Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Salad of the Season

Here is the Romaine Lettuce that I picked yesterday for our Cesar Salad. It was delicious. I almost hated to cut it because it was so beautiful, but my taste buds won!
When I was in the garden yesterday, I was surprised to find our broccoli ready to be picked. There was enough for a large bowl of steamed broccoli with cheese.
Today is our oldest son's 17th birthday. We will be celebrating with Mushroom Swiss Burgers because that was one of the meals he requested. I decided to make Cherry Cheesecake because I know how much he loves it. It is rare for him to indulge in dessert, but I told him he HAD to eat a piece of birthday cheesecake. He promised me he would just for me!!! It is hard to believe that 17 years has come and gone. I know everybody says this, but it truly seems like just yesterday when he was first born.
grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One Tired Dog

When I was growing up, my brothers had a Stretch Armstrong toy. We would pull with all of our might and his arms would stretch and stretch. I always wondered what was inside of that toy to make it stretch like that. Well, I have always had the same questions about steel toe boots.
How are the steel toes constructed to be protective work boots? Michael has always been required to wear them in the type of jobs he has had. I knew those boots were heavy. Upon occasion, I would grab his boots and wear them out to the mailbox. I was tired by the time I got back to the house!
Our English Mastiff, Missy, answered all of my questions concerning steel toe boots this past week. She found an old work boot that Michael had left outside. I am sure they were too muddy to wear them in the house. Well, she decided that he MUST have left them out there just for her so she helped herself to her new gift. The above is a picture of Missy and her steel toe work boot. She has eaten it all but the steel toe and the sole. I might add she is now working on the sole of the boot. She must feel quite the attachment to her gift because she takes it every where she goes. She takes it outside with her. She makes sure it is with her when she comes back in the house.
The moral of the story is that an English Mastiff should not be left unattended or she might just chew your ENTIRE house down in one fail swoop. Well, unless of course it is made out of titanium steel like the end of his boot. I wonder how long it would have taken her to eat through Stretch Armstrong? I bet I could have finally seen the inside of that in about 3 minutes flat!!
grace and peace,

Monday, April 28, 2008

Church Life

Do you remember the little hand play that children do while saying, "Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the door, and see all the people"? I remember being fascinated with this little saying as a child. I spent countless hours sitting in Sunday morning church service saying the little ditty in my head while making my fingers do the coordinating motions.

Now that I am all grown up I am faced with a much larger quandary. Jesus told us that He will build His church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I believe that with every being of my fiber. I know he was talking about the universal church. But what about the local church? What is the local church suppose to look like? I believe the local churches make up the universal church that Jesus was referring to in the above scripture.

Michael and I have held an idealistic view where local church life is concerned. We believe that there is something so much more to church life than being spectators while one man shares his thoughts. I envision more of a community or better yet a family of believers where everybody has something to contribute. The analogy that always comes to my mind is spaghetti sauce. (Stay with me here just for a minute). If all you put into spaghetti sauce is just one spice, then it really isn't spaghetti is it? I need many different spices added to the sauce and I need to let the flavors meld during cooking. This is how to get a perfect sauce. So why is church any different?

I look back in the New Testament and I would love to be part of a church family like I see depicted in the pages of the Bible. Often times they met in homes and broke bread with one another. Our American churches are not structured like that for the most part. I have often said I would like to be Amish. I like the communities that they are a part of, and I like the lifestyle. However I don't believe the same doctrinally as they do so that isn't a possibility for me. (As a sidebar, I do enjoy the convenience of electricity VERY much)!

So the question for us is what does a family do about having idealistic views of church life? We have tried to be a part of establishing a few new churches in our area. This hasn't worked for several reasons. One of the reasons is our children. They want a church who has other children and other activities to be a part of. I understand this longing. I too want to be part of a body that has people that I can relate to. We have tried doing home church. Again that didn't work for the above reason, and we also felt isolated from other believers. We are torn between our ideals and our every day reality. We are at a place of putting our ideals on the the back burner and embracing a church that is structured more traditionally. We know the Lord brought us here so He has to have a church for us to be a part of. We are continuing our quest of finding the local church body that God has FOR us. Or maybe I should word it that we are continuing our quest of finding the local church body that God has US for.

grace and peace,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Scripture

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's In YOUR Bathtub?

