Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Progress of Sorts

We knew a foot of snow was predicted, but even working diligently, we only managed to clean the shop and get two trips of display fixtures installed today before the storm hit us. Closing in on the one week mark before our Pop Up Shop, Creatively Maine, opens its doors, I have a list of to-dos as long as my arm and remarkably little time to get them neatly checked off. Thankfully, I have many friends and family willing to help us. And, Sean has been crowned the King of Schlepping; Long may he reign.

Tomorrow, I will have pictures for you of the silly animals playing in the deep, wet snow or of new pieces that I am creating in the studio. There are batches of fresh homestead goat's milk soaps to make. And, new bee's wax wraps to whip up. But, I thought that while Sean and I care for these chores, you might like to meet some of the artisans who are going to be available at our shop... Yes? Well, your wish is granted. ♥

To make it as easy as can be for you to see more samples of each artisan's creations, below are live links to their online pages. We hope you'll drop by the shop on Opening Day. The doors will open at 11 am. And, in the meantime, please, enjoy...

River Wind Woolies
One Woman Studio
Cathy's Crafts
Rose Whitehead Fiber Fabrications
Maddock Stitches
Cherrie Creations

The Woodshapers Shop of Maine
Riff Wood Picks

Lally Broch Farm
Blueberry Bay Beads
Glass Orchids
Foxfire Designs

October Field Farms
Gentle Meadow Goat Farm

We have other artisans joining us, offering original watercolor paintings, acrylic on slate, pottery, mosaic tile and home decor. We are so excited about this venture and are looking forward to meeting new friends and welcoming familiar faces. Remember, Opening Day is December 4th at 11:00 am. Open House begins at 4pm with refreshments, hourly drawings all day, and you can receive 10% off your purchase during the Open House by bringing in a non-perishable food item for us to donate to our local food pantry. We sure hope to see you there!

~Sonja ♥

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Butterflies in my Stomach; Determination in my Step

What do you get when you throw out a challenge to Dave Milan of the Town of Bucksport and Leslie Wombacher of The Bucksport Chamber of Commerce regarding the topics of shopping small, spending your money locally, and helping to bring hope and life into the town of Bucksport's Business Community in the wake of the announcement of the closing of Verso Mill?


This one is mine. The home of Creatively Maine.
Open House December 4th from  4pm - 7pm

Last Thursday, Leslie approached me to discuss the opportunity to host a "Pop Up Shop" in one of Bucksport's empty shop fronts beginning on December 4th. The Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Bucksport had teamed up with an idea to bring more local shopping options for the town's people. Twelve days to turn a completely empty store front to a fully-stocked local shop? With their support, the backing of the building owners, and the help of other local businesses, like Bangor Savings Bank, what seemed improbable became a reality.


A shop of my own on Main St, Small Town America. Brick and Mortar. This blank canvas will soon be filled with needful things, homey creations made one at a time with respect and love by your neighbors.

What will fill this space? Goods made from wood: turned bowls, carved serving boards, outdoor furniture, wooden toys meant to last for generations, baskets, guitar picks and more. Fabric Designs: felted mittens and hand-dyed and felted hats, shawls, mason jar cozies, original designer clothing, recycled bags, purses, snapper towels, bee's wax wraps, pillows, crocheted children's character hats, and fabric bowls. Homestead soaps, lotions, massage oils, candles, and scent tarts to pamper and delight your senses. Original paintings, pottery, and glass designs- things to please the eye and with the magic to help transform a house into a home. And, a selection of jewelry created from eggshells, wampum, altered art pieces, hand-crafted glass beads, silver and copper work. And, so much more. ♥ I am so blessed to personally know each of the 21 artisans who are committed to adding their unique touch to this shop.

Together, we are Creatively Maine. 

Creatively Maine will be open for business through the month of December.

Our hours are:
Thurday, Friday and Saturday from 11 am -7 pm and
Sundays from 11 am - 5 pm.

