Author Archives: Barbara

About Barbara

nestled into my adopted home state of Maine, where I'm a happy homesteader with a big family that I love lots & lots

they don’t slow it down

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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.

bellas babies

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:

at flatbread restaurant portland

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!!).
Max in Boston

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.

sewing machine window Newbury St

Rowens Unicorn

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:

bundle of babies

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!

Son of Spartacus

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!!

sheep train

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. :)

snow trek

Rowen and Arden

sno ro

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.

thank you

Doris Davis (5/27/48 - 2/9/14)

Doris Davis (5/27/48 – 2/9/14)

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.

It’s all I have to bring today (26)
by Emily Dickinson
It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

checking in

Hey everyone, thanks for your kind remarks on my last post, and thank you hugely to those who sent my mom a card – she was so excited! It was great to see her so animated. She had a good couple of weeks between the unexpected (to her) cards from you and a visit from my brother and nephew who flew up from Arizona. :)

We hadn’t seen my nephew since he and Nicky, who are the same age, were tiny toddlers staggering around on pudgy baby legs. A lot has changed since then! We were pretty relieved that he’s as much an animal lover as the rest of us and appears not to have inherited his dad’s severe cat allergy.

Cameron and the cats

crazy cat kids

Uncle Rich came bearing gifts for the kids – real scorpion lollipops from Arizona! They were thrilled and grossed out in equal measures:

scorpion pops

In an attempt to get a picture of Rowen’s – the only one of the kids to actually eat the enclosed scorpion, and she assured us it was all delightfully crunchy – wound up being a funny photobomb of my brother at the breakfast table.


And for those wanting a really detailed view of the wriggly creature at the center of this Tootsie Pop:


Hopefully Rich and Cameron went home without the bug that laid the other kids low. Arden missed over a week of school and though he was feeling almost normal today, he still managed to fall asleep during tonight’s bedtime story:


Rowen stayed home from school today, with Nicky asserting that he is fine (because tomorrow is his birthday party). Sick or not, they’re a pair of goofballs!


Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Thanks for visiting. :)

trying to live in the present moment

Hey friends. Life here at Château Chaos has taken its own direction … as it always does, really – we just like fooling ourselves by thinking we can plan and prepare. Recently I saw this sign and thought, “Yeah, that’s the sum of it.”

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And I’m trying to make my peace with that, to be all Zen with the universe. But it’s difficult. I am a person who will take the hardest route through anything, and always have been. I want to let go and let the universe unfold, but it is seriously hard for me. Well, Life has reminded me once again that neither I, nor anyone else, is in charge of anything. And I’m trying to be grateful for that reminder, because seriously, who am I to think I’m in charge of anything, really?

Last week, my mom’s doctor called me at home – and after nearly 6 weeks of leaving messages asking him to call me, the call alone was perplexing and slightly alarming. The purpose of the call, once I was able to verify that I was understanding him correctly, has been life-changing. My mom has a rare disease called progressive supranuclear palsy, which has been misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years. It is incurable and her case is very advanced. After talking with my aunt and brother, our goal at this point is to make mom’s time with us as full and positive as possible … which is where you come in, friends. My mom used to be a very social, outgoing person who traveled quite a lot. I think it would cheer her a great deal if she could receive cards from new-to-her friends that would brighten her room and give her contact with the outside world. If you had a card that had a picture of your area, or even pasted a picture postcard on a blank card (so it could stand on a dresser), and could maybe send your good wishes and a word or two about happenings in your neck of the woods, that would be extra wonderful. My mom’s mailing address is:

Sonogee Estates
Doris Davis
Room 101
Bar Harbor, ME 04609-1137

I’ll close with a collage of photos I took on my way to visit her on Sunday. We were having a snowstorm.

snowydrive Collage

sometimes it’s a zoo around here!

