Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Abiding and Working - A Quote from Andrew Murray

I have been slowly reading through a book called Abide in Christ* by Andrew Murray, and have been so blessed, encouraged and convicted by it. Each chapter has had much that spoke to my heart, and that I have then been seeking to apply to my own life. The below portion (as well as many others) was especially convicting to me . . . I had shared it over on Leah's and my blog Follow in His Steps, and I thought I would share it here as well. I hope that it will bless and encourage your heart as it did mine!

"If we are abiding in Jesus, let us begin to work. Let us first seek to influence those around us in daily life. Let us accept distinctly and joyfully our holy calling, that we are even now to live as the servants of the love of Jesus to our fellow-men. Our daily life must have for its object the making of an impression favourable to Jesus. When you look at the branch, you see at once the likeness to the Vine. We must live so that somewhat of the holiness and the gentleness of Jesus may shine out in us. We must live to represent Him. As was the case with Him when on earth, the life must prepare the way for the teaching . . . .

"Living so, with our hearts longing to have Jesus glorified in the souls He is seeking after, let us offer ourselves to Him for direct work. There is work in our own home. There is work among the sick, the poor, and the outcast. There is work in a hundred different paths which the Spirit of Christ opens up through those who allow themselves to be led by Him . . . . Abiding in Christ, let us work."

Quote taken from the book Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray; pg.117

*As a little disclaimer, I do not necessarily agree with everything that is shared in the book, but overall, the content is excellent!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Garden Update

The garden is growing so well, and we are all very pleased with how it is doing this year! It has been one of our best years yet . . . not without some problems and some crop losses, but overall, the garden is doing amazing. How thankful we are to the Lord for this blessing!

We have been harvesting lettuce from the garden for quite awhile now and are loving the fresh salads with homemade dressing. Surprisingly, the lettuce made it through our two weeks of 90+ degrees temperatures that we had awhile back, and it didn't bolt and it's flavor stayed delicious. We have also begun harvesting zucchini, and the yellow squash and green beans are not far behind. I love this time of year when
we can enjoy the fresh produce from the garden!

A full view of the garden (though there is another section of it behind the flower gardens, and the empty, front left section is planted now.) All of the 'white blobs' in the back are our fruit trees that are covered in tulle to protect them from the cicadas. (Speaking of which, their numbers are drastically decreasing now, so hopefully we can take the tulle off soon.) The green bean plot is also fenced with electric to keep out deer and then around the perimeter of the garden is a fence to keep the chickens out . . . they had been enjoying the garden a little too much!

The gardener's best friend . . . thanks to the hoe (and lots of hand-weeding) our garden is just about weed free!

The green bean plot #1 (we planted another several rows last week.)

The green beans are blossoming and there are little beans on the plants now. Most of this first crop will be going to a lady that we know who I grow green beans for each year . . . so far, it looks like it is going to be a bumper crop!

Swiss chard - what beautiful plants these are!

This is cucumber trellis # 2 with slicing cucumbers planted along each side, three varieties of lettuce underneath, and marigolds on the end. The cucumbers have been one of the crops that we have lost a lot of plants of so far due to all of the cucumber beetles. I have been going out every morning and handpicking around 50-100 beetles off of the plants (as well as the zucchini and yellow squash plants), and little by little, their numbers are decreasing! I have also been replanting the cucumbers that are lost so hopefully we'll still end up with a crop of pickling cucumbers (we have two trellises for them.)

Tiny pickling cucumbers . . . on one of the few plants that had survived the cucumber beetles.

Me watering the newly planted cucumber seeds (to replace the plants that were lost) just as the sun began to peek over the treetops . . . and after spending about an hour picking off cucumber beetles and squash bugs

After losing all of our tomato plants last year due to disease, we are thrilled with how well the plants are doing this year! We have about 40 of them in the garden, and Dad has about 30 in his raised bed, planted in buckets, and planted in the orchard as well. In hopes of minimizing disease spread and fungal problems, I planted all of the ones in the garden four feet apart and then mulched them as soon as I could. Both of these things seemed to have helped as the plants overall seem very healthy!

