Accidents Happen

broken wrist-BLOGLife can change in an instant. That became all too clear to me on March 11 when I fell and broke my left wrist. It was a great day to be outside and I had already accomplished things in the garden when I turned my attention to the tree cutting job my husband was doing. I was looking up at the branch he was cutting on, while slowly walking backwards, when down I went. My right heel had bumped the lawn mower, throwing me off balance. I stuck out my left arm to catch myself and knew immediately upon landing that something drastic had happened. I now have a t-shaped titanium plate with multiple pins holding the bones together in that wrist.

This hurts, for sure, and I plan on doing everything I can to promote fast and complete healing. Of course, since I use that hand a lot, I’ll have to alter my activities for awhile. In the big picture of things, this is small potatoes. I expect to recover and go on with my life. I know that others live with pain and immobility daily with no relief in sight and I have thought a lot about them since my accident.

You probably already know that I view everything as an opportunity, and this is no exception. It is an opportunity for my husband to show his love for me by picking up my workload around the house—and he is doing a fantastic job! Sudden changes can be overwhelming on a household, so it is also an opportunity for our family and friends to pitch in. Dinner arrived yesterday, enough for a few meals (thanks Molly), and volunteers are coming Wednesday to make sure the garden is in good shape until I am back out there (thanks Betsy and Ben). Just as important, however, it is an opportunity for me to let them help. It is sometimes harder to accept help than to give it.

I believe sometimes things happen to slow us down, make us more fully appreciate what we have, and maybe steer us in a different direction. I can take a hint and am thankful that it is not something worse. With that in mind, I am taking a step back, beginning with this blog. I’ve got some interesting projects going on for 2016, including heritage wheat, flax (for linen), and  colored cotton, in addition to my regular work with cover crops and diet crops. I will still be out and about and you can keep track of me on the events page at HomeplaceEarth.com. There are five years worth of posts here for you to enjoy, plus my books and DVDs, until I write again (no promises when that will be). Meanwhile, I will keep my senses open to what else the Universe has in store for me. Be well and enjoy each moment.homeplace earth

MENFlogoA couple weeks ago I made my first visit to Texas for the Mother Earth News Fair. Wanting to make the best use of my time and the rental car, I scheduled my flights so that I would arrive by noon on Friday and leave close to 5pm on Monday. Since I have an interest in fiber, I checked ahead online to see if there were any interesting yarn shops near where I would be traveling and found Yarnorama. Their website indicated that it was in an old renovated store and that the owner, Susan Fricks, had grown cotton. It sounded like my kind of place.

I flew into Austin and drove 40 miles east to Paige, TX and found Yarnorama. I had envisioned it to be in a town with other shops. That store might have been part of a going town at one time, but there wasn’t much there now, except for Yarnorama, of course, which is hopping when spinning, weaving, and knitting groups meet there regularly. I enjoyed chatting with Susan and she did know about cotton. She told me that I could bring out more color in my vest by washing it in an alkaline solution, suggesting washing soda. Well, I bought a small box of baking soda on the way to the hotel and added some to the water when I washed one side of the front of my homegrown cotton vest in the sink in my room to try out the idea. It is a pH thing and you could tell the difference! I hadn’t realized you could change the color of cotton by changing the pH. Thanks Susan!

I made it to the hotel that evening and met up with my friends. Besides the wonderful people I meet at my talks and around the Fair, these events are an opportunity to hang out with other authors and speakers, publishers, and the Mother Earth News staff in the off hours. Where else could we have that kind of opportunity? Besides the chance to get to know one another better, a lot of information gets passed around during these times.

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tahkli spindle and wooden bowl from Ploughshare Institute with my homegrown cotton

I gave three talks in two days at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas—From Seed to Garment, Planning for Cover Crops in Your Garden Rotation, and Seed Libraries and Other Seed Share Initiatives. I was delighted to see that the Ploughshare Institute had a number of booths there, in particular one about fiber arts, complete with spinning wheels and looms. They also had kits for sale that included tahkli spindles (the kind I use for my cotton) and support dishes for them in either pottery or wood, all made by folks in their community. I enjoy it when I can let those who attend my presentations know where they can get supplies or seeds related to my talk. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Brim Seed Company had cotton seeds for sale.

