Posted in Crafts and Skills

Purpose and Weaving

Above all, serving our heart’s deepest desires is the only true mission of our soul. And if we stay the course, we will realize our true purpose.

Julia Piatt

I was born highly intuitive and highly sensitive. A burdensome duo for a child in school but has created an ever changing and heightening purpose as an adult. My grandmother used her clairvoyance to read palms and was a medical intuitive. She also used it to bet on the horses. My husband laments that I won’t use it to gamble (I’m just certain that I will jinx it!). I have used it to know when the phone is about to ring, when someone is about to die. I have used it as an herbalist- knowing just what to give people- and as a reader- knowing just what is wrong and the path needed to take. I have had spirits talk to me, animals talk to me, and all sorts of unusual happenings that are hard to believe, and even harder to live with sometimes! But, in the end these gifts work their way through my life as the purpose itself.

I learned to weave this year and it is a lovely art form and wonderful for me to be able to sit still (not easy) and meditate as I beat in the rows, warping the loom with gorgeous colors, and creating shawls and scarves and such. A normal past time for me! But alas, that same intuitive gift has woven its way into my new work. I hear just what colors to use for the recipient. Stories are told to me as I weave. Nature comes through in the pattern. Whispers of what the new owner of this shawl needs for their spirit. I am inadvertently weaving prayer shawls. Ceremonial shawls. Healing shawls.

Oh, they are quite nice and warm to wrap around one’s face as they go about farm chores. And they look ever fine over a gown for a night on the town. Keep the chill off the shoulders on a midsummer eve. Or perhaps doll up a jean jacket for a day of shopping.

But their real purpose is that when the wearer wears their new shawl, what they need is given to them. Like medicine. The reds with stitches of green that spoke of healing to help a dear woman undergoing chemo. Starlight and solar system blues and greys speak of wonder. Gorgeous autumnal colors take me on a journey through the woods and gift the wearer with joy. The new one I am working on is a lovely stormy day. The kind suitable for cups of tea and writing books and tells me the recipient needs rest. Oh, it’s great fun listening as the loom tightens and weaves stories and healing to those that have asked me for a shawl.

The spirits do get ahead of themselves and I already know the color scheme of the next shawl I was asked to make! But slowly, slowly, I beat in each row with wishes for what the wearer needs at present.

Enchantment runs through everything I do; I grow medicinal and health giving plants, I take care of animals that shall forever remain friends, I see illnesses and make people medicine, I write, I make magical shawls. I gave up long ago the notion of my ever having a regular occupation. Over the years of wondering, What is my purpose?, I realize it is not what I do, but what comes through when I follow my interests and passions. Healing and inspiration is what I have to offer the world.

(If you are interested in having a shawl or scarf made for you, please email me at Katie@PumpkinHollowFarm.net)

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Inspired Crafting

When the children were small, I did more crafting. I made wreaths and puppets, throw pillows, and baby blankets. I set up holiday projects for the children. Glue, construction paper, and scissors were always in the house. Markers, and colored pencils, paints, and craft idea books filled our home when our children were little.

A book called, Scandi Christmas by Christiane Bellstedt Myers inspired me, and time at home let my imagination run free. Crafting has brought a sense of peace to my day. Rustic ornaments shaped as trees were created with fabric scraps.

Finding myself with still more fabric scraps and inspired by an idea in the book, I tied close to a hundred 6×1 pieces of holiday fabric to long pieces of twine. I inserted jingle bells and pine cones along the way, for crafts are meant to be personalized.

To use my fingers by the light of the tree, to focus on the task at hand, Christmas music playing in the background, is a wonderful way to spend time. This winter may be the perfect time to start crafting again.

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Painting with Goats

Before we moved here, the chicken coop’s prior life was as a tool shed and workshop. It is 15×10 with a window across from the heavy door. Doug stapled wire fencing over the window to keep predators out and chickens in. No raccoon can open that door in the wee hours of night for chicken snacks. Rafters and shelves allow the chickens to roost. It makes an ideal coop.