Patrick and Milo

It has been an interesting week. Interesting as in weird, LOL. We have a pet house goat at the moment – although that’s short-lived. Rowen was determined to house train him, but after the better part of a week, she’s willing to concede defeat. LOL. He is a super sweetie and – other than the pooping-and-peeing-everywhere issue – an ideal little buddy.

Patrick the house goat

A little domestication has also occurred this week. I re-potted all the plants and put them throughout the house. They had all been in the kitchen (where I spend most of my time), where they looked like a jungle, but now that they’re dispersed, it looks like I don’t have any plants. I guess I need more. ;)

plants Collage

There hasn’t been any stitching or suchlike done, although I’ve wanted to. Hopefully soon! Wishing everyone a happy & healthy upcoming week.

between storms, new crises crop up

Whew, it has been quite a ride these past few weeks! Mother Nature is definitely in charge as far as I’m concerned. The weather here in Downeast Maine has been something else … each storm on its own hasn’t necessarily been that bad (except the ice storm) but the rapid-fire delivery is wearing a lot of people down.

Yesterday we woke to find no power and our generator failed to kick in. We turn the heat down to 52 at night, so it was cold in the house, but my big concern was how to water the farm family. The power flickered in and out and every time it resumed, we were filling buckets as fast as possible – but we don’t have 70 gallons worth of buckets and even if we did, the water would freeze if left outside. It was also Niek’s departure for the Netherlands, but our plan of driving him to the airport had to be abandoned and, adding an extra element of anxiety, the car battery was dead. Max also had an away swim competition and needed to be driven to his school to take the team bus. You can imagine the pandemonium of trying to accomplish all these daunting tasks at the same time … and the entire morning was that way – I’d just get something cobbled together to fix one crisis and something else would go wrong. Thankfully, the power came back on and eventually stayed on, the car battery was recharged, Max’s swim meet was cancelled, and Niek made it safely to the airport. A friend came out and put our generator through its paces at the end of the afternoon and assures us that it will be fine, as well as showing me a few basics should anything go awry. (I am hopeless with anything that has moving parts, however.)

After everything was set right and we could stop to breathe, I ordered pizza for dinner and we ate in front of the TV while watching a family movie together – the kids were in bed by 7 and I was not far behind, LOL. Today, I am actually looking forward to doing simple, mindless housework. Yes, you read that right! I have some laundry:

mt washmore

And the dishes are being tended to while I type this. Oh no, that’s not very hygienic is it? Jim, look away! I promise I took the kittens down immediately after taking the pictures and I will wash the dishes twice, LOL.

milo prewash

orca prewash

With all these adorable, wonderful kitties, I feel a bit like Captain Kirk in The Trouble with Tribbles!


While the cats and I tackle the chores, the kids have revamped the living room into something unrecognizable. Everyone else has been talking about how they cleaned their living room after moving the tree out … well, this is what happened to ours. It’s like a condo-fortress kind of thing. You can see Ro and Arden poking out from the ends and those are Nicky’s stripy feet at the bottom.

kid fortresses

And after all is folded, dried, dismantled, and put away, I may pick up a stitching project so it looks like I’m being productive when in fact I’m examining the inside of my eyelids while cozied up in my stitching chair. As crazy as it gets, I know how fortunate I am and I am thankful … though it may take me a few hours or the better part of the day to remember that. ;)

Wishing you calmer days in this young New Year, as well as plenty of fun and togetherness.

greetings in the new year!

I’d planned to post yesterday, but then I realized that I really want to spend less time online in 2014 – and to make that time count better. So I spent the day doing what I value most: having fun hanging out with the kids, enjoying Niek’s company, taking care of the animals, talking to friends and family … you know, those in-real-life moments that are really what it’s all about. :) So hello a day later, and best wishes to everyone.

