The Usual Busyness

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I finished Beatrix’s Sunday Sweater, blocked it, sewed some lovely honeybee buttons on (a gift from Taryn and JeffΒ when Mabel was born), and then hoped to take some photos of her wearing it before it got dirty. I wasn’t fast enough. Beatrix is on a, “We need to be like real farmers and get up at 4 a.m. to start working while you are in the kitchen making us pies and donuts,” kick. The 4 a.m. rising and desserts all day hasn’t happened, but she and Larkspur have been raking hay for the goats quite seriously. And that’s the real Beatrix, anyway. She’s not a neatly combed little girl, never has been. Even at Mass she typically sports her own interesting hairdos with misplaced barettes, rather than sweet curls and ribbons and such. It’s only fitting that her sweater have a fine coating of dust and bits of grass all over it within days of me finishing it.

Last week, in the midst of the usual busyness, Seth asked if we could drive to a nearby city and pick up a free square grand piano he’d found on Craigslist. I kind of wanted to say “No way.” Only because we have no need for more projects, or more time spent driving to pick up projects (and we already have an upright piano that we really like). But at the same time, we try hard to say, “Yes” to these things. I like my older boys to stay busy, outside of schoolwork and chores, doing things that they enjoy, things that might teach them something. So Seth wants to fix up this ancient piano (it needs more than tuning) that came with the name, “Matilda.” She’s made of rosewood and ivory and was built in 1879 and we are only her third owners. He’s really excited about it, and I guess so am I. (Feel free to share advice if you know about these things.) I’m also feeling pretty good about my decision not to let him quit piano lessons a few years back!

p.s. Seth added a new fossil set to his shop that comes with a photo key if you want to check it out! Thanks for supporting him. He’s now contemplating buying a used pump organ with some of the money he has made. This kid is going to fill our house with large (loud) musical instruments!

p.p.s. Jonny and I are working towards one last little shop update ourselves before taking a long break to work on our other house. We’ll be updating our shop on Thursday, December 15th at 11 a.m. Β EST. There will be shawl pins, a small bit of yarn, (all in shades of orange/red/pink), and the last of my new batch of sachets.



  1. That is so exciting about the piano! Jeff would think that is the coolest- with rosewood and ivory from 1879! And I think the honeybee buttons look so perfect on Beatrix’s new sweater. Made me smile when I saw them.

  2. When my little brother was 16 (he’s 26 now!) he apprenticed in a piano tuner/restorer’s shop. He eventually became so useful in the shop that they started paying him a pretty decent wage. It looked great on his college application and later on his resume. He is an engineer now.

    Maybe Seth could find a piano restorer in the area to learn from?

  3. Just WOW on the piano! I hope she can be resurrected! I have a very old baby grand that I am the fourth owner of. It came from the estate of President James Garfield’s brother. The boys will learn so much from the project and even if she can not be brought back you can make an awesome table from her. Some people at our church many years ago had the most beautiful table made from a square grand. It did always hurt my heart a little that she was no longer a piano though.

    Neither of our girls were neatly combed and primped girly girls either. I would rather they played in the woods than spent time in front of the mirror any day.

  4. Hannah Cousar says:

    Hi Seth,

    If any more fossil sets come around, please let us know! My son would love them and I want to inspire him with your love and knowledge of fossils.

    Thank you,
    Mrs. Cousar

  5. Thank you for the picture of Intruder! I always feel that you post it especially for me! πŸ™‚
    So glad for this big change in your life, a new house, a new home, actually, and, of course, new adventures to come!
    It seems that Larkspur’s red knitted coat is growing along with her! πŸ™‚

    • I wanted you to see that he made the move with us. Though today, when we went by the old house, he was back there. It’s not too far a walk. I popped him in the van and took him back home to the new house!

  6. Is your shop update 11 a.m. eastern time?

  7. Oh that piano looks so exciting! And what a project for Seth! πŸ™‚ I love to see when young people take an interest in things like that! If it gets to the point where the piano needs more work than just a tune-up, my husband may be able to give Seth some tips. He worked at a shop where they restored/refurbished old pianos years ago. He restored outside pieces of carvings that had been broken, missing, or gone bad, whether on the piano itself, or on the legs or the bench. He also built new pin-blocks for the interior, as well as helped restore pieces of the “action”. They turned old broken down pianos into show pieces! After the restoration work was completed, then a tuner would do his job.
    And how awesome that you now have a home big enough to house this grand! What perfect timing!

