Odds & sods

Thank you everyone for your kind welcome back this month and patience as I work to find my voice. All of you who are reading, commenting, emailing, thinking of us and wishing us well mean so much. You make a difference. It is a comfort.

We had a very, very special day yesterday–Ellie’s second birthday. Our families came for a simple celebration with balloons, presents, pizza and cake. Just for fun, Ellie and I recreated her tractor photo from her first year (in case anyone wants a cuteness flashback). She can almost reach the pedals.

Ellie on the tractor on her 2nd birthday

This month’s posts have been pretty personal with my word of the year and sharing some about Matt’s illness. That felt like where I needed to start, but I’m looking forward to writing more about the house and the farm–like Ellie’s new play area that you saw last week–soon.

I’m also going to be continuing my month-end wrap-up posts, trying to share things that have inspired me or interested me and might do the same for you.

Here are some of the things I came across in February:

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There are still a few tweaks and a fun art project to do before I can technically check the DIY nursery closet redesign off the list, but we’ve already been enjoying it in a way I never foresaw. The little girl doesn’t have a ton of clothes – and the ones she has are still so tiny – so there’s an entire section meant for hanging clothes that can be used for something else. I stuck a big pillow from my college dorm room in the corner, brought in a small basket of books and a bright quilt, and now we have a book nook! Since she doesn’t go to her little ‘preschool’ on Friday, we stay in our pjs until after the morning nap, and we’ve started to hang out in this nook in her beautiful new (and incredibly organized!) closet. It’s such a fun way to start our weekend! It feels so good to sit and enjoy this almost-complete space (that’s been in my head for nearly 2 years!) with our tiny person. This is my motivation to always keep her clothing collection small so we never lose this cozy little corner 📚

A post shared by Laura (@homespunbylaura) on

I’ve been enjoying following along with Laura’s closet makeover. It’s organized, totally my colour (dark blue teal) and there’s even a cozy reading nook.

“You choose to wake up happy or choose to wake up sad… And then, from that point on, you… just continue trying to figure it out… It’s about the journey and the discovery and understanding what that is.” Ear Hustle.

“We live in hope–that life will get better, and more importantly that it will go on, that love will survive even though we will not.” The Anthropocene Reviewed

Love this song. Love this moment. Wish I could sing.
* There’s some commentary about this being set up rather than impromptu. First, why do we have to be so cynical? Second, if it was set up, good on her (or him) for a savvy strategy and achieving a tough goal… going viral.

For gift giving for Ellie, I try to follow the wear, read, want, need formula. So her birthday gifts were  a party dress (which I made from one of Matt’s flannel pyjama pants), the sequel to one of her favourite books, a new pack of Play-Doh (we’re terrible at putting the lids back on) and some teeny-tiny hairclips (her hair is finally growing!). Of course, her aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpa were also very generous to her.

Did you mark any special occasions in February? Do you have a gift giving strategy for your kids? Or any birthday traditions?

Resolve

I’m not sure what to say. Where do I start? (This question drives me most days.)

I am sad. So, so sad. But working hard to not let sadness prevail.

The saying is that time heals all wounds. Right now, as time passes, a lot of things get harder.

Matt’s absence feels stronger.

But there is still great love and still great joy. I have resolved to choose love and to choose joy.

Writing is hard–which is really hard. Writing is how I think, and the words aren’t coming right now. My fingers make mistakes as I try to hit the right keys. Familiar words look foreign.

I can’t write about Matt yet. I feel like once I do, I will succumb to this abyss that lurks behind me all the time. An abyss of sadness and loss and grief and no love or joy.

So I put on this mask of resolve. Of a capable, dedicated, hard-working woman. I take care of Ellie and Bax and Ralph and the farm. I go for walks and breathe the farm air. I lean on my family and friends. I knit and sew and organize.

And today, I write.

This writing, this blog, this imperfect, potentially inarticulate, writing is important. Even if right now its importance is in the role of a distraction.

Matt and I have a lot of plans for this farm, and I am resolved to carry them on. This farm is us, and sharing this part of us makes the journey more special. I am not sure what’s going to happen and how plans are going unfold, but I will share them as we go.

