Spring Reenactment

Last month we decided to attend a local small reenactment. There’s not really that much to the event, but we thought it would be fun to get the kids dressed up and see what they thought about it all. (and still be close enough to retreat home for naptime!)

As always….the event started out the night before with last-minute sewing… Marian was still able to squeeze into her last outfit, but Alan didn’t have anything. I had a little dress nearly done for him that I had been working on slowly for the last few months. (yes, boys wore dresses in the 19th century at least until after potty training was complete) It was quickly finished, but I also decided that if I didn’t have time to do anything else, I should at least make a couple of little sunbonnets to protect against sunburn, so those I stayed up working on late after the babies were sleeping.

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These bonnets were made from a pattern I’ve used for adult sunbonnets before – one taken from a Godey’s Lady’s Magazine from 1857.

wpid-20160514_111643.jpgThe day ended up being chilly, so hoods might have been more appropriate, but oh well! Marian and Alan looked quite darling all dressed up! Marian just loved having a “pettitote” to make her dress  “go round and round” better.

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Alan in his little blue dress was just too adorable! I thought he wouldn’t like wearing that much fabric, but he really didn’t seem to notice. Jordan and I hadn’t worn our reenactment clothing in a while, so it was fun to be in character for a day!

wpid-20160514_160225.jpgwpid-20160514_160245.jpgSome one getting sleepy!

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The battle, which took place in the streets of the small town, was pretty loud and close, so the kids and I took refuge in their Nana’s shop on main street where they could see and hear but not be too frightened. They had a grand time playing with her spinning wheels!

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After the battle we returned home and let the kids have a long nap. By the time they woke up it was time to make the short drive back to town for the dance. We had a good time, got to dance quite a bit – there was a live military band, so that was lovely – but the best part was seeing how enthusiastically Marian and Alan danced with each other! It was a good ending to an enjoyable day…

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Split Rail Fence

Earlier this spring, we got around to starting on our fence which will, when finished, run the perimeter of our little homestead. The fence is built of split cedar rails, made by splitting eastern red cedar logs that are around 8 inches in diameter into fourths lengthwise, and is modeled after those commonly used up into the early 20th century in America.
A steel splitting maul with a 6 pound head is used as a hammer, and a combination of wooden and steel wedges are driven into the logs to split them. More traditionally, a large wooden mallet would have been used to drive wooden wedges, called gluts, to do the splitting.

To start the split, the first wedge is driven into the end of the log.

 

As the crack forms and widens, another wedge is inserted and driven in to widen the crack further.

As the second wedge is driven in, and the crack grows, the first wedge loosens and is removed. It is now leap-frogged over the other wedge, and driven in again, further up the log.

The split is continued to the end of the log, and then the resulting log halves are split into quarters. It is usually easier to split the log halves than it is the first split.

I consider this quite enjoyable work. As the wood splits it makes a very loud satisfying crackling sound. Split wood also lasts longer than wood cut by a sawmill, because the split follows the fibrous grain of the wood, while a saw cuts the wood with no regard to the direction of the grain, and leaves a sort of fuzzy surface which soaks up water.

When ever I see a good building rock – one that is somewhat square – I gather it from the creek bed for future use. These rocks or stacks of rocks  8 to 12 inches high are placed in a zigzag pattern which straddles the line the fence is to follow, and the first rails are set in place. The rocks add some height, and will keep the wooden rails away from the damp ground, helping the already-rot-resistant cedar wood to last even longer.

Got some great help from our dear friends, Jesse and Alice from over at The Wright Family Farm.

Marian and Alan love to watch anything that is being done outside. They’re joined here by little Gavin.

The finished fence will be stacked 5 rails high, with vertical braces and an added top rail, which add stability to the fence and bring it to about 6 feet in height.

This type of fence is sturdier than you might think from simply being stacked – once the height is completed the weight of the wood is considerable, and the rails and sections of fence lock together well. We also like how it provides a significant visual barrier (as opposed to a hot-wire fence for instance) and we are hoping this will discourage any escape-minded animals we may have in the future, as well as acting as a deterrent to the occasionally wandering critters belonging to neighbors. Looking forward to trying it out with livestock. Until then, we love how picturesque the split-rail fence is and are anxious to add more sections!

So far, only a little corner of the fence is (mostly) done. Lots more to build!

