This fall has been so busy with preparing future gardens, harvesting and preserving produce and stacking wood. Even though we only have over an acre of land, the work seems endless. As I work, my mind does one of two things: zones out completely or thinks constantly about the other work that needs to be done or future projects.
An acre of land definitely doesn’t sound like a lot when you think of homesteading, but believe me you can do SO much on it (we have 1.25 acres). I’m currently turning over the soil for a new garden, putting the other gardens “to sleep” and stacking wood.
GATHERING AND PREPPING
Fall has brought the most bountiful time in our garden. The maritime climate is strange in that we have rather miserable springs and summer begins later than the south of Canada (something rings strange about that phrase…) but fall is glorious. We still have carrots, parsnips, beets, chard, squash, kale and an abundance of fresh herbs growing. However, this will all come to an end very, very soon. I have been so busy, picking, drying and preserving our produce and herbs so that we have organic, homegrown food for the winter that we can eat with a sense of peace and satisfaction (I don’t know if anything is more satisfying than eating your own grown or foraged food).
PREPARING GARDENS FOR WINTER & TURNING OVER SOIL FOR THE NEW
Over the summer, I learnt a lot about our plot of land. Our raised beds are surrounded by pine trees that block a lot of light. So, I’ve decided to turn the soil over in a different spot for a new garden. Why am I doing this now? Well, I wanted to expose the soil to chicken poop, dead leaves and rotten wood before the winter. All of these are excellent for the soil. While I turn over the soil, I let the chickens eat their hearts out. There are SO many worms and grubs and other insects that I couldn’t name. As soon as the chickens see me with a shovel they come running over to me, knowing there will be a feast (Chickens are very intelligent animals)! Our yard is covered in dead leaves as well and we have many rotten tree stumps. I’ve been raking the leaves and mixing in the beautifully rotted wood with the freshly turned soil. Next spring I’ll add in our compost and hopefully have some nutrient dense soil!
PREPARING GARDENS FOR WINTER
Once the above garden is ready, I will cover the beds with decaying leaves, pine needles and place birch bark on top. This is to protect the soil from our incredibly frigid, snow filled winters. It will also prevent weeds from growing in the spring before I actually start planting and working with the earth (I turn the soil over again in the spring). I really enjoy this part of gardening. I think of it as putting the gardens to sleep. Keeping them warm and safe.
PERHAPS NOT GARDENING… BUT FALL WORK ALL THE SAME!
And lastly… the WOOD PILE! It is never ending. But… I love it. So much. I love having the pile of wood outside of our home, waiting to have some meditative hardworking labourer strain their back over it (i.e. me or Jamie). The quintessential northern home. I have spent the majority of my life living in the country or in very small towns in eastern Canada (I grew up in Eastern Ontario) and there isn’t a spot that doesn’t have wood piles and smoke curling out of chimneys as a common feature. My favourite human landscape is a small town, covered in snow with a church steeple and smoke curling from the chimneys around it… I digress.
The work doesn’t end. I have a lot more to do before winter starts. But I wanted to share with you a couple more pictures before I say goodbye! Happy Samhain weekend 😀
This week, the Pangur Bán sweater will be bound up with twine, placed in a cloth hand-sewn bag and shipped to Germany. Across the Atlantic Ocean, leaving behind its humble beginning on Prince Edward Island.
This original sweater was made during the summer of 2016 using Létt-Lopi that I purchase online at Alafoss. What you may ask is LOPI? Lopi is the term for Icelandic Sheep’s wool. Icelandic Sheep are very beautiful animals that are direct descendants of the first settler’s sheep brought from Norway in the 9th and 10th Century! How neat is that! They sport a unique dual layered fleece, which helps to protect the sheep and keep them dry and warm (aww). I grew up with little Lopi sweaters that my mom knit, however they were infinitely bulkier than the sweaters made with Létt-Lopi. The Létt means “light” and is actually half the weight of the old Alafoss Lopi. It creates a garment that is.. well.. light and delicate, yet hardy all the same. I don’t think it really needs stating that I love this wool… the colours, the texture the end result! It’s so perfect ❤
Anyway! This sweater saw her beginning on a ferry crossing the North Atlantic from Sydney, NS to Argentia, Newfoundland. I purposefully started the sweater just before the trip so I could work on it during the 16 hour ferry ride and long car rides crossing the province. I packed very little on this trip, some clothes suitable for camping and a backpack for my cotton wool bag (filled to the brim with wool!) so I could work on the body of the sweater and mittens for market. This suited me well until our car troubles began… and our stay was extended 5 extra days in a campsite with no drinking water or transportation (I may have been cursing my bag full of wool at that point :P…).
No worries though, both Rachel and I returned unharmed in Nova Scotia with a new found knowledge of Mechanics and Garages (who knows what you may learn when you go on a trip!). Also of course, a love for that giant, wild province out in the Atlantic ocean.
The sweater, as you can imagine was put on hold during our trip. I think I managed to complete most of the body while I was away but the rest was completed on PEI. My intention was to display the sweater at the Etsy Made in Canada Market which was at the end of September. I had about a month before I could complete not only a sweater but other items for our market table. And so I got to work…
My pattern for the yoke was not really set in stone. I didn’t write anything out. I actually just kept tabs on when to do my decreases and what made sense with the decreases and the pattern. This is the first time I actually hadn’t even drawn out a chart. This is how I knit my mittens, from memory and without a chart, so I felt like I could do a yoke too. I was really uncertain about how this one would turn out, but I trust the elves that they will look after me 😉 My vision was that it would be similar to the old style lopapeysur so my whole intention was to keep it simple, focusing on the diamonds and triangular mountain peaks (I tried to search for pictures of vintage Icelandic sweaters and came up with our sweaters… not quite google, not quite).