And the tomato plants have tomatoes on them now! Lots of them in fact. :) We're all looking forward to enjoying fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, and I am looking forward to canning them.

Daddy and I looking at the garden one recent evening (and the 'white' at our feet is tulle covering the newly planted pickling cucumbers - it's working to keep the cucumber beetles off the plants!)

Zucchini . . . we've been enjoying zucchini pancakes lately which are so good! And now with the summer squash almost ready to harvest, squash casseroles will be enjoyed this week.

Yellow squash

Jalapeno Peppers

Our s . . . l . . . o . . . w . . . l . . . y growing watermelon

Beets, beets, and more beets . . . now if the moles would just leave this row alone for awhile! We're having some mole trouble this year, and they have caused some damage in a number of our beds. Dad's been 'mole-hunting', though, and so far has gotten three in the garden! It looks like there are still a few more out there, though . . . .

One of the basil plants that is in the tomato rows

One of our worst parts of the garden this year . . . the onions. They ended up with the same fungal problem as last year, though spraying with an organic fungicide held it off for quite awhile. The onions were able to get some size to them and are still growing a bit. And thankfully, there should be enough for using in canning, even though they will be on the small side.

Other things planted in the garden that weren't in the photos are: dill, green onions, bell peppers, parsley, and carrots. The carrots are kind of a disappointment, though, as right after planting them, we got about a 6" rain which washed most of the seeds away. So there are a few straggling plants scattered here and there. I did go back and replant all of the empty spots and hopefully those will sprout and grow!

I have also planted winter squash in numerous locations on our property next to the brush piles. They were mulched around with grass clippings to keep the weeds down around them, and the plan is, for the squash plants to grow up over the brush piles. Our volunteer plants of last year that did this did very well growing over the brush piles and had hardly any problems with disease or bugs. It will be really interesting to see how this experiment goes! So far, there are 18 'hills' of winter squash planted, and I would like to do about 14 more which is one of the things on my 'to-do list' for this week.

As mentioned earlier in this post, Leah and I planted our second batch of green beans the other day. We had Mandy and Lassie out with us, and they (and we) enjoyed that . . . though they didn't exactly appreciate the fence that separated them from us . . .

Lassie watching us through the fence

Meantime, Mandy was enjoying a good roll in the freshly mowed grass. Lassie must have decided that she was more interesting than us . . .

And went over to investigate. It's fun watching these two interact together!

Me raking aside the soil in order to broadcast the seeds

And Leah tamping it down after the seeds were planted and the soil was pulled back over them.

Leah and Mandy having fun together during a break from planting

Yes, pleasant summer days are here . . . the garden is growing, produce is beginning to be harvested, preserving is just around the corner, and we are enjoying it all so much . . . except for maybe the bug picking. :) I am getting a little weary of that, but it sure seems to be helping!

Does anyone else have a garden this year? If so, what all have you been harvesting so far?

Linking up to the "Homestead Barn Hop"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Memorizing and Meditating on Scripture

As I have been going through these busy spring (and now summer) days, there has been much opportunity to think while working on various tasks . . . and something that has been on my heart and on my mind for awhile was at the forefront of this thought. To put it in a few words: growing in Christ and not becoming stagnant in my walk with Him. I was seeing a tendency in myself to get caught up in the busyness of the day and losing the focus of being heavenly minded, and as it says in the book of Colossians, having my mind set on the things above and not on the things that are on earth.

I was missing opportunities to minister to others as my mind was often focused elsewhere and was not actively looking and searching for ways to be the Light of Christ to others.
Not only that, but it felt like I was beginning to stagnate in my walk with Christ as well instead of continuing to grow and mature. As I thought and prayed about this . . . about how to "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus", about how to keep my heart and mind focused where they should be all throughout the day and not just in the morning and evening during my times of Bible reading and prayer, something came to mind.

I was reminded of two round boxes that sit next to my bed . . .
I was reminded that one of those boxes was filled with hundreds of slips of paper with Scripture verses on them that, back in 2003, I had typed and handwritten out . . . verses that had spoken to my heart during my daily Bible reading and that had been written down in my notebook . . .

