Thursday, January 18, 2018

wool + wood


It's not my favourite. I dread the months of cold, of driving on messy roads, or finding mittens and hats every morning and making sure all the wet snow clothes get into the dryer each night. Everything takes more work: heating the house requires loads of wood to be stacked, carried in, loaded into the furnace. Then the ashes need cleaning out for it all to begin again. The animals need water; we fill the buckets in the basement, then haul them through the snow. Everything freezes solid.

But there is nothing as elemental, earthy, and ancient as drawing close to a wood fire, to read, knit or spin. The heat of a wood fire is like no other. It fills all the drafty cracks of our old house and just comforts with its steady warmth. There is nothing that makes time disappear for me, knowing that much as I sit and pass the long winter evenings, a woman long ago spent her evenings the same way; a cat nearby listening for mice, the whir of the wheel, and the crackle of the fire.

I've been busy with various projects, wrapping my kids and other loved ones in the gorgeous warmth of wool. I finished Jude's sweater just in time for the cold weather and he never takes it off. A pair of mitts meant for me turned out a bit small, and are a perfect fit for Violet. Finally, I crafted some hand-spun into this scarf/shawl for my husband's grandmother in England. The wooden shawl pin sets off its rustic beauty perfectly, I think.

Still on the needles is a Loki pullover for Margot. I'm busily spinning some Shetland for a sweater I plan to knit for myself this year.

Wool and wood, keeping us warm until Spring arrives.

(I think my kids have mastered the broody model face).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Red Riding Hood

The years of aimless strolls with little costume-clad children seem far behind me. Our older kids have shifted into that time of life where we are constantly driving them to friends' houses, birthday parties, play rehearsals, and so on. So our youngest girl, our "surprise" is a reminder for me of those years of dress-up, of walks down the driveway that were full of adventure and imagination.

In November I had a day alone with my little Norah and vowed to let her dictate our schedule. This involved lots of cuddling, a bit of reading aloud of "Little House in the Big Woods" (oh, how I love sharing this beloved story yet again), baking of muffins without having to share the licking of the spoon with siblings, a tea party, and of course, a walk.

She led the way, telling herself a story as she picked grapes and leapt with her long legs over gaps in the rocks and giant puddles. Her velvet cape, thrifted last year just before she decided to be a fairy instead of Little Red Riding Hood, seemed to help her to soar. 

We returned home briefly to fetch her Milo Vest because the winds of late October were chilly. We made it just past the mail box before she complained that it was too cold, and that she was feeling a little scared to be "so far from home", so we headed back to snuggle up and watch a movie. We ate soup and muffins and sweet tea.

I finally have the space now to pause and remember the years when my bigger kids were littler, and to realise how beautiful and blessed those days were. I get to relive them now with my wee girl who is growing so fast, and that has been such a gift.

And today, she turns five.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Still Here

 When I think of the years I spent blogging daily I can't imagine how I had the time or thought of things to say. My kids were so little then! I started this blog in 2010 when I had a 5, 3, and 1 year old. I somehow found a moment in each busy day to jot down my thoughts and I cherish the record I created of a time I don't really remember.

As my kids grow and our days continue to fly by in the flurry of pick ups, drop offs, hurry-up-we're-lates, and all of the comings and goings of a family I am finding that I'm drawn back to writing. Perhaps it is the record keeping I miss. Perhaps it is the wisdom that arrives when you're out of the toddler stage, that this time is indeed fleeting.

Here I am. I'm not going to set a goal of any sort, aside from posting more often than twice a year. 

I've settled into teaching a new grade this year, and find I spend far too much time away from home planning, preparing, and marking, while also feeling like I'm never prepared enough! Robin holds the fort, making dinner most nights and helping with homework where needed. The kids are becoming, finally, more independent, and can be counted on to help with daily tasks like unloading the dishwasher, making their school lunches, and even cooking some simple meals. 

