Best Laid Plans and all That

Technology failed me.

Or I failed technology.

All I know is Tuesday about 5 tons of stuff, 3 goats, 3 girls and one frazzled Mama got to the fairgrounds. Meanwhile at home the cell phone sadly beeped out its dying battery to the unlistening walls.

Thus died my “Morning, Noon and Night” in it’s infancy.

I guess that qualifies as me failing technology.

Insult to injury here I am with my computer, camera and internet and no way to link the three!

Can we start again?

From the top but this time with feeling!!



The Monday Project: Picture This Week

This is fair week.  I expect to be a busy busy mom with my three hardworking girls but what I really want to do is capture this experience. The moments that will remind them of the privilege and burden that comes with being responsible for another living creature’s health and well being. I also want to remind them when they are older about the role that food plays in our world- animals particularly.  It is an important topic and in the USA (home of the giant portion) as meat prices play a very important role in the health of our farming industry.

We eat meat at home four or five times a week. It is a sparingly used most the time: a handful of ground beef is more than enough meat for our entire family in spaghetti.  K. feels particularly hard done by when she isn’t allowed seconds of the meat but when you think about portions meats are served in it is crazy: no one could possibly need to eat a steak the size of your head along side a potato the size of your head! And I can guarantee you it was no good thing that produced your 99 cents a pound chicken breast that is big enough to feed and entire family!

So this is the time where all the early mornings, shoveling out soiled hay, and cutting short fun to look after the goat’s needs comes to fruition.  Its frightening: an expert will look at their kids and tell them whats good and whats not.  Animal welfare in our food industry would be better if meat processing leaders were made to go through the youth ag programs.

So this week I will be running a series of posts from morning noon and night at the fair.  I haven’t tried mobile posting yet so if there are any glitches lets all just blame it on the technology ok?

You can also follow Sweet Little Wood on Facebook.

Welcome to the fair.



Another 4-H Project… Not That We Are Obsessed Or Anything

I can promise you this is the last 4-H related craft project this year!

For those of you not in the youth ag loop- animals are bought at a relatively high price per pound from our children by local businesses and individuals to support the learning experience of the future farmers/ranchers/veterinarians/etc.  The animals are expensive because they have been bought at a premium- there is a huge price hike within fair rearing season as the breeders like to make money too- and the feeds the kids have to use are not commercially viable. Just to cover the cost of buying their kid our meat goats would have to sell at $3.00 a pound for the live animal when the meat you can buy at the supermarket has been sold from the farmer at around $1.80 per pound for the live animal. So when a buyer at the fair pays $5.50 per pound for a 4-H or FFA animal the child is only just covering the basic cost of buying and rearing the goat.  Admittedly we live in California where everything comes at a premium, and I know in some states 4-H kids cost $150 less than they do here.  

When the animals are purchased at the fair auction it is expected that the child will give the buyer a pre-prepared gift and then a more personalized gift at a future date.  We were advised by the manager at our local Rainbow Ag (which is awesome btw) to give initial buyer gifts that are easy to carry and can be useful while sitting for hours bidding on animals.  

I had been working on stickers for the girls to hand out to visitors to their goat pen.  Those came out great and I really wanted to make something for our buyers which was a little more personal than the ubiquitous wine and food basket or flowers that are often presented.

I support 4-H sticker

I support 4-H sticker

So I took the sticker design and made it up in vinyl. Vinyl appears scary at first but it is so easy- and you dont need a fancy machine to cut it- though it does make it easier!  At the bottom of the post as usual will be the SVG files and JPEGS .  Also if you want to do printable iron on stuff that works great and is easy-peasy  the JPEGs would work good for that too.

So for this project you will need:

  • a canvas tote (similar bags are at Walmart for a little over $2), hat, t-shirt or whatever
  • heat transfer vinyl (I love Siser Easyweed available here or on Amazon) but there are vinyls at Michael’s and Beverly’s and JoAnn’s too.
  • transfer paper- the sewing department always has some
  • iron
  • craft scalpel
  • Graphic of your choice printed in reverse
  • baking paper


1: Print your graphic on regular paper IN REVERSE and trace it using your transfer paper onto the matte side of your heat transfer vinyl or just tape the paper to the vinyl if you are good at juggling cutting through two layers accurately. My graphic is below.
Alternatively you can freehand draw on the transfer paper for you uber-creative types.  Just don’t use Sharpie which will run when ironed (yes I’ve been there)  bic style pens are much more reliable.