I got a call yesterday from my mother-in-law. She said that she would be coming to our home and staying for 3 days. We are looking forward to visiting with her, and she will be here to help us celebrate our oldest son's birthday. Any time I get a call about having an out of town guest come visit for a few days, I take an inventory of all the things that need to be done before they come. The list isn't too long this time, but there is one major chore that will have to be completed.
This is a picture of our bathtub. Before you decide that we are disgusting pigs, let me explain myself. I start all of our seeds in floating trays. I tried floating them in Michael's shop, but we have had some "issues" down there. First there is a black cat that LOVES to lay on the floating trays. I know he loves his own personal water bed, and I am sure in his mind he is just "warming" the little seeds. However it is very hard for seeds to sprout when there is a very large fat cat sitting on them. Second, I can't control the temperature down there. It remains cool which isn't ideal for sprouting seeds. I had trouble this year getting my peppers and some of my tomatoes to sprout. I got frustrated and decided to float them in the tub. (My husband wasn't happy with me the first time I did this. For the record, he had to clean out the mess in order to give the youngest a bath. Now I just think he has come to realize that I could have a lot worse faults than floating seeds).
If you look real close to the tray, you can see little tiny peppers pushing up through the dirt. I knew it would work better than having them in the shop! Later today I will take the tray downstairs and clean the tub. Of course I am thankful that the seeds sprouted BEFORE my mother-in-law arrived. Again, just for the record, our other bathroom has a shower unit so we have taken showers these past few weeks!!! Our daughter has missed her bubble baths, but we all have to lay down our lives for the good of our seeds!!! Well, that's what I told her anyway. She informed me she didn't like peppers or tomatoes so she had no personal interest in these particular seeds. She would have rather had a bubble bath.
So my question to you is...What do you have in YOUR bathtub?
grace and peace,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sharing My Heart from a Daughter's Perspective

After getting married, soon to be 21 years ago, the longest I had ever gone without seeing my father was about a year. I was pregnant with our first child and my husband was stationed in New York. The drive was long, and after 2 previous miscarriages the Dr. suggested that I fly to Kentucky. Money was so short and we just didn't have enough to fly both myself and my husband home for Christmas. I flew, and he and our cocker spaniel drove the long 18 hour trek to enjoy time with our family.

I will never forget the moment I stepped off the plane. I looked around feeling a little alone without my husband by my side. To this day, I remember the maternity outfit that I was wearing, and I remember the feeling of excitement that was growing inside of me to know that I was just a few minutes from seeing my parents again. I glanced up and I saw him. My dad was standing there with eyes of blue that always melted my heart. He was smiling waiting on me. When I finally got to his arms, he gave me the biggest hug ever and that is when I saw it. I looked down and I saw something that startled me to the very core. My dad's hands looked...old. They looked just like my grandfather's hands. My mind was racing. When did this occur? How long have I been gone? As I quickly brushed a tear from my eyes, I looked into his face and I saw the man I had always known. My heart was relieved because his face looked the same as it always had. There was the soft blue eyes that always beamed at me whenever we were together. There was the large grin that usually adorned his face. My heart instantly calmed down, and it felt good to be with him again.

We had a wonderful visit that Christmas. All too soon it was time to leave once again. The years have washed away the memories of the trip back home. I don't even remember if I flew back or if I rode back with my husband. Strange isn't it how some memories etch themselves into our brain while others seem to fly quickly from our minds.

For many years, I always cried when it was time for my husband and I to leave my parent's and return to our own home. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry because it always made tears come to my dad's eyes as well. No matter how hard I tried, my chin would start quivering and instantly tears would pour from my own soft blue eyes. Upon one of those occasion, my dad leaned over to his treasured rose bush. He gently cut me a rose and handed it to me while I was sitting in our car. He smiled and mouthed a quiet "i love you". And I knew he did. I would hold that rose in my hands and smell it time and time again as we drove down the road. I would finger the soft petals and know the love of a father. I also knew the love of a husband, and he would wrap his free arm around me while kissing the top of my head as we drove down the road.

My dad had started a tradition, one that I carried out until the end. One that I still carry out every time I leave his home in the summertime. He always cut me a rose and handed it to me through the car window while speaking a soft "i love you".

