Small Business Saturday

It's Small Business Saturday, and we'd just like to say thanks to all of you who choose to spend your hard earned moola on small, local, or handmade businesses!  We will be adding new items to our shop all week, so be sure to check in often.  We'd also love for you to take a minute and check out our sponsors...

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Knitting Kit :: Rustic I Cord Wrap Bracelet

Everyday, I get emails from customers asking to buy the yarn and button just like the photo of the Rustic I Cord Wrap Bracelet.  So, I decided to put some knitting kits together.  Each kit contains hand dyed merino wool superwash yarn, a coconut wooden button and the knitting pattern.  You can find all the details here.  

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Spoon Carving

I bought myself a set of spoon carving knives for my birthday.  The day they arrived, I no sooner took them out of the package, than my oldest boy ran off with them.  "Ooooh, carving knives," was all I heard as he ran to the wood pile looking for scraps.  Oak, maple, pine.... whatever he can get his hands on.  Maybe I'll buy myself wood carving knives for Christmas instead.

p.s. We're having a giveaway here.  

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Homesteading: Building a Chicken Coop out of Recycled Materials

Well, we decided that maybe building an entire house before winter was a tad ambitious... and so we've decided to wait until spring to start the actual construction.  We didn't want all that wood sitting out over the winter, if indeed we couldn't finish before the snow got too deep to work.  The good thing, though, is that we've already put in the footings, so we won't have to wait for the ground to thaw out.

Feeling disappointed, we decided to go ahead and build a chicken coop to help lift our sprits and feel like we were doing something to move the homestead forward.  

On the eve of the first work day, with frozen fingers, sore shoulders and drops of rain streaming down my glasses, I sat back to take stock of the small amount of work we had accomplished.  Exhausted and frustrated by the weather and turn of events, I watched a flock of geese overhead.  I admired how they were able to flow and work together gracefully.  Each creature knowing exactly what it was supposed to do... until they didn't.  All at once, the birds scattered, twisting and turning haphazardly, almost as if they were falling out of the sky.  Jake said they just hit a gust of wind and got thrown out of formation, it happens all the time.  In a few minutes, they'll be back on track.  He was right, of course.

p.s.  In case you're wondering about photo details... The floor, siding and trim are from the playhouse and deck we took apart.  The skylight window was free from a friend.  The bricks, screws and plywood were leftovers from a previous project here at home.  The only things we had to buy were 2x4's, tar paper, and steel roofing panels.  We did find some free panels on craigslist, but decided the hour drive to pick them up wasn't worth it.  We rented a generator for the electric drill and circular saw, as we thought it would make work go faster.  We're not sold on power tools, except the nail gun.  We all really liked the air nailer.  By the third day, we ditched the electric tools for hand tools.  For us, they're faster and more accurate.  See that pile of wood in front of my feet?  That was all we had for scraps!  We learned from a lot of mistakes, and our motto of the day became: "We'll fix that right up with some trim!"  With the last moments of light, we boarded up the front with scrap plywood until spring, chatted with a neighbor, and took a moment to remember that it's all about the journey.  

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It's been one of those weeks where we've been so very immersed in making and the planning of making, that we forgot what day of the week it was.  Somehow five days have passed without realizing it, and only because the dentist sent us an appointment reminder late last night, did I know that today is indeed Friday.

There has been the making of music, a wooden Titanic model, lego towns, games, hand dyed yarn, wood carving, some top secret holiday gifts, and lots and lots of ornaments for the shop....

Oh, how I love this time of year when we move quietly inward and are able to envelop ourselves in creativity.

p.s.  Tomorrow we're going up to the land, to make a chicken coop, out of free wood pallets.

What have you been making this week?

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Candle Night

Candle night.  That's what the little boys called it when we started lighting candles at dinner years ago.  I remember starting it as a way to bring us all together in the evenings for games or music.  For us, it marks the transition from light to dark and has become part of our rhythm during the long dark evenings.  We light one taper in the silver candlestick at dinner time and let it burn through the night.  The last one to bed blows it out.  Some nights we gather around the candle's glow together and some nights we go our separate ways.  But the candle, it's always there, as a reminder that we are all connected.

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Today I'm 35

Today I'm 35.  For the last 4 years I've dreaded birthdays.  Mostly, I think it's because I felt like I was expected to hate being in my 30's, as if I was supposed to start feeling old.  But you know what?  I don't want to feel that way anymore.  If I've learned anything at all, it's that life is about perspective and I'm changing mine.  Jake said something in the car that really struck me.  He said, birthday's aren't about the year to come, but to celebrate another year you've lived.

