Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blooming Sunshine

Our daffodils have started blooming!



It is so nice to have these blooming again! I just love their cheerful flowers :)

It has been and will continue to be simply beautiful here this week with temperatures in the 70's and sunshine! We've had so few sunny days the past several weeks (and months!) so I have been very much enjoying seeing the sun and am thoroughly enjoying these springtime days. Evening walks, watching brilliant sunsets, warm breezes, hearing the birds singing away while the morning light is just beginning to light up our yard, open windows :), green grass, budding trees, listening to the chorus of spring peepers while working outdoors, the first spring leaves . . . happy sigh . . . what a delightful time of year this is!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pumpkin Sheet Cake

What a wonderful weekend we had! From sewing, to baking and cooking, to the wonderful time of teaching and fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord yesterday morning and afternoon, to spending time with family, to singing, to cleaning, to reading, to working outdoors, and so much more. Now another new week has begun, and I am looking forward to all that lies ahead of us this week! And to start the blogging week off, below is a recipe that used up some more of the pumpkin puree that I had put up. We have a lot of puree in the freezer so I've been looking for and making recipes that use canned pumpkin and then just substitute our own pumpkin instead - it works so well!


Pumpkin Sheet Cake


-1 can (16 oz.) solid-pack pumpkin (or 1 3/4 to 2 cups pumpkin puree)

-2 cups sugar*

-1 cup canola oil

-4 eggs, lightly beaten

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-2 teaspoons baking soda

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/2 teaspoon salt


FROSTING:

-1 package (3 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened

-5 tablespoons butter, softened

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar*

-3 to 4 teaspoons milk

-Chopped nuts (I used pecans)

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil until blended. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture, beating until well blended. Pour into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. For frosting, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Add milk until frosting reaches desired spreading consistency. Frost cake. Sprinkle with nuts. Yield: 20-24 servings.


*I reduced the sugar by a 1/4 cup for the cake and about a 1/4 cup for the frosting as well. It could have been reduced more, but since I was making this for our church meal, I didn't want to do too much experimentation with it! :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Clearing Out Trees

Things have been very busy here the past few days! Something that I had not realized, was that prior to building our goat pen, quite a few trees along the fenceline (that divides our neighbor's pasture and our property) needed to come down. Our three and a half or so acres are primarily wooded, but over time, we have been clearing out trees which has made it possible to put in our large vegetable garden and also the fruit trees that we put in a few years ago. But in order to plant more fruit trees, and to give more sun to the garden and blueberry bushes (they need it!), we needed to take out some more trees. And since they're right where the future goat pen will be, they needed to come out beforehand. So . . . Dad started sawing down trees on Wednesday, and he, Leah and I have been very busy cutting them up and hauling them down to a portion of our property that is kind of swampy and full of sinkholes - thus, we can't really use it for anything so it makes a nice place to store branches until we can either burn them or have them mulched.

Even though it is kind of sad to see the trees coming down, it is exciting to see how it is starting to look and then thinking of how much more sun our place will be getting! And then how much better the garden and fruit trees will do. The first tree to come down was a huge cedar that had split into two 'trees' about part way up. This is the view from a ways away and Dad had already started sawing it near the base (it is the big cedar on the left) . . .



Leah and I had just headed out to go for a walk/run, and Leah managed to capture the tail end of the 'tree felling' on her little video camera and then I took an 'after' photo . . .

The one half of the tree right after it fell to the ground

Then the other half was sawn down, and Dad sawed up all the branches of both halves . . .


That's a lot of tree! Shortly after this, we began cutting up the branches into small enough pieces to fit in the wheelbarrow and then hauling them down to the sinkhole area (which just happens to be on the other side of our property. :)

Since that first tree came down, Dad has sawn down another cedar tree (and the last cedar that needs to come out) as well as a number of deciduous trees. After many hours of tiring work, all the cedar branches are now hauled away!
The wheelbarrow all loaded up with cedar branches to haul away, behind it on the ground is the biggest deciduous tree that we had to cut down

