Thursday, December 31, 2009

Garden Planning

Back in October or November, the first seed catalogs began arriving in our mailbox and since then, they have started to arrive more regularly. After a brief look-through, each one was put in my basket of magazines and catalogs to await being used at a later date. Well, this past week, our box of seeds leftover from last year, last year's gardening and canning records, a notebook and pen, and all of those catalogs were pulled out and the 2010 gardening season planning was begun. I so enjoy this aspect of gardening! Looking through the seed catalogs, reading descriptions, finding new varieties to try, and much more . . .

Besides things like productivity, taste and disease resistance, this year I am also looking for varieties that I can try to save seeds from (thus, seeds that are not hybrids.) This has been fun to do! Also price comparison has been fun as well, with looking at the different companies, quantities of seed, etc.

We don't really have a good place where we can start seeds indoors (though I might try some anyway :), so it will probably be quite awhile before any gardening actually begins, but at least once it is time, everything will be planned out and the seeds will have already been ordered and will be ready and waiting!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quilt Progress

The other day Leah had the opportunity to lay out and arrange her quilt blocks . . .

This is always a fun step, and we had an enjoyable time in the sewing room together while she worked on it! And when it was all said and done, and the last block was arranged just to her liking, the result was this . . .

She is now looking forward to sewing the blocks together! (Which will likely begin within the next few days. :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Busy Hands

As I sit and work on this post, the wind is howling outside, the temperature is in the teens, and snow is falling rapidly from the sky. A significant change from the 50 plus degrees of yesterday! Our weather here has been all over the place the last little while, with one day feeling more like fall and then the next like winter is finally here to stay.

The view from our living room window this morning

Towards the end of this past summer, I began to look forward once again to this season of winter; one reason being that there were so many projects that I had wanted to work on or to do, but during the spring, summer and fall, outdoor work, gardening, etc. take most of my time. So while the garden was nearing its end and the last bit of canning was being finished up, I planned and looked forward to these winter days when I could work on all the projects that were swirling around in my mind. Things like the quilt (which I still haven't started quilting yet! I'm on the search for the right fabric for the back), doing some sewing for our family and turning the fabric stack on my shelf into useable items, re-caning another of our chairs, crocheting an afghan, and then making a basket from the supplies picked up at a garage sale this past summer. I'm not sure if I'll get to all of these things this winter, but so far a good start has been made!

This week and part of last week, the sewing room was a flurry of activity, and the end result so far is three skirts for my mom, a blouse, a purse/bag, and cloth napkins. Leah has been busy in the sewing room as well cutting out denim for a pieced one-patch quilt. Now 204 squares later, she's ready to start on the sewing!

The squares for Leah's quilt

The finished bag

Many of the evenings have also been partially filled with crocheting. It has been so nice to be doing this again as crocheting is one of my favorite types of handwork to do. The afghan that I am currently working on is a mile-a-minute afghan (meaning that it is crocheted in strips and then later the strips are sewn together) . . .

Behind the basket (which is serving as my crochet basket right now) are the four completed strips. Only four more to go!

These winter days are certainly going to be busy and enjoyable ones! They'll also probably go by pretty quickly, and then almost before we know it, gardening season will be ready to begin again. Even though I am enjoying winter, I must say that the warmer days we had earlier this week made me almost wish that spring was around the corner. But not quite. :) Though, during the warm days it was nice to spend some time outside taking a walk, playing with Lassie, and doing a few other things as well . . .

The chickens were quite curious about Lassie!

One of my Barred Rocks

So that is some of what has been filling my days lately! Now I'm off to check on the bread and do some housecleaning . . . and to enjoy the rest of the afternoon before it's time to head back outdoors to take care of the animals (which always takes longer in weather like this.) And I think a walk and some photographing will likely be taking place then, too! :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Evening with Ryan

This past Wednesday evening after Ryan got home from work, he and I headed out to his place. As he had gotten some construction lights, he was going to set those up so that he could work on the interior of the house. The days are so much shorter now that any exterior work will need to be done on the weekends, but with lights, he can work inside in the evenings. The drive out was enjoyable, and it was so nice to have that opportunity with just he and I to talk. My camera was also a little busy, too. :) We had already missed the peak colors of the sunset, but the traces left behind were still beautiful . . .

Once we got out to Ryan's, he started setting up the lights, and after that was finished, worked on putting 2x6's on top of the walls which will later have the sheetrock nailed to them. There wasn't much for me to do other than handing him the things he needed and setting up some things for him, so I cleaned up in the house, and spent the rest of my time visiting with him while he worked. With how busy our family has been (especially Ryan), times like these where we can have one-on-one time together are always so wonderful!

Ryan working on putting up the 2x6's

The house at night

After he had finished up for the evening, we cleaned up, put things away, and closed up the house for the night. When we stepped outside what a beautiful sight met our eyes! The sky was incredibly beautiful! The air was clear, the night was dark, and the stars were so bright. We can't see skies like that where w
e live as there are so many trees, plus, even though we live a ways from the city, the lights still light up the sky some at our home. We stood out there for quite awhile watching the stars and picking out the different constellations that we could recognize. And as we gazed up at the sky, I was filled with awe for the Creator of such beauty . . . the heavens truly do declare the glory of the Lord.