I am not planning on turning this into a grief blog–I can’t do this publicly. Or a Mommy blog for that matter. I will talk about Matt and Ellie because they are still my life. But I will be talking about renovations and projects and gardens and animals and farm life and working every day to find love and joy.

A friend gave me the winter edition of Magnolia Journal for Christmas. In her letter from the editor, Joanna talked about the word resolve.

“The meaning of resolve is often interpreted in duality, as being both/and. Resolve can manifest as both grit and contentment: I will resolve to set my own course and I am resolved in the lot I’ve been given… Resolve can catalyze a beginning and determine an ending…

 

“Making our own way in this world requires our resolve to always be weaving together the old and the new, the parts of who we’ve been with who we are still becoming. To choose that way of living–one based on all that we are and all that we could be rather than the things we’re not–begins and ends with resolve.”

 

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word of the year every January. This year, I wanted a word to guide me and shape me. I felt like I needed it. But I’m so lost that I couldn’t find it. I was thinking and reading and searching, and when I read these words, they connected so deeply. This is me, right now.

I am resolved.

Odds & sods

Happy last week of October. Are you all set for Hallowe’en at your house? Our Hallowe’en is pretty lowkey. We’ve done a few things with our little goblin, even though she doesn’t realize what’s going on. We’ve had a few Hallowe’en stories at bedtime (including a special one from Daddy), there is a jack o’lantern in our living room, and a Supergirl costume is set aside for Thursday.

Pumpkin carving with Ellie

Before I look too far ahead, I’m looking back at some of the things that inspired me this month:

“If you’re going to be good at something, it has to be your own something. It can’t be somebody else’s thing.” Michelle Obama came to town, and Matt gave me tickets to go. She was inspiring, funny, sincere, dedicated… everything you expect.

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turnHarriet Beecher Stowe Sometimes the universe sends you just what you need when you need it. This quote showed up in my Passion Planner during a particularly difficult week, and I’m still carrying it with me.

One Room Challenge is continuing. I am very behind on blog reading, but I’m popping in as much as I can to check out the progress some of my favourite bloggers are making. Are you following anyone that I should add to my list?

I finally started reading Harry Potter this month. The original craze somehow passed me by, and I don’t think I’m the target market anymore. I’ve finished the first two books and will likely finish the series, as I’m curious enough to see what happens. Are you a Harry Potter fan? I’m taking a little break this week and reading this book that my Mom passed along. A sewing inspired novel? That sounds good to me.

My writing elsewhere:

What’s inspiring you this month? How are you celebrating Hallowe’en this year? Any Harry Potter fans out there? Or other good books to recommend?

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada. I’m thankful for many things. My husband, our daughter, our dog and our cat. Our families, this farm, good food.

The silo at sunrise in the fall

Most of all this year I’m thankful for time. We often feel that there’s not enough time. Or we wish we were doing something else with our time.

At the start of this year, I proclaimed my word of the year was “slow.”

I wrote:

“We have to do our absolute best to live a life that we are satisfied with. I want to feel good about what I do, who I am with and how I spend my time. And the word “spend” is important. Time is valuable. Time is precious.”

Over the past little while, I feel like I’ve found a balance of how I spend my time. I have time to work and create and relax. Time with my family and with myself. I treasure each of these moments and don’t take them for granted.

Every day is very full, and there is pressure. There are trade-offs and the balance doesn’t always look the same. But usually by the end of the day I feel at peace with what I’ve done and how I’ve spent my time.

I’m very thankful for that.

A few weeks ago I saw a sign on the side of the road that said, “You have what you need for this moment.”

This message was an affirmation that I have the strength, the skills, the energy, the ability, the support to face whatever comes. It’s also a reminder to live in the moment and not worry about what’s ahead.

Today is going to be full of moments with my amazing family at our lovely farm. I’m thankful for this time.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Odds & sods

Happy last day of September. I’ve been hanging on to summer and the warm weather as much as possible, but yesterday morning, Baxter, Ellie and I went out for a walk and it felt very fall. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing. But in the east field, it looked like spring as new seedlings have sprouted everywhere (just ignore the red tree on the edge of the field).

