Thoughts from an alpaca farm

Dear Readers, I got to do the coolest fiber obsessed thing ever, last Friday! I got to visit an alpaca farm and visit with an amazing fiber artist. It was a dream come true and such a neat experience, and I wanted to share my joy with you.

Alpacas!

Alpacas!

I met Jo from The French Alpaca during a hike I lead on my day job. We had a great time and got to talking and she talked about her alpaca farm and her fiber arts. I so enjoyed chatting with her and she offered to show me around. I had been looking forward to this visit for a few weeks.

As I pulled up I was immediately struck by the beauty of the farm. It’s so scenic and a beautiful piece of Maryland. Jo came up and immediately hugged me, despite me being late. She brought me into the entry room to the barn. It is filled with ribbons. They are world and nationally renowned for their alpacas. In particular they are known for their grey breed.

Ribbons of greatness.

Ribbons of greatness.

Alpacas and the dogs.

Alpacas and the dogs.

So as I took in all this award winning we headed out to meet the girls. We were also met by Jo’s 3 guard dogs who were large and adorable. They clearly do a good job of protecting the heard. One was even so good at camouflage. She was in a pen and I almost thought she was one of the alpaca.

In meeting so many alpaca at once I have to say how struck I was by how human their eyes seem. They seem to follow you where you go. It was so much cuteness. Every face I looked at just got cuter and cuter.

Jo showed me where they take care of the fleeces and how they take the dirt out. So cool to see the process up close.

A box of alpaca fiber.

A box of alpaca fiber.

Then we went to the room where she does wet felting and dyeing. It has a washer and dryer, electric roasters for dyeing, and an amazing array of dyes. I really want to try dyeing this year so it was an inspiration, for sure. She showed me some of her over dyed yarn and it was sooooooo soft and beautiful. I have to say I feel some excitement at trying this.

Some of Jo’s hand dyed yarn.

Some of Jo’s hand dyed yarn.

Over to the boys side of the barn. I met the most delightful stud (literally). I can’t remember his name but his fluffy face was so much greatness. I even got an alpaca kiss. It was a pretty great moment in my life. I didn’t get a picture of him though so I’m afraid you will just have to accept these extra pictures of the girls and a little one.

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After all of this alpaca greatness we headed upstairs where her showroom for The French Alpaca is. It was glorious!!!! It was so inspiring and just got the creative side of me so excited. She has a so many different items and techniques. She is a fiber artist to admire.

So much fiber!

So much fiber!

Coasters made with plants and fiber.

Coasters made with plants and fiber.

She showed me all around her shop. She does quite a few different techniques, bringing the fibers to life in so many different ways. It was all so beautiful and such an inspiration. I sometimes worry that I try too many different kinds of things, that I should just stick to a couple of things. Seeing all that Jo does I was definitely assured that I should do what makes me happy. It was so many beautiful colors and textures. I loved every minute of it.

I’m so grateful for Jo’s generosity in sharing her farm and her work with me. It was so kind and nice of her and it really made me so happy and joyful. It was an inspiration and I’m so thankful to get to know neat people. If you have a moment please give The French Alpaca a like on Facebook.

Alpacas and Fibers,

The French Alpaca.

The French Alpaca.

Katrina

Thoughts from a blank mind

Dear Readers, my mind is blank this week. So I bring you just a run down of the week here at Marsh Farm.

It’s been a quiet week here at Marsh Farm. Monday was a federal holiday so I got lots of time in the workshop and it was nice to get some things under my belt. I even tried to make cat toys but they were quickly destroyed by our playful Jack and Charlie, so I have to go back to the drawing board for those.

Tuesday we celebrated my Mom’s birthday at the Olive Garden and we had a wonderful time.

We had a glorious snowstorm on Wednesday. We got around 8 inches and a snow day at home. We even got to break out the snow blower. This snow blower is the best yard sale purchase ever. It was almost never used and only cost us $75. It has served us well and I feel like such an adult when I use it. It was a fun mid-week day off the day jobs.

Snow day at Marsh Farm.

Snow day at Marsh Farm.

Thursday and Friday were quiet days of day jobs and working in our workshops in the evening. We even started working together in the woodshop to work on some wood and wool pieces. I really enjoy working together on projects. I feel like I learn so much from Susan and it’s a fun way to spend time together.

Wood and wool project coming right up.

Wood and wool project coming right up.

Yarn haul!

Yarn haul!

Saturday brought us to the Maugansville Ruritan pancake breakfast. It is one of our favorite community things to do. After that I went to my most local yarn shop. Just up the road is the Knitting Cottage. It’s such a lovely little shop chock full of yarn and has a great wool yarn and roving selection. They were also having a sale!

In the evening we headed to a gathering of our friends that like to create things. For awhile I have wanted to get together with other creative people and be creative. I love seeing what other people create and I find such inspiration from that. So we gathered with a few of our creative friends and shared things we made and created some things together. It was so much fun and we are going to organize some more gatherings. I was so energized on the drive home last night. My heart was happy from all the great energy. I’m so looking forward to doing it again.

Our crafty club learning how to quill.

Our crafty club learning how to quill.

So that’s our week. It was a quiet week but cozy and wintery.

Snowflakes and glue sticks,

Katrina

Thoughts on creativity

I love being creative. It’s one of the things that make me really happy and is a way I deal with stress. Creativity to me is not just about making things. It’s about creating things…duh….and I feel like that comes through in so many ways in my life.