Eventually, we did finish loading things up in the truck and then headed for home. What a pleasant and fun evening it had been!

And as a follow up to my last post . . . we did get snow! Only about an inch, but it was still snow. It was such a pretty one, too, as the flakes were large and fluffy.

This is when it first started to snow

. . . and a little later

As it was a wet snow, it stuck to the trees and bushes which made it beautiful outside . . .

And there's snow in the forecast again, so we might be getting more in the near future! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Year Ago Today . . .

. . . this is what it looked like outdoors . . .

A lot different than the sunshiny, 53 degree day we had today! Which will be much different than our weather tomorrow, too, as the cold weather is returning. And with that cold weather is the possibility of accumulating snow!! That is something that I have been looking forward to! And hopefully the forecast will be correct this time. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Literary Treasures

It has been mentioned several times on here about my love for old books, and I have had a post in mind for quite some time to share, but then, never got around to actually putting it together. But now, as we were all sick much of last week so there's not too much new family news to share right now, it seemed a good time to finally write this post . . .

Over the past years, my book collection (and Leah's as well) has slowly grown - we're fairly selective about what books we add to them, and we are always on the lookout for a gem. When we visit antique stores, garage sales, library book sales, and thrift stores, we generally end up looking through
whatever books are there. And every once in awhile, a worn cover is spotted. The book is eagerly picked up and the pages scanned through . . . usually we can tell pretty quickly if it is a book that we would be interested in. We watch for references to the Lord, to family, to the Bible, and things along those lines. And often, a lot can be told from the last few pages of the book. By doing this 'examination process', we have found quite a few wonderful, old books. Books that have quickly become some of my favorites of those I've ever read . . . books that are enjoyable to read, yet leave the heart greatly convicted . . . books that gently yet clearly communicate scriptural truths . . . books that challenge and edify the reader . . . and here are a few of these literary treasures . . .

Effie Maurice

Leah discovered this book at one of our library's book sales, and as it had no copyright date or author, she did a bit of searching online to discover more about it. It was found that the author was the wife of Adoniram Judson (a missionary to Burma), and it was written in the mid-1800's. The book is geared towards children, but all ages would benefit from reading it! It tells the story of a family, mainly two of the children, and how they learn through day to day instances and through the wise instruction of their parents what it really means to have no other gods before the Lord. It is a good little book! And it can be read online: here.

The Wilmot Family

This is a book that Leah first found at the little antique store not far from our place. What a treasure it is! It quickly became one of our favorite books for many different reasons. It is a fairly rare book to find, and I was thankful to recently be able to find a copy online (though a very worn one! It's the one on the right) - the copyright date is 1852 making it 157 years old. How I wonder how many hands have turned its pages and have learned and grown through reading it!

The frontispiece to "The Wilmot Family"

But now onto what the book is about :) . . . The central theme of the book is upon the area of truthfulness which is very convicting! As you follow along with the daily life of the Wilmot family, you will see the beautiful family life that they have, the good example of wise instruction, discipline and guidance that the parents give to their children, the special relationship between the parents and the children, true Christ-like love being shown towards others, and so much more. A great deal can be gleaned in this book, and the closing few sentences sum up the spiritual message of the book well . . .

"Oh then set before you the example of Him who was truth itself; - who says of himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Study him as the loveliest, brightest, and most perfect pattern of truth that earth ever presented. Look at him, study him, follow him, until you reflect somewhat of his own blessed image on your soul, - until truth is stamped upon every lineament of your character, - until it breathes in every word, lives in every thought, and shines forth in every action of your life."

This book is also available to view online and can be found here.

These books I found at one of our library's book sales, and they were written by Isabella Alden under the pen name of "Pansy" . . . thus the name they bear of "The Pansy Books." These again are some of the best and most convicting fiction books that we have ever read. I would highly recommend them! (Though, for a little disclaimer, some of the theology presented in a couple of her books we do not agree with.) Some of our favorite titles of those we've read are . . .

-Ester Ried
-Ester Ried Yet Speaking
-Ester Ried's Namesake
-Julia Ried
-A New Graft
-A Sevenfold Trouble

Many of her books have been reprinted now so they are available new, but we're rather partial to the old copies so those are the ones we keep an eye out for. Even though the words are the same, there is a completely different feel to reading an old book!

And since this is a post about old books, I have to include some of my other favorites that I've found :) . . . children's readers! I love these old readers, and the children that we know love them as well. They are always the books of choice when little ones come to visit!

Pages from two of the readers (one is newer one from the 40's)

And a few other special finds have been "Agriculture for Beginners" (1904 - the photos in this book are really neat!), "Real Stories from Our History" (1916), and "New Elementary Arithmetic" (1907 - old school books are some of my favorites. :)

So that is a little glimpse into some of the books that we've been able to find . . . and one wonders what other wonderful, old books are out there just waiting to be discovered!

