Monday, June 29, 2009

A Garden Update

After enduring a little over a week of temperatures in the 90's with very high humidity and heat indexes around 105 degrees, it has finally cooled off! The humidity is lower and the temperature is in the 80's so it actually feels pleasant outside now. Another blessing of having it cooler out is now we do not have dogs in the house . . . two of our dogs (Lassie and Mandy) cannot handle the hot weather very well, so they were inside the past week which made things interesting! And then added to that, Lassie went partially paralyzed in her hindquarters and back legs late last week and needed help to get up and lie down. She also had a lot of difficulty walking, but thankfully she is doing much better now! Needless to say, last week was an unusual and interesting week!

Anyway, on to what this post is supposed to be about. :) I have been meaning to put up a garden update for some time, but as the computer that has all my photos on it was not able to be used for awhile (until yesterday, that is :) I was not able to do so . . . but now, here it is!

The gardening season has been going well so far, though, we have been having some problems which seems to be 'normal' each year! :) Things such as some tomato plants wilting (which has stopped now, thankfully!), early blight in some of the tomatoes, European corn borers finding their way into the peppers, corn and even a marigold plant, 'something' chopping off several squash plants, and strong winds coming through and snapping off several pumpkin and winter squash plants as well as flattening some of the onions.


One of the severed pumpkin plants (I did manage to save one of the pumpkin plants and one of the winter squash plants by piling dirt over the base of the plants up past where it was severed . . . there must have been enough of the plant still attached to keep it alive!)

So those are some of the things that I've been dealing with and learning from, but overall the garden has been doing very well! I harvested the first yellow squash yesterday morning, the cucumbers are getting some size to them, and the first green bean picking took place last evening. What a wonderful time of year this is!

Here are a few snapshots from the garden that were taken over the last week . . .

A view of most of the garden (there is another part of it behind the flowers that has winter squash, watermelon and corn planted in it). At the left front of the garden, you can see the flattened onions at the right of the green leaf lettuce.

The cucumbers

Growing tomatoes

The bed of carrots

Little beans

The green bean plot which consists of three different plantings . . . five rows which were planted for putting up in the freezer, one row for fresh eating and/or preserving and one small single row that was stuck in kind of as an afterthought as there was still space left, but not enough room for a wide row.

Another blessing of the cooler weather is that it came just in time for the green bean harvest. It will be much more pleasant out picking beans in the temperatures we have now! Last evening was the first picking of green beans, and I was surprised how many were out there. I appreciated Leah coming out and helping me as it would have taken a long time with just one person! Once we were finished picking, we weighed the beans and had a total weight of a little over 20 pounds! I think I have an idea what will be keeping us busy over the next few weeks :) . . . picking, washing, snapping, blanching and freezing green beans!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Recipe to Share

With having a large garden and trying to grow a lot of our own food, we are always on the look-out for new recipes to try that utilize produce from the garden. Last year we added several new recipes and this spring, we discovered another new one that we could make using spinach as well as some green onions. After making it for the first time earlier this gardening season, we decided that the recipe was definitely a 'keeper'! Anyway, I thought that you all might enjoy having the recipe as well, so I am sharing it here . . .


Tossed Spinach Salad

-1 pkg. (10 oz.) fresh spinach, torn (I just used spinach from the garden)
-1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (I think I used less than this)
-1/2 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
-3 celery ribs, sliced
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
-3 green onions, sliced

FRENCH DRESSING:
-1 cup ketchup
-1/2 cup vinegar
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a large salad bowl, combine the salad ingredients. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake until the sugar is dissolved. (The original recipe calls for drizzling the dressing over the salad and then tossing to coat, but we serve the dressing separate.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sundays

Out of all the days of the week, Sunday is one of my favorites . . . refreshing, uplifting, encouraging, enjoyable, convicting, and so much more. This past Sunday held true to all of those descriptive words! The teaching and discussion time in the morning was excellent and my heart was convicted in many areas. One of the men taught on portions of Romans chapter 12 with the focus being upon dying to self to serve the Lord and others. The whole chapter is excellent, but verses 1-2 and verses 9-13 are the ones that specifically spoke to my heart yesterday morning . . .


