I’ve officially earned my stripes as a crunchy, homesteading mama…17 pints of applesauce made while baby-wearing. Booyah!
In years past, the bombardment of holiday décor in department stores as early as October really used to bug me. Carols would croon out over the radio before I had even put away my Halloween costume. My birthday being right around Thanksgiving, I always took it as a personal affront that the November holiday was glossed over and everyone went straight to Christmas. But now, celebrating our first holiday season as a family with a little one (just coming up on 5 months old), let me just say for the record: I get it. I get the eight weeks of carols and the faux reindeer on neighborhood roofs. And I’m ready for it all. Do I want to hear “Jingle Bells” on November 2nd? Yes, actually, I do. Buy a mini, baby-sized Santa hat on November 10th? Absolutely! Put up our Christmas tree before Thanksgiving? I’m there.
This is the first year I’ve ever been so moved by the holidays as to want to decorate for them. Here is one such craft project that can fit nearly any schedule, any budget and any holiday celebration. It’s great because it’s made of (mostly) all natural supplies, and that’s a must on the homestead. The materials are simple and inexpensive (if you already own a glue gun, all of these materials can be purchased for under $20). It has a sleek modern look, and it smells absolutely divine. What’s not to love?
Cinnamon Stick Wreath
What You’ll Need:
-Cardboard wreath frame
-90-150 cinnamon sticks (craft grade is fine)
-Hot glue gun
-2-3 hot glue sticks
-Decorative bow or ribbon (optional)
How to Make it:
A few tips:
Ø If your cardboard wreath base has holes pre-drilled for hanging (like mine did), be sure to leave a few open by not placing a cinnamon stick directly over it. This makes hanging much easier. Or, you may choose to tie ribbon, string, or wire through the holes for hanging before gluing the cinnamon. Either way, don’t block ‘em.
Ø Use the ugly sticks! Curled, off-color or otherwise wonky cinnamon sticks make for an interesting wreath.
Ø Glue the thickest cinnamon sticks first, gradually layering with thinner sticks for a full look.
May your holiday be filled with spice!
Happy All-Hallow’s-Eve! From the cutest little honeybee and her keepers.
Hello friends! Fancy meeting you here.
Wondering where I’ve been? Well, motherhood continues to be a roller coaster of emotions, from the expected (pure bliss and nipple pain) to the less popularly discussed (frustration, fear and personal disappointment that you could do better). Take my lack of blogging as a sign of really attentive attachment parenting; I’m with my child every minute of every day. Just want to make sure you got that: I’M WITH MY CHILD EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY. It took me most of the weekend to finish this post.
Breastfeeding is less about screaming into a pillow in pain and more about tossing a boob into a baby’s face when she so much as grunts, so I guess we’ve got it down by now. I’ve even experienced a few minutes of that thing my mom calls pure bliss for mom and baby - I dare say, breastfeeding is growing on me. This past week, I got a shot of sunshine straight to the heart when my four month old laughed - like, really, laughed. Naturally, she was finding her own bodily functions amusing. She farted, and then laughed, which squeezed out another fart. And then laughed again. Apparently, she is her mother’s daughter.
And we’ve modified the babe’s bedroom to employ the Montessori at Home method for the last few months and she really loves it. She loves it so much that she’ll only nap on me. The entire room acts as the crib, and is baby-proofed top to bottom. A floor mattress with a mirror attached to the wall allows her to wake up, see the room, entertain herself and fall back asleep. I rotate mobiles for continued interest. Everything is at child level (including the artwork on the walls) to foster independence and creative thinking (and yes, those are Ikea bookshelves from the early 2000s that I tossed on their sides). The very expensive crib, like most ovens in Manhattan apartments, is used for storage. In other news, anyone looking for a really nice, never used, non-toxic/no-VOC crib made from sustainably harvested wood hit me up.
If you think motherhood has made me a bit sassier these days, I blame it on the lack of sleep. Or maybe the lack of inhibitions. I have been known to whip out a breast in public these days. And proudly at that (see photo at the NC Arboretum above).
