Home Sewn.

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When I saw a basket of large fabric chunks at the Nashville flea market, I dug. When I found this little print I thought it would make a cute skirt (or a tablecloth… which I don’t need… but then again, do I need another skirt….anyhow…). I like the fuzzy red lily of the valley type blooms and the faint square patterning. Anyhow, I used my reliable Simple Modern Sewing: 8 Basic Patterns to Create 25 Favorite Garments by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha book and just went for a basic skirt. In her book it is the Simple A-Line Skirt, project 6a.

I will be honest, her patterns are somewhat confusing for me sometimes. I made this wrap skirt, which turned out as basically a huge skirt you fold over and tie shut. That one gave me a headache, but I do love the result. I also made this shirt, but it turned out so wide I folded it over and altered it a bit. This time I altered the sizing on the waist because it was just oddly large. But, In the end I always walk away with a wearable item from this book, so I keep coming back to it.

And, at the moment I’m so addicted to this orange sweater, I wear it almost every day. It is like wearing a little blanket around me. When Dear Husband saw this on the rack at Cabela’s he said, “Well, you’re buying that, aren’t you?”

He knows me well.

Want to check out Simple Modern Sewing? Click on the Amazon link below.

Tidy Up.

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With new toys and gifts to find places for, decorations to store away, and a few days off of schoolwork, it’s been the perfect time to tidy up.

My new calendar from Paper Source will be admired every day in the kitchen. I coveted their 2013 version, but skipped the purchase. This Christmas during my sister’s visit, we ended up at the store. I showed her the 2014 copy, gushing about how it’s reusable. Cutout lines and projects on the back make recycling each month into fun boxes, folders, and other items so clever! Being the sweet sister she is, she bought it right then in there, but told me she would have to wrap it and put it under the tree. Fair enough.

The old wooden ladder I’ve tried to palm off to my sister since last summer. I have owned it for years, but never have been successful with using it. Now I decided it could be a great gallery of knitted scarves and cowls. Instant art with lights? Instead of only seeing them on us, I figured they would be nice to look at all winter. Come summer I think drying flower and herbs will work there nicely. The star lights are perfectly acceptable year round, don’t you think?

Santa gifted the boys sweet little acorns that are now bedside with the little rock my older son drew a heart on for me. Does it count as clutter if it’s cute?

An $8 repaired Bolga basket is wrangling mittens and coats successfully, finally. Apparently asking the boys to put coats on hooks is too much, but a big ole’ basket on the floor is just the ticket. This poor basket was tucked in a corner at an antique mall and had one problematic cut almost entirely through the handle. I repaired it with wire and scrap leather. It’s just as strong and lovely, making us all happy when my youngest son, can actually locate his winter gear.

And, I suppose I’ve added more clutter with the magnifying glass, but I just couldn’t pass that up at the Nashville Flea Market. Dear Husband glued and solidified it, and I just know it will get plenty of use.

Little organized pockets through the house make me feel a bit calmer and happier, especially when they contain in a cute way.

What are you cleaning up these days?

Natural Dye.

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At the Nashville flea market this past weekend, I reached down to a little pile of wool yarn. The seller, not wanting to let this possible sale away, said “One dollar for all of them.” I read one of the little tags and quickly realized the treasure he didn’t know he had.

“The woman who bought the basket those were in, didn’t want those,” he said. She obviously didn’t know either.

One dollar, one huge smile, and a wad of little swatches of wool later, I had just purchased someone’s hard work of color swatching and labeling natural dyes! Dear husband laughed, telling me my face was sheer happiness as I zipped open the wallet for the dollar bill.

He then asked, “Can you knit with that, what do you do with that?”

“Well sure, it’s yarn, but….” Then I showed him the labels and small samples explaining the details of the work in my hands. He quickly saw the value and the beauty and suggested displaying it something like our feather collection. He is a dear, sweet man:)

Right now I’m at a loss for display ideas (got any?). Until then, I’ll just grab little swatches and carry them from room to room, reading the labels, hoping this natural dye education will absorb. I’ll probably be checking his booth for many fleas to come too!

Doing Laundry By Hand.

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I’ve had my share of broken washing machines and camping trips without laundry service and staring at piles of laundry makes me cranky. To overcome this hurdle I sometimes indulge in doing laundry by hand. I say indulge, because since I don’t have to do it day in and day out, it’s sort of… dare I say…. fun?

I actually adore doing laundry outdoors in beautiful weather. On hot summer days there may not be anything more fun than having your kiddos help! Hand washing laundry gets it just as clean (sometimes cleaner) as a washing machine. It just takes a little time, but on beautiful summer days when we are hot and stuck home, well, it’s the perfect chore. Water is the instant magnet for the boys, and their help does make the job more pleasant and faster.

