Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Homemade Gifts, Cards, and Letter Writing (Homesteading #23)

Homesteading is about living on less so that you can work less, do what you love more, and attain financial security.  Homesteading is about doing more yourself because the pride that comes from the work of your own hands is unprecedented and you can control your own environment.  What you put on your skin, in your body, how you treat the soil, it all matters.

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Homesteading brings with it a peace of mind that we have mostly lost in our fast paced, make money, do everything lifestyles.  Our ancestors worked hard but they also did methodical, slow work where one can get their mind right.  Slowly stirring curds to make cheese, hanging clothes on the line in the fresh air, planting seeds that will feed the family through winter in jars on root cellar shelves.  Doug chops wood when he is upset with me.  There was one winter that we had a lot of wood!

Another beautiful aspect of homesteading is homemade gifts and cards.  Really, the mass marketed, big box store, kids in China made crap has got to stop.  No one wants a skirt that will fray in a month, or appliances they will never use, or heaven forbid, tchotchkes.  We have to dust enough!

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A bar of goat’s milk soap, a jar of preserves, chokecherry gin, pickles, or chutney.  Hand written recipes, a wheel of cheese, a plant for the garden, or saved seeds with a story.  Or something really special like a quilt, or something woven.  A hand poured candle, or a keep sake box.  Jacob, my daughter’s boyfriend, welded together parts to make a snowman for me for Christmas.  I love it.

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Hand painted cards are a lovely surprise, or have a child draw out the card.  Write personal notes.  Don’t depend on the card company’s catchy phrases.

Make a phone call.  Write a letter.  Send a card just because.

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I am anxious this fall to get out the sewing machine and the crochet hook and start creating skirts, shawls, and quilts.  To set up my paints and be ready to paint a canvas or use watercolors to create cards to send to my pen pals.

These things come from the heart.  And heart is the very soul of homesteading,

Would you like to be my pen pal?  There is nothing like opening the mailbox to find a letter, neatly addressed and stamped.  I love to put it in my apron pocket and then sit with a cup of tea and savor both.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 1901 Brown Ave, Pueblo, CO 81004

Here are a few more ideas:

Simple Gifts and Spiral Notebooks

Painted Letters

Fiber Arts, Animals, and Projects

These desert mornings are cool.  I put a cardigan on before I poured my coffee.  I put the chicks outside yesterday but I may need to run the heat lamp out there for mornings.  It’s going to get warm though.  It was ninety degrees yesterday and it will be again today (wasn’t I just wearing a winter hat Sunday?), so it may seem a terrible time to talk about fiber arts!  Fiber arts are apart of our series here and a welcome skill on the homestead.  Think cozy sweaters, gloves, blankets, and unique gifts all created by you.

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I have found that folks that begin crocheting first have a hard time knitting (where is that darned hook?).  I learned how to crochet from my grandmother, among many things (Lord, I miss her!), when I was thirteen.  I entered my first blanket into the school’s art show and won first place.  I was sure thrilled!  I went on to make many a baby blanket (about my patience level) for friends, all of my own children and my darling granddaughters.  Then moved on to cozies for candles and mugs and fingerless gloves.  Lots of fun ideas.  I have a loom downstairs I am just giddy to learn to how to use.  It may as well be a car in a million pieces; I haven’t the first idea how to put it together, let alone use it.  That is a goal for this winter.

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Gandalf at dusk.  That’s not snow, folks.

What about fiber animals?  I can’t have them here in the city (actually….I saw a weird video about folks spinning their dog’s fur), but I have had them before and will have them again.  Alpacas weren’t my loves.  They are cute and marionette-like, and kick.  Some of my friends adore their alpacas, it just may not have been our thing.  I need goofy, friendly, cuddly animals on my farm.  So we got sheep.  Oh goodness, I loved those sheep.  Olaf and Sven were just as bright as a pine cone but they adored me and followed me around the farm, in the house, and rather enjoyed rides in the truck.  They also liked to watch television.  (Spoiled much?)

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I have had a spinning wheel twice, and due to moving and patience issues in me (I do hope those are remedied now that I am an empty nester), I don’t have one, but that too will become one of my goals….maybe.  I once dropped off a whole bag of alpaca fleece a guy sold me to a fiber mill and I got back many skeins of lovely spun yarn.  I wonder if I could do it again myself.

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Homesteading is a lot of doing and a little bit dreaming.  We are always striving to do more, learn more, achieve more, enjoy more.  In the meantime, there are a few projects I am inspired to work on.  Better find some chunky wool…

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Here are some old past posts and projects for y’all!

Candle Sweaters and Pin Cushions (homemade gifts)

The Yarn Weasel

Alpaca Scarves and Crooked Washcloths

Vintage Handkerchiefs (a crochet project)

How to Crochet Fingerless Gloves (easy pattern!)

