Friday, December 29, 2006

Still Enjoying Vacation

Just wanted to let everyone know that we are still alive and well here in East Tennessee. Michael is still on vacation which has left me limited time for writing. I took my mom back to Ky. I will post more later concerning Christmas, apple trees, farm ideas. I am still pushing Michael to post, but he has had his hands full spending time with our kids. One of his FAVORITE things is to do on vacation is to stay up late (and I do mean late) and play video games with the boys. My children enjoy spending this time with their Dad so much. This has been a tradition that has been ongoing in our family for many years.

Well, we have much to do today. The time has come for some of the play to stop here on The Covered Y Farm, and for the work to start. I think the boys will be back to digging fence post holes today. Due to the horrific wind that we endure here, we once again have a yard in need of cleaning. Michael's shop is almost cleaned and rearranged now, but there are a few areas still in need of work. (I told him we could make more room in his shop if he would finish my kitchen cabinets)!

grace and peace,

Friday, December 22, 2006

Vacation Has Begun!

Michael has now started his Christmas vacation. I can't even begin to say how much we have looked forward to this time off for him. He has worked so many hours these last few months, and we are in need of some good old fashion rest and relaxation. That doesn't mean that we wont accomplish any work, but it does mean that the pressure is off for the next few weeks.

Tomorrow his mom and her husband along with my mom will be arriving at our house. We will celebrate Christmas with them on Sunday morning. Michael wanted to have our entire celebration on Sunday. We asked each of the children if they wanted to open gifts on Sunday or wait until Monday. All but one child wanted to wait until Christmas Day. (I'll give you a hint as to which child wanted to open the gifts early...he is the one that acts just like his dad)! My mom will stay a few extra days here in our home to visit with us. I am not nearly as prepared this time around as I was for Thanksgiving, but there will not be nearly as many people. I am ashamed to even admit that my house is still in drastic need of a good cleaning. I am hoping to get all of that done tomorrow. I have started some of my cooking. Tonight I baked my Banana Cake, and I made some more sugar cookie dough. Cooking ahead can pose quite the problem in our family. If I cook it too far ahead of time, the family hunts it down and eats it all up. I now understand why my mom use to hide her Christmas candy and cookies under her bed! With Missy Dog here, I can't hide anything that low to the ground. I ordered a country ham from Ky, and I was terrified the UPS man would leave it on our front porch. I could imagine coming home to find a box torn apart and a big ham bone being all that was left. I was so relieved the ham arrived and I was at home to personally take possession of it!

Our weather has been so warm here for the last week or so it is hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us. I have to say I have enjoyed the warm weather, but I sure miss the ambiance of the colder weather. I like the feeling of being tucked into a nice warm house with all of my family. It has been nice though to have the kids outside playing without having to drag out heavy coats, gloves, hats, and winter boots.

Well, it is getting late. My coach turns into a pumpkin at around 10:00p.m. so I will close for now. I am hoping that Michael will start posting again in the next day or so.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Farm Lessons Can Be Hard

Last March, Michael and I purchased 20 chicks to fulfill our egg needs. We have spent much time since March providing them with all the things that chickens need. We are just now beginning to get enough eggs to really be able to use them. Before this last month, I was hoarding the eggs for my homemade breads. It has been so nice to have enough eggs to finally be able to cook breakfast for our family and still be able to make bread later in the day. Well, today that all came to an end. We have an English Mastiff puppy that is 10 months old. She is very much a part of our family, but Michael has been requesting her to stay outside a bit more. I went to town today and I left her outside to enjoy the sunshine. I came back to find her in her usual spot on the front porch. After coming in the house, I encouraged my daughter to go outside with the 2 year old to play. Moments after going outside she was back in the house. She wanted to tell me that there was a dead chicken in the side yard. (Not good). I told her to go to the other side of the yard and we would clean it up shortly. She quickly came back inside announcing the fact that the other side yard was covered in dead chickens. (REALLY NOT GOOD). I am not a farm girl by birth so I don't do dead things very well. To be honest, I don't do dead things at all. I rounded up my boys to investigate. It appears that the sweet darling mastiff puppy is nothing more than a cold blooded chicken killer. She broke into our older chicken tractor and killed the 9 chickens in there. We are now down to 7 laying hens and one rooster.

After seeing my frustration, my daughter asked me how much it would cost to replace the chickens. I tried to explain to her that it wasn't the money, but the time already invested. We were just now seeing and enjoying the fruit of our labor, and now this. One of my favorite sayings is "take your lemons and make lemonade". I am trying hard to do this with this situation. I understand that in the grand scheme of things this really isn't that big of a deal. It is just a bump in the road, and we can replace the other hens. I am also thankful that it was just chickens and not something that costs much more like say a dairy cow.

grace and peace,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gift from the Horse

Sunday was Jacob's 10th birthday. He is our 3rd child, and of all of our children he is probably the most like his Dad. Jacob had invited 2 friends over to spend the night and share his special day with him. I was awoken several times in the night with the laughter of 3 boys just down the hall. During the day, I enjoyed watching them head of to the woods with our older son. I think the kids had a great day. I called them in for lunch, and I noticed that each boy was running to wash his hands. I knew something was up so I asked what they had been doing. We found great bombs! (This was said with much know the kind that is way over the top). I braced myself and asked what they were using for poop... it makes great bombs. Lovely...I am sure your mothers' will be just as thrilled as I am. As if all of this wasn't enough, my English Mastiff 10month old HOUSE puppy came inside this evening. I was wondering who had horse manure on their shoes. As the dog came closer to me, I knew who had horse manure on HER shoes. Oh my does she ever stink! She doesn't have any visible signs of manure on her just the lovely stinch from playing in the horse field. I don't have any dry shampoo for her, and I most certainly can't bathe her 130 pound body. I was thinking that maybe I could rub a little vanilla behind her ears...or I may feed her some refreshing candy canes to help with her breath.

As all of this was taking place this afternoon, a friend came by with a gift for us. This was a great gift that was a great surprise. (I promise you this is all true). She brought us 2 truck loads of you guessed manure. She was cleaning out her horse stalls, and decided it would be a nice thing to just bring it to our house instead of us having to shovel it from her field this spring. I was thrilled because this will result in less shoveling for us down the road. (We use composted horse manure in our raised beds). Who could believe that one day could be so loaded with this much horse manure? Such is the life on a small farm!

House updates: I spent much time on my knees today with a toothbrush doing an acid wash on our new tile. This was due to the fact that as we were applying the grout, I did not clean it as good as I should have. So I spent the morning wearing protective gloves with the doors standing wide open scrubbing the tile. Then I had to do a baking soda wash to stop the acid solution. (I was doing this while the boys were throwing horse manure bombs in the horse pasture)!I now am ready to bleach my grout and seal it. My boys are working hard in the new family room/bedroom. They are spackeling all of the dents, holes, and minor damage in the dry wall. They will sand it, and then it will be ready for paint. (Mother's Note to other Mother's: DO NOT BUY AIR SOFT GUNS AND ALLOW CHILDREN TO SHOOT THEM IN THE HOUSE. It makes a mess out of dry wall)! I guess since they were the ones to shoot the guns it is only fitting that they are the ones to fix the walls.

Well, I am off to finish a few dishes and settle down for a quiet evening. I will be heading to bed earlier this evening due to the lack of sleep last night! My children are begging me to watch another Christmas movie with them tonight. I may indulge them with this request, but I would rather be counting sugar plums in my sleep!

grace and peace,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weekly Update

Another week has passed here in beautiful East Tennessee. I look around us, and I realize that we have accomplished quite a bit this week even though Michael has had a busy work schedule. First, this was our last week of school for all of our children. We are now on Christmas break!!!!!!! I am more excited than our kids. I love home schooling, but I also love being able to get up and not be responsible for a school day. I get so many projects completed on nonschool days because I have the extra time as well as motivation.

We have spent some time today doing some outside clean up. Our carport had become home to much junk,trash, and clutter. The children all worked together to clean that area this afternoon.

If you read my earlier post, you know that we try to use what is already available to us when we have a need. Our heart's desire has been to close in our carport and make a much needed family room. We have waited since Spring to work on this project, and it just seems that there never is enough time or money to tackle such a large job. Our basement is a very large room intended by the builder to be used as a family room. However, we have a 3 bedroom house with 5 children so we were one bedroom short. We had our older boys make their bedroom downstairs. Just a few weeks ago it dawned on us that we could really make much better use of our basement. We moved the weight and workout equipment out to Michael's shop. This gave us a huge amount of space downstairs. We have moved the boys' bedroom to one side of the room, and we are making a family room on the other side of the room. We talked about putting up walls, but we felt it would make both rooms too choppy. We will be building a large walk in closet in an area that really hasn't been used for much of anything except storage. Michael will have to frame in a door for this, but that shouldn't take long. We bought paint last night, and I must say the room is coming along wonderfully. I feel like in just a few days that my house has already been enlarged. We bought a couch for downstairs, and everybody seems to be gathering downstairs more. We will be putting our computer back downstairs. YEEHAW!!! It is located in our bedroom. This house was built in the mid 70's and back then large bedrooms were not standard. To get around our bed, you have to push the computer chair up, and suck in your belly. When somebody is on the computer, we crawl over the bed to get to the bathroom. This new family room is a perfect example of using what is in the house. Someday I hope that we can enclose the carport, but for today I am very content. It is so nice to look in my living room and see it neat and tidy. It is also exciting to see the whole family gathering in a space that is large enough for everybody to have a seat. I am amazed this idea didn't come to us before now. We have lived here for 3 years, and I told Michael today that I am so thankful that we listened to him and bought this farm. I was having a hard time saying that 3 years ago!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Do You Have In Your House?