The last few years of my dad's life I saw him many times. He purchased a large red truck and a travel home to park at our farm. He and my mom would drive down often to visit. I always heard the truck before I actually saw it, and my children would start running and screaming, "They're here!" Hugs and kisses would be doled out to all present. I saw my parents often and I soon learned that tears weren't needed at their departure because it wouldn't be long and we would see them again.

Then came the sickness, and the tears flowed freely from my eyes once again. I remember the last time my dad drove the big red truck to our home. When he climbed out of the truck, it was all I could do to keep from running back into the house away from this man that I loved so much. He looked so very old and so very thin. He looked just like my grandfather did. I made myself walk out to him. I made myself smile at him, but on the inside I was sobbing. I had already prayed about this moment. I didn't want to break down when he first drove into the driveway. I had asked the Lord to give me the strength that I needed to come face to face with that moment and not to cry. As I felt his arms embrace me, I was shaking but I did not cry. I smiled and softly said "i love you". The only part of him that looked familiar to me were his soft blue eyes.

I went back home for the last 6 weeks of my dad's life and I stayed to help take care of him. It was summer time. My dad was just as gracious in his death as he was in his life. The last few weeks of his life my dad wasn't able to go outside anymore. One morning I carefully took the rose pruners out to his rose bushes. I gently held the flowers and cut the dead ones off just like he had showed me many years before. Count the leaves...clip here...that will promote more blooms. I remembered my lessons well. As I clipped the dead flowers, I cried. I knew there wouldn't be much time left. After I was finished, I chose the most beautiful roses of all, and I cut them. I put them in a vase and took them to his bedroom. He was asleep. I sat down in his chair and waited for him. When his eyes opened, he saw the roses. He glanced at me in his chair and smiled. I whispered a soft "i love you", and he returned the sentiment with his usual smile.

The day I went to bury my father I cut off one of his roses. I laid it with him in his grave while whispering a soft "i love you". Whenever I visit the cemetery in the summertime, I always take a rose. It is just a token of a love that is still very much a part of me.

Tomorrow my husband will be bringing my dad's big red truck back home to our farm. My brother has been the owner of the truck for the last 2 and a half years. Tomorrow it will become ours. I am not ready for that in many ways. Just the thought of it all brings back tears that haven't been felt on my cheeks for quite some time. To hear the rumble of that truck sitting in our driveway and know that my dad won't be behind the wheel overwhelms me. When my husband made the deal with my brother, he looked at me and smiled. The truck will make an awesome farm truck. "Your dad would be happy knowing that we would be using the truck on our farm. After all, the only time he ever "wrecked" it was when he backed into a pole at the feed store purchasing hog feed for us." A smile crossed my lips. I do remember that day just like it was yesterday. I am sure that tomorrow will be bitter sweet for me. And somehow I know, that with it will be a memory etched into the fiber of my heart.

grace and peace,

I Am Ready

I am ready to start harvesting produce from our garden. I have visions of beans and peppers and tomatoes running through my head. Of course, the garden isn't quite ready to yield those items yet. I haven't even put our tomato or pepper plants in the ground yet! I did notice that our broccoli will be ready to be picked in a few days. I have close to enough lettuce to start making salads, but there are no cucumbers or red tomatoes to go with it.
I am just as ready to see flowers blooming as I am to bite into a juicy red tomato. I love the simple beauty of growing and cutting flowers. During the summer months, it is rare that I do not have at least one fresh flower arrangement somewhere in my home. I usually have one in every room!

I did have a taste of summer last night. Our daughter begged to purchase the ingredients to make lemon-aide while we were grocery shopping. We mixed up a large pitcher last night, and oh, did it ever taste refreshing. I like her way of thinking!

The next few weeks will find me getting ready for the summer harvest. First, I will be cleaning out our deep freezer so that we are ready for the pork that will be coming home from the butcher. Next I will move to the shelves that I store our can goods. There is lots of organizing there that needs to be done to get ready to start canning once again. I will take an inventory of last years can goods to see how much I need to can this year. I know we are almost out of green beans so I need to plan to can more green beans this year.

