New life on the farm

October 7, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Posted in blogging, country living, family, free knitting patterns, gardening, health, knitting, Lace Shawl Knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, shopping, travel, yarn | 5 Comments
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imageThis summer was a very busy season around our farm.  We are in the midst of converting our farmland from leased cash-crop acreage to pasture managed by us.  That might sound simple enough but it requires cutting, mowing, fencing, draining, digging, and budgeting, planning, etc. and not necessarily in that order.

We are hosting a small herd of Black Angus cattle and have so far fenced in 12 acres of land for grazing.  Over the next few years  we plan to expand the fenced in land to 40 acres and the herd to 40.

So, that has been exciting.  Now that we are no longer leasing the land, we are able to hike around, explore, and make use of it fully.  We take daily walks and hikes around the pasture and the perimeter of the fields.  There is a small wooded portion along the northern border and we have done a bit of exploring there as well.

We have set aside an acre for me to use for my Daylily and Flower Farm, a new venture I started this summer.  It is so fun to have a little piece of land to use for flowers.  In addition to growing and selling daylilies and cut-flower arrangements I plan to have a small gift shop where people can purchase my various artistic creations such as original oil and watercolor paintings, fine art photography, prints, notecards, handmade books, Thistleonians, grapevine wreaths, and more.

It will take some time to put this all together and in operation, but I have started by planting my first 48 Daylily plants.  It will be three years before I can start selling the daylilies, but hopefully I can get some other aspects of the business going while the daylilies are establishing themselves.

I have also made strawberry, strawberry/cranberry, wild raspberry, blueberry lime, peach, peach pie and apple pie preserves this year … many, many jars of preserves.  Oh, and pickles … my son and I canned lots and lots of pickles too.  My oh my, so much yumminess.

And of course, in the midst of all of these other activities there has been knitting and painting and the routine demands of housekeeping.

On the knitting front, I have some new knitting patterns that have been released this summer and into early fall.  They are all available on Ravelry in my pattern store, and some have been added to my Etsy shop.  (Oh, and by the way … my knitting patterns and eBooks are all Buy One Get One Free in my Ravelry pattern store through October 31, 2015 with coupon code:  GETREADY used at checkout.  Free pattern will be the one of equal or lesser value; put two patterns in your cart for the discount to show up.)  Here is what to look for:

Two Night Cowl

Two Night Cowl Knitting PatternThis pattern is available for free in my Ravelry store through the end of October 2015.  It is a close-fitting, twisted cowl may be knit in two evenings, thus the name “Two-Night Cowl”. The ribbed, twist-stitch faux cable stitch pattern creates a two-sided fabric that looks great on both sides.

You will need any bulky weight yarn (gauge of 3 stitches to the inch on size U.S. 10.5 needles) in two colors, a main color and then a contrasting accent color for the edges. Optionally, you might want to sew a nice big button on the cowl … I like the way it looks with a button detail.

Agua Dulce

imageAgua Dulce is Spanish for “fresh water” or “sweet water”. There is a place in California named Agua Dulce, not too far north of Los Angeles. There you find Vasquez Rocks, a place of wonderful rock formations full of fantasy and dreams. I picnicked there on a perfect spring day with my daughter and parents and have treasured memories of the place.

You will enjoy the relaxing knitting of this piece, as the soft yarns of various textures slip through your fingers. Knit on large needles on the diagonal in garter stitch accented with occasional mesh inserts, a series of increases and decreases gives this asymmetric triangular shawl a bit of a curve to facilitate drapey wrapping.  Find this knitting pattern by clicking –> here.

This wrap may be made larger or smaller, according to your preferences. It is knit diagonally and works up into an asymmetric, elongated triangle with crescent shaped wings.

Barrow

imageBarrow is one of my very latest patterns, and I am very excited about it.  It has become chilly enough here that I can finally wear my Barrow, and I love how wonderfully cozy and versatile it is.  It looks great with jeans or a skirt or dress, and it pairs well with sweaters, jackets, or a comfy old hoodie.  I wear mine when we go hiking around the pasture.  I collaborated with Dream in Color Yarn on this piece and on Nore (see below), using several of their deliciously beautiful colorways in the Smooshy with Cashmere fingering weight yarn.  The yarn is absolutely beautiful, has a lovely sheen, and is a complete pleasure to work with … and of course, their  yarn dying methods and colors create amazing works of fiber art.