I was reminded of what I used to do with those verses.
Why I had stopped, I cannot remember, but it was like a light-bulb went off in my head. Here was one way (among others that the Lord has been showing me) that could help me in the areas that I was seeing need for growth in.

So after a several year's break, I am back to pulling out a slip of paper a day and memorizing the verse (or verses) on it and meditating on it throughout the day. If it isn't learned by the end of the next morning, I'll wait to draw out a new one until it is. After only doing this for about a month so far, it has
already been a wonderful blessing to me! Scripture is being memorized and hidden in my heart, the verses are being thought about and meditated upon throughout the day (which has helped so much in regards to having my heart and mind fixed where they need to be, and has also helped me gain a deeper understanding of the verses themselves), and the verses often come to mind to help me in my walk with Christ and remind me of how I should (and shouldn't) be living and being . . . especially in how I respond to others and what my heart should be.

The Lord is so faithful . . . when we seek, He will let us find. And how thankful I am that He helped me see through some of the 'fog' in my own life, and to be able to step just a little closer along this path of growing in Christ. It is a long, and sometimes hard, journey, but what a wonderful journey it is and what joy there is along the way! What peace and what love from the Father that He is so ready to pour abundantly into our hearts as we abide in Him the true Vine! He is good, He is faithful, and words cannot express how very grateful I am for who He is to me . . . for who He is to each of His children.

"Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart."
Psalm 36:5-10

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Visit to the Bulk Food Store

The wheat barrel was getting low, the gallon of honey was reaching its end, various spices were just about out . . . yes, it was time to make the trek down to the bulk food store again! Which is something that we always enjoy doing as not only is it an enjoyable drive through beautiful countryside, but it is also fun to shop at this store. We made an afternoon of it packing drinks and snacks in preparation, and then headed out . . .

An old silo amidst all of the lush green

Old farmhouses are my favorite type of house, and this one is one of my very favorites that I have seen. I love it! I can just imagine what it would look like with a new coat of paint and being fixed up a bit . . . .

A wheat field that is just about ready to be harvested

A not very common sight around here! A herd of dairy cows out on pasture

As always, once we reached the store, we had fun browsing through the aisles, finding the things on our list, plus some other things as well . . .

A box of some of our purchases

And some bags of wheat to refill our wheat barrel with

What a blessing it is to have a bulk food store like this not terribly far away from us! The products are wonderful, the prices are very good, the people who work there are pleasant, we are able to get things that we haven't been able to get elsewhere, and all the while, supporting a wonderful family business. So . . . now our pantry is restocked until it comes time to make another trip down there!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

My computer is up and running again! (Thank you so much, Ryan, for fixing it, and Leah for installing everything back on to it. :) So . . . now the few photos that had been taken before the 'crash' and that had been sitting inaccessible on the hard drive, can be shared . . .

One of Mama's flower gardens . . . I love all of the blooming daisies! Sadly, they're finished for the year, but the coneflowers and black-eyed susans are blooming now.

Leah weeding around the summer squash plants in the part of the vegetable garden that is right behind the flowers. With how much the plants have grown, we're just about to the point that we'll be able to harvest yellow squash again . . . we're all looking forward to that!

Mama pulling weeds in the green beans . . . and they have grown considerably since this photo was taken. In fact, they are crowding over the walkways now and are just about ready to begin flowering. Green bean picking is right around the corner!

A Tiger Swallowtail on some of the flowers

And another one of the same species

Meanwhile, while we ladies worked in the gardens, Daddy worked on making sides for the trailer. Once that was finished, another load of composted horse manure was hauled in for the garden . . . it's amazing how much the manure has already improved the soil.

So there's a little photo catch-up on some of the happenings that had taken place around here awhile back!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Pretzel Experiment

Awhile back, I came across a soft pretzel recipe online that looked really good, so I printed it off in hopes of trying it soon. Yesterday, in between working out in the garden, the recipe was pulled out and the pretzels were made . . .

These were fun to make, though I would make one change for next time . . . less salt! They were really salty and needed a lot less of the coarse salt on them than what I used, and maybe a little less salt in the dough as well. Here is the original recipe for them (using a bread machine to mix the dough), though I used all whole wheat instead of the bread flour . . .