Two Blue Dresses

I’ve been doing a bit more dress sewing lately. Mostly it’s been dresses for Marian, but I did actually finish one for myself (it’s only been in progress since last summer….sigh.) This is another experimental pattern in my ongoing study of house dresses adapted for modern use. (see the last one here)

This pattern is an authentic 1860’s bodice pattern, but instead of fitting it snugly over a corset as I normally would, I adapted it to fit more loosely to accommodate early pregnancy and post pregnancy bumps. 1860s bodices are well suited for this as they sit ever so slightly higher than the natural waistline. The buttons down the front also make the dress nursing friendly. At my current time of life I want to make all these things a consideration, because anything I make and like, I definitely want to be able to wear as frequently as possible! I’ve been so frustrated with much of my pre-marriage wardrobe being useless since pregnancy and nursing have happened, I certainly don’t want my handmade things to hang in the closet unused!

Since this was an experiment I used some scrap fabric I had – a piece of blue and white check fabric – and I actually didn’t have enough so I had to use another small scrap of similar blue and white check (you can see the subtle color difference) for the wide hem and the binding on the neck and sleeves. I also added a bit of lace to the hem to ease the visual transition. The dress has a ‘low lining’ (another handy technique learned from the super smart 19th century seamstresses) which means the lining has a lower neckline than the dress. You can see the faint line of the lining in the above picture. This means there is less fabric around the neck and shoulders, thus making the dress quite a bit more cool and breathable for warm weather. The skirt is a simple rectangular gathered skirt, quite full, but not nearly as full as a true 1860s skirt would be, and shorter.

I really love wearing this dress! It’s very comfortable for all sorts of housework, and it’s perfect for aprons! Marian’s dresses lately have been all upcycled thrifted pieces. Mostly men’s shirts turned into button front dresses. The one she is wearing in these pictures was an xlarge men’s shirt which appeared to be brand new in a beautiful indigo linen! She always checks to make sure her dresses go ’round and round’, and this one seems to pass the test. I hope to do a post soon showing more of her upcycled shirt dresses.

I ran out of the blue linen shirt material just short of finishing the neckline, so it’s finished with a tiny piece of my left over blue check dress fabric. Which doesn’t bother her – she loves for us to ‘match’!

I have so many more ideas about practical everyday house dress that I want to experiment with – modern smock patterns to 1940s reproductions, and more Victorian inspired ones…. but it is very slow progress right now. Alan is walking now, and in the process of potty training so I spend most of my time chasing kids instead of sewing….which is as it should be!

Scenes of Spring

wpid-20160318_080026.jpgI thought about naming this post “Eggs, eggs, and more eggs”. But I didn’t. It would have been appropriate, though – as you shall see shortly.

When we returned from our 3-week Texas trip that ended with brother #2 getting married, (yay!) we were glad to see that spring hadn’t sprung yet on the homestead. We didn’t want to miss any of it! Over the past few weeks it has been creeping in bit by bit, and we’ve been soaking in every drop.

One of the first things we found out when we returned, were that our chickens were laying – a lot.

wpid-20160317_084625.jpgMarian has been so excited about gathering eggs! In fact, we do it at least twice a day. Both kids will get in the stroller and I will push them around to the various nests we have discovered to see if there are any new-laid additions. We also have one ‘mommy chicken’ as Marian calls her, who is sitting on about 20 eggs. So, we shall see if any of them hatch in the next couple of weeks….

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In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use a lot of eggs in cooking, which thankfully isn’t hard to do.

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This is a blueberry clafoutis. It’s basically a cross between a cake and a custard, and its easy and scrumptious.   Get the recipe here.

Here’s Marian and Alan heading off with Dad on a little errand to a neighbor’s house. They love getting their ‘Daddy-time’.

wpid-20160318_091745.jpgThe day after we got back, Jordan plowed us up a garden spot. Since then we have been working on covering it with flattened cardboard boxes and a thick layer of wood chips. I’m really excited to try the mulch gardening method! I have a few seeds started in jars. Before I can transplant, we are going to have to come up with some kind of fencing for the garden, as the chickens are relentless foragers. Which is good…just not for a garden.

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Picking dandelion greens early one morning. These were sauteed with bacon for breakfast. So delicious!

wpid-20160322_145001.jpgA breezy day just perfect for freshening up some bedding!

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Marian gathering eggs very carefully. She has broken a couple, but she is learning quickly that you have to be gentle.