It is surrounded by dog panel fencing so that we can keep them confined near their coop if we are leaving or if there is risk of predators. That opens into a huge pasture for them to free range and find bugs and accept bread thrown over from the neighbor’s balcony.

It was painted blue to match the house. That must have been some years ago, because the ply-board and planks had begun to show through the chipped and faded paint. I went out one early spring day and began to paint it orange. It was not the shade I intended and I ran out of paint three sides in, so it has sat, a horrid orange and faded blue exterior with chipped paint gables, for months.

I have the most fabulous wwoofer at the moment. You shall get to know Annie and her lively spirit over the next few weeks. She helped me paint yesterday. The goats assisted, as goats love to do, and we totally transformed the derelict looking coop into a gorgeous outbuilding. The goats are now the same color as the coop.

Yes, that is wet paint.

The chickens approve of their new haven. It is easy enough to transform and freshen any building or wall. Just grab a goat or two and a brush. We even freshened up the farm sign while we were at it!

Posted in Crafts and Skills

The Homestead Ukulele

I wish I were a natural, but I am no prodigy. I began playing the piano at eight years old. I started to play the guitar in seventh grade. I have taken violin lessons. Taken music in college. Every time I sit down to the piano, I have to relearn everything. My brother can still play the same songs he learned when we were kids. I can’t pick out Mary Had a Little Lamb.

My son, Andy, on the other hand, is a musician. He can hear the music. I have to read music. He can just play it. When he was twelve years old, he had dreadlocks and pirate earrings, a Bob Marley t-shirt, and a banjo that he walked around the neighborhood with, playing loudly, stopping along the way to entertain. By then, he had taught himself seven instruments.

Doug and I love to sing and our children can too, so we spent a fair amount of time singing karaoke with them at bars. Our house was filled with music and singing. When the children moved out, it got rather quiet. I played the fiddle and Doug played the mandolin, but neither of us were particularly enthralled, or very good, so when we moved, we sold all of our instruments. Noticing my regret, Doug bought me a guitar for my birthday that year.

My fingers do not quite reach to set the pads of my fingertips directly on the string so my songs always sound slightly off. Lessons did me little good, because the much younger teachers gave me songs like, “Oh Susanna” and told me to practice it a million times. Easily bored, I would just stop playing with a shrug. I am no prodigy but I also have the attention span of a Border Collie.

We now have a piano and my guitar that I play here and there. Andy has been playing the ukulele a lot over the past year and a half or so. He is, of course, great at it. He assured me that this is the instrument for me! He bought me one and it arrived in the mail Friday.

He talked me through it over Snapchat video and gives me lessons and things to practice that work for me. It is a larger ukulele but small enough that my fingers reach the strings easily and the sound is so great! I am already picking up the chords and he is having me learn songs so that we can play together. I gained a new instrument and a great teacher.

Music fills our home again. Isn’t that a quintessential requirement for a homestead? Playing mountain music for the corn. Instruments are an important part of the simple life. What would you like to play?

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Learning to Weave

The loom and its parts have been with me for years now but I could not make any sense of any of it until yesterday when I took my first weaving class. What a great day! I learned what a heddle and shuttle was and how my loom works. I made a pretty, southwestern wall hanging that I finished last night and hung from an interesting stick. I cannot wait to start the next project!

Doug thought it would be a good idea for me to learn a new skill that would take me through the winter and hopefully bypass those winter blues. The ladies of old spent their winters in front of the fire spinning, weaving, and creating clothes, bedspreads, quilts, towels, socks, shawls, and pants. Lots of work to do and those women started with the sheep themselves and ended with a wardrobe. From fleece to fabric. It all amazes me. I wonder if the folks two or three generations ago knew how sacred their many crafts and skills were and how lost they would become.

I have had two spinning wheels, carders, a drop spindle, and had sheep and alpacas- all for brief times. We would move, I would feel like I couldn’t get the skill down, and I would sell them. (Not the sheep, I didn’t want to give up the sheep!) We plan on getting sheep next spring. I plan on getting a spinning wheel. And I plan on making a beautiful garment from fleece, to washing, to natural dying, to spinning, to weaving.