It goes back to my childhood. I don’t know if being an only child for almost 9 years meant that I needed to use my imagination or what, but I’ve always enjoyed being creative and coming up with things. I loved school projects that required creativity. The more I had to think outside of the box the more I enjoyed it. I have to say I even think those are the school projects I remember the most.

Me as a budding artist in my grandparents basement wearing my Mama’s apron.

Me as a budding artist in my grandparents basement wearing my Mama’s apron.

I think I was also really lucky to have people in my life that rewarded my creativity. My Pappy first comes to mind when I look for sources of my creativity. He himself was a maker, and was constantly working in his workshop. When he had a few strokes he turned to painting, and he and I spent countless hours painting together. We would watch Bob Ross and spend time in the basement trying to copy Christmas cards. Although I am not a gifted painter, I do think those hours were well spent. I think made me believe I could be an artist and that helps me tap into my creativity.

Me and my Pappy with a picture I painted. Remember I said I was not a good painter.

Me and my Pappy with a picture I painted. Remember I said I was not a good painter.

One of my Mom’s costume creations. A Hershey kiss. The picture doesn’t do the hat justice.

One of my Mom’s costume creations. A Hershey kiss. The picture doesn’t do the hat justice.

My Mom also played a huge part in my creativity. I think it’s because she valued it and she praised me a lot for being creative. I was on an Odyssey of the Mind Team (now Destination Imagination) and I still hear the pride in her voice when she talks about it. I think I just knew that being creative was a great thing and it felt good to be good at it. Also my Mom is a creative person (even though she doesn’t know it). Growing up she showed her creativity in our halloween costumes which she made or helped us make. I have so many wonderful memories of those amazing costumes. My Mom is also a gifted flower arranger. She makes beautiful arrangements and loves doing it. In her retirement she has a passion for learning and has been taking classes in painting, music, and more. In seeing her stick with these pursuits she shows me that creativity is also about learning and perseverance.

I also think about those teachers that rewarded creativity. I think of Mr. Abe my 5th grade teacher who was also our Odyssey of the Mind coach. He supported our creative endeavors and even encouraged us to make up our own games on the playground. Then there is my 8th grade language arts teacher who made every unit full of options and creativity. I recall so many of those projects and moments in her classroom. From creative writing, journal prompts, and even making a whole endangered species marketing plan I value that time learning by being creative. I think these mentors helped show me that there are so many ways to learn, and learning by doing creatively is so valuable.

A Susan project. I just asked for some mud pie kitchens for work and she delivered this awesomeness!

A Susan project. I just asked for some mud pie kitchens for work and she delivered this awesomeness!

Finally, I think of Susan and how she creates. She is such a problem solver. She loves projects and especially ones that solve a problem. I think thinking about a project is her favorite hobby. She shows me that research and thinking are such an important part of the creative process. Susan also is such a brave person in her creativity. Once she has done her research and made her mind up to do something she jumps right in and does it. She may have to try a couple of different methods but she does it and almost always perseveres. Her enthusiasm and go get ‘em attitude makes large projects seem not so daunting and it gives me courage to take my own creative leaps.

All of these influences helped shape how I think and what I’m passionate about. One of the things I love about making things here at Marsh Farm is that we get to be creative, whether it is creating things to sell or in building things for our home. I’m so thankful to get to share these creative processes with you, Dear Reader, and I hope you’ll keep coming back for more creativity.

Bob Ross and Projects,

Katrina

Thoughts from my 30's

Me at 30 on the slopes.

Me at 30 on the slopes.

Well Dear Readers, I write to you from the very last day of my 30’s. Tomorrow at 9:44am I will have been on this beautiful planet for 40 years. Boy, time does fly when you are having fun.

I thought I would spend part of this last day of 39 to reflect on this last decade and what I’m looking forward to in the next 40 years.

I know that some people don’t dig birthdays and might be freaked out by 40, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been looking forward to becoming an old lady for a long time, and getting to this milestone means I’m getting closer. I have dreams of being an old lady wearing a muumuu and pulling out mints and other useful things out of my purse. I dream of being at dinner at 4:30. I can’t wait to tell stories from my life and keep younger people entertained with these tales. I hope to be an old lady that people look forward to hanging out with because you never know what might happen.

Anyways, back to reflecting on my 30’s. I know I’ve heard people say your 30’s is where you find yourself. I’m not sure how much I buy into that, but I do know that I’ve figured out things that I am passionate about and love to do, and want to spend my energy and time on.

I love being outside in my gardens. It makes me so happy to work in the dirt and to watch plants come to life. I love watching my gardens evolve and grow.

One of my favorite rugs I’ve made.

One of my favorite rugs I’ve made.

I’ve also figured out my art, and what I love to make in my 30’s. When I reflect back on this process, I love it and am proud of the things I make. I get so much joy from the idea of other people having my art in their home too.

I’ve found my career calling in my day job. It took awhile to find environmental education, but in my 30’s is when I feel like I really felt like I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and followed that rocky path (naturalist joke). I’ve had amazing jobs and have been able to do amazing things and see amazing nature (that’s a lot of amazing). I’ve had experiences that made me realize that I’m happiest being a doer and there is nothing wrong with letting go of ambition and being content in doing.

In my 30’s we bought our house and have made it our home and inspiration. We got married…again (for legalities sake). We’ve added furry and feathery members to our family. We’ve had adventures great and small. We’ve experienced sadness and loss, but also so much happiness, joy and hope. We’ve hosted squash squishing parties and chicken baby showers. I’ve driven a boat with a raccoon and had a mouse in my pants. We’ve laughed so much and cried a bit (both about the mouse).