I Support 4-H reverse JPEG

2: Cut any fine internal design work with your craft scalpel.  Its absolutely ok to cut through the glossy backing plastic but try to leave all the pieces attached to each other by a little bit at least.  It wont matter in the end so long as you can weed out the bits of vinyl you don’t want and then get the backing off the bits you do after ironing it on.   I am a bit of a masochist so I had to try cutting the vinyl by hand with all the lettering:  obviously the simpler the design the easier it is but the scalpel work is not hard, it just take a few goes to figure out the right pressure.  While cutting the lettering I used a metal ruler- it made the process much easier and if you mess up and cut through a bit that shouldn’t be- like I did- when the vinyl is ironed the line disappears.  Cut around the outside of your pattern with you scalpel or scissors.

cutting vinyl

 3. Once your pattern is cut from the vinyl wipe it with an almost dry cloth any residue of the tracing material.  Then you can go strait onto fixing it to your fabric item following these instructions:

Smooth Vinyl Instructions

  Just as an aside I would suggest after the final 2-3 second blast of heat that you leave the item flat till it cools. Vinyl will sometimes look a little wrinkly if moved to quickly.

Our buyer’s gifts are these totes filled with a matching  t-shirt, an icy bottle of water, a bag of sunflower seeds, trail mix and jerky and a cold bottle of Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Summer Solstice (a favorite beer from a local micro brewery).

Buyers gift bags.

Buyers gift bags.

I hope the folks who are generous enough to sit through the heat to bid on our kids like them!

SweetLittleWood. Free-Bee-ISupport4-H-SVG,JPEG zip

Happy fair season y’all.



How to Talk to Someone with a Foreign Accent


Union Jack heart SVG

Union Jack heart SVG

Having lived in England for 15 years I got used to the question- usually accompanied by unnecessary levels of enthusiasm- “Where are you from?”

The conversation would usually go like so:

Stranger: “Your not from around here!”

Me: “Weeeeellll I do live about 15 miles down the road but not originally.” (thinking “drop it drop it drop it”) or alternatively if I’m in a hurry:  “No I’m from America, but I’ve been here 15 years with my husband.” and if I strike lucky its followed by skipping the conversation to to **

Stranger: “Oh cause I have family in Canada/Vanvouver/Ireland/America.”

Me: “Oh that’s nice.” (drop it drop it drop it)

Stranger: “Yeah so what part are you from?”

Me: “I’m actually from California.”

Stranger: ** “WHAT??? What on earth are you doing here?”

Me: “Well my husband is British and this is where we settled.”

Stranger: ‘You are crazy. Do you miss the beach? Is it weird when it rains?”

THERE… that is the moment.

The moment I HATE the most am the most uncomfortable with. I was born and raised in California. I didn’t set foot on a beach before I was a ten. I lived NO WHERE NEAR A BEACH! Like 200 miles away. I did however grow up with snow every winter on the doorstep. Yes our summers were hot but our winters were cold and no we didn’t surf… ever. Or roller blade by the beach…  Or see Hollywood stars… Or your second cousin twice removed who lives in Santa Barbra. I developed a fantastic British accent which I pulled out of the bag when I was shopping and I really couldn’t stand to have to talk about my origins… yet again.

So here I am: home-sweet-home and the conversation goes like this:

Stranger: “Hey are you Australian?”


xx Jo

Bloglovin for the Uninitiated

Bloglovin  is an awesome website where you join and follow blogs you enjoy- any blogs.  It also helps you find other blogs you might enjoy.  When you click the follow button on any blog your home feed page displays and updates your favorite blogs all in one place so you can easily brows through and see whats new.  

You can add your own blog so your friends can follow you too.

Genius invention.

Follow me on Bloglovin

Click to follow me on Bloglovin!

The Monday Project: DIY Fair Time T-shirts

We are almost there!  We are on a final countdown here in the Sweet Little Wood.  Next week begins all the joy and madness that is fair time.

CNC goats from my SVG.

CNC goats from my SVG.