Baxter walking across the field

Grass seedlings

Getting this field ready for planting has been a full summer project, but over the last couple of weeks, our farmer did the final grading and even seeded. I’m pretty sure this is the start of hay for next year.

Living on the farm, I’m conscious that things are always changing and growing. Even as fall begins and we head to the quieter season of winter, life goes on.

Before I look too far ahead, here are some of the things that have grabbed my attention this month.

When I meet people they often call me Julie rather than Julia. I always feel awkward correcting them, so I usually just go along. At a party earlier this month Ellie was playing ball with a young girl who looked to be about 7 years old or so. I kept saying, “Throw the ball to Ella. It’s Ella’s turn.” After a few rounds of this, the girl said, “It’s Bella.” She was so confident and direct. I was impressed. It takes a lot to correct an adult when you’re a child, and this is something I struggle with even now. Next time I hear Julie, I’m going to try her simple approach.

More communications tips: how to talk to your kids using nonverbal techniques.

“Food should be grounded in people and place… Growing and cooking their own food, making their own history, building their own economy.” Eat Like A Fish by Bren Smith is an interesting, motivating and slightly scary look at fishing, food and climate change . It has me thinking about the choices I make and my expectations around food.

I haven’t knit in a really long time, but I started again this month, and it feels really good. A little sweater for Ellie is taking shape. And one project is sparking so much creativity. I whipped up a simple elastic waist skirt for myself during one of Ellie’s afternoon naps and started sewing a dress for me as well. I also have two more sweaters planned for her, a pair of mitts, maybe a hat.

Sarah Richardson just wrapped up a makeover on her own cottage. I loved watching the first renovation that she did many years ago, so it’s been interesting to see how she updated the spaces. A highlight for me was the bathroom where she made it look new even though most things stayed the same. She shows the benefit of choosing timeless materials that you love.

My writing elsewhere:

What season does it feel like where you are? Have you been doing any crafting? What’s your favourite creative outlet? Anyone else have a name that people often mishear? What was the highlight of September for you?

 

Fall farm to-do list

Fall is officially here. I’m never ready to let go of summer, but the days are definitely shorter and leaves are starting to turn. I can’t deny it.

A long to-do list is the norm for life on the farm. But fall brings some extra pressure. We have to get thing done before the weather changes.

(Although have to might be a strong word choice. The farm will likely not fall apart if we don’t do these things, but I would feel like we’re more responsible caretakers if we did.)

Raspberries

Prune raspberries – The garden continues to be a disaster, but I continue to hope I can get just one part of it under control. Aside from the emotional peace of mind pruning the raspberries would bring, it would also set us up for a better harvest next year.

Double French light purple lilac

Transplant lilac – When we moved here, I brought a cutting from my grandmother’s lilac. It’s been doing well, but as it grows bigger, it’s obvious it isn’t ideally located. I’ve heard fall is a good transplanting time. Any tips for moving lilacs?

Remove screens – This is something I try to do every year, but it’s hit and miss as to whether I succeed. I feel that storing the screens for the winter protects them from the harsh weather, plus it sets me up to clean them and the windows every spring.

Spraying hose nozzle

Turn off exterior water – This one is non-negotiable. The water has to be turned off, the hoses need to be put away and pipes must to drained before the temperature dips below freezing. We’ve done this enough times that it’s usually not too difficult.

Clean the gutters – Before we turn off the water, we need to clean out the eavestroughs. Being surrounded by so many large trees mean that the gutters fill up with pine needles, leaves and other debris that clog up the downspouts. If they’re given a chance to freeze, troughs will back up and overflow, which could lead to water going where it’s not supposed to.

Ralph and Baxter supervising the oil change on the tractor

Service tractor – My super helpful cousin comes up to the farm every fall to change the oil in the tractor and check it over. Before he shows up, we need to remove the mower deck, clean and grease it. We’ll hold off attaching the snowblower until we need it. We also need to run the push mower out of gas.

It’s a relatively modest list. I’ve not added any big new tasks, just focused on a few basic things that we need… or things I’d like… to do.

Odds & sods

I know summer is winding down, but we are still savouring every second. We’re having such a good time all together and really, really enjoying each other.

