Monthly Archives: January 2015
A while back I became interested in carving, particularly carving wooden spoons. It seems like such a simple every day item and I can’t explain my fascination with it. I think it has something to do with almost getting into a meditative state while I do it.
This video was part of my inspiration. I am always amazed by anyone who can do exactly what brings them joy, and make a living from it.
The first spoon I carved was very small, probably 3 inches long. It eventually turned into a Christmas ornament. Our tree is filled with similarly quirky things which aren’t necessarily intended to be Christmas ornaments but are very special to us.
This mini-sized spoon, and the first full-size spoon I created, we’re both made from a big old lilac tree in our back garden which had partially fallen down during a windstorm. The wood still maintains a wonderful scent. My second spoon was made from Birch.
After discovering this fascination with wooden spoons, Becky’s mother happened to mention that she had a couple wooden spoons made by her uncle in Greece. Both are made from Olive wood. Those spoons are over 20 years old. The strokes of his carving knife are still visible.
In recent years I have grown fascinated by things that have been made by the hands of other people. Their energy and love is put into each item. I think people who make things with their hands will understand what I mean. It’s probably what attracted me to Pinewood Forge where I bought my first carving knife. It’s a mom and pop business making high quality carving tools. Del Stubbs and his wife Mary operate the business from their home in Minnesota. His carving knives are in such demand that there is often a six to eight week waiting period. Definitely worth the wait.
I have wildly diverse interests. Typically this first reveals itself to the casual observer by the range of reading material I have around at any given time. Becky has grown accustomed to seeing me with a stack of books (ok, usually more than one stack!) on everything from woodworking, to baking artisanal breads, to fermenting, to understanding opera, to learning Italian, to jewelry making, to house building techniques, to Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep and Chickens (you just never know when this information will come in handy!). There might even be a seed catalogue (or 10) in the pile too!
On occasion I need to resort to audiobooks to save time because it’s just not possible for me to read that fast. Years ago I tried to learn speed reading to help in this area, but I just got bogged down in reading the how-to book.
Having a wide range of interests directly relates to your skill sets, and in turn, to saving money. The skills I have gathered over the years reflects in a large cost savings. It’s the idea of self-sufficiency that many of us pursue. I love being self-sufficient. Sometimes I surprise myself when switching from one project to the next in a short period of time. One day I’m building our new deck, and the next day I’m baking bread. On another day I find myself walking around a craft store buying supplies to make earrings as a Christmas present for Becky, then repairing a broken appliance. I love the diversity of my interests. And when I say ‘interests’, think ‘skills’.
Reading and watching homesteading blogs and videos, one thing that really stands out for me is the vast array of skills homesteaders have. I think it’s amazing. It’s something we all have in common.
I took some time recently to reflect back on how much money Becky and I have saved over the years by doing things ourselves. It’s definitely hard to come up with an accurate number, but it was fun to think back over some of the projects we have done and just how much we didn’t spend because we did it ourselves.
I’ve built decks, renovated our basement (although it took much longer than some of us at the homestead would have wished), installed dishwashers, worked on plumbing projects, put in new breaker switches into our main electrical panel, etc. etc. All of these things cost money if you have to pay someone else to do it, and often the quality of work is not always the best.
Just recently the door latch on our dishwasher (affectionately known as the Relationship Saver) broke. And it broke in the shut position. Ok, I thought to myself, if I can get it open then I can take it apart and see whats going on. I tried and tried but just couldn’t get it open. The next day before having to resort to calling a repair company I gave it one last…..whack…..jackpot!!!!
Google, Youtube, a quick visit to the manufacturers website, and a short time later I returned from the appliance parts store. New door latch assembly in hand. Another job done.
Labor costs can be the most expensive item when you build or fix something. Having a repair person come out to fix our dishwasher would have probably cost $100 in our area just for him to show up. I would guess the labor on our deck would have been around $1500-$2000. The labor on renovating our basement… Probably $5000.