We just finished baking and decorating cookies with all of the kids tonight. I love hearing the laughing and playing, but sometimes it is nice to steal away for a bit of quiet. That is why I decided it was a good time to enjoy the cookies of my labor and have a bit of computer time. Don't worry, I plan on getting on the treadmill shortly!

I have spent the last few blog entries focusing on gift ideas that have worked for our family. I am at the end of my ideas for this season, but I did want to share a teaching that has truly impacted our life. The story is found in 1Kings 17:8-16. This is the story about the widow who God used to provide for Elijah. We read that Elijah comes to the widow's house and asks her for a morsel of bread. Her response to him was, "As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar..." Her automatic response was to look at what she did NOT have. As she is obedient to the word of the Lord, we read that "The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah".

Now, I would love to tell you that in our home that the groceries never run out, but that isn't the case or the lesson to be learned here. In fact, you have to be pretty fast in our family to get the "goodies" before they are all eaten up! For me the lesson has become the changing of my focus. I do not want to focus on what I don't have , but instead I want to ask myself, "what is in your house?". This change of focus brings a fresh perspective in our life as well as creates an appreciation for the abundance in our life. How has this worked for us? First, we are building a farm from the ground up here in East Tenn. It can be very overwhelming when you look at all the things we don't have and still need to purchase. However, if we stop and look at what we do have then we often times find that we have just what we need. We have used this principle in building a custom cabinet and furniture business. God gave Michael the talent of woodworking, and he used the talent that was in his house/hands to help make ends meet when we lived in Florida.

I also use this principle when I am wanting to give a special gift. I have a dear friend that I always exchange gifts with because we share the same birthday. I wanted to give something that would touch her very heart. She loves teacups, and the Lord lead me to give her a teacup and saucer from my own china that my parents purchased for me before I was married. When ever she drinks tea from her cup, she thinks of me. Whenever I see only 11 teacups in my set I always remember that she has the other one.

During the holiday season, we can get so caught up on wanting to give that great gift to that special person that we lose sight of the true meaning of the season. We look at the lack in our checking account, and we wonder how in the world is it all going to come together. Pray and ask the Lord to show you what you have in your house that could be used. This year my mom gave me a truly priceless gift for my birthday. Two years ago we found out just how sick my Dad was with cancer on my birthday. It has brought a sadness for me on my birthday. This year my mom gave me a bracelet that my dad had given her for an anniversary present. It brought such joy to me because it made me feel like my dad was still a happy part of my birthday celebration. Everytime I wear that bracelet, it makes me smile and I remember both of my parents. My mom had the money to go and buy me a new bracelet, but it sure wouldn't have been the same in my heart.

Michael and I do not have this teaching down pat in our lives. Often times we forget to look and see what the Lord has put into our house. We look at all the things we still have left to do here on the farm instead of looking at all the things we have done in the last 3 years. We see the lack of cows and pigs instead of looking at the addition of chickens and fruit trees and raised beds. It is a different perspective, and with this new perspective comes thankfulness for the abundance in our lives.

I want to close with one of my favorite Bible verses that has given me so much peace over the years. It is found in Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope".

grace and peace,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bounty from the Farm

I am still on the theme of gifts from the heart, and what better gift than sharing some of the bounty from your farm. I spent many hours this summer making applesauce, apple butter, blackberry jam, and other yummy canned goods. These are always a wonderful spare of the moment gift. I purchase extra baskets when I find good deals, and then I can put a farm basket together quickly. If I have extra time, I may bake a loaf of bread to add to the basket. I also use our honey as special gifts. During the canning season, I pick up small jars and then I have little gifts to give to the piano teacher or the Sunday school teacher. I always include a loaf of homemade bread with my small jar of honey. If I know somebody loves honey butter, I will also include honey butter in the gift. Be creative and look and see what you have extra stored on your pantry shelf. We send gifts to friends that live out of town. If I do a farm basket for them, I also include a picture of the kids while they are picking the items needed for the basket. We have lots of pictures of the children picking apples or extracting honey with their Dad. I will write a note about the day, and this gives the person receiving the gift a small glimpse into our children's life on the farm.

I had hoped to have our soap ready for gift giving, but we were several weeks behind in production. Oh well, it will be there for other gift giving occasions. I am also wanting to learn how to make soy candles next year so our family can enjoy them as well as making wonderful gifts.

I have a happy note to share about the farm and our third son, Jacob. Jacob and his Daddy did the farm chores this morning. Jacob told his Dad that we need to get more animals because he wanted more outside chores to do. I about fell over at this announcement, but I know what his true heart is. Jacob likes doing any type of outside work WITH his dad. I know that over the Christmas break Michael and Jacob along with the other boys will be working on repairing our fences. Yes, Cheri, we will get that cow off your hands as soon as possible!!!

I have already started working on Michael's honey do list. He gets 11 days off over the Christmas holiday. We will have to balance work on the farm and playing at the house. As long as we have a good plan, we usually get both done quite nicely during his Christmas break.

grace and peace,

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Gifts from the Heart

As I shared in an earlier post, I try to think about gift giving with gifts from the heart in mind. I focus a lot on the kitchen aspect of gift giving because that is where I spend so much of my daily time. We as a family also spend a lot of time in the work shop. Over the past several years, Michael has created some fabulous holiday gifts. I think the one that was the most treasured was a gift that he made for my mom. My mom loves to plant flowers and herbs. She always potted flowers on her patio sitting on the ground. Michael made her a beautiful potting bench that has truly been her pride and joy. She decorates it every summer, and she now has a great location to repot flowers or display her herbs. One year Michael made gift trays. They were serving trays that could be used in a wide variety of ways. We filled the trays with natural straw like material. We added fresh baked goods to some of the trays. Other of the trays were filled with candles or soap. We made one tray as a "Family Game tray" complete with hot coco mix, cards, sweet goodies, and several different types of card games. This was a great gift for the whole family. We have made bird houses to be used as gifts as well as picture frames. Be creative and think about what the person you are wanting to give a gift to really likes. Go from there. Michael's mother received some special quilts from her mother. These quilts were really very special to her so Mihcael made his mom a beautiful quilt stand. She was thrilled to display her quilts on a stand made by her son.

It is so much easier to run to the mall or Walmart and purchase a quick gift. It doesn't take much thought. Instead it just requires some money which you may or may not have. Instead take an inventory of who you are purchasing for this year. Think about what he or she really enjoys, and make something special for that person. I would love to learn how to knit for this very reason. My most treasured baby gifts have been the ones that were hand made for me. They truly are priceless in my heart.

Sadly for our family this year there just hasn't been time to be in the shop and create these special gifts. I am hoping that after the first of the year Michael will be able to make our daughter a cradle for her special baby doll. We had wanted this to be a gift for her this Christmas, but due to his work schedule it just wasn't possible. I think she will still love it just the same if it shows up in her room sometime after the first of the year as a "I just love you gift". I am thinking that maybe for her next Christmas the boys and Dad can make a wooden doll house for her complete with furniture. I doubt that there is any way that it could be a surprise, but we will just have to see what we can work out!

grace and peace,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Fun and Chores

We have enjoyed a nice Saturday. It has been very cold here the last few days so we decided to work inside as much as possible. We spent part of yesterday moving weight equipment out from our basement which is our older boys' room into Michael's shop. We are wanting to make the boys' room double as a family room to add a bit more space to our home. Now we have to rearrange the shop to accommodate the extra items.

After attending a Christmas party for our children this morning, we came back home and chilled out for a bit. Then we started making soap. I really enjoyed working on this project. It has been a long time since we last made soap. We made three different batches...1.Peppermint 2.Lime moisturizer bars 3. BeesWax and cocobutter soap. Soap making is like planting seeds. You have to be patient to see what your end product will be like. I don't like the waiting part, but in 4 to 6 weeks I will know how well we did.

Michael and I always make soap together. It is a fun project, and we enjoy the time spent together. Michael is a very precise person. I am very laid back for the most part. Michael actually works in an environment that he must be exact in everything he does. I do not. I was messing with the lye without wearing gloves, and he commented on it. I replied that it wasn't a big deal because if you get lye on your skin you can use vinegar to stop the burn. (This is true). He looked at me as if I had two heads and replied back something about Dr.'s being able to sew your fingers back on so we might as well cut them off on the table saw!!!! I put the gloves on for his sake, and everything went fine for the rest of the afternoon.

After soap making, we cleaned up the kitchen and started hair cuts. Michael cuts our boys' hair, and this saves a tremendous amount of money as well as time. Our 2 yr. old hates having his hair cut, and last April he ended up having a buzz cut due to his lack of cooperation. I really didn't want that to happen again so we have put off cutting his hair at all. He cooperated this time with much coaxing, and Michael did a great job.