Join us for our Grand Opening on December 4th. We'll have hourly drawings all day. You're Invited to our Open House from 4 pm - 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served. In an effort to give back to the Bucksport Community, we are pleased to offer a 10% discount when you bring in a non-perishable food item with you to Open House. We'll donate your items to the local food cupboard. On Saturday, December 6th, join us for "Meet the Designer". Visit with Artisans to talk about their craft and see live demonstrations through the day.

For the Month of December, please pledge to shopping locally. Every dollar spent within our community directly supports the families that make up the backbone of our towns. Together, we all make a difference.

Thanks for sharing today's exciting news with us friends. We'll share more images of Creatively Maine and its products as it takes shape here and on our Lally Broch Farm facebook page.

~Sonja ♥ 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Progress in the Garden Beds

The freak, early winter snow did not stay. With the help of some rain, it is almost completely gone from the ground. It is certainly gone from the raised beds, which tend to warm and thaw faster in the Spring and freeze later in the Winter than the earth does- at least that has been our experience.

In our last post, we shared how we accept the help of our willing hens to clear out the garden beds and ready them for a few months of winter rest. Once we pull the last of the veggies in a particular bed, we no longer weed it. Whatever grows, grows. The chickens don't mind at all.
This is how we left you. The garden beds were mostly bare after the chickens and goats ate what they wanted and scratched through the dirt.

We could go through and remove every bit of green left, but we don't. It will decompose as green matter rather nicely and add to the nutrients in the soil for next Spring's garden. We added a good layer of composed manure- courtesy of our goats, chickens, and horse- and call the garden done for the year. Two wheel barrel's full in each section is plenty- both for the beds and our tired muscles.

Our garden beds were roughly 10 inches deep this year. In the Spring, we will add another untreated 2x4 to the top rail and another layer of garden soil to top up the bed. In the fall, we'll repeat the process of adding more composted manure. Year after year, the garden soil grows richer and deeper giving us the hope of growing more veggies to feed our family and some of yours. CSA shares only deliver for 18-20 weeks of the year, but the planning is a year-round venture.

Look how dark and rich this soil is! And, it was just FULL of worms- there must have been thousands of them, we figured. This is a very good sign for the health of the soil and compost in these beds. I am already excited to get some seedlings transplanted or seeds direct sown in them when the weather breaks.

This image also points out some room for improvement in our design. The crushed rock pathways over blue tarps helped keep out unwanted growth and it was visually appealing. It did a great job and I am happy we chose to use it, though it made for extra work initially.  In the coming year, we'll expand the pathways to go around the outside edge of the garden. Having the lawn grow up around exterior of the garden made mowing the lawn near the beds difficult. This addition will mean some extra work and expense, but I think it will definitely save time in maintenance and care in the future.

The chickens love digging in the compost
pile. Leghorn hen was scratching for worms.
We have plans to add four completely new garden beds to this existing garden area in the Spring and complete several beds in the backyard. Once we get all the garden beds laid out and filled, the ultimate goal is to build a greenhouse over the top of the front garden area to extend our growing season. We're always dreaming about the next season, but that is part and parcel of living this homestead life we've chosen.

Sean spent much of his Saturday working on necessary projects before the weather turns for good. These included cleaning out the accumulation of both useful and useless items collecting dust in a couple of the empty barn stalls. One stall is completely empty and the milk stands have been re-homed inside the barn. It is nice to milk in the open air and watch the goings on in the yard while we do, but milking in the freezing cold is not pleasant- for anyone involved. This small change will allow us to collect milk in relative comfort for the next six weeks. And, then, we all get a reprieve for a few months.

A second stall is very nearly empty and will soon be the winter digs of one Ebony pig- hopefully by this coming Saturday. Miss Ebony has ridden out the short snaps of cold, comfortable within her warm mound of hay, but she rarely ventures outside these days. This is a sure sign that it is time for the autumn trek up the hill and into the barn. She grunts, hollers, and complains the whole way there, but once coerced, she settles in just fine.