"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality." Romans 12:10-13

After the teaching and discussion time as well as the singing, we enjoyed a del
icious meal together with encouraging fellowship. Once the meal was over, Leah and I went outside with some of the children (which is a fairly common Sunday afternoon occurrence [except during the winter!])


Two Sundays ago one of the children had asked me if I could bring my camera sometime, so I brought it with me yesterday and they enjoyed using it as well as enjoyed getting their photos taken. We had such a wonderful and special time together this afternoon! From playing peek-a-boo, to having a 'science lesson' watching ants, to laughing and talking, and so much more.

Watching ants together - she is fascinated by just about everything in nature!

All of these children are so very sweet, and over the years, it has come to feel like they are little 'siblings' to us. How thankful we are to the Lord for blessing our lives with knowing these precious little ones!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back Together Again

Our group of girls was small this past week, but how wonderful it was to get together with them again! (The rest of the girls should all be back from their vacations, etc. next week, and we are looking forward to seeing them then!) For some time now, we have been wanting to plant gourds in the vegetable garden with the girls, but each time we planned to do this, it rained! This time, though, the sun was shining, no rain was in the forecast, and the only negative about the day was that it was hot . . . as in "heat indexes in the 100's" hot. The girls, though, told us enthusiastically that they were excited to be able to plant things in the garden so they did not mind the heat. Their cheerful, uncomplaining spirits were such an encouragement and blessing to us!

The morning before our time with the girls, I had turned and prepared the soil so it was nice and loose for them to work. What they were going to do, then, was make the hills and plant the seeds . . .

Leah showing the girls how to make the hills with a hoe

Then it was the girls' turn! It took them a bit to figure out how to handle the hoe to make the hills, but once they did, they enjoyed it . . .



After the four hills were made, I showed the girls how to plant the seeds . . .


Now we just need to wait for them to grow! The girls are very excited about growing gourds, and we plan to do some sort of craft project (perhaps a centerpiece?) with them this fall.

Even with it being so hot out, when the suggestion was made to go see the chicks the girls were in great favor of that instead of going inside right away . . .

Looking at the chicks - after this photo was taken, we let them go inside the pen, and they really enjoyed seeing the chicks up so close!

The heat finally convinced us that it was time to go inside, and after getting cleaned up, we enjoyed a cold glass of lemonade (or water for some of us). Then it was time for the lesson . . . Usually we have our lessons in the living room together, but as we had an 'object lesson' too, we opted for meeting around the table instead to make things easier. It ended up being a pleasant change!

Right before we began
[and just so you know, the little girl on the left was not hiding her face, but was scratching her head :) as she was a bit puzzled where the book of the Bible was that we had asked her to turn to. Leah helped her find it.]

Our lesson for the day was on the parable that Christ gives in Scripture about the sower and the seed. It is found in several of the gospels, but the one we looked at was in the book of Luke:

" 'The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.' as He said these things, He would call out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.' " Luke 8:4-8

A few verses down, the parable is then explained:

" 'Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the words from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.' " Luke 8:11-15

I wish that I could remember all that was said during the lesson time - the wonderful discussion, the questions that were asked and the answers that were given - but unfortunately, I cannot! So what is shared here is pretty much taken from our lesson plan that we had for the day . . .

In the first passage that we read in Luke, we found that there are four types of places where the seed fell, four different types of soil: 1) Along the road; 2) Rocky soil; 3) With thorns; and 4) The good soil. When we look at the explanation of the parable, we find that these soils are in reference to people's hearts. And here is where the object lesson came in . . .


We had made four cups each with a soil type that matched the parable (except the 'along the path' one wasn't so great! But at least it helped give the right idea. :) From left to right is the thorny soil (Daddy helped find some impressive thorns for that!), the rocky soil, the soil along the path, and then the good soil.