We’ve spent time with our extended families and also with our own little crew. There were lots of swims in Matt’s parents’ pool and a very special cottage week with my family. There have been tractor rides, hikes and harvests. Life is very full and very good.

Our rhythm is changing these days, but we make sure to treasure our time at the farm together.

Here is my monthly round-up of some recent happenings:

Dining room by Luke Havekes

The September issue of House & Home was over-the-top with a Milanese “guesthouse” (on the scale of a chateau), a Parisian pied-à-terre, and a large London flat. Completely out of my league. But tucked amongst all of the splendor was a home that felt completely attainable and identifiable by Canadian designer Luke Havekes. It was comfortable, colourful and personal. A few spaces even felt familiar, as they had elements that I’ve used here at the farm, like the white china cabinet with the arched tops.

Are you watching American Ninja Warrior? It is such a positive, uplifting show. The physical achievements are super impressive, but the competitors themselves and their stories are even more inspiring. Plus, watching two women finish the course last week was a great milestone.

“Resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us.”

I’ve been trying to recycle Ellie’s infant carseats rather than putting them in the garbage (they were hand-me-downs and are near expiry). It took awhile, but Atmo does recycling all across Canada. There is a cost (about $20 per seat), but there are various drop-off locations, which is more affordable than some of the other options I found that required me to ship the seats to a depot.

Chris Loves Julia’s kitchen makeover has been all over the internet–for good reason. It’s a great example of what can be done with DIY, creativity, some simple materials and paint.

My writing elsewhere:

Do you feel summer winding down? How are you wringing every last drop out of the season?

 

Summer holidays

I love summer. I love heat, sun and time together.

We’re getting all of that right now.

So I’m going to take some time to savour it.

Ellie, Ralph and Baxter

So far, we’ve been spending lots of time with family, had a bit of a getaway up north, done some special outings for just our little family and are enjoying this season together.

We have more of the same planned for the next little while, so I’m going to take a little break from the blog for the next few weeks.

I hope that you’re enjoying your summer and are getting time to do all of the things you love with all of the people you love.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last week of June.

We always think about my Dad. Between Father’s Day and the anniversary of his death our thoughts have been a little heavier at times this month. We see lots of signs that he’s still with us and we feel his love all the time.

Life is hard. But life is also very, very, very good.

We had a lot of fun this month. Ellie finished her second class of swimming lessons—she passed 😉 —so she’s all set for pool and lake time this summer. We celebrated Matt and his Dad with Father’s Day and remembered my Dad too.

Here are some of the other things we’ve been up to and inspired by this month:

Ellie with a miniature donkey

One of our family outings in June was to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. We’d never been there, even though it’s fairly near the farm. It was so much fun and their programs are super impressive. There are 86 rescued donkeys and more at local foster farms—which is giving me ideas. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

The garden on the turnaround has always been a challenge. The big maple tree keeps it in perpetual shade and also sucks up all the moisture from the ground. Plus the garden is big, so I feel like plants disappear. I went to a presentation at a local nursery about shade gardening to get some tips and came out with a list of plants and solutions to try. I’d like to try turtlehead because it’s a big plant and a late bloomer, although I’m worried our soil is too dry. Do you have any plants or tips that have worked for you?

On the topic of gardens, Cathy and Garrett over at The Grit and Polish did a massive makeover in their vegetable garden. They made a great family hangout space.

Looking for some food to serve at your next family hangout? Call it a bruschetta bar, charcuterie platter or tapas, this is what I love to eat.

“There are all these phenomena in human life that are really resistant to language… It’s that personalization of experience and the urge to share experience. We all desperately want other people to hear us and hear our stories and know what our feelings feel like, and they can’t.” Beautiful reflections on the power and limitations of language by John Greene of The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast on 99% Invisible.

Another quote that’s inspiring me: “talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know.”(From A Star Is Born)

My writing elsewhere:

We’ll be rounding out the month with lots of family time this week, and our first overnight trip with Ellie. Matt’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, so there’s a special dinner and family photoshoot in the plans.

What was your highlight from June? How are you wrapping up the month? What’s been inspiring you recently?

 

Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?