And the homestead? Well, it continues to be in several states of disarray. The chickens are happily molting, eating more food than ever, and laying about one egg a week combined. We’ve postponed raising kits and harvesting meat rabbits, yet again (hey, we just nailed down bedtime, one major milestone at a time). The last of the season’s weeds are determined to give me something to do in October, and it seems the bee hives are the only ones truly thriving on the neglect. But, my baby is chunking up, I’ve got new writing endeavors on the horizon, and life is generally good. No complaining here.
Gardener David Latimer, from Cranleigh, Surrey, first planted his bottle garden in 1960 and finally sealed it tightly shut 12 years later as an experiment - and it’s still going strong.
Makes me feel kinda bad about all the terrariums I couldn’t keep alive…
Canning and preserving? Forget about it. I froze breast milk in mason jars, does that count? And I hurriedly hulled a gallon of strawberries in May and tossed them in the freezer.
But this. This gorgeous creature has been totally worth it.
Besides, one day she’ll return the favor by weeding, hulling, smoking (the bees, that is), and collecting eggs. Seriously can’t wait.
She didn’t come on, or even near, her due date, but she’s still a bright little firework to us! Meet Ava, the newest addition to our homestead!
p.s. sincerest apologies for neglecting you over the past weeks, dear readers. This motherhood thing is the hardest chore on the homestead.
Some will tell you that babies are expensive. And they can be. Others will swear that babies don’t need much in the way of toys, furniture or ecoutrement to be content. I think there’s a balance to strike with everything, and prefer to take a path somewhere down the middle – a convenient philosophy when you’re building a baby’s room from the ground up on a budget.
The overall “theme” of the nursery was intended to be an homage to the hot air balloons that fly over our house in the early morning hours of the summer months. When they’re flying low, you can hear the rhythmic whooshing sound as they fire up the balloon, scaring the bejeezus out of you if you don’t know what’s hovering above before you look. We stand on the back porch and watch them float over our roof, so close you swear you could touch one.
A cheap baby’s room starts with one thing: the crap you already have lying around. For toy storage and books, I repurposed our old Ikea bookshelves, with the addition of some water hyacinth baskets from The Container Store. I really wanted to paint the shelves white, but was too nauseous, tired and a bit lazy - and the baskets matched the blonde wood color. The lamps were hand-me-downs from my grandmother, fully intact with the original cords (they work just fine and I’ve never smelled anything funny…).
In a moment of nausea-induced weakness at around 4 1/2 months pregnant, I actually spent money on this faux zebra skin rug I found on Ebay. It’s soft, made in France, machine washable, and I truly don’t care if it gets puked or pooped on. And the Chihuahuas love to play on it currently. Everybody wins!
By far, the biggest expenses were the crib and the rocker. Normally a very expensive rocker from an eco-conscious Canadian company called Monte Design, I snagged this one on mega-sale since it was a floor model. It also had a few nicks to the leather in the back, so I got an even bigger discount. When in doubt, call companies and ask if they have any payment plans, floor models, or discontinued items – and if purchasing conventional furniture, floor models have at least had the chance to sit in the warehouse and off-gas before coming into your home.
Also pictured: a floor lamp from Target, an Herbal Animals neck pillow, and the chalkboard where I’ve been tracking belly growth.
The hot air balloon prints over city-scapes are by a super adorable Scottish artist named David Fleck. His painting Voyages over Edinburgh caught my eye and it was a no-brainer: our little Scottish girl needed a few city-scapes. I only spent a few days in Edinburgh when I was studying abroad in London, but I remember the city vividly. I also found his Voyages over New York and the deal was sealed. I loved that we could pay a little tribute to the city that brought her parents together.
Below the paintings is a cute little vintage dresser I found at a local antique store. I did actually pay for this, too, but we needed a dresser, and I’d much rather recycle something old than buy new, pre-fab furniture if I could help it. It has original hardware, is solid mahogany, and has gorgeous little inlays (the photo doesn’t really do it justice). Most importantly, the drawers all work and it was clean, only requiring a little polishing to bring it back to a full shine.
