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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And this is where I speak to you from my heart, again

November 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, domestic violence, faith, family, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, inspiration, knitting, Lace Shawl Knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, Thanksgiving, yarn | 18 Comments
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IMG_4428Snow.

It has been falling steady all morning.  I knit, and write, and I sip hot cocoa.

This kind of cozy, relaxing morning is fulfilling to the soul.

The world is very quiet on a snow day.  Watching the steady flow of softly falling flakes can be mesmerizing, leading to deep thoughts and philosophical contemplations.

At least, that is how it is for me.

This morning the snow along with the and the contemplation that comes with knitting have worked together to lead my mind to you, dear reader.

I have known many of my readers for a little more than eight years now. It has been a long road, and there have been poignant joys so rich as to make my heart ache with the satisfaction of long-awaited happiness…joyful, magic moments many of which I have shared in this ethereal place known as my “blog”.

Side Bar: Blog is such an unattractive word. I wish a prettier word had been created for it.

There have been heart-wrenching losses also, along the way.  Some have been shared, though most have been suffered through silently as far as the blog is concerned.  Anguish is not what you come here looking for, so the moments in life of anguish are kept from public view and knowledge.

We all have them, our private trials and sufferings.

That is life.  There are times of joy and happiness, of creation, and jubilant reflection.  Oh, how those> moments glow.

And in contrast there are the … other things we must deal with and endure.

I started my blog in the summer of 2006, and from the very first time someone left me a comment and I knew people were actually “listening” I have carried you, my reader, in my heart. Sometimes there have been thousands in a day coming to this place, other times a few hundred come daily.

It is a unique friendship and relationship between writer and reader in this virtual world known as “the blogosphere”.  I don’t know what it is like for other writers, I think I have a somewhat unique relationship with my readers in that I started writing shortly after my entire life turned upside down and began anew.

When I moved from Los Angeles to this farm in New York back in May of 2006 I had not heard of or read any “blogs”.  I had much experience with computers and the Internet.  I had been an Art Director and VP of Strategic Creative Services at an Internet start-up company and had quite a bit of experience with online marketing and consulting.  Still, I was not familiar with blogs.

My then new life on a farm was destined to be more relaxed, less stressful, and certainly would involve zero traffic jams and so I looked around for something new to do with my Internet skills, something that would allow me to focus on my first love, which was writing.

My son suggested I get into writing a blog, and he said I should just pick a subject I knew something about and start writing about that.  So I made a list of things I enjoyed and also knew something about, and knitting was one of those things. Earlier than that, when I was still living in Los Angeles, it was my son who also suggested that I turn my focus to writing rather than general Internet consulting. He helped me center my focus, and it was a key factor in what led me here … to my dear husband, to this farm, and to writing this blog.

Another Side Bar Item:I mention my son quite often on my blog and in my emails, even in some of my patterns. If it hadn’t been for him, I might never have come to be here writing this blog, designing knitting patterns, and sharing them with you. We all have a great deal to be thankful to him for. It is inevitable that he is therefore, an integral part of the adventure. So, I mention him, and I link to his online store where he sells prints of his designs including City Neighborhood Typography maps like this one of Los Angeles, vintage inspired Eye Charts, city minimalist posters, and subway signs and bus scrolls.

In August 2006 I posted my first entry. I look back now and see I made 21 posts that August.

My goodness, that was a long time ago.

At that time, my life had turned upside down, inside out, rolled over a few times and flipped up in the air at least five times.  It was a dream come true to live on a farm. Each and every day held treasures of discovery in my new environment.  I literally engaged in an entirely new and different life, begun right in the middle of my already well-established life.

What I am trying to say is this: I think it is a pretty big deal I started writing a blog not long after arriving in my new life and that so many readers have been a part of this adventure. You have read my words, enjoyed my photography, cheered my joys and victories, felt my pain, and even knitted a few of my designs.

I have carried you right along with me through many of the steps and turns and magical developments along the way.  And it has been great.  I have to say, I came to love you guys, my readers, and I still do.  You are a part of my world and my universe, even if you don’t realize it.

But there is something I feel very bad about, and I want to say something here about that.

There have been times when some of you have left comments or sent me emails and I never got back to you.  Not all of the time, but sometimes.

And, there have been long periods of absence on my part as time has gone by.  I am sorry for that, I want you to know that I am.  I honestly feel that because of the kind of blog I write–where I share both glory and pain in order to inspire others that life’s obstacles can be overcome and dreams can come true–that dropping off and not writing for long periods of time was injurious to the universe I had created as a writer.

That might sound weird, or you might say I shouldn’t carry such a burden but it is my honest feeling and I want to apologize to whoever might still be “listening”.

I had good reason, and I am going to say something very brief about that.

My dear, dear daughter was married to someone abusive and is physically disabled because of that.  Then also, my granddaughter came into the picture.  They have a right to privacy and safety, and the time I share with them I don’t share publicly via my blog.

This past year I have had more time to knit again, to design, write, and publish patterns and write some emails.

blacksmith1It is challenging to wear the various hats life has called on me to wear while also carving out a bit of quiet time alone time for writing, and so I disappear at times.  It isn’t because I have stopped thinking of my readers or carrying you in my heart.  You are still there for me, and I hope you can feel me there in your heart as well even when I am absent from this venue.