Now it's on to cutting up the deciduous trees. It is exciting to see how it is all looking so far! Our place has a much more open and bigger feel to it, and it is so nice to have a better view of the beautiful pasture as well. I must say, though, my body has been feeling the effects of all of this! I have been a little tired and sore after all the hours spent out there! Not to mention the effects on allergies that working with cedar branches laden with pollen brings. :) Daddy is planning on cutting down a few more trees soon as well as starting to cut up the ones already on the ground, so this tree clearing saga will be continuing for awhile longer. And once it's all done . . . the fence building can begin!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Outdoor Projects

Other than our snowy and cold weekend, we've had pretty nice weather here overall, and we've been able to spend quite a bit of time outdoors working on different projects. Such as fixing up a lean-to shed that we have in order to make it suitable for housing rabbits. It had chain-link fencing on the front of it, so one afternoon I worked on removing all that as well as removing some boards and things from the inside that didn't need to be there anymore. Leah came out and helped after awhile, and we finished the job up . . .

Leah removing the staples that attached the chain link to the post

The chain link was partially buried in the ground, so the chickens had a heyday eating worms and things after we pulled it out . . .


Leah and I used to raise rabbits many years ago so since we saved all of our cages, water bottles, and feeders, it won't take too much work to set up! We're both really looking forward to having rabbits again!

Flower garden clean-up was another thing worked on as I raked my flower garden clean of all of last year's plant debris and then 're-set' all of the bricks and leveled out the ground underneath of them. Once my garden was finished, the same thing was done to the little garden in front of our house . . .

My flower garden after being cleaned-up . . . it doesn't look like much now, but in a few months it will be overflowing with green! The daylilies are already starting to come up. :)

Other things happening were cleaning up other areas outdoors, working on staking out the goat pen, and figuring out where our fruit trees are going to be planted (we have seven on order) . . .

Daddy and Leah thinking and 'figuring'

And the warmer temperatures allowed for making use of the clothesline :) . . .


It has been so enjoyable to be able to hang laundry on the line again!

Then in addition to all of the outdoor projects, the sewing room has been busy as well and things like this have been sewn . . .


One of the little jumpers that was sewn for a customer

And then after dinner one evening and after a busy and tiring day, Leah and I were doing dishes and Leah made a comment that it sure would be nice to have a dessert to enjoy that evening. Well . . . after discussing our options a bit, we decided on something really simple that wouldn't take long to make . . .


The below photo doesn't quite fit in with the 'theme' of this post, though Leah did take it while we were making the cookies. :) Leah had found this super tiny egg in the nestbox, and we just had to take a photo of it! The egg on the left is a normal sized egg, and then the quarter was put there to give a better idea of the size . . .

Isn't it tiny?!

So that sums up some of our days! Though, a lot more has been happening as well . . . like continued work out at Ryan's place. I'm sure there will be another post about that before too terribly long! :)


Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts after Last Night . . .

What is shared below is quite different from what is normally posted here, but this is what has been on my heart and my mind . . .

Last evening, our family gathered in our living room around my Dad's laptop and watched history in the making. I wish the historical event involved saying "no" to progressives, big government, and socialism, but instead, it was a landmark event of pushing through the biggest movement towards socialism that this country has ever seen. I listened to the passionate and powerful address by House Minority Leader; I heard the lies presented by the proponents of the healthcare bill; I saw those against the bill fight for the desires of the American people; I watched as those in favor of the bill ignored the American people; I watched the votes slowly coming in and my heart sank when the number of "Yeas" reached 216. After this vote, I listened as a Republican passionately presented a motion to defend the life of the unborn . . . I watched again with sadness as this motion was defeated.


A monumental moment in the history of America has now taken place: the change of free America as we have always before known it. One need only look at the path that Communist and Socialist countries have taken over the years to know what direction we are headed unless something happens to make this country turn from the path it is now walking.


Last night as we watched and heard all that was taking place, I must say that our hearts were heavy . . . yet there was a peace. Christ foretold that "these things must take place" (Matthew 24:4-14, etc.) Yes, as we see this country and world moving towards socialism, communism, globalism, and a one world government, we know that it is but fulfilling the word of God. And we know that it is a precursor to the coming of the Lord. As believers in Christ, we have the expectant hope that Christ is returning for His people, the church. And that He will be coming back to abolish sin, death, and Satan. He will come back and "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." This is our hope. This is the reason for our peace in the midst of these "perilous times."