Our local county fair is called The Apple Show. It is a wonderful country fair in Boonville held at the beginning of September.  We love it, but it hasn’t got a livestock auction so if you want to sell your market animals you have to go to The Redwood Empire Fair which is held in Ukiah the first weekend in August.  The thing about Ukiah is this: it’s a bigger town with all the social issues that go with that PLUS we are in California’sEmerald Triangle“.  Now I’m not going to enter the fray on that subject except to say that cannabis is rife in Mendocino County and I don’t like the thought of my children being exposed to it.  Plus Ukiah is generally several degrees hotter than we are in Anderson Valley- so you know- that kind of sucks.  I’m not sure if we will do market animals next year.  It kind of limits our summer fun as we are tied to the animals and fair time in prime campout season and M. is not a fan of missing out on prime campout season!

Vinyl 4-H tshirts in action

Vinyl 4-H tshirts in action

So the girls and I are in crazy mode:  getting goats ready for show, finishing paperwork (why are there so many freaking pieces of paper?!?), finishing off posters, making up buyer gifts (more about those later), and packing for camping at the fair site.

 I am making t-shirts for our 4-H group.  A different design for each project group.  I have the luxury of cutting Vinyl on a Silhouette Cameo but this project is totally do-able without a craft cutter using  almost free materials.  I am not going to reinvent the wheel but I will totally direct you other people who have done it before. Better.

So first of all: for 4-H there is a free SVG online get it and use it if you need it.  Its pretty awesome that its freely available.  At the bottom of this post I will include a JPEG, SVG and Silhouette file of my 4 leaf clover which is a little different to the 4-H emblem on wiki-commons.  Print your clover and whatever else you need on normal paper to use as a template for cutting wax paper or as I understand (but haven’t tried) you can print directly on a piece of freezer paper and the design will iron onto your t-shirt- the tutorial is over herejust be sure to reverse the image.   The font I used (basically it is my favorite font EVER) is called Lobster and is widely free on the internet. It is also really easy to cut out being nicely chunky with lots of strait lines.  Our 4-H t-shirts were designed by me and made on a Silhouette Cameo.  The 4-H goats are my own SVG design available along side other 4-H animals in my Etsy shop.  There are loads of animal SVG outlines out there that are totally free but I needed my animals to be accurate, detailed and in a “show” position for my design.  If you want an animal for free I suggest you Google the animal, find a photo that is copyright free and print it out and just cut out around the animal and use it as a template.

These are the ways you can TOTALLY do this project for free with stuff in your house:

1: Freezer paper, bleach, t-shirt, iron.

2: Freezer paper, printer paper, printer, t-shirt, iron.

3: Freezer paper, paint, t-shirt, iron.

4: Freezer paper, crayon, t-shirt, iron. (I LOVE this!)

We like to make freezer paper shirts with t-shirts that are stained on the front (damn coffee).

Esther's sign

Esther’s sign

The metal signs are for our goat pens again cut from my own SVG by my cousins talented husband Bob Gaston at Gaston Farrier and Forge.  He isn’t online yet but if you are interested in his work I can hook you up.  He can make virtually anything with his CNC machine. Serious awesomeness!  

The actual writing was cut from removable vinyl by Cricut.  I LOATHE their vinyl.  It was so difficult to use and I cursed it long and loud at almost every step.  I shall be looking at a different brand in future.

SweetLittleWood.Freebee 4-H emblem- JPEG,Silhouette&SVG




“Shoot the Rebs” or “My Life as a Civil War Reenacter”

Sometime during 1992 I was introduced to living with my “Uncle and Aunt” in Williamsport Maryland in the July of 1863 when the Confederate forces of Robert E. Lee were trapped hard against the river and forced into our town. We civilians were duly forced out of our homes as the injured and wounded made our tables and settees into hospital beds.

Craig, Megan and I in camp.

Craig, Megan and I in camp.

We moved into tents and life went on somewhat normally for the next few days with the addition of fear and war and a lot of young men in uniform.  (I may not be an optimist all the time but I could certainly see the bright side in that!)

Mourning Dress at the fashion show.

I modeled a mourning Dress at the fashion show.

My “Aunt and Uncle” were good friends of my Momma and I frequently babysat for them and they took me on the most amazing weekends reenacting the Civil War.  When I was 17 I had the great privilege of attending a debutante ball which is hosted by the reenactment group every year for all the girls coming of age.  I danced for hours and hours in my white gown, corset and petticoats.  