When preparing this year’s talks I had to find information to make my cover crop presentation relative to the Texans with a very different climate than mine. The last spring frost in Belton, TX is around March 11-20 (my date is April 25) and the first fall frost can be expected about November 21-32 (I usually expect it toward the end of October). Gardening slows there in the hot dry days of August. If you understand the concepts in garden planning, you can adapt the information to your climate. I really like the Plant / Harvest Schedule that I offer as a free download on my website, but when playing with it to see how some crops would look using Belton’s frost dates, I had to do some cutting and taping on the worksheet I was using to add more weeks on both ends of the season. You can grow some of the same crops there as you could grow in Virginia or even Maine, but you would want to look for different varieties that do the best in each climate.

The fairgoers were wonderful! They were so appreciative that the Mother Earth News Fair finally came to Texas. I enjoyed meeting them and had some great conversations, including one with a woman I met in the line at the MEN bookstore who told me she had my cover crop DVD and it changed her life. Now that she knew about my books, she added them to her purchases. Besides the presentations and the books, there are vendor booths that offer so many great things—things you may have heard about, but hadn’t actually seen, and things that are new to you. Attending a Mother Earth News Fair is like walking into a place where the magazine opened up and the writers, advertisers, and everything else came to life.

That Saturday I attended a brunch sponsored by Purina to showcase their new line of organic poultry feed. The spokeswoman was pretty proud of helping bring that project to the public. If there is enough interest, Purina will expand their line of organic feed. I am a Mother Earth News blogger and on Sunday I attended a blogger lunch, along with two people who each blog about cooking—one was a cookbook author and the other a rocket scientist. Yes, it was an interesting time.

I had much of the day on Monday to enjoy before my flight home, so I drove an hour north to Homestead Heritage Craft Village, which is where my new friends from the Ploughshare Institute were. To quote from their website, “Homestead Heritage is an agrarian-and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service, and quality craftsmanship.” The Craft Village is open to the public and has a fiber arts cottage, blacksmith shop, pottery house, grist mill, cheese-making house, and a woodworking and fine furniture-making shop. There is also a restaurant and General Store on the property. Classes are given in each of these areas through the Ploughshare Institute. If you can’t make it there, you could bring the classes to your home through their online program.

flax at Homestead Heritage TX on 2-22-16--BLOG

flax growing at Homestead Heritage

I was met by Sue who heads up the fiber arts department and given a great tour. It turns out that they are experimenting with growing flax and planted it in the fall, since it gets too hot, too fast to plant it in the spring. It was flowering now. Quality craftsmanship was evident throughout the Village.

Sue and Ira in the fiber arts buiilding --BLOG

Sue and Ira in the Fiber Arts Cottage

I wasn’t the only one involved with the Mother Earth News Fair who was there that morning. E.J., Ingrid, and two authors from New Society Publishers, Jerome Osentowski (Chelsea Green author), Ira and Gordon from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and Joel Salatin and his wife Theresa were there. We were being shown around by different people we had met at the Fair and our paths kept crossing. The New Society folks had to head to the airport, but the rest of us stayed for lunch.

Jerome and I had lunch in the restaurant with the weaving class. Over lunch I had an opportunity to talk with Kay, who I had become friends with over cotton spinning at the Fair. I only had the briefest time to talk with Butch who is involved with their gardening program. Their gardening practices are very much like mine. Butch already knew me through my DVDs and has now become familiar with my books. I hope to make it back to Texas to the Mother Earth News Fair and to Homestead Heritage. I didn’t know what to expect on my first visit to the Lone Star state, but I felt welcome wherever I went.homeplace earth

lettuce washing Cindy--BLOGOnce you have gotten quite good at producing food for your table, it is natural to think of providing for others. You could casually share with your neighbors and the local food bank, but many want to take it further and exchange their extra veggies for cash. If that is where your thoughts have been leading you, I would like to offer some things for you to carefully consider before becoming a market gardener. There is a big difference between doing what you love when you have the time and turning doing what you love into a business. During my time as a market grower I grew and sold a lot of lettuce. This photo shows me washing it for a restaurant delivery.

On January 29 I gave the presentation Scaling Up from Homestead to Market Garden at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference. It was well received and people who heard me speak approached me that evening and the next day to thank me for the presentation. Those who had already been selling said that my points hit home. I became an organic gardener so that I would have a healthy family. In order to also have a healthy community I became a market gardener in 1992 and sold to area restaurants. The farmers market network was not yet established at that time. In 1997-98 I had a small CSA in addition to the restaurant sales and in 1999 I was a founding farmer at our local farmers market. I left selling produce and eggs for others after the 2001 season to concentrate on teaching and researching so that I could put more knowledgeable consumers and producers at the markets.

