slow living

CELEBRATING SAINT LUCIA | LUSSEKATTER

 
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Removing the tea towel to find the bowl of smooth, risen dough, not without little bits plucked and nibbled by hands that Just Couldn't Help Themselves. Those same little hands doing the good work of shaping dough. Tactile, deliberate, imperfect. Rolling, stretching, creating shapes that weren't there before. The lyre, the baby, the Christmas horse, the priest's hair — shapes that recall a tradition that long preceded us. Under the tea towel once more, allowing the buns to rise; impatiently waiting. Cuddle and read stories by the light of the tree. Oven hot, egg wash the buns. In they go. 8 minutes, maybe 9. Let them cool until the little hands cannot bear it any longer. Pull apart, savor the scent of saffron, share and eat with abandon. Smile at the magic of it all. Lucia, patron saint of light, a life worthy of celebration and a recipe befitting of her giving spirit. Lussekatter. An Advent tradition we will abide for as many years as there are hands to shape dough. 
—An Advent journal entry of sorts, regarding December 13th, the feast day of Saint Lucia. 

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—S

KNITTING | SLOW FASHION + A WOOLY WARM SCARF

 

On the heels of the worst retail weekend in our culture, I wanted to share a different sort of post. A slow post. A post that took weeks to even be possible. One that cannot be made with one-click shopping; a post that is not eligible for free two-day shipping, and will not cost less if you sacrifice Thanksgiving pie to wait in line early. Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, what a blight. I want to outpour my heart to every retail and commerce employee who willingly sacrificed and suffered in the name of a Good Deal.

I feel especially saddened (ok, angered) by this weekend because it impacts my family directly. For two decades my mom has been in the Black Friday fire as manager of a large retail business. Never defined by her work, but rather by her family and her life, she muscles through the hellish Black Friday season (yes, it's a season) with grace. It's we the kids who get fired up. Anyhow, she is better known for styling women in a line of slow, high-end fashion wear called cabi. (Although, Mark loves wearing cabi linen pants as much as I do.) To my mama, and my grandmother—an insanely talented seamstress whose artistic range spanned doll clothes to wedding gowns!—and the many women in my life who have opted for needles, hooks, bobbins, fabric and fiber rather than a quick deal: I have joined you.

I have fallen in love with natural fiber and consider knitting with animal and plant fibers a way to concretely support farmers. I knit this scarf for Mark using two skeins of undyed Icelandic sheep wool from a farm down the road. The wool is soft, the seed stitch pattern is squishy, and the tight knit makes it extra warm for braving this northern climate. The yarn cost $22 per skein, which is not inexpensive, but neither is the cost of raising, feeding, growing, and shearing sheep for the farmer. For a slower system, we must place worth on the whole system, not just the final product. Before box stores, before self-serve gas stations, before Amazon, commerce and trade were two-way transactions. More methodical, slower shopping is experiencing a revival, to be sure, and I am all in. Both feet in. As soon as I finished Mark's scarf, I wrapped him up in it and promptly got new wool onto my needles.
So it goes, slowly.


—S

LAYING DOWN OUR ROOTS | THE BLOOM OF DEATH

 

In all of its sunburst-orange, cranberry, and gold majesty, what we are witnessing is the slow death of the seasonal life cycle. If spring is the bloom of life, then autumn is the bloom of death. The aromatic stew of decaying leaves, so sickly sweet, has begun to make itself known on the daily walks to and from pasture. Our exhaled breaths are once more visible: small clouds of fog, momentarily extant in the crisp outdoor air. The night encroaches upon the day, beckoning us to celebrate the constellations much the same as we do the sun. 

This time of year has historically been one of transition for us. And though this autumn, too, includes a move from one home to another, it has only taken us a few hundred yards up the farm road at Consider Bardwell—from a home on wheels to a home with a foundation. More than a move, it feels as though we are opening the door to a new room in the same old house. For the first time in a few years, we are truly deepening our relationship with a place. 

These days we find ourselves almost exclusively on the farm as we are in the final push of summer's work and the transition of all that is to be readied for winter. The changes are palpable: less hay to cut, less pasture regrowth, more crunching underfoot, more goat lust (ahem, it's breeding season). We sneak out for a drive through the mountain valleys when we can, most notably to visit the farm stand where we shop our CSA. It was at the Someday Farm stand that we began to feel rooted in a place, and with people, beyond just the farm. Learning new varieties of vegetables and fruits was magnificent (like finding out America's oldest apple is the same apple that grew in the orchard of Sam's childhood!). Gleaning every ounce of wisdom we could draw out from the farmers was even more exciting. It was there that we could buy a slab of salted butter from a seasoned farmer with just nine Jersey cows and get this sage advice: "the best way to get where you're going is to start by imitating people you admire." 

