Saturday, December 8

Hello Readers,

We have had a death in the family and time and energy are needed to take care of my parents. I will be back to the blog after the first of the year.

Thank you for understanding,

Wednesday, November 28

Just scratching the surface....

It is painfully obvious every time I walk through my living room that I am way behind in my reading. Between the Mother Earth News Fair bookstore, the library book sale, the great used book store in town and countless library options, I have a backlog that is staggering. Add to that the books that I have on the shelves that i had before the fair and the sale plus what i have downloaded on the kindle and i am in serious trouble.

And I love to read! I want to read constantly. I currently have 5 books started/in progress. The problem is two-fold. First, the piles are so intimidating. Where do I start? Who do I read first? Should I tackle the shorter books first or take on the big Shelby Foote Civil War collection?

Secondly, there is the matter of time. With winter approaching I will have more time indoors and not as much yard maintenance on my plate. And there is nothing better than sitting in the chair by the fireplace with a book in my hands waiting to be started. But, as you know, i have two children. And because I have two lovely children, I do not have the luxury of free time.

If you are a Mom, you know about the magic hour. When all children happen to take a nap at the same time and there is that realization that you do in fact have a little free time. For me, it is the sound of a heavenly chorus in my brain - which quickly turns into sheer panic. "What do I want to do? I have FREE TIME! What to do first??"

I spend the first 10 minutes completely freaking out about the fact that I have free time and then another 10 minutes stressing about all the things I want to do and trying to pick one that will fit into the allotted time for around an hour and a half.

Reading, blogging, genealogy research, house chores, garden projects, taking an uninterrupted shower....

How do you tackle your book shelves? How do you find time to digest all those wonderful hardcovers?

Monday, November 26

The Break

I used to travel - a lot. I have been to more countries in Europe than I have to states here in the US. I love hearing new languages, seeing new things and experiencing new ways of life, if only for a few days.

This past Thanksgiving holiday I traveled to Nevada to spend time with my brother who could not come home this year. I had a great time catching up with him, but I realized that my traveling days are going to be limited to the occasional long weekend within driving distance of my home for the foreseeable future.

Readers, I am getting old. I am getting 'set in my ways', 'past my traveling prime' and 'on the downward slope toward 7pm bedtimes'. At least as far as traveling goes. Gone are the days of spontaneous adventure, of flying 8 hours and then having energy to roam the streets of Edinburgh and of thinking that airports are fun and exciting places.

My back is killing me. I spent way too much time in a cramped little seat looking out a window the size of my Kindle. I really just wanted to get home.

But I also really needed the break.

Life has been throwing everything it can at me these past few weeks, indicated by my lack of posts. We have been dealing with family situations, the loss of a long time pet, child behavior issues and many other daily life tidbits that seemed to have all come at once.

So I flew to Nevada and spent 4 fantastic days in 70 degree weather doing absolutely nothing. Yes, readers, i am guilty of hanging out. Slacking off. Being lazy and non-productive. I did not knit a single thing. I did not read anything pertaining to homesteading. I drank Coke and ate pizza with reckless abandon.

My brother lives alone in a new house. I should be ashamed to say that I enjoyed the wall to wall carpeting, the dishwasher, the television that is bigger than the windshield of an SUV. But I am not. I enjoyed it all. I reveled in it and loved it.

Like I said, I needed a break.

On Black Friday, instead of fighting hoards of people for cheap merchandise, I spent the day hiking with my brother and his dog in Red Rock National Park. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had a great time. And it only cost us the $7 entrance fee.

I learned a few things these past few weeks which i will share with you all shortly. This trip made me run the gambit - from excitement and spontaneity to fear and panic to discovering limitations and realizing that they are not the end of the world.

Balance is coming, my friends.....