We then went verse by verse paralleling the parable verse with the explanation verse while using the cups of dirt as a visual aid (as well as using planting the gourds in the garden as an example):

Verses 5 and 12: "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up . . . Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the words from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved."

In these verses, we find that the word was heard, but it was taken away. The seed fell on hard packed soil leaving it out in the open; nothing was done with the seed, but it lay there dormant allowing Satan to come and steal the seed away. This is
someone who hears the gospel message and that’s it – they do not seek the Lord, they do not repent, and they do not believe in Him.

Verse 6 and 13: "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture . . . Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away."

One point that we wanted to stress here is that, as Scripture so clearly teaches elsewhere that salvation is eternal (and that we are sealed by the Spirit, Christ looses none of His sheep, that no one can snatch us out of His hand, etc.), we can know, then, that these verses do not mean that one can loose their salvation. But they instead mean that the people heard the word, responded with joy, but it was not in their hearts. They may have believed, but was it true belief? (We find in Scripture that even the demons 'believe' [James 2:19]). Instead we find that there was no root and no foundation in Christ. The seed fell on soil that was not prepared for it . . . soil that did not provide what the seed, the word of God, needed to grow; so when temptations came, instead of truly believing in and following Christ, they fell away.

Verse 7 and 14: "Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out . . . The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity."

It is important to note here, that true believers will bear fruit as it says elsewhere in Scripture that we will "know them by their fruits" and that a "good tree produces good fruit." This soil, however, brings no fruit to maturity. The ones in these verses are those who have heard the word and are accepting of it, but then when the choice comes to either follow the world or the Lord, they choose the world. This shows where their hearts are . . . for if one truly loved the Lord they would keep His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3; and it is important to remember that this 'keeping' does not mean that one must be perfect in obedience in order to love God; the Greek word used for 'keep' is tereo which means: to guard, to hold fast, to attend to carefully, to observe, etc.)


Verse 8a and 15: "Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great . . . But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."

These ones' hearts are prepared (which could include aspects of seeking the Lord, repentance, etc.), and because of that preparation, they received the word (heard it; accepted it; believed in it;) and hold it fast (take as their own; it becomes a part of them.); and then they bear fruit unto God.
We then talked a bit about what this bearing fruit is (i.e. obedience to Christ; Galatians 5:22-23; etc.) as well as looking at the word 'perseverance' and what all that entails.

So that was our lesson for the day! Having the cups with the different soils (as well as having just planted seeds in the garden) really seemed to help the girls grasp what was being shared in Luke chapter 8.

After we were finished with the lesson, I took out some of the thorns to show the girls (they were locust tree thorns that were several inches long.) While we were looking at them, I happened to notice a little creature on one of the branches. The girls were fascinated by it and watched it for some time . . .


Can you find "it" in the below photo? [you can click on the photo to make it larger, too]


Seeing this provided opportunity to talk with the girls about the Creator and the amazing design that He places in His creation . . . I love spontaneous 'teaching' moments such as these!!

Our afternoon together was finished off by crocheting in the living room while visiting together. As it had been awhile since we had met together, the girls had a lot to share! How wonderful and fun our time together was this week!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The First Harvest of Beets

The early morning hours of today found me outside setting up a little area in order to prepare beets for putting up in the freezer. As I headed out to the garden after finishing that, a blanket of dew was still thick on the grass and the air was already warm and was heavy with humidity. Our days have been hot as of late with temperatures in the 90's and heat indexes in the 100's, thus the reason for wanting to get an early start on the beets. I made my way down the bed checking to see which ones were ready to harvest, and the beets that had some size to them were pulled out of the ground and then piled with the others . . .

The beets - harvested, washed, and ready for the next step

Then it was off to the "outdoor kitchen" (I was doing it outdoors today in order to keep the house cooler - blanching vegetables creates a lot of heat and steam!) . . .