I shot this photograph at Genesee Country Village Museum this summer. This gentleman is a blacksmith re-enacter (he actually does real old-time blacksmithing work). He reminded me a bit of my dear father, so I shot this portrait of him. I won a blue ribbon for the photograph in their annual Agricultural Festival this fall. 🙂

I don’t think life ever turns out the way any of us thought it was going to. I know mine hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would when I was young and younger. The funny thing is, it has turned out to be a very good likeness of the various dreams I dreamt of when I was younger. It just doesn’t look or feel the way I had imagined, and so at times it is a challenge to recognize it as being the life I actually did intend to create–a version of it anyway.

That’s the way it is, life is, after all, life. I think of mine as a river … remember when I wrote about The River Me?

IMG_4365Over the past year I have designed and published fourteen new patterns for quite a few new items including a variety of shawls and cowls (see photos at the end of this post). In addition to individual knitting patterns, I have published several eBooks with collections of patterns (all are available in my Ravelry store, some are in my Etsy store). Currently I have a number of projects in the planning stages and in the works including children’s clothing, an awesome cardigan for men (I am knitting the sample for my son, naturally), a number of patterns for gloves, more cowls, and several shawls/wraps. I have started developing relationships with yarn artists and have the pleasure of developing some designs specifically featuring their beautiful yarns, and that is a pretty cool development.

In the coming year I will start using test and sample knitters (if you are interested, please let me know) and am looking to establish a good relationship with a skilled tech editor for my knitting patterns.

Realistically, I won’t be able to get back to writing weekly blogs for the time being. I will write when I can, which might only be a few times a year. If you would like to stay in closer touch with me and my life, Instagram is a great choice because I post there sometimes on a daily basis sharing both knitting related photography and photography from this beautiful world I live in.

Follow me on Instagram to see day-to-day photos of fiber related goodies and knitting projects, as well as beautiful scenes from our little piece of heaven. You can find me there as: JLFleckenstein. It would also be great if you would share photos of your WIP of my designs on FaceBook and Instagram using hashtag: #jlfleckenstein

My most recent knitting designs are available first in my Ravelry store, and then in my Etsy store. My Ravelry ID is: JLFleckenstein, and my Etys store is ILiveonaFarm.Etsy.com.

If you leave a comment on my blog or send me an email, I will write back to you. If you don’t hear from me for several days it means life tapped me on the shoulder and kept me away from my computer, usually for a very good reason. But I always come back. I always do.

With so many things I have to be thankful for, I want to take this moment in time to wish my U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving holiday, and for my non-U.S. readers, I send you good tidings and best wishes for those things you have to be thankful for in your life.

Warm wishes,

~firefly

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Gathering up the wild things, 2011

October 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Posted in art, Christmas, country life, family, Holidays, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, shopping, travel, Vintage | 3 Comments
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This is what I see today, as I look out the window of my studio writing. Though I didn’t shoot that photograph today or this year, it is pretty close to what I see out there right now. Just imagine the same scene with darker clouds and a steady rain, and you will see what I am seeing right now.

What is the weather like where you are? How has the season evolved in your corner of the world so far?

A couple of days ago my husband and I did the coolest thing: I noticed over the past few months a number of older wild grapevines around our farm about 1″ to 1 1/2″ in diameter, and those grapevines got me to thinking. I love to cut wild grape vines and make wreaths with them, so I wondered if we could cut the thick old vines and fashion them into a very large wreath to hang on our barn. We have wanted to make a large outdoor Christmas wreath to hang on our barn and it was exciting to finally have a natural ingredient we could use to make one.

As you look for unique, inspired gift ideas for people on your list this year remember to check out our Knitter’s Eye Charts (as seen in Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits this fall) and other gifts for knitters in the I Live on a Farm Etsy store.  Or, give an inspiring eBook or Kindle book to someone you love. My son carries a great variety of vintage-look Subway Roll Signs and Bus Scroll Prints representing New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London and more — he also creates custom signs with the same vintage look. You can find my original paintings, fine art prints, photographs, and note cards in my Fine Art Etsy Store.

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There was a little window of opportunity two days ago when he got home from work, before it started raining, to get out and about and cut the vines we wanted to use. Cutting the vines off of our trees will help the trees survive longer, plus and it provided us with plenty of thick vines to coil around for a four foot diameter wreath. It is beautiful, rustic and hearty looking. We will still need to find things to add to it in order to make it more decorative and I hope to be able to light it up somehow at night so people will enjoy it as they drive by.

Our closest neighbors have a beautiful huge red barn, and they hang a large wreath on it every Christmas season. It is lit up at night with an outdoor light and is a very lovely sight to see if we happen to be out on a snowy winter night. I hope our wreath with bring the kind of joy to others that our neighbors’ wreath has brought to us.

We will hang it right over our quilt square, and it should harmonize with the square because of the double wedding ring pattern on the square. (If you are not familiar with the quilt square we have hanging on our barn, here is a link to my blog on that subject from back in 2008 when we first hung the quilt square.)

