Friday, July 31, 2009

A Sure Sign . . .

. . . that children have been here!

A refrigerator covered in drawings.

On Wednesday, we had some children join us for the day, and Leah and I had a wonderful time with them. Some of the highlights were drawing and coloring, picking wild plums with the older children (they thought it was so fun to pick the plums up off of the ground after I shook the trees!), picking green beans together, snapping some green beans for them to bring home to their family, reading books, playing games, talking, sharing, teasing, laughing . . . so fun!

Since then, things have been rather busy here, and it seems that we never cease to have produce to put up! The beans have been producing like crazy the past few weeks - not only are the two rows that were planted later in the year now being harvested, but the first planting of beans re-flowered and now those plants are covered in beans, too. On Wednesday (with some help from the children), I picked 27 pounds of beans, and then picked some more today. We've just about reached the total of how many beans we would like to put up for ourselves, and I am about half-way to the amount (100 pounds) that we are trading with a friend for apples (which we will be getting from them this fall.) It has been fun to be able to 'barter' like this! Though, I am starting to get just a bit tired of picking beans . . . I keep telling myself, though, that I am not necessarily picking beans, but apples. :) Unfortunately, that 'logic' is not terribly convincing! :)

Today has been one of those busy days where it seems that you no sooner finish one thing, then it is time to move on to the next . . . first it was dishes, laundry, tidying up the house and taking care of the animals; then it was onto gathering more wild plums and making juice out of them (for later using to can jelly), doing some mowing, picking beans, and then making the jelly. And in between all of that, getting caught up on some computer work.

Making the jelly was the most enjoyable thing done today, and out of the first batch of juice, I was able to make 9 1/2 half-pints of jelly (1 1/2 half-pints weren't canned, but went in the fridge to be enjoyed over the next few weeks.) There is more wild plum juice in the fridge, but I need a few more cups of it before I can make a second batch of jelly. From the looks of the wild plum trees, we should have more than enough plums to make enough jelly to last us the year as well as to make some to share with others.
Wild plums on the tree

Washed and ready to be 'crushed'

In order to get the juice from them, they have to be slightly crushed before boiling them in a small amount of water. This was tiring to do!

And after a lot of steps taking place between the previous photo and this photo . . . here is the finished jelly

Speaking of wild plums, it will be a lot easier harvesting them off of the trees now thanks to my Dad! He so thoughtfully weed-eated down around the trees that I have been getting plums from . . .

Raking up the grass/brush after weed-eating

The end result . . . much better!

And before I bring this already long and rambling post to a close :), here are a few photos from the vegetable garden that were taken a few evenings ago . . .

The squash/watermelon patch has grown like crazy!

Here are some of the things growing underneath the thick cover of green leaves and vines . . .

A Watermelon

One of our winter squash

And here is the leaf that goes with the above squash . . .

It is huge! I put my hand on top of it to give an idea of how big it is. I think that it is the largest leaf that I have ever seen!

And a little pie pumpkin (only this is from a different section of the garden.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

By Request . . . A Recipe

It had been asked if I could share the recipe for the squash casserole that we made in girls group last week, so . . . here it is! :)

Squash Bake

--8 cups sliced yellow squash (about 2 pounds) (I usually do half yellow squash/half zucchini just to make it more colorful :)
--1/2 cup chopped onion
--3/4 cup shredded carrots
--1/4 cup butter or margarine
--1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
--1/2 cup sour cream
--2 cups seasoned croutons, divided

Cook squash in lightly salted boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain well. In a skillet, saute onion and carrots in butter until tender. Combine onion and carrots with soup, sour cream and 1 1/2 cups croutons. Add squash and mix lightly. Spoon into a lightly greased 12-in. x 8-in. x 2-in. baking dish or a 2-qt casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining croutons (we usually use more than what is called for). Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until heated through. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A First in Gardening

For the first time in all my years of gardening, I finally was able to grow carrots that actually got some size to them! The deeply tilled soil and raised bed must have worked! All in all, I harvested eighteen pounds of carrots (once the tops were cut off), and was able to can ten quarts of them. It was a fairly long process with first digging up the carrots; washing, peeling and chopping them all; and then finally canning them. The peeling and chopping of the carrots took the longest and also stained my hands a lovely orangish-brown color :), which thankfully wore off before too many days had passed!