Tuesday, November 13

Gadgets on my Counter vs. Pure Water

So I have a new gadget sitting on my kitchen counter and it is taking up quite a bit of precious space. It arrived last week and apparently it makes water.
The MH943T (sounds so futuristic, right?) makes 100% pure drinking water. And it actually tastes good - really good. I was surprised because I tend to think that simple is better. I don't want a huge fancy gadget on my counter to produce drinking water when I can just run some tap water through a britta filter, or (gasp!) drink tap water.
So I have a dilemma here - this distilled water tastes really good but it uses electricity to produce. Weighing the health benefits of pure water vs. the cost of electric. And free counter space.

"The basic principle behind making distilled water is to boil water into steam, then to cool it to collect the pure water from the vapor. The main advantage of distilled water is that it is 100% boiled, sterilized, clean, safe, and environmentally friendly."

In order to make my choice more clear, this blue meter should be able to help. I filled three glasses with water - one glass with regular water right out of the tap, one glass with water that had been run through the britta filter, and one glass with water from the MH943T.

It measures the total dissolved solids in the water and gives you a number reading in parts per million. The chart below from the company website helps put things into perspective. The results speak for themselves.

 - Glass of regular tap water: 152 ppm
 - Glass of britta water: 145 ppm (I will re-test the britta water when it comes time to change the filter and get a reading from the first water run through, just to see if there is a difference).
 - Glass of MH943T water: 001 ppm

TDS-EZ Water Quality Tester
"Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are the total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in units of mg per unit volume of water (mg/L), also referred to as parts per million (ppm). TDS is directly related to the purity of water and the quality of water purification systems and affects everything that consumes, lives in, or uses water, whether organic or inorganic, whether for better or for worse."

Monday, November 5

Coyotes, Cats and Reassurance

Last night was a chilly one here - into the low 30's - and I put an extra blanket on the bed. Even though the woodstove does a great job at heating most of the lower level of the house, the upstairs is significantly cooler. I don’t mind this since sleeping in a cold room is preferable to me and the kids have their footed fleece jammies and plenty of blankets to keep them warm and toasty.

I went upstairs last night with the intention of crawling under the blankets with my warm alpaca socks and reading the next chapter or two of DianaGabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes. I was a few paragraphs in when the coyotes started singing. I could hear them howling and snipping at each other somewhere out in our neighbors 40+ acres, but tonight they sounded a little closer than usual.

A rather loud belt of robust squealing resulted in Cheese, my 3 year old Maine Coon cat, flying up onto the bed and taking up residence on my chest.

When we first adopted Cheese she was a tiny ball of fluff, barely able to claw her way up onto our bed. The first three nights she was with us she slept on Roy's neck, right under his chin. She was scared of being in a new place and sleeping in this somewhat strange place seemed to comfort her.

Cheese has since grown into a beautiful example of a Maine Coon and her fur is thick and soft. She is the lady of the house, and she knows it. But last night she was trying her best to curl up on my neck like a kitten. She was shaking and digging her claws into my shoulder. The coyotes, that we hear at least once a week, were just too close for comfort last night. I put Jamie Fraser on the nightstand and wrapped my arms around Cheese. I scratched her head and told her that everything was going to be ok. Her fur was warm and long and soft and she slowly released her claws from my shirt and relaxed enough to dose.

I took this as my cue and reached over to turn off the bedside light. Last night I fell asleep listening to coyotes playing with a heavy, warm cat on my chest. Sometime during the night she jumped down and went about whatever she does during the night hours. And sometime during the night I remember wondering how nice it would be to have someone scratch my head and tell me everything was going to be all right too.


Sunday, November 4

The Produce Bag Problem (and solutions!)

Every time I go to the grocery store, the first section I hit is the produce department. And when the garden is not growing, I buy a lot of fruits and veggies. I try to go organic as much as selection and the household budget allow and usually I can get a good variety for an affordable price.

My problem has always been those plastic bags that apples, pears, broccoli and just about everything besides the bananas go into. I bring my canvas grocery bags for the checkout line, try to buy organic and look for items with the least amount of packaging and yes, I feel good about my "green" efforts. But those plastic produce bags haunt me.