08dec08_2carolersoutsideWe have also been out gathering up wild things from our environment this week for use in a new generation of my Thistleonian characters. It was important for us to get out and gather the wild things I need for the little guys before the elements start making them look too weathered.

One of my favorite ingredients is not wild; I use soybeans to make their little arms. The farmers around us who are growing soy beans this year were out everywhere bringing them in a couple of weeks back, so that was our cue to get out to someone’s field and snag a few remnant bean stalks from the edge of a field. Though they are not “wild”, they are natural and perfect for Thistleonians. The soy beans inside are small and cream colored and are beautiful to use as accents as well.

I have also started drying milkweed pods– my all-time favorite of beautiful wild things to gather from the outside world. Beginning in early October I watch the pods (they grow in front of our barn, beneath our Quilt Square Block along with various wild flowers) for signs they are ready to harvest. What I am watching for is the first pods that burst open on their own to release their seeds and silky threads. When that happens, I can gather as many as I need and start getting them ready for drying.

I enjoyed spending time with my husband, driving around and raiding fallow fields and soy bean crop remnants to gather the items I need. We did this kind of “wild thing” foraging the first couple of years after I moved here but it has been a while since we did so and it was just great to get back out there and spend that kind of time together. I treasure him for many things, and this is an example of why. He not only supports me in theory on my various creative activities, he gets involved and plays the game with me on those things he can. (Thank you, dear husband.)

I am looking forward to spending some cozy time during dark and stormy autumn days (much like today) working on Thistleonians. I also have on my list of creative things to do the knitting of a new pair of knuckle gloves or fingerless gloves for myself, as the pair of Fetching fingerless gloves I made my first year in New York are frayed and will have to be replaced. I would also like to knit some socks for my mother and x-mother-in-law (what should I call her now?), lacey fingerless gloves and a scarflett for my daughter, a sweater for my grand-daughter, something I have not figured out for my son, and a new hat for myself. Oh, to be able to knit the many things I have on and in my mind to knit.

The past couple of weeks my husband, my son, and I have all been working to prepare for a group photography show in December at a nearby art gallery. The show will feature pieces by me, my husband, his deceased father, and my son along with poetry written by my father; I will do a poetry reading of some of my father’s poetry opening night of the show. This show will be at the local art gallery in one of the nearby villages and the opening will be Friday December 2nd in the evening. If you are in the Western New York area and would like an invitation to the show, contact me via email or with a comment on this blog and I will send one as soon as they are ready.

I have shot upwards of 75,000 photographs since I moved to New York — most likely many more than that. I went through about half of them in an effort to select the best ten for our show. I wanted the photographs I am showing to be of a fine art nature, to reflect my artistic ability with the camera as well as my eye for composition and color. The photographs needed to also reflect my particular artistic style and communicate something important about my vision as an artist.

After many hours reviewing photographs, I narrowed my choices down to a couple of dozen, then my husband helped me select the best fifteen of those. We tried to go with ten, but could not cut it down further than fifteen–which is still quite an accomplishment I think.

The photograph at the top of this blog is one I chose, and sprinkled in the blog you will find others. If you would like to see more, I have posted prints of some of them for sale in my fine art Etsy store as 8x10s.

We also went through my husband’s photographs as well as his father’s and chose fifteen of each of theirs as well.  My husband’s father brought cameras home with him from Europe after World War II ended, and he trained himself in the use of those cameras.  He shot some wonderful photographs at our cottage featuring family, friends, and the family dog.  You can see from the shots he captured that he had a good eye for composition as well as a understanding of the wonderful natural light in this part of the world.

My husband’s photography reflects his deep love of the landscapes from his childhood and lifetime spent on and around the Oak Orchard River.  He is also a self-taught photographer with a great passion for cameras and photographic technology.  He had devoted many years to studying cameras and photographic techniques and has gone out in the field with a variety of cameras and different types of film plus digital media to apply the knowledge he gains from his studies.

I haven’t seen my son’s choices yet for his photographs for the show, but I know they will be awesome. He has done some very interesting, and quite beautiful photography around the farm and our cottage but he also has some breathtaking portraits of The Duke (his English Bulldog), wild life photography, and street scenes in Los Angeles and New York City. I have no idea, out of his large body of work, which ten pieces he will choose to show … I am looking forward so much to getting a chance to see! The gallery owner also wants to devote a section of the gallery to display  his digital artistry, reflected in his reproduction New York Subway Signs and Vintage Maps.

Our photography show will primarily feature photographs shot over a period of sixty to seventy years in and around the same locations — but through the eyes of four different photographers, using various films and cameras and photographic technology as it has evolved. The photography will be gently tied together via the poetry of our fifth artist, my father.

Once we have everything printed, matted, and framed and hanging in the gallery I believe it will be very interesting to see our various takes on this beautiful environment we have all explored and enjoyed over the years.

Well, I have a two and a half year old crawling back and forth across my back while I try to write and my poor back just can’t take it any more this morning so I am going to end off here.

Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful week-ending, and weekend coming up!

~firefly

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