This reminder, promise, and expectant hope was in part presented in a number of Psalms that I read last night. Each evening, before going to bed, I try to remember to read a Psalm or two . . . and the ones last night (Psalms 35-37) seemed to fit so well with what is happening in this country now. Here are a few excerpts:

"Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.

For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning
The discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.
The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;

He has ceased to be wise and to do good.

He plans wickedness upon his bed;

He sets himself on a path that is not good;

He does not despise evil . . .
.

"Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious towards wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass

And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD and do good;

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness . . . .


"The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.

The Lord laughs at him,

For He sees his day is coming.

The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken . . . .

"But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

Because they take refuge in Him
."


(Psalm 36:1-4, Psalm 37:1-3, Psalm 37:12-15, and Psalm 37:39-40.)

What a comfort these verses are! Yes, times could (and likely will) become difficult for us here in America . . . especially for believers in Christ. Yet as these verses from Psalms show, amidst the evil of this world, there is a hope and there is a promise. And as we watch and see what all is and will be taking place around us in this country and the world, there is much for us to do . . . we pray, we trust in the Lord, we stand firmly for our faith and for the Scriptures, and we look and wait with expectant hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Day of Spring . . .

. . . and this is what it looks like outside . . .


Current temperature: 34 degrees (feels like 23 degrees)


*Winter Weather Advisory*


Current forecast: Heavy Snow - two to three additional inches of accumulation expected through the next several hours (with more expected over the night time hours and into tomorrow.)


Quite the contrast to my last post! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

First Flowers of Spring

While it has not felt nor looked like spring here the past week (cloudy, drizzly, and temperatures in the 40's), little changes are continuing to take place making it clear that spring is indeed on its way. And then last evening, it was so pleasant as the sun finally began to break through the clouds which led to a day full of sunshine today, and it is warmer too! (We need to enjoy it while it lasts, though, as there are snow flurries in the forecast for this weekend!)

Yesterday evening after finishing spreading some compost on the vegetable garden, I took a walk around our place attempting to capture in photographs some of the new sights of spring. One of them was something that I always wait with much anticipation for around this time of year . . . the first flowers of spring . . .

It was exciting to see that these beautiful flowers had bloomed!

And here are some of the other photos that were taken . . .


The lilac bush has started to bud out now as have many of our trees

Many of the daffodils have buds, too! I can hardly wait until they flower. :)

The rhubarb is coming up!

Remember the daffodil bulbs that Ryan gave me that I planted this past fall? Well, they've started coming up now, too, which was exciting to see!

Of the four seasons, spring is my favorite as there are just so many things that I enjoy and appreciate about it! And as I watch and observe the creation around me, how thankful I am that the Lord has placed such beauty in it. The intricate detail, the variance and brilliance of the colors, the amazing beauty, the variety . . . All of creation does indeed praise His name and bring Him glory!

"O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches." Psalm 104:24

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." Psalm 136:1

Monday, March 15, 2010

House Update #7 - Insulating and Building the Porch

*Just as a 'warning' :) this is a really long post!*

We've had some busy days out at Ryan's place lately! And between all of us, have been able to get quite a bit accomplished out there which has been nice. (And just a note, what is shared here are just a few of these house building days when I happened to be out there with my camera - there has been a lot of work going on out there besides just this!)

Continuing with work on the porch and with insulating

One afternoon last week, Ryan, Mom and I headed out to his place to work on insulating (for Mom and I) and building the porch (which Ryan worked on.) Since the viaduct on the way out to his place is in the process of being torn down and the road is closed, we had to take an alternate route. I didn't mind that, however, as it was beautiful scenery with quite a large number of picturesque old farmhouses, barns and other outbuildings (which I always enjoy seeing!), and then many pastures with cattle and horses grazing in them as well . . .


A big, old farmhouse
At first, it seemed almost like a step back in time when seeing this with no cars or other modern things around . . . until I noticed the satellite dish on the roof! :)

Disappearing history
Sights like this always make me kind of sad - to think that at one point this was standing tall and brand new - and likely the result of a homesteader's dream and hard labor.