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If you want to try a crazy good pie crust recipe that is incredibly rich – do try this one. It includes eggs of course. (though I left out the sugar, and didn’t use quite so much butter)

These two pies were egg/sausage/kale/gouda, and blueberry.

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The woods. I love searching for my beloved little violets.

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So, there you have it, that’s what our spring looks like so far. I’ll end with a picture of…you guessed it! Fresh eggs.

Reading again.

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I’m reading again.

I can’t believe I ever stopped, but I did. I hardly read anything (maybe completed one book on my own, and read one out loud to Jordan?) in the first two and  a half years of marriage. That’s sad.

Before I got married I used to read so many books I would run out of ‘new’ things to read at home. (and we had a lot of books in our house!)

Then, after the wedding all my books were packed up and things were busy, especially after one then two babies arrived. I obviously just ‘didn’t have time for reading’.

Well, when all my books were finally unpacked and properly shelved this summer, I definitely had the urge to read again. I even started a book, but wasn’t able to fit much in because I still just had ‘no time’.

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It took a bit of inspiration to really get me going again. That came in the form of some delightful podcasts on the subject of reading aloud. I got very enthused about finding quality children’s books and reading to Marian and Alan more. In the process I just got excited about books in general, and wished I had time to read several titles that were in the back of my mind.

Some where along the way a few things changed -

I decided that reading is important. It wasn’t just a fun, frivolous hobby I used to do back when I had ‘time’. It is important for me to keep growing my mind – not only for my own good, but for the good of my kids. How can I expect to teach them and fill them up with knowledge and new thoughts if I am never filling up myself?

Instagram and Pinterest, while both are a great source of inspiration to me, they do not really feed me in the way that good solid books do. I realize more and more I can’t rely on a few minutes online here and there to give me the nourishment my mind needs to parent well and grow. (inspiration won’t get me anywhere without nourishment to back it up!) I can’t even describe the difference of my mood and overall feeling since I’ve started seriously, intentionally, reading again. I’ve just felt so much lighter and happier, with a much broader range of good thoughts to ponder about as I’m busy with my daily chores.

I’ve completed six titles since the first of the year, and I’m quite happy with that!

Here are a few of the books I have been enjoying lately:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Bones of Contention by Marvin L. Lubenow

The Invisible Woman – When Only God Sees

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaffer

For Women Only by Shaunti Fieldhann (a re-read)

Wild at Heart by John Eldridge

The Genesis Record by Henry Morris

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

As you can see there is not a single title of fiction on my list – this is not intentional because I love a good novel. My problem is I own and have read so many wonderful fiction books in the past, that I’m starting to ‘run out’ of my current knowledge of good titles. (I don’t like really any modern ‘chic-lit’ novels because they are just too shallow) So, if you have any good, solid recommendations in that area, please share!

wpid-20160209_105903-1.jpgI have also started a ‘book journal’ again. I kept a running list throughout my teenage years of all the books I read, and it was a lot of fun to see how many books you did or didn’t read in a given year, and what type of books shaped the year. This time the list has it’s own little book, and I have space to also jot a few notes about my thoughts after reading the book while it’s still fresh in my mind.

What are your reading habits?

Winter so far…

Winshaw in winter.

It’s been gloomy, wet, and most of the time warmer than normal this season.

Every time it is warm enough we do try to get the kids outside. This time we had a long walk through the woods, and it was just too much for Alan.

The long evenings of winter call for lots of lamplight…

…and lots of baby snuggles.

We’ve been staying busy with our internet business – here we are, me, the kids, and the chickens all taking a load of packages to the mail box.

As always, squeezing sewing in a bit at a time where needed. It really is lovely to have a sewing room where my in progress items can just be ‘paused’ and undisturbed in between sewing sessions.

This winter has seen several bouts of sickness for all of us. I wonder how many cups of hot tea we have had so far?

Marian is thrilled whenever she gets the chance to accompany Jordan to check his trap line in the mornings.

(the chickens always follow a little ways to make sure they are not missing a feed)

Silly pictures with Mom….

Marian has become quite the tea drinker. She kept wanting drinks of my chai tea, but since I didn’t want her to have the caffeine, her new favorite has become her “own, own” mix of chamomile, milk, and honey.

Winter baby naps are the snuggliest.

Lots of laundry goes on the line whenever I get weather that is dry enough, which never seems to be often enough to stay caught up!