Whew it’s been a whirlwind.

Max and I on his Gotcha day and my 34th Birthday.

Max and I on his Gotcha day and my 34th Birthday.

So what about 40? I’m taking this change in decades to make a bucket list of 40 things to do for my 40th year. I love lists very much, and I love the idea of adding some fun and adventure to this year with a quest. I still have a few hours to hone the list but here are a few of the ideas so far.

  • read 40 books

  • master pie baking in 40 tries or less

  • find 40 geocaches

  • spend 1000 hours outside

  • make a video or podcast with a friend

  • visit a place I’ve always wanted to

  • write and mail 40 notes of gratitude

  • buy 40 handmade items

  • give $40 each month to a cause I believe in

  • Hike the MD portion of the AT

  • Write 40 stories, no matter how short

Me on my birthday tiny home adventure.

Me on my birthday tiny home adventure.

That’s just a few of them for now. I’m so looking forward to this quest and so looking forward to this next year and all that it has to give. I’m also hoping to finding causes that I care about and find a way to help. I’m also hoping to work on trying things that scare me a bit (like talking to strangers).

So as 39 draws to a close I’m so thankful for the adventures, joys and lessons of the last decade and I’m excited to leap into 40 and beyond.

Muumuu’s and Purse Mints,

Katrina

Thoughts from a Cat-astrophe

Dear Reader, I must inform you that we had a Cat-astrophe this week. It was quite a dramatic and emotional event, but I’m happy to report that we have emerged all the better for it. So let me tell you this “tail”.

Max and Jack cuddling before the chaos.

Max and Jack cuddling before the chaos.

Just a sweet boy.

Just a sweet boy.

It started out as a normal evening, even an adorable and cuddly evening. All the animals had snuggled in and were cuddling with each other and with us. As is our evening routine, we eventually headed up to bed. On the way up the cats get fed. I gave them their wet food, I believe it was a turkey and cheese night, and set about filling their dry food. We had a new bag so I put the extra in the storage bin. I started to put the bin back on the top shelf, and that’s when it happened.

Being the Klutz that I am (my childhood nickname was tumble weed), I dropped the bin before it made it on the shelf. It just so happens that the cats were eating just below the shelf, and the bin landed on them.

Before I could tell what was happening, they both took off like a cat out of hell and headed down the stairs. The next thing I know the most awful wailing sounds where coming from downstairs. I hurried downstairs expecting to just see some upset cats cowering somewhere. Instead I found them wailing, hissing and eventually going after each other viciously. I couldn’t even compute what was happening.

After watching, completely aghast, for a moment, we decided that we should separate them because they seemed to be after blood. One went in the living room and one in the bathroom. We took a momentary breather and wondered aloud what was going on. So we did what you do, and went to the internet.

It turns out that going through a traumatic event together can cause cats to turn on one another because they associate the other cat with the event. So now what? We have a cat in a bathroom and a cat in the living room and after a couple failed, scary attempts at early unification, it was clear that this was not going to resolve that evening. I first cried because I felt so bad about ruining a beautiful brother relationship, and then we made a plan for two litter boxes and to see where things stood in the morning. Everything’s better in the morning right?

Wrong….but we did have a plan now. Things we read said that this could last days or weeks, but to slowly start to allow them to smell each other and to feed them within smelling distance. Lucky for us, we weirdly have a glass door that we can shut into our living room. So through the hissing and angry calls from both cats we allowed them to see each other through the door, and then put down some food for both of them. We also placed a call to the vet to make sure we were doing the right thing. The wonderful vet tech confirmed that we were indeed doing the right thing, but did warn that it could take awhile. Cats, apparently, are very good at holding grudges. Oh jeez, we were sure we were in for the long haul.

Working on things

Working on things

I want to take a moment to let you know that I did try to reason with the boys. I pointed out numerous times that it was my fault they went through this. I also tried to help them understand that one bad incident is not worth ruining their loving relationship over. They were not having any of it.

So we left for work hoping that time, sight, and smell would work miracles and that we would come home from work to one happy household. When I got home from work I tentatively went to the door to see how they were. I started by opening the door a smidge, which brought about some hissing but not nearly as bad as before. I was smart enough to bring some treats with me. I started feeding some to Charlie in the room and shoving some to Jack under the door. It was pretty comical. I also left the door open just a smidge so they could smell each other. Things went fine until I stopped the treats and then Charlie hissed. I could see that he was the one holding the grudge here. Jack had not hissed since the night before and was even doing adorable cat things in front of Charlie to make things better.

Working it out with treats.

Working it out with treats.

I now had hope that maybe this ordeal would just be a few days and not weeks. That evening we continued as normally as you can when you have cats living separate lives. Then came dinner time. I brought down their bowls and food and put a bowl on each side. I left the door open a smidge, so they could sniff each other. I thought to myself “Just a couple more days of this.” Once they were finished I let them sniff each other and Charlie didn’t hiss, but did kind of swat through the door. I was just about to close the door when my foot slipped (remember the klutz thing). Now they could get at each other completely…what would happen…would we have to start all over?

Well Charlie strolled out of the room and walked with his head held high, right past Jack. It was as though he determined the best way to deal with this was to snub him. And that was it. A little more nervousness on our part, as we adjusted, but there has been no more hissing, no scary fights, and no more separation. To us, they do seem to cuddle a little less but that has seemed to pick back up in the last few days.