This one is knit from the bottom up; the bottom crescent shaped section is knit from tip to tip in garter stitch with super easy short row ruffles, then stitches are picked up along the upper edge of that piece and the rest is knit from side to side, working upwards to create an oval shape on top of the lower crescent.  It is a really interesting design, knit entirely in garter stitch but with short row ruffles, shaping short rows and eyelets to give some great visual interest.

Nore

imageThis large rectangular shawl was made with more than 2,000 yards of Smooshy with Cashmere fingering weight yarn from Dream in Color.  It can be sized down easily (directions included in pattern).  The middle portion features an easy to memorize and easy to knit lace stitch pattern and then a border is added at the top and bottom edges in two colors with some great textures.  The result is an elegant yet rustic piece that looks as if it came right from the Irish countryside, which is fitting because the inspiration for this piece is the Irish river Nore.

Barrow and Nore are also available as an eBook.

 

Dream Silk Cowl

imageEarlier this year I came across a bulky weight 100% silk yarn. It is completely amazing to handle and knit with. When you knit your first few inches with it, you will know exactly what I mean. My daughter and I both feel in love with this luxurious, thick yarn and I know you will too.  (I am selling a very limited amount of this yarn in several colorways in my Etsy store. The pattern is free with any purchase of Dream Silk Bulky from my Etsy store. After yarn purchase, I will send the pattern to you free at Ravelry as a gift, so it will be in your Ravelry library.)

While you may of course use this pattern with any yarn that will give you the gauge listed here, try to find a yarn with great drape so that your cowl or wrap will drape appropriately. If you use a bulky stiff yarn without great drape, I am not sure what the results will be. I would suggest looking for a bamboo, or perhaps a heavy linen, or a cotton. The key word is: drape.

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Pumpkin seeds and tea cups

May 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, flowers, gardening, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, travel | 5 Comments
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21apr09_teacakeWhen my children were babies my parents tried to tell me how very different it is to be grandparents as opposed to being parents. I did my best to understand what they meant, but I realize now that I needed to be a grandparent myself to actually get it. So, Dad and Mom … I get it now.

[FYI: New knitting content was posted at The Knitting Blog 20 May 09.]

My daughter and I lived with my parents when she was born, and we lived with them for her first two years. Today my daughter and her daughter live with my husband and I and they will continue to do so for a few months still.

She and I take turns at night, being the one on call to listen out for little Sweet Pea, change her diaper when needed, rock her back to sleep. Of course, she takes care of all the feeding and I am on call as her back up doing what I can to help make sure this new mother gets some much needed sleep.

I alternate back and forth between some sort of super-human adrenalin-induced state that precludes my normal need for sleep and the sudden, instant onset of a “must sleep now” command that only hits at a time when I am not on call. Some parts of my body are feeling older than I thought I could feel, while emotionally and mentally I still feel complete odd calling myself “grandma” … it sounds so much older than I ever think of myself as being.

21apr_crocusMy mother was several years younger than I am now when I was the first of her five children to make her a grandmother. She didn’t look like any grandmother I had ever seen, and I suppose I don’t look like that mental image picture I have in my mind of what a grandmother is. My mental image is based on my own grandmothers, who seemed quite old to me when I was a child.

Oh well, what does it all mean anyway. Age is both relative and inevitable. There is a certain unavoidable math involved in parenthood and grandparenting. I believe you would need to be at least approximately 25 years old to become a grandmother, and as some of we women have proved, you can be two times that or older to be the mother of a newborn child.

I wonder, as I write this, what image might be in the reader’s mind of what I might look like now that you know me to be a grandmother. Picture me as a tiny little round orb of green-blue light orbiting round your garden on a hot summer night … remember, I am a firefly not a human being. What does that make Sweet Pea?