Asher escaped into the doe pen Sunday. The pasture with no
less than FOUR perfectly good does to woo proved insufficient.
 The only thing to do was visit the main doe pen. You know,
the pen full of does we are NOT intending to breed this year.
Lastly, Sean cleared an area upstairs for the turkeys to spend the winter. I joke that when the weather changes, the barn begins to resemble Noah's Ark. All the animals tucked in and riding out the winter months. For the humans, it just makes more sense to have everyone all together in one area to tend. And, we feel that what the animals lose in space to wander, they gain in warmth and safety.

We are running behind in getting the wood stacked neatly inside the barn and shed, but we're doing the best we can to make some progress. Sean planned on using a vacation day to get in a good work here, but we all came down with a cold and spent a couple miserable days walking around like hacking, green-oozing zombies. No work on the wood was accomplished. We are on the tail end of things now and the hope is that Sean will have a five day weekend beginning on the 26th. We are praying the weather holds that long so we can work together to get this wood under some cover. It has to be done either way, but it is so much easier to do without having to dig out the wood from under snowdrifts, too.

$24.00 Snow Earrings
Sterling Silver French Hook
While Sean was getting the barn straightened out, I spent Saturday meeting some new friends and visiting with some familiar faces at Celtic Moon Rising Fashion and Gifts in Brewer, Maine. Matt and Lorie Garrett carry a selection of our unique Mosaic Eggshell Jewelry in stock and they were celebrating their Two Year Anniversary last Saturday. They invited me to join them. I was a little nervous about painting with an audience, since I usually paint in the relative peace of my studio, but everyone was so kind. It was a busy day, but I enjoyed myself immensely. And, I am thrilled with some of the new pieces I painted while I was there, especially, this birch tree pendant set and these sweet, snowy earrings. You can see other pieces we have created on our Facebook page. If you see something you love, just drop me a message and I can help you with that.

I think we make a great team, Sean and I. We much prefer working together to complete projects, but sometimes divide and conquer has its benefits. This week was one of those weeks. Here's hoping that next week is a "work together" weekend! :)

Thanks for popping in to visit today, friends. I am glad you did.
Sonja ♥

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gardening with Chickens

It dawned on me while writing a recent post how often I begin with the weather; what is has done, what it is doing, or what we are anticipating to happen. This makes absolute perfect sense when you take into account how much everything we do is affected by Mother Nature and her whims. We are always, ALWAYS preparing for the coming season and its unique needs.

In the winter time, between chipping out water buckets and keeping everyone as comfortable as possible, we spend time planning Spring gardens. Using the deep litter method, our various stalls decompose into a rich compost mix for those anticipated herb and veggie beds and serves double duty of increasing the floor heat in the barn and coop, too. Winter is the time to get ahead on our stores and stock up on making farm products like soaps, scents, and massage melts. Cozy in front of the wood stove or busy at my desk, I dream up and bring to life new eggshell jewelry designs for the summer markets.
March Baby, Jemimah.

June guinea keets and chicks hatching.
Spring thaw brings life. The animals who have hunkered down and endured the long winter months cooped up in the barn are ready to move to their seasonal homes- Ebony to her pig house and private yard and the turkeys to their roomy run. The goats leave off their accusing glares over the snow and cold keeping them inside and venture into their pastures once again. We are forgiven. In the woods, brush, scrub, and brambles bloom new shoots for the goats to enjoy and tame. The growth they strip leaves the ground below open and exposed for new grasses to take root. The young trees they assault with their hunger become kindling to heat our home through next winter's months. Goat's kid and milk begins to flow. Months spent without fresh cheese feed our appetite for fresh herb chevre, feta, and ricotta. Seeds are started in the greenhouse. The litter in the stalls is cleaned out and top dressed on our garden beds. As soon as the ground breaks, the hens begin working the garden beds for us- removing all the unwanted weeds that inevitably sprout and take root and mixing in the compost for us. When they are finished, our work of planting onions, beets, lettuces, peas and other early crops begin. CSA shares begin.