Inside, our growing collection of cloth diapers – all purchased on sale/closeout since the company was discontinuing this particular version. I did end up having to buy the rest full price, but the cost of cloth is still nothing compared to years of disposables.
I think the only clothes I actually purchased for her was one jumper from Goodwill and a top and a onesie from a second-hand baby store; the rest were purchased either by Grammie at our area’s large consignment event, or we received as gifts. Never, ever buy baby clothes for your little one – it’s what everyone loves to get you, and you’ll always have enough!
And I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for good toys. With my psych background, I know just how important play is for proper development. So I went a little crazy on EcoBuys, a website that offers all sorts of baby and kid stuff at massive daily discounts. Our growing collection of wooden toys includes some gifts, too. Believe it or not, you really do have to search a bit to find non-plastic, non-toxic toys that are affordable. A lot of wooden toys are surprisingly toxic, between finishings and paint; wood does not necessary equal safe. My favorite place for good, hand made wooden toys though has to be Etsy - I love supporting small businesses.
That’s it for the nursery - now it’s time for baby!
I promise, I’m not going to become a mommy-blogger. But let me just say this: when a 4-pound mini-human makes her home in your abdomen, promising with each passing day to make her debut through your…well, you know…it’s hard not to become preoccupied with the idea of having a baby. It’s an even harder reality to ignore when you have amazing friends that insist on throwing you a baby shower and celebrating your transition to parenthood.
In honor of the hot air balloons that fly above our house in the warmer months (you can see them over the yard from the baby’s room, above), we decided to go with a hot air balloon “theme” for the nursery. Back when we didn’t want to find out the gender, it seemed apropos - sweet, but not cloyingly so, fun without being babyish. There’s truly something enchanting and nostalgic about hot air balloons, I think. And our dear friends Glenn and Ashley so beautifully incorporated our theme in the shower. Here are some highlights from a really fun day:
Our glorious host and dear friend, Ashley, preparing some paleo-style cupcakes that the hubby could enjoy. If you are ever offered a party at the home of Ashley English - SAY YES. You are guaranteed amazing food, equally enchanting company, and the occasional raunchy joke when the toddlers are out of earshot. Balloon centerpieces brought the room together, and very excited grammie-to-be takes photos!
I almost cried when I saw the cupcakes - they looked like balloons floating above clouds! This is me insisting that the hubby take some photos.
The food was potluck style with a Spring theme - lots of asparagus, peas, ramps and rhubarb. Amazing. And I got to go first!
Then we opened gifts, played games, visited with our incredible friends and family, and felt fully showered and loved. We don’t throw ourselves birthday parties or do much for special occasions (we forgot to go out to dinner for our anniversary this year. I mean, it was on a Wednesday), and the last time we celebrated with our friends and family was our wedding four years ago. So it felt pretty extravagant to be honored in this way. We left feeling so grateful - for the beautiful place where we live, the amazing people already in our lives, and the wee one about to join us.
What a week in the world of beekeeping around here!
After spending the winter gazing longingly at the empty beeyard, we scheduled the pick up of our 2013 nucleus colony last Thursday. Being very knocked up lately, we agreed that the beekeeping duties this year would fall on the hubs - both protecting me from potentially dangerous stings and building up his confidence behind the veil. We also agreed that one hive was enough to get us through the year; it’s our 3rd year of beekeeping, and we have a good sense of what to look for. One would cut it.
But now we have three. Here’s how that happened…
The story of swarm #1 is messy.
A friend and fellow urban beekeeper was posting some gorgeous pics of her swarms on Facebook this past week, and I casually commented that if she needed a home for some swarms, we’d snatch them up. In years past we haven’t been so lucky to become the new home for free bees, so we didn’t have our hopes up, but this year was different. She called us up on Wednesday afternoon and we dropped everything to run out to her place to catch a little swarm. Frustratingly nestled in the crook of a tree, they weren’t out of reach entirely, but they weren’t easy to catch either.