So those were some of the many sights that we saw along the drive. Once we got out to Ryan's place, he started right into working on the porch, and Mom and I on insulating. Mom had already done quite a bit of the exterior wall insulating when she had worked out there with Ryan earlier, so we did all the rest that we could do, save for the areas where the plumbing is going to be run and where there was still some electric that needed to be run. One of the first things that we had to do, though, was to sort and stack all the insulation (it had been delivered out to Ryan's place and was all in a big disorganized pile in the middle of his house) . . .

This photo was from after we had done most of our insulating so some of the piles are smaller than what they had been!

Once it was organized, Mom and I started on the insulating, and before long, we worked ourselves into a 'system' where Mom did the measuring and cutting and then I put the insulation in.
We had such a fun time together doing all of this!

Mom cutting the insulation

Me putting in insulation . . . this type of place was probably my least favorite to do as the insulation had to be pushed/pulled/finagled into the spots behind the interior walls. But it was still fun! :)

Meanwhile . . . Ryan worked on the porch

Once Mom and I had finished insulating several walls, we went ahead and put plastic up over them . . .

Mom getting ready to put up a piece of plastic

At about this time, Dad and Leah arrived . . . Dad then worked with Ryan on the porch, and Leah helped Mom put up plastic while I finished insulating and then stuffed insulation in around the doorway as well.


Daddy helping Ryan on the porch

Mom and Leah putting up plastic over the insulation


Leah holding up one end of the plastic to keep it straight while Mom stapled

Ryan cutting a board for the porch

Leah watching Ryan and Dad as they worked

And here are just a few random photos from inside of the house . . .

The breaker box

I sure am glad that I'm not the one to try to figure out where all these wires go! ;)

By this time, Dad and Ryan had gotten the porch to the point of needing the decking boards, and those needed to be carried from the trailer to the house . . . which wouldn't have been much of a task if we had been able to drive the truck and trailer up by the house! But because of how very wet and muddy it is, the boards had to all be carried from the driveway to the house . . . which is quite a distance! (And the boards are long - about 20 feet.) So Dad and Ryan worked as a team and Leah and I worked as a team carrying the boards.

Ryan and Leah talking together afterward

After the boards were all carried up to the house, it was time for all of us except for Ryan to head for home. Dad had found out that on the weekends, there was a little road open to get through the town where the viaduct was being torn down so we went home that route. It was kind of sad seeing the viaduct being demolished . . .



Once it is all gone and a new road built, the entrance to this little farming town will definitely have a different look!

The rest of the drive home was a pleasant one, and thus concluded an enjoyable and profitable afternoon together!


More Insulating and Various Other Projects

During last week, Ryan went out to his place a number of evenings and worked out there late into the night, and on Friday evening, I joined him and we had such a great time together! Since it was rainy, Ryan didn't work on the porch, but took care of a number of 'little' things inside the house while I insulated first an interior wall and then several more places on the exterior walls . . .


Measuring and cutting the insulation before putting it in the wall

And while I worked on this, Ryan kept busy with things like sawing a hole in the floor where the bathtub drain will go . . .

First with the circular saw

And then finishing up with the hand saw

After the photos, it was back to more insulating for me . . . (this cycle repeated itself a number of times that night! :)

Stapling the insulation

Ryan up in the second floor of the house . . . he had been working on the opening where the pull down stairs are going to go.

One of the finished insulated walls . . . I really enjoyed insulating and have decided that it is one of my favorite house construction things to do now!

I can't remember the 'proper' name for this, but it is for the washer and Ryan put it in on Friday evening

Finishing up . . . from the looks of things, his house is due for another cleaning! :)


By the time Ryan had completed everything that he had hoped to that night, I had finished insulating all the walls that I could and had finished shoving insulation in around the door as well. So we got our things together, closed up the house, and walked back to his truck in the muddy, rainy, dark. :) What a fun and enjoyable evening we had had together! Plus we had been able to get a lot accomplished as well which was so nice!

So there's a 'little' house update, and I know that there will be more coming soon! These coming weeks and months are definitely going to be busy ones for us, but they will be such fun and memorable ones, too!