    Our oldest used to play the organ in our home until he got married and moved it out with him. I used to miss him playing so much until I finally adjusted. It’s been many moons ago. πŸ™‚
    Enjoy this time with your kids Ginny — it passes quickly. πŸ™‚

  8. Ginny,
    This is probably just the second time I’ve posted here. Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your website, and admire the beautiful lifestyle you and your family lead. The photographs on your website are so lovely, too. I am a Catholic convert, and a homeschooling mom of 8, as well. I’ve ‘borrowed’ some of your reading recommendations: I truly enjoyed reading Anya Seton’s Winthrop Woman and Katherine.
    I’d like to purchase some of the things you make/sell, but I often find that things are sold out before I get to your site! You don’t happen to make and sell children’s wool socks, do you? (Alternatively, do you know of a good source for them? I’d much rather support a family business when I can.) It’s already cold and snowy in good ‘ol Minnesota, and our oldest son has got the backyard all iced up! Need to keep those feet warm…
    Have a blessed Advent!

    • I don’t make socks. In recent years, I’ve been buying wool blend socks at Costco, just to make things simple for myself. In the past I’ve ordered from Sierra Trading Post. πŸ™‚

  9. Oh I will look forward to your shop update. You always have such lovely things. I just received two of your playsilks – gorgeous, wow. I’ve never really bought playsilks before because I don’t like the commercial ones, but now wish I purchased one of every color from you. They are soooo amazingly beautiful. I do hope you’ll make more next year! πŸ™‚

  10. I have heard mixed things about old pianos from piano tuners. We had a 100 year old upright for awhile. It wasn’t a great beauty, but I liked the tone. Our tuner said it wasn’t valuable, but it was a decent learner’s piano. After awhile it seemed to be frequently needing tuning. Our tuner said with the old pianos, eventually, you just end up replacing more pads and hammers and what not more often as time goes by (I guess like a car). We eventually gave it to Goodwill and my mother gave me the piano that I learned to play on – a small ordinary 50yo upright. It sounds a bit tinny to me, but we mostly use it for tuning violins and singing accompaniment, so it’s not a big deal. My sister had a beautiful old upright which I think she got for free. After awhile, her tuner said it wasn’t “worth” putting money into for the repairs it needed. He said she’d be lucky if anyone took it off her hands since most people with old pianos have them for decoration and atmosphere only. I can’t remember how they got rid of it (I think they may have taken it apart and hauled to the dump). She has a baby grand now that she has on permanent loan from a friend who doesn’t have room for it. So I guess the take away is that if one is a serious piano player, a newer piano is best (although I still think the old ones have a richer tone).

    As far as tuning yours, remember, pianos are percussion instruments, not strings (the strings get hammered, not plucked), so they’re not as sensitive as something like a harp or violin. The only precautions I’ve heard are that every time a piano has a major move, it should be re-tuned and a piano should never go against an outside wall because the temperature change will cause the wood in the piano to shrink and swell.

  11. I think I spy a few nativity sets on the shelving behind you in the picture of you sitting on the couch. . . would you maybe share what nativity sets they are? They look wooden. I’ve been trying to find some nice nativity sets to invest in, but it is not always easy to find beautiful, quality sets. Thank you so much:)

  12. Cindy in NC says:

    Good for you for helping Seth pursue this passion. Motherhood is full of so many exhausting and necessary chores that it is easy to say no to the extras that are often the stuff of happy memories.
    My aunt owns our family’ s ancient piano. Sadly, it was badly damaged during last August’s flooding in Baton Rouge. She couldn’t bear to haul it to the curb with the rest of her water logged furnishings, so she kept it in the house while she and my uncle are in temporary housing waiting for skilled help to repair their home to become less expensive and more readily available. She’s hoping the piano can be saved even if it is never playable again.

    Cindy in NC

  13. Beatrix is just the best, I love kids who know how to enjoy being kids (without worrying about getting dirty, messing up their hair, etc.)! The new sweater looks great on her, too.