This year, I have a lot to celebrate!
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November Woods

But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…   ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

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Knitting Pattern: Jack Pine Tree

Late last night, huge white flakes began falling from the sky.  We sat and watched in the stillness of the night as a blanket unfolded over the green grass, with our first real snow of the season.  The first snow always makes me nostalgic for the holidays to come.

One of my fondest memories of the holiday season is the first year we spent together as a family.  With hot cocoa in hand, we took to the woods in search of a Christmas tree.  Finding just the right one, we loaded it onto our car and drove home.  Trees always look smaller in nature, than they do in a tiny apartment, don't they?  That tree was so wide, it took up half the floor space in our living room!

Inspired by our first Christmas together, I knit a wee woodland forest of Jack Pines.  They're adorable sitting on our table, and with the largest being only seven inches tall, they don't take up quite as much room as our first tree.

Jack Pine Tree
in sizes Small, Medium and Large

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November Sponsors

November moved in on the wind, without me even noticing.  Please take a moment to visit our lovely sponsors: Armadillo Dreams, Gypsy Forest, Mama4Earth, and Wooly Moss Roots.

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Building a Tiny House: Concrete Pier Foundation

An account of our journey to becoming off grid homesteaders.  Our path will be long as we are only paying in cash and our funds are very limited.  Mike and I have no idea what we're doing so we'll be learning as we go.  I know we'll make mistakes and that's ok.  It's all part of the process.  

We would love to read about your homesteading experiences, so if you'd like to share your favorite resources, tips, funny stories, recipes, books, website or even just a photo from the week, please leave a link in the comments.

Six people, two days, and nine holes is what it took to build a foundation for our tiny house.  This was by far the most rewarding weekend since we bought the land last year.  

I just have to say that our boys rocked it out!  I had no expectations what so ever of them helping out as much as they did.  We took lots of breaks and had lots of laughs, but the little guys did almost as much work as the adults.  In fact, we rented a hotel room with a pool, because we thought that our attention away from them on top of all the driving would just be too much.  It turned out to be a bonus for all of us!  We were able to soak our sore muscles in the hot tub, have some fun, and get a good night sleep.  Not having to drive an hour and a half home and then back again in the morning was worth the extra expense from our budget. 

We were also grateful to have Mike's step dad join us during the day.  He not only brought along his tools to share, but also his years of experience. 

Here's what we did...

* First, we researched anything and everything we could get our hands on about foundations for tiny homes and sheds.  We chose a concrete pier foundation, because it seemed like the easiest and best for our budget.  

*Next, we ordered our supplies.  I felt so silly having that tiny palate delivered on a giant semi trailer, but I've been assured by lots of folks that the weight of concrete and gravel would have required many, many trips back and forth to the hardware store.  Since the closest shop was 30 miles away, having it delivered just made sense.

* Then, we measured off the corners and squared them up using the the 3-4-5 rule.  We measured and marked, and measured again for our holes.  Mike's step dad brought along his transit level, and we all took a turn trying it out!

* Next, we set to digging.  First with the shovel and then with a post hole digger.  We needed nine holes, 48" deep by 14" wide (our frost line is 42").  My arms have never hurt so much in all my life.  

* After the holes were to the right depth, Mike packed down the bottom with a 4x4 post and put in a 10" Sonotube.  Luke made sure everything was level, and back filled around the tubes.

* Next, we added 5" of gravel and packed that down.

* Then came the fun part, mixing concrete.  Because of the colder temperatures right now (highs of about 45 degrees fahrenheit) we chose to use 80lb Quickrete 5000.  We mixed it according to the directions and shoveled it into each form.  Cole had great fun removing the air bubbles, and Luke liked cleaning the concrete off the shovels.  I almost forgot... we don't have water on our land yet, so our neighbor across the field offered to let us fill up 5 gallon pails from his outside faucet.  Fortunately, we had a truck to use and didn't have to haul it by hand.

* After each hole was poured with concrete, we ran a string and lined up each row, inserting post brackets in just the right spot.  When all the tubes were finished and brackets sunk, we measured our corners for square one last time.   We had just enough mixed concrete left to make a brick in front of the house.  Each of the boys put their hand print in the wet concrete and I wrote in the date.  I got a little ahead of myself and wrote 2014!  The cement was so wet, it was an easy fix, but everyone thought it was pretty funny!

*Finally, we put plastic buckets/bags on top of each pier.  Mostly, to keep us from accidentally disturbing a pier, but also to protect it from the elements until the cement is fully set.  The directions say it should be ready to build on if we have 3 consecutive days of above freezing daytime temperatures.  It's going to be nice all week, so in two weeks when we go back up, the concrete should be ready to go!
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