This pretty much sums up our Saturday. We are all relaxing tonight, and I will soon start putting little people to bed. I usually like having everything ready for church the night before. However tonight I think I will just head off to bed and get up a bit earlier in the morning.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gifts from the Heart

Several years ago I was in a dilemma. I needed a special Christmas gift AND Birthday gift for my Dad, but I just couldn't come up with any ideas. Money was tight and everything my Dad liked required some cold hard cash. I started praying. I prayed harder because I really wanted this gift to be special, and God answered my prayer. The Lord told me to give my Dad a gift from the heart. I sat down that night and I started writing down memories of my childhood that included him. After less than an hour, I had composed a beautiful writing that I titled "A Daughter's Memories". I went to an art store and bought special paper and a special pen, and I wrote it out on that paper so that I could have it framed for him. Let me tell you, if I had spent a thousand dollars on a gift for him it wouldn't have been near as special to him as that gift from my heart. It cost me precious little, but it meant so very much to him. I wrote another one about my memories of his job and gave that to him on the day he retired. At his funeral last year, we had each one of those "pictures" displayed on an easel because they meant so much to him.

Don't get so caught up with the perfect gift that requires a lot of money. Ask the Lord to give you ideas, and wait and see just what He does for you. My motto for gift giving is to make it gifts from the heart if at all possible. This year I bought my mother a nice sweater and shirt. She will like it, but it wasn't anything from my heart. It was just a gift. I was in Cracker Barrel looking for something specific, and I found my gift from my heart to my Mom. When I was a child, my mom loved Googoo clusters. She would buy them for herself and threaten any of us with our life if we ate any of the clusters from her box! A few months ago, I mentioned her googoo cluster selfishness and we had a great laugh. She thought that the company had quit making googoo clusters, but my talking about them made her crave one. I found several boxes of Googoo clusters at Cracker Barrel. I bought them, put them in a basket with a little note about being a selfish googoo cluster eater. This one gift will mean a lot to her because it deals with my memories from childhood.

Christmas Day was also my dad's birthday. He told stories of not liking his birthday on Christmas when he was a child because all of his gifts got combined together in one. After this I purposed to always do something special for his birthday. He also told me a story from Paul Harvey about a little girl who gave her Daddy a beautiful wrapped present. When he opened it, the box was empty. The Daddy told the girl that she shouldn't give empty boxes as gifts. She replied that the box wasn't empty it was full of her hugs and kisses. My dad shared this story with me when I was around 19 yrs. old. After that for his birthday, I would find the most beautiful box and fill it with candy Kisses and Hugs. I wrapped it as beautiful as I could, and I would give it to him on his birthday. My dad's last Christmas/Birthday was in 2004. We knew he had just a few months to live, and that Christmas and birthday would be his last. I once again gave him his box with candy kisses and hugs, and it truly was a gift from my heart.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Simple Christmas Memories

As a child, my parents put a lot of emphasis on Christmas. We always had a wonderful Christmas day full of nice gifts. Only a few of my childhood Christmas gifts stand out in my mind. One year when I was around 9 years old, my mom and I baked sugar cookies and decorated them together. This memory is very vivid for me, and I remember just how much fun that day was. As I got older, my mom continued to allow me to do more of the baking and candy making. By the time I was an early teenager, my mom allowed be to do most of the candy making with her supervision. I have many stories I could share about these memories, but I can't recall one of the gifts that I received durring those years. What does that tell you? It is a reminder for me that Christmas isn't about gifts or food, but about our Lord and Savior and spending time as a family making our own special memories.

I said in a earlier post that I would share some simple ideas that our family has used to help make memories for our family as well as others. One of the obvious places to start with your children is in the kitchen. When we lived in Florida, we lived on a very tight budget. We did not have extra money to buy gifts, but I still wanted to teach my children about giving. For the month of December, I planned very cheap meals so that I could pull some extra money from our grocery budget. I used that money to buy the extra ingredients to bake cookies, make fudge, and candies. After I layed the baby down for a nap, the other children and I made sugar cookies and decorated them. We took large stick pretzels and dipped half in melted almond bark, and made chocolate covered pretzels. We also melted candy wafers and made painted candy by painting molds with different colors of chocolate. After painting, we poured the molds with either white or dark chocolate. Then pop in freezer and in a few minutes out comes a beautiful piece of chocolate candy. We made a large batch of hot chocolate mix (I will include that recipe at the end of the post) and put some mix in pint jars. We tied a raffia ribbon around it, and placed a pint jar of it in a basket. We added the baked goods, and we had a wonderful gift to give to friends and neighbors. I have also baked bread with my children and made honey butter to make a bread and butter basket complete with hot chocolate mix for neighbors. I included a hand written note or card, and I also wrote a scripture verse for each basket. Keep it simple. It is about sharing the love of Jesus with people and having a special time with your children. A word of caution, your kitchen will be messy!!! Anytime you give a child a cookie with some homemade icing and sprinkles, you will have much to clean in the end. But it is so worth it. Also keep the baking at your child's age level. When my children were all 8 and under, I baked the cookies myself. I had the kids help me color the icing and ice the cookies. They were then able to use sprinkles to decorate. Now that my kids are older, they are a part of the mixing and baking of the cookies. We can use more elaborate cookie cutters because the children now have the ability to decorate more precisely. Don't forget to make extra cookies and hot chocolate for your own children. This is also part of the memory making. may gain weight during these projects!!! Don't tell me that I didn't warn you.

grace and peace,

Instant Hot Chocolate
one box (29.6 oz) Nonfat PowderedMilk
6 oz jar non dairy coffee creamer (I use Coffee Mate)
3 cups Nestle Quick
1 1/2 cups powder sugar

Mix together in large bowl. Stir well. Store in airtight container. To make hot chocolate add 1/2 cup mix to a mug of hot water. If you want it to be extra rich, use hot milk instead of water. You can top it with marshmellows, marshmellow creme, or my favorite is homemade whipping creme! Michael likes to add a half cup of this mix in a large mug. He then pours hot coffee over it. It becomes like a mocha coffee.

Peppermint Brickle Candy

package of white almond bark
peppermint candy canes crushed in small pieces

Melt almond bark according to package directions. Add crushed peppermint candy. Pour out onto cookie sheets in thin streams. Let harden. Use the end of a butter knife to break into pieces. This is a great gift giving idea. Just place the candy in pint jars and tie with a Christmas ribbon. (Almond bark can be purchased at Walmart in the baking section).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Weekend Happenings

Here are a few pictures from this weekend. We had many fun filled Christmas happenings this weekend. Our family decorated our Christmas tree on Saturday. As you can see, Michael was the one who climbed to the top of the house to put up the Christmas lights. This is the first year we have ever put Christmas lights outside. We inherited the lights from my mom and dad, and they sure look beautiful on our home.

For our family, we celebrate Christmas the entire month of December. I always want my children to remember the time spent together during the Christmas season instead of just receiving gifts on one morning of the year. We spend time in the kitchen baking cookies and candy. We spend time in the shop cutting out wooden ornaments and painting them for our Christmas tree. Michael and the older kids have spent many hours in the shop over the past years making special gifts for family members. Our second son Joshua has a wonderful eye for picking the perfect gift for our younger children. He comes with me on my Christmas shopping trips to help me choose for the other children. As a family, we spend many evenings in front of the Christmas tree just talking and enjoying the beauty of the lights. Matthew and I did this Saturday night until after midnight. (Why is it that teenagers always want to share their heart after 10:00p.m.)? This year I planned a special outing for Hope and I. As you can see from our family picture, Hope is our only girl in the bunch. She loves doing girl things, but often times our family focus is on activities for the boys. Hope jumps right on in there with the boys activities and always has a great time. This year I wanted to have a mom/daughter girl event. She loves ballet, and we went to see the Nutcracker performed by the Kingsport Ballet Company. Before the show, they hosted a formal tea party for the little girls. Hope was thrilled. The dancers in the ballet were the ones to serve tea to all the little girl guests at the tea party. Then each girl had her picture taken with the cast of the ballet. This was a BIG deal for Hope. We enjoyed the ballet so much, and it was great to have a girl outing. We purchased a special Christmas tree ornament to remind us of the fun of the evening. The ballet evening was part of Hope's Christmas this year, and I know we made wonderful memories for years to come.

I pray that your family will come up with ways to make the holidays special for you. As the month continues, I will share other ideas that we have used in the past to make memories for our children as well as others.

grace and peace,
Here are the pictures of the Jacob's and Hope's gingerbread houses. If anybody has a recipe for a tried and true gingerbread cookie,please send it our way. The kids have all decided now that they want to EAT gingerbread cookies. I think it would be fun to make some little gingerbread men and enjoy eating them. Thanks!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Chain saw operator???