Planting in Glass Jars

Planting in canning jars and other large glass vessels is such a fun idea.  I have seen these a few places now and I love the idea.  My bamboo is planted in a canning jar.  I love the idea of giving succulents in canning jars as gifts.

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I equally love the idea of using larger glass jars to showcase pine trees, like this one that we saw at a restaurant in New Mexico.  They really would have to be for a party or a few weeks of decoration because of the lack of drainage.  But they really are charming.  I can also envision miniature rose bushes in large glass jars lining a table.  The ideas are endless.

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My Easter bunnies

My Easter table this year will seat ten.  Bright colored oil cloth of reds and blues and my new Fiesta ware will be used at each place.  I am making a feast of enchiladas, chili rellenos, beans, rice, guacamole, and icy margaritas.  Perhaps a bit untraditional for Easter dinner but shaking things up is my specialty.  Succulents or miniature cacti in canning jars may very well complete the décor.

So grab those wide mouth jars and plant away!  Gifts and entertaining just got more creative and fun.

 

The Good Life Map

Isn’t life interesting?  How it changes and ebbs and flows from one experience to another?  Always opening doors to dreams and lessons and then moving us through to the next bend.  It all can be breathtakingly beautiful in its innate simplicity and flow.

I went for a job interview yesterday.  I got it, but realized that I really do not want to go back to working the same old things I have done off and on since I was sixteen.  I gave my apothecary to my daughter, Shyanne.  Yes, I am tired of expensive printers, and labels, and sales taxes, and such but I gave it to her because I can think of no better gift to give her than a career and a set business.

“I don’t know what I can do.  I need to do something!” I mentioned to a friend over coffee about jobs.  “You can always teach,” was her reply.

I had said (oh, how many times have I said things and then changed my mind?!) that I didn’t want to teach anymore.  Why?  Because my classes are three months long!  It then occurred to me that I made that up, I can change it!  Ha!  We forget our own power of decision.  I will be teaching a six week Certified Herbalist Course.  I’ll start each week with tea, a bit of ceremony and camaraderie.  They will learn all the important things they need.  Ditch the text book.  Teach them real herbalism.  Make it less expensive so it can help more people.  And it helps me.

We often forget the power of decisions.  We can manifest anything we wish, but we are also at the mercy of fate.  So, make simple changes to make your life better, and breathe.  Your gifts are your map to your good life.

The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Yuletide Gathering

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The breeze blew mischievously as Doug continued lighting the luminarias that lined the walk, the oil lanterns, and the dozens and dozens of tea lights.  The house was ready for a party.  And so was I.

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Luminarias are prevalent in New Mexico where they light the way for travelers and carolers alike.  Simply fold down a few inches of a paper lunch bag.  Pour in three inches or so of sand and place a tea candle in the center.  

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An oil lamp makes a lovely welcome outdoors and adds whimsy to the lighting indoors.  Remember, no overhead lighting allowed!  Twinkly lights and tea candles work beautifully to create drama, softened features, and enchantment.  

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We haven’t thrown a Christmas party in four years.  It was wonderful being able to send out invites to a Yuletide Gathering with a few friends.  I chose to serve soups and had my guests bring either wine, bread, or dessert.  Soups are easy to prepare in advance.  They are always delicious and hard to mess up.  Alongside, I served a platter of garlic bread for the Sherry Tomato Soup,  corn chips and sour cream for the Three Chile Mole, and green olives for the Italian Lentil soup.  Friends came bearing garlic and cheese breads, sausages in raspberry chipotle sauce, and lots of divine desserts.

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Make sure you put out little cards stating what each thing is.  The key is to free up as much time to mingle with guests and join in the festivities and you want your guests to feel at home.

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Before guests arrived I put out a platter of my homemade manchego cheese and crackers with roasted orange-parmesan olives (almost all of these recipes are in my new cookbook, From Mama’s Kitchen With Love).  I don’t wait too long after guests arrive to serve supper but something to snack on quells early dinner pangs and gives folks something to do.

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Place all plates, silverware, and glassware out so that friends can help themselves.  Use china.  You can do dishes tomorrow.  

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The couches and the easy chairs are set up in a circle for ease of conversation and it was very easy to pull up other chairs so that everyone could take part in the games and laughter.  I invited an eclectic group of people.  A surgical tech, a Reiki master, the owner of a metaphysical shop, a veteran and her older three children who homestead and homeschool, my oldest, great friends-Rod Sr., Rodney, and my dear Pat.  Everyone had things in common and the conversation stayed lively.

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Start with an ice breaker.  We name all of our animals after movies and so we named off our eight cats and dog to create a fun ice breaker where they had to name the movie.  