21apr09_7We have already begun making progress on Sweet Pea’s Sincere Pumpkin Patch project. A while back I ordered seeds for several varieties of pumpkins:

  • Big Moon Gigantic Pumpkins
  • Wee Be Little Pumpkins
  • Howden’s Field Pumpkins
  • Rouge d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Cotton Candy Pumpkins
  • Long Island Cheese Pumpkins

We are going to try to make one or two vines of each variety grow and see what kind of pumpkins we can make appear by the end of summer. Pray for us, because we are not farmers even though we live on a farm. Well, pray for the vines and the pumpkins that God and the powers that be might be merciful with them and grant us (me in particular) a super-firefly ability to make this garden grow. [As I type this we are already behind schedule on starting our seeds indoors. Hopefully this is not a fatal error. It is, we will learn from our mistake.]

21apr09_5We will requisition a piece of our arable land back from the real farmer who rents from us and make that our experimental pumpkin patch. The idea, if you don’t recall, is that my husband and I will experiment with growing pumpkins and see what we can learn and accomplish within the next three or four years. If we can figure anything worthwhile out about it and produce some viable pumpkins, we will then pass on our knowledge and experience to Sweet Pea to help her grow her own pumpkin patch each year — that is, if Sweet Pea has any interest in this project.

Hopefully we will all become proficient enough that we will be able to have an annual “let’s go pick out our own jack-o-lantern” pumpkin picking day and Sweet Pea–if she is so inclined–can have a roadside pumpkin stand to earn a bit of her own pocket money and learn something about being an entrepreneur.

21apr09_1Spring in our area came early this year and is especially sweet and beautiful. The photos I am sharing on today’s blog are a bit outdated, because we are beyond this point by now. The fruit trees are all loaded down with blossoms, the lilac tree out by the back of the barn is plump with an abundance of lilac buds, some of the heirloom/antique vines and shrubs growing around the farm are alive with color, Rhoda (my heirloom tree peony) has so many buds this year I haven’t even counted them all.

Last week one morning I stepped out to take my daughter’s dog out for a stroll and it was beautiful outside I literally caught my breath. It was one of those perfect moments of spring beauty when the light is still golden after a morning shower that has just barely cleared out.

There are three swans hanging out on the piece of river we see from our kitchen and living room. I love the very fact of being able to walk through my house, look out the window and see a river and get the bonus of three swans lingering and feeding our side of the bend.

21apr09_4Saturday my husband was out restaking the white flags of the electronic fence for the dogs when I had a powerful urge to go out and tell him I love him and give him a hug for all the work he does around here. So I took off out through the yard and the field of dandelions, amongst the apples trees along our drive, past the willow and her little “gum drop” evergreen buddy. The sky was dark and stormy but in a soft, sweet spring sort of way. There was something so powerful about the scene with the dark clouds in the distance, the muted lighting in the immediate area, and all of the space surrounding us. Meeting up with him out there and sharing that instance of time and nature was one of those perfect little moments you come across that burns itself into your mind and heart forever.

Speaking of perfection … I asked an artist friend of mine to create a pencil portrait of sweet Blu as a birthday gift for my husband. His birthday isn’t until the end of May, but I received the portrait in April so I gave it to him as an anniversary gift instead. He loved it, and I am certain you will see why if you follow the link I provded. Christine Sargent is the artist; she draws and paints children and pets primarily, but also landscapes. She is a dear, dear friend of mine for many years from the L.A. area and a very talented professional artist. She was thoughtful enough to include a free print of the portrait as well as the original. So, we have one here at the farm to hang on the wall and he was able to frame one to hang in his office at work. Quite a treat, quite a treat indeed.

And yes, it was our anniversary just recently … April 29th. We have been married three years and are now grandparents together. In just three short years we have already faced some tough situations together and experienced much joy. After three years we have decided that this little Internet experiment of ours is working out just fine; for us the whirlwind romance of meeting online and getting married three months later worked out better than we even thought it would.

It’s a good life, and I am joyful and grateful to have found someone to help me make it so and that I can do the same for. Here’s to us, honey! May others find something like what we have found.

I can plant a tree

June 3, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Posted in blogging, Christmas, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, stockings, summer, yarn | 6 Comments
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Wheat grows on fireflys farmA few days ago I got out on the tractor and helped my husband mow our three acres of lawn; it was my first time getting back on the tractor since last summer.