Our son and his friend tilled and planted our bush bean bed a few days ago. I can only imagine how many beans REALLY got put out there. Josh said they decided to plant thicker because more is better. (That is a male way of thinking)! I went down there yesterday and spent an hour covering up bean seeds that were still on top of the soil. When he came back home yesterday, I asked him why they left so many beans uncovered. He smiled and said those were just the extra ones! It ought to be interesting in a few weeks to see just what they did down there!!!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boys and Their Tractors

Boys of all ages love tractors. There is something wired in their brain that tells them tractors are the thing. I chuckle because I watch my 4 year old admire the neighbor's tractor with much envy. My husband who is 40 also admires tractors. We will be driving down the road and he will say, "Look at THAT tractor." We have been saving for a tractor and we are hoping to have the money together by Mother's Day. This is one of the last hurdles for building this farm. That doesn't mean there won't be other challenges, but this is the last BIG purchase that is needed or wanted. (Well, my husband would like a new barn, but that doesn't count because we can make do with what we have).

grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

...And the 4 Little Pigs Grew and Grew

Here is a picture of our pigs soon after we first purchased them. Michael measured them them other day and they have reached the desired weight for us to butcher. We will continue to feed them over the next week or so and then take them to the slaughter house. The largest pig weighs about 240 pounds. We still have pig food left so we might as well use it up to fatten them a bit more.

I am ready for them to leave the farm. Now that the days are warmer their area is becoming more smelly. Our barn is located right outside of our bedroom and we sure can smell them when the window is up. However I don't like this part of raising our own food. I still get bothered by the fact that we have our animals slaughtered. I know there isn't anything wrong with it, and I know God gave us the animals for food. It just pulls at my heart strings. I have no idea why other than the fact that I have always been soft hearted where animals are concerned. My children all do better with this than myself. I think it is because they have grown up with this way of life and this is normal for them. I grew up in a neighborhood and I had no idea what type of face my food had before I ate it!

grace and peace,

Monday, April 21, 2008

Baseball Weekend

Our 11 year old Marlins team finally got to play a full weekend of baseball. The weather cooperated somewhat. We did sit in rain and cold for our final ball game, but other than that the weather was good. After our ballgame on Friday night, our team and all the families had a cookout together. We enjoyed getting to know one another better, and it is always fun to have a cookout.
Here is our "little man". This is the child that is always a willing helper on our farm so I post many farm pictures with him. The place on his chin is the left over poison ivy that he contracted from the fence chores.

I know for many families that sports isn't something worthy of time. However, we have found MANY wonderful things that have come from participating in sports. It does take up a lot of time, and sometimes I am torn with farm chores that are going undone. There are times that I would rather be here getting things done than at the ball field, but that usually only lasts until the first crack of the bat. With 3 boys participating in sports, we do spend an enormous amount of time at practices and games. Many of you are asking "why". Why would you do that? Here is your answer...

First of all, it is fun. Our children have had fun learning new things and meeting new people. It has been good character building for each of our children. Through sports, we have discovered each child's strong aspects as well as their weaker areas. This has given us as parents practical application for character growth. Sporting events is a family outing for our family. We enjoy cheering on the participating child and visiting with other families. Sports has given our home schooled children a safe outlet to learn how to deal with people who are different from them. When our children were young, we NEVER left them alone at a practice. We wanted to be there to watch the coaches and make sure that things were being dealt with in a good manner. It allowed us to enlarge their world a bit in a safe environment. More often than not, my husband offered to help the coach at practices. The coaches are usually very happy to have extra hands to help with the task.

When our third son was 5, he was the poster child for NOT homeschooling your kids. He had never really learned to interact with other people. Honestly he didn't like very many people outside of our immediate family. He didn't even do well with his grandparents. This was a shock for us because we had 2 older boys who were very personable. When we moved to Tennessee, we knew it was time to cut the apron strings for Jacob. Michael enrolled him in PeeWee baseball and volunteered to coach. We knew Jacob would NEVER stay without Michael being on the field. (He was the child that kicked a co-op home school teacher in the knee because he wanted to return to me in a different classroom)! At his first baseball game, he got embarrassed and left the field. I was mortified, and to top it all off I was the coach's wife!!! As he began to learn the rules of the game, we realized that he had God given ability. It was the first time that Jacob had excelled at anything in his life. It gave him confidence that nothing else had ever given him. He LOVED hearing his siblings cheer for him, and he kept working harder to get better. We finally found an outlet that we could use to teach this young child, and to say the least we were thrilled. As the years went by, Jacob has become our most loving and interactive child that we have. He loves being with other people, and he has confidence in himself to talk with anybody about anything. When Jacob was 9 years old, he played on a traveling ball team. We were playing in Knoxville and Jacob hit an over the fence home run. I was delighted. A few weeks later Jacob was again playing down in Knoxville. He was the catcher for the game. I was sitting on a bench behind the plate. I watched my son make some incredible baseball moves. I heard strangers comment on what an excellent catcher that number 15 was. As the game continued, I watched Jacob interact with the umpire. They were chatting in between plays and laughing. Jacob was very polite and helpful. I broke down and sobbed because other than my husband no one else knew what this child had overcome in his short sports career. He had gone from a child that didn't like people to a child that could make a friend out of an umpire during a ball game!