We still protect their free time. We still have not got Netflix or any other TV services, aside from borrowing DVDs from our local libraries. Sometimes we feel like we should leap into the 21st century. There are series I'm dying to see and winter is coming.

But mostly we see the kids eating their dinner quickly to make the most of the dwindling sunshine in the evening, creating adventures and games outside. They still read a lot, and are picking up crafts here and there. Both Violet and Margot got their hands on my spinning wheel over the summer and will soon be asking to learn how to knit again. Margot wrestles with Jude till she cries, Norah bosses everyone around, and Violet retreats to her room with a book.

We are in that phase of life where it seems that everything is breaking down or falling apart. Our chimney is being repaired this morning, and during last night's rain our attic ceiling sprang not one, but two leaks. This is bad news for our trip to Prince Edward Island. I don't think the $30  we have saved so far is going to get us there. 

But we just keep on keepin' on as we always do. Some days are harder than others and things are not always rosy at the Knitty Gritty Homestead. But we're still here, and that's something, isn't it? 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

country mice visit the big city

We kicked off March Break with a trip to my sister's house near Ottawa. We ventured into the city to visit the Children's Museum at the Canadian Museum of History in Hull. 

I never intended to raise "country mice"; I always had grand plans of visiting the city often so my children were street smart and comfortable in crowds. I wanted them to see the diversity of people, architecture beyond the rafters of a barn, and experience the excitement and bustle of the urban rhythm. 

That hasn't happened. When we're nestled into our life on the farm the city is like a distant mirage; it's easy to forget it exists at all. I'll admit to some anxiety around navigating a van in the streets of Ottawa, finding parking, dealing with one-way streets. I'm comfortable driving in a village with one street light but I break into a sweat as soon as the highway switches to four lanes. I'm a country mouse. 

Luckily, my sister drove us all into Ottawa. The kids thought the Chateau Laurier was a castle and couldn't believe the beauty of our Parliament Buildings. They oohed and aahed like tourists from afar, which I suppose they are. 

It turns out that of all the wonders at the amazing Children's Museum, the escalators were the biggest attraction. Faced with the magnificence of totem poles from Canada's west coast, they begged, "Can we go on the escalavator again?"

I'm setting a goal for myself to get out with them more. There are so many great attractions in Ottawa, and it can be done on the cheap thanks to our local libraries which carry family passes to many museums and galleries. 

I'll just have to make sure to include attractions that have escalators.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

a new season

We live on a corner so we have three choices of which direction to take when we go for a walk. We took the sunniest path. The kids climbed the snowbanks, chased each other, wandered back to hold my hand or my husband's, slingshotting back and forth, away from us then back in ever-widening circles.

This is what life feels like right now. Our kids, once so small and busy and demanding of everything we could provide, now get dressed for outside play in the wink of an eye. Sometimes I don't even know they've gone outside till they come back in all full of laughter and high spirits. They create snow-board trains and crash into fences, have adventures in the winter-dark, and then hang their own stuff up so it's dry for the next wander. 

We find ourselves looking around again, seeing our life changing and seeing each other for what feels like the first time in years. The whirlwind that picked us up and tossed us around when we became parents is losing strength and I can see us stumbling a bit as we're set back down on our feet in this new normal of being parents, not of infants and toddlers, but of school-aged kids.

We stood by the road as they wandered into our neighbour's field (we swear, we didn't notice the No Trespassing sign until they'd come back out) and watched them play, and marveled at the fun of having an uninterrupted conversation. We posed for a rare picture together. The littlest one trotted across the crust on top of the snow in her running shoes (she insisted) and returned to fetch her big brother's Adventure Bag. There were no tears and no bickering.

Getting through the early years of parenting is a lot like getting through the winter. Beautiful, exhausting, hard, satisfying. You get into the next season and feel a sense of pride at what you've survived, of gratitude for the lessons learned, for the many joys, and for the fact that it has inevitably come to an end (though at times it felt like it would never end). 