Side Bar: This is my third summer on the farm, somewhat hard to believe.

The farmer who rents our arable (–adjective “1. capable of producing crops; suitable for farming; suited to the plow and for tillage: arable land; arable soil” ~dictionary.com) land planted winter wheat last autumn. The fields look much different with wheat growing in them than they did with corn, much of the difference is that with the wheat growing out there we can see the expanse of the fields. It is very pretty, especially when a breeze is blowing and the tall, slender wheat stalks are move along in long, lazy rolling waves. Beautiful, really.

For about an hour I drove the tractor around and around in the “L” shaped piece of land I mow and enjoyed gazing at the gently moving wheat fields, feeling the cool spring breeze that moved the wheat lifting my hair up off my shoulders, watching little butterflies dancing up, diving down and around like little pilots putting on a show. Being out there on the tractor for a while is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm and all its beauty. You really get a feeling of the sense of space out there, back behind the barn and the willow, with the fields off to the north and east and the three-acre yard full of flowering trees and shrubs, the giant and graceful willow, the large lilac tree out behind the barn, all of it so rich, so big, so spacious and wonderful.

Trees planted by others long before firefly came to the farmAs I was mowing and enjoying all that space and beauty I suddenly remembered a tree we planted at the end of last summer way out by west side of the wheat field. We planted four trees at that time, but this one … a Burr Oak I believe … well, it was munched on pretty badly by deer over the winter and didn’t show any signs of growth come spring. The tree was several feet high when we planted it, and it had a protective plastic sleeve at the base, going up about three feet to prevent it from being girdled by rabbits or other rodents over the winter.

My husband recently told me that while there was no sign of growth above that sleeve, he did find some leaves growing down below it, so he removed the protective sleeve and cut the top off the tree. We both hoped it would continue growing and maybe would become a thriving tree someday, after all.

Well, there I was mowing that area of the lawn but I had not see the tree at all. I panicked and worried if perhaps it was so small that I had mowed right over it with the tractor while thinking about other things like wheat fields and lilacs and barns.

A lovely clematis growing out by fireflys barnWhen these thoughts occurred to me, I was way off at the other end of the lawn, and though I scanned the area where I thought the tree should be, I couldn’t see anything sticking up. As I headed over that way, I kept looking desperately for some sign of the little tree and then I did see it standing just about two feet high, off to the left of where I had been looking.

What a relief to realize I had not killed the poor thing. As I drew closer still, I could see that it does have several healthy looking leaves and even some tiny branches. It is really something to consider the fact that some day, many, many years into the future, that tree could potentially have a canopy some sixty feet in diameter. How grand it will be, even coming now from these humble beginnings.

When my husband suggested we plant the trees last autumn he told me there is a saying that planting a tree is the ultimate sign of optimism. True, so true. When you look around at any of the truly spectacular trees that exist they have been there for a very long time. When you put a tree in the ground you are actually putting something there for a future time that you might not get a chance to see yourself, and yet, you plant the tree.

We planted four, but we are just getting started.

When my husband was about thirteen years old, he was with his grandfather over at our cottage property a few miles down the road. They were sitting down by the river, and he was looking thoughtfully at an island in the middle of the river. He noticed the island was eroding and mentioned something about it to his grandfather. It occurred to him that if the island continued to erode that way, it might not be there a few years up the road. His grandfather told him that he could take branches from a willow tree and plant them along the edge of the island to try to protect it from erosion, so my husband gathered some branches, got in a boat and headed out toward the island.

He planted three willow branches. More than forty years later, three fine, strong willow trees stand where he stuck mere branches in the soggy ground as a boy … and the island remains. Good going, honey!

We planted two maples and two oaks. I think the maples are Sugar Maples, if I recall correctly. One of the oaks is a Burr Oak and the other is a White Oak. The oaks will grow much more slowly than the maples, and I have no idea how large they could potentially become during the course of our lives. I do know that it will be people other than us, up the road many years into the future, who will get to truly enjoy those trees and see them when they are larger than life.

I like the idea that we have put these threes in for people other than us to enjoy. It is an ultimate sign of optimism that this place will still be here, that someone will be here loving it and caring for it long after we are gone (not that we’re going anywhere for a very, very, very long time).

