March 28, 2013

and now eleanor

She's really the reason I started this project, this little knitting pattern design business. Of course I love to come up with knitting patterns in general. I'm a maky-maky kind of girl after all. I like to make things, because it makes me happy. So I'm loving thing project (how could I not love to sit around thinking up and knitting things from my head?). But it all started with the doll.

When the original Eliza doll was published, I was thrilled. It was exciting having something I made appear in a magazine. Even thought I've done quite a bit of freelance work for all sorts of publications, both in print and online, I still get a little thrill when I see my name at the top of some article I've written or photograph I've published. And Eliza was a double-whammy, both an article that I wrote and a pattern I created, all in one.

But I've been frustrated, almost from the start, at how hard it was for knitters to get access to Eliza. After all, I made her up so that people could knit her. Which brings us to Eleanor.

Eleanor looks very similar to Eliza, they wear the same size clothes, the same kind of hair and felted body, but the pattern is different. Better, I think. She's knit in the round the way you would knit a raglan bottom up sweater (something I didn't know about when I knit Eliza). She's also stuffed densely with wool batting instead of the more complicated way I did it the first time around. And she has feet (yay for short rows!). But at heart she's still what Eliza was. Something for my girl to cuddle and love that I could make for her. And, as I said, making things makes me happy.

She's up on Ravelry and can also be found at my new, very beautiful - thanks to my oh so talented husband - website, Birch Hollow Cottage. We've got a blog over there and a facebook page and a pinterest account and it's all feeling pretty exciting and new around here. Please hop over and check us out, troll around, and let me know what you think. There are even a few little secret links on there too, if you can find them :)

March 27, 2013

here comes the sap

I was starting to panic, just a little, about the whole sap flow thing. The magic three or so week window where the trees will give up their sap before healing up has pretty much passed but other than one warm week before our first boil, it's been too cold for the sap to rise. Not that we can't live without more of our own syrup, but...yeah. (I want syrup!)

So yesterday, when the temps were warm enough to drive with the windows down I hoped, hoped that there would be just a leeetle sap in my buckets. But low and behold, in one day we collected 3 gallons of sap. Holy cow. And yay! And HOLY COW! (Because my big bucket only holds 7 gallons. I need another!)

I need a bigger pot. 

March 25, 2013


For the past few weeks, Will and I have been working away on a little project together. Admittedly, Will and I are pretty much ALWAYS working on some kind of project or another. But this time it has nothing to do with renovating or gardening or chicken coop building other than the fact that it's sucked up most of the time we would have been working on those things. This time, it's a knitting project.

No, I haven't convinced my husband to come over to the yarn-side. I've enlisted his help in producing some knitting patterns that are, I hope, a little more than just your ordinary pattern. I've put patterns out in the world before, the Eliza kerfuffle being the most obvious. But I've been thinking for a while about putting knitting patterns out in a more regular, and more professional way, pushed along a lot by the requests I still get for Eliza, which I've been unable to give (but give me a week and that will change) So we've been working on the first, and a few more that are alllllmost done, and a website as well that is also almost (but not quite) done to try and turn that idea into something real. Part imagination, and part based on our little corner of Vermont, we've come up with a virtual cottage in the woods where all that knitting and some of Will's amazing talents as an artist, can come together. Birch Hollow Cottage (It makes me want to plant more birches every time I say it, because, you know, we don't have enough trees around here).

So I've been busy knitting and ripping out and re-knitting and taking copious notes and Will has been photographing and illustrating and website building. Yesterday the first pattern, Beech Leaves on the Trail, went live on Ravelry for Birch Hollow Cottage which, with a little luck and some knitting love from the Ravelers, will be a proper little knitting design company before long with all those patterns floating around in this head of mine. Including the new Eliza (who is named Eleanor, by the way) Coming soon (really really soon!)

March 20, 2013

and on the last day of winter

Over the course of the day we got more a foot of new snow. It snowed and snowed and snowed, all day long. The UPS driver was not very pleased to be delivering three big boxes in the middle of the storm, but he did, trudging down our road with them because he didn't want to get the truck stuck. And ohhh, I'm glad he did. I've been waiting for those boxes. For weeks, and also for years. It's been almost three years since I took a class on beekeeping and talked Will into this crazy plan of mine. In between we've moved twice, acquired another degree as well as two kittens, spent a year in an apartment and bought a house in the woods.

When I ordered our hive (from here, in case you are interested in one as well) I didn't expect it to arrive in the middle of a snowstorm. But it was the perfect end to winter (technically the end, at least) something so purely summer in my mind that I didn't mind digging out the car this morning. Because summer is COMING. It must be. The hive is here. The bees are heading our way (not for another month, but still, coming!) Bees!

