Saturday, June 30, 2012

Treasure and Tidbits

I love the fact that God's Word is "living and active" and how each time we read it, different things will stand out to us or speak to our hearts. No matter how many times we read it, there is always something more to learn . . . some new application that we hadn't realized before . . . some aspect to delve deeper into. I was reminded of that again today . . .

 Recently I have been struggling with a certain area in my life and knew my own weakness and was struggling against it . . . when I opened my Bible this morning to read, in the very first chapter where I began a verse that I have read many times before yet had not marked in any way, especially spoke to my heart. And it is now underlined. :) It applied perfectly and was exactly what I needed to hear . . .

". . . Christ . . . who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you." (2 Corinthians 13:3)

After reading that verse, I had to stop and read it again and thank the Lord for how He uses His word to help us in our walk with Him. And to thank Him for this. That He is indeed mighty in me. I am, oh! so weak, but He is strong, and through Him and His abiding love, one can overcome. What an incredibly humbling and encouraging truth!

Needless to say, this was a wonderful start to the day . . . and as I went about the various tasks, this verse often came to mind and was a help and encouragement.

I had planned to try to take photos throughout the day to share more of a glimpse into 'daily life', but I ended up with only three. :) So you'll just have to imagine the yogurt making, the successful mozzarella cheese making, the unsuccessful ricotta cheese making, all the animal watering that Dad, Leah and I have been doing throughout the day due to the high heat (which is quite time consuming!), the laughter, the enjoyable conversations, the singing, the huge mountain of dishes (or, I should say, three mountains of dishes), the delicious 'garden' dinner, the many loads of laundry dried on the line, watering in the garden, picking bugs off of the squash plants, adding a hive body to one of our hives, and making zucchini bread.

But here are the three things you don't have to imagine :) . . .

 Mom in the kitchen blanching beans (20 pounds of them to be exact which Leah and I picked yesterday) while she also worked on making this . . .

Blackberry cobbler! A friend of ours gave us a bunch of huge and delicious blackberries so Mom turned them into this . . . it was very good!


And while we ladies were busy in the kitchen, Dad worked on a teaching for tomorrow.

So that about sums up our day! Now with the evening animal chores all finished, I am guessing that everyone is beginning to gather in the living room now so I think I will go join them so that we can enjoy a relaxing evening together . . . one of our favorite parts of the day. 

I hope that you all have a blessed and refreshing Sunday tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green Beans in the Garden

 

 The words to this song were running through our minds yesterday morning as Mom, Leah and I sat out in the lush green bean rows picking together before the heat of the sun became oppressive. It was so pleasant to do together, and we had a wonderful time! And we came away with 24 pounds of green beans . . . add that to the 8 pounds that Leah had picked the day before, and we had a lot to put up!



After I got them all washed, we had fun snapping them all, and then Mom and Leah blanched them and got them put up in the freezer while I primed some beehive boxes.

And speaking of beehives, last week Dad and I did full inspections on each of the four hives (yes, we have four now due to another split that we did.) It had been about 7 weeks since we had done our last full inspections so it was a lot of fun to get deep into the hives and see all that has transpired since then! 

(The below photos are older ones from April when we did our first artificial swarm. They are the only photos I have of beekeeping lately, and as I haven't shared them yet, here they are. :)



Looking for the queen

Each hive is doing really well, and two of the hives have been making a lot of honey . . . we're excited about that!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Caring for the Orphans

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Several months ago, a friend of mine, Joy, posted on her blog about caring for the orphans around the world, and she shared several links to various blogs and posts that broke my heart to read and impacted my life. One of the links was to a blog that I have since been following . . . this family has 10 children and their 10th was born with Down syndrome. Through the gift of Verity and with how the Lord led them and taught them, they later adopted a precious little girl with Down syndrome from an orphanage in Bulgaria . . . an orphanage that significantly abused and neglected the helpless children there. Little Katie was miraculously found, brought home to America, and is now being loved, cared for, and taught by parents and siblings who love her so much. Who love Christ so much, and that love is pouring out from them as they work to help rescue the other children from Katie's orphanage and other desperately needy children as well.