Selling to others on a regular basis highlights the need for good record keeping. You need to plan for how much to grow and to plan for how much money it will bring to your business. No matter how good you are at growing some crops, such as broccoli and cabbage, the income from the same amount of other crops, such as specialty lettuce mixes, will exceed it every time. If you have already been a home gardener and have kept some records of your yields you will be able to anticipate how much you can produce from the space you have. Keep in mind, however, that if you have to break new ground for this endeavor, it may not be as productive as the garden you have been building the soil in for years. Some crops might surprise you. Onions turned out to be a good crop, as well as potatoes, winter squash and garlic—all crops that are not as labor intensive as lettuce.

You need to know what your crops will sell for before you even grow them. Notice what they are being sold for in area grocery stores and farmers markets. Start now and make a chart of the stores and markets in your area with a list of vegetables you might want to sell. Record the prices for them each week throughout the year, noting if they are sold by the piece, pound, bunch, etc. If by the piece, how many pieces make a pound? If by the bunch, how many items make a bunch and how heavy is it? Also record the origin of each crop. This list will be invaluable to you as you move forward with your plans.

Cindy's booth at 17th street--BLOG

Potatoes in wooden boxes were sold by the pound. Small potatoes in pasteboard containers were sold by container.

Although prices might fluctuate in the greater marketplace, I decided on a price that was fair for both myself and for my customers for each crop and kept it the same throughout the season. That said, there are a number of things you could do to vary the price. If you have an abundance of something, you could offer a larger quantity of seconds at a cheaper price per pound. I sorted my potatoes and displayed the smaller ones in pint and quart containers at a higher price per pound than the larger potatoes that were sold by the pound. The price displayed for the containers was by the container size, not by the pound. Nevertheless, the prices remained the same for the abundant seconds (cucumbers), the pints and quarts of potatoes, and everything else for the duration of that season.

Know your produce. People often comment on how much more expensive the colored peppers are in the grocery store compared to the green ones. Well, you need to leave the green peppers on the plant for a few additional weeks to ripen to red, yellow, or orange and anything can happen during that time. I priced my colored peppers at twice as much per pound as the green ones and had no complaints. Besides the prices, you need to know the nutritional value of everything you have and what to do with it in the kitchen. The more information you can pass on to the buyers, the more sales you will make.

I sold a limited variety of produce to the restaurants; primarily leaf and romaine lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and onions and the chefs did not need me to suggest what to do with it. For the farmers market I needed a larger variety of things for my booth and my customers welcomed my suggestions. The greater population has gotten away from cooking from scratch at home and need some instruction as they move back to that. If you package all the ingredients for salsa, for example, plus the recipe, many are more likely to try it. Packaging all the colors of the peppers you have together will entice your customers to buy the package, rather than just the one or two peppers that they had in mind.

Your passion and enthusiasm will go a long way to making sales, but keep in mind that you need to tend to your family first—and to your soil. If you feel you can grow more than you alrFeed the soileady do, maybe it is time to expand what you are growing for your own table, rather than grow for others. How much of your staple crops, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and grains do you grow? Are you growing enough cover crops to feed back the soil and provide all your own compost?

The first DVD I produced was Cover Crops and Compost Crops IN Your Garden and I was excited that I could show people how to manage cover crops in their gardens with hand tools. I knew it would be a tremendous help to small scale market gardeners—those gardeners moving from growing for their family to growing for others. The garden plan DVD followed which shows how to put together a notebook with your complete plan. I wanted gardeners to have a good foundation to help them plan to feed their families and others. Through my teaching I met folks who were ready to jump into growing for the markets with little experience of getting their hands dirty, let alone an understanding of what is going on in the soil when things grow and in our bodies when we eat the food. By the way, you will get dirty, sweaty, and tired. So tired that you will fall into bed at night thoroughly exhausted, only to get back up early in the morning to do it all again. It is not an occupation for the fainthearted.

