Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Auld Lang Syne - or - The Fruits of Our Labor

It's snowy around here, and has been for just about the entire month of December. I love it. We had a white Christmas for the first time in quite a few years, and it was so perfect to look outside and see softly falling snow on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning. Just perfect.

In a few days, in fact, just in time for New Year's Eve and Day, it's going to warm up and rain and all the snow will turn to slop. I could complain about that, but I try not to complain about the weather. It seems like the weather always brings what we need, in some way or another, even if it isn't obvious at the time. Having the snow melt away will certainly help hubby to get more firewood, for example.

During winter, the pseudo hibernation we slip into around here is not only pleasant, but necessary, I feel, after the long days of summer so full of work. It's perfect for planning next year's garden, canning lots of convenience food for the pantry, getting the house in order, tackling indoor projects, and playing games with the kids.

I've just about wrapped up my gifts for the season. It happened yesterday as I assembled the final gift box for some dear friends of ours. As I stood back from my work table and looked the items gathered there, I realized how much a reflection of our lifestyle this gift is. I decorated a sampling of our canned goods with fabric "hats," and attached labels. I baked several breads and cookies and made a cheese log, plus knitted a kerchief and a hat. It's a nice box, altogether.

Then I started thinking about where everything came from. The ingredients for the canned goods almost entirely came from our garden, with the exception of salt and vinegar and a few seasonings. The fabric to decorate the jars came from the box of fat quarters I got from a garage sale last fall. The labels came from a thrift store. The box and tissue paper to package it all have been reused and recycled many times. The work came from my hands and was spirited by my heart and soul. I cannot express the satisfaction that accompanies my pursuits. To put it simply, it drives me, it motivates me to eliminate the middle man in ever more ways.

This is not a bragging post. It is simply a post to communicate to anyone who might be reading that you can do it yourself! Every year we do more for ourselves. We have such a long way to go on this journey, but seeing the fruits of our labor encourages me, spurs me on to continue and to bite off another chunk each year. In my mind it unfolds like this, as I look down at my gift box...

I think to myself... The first year we gardened, I only canned tomatoes and cucumbers, because we had so very many. The rest of the food we basically ate or stored in the cellar. The next year, I made sure to plant enough to can green beans, too. But it wasn't a huge amount. So the next year I planted enough of lots of different foods to can enough to store a big variety for winter. But still, I was using garlic and onions from the store, and lots of other stuff, too. This most recent year I only bought salt and vinegar, and some seasonings, to accomplish my canning. The rest came from us.

Five years ago we had no garden.

So... look around you and consider from whence your stuff cometh. Regard the fruits of your labor and determine how much you buy and how much you create or provide for yourself. There's always another step you can take care of yourself, like saving your seeds, growing and drying herbs, and getting chickens. We do some of this already, but can do even more next year.

As the current year wraps itself up and the new one approaches, take some time for reflection. Look around you, think about what you can do for yourself, and make a change. And give thanks and gratitude for the richness of your life. Because no matter what you have or where you live, there is always so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for my family, my friends, the cycle of the seasons, this chunk of land we are borrowing from Mother Earth until we become a part of it, and for opportunity. There are so many choices, each and every day.

Suddenly this is sounding a lot like making resolutions. So with that, I will bid you a peaceful passing of the year, and a tender start to the new one.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Which I Knit Some Hats

The garden is finally put to bed for the season, the kids are fully involved in school work, music, and jujitsu, and our big holiday celebration of the year has come and gone. Around here, the big party of the year is at Thanksgiving, when my entire family meets here in Ohio for a long weekend of fun and festivities. This year was the 11th year in a row, so it's really becoming a tradition.

This year I tried some new techniques to prepare in advance, and they worked quite well. I've decided to blog about them, but not tonight. Tonight I would like to share some hats I have been knitting. I gave a bunch away for Christmas gifts, and now, everywhere I go, everyone wants a hat. This is a great pattern, and will serve you well, so my hat goes off to the designer (pun fully intended!)...

Click on this link to see the pattern and its designer...

Or you can try this one...

Anyway, I've been busy knitting up these hats and they are simply wonderful! Since it's been snowing a lot lately, and Christmas is on the way, I'd like to show you my hats, and encourage you to knit some yourself. Either that, or ask your knitting friend to knit one for you. I can almost guarantee that wearing one or giving one will make you feel warm all over, especially on your head!

Stay tuned for my series of Thanksgiving posts. Perhaps I can help some of you prepare your next feast with less stress! In the meantime, try knitting some hats!

Wishing you warm heads and happy hearts...