The Workings of Winter


This winter has been a work in progress, and full of learning and changes.

This winter I was blessed with the ability to purchase a spinning wheel and I am learning to spin.  It is not as easy as it looks on YouTube videos, let me tell you.  I have made a cowl out of the first bunch of yarn that I spun so that I would have it to look back on and see my progress.  I can make better yarn now, but it is still not consistent, but I am proud of my accomplishment.  This is something that I have wanted to learn for a long time.   Go me!


Another skill that I have wanted to learn is how to tan hides.  I researched online and found some basic instructions and started in.  This is not as fun of a process…..because the website that I believed in would not stand behind the stuff they published nor would they help me figure out what I did wrong.  So the lesson here is to research the people before I take on their instructions.  And this website wants me to purchase products from them or to hire them as teachers.  None of that will ever happen with these people.  I guess that is something else that I had to learn.  So now I have to find some other source to help me figure things out.  But I have one hide tanned, but it is not soft as I would have liked.  And I stretched and pulled on it for hours……so I am not sure that was the mistake.  I will try again, with another set of instructions.


I have also taken time to work on restoring my wood cookstove.  I spent a day scraping all the rust and stuff off of every part of it.  I have the base painted and polished, the stove placed on it, and the oven sanded and painted.  I am looking forward to using it soon.  I have used a wood cookstove before.  The other one had been stored in a barn and was in real bad shape, but it still worked.  This one is a pure treasure with a boiler, a warming oven and minimal rust and corrosion to have to repair.


Those are the fun projects.  The others that we have tackled this winter is to transform the current dairy room/milking parlor into separate rooms.  I have had to reshape my milking stand to fit the narrower space of a separate milking parlor but I will still have the ability to milk two does at a time. I now have my refrigerator in the room that I work with my milk and a cabinet that was hiding in the loft has come down the stairs and made its debut.  This cabinet has been in the loft for untold number of years waiting for its time.  I will post pictures of this when we get it finished.  Next weekend we will paint.


We have crossed fenced a small portion of the main pasture so that we can keep the animals off the bulk of it which we have seeded and are thrilled with watching the green starting to pop out.  I love spring.  It brings hope and promise.

We have had the great good fortune to have finally purchased a truck so that we can do our own hauling.  One weekend, Katrina and I loaded, hauled, and unloaded 3 large loads of wood chips and spread them on the areas that we walk on all winter that had gotten muddy and slippery.  We were tired and sore, but looking at the accomplishment is nothing short of amazing.


Katrina and I have also spent several weekends making soaps and lotions for our store.  We have added several new scents that are amazing.  Check out the store and see the descriptions there.  Katrina’s favorite is the “Warm Grass” Soap.  It reminds her of walking in the meadow with her best friend, lying down in the grass, talking, laughing, and living the freshness of her world.

One thing that I tried was felting some soap.  At first I did not like the process……but…..I love the finished work.  Felting soap is putting pieces of wool on soap in crisscross pattern and then getting it hot and wet and working the wool into a matted washrag.  Then as you wash with it the wool keeps shrinking around the soap and provides a light exfoliating action as you bathe.  I have really liked using it so I will make some of those for the store also.  If there is a soap scent that you would like felted, let me know and I will get on it for you.

There are so many things that have taken up our time that I forget all that we have done.  I am starting to keep a journal so that I can look back and see what we have accomplished.  I pruned all of the apple and pear trees in one day.  I have a garden to put in…..but not before we fence out the free range chickens.  We have a chicken house to build and a very old barn to rebuild….hopefully before it falls on the pigs as they scratch themselves on the rotten beams that hold the old thing together.  Farrowing sheds to prepare, kidding pens to clean.  And before the kidding…..I have to finish the remake of the dairy room.  It has to be ready for the girls when milking time comes again.

About Janolyn

I am a mother of 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. During the years that my children were growing up, we grew most of our own food with a vegetable garden, many fruit trees and berry patches. I grew flowers for joy. We milked goats and raised our own meats and eggs. I learned to make my own cheeses, butter, canned foods, sourdough, and fermented foods. I made our own health products like soap, hand creams, lip balm, and herbal tinctures. We live off the power grid and have learned to do without conveniences that most Americans consider essential. The land clearing and building has been mostly accomplished with hand tools; some of them even the right tool for the job. After a couple of miscarriages between #2 and #3 due to “standard medical procedures”, I consulted a midwife and my last 3 children were born safely at home. That was when I was first alerted to the fact that doctors did not know everything nor would they have the time to share it with their patients if they did. As I learned the basic principles of heath-through-nutrition from my midwife, I learned alternative gardening practices from her husband. That introduction started a lifelong love of learning the practical life of our ancestors. I want to share what I have been learning with you and learn from those who are also living a sustainable life.

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