A few months ago I came across a blog posting about a woman who made some light weight cloth bags for produce and bulk department purchases and I emailed her about them. I wanted to know how they worked out for her. In my mind, I could see her going to the store, feeling great about her cloth bags, filling them up with green beans, snap peas and lentils but arriving in the check out lane only to be scoffed at.

How are they weighed? How does the cashier know what is in the opaque bag? Who does this crazy lady think she is trying to be all different? What? Our plastic bags are not good enough for Ms. Eco-Green?

I actually never heard back from her but I kept the idea in the back of my mind, and it was brought to the front every time I went shopping. But somehow other projects came up and I never got around to putting serious thought into making my own bags.

What material could I use? How would I keep them clean? Would I remember to take them to the store? Would I be turned away at the cashier because they wouldn't know how to weigh the items?

I remember quickly scanning Google and finding a few crochet examples of small produce bags at the time, and those cloth ones I mentioned earlier. And at that time, I had many other projects a little higher on the "these-get-my-limited-time-and-attention" agenda.

Today I went shopping and I saw a sign posted by the big roll of plastic produce bags: these bags are recyclable! I though about how I might put these very lightweight items into my recycling bin on pick up day without them blowing away. Would they really be recycled?

I just couldn't picture it. So, making produce bags is now #1 on the to-do list.

In just a few short months I can not believe the explosion of produce bag articles, instructions, patterns and buy-them-already-made web pages. Cloth, mesh, crochet, knitted, muslin, hemp, recycled plastic....  The important aspects for me would be knowing exactly what the bag is made of and if it can be cleaned easily.

Here are just a few of the great products and ideas I found. Most state in the product description or the patterns that the finished product is lightweight and does not effect the weight/cost of the produce.

I will weigh my options (no pun intended) and let you all know how things unfold at the check out line.

Natural Fabric Produce Bags

Lightweight Polyester Mesh Bags

Reusable Cotton Mesh Produce Bags

Gauze, Cotton or Net Produce Bags

Cotton Produce Bags (Created from the sleeves of slightly used 100% cotton t-shirts)

Mesh Produce Bags (100% recycled Reprieve yarn, which is made entirely from things like plastic bottles and manufacturing discards.)

T-Shirt Produce Bags

Hand-Crocheted Produce Bag

Reusable Produce Bags (I really like this one!)

Crochet Produce Bag

Thursday, November 1

My eyes are so sore and tired that they feel like they are burning. But I am still here on the computer, multi-tasking and trying to cram as much as I can into the time that I have. Everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, except for the fan on the wood stove and the clanking and banging of a sweatshirt zipper tumbling around in the clothes dryer with the other darks.

So many back episodes of American Experience to watch, so many pages ear-marked in Mother Earth News and Grit with information look up or to explore, and so very, very many ideas and beginnings that are just a click away.

Books to read and blogs to browse and I may watch Episode 1 of the third season of The Walking Dead for the 6th time just because I love that show so much.

You may ask why I am using the clothes dryer instead of my drying racks by the wood stove and I will tell you that it is because of a certain baby who has figured out walking and climbing. She thinks that the racks are her personal indoor jungle gym and I have had to rescue her from a pile of half-dried dress shirts after she has pulled the rack down on top of herself. I was getting pretty tired of having to re-hang Roy's work clothes to dry and sometimes having to re-wash them because they fell in the path of the wood box or a hastily discarded juice cup. So, in the interest of time and having to use more water for the washer, plus the baby's safety and my sanity, I have been using the dryer more than usual. And it has become a habit now to throw things in the dryer. Until I can figure out some sort of baby gate clothes drying rack encompassing system, the solar is going to have to pump out a few more amps to get the laundry dry.