I have a Wonder Wash machine which works very well when we travel. However, I just got a washboard to try. I’m finding it’s awesome for tough stains and hand washing the boys’ stuffed toys. Now I’m becoming partial to the washboard for its portability, storability and high suds action. It’s an amazing workout for the biceps too! Since I’ve purchased it, I’ve honestly been grabbing it down at least weekly to use. Perhaps it’s the novelty, perhaps it’s the exercise, whatever it is, I’m enjoying it for now.

Cold Process Soap.

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What might look like sugar cookie dough or misshapen pats of butter just looks like beauty to me. Like a toddler’s stick person drawing or incorrectly buttoned sweater, these funky rounds are my first attempt at cold process soap making, and I’m just as proud! A friend and I shared a wonderful morning sipping tea and coffee while learning cold process soap making with Sue from Bountiful Acres. Not only was she willing to teach us how to make soap, she let us perform the tasks ourselves (instead of watching only to forget later). Plus we got to pet and adore her fluffy flock of 35 sheep (and many more sweet animals), and gather up feathers for the boys collection when they arrived to pick me up.

Sue was a great teacher, encouraging, reassuring, and empowering. Like the toddler grown to adulthood, I am ready to strike out and fail and/or succeed at my very own batch at home very soon. I’ve just got a few more supplies to gather up. This is one homesteader’s task I’m excited to experiment with. Have you attempted Cold Process Soap Making? Taken a class? Do you have any tips?

A Little Cabin in the Woods.

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My older son tends to be nonchalant and matter-of-fact. That makes his joke delivery very slick, but sometimes I miss the importance of things he’s spotted. When he was young, maybe 3 years old, we asked him to run to the front of our house during a tremendous downpour. Husband and I were watching the water stream down the corn field, pour through our back yard, and literally wash a large top layer of our gravel driveway down to the stream. We sent him to the front window for a report on the driveway as well. He came back with, “nothing really guys, just a an owl.” Dad and I dashed to the front yard to see a huge owl, soaked to the core, resting just a few feet from our front porch. It was really amazing. Something that would have elicited a “COME HERE! LOOK!” sort of response.

Another time, while hiking at Mesa Verde National Park, he was curious about what was behind the back of a antiquated cement block bathroom near the parking lot. I watched him walk to the end, shrug, and walk back to me. I asked him what he saw, to which he replied, “horses.” “With people,” I questioned. “No,” he responded and kept his path towards the car. I assumed now he was talking about a sign and asked such. Again he responded with no. At that point I was very curious, and I walked around back to see three wild horses! That is something that would have made me gesture wildly towards anyone nearby to hurry over and see.

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So, this week when I mentioned I was going to a garage sale (that dear husband had tipped me off to, one where he picked some good stuff earlier in the month) my son casually mentioned he saw a log cabin and he would like it if it was still for sale. A log cabin at a garage sale could be a lot of things, not many good. However, I promised him if I saw it I’d get it for him, wondering what I’d encounter. It turned out he came with anyhow and spotted the log cabin before me. I was not at first impressed by the cabin as it was tipped sideways, broken, and dusty with the small back room section laying out of sight, on the ground, but fortunately in tact. Hmmm. I tried to talk him out of it. I told him it was a big project that we might just want to leave alone. He looked unhappy and my mother guilt made me dig harder at the broken creation. I started realizing the potential here. It looked completely handmade, and when we found the room on the floor I figured with some dusting and hot glue it could be pretty interesting.

Five dollars later, (well more, we bought some other stuff too…), we were in possession of a really dirty, broken, but handmade and one of a kind cabin the now previous owner stated she purchased in South Carolina. We set to work dusting it and cleaning it at home and I started getting more and more excited. This was actually a pretty impressive cabin! Someone hand cut each log and nailed them together one by one. The chimney is grouted, and the furniture looks hand carved. Two days later I set to work with the hot glue to see if I could restore this to the original creator’s vision, hoping to do it justice. Handling it with more care as it cleaned up, I started telling my son this cabin was amazing. Pointing out the hand carved details, tiny nails, and wiring for lights, I suggested we fix it up a bit more. Perhaps I’ll sew a little quilt and some pillows.

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I’m thankful for my son’s selective eye and should have trusted his judgement straight away. He saw gold with this little cabin and I’m proud we brought it to fruition together. So now, it’s proudly displayed in the kitchen for all to see. We’ve got some minor roof repairs and details we can add together, but that can happen slowly and evolve over time. I asked my son why he liked it and he shrugged, “I don’t know, it’s just cool.” I should not have expected a different reply from this fella.