The set-up outdoors . . . first a table, then a piece of plywood on top of that, then the propane stove, the utensils, hot pads, bowls, and finally the pots of beets!

Taking the beets out of the pots after they had finished boiling

Peeled, sliced and ready for the freezer bags

The total of beets put up in the freezer was a little over four pounds, and there are a lot more still out in the garden (but they have a bit more growing to do). In addition to taking care of the beets, other activities of the morning that made the hours fly by included washing several loads of laundry and getting them hung on the line, putting together another batch of laundry detergent, weeding the little corn patch, replanting the areas where the corn did not come up, and cleaning inside. Pleasant tasks! And now another day is drawing to a close with a whole weekend ahead to be enjoyed!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Family Fun: Target Shooting!

It's kind of strange to have only one post up so far this week, and it is already Thursday! But there is a reason for that . . . busy-ness! Just when I thought it couldn't get busier . . . it did. :) From working on 'rush' sewing orders (as in with a short time before a deadline), to trying to keep up with the weeding, cultivating and harvesting in the garden, to also trying to keep up with the abundantly producing mulberry tree (I'm freezing the berries right now), not to mention cleaning, laundry, cooking (it is my cooking weeks again - what a blessing and great fun it has been to have Leah working with me during these weeks!), and so many other little things that make the days fly by!

Even with how busy we've all been, one evening this week we did take a relaxing and fun family outing to Ryan's place to spend some time together and to do some target shooting. We enjoy shooting together and used do it about once a year (on Ryan's birthday), but we had not done it now for a long time. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it until we went out again! (though my aim has much to be desired!) Anyway, we took a lot of photos during our evening together, and I hope that you enjoy them!

Our Drive

We have received a significant amount of rain the last little while (I saw somewhere that in the past few days the rainfall total right where we live is somewhere between 3 to 4 inches with higher amounts elsewhere in mid-Missouri) which has caused some flooding around here. Part of our drive out to Ryan's brings us through the river bottoms and several of the fields had some flooding . . .

Though, most of the fields are looking very nice with either soybeans growing or corn standing tall . . .



The drive out to Ryan's is always so beautiful, and as usual, we enjoyed it!

At Ryan's Place
We can never go out there without at least walking around some and looking at things! :) In this photo, everyone is looking at the fruit trees, which, by the way, are all doing very well!
A view of a portion of his land

Shooting the Guns
The intended target (a cardboard box :)

Ryan shooting his 9mm (and no, I did not know what it was [nor what Dad's gun was] until Dad told me and suggested I add it to the post! Now you know what types of guns we were shooting. :)

Ryan and Dad shot first, and then Dad so very patiently showed each of us ladies how to use the gun (we had never shot pistols before) and then walked us through the process. It was so fun doing this together! (And just a note for all of the following photos - whenever we were actually shooting the pistols, we had safety glasses and the 'ear things' on. The photos where we do not have those is when Dad was first showing us how to use the gun without it being loaded! :)

Dad helping me figure out how to hold the gun (his is a 357 Magnum)

Practicing aiming

Leah taking photos

Getting ready . . .

Leah and Mom

Mom's turn!

Now it's his turn!

Looking at the target and seeing who hit where

Then it was time to shoot the 22! I had asked if we could bring this along (it is Dad's gun which he has had since he was twelve) as I enjoy shooting 22's, and Dad was more than happy to. So Leah and I had fun shooting it just a bit before heading home. Both of our aims were better with the 22 than with the pistols . . . I was about 3/4" away from the bull's eye, and Leah hit the bull's eye! (Just a note: in the below photos we really were shooting when the photos were taken, unlike the pistol photos.)

Leah shooting the 22

Me shooting the 22

What a fun and enjoyable evening we had together!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Randomness

The end of last week was reached with many unrelated photos on my camera from the past several days, so this post will be a conglomeration of all sorts of different things!

Chore time!