As all of this was happening I did have some thoughts along the way. First, “OMG, this is too much drama”! Then I thought that we humans can do the same things to one another. Sometimes, when we go through bad things we do lash out at the people we love the most. I also gave a lot of thought to the holding on to grudges. It’s definitely something I’m trying to work on within myself. It’s sometimes so easy to hold onto that hurt and not forgive. My fluffy boys have taught me that perhaps some time and a meal shared within smelling distance can help with forgiveness, or perhaps this is just a funny story to help me remember to watch what I’m doing.

Either way, these adorable creatures of Marsh Farm sure do keep us on our toes.

Stay friends,

Katrina

Thoughts from the fields (Snow addition)

I think it’s time I tell you, Dear Reader, that I hate winter! I try hard not to complain about weather too much, because generally I love that there is something neat that each season brings to Marsh Farm. However, the really cold part of winter that we are now experiencing is the one type of weather that makes me chuck this life rule out the window and begin whining like a small child who is tired and wants a lollipop.

So with that in my mind and the chill in my bones, I did want to spend some time trying to think of the beauty of winter and all that it means for our little ecosystem here at Marsh Farm. While today is bitterly cold, I think the week before last was probably a picture perfect winter week. It snowed a few times and stayed in a tolerable winter temperature. It was during the Sunday/ Monday snowstorm that I decided to head out and through the fields and see what Winter was bringing.

First, I headed to the veggie garden. This time of year makes me dream of spring and summer. I took a moment to imagine the veggies, herbs and flowers that hopefully in a few months will be flourishing here. Think warm thoughts, think warm thoughts.

Winter veggie garden.

Winter veggie garden.

Just behind the veggie garden are four giant pine trees. They are the four biggest trees on our properties, and I love them so. They stand strong and are what I look to, to tell me how the wind blows. They are also one of my favorite places to watch sunsets from and I dream of a sunset shade garden here one day. For Winter they are a beautiful place for snow to gather and birds to find shelter.

Pine trees in the snow. Future sunset garden?

Pine trees in the snow. Future sunset garden?

Who’s been here?

Who’s been here?

As I headed out to see what the “Back 40” looked like, I noticed some foot prints in the snow. I followed them for awhile, and loved thinking about the secret life of the fields. I do suspect these are the footprints of my neighbors cat that roam our land.

I swung by the dead tree to see what was going on. This is an old locust tree that has been dead since we moved in. It is not in danger of hurting anything, so we have left it because it is such great habitat for cavity nesting birds like bluebirds. I also think it looks so neat looming out over the fields. As I stood admiring it, I noticed lots of holes and imagined lots of little critters curled up in that tree.

The dead tree hotel.

The dead tree hotel.

Turning from the tree I was struck by the beauty of the snow on the wetlands and the plants sticking up. I just had to take a moment to appreciate the wide open space that living here at Marsh Farm gives us. I also noticed that we have still have so much water hanging out in the wetlands. I keep hoping that some spring day I’ll hear spring peepers out there.

Wetland water

Wetland water

Wide open spaces.

Wide open spaces.

As I turned to head back up to the house I noticed a great tree monster I had never noticed before. If you don’t know about tree monster, I’ll be sure to do a post on them soon, but in the meantime just use your imagination.

Winter tree monster.

Winter tree monster.

As I stood there taking in this monster, I noticed some movement. There above my head was a very busy bird. With the lighting of the day I couldn’t take a guess at what kind of bird. I decided to take a moment and just observe. Standing still and quiet, I started to notice more birds around me. As they started to tolerate me being there the bushes and trees around me came to life. It was definitely a moment I enjoyed being out on this cold day. It is so wonderful to stop and enjoy the life of Marsh Farm.

Winter bird against a grey sky.

Winter bird against a grey sky.

Finally chilled enough, I headed up to the house but had to pause in the pond garden. We do not cut most of our plants down until spring. Leaving them up gives seeds to birds and habitat to insects that over winter in this detritus (also I love the word detritus). As a bonus I think these winter stalks give the garden great texture and snow a place to congregate. I think it’s really beautiful and every winter I thank myself for not cutting those down. The tickseed especially looked like a poofy snowball to me. The pond itself is also a winter interest. We leave the pump going as long as it is still pumping water. It provides great garden interest and sounds all year long.

The pond garden in winter. The tickseed is the poofy one.

The pond garden in winter. The tickseed is the poofy one.

Dreaming of outdoor showers

Dreaming of outdoor showers

Finally I stopped by and just longing looked at the outdoor shower. I closed my eyes to day dream of warm days and the luxury of outdoor showers. Just a few short months….right?

So that is how I decided to spent these Winter days. I’m trying so hard to find the beauty in Winter and I hope that maybe by sharing it with you this may even become habit.

Stay Warm,

Katrina

Thoughts from the Studio

It’s a snow day here at Marsh Farm and I had some quality time in the studio. I thought that made this a good week to share some thoughts and the process from my felting studio. I admit, Dear Readers, that I change the name of my studio on a weekly basis. Sometimes it’s the studio, sometimes it’s my workshop, and sometimes it’s the workery. Which one do you like best?

I thought I would share my process for making one of my favorite types of table toppers. The circle table toppers or rugs is the first thing I started making with “Fanny”, my felting machine by Simplicity. This machine looks like a small sewing machine, but instead of one needle and thread it has 12 barbed needles. I run the two materials through the machine in whatever pattern I fancy that day and they are bound together. Voila!

