Oh, so quiet…

…because this winter there was some pretty hefty, serious reevaluating going on around here. Ultimately, it results in a shift from this space into a new one, and I think you’ll like it. I’ll keep this home open for Spun Monkey-specific news, but I became less and less sure that this is the space I want to live and grow in. I’ll never stop loving fiber arts. It’s a huge part of me and is more than just a way to stop fidgeting; it’s a spiritual practice. I resolve to remain true to the main idea of my Kickstarter campaign from years ago, and continue to teach here and there throughout the year. I will offer special pieces for sale, on occasion, on a new site (goodbye Etsy). But, trying to make it into a reliable source of income made me a thousand kinds of unhappy, and there is no One Reason why. It’s just the way it is. Also, I don’t think it’s why many of you are here, anyway.


I’m hoping you want more goat pictures, and more about managing a subsistence garden and livestock while we juggle jobs outside the home, and how we create space and time for whole foods and body/soul nourishment with limited resources and a construction zone for a kitchen. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. In the new space, guests will come talk about their not-pretty realness, too. Sometimes, it is pretty, and we’ll talk about that, too.

Knitting and spinning will not disappear. It’s part of who I am. It’s also part of my day job, and somehow, I can still come home at the end of the day and let it take me relaxed places.


The new space isn’t open yet, and I’ll surely point you in that direction sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ll continue to post here until then, and will be archiving and organizing pages for recipes, tutorials, and garden posts for reference.

I’m hoping that, by the time it goes live, you’ll be seeing a picture of this thing with an actual sink in the hole:


In garden news, we’ve rearranged our sort-of kitchen so we could start some seeds. Last year, we started too early and many of our plants got too leggy before it was warm enough to put them out. It’s hard to tell what-all will happen this time around, so we’re hoping setting it back about two weeks will make for happier transplants. Until we can re-build our collapsed greenhouse, we aren’t starting our own tomatoes anymore. This leaves us brassicas and flowers, mostly, that we need to start early. Squash, corn, legumes – those will all be direct seeded asap, and onion sets will be ordered.


Are you getting started early? What’s happening in your garden?




Birds are hopping about on the thick crust of snow in increased numbers, sometimes it’s still light when dinner hits the table, and I suppose there may be a few other signs of Spring lurking around the corner if I pay attention through chattering teeth. My fingers are crossed for this to be the last night of the season to dip below zero, and it looks like maybe, just maybe, we’re good to go for tapping our trees this weekend.

The Spun Monkey studio has temporarily been converted to the seedling nursery. We’ve started quite early this year, despite having lost the greenhouse, and an impending drastic change in our daily/weekly routine will mean that C is here more during the week to be tending the homestead. I try so hard, but I’m not as intuitive as he is with living things. In past growing seasons, I have been the garden management team only because I was here. I wouldn’t say I have a black thumb, but it’s surely some color other than green, and whatever we’ve harvested has been due to a few parts luck, I’m sure. I can’t wait to see what happens when he has more of his hands in this adventure, because harvesting is my favorite part, and with him in charge, I’ll get to do so much more of that. Fact.

O will try for The Great Pumpkin again, of course, and if all goes well with our Hyssop, there will be goat milk aplenty for an experiment with milk-fed squash. She is WIDE with baby(ies???) and I hope to flood this page with adorable baby goat-ness come May.

And I hope with all my heart that this is our last tribute to make in what has been a very harsh Winter for our male barnyard friends, as we spent most of Town Meeting Day trying to save this guy:


RIP Funny Chicken. Why did you eat the hay?

He was the meat bird we kept because he was…a little funny. And personable. And attached to our little bantam hen. He stood up while she napped underneath him. I wonder who will protect her now from all those big, catty hens in the coop? She is china-delicate and he was her round, bumbling oaf who somehow never stepped on her or forgot she was there.


We’ll miss you, buddy.

Oh, and speaking of the studio, this weekend I’ll be re-opening my Big Cartel shop with links to registration for April classes. This will begin an eventual shift over from Etsy entirely. Stay tuned for a big sale to clear out the shop for the move!



by hand…


Last weekend, I asked the lovely Virginia Johnson of Gather Here to help me figure out my old beast of a sewing machine. O and I have a project in mind for the holidays, and I’m sure we could whip right through it if we employ the Fiatelli. I hadn’t been able to find any information on the interwebs about it, but now I think I can at least get the thing to make a full stitch.


