I'm so excited to have Abi sharing some thoughts with us today as she is one of those "dreamers into doers" that I talked about. Of course, I asked her share with us a bit about her dreams and that process of making them a reality, as well as other tidbits we'd like to know about, such things as knitting, her lovely house and becoming a mama. I hope you enjoy getting to know her! I've been thinking a lot about turning dreams into realities lately. And I noticed that you mentioned having some crazy events (job loss, health issues, financial stress etc.) last year that sound all too familiar to many of us (we experienced a jump (shove?) into our own business precipitated by the folding of the company Clay was previously working for!). But you talk optimistically about taking risks and chasing dreams. How have you managed to turn these obstacles into opportunities? And tell us more about those big dreams!
Maya Angelou says, "Life takes care of those who dare to live it." I first heard her say that about 10 years ago. It resonated both with my husband and myself so much that it's been the Golden Rule of our life together ever since. We don't chase dreams per say but live them in each moment, presently, because the present is the only time that we can truly count on to secure our happiness. I know so many people who delay their dreams waiting for the perfect moment for things to align so they feel free to pursue them but to me that is allowing fear to have a part in your dreams and there is no space for fear in dreams! That's not to say that every moment you are living your dream is a happy one or that all dreams are blissful.When my husband lost his job last November I was 4 months pregnant with my third child and had just had and an emergency appendectomy. It was a nightmarish time for us with two small children at home and the support of family hundreds of miles away. I was terribly worried about my unborn child and my husband was devastated by his inability in that moment to provide for us in the way that he had for so many years. But that nightmare only lasted as long as we allowed ourselves to dwell in it, which for us wasn't very long. As soon as I started feeling better I searched myself for a way in which I could contribute and still be home with my other two children. It didn't take me very long to realize that I had an awful lot of vintage goodies in my home and having an Etsy shop had always been an idea I toyed with. So I stayed up all night setting up the shop and the very next day I listed my first few items. Two of them sold right away! The next day a few more went, then I was lucky enough to have an item featured on the main page. The shop sort of took off and before I knew it I was shipping vintage Vermont treasures all over the world! As much fun as I was having and as busy as I was, the shop wasn't able to pay our bills though. So my husband and I turned to another shared passion. Chickens! Greg wrote up a progressive business plan for an Organic Egg Farm and we shopped it around but were unable to get any funding from banks. So we downsized the plan, took a small bit of the money from our sales in the Etsy shop and ordered 60 hens on our own. Not securing funding through banks reinforced what we already knew anyway. We have learned over the years that you can't put your dreams in someone else's control either. While we weren't able to get as many hens as we wanted we didn't owe anyone any money, which relieves a great deal of stress. In late August we welcomed the first flock to Red Comb Farm. Since then we have added two alpacas as well, which I intend to shear and sell the yarn made from the fleece. Mind you though that our chickens are not laying golden eggs and feeding them organically costs quite a bit of money. We were lucky enough to partner with two local restaurants that only use local and organic produce. They are now saving all of their food scraps for our ladies and that offsets our grain cost tremendously. It's a lot of work but it's all very exciting and the kids are loving it of course.
Dreams are tricky little things. I think people often confuse their 'goals' with their dreams. If you make your only 'goal' happiness then you will find that your dreams grow organically out of that. That is why a huge element in living your dream successfully is not being too attached to any one thing or any one dream. It was not our dream to be chicken farmers and it was not my dream to be a shopkeeper but it is our collective dream to enjoy whatever it is we do as we are exchanging our time for money and that as a family we feel peaceful and happy in our work. So you can see that having that larger goal of happiness as a dream makes success almost inevitable if you are in touch with your heart and your soul. With each thing you do ask yourself, 'Does this make me happy?' If you take all these little steps with happiness underfoot all of a sudden you will find yourself living a dream, albeit a dream you may not have even knew you had! The next step is learning to quiet the voices of fear that love to whisper 'no' into our dreams. That is a skill everyone should master and as children we had perfected, so it still lies within us. Our dreams may change, as we find that different things make us happy at different points in our lives, but each time we do something new we learn more and more. It's a snowball effect of ability and each experience gives you more of the tools you need to move on to the next dream or expand the one you are currently living.
The Berroco Book! We're still on Cloud 9 about that! Like I mentioned on my blog, it's still a blurry dream come true to me that we were able to participate in such a wonderful project! If I didn't have the book beside me I might not believe it myself! Our photo shoot with Berroco was a case of opportunity knocking on our door and we answered very quickly, let it in, gave it dinner and then, of course, dessert too :) Kidding aside, when I first started blogging I came across a blog authored by Cirilia Rose called, Skrilla Knits. She has a very fresh style of knitting and one that I really related to so I ended up following her blog for years actually, right up until she started designing and blogging for Berroco. Out of the blue she contacted me and asked if my family would be interested in modeling for two upcoming Berroco books featuring new designs using their Vintage and DK Baby yarn. Without a second thought I answered 'Yes!'. Over the years Cirilia and I had stayed in touch through blogging and other sites like Ravelry. So I am sure both Cirilia and Norah had seen quite a bit of my photography and knitting there as well before they selected us for the Berroco books. I am familiar with quite a few crafty mamas who have had opportunities come to them through their blog. It's really a wonderful thing! And speaking of knitting; you are clearly an avid, expert knitter (and I sit in awe after only my first lesson!). But you mentioned not being able to learn when people tried to teach you the first few times, and then finally picking it up on your own. What finally made it click? And how has knitting and creating been a part of your life since?