So here’s the process.

The first thing I do is cut circles out of the base felt which is recycled acrylic felt. Back in the day I had to cut all of my circles by hand, but then “Sydney” the Sissix die cutter came into my life. I can now be more efficient by cutting a bunch of circles at one time. I still cut any shapes that are not circles or squares by hand.

Next comes marking the middle of the circle and then I begin the felting. I start the yarn in the middle and then use the machine to tack it down. Then I continue spiraling the yarn and using the machine to felt it down. The spiraling is a lovely combination of meditation and alertness. After doing this for 9 years I usually have a sense of how yarns will felt, but it is one of my favorite parts of the process. Sometimes yarns will surprise you for the good or the bad.

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Out comes the iron. Pieces usually have some puckering after the machine, so to give them the finished look and to make sure the yarn holds tight, I iron the heck out of them. A hot iron and steam really changes things and I love that moment.

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Piecing the Piece, Piece by Piece

Piecing the Piece, Piece by Piece

Once I have all the circles I think I need, I start to piece them together. I feel like each yarn has a story to tell and my job is to look at the felted pieces and figure out how to best tell that story. There are always a ton of different ways I can put things together, and I just go with my gut or ask for some advice from Susan to steer me in direction when I’m having a block.

To the sewing machine! I sew just a couple a pieces at a time to make sure things are staying in line. Sewing is not my strong point, so I definitely have to concentrate. I’m grateful to have a machine with speed control so I can make lines I am proud of.

Once it is all sewn we are getting so close to the finish. It is time to add the backing. I use an iron-on cotton backing. Over the years I have developed a process, and I no longer get the backing stuck to things. First I do a light ironing to tack it down. Then a quick cut and more ironing. Finally a more detailed trimming and we have a finished product.

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So that’s it, that’s my circle process. One of the things I love about thinking about this process is thinking about how I’ve come to it. I think back to all my trials and errors and I’m proud to have gotten to this point. I also love the process because I tend to use the time it takes, to think about other design ideas and that gets me so excited.

If you have one of these pieces or are thinking about one I hope you know how much love, thought, and a piece of me goes into each of them. If you just enjoy circles, spirals or creative processes I hope you enjoy following along.

Katrina

Thoughts from a New Year

I love a New Year! It just has that new year smell. It’s so bright and shiny and full of possibility. It’s the time to make fresh starts and dream of the future. I just love it so. I also love that there are so many great family traditions our families have around New Years. I thought I would share some of our family traditions and our hopes for 2019 with you, Dear Reader.

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Traditions

New Years Toilet

We have never been party people for New Years Eve so most of NYE is spent with delicious food and a chocolate fountain. It’s yummy and interactive! A few years ago we added a New Years Toilet to this tradition. That’s right I said New Years Toilet. It began in a year Susan spent time putting in a new toilet at her parents house, and our Nephew Evan asked what we were going to do with the old toilet that temporarily was on the front porch. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but that turned in to us coming up with a new tradition of decorating the new toilet and at midnight we give it a flush. We have continued with the ceremonial flush every year since, and it tickles me so.

New Years Pretzel

As long as I can remember my Mama and Mom have made New Years Pretzels. The name is a little misleading as it is not a pretzel in the normal pretzel sense. It’s more of a yeast bread in the shape of pretzel. The family recipe calls for candied fruit in it, although I prefer it with out. It turns out that this seems to be a Pittsburgh tradition that maybe stems from a German tradition, as best I can figure out on the internet. I have purchased most of my adult New Years pretzels because I’m a terrible baker but this year I decided to tackle the beast, and drum roll please….. I did it! I succeeded in making something that was edible and not awful. Once you warmed it up and added a little butter it was down right good. I hope to do even better next year.

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Pork and Sauerkraut

My family has also done the traditional pork and sauerkraut meals to start the new year off right. This year we waited until this weekend to have it with my family. In past years I have even made do with tiny sausages and a jar of sauerkraut…you do what you have to do.

Hopes and Dreams

My favorite tradition is to come up with a bucket list of things to do and accomplish this year. You might call them resolutions but I like making it a bucket list better. I’m still working on firming up my ideas but here are some ideas flowing around my brain.

The Year of 40 list

So I turn 40 this year so I’m planning on making a list of 40 things to do during the year. I’m getting really excited about this list and totally taking suggestions.

The Shed

We’ve decided this is the year we build a garden shed on the side of our house closer to the garden. We had thought we would do that in 2018 but we got distracted by the outdoor shower build and I have no regrets.

Harvest and Preserving

I admit this past year was not a great year for getting to use our garden goodies. I don’t know if it was a sophomore slump in the new garden, too wet, or just being overwhelmed, but we didn’t do a great job of living up to our gardens potential. I hope to do a much better job of eating and preserving all we can from the garden.

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Garden Beds

I’d like to add a new garden bed but I don’t know where yet and I haven’t told Susan…so shhhhhhhh.

Organization

We hope to get our utility room and basement in a more organized state so life can be a little easier to get to things in storage and to functional things.

Slow Down

In the warm months we always seem to be so busy that there doesn’t seem to be time to really enjoy the fruits of our labor and I want to make a deliberate effort to change that.

Create

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We hope to add new products and create more things we love. We also hope to put energy and love into our website and store and find ways to share even more with you.

