinea pigs that I practiced on, they have grown into responsible, respected adults who are reliable and hardworking employees, spouses and parents and most importantly, they're walking with the Lord. Ultimately they belong to Him and we are lent them for just a little while.

My latest goal: teach better communication, both written and spoken, so that my children may be arrows who will be able to "not be put to shame when they speak with enemies in the gate".
Psalm 127:5

What are your goals?