Really? Thank you but I still feel like such a novice! That feeling
stems from one of the things that I truly adore about knitting which is
that there is always a new technique that can be learned, so I never
feel like I completely know what I am doing. From very early childhood
I was always drawn to knitting. As a small girl I used to go into the
bottom drawer of my mothers dresser where she kept a few pairs of metal
needles she used only once to make a sweater for our poodle! It was the
only thing she ever knit but I was so proud of it and would wonder if I
could use those needles one day. It wasn't until I had grown and went
to college that I found some women willing to teach me from the local
community.They kept trying, again and again, to teach me using the
English method of knitting where you carry the yarn in your right hand
but I just couldn't do it. Finally I just gave up! I didn't pick up
needles again for a few years and then I came across Debbie Stoller's
book Stitch 'N Bitch
and decided to give it another try on my own. Since
I didn't have anyone telling me how to hold the needles I naturally
picked them up and felt comfortable carrying the yarn in my left hand
instead. It clicked and I haven't stopped knitting since! It was a few
more months before I even fully realized that I was knitting the
'Continental' or European way. It was a few months after that when I
was told by an experienced knitter that I had been knitting incorrectly
though, through the back of my loops instead of the front, and twisting
all of my stitches! I still have some sweaters that I knit for my son
from the 'Twisted Stitches' period of my knitting and I treasure them!
It took a good year to really get the technical side of knitting down
for me but I was doing it all on my own.
My passion for knitting became consuming, like it does for so many, once I really started though. I found that it was the first time in my entire life that I was comfortable calling myself something, if that makes sense. I am a knitter, I would say. Making things with my hands was always a huge part of my life, I did a lot of photography, had taught myself to weave primitively on a lap loom, made dolls, crocheted etc. all of which I enjoyed but it wasn't until I started knitting that I truly found my craft. Knitting is not my only craft, I still do all of the other things I mentioned but knitting occupies the largest space in my heart and inspires me in such a way that I can't not knit. It has taught me so much patience and given me so much confidence that has carried through to other parts of my life. Knitting allows me moments of peace and focus too during the day that I might not otherwise carve out for myself. Even while I am busy with three children I can still squeeze in a few stitches or even a few rows, if I'm lucky, somewhere during the day and come away with my mind clearer and my soul refreshed. Knitting for me is a form of dynamic meditation.
Thank you so much! My house is really my passion and I adore being home
more than being any other place in the world. So, I always strive to
bring beauty inside when I look at things to add to our home. However,
my father is an architect and designer, he taught me very early on to
look at the efficiency of space or the useful design of an object. So
right after beauty comes function. I ask myself, always, if an object
is both beautiful and useful. If it passes those two criteria chances
are it will make it into our home. Perhaps that is what attracts me so
much to antique and vintage objects. Those two elements were merged in
the past, and still are now by thoughtful designers of course, but they
were the readily available, affordable and daily use items of the time
back then. Art and function were one and there was still a great deal
of pride in craftsmanship in the past, that is why it is still so easy
to go into charity stores, flea markets or antique shops and become
overwhelmed with choices of beautiful, useful old things to bring home.
It's taken me a long time to really get comfortable with the choices that I make and a huge part of that is allowing myself to change my mind and rearrange things a lot! I know so many people that are the same way. Moving furniture around, painting walls two or three times to get a color right etc and we all grew up in houses where a wall was painted a color and stayed that way for years or matching sets of large, bulky furniture were placed in a room and stayed there forever! That type of decorating is unthinkable to me. Houses should ebb, flow and grow with families! I think that is really what makes a dwelling come alive, when it's inhabitants have a direct relationship with it and to it rather than just existing in it. That is what breathes the 'home' into a house.
What do you think your pre-mama self would be surprised to learn about your mama self of today?
Wow! That is such an interesting question. Becoming a
mother was such a turning point in my life. Sitting here and thinking
back I would say that my pre-mama self would be surprised with almost
everthing about my mama self of today! You see, my pre-mama self was
quite a 'quiet' person. I lived alone for years in my late teens
through my early twenties, right up until I met my husband in fact,
caretaking 160 acres of land in a very small cabin without any modern
utilities or technology to speak of (picture above). The rhythm of my day was tied
directly to the sunrise and sunset. Of course, I didn't have a phone,
computer or radio and my only communication with family and friends was
through hand written letters! The cabin was heated by woodstove, lit by
candles and I had to haul my water in from springs and a pond! It was a
very quiet, a very tranquil and a very slow paced life. I had ample
time for introspection and very little distraction. Technology was not
an enemy to me, I just didn't have any need for it in my life at the
Now, as a mother to three small children my days are amazingly loud, far from tranquil and run at a pace I almost can't keep up with at times (but in a really fun way)! I am up all hours of the day and night with a nursing baby and now my daily rhythm changes from day to day in such dramatic fashion. We use technology every single day to expand our world in such a way that I could never have imagined back in the 'Cabin Days'. To think that I would be maintaining a blog, an Etsy shop, using the internet to introduce my music loving son to Tuvan Throat singers, connect with other mothers, farmers and knitters, find recipes etc?! No way! Motherhood really ushered in technology for me through my desire to connect with and be inspired by other creative mothers who were parenting their children in a non-traditional manner and I haven't turned back since!
Thank you so much for having me Amy! This was truly a pleasure and an honor!
Well thanks so much for sharing, Abi! Your words and photos are lovely. Keep in touch!