Another task weighing on my mind tonight is the storm cleanup that must be done around the yard. My initial evaluation showed not much in the way of damage but when I got out into the yard and looked a little closer, there are quite a few things that will need to be repaired or cleared. We lost a large section of a big cedar bush by the field and also a large branch from the lilac bush. The trees shed more than their fair share of branches and large limbs that the little man and I will pick up one afternoon this coming week if the sun comes out. The wooden 4x4 that holds my two birdhouses toppled so I will be digging a new hole - in a different place I think - to put the birdhouses. These are the favorites of the blue birds and I definitely want them to come back next spring.

The chickens area was not damaged, which surprised me since the netting over their outdoor pen is prone to weather related malfunctions. But it stayed in place and in one piece and I am grateful that that is one thing I will not have to tend to. The gutters on the barn were damaged by flying debris and one of the ends in now bent at an angle that does not let it drain properly. So we have water coming down where it shouldn't, which must be corrected since it is right on the corner of the barn foundation.

Today was what I like to call a "resting day." The little man is under the weather and the baby is showing the signs of a slight cold. It was raining and cold during the daylight hours and spending time inside by the fireplace with books, play dough, legos and leftover chocolate cake felt like the right fit. Now it is time to put a couple more logs in the stove, check the humidifier in the baby's room and climb into bed under a bunch of warm quilts.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, October 31

Halloween has had many different meanings to me since I was a little kid through today. I met my husband at a club on Halloween in 1997 - the one time I ever went to a Halloween party, and one of the few times I ever went to a club. I have made it through trick or treating in snow and fending off drunks and vandals.

I could not wait for trick or treating when I was little and Mom would always make my brother and I some great costumes for our night out. The volunteer fire department would have doughnuts and cider and we would walk around town with Mom and Dad in tow, begging for candy and treats at each house.

Years when the weather was bad were horrible - we had to ride in the car from house to house and all that sliding over the back seat to let our cousins in and out at each house was not easy on the costumes. One house occupied by an elderly couple, who seemed ancient to me and my brother, always gave out home made cookies in little plastic bags. i don;t remember is we ever actually ate them. This was the 80's during the candy poisoning and razor blade scares, and even though this was a very small town where everyone knew everyone else, I still don;t think we ever ate them.

One year everything was ruined when Grandma hit a deer on the way home from work - who works at night on Halloween? I remember thinking - and trick or treating was over after three houses. My brother and I spent the rest of the evening in the back seat of the car parked in someones driveway up the road from when the deer had met its Halloween fate, but father and others clearing it out of the road and assessing the damage to Grandma's Oldsmobile.

Teenage years meant no more candy, and being a small town, there was not a lot going on as far as parties or mischief. Mostly we spent the evening at the fire hall helping out with the cider and doughnuts and looked at all the lucky little kids in costumes and their bags of candy.

After I was married and we were still living in our first house in a not-very-nice-area, Halloween turned into something I dreaded every year. I prayed each year for rain or very cold temperatures or even snow. It would keep some of the vandals and thieves at bay and we could have a semi-peaceful night with all the outdoor lights on, the dogs inside and the doors locked. One year, our car windows were broken, another year, the cars broken into and things stolen. One year the house next door had a party and we had a very drunk college student fall through a section of our wooden privacy fence, scattering wood pieces everywhere and setting the dogs off for an hour or so of barking.

Needless to say, we never got any trick or treaters.

Now at the new house, we still don;t get any trick or treaters due to the rural setting, but I have never really embraced Halloween again. Costumes get on my nerves now and the smell of those rubber masks turns me to coughing. And don;t even get me started on how gross all that oily face paint is. I have a plastic pumpkin on the front porch with a face that lights up at night and that is about it.

This year the little man will be Diego and he will be going around to the local homes with Roy if the weather stays half way decent. The baby and I will be home on the couch watching The Walking Dead marathon and keeping the fire going in the wood stove.

Tuesday, October 30

Storm Report - 8:30am

A windy and rainy night here but i am happy to report that it was not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. Some downed branches in the yard and the Halloween pumpkin flag has seen better days (I forgot to take it down), but compared to some of the photos i am seeing from areas a lot closer to the coast, we are fine.