Today Michael was at home and we decided it was time to finish the tree clean up. I am not for sure how long the pine tree has been in our front yard, but we decided that today was going to be the finish of the yard clean up. (Who wants to put Christmas lights up on the house with a huge pine tree sprawled on the front lawn)? We finally got the tree removed, and our yard looks MUCH better. As we were cleaning up the branches, Michael asked me if I would like to learn how to use the chain saw. Now if you knew my husband you would KNOW why this question surprised me so much. He likes to be in control of everything...Especially things that can cut off body parts!! I am thinking that teaching the 15 year old to drive has gone to Michael's head or something. I decided it was a good time to learn how to operate a chain saw so I told him yes. He lovingly instructed me how to lay the saw on the branch and angle it to cut through the tree. Well, you see I am not used to angles so I did what was natural to me...I started sawing back and forth just like I was cutting bread. He kindly pointed out that I was not using the right technique, and he once again showed me how to correctly use the chain saw. After many different reminders on his part, he finally said, "Julie, I shouldn't have to tell you so many times"! I noticed his tone changing, and his loving voice changed to exasperation. I got so tickled because I have cut so many loaves of bread by "sawing" my knife back and forth that I just automatically went to that same action. I am proud to say that after many reminders from my husband and more than several lessons, I now can operate a chain saw. Mind you I won't be running out to cut up firewood anytime soon, but it felt good to learn something that has always seemed scary to me. After the chain saw lesson, he didn't offer to teach me to drive the truck up the steep incline in 4 wheel drive. I guess he figured he had done enough teaching for one day!!!!

I was at WalMart today buying my groceries. (Yes, we still buy a lot of groceries at a store). I noticed that Wilton Cake Decorating Company had a prebaked gingerbread house that was already assembled. It was a kit that included the icing, candies, and house neatly packaged for under $10. I ended up picking up 2 houses so that our 9 yr old and 8 yr old could enjoy a craft. We will not be eating these houses so I wasn't worried about the quality of the cookies. I just wanted my kids to experience decorating a gingerbread house. I was amazed at how much fun the kids had with this project. They spent the whole afternoon icing and decorating and designing. It was such fun to watch them "build" their house. My daughter asked if we could decorate a gingerbread house every year, and I told her that maybe next year we could bake our own and do a real gingerbread house. She was very excited at the prospect.

I am so thankful that I acted on the prompting of the Lord to purchase the houses. I get so caught up with being frugal that times I miss what the Lord would have me to do. I also feel that EVERYTHING must be homemade, and I make many things too complicated. It was so peaceful today to enjoy a simple store bought craft kit. It wasn't complicated at all, and the memories that were made were truly priceless.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hope this note finds all of you doing well. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving week with all of our company. I am truly tired and thankful that our life is returning to normal once again. I slept for most of the day yesterday just trying to recover from loss sleep over the weekend. I am still very tired, but at least I am not sick and tired. I love having company, but there is something wonderful about returning to a normal schedule and a normal life with just our kids. We have returned to school this week, and will work for about 3 more weeks before the Christmas break. I try to get a lot accomplished in the next two weeks. We then take the last week before Christmas and enjoy a lot of Christmas crafts for school time. I think the weather may be cooling off a bit, and then will make me feel more like decorating for Christmas. It has been so beautiful here that I have not felt much at all like it is close to Christmas time. I enoy the Christmas holidays, but not near as much as I enjoy the Thanksgiving season.

Well, my house is still upside down from the weekend so I must go and get school back on track and clean the house.
grace and peace,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving Soon to Arrive!

Can you tell I REALLY like Thanksgiving?? I have enjoyed the company of my mom for the last few days, and my brother and his family will arrive soon. Wow, our house is already busting at the seams with people! (Michael has threatened to head for the deer stand for the entire weekend, but I know he'll be back for dinner)!!!

I talked in my last post about preparation. I am truly enjoying the fruit of my labors. I have been busy, but because of the planning I haven't been overwhelmed. I will be preparing some of my Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. For instance, I wil saute my celery and onions for my dressing. I already have the cornbread in the freezer, and I will toast up the bread that is needed early. I will have these things together so that I can put my dressing together quickly and stuff my bird right before putting it in the oven. I have a 20 pound turkey bird so I plan on baking it around 6:00 a.m. This will give me time to get my pies and some blueberry muffins prepared before my oven is occupied. I guess the biggest turkey tip I have for anyone who should need one is to let that bird rest at least 15 minutes after you pull it out of the oven. (How do I know this you might be asking yourself)??? Well, last year we all skipped breakfast and were waiting with all the side dishes on the table. What were we waiting for you might be wondering? Yes, we were waiting for the turkey. It was beautiful and cooked to perfection. I knew I should let the bird rest, but I cut it anyway. This causes the juices to runout of the bird instead of staying in the meat. Now, I have to admit I didn't really put too much stock in this. After eating a very dry turkey last year, I now believe that a 15-30 minute rest period for the bird is a great idea! The other great thing is that by waiting on the bird to rest it allows time to bake those homemade yeast rolls that everybody so enjoys.

I know that this post has been all about food and preparation stuff, but that truly isn't my heart concerning Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for all that God has done in my life. It overwhelms me sometimes to taste and see just how good God has been to us. So many decisions have been made over the years that seemed crazy to most people, but God's eye was guiding us through each and every step. (Perhaps someday Michael will share our marriage story. Most people thought we were out of our tree, but we knew that we knew that we were made for each other)! I am so VERY thankful that God brought Michael into my life, and after almost 20 years of marriage he is without a shadow of doubt still my best friend and soul mate. I never knew until after we were married that Michael wanted a farm. Wow, that was always my dream too, and here we are living it on a daily basis. Then I look at these 5 children that we have in our home, and I realize that they are such a gift from the Lord. Words are not enough to express my feeling of awe that God Himself would live in my heart, and want a relationship with me. Now that is something to be thankful for everyday of our life.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Counting Down to Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It has always been my favorite holiday. It has become even more dear to me since we moved to Tennessee. Michael usually hunts on Thanksgiving morning with the boys while Hope and I work on the dinner. For our family, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what God has done in our life, and to enjoy a relaxing day with one another. This year I am very excited because we will be hosting my brother and his family and my mom for the weekend. I wish my other brother would be able to join us, but with his work schedule it is almost impossible. He is a fireman and works every third day. I find that when my family gets together it makes me long for my dad all the more. We have such a great time together, but his absence is magnified when we are togetherand he is not here with us. (My dad passed away just a little over a year ago). I know in my heart of hearts my dad would want us to enjoy good family time and not be sad so that is exactly what I purpose to do this year.

I have found that if I plan for these type of events everything goes so much smoother. This allows me to enjoy the fun instead of being behind the scenes doing all the work. I have been working to get food in the freezer for our meals over the weekend. One night we will have Lasagna and another will be a Mexican theme complete with Enchiladas and Taco Soup. This will allow the time needed to cook a huge meal on Thanksgiving, and still enjoy the rest of the weekend with family. I have also started preparing the items that can be frozen for Thanksgiving. For example, yesterday I made 3 pie crusts and put in the freezer. This will speed up the pie baking on Thursday morning! I also prepared cornbread and froze it for the dressing.

I want my children to learn this lesson of planning ahead early on in life. I feel like over the years I have wasted so much time in a panic because I didn't plan ahead. I want my daughter to catch this vision early in her life! After all, the holiday is about God and people instead of turkey, but if all we do is mess with food then we have lost the meaning.

grace and peace,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Afternoon

I can hardly believe that Sunday is here again. It seems that just yesterday we were enjoying a quite Sunday! Many things have been tackled this past week in spite of Michael's long work hours. He did some car repair on both of our trucks. He has continued to work on removing the large tree out at the front of our house. I have been working along to get our home put in order for company that will be here over Thanksgiving. We even took Saturday for just a day of fun. Our zoo was hosting a free day, and we decided that our children would enjoy a day out as a family. We had a wonderful time. I was very thankful for a day to relax with everybody.

I have also started on my winter farm to do list. I find that taking time to plan in the winter is crucial for summer success in the garden. I spend many afternoons in the winter reading and researching for our upcoming garden. We are wanting to add at least 4 more raised bed over the winter months. I am sold on raised bed gardening. (Thanks Cheri)!!! I spent way less time this summer weeding than I ever had before. I was very happy with the production of the raised beds. I was able to plant in them by myself. By that I mean it wasn't back breaking work. Michael quickly tilled the bed for me, and then I was ready. Right now I have lettuce and collards growing in 2 of our beds. However, I planted the collards way too late. I am still hoping to reap some a little later.

grace and peace,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Taking things for granted

I have found myself guilty lately of taking the blessings of the Lord for granted in my daily life. It seems that life just has a way of happening when I am not paying attention. All too often, I am planning the next event or chore that needs my time and attention and not really taking time to enjoy the things I put my hands to. (Can anybody relate or am I by myself on this one)? Well, God does have a way of getting our attention and He has done just that the last few days. I am so thankful for all that He has done in my life, but more than that...I am so thankful for who He is in my life. I often ask my children a question that helps keep me on track. Are you seeking the hand of God or the face of God? Are you seeking God's blessings or God Himself? I am thankful that He takes the time to get my attention.

grace and peace,

Sunday, November 05, 2006


We have been required by our bodies this weekend to slow down a bit and get some much needed rest. Michael's work schedule has been very long, and will probably continue this way until Christmas. He gets so frustrated when his body shuts down and MAKES him rest. I believe that God built our bodies to do just that so that we will stop and take care of ourselves by getting some much needed sleep! We did awake early this morning, and he headed out to our woods to deer hunt. Michael always takes at least one of our children with him whenever he does anything. I am so thankful for this because it is great for our kids to spend time with him. However, this morning I was happy to see him head out alone. I know for myself there are times that I just need to get alone. These are times of refreshing for me, and it gives me time to just be still before God. Michael has often said that being in the woods is a precious time for him with the Lord. I pray that the Lord meets him there this morning. I am also praying that a nice deer would end up in our freezer! I personally do not like deer meat, but everybody else in the family enjoys it. For me it is a state of mind rather than taste, but I will work on it.

