Author Archives: Barbara
Hello faithful reader(s)! ;)
This weekend saw us curing our very first bacon. Mmmmm. Wow, raising hogs has been such an incredible experience on so many levels!!
And we got our tree up and trimmed, in and amongst everyone’s busy schedules. Each year, I swear our tree is the prettiest of any year prior.
And each year, it’s a bit more challenging to get everyone to fit under the tree for the annual photo. ;)
I suspect Niek finds it a little more challenging to lift the kids high enough for the angel-topping, as well. Perhaps next year we’ll have a table-top tree. LOL.
The kids are growing up so fast. It’s exciting, but of course there’s an element of sadness to it as well.
On other big news, my semester is done and I am very ready for a bit of a break. The new job is going wonderfully well and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it all. Niek’s taking some time off for the holidays and informs me that he’s very ready for a break himself.
Wishing you and yours days of health and happiness as this year draws to its close.
Hello faithful friends. Jim let me know I’ve been far too long between posts, so I will try to get some news squeezed in before he and Gaby head off on their long-awaited vacation. Speaking of which, safe travels you guys! Have fun!! <3
We’ve had a couple of snowstorms here in Maine. Seems to me that winter gave up late last year and came early this year, but Mother Nature is the boss and who am I to argue? And when the scenery is as stunning as this, why would I want to argue?
Last weekend, it wasn’t quite as cold – but it was no less beautiful. I snapped this photo off on the way home from visiting a dear friend on Beal’s Island.
And before autumn let go of us, Mother Nature set those blueberry barrens ablaze.
I’m convinced I live in the most beautiful spot on earth, in case you couldn’t tell. ;)
Other than gawking at Mother Nature, I’ve been a busy bee. School is going well and I have recently accepted a new job offer that has me tremendously excited. You’ll now find me at the local office for the Down East AIDS Network & Health Equity Alliance. I loved my job at Community Health and Counseling and feel so honored to have done some great things with the agency, but the challenges at my new job are incredible. Amazing people.
I was offered the job while I was in Texas last month … yes, I finally ventured outside of Maine’s borders after nearly five years back home. I was tempted out of state by the chance to participate in a weeklong workshop and conference on clinical hypnosis down in San Antonio. My brain is still absorbing and processing all that I was exposed to, and I’m terrifically eager to offer hypnosis as a companion to counseling. I met so many talented and dedicated professionals during the week that I hardly noticed that there was no time for sight-seeing. I did visit the Alamo, which was between my motel and the conference center. ;)
Unsurprisingly, it was the local flora and fauna that really captured my attention.
In other news, the kids are all doing great. Max will be a licensed driver before long, with Nick and Rowen already talking about the cars they want when they’re his age, LOL. Arden keeps us all on our toes with his questionable sense of humor – no idea where that came from! ;) I was trying to get everyone together for a family photo today but that didn’t really work out too well. This was the closest I could come.
And not to be left out, here are many of the farm family members enjoying the snow this afternoon.
You probably noticed the total lack of stitching pictures, which is reflective of the total lack of stitching. Sometimes I wish I knitted because I see people doing that in some of my classes. I don’t think I could cross stitch and actually follow the class, let alone write notes, though. ;)
The end-of-summer period has been progressing a little too quickly to suit me. Not that Mother Nature seems interested in slowing things down just to comfort me. ;) We’ve had two frosts already, which means an overwhelming glut of green tomatoes – which turned into an hour or so on the computer Googling green tomato recipes. Due to the goats helping themselves out of the garden back in June, we haven’t received too much garden bounty and I am not about to let any of it slip through my fingers!
The farm animals have been doing well. We castrated the male piglets last week – don’t worry, there are no photos of that! – and everyone is up and running happily around again. I found the experience more traumatic, in the long run, and am hoping that all baby hoglets born here in 2015 will be female.
I’ve been cutting back on our goat herd – the twenty-something we were up to was simply not manageable in combination with all the other goings-on and obligations. Eve and Pinto, both long-time residents of the farm, are still with us, as are Bella and Annebelle. Pinto’s triplets have grown so much that at a glance it’s easy to mix them up with the adults. This little buckling looks so much like his mama that he’s a mini-me.
The kids are all off and flying with their sports. Ro is doing soccer, karate, and horseriding. Her horsemanship has improved to the point that she’s been invited to ride at the stable year-round – talk about an over-the-moon happy kid! She, Niek, and the boys enjoy the occasional post-dinner soccer match in the front yard.
Both Max and Nick are at a swim meet a couple of hours down-state this morning. I hope they’re having fun and doing well. Max has also started working outside of the home, which makes me feel weirdly old, and Arden is old enough to *finally* take karate lessons.
