KNOX, Maine — Jolene Bryant pushed the shuttle deftly through the warp threads of the cloth she was weaving on a wooden loom, the rich, purple, blue and green colors of the fabric glowing like jewels in her Knox home.
Looms and woven fabric in vivid colors seem to dominate the house of the 35-year-old weaver and mother, who also spins yarn, grows vegetables, raises chickens for eggs, keeps bees and more at Aborn Hillside Farm. She and her husband, Luke Bryant, who grew up on a Waldo County dairy farm, are trying their best to make a living by working primarily for themselves. They barter. They “wheel deals,” as Jolene says, all the time. And they live off the land as much as they can.
“I just like doing what I want to do,” Jolene, a small dynamo of a woman, said. “The goal is to make enough money to live on and invest a little. In 2007, we paid this house off. We have no credit cards. We drive old beaters. We have no debt whatsoever. That is the secret.”
Although the work never stops, the chores change with the seasons, they said. In the spring and summer, they are busy planting and tending their acre of tilled land.
“We do colors,” Luke Bryant said, adding that they’re known for carrots, beans, beets and other vegetables in rainbow shades.
They also care for the fruit trees — apples, peaches and cherries — and work on expanding their perennial permaculture crops, such as rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries and horseradish. Their community supported agriculture business has about 20 customers, and they deliver weekly totes full of vegetables, flowers, herbs, eggs and fruit during the summer and fall growing seasons. That’s the time of year they also sell their wares at a farmstand on Knox Ridge.
“Come the end of October, I’ve had it in the garden,” Jolene said. “That’s when it kind of shifts to fiber stuff.”
She weaves durable rugs, feather-light throws and warm blankets on her two looms, one of which is 5 feet tall. But Jolene learned to weave on a much more modest scope. Her parents were back-to-the-landers, and her mother had a simple loom.
“It was always stuffed in a closet,” she said. “I decided one day I wanted to figure it out.”
As she got more adept at using the loom, she discovered she liked it.
“Wow, this is a lot quicker than knitting,” Jolene remembers thinking.
Now, she weaves on commission and makes pieces she sells at her online store on the website Etsy. She sells the yarn she spins at Heavenly Socks Yarns in downtown Belfast. Many winter hours are spent at work on her looms and her spindle.
When the seasons shift again, they tap maple trees and boil the sap down to syrup. They make maple candies. Lately, they’ve been working on making beeswax candles from the beehives they hope will be successful.
It’s a good life.
“It’s nice to not be beholden to a boss,” Luke said.