I remember not too long ago when people would share their fresh killed beef with us it was hard for me to cook it. I liked my meat wrapped in plastic on a nice tray with a label. Now I am just the opposite. I would love never to have to buy meat again from the grocery store! We are working on that too.

Speaking of grocery stores...if you plan to make soap you can no longer purchase lye (at least in our area) at the grocery store. I went all over yesterday looking for lye. I had to laugh because most of the people just looked at me like I had 2 if not 3 heads because they didn't have any idea what I was talking about. Finally I found an older woman who worked there, and she at least knew what lye was. She informed me that they no longer carried it. I finally got tired of looking, and called TnFarmGirl. She informed me that our local stores where no longer allowed to carry lye because people could use it to make meth. UGHHH!!!! (Maybe that is why all the young people that worked at the grocery store was looking at me like I had 2 heads...they thought I was going to brew up a nice batch of meth)!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Just a quick note

The weather here is still beautiful, and we are working very hard to get a few things caught up around here before winter sets in for good. We are also hosting my family for Thanksgiving this year, and working to get everything in order for that weekend as well.

Michael has asked me to locate garlic bulbs to plant this fall. Does anyone have suggestions as to where I can purchase good quality organic garlic bulbs to plant? I checked Johhny's Selected Seeds, and it is in stock. However, I wasn't sure if it was at a good price or even good quality garlic. I plan on purchasing Herrick Kimball's book concerning making garlic powder, but I was wanting to go ahead and order my bulbs before receiving the book. (That is about the way I do things. I am the one who gets the pigs, and then says "oh, where should we put them"???)! Michael is the planner of the family so I guess we balance one another out pretty well. He is working VERY long hours right now, and I am just trying to help him out a bit by finding the garlic bulbs for him.

grace and peace,

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good Sunday Evening

Just wanted to make a quick entry on this beautiful Sunday evening. We have enjoyed our weekend once again. O.k.... Michael has tiled the kitchen all weekend, but the rest of us have enjoyed it. The kitchen is getting close to being completed. Well, the tile is close to being finished, and then we still have the grout. I helped Michael grout the dining room, and I was in for quite a rude awakening. I thought it would be like icing a cake, and was I ever wrong. It was a lot of hard work, and I thought we would never finish cleaning it! I will keep you updated as we continue this project.

The weather here is glorious today. We are heading out to a bonfire tonight in our community. Everybody is looking forward to it.

Oh!!!! I almost forgot to tell you our chickens started laying eggs!!! I was fussing just yesterday about having 17 chickens and still not getting any eggs. I guess the chickens heard my rantings and decided they better start producing something. I was getting tired of finding chicken droppings in my nest boxes! I can't wait to have many more eggs. I love the results of baking with fresh eggs. The real eggs make all the difference. I just can't wait now to get our cow and have real milk! (Truth be told, I am glad she won't calve until summer. This girl was a little worried about learning to milk in the winter)!!

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thoughts on Homemade Soap

After reading TnFarmgirl's blog I decided it was time to get out the soap making supplies. I haven't made soap in 2 years. Wow, the time does fly! Michael and I started making soap several years ago. I truly loved the product, but with so many other things filling our lives we had to let a few things go by the wayside. Soapmaking was one of those things. Cheri (tnfarmgirl) has been very gracious over the past 2 years to share soap with us. I have very dry skin, and in the winter it burns and itches. I have found when I am diligent to use the homemade soap, my skin keeps its moisture better. Homemade soap takes a little getting use to. It is different from store bought soap, and that is why I really like it. Soap making is not hard, but you do have to follow the directions carefully. Children should not be in the area where you are making soap. There are just too many chances of really burning or hurting a child. I am the kind of cook that splashes and dashes a little of this and a lot of that into the pot. This methodology is not the proper one to be using when making soap. When we first became interested in soap making, I bought a book by Country Living called Handmade Soap. I bought it because the pictures were beautiful, and it explained the process very well. One of my favorite soaps is the Peppermint Wake up Bar. It has a pungent smell of peppermint, and it tingles the skin just a bit. This will be the batch of soap that I start with as soon as my supplies are delivered. There are many places to purchase soap making supplies on the internet. I do not buy bulk supplies because I just make the soap for my family. If you are going to make a large quanity of soap, it would be good to look for a bulk supplier because it will save much money in the long run. If you want to try homemade soap with out making it yourself, go to TnFarmgirl's blog (link to the right). She has a web page, and she sells her soap. It is wonderful, and she has a great variety.

grace and peace,

Monday, October 23, 2006

Good Monday Morning

Wow, this weekend has flown by with much gusto. I feel like we have opened a Bed n Breakfast. We have had friends from Ohio come and stay with us a few days. We had a great time with lots of cooking, eating, visiting, walking, and hiking. I so enjoyed watching them being refreshed here on our farm. Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to really savor the moments and beauty before us. It is always fun when someone comes here for the first time because they reopen my eyes to the beauty all around us. The mountain behind our farm is turning into an artist canvas. Each day it looks as if God has colored even more beauty into His masterpiece as each tree takes on a different color for fall. I truly love this time of year. Our older children spent much of their young lives living in Florida because it was Michael's last duty station while serving in the Navy. They had never seen fall or spring or much snow for that matter. I will never forget my oldest son's reaction to his first fall. He was so in awe of the beauty of it all because he was 10 years old before he had actually seen it first hand!

Well back to our weekend.... Thirty minutes after the first family left our home we had another family stop by for a visit and lunch. We have been so blessed over the years to make covenant friendships that have lasted the test of time as well as distance. This particular family came into our life just 6 weeks after our first baby was born. That was over 15 years ago, and they have been family every since. This woman has been my Titus 2 lady in my life. She was the one who encouraged me to stay at home with my little one, and she helped me along the way to encourage me with home making. Shortly after I met her, she taught me to bake bread. She not only showed me how to bake it, she bought me bread pans and books to get me started. Wow, what a legacy she has had on my family. She didn't stop there...she continues to mail me recipes and teach me new techniques every time we are together. This time around she brought me some of her beloved bread pans as well as a wooden bread board that she has used over the years. A few years back I decided I wanted a grain mill to grind my own wheat. Guess who helped us purchase that? I had just had our 5th baby, and instead of a baby gift she sent money for the family to purchase a grain mill! She also included some of her favorite whole wheat bread recipes!

We may never know the seeds that we plant in the lives of people. We may never realize the crop that we have sown in someone's life. I know this lady truly has no idea what she has done in my own life.

This upcoming week we will be taking time to clean up from the storm. There is still a large pine tree laying in our front yard. We love to have bonfires on cool evenings. Hope, our daughter, had already been asking her Daddy to make a fire pit and some type of seating. Well, God did provide with the large tree. Michael will be making log seats to go around our fire pit out of the tree, and Hope has been collecting rocks from all over to make the fire ring. I am enjoying the time we share around the fire roasting marshmallows and drinking hot cocoa or hot apple cider.

Well, I have rambled enough and now it is time to actually do all the great things that I know to do to keep this family running smoothly.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

That Was Close

Our current home remodeling project almost expanded greatly overnight. Nature has a way of testing our patience, especially when we are right in the midst of making things happen. We are currently finishing up the improvements to our home that Julie mentioned in a previous post. Additionally, I have just completed a new chicken tractor and had it in service for about a week. We are about to make some changes to our barn to accommodate a new milk cow coming from Tn FarmGirl. All this and we wake up to the pictures below. The area we live in has extreme wind storms about 7 or 8 times a year and last night was the worst we've had since we moved here. Wind gusts near 100 mph. Oh well, I need to get to cleaning up, and wait for the insurance adjuster. More to follow.
God bless

My work car is not in a good spot.
My new chicken tractor, roofless.
The old chicken tractor, roofless.
The kids' trampoline had fight with the clothes line, still not sure who won.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Home remodeling continues