This year, I took Rowen and her best buddy out of school for a day to attend the Common Ground Fair. Last year, I took Nick and Ro, but Nick was able to get there with a school trip and enjoy a different perspective. Arden is still a little young for me to enjoy the 3 hour trip there and back, but I think he’ll be ready next year. Here are a few of my favorite views of the fair.
I did not come home with a llama, but the temptation was nearly overwhelming. Isn’t this fella magnificent?
Rowen’s friend went home with family that she met up with at the fair, so Ro and I stopped for dinner at our favorite Brewer eatery where she continues to cross items off her bucket list. From this meal, that meant eel sushi and squid salad. She kindly shared a view of the squid legs with us:
Although it is a bit busy, there are still quiet moments. Arden has been mastering chess under Niek’s careful tutelage.
And I have been picking away at this great design by The Stitcherhood:
Busy days, but most of them are pretty terrific. I hope that’s true for you, too. :) Thanks for visiting!
I have always loved the Blue Hill Fair. It’s a small-ish country fair that’s managed to hold to its agricultural roots in today’s crazy-busy, buy-it-break-it-buy-another culture of acquisition. They had a dollar-day this year – whether they always do and I only noticed this year, or whether this year was the start of something new, it was yet another indication that belts continue to tighten but not to the point where we are without our little luxuries. An afternoon and evening of wild abandon for a family of six was seen to for a hundred dollars plus gasoline. Memories were made that will be treasured for decades, whispered into the ears of a new generation. That’s enough for me. That’s more than enough, really, feeling like a small but vital link in the chain the connects my grandparents to my grandchildren. How much more could a person ask, than that?
Looking over the pictures, I’m struck by the frantic need for amusement, the aggression, even, in ensuring that a good time is had. We were able to naively float over the top of any darkness, foam on the waves over a deep, dark sea of yearning that the children are too young for and that Niek and I have made our own peace with. I wanted to find a poem that would speak to that jangled fairground feeling but found instead an excerpt from a Louise Gluck poem that speaks to that time between abandoning those feelings and making peace with them. This is from her poem Midsummer, published in the volume A Village Life in 2009. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The Summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending
You will leave the village where you were born
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something that you left behind, even though you
can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it.
Another indication that summer is ending is that my dad is preparing for his return to Florida, where he seems to spend just a little bit more time each year. Florida is lucky to have him and while I wouldn’t wish to keep him here in Maine through hard winter snows, I can’t help but wish the United States were just a little smaller, that Florida was a little more within reach. <3
And of course, there is the madness of back-to-school. With four kids, this can get out of control pretty rapidly and we are ever seeking ways to normalize the transition. Max is off for his second year of high school, Nick moves into middle school (but which, due to our rural setting and low population, is still part of elementary school) while Rowen impatiently awaits her turn to move up and beyond, and Arden cheerfully prepares for the adventure of first grade. I’m in the second year of my graduate program, and find myself a little more comfortable at being part of the back-to-school group, LOL.
The farm animals also serve to keep us in sync with the passing seasons and the shorter days. The baby hogs are still adorable and small, but they have grown and we need to pasture them away from their parents, who need in turn to put their minds to the next generation of happy hogs on the farm. The goat herd has been thinned from well over 20 members to four does and three kids, with the understanding that the kids will not be wintering over with us. Baby ducklings are now adolescent ducks, unable to be cuddled and coddled but not ready to take their places beside their adult counterparts. The spring’s chicks are now the egg-suppliers of late summer – and how happy we are to have our own chicken eggs again! Baby bunnies need to be removed from one tired mama rabbit, and unbred rabbits need their turn before autumn is too far progressed. Only the guinea keets remain immature and I hope they will size out considerably before the cold weather hits. Measuring the earth’s rotation by the growth of animals has been one of the most magical elements of farming.
I’m not sure how you interpret the signs of summer giving way to autumn, but I hope the change brings you a sense of happiness and of fresh beginnings as well as some possible regret that another season is ending. Thank you for spending some time with me here, and wishing you well in whatever you are doing as one day leads to the next.
I’m just home from a four day writing extravaganza on Campobello Island. Long-time readers will know that I’ve always loved to write and you may have read my articles in The Gift of Stitching Monthly, or maybe you have had the amazing good fortune to encounter some of my excellent online documentation if you happen to have purchased software from Exact, Descartes, Baan Company, or Net Economy. That second suggestion was just a joke, by the way. ;) Anyway, writing is how I’ve put bread on the table for almost my entire adult life … but it hasn’t been the kind of writing that makes me feel in sync with the world. Picture Julie Andrews singing from the mountaintops, you know? That’s the kind of writing this workshop has been about. The setting was Maritime-glamorous with ocean views, wild beach roses, long expanses of lush green grass. New friends were made, a few old friends were enthusiastically greeted, and my courage has been increased exponentially. Many thanks to Niek for encouraging (very persistently encouraging) me and to the kids for gracefully (well, mostly gracefully) excusing my participation in their lives for a few days. I’m really grateful to the Iota team, who provided me with a scholarship that covered my expenses and gave me the self-permission I needed to go.