The day the above photo was taken was a stormy one so this was while we did chores in between storms. (And it looks like this morning will be another one of those! Thunder has been rumbling for the past two hours or so while a steady rain has been falling . . . the weather map shows that this will be pretty much the story of the day. What a pleasant and cozy day it will be inside working on various projects as well as teaching sewing lessons!)

Leah's Asiatic Lilies are blooming!

The other evening dusk was falling, but there was still some time left where it would be light enough to see outside. Feeling in a more quiet, contemplative mood, a walk outside at this time of day sounded especially pleasurable. The plan was to take a short walk around our place, but as I headed out the door and saw my camera sitting there, I went ahead and brought it along with. I am glad that I did as I had the opportunity to see and photograph a deer! She was browsing in the pasture, and she let me get right up next to our side of the fence without running away. Deer are such beautiful creatures!


Just prior to seeing her, I walked by one of Mom's flower gardens and enjoyed the beauty there . . .


Speaking of flowers, when we were running errands in town on Saturday, we happened to stop at Westlake Hardware and they were having a plant sale. We browsed through the plant section and found several plants that looked promising. I also ended up with a 25 cent Nasturtium that looks like it was just about ready to expire, but I am seeing if I can get it to live. I have heard that Nasturtium can repel squash bugs so if it lives, I plan to plant it in with the pumpkins or squash in hopes that it will help keep the pests away.

Some of the plants - the marigolds had already been planted in the vegetable garden when this photo was taken.

Our mulberry tree has been producing abundantly this year (I just 'discovered' the tree last year so we had never used berries off of it before) . . . unfortunately, the tree is so tall that the vast majority of the large, juicy berries are far out of my reach. So I have contented myself with using a ladder to pick the lower branches and so far, have come away with enough berries to make a pie . . .

This was a bit of an experiment as I had never made a mulberry pie before. It was fun to put together, and it had good flavor so I will probably be making it again. If I can harvest enough berries that is!

Mulberries have not been the only thing ready to harvest as of late . . . the garden has been producing, and we have been able to enjoy a Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad, a spinach salad with homemade dressing (which was a new recipe . . . we loved how it turned out!), and then 'regular' salad, too.

Last week, Leah and I brought my pressure canner gauge into the Extension office to get it tested (it was accurate) as canning season will be here before we know it. Some of the beets look like they are just about ready to harvest, there are little green tomatoes on the tomato plants and the squash plants are beginning to bloom as are the beans. What a wonderful and exciting time of year this is! I am eagerly anticipating when it is time to start putting up produce again!

Friday, June 12, 2009

No-Bake Cookie Recipe

For those of you who requested it, here is the recipe for the cookies . . . enjoy!

No-Bake Cookies
-2 cups sugar
-4 Tbsp. cocoa
-1 stick butter
-1/2 cup milk
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 cup peanut butter
-3 cups oatmeal

Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Quickly stir until combined. Spoon mixture by Tablespoons full onto waxed paper to cool until firm.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Spontaneity in the Kitchen

A few evenings ago, a random thought crossed my mind that it would be nice to have a dessert for after dinner (which was fast approaching by this time!) After Leah's enthusiastic response to the idea, we found ourselves in the kitchen hurriedly whipping up a batch of No-Bake Cookies before dinner time arrived. These cookies would definitely not be categorized as 'healthy', but they are so good and so simple and quick to put together which is why we chose to make them. We had such a good time together while doing this, and it was made even more pleasant by having Mom in the kitchen, too, as she was making dinner. What fun we three can have together!!

Mom working on putting a casserole together

Leah stirring the first few ingredients while they boil

Putting the 'mixture' by tablespoons full down onto waxed paper

Almost finished!

So after eating the delicious meal that Mom had prepared, we were able to enjoy some cookies as dessert. :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Simple Pleasure . . .

. . . is hanging laundry out on the line . . .

How enjoyable it is being outside hanging out the laundry in the warm sunshine with the breeze gently blowing, the lovely scent of flowers and other scents of spring in the air, and birds singing all around!