Michael is experiencing a long weekend, and he will be starting a new work schedule soon. He has decided to spend this weekend working on our house remodeling. When we found this farm almost 3 years ago, I really did not like the house AT ALL. I had in my mind a beautiful country home with a wrap around front porch that was just full of character. When we first looked at this house, it had character alright, but it was vintage 1970's!! It had the darkest paneling I had ever seen, and the kitchen floor was harvest gold flowers complete with harvest gold appliances! I didn't even walk through the entire house because I knew that I knew this was not the house for me. I took the kids and waited in the van for him. When Michael came back to the van, he was heartbroken that I wasn't on the same page as him.(At that point, I wasn't even in the same book)!! He told me it was his dream farm, and it was like taking candy from a baby that I wouldn't be interested. Our oldest son says that is the only time in his entire life he ever heard his Daddy whine about anything! We left, and I began to feel bad so I told him to call the man back and we would go and look at it a second time. I at least walked the entire house the second time around, but I still wasn't sold. I smiled on our way home, and told him I didn't like it any better the second day than I did the first. Later that day I was praying, and I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that I wasn't honoring my husband with this situation. I went to Michael and told him that if it was truly his dream farm, then I would support him 100%. I would be willing to move to the house, and I would make myself be happy there even amongst the dark paneling and ugly kitchen. He was thrilled, and I felt great. I had already figured out the asking price was way more than we could afford so I would come out smelling like a rose when the bank denied the loan. (Ladies, this isn't the way to handle these type of situations with our husbands, but I am just being honest). Later that weekend the owner of the house called and asked what he could do to get us to buy the house. Michael told him he had to come down on the price, and he agreed. I went from smelling like a rose to feeling like a skunk because ten days later we had closed on the house. Michael was thrilled, and I was in complete dismay as well as disbelief. The first thing that we started redoing was the kitchen. Michael had a cabinet and furniture shop in times past, and he makes beautiful cabinets. He planned our new kitchen, and began the cabinet making process. Our kitchen is about three quarters finished, and I love it. Our entire family put so much work into those cabinets. When our children have company, I grin when I hear them tell their friends to watch our for the cabinets because it was a lot of hard work making them! This weekend Michael has decided to start on the tile floor in the kitchen and dining room. This is a large area and it is an enormous job, but it is already looking great. I am so very thankful that he is so talented in all of these areas. As the project continues, I will have him post pictures to keep you updated.

By the way, this farm as well as house has become my dream too. We had lived here for about a year, and we were walking in one of our fields and I knew that we were right where we belonged. As we were walking hand in hand, I told him he was right. He grinned at me, and asked me what he was right about this time. I told him he was right all along about this house and farm, and I was so thankful that the Lord blessed us with it. I thought our farm home would look totally different. I wanted one of the old homes with tons of character, but God knew exactly what we needed. I also realized that our home has character too, but it comes from us.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

To Play or Not to Play

How quickly 5 months can go by! It has been a busy summer and early fall for us. A great deal of my time has been consumed by my day job due to a labor union strike at my company. With the labor force on strike, salaried have had to keep the company running and that has resulted in considerable more hours than usual. Additionally, our three oldest boys play baseball and football and that too has kept us on the run to some extent; more on that below. As far as the farm goes, we have continued to care for our new fruit trees, enjoyed our first season with the raised beds, and have nurtured our layers throughout the summer, eggs should be on the horizon. A great deal of our farm work and progress is actually going to happening this fall. It seems like fall and spring is when we accomplish the most on the farm. We have also recently invested a fair amount of our free time into completing some remodeling projects on our house. I may touch on remodeling in future post.

I mentioned sports above, and that is what I'd like to focus on today, probably because it's been on mind a lot lately. Something I've noted in the last year as I've spent more time reading agrarian blogs, is that youth sports are not mentioned much. I'm curious as to the reason. I'm sure that some bloggers may not have young children or teenagers at home. I know that many are homeschooled and therefore do not have school related sports available. Others may not believe that children should compete in sports. Whatever the reason, I'm interested in hearing why. As for us, we homeschool and have children in public school. But, in both situations our children have competed in youth sports, both public recreation leagues and school teams. I coach many of these teams and the events are family affairs for us. One of our children is on traveling baseball team that I co-coach and we have struggled at times wondering if it is too much, but have still come to a decision that as long as we enjoy it and the sport is kept in the proper perspective we will continue.

Sports in America is an idol to many and this is a fact we are fully aware of. We go to great lengths to keep athletics and sports in the proper perspective with our children. It is a great enjoyment for our children, it keeps us and them active in our community, and it is physically healthy. There are a variety of positive aspects to sports that get overstated; some of them true and some of them not so true. But, when approached with the appropriate Christian mind set, I believe sports can be a healthy beneficial part of a Christian agrarian home.

What say you fellow agrarians. (Don't be afraid to disagree, we are not easily offended.) Just be sure and give me a reason to satisfy my curiosity.

God bless

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We're Back

We are back and hopefully to stay this time. Many updates are soon to follow as well as discussion topics. Life has taken us away for the last several months and the time to share with you just wasn't there. But, Julie and I have both felt a need to start sharing again and spend more time conversing with like minded folks. Check back today sometime today for a more detailed post.
God bless

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pictures As Promised

Here are some of the pictures Julie promised.

"Missy" the newest member of the family

The first two raised beds, there are now four.

The view off our deck, the raised beds are just below the bottom of the picture

Jake coming back from feeding Violet, (there's Roxie the senior K-9 of the family

God bless,


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Enjoyable Weekend for the Most Part

We had a very wonderful weekend. It could have been more productive, but sometimes you just need to catch your breath. We did that very thing this weekend. My honey do list is still there, but we enjoyed ourselves and our family.

My father had died last summer, and we were given his fishing boat. We just made a trip to Ky. to get the boat over the Easter weekend. Michael finally took the time on Saturday to work on it a bit. This boat was something that both my Dad and my husband enjoyed working on together. It means a lot to Michael to have it and share it with his own children.

I guess I am still in shock and disbelief, and my brother even stated that I needed my head examined for what we did on Saturday morning. The phone rang while I was making breakfast, and it was our neighbor. She had raised a litter of English Mastiff puppies, and she was wondering if we would be interested. She offered us a great deal, but at that point I wasn't sold. I REALLY DID NOT NEED ANYTHING ELSE TO CARE FOR. I am a busy mother, and a puppy wasn't in the plans. However, 4 of my 5 children overheard the conversation. They B-E-G-G-E-D me. They even went to the ploy of stating the dog could be their combined Christmas present. I was suckered to the max! We went and picked our "little" puppy up Saturday. She is as cute as a button. This breed tends to be a bit on the lazy side. That was the only reason I consented! I will have Michael post pictures of her soon. She is turning out great, but it is still early. The children named her Missy, and I am saying "No, Missy" at least a hundred times a day!

The only glitch in the weekend was that Michael dropped some part of a tractor on his middle finger. He was tilling the large garden spot, and the tiller wasn't going deep enough so he went to adjust it. The cotter pin (I am not for sure about that spelling) rammed into his finger. We ended up going to the emergency room. UGHHH...he got 7 stitches and a shot. It is a nasty puncture type cut, but it hasn't slowed him down too much.

Since he took the time and donated his finger to till the large garden, I decided I should just quietly go plant my flowers over there. I did just that today. I planted quite a few flowers for cutting. I also planted our first large batch of corn. The real problem for me in this garden area is that our 4 hives of bees are over there. Now I know bees are suppose to be all busy with other things, but I tend to attract them. I managed to get a bee sting this WINTER. Our whole garden area will be filled with bees!! Oh well, maybe next year I can plant my flowers in one of my beautiful raised beds away from all the bees!

grace and peace,

Friday, May 05, 2006

Happy Dance and Weekend Plans

I am so excited that Friday afternoon is upon us, but I am even more excited than usual. We are in the midst of baseball season at our house. Three of our boys play baseball, and it can be a bit overwhelming trying to schedule everything around games. Our third son plays on a traveling ball team, and Michael helps coach this team. This has been a great experience for him as well as our family, but it is very time consuming. We were suppose to go to Knoxville and play a tournament all weekend, but PRAISE THE LORD the tournament was cancelled. Now I know that a good baseball mother wouldn't be so excited about this cancellation, but this ball mother jumped up and down!!!

I was at the breakfast table this moring with my cup of coffee in one hand and a pen in the other writing as fast as I could. I wanted to make sure Michael and I were on the same page for our new weekend plans. We took a few minutes before he left for work to outline our plans. Our farm list grew by leaps and bounds, and if we get half of our list accomplished then I will be more than thrilled.

Our raised beds are coming along wonderfully. I am already thrilled with our results! I will have Michael post pictures a little later in the week. We are ordering lumber for 6 more beds, and that will give us a total of 10 beds for this year. I was hoping for 20 beds, but I will be thankful for the 10! As of today, we have 4 constructed and ready for planting. I tried my best to get Michael to let me use one of our beds for nothing but flowers. Growing flowers has been a passion of mine for a few years now. I love having fresh flowers all over our house! He told me no way was I to take a whole bed that we should be raising food in and grow flowers. Well, I have now decided that I am going to ask that my family build me my very own raised bed for Mother's Day, and you better believe that it will be full of beautiful flowers!!!! I'll let you know later how this one turns out!

grace and peace,

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mundane Things

I wanted to take just a few minutes this morning to touch base with everyone. There hasn't been much to report here on the Covered Y farm. Don't get me wrong...things are being done, but I didn't figure you were too concerned with the mundane chores of daily life. However, this is a regular part of life even though at times it seems that we are at a stand still. I have more raised beds to put in, but first we have to finish mowing the grass!! Which one would you rather do...mow the grass or build more beautiful planting beds? You get my point. The wise King points out in Eccl. 10:18 that the man who does not take the time to work on general maintenance will find his house crumbling and leaking all around him!

I did plant some beautiful squash and zucchini plants thanks to tnfarmgirl! She has a wonderful green house, and I always love to walk through her space. We have received many plants from Cheri, and we have always been more than pleased! Keep up the great growing, Cheri!!!