So, overall, having a wide range of interests and an equally wide range of skills can be absolutely crucial in the homestead in order to save valuable money, and be self-sufficient.
This is what makes living on the homestead easier, and cheaper. It’s saved us a lot of money over the years.
Sure there have been offers to loan me out for an afternoon to build, repair, or bake, but Becky has not accepted any of those offers yet. Maybe the price just needs to go up and she’ll take some of those offers more seriously.
Back in November Becky and I attended our first craft fair. It was in support of the United Way so table rental fees and a donated raffle item went to charity.
Becky and I have been making earrings for about 2 years now. This started when I decided to make 3 pairs as part of Becky’s Christmas gift two years ago. One of the pairs was made from a large crystal which a family friend bequeathed to us when he lost his battle with cancer. I was able to remove two pieces small enough to create a pair of earrings for her to remember him.
Here is the full crystal….
And it got turned into this…
Since that time we have made and sold many pairs of earrings. During the craft fair one lovely woman who bought a pair of earrings was actually sending them to a relative in Germany. How cool!
In addition to earrings, we have also been making handcrafted soap and an amazing natural lip balm which we have been using, and decided to sell them as well. Being our first craft sale we didn’t know how people would respond to our handmade items. As it turned out the soap and lip balm disappeared very quickly with additional orders coming in after the fair. The earrings did well too, but we wish we had made more soap!
Here is what our table looked like…
It’s interesting how things unfold. A Christmas gift of handcrafted earrings turns into selling them. The soap making also started as a gift. Last Christmas I bought Becky all the needed items to start making soap. I planned the sequence of the individual items she opened to maximize her confusion. Seemingly random items which had nothing to do with one another were slowly unwrapped. One item, which didn’t quite fit under our “stocking stuffers only” gift exchange rules, was a wooden soap mold which I made for her. It was added to the pile of strange items laid out before her until finally she unwrapped the instructions and it all made sense.
We always have lots of laughs on Christmas morning, which is the way Christmas should always begin, filled with laughter, smiles, kisses and hugs. This most recent Christmas we decided not to exchange gifts at all, and we still had a great morning filled with those same things.
That’s the long version of how we ended up making those particular items. That’s the way life is sometimes. It turns and twists, and before you know it you are at a craft fair selling things that you enjoy making and using yourself. We sure make one hell of a team!
Stan (and Becky)
Happy New Year everyone!!!
The morning of January 1st, 2015 started like any other morning, with an amazing cup of coffee. Silvia never fails to deliver on this, but the first cup of the year is extra delicious in the quiet of the morning. Sink into a comfy chair, take a sip, and the new year seems filled with possibilities.
Last year Becky came across this great idea. I don’t know if it has an official name, but I like to call it a “Feel Good Jar”. This is the picture which she sent to me last year along with the suggestion that we start our own.
The way it works is that every time something good happens, you write a small note, fold it up and drop it in the jar. Then on New Years Eve or on New Years day you open the jar and read out all of the amazing things which happened to you over the year. Big things and small things.
It’s unfortunate how we tend to forget the small everyday events which light us up, warm our hearts and feed our soul. Kind words from a friend or client at work might be remembered for a few days or a week, but 6 months later you might not remember. I know I won’t. I will definitely never remember the feelings surrounding the words. So when I write it down, I like to add my thoughts and feelings. It helps to bring back all the warm and fuzzy memories with it. Any great moment is worthy of adding to the jar. Becky and I have both been adding to it.
What a way to spend some time on New Years day. Ok, we haven’t actually opening our Feel Good Jar, but one doesn’t want to rush such things. It should be fun and relaxing so why stick to an exact date. It will happen when it happens and not a minute sooner.
I hope you all find a bit of time to look back over some of your fond memories of the past year…and think about all the possibilities of the coming year.
May your jar get filled to the brim!
Stan (and Becky)
PS – I forgot to mention who Silvia is. She’s a model…..well, let me rephrase that……Silvia is the model of espresso maker we have. Made by Rancilio. Those Italians!