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This little cabin reminds me of two things. First, it immediately brought back memories of a book I used to read to the boys when they were toddlers entitled Henry Builds a Cabin. Henry (Thoreau – but as a bear) builds a very small cabin. His friends stop by and ask where he will be able to do certain things, like read books or dance, in such a small cabin. Henry always suggests lovely outdoor spaces for said activities. It’s a sweet tale showing the positive features of small spaces. It also makes me remember how sweet it was when we lived in a small space as well, a few years ago. Our family of four, with two dogs, spent 11 months living in a bus. Something I know to which we will return someday because we enjoy traveling and small spaces.

Perhaps one day we’ll live in a little cabin, or my oldest son will. Perhaps he’ll call and say, “I bought a cabin,” in his laid back style. Perhaps not. Today we have a house, some space, and a little handmade cabin in the kitchen atop a cabinet and that’s pretty cool too.

Building a Compost Pit.

I got pretty lazy about compost. Everything that is compostable does actually get composted, but rather I got pretty darn lazy about actually keeping and tending the compost pile. When our house was for sale in Illinois I got into the habit of just chucking the compost on a steep hill in really tall grass just along our woods. I wasn’t saving it since we’d be moving, so it just needed a place to go.

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Honestly, that is the same routine I fell into here as well. I would take a quick daily walk down the hill and chuck our compostables into a pile just outside the mowing zone along the forest edge.

Then we got chicks. Holy cow, every week’s bedding from the brooder started getting a little ridiculous to haul down the hill! Also, I started seeing the possibilities of this large quantity of compost, and realized something needed to change.

I told my husband my plight and wouldn’t you know it, last Saturday when I was helping a friend I got a text with a  photo of a complete compost pit area! He located it just behind the shed and off the driveway. Frankly this is a much nicer walk and easier access to our gardens, while the tractor can easily access it from the driveway for turning as well. What a thrill! It’s been a long time coming, but I’m getting back into the compost mood.

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Chickens Coming Home To Roost.

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We have been working on a chicken tractor for our six chicks these past couple of weeks. First Dad welded the bottom cage where the chickens will be able to roam during the day (and eat bugs!). Easter weekend we added the wooden coop complete with doors to get to nesting boxes and a door that will drop from the floor. Yesterday the boys and I painted the inside of the coop a pale blue. I read in the South coops are painted light blue to deter flies. My older sons likes to point out that the chickens job is to EAT bugs so we shouldn’t deter them, but it makes the inside wood protected and it just looks nice too. chickenscominghometoroostpailandpie4

A lot of it is salvaged, which is excellent! The paint was $2 at Lowe’s because the customer didn’t want it after it was mixed. Our chickens won’t care if the color is off…I hope. I’m very excited our general plan lent to modifications along the way allowing us to use up the materials we had on hand or found.

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When the boys and I painted yesterday, this sweet little smiley face got covered, but we’ll always know it was there for when the chickens are coming home to roost.

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We are anxious to get this project wrapped up and the chickens in the yard instead of the garage brooder. My aunt said we’ll probably have eggs this August. My oh my, this is going to be cool!

Apple Orchard.

appleorchardpailandpie1 Two years ago in Autumn we planted a small apple orchard. After checking a few times I’m happy to see our ten trees are going strong and powered through this tough Tennessee winter. (Our two figs did not, bummer.)

Last year I discovered Cedar Apple Rust is very prevalent locally, and indeed noticed the spots on our leaves and twisted tree growth last year. I researched organic orcharding options for this rust and read advice from cutting down the cedar trees (absolutely unachievable considering everyone around us and for miles has cedars) to spraying something similar to baking soda, Potassium Bicarbonate . I have learned, like most things in life, prevention is the key. So last week I started our 7 day rotation of spraying. There are cedar rust resistant trees, but unfortunately I learned this too late.

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Anyhow, this morning when I was spraying I enjoyed a wonderful rainbow and multiple blooms and here’s hoping we’ll keep that rust at bay.

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Spring Color.

springcolorpailandpie2 Yesterday it was in the 70’s, today it’s supposed to be 76 degrees. I hung laundry on the line while my trusted dog basked nearby. It’s a great thing to be able to air dry three loads in one day! Purples, blues, yellows, and greens all hung tightly to the line ready to sunbathe and dry. It’s right on cue with the blooming gardens around. Late this winter I was complaining about the ugly brown canvas outdoors, but it’s changed again.

Now we can get back into the fresh flowers on Mondays since there are plenty of wonderful choices. This hyacinth my youngest son loved and wanted to bring indoors. I have so few I usually let them alone, but honestly, she smells so sweet and is lovely on our table.

I know I’m a little late, but welcome spring.

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