Michael is pretty particular about how he plants. He uses a tape measure to make sure that everything is just perfect. He is the man that plants his lettuce seeds in alphabetical order! Which by the way, turned out to be great in helping to know what type of lettuce we were eating. I on the other hand am very haphazard. Don't get me wrong, I like things done right. However, with little people under my feet and so many things to do, sometimes I just don't have time to use that tape measure to make sure everything is spaced just so. Due to a very busy schedule, Michael informed me that I would have to do most of the planting this year. THIS IS A HUGE LEAP OF FAITH FOR HIM. By saying this, he understands that the rows wont be perfectly straight. After planting the squash and zucchini, Michael wanted to go see our plants. He was pleased, but remember by the time he got to the garden area it was almost dark. On his way back to the house, he noticed that I had filled the whole raised bed with squash and zucchini. He gasped, and stated that I had planted enough to feed an army!

Well, I must go tackle some more mundane jobs!

grace and peace,

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Home School Encouragement

We had a very lively dinner last night. As we ate, our children started discussing what they wanted to be when they grow up. As usual in our family, our discussion went from serious to silly. Our 9 year old stated that he wanted to be Julius Caesar, but without friends. We all laughed because we knew instantly that he was referring to the fact that Ceasar's friend Brutus was the one who literally stabbed him in the back. Many public school children would not have known any of this history.

Our oldest son started public school for his freshman year. This was his first year to be in public school instead of home school. While I was preparing dinner, he came and sat down. I could tell by the look of disgust something was wrong. He was so frustrated by the lack of education in school. He begged me to apply to teach high school English. (Obviously he forgot we still have 4 other children at home for me to teach)! For the first time in his life, he understood why kids didn't enjoy reading. He concluded if the public school was the only exposure to good literature no wonder the kids hated to read! He told me how thankful he was for his home schooling years.

Now for the encouragement...

Home schooling is worth the time invested. I left the kitchen last night feeling so satisfied because Matthew saw first hand what his Dad and I have preached for years. He realized the value of the education he had been given at home, and he was truly thankful for what we had instilled.
As we are all building our farms, let us not forget the value of pouring into our children. For those of us who home school, we are making a difference in our children's lives...EVEN WHEN WE DON"T FEEL IT. Keep up the good work, and remember summer is on the way!!

As a side note... our decision for public school was something that we had never considered in the past. Matthew came to us and told us he had been praying and was feeling led by the Lord to check out public high school. After much prayer, his Dad and I enrolled him in our small public school. There are many Christians in his path, and the Christian principle keeps a tight rule of her roost or this decision would never had been made. We saw high school as an opportunity to prepare him for college while his Dad and I still had much control over his decisions in life.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

After reading KSMILKMAID'S post one day, I became inspired to try out my clothes line. After all, her laundry pictures reminded me of spending time on my grandmother's farm. As a child, I use to help her hang out clothes. I got such a warm fuzzy from the whole walk down memory lane that I decided I would recreate the scenerio for my own family. (On a more logical side to my decision, our laundry room is located just off of our kitchen. The laundry room has no air or heat vents so in the summer it is HOT. I had already been toying with the idea of hanging out clothes to help remedy this problem. Between cooking and drying clothes, our kitchen can become unbearable during the summer time). The only child that was excited about the whole process was our daughter. She enjoyed the whole process so much that I knew that I had made a good choice. Then came last night.... The clothes weren't quite dry when I had to leave for a ballgame. I knew I could get them off the line when I got back from town so I wasn't worried. They were almost dry, and I knew a few more hours would finish the job. Well, I didn't account for how long our family was town last night or the fact that we still hadn't eat dinner. When we got in from the game, I had to make a choice...finish supper or get the clothes. Hungry husband and children helped me make the choice quickly, and I decided that the natives had to be fed. I was still in the thought process of getting the clothes after dinner. Well let's just say that after we ate, Michael and I sat down and had a wonderful talk. During the conversation I had remembered that the milkmaid let her clothes dry at night. I formulated a plan, and I aksed my husband the weather forecast. He assured me it wasn't going to rain until the next day. I asked him if he was sure, and he confirmed that it would my clothes would remain dry until morning. The clothes did remain dry until morning...4:45 a.m. to be exact!! I woke up to the sound of thunder and downpouring rain. I nudged him and told him that all of our 4 loads of laundry were getting wet. His response was that he was right. It didn't rain until morning!

I will still continue to use the clothes line. However, I will check the weather forecast MYSELF!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Our First Fruit Trees

Although, we have owned property with fruit trees already present, we've never planted our own. This is something we've looked forward to for years and it has finally comed to "fruition", pun intended. After our recent update as to what was happening on our farm, The "Covered Y" Farm, we promised some detailed discussion on the various projects; well here's the first installment, fruit trees.

This fall several more trees will be added, but we were so anxious to get started we decided to do some spring planting. It is very motivational and uplifting to simply get started and know that your dream is underway. As I mentioned before, we are very thankful to Tim at The Urban Homestead for his help and knowledge and his beautiful and healthy plants.


We chose one each of two varieties; Montmorency, a sour cherry for baking and Stella, a dark cherry for eating out of hand. We certainly intend to plant more trees and additional varieties, but we are off to a wonderful start.


We also selected two peach trees for now. First was Raritan Rose, a white fleshed peach, supposed to be very aromatic and tasty, it is a semi-clingstone which grows well in East Tennessee. Second we chose a standard variety, Redhaven, it is a more reddish peach that is a freestone type peach.


We only planted 3 apple trees for now. Our plans are to plant several more in the fall; Tim at The Urban Homestead says despite popular opinion, fall is the best planting time in our neck of the woods. We planted one Macintosh and Tim had a couple of York trees with burnt roots that he made us a deal on. We removed the root ball and planted the tree deep hoping for new root growth above the graft, meaning these trees wil come in as standard trees rather than semi-dwarf.


We planted two pear trees as well. The first choice was a Seckel, we've read and heard so many good things about it that we had to have one. Second, we went with a D'Anjou which will be a good pollinator for the Seckel and is a good pear in its own right.


The last fruit that went into the ground was 10 Concord grape vines. We have not established any trellis or lines for them yet, but will soon.

All of the plants and trees went in the ground on the 27th of March. The trees were all approximately 3-5 ft tall and will probably producee fruit with 3 years. We are excited and anxious, but unlike the times we live in are willing to wait for the proper timing and enjoy the fruit in its season. That's it for now. Check back soon for details on bees, raised beds, chickens, hogs, barn improvements and more. I may also post some baseball pictures from recent tournaments we've played for the sports fans out there.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Home Schooling ALMOST completed

This is the time of year my children and I struggle with home schooling. We are all ready to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but there are still many things that need to be completed indoors. I have home schooled long enough to know that one way to combat this "i don't want to do school syndrome" is to add something different to the curriculm. For instance, we have spent much of our school year studying ancient history. We finished our study of Rome yesterday, and we placed all the history books on the shelf. We will pick up with the Middle Ages when we start school next year. Now, we will spend extra time with science. We have done bits of science all year, but now we are really digging into it. This change of pace excites us all, and I pray it will help carry us until the end of May. Working in the garden also is part of our study of science, and this helps our children learn while they do.

We are also a family of readers. I am a firm believer in reading out loud to children even after they have the ability to read. My older boys and I have shared many wonderful hours spent reading together. We try to find books that go along with the history that we are studying for the moment. For example, when we were studying ancient Rome, my 7th grader read The Bronze Bow, and The Eagle of the Ninth. My 4th grader read Detectives in Toga and he and my 2nd grader listened to other books being read aloud.

Our 4th grader just finished up the book Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong. He so loved this book, and I found myself enjoying it too. It was about a farmer who was trying to start a chicken operation, and while he was preparing his farm, this black dog kept coming to find a home. This farmer had such a big heart that he couldn't just kill the dog so he kept putting him in the car and taking him away from the farm. However, the dog kept returning, and found himself becoming protector of a beloved red hen. The book was well written, and my 9 yr. old consumed it quickly. He is the child that we call Chicken Jake because he loves his chickens. As he read aloud to me and I read to him, we had many discussions concerning chickens. Tnfarmgirl or Cheri as we call her here, stirred our interest in chickens about 4 years ago. She gave us a few layers, and Jacob fell in love with those chickens. He has always been the one to feed them and gather eggs. We kept chickens until recently, but after reading this book we put in another order for 25 hens. They are already growing by leaps and bounds. Soon they will be ready to go outside. We have all enjoyed watching them grow, but Jacob has spent the most time with them. He is the one that came upstairs with a cold chick and asked what to do for it. He spent the afternoon giving it water and holding it hoping to keep it alive. (This chick did die, but Jacob knew that at least he tried save her). We enjoyed reading this book because Jacob had experienced much of what the author was describing with his own chickens.

I have a child coming with a book in hand begging me to read so....

Grace and Peace,

Monday, April 03, 2006


Sorry we haven't posted in the last week and a half. We have been at it hard and just didn't take the time to set down at the computer. I took a week off from my day job to make some things happen around the farm, (and to relax with the family) and that is what we did with the majority of our time. I will be posting about some of the individual items we accomplished complete with pictures, but I'll give a short synopsis for now.