Our local yarn store in the next town over (which my husband always jokes is aptly named, “Yarned and Dangerous”) offers classes and that is how I found Diane. She is a great teacher. She plans on taking spinning classes at the shop. I would like to as well. I love fiber arts and have always been fascinated. Find yourself a local place that does classes and learn a new skill! Not only does it feel great to learn something new, you can also help revive lost arts.

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Five Homestead Projects for Spring

It figures that three different neighbors wanted to come out and talk to me yesterday as I was painting. I had chosen items of clothing that a little paint wouldn’t bother. So I brushed pumpkin orange paint onto the chicken coop whilst wearing red and green Christmas pajama bottoms, purple galoshes, a tie-dye shirt, a Mexican woven hoodie (until it got too hot), and a big, floppy yellow sun hat.

Farm fashion at its best.

1- Paint Outbuildings and Trim

If it is going to be over 45 degrees for most of the day, go on out and paint. Sheds, chicken coops, window sills, and barns all need a little touch up or full paint job and this time of year is a perfect time to do it as we gear up for farming season.

I only had enough paint to do three sides of my chicken coop so I will finish it next week. It will be quite a transformation!

2- Create trellises

Darned if I could find the twine, so I grabbed leftover yarn from a Christmas project. It will work just fine. Peas are light so they don’t need a heavy frame to grow on. Dowels and twine (or yarn) work well to create a trellis for peas. Ideally, trellises will be put into the garden before the seeds are planted, or if you forgot (like me), then before the plants begin to sprout.

Dowels will go every four to six feet along rows of peas. Two or three rows of string are knotted on. Dowels and string can be reused year after year or disassembled and used for something altogether different.

3- Keep planting cold crops

A great friend of mine read my post about planting spring crops and she went out to plant but decided against it in case of frost. We have all been so ingrained that planting before the last frost date shall bring devastation and dead plants, but some plants aren’t bothered in the least by a little frost or a bit of snow. They prefer it to hot temperatures. Hot temps make them bolt (go to seed), so y’all get out there and plant your spring crops! Click here to see the list of plants to plant now.

Based on the recommendations on the back of the package, I will plant every two weeks. If the seed packet says to plant as soon as the soil can be worked, then plant early. Otherwise it will say mid-spring or late spring.

4- Take care of your plant starts

If you haven’t started your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants indoors, better hop to it! Mine have sprouted already. Mist well with a water bottle every few days if they are covered. Once they outgrow their cover, take it off and check moisture regularly. They should be lightly damp, but certainly not soaked.

5- Prepare garden beds for summer

But, it’s only April 1st, you say? Y’all know how fast time goes and in six sweet weeks all of the summer crops are going in at practically the same time, and six weeks goes by pretty fast. It sure is nice to have beds ready to go.

I love Spring and if it is a nice day out, I just want to be outside soaking up lost Vitamin D from my winter indoors. Spring is filled with hope and joy…and sore muscles and projects! What are you working on right now?

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Of Handkerchiefs and Trash

I am always trying to improve our life, our health, save money, and lessen our footprint. When I look at my shopping list, I look for the things I can prepare myself. I see what I can grow myself. We think of what we can do for ourselves. We try to do better. We recycle. It is important to us. Despite the growing reports that our crap may just all end up in foreign countries, or worse, not get recycled at all, I just cannot not recycle. Despite the fact that we pay double what our non-recycling neighbors pay for trash and we only get a pick up once a month. So, I look at my trash bin and my recycling bin and see where my trash is coming from. Because it is not enough to put up solar or wind power, get an electric car (still uses fossil fuels, folks), or recycle; we need to use less, waste less, live simpler.

This vintage child’s handkerchief from Pinterest couldn’t be cuter.

I am surprised at just how much waste finds its way onto my homestead. Bulk items in plastic bags, produce in plastic bags, animal food bags, my new oil lamp wrapped in plastic and cardboard. Cardboard boxes from prepared foods, deliveries of items, and so much more fills my waste bins. I can deal with that by buying less, preparing more, and coming up with another way to get bulk items and produce home. But there is one other thing that surprised me that filled the trash bin. Tissues!