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels

--1/2 cup water
--1 cup milk
--1 Tbsp. sugar
--1 cup whole wheat flour
--3 cups bread flour
--1 1/4 tsp. salt
--1 Tbsp. yeast

Soda wash:
--8 cups water
--1/4 cup baking soda

For topping:
--Coarse salt OR
--melted butter and cinnamon and sugar

In the pan of a bread machine, assemble the dough ingredients in the order recommended. Set the machine to the dough cycle. When the cycle ends, remove the dough to a slightly oiled surface, Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Instead of the parchment paper, I simply greased the cookie sheets generously.)

Roll each portion of dough into a long snake, about 18 inches long. Shape the snake into a horseshoe. Twist the sides of the horseshoe, about halfway up, around each other twice. Flip the ends over onto the U of the horseshoe. Press to seal. Continue until all the pretzels are shaped. (It sounds more complicated than it is . . . it's really simple once you actually start doing it!)

Meanwhile, bring the 8 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and continue to boil. Drop the formed pretzels, one at a time into the soda bath. Boil for about 30 seconds (as they boiled, I pushed them down a bit into the boiling water as well) and then remove to the greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.

Once all of the pretzels have been "bathed", bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown.

If you prefer sweet pretzels, instead of the coarse salt, brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Outing With Friends

Last Thursday, some of our church family and my parents, Leah and I carpooled together to a place about two hours away from us for a fun day spent together. We enjoyed lunch at a cafe and then toured a small Ford museum which was really neat . . .

The row of the oldest cars

And one of my favorites . . . the tire spokes and the steering wheel are made of wood

The wooden steering wheel

Dad and some of our friends looking at the back of one of the cars

This one was the most popular of our group . . . most everyone liked it!

Mom and Leah in front of the pickup. There's nothing like the old Fords! This sure would be fun to use around the farm, and then haul produce to the farmer's market in it. :)

This was on the side of the pickup, and I found it quite interesting. Times sure have changed, haven't they?!

A taste from the 'good ole days'

After enjoying the museum together, we went on a tour of the goat and cow dairy barns. The goats were by far the children's favorite! Which was largely due to the fact that they were able to pet the kids . . . .

Inside the dairy goat barn

Some of the to be mama goats

An adorable, tiny baby kid that was in the barn

Dad and Leah having fun watching the goats . . . they (the goats) were entertaining at times!

One of our friends and her little daughter watching the goats. There was a mama and her baby in the back corner which the children enjoyed seeing.

Mom watching the goats
(and some of the photos in this post are courtesy of her . . . she has a camera now and is enjoying taking photos!)

And Mom is not the only one with a new camera . . . this little girl just recently got one as well, and she had so much fun taking photos of the goats.

Daddy with some of the kids . . . they love to suck on fingers!

Me with five curious little guys that were very interested in my fingers!

Dad and one of our young friends with Mom in the background taking pictures

Leah and two of the girls petting some of the littlest kids in the barn

After thoroughly enjoying all of the kids, we were off to the dairy cow maternity barn! We only stopped there briefly . . .

And then moved on to watch a most interesting process . . . something we had never seen before (other than a video online that some of us saw before we went on the outing) . . .

Watching through the glass . . .

A cow carousel! The carousel has many stanchions on it with milkers at each one. Just about every stanchion has a cow in it and the carousel slowly turns around while the cows are being milked.

And each time a stanchion hits the 'beginning point' again, one cow backs out of her stanchion, and another walks in. It is really interesting to see how well trained the cows are and how smoothly this works!

How many pounds of milk a particular cow had given at the time she moved past where we were standing

We watched the milking process for awhile before enjoying some cheese that had been made at the dairy. All of this sure makes me eager for when we will hopefully be able to get our own dairy animals!

We ended our time at the dairy by stopping by to see the little calves . . .

And then we headed homeward. The return trip was fun with all of the visiting together and playing 'car games' with the children. Friends are such a blessing, and we were thankful that we were able to enjoy this time together!