Friday, March 7, 2014


I've been missing this.

It's been a while since I've shared anything here, but tonight, I felt like writing. Maybe it's with thanks to those of you who have checked in over the past 16 months to let me know you're thinking of my family; certainly it's helped by the gentle nudges of friends and family who ask when I'll write again. No doubt I have missed writing here and all it means for me (most especially, it means free time and energy enough to organize my thoughts, both of which are harder to come by these days). 

Our days have been full and rewarding and a bit exhausting. In the hardest moments, I feel I've reached maximum capacity; four kids, two dogs, homeschooling, hockey, dance, rehearsals, teaching, attending births, keeping the house running, and keeping pace with my own expectations -- it all keeps me from having time to blog and brings me to ask some hard questions about the choices we make. I've been hesitant to complain about how hard things can be; no one said we had to do it this way. Could it be easier? What am I missing?

There are options available that, to outsiders, might seem to lighten the load a bit. But the upswing of questioning why we continue this way despite the challenges is a deeper connection to the values and ideals that brought us here in the first place. Beyond the real struggles of the daily grind is a powerful overarching sense of the real and tangible benefits these choices have brought; the closeness we share as a family, the satisfaction in a job well done, the lessons our children are learning, the never ending piles of laundry and housework... well, not that, really. 

What I'm hoping to express here is the real sentiment that yes, these days can be hard and tiring, but completely worth it. If I were to do it another way, I think that sense of satisfaction would be missing. I feel obligated to admit that it's hard, but that is not meant as a complaint. 

This is one of my favorite times of the year; it's tapping time. It's become a tradition around here the past three years, and I love the kids' genuine excitement for this work and their eagerness to help. 

Really, if I skipped this, what would I be missing? The work of cleaning the equipment, gathering supplies, tapping the trees; the hours of boiling down sap and the sticky, charred mess on my stove -- all for the sake of some syrup I can buy at the store or the farmers' market.

But I would be missing this: seeing this little girl carrying buckets and spiles, getting caught up in her siblings' excitement. 

I would be missing her first taste of sap from the tree, miss hearing her respond with a satisfied "mmm!" and excitedly saying "sap! sap!" over and over. 

It's true; I have been missing uninterrupted sleep, a clean house, writing this blog regularly and hearing from those of you who read it. 

But I'm happy to say that I haven't been missing the moments of joy that are hidden in all this work. 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

for her

I must admit I was quite surprised to meet this baby and discover she was a she. I was convinced there was a boy rolling around in there (though, truth be told, I have been wrong every single time!). With two girls already in the house, I thought we were set for clothing this little one, until I remembered that the other girls were born in warmer seasons. I pulled out some outfits from our winter boy, and while I'm not set on the girls wear pink/boys wear blue division of things, I did feel this little lady deserved something a bit more fitting... which is how I found my way to the stacks of fabric in the sewing room and a few new pairs of pants for Hazel.


I hadn't sewn newborn clothes before, but I've clothed plenty of dolls, and since Hazel is only slightly bigger than most dolls I figured I could handle this one. I based the pattern on a pair of pants that I knew fit her and went from there.

Through most of the pregnancy, I felt my creative energy was directed elsewhere. Making "things" had taken a backseat to the making of one very small person, and so it felt very rewarding to find a creative spark and make something useful for this babe. While I was at it, I made a new diaper bag... not that it's really for her, and not that I needed any more bags, but I have enjoyed making these tote bags from this easy tutorial a friend shared a while back.


Made with a sturdy cotton duck cloth and lined with cotton, it's just the right size for a few diapers and a water bottle. I even added pockets for wipes, keys and a phone, which made me feel extra talented!

It feels good to be making things again, and to have such a good reason to be doing it:  for her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

getting here

:: spring ::


 :: summer ::


:: autumn ::


:: here ::

Hazel Diane Holmes
October 4, 2012

Through this peaceful pregnancy that passed so quickly, through the seasons' work and play, we waited to meet this little one. With some important lessons on letting go, she made a dramatic entrance into this world, but has so smoothly found her place in this family (usually nestled in the eager arms of a big brother or sister).
Welcome, sweet little girl. We're so glad you're here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

growing things

What a warm spring we've had here in the midwest. Everything seems to be blossoming and full, and despite my reservations regarding the cause of it all, I'm happy to be spending the days outside, feeling the sun and preparing the soil for all the growing things.

Flats of seeds are beginning to sprout under lights in our laundry room, others are already tucked into the dirt. After our mild winter, it's surprising to see all the vegetables that overwintered -- leeks, carrots and onions were pulled throughout the winter months, and the kale and celery left from last year are growing strong again.

We're seeing the first of our asparagus, which is so tempting to pick. But if I follow the rules, we have to let the plants grow one more year before harvesting. The garlic we planted last fall is now sporting tall, green tops, and the fruit trees are taking turns showing off their flowers.

I love the excitement of this season, the planning and working and looking ahead to what good things will come from all that is starting to grow now.

And this year, we've got one more thing growing as we get ready to welcome another sweet baby this fall.

Yes, it is exciting to be growing things.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

on the farm

These days at the farm, there are spring flowers blooming, faces both familiar and new, favorite chores to tend to, and the unmistakeable feel of spring.

Happy first day of spring to you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The syrup season has come to a close this year. The early warmth has the leaves ready to unfold on our silver maples, and so the sap has stopped dripping, the taps have been pulled and the last of the syrup has been finished.

But before we put it all away for the year, we hosted our first sugaring party. The boys were up early, splitting wood and keeping the fire going strong under the sap boiling outside. Friends came to join the fun, bringing plates of food to go alongside the piles of freshly flipped pancakes.

Together, we emptied the last of the buckets, tasted the sap as it thickened on the stove, and drenched our plates with homegrown syrup. In a side-by-side taste test with a jar from the farmer's market, the kids all declared our syrup the winner.

This year, we purchased a proper evaporating pan for finishing the syrup on the stove. It made the final boildown a much quicker process. We finished two batches of syrup this season. Number one:

And number two:

Despite the extra taps this year, we ended up with just about the same amount of syrup as last year. To get a good sap run, you need nights below freezing and days above. Too many warm nights meant too little sap.

For us, it's enough, really. We'll have plenty to get through another year's worth of breakfasts and baking. We might even have a little extra to give away, just not as much as we had hoped to share.

And on those mornings when we top our breakfasts with the sweet stuff, we'll surely be remembering the joy of our first sugaring party, feeling gratitude for the way the whole syrup-making process pulls us out of winter, and looking ahead to the many sweetnesses next year's sugaring season will bring.