This year brings its own set of character issues. Jacob is once again playing on a traveling ball team. The team is great and the coach is outstanding. He knows baseball and knows kids. That is a great combination. Jacob is still an outstanding player that works very hard. However if he makes a mistake he is having a terrible time overcoming it. He is letting his emotions rule him instead of him ruling his emotions. We are using this to teach him Godly principles about life. It isn't easy. Sometimes it can be one of the most frustrating things known to parenthood, but we won't quit on him. It has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with character. If he can learn this lesson in a ball game, how much better of a husband and daddy he will be someday. That is why we spend so much time at the ball field.

grace and peace,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Boys and Fishing

There is just something special about boys and fishing. Upon second thought, there is something special about boys, Dads, and fishing. Michael bought our first son a fishing pole when he was about 2. It was a Mickey Mouse pole, and Matthew fished with that pole every chance he had. Our children have long moved out of the toddler stage so now we have teenagers that love to fish. The older boys are always hunting a farm pond to fish. Our neighbors have been more than generous to oblige this craving. We have a pond, but there have been no fish in it since we moved here. It was always our intention to stock the pond, but that was never a high priority for our budget. My mom's Christmas present this last year to Michael was the gift of fish for his pond. Obviously winter wasn't the time to purchase the fish so he waited until yesterday to purchase his gift.
He bought 100 catfish, 100 Georgia Hybrid Bluegill, and 3 Grass Carp. Our pond has always had an algae issue so we need to add 5 more carp to help get that under control. We didn't want to use chemicals so the carp was the natural choice.
Here is a picture of the fish as they were being released. It was a major milestone to release the fish for more reasons than one. When Michael and our 11 year old were headed out that morning to purchase fish, our 4 year old asked if he could go too. Michael and Jacob waited for the little guy to finish his breakfast and all 3 of them headed out the door for their adventure. When they got back, Michael parked the truck at the top of the field to come grab the camera. Seth, the 4 year old, was holding a bag of fish. According to the 4 year old, the truck was sitting crooked which made his seat go crooked which made the bag of fish go crooked which made Daddy not very happy!!! In adult language, the said 4 year old dropped his bag of 100 fish into the floor board of the truck. Michael was back out at the truck and he said he heard a gushing of water and he knew there were problems. They were able to save 99 of the little fish from the truck floor board, but one fish got stuck and was inaccessible. That should smell great when the soon to be 17 year old drives the truck on Monday!

grace and peace,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Garden Updates

Michael and I went out yesterday evening to work in the garden. Here is a picture of the strawberries that we just planted. I am amazed that there are leaves on them so quickly. This is the first time I have ever dealt with strawberries that were dormant when first planted.
The second picture is of our squash and zucchini bed that we planted last night. I am heading out this morning to plant some more lettuce and spinach. Succession planting is the way to go. I try to replant lettuce and spinach every two weeks. I will be planting some lettuce in my broccoli bed. I use the more mature broccoli plants as shade providers for the lettuce. I noticed last night that we already have broccoli on several of our plants. It is just tiny, but it won't be long and we will be harvesting it.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Frost Free

Last night was a projected frost in our area. We watched the temperature closely, and decided that we did not need to cover our plants or trees. I woke up this morning and ran to the window. At 6:00a.m., there was no frost in our area. As I was driving this morning, I did notice some areas closer to town had frost. It is always hard to predict the last cold snap in April. We should be well on our way to a warm spring. However it was last year that a horrible freeze came through after everything had bloomed and killed it all.