Digging up the carrots

The harvest

*I also wanted to thank the Anonymous commenter who recently shared several tips with me that would help to prevent liquid loss from the jars when canning . . . I used your suggestions when I pressure canned the carrots, and had very little, if any, liquid loss from the jars. Thank you so much for sharing those tips with me! I was thrilled with the results!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Making of Squash Casserole

Last week, we were able to utilize some more garden produce as we made a squash casserole with the girls. Even though it took us awhile to make, we had such a fun time together while doing it!

The sliced squash and zucchini boiling on the stove

Meanwhile, it was time to grate the carrots, chop the onions, and then saute them both in butter

Stirring everything together

The finished product

Copying down the recipe on a notecard (which will be added to their growing collection of recipes.)

While the casserole was baking, we had a lesson on the fruit of the Spirit of “self-control”:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Galatians 5:22-23

We reviewed a bit about the fruit of the Spirit (which we had learned about recently), and then we looked at the definition of self-control (the Greek word used for "self-control" in the above verse can also mean 'mastery') . . .

control or restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, emotions, etc.”

And as temperance is closely related to self-control, we also looked at the definition of that word . . .

Patience, calmness; sedateness; moderation of passion

After reading and explaining the definitions, we read and discussed a portion of Scripture from 2 Peter focusing upon verse eight . . .

Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

As part of the lesson, we also read and discussed portions from the book Dear Princess, including several examples which helped the girls to get a better grasp about what self-control looks like in a person's life. This took the greater portion of our lesson time together, and after we were finished, we had a bit of time to cross-stitch and crochet. Then right before the girls left, they each tried some of the casserole that they had made (they were a bit hesitant to try it at first, but found out afterwards that it was good!) And as usual when we make something in the kitchen, they each had a small container of the casserole to bring home to share with their families.

*In the future, I am planning to combine two weeks of girls group into one post instead of having a post about it every week. So these posts will not be coming quite as often, but they will be longer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Precious Times . . .

The days have been flying by in a whirlwind it seems, and I have much to post about, but so little time! From digging up the carrots this morning and working on those, to girls group earlier this week, to more canning of produce and putting up green beans in the freezer, to pleasant walks . . . and then, there was watching the children a few days ago . . . what a special and fun time we had together with things taking place such as:

~The children finding a tiny frog out in our sandbox and being fascinated by it. They ended up watching it during the majority of the time that I hung the laundry on the line. While they stared in wonder at the little frog, I asked them "Do you know who made the frog?" To which little voices replied, "God did!" ~

Me helping the little four year old hang a towel on the line

~Storytime! The children love to have books read to them, and Leah had an enjoyable time reading to them for a long time which the children were thrilled about! Their favorite book of choice is Mom's old "Dick and Jane" reader . . . it has received a lot of use over the years! ~

~Having the littlest one 'help' me with canning . . . she is just a little over one, but was fascinated by the canning process! I explained to her what I was doing and told her that the stove was "hot". Many times after that, she would point at something and ask "'ot?" ~

~ Being able to cuddle and hold the littlest one as she fell asleep . . . It is such a wonderful feeling to have a little one sleeping in your arms, and I know that Leah loved holding her until she fell asleep! ~

~Seeing the children's excitement as they helped to gather the chicken eggs. Leah had told them that they could go out and get the eggs at 2:00 in the afternoon so until that time, they kept going and checking the clock and counting down the minutes until they could go out. They were just a bit excited! ~

~And while the littlest one was sleeping, we did more quiet activities indoors such as playing with the Laura Ingalls Wilder sticker book that I had picked up at a garage sale awhile back. Leah and I enjoy collecting children's books (we have certain types that we keep an eye out for), so we have gradually built up a little collection of them that is so fun to pull out when children come over! ~
After this, things got interesting! The children were starting to get a little restless, but since the littlest one was still sleeping, we needed to stay inside instead of going outside to play. So . . . Leah and I got creative! First we played a game where we all held hands, and then tried to twist ourselves up as much as we could by going underneath each others' arms (without letting go of each others' hands.) The children loved this and we were all (including the photographer) laughing before long!

Just beginning . . .

Before long, we were all twisted up! (During this game, we had a fifth 'member' join our group as the four year old wanted her doll to play, too, so Leah is holding the dolls' hand in this photo.)

