Archive for I'm Momma; this is my family.

We’ve moved to

Change your bookmarks – we’ve moved to a robust new website!  It’s the blog you’ve come to know + shiny new sidebars + a soon-to-come store + whatever strikes my fancy.  To clarify, the now-old blog is hosted by WordPress and is only a blog. (that’s the The new one is hosted by me and is a full-blown website, including blog.  Neat, huh?  The old site will cease to be updated sometime this week and all traffic from here will be automatically routed to the fancy new (which is nearly the same address, just minus the wordpress part)

I really, really hope all of the individual posts will be linked over as well, but I’ve captured all of the most popular content with links in the new sidebar in case they’re not.

Hop over, subscribe via the handy email form on the sidebar or via the RSS icon on the top menubar and you’ll not skip a beat.

Hope to see you over there.  Let me know if you come across any new-website glitches and I’ll get my IT guru on it.  (that’s me)

Let’s go there now:

Happy Travels!

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It might be 1988.

I remember explicitly the year I received a tape recorder for Christmas.  Paired with the small, crackly radio I already had, it gave me the freedom to become my own curator of music.  Holed up in my bedroom, I would stand frozen in place, poised with my finger over the ‘record’ button, ready to capture whatever song was played next.  If it was a good one, I (silently!) cheered and held my breath for the duration of the recording.  If not, I stopped, rewound the tape, and waited for the next song with the hopes that I’d have something good to add to my collection.  Sometimes this ritual was interrupted by the raucous noise of my younger brother outside of my door, contaminating the quality of the recording. (The tape recorder captures every sound, not just that of the radio)  I wouldn’t say this necessarily brought us closer together.  Sometimes I would score doubly – capturing that elusive song I loved, whose words I’d not yet deciphered.  I’d slowly transcribe the lyrics, word by word, but even with a technological leg up, I still couldn’t puzzle out what the knife was cutting in Every Rose Has its Thorn. (This is how we languished, in ignorance, before the advent of the internet.)

Surely you can understand, then, my excitement at finding a tape recorder (with tapes!) in mint condition for a coupla bucks at an estate sale.  Get ready to live, I told the kids.  They immediately holed up behind a chair in the living room to begin their own recordings.  It’s interesting to see how Isadora has used it – recording her own music, with the accompaniment of her little brother.  She must be a more nurturing big sister than I; he a slightly less antagonistic little bro. Either way, it’s the best spent $3.00 of the summer.

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The longest day of the year is a good day to start anew.

Today I am going to begin turning the tide.  Today I am going to get a foothold, if only the tiniest bit, of Normal.  I’m going to start by washing clothes and carefully hanging them on the line to dry in the blessedly cooler breeze.  I’m going to continue by mixing a batch of bread dough to sit and warm on the counter for 1.5 hours, then I’m going to walk to the garden, peering though a pinhole so as to focus only on the arugula and not the monstrosity that awaits another day’s work, and I’m going to harvest a bowl of those spicy leaves in one swift motion of my knife.  I will return to the house and ready the kitchen to prepare supper, the first supper I will have made in I-don’t-know-how-long.  Together, we will make and eat supper.  More clothes will find their way to the clothesline; hopefully many more will be folded and returned to their stations.  I will snatch up my pug, the only one I have left now, and bury my nose in his kissing spot, the curious bald diamond at the top of his head which spelled love at first sight 10 years ago.  I will snatch up my children and bury my nose in the sweet junction of neck and shoulder, and kiss them till they giggle.  I will snatch up my husband and hold on for dear life.  I will sweep the floor.  I will let loose the stranglehold of bad luck first by righting our ship.  By grounding our home.  Then I will regain my equilibrium, by clothespin and knife, and we will ascend from this black cloud.  It is the longest day of the year; there is time.

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Unlocking the Precious

The kids’ lack of proper sun protection caught me off guard this year.  All day Sunday was spent under the rays, without the slightest bit of brim to shield those delicate heads.  Better fix that quick.  With little ado, I found the perfect pattern, the Bucket Hat from the Oliver + S book Little Things to Sew.  As for fabric, I decided that the time was right to break into the collection of Heather Ross’ Far Far Away that I had carefully squirreled away.  And what a lot of fabric I have from the collection!  It ain’t getting any fresher, I realized and these kids will outgrow the sweet illustrations before I blink my eyes.  With that in mind, I vowed to sew up as much of it as I can this summer.  We’ll see how that goes.  To that end, these hats were a good start.