So Dear Readers, that is the big list and our fun traditions. I’m hoping that by writing them down and sharing them with you I have given them even more power. I’d love to hear what your traditions are and if you have any grand plans for 2019.

Katrina

Thoughts from a Christmas Tree Lot

It's that time of year. The first weekend of December at Marsh Farm means Christmas Tree weekend!!!! (Insert Squeals of Joy here). We get a real tree each year and the process of picking out the perfect tree is one of my favorite traditions. We have had so many wonderful tree buying experiences.

One of my favorite memories, before we lived here, was the time we went to cut down a tree and it snowed a most magical snow. It was so glorious with hot beverages in our hands and a snowy hay ride out to the fields. We decided that we could never top that experience so we moved to picking out the right Christmas tree lot to acquire our trees.

The most magical tree farm day ever.

The most magical tree farm day ever.

Since we have many years of experience under our belt, I thought I would share with you, Dear Reader, the qualities of a great tree lot for us.

It starts on the ground. It took awhile for us to figure this part out, but a perfect tree lot must NOT be on asphalt. There's just something about the crunch of gravel and dirt that adds to the experience. We have tried a few lots on asphalt and only proceeded to get back in the car in search of a better experience.

Night time Christmas tree buying is magical

Night time Christmas tree buying is magical

Second it must be open at night. I can’t say that we have ever even tried to go to a lot during the day but I can’t imagine it being as magical. There’s just something about the glow of the lights strung up that gives an air of magic.

Friendly and full of Christmas cheer staff is a must. We have left a tree lot because the people were not at all friendly. Picking a tree is such an important part of our tradition that we are willing to walk away if people aren’t adding to our Christmas joy. One of my favorite places (which is now closed) had the greatest guy that would joke around with you and once you picked the right tree he would send you inside to the Christmas shop. He would then tie the tree on with REAL TWINE. It was so amazing. The place we have been going to for the last few years has a great group of kids that don’t hover too much but are always willing to help. They also will tie the tree on for you.

A tree buying experience is made extra special if the location has extra Christmas cheer like wreaths and a trim shop. There’s just something about adding the extras and making it a experience that I love.

Wreaths at the outdoor market at Cronise Market

Wreaths at the outdoor market at Cronise Market

Susan’s sister Liz has been has joined us for so many of our magical Christmas tree purchases and I love sharing this tradition with her and now with you.

Susan, Katrina and Liz annual Christmas Tree Buying Extravaganza

Susan, Katrina and Liz annual Christmas Tree Buying Extravaganza

It’s been a great kick-off to the Christmas season and we’d love to hear some of your favorite tree buying memories.

We hope your are having a tree-mendous season,

Katrina

Thoughts from our heart

It is almost Thanksgiving and a time of year when we take some time to reflect on the gratitude in our hearts. I thought I would use this time to share with you, Dear Reader, some of the things that make us ever grateful and thankful to be here on Earth and especially here at Marsh Farm.

Susan and our nephew Evan snorkeling in the hot tub during Aunt Camp.

Susan and our nephew Evan snorkeling in the hot tub during Aunt Camp.

First, of course, has to be family (yes, we know you are reading this). We are both so very grateful to have families that we enjoy being with and that we get to spend time with throughout the year. This year we are especially grateful to have celebrated many things with our families, including a special wedding, travel, making Christmas cookies, playing games, visiting many fairs and festivals, spending quality campfire time, and eating many, many tacos! We love them all very much and are very thankful to have them in our lives.

Katrina and her Mom on a hay ride.

Katrina and her Mom on a hay ride.

We are also very lucky to have wonderful friends in our lives. One of the best things about our friends is that they are so very interesting and bring much joy, entertainment, and laughs to our lives. They have come into our lives in so many ways and we are so grateful to have met them on this journey. For all the laughs, support, date nights, stories, and squash squishing devices, we are thankful. So if you count us as friends, please know that we are full of gratitude for having you in our lives.

Playing Skee Ball with our buds Mike and Alan.

Playing Skee Ball with our buds Mike and Alan.

As you might have read in the last post, we have an adorable gang of critters that have turned this house into a (very furry) home. They bring so much joy and entertainment into our lives and we are thankful for them.

A peaceful day at Marsh Farm.

A peaceful day at Marsh Farm.

Bluebells blooming in our garden in the spring.

Bluebells blooming in our garden in the spring.

I know it might sound silly but we are truly grateful for the little things in life. It’s those things that really make life joyful and wonderous. From waiting for the flowers to come up in the spring, to using up an entire pencil (a favorite hobby), to going for lightening bug drives, these small joys are soul sustaining and we are thankful to be able to find these moments in this life.

Marsh Farm is a very special place to us and we feel really lucky and grateful to call it home. It is a place that we get to try and do some good with and for, and for that we are truly thankful. We are extra thankful for you sharing in this journey with us.

Finally, Dear Reader and Customers, we are thankful for you. We are thankful for getting to share our lives and creations with you. We are grateful that you take time out of your lives to read along and that you are willing to spend your money on the things that we make. It brings us great joy to be able to share with you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We hope you have a most wonderful and joyful Thanksgiving. May it be filled with family, friends, laughter and, maybe, some wonderfully awkward moments.

Gobble, Gobble,

Katrina and Susan

Thoughts from our critters

I thought it was time for you, Dear Reader, to meet the house critters of Marsh Farm. Our little abode is the domain of quite a brood. We have 1 dog, 2 cats and 2 rabbits that roam our rooms, so let’s meet them.