Pretty little phlox flowers growing by fireflys barnSomeone did it for us, and now we have started the motion of passing the torch to the next folks who will come along and for those who come after still. Hopefully some will be heirs of mine, but I know there are no guarantees.

While I was out on the tractor thinking about all of this, my thoughts went on to life itself. What can a person do in this world to make a difference? Or to do something that lasts.

Sometimes it can all seem so overwhelming, there are so many world-wide, large-scale worries and concerns. What can I do, today, to show that I have hope and faith in you and me and those who come after us, that I have faith in mankind and who we are spiritually and what we will do with our opportunities and resources.

I know that on an immediate basis I can do something like write my blog in an effort to share the good things that come in my own life, my philosophical and spiritual way of looking at life. I know I do make a difference in people’s lives with this blog today, because you write comments that touch my heart and soul, bring tears to my eyes, and tell me in your own sweet words that I have done something that made a difference … today.

As for the future, what can I do as a gesture of faith for the long haul, that we are going to make it as a race and that we will finally some day get it right and knock off all the nonsense like war, drugs, crime, pollution, intolerance, wastefulness, and so on. Who am I, just one woman on a farm out in the middle of not much. I am not a world leader, just an interested party living a quietly productive life in the best way I know how. What can I do that will have any lasting effect?

This tree will one day be mightyWell there is this one thing … I can plant a tree.

Especially a tree that takes a very, very long time to grow. Something I am not putting there so much for me as I am putting it there for someone I don’t know who will stand on this ground in this place many years from now. A person who will lift her head and enjoy a clean breeze of fresh, cool air coming off of a beautiful, healthy Lake Ontario. A person who will feel grateful standing beneath the shade of a great, big, healthy, beautiful oak tree put there by my husband and I way back here in time.

My husband and I will care for this little fledgling tree today. We will protect it from the elements, deer, rodents, disease, and pests as best we can. We will watch it, prune it when necessary, and love it and we will do all of that so that that as yet unknown person (who I now almost feel as if I can reach out and touch lightly on the shoulder) will have it to be grateful for in a world perhaps a bit better off than the world in which we live today.

Hang in there little guy, we have big plans for you.

.. ~*~ . . ~*~ . . ~*~ . . ~*~ ..

Detail shot from one of fireflys hand knit Christmas Stocking designsIn other news … I will be publishing a pattern for three hand knit Christmas Stockings on or about June 15th. If you want to receive an email alert about the pattern, be sure to sign up for my eMail list There will be one free Christmas Stocking pattern, and there will be a pattern for purchase (online download or printed) with three stockings featured in it.

Speaking of my patterns, I have been very gratified to receive these comments from people who purchased my new Emily Sweater and Hat pattern:

“Your pattern is beautifully written in wonderfully helpful detail, probably the best presented pattern I’ve seen. Thank you so much. ~ mommypohl

“Adorable sweater/hat pattern! Pattern is beautifully photo’d, and provides clear directions. Thanks soooo much!” ~lbdotson

I also just posted a new set of notecards in my Etsy Store, featuring photos from my blog of yarn, vintage buttons, etc. … perfect for knitters and crafters!

The other day I started knitting a set of pretty little bags from a beautiful linen yarn I picked up last time I was at the yarn shop in the village. I love this yarn, and now that I have been working with it I want to use it to make myself a lightweight sweater for next spring.

After I publish the Christmas Stocking patterns, I’ll get pattern for these new bags published as well. The pattern will include instructions for three to four gift bags for a special purpose … yet to be announced (I think it’s a cool idea, and I’d like to surprise you all when all of the bags are complete … just a few more days till photos are available).

A new hand knit gift bag set firefly is designingThey are a perfect summer knitting project because they are small and not wool. It is refreshing to have a knitting project that actually feels summery in my hands. I’m loving this project very much, indeed, and will tell you more about it as I get closer to publication date on the patterns.

Gotta go now; my husband is coming home a bit early and we’re going to head over to the cottage with Blu and get out on the river in the boat! Hope you have a wonderful day, catch ya later!

~firefly

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