With the coaching of Tnfarmgirl, we began building our raised beds. We have two completed and are ready to knock out two more. Although, they are a considerable amount of work up front, they will be well worth it down the road. After tilling up the bed area, we put up green lumber walls approximately 10 inches deep and filled with our organic soil mixture recommended by Tnfarmgirl. This included well composted horse manure mixed with cedar bedding (about 50 cubic feet), black rock phosphate, green sand, peat moss, lime, and a few bags of mushroom compost. We tilled it all in together, closed up the ends and installed drip tape for watering when necessary.

We also got several fruit trees in the ground. We visited a somewhat local nursery in Bristol, VA, The Urban Homestead. Tim was a huge help, he met with us on Saturday afternoon the 25th and spent a good deal of time teaching us and helping us select plants. We will be going back in the fall for more apple trees. Very nice Christian folks with a very unique nursery, I hope you will give them a call or check out their web site. In short we planted two cherry trees, two peach trees, two pear trees, three apple trees, and 10 grape vines. I provide more details later. After mulching them heavily, we set up a watering branch connected to the water lines to our raised beds. We will be raising these fruits using organic, or should I say, natural methods.

We received two new packages of bees from our local supplier on Tuesday of last week. Thank God, we had warm sunny weather and were able to get the bees into prepared hives on Wednesday. By the weekend my queens were out of their queen cage and the bees were busy working on setting up their new home. Although, this makes 4 hives for us, I don't think the two I had are in very good condition; more to follow on this.

We also received a free chicken tractor from the friend who supplied us with the composted horse manure. It was in need of some minor repairs, and I started those. It should be ready for the chicks we received a couple of weeks back to move into by the weekend. We also started preparations on using an old dog kennel as a second "portable chicken coup".

We also used the time to catch up on several small jobs around the house and fix a few broken things here and there. And scattered throughout the nine days off, my oldest son had 6 high school baseball games, my second son and I had two little league practices, and my third son and I had three traveling team practices and four game tournament this past weekend in Kingsport, TN. Did I mention that we love baseball, and for us it is a family outing, when we travel to games we go as a family and really enjoy the time together and with our many friends we have through the baseball teams.

Now, some folks might say they were ready to get back to their day job after a week like that. It certainly was tiring because we tried to use the time to get a great deal of work done. But, I feel more rested and content than I have in a long time. I hope someday to be able to come home and provide a living using our farm, but God has provided a great job for me now; and for that I am thankful. But, I must admit, I miss being at home already.

God bless,

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Interesting Article on Industrial Chicken Operations

I found this OpEd article in the LA Times very interesting. This is certainly a view point that does not get a lot of air time on the nightly news. But, as time goes by, I believe industrial ag will be exposed more and more as the culprit behind many disease problems in both humans and animals; both wild and domestic.

The Price of Cheap Chicken is Bird Flu
By Wendy Orent, WENDY ORENT is the author of "Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease."March 12, 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Small Steps

When we first started this blog, I had an early post that discussed our plans for our family farm. I discussed then that we had a vision for our farm, but that it was nearly unobtainable at this stage in our life. So we broke our vision down into pieces and began to focus on the individual parts that make up the whole. We looked at which parts were highest priority, which were obtainable now and in the near future, and which were the most benefit to causing the whole vision to materialize. We decided that the two parts we would pursue were #1, eliminate debt from our life, and #2, provide as much of our sustenance as possible here on our farm.

It has been about 5 months since I posted that discussion. God has certainly blessed us in that time. We completed a couple of investment projects in that time that have eliminated considerable debt for us. Though we still have plenty remaining, that mountain is not nearly as high as before. Additionally, we have began to budget more strictly and track our financial condition more often. We have found that ignoring the bottom line of the checkbook is a recipe for disaster. It's much easier to spend when you "think" there may be more there than there really is. We are thankful for the opportunity that God provided with the investment homes, but also thankful that we aren't doing any more. Projects like those take a great deal of time away from our home, farm, and family. Once in a while that is fine, but living a lifestyle that way is no way to successfully raise and care for your family.

On to our second priority; providing more of our own food. Here too, we are making progress. We established a small stand of blueberry plants that I posted on earlier. We have a small plot of cold hardy vegetables in the ground in our new garden location. In this same area, we are currently establishing 4 new 4'x30' raised beds. Our goal is to eventually do all of our vegetable gardening in raised beds, with a few exceptions, such as corn, potatoes, and pumpkins. This morning we received our order of laying hens in the mail. My wife picked them up a the post office around 9am and they are being heavily cared for by my 9, 7, and 2 year olds. We've got them tucked away in a cozy little box in my shop because the temps here in East Tenn have decided to drop to freezing on the first day of spring. We've had hens pretty consistently for the last 5 years, but had recently removed them from the farm temporarily. I'm glad they are back. We will be increasing from 2 bee hives to 4 this coming week, as well as planting a variety of fruit trees. We will have more to say on that next week, when we decide what we are planting for sure.

Well, that's our update, more posts to soon follow as we hope to share our experiences and spiritual revelation with you more and more. Until next time....

God bless,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Three Fold Cord

Three Fold Cord

Hey ya'll. I am the other third of our Three Fold Cord. My name is Julie, and my husband Michael had this great idea to become a blogging couple. Well, I have been a bit slow to join in on his fun, but decided today that I would give it a try. I have so enjoyed reading everyone's blogs that I decided I would add my 2 cents worth today. I am also trying to avoid going back upstairs to finish spring cleaning the living room!!! I even cleaned out the cat box to stall for a bit more time.

I do not mind cleaning, but today there just seems to be so many other things that I would rather be doing. I am itching to get outside so I decided to clean out the fire place to use the ashes around our blueberry bushes. We are making many plans here on our little farm. We will be ordering fruit trees in the next few weeks. Michael and I have been pouring over different varieties and trying to decide which would work best here. We are also getting ready to add some raised beds to our garden. Actually, we moved our garden this year. The garden area was at the edge of our property close to the road. It was fine until our youngest turned 2 yrs old this past Friday. We decided that we wouldn't get much accomplished if we spent our time chasing him, so we moved our garden to the back yard. We put up fencing over the last few months to keep the horses out and the dog in the yard. That was a very l-o-n-g project, but we finally finished. Our goal is to add raised beds over the next few years, and eventually we will add a gazebo in the middle of the area. We are planting fruit trees in the area as well. I envision a place that is lush and beautiful with trees and flowers and beautiful raised beds. We have a plan that will take several years, but at least we are starting. I have a problem with patience, and I know the Lord is using this life style to work this out in my life.

Well, I must get back to schooling our children as well as finishing that living room! Hope you all have a blessed day!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Passing on Heritage

I've just finished Northern Farmer's post entitled, "Good Quote". This topic is a recurring one on our agrarian blogs as should be expected. I read a number of the these blogs daily and humbly attempt to post here adding my own 2 cents as often as possible. I have recently been heavily considering this particular topic for my own family, as well as putting together ideas to share with others.

Let me say up front that I certainly believe an agrarian lifestyle is potentially the most satisfying, healthy, and spiritually rewarding lifestyle that man can lead. But, I feel I must be able to back up what I believe with evidence, both biblically and scientifically. As a husband and father of five children, God has given me an awesome responsibility. I must prepare my children for the rest of their lives. I am tasked with ensuring they have the spiritual foundation and the life skills to become valuable citizens of their community and become family leaders themselves. Therefore, when I decide to pass on a belief to my children, I must be sure of its validity. And that is where I am at.

I decided to start a family study that is focused on what lifestyle God expects us to live. As we go through this study, I am seeking wisdom in areas that I have questions. In the next few paragraphs I'll outline my questions.

As I mentioned above, most of us with agrarian themed blogs believe that our lifestyle revolves around the stewardship of the land God has given us and the animals that we raise. Although, many of us find ourselves still dependent on jobs away from the farm as our means of sustenance, while working towards a greater independence from the world's system. This is problem number one. What do we tell our children concerning their own sustenance? Ideally, I would like to say to my children, "operating your own farm is best". But this is difficult to say, given several factors. As many of your posts have pointed out, corporate ag dominates the nation and the outlook for small farmers is often bleak at best. Even with the growth of the agrarian movement in America, it is still very difficult to operate a small value added farming operation in many states, including ours. Additionally, we do not want our children to have to move away from us when they are grown. If they stay near and want to farm, land prices in our area nearly force them to start out in deep debt, that is definitely not the way to go.

Another area that is unclear to me is how to explain to them that although they may not be called to operate a farm, their profession should be agrarian centered. I understand that not all can directly farm the land, but all should support the community that revolves around this lifestyle. That takes a variety of professions. We hope to be able to clearly relate to our children this concept, as well as understand it better ourselves. I personally feel that this is an area on our agrarian blogs that often gets overlooked, but is vital to the growth of the type of communities that we all desire.

Lastly, we are seeking knowledge and understanding. We pray that God will give us a divine understanding of His Word concerning how to teach our children the connection between an agrarian lifestyle and living a Godly life. We also pray for humbleness and that we would have an open mind and not only seek an answer that we desire, but to find the truth. I'll be posting regularly on this study and I would like input from my like minded agrarians out there. Feel free to add your comments and share your Godly understanding, we can use all the help we can get.

God bless,