Harvest time!
Summer's warmth signals the time for nests to be made and set upon in earnest. Soon the peep-peep-peep of chicks, ducklings, goslings, and poults abound. Egg production increases and soon we are collecting nearly 14 dozen eggs each week. Seedlings get transplanted into the garden beds; tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, and direct seeding of corn, pumpkin, and beans begins. Our local farmer's markets are in full swing. Farm work increases, too. There is weeding to do, mucking stalls, checking fencing, adding fencing, repairing barns, building new coops or pens all to plan and execute. CSA shares are in full swing. We pick the veggies when they are ripe to distribute to the neighbors who have signed up for our shares. We preserve our supply as we go; canning or freezing as the need may be.

Sean manning our booth at Belfast Art Market
Leah and Rachel
And, then, just as suddenly as it came upon us, summer wanes and autumn takes over. The nights take on a pleasant bite. We keep a watchful eye for frost predictions. It becomes a game of calculated risk as to when to pull the last of the onions, carrots, pumpkins and beets from the garden. Wood cutting and stacking becomes a priority. Late babies need extra care. Places are prepared in the barn. It will soon be time to move Ebony and the turkeys back to the barn. We'll hold off as long as possible, but by early December, it will be necessary. Shops that carry our goods gear up for the busy shopping season. Keeping up with demand for our mosaic eggshell jewelry, bee's wax wraps, snapper towels, scent tarts, massage melts and soaps requires careful planning and diligent work. This is our busiest sale time, too, at local craft fairs and art market events.

And, this is where we were last week. We should have been working on getting the last of the wood cut and stacked in the shed. Instead, Mother Nature threw us a bit of a curve ball- a freak autumn storm with over a foot of snow and 40 mile an hour winds to take down trees and leave much of the state of Maine without power for several days- several thousand homes are still without as I write this. We fare better than many without power. We heat our home with the wood stove and that was unaffected. We cook on a propane stove and can still use the stove top. Our well overflows outside at the pump (one benefit of living in a swamp!) and we had access to fresh water to drink and cook with. We melted snow on the wood stove to heat to wash dishes and flush toilets. Internet was available on my cell phone, which could be charged with our van's battery.

The only real worry in our world, besides keeping the animals safe, was the danger of flooding in the basement in the aftermath. Our electric sump pump generally keeps the basement dry and with the addition three years ago of a supplemental battery backup to it, we have had no real issues with it- until now. No power and a foot of melting snow combined to create about a half inch of water slowly seeping its way across the basement floor. Not good. And, with power out, trees down, and roads unsafe, we were in a pickle. Sean tried to rig and use the new truck battery to run the pump, but that did not work. Then, he thought of the plastic hand pump attached to a barrel in the back yard. He removed the hand-pump section and cobbled together a system with a 5 gallon bucket to create a make-shift pump. Rudimentary, but effective while the power was out. Sean removed approximately 50 gallons of water using this method and saved any damage to the basement furniture. Once power was restored, Cait and the girls employed the shop vac and old work towels to suck up the rest of the mess and dry the floor. We will be adding a new backup system to the list of "must haves" before winter.

In anticipation for winter's arrival, we moved all the hens to the front garden area. Why use machinery or make time to care for this chore, when we have 60 hens willing and able to handle the job? Even the bucklings got into the action. Between them, our garden beds are looking bare and ready to be tucked in with some compost for its winter rest. This is how we garden with chickens:

Our Toms in the front: Aquila and Lazarus and the hens in the back looking on. 
Both Blue Slate and Red Breasted Bronze turkeys went for a bit of a "walk about" after the storm to explore and see what was new in the world. They wandered past an abandoned chick-brooder house and got as far as the pig pen yard. The snow proved to be an excellent distraction for them. They went no further and Sean returned them to their home upon his return.

Their necks and heads are bright and handsome, but those poor wet tail feathers!

I have been trying to buy out time to finish creating the video and upload images to go along with this post. With the shows, snow, and everything else we are pulled upon to care for, it has taken me a week. I hope you enjoy this update. I appreciate your company. Thanks for stopping by, friends.

Sean and Sonja ♥