After all of this, everyone was tired out and ready to sit down and read. Leah and I read them some books, and then before we knew it, their Mother had arrived to pick them up. What a wonderful and very special day it was with the children. Now we are both looking forward to when they can come back again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Season of Harvesting

The cool morning hours of today found me out in the garden harvesting produce and enjoying the glorious morning. It was bordering on being chilly out, and the thought crossed my mind that a sweater would have been nice. I never thought that I would consider that in July, but we have had some unusual weather here in Missouri the past week . . . highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's! Yesterday was even cooler than that with a high of 67 degrees which made it feel like spring again. Though, all I have to do is look around at the grass and the trees and see that we are in the midst of summer; the fresh, brilliantly green leaves that burst forth in the spring are now beginning to show signs of fading and yellowing. Time continues to go quickly by and with it, the changing of the seasons. And with each season, one can find beauty as well as things to enjoy and appreciate.

In the season that we are in right now, I have been enjoying the harvest of produce and seeing our freezer and shelves in the pantry filling up with food to be enjoyed throughout this next year. Beans, beets, pickles, peach butter, relish and much more! Food preservation is something that I enjoy doing, and I have definitely been able to experience it this past week. Here is a little glimpse into what has been happening in the kitchen recently . . .


We picked up 3/4 of a bushel of peaches at a Mennonite store here in Missouri, and we had such a fun time together doing the blanching, peeling, chopping and then putting the peaches up in the freezer . . .

Some of the peaches washed and ready to be blanched

Leah peeling the peaches after they were blanched

Mom working on the chopping

My 'chopping station'

Chopping peaches

We put up enough peaches in the freezer for eleven peach pies (my Dad's favorite!), and with the peaches that were left, I was able to can four pints of peach butter. This was a first for me, and it was fun to do!


The blueberries were also from the Mennonite store, and they, too, were put up in the freezer to be enjoyed in cobblers, muffins, and other tasty dishes throughout the next year . . .

The washed blueberries


Yet another 'first' for me . . . making Dill Pickles! Once they are canned, they are supposed to sit for four to six weeks before eating them, so I still do not know how they turned out. Hopefully we will like them!

The pickles are on the left with the peach butter on the right


Making salsa was another new experience, and I enjoyed it, but it took a long time to chop everything! Especially the tomatoes . . . I guess it did not help that most of the ones that I had were Romas. When planting the vegetable garden, I planted a bunch of 'regular' tomatoes to be used for fresh eating, as well as in salsa and other such things, with the Romas being used for things like Ketchup. But then my tomato plants were hit hard by early blight and have just about reached their end. So as my tomato harvest was going to be very small this year, I chose the tomato recipe that was at the top of my list to make (which was the salsa) so the Romas were used for that instead. The fun part about the salsa was that everything was from our own garden (save for the garlic) . . . the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions, and cilantro . . .

The garden produce (except for the Cilantro - I harvested that after this photo was taken. :)

Today when I made the salsa, Leah and I were watching four little ones (which was so fun!), and the littlest one who is a year and a half was fascinated by the process. She kept coming to me in the kitchen, wrapping her arms around me and requesting "See?" So I would pick her up, show her what I was doing, and explain it to her. I ended up peeling pretty much all of the tomatoes one-handed as she wanted to be held so she could see it all. Thankfully tomato skins peel off very easily after being blanched! Eventually, though, I needed two hands for chopping, so I had to put her down. After that, she would occasionally come back to me asking to "see" again, so I would pick her up for a bit each time. How much more enjoyable it was doing the canning with the children around!

During a large part of the chopping of the tomatoes, I had an interesting discussion with the nine year old boy about fighter planes, guns, different wars, model planes, and other such things. My! Does he ever know a lot about those types of things! He was describing to me different parts of the planes, rattling off names of planes from different wars, and sharing so much information with me that I had to finally ask where he learned it all. Fun times!
The finished salsa cooling on the counter

Much has now been canned and frozen, yet much more remains to be done . . . there are beans in the fridge ready to be washed and snapped, cucumbers that need to be made into pickles or relish, carrots to be harvested and canned, and zucchini that needs to be grated and frozen . . . . . I think I know what I'll be doing the rest of this week!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Painting of Birdhouses

Awhile back while at Jo-Ann Fabrics, we happened to come across some little, unfinished birdhouses and thought that they would be a wonderful craft project for girls group. So this past week, the girls painted the birdhouses, and it was so fun seeing their creativity!