The lake was churning last night and they did evacuate some of the homes along the immediate shoreline. Power is out for some people and schools are closed but the little man, the baby and I will be enjoying a play dough and lego kind of day since there is no pre-school today.

In our area, I believe that there was a little bit of over-reacting by the weather people. People cleaned out local grocery stores of D batteries, bread and bottled water. Generators were in short supply.

I can not tell you how wonderful it felt last night, when the wind was gusting and the rain was pounding, to know that we would be fine. If the power went out, we would have been fine. The generators would run the fridge and freezer, the wood stove would still be pumping out heat and thanks to our solar charged batteries, we would still have our internet service. A stocked pantry, plenty of baby supplies, wood stacked on the porch - goodness, that was a wonderful feeling.

According to the most current weather map what is left of the storm looks like it will be right on top of us Wednesday morning.

Monday, October 29

Storm Report - 9:30PM

Tuesday night and we still have power here at the house. It flickered a few times and the lights dimmed but we hung on and things are still humming.

The high wind warning is still in effect and we are getting hammered with rain.

Time to retire upstairs and await what might happen during the night.

Sunday, October 28

A Farm for the Future

I watch the documentary quite often. It inspires me and keeps me motivated in doing what we do here.

Saturday, October 27

Just. Let. Go.

Last week I started an email to a friend with the following: The weather is miserable and the kids are insane and I need to go grocery shopping but there is no way I am taking two insane children out in the rain to the grocery store. So we are watching Scooby Doo and eating pizza. I am supposed to be on a diet and little man watches too much tv as it is, but sometimes good intentions just go right out the window.

Weather influences everything. It always has and always will in any form, with climate change making it all the more challenging. Crops, moods, building plans, animal husbandry and summer sports schedules - all are influenced by and revolve around weather patterns.

When the rain was coming down that day last week - all day, cold and miserable - the kids and I were both channeling the mood.

The sun is setting much earlier which makes the days feel rushed and incomplete. The surprising 80 degree days like yesterday and today must be doing something to scatter us all off our axis - one extreame to the other and there is more to come.

The weather is this drastic in its changes, it seems to greatly effect my mood and my outlook on just about everything. that rainy day I was perfectly happy to do absolutely nothing, sabotage my diet and engage in an obscene amount of television watching and internet surfing. The summer-like days had me itching to get out in the yard and get something done - anything done. I was short with Roy in that there was not enough time to get the laundry list of projects done that I had wanted to check off and he grew aggrivated with me as a result. Drastic weather changes definately effect my mood.

And now Sandy is coming and it threatens to bring a great deal of rain and high winds to our area starting Monday afternoon. I am not worried. We are prepared.

But that fact was not making my mood any lighter. So I went outside and stood in the wind. If all this crazy weather was going to disrupt my frame of mind then it would help me knock things back into perspective. The wind was strong today - enough to snap branches and send a great deal of dry leaves flying across the side field. I stood there and let it hit me like a slap in the face. I tried to picture all the nasty and unsettling emotions being carried away with the leaves in the side field.

I don't know if it was some cosmic, fortune teller sort of fairy magic that made me feel better or the fact that I was outside, alone and standing quietly but I felt better. So I thought I could take it one step further. I thought about all the things that have been happening here lately - disappointments, stressful situations, anxious waiting, anger, fear, anticipation - and I just let go.

Just. Let. Go.

I pictured the gusts taking away all the pent up energy that had been gathering inside me for weeks - the kind of energy that makes me clench my jaw and grind my teeth all night while I sleep. The kind that makes me snap at people I care about and worry about things over which I have no control. I pictured all the horrible anxiety working it's way down the lengths of my hair and being shaken and snapped free at the ends by the wind, like water after a shower.

If I can get rid of this anxious state of living, just think of how great things would be. Why is a windy day better than a bottle of xanax?