I don't feel the melancholy I thought I'd feel when I no longer had babies in my arms because I'm enjoying this phase of parenting so much. The kids are bigger and louder, and have personalities diverse and beautiful. I'm told again and again of how kind and compassionate they are. They can be mean to each other but always come out on the other side knowing they've got each others' backs.

Here's to a new season!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2017: A Good Year

Winter brings the stoking of the fires, the plowing of the driveway, the chipping of ice and snow off the front porch. Winter brings a different kind of work for us. The animals need water, lots of it, carried in buckets from the house to the barn. The mild temperatures we've had so far have been a blessing for all of us. 

We've had a few snow days with a few more to come, no doubt. Christmas came and went in a blur of delicious food, good company, and happy kids living the traditions we've created as a family. 

We're working as always but I'm finding a calm and a balance I haven't experienced before. A combination of changing my diet (limiting/eliminating gluten, sugar, dairy, and alcohol), getting more sleep, committing to yoga and counselling, and just a focus on being mindful means I'm a much more patient and calm mother. It's really good to feel my mood stabilize. 

I'm using this journal to commit 30 days to various goals. January is almost over and I've managed to stick to good dietary changes for the most part. February's goal is going to be committing to 20-30 minutes a day to gentle exercise. I have neglected self care for so long I'm almost giddy at the idea of feeling GOOD in myself!

I'm spinning and knitting as much as I can. I read an essay from Simple Abundance every early morning before the kids get up and write a bit in my journal.

All in all, 2017 feels like a year of positive growth. I'd like to blog about it all. I'm out of practice but know it'll be like riding a bike once I get back into the habit!

Thank you all for checking in!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

finding summer

We always look forward to summer as a time of rest and reconnection. The school year is like a runaway train that we board in September, with brief stops at Christmas and in March. It takes weeks of nothing for me to remember myself.

It starts with that first walk down a shady lane, through old deciduous trees and Canadian Shield to our favourite hidden beach. Visits with friends where there is no reason to look at a clock, sharing snacks and towels, wet bums on the quilts we've spread across the sand, sun and wind, red pines and the sound of waves and our children's voices calling to one another. A layer of stress falls away.

Finding myself onstage once more, stepping out of the self I have become (wife/mother/teacher/farmer) and into a role. I get to put on makeup, wear costumes, pretend, boss people around, flirt, argue, fight, and fall in love on stage once a week with this year's production of Mark Crawford's Stag and Doe

Another layer of stress falls away, to reveal a part of myself that sits quietly through the year where I meet the needs and demands of so many others. It's, quite simply, FUN. It's fun that I haven't orchestrated for my kids, that I don't have to manage or supervise. It's just joyful, pure fun, for me.

I sat at my spinning wheel yesterday for the first time in months, and felt more stress fall away as my feet worked the treadles and my hands played out lengths of merino and silk. I'm in love with green these days and am so happy with this multi-hued three-ply that resulted from a day of spinning-wheel play.

We've chosen not to raise any meat-animals this year and have welcomed the break this has given us. We've had our share of farm-drama, caring for a ewe with mastitis and a pony with an abrasion on his pastern. We also have a young chicken named Gonzo who either got pounced on by a cat or suffered from a nerve-damaging virus. He hobbles and flaps his way around the farm when he's not being catered to by the kids.

We keep busy taming our little fur-babies. I had almost forgotten the joy of timelessness, of lying on a quilt with my kids, scratching tiny ribs to elicit a tiny purr, with no deadlines to meet or places to be. Jude laughs with delight at my kitty-baby-talk and thinks I'm funny. That feels awesome.

And with our humidity and heat, we watch the storms. Our power inevitably goes out, so storms are always spent on the front porch watching the sky, counting the beats between lightning and thunder, having thumb wars, and just being together. 

I'm slowly shedding a school-year's worth of stress and coming back into myself. 

Sweet summer.