Messe [ocus] Pangur bán
And there you have it! My completed Pangur Bán sweater. It’s my more subtle take (with a lighter more flexible wool) on the 1970s/1980s designs. It is also a much closer fit than the older lopapeysur, but that also is due to the nature of the wool.
You may have questions about the name, which I am more than happy to answer! My cat’s name is Pangur Bán. His namesake is an Irish poem written in the margins of a manuscript in the 9th century. The author was an Irish monk, living in Austria at the time. He penned a poem detailing how his cat Pangur Bán (meaning literally something along the lines of “white fuller”) and him are quite alike in how they work, silently side by side while he searches for knowledge, Pangur diligently hunts mice. It’s a beautiful little poem. But why did I name the sweater after my cat/9th century Irish poem? Well, when I chose to use the gold as a contrasting colour, Pangur actually jumped up beside me looking for pets and I was struck by how similar the two were! A good friend of mine pointed out the similarities as well and I thought it would be the perfect name 🙂 I suppose you could also say that we worked silently side by side, however he is a terrible mouser and I am binge watching Tales from the Green Valley or Tudor Farm.
Lastly, I want to share with you the sweater all bundled up in our handmade packaging. Creating packaging for knit goods has taken us years. We have finally created handmade cotton drawstring bags to allow the wool garment to breath and just offer a unique little detail when receiving a specially made sweater. This was always on our “to-do” list but both Meaghan and I were busy as Masters students when we started this shop and then lived in different provinces. As you can imagine, it was difficult to get those details ironed out and put into action. I also often wrap things up as well in my hand-carved stamped, brown paper but the sweaters are now sent in bags.
making little lavender sachet for the journey, with handpicked lavender from our garden (showcased on my hand-stamped paper)
The sweater, bound in twine with a thank you card I illustrated based on a Grimms Fairy Tale
I always feel a little withdrawal when I finish a project that I have put quite a bit of time and thought into. So I look to future knits so I can be a happy house elf.
ARAN PULLOVER: Using leftover yarn (only 20 per cent wool) from last year. I’m planning to just make up a combinations of cables and have it loose fitting.
ARAN STOLE: I’ve been dreaming about making a thick, earthy cable-knit stole/shawl/scarf (whatever you want to call it). In the winter, I basically live in a lace stole that my mom made for me several years ago, so I’d love to have another one to give my lace a break. If anyone has any suggestions for wool (looking for aran weight, pretty durable and earthy… I hope that makes sense), please let me know!
ARAN SOCKS: a couple of months ago, I bought a vintage sock yarn that is Oh so nice. It would be perfect for one small, cute pair of aran socks. Now, I just need a pattern. If anyone knows of any small, aran sock patterns please let me know! I’m hoping to do a love knitting order soon, so if I need new needles for these I can get them then 🙂
LOPAPEYSA: I don’t know if I need to even add this, but of course I have some in mind and have already ordered wool. I have joined my sister to make some custom order ones again so I will be making my Winter Woodland in Ash for a customer as well as 2 more this winter that will likely have original designs and then be put up on the Etsy (wait until you see the colours!!)
And of course, I am making mittens, etc. while I wait for wool orders and find out where my mind is before I can start making. Can you tell I have a preference for Aran and Icelandic knitting…. 😀
I hope you enjoyed this post, please send me a message or leave a comment if you have any questions!
*Title of blog post is taken from Robin Flower’s English translation of Pangur Bán
“For absolute, freedom and wilderness” Henry David Thoreau, Walking
Walking is one of my absolute favourite activities. Walking for no purpose aside from joining nature and losing oneself. I feel very lucky and grateful that I live in a place that is so close to many magical environments. There are so many different landscapes on the East Coast! This past month we have explored an old growth eastern hemlock forest in the centre of Nova Scotia, rocky shores and conifer forests along the East, the Mountains in the North and the mixed woodlands not far from our home on the Island.
October in the East of Canada is so beautiful! Our landscape is painted with the red and orange leaves of sugar maples, crimson blueberry fields, stark whites and golds of birch and the ever fluctuating bright blue and dark, smokey sky. There’s the song of the Canadian Geese overhead and black specks of crows perched atop the trees. It’s short and oh so sweet.
What do we do in the woods? We certainly spend a lot of time there. We Listen to the birds, the squirrels, the brook. Notice every adorable fungi we come across and marvel at the plush moss where I’ve always fantasized about laying my head to sleep ;). Sometimes, I forage or draw. When it’s really nice outside, my sister and I can spend a whole afternoon sitting by the river, wading in it, deciphering faces in the bark of trees and picking out the perfect quartz crystal.
It’s where I feel happiest and at home.
What landscape makes you feel happiest while hiking?
The darkness of October and the imminent Canadian winter has encouraged me to start a blog. Here, I hope to share small parts of my day living in the country, artwork and sketches, knitting and patterns, herbalism, our quest for self-sufficiency and last but not least, my love for tradition and folklore.
The name “Finfolk & Oak” stems from where my family and I live, by the sea and with the trees. Moreover, the magical connotations of the finfolk or sea people of folklore and the majestic oak tree point to our love for the Otherworld. I tend to walk through this life always thinking about things that arguably aren’t there…>.<
Thank you so much for joining me, I hope this post finds you well!