Archive for September, 2008

enjoying autumn

The cool nights and warm days are working their magic on the foliage around us, and I am loving it.  The red-orange berries of the mountain ash shine forth from trees all over the surrounding mountains, and on my property.  I am tempted to gather them, for wreaths, but so enjoy seeing them on the trees, that I hate to change anything.  What a dilemma…

It is relaxing to know that the hardest pasts of harvest are almost over, but that warm days, like today, are still ahead.  I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

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Good, bad or ugly, habits control the way we practically live out our lives.  Habits are those little things that we do without thinking or thought.  They are patterns we follow, developed by repetitive behavior.  Everyday we live and act, enforcing our habits. 

As parents, we are developing habits in our children’s lives.  They are watching us.  They are copying us.  Everyday they are learning about language, eating, cleanliness, honesty, mood and attitude.  They are learning how to relate to the world around them.  They are developing habits that will be with them for years…maybe even their entire life. 

Growing up, I developed some good habits, mostly of hygiene, thought, learning, and thinking ahead; but I also developed some bad habits, like complaining while I clean, and stomping when I am mad.  I see some of these things in my children…they are wonderful mirrors, and never give a false image when they are copying me, especially my bad attitudes.  This causes me to grow, each day, as I seek to be a better role model for my children, and become more aware of my own short-comings.

Over the past few months I have been consciously developing new habits of behavior, thought and speech.  As I have worked towards certain goals, I have become aware that there are two type of goals I am pursuing turning into habits.  One is conscious, the other, subconscious.  For the month of September, my conscious goal was to develop a habit of cleaning up after myself, by five p.m., each day.  This has gone well, and I am more aware of what I do each day.  I think, in time the kids will also be more aware of what they do, and where they leave their projects.  My subconscious goal was to plan ahead, and to prepare for winter.  It is amazing how this goal has drove me.  I have put away many quarts of food, completed several projects, that require warm weather, and in general, am ready for the snow to fall.  My husband too, has gotten ready, and I see the children enjoying the autumn days, with an eye toward winter.

It amazes and cautions me, the power of my behavior, over my families behavior.  If I choose to be lazy, and only do what I want, for more than one day, then I have a home that does not function.  However, if I choose to work hard and happily, then my children look around for ways that they can be helpful, and so much more is accomplished.  If I face the day, with list in hand, scowling at every person who interrupts my perfect plans, then every one around me does as little as possible, and leave when ever an opportunity arises.

I am also becoming aware that if a habit is not already in my heart, then it will be hard pressed to be found in my behavior.  This is why new ideas, though they may seem good, are so hard to work into my life.  I have to want them.  Really want them, from the inside out.  (I have a feeling, this is why “ought to’s” are so discouraging, and weigh a person down so dramatically.)  To encourage this, I find stories that protray the life style I want to live.  Books that chalenge my thinking, and guide me to higher ground.  One recent story I read was not wholey encouraging, but one statement stood out:  The grandmother was dying, and told her granddaughter that she could no longer be resonsible for her schooling, as “one must have perfect pacience to teach a child, the things they must learn.”  Perfect pacientce.  That is a very tall order, but everything about the grandmother represented self control:  A virtue I certanly want in my life.   The Bible is another such tool, alway alive and full of good examples, plus perfect instruction.

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clothespin bag

Worn Out.  That was the verdict on my old clothespin bag, when summer began; but since it was still functional, I continued to use it.  Then it denigrated, and almost disappeared…so my pins have been all over the back yard…until now.

I never liked the green striped bag I had, but it was functional, so I used it, and used it, and used it…for ten summers:  It served my well; however, I was not sad to see it go.  I saw it as a chance to infuse some personality, into a mandatory job.  So my quest, this summer, was to come up with some way to store the pins, that I really liked.  Ten years ago, my ideal would have been one of those little 1930’s dress types…but my taste has changed.

Then a flier came in the mail, an advertisement for some do-it-yourself home-decorating book, and there it was:  A picture of a clothespin bag that I knew I would enjoy living with.  It was sturdy, yet pretty, and fully functional!  Looking over my supplies, I decided to make mine using a wire hanger, stretched to 9 1/2″ square, for the frame.  The cloth bag is 12″ square, and fully lined.  The denim is something I have had for ages, and the striped lining is left over from some crib sheets I had made.  The applique is copy-catted from the flier.  I liked it so much… and it looked like an easy first, for machine embroidery. 

As you can tell, I am happy with the results, (or I would not be sharing them with you).  If I were to make it again, I would make it a bit longer, with a tote bag type bottom, and the oval opening would be a bit narrower, as the weight of the pins pulls it awfully wide.

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While finishing my son’s second sock, I began this little sweater. 

I had picked up the pattern this spring, but could never find the right yarn; it is not sold anywhere in this state, or the neighboring one.  (I had checked the companies on-line directory, and called every shop within 100 miles, just to double-check.) Finally, I when to a local shop that carries luxury yarns, for help.  They looked, and I looked, for something that would work; then we compared notes, and decided that this alpaca was the best bet.  Funny, it came in the same colour as the cover photo…which just happened to be the colour I wanted.