I guess it’s kind of obvious I didn’t do much in the way of stitching, although I did take a kitted-up project with me. I put in a few hours on a little something I’m making for Arden before I left:
And I cleaned my living room before heading out, LOL. Of course, when I got home it looked as though the kids had pillow bombed the entire room, grrrr.
While I was away, I ate dinner with this handsome fella – a bald eagle just beyond my camera’s reasonable zoom range.
And I bought a new hat. ;) I think Flip likes it.
I’m not sure who Old McDonald was, but here at Chateau Chaos it has been all about the farm life these past few days. This afternoon, Thing One and Thing Two took all eleven piglets out for a stroll around the backyard. You can see Arden keeping an eye on things in the far background. ;)
After the piglets and mama hogs were rounded up for an early dinner time, it seemed only right to let Pinto and her three babies (as well as the indulgent auntie goats) out until sundown.
Rowen is very good with the goats and she’s trying to make sure these last 2014 kids grow up socialized. :) I think she’s doing a great job.
As the sunlight left us, the view was too gorgeous not to snap a last picture or two. It’s ‘just’ the view from the living room, but even after a year here, it never fails to stir my soul.
Not all the attention can go to the four legged farm family – there are big happenings with the poultry, too! We’ve begun getting our first pullet eggs from the young hens, including some amazing double-yolkers!
The appearance of eggs means that it is high time these girls (and a couple of boys) get into a proper coop. With two dozen hens and almost as many young guinea fowl, our original ‘barn’ was far too small (and it had issues anyway, LOL), so we are busy preparing a new haven for the birds. Having learned a lot from last year’s losses, we’re being extra cautious. Hopefully by the next time I post, this will be fenced in and fully of happy birds:
Hmmm, birds and goats and bunnies seem to be popping up everywhere. ;) Here’s my scanty progress on my ‘tea towel of life’. I can see I need to add a few hogs to the design before I run out of space!
We do get away from the house from time to time, I promise! Our latest summertime adventure was a trip down the coast to the state park at Fort Knox. We took a trip up the observatory – the elevator ride up 400+ feet was more exciting for the kids than the view was, naturally! And at the fort itself, everyone wanted to get as close to the cannons as possible, LOL.
I really appreciate everyone’s kind comments and am relieved to find out that I’m not the only one who finds FB a little too superficial and yearns for the ‘old days’ when we were all a little cozier and took a little more time. I’ve been visiting blogs and leaving comments (at least, I hope the comments have been showing up!). I’m looking forward to getting on here every week or thereabouts to spend some pleasant time together. Statistics interfered in my schedule this week – pesky exam on Monday that had my head in the books. :P Wishing one and all a wonderful week – preferably free of statistics exams!
The wind lifts up my life
And sets it some distance from where it was.
(excerpt from Dog Days of Summer by Meena Alexander)
Surfing through FB posts last night, I found myself once again reminiscing for the slower pace and more personal contact of blog entries. Back when I first came online, a decade or so ago, it seemed like we all knew each other – it really was an online community; since joining FB, though, it feels like a suburb where we might wave to each other but everyone’s really just too busy to stop and pass the time. So here I am, making another attempt to get back to a medium that I much prefer.
What’s up with you and yours? It seems like stitching has fallen by the wayside for many of us (that time thing again?), but I’m trying to eke out time for it. Like blogging, it’s something that slows me down, gives me an opportunity to reflect on what’s going on inside as well as outside. And as busy as we all are, there is a lot going on in- and outside all the time!
I’ve been working and going to school, neither of which make for particularly interesting stories or pictures. ;) The farm has had a blockbuster season in many regards. Our two American Guinea Hog females had their first farrowing (on my birthday!) and we now have eleven bustling, busy piglets to amuse and entertain us.
Our goats had babies and babies and then when we were all done, some more babies. LOL. Pinto Bean had a liason with one of our bucks after the season was over and gifted us with three baby bucklings one week ago today. We started with Bella’s unexpected twins back in February and ended with her mother’s (Pinto Bean) delivery of triplets in July, LOL. In total, I think we had a dozen baby goats born on the farm.
There were also sheep. The sheep were not a good experiment and I think we’ll forego sheep for a few years. We do have this one fine fellow left.
There are baby ducks, chickens, and Guinea fowl all over the place. These babies are having their first day outside.