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From walking up the illuminated path, to having wine and hors d’oeuvres, to the ice breaker, than dinner, a ten dollar gift exchange, then the game.  We played a fun game called “Catch Phrase” that required no boards or teams, just an electronic device that we passed around that gave us a word and we had to get the group to say it with clues.  It created a lot of great laughter and fun.

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The White Elephant game where people bring odd gifts and people trade and such just creates more items that folks don’t want and may end up in a landfill.  Everyone brought a nice ten dollar gift, such as small oil burners, and salt lamps, crystals, books, and candles, and everyone was delighted with what they received.  

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Pour leftover soup into pint jars and send them home with friends!

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New friends were made, great food was had, joy was spread, and I do believe that is the best party I have had.  Such a beautiful way to celebrate the season of light.

Farmgirl Time; the beauty of old clocks

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I love old clocks.  I love that there are no obnoxious light up, LED, plugged in clocks messing with my natural rhythms and using up electricity.  Old clocks have a steady pulse to them, a heartbeat, an ongoing dance of time so long as you remember to wind them.

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I have always loved clocks.  I always wanted a cuckoo clock.  We stayed with a couple in Kansas one weekend whose home was filled with old clocks.  I loved the top of the hour when they all sang and then returned to gentle ticking, methodical and calming.

clockKat’s father repaired and collected clocks.  Rod’s home is filled with them.  I am the grateful owner of three of them.  Kat gave me a cuckoo clock for my birthday many years ago and I still adore it.

The grandfather clock came from their son, Rodney’s home, I only needed to get it repaired, which I with great joy.  It has a lunar face set to the new and full moon cycles, effectively telling me when to make my medicines and when they are complete.

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This old wind up alarm clock is quirky, loud, and fun.  It pleases me.  We never have the alarm on!

Even though farm time goes more with the seasons and natural progressions of the day, if I do want to know what time it is, all I have to do is listen and the clocks will tell me.  All in good time.

 

Ten Yule Gifts To Give Yourself

The Yule-tide season oughtn’t be just about giving gifts to others.  Why, we might want to be a bit self indulgent.  Lord, I think we have all spent enough time learning from society that it isn’t about us, and that we should just give, give, give to others.  I don’t know about you, but I think I deserve a little treat now and then.  I work hard, love hard, and I should treat myself as I would treat a small child in my home.  With comforts and love abound.  Here are just a few ideas to make the holidays at home sweet.

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#1 If you have a queen sized bed, splurge on king sized sheets.  Even better, get those glorious plush, micro-fleece sheets.  Soft, comforting, and enough leeway to share with your partner.  Curled up under warm sheets pulled to your chin (a treat when you are as tall as I am) and still have your feet covered is indeed heaven.

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#2 The Christmas tree is magical.  Treat it as such.  Twinkly lights, memories in ornament form, the smell of pine if it is a real tree, and the tall evergreen monument in the living room for but a month is a joy to have.  Pull up a rocking chair and opt to sit in it a few minutes with the lights on morning and evening.  A cup of coffee or tea, a magazine or book.  Perhaps a little music.  Magic.

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#3 Treat yourself to smoothies whipped up with fresh vegetables and fruits in the morning and a glass of fresh pressed juice before dinner.  You will infuse your body with a great number of nutrients and fiber and perhaps won’t eat so much of the not-so-great foods.  Eat well.

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#4 Use a vaporizer that has a little well for essential oils.  Lavender reminds me of my favorite places in New Mexico and lulls me to quiet sleep.  Pine invigorates and smells of holidays and forests.  Find your scent (and your moisture).

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#5 Stretch gently in the morning.  Or vigorously.  Yoga and meditation is beautiful.  Prayers said while lighting candles is healing.  Remembering our loved ones is essential.  For all those passed and those that are here helping us along, be grateful.

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# 6 Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to coffee before brewing.  Add a cinnamon stick to a cup of hot tea.  (It stabilizes blood sugar tastes great.)

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# 7 Write love letters to those near to you.  Then write a love letter to yourself.  I dare you.  You will feel awkward and giddy the entire time you write your missive to yourself.

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#8 Say no.  Stay in.  Watch silly Christmas shows and movies.  Drink hot cider and eat popcorn and a few cookies.  Snuggle on the couch.  Look at the stars for a moment before darting back into the warm house.  Start a fire.  (That has several meanings.)

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#9 Start planning your year to come.  Dream.  For dreams cannot possibly come true if we don’t dream and plan them first.

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#10 Love you.  Merry Christmas to you.  All the magic in the world is at your fingertips.  you can make anything occur.  You are made perfect, look perfect, are perfect.  Just love you.