Meet Max

Max came to us on my birthday in our first year here at Marsh Farm. As best we can tell, he is a beagle jack russell mix or Jackabea. We got him from a friend of friend and he was 7 months old when he came to us. He very much has a jack russell personality. He’s full of energy and a total cuddle monster. He’s super friendly and just a bit whiny when he doesn’t think he’s getting the attention he deserves. We love him to bits and can’t imagine life without him.

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Meet Jack and Charlie

You have to meet these two fluffkins together because they are brothers and came to us together. These came to us from our neighbor kids. They were the last two of a litter that their free range cat had. Everyone said we should keep both of them so they would have a playmate….great idea. They certainly are a handful and there are many days that I remind them that it is a good thing they are cute.

Charlie is the one with orange spots. He is so cuddly. Snuggling is his favorite. He loves to be petted and will be the first one to jump in your lap. His favorite toy is anything circular. Hair ties and canning jar rings are the best. His favorite way to cause chaos is to push things off the counter (despite being told he’s not allowed to go up there).

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Jack is the one with darker spots. His idea of cuddling is to lay on the floor next to the couch. He LOVES boxes…like really loves boxes. He takes no crap from Max and will only tolerate a little bit of holding. His favorite way to cause chaos is to sneak into rooms he’s not supposed to be in. He’s our most expensive critter as he swallowed a needle and thread from an antique sewing box and needed emergency surgery.

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These two may cause a lot of chaos but I love them so much and they did make our furry family more complete.

Meet Wabbit and Lucy

Our two rabbits are rescue rabbits. Both were found in the park I work in. Someone dropped them off (please never do that). I couldn’t resist bringing their fluffy faces home.

Wabbit is a giant grey rabbit. I found him near a stream when I was out with school kids. He is a sweetheart. He is gentle with other animals and loves to be scratched behind the ears. Wabbit lives in our laundry/ utility room and has been known to help with laundry and any plumbing jobs in his domain. I do love this rabbit.

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Lucy was found with 7 other rabbits and few months after Wabbit. Based on her siblings found with her, I guess that she is related to Wabbit somehow and was dropped off by the same people. She is a beautiful lop. She lives in our office/ studio. When she gets hop around time she loves to hop around ….literally. She loves hopping around you in circles. She is a mischief maker and likes to chew on things including rugs, shoes, and vacuum cords. She is a sweetheart and takes no crap from the cats when they sneak into her room. She is a great addition to our family.

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So that is is our loveable furry family at the moment. They make life fun and certainly make Marsh Farm a home.

Thoughts from a pumpkin

This weekend we hosted our 2nd Annual “Squish Your Squash” gathering of awesome people. What’s that you say (go ahead and say it, I’ll wait)? Well it is a gathering of people to take leftover Halloween pumpkins and other produce and create ways to squish, squash and otherwise destroy them. It is a total blast. A few years ago I binged watch the Pumpkin Chunkin championships and was so inspired and greatly amused. I pondered hosting a gathering for a few years and then last year I was challenged to actually do it and it was amazing.

I have to say that this event makes me so happy and so inspired. When I sent out the invitation last year I was nervous that no one would make anything and that they would think I’m a complete dufus. So you must understand that when my friends took the challenge and created amazing devices I was completely over the moon.

This year was just as awesome and I thought I would share some of their awesomeness (yes I said awesome twice in one sentence).

The catapults:

Catapults are the most popular made devices. This year we had two that were powered by bungee cords and two that are human powered. One of them was an adorable but mighty catapult made from a tool table of some kind. It was a back up plan for my friend David and it flung little pumpkins so far. Our own device is a catapult that is an old board attached to a step ladder and has a metal bowl attached to the end. I admit that ours is a little dangerous if you don’t push hard enough. A helmet would probably be a good addition to ours.

The Pumpkinator at work and the looks of joy.

The Pumpkinator at work and the looks of joy.

The pendulums:

These devices relied on a heavy object being swung into the pumpkin for it’s smashing. We had two of those this year. One was a cinder block on a rope hung from a ladder. It was smashingly good. The other one was called the booty and it was a wood block with a pipe inside that you swung into a pumpkin and tried to get it onto a target that was spray painted on the grass. It was like pumpkin chunkin met curling. I admit this was probably my favorite. It made a satisfying thunk when it hit the pumpkins.

The Booty about to boot a pumpkin onto the target.

The Booty about to boot a pumpkin onto the target.

The ladder and cinder block pumpkin swing. It made such a good thunk.

The ladder and cinder block pumpkin swing. It made such a good thunk.

Human power:

One of the reasons I call this party “Squish Your Squash” and not pumpkin chunkin is because I wanted people to not feel like they had to make a complicated device. They could just show up and smash some pumpkins for fun. We had that in full force. A couple of our younger friends showed up with a hammer and hammered the heck out of their jack o’lanterns. They were very dedicated to the cause and I loved it. My brother also had a sling shot that I worked with smaller pumpkins. Finally we had lots of people just manually squishing pumpkins and pumpkin pieces with their feet which was really satisfying.

The pumpkin carnage.

The pumpkin carnage.

The Trebuchet:

Meet this years winner! My other brother made a trebuchet and it was pretty amazing. He engineered this during the week. It took a few tries to find the right pumpkin combination, but once he did it was both impressive and slightly terrifying. It was really great and a well deserved winner.

The trebuchet being prepped to launch.

The trebuchet being prepped to launch.