I want gardeners to understand all of that before they ramp up to feed others. I expanded on what was in the DVDs when I wrote Grow a Sustainable Diet. It includes an additional worksheet (How Much to Grow), and information on nutrition, food processing and storage, garden washing stations, sheds, fences, and more on garden rotations with cover crops. With that book and the DVDs it is like taking a class from me. No matter how many people you are growing for or how much land you are using, my teaching materials apply. I’ve been talking here about determining how much money you could make, but sometimes the profit in this is not so much about the money you make, but the life you make. You become an integral part of the community around you and you can’t put a dollar value on that.homeplace earth


Let it Snow!

snowstorm January 23 2016-BLOG

We were recipients of some of the snow that fell on the east coast over the weekend. It was 14” deep at our house. It isn’t the most snow that I remember having here, but it is the most since January 1996 when we had 20”. We still had our milk cow then and I remember shoveling a path to the barn when the snow was at 10”, knowing I would be shoveling again. The path had to be a wide one—wide enough for me to walk with two five-gallon buckets of water.

snow covered row cover--BLOG

snow covered low tunnel

This time around I have kept busy finalizing my presentation for the upcoming Virginia Biological Farming Conference, shoveling snow, and knitting a sweater. Snow like this disturbs everyone’s schedule, for sure. But, as bothersome as that is, it presents a lot of opportunities. Of course, if you have been following my blog, you would know that I look at everything as an opportunity. It is when our structures are tested and we find out how well we’ve done. If you planned your low tunnels, coldframes, and greenhouses to withstand your usual conditions, you might find them collapsed in the snow. This snow reveals if they were built beyond the usual conditions.

It is good to know. This is the sort of thing you have to plan for from the beginning. Yes, it doesn’t happen very often and may not occur again for another twenty years, but the way the weather has been in recent years, I would build with the assumption that it could happen every year. That will put you at ease whenever severe weather strikes again.

As the kids were growing up, whenever we had a big snow that shut things down my husband would take them for late night walks down the road for at least a half-mile or more. Well, the kids are grown and establishing their own snow traditions and now it is me accompanying my husband on those moonlight walks. We went out on Friday and Saturday nights under the full moon and it was wonderful. Since the power hadn’t gone out, which was surprising, noisy generators didn’t disturb the silent night.

The first night it was still snowing when we went out and there was quite a bit of wind. We were walking in the road on snow. The plows had been out, but that didn’t mean the roads were fit to drive on. The next night I could feel the difference in the surface beneath my boots. Although not much traffic had been on them, the surface had turned to ice and there were lots of drifts across the road. So much so that the drifting snow and icy road had caused a snow plow to get stuck. He was waiting for a tow when we came upon him about midnight.

path in the snow to the barn BLOG

paths to the chicken house and barn

That walk brought to mind how important it is to get out and walk the ground to really know how it is; although, I’m usually referring to walking in gardens, possibly in your bare feet, when I talk about that. Looking out my window, either from my house or a vehicle, couldn’t have told me the road conditions like walking on the ice and through the drifts.

The roads in our area are full of curves and wooded areas. Even when the roads are clear after a snow, we know to look out for the areas where there are trees on the south side. Their shade keeps ice on the road in spots long after it has melted elsewhere. We can learn about where the cooler areas due to shading are in our gardens by watching the snow melt. I wrote a blog post about that in February 2014.

I hope you have enjoyed the winter weather at your place. It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Things we have planned to do get changed, and that’s okay. It is an opportunity to slow down and check on our neighbors. Sitting by the woodstove is great, also. And about that snow shoveling—welcome it as a needed winter workout and be thankful that you are healthy enough to do it.

garden plan dvd coverHere it is– a new year and time to plan your new garden. Before you do that, however, I urge you to think about last year’s garden. Most likely, if you are reading this you probably did some sort of planning last year. That’s what my DVD Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan is all about. In the DVD I show you how to put together a notebook with your complete garden plan. It even comes with a CD with all the worksheets I talk about, such as a Seed Inventory, How Many Seeds and Plants Needed, Plant / Harvest Times, and a Plant / Harvest Schedule. My book Grow a Sustainable Diet has an additional worksheet—How Much to Grow. It is great to work up a plan, but you might be like someone I met recently who put her plan together in a notebook, just like I advise, but neglected to keep track of things afterward. That is a great start and all is not lost. Even though you didn’t write it down, surely you remember something that happened through the year. Take the time now to note the highlights of 2015 and make a report of your gardening year. Then, file it away with the garden plan you made for 2015 for reference.

overlapping maps-BLOGFor many years my garden plan consisted mainly of my garden maps, the one I made showing what I intended to plant where and when, the Actual version that showed what actually happened, and the Amendments version that showed what amendments were added to each bed and when. It is the Actual version that will help you plan this year’s garden. If you completed it you will know what was in each bed throughout the year and when it was planted, particularly, what is in there now; but the subject of garden maps is a whole other post. Once I became a certified Ecology Action GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-farming Teacher I had to keep many other records and send them to John Jeavons each year, accompanied by a letter that explained what went on that year. It always gave the highs and lows of the year, what I was particularly working on, etc. It is that letter that I want you to write for yourself about your 2015 garden.