But at least I have the two cutest helpers.

Marian wants to do everything I do. I tried to sneak in some water-coloring in one day while she and Alan were playing happily – but it didn’t work. Marian was soon in my lap ‘learning’ to paint, and thoroughly enjoying it.

Both of the kids love their ‘Daddy time’.

It’s not always warm enough in the downstairs overnight to raise bread, but when it is I try to have some going.

Love that soft winter light.

Guess who is almost a year old? I can’t believe I don’t have a baby anymore… Alan is getting to be such his own little man, with such a vibrant, driven personality. His favorite thing already is being involved in anything ‘real’ – as in anything but baby toys. He especially loves getting to go outside and do ‘work’ with Da-da, make tractor noises, and hold any sort of ‘tool’.

We have had a very quiet winter so far, not going from home very often. I feel like I can never get enough time with my two little darlings – they almost sometimes feel like little strangers because they are changing so fast, and always surprising me.

Christmas-time

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Merry Christmas! It’s almost here! Marian is very excited. I am only slightly less so. I’ve been having lots of fun making up some simple decorations for our home mostly with items that we either gathered from the woods, or already had on hand.

wpid-20151205_164558.jpgWe found the absolutely perfectly shaped, fluffy little cedar tree. I really wanted a little tree for our first tree. (this is our first Christmas at home together!) This one was exactly what I had in mind!

The one thing we did buy was a string of starry lights. I love these so much, they are very tiny and bright and strung on almost invisible copper wire. I love that they just disappear into the tree in the daytime! We got the solar powered option, but there are also battery powered options. In the picture above Jordan and Marian are wrapping the tree in lights. She was so happy we were getting a Christmas tree!

All decorated and glowing!

I used one of my antique 6 gallon crocks for the base. Jordan filled it with rocks and water, and it worked beautifully!

Our tree is decorated with pine cones, candy-canes, strung popcorn, and two types of homemade woods ornaments.  The gold ‘stars’ are sweet gum balls that drop from the trees in the fall. The silver balls are Sycamore seeds that we found on some low branches. Each of these we gathered and spray painted, then glued red, green, and gold ribbons to each one! I love how they turned out.

I’m hoping to keep most of our ornaments homemade and also new made every year. Most of these ‘nature’ ornaments just aren’t going to last season to season, so I was thinking it would be a fun tradition to have with the kids that we would actually make our ornaments before decorating the tree every year.

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Two windows in the sitting room got decorated with extra greenery and pine cones.

wpid-20151214_173902.jpgEnjoying the cozy lights with a mug of something hot to drink. We’ve been drinking lots of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate lately…

wpid-2015-12-23-15.03.27.jpg.jpegThe second stocking down is my stocking – the one I’ve been using for Christmas all my life. My Granny made it from an old quilt and added buttons and notions. I thought it would be fun to continue the quilt theme, so I added three more stockings for our family also made from vintage ‘cutter’ quilts I had in my stash.

wpid-2015-12-23-15.02.23.jpg.jpegwpid-20151223_115600.jpgI made a wreath for our door with cedar and pine branches, dotted with a few pine cones here and there.

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I still have Christmas baking to do, and we still haven’t made our Gingerbread house. Will it happen? I don’t know. But Christmas is coming anyway!

Last week we breathed a sight of relief as we shipped the last of our Christmas bed orders out. We also made a fun trip into Nashville to do some last minute shopping, then we drove around some well-to-do neighborhoods and ooohed over the Christmas lights (and the houses). And ate pizza. It was sad because both kids fell asleep before we were looking at lights….but Jordan and I had fun!

I have been planning little gifts for Marian and Alan for months. I am so excited for Christmas morning!

Missing my family in Texas this year – but it’s also been fun to start a few of our own traditions. It will be fun to see how they develop as our kids get older. What are some of your families favorite traditions? I’d love to hear!

wpid-20151210_170342.jpgA very Merry Christmas to you from Winshaw!

Backroading

One of our favorite things to do together since we got married is something we call ‘backroading’. Which basically means purposely getting lost on the farthest-back back roads we can find, and putting lots of miles on our pick-up.

On a recent Sunday we were staying home from church because we were all still recovering from a bad case of sniffles. But we were so ready to get out of the house (had been sick for two weeks!) that we decided to take that day and go backroading. We hadn’t done that since the summer, so it was high time! I packed a lunch to take in the car, and we were off!