Their blog can be found here:


And these two posts from their blog illustrate in a beautiful way what the Lord has done in little Katie's life:



There are so many children from Katie's orphanage who are in desperate need . . . both physically, spiritually and emotionally. Susanna, the author of The Blessing of Verity blog and the mother of Katie, often shares posts about these children and I can hardly read them without tears . . . this last one greatly touched my heart and was the prompt for sharing what I am here . . .


I wish I could rescue each one of these precious children . . . but I can't. I can't even rescue one. But I can pray. And I am asking you all to please pray with me that families would come forward and be able to adopt each of these special children. They desperately need love and care . . . spiritually, emotionally, physically . . . they are each children whom the Lord greatly loves . . . children for whom He died . . . please join me in praying for them!

"'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
Matthew 25:35-40 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

~ Sisters ~

The temperature was hot, the sun was shining brightly, Dad and Mom had gone for a drive together, and Leah and I decided to head outside despite the heat and to enjoy some time together. My camera came along, and before long, we had an impromptu photo shoot . . . and a great deal of fun. :) Below are some of the photos that we captured of each other . . .

Me

And Leah

And this is what happens when the photographer keeps snapping photo after photo when the subject doesn't realize it. :)

 
Wildflowers . . . my favorite type of flower

Sisters . . . and best of friends

 Me

Leah

"A merry heart doeth good like medicine" . . . and I can guarantee that if you are around Leah for much length of time, your heart will be cheered and made merry. She always seems happy! And she spreads that happiness (and yes, laughter, too :) to those around her.

I am so blessed to have Leah as my sister!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bounty from the Garden

Our two months of dry weather was finally broken by a 3/4 inch rain about a week ago, and then over this past weekend, we got over an inch! We are so thankful to the Lord for all of the rain! And thankful that we can take a break from watering the garden for awhile. :) Despite the lack of rain, though, the garden has been thriving . . . most of these photos are older, so just imagine the plants about twice the size . . . 

Tomatoes, Mangel Beets, Onions, Carrots, Broccoli and Green Beans

These are the best onions we've grown in all our years of gardening, and I've already started harvesting a bunch of them.

A 'top view' of the garden (as seen from the 'tower' of our old swing set my Dad had built when we were kids.) What is in the garden this year: zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, peppers, celery, dill, cilantro, green beans, beets, carrots, mangel beets, Swiss chard, onions, broccoli, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, lettuce, and spinach. And then back in the very back, kind of in the orchard, are a number of hills of winter squash and then there are more tomatoes and peppers on the backside of the orchard and to the right of it as well.

Innovation . . . tepee tomato 'cages' made out of branches . . . and they work! 
(When I ran out of tomato cages, I made these for the remaining plants . . . I wish I would have done it on all of them as the strong winds that we had recently blew over most of the caged ones.)

The zucchini and yellow squash patch lined with marigolds (which are some of the ones that were volunteers early in the spring and that were transplanted in many different places around the garden.)

Last evening, we lost a zucchini plant . . . here, I am trying to figure out what caused it . . . and discovered that about seven inches of the stem had turned to mush near the base. The plant pretty much fell apart when I pulled it out to discard it. I had wondered if it might be a squash vine borer, but when we had them before, I had never seen anything like this. Any ideas?

 A bunch of growing yellow squash.
Several of the larger ones were harvested this morning as well as a lot of zucchini. I think squash casserole will be on the menu for this week :) . . . .

The green beans are getting close to being ready to pick

Jalapeno peppers . . . the only reason I grow these is for salsa and a few other canned goods, but since the tomatoes aren't ready yet, these will have to wait awhile to be harvested.

The back part of the garden . . . between the green beans and cucumber trellises, watermelon and cantaloupe are planted. My hope is that the green beans will be finished and ready to be tilled under by the time the melon plants are ready to spread out. It will be interesting to see how the timing works with that!

Slicing cucumbers crawling up the trellis

The green onions from last year went to seed, so once again, I am saving seed from them.

The peaches are slowly ripening! And when walking by the trees you can begin to smell the delicious scent of them now.