When did the era of using a handkerchief leave us? My generation in particular seems to have completely forgotten how things were before us. So many things have been replaced with wasteful, mass marketed, and destructive alternatives. We don’t think much of a box of tissues, but perhaps we should! A handkerchief was used to wipe one’s face or hands, dry tears, or blow the nose. Washable and convenient (and for women, often very beautiful), handkerchiefs were as fashionable and reasonable as bonnets and long skirts. (I am wearing my bonnet this year, y’all, I don’t care what the neighbors think!) So, perhaps it is time to add handkerchiefs to my sewing list for winter. I think cotton would be lovely and soft. Perhaps they could be made out of an old shirt. I will use the same technique I did for the homemade cloth napkins, which couldn’t be simpler. I think it might be wise to use darker fabric. Maybe I will even embroider my initials on them. (What is my name these days? Mama? Grammie?)

Handkerchiefs are an easy way to lessen our footprint and add a little old fashioned charm to our lives.

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Cloth Napkins (an easy, eco-friendly sewing project)

I have always loved cloth napkins. Beautiful china set with shiny silverware, wine glasses, and a stark paper napkin just doesn’t work! I also do not love throwing away bleached paper napkins day after day. What a waste. And who knows where those trees used to live. Best to use cloth. If we are only dabbing our lips after a lip smacking meal, I just fold them back up and we use them again (if it’s just me and Doug, obviously one would want to use fresh, clean napkins for company!). Aesthetically they are nicer, less wasteful, and a great addition to your farmhouse table.

Cloth napkins in beautiful fabrics range from $6-$12. You can get some cheaply made China ones from Walmart for $3. I can get a whole yard of fabric and make my own for a buck a piece or less and still have leftover fabric for quilt blocks. This is a great beginning sewing project.

1) First, set up your iron! Grandma taught me this; let the iron do the work for you. I typically detest ironing, but for sewing it is a must!

2) Measure out how big you want your blocks to be. I didn’t want to waste too much fabric, so I folded the cloth in thirds and cut at the creases. Grandma also taught me that if you cut down a few inches, you can finish the cut by tearing the fabric. It will tear straight and true and save you time and crooked pieces. I did it the other way as well. I ended up with nine blocks.

3) Fold and iron a 1/4 inch hem. The hot iron holds the fold. Then fold once more 1/4 inch for a finished seam. Iron and pin. You don’t want frayed edges or unraveling strings; that is why we fold the fabric over twice.

4) Sew a straight line 1/8 of an inch from edge of hem. You could also do a second run doing a zigzag stitch on the edge of the fold to ensure sturdiness.

5) Iron and fold.

I chose this plaid fabric because with so many colors it is bound to match anything I put on the table! I think I will go get some cute ranch/farm scene fabric and make another set so that I can alternate them on the table.

These make great homemade gifts as well!

Posted in Crafts and Skills

The Eco-friendly, Affordable, Beautiful Wedding (your ideas are welcome!)

Emily will not let her dad and the officiator (her dad’s friend) wear their kilts to the wedding.  The child is like 98% Celtic origin.  She wants what she wants.  She (like most of us) has been planning her wedding since childhood.  Pinterest is well used.  The wedding is going to be beautiful, all spring desert colors of blushes and mints.

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Weddings are costly numbers.  Venues are pricey, and photographers are even more than the venues!  There are ways that my family has kept costs down in the past.  My sister was married in a park at the base of the foothills with the fall colors blazing in the trees.  We then went to a rec center and had a potluck, our great-aunts busily working in the kitchen.  We love potlucks.  This wedding will feel like a destination wedding, however, because it is in the mountains west of Pueblo in a spectacular park in the woods, in the morning, so folks won’t be able to get up and cook and drive to the mountains.  There is no kitchen in the lodge where the reception will be.  So, we are looking at catering.  But…

What if we did huge batches of spaghetti and garlic bread and salad?  Could we get them up there and keep them hot?  How do you make enough to feed a hundred people?  Any ideas out there?  We are a creative lot in this blogging world, I am all ears!