Working up my swatches, to check gage and tension, I realized that this project was hopeless.  No matter how I knit, it was not going to match the instructions.  I began rewriting them, to suit my knitting, but not knowing how the pattern really went together, I was unsure of how to proceed.  Where to make changes?  So finally I prayed.  (Why does it take me soooo long to act on the simplest things?  Hey now, be nice.  No one answer that.)  I simply asked God, creator of heaven and earth, alpaca and human creativity, for help.  Immediately, I felt his answer.  “Just knit it.”  So I began, casting on for the size I wanted to make, and hoping praying for the best.

When the first section was done, I measured it, and *Hurray!* it had turned our just right.  No better than just right.  It was perfect.  The measurements were exactly the same as the diagram.

This little sweater is teaching me so much, or, should I say, God is teaching me so much through the knitting of this sweater?  Yes, that is it.  God is teaching me.  He is teaching me orderliness, and forethought.  He is teaching me rhythm.  He is teaching me care.  He is teaching me to set my mind, and not to be swayed by every passing emotion.

I have been rising early in the morning, before the children are awake, to knit, and contemplate the day. To bring all of my plans before God, in prayer.  He is steadily guiding me, just as He did, to begin this project.  He has been speaking to me about where to start, where to continue, and where to make changes in my life.

Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to matter much, how we go about life; like the socks I just completed, in which, my stitches were consistent and even, regardless of how I knit:  If I was in a hurry, and held the yarn tight, it looked the same as when I was relaxed, and laughing with the kids.  With other things tho, it is obvious, that only a certain way will bring the right results.  As with this yarn; it matters how I knit.  Every stitch must be taken with care.

As I knitted this morning, I was reminded of a book I read once, a how-to guide for the weaving of Navajo Rugs.  In the book, the author spoke of the importance rug weaving had in the Navajo woman’s life, and how her rugs where a reflection of not only her life, but also her thoughts.  She told of the importance of keeping the loom area clean, and hence the whole house, because any hair or grass would be woven in.  Likewise, the mind and heart needed to be kept clean and whole.  This easily could apply to so many areas of life… but… for now, I am going to focus on the slow, easy rhythms of life that chain one stitch to the next.  The changing seasons, and the work to be done.  The growing children, and their inquisitive minds.  The joy of every day…

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September 22 

* I did not take this picture.

* I did not take this picture.

 The beginning of Autumn!  My favorite season.  I love the cool weather, and the days are still long, while the nights are crisp and cool.  If I wrote the calender, today would be mid-autumn.  The beginning of this season would have been six weeks ago…when we began to harvest the garden goods.  Then, it would end, the first week of November, soon after the first snow storm, when the last of the harvest is brought in.  Winter would begin when the snow starts to stick…


Alass, I am not in charge of calender writing; but I will fully enjoy the season any way.

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wash day

Mondays are laundry days.  This was not always the case.  When I ran a daycare, I washed three loads of laundry a day…in an effort to keep everything clean; but now that I have quit daycare, many of our habits are changing. 

To keep up with my family meant washing at least two loads a day, five days a week.  Getting behind meant a day or more of baby-sitting the machine, one pokey load at a time.  That was the situation I was facing, one day this summer.  It looked like two long days of wash ahead of me… without doing the bedding or towels.

That is when I recalled how little time I had spent hand-washing the clothes, when we were first married.  So I pulled out my old equipment, and with the help of my boys, mastered the laundry in less that three hour, including the linens.  It was simply amazing.  All that work, done, and I could go somewhere!  I was not handcuffed to my machine for two days, trying desperately to get back on track.

It was such a revelation for me, that I decided to try it again the next week, and the next.  Before long, we had a new habit, and I am loving it.  There are no more piles of clean laundry, waiting to be folded.  Everything is done in one day.  Done.

This morning, I couldn’t wait to get started, and had the clothes sorted before my husband had left for work.  A load of jeans was in the machine, and kid clothes were in the tub.  They are soaking at the moment…I will wash, ring and rinse them, as soon as I am done with this.  One of the boys will hang them on the line while another one cooks breakfast, and all the laundry will be done, long before noon.  Ahh…

…Now, if ironing and mending could be as exciting.  Any suggestions?

P.S.  School gets moved back a bit on Mondays.  We start with art, before lunch, and finish the academics afterwards.

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“Peaches are the delight of the canning wold,” claims the Blue Ball canning book, and I would certainly have to agree.  Nothing is prettier than jars full of peaches.  My husband thinks nothing is tastier, so he brought these “Summer Lady’s” home from a local fruit stand.  They were so big, that even cut in half, they hardly fit through the opening of a wide mouth jar, and I could only fit five halves in each quart!  After processing one box, we promptly decided to buy two more.  Most of them will be canned for cobbler and pies, but some will be dried, and some I pickled.  These are better known as “Spiced Peaches.”

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