    That piano is so cool! I look forward to seeing how the fixed-up piano will look and sound :).

    So much joy in this post!

  14. That piano is the prettiest thing! How wonderful! And nice you have a bigger home to house it!

  15. Congratulations! I got to the picture of Seth and exclaimed ‘Yay!’ Wasn’t sure exactly what it was yet but knew it looked Good. Hooray for Seth and all of you! Very cool. We acquired a beautiful old 1901 upright this summer and it’s so wonderful to have – can’t believe folks just give away these pieces of history but we feel quite privileged to be the recipients. We also got a pump organ (like Janey Moffat, but no moths), very simple design but it was free. It is so, so fun to play and have the organ music in the house. Having a house filled with music is indeed a joyful, blessed thing.
    And hooray too for the wise mother who knows to always say yes, especially to the teenage boys. πŸ™‚
    PS Jonathan (my major pianist) says it looks wild. And that we need one of those (!).

  16. Matilda is lovely and such beautiful woodwork on the outside deserves tender restoration of the inside – what a wonderful project! My husband is the musician in our family and he would give anything to have a grand piano in the house, but there is just not enough room. That being said, our tuner said our old upright has a better “harp” than most of the new ones on the market now and she definitely gets the job done. Once Matilda’s been settled in, perhaps Seth would honor us with a song or two posted to the blog – please?

    Mable looks just like Bea – precious and precocious – the best of both worlds!

  17. that’s really neat about the piano and that you are only the 3rd owners of it! how special!!! I hope you have a blessed Christmas and that God keeps you all well as you work on selling your old house!

  18. That’s a beautiful piano and I know it is super glad to have a new family! I love old pianos (I play a 1907 Kurtzmann for a small, historic church in Paris, Kentucky ). I am quite sure someone out there would be willing to help. Look for an “old” piano tuner. They are more willing than the younger set ;-). Keep us posted!

  19. have fun with the piano refurbishing! I have no advice but I do LOVE when the kids are home and playing the piano and I’m sure you will too (most of the time….).

    B’s sweater is lovely!!

  20. Those legs!πŸ’• ( On the piano, of course!πŸ˜‚)

  21. Love the long awaited orange sweater. She looks lovely wearing it.

  22. Oh! That piano! I have my piano being carefully watched over by one of my former piano students while we are stationed here in Germany. It has been in our family for over 100 years and I did not want anything to happen to it while trying to ship it overseas. I miss the sound of that piano. The keyboard we purchased for our stay in Germany is a far cry from the real thing.

    Also, I agree with previous commenters about letting it settle into its new environment and find a good tuner when the time is right.

  23. I’d love a piano for my girl. We bought a guitar for her birthday and will start with that first. The sweater turned out beautiful as always. That baby, so beautiful.

  24. I never owned a non-electric piano but if they operate anything like a harp, you don’t want to tune them right away. It’s going to need some time to acclimate to your house, humidity levels, temperature, etc. Also, pay for a professional tuner. However, if there’s a university nearby that has a decent music department, check to see if they have a piano tuner and/or if they have any students that are learning how to do it.

  25. I’m glad to see that photo of the fossils, even if it might not exactly match what I recently bought from Seth for my grandson. I had asked him if he could include a note as to what fossils he was sending me, but I guess he couldn’t. πŸ™‚ So I think I will print this picture and let my grandson do the research!

    The piano project is fantastic! And the pumpkin colored sweater…. I love it so much!

  26. With the “new” piano, don’t tune it right away…it needs to acclimate to the environment of your house. Also, get it tuned professionally. What a find! I’m almost drooling over it! I’m also missing my own piano…we don’t have enough room so another family is “babysitting” it.

  27. My dad built a harpsichord as a teenager, and he and my mom still have it in their home. And he’s a talented carpenter who still loves working in his shop:) He always said that he benefitted from his dad just letting him loose with tools.

  28. Robin Duckworth says:

    Where is Mabel’s sweet bunny from? Love the sweater and all of your pictures. Beautiful.

  29. As I read this my oldest was hammering out a new melody on our old piano. Hearing and seeing my children do something beautiful is such a healing balm to the mothering woes. Beautiful pictures. Love seeing pic’s of the new house.

I love to hear from you!