The sentiment of letting go of the precious must have resonated deeply within me this week.  Also broken free from it’s cage was the delightful child-size accordion found at a garage sale a few years ago.  It’s out in the open now, set loose and enjoying the wee hands who play it with abandon.  Why I didn’t do that sooner, I don’t know; our days are now punctuated by the most lively impromptu music.

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I was intrigued by MommyCoddle’s call for folks to join her in her Guerrilla Goodness project, so I promptly responded with a quick email to jump on board.  The premise: those participating will receive a card in the mail with a prompt to initiate some kind of random act of kindness and report back on the results.  What I haven’t done promptly is distill the results into type form.  Ruminating is what I’ve been doing instead.  Ruminating and healing.


I answered the call of civic duty in the most interest-appropriate way I could think of, by becoming a trustee on our local library board.  That library was instrumental to settling into this new town five years ago.  It’s a critical part of my parenting; working through a stack of fresh library books with the Boy and Girl on my lap is about the only time I feel like I’m hitting it out of the park as a Momma.  Indeed, getting a library card has become a right of passage in this small family.  Serving on the board that advises and to a very limited extent, governs it, seemed like a natural extension of that love and appreciation.  And it was an exciting time to do so, I realized, as plans to move and expand the library into a sparkly-new space were in the infant stages.  That I could be an instrumental part of this process was an exhilarating prospect.

But the wheels fell off.  Plans were unveiled amidst secrecy and unknowns and big dollar signs, with the trustees of the library board among those completely in the dark.  I chalk it up to the noxious cloud of POLARIZATION that’s been hovering over the entire state of Wisconsin for the last year and a half, pitting otherwise-cordial neighbors against each other.  (my phone is ringing at this very moment with a call originating in Washington D.C. to instruct me how to vote in our upcoming Recall election) Our air is filthy with this hostility.  It’s no real surprise, then, that this mentality of all-or-nothing and black-or-white dug its claws into this project to redevelop our downtown.  Those who claimed undying love for the library were adamantly against the project, despite its goal of a bigger, new library facility.  Those who were promoting the plan, come hell or high water, were using the library as the linchpin to sell it.    Meetings were held, voices were raised, blood pressures ran amok.  Resignations were tendered; those still in position were undeniably exhausted.

I received my Guerrilla Goodness card in the mail from MommyCoddle amidst all of this.  Were you present in the room when I tore open the envelope, you would have seen my face fall as I read the instructions to “pay the toll of the car behind you” or “pay a stranger’s parking meter.”  We are blessedly short of tollways in Wisconsin.  And parking’s pretty darn cheap too – the vast majority of it is free.  This was the card I absolutely did not want to get.  (they were dispersed randomly, so I have only Chance to thank)  I grumbled for a few days until the notion of modifying it came to mind.

I walked into the library soon after and struck up a conversation with the librarian.  “I have this project I’m participating in…” and wondered aloud if it might be feasible to pay someone’s library fines.  Why yes, she said, so-and-so just came in earlier today and was heartbroken that the outstanding fines on his card prevented him from checking anything out. (those overdue dvds add up quickly – caution!) Perfect, I said, and wrote out a check on the spot.  I wanted it to be anonymous; (cough…as anonymous as performing a good deed and then BLOGGING about it will allow) I didn’t want to gain any recognition for this, but if I look deep within, I see that this act wasn’t nearly as unselfish as I thought.

I did this purely for me.  I had lost the wonder and the warmth of the library and needed it back.  I needed to remember what I was fighting for, in this ideological nonsense battle that was dragging me down.  I needed to shift my perspective and to find a way to get a breath of fresh air amidst all of the pollution.  It’s about books, folks.  About new ideas, different ways of seeing the world, the opening up of one’s self that inherently comes with turning the pages of a book.  It’s about community – this is the physical space in our village where the heartbeat lives, the how-do-you-do and what’s-new-with-you and how-are-you-coming-along-since-that-happened conversations that take place here in the library more frequently than any other place in town.