I’ll be sharing a bit about this project later this week on the Sparkle Stories blog, but what happened is this: we did a mock-up with needle and thread. I watched him stitch attentively. I heard the words, “Hey Mama, I think I’ve got the hang of it.” When he grew tired of the activity, I took over and finished. Later that evening, he proudly told his Papa about the thing we made together.

It took a half-hour instead of 10 minutes. But, we have this useful thing we made with our hands, and it was engaging, fulfilling, quiet, and mindful. We may use the machine for the rest of them; I don’t know.

This, though: last week I had a conference with O’s teacher. One of the things she mentioned about him was that he is very thoughtful and deliberate in his actions, often not finishing his work during class because he takes the time to do his work carefully and intently. This made me more proud than any of the improvements he’d shown in the basic subjects. To his teacher’s credit, she did not imply that this was a negative thing, even in this age of timed tests and evaluations.

Rather, it’s a gift to be content, in a world of rushing and pushing and scrambling, to perform the catch stitch with needle in hand, even though you could zigzag with the machine in a fraction of the time. Not to mention he’d probably be more interested in taking the sewing machine apart instead of sewing with it, anyway, but that’s beside the point.

I like his style, yes I do.

spilt milk and gratitude. heaps of it.

I spilled some milk today.

I’m not talking about a glass being knocked over onto the kitchen table. I’m talking about slamming on the brakes on the way back from the farm and half-gallon glass jars full of it flying all over the car. Miraculously, only one of them shattered. Miraculously, the giant stag with the magnificent rack of antlers missed impact by a hair’s breadth and I still have a face. And a car. And there’s still a breathtakingly beautiful, ginormous creature bounding through the woodsy woods.

The car had a half gallon of milk in the passenger foot well. And a bazillion tiny shards of glass.

I can use the past tense because C came home and immediately took over from my failed attempts at remedying the situation. Tactics deployed include doing a better job with the shop vac than I did, engaging the car’s foot well fan while simultaneously running a portable electric heater, and now…re-charging my car battery.

It had been a relatively pleasant day, before the milk thing. Honestly, truly, I managed not to cry about it, but in the two hours following the incident, I was sure the world was falling apart and I understood why spilled milk might elicit such a reaction. Or any unfortunate incident that drastically alters the course of the day’s events.

I had chores to do, dinner guests coming, yarn to spin (for Stitches! Are you coming??), a fire to re-start because I’m a shitty fire-tender, a hungry kid who wanted me to read to him, and I was tangled in extension cords and pulling glass out of my fingers.

And then C came home, like a freaking knight in shining armor, and I didn’t even let myself feel totally lame about the fact that I was actually a damsel in distress, feeling overwhelmed and under-equipped. I needed rescue, and that was okay. In fact it was better than okay because he just said, calmly, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

I don’t expect this. I don’t take rescue for granted. He has a big, stinky pile of problems of his own to deal with, broken stuff to fix, and never-ending chores. Home life is a second full-time job. But he can still come home to my added messes and disasters and greet me tenderly, ready to spread out his cloak to keep me out of the mud.

That, I may just cry about. With gratitude.

Hamaca Maca*

I fold it carefully.

It must be just so, or next summer we will pull a tangled mess from the box.

I place it inside, and it’s like putting a tent and its poles back into the stuff sack at the end of a camping trip…the triumphant moment when it all fits, just so.

The writing on the box tells me that I hold in my hands a piece of Mayan culture, that it took 15 days of full-time work to create this hammock, and that I can enjoy it strung between palm trees.

I look at the maples around me, the chicken shit on the porch, and wonder if this is not quite the setting the author had in mind.

We used to have it in our house. In a living room 3000 miles away. The words on the box tell me I can enjoy a “great nap” in this piece of Mayan culture. I think of all the times I lay in it, in that living room 3000 miles away, with my sleeping baby on my chest.

I fast forward to the shit-covered porch: the baby is now grown into a boy of seven. It is summertime, and when he is not swinging and laughing with friends in the hammock’s colorful embrace, he rests quietly in it, on his papa’s chest.

Yes, I think this is exactly what the author had in mind.

I tuck the flaps and place the box reverently on the closet floor. I scrape and sweep the porch, shoo the chickens, and prepare to stack the wood for winter.


*eta: The box actually says Hamaca Maya, but when I take it out each summer, I sing a little song, and it always comes out Hamaca Maca. I don’t know why.