If you didn’t get past the initial plan, just making that plan should be considered a high. Not following through would probably be considered a low, but I’m sure there were extenuating circumstances. You should note those. It might be that you took a vacation and never quite got back to garden recordkeeping when you returned. Births, deaths, marriages, and divorces pretty much serve to get even the best planners off track, as do the activities of your children and parents. Building projects around your homestead might keep you occupied, and then there is the weather, which is always a good excuse for messing up your plans. If any of those things happened to you this year, they should be in your annual garden report. Although many of the things I mentioned cannot be foreseen or avoided, things like vacations can. If your vacation seems to coincide with crucial harvest times each year, change your vacation time for this year or time your plantings so their harvests will not conflict.

Thinking through the year will help you put things in perspective. If there is something you wished you could do better, such as fill in your Actual Garden Map as the season progresses, you might decide that will be a priority in 2016. What crops were you especially proud of? Even if you didn’t keep yield records you should have an idea if you were pleased or not with the harvest of most of the things you planted. Your pleasure or displeasure could be with the yield, taste, color, or whatever other traits you remember. Put that in your garden report. If you wished you had planted more or less of something, besides mentioning it in your report, make a note to change the amount planted in 2016.

What did you do differently last year? Did you try any new varieties or new ways of managing your tried-and-true varieties? What amendments did you bring in to your garden, if any? What did you use as mulch and where did it come from? Write about those kinds of things.

leatherwing on mint--BLOG

Leatherwing on mint

I hope you took photos of your garden through the year. It is amazing how things will look to you at another time. Having that visual record helps you to remember what was going on. Besides the plants and overall garden throughout the season, take photos of things you built or tools you used. Also, take photos of the insects and other wildlife in your garden. As you can see, I found leatherwings in my mint last summer. If you look closely, you might be surprised to see just how many varieties of insect helpers you have in your garden. This can all go in your annual garden report.

If you depend on the computer to store your photos, make sure to file them somewhere, hopefully in a file titled for that year, such as “2015 Garden”, with copies filed in appropriate files, such as “insects”, “crops”, or “tools”. Some people like to put photo books together online and then receive copies of the actual book. You could document all sorts of things in a book like that. Maybe that could be a project for your children to do, compiling information throughout the gardening season with that in mind.

Through the years I have often referred back to the letters that accompanied my records to John Jeavons and Ecology Action. Your annual garden report will reflect more than what is on record sheets. It can tell of the excitement, disappointment, discoveries, and enlightenment you experienced throughout the year. So, before you plan for 2016, take time to reflect on 2015. By writing an annual report, you can better direct your actions for planning this year’s garden.homeplace earth


VABFConferencePosterI will be speaking about making the jump from being a home gardener to a market gardener at the upcoming VABF Conference. The following is a news release about the scholarship opportunities that are available.

The VA Biological Farming conference is coming up at the end of January. There are a number of volunteer opportunities available for folks which in turn provides a reduced registration rate. It’s a wonderful opportunity for those interested in the sustainable ag / local food movement. The conference is a great networking and educational experience. The volunteer option provides a way for those who may not other wise be able to afford the entire conference registration.

The deadline for volunteer/financial aid applications has been extended until Jan 1. Please share this opportunity with any network and listserv you have access to to help spread the word.

Thanks so much for helping share this message and help folks attend this amazing conference.

 VABF conference info: http://vabf.org/conference/
Conference volunteer/financial aid info: http://vabf.org/conference/volunteering-financial-aid/

Home Economics

home economics--BLOGAfter many years of rarely hearing the term, I have seen “home economics” pop up recently here and there. That might be due to the DIY movement going on. It catches my attention because that was my major at Ohio State University. In 1975 I received a degree in Home Economics Education. When I started on that path my intention was to be a cooperative extension agent and help people be more productive at home. However, by the time I graduated I had already married my college sweetheart and our first child was two. It had been an eventful six years since high school graduation.

My husband and I chose to start our family early and live on one income. When our first child was born I stayed home and put everything I learned in my college classes to good use. We had to watch our pennies carefully. Home economics education involved classes in clothing and textiles, food and nutrition, housing and home furnishings, family and child development, and education. At Ohio State I attended the School of Home Economics within the College of Agriculture. By the time I graduated classes in consumerism were being added. Now if I wanted to be an extension agent, rather than a Home Economics agent, I would be Family and Consumer Sciences agent and would attend the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State.