Can a simple act of random kindness begin to purify the toxic atmosphere we’ve created here?  I’d guess not, but it can’t hurt.  A few deep breaths never hurt anyone.

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Portland, Maine

We traveled to Portland, ME this past weekend to mark our 10th year of wedded partnership.  (we didn’t make it 10 years by glossing it over as wedded bliss) The kids were left at home as we set off on a mostly-open-ended trip.  There need be good food, good beer, good knitting.  The rest – ah, well… the rest will be gravy.  Delicious lobster gravy.

We were thoroughly satisfied on all accounts, especially with the “gravy.”

More to come.

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The secret ingredient of Nettle Soup is…

a good helper wearing mismatched snow mittens.

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Sorry to have left you munsoned.

Hello friends.  I’ve missed you.  I’ve missed this space, missed the shining window of time that I used to take to ruminate on whatever was top-most on my mind.  I hope to take that back very soon.  You see, I’ve met my limits.  Face on.  And had them blow up all over the place, leaving me as a deer in the headlights, shaken and not knowing where to begin to start digging out of the mess.

Trying to take on too many things at once is predominantly a Spring disease, I think.  Gosh – I hope it’s limited to Spring.  Starting seeds, getting and raising chicks, lambing, business management, tilling and planting the new-and-improved-garden, building a website from scratch, returning phone calls and emails, brushing hair and teeth…it all becomes quite overwhelming if attempted at the same time.  For me, at least.  I know you understand how this blog, any blog, can only represent a miniscule sliver of the whole of the life it describes.  I know you understand that when I post about some domestic achievement, you can’t necessarily see the pile of dirty laundry, frozen pizzas, hot school lunches that lift up that achievement and make it possible.  I know, too, that you understand that I work hard to not only portray the happy-shiny aspects of this day-to-day, but that I try hard to keep it real and also highlight areas where I haven’t gotten it quite right.  My goal, however, is balance.  All of the posts I’ve mentally written in the last, oh, 17 days have been about the particular challenges that have been bogging me down.  It seemed like all of that brash honesty would have taken this blog down a weighty negative path.  For this reason, and for the sheer fact that I’ve been in a tailspin, not knowing which end was up, I decided to shut up.

But I do miss you, I miss the community we’ve created here and the insights we’ve shared.  So I’m popping my head in for a brief moment to say so and also to introduce you to the newest member of the Acres.  His story is a sad one, folks, as he is an orphan.  His mom was sweet Violet – a brave, lovely little ewe who went through pure hell to birth him and in the days after his arrival.  We lost her to complications of lambing.  Despite his unfortunate start, he’s a bright strong ram lamb – a bottle lamb now, splitting his time between the house, where he fits in like another pug, and the pasture, where he’s desperately trying to find his place in the complicated social hierarchy.  His name, I concede officially, is Munson, a reference from the movie Kingpin.  Captain Daddio penned the name, of course, and it was swiftly adopted by coercion.  It is fitting, of course, but still I have reservations and concede only because I’m grossly outnumbered.  Such is farm democracy, no?  That he is a ram lamb even getting a name should speak to his fate.

Without further ado, I present Munson.

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A little like rehab

How do you even begin to catch up from a week of forced internet estrangement? The laptop was in the shop again, languishing, while the promised arrival of a new dvd drive (the second replacement) hovered in the horizon, waxing and waning with the schedule of the delivery trucks.  It’s fine, I chanted, after peeling myself off the ceiling day after day.  Surely there’s plenty to do that does not involve a laptop.  Spinning, for example.  Ah, spinning.  70+ skeins would love to be spun into luxurious yarn this very moment, but in one humbling debacle of a day last week, I learned that it was a task that could not be plowed through.  No, I shall not be spinning four skeins a day.  And I sure as hell can’t spin a thing when I’m polluted with resentment over a forced computer cleanse.  Clumps of wool still lay strewn about in the manic, hair-pulling frenzy that was born of that day.