Put simply, the reason that we are now living in Vermont is because there is so much to admire about the place. We wanted to come and learn how to imitate the people who were inspiring us from afar. What we are discovering is that, so long as we wish to emulate those people that we admire, we need to truly engage with and invest in the community. Part of that comes through simply consuming products from the farms that interest us. To carry Sam through the winter without a CSA, she will knit with the two skeins of Icelandic sheep chunky wool picked up from Someday Farm. Mark spent most of a recent Saturday afternoon packing a 3-gallon fermentation crock with cabbage, which we will enjoy as sauerkraut on New Year's Day and beyond. The deeper form of engagement, though, comes in form of relationships. During our last visit to the Someday Farm stand, we were invited to dine at their annual Thanksgiving dinner—an occasion that we had previously been anticipating with an uncharacteristic sense of dread due to our inability to spend such a cherished holiday with family. We have corresponded with the farmers at Longest Acres Farm, a small, diversified livestock farm that represents—almost to a T—what we hope to do ourselves someday. And with much gratitude, we continue to deepen our relationships with the good people who work the land with us right here in West Pawlet. Just as we are experiencing the bloom of death in the natural world, we are receiving a breath of new life from our adoptive community nestled here in the rolling, color-changing mountains of Vermont.

Next week we will travel back to the community of our upbringing, home to Ohio. We will celebrate the occasion of our sisters' marriage and the life-giving quality of their love with abounding joy. Then, we will finally move our belongings out of a storage unit and bring them back to Vermont with us. Welcome, October.

P.S. The incredible, best ever wedding invite above was designed by Ginny Maki, the same magical human who designed our blog logo. She's something else.


—M&S

EVERYDAY BEAUTY | PHOTOS FROM AFIELD

 

Our year-long (probably lifelong) hiatus from social media has insofar been a beautiful, healthy decision. The same week we chose to delete our collective accounts, the desire to pull out our cell phones to take a photo of This Scene and That Experience swiftly dissipated. Our smart phones resumed their duties as telephones. The photo editing application we had both spent hours of our lives utilizing became, in a moment, defunct. No more were conversations swimming around status updates from strangers. Quieter; more time to be still. Sam started writing in a journal. Mark started using the digital camera more often. We both started writing letters. The good outweighs the bad manifold. (The bad being decreased blog readership and not knowing when our favorite donut shop is having a special.) 

For everyone we know and love, it is no longer suspicious or saddening that we deleted our accounts. They have to make a little more effort to show us news that would otherwise only exist on Facebook or Instagram, but overall it has in no way impacted our relationships. Exactly what we suspected. Actually, one of our favorite little nuances of being gone from Instagram specifically is when a friend will say, "look at this photo I posted," giving us the opportunity to actually express affection for the image instead of merely double-tapping. (If our grandma is reading this, this paragraph won't even make sense. Grandma, we love you!)

Choosing to muscle through the good, the bad, and the ugly sans the internet is a special way to live. It has given us space to experience the comings and goings of life without the accompanying desire to create a caption and hit share.  We have privately suffered through a few trials: namely, the death of our original two goats and the rocky emotional road following the entry of Sam's sister into a convent. It felt like a blessing to escape the self-imposed burden of having to craft an explanation of those experiences for a digital audience. Conversely, we have privately rejoiced on many occasions, big & small: in opening our Post Office Box to find personal letters from old friends; in a state of supreme disconnect & relaxation on a family vacation at the ocean; and in the abundant natural beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis in our little corner of Vermont.  And for all the moments in between, we have experienced them just the same: directly, consumed in a slow manner.

All of the photos contained in this post were taken with our cell phones. The common thread between them is that they were not captured to be shared on Instagram or Facebook, as was our habit only a few months ago. A freshly cleaned milk parlor, a fragrant handful of second-cutting hay, a white cat hiding in the bathroom curtains—these were scenes & moments that simply struck us for one reason or another. They were not manufactured or staged. Rather, they presented themselves to us in the midst of our daily lives: like the fallen birch tree in a wooded area of the farm, from which we sawed a few branches to spruce up our new home. 

What we have found during our time away from social media has been wholly heartening, and oh so beautiful. It sometimes feels as though our eyes are opened twice as wide, or twice as long, as they had been before. For every instance that we feel compelled to whip out our phones to snap a picture, there are dozens of others that call upon us to simply pause & watch. It does not seem unreasonable that this could be the case in most of our lives. Everyday beauty is not exclusive to a small farm in Vermont. It only requires us to look up & out a little more often.


—M&S