We invited our closest friends out to celebrate the end of the old year, with Niek spoiling us with the traditional Dutch treats including oliebollen, appelflappen and ertwensoep. I roasted a leg of lamb and glazed some carrots and parsnips. Regina & Paul brought squash soup and Rachael & Tigger brought French brie cheese and champagne. Here’s Niek, perfecting things before our friends’ arrival.

party prep

Everything was delicious, as always, and we all indulged.


Fireworks have recently been legalized in our community and although I am not a fan, I did enjoy Niek’s arrangement for New Year’s Eve. Here he is with his headlamp before any fuses were lit:

master of fireworks

The juxtaposition of fireworks (a summertime occurrence to my mind) and the frigid temps was thrilling.

let there be light

And the kids’ excitement was priceless. :)

the thrill

Rowen had pleaded to be allowed to stay up till midnight so she could watch the ball drop. The waiting was hard, though, and eyelids became heavy. All the kids managed to stay up, though.

waiting for midnight

Yesterday while cuddling with the kids, I also worked on Chicken in a Basket, an oldie from Prairie Schooler (thanks, Maria!). Don’t freak – it’s on Aida! But I had a scrap that was just the right size, and the color (dark maize) coordinates beautifully with the kitchen. And of course, most of my stitching stuff is still packed. So … Aida it is, LOL. I’ll finish this as a hanging pocket for use in the kitchen, a place to safely stash correspondence that needs attention. I’ve joined the Smalls SAL group, hoping that membership will keep me stitching. I want a gorgeous bowl full of smalls to display in the living room. I know I’m running the risk they’ll become cat toys, but I can engage in some wishful thinking, can’t I? ;)

Chicken in a Basket PS

A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.
~Edgar Guest

friday frolics

I’m not sure how a week can feel like it’s been long when there was a holiday in the middle of it, but I have to admit to feeling a bit weary this Friday evening. The boys are enjoying some down town by playing candy crush on Nick’s new Kindle Fire. I’m not sure what Spin is getting out of the experience, but when winter is here, he’s never far from a source of warmth.

male bonding

Rowen is also busy with electronics. Sigh. But I can’t really complain as they all read a great deal as well as playing outside at hours at a go. Speaking of outside, can you believe we have another storm watch this weekend? I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed and to instead focus on the incredible beauty that surrounds us. Even the most mundane sprigs of grass have been transformed into magical fairy elements.



christmas ice Collage

When I’m not outside with the livestock or having fun with the kids or making a mess in the kitchen (or at that job-thing, LOL), I’ve enjoyed stitching time. I’ve finished the first design on my flower ‘thing’. I’m sure its purpose will become clear to me at some point – and for now, just stitching brings enjoyment enough that an end purpose isn’t necessary.


We enjoyed a lovely Christmas. Although it was just the six of us, I was able to speak to my brother, mother, and both of my fathers and step-mothers. I went all traditional in the kitchen this year, making a pork roast, Yorkshire pudding, sautéed red cabbage with mushrooms & carrots, garlic mashed potatoes, and butternut squash.

christmas dinner

We’ll be having best friends over for New Year’s Eve, which has become a tradition, and then Niek will be off to Europe for a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed that the extreme weather will take a bit of break during his absence!

Wishing you all the merriest of this joyful season!

counting down

I’m not sure if we’re just counting down till Santa’s arrival:

PicMonkey Collage

Or till Mother Nature waves her magic wand and relieves us from the ice storm we’ve been struggling under since the weekend. It’s beautiful, but terrible as well.

power lines day two

power lines day two

ice storm Collage

It’s been a regular workweek for me, but during the weekend I found time to put a few stitches in. I finished the fourth tiny Easter ‘patch’ that I’ll use to make Easter treat bags for the kids. This is a terrible picture, but it’s really awfully cute in real life.