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A bright, rust colored fox shot past us nearby as we got out of the car at the park.  Auspicious, I am sure.  The hawks and crows gather and the frogs sing from the river below.  There are deer tracks.  The lodge is made of stones that are a couple of feet thick, built a hundred years ago.  The wheels from the wagons that were used to transport granite from the quarry here to the state capitol have been turned into lantern chandeliers in the high vaulted wood ceiling.  A fireplace with its elaborate stone face stands prominently, taking up nearly an entire wall.  The heavy, wood doors open to the magical woods and picnic tables beckon.  There is an old bar and steps to a choir loft.  The worn wood floors are heavy and long to be danced upon.  Parks are an affordable option for any event.  They are scenic and lovely and support a good cause.

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I am realizing that weddings are quite easily not eco-friendly.  Emily wants succulents and roses.  They are fifty cents a piece, plastic and from overseas.  They are affordable.  The succulents are five dollars a piece at the store.  We have opted for real tablecloths and chair covers.  It is cheaper to buy them then to rent them.  I found that odd.  Emily says she can always resell them.  It is cheaper still to do plastic.  Then there are plates, silverware, glasses, containers for food…

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Succulents are on sale right now so I think I will purchase them and keep them alive until the wedding in July.  I just cannot bring myself to buy plastic plants!  Maybe we can get compostable dinnerware.  Ideas?  Thoughts?  How do you keep the cost of a wedding down while still making it an elegant and memorable affair without destroying the earth in the process?  We will be figuring out all this and more as we go.

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I would love to hear your ideas and I will report back through the planning process as we master the eco-friendly, affordable, beautiful wedding that I will certainly share with all of you readers out there.  Many of you have been with me since Emily was fifteen years old.  How wonderful to see her marry the love of her life!

 

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Painting 101 (just for the fun of it)

It doesn’t matter if you think you are a good artist or not.  Art is subjective.  What might affect my emotions in a painting may not be the same as what style someone else is attracted to.  I have stood adoring many a painting in museums and in homes and I am in love with southwest oil realism.  Or anything from the sixteenth century.  My friend has a painting in his dining room of blue brush strokes that he no doubt paid hundreds for.  See, none of that matters.  We are painting because it is fun.  Creating and using your right brain helps your brain function better, breaks up the daily schedule, and helps us be like children again.

First grab a canvas, acrylic paints, and a set of brushes.  These things are found easily and inexpensively at Walmart.  Acrylic is easy to clean up.  I adore oil but I do not love the fumes or clean up.  Watercolors are also nice.  I have carried watercolors with me with a small canning jar of water in my purse before for a stint, capturing moments in coffee shops and parks.

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Find a photograph that you love or something out of a magazine.  In your mind, imagine a cross through the photo evenly splitting the photo into four blocks.  Now do the same on your canvas and use that as your scale.  Use pencil.  Here is a great trick that my seventh grade teacher taught me and I will use it forever: if you get stuck, turn the photograph or picture upside down.  That’s right, turn it upside down.  You will start drawing it as you see it not as your mind sees it.  Big difference.  You will be astounded by your accuracy!

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Use an egg carton as a palette.  It’s easy clean up and you can blend twelve to eighteen colors at a time!  Start with the background.  You are building from the back to the front, otherwise it will look confusing to the onlooker.

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Have some fun with it!  There are no rules with art.  These koi fish could have been purple and blue and maybe would have looked even better!  Look for sparkle paint to highlight pieces of your painting; the scales, or a sunset, or fireflies.

My paintings take about two hours.  If I have to create them over months, they will end up in the pile of unfinished knitting and other projects.  Remember that your painting will never look like you imagine.  Art has a mind of its own- even for the great artists of the world- and art looks like it darn well wants.  You cannot manipulate it.  Just go along for the journey and see what creates itself.

Spray with a protective spray for paintings, sign, and hang on the wall!  Be proud of your work.  We are all artists!