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Cheers, Friends.  Time to light the Christmas tree and candles.  The sun is sloping towards the west.  I hope you are enjoying your season so far.

 

Embracing One’s True Gifts (and the bloodline medicine girl)

And in all the world enchantment remains as our true gifts flow through our veins.

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I suppose I really did think that everyone could do what I do.  I assumed that I could also do what others could do.  Surely I could learn to play the guitar well and walk around sounding like Joni Mitchell.  I played the piano for twenty years and cannot remember a single tune.  No Carol King career for me.  I love my art work until I am next to other artists.  Then mine looks a little fifth grade.  I can do a lot of things if I work terribly hard and then I will grow bored of them and wander off, for they are not my true gift.

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Plants are my passion.  I live, breathe, dream, create, and work around plants, specifically in medicine.  I have a green thumb after never giving up and I can grow anything in a pot or in the soil of the prairie.  But my real magic is in making plants into medicine.  This is very humbling, very honoring, and I am a little awestruck at the magic of it all.

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Over the years I have seen people working so hard, trying to learn herbalism, and it doesn’t quite work out, and then they wander off to pursue their true gifts.

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It changes everything when you know that you have a true gift for something.  A responsibility even.  The idea of multiple stores or hiring employees goes out the window if I am the vessel that makes the medicine work.  I would never sell it wholesale.  The importance of working one on one with people is so important to the craft.  I so respect the plants and their medicine, as well as the people and animals I care for.  Out of all the gifts I could have been given, I am deeply honored and slightly insanely passionate about being a plant healer.

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There are lots of gifts flowing through both sides of my family line, the blood line of varying types of healers, and they can all garden like it is second nature.  I am the first plant healer in awhile.

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In every culture there was a medicine person.  Many households knew minor remedies but there was one person who knew the plants and their medicines intimately, who could handle the bigger issues.  Not everyone could do it.  The odds of having it in one’s bloodline and as their gift was really quite rare.  Just as all gifts are.

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Shyanne Mae has really grown up since this blog first started.  She has become an amazing young woman.  She read my entire text book, did all of the assignments, passed the test, made an effective medicine for her father, and learned to work the shop in twenty-four hours.  She said she had an epiphany.  She was in love with the plants too.  Granted she grew up with this lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean she would fall into the enchantment of its gifts and lessons.  You can imagine my excitement that my daughter is working with me side by side to develop medicines for our community and beyond.

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So, I may not ever become a Rockette, or a folk musician, or even a proper artist, but I am embracing my gift and all the emotions that go with it, and am so happy to share the gift with my child.

What is your true gift?

The Homestead Pinafore (Mennonite treasures)

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Over two years ago a fellow blogger, Eileen, and I sewed aprons for one another and sent them across the country to each other.  I made her a half apron with beautiful fabric with a chicken towel sewed on as pockets.  She sent me a Mennonite style apron since she lives near a large community.  She wanted to make me something that I wouldn’t have and indeed this apron was a great gift to me and one that I have never seen replicated.

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It reminds me of the pinafore on the front of Raggedy Ann’s dress and pinafores were always a pretty accessory to the occasional dress I had growing up.  I wondered what the difference was between a pinafore and an apron.  A pinafore comes from “pin a fore” or pin the apron to the front of the dress such as the Amish do.  Then it came to be understood as an apron that had two arm holes and covered a large part of the dress.  It turns out a pinafore is another form of an apron.  So, I naturally love it.

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I’ve touted it before, aprons are an important accessory for any farmgirl.  They can make an ordinary outfit look different every time one wears it.  They keep one’s dress clean so one doesn’t have to do laundry as often (yea!).  There are pockets so that one can find their keys, pocket knife, tissue, phone, gardening trowel, small toys, clothes pins, and eggs from the coop.  (Just remember to take the eggs out when you get in to the house!)

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I probably strike folks as a bit different with my long skirts and aprons but fashion should hint at one’s personality and passions, not on what companies want to sell that season.  I get many compliments about my aprons from adults and I overhear young people whispering to their friends that they love the way I dress.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market a vendor said that she had seen more people with aprons on.  Fabulous!

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My beautiful apron that Eileen had given me had seen child’s tears, gardening dirt, held a dying chicken, was stained with goat placenta, had been covered in flour, had been worn around our homestead, then to our new temporary one, to now.  I asked Eileen if she would sew me a few more.  Apparently Eileen hates to sew.  She had a solution though!  I sent an extremely fair price to her to give her Mennonite neighbor who had loaned her the pattern in the first place and her daughters made me five of the most beautiful aprons/pinafores I have ever seen.

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A gift beyond measure.  I cannot wait to wear them on my next homestead! (and today….I’ll wear one today!)