They tried shaking the bees.
They tried brushing the bees.
Finally, they just sawed off the crook of the branch and carried what remained to the waiting cardboard box. They were irritable, as swarms go. I’m sure the shaking and brushing and sawing didn’t help matters.
As the time passed, the weather grew ominous. Rain clouds threatened, and the air started to chill. We knew time was short, but this was a stubborn swarm. We couldn’t find the queen, but we knew she had to be clustered somewhere near the tree’s elbow. And when it comes to swarms, making sure you get the queen is key.
We taped up the box just as it began to rain. We packed up the car just as it began to pour. We thought the Gorilla tape would hold, but as we drove onto the interstate’s ramp, I noticed there were a few wayward bees flying to the back of the Forrester’s window. I wasn’t nervous (we usually lose bees in the car when we’re transporting nucs), but then we hit a wall of traffic and four lanes at a standstill, just half a mile from our exit. Every passing minute released more bees into the car. And the rain did not relent.
And we were totally missing our birthing class’s hospital tour. Priorities, right?
We finally made it home, and the hubby did a fabulous job of dumping the swarm into a waiting hive. They seemed to take to the aroma of our old brood comb overnight, and have stuck around since. An inspection this afternoon unfortunately did not prove that a queen inhabits the hive at the moment, but we’ll give her a few days and see if she successfully mated. We did find about 5 square inches of fresh comb, packed with nectar, so we know they’re very industrious girls.
Swarm number two was easy peezy, lemon squeezy. It couldn’t have been more different.
This morning the hubby got a call from our dear friends just down the road. Their hive had swarmed, as they reliably do each year, and settled on the ground in a stinging nettle patch. The cluster of bees must have been the size of a basketball. It was massive, and they were calm. It probably weighed about 3-4 lbs, the current weight of our 30 week prenate (though I’m carrying around a lot more extra weight than that, but there’s a story for another day). There was no shaking, flinging, brushing or sawing necessary…the hubby simply scooped them up by hand and placed them into an empty swarm trap, ready to come home.
We watched and chatted as the bees marched into the swarm trap, allured by their queen’s pungent pheromones. Other bees in the swarm, aware of the queen’s presence, helped their sisters by fanning the queen’s pheromones to the lost and confused. Lined up like spectators at a marathon, these bees stuck their butts in the air, fanned their wings and seemed to declare, “Nice work, sisters! You’re heading the right way! She’s right in here!” I’ve never seen anything like it.
It was a beautiful, glorious sight.
And now our weekend ahead has us stopping by the beekeeping store (I LOVE having a beekeeping in our town), and stocking up on some equipment for the latest swarm. Not a bad way to spend an April weekend on the homestead.
Meet the homestead’s new Fab Four! In keeping with our poultry tradition around here, we named them all after ladies (and a gent) featured in Beatles songs.
Julia is our sweet little Welsummer chick. She’s tiny, timid and you just want to snuggle up to her. Like her namesake song suggests, Julia’s a pretty good lookin’ gal.
Jude will be our homestead’s new rooster. As a Light Brahma, he’s already towering over the other girls, fearlessly protects his chicks, and struts his stuff like he rules the roost…at barely 2 weeks old!
Polythene Pam is such a little shit (and yes, she does look like a man). Unlike her breed (Silver Laced Wyandotte) she’s loud, bossy, and shows no one mercy. Her favorite thing to do is perch - on my hand, on the feeder, on the top of the water font, the edge of the cardboard box…
And finally, you have Michelle. She’s our belle. She’s a Cuckoo Maran, a French breed (which seemed fitting, don’t you think Beatles fans?). She’s had a rough start to life, struggling to stand and appearing ill, but we think she’ll make it.
The downside to keeping chickens that lay such beautiful eggs? You get really lazy when it comes time to dye them. Happy Easter everyone!