I have been spending some afternoons in Michael's shop transplanting young plants. I am in the process now of hardening off my squash and zucchini plants. I need to get them in the ground soon. They have been doing fantastic under the grow lights and the roots are getting root bound. This is causing the leaves to turn yellow. This is a sure fire sign that they need to be put in a raised bed. I transplanted some of them yesterday, and the roots were way too crowded.

I am also sowing more pepper seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, and flowers. I have an abundance of things growing under the lights. I would love to have more room downstairs to grow things, but I have learned to cycle the plants in and out of the lights. I used our camping table for extra space to hold the plants while they are not under the grow lights. This is working well. Last year, I used Michael's workbenches to sit things on. He wasn't pleased when he found that I had put a flat of plants on his table saw. Let's just say water and metal don't go well together...

grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

APRIL 15: Last Frost and Tax Day

Here in our part of the country, April 15th is the last frost date. We are expected to get a light frost tonight. I am ready to plant a bed of squash and zucchini plants, but I will wait just a bit longer. My plants have done really well under the grow lights, and it is time to get them out in the sunshine.

April 15th is also tax day. Michael finished our taxes and I will mail them today. We had already finished our 2007 taxes, but this year Michael became a contractor. He now is required to file quarterly taxes, and the first deadline is April 15th.

Having our last frost date the same as tax day makes it easy to remember!

grace and peace,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Strawberry Syrup and Strawberry Cobbler Recipes

Strawberry Syrup

1 Tub frozen Strawberries with syrup (fresh would work well too)
1 cup sugar
Heat above ingredients. Dissolve 1 Tablespoon corn starch in a small amount of cold water. I use less than 1/4 cup cold water. Stir into hot strawberries. Cook on medium heat until thickened.

This syrup is wonderful on pancakes, french toast, or waffles. I bet it would also be great as an ice cream topper!

Strawberry Cobbler
About 2 cups frozen strawberries with syrup (fresh would work fine, but you need to sugar them first so that the sugar can dissolve into liquid)

Mix: 1 Cup Self Rising flour, 1 cup Milk, and 1 Cup Sugar. Stir well.

This cobbler isn't large enough to fill a 9x13 size baking pan, but it is a little more than a brownie pan will handle. I use a corning ware dish that is a bit smaller than a 9x13.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place one stick of butter in baking dish and melt in oven. When butter has melted, dump strawberries into baking pan. Pour flour mixture on top of strawberries. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is brown and strawberries are bubbly. (My favorite way to have this cobbler is to make it with frozen peaches. It is a quick winter dessert that adds a taste of summer to the supper table)!

I always freeze extra strawberries during strawberry season. This way we can enjoy the flavor all year long. I use ziploc freezer bags. I usually add sugar to my strawberries and then let them set until the sugar has dissolved. I then measure out 1 cup of strawberries and syrup into a quart bag, and freeze them. When I go to my freezer, I know that each bag of strawberries is a cup. This helps when I am measuring for different recipes.

I also make tons of strawberry jam for our family. This is our favorite jam in the world. I love Strawberry Freezer Jam because it tastes like fresh strawberries all year long. I also love cooked Strawberry Jam.
Hope you enjoy the recipes!
grace and peace,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Strawberry Plants

Here is the bed of 50 strawberry plants. I know it takes faith (and imagination) to really believe this is a strawberry bed. When we got these plants, I wasn't even for certain which end was the roots and which end was the plant. My husband quickly instructed me, and I was off to plant. I still had my doubts because one year when we first started gardening he planted all the onion sets upside down!
We made a small mound. Then we spread the roots on top of the mound kind of like putting a wig on a fake head. Then we covered up the roots and watered. We are now ready for mulch. We planted 2 rows in our bed and we space each plant about 12 inches a part. We also soaked the roots in water prior to planting.
Our family loves strawberries and I will share a quick strawberry cobbler recipe along with a homemade strawberry syrup recipe soon.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fence Is Complete/Animals Are Happy

We completed the fencing of our upper pasture this afternoon around 4 pm. Another hour of finding all the grounds on the electric fence portion and then we opened the gate. We coaxed the sheep through the previously closed electric gate with shelled corn and up into the pasture. They soon forgot the corn and were taken away by fresh green grass. We haven't seen them since.