Easter Max

And I’ve been working on a series of Fremme designs to make … something. LOL. I’m enjoying the bright colors and uncomplicated design. It’s fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be all about, right?

fremme wip

It was a beautiful weekend in a lot of ways. The kids played …

Ro and Arden gaming

while cuteness happened around the tree.

cuteness under the tree

These last days of the old year may not be what we’d planned for but we’ve been so fortunate throughout it all. Hoping that Santa finds you well and leaves you happy. :)

before we turn the page on 2013

I’ve mentioned before how much I miss blogging … FB is a nice way to stay in touch in an “at-a-glance” way, but I miss slowing down and savoring time with my favorite blogs and bloggers. I’ve finally figured out how to add a blog roll to this template and I promise I’ll update it faithfully if you leave a comment and you aren’t already on the list (I made a list of anyone with a valid blog URL who has commented in the past half year or so). I can’t magic up more time than I have, but I’ll try to put regular blogging nearer the top of the list. I  miss you guys!

Last night, I submitted my last project for the 2013 winter semester and am looking forward to a few weeks off before the next semester begins. I’m going to treat myself by finally taking that spinning class – I need to have a plan in place when I start shearing the sheep next spring! ;) I hope to also find a few good books to read. This year has been a bit disappointing for leisure reading.

Like blogging, stitching has been missing from my life far too often lately and I hope to remedy this. I finished one small gift and have been working on Easter surprises for the kids. I have a stack of framing & finishing that needs to be done (never my strong suit!).

stitching collage

Now that I can’t rush around outside for hours at a time – thank you, Mother Nature, for these lengthier periods of darkness that make us slow down a little bit – I’ve been trying to get the house a little more settled. The kids miss being able to use the living room as a huge free-for-all space, but I’ve enjoyed being able to sit someplace other than the edge of my bed or on a kitchen chair. ;) We did have a nifty little sitting room set up in our bedroom, but when the cold weather struck, it was necessary to bring the remaining boxes of books into the house … and the sitting area was the only ‘free’ space to stack them up. I haven’t done much Christmas decorating, but Niek and the kids picked out a fabulous Christmas tree today.

Tree Trimming Collage

Honestly, Christmas really got ahead of me this year. I did get gifts, but didn’t manage to mail all of them, LOL. I did get cards but the Post Office sent them back to me, claiming they were unstamped (they were when I put them in the big blue box). So I taped on new stamps and … the Post Office returned them again! Apparently you are not allowed to put tape on a stamp. So after spending about $40 to send out cards and getting them back twice, I’m admitting defeat and warning everyone now that there will not be any cards sent out next year. I’m feeling a little hostile toward to the US Post Office …. But despite the lack of ribbons and bows and cards and glitter, we are all having a good time.

the tree is trimmed

We’ve celebrated Arden’s birthday. Can you believe he’s six already? I find it challenging. He wanted chocolate cake with whipped cream, and asked for homemade pizza for his special dinner. I look into those bright brown eyes and feel so incredibly grateful that we were able to have this amazing little boy. I’m grateful for all of them, of course, but with all we went through to get Arden, the feelings come close to overwhelming me sometimes.

birthday boy balloons

birthday boy

Speaking of cute little things, Rowen’s kittens are just painfully adorable and we all love them right to bits. Flip, Twist, and Spin have finally stopped hissing at them so there is peace in our feline kingdom.

kitty Collage

Mother Nature has provided us with a beautiful landscape this winter. It can be a challenge to tend the animals, but when it begins to feel like a little too much, I remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to do these things. And when spring comes, it’s going to be amazing with the baby lambs, goats, and birds. I haven’t decided on a breeding schedule for the hogs yet, but I suspect I’ll delay it a bit to ensure the lambs and goat kids have a good start before introducing anything new. ;)


trees in snowstorm after twilight

I hope that wherever you are on this solstice day, and whoever you’re with, you know that you’re part of an amazing miracle. You are the miracle. :) Wishing you the best as this year makes way for the new year, and hoping that the new months will be full of health and happiness!

The wintry moon is on the wane
and spicy fragrance fills the night
Good luck and good cheer to you my friend
with the New Year and its dawning light.


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