The young chickens are just about to start laying. Any day now. And I do miss fresh chicken eggs!
There seem to always be adorable bunnies.
My dear friend – a constant on the compass of my life – Sara spent several days with us. We explored and adventured and I had the opportunity to view this magical part of the world through fresh eyes again.
Truly, this is one of the most breathtaking parts of mother Earth I’ve had the pleasure to walk on.
The thing about nature is, it doesn’t care if you’re there to appreciate it or not. It simply is.
Some friends and family have had ill health and losses lately, and it just makes me so much more aware of how delicate our hold on this reality is. We welcomed these lovely finches to our family when a good friend became too ill to keep up with all of her brood. (And I am thankful to say that she’s doing much better now!) Other friends and family continue to work through issues and I’m sending lots of love, now & always. Get out there and hug those loved ones, you guys!! <3
Oh, I did mention stitching at the beginning. I have found a little bit of time here and there to continue working on La D Da’s Noah’s Ark sampler (so far the kids *all* want it!) and I started a little tea towel the other day just to get some color out. ;)
The rhythm of exits and entrances into our lives continues. Our happiest, and most unexpected, recent entrance was when we found an abandoned kitten in the forest across the road from our house. Coming home from work, I heard a strange sound that Rowen thought might be a bird. Investigation turned up a frightened but friendly calico kitten. She’s had her first vet visit and we have named her Synnøve (Norwegian for ‘sun gift’).
Though I probably should be studying my statistics (shudder!), I’ve enjoyed taking some pictures for you and spending this time together this morning. Thank you for making me part of your day. :) In closing, here’s a view of our homestead. Wishing you well!
Everyone knows that life doesn’t slow down “just” because we’ve had a loss, even if it seems like everything should rightfully come to a respectful stop, and that’s no different here at Chateau Chaos. There’s a big void in our lives that we’re all figuring out how to address and some days go better than others. In the meanwhile, life continues its course and leads us to new adventures, whether we feel ready for them or not.
Our first big surprise was Bella delivering twins – I didn’t think she had bred, and was frankly speechless when I found her with two kids. Rowen promptly named them Hansel and Gretel. Gretel is considerably larger than her teensy, doll-like brother and Bella is taking excellent care of both of them.
Almost immediately after this big event, Max and I had to go to Boston to renew his Dutch passport at the Consulate. You may know how much I hate to leave Maine, and how difficult I find city driving … it took me the whole winter to figure out that I could overnight in Portland and take an early bus or train into Boston, accomplish our goals, and return via public transport. Some times I think it’s true that we lose 10 IQ points per child. Anyway, Max and I enjoyed our stay at the Inn at Saint John, an old favorite that I’d recommend to anyone, and although the bus ride was less than joyous, I did get some excellent reading time in and didn’t get lost. ;) Here’s Max at dinner in Portland on Monday night:
It was cold in Boston Tuesday morning! Max stopped his teeth from chattering just long enough for me to snap a touristy photo. We didn’t walk around too much because I’d developed some nasty blisters the day before (walking around Portland) and because we’d neglected to bring our Arctic gear (I’m not kidding about that cold!!).
We saw a lot of lovely things and people-watched till my eyes were sticking out on stalks like a snail, LOL. My two favorite window displays were, unsurprisingly, on Newbury Street.
While we were gone, Eve and Annabelle figured that Bella was getting too much attention, so they further filled up the nursery with triplet bucklings (Eve) and a doe/buckling twin set (Annabelle). Here’s the bundle of babies (less Annabelle’s daughter, who was busy nursing) as of bedtime tonight:
Here’s a closeup of Annabelle’s son, from Spartacus – our big, gorgeous buck that we lost this past November. He looks so much like his sire. And yes, we are keeping him!
While I was admiring the nursery and loving up those good mama goats, the sheep decided to come see what was going on. They’ll soon be lambing, too – hopefully the fences will be functional again by then!!
After everyone was settled in their rightful places. I watched the kids find new ways to enjoy this hard, icy snow we currently have. Ro and Arden set up an obstacle course. :)
Back inside, Nicky is pretty well over the head cold that plagued him for much of the school vacation (he actually gave it to me, but I’m being the most inhospitable host possible).
As each day spins its story and wends its course, I try to make the time to look around and really see how utterly amazing it all is. Painful, yes, but no less the beautiful because of it. Wishing you well. Thanks for visiting.
Dear friends, thank you for sending cards, photos, and tokens to my mom. They brightened her final weeks greatly. Each time I’d visit, she’d pull out the latest ones to show me and have me re-read to her.
Sadly – or perhaps fortunately – her final illness was much shorter than anyone could have guessed. Instead of the several months that the doctor had predicted, she left us yesterday.