Currently our cows are fenced out of this pasture and have access to our hay pasture in the back of our property, I'll be moving them back to the front this weekend. The horses soon joined the sheep, the last I saw of them, they were lounging near a shade tree, I hope their stomachs are not TOO full.

The Lord blessed us with beautiful weather the last three days. I took these days off from my day job to get this chore done and when you do that, you work rain or shine, so thank you Lord for all shine, it could not have been better, sunny, 75, and a light breeze.

Julie will post more tomorrow on planting strawberries and a few other things we accomplished, but I promised her I would start posting more, so this is a start. I hope to post soon on what we are learning about hair sheep.

God bless,


Still Fencing

One of our children grabbed a quick picture of Michael and I working on the fence. The weather here is always a bit unpredictable. This picture was Sunday afternoon and I was comfortable wearing a sweater. Yesterday I was in short sleeves and burnt the fire out of my arms. I have never had short hair before now and it never dawned on me that my neck would burn. Today I am sporting a true farmer's burn!
Michael is giving Jacob instructions on stretching fence. Jacob is a very willing learner. I sometimes wonder how in the world did my husband learn all of this farm stuff. (I didn't even know what that pipe looking thingy was that is known as a fence post driver)! Michael did do a lot of work on farms as a teenager. He spent many days working in tobacco patches and hay fields. That was the employment of most teenage boys growing up in Kentucky. I am thankful that our boys are learning these skills here on our farm. Our oldest son isn't thrilled with the farm thing, but I believe one day he will be glad he knows these skills.
Seth LOVES working on fences. He gets to pack his toys and head up to the field. He spends his time playing with his tractors and climbing trees.

We are praying that the fence will be completed by this afternoon. We ran out of wire yesterday afternoon. Michael went and purchased a mile of wire so I think we should have enough to finish today. Perhaps the rain will hold off for the day so we can finish the fence, and get the strawberry bed tilled and planted. I also would like to start fencing in the upper garden area so we can plant potatoes. Sounds like a busy day to me!!!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fence Work Still Going

This is the field that we are fencing off for our animals. Michael still has to clear a bank between our fence and our neighbor's fence so the electric fence will work properly. We also have to string the wire on the posts, and then we pray that it will work without too many complications. I am so surprised at how much time this project has taken. In my mind, it is just putting some posts in and add some wire and then it is all done. However, that isn't farm reality. There are a lot of steps that take a lot of time to put this all together. We will be at it again today.

My seed order arrived yesterday. I was so excited to get the package. We ordered 50 strawberry plants so we have to quickly get a bed ready for planting. I already have many seeds potted up and growing under the grow lights. I was beginning to think my pepper seeds were all bad because none of the plants were sprouting. I finally brought up the trays and floated them in our bath tub, and they did germinate. It took forever, but at least I didn't waste all that time and effort. I was so close to throwing out the 2 trays and starting over, but I just kept putting it off until later. This is one time that procrastination REALLY paid off!

My husband has taken three days off from work in order to get some farm chores done. It feels so good to see progress being made. I make as much progress on my own as I am capable of, but there are so many things that I don't know how to do. (Fencing is one of them). I love spending time with him working together. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. Not only do I get the benefits of having a great husband, but I also have a great friend that I LOVE to spend time with doing just about anything. (Except working with bees...he is on his own there)!
grace and peace,

Monday, April 07, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Here is a picture of one of our many cabbage plants. I think the cabbage is doing the best of all my early gardening ventures. It has seemed to withstand the wind better than the rest.
I planted lots of different varieties of lettuce from seeds. This is Black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce. We loved Wilted Lettuce and to make that you must have leaf lettuce and green onions. Yum!!!
I love Romaine lettuce. It is probably my favorite lettuce of all. Here is one of our little heads of romaine.
Care for some broccoli? We sure enjoy fresh broccoli, steamed broccoli with cheese, and broccoli salad. We have close to 2 beds full of broccoli, and I am looking forward to the results. I will freeze what we don't use for later consumption.