*Don’t tell M. but there were more young men in uniform then too.*

At the Debutante Ball.

At the Debutante Ball.

My first reenactment was in a little California town near the coast Somewhere north ( I didn’t pay that much attention to WHERE we were).  It was such a giddy exciting time for a girl who basically couldn’t imagine anything nicer than an accurate historical costume and nothing but embroidery and camping to occupy my time.  I did learn about our history mooching from my Mom’s friends but it was almost always all about the dresses.

My beautiful "Aunt" in Civil War maternity clothes.

My beautiful “Aunt” in Civil War maternity clothes.

And sometimes maybe the young men in uniform…

So this week I am breathless with anticipation to attend

  This time I wont be asked to sweat under layers of black in order to portray a widow. Nor will I have to try to keep an eye on three kids while my “Aunt” cooks a fire pit dinner.  I will get something much much better: I get to share it with my children!

So if you ever need someone who knows how to dress in black in the middle of July and sweat for hours while not saying unladylike words… I’m your girl!  I can’t do a reliable Scarlet impression but I am good if you need someone to go nuts at a faux abolitionists march!


Mrs. Joanna Palmer

P.S.  The photos were taken at the Fresno reenactment except the tin-type which was taken at the debutante ball- and the photographer was very disappointed that I hadn’t maintained a porcelain complexion in keeping with the times. Quite frankly I don’t think my baby skin stayed porcelain for longer than my first exposure to the sun. The photography method used in tin-typing picks up on the red pigments in skin: thus my shockingly prominent tan-line.  Sorry for the quality of the pictures  (they are old and not very well looked after).  I am also sorry that I hadn’t started plucking my eyebrows yet.

A Wondering Mother’s Confession @ 13

Today 13 years ago my middle daughter was scooped out of the birthing pool water and placed into my arms. Outside the sun had recently risen and was casting long diffuse rectangles of light through the windows of our room.  She opened her eyes  and looked at me but didn’t breath.  I wasn’t concerned because I could feel the cord pressed between our bodies still pulsing.  She looked just exactly like a small pink M.  At the same moment M. and I both turned to say so to each other and we laughed. I loved her instantly and wondered at her staring stillness as the midwife’s hands came snaking out to rub her and insist on that first breath.

Sweet Little Wood. E.

As E. grew M. and I wondered at her self-possession.  She worried us with the detachment she showed to doing things combined with an intensity in observing things.  Because K. did everything early (she walked at 8 months) we were a little concerned when E. sat up but just seemed to want to sit and not move. When she would watch me finish a wooden puzzle with deep concentration but refuse to touch the pieces herself I worried what would happen with this beautiful, laughing, loving child who would sleep half the day and stare at us with great deliberation the other half.  It was like having a baby look at you like they knew all your secrets.

Sweet Little Wood. E. spoon balloon race

One day like magic she had watched enough, took the puzzle from me and completed it perfectly first time. She stood up on furniture a little past a year old and was walking within two days. When she wanted to and had seen as much as she needed E. would, without fail, complete the task perfectly. She potty trained after one day out of nappies and was dry, day and night, from then on.

I am ashamed to say that this behavior seemed to me some sort of learning difficulty and that the thought concerned me.  Until I saw her pattern of “wait, watch, do” for what it was  I thought she wouldn’t I worried that she couldn’t do.  It took M and I literally years of watching her to understand E. better.  To see that her patterns of learning were different to what we had seen before and to accept this as a wonderful quirk of her own unique self.

Sweet Little Wood. E. 4-H goat

Now 13 years on I never stop wondering at E.  She is highly sensitive to the world around her. She observes with a fine artistic eye and has an innate intuitive understanding of other’s emotions and motivations.   She has a decidedly wicked dry sense of humor which is so fine tuned she has had adults doubled over with laughter since she was about 6 and started wielding it.

Sweet quirky girl.

Sweet quirky girl.

At every step I can’t help but feel privileged to know her. and I am so excited to think that I have the opportunity to be friends with the woman she will become.

Sweet Little Wood. Trampoline E.

Happy 13th Birthday Beautiful Girl.

Mommy xx