And I should mention that another excellent source of books, and one that we have gotten quite a few books from, is Lamplighter Publishing company, specifically their Fireside Collection. They find old books, reprint them with beautiful, old-fashioned looking covers, and then carry them through their website. These are more books that I would highly recommend!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mystery Squash

This past summer we planted a number of different winter squash varieties, but there must have been a wrong seed in one of the packets as one of the plants produced squash of a variety that we didn't plant! (Or I should say, we didn't think that we planted it. :)

The squash is the one on the far left (there are three of them) - they measure about 14 to 15 inches long!

I've looked online trying to discover what this squash is, but so far, haven't figured it out. Anyway, the other night for dinner I cut open and baked one of these monster squash . . .

Once the squash had baked until soft, the 'insides' were scooped out and then some of them were mashed to serve like sweet potatoes (which was good!), and the rest was pureed to freeze. (I'm planning on experimenting with the squash puree in place of pumpkin in our pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie recipes.) I wish I knew what this squash was, though, as it is so much easier to prepare than pumpkin, we liked it, and it produces a lot of puree. We ended up with 10+ cups of it from just one squash!

Does anyone have any idea what it could be? If so, please feel free to share!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Learning to Plan a Menu

This is one of the things that our girls in girls group learned how to do recently . . . or at least they were able to get the general idea of how to do it. :) They had such a fun time going through the cookbooks and picking out what things to put on their menus! And it was fun to listen to them and to see what their 'meals' indeed up being.

One of the girls' menus in progress

Helping one of the girls find a certain section in one of the cookbooks.

Discussing different recipes together - these two sisters had such a good time together working on their menus!

All of the girls

As several of our more recent lessons have been longer and more in-depth, this time we just looked at a couple of verses in Proverbs 31 which spoke of providing food for one's household, working diligently, etc. We expanded with these a bit explaining about preparedness, helping our mothers, serving our families, and things along those lines. We ended our time together with sewing on the girls potpourri sachets . . .

Then on a following week, the girls made grocery lists off of their menus and again, worked more on their sachets. Our lesson for this week was on Proverbs 31:27 "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." After reading this verse, we looked at and discussed the definition of 'idle' which is:

“Habitually doing nothing or avoiding work, lazy” "It is to have an aversion for labor; a reluctance to be employed or to have exertion either of body or mind; it is to be lazy, slothful and sluggish."

Turning to Proverbs 19:15, we found that “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.” (This verse fit really well since the activity we were doing had to do with menu planning and cooking! :)

We asked the girls if they thought the woman in Proverbs 31 was an idle person or not, to which the girls correctly answered 'no'. We then went through the passage looking at the ways that she "looked well to the ways of her household" and worked to serve and bless others.

A couple of other questions that we asked were:

-What do you think it means to “look well” (take care of, etc.)
-Who is the household? (our families, but also brothers and sisters in the Lord.)

What we found then, is that the Proverbs 31 woman practices diligence which is the opposite of idleness, and diligence is in part “Seeing each task as something that is given to us by the Lord to do and using all of our energies to cheerfully accomplish it.”

After discussing this for a bit, we read and discussed Proverbs 10:4-5 which says that “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”

Some of the girls taking notes

We then closed with a few verses from Colossians:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."
(Colossians 3:23-24.)

What a good reminder these verses are!

Monday, December 7, 2009

House Update #6 - Dried In!

Progress on Ryan's house had slowed down a bit due to the weather (i.e. lots of rain!) and some other things that came up in our family's lives, but it has been progressing little by little over the past weeks. Our family worked on it as we had time and then a friend of our family came and helped two weekends ago which really helped things move along. And now a big milestone has been reached! The house is entirely dried in (meaning it is weather-proof - no water can get in!) But even more than that, all of the interior walls except for the pantry are built as well! It was exciting to see those up, and now it is starting to look more like a house inside . . .

A panoramic that Ryan took of the inside of the house
Ryan's house (that is sometimes hard to believe!! It's come a long way since we started on it in September!)

The front door and living room window

The next few photos are from a day awhile back when we were all out there working . . . Dad and Ryan were putting the jam extensions on the door and taking care of a few other things while Mom, Leah and I finished putting up the Typar.

Mom nailing on Typar

Dad and Ryan putting the jam extensions on the front door

Mom and I having fun together while putting on the Typar

Then on Tuesday of last week, Ryan spent the day out at his place working and then the rest of us joined him in the evening (and also brought out more lumber for him.) Our drive there was so pleasant!

A familiar sight this time of year :)

One of the farms that we pass (this particular one raises Longhorns)

Leah taking photos of the progress


Ryan nailing together a closet wall

Dad and Ryan

Carrying in the boards - Dad and Leah brought them from the trailer to the doorway, and then Ryan and I carried them into the house and stacked them.

Towards the end of our evening there, Leah and I went for a little walk together while everyone else was talking. What fun we had! We first headed to the cornfield as we hadn't seen one after harvest time before, and we were curious. :) (The last time that we had been out there it was in the process of being harvested.)

The harvested cornfield

The deer, crows and coons will be enjoying this field for awhile!

Leah taking some photos

An attempt at a self-portrait (by Leah :)

Looking at one of the fruit trees

So that is a little catch-up on what's been happening
out at Ryan's place!