A fovorite author of mine once wrote something that has stuck with me. I hope that she does not mind if I quote her here in that I mean it as the highest compliment. How simple it really all is...

 "Whatever your destination know that the day is passed, the fight has stopped, and there is nothing more you can do but rest and heal. Set aside the day's anger and fear. Whatever haunts you is not welcome here, and it is too late in the day to do anything else towards that fight. My dearest friend, you can relax."

Just. Let. Go.
It's that simple.
How has this evaded me for so long?

Monday, October 15

Barn Tours, Sick Days and Birthday Parties

There has been no shortage of exciting activity around here for the past couple of weeks. And by 'exciting activity' I mean heavy frosts and trips to the grocery store with both children that did not result in paying for any damages (among other things).

Preparing for winter has been on the top of the list. We have officially put the vegetable garden to bed for the season, checked all the windows for gaps and we are bringing up loads of wood to the front porch. We are ready to settle in for whatever this winter will throw at us. Last year was very mild in our area so I am expecting a cold and heavy season this time around.

As if to kick off the cold weather festivities, we have all been slogging through our first colds of the fall. The little man and the baby were the first to fall victim with the runny noses and the coughing. A weeks worth of rest and constant humidifier running turned things around for them, just in time for Roy and I to take our turns. We are all germ free for the moment and feeling well - ready to enjoy as much fall as there is left before the snow flies.
We had our first hard frost last week and the last three pepper plants did not stand a chance. They were just about done so I did not bother to cover them. The next day I went out and removed the three wilting plants from the garden and, after a few coatings of dead leaves and grass clippings, the garden will go to bed for the winter hibernation.
The baby turned 1 this past week and we had not just one, but three parties to mark the occasion. Not because we love to party, but because of family living a bit too far away and older relatives not able to travel. A party here, a party at the Grandparents and a party at the Aunt and Uncles and the whole family tree was represented. I can not believe that she is 1 already.

She currently has 4 teeth, a moderately bad temper and she will be walking any day now. She is already giving the little man a run for his money and one of her favorite activities is to ambush the little man when he is laying on the floor by crawling up and smacking him in the face. He loves it and they are actually playing well together, which I love.

We were all over our colds for this past weekend so I left Roy home with the kids while I went on an historic barn tour with my Mom. Centered around some of the older barns in the area where I grew up, that were still in really good condition, the tour was a very interesting mix of construction, function and historical musings. One of the barns was located on a working alpaca farm and the owner generously opened up the gates for the tours so we were able to wander the whole operation.

Alpacas are interesting creatures that just make me scream "you can do this - it seems so easy" in my homesteading brain. They are cute, they seem calm, they graze the field all day and their fiber is amazing. Then I saw the section of the barn where the medications, syringes and other tools of the trade were kept. Giving shots to 95+ alpacas might not be the way I want to spend my day. So I bought a pair of gloves and a pair of socks at the little shop they have onsite.

The barn tour also provided a demonstration on hand hewing barn beams. Kevin Holtz set up near the town fire hall and we watched as he used a period ax to strike and shape an 8 foot log into a substantial beam. He graciously answered any and all questions and I struck up a conversation with him about the future of the American Chestnut tree. Turns out that he went to the same college as Roy and that the college is currently in the middle of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project. A very interesting site well worth the time to go through.

A blight-resistant American chestnut tree...... I want one.
The photos in this post are from the barn tour. 


Friday, October 5

The fisher cat was out again the other night and I got his vicious little scream on video. Listen at about 10 seconds in and at about 27 seconds in.

Sunday, September 30

The Hawk, the Snake and Homer's Superstitions

A Homeric omen: A Greek wine cup with a scene of an eagle battling a snake

Last month I saw, on two separate occasions, a hawk flying with a snake caught in its talons. I found it strange, living most of my life in semi-rural areas, that I had never seen this before. The first occasion was driving back to my Grandparents house after picking up the take-out chicken bar-b-q from the Prattsburg Flower Festival. The hawk flew across the road in front of our car with a dead snake dangling from its claws.