I did end up becoming active with extension as a volunteer. I was a 4-H leader with my children for many years and the county office gave my number out frequently when people called in with questions about organic gardening, school gardens, composting with worms, and hatching baby chicks. That helped prompt me to become a teacher at the local community college, since there was a need for adult education. Gardening was not part of my curriculum at Ohio State, but was a natural extension of providing my family with good nutrition. I had studied everything I could find about organic gardening and put it to use, just like my other education.

No matter what education we have, we can make the life we want. I learned to sew as a young 4-Her, so by the time I was in college I already had skills and even made my wedding dress. My arms and legs are longer than most. Learning to sew was a way for me to have clothes that fit—also, I don’t like to shop. I made our children’s clothes while they were growing up, saving the fabric scraps, which eventually led me to take up quilting. When we make the life we want, we have the opportunity to do things and to have things that we can’t get elsewhere. You could even make your own blue jeans, which is what I’ve been doing for well over thirty years now.

Cindy's jeans-front-BLOGWhen I first started to make my own jeans I altered a store-bought pants pattern to fit like my favorite pair of store-bought jeans. If you have a favorite garment, wear it out, then cut it apart and use it as a pattern, allowing for seam allowances, of course. From patching my own jeans and those of my children, I realized that if pants were looser, the knees wouldn’t wear out so quickly. Also, if the back pockets were larger, like the ones on bib overalls, in addition to fitting more things in them, they provided an extra layer on my behind and the seat of the pants wouldn’t wear as much. Cindy's jeans-back-BLOGI began changing my pattern, eventually adding pleats in the front so I would have more room in my front pockets. (I really like pockets.) The front pockets are lined with the same denim as the pants. Even if I put screws in them, the pockets don’t wear out. The only problem I have with making my own jeans is finding heavy 14 oz. denim (14 oz. per square yard). I generally make two pair every two years and have to search the Internet each time, usually finding denim at Syfabrics.com. Once you know how to do something, you can change it anyway you want, and that goes for much more than clothes.

Money can’t buy a pair of jeans like this that fit me. When we hear the word economics we usually think in terms of dollars; however, home economics involves so much more than $. Even if you don’t sew, there are so many other things to do yourself in a household and on your homestead that will bring you more pleasure than anything you could buy. Any skill you can add is a plus. Learn to cook and feed your family as close to farm-to-table as you can; growing your own makes it even better. Learn to troubleshoot problems that occur and fix them yourself. Acquire tools and learn to use them.

It helps if there is more than one adult in the household. I leave the electricity and plumbing work, plus the major building projects to my husband. Some people yearn for a home theater. Not us, we have a library and a workshop. A home library may start out as a bookshelf in the living room and find a room of its own after the kids are grown, such as in our case. You can start your library by making your own bookcase, sized to fit your space.

outside sewing kit (2)Speaking of making your own, if you are looking to make a simple homemade gift for someone, make them a sewing kit. It can be sewn entirely by hand and you could even use pieces from your old shirts to make it. In the first photo you can see one opened up. It has buttons and a safety pin for emergency repairs. The pins and needles attach to the outside of the fabric pockets. The thimble, scissors, and a card with thread wrapped around it are stored in the pockets. The whole thing folds in half. I show the outside opened up here. If you’ve always wanted to make a quilt, this could be your start. Make two small quilt squares together, fold fabric for the pockets on the other side and add binding on the edges. I gave one as a gift to someone going off to college. She told me later how handy it was when she needed to make a repair. The scissors you see in the top photo are inexpensive fold-up ones. You could jazz up yours with some fancy embroidery scissors. It is fun to make, fun to give, and fun to use.

Tools and books are usually on the wish lists we make up at this time of year. If you have someone on your gift list who is just beginning home projects, quality hand tools and a toolbox to put them in are good gifts. If they already have some, maybe they need an upgrade. As for power tools, a drill and a circular saw are good places to start. A sewing machine and sewing classes at a fabric store are my suggestions for someone learning to sew. For the kitchen, canning jars, a water bath canner, or a pressure canner might be appropriate. My books and DVDs are great suggestions for the gardeners on your gift list. Doing things for yourself is empowering. Things might not turn out as you expect the first few times you try something new, but that’s part of the journey.

The winter solstice is coming up. I always find wonder in the change from the shortest day to the slightest bit longer. My chickens even notice. In January I’ll write about garden reports. Until then, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a peace filled New Year.homeplace earth


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