Writing.  Surely I can do some writing – the old fashioned way – with pen and paper.  Surely?  Of course, but that snippet of blogged wisdom I hoped to distill and incorporate into new writing was tauntingly out of reach.

Farm things.  Seeds to start, chicks to order, on and on goes the list.  Wondering where those seeds are, that I order a month ago?  Clearly I can’t check online, so a phone call is in order. Same goes for chick ordering – a good, old-fashioned phone call will get the job done.  Now… what’s the phone number? I’d long ago purged the weighty phone books rendered obsolete with a quick google search.  It was up to Andrew to peel me off the ceiling after this crippling realization hit home.  Is there nothing that can be done these days without an internet connection?  Within the time constraints imposed by the childcare meter ticking?

The sense of isolation was suffocating, the helplessness at not being able to accomplish any of the tasks before me made me plain mad.  I didn’t even know what the weather forecast held, save the generalized state-wide outlook gleaned from the radio.  It was sobering to see just how dependent I am on this DSL connection.

But it was also healthy to start undoing some of the shackles imposed by said connection.  Like a knee-jerk connection, I found myself heading towards the missing laptop to check the inbox, chiming like a phantom limb.  Stop, turn around, pick up a book.  I did a lot of reading, reveled in the delicious synergy that inevitably is born of reading several books concurrently.  Most of the books were of the garden variety, literally, and I spent many a morning curled up with Richo Cech’s Growing Medicinal Herbs.  Eliot Coleman fared heavily into the mix as well, with both Four-Season Harvest and The New Organic Grower.  The caffeine-inspired neurons began firing at double speed, making all kinds of mental leaps and growing plans not bound by physical or time constraints.  This is dangerous.  Keeping company with the likes of these folks (also, Joel Salatin) while riding the exhilarating roller-coaster of morning coffee invites all kinds of consequences, in the same way that alcohol-induced shenanigans lead to babies.  We’ll see what spawns here in nine months. (definitely NOT babies)

Caffeine-euphoria aside, the unplugged week hurt like hell.  It made me cranky, then angry, then weepy, then (insert any unpleasant emotions here).  The repercussions of putting all of our productivity eggs in one basket (laptop) were astounding.  And unacceptable.  We needed some redundancy.  And just when I thought I might die from the digital estrangement, a hero on horseback swooped in with an iPad.  Ah, sweet relief.  I tore open the package, ready to devour my first sip of delicious technological sustenance in over a week, turned it on, and was greeted by the instructions to connect it to iTunes.  On the laptop.


But here I am, hopefully better for the wear, trying not to gorge myself, lest I get a nasty case of digital gout.  I hope you’re still here.

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It’s shaping up to be a monumental year.

I celebrated my birthday yesterday by lounging around in floppy clothes and knitting nearly nonstop.  I shared and loved this cake, made by my three sweeties.  It was a good day.

Some things that might make this thirty-fourth year stand out from those previous:

+ My days of changing diapers are through.  That Boy is wearing Big Boy Underwear!  This is the same Boy who prefaces every new clothing acquisition with “did you make this for me?”  No, dear Boy, I did not make those underwear for you – we bought them at the store last night, remember?  “Oh yeah – that really made my heart smile when you got me more Big Boy Underwear.”

+ My Girl is sometimes so engrossed in reading that I have to repeat questions addressed to her.  Her nightstand is at this moment overflowing with an eclectic mix of Beatrix Potter, The Magic Treehouse, and various other chapter books.  She enjoys reading to herself at night, until her “eyebrows get heavy.”

+ I’m doggedly spinning my way through the delicious 2011 vintage of wool – born, shorn and dyed on these very Acres. I can’t wait to get them on the market and into your hands – they’re so lovely and soft.

+ I’m over-the-moon-relieved to have sent Sam the Sham (above) and Stan the Goat to greener pastures.  Sam’s services were no longer required; Stan required more than I could give, a problem compounded by his status as Non-Contributing Inventory.  A heaving sigh was heard across the land as the trailer left the driveway, carting them both to new adventures.

+ I’m hard at work on a complete redesign of the virtual Five Green Acres.  As you might imagine, this involves some sewing and cutting and digital magic.  Stay tuned.

+ Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. At least a page a day, just like I promised.

It’s good to be alive.

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