The second occurrence happened a couple of weeks later at my parents house as the little man and I were walking down the driveway to meet Grandpa. It flew from the floor of the woods that run the length of the driveway and up to a thick branch where he eyed us menacingly. He wanted to enjoy his meal but did not want to take his eyes off of us, just in case. He flew away after a few minutes but I found it odd that this was the second time I had seen this predator and prey scenario in as many weeks.

Normally, I am not one for signs. Or omens, premonitions, or blatant superstitious behavior. But sometimes, very rarely, something just strikes me as so odd or so coincidental, that I can not help but think there must be something else going on.

A little research turned up that in mythology, the eagle and the snake represent the conflict of opposites. Ok, the eagle hunts and eats the snake. Predator and prey - you can't get more opposite than that.

Hawks have the keenest vision of all the birds therefore, they are seen as visionaries and messengers.Snakes represent transformation death and rebirth (growth). Am I going to experience some big changes soon? Is the hawk bringing me the message that I will go through some sort of rebirth (hopefully not death!)? What does the vision of a dead snake mean?

Homer’s description of a high-flying bird carrying a snake in its talons was an omen the Trojans saw as they attacked the Greek forces. Homer's snake was still alive and was dropped by the eagle before it could be eaten, whereas my snake was most definitely dead. Polydamas warns Hector to heed the omen and not attack the Greek ships. What attack should I call of or be wary of? The only attack I was planning would be the one against the wasps making a large nest inside one of my storm windows. Surely someone is not telling me to go ahead and let a hoard of wasps into the house when I close up my screens?

A warning of some sort, it must be. How serious the situation or result remains to be seen. All I can do is to pay attention to things around me, if I am taking this seriously at all.

All I can say for certain is that the hawk ate well that night and I was made to think about something a little deeper.

Mother Earth News Fair

We were so excited to go to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs PA last weekend. It was amazing! Just amazing!
Beautiful setting, countless workshops, vendors, demonstrations, presentations, exhibits, great food, like-minded people and a positive atmosphere.
So much to do! So much to see! So little time and two demanding and uncooperative children.
Where to start?  We drove the 6 +/- hours to Seven Springs PA early Friday morning with minimal stopping and no bathroom accidents. Little man slept and watched a Scooby Doo DVD and the baby kept herself amused by napping and talking to her reflection in the baby seat mirror.