We also have green onions and peas growing. I am in a hurry to plant our potatoes, but first we have to finish the fence to get the animals out of the field. Then we have to plow the field with the neighbor's tractor and then we will be ready to plant. I best get busy!!!
grace and peace,

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday Scripture

"The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works."
Psalm 145:9

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fence In Progress

Today was suppose to be a baseball day. However the rain came and the baseball games were cancelled. We took the opportunity to start fencing the upper pasture. It was fenced adequately enough for the cows and horses, but the sheep is another story. We needed to put electric fence up to keep the sheep in and the predators out. Today we got all of the T posts put in the upper pasture. Michael and the boys were able to get the connectors put on most of them.
Here is Michael's new favorite tool. It is a T post puller that removes old T posts from the ground. The posts come up with little effort and they are in good shape to be reused. This tool cost $45 and it was a good addition to our farm.
Here is a picture of the boys just waiting for Michael to give them instructions. One of these boys wasn't exactly happy about working on the fence in the rain.

grace and peace,

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cleaning Has Begun

Fridays often find me cooking and cleaning to get our home ready for the weekend. I like to start the weekend on a good note with a clean house. It doesn't stay that way for long, but at least we start out right. By the way, Mondays always find me putting our home back together after the weekend. We are often times busy throughout the weekend, and we just don't spend enough time keeping our house.
Here lately I have found myself dreading the whole cleaning process. I have just done enough to get us by. I think I have been bitten by the Spring Outdoor Bug instead of the Spring Cleaning Bug. I would rather be outside than doing anything inside lately. I find it hard at times to conquer my own will concerning the cleaning of our home. Other times it comes so naturally to me that I enjoy the entire process. So today, I am going to discipline myself to get these chores completed. I am sure I will be happy when I have completed the tasks before me.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Bees Are In the Hive

Michael got home in time yesterday evening to put the bees in the new hive. According to him, there were not many that died. There was still a lot of sugar water left in their can so I guess they are capable of staying in the box longer than a week.

When a package of bees arrive, they are in a wooden box covered with screen. Within the box is a can full of sugar water. The Queen Bee is packaged separate in a small screened box within the larger box. She must remain with the hive, but separate until the other bees are use to her. When the bees are added to the hive, the queen remains in her box. Michael removes a cork that exposes a piece of hard candy. The worker bees will take a few days to eat the candy in order to release the Queen Bee. This gives everybody time to get use to the queen so that they will accept her and not kill her. In a few weeks, Michael will check the hive to make sure the queen is alive and well. If eggs have been laid, then you know the queen is doing her job. If there is no brood, then you may have a problem. A hive cannot survive without a queen. It pays to check on the queen. If she isn't there for whatever reason, a new queen can be purchased. Again she will come in a small screened container that is plugged with a piece of hard candy. The process begins anew. To learn more about bees and bee keeping, you can purchase a copy of The Hive and the Honey Bee. We call it the Bee Bible. It is a large book that answers just about every bee question known to man

With the addition of this new hive, we have a total of three hives. We know that one of our hives is strong and the other appears to be weak. I find it amazing that one of our hives is calm and the other hive is always looking for a fight. As spring continues to unfold, we will watch the hives to see if they are functioning properly. I pray that this year the weather will cooperate and we will get honey. We are down to our last 2 quarts of honey. I am ready for a fresh batch!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Ducks and the Bees

Each year our family is treated to a spring duck parade on a daily basis. Our neighbor who lives next door has a nice farm with many ponds. However, his ducks seem to think our pond is better than their pond so every morning they have a parade to our pond. Around evening time, the ducks parade back to their home for dinner. I enjoy watching this parade. I love hearing the sounds the ducks make and I am amazed at the single file line that they always walk in to get home. This parade is just as much a sign of spring as the buds on the trees.This the view in Michael's shop. He picked up our package of bees last week. His hours at work were so long he didn't see the farm in day light all last week. The bees still sit in the basement. He will be able to take some time this week to put the bees into their hive. However, the forecast is rain every day until Saturday. The bees need to get out of this box into their real hive before Saturday. I will do many things on this farm. I have overcome many fears, but the bees is one thing I just won't do. They will have to wait. Well, I did do them twice in the past. It was probably my husband's single worst idea EVER, and I don't want to revisit that experience again. I believe in the midst of the little varmints flying around my head inside my veil I made a vow to the Lord that if He would just get me out of this I would never mess with bees again. It is my plan to keep my word. Thus the bees will just have to remain in the box in the shop. I did try to recruit our 3 older boys to do the task of dumping the bees in the hive. No...they ALL remember the night long ago and the bees...they aren't interested in playing with the bees any more than I am.
grace and peace,