The beet row ready to be harvested . . . the first crop of 2012 for preservation!

First I pulled all of the sizeable ones and left the few small ones to grow some more (it was 46 pounds of beets once the tops were all cut off!)

A rather full compost bin :)

A new method for washing beets . . . once the tray is full like this I spray them well with a hose, flip the tray around, spray again, and they're done! It is so much faster than handwashing each of them.

Beautiful beets

And the results of a LONG day spent in the kitchen! 19 quarts worth of beets. (Thanks Mom and Leah for your help with all of the peeling and chopping!) And yes, there is liquid loss from the jars - I still haven't been able to prevent that with beets.

Next to harvest were the carrots, and like the onions, these are the best we have ever been able to grow. I've been harvesting and preserving them in small batches so this was one of three loads - so far 37 pounds have been canned, and I hope to do more this week.

All washed and ready for us to peel and chop.

While working in the garden, I love having the company of the goats close by . . . they are all so sweet, not to mention entertaining!

I also enjoy being able to glance over and see the busy bee activity around the hives . . . this is our largest of the hives so far, and they are working on filling the second super with honey. If all continues to go as well as it has, we'll have our own honey this fall!

The vegetable garden isn't the only garden that I have been giving time to as I have continued to work in the little garden that I made near our front door early this spring. It has been enjoyable to see it beginning to fill out!

And while not garden related, I found this photo when editing the garden ones and thought I'd share about our second cheese making experience . . .


It was a success! It went much better than last time. All I needed to do was let the rennet/milk mixture set longer to form the curd. And was this cheese ever delicious! Cheesemaking has quickly become something that I very much enjoy doing . . . and I hope to eventually expand my horizons a bit and try cheddar cheese, but I think I'll wait a bit longer before attempting that!

So . . . all of this is one of the reasons why I haven't been blogging a great deal lately. :) Farm life is certainly a busy one, but so enjoyable and satisfying, too!


Linking up to the "Homestead Barn Hop"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Sunday Hymn ~ Take My Life and Let It Be

Take my life, and let it be 
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
 Take my hands and let them move
 At the impulse of Thy love,
 At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
 Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King,
Always, only for my King.
 
 Take my lips, and let them be
 Filled with praises, Lord, to Thee;
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold,
Not a mite would I withhold.


Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
 Ever, only, all for Thee. 
  

Words by: Frances Ridley Havergal

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)

"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.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Recent Reading

The past few months the garden, animals, processing produce, and more has occupied many of the hours of my days leaving little time for reading. But I always manage to find at least some spare moments to read, and by doing so, have been able to enjoy several different books over the past month or two . . .

Mrs. Solomon Smith Looking On

This is another of Isabella Alden's books and while it is a bit slower than her other books and has a less distinct storyline, it is still one of my favorites! Each time I read this book, I find my heart convicted and my mind filled with new ideas and inspiration as to my own spiritual life and how I communicate and live out my faith to others. The main character, Mrs. Solomon Smith, is an older woman (in her 60's I believe) who is a simple, country woman, uncultured in her ways. But she has a deep and sincere love for the Lord and His Word. She studies it and lives it. And because her heart is so full with Scripture and "heavenly things", and because "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks", her conversations with clerks at the store, the person sitting next to her on the train, her niece, friends, all are gently turned to spiritual things whether it be an encouraging word, a question as to where they will spend eternity, or simply speaking of the Lord and His goodness . . . yet it is all done so naturally. Even though she is a fictional character, she is a wonderful example!


The Natural Soap Book

Any guesses what I would like to learn how to do next? :) After hearing of my desire to learn how to make soap, a soap making friend recommended this book to me, and I am so glad that she did! It has been very helpful, and I have a much better understanding of soap itself, the ingredients used, and the soap making process. I haven't quite finished the book yet, but am already looking forward to making that first batch of soap! 


Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal  
(I don't have a photo of this book as I do not have my own copy yet . . . until then, I am reading it online.)