I love this day so very much. First, I love people I adore coming together for any reason. Second, I am obsessed with the maker movement and I just am inspired to see the things people dream up come to life. So much thinking and engineering! Finally, I just love absurdity and this scratches that itch. When you think about it, this is really so wonderfully silly and fantastic.

Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy the creativity and joy that we had here at Marsh Farm. Please check in next spring and summer for updates on the pumpkin patch.

Meet Marsh Farm

I thought I would spend these first few posts helping you get to know Marsh Farm and the creatures that live here. So this week I thought I would share some of this special place we call home.

We begin our home search in the Spring of 2012, although we had been online lurkers for awhile. Dreaming of home ownership had been a hobby of ours for awhile. During our actual home buying process we spent one week looking till we came to this one. I’ll spare you the home buying details, but we knew this was the one as soon as we saw the parcel of land and especially when we walked inside and saw that the house was cute too!

We had wanted some land to try our hand at keeping a few farm animals and gardening. I dreamt of getting wool from my own sheep and eggs from my own chickens. 2.72 acres of Washington County is what we now have and I love it so. We have changed and added things including the idea of keeping so many animals (that’s for another post though). So follow me on a “tour” of my favorite spots here at Marsh Farm.

First the house. It is a 2 story Cape Cod style house built in 1944. It has at least 2 if not 3 additions. I think it’s adorable and I love it’s quirky layouts, although you do have to yell marco polo to be able to find someone, sometimes. We love the brick, although the white siding is a bit boring so maybe someday that will change. Its a cozy place and I love calling it home.

Our 1944 Cape Cod on the day we bought it.

Our 1944 Cape Cod on the day we bought it.

Next up is the barn. Never in our house day-dreaming did I think we would get a barn. It’s a perfect sized pole-barn for us. Right now it stores things, but it housed our chicken coup when we had a flock. We’ve added a raised floor to it and sometimes we talk about turning it into something more. Maybe someday it’ll be a pool house….just need a pool.

The pole barn at Marsh Farm.

The pole barn at Marsh Farm.

The fields are next. I call this area the Back 40. It takes up about half of our property. There is a fence that goes around almost all of them and you can tell that livestock have roamed them in the past. I love walking the fields and seeing the changes from season to season and year to year. There are beautiful views from every angle.

The “Back 40” and our pond garden at sunrise as seen from our Back Porch.

The “Back 40” and our pond garden at sunrise as seen from our Back Porch.

The wetland. When we came to look at the house and wandered around with our Realtors I remember them pointing out this back corner of the property and saying that it would be wet a lot. They were right. When the floodplain maps were adjusted a few years ago our property was added to the list. Luckily it was just the back part of our land. There is not much we can do here and that’s okay by me. I’ve even spotted a few ducks trying to make it home once in awhile.

My foot in the wetland as we tended to our trees (Don’t judge me for my crocs).

My foot in the wetland as we tended to our trees (Don’t judge me for my crocs).

The gardens. My gardens are my pride and joy and a bit of an obsession. When we moved in there really were no gardens to speak of. I was a little disappointed in that but have been able to create and recreate what we want and every time I look at them I’m full of pride and love for them. In another post I’ll introduce you to each of them personally.

Our veggie garden in it’s full summer glory.

Our veggie garden in it’s full summer glory.

So that’s the nickel tour. I’m hoping you get to know it in more detail in due time, but for now please enjoy Marsh Farm.

Thoughts from the Mower

Mowing our fields is one of my favorite chores to do at Marsh Farm. Mowing the fields is my domain because I know what plants I want to keep and which I want to keep in check. When we first moved here and I walked the fields I pictured letting them go to meadow. After a year or so I realized we would have to mow more than I wanted to control invasives (more on those later). Now I mow every few weeks through the thistle season and then I mow certain places for our Squish your Squash party.

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Since I have all this quality time on the mower I have lots of thoughts, and it struck me today that I would like to share some of those. Today I was really struck by my gratitude for this time on the mower. It makes me feel close to our plot of land and helps give me a sense of place. It gives me time to really pay attention to this special spot. I get a chance to observe the seasonal changes in the field that I might miss otherwise.

Right now it’s fall and the goldenrod and asters are beautiful. It’s as though the field is aflame with a golden light. I know that these native plants are giving fall insects a place to find food and shelter. I feel like I’m doing my part to help these critters and I get the bonus of beautiful fields.

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Today I also got the bonus of finding more pumpkins from our Squish your Squash party pumpkin patch (that’s a mouthful). I also found an amazing yard treasure and mystery. As I was mowing I heard a thump and looked back and saw that I had uncovered a white minnie mouse mug. I’ve mowed over that spot so many times and I have never run over it before. It showed no signs that it had been buried and was in fairly good shape. I have no idea how it got there but it was a fun find.

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Overall it was a great day for mower thoughts and I hope you enjoy them.

Getting Started

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog here on our website for awhile now. I love our little corner of Washington County, Maryland and I love making things and, gosh darn, I want to talk about them. So here I go. This photo is also our beginning here at Marsh Farm. This was from our first fall here 6 years ago. I think we were just starting the front garden. There had been nothing there when we moved in and now it is a thriving garden full of native plants, beautiful annuals, my grandmother’s peonies, mushroom logs and so much love and pride. The hopes I have for sharing my thoughts here are similiar. Right now it is not much but I hope to the put the love and care into it that I did this garden and hope it will grow and flurish. So come enjoy this journey with us. I hope you enjoy.

Marsh Farm-the beginning