One of our main purposes for backroading is to look for old houses. We just love coming up on a 19th century homestead and imagining what is used to look like in its glory days. It’s so sad to see these beautiful old houses abandoned and falling down.

This particular backroading trip took us into Kentucky,and we got to see some beautiful country! One of our biggest dreams is to have land of our own someday, so seeing fertile vistas really sparks our ‘someday’ conversations.

Jordan has trained me to be on the lookout for anything made of log. This log barn hidden in the woods was a neat find. Many times the old houses we see are also likely to be log underneath the painted siding.

Love seeing big barns! We can’t wait to build a barn of our own.

A general store in an abandoned downtown. (occasionally the roads to lead us into towns, but we leave as quick as we can!)

An old broken dam at a mill site over a big creek…

Sometimes if we are lucky, we catch glimpses of 19th century mansions that have been restored and are being lived in – it doesn’t take much imagination then to see what a grand place it must have been back in the day!

You really never know what is around the next bend in the road!

We ended our day with a beautiful sunset as we crossed the state line back into Tennessee, headed home.

Dutch Oven Bread

I believe this is a fairly well-known recipe, and you can find it many places in cyberspace. However, I wanted to repost it because just in case you haven’t heard of it – you NEED this bread in your life.

I make this bread because I don’t have time to make bread. It’s seriously so easy and takes almost no time. And I just love the texture – it’s chewy and soft, and not at all crumbly. You can even slice it thin for sandwiches and it stays together perfectly. Eventually I want to learn all about sourdough bread, because I have definitely not figured it out yet. But until then, I am so glad to have this recipe.

During one winter when I was growing up we had a non-working oven in the kitchen. Mom started making this bread on the back porch in a dutch oven placed in a washtub with live coals from the heating wood stove. So, I have fond memories of enjoying this delicious bread. It’s also great to accompany soup.

Do let me know if you try it!

No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread Recipe

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

Instructions:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.

5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Adapted from The New York Times. Online recipe source here.

(Atlanta’s note – rising the bread in between towels was too messy for me, so I just do my second rising in the same bowl covered with a towel)

House Tour

Hello friends! It’s high time for another house update and current tour. We’ve made some progress on the house over the summer and fall – the most recent big change is walls upstairs! We have also added some furniture and small items since the last house tour in 2014 which you can see here.

But, first things first.

If you were to come in our front door, you would enter into the sitting room -

On the other side of our big open downstairs is the kitchen -

When we add a few more features to the house – such as the summer kitchen, pantry, and have a bigger woodstove – things will be arranged very differently in the kitchen. But for now, what we have works.

Because our current cookstove isn’t big enough to heat the house in the winter, we have this barrel stove attached. Eventually it will be moved to Jordan’s shop.

Now, continuing to the back room from the kitchen, you will pass my freezer and temporary pantry area. (messy, overflowing ragbag and all…) but hey. At least we have plenty of preserves to last until next blackberry season!

keep going through the next doorway, and you are in the bathroom. We don’t have running water here yet, but will someday.

Our clawfoot tub which will one day be painted, and our composting toilet system.

Lets take a quick peek at the front porch, then then we will head upstairs…

once you are up the stairs…you are now greeted with another flight of stairs! These lead to the attic, our third story.

Little peep into the attic – which is just storage right now. When it is finished out it will be bedrooms for the kids.

Back to the 2nd story – turn left into our bedroom.

Walls are coming together! It’s so exciting to be able to feel the size of the rooms now! This is a closeup of my closet area. Jordan was able to frame in lots of extra storage space, much more than I was counting on! yay! (please tell me I’m not the only wife who gets excited about closets….)

Bonus picture – Marian was napping in her crib while I snuck around taking these pictures…

Now, through the doorway into my sewing room…which may or may not be my favorite room in the house.

Fabric, research books, iron, patterns and notions all within reach. Heaven.

The last room of the 2nd story is the guest room:

We did finally find a matching window for the hole in this room. When we get that put in I will begin making this into Marian’s room. Right now it’s mostly a staging area for various projects of mine – here it was being used as a place to organize my purchase of a huge lot of vintage hats for resale.

From the sewing room you can step out on the top porch…

…which has a beautiful view!

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That’s our home as of now.

……….. About Us ………..

……… Our Log House ………

……… Our Wedding ………

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