The girls (and Leah :) painting away

Some of the girls finished their birdhouses fairly quickly so we pulled out a few of our other miscellaneous wood crafts so they could paint a bit longer until the other girls were finished.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take photos of the 'finished product' so you will just have to imagine what they looked like. :)

For this week's lesson, Leah and I pulled one out of the archives, and we once again studied the verses given in Scripture about children being obedient to their parents . . .

We first looked at the different roles that God has placed individuals in and the 'system' of authority and headship that He has established. We find that, first, it is the Lord; secondly, the father with the mother submitting to him and being under his authority; and thirdly the children to both of their parents (and just a note for clarification, both the mother and the children are to also be in obedience and subjection to God's authority which is reflected in their submission and/or obedience to those whom the Lord has placed over them).

After talking about this for a bit, we read and discussed several verses that instruct children to be obedient to their parents . . .

"Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." Colossians 3:20

This verse we broke down quite a bit and discussed each phrase including what obedience is, when we are to be obedient, and what it is to be well-pleasing to the Lord. We then looked at three more verses:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise," Ephesians 6:1-2

"My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother. " Proverbs 6:20

And just as we looked at each phrase in the verse from Colossians, we did the same for the verses from Ephesians and Proverbs also. After this, we read and discussed the definition of the word "obedient" and found it to mean:

Submissive to authority; yielding compliance to commands or orders; performing what is required, or abstaining from what is forbid.”

In Scripture, the opposite of obedience is also presented . . . We found in Romans 1:28-31 that "disobedient to parents" is in a list of sins of those who are unrighteous. So we see that
disobedience to ones' parents is sin before God, while, in contrast, obedience to ones' parents is "well-pleasing to the Lord".

Before bringing the lesson to a close, we also talked about "first time obedience"; meaning, when a parent asks us to do something or to not do something, we obey immediately . . . not the second, third, or fourth time they ask, but the first time. We concluded the lesson time by discussing different ways that we can be obedient in both our actions and our attitudes. Then it was on to just a bit of cross-stitching and crochet before our fun and special time with the girls reached its end for the day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An Evening Walk

The other evening I had the opportunity to go for a pleasant walk around our place, and also had the pleasure of photographing some of the beauty that was around me . . .

Looking out across the yard towards the vegetable garden and some of the flower gardens

Blooming hostas in my shade garden

A Coneflower

Bachelor Buttons

Flowers were not the only things photographed as I couldn't resist taking a few photos in the vegetable garden, too . . .

The squash/watermelon/corn patch (with some beans in the front right)
[Everything has grown a lot more since this photo was taken!]

A growing pumpkin

"How marvelous are your works, O LORD, and that my soul knows very well . . ." Psalm 139:14

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Unexpected Blessing

Awhile back, during one of our regular weekend shopping trips, Mom, Leah, and I happened to go to a neighborhood garage sale. It was in a nice little neighborhood, and we had a pleasant time walking from sale to sale. We were just about ready to call it a day when Mom suggested we go just a bit further, and I am glad that we did! At one of the next homes we came to, which was that of an elderly lady, I was surprised and excited to see two large boxes full of basket-making supplies . . .

One of the boxes

Basketry is something that I have long wanted to do ever since getting my first taste of it back in 4-H when I made this basket (with a lot of help!):

The basket currently holds some old school books that my Mom used to play with when she was a girl

As basketry is something that interests me, I visited with the lady a bit about it and asked her a few questions about the different things that were in the boxes and then asked how much they were (they did not have a price on them). In the end, I came away with both boxes of basketry supplies, a stack of basket-making books/pamphlets, and one of her own handmade baskets (that has her signature on the bottom), for only a few dollars! I was thrilled and so grateful to her for her generosity . . .

Some more of the supplies

The basket that she had made (which now sits on Leah's and my dresser holding some of my favorite magazines.)

Another treasure that I happened to pick up at the same garage sale was this old concordance:

I like the old-fashioned look of it, and it has been nice having one of my own so there is no need to borrow Daddy's all of the time now. :)

And while all of this was definitely a blessing, the greatest and most unexpected blessing was yet to come . . . when we went to pay for our items (I think Mama got something there, too), what should the lady hand us but a Bible tract! Were we ever surprised! We ended up having the opportunity to visit with her for some time which was an encouragement to all of us. She was a sweet lady! As we later reflected on the events of the morning, our hearts were so thankful to the Lord for the unexpected blessings that He brought out from a morning of garage sale-ing. Including thankfulness for the special opportunity to visit with a dear lady who had a love for the Lord and a great love for others and a desire to share God's truth with them.