We arrived late, but still had enough time after checking in to enjoy the events and vendors. This place was huge. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces were filled to the brim with tents of vendors and demonstrations. Presentations were going on in all rooms and in large outdoor tents. The food smelled great and the compost stations didn't smell bad.
We had hoped to arrive early enough to see the Off-Grid Living presentation by Christine and Greg Tailer, but we missed it entirely. We spent time wandering the outdoor vendors until it was time to head to the Mother Earth News Stage (a giant tent in the middle of it all) to hear Joel Salatin speak about feeding the world from 4pm till 5 pm.  Everyone had a great time and those of us with kids in tow kept near the back to avoid disruption and keep noise levels to a minimum. We could still hear Joel and the little man got to run around with all the other kids.
Let me just say that we did not expect little man, or the baby for that matter, to be content sitting through hour after hour of presentations and workshops on composting, bacon making and organic gardening. We had a game plan to divide the schedule into things that Roy wanted to see and things that I could not miss and trade off kid watching duties to get the most out of the weekend.
This worked about half of the time due to temper tantrums, potty needs, conflicting interests and conflicting opinions on what was a fun thing to do at the present time.
Friday finished with a meal at the hotel restaurant, that had a special Mother Earth News Fair menu planned, an a long wait for the shuttle to take us back to our section of the complex. This place was huge and we were staying about 2 miles away from the fair grounds.
Saturday started out chilly but things warmed up ad the morning went on. We started the day with vendor browsing, food and planning our attack. We wanted to see as much as we could between the two of us and to learn as much as possible. Given that up to 14 presentations were going on during the same 1 hour slot all through the day, learning a ton did not seem like a hard task. Actually deciding on 1 and getting to that presentations was definitely harder.
We both wanted to start with Matthew Steins presentation entitled When Technology Fails: Self-reliance and surviving the long emergency, and we hoped that the kids would keep it down to a dull roar for that first hour. We never found out if they would because the room that Mr. Stein was speaking in was totally packed. There were people lined up in the hallway trying to catch what he was saying. There was also a long line of ladies with kids in strollers also trying to listen - a stroller was just not an acceptable form of filling space in that room. people wanted to be in there and to hear this guy.
We decided to check out the bookstore instead.
The bookstore was fantastic. We spent a lot of time, and a lot of money, but it was well worth it. We left with the following additions to our homestead library:
Free range Chicken Gardens - Jessi Bloom
The Gardener's Weed Book - Barbara Pleasant
The Gardener's Bug Book - Barbara Pleasant
The Backyard Goat - Sue Weaver
Home Cheese Making - Ricki Carroll
The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds - Robert Gough
Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs - Wendy Brown
Great Possessions - David Kline
Just the Greatest Life - David Schafer
EcoPreneuring - John Ivanko abd Linda Kivirist
When Disaster Strikes - Matthew Stein
When Technology Fails - Matthew Stein
What's Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? - David Deardorff
Joel Salatin's presentation - totally packed!
I was very interested in the herbal healing presentations but I did not get to see many of them. I was saving my "kid-free" time for Joel Salatin and Jenna Woginrich that afternoon. It started to rain after lunch so the Mother Earth News stage was packed to capacity with many more people standing as close as they could to get under the eves of the tent. it was definitely standing room only for Joel Salatin for his talk, Folks, This Ain't Normal. I got to enjoy every bit of it while Roy took the kids inside for demonstrations and vendors. It was excellent and I hope that there will be a video online shortly.
We spent the next hour and a half looking at all the animals they had on exhibit. The baby loved the alpacas. She could not get enough of them. She pulled herself up in her stroller and got as close as she could to them. Little man loved all the animals, especially the pigs and the lamas. We all spent a lot of time going up and down the rows looking and petting and talking with the owners.

Packing with Alpacas demonstration

Jenna Woginrich's presentation, The Need Fire: How kindling community ignites a farm, was very interesting. I am a fan of Jenna's writing and it was a treat to hear her and to say hello. I met her at the Plan B workshop this past spring and I have been inspired by her since I discovered her blog a few years ago. 

Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm

On Sunday we made time for the Permaculture for Farms lecture given by Darrell Frey of Three Sisters Farm. This was very interesting and it gave me a lot of great ideas for our property, the top one being that we need to dig a pond here. His book, Bioshelter Market Garden: A Permaculture Farm, is highly recommended. Roy attended a workshop entitled How to Cure Your Own Bacon which he was impressed with. "People are very passionate about their bacon..." he told me afterwards.

Darrell Frey of Three Sisters Farm
Matthew Stein was speaking again on Sunday and we made sure that we were there to see it. He was in the outdoor tent so there was plenty of room, although every seat was filled. i ended up having to take little man to the potty about half way through which, if you have an almost 4 year old takes a little time, and i missed most of the rest of the presentation. Luckily, Roy had the video camera out and I was able to enjoy the talk later.

 There were too many vendors to name - so much information and so many ideas......

 And demonstrations....

 And these pictures only show a fraction of what was there. It was just amazing! One of the best parts was that we were not nuts. In that I mean the people attending the fair were mostly all of the same mindset. Sustainability, preparedness, environmental preservation, organic, off-grid, hand made, raw milk and real. You could start a conversation with someone sitting next to you at the lunch table about non-GMO seeds and the virtues of line-drying and they did not look at you like you had a third eye on your forehead. They just started talking right back about the same things, adding in bits about Monsanto and home made pickles.

My kind of people.