March 19, 2013

march snow day

A snow day in March! And not just March but the second half of the month. Amazing. I find it hard to believe that there are places out there where it is already starting to get hot, even though I know it's true. Our little seedlings are reaching up toward the white bright windows, except it's not sunlight today but a near white out.

We've dug out all sorts of half finished projects, pot holders and boxes of stamps and art not quite finished to keep ourselves busy today (and probably tomorrow if it keeps snowing as hard as it is now!) Thank goodness for a stocked refrigerator and an old but steady woodstove. And oatmeal. Thank goodness for oatmeal. It's the kind of day where oatmeal (with fresh maple syrup, of course) is a must.

March 18, 2013

sweet and cold and bright

The temperatures have dropped again, way way down to below zero once more. I keep telling myself that it will warm up. After all, we visited here in April last year and it was warm and lovely and sunny, without a trace of snow. So I know it will warm up. And with the warm will come more sap, and planting the garden and more boiling and chickens and bees and all we have planned.

This weekend we finally got down to the business of boiling our first run of sap. Not, as we had hoped, a homemade evaporator. But the small amount we had was easily done on the side burner of our barbeque. The next go round we hope to have something a little bigger up and running. While I boiled away in the cold (and knit with mittens on and drank lots and lots of hot tea), and the animals stuck close to the fire, and Will, with a little help from the kids, worked on the chicken coop, cutting and fitting pieces together. It's not quite done, but well on it's way. We ended up with one pint of syrup plus a pancake dinner's worth and a few spoonfuls to drizzle over fresh snow. It's delicious, light and mapley and wonderful. I'm paranoid about it spilling and have it hidden up on the highest shelf in the pantry. Maybe I should transfer it to small bottles so that if (when) we have a spill or an over zealous pancake dousing, we don't loose all that precious, lovely syrup.

The seeds are starting to sprout in the sunniest window and something very exciting should be arriving in the mail later this week. Spring, spring. Come on....We're (almost) ready for you!

March 15, 2013


 Happy Weekend Everyone. Here's hoping there will be some good syrup at the end of it for us!

March 14, 2013

sugar snow

From mud and rain then back to snow again today. I just finished reading Evelyn the chapter of  Little House in the Big Woods (part of my yes we ARE reading at bedtime again campaign) about maple sugaring and wondered if we too, would get a cold snap and a sugar snow. This morning we woke up to two fresh inches of grainy, icy snow. And since it's gone from white out conditions to sunny and bright. Strange, strange weather.

We have, so far, about 3 1/2 gallons of sap ready to boil which, I think, isn't bad in what seems to be a slow sap kinda year. If all goes well that should be a whole 2/3 of a pint of syrup. So let's hope all goes well when we finally boil this weekend.

What's the weather like in your neck of the woods? I must admit that I'm about ready for springtime. How about you?

March 12, 2013

stark beauty

On our wander through the woods this weekend, I realized how many different, and beautiful, barks we have around our property. Yes, I know, it's like when I got obsessed with moss.  But during the summer and fall, the leaves take over beauty wise. It's only when the world is white, and a little muddy, that I noticed how lovely the trunks of the tress are.

March 11, 2013


Spring is relative, as Will pointed out this morning when we spotted kids being dropped at school with bare legs instead of snowsuits (ours still had snow pants and jackets, for the record). When it's 40 degrees first thing in the morning, that's a good 60 degrees warmer than it was a mere four weeks ago. So, yes, springish. Although I'm not ready to shed my boots and tights yet.

We tromped through the woods this weekend and the signs of spring are out there. Green moss, hints of animals emerging from hibernation or trips to the warmer south. Our buckets are 1/4 full and we'll be boiling sap later this week if all goes well. I've been spending my evenings deciding things like which chicken breeds we want and debating the merits of one size beehive over another and making lists of seed that need starting asap. There's no doubt about it. It's coming.

March 9, 2013

March 7, 2013

her dress

It took us one extra day of sewing to get it done, not because it was hard or she wasn't interested, but because break was too full of play dates and (almost) sleepovers and snowball fights to spent too much time sewing. But now it is done, and Eliza's is too. And oh my goodness is she proud of herself (but probably not as proud as I am).

She is remarkably patient and careful for a six year old. My machine (oh how I love my sewing machine) can be downshifted to force it to run very slowly which is so much easier for little fingers and feet that are still learning to control the foot press and steer the sewing at the same time. There were a few things that were a bit beyond her, although more on Eliza's dress than her own. I didn't really expect her to be able to set in sleeves on a wee little dress on her first try, although try she did.

She loves it. And so do I. We have carefully packed away the pattern so another can be made in the summer with something lighter. Although now she has her sights set on the flower girl dress pattern that arrived from her much loved, and soon to be married, Auntie Kim last week. And just one version of the dress isn't enough. It's got ruffles and flounces and she needs A LOT of them. And also her own sewing machine for her birthday, please please please mom! She's caught the sewing bug for sure.