This book is another one that had been recommended to me, and I have so been enjoying reading it! Frances Havergal's book Kept for the Master's Use was perhaps the most spiritual encouraging and convicting book I have read (outside of the Bible, of course!), and reading her biography which was written/compiled by her sister (and which includes very many letters, personal writings, etc. of Frances's) has been so encouraging as well. As I have read its pages, I have been struck with how similar many of her personal struggles and triumphs have been to mine and how well I can relate to much of what she shares . . . and I have also been convicted by her deep spiritual life and her great love for the Lord and her desire to grow in Him. It is a very good book, and one that I know I will be reading again!

 
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

It probably seems a little strange for someone who isn't even married to be interested in reading about various homeschooling methods, but I am. :) And I have been curious about the Charlotte Mason method after hearing about it many times and seeing it mentioned quite often online. So when I saw this book at a garage sale, I picked it up. I have to say, I was disappointed with the book . . . it wasn't quite what I was expecting. While I appreciate some of the concepts of the Charlotte Mason method and I could see using a number of different things (I love the nature study/notebook idea!), I disagree with much of the philosophy that is presented in this book. I guess when I picture homeschooling, what I see is the Lord and His Word being the foundation and the central focus - the heart of the homeschool. Then the learning about the world around us . . . history, science, etc. . . . all would be built upon that foundation and learned about and viewed through a Biblical worldview. This book, however, seemed to present the opposite . . . first learning about the world, people, etc. from a cultural and moral perspective and then having God, the Bible and faith kind of sprinkled in here and there.

Here is just a little example of one tiny aspect of that . . . in this book, it is said that children should have heroes . . . so they are encouraged to read Greek Mythology (I could write a lot about my disagreement with that!) and about great artists or composers, etc. The children are then encouraged to look up to and admire these individuals as their heroes . . . they are encouraged, by their admiration of them, to desire to be like them, to emulate them. Learning about the latter individuals, their work, character, etc. as a part of learning about history, I would agree with . . . but if I were to encourage my children to have 'heroes', it would not be the 'worldly heroes' and based upon their physical achievements, but it would be the heroes of the faith . . . those that we read about in Scripture (i.e. David, Abraham, Ruth, etc.), missionaries (Gladys Aylward, George Meuller, etc.), or other great men and women of God.

To put it simply, the focus of this book seems more upon raising and educating children with good culture and high ideals and morals with really no mention of what is by far the most important . . . upon being  godly men and women who are well-equipped by their education to serve and minister to others in the ways and means that the Lord may call them to. Anyway, those are my thoughts about this book in a tiny, little nutshell!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So . . . what books have you been reading?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Blackberry Picking

Over the years, it has been so nice to be able to discover different wild fruits on our place and to then be able to harvest and use them. First, it was the wild plum trees, and then a large mulberry tree was discovered. I had looked for blackberries, but never found any. But then this past winter, Dad cut down an old wild plum tree (that didn't produce anymore, and that was not only shading some of our fruit trees in our orchard, but was slowly dying, too.) With the tree gone and the sunlight now able to reach the brambles underneath, they yielded forth their fruit in abundance . . .


I have been enjoying going out and picking about every other day (and enjoying some of the sweet, juicy berries while I picked, too :), and so far, have been able to harvest around three quarts of berries. I've simply put them in the freezer for now until the harvest is finished as I am not sure what I'll decide to do with them. If there ends up being enough, I just might make blackberry jelly again which is a favorite around here!


There is something restful about berry picking . . . each time I have gone out I so enjoy it! The other evening especially so . . . the air was fairly still other than a light breeze from time to time. As I approached the berry patch, two little fledgling Carolina Wrens hopped out from underneath and began chattering away at me, and as I picked, the beautiful song of the Wood Thrush sounded in the distance. Other bird calls could be heard around me, and various insect life was around in abundance. The goats were out grazing in the pasture with the sun setting behind them, and their soft bleats could be heard occasionally as well. It was idyllic . . . I couldn't help but smile as I picked!

Now the patch is almost finished producing, and then I'll get to 
 decide what to do with all of the berries!

A Recipe by Request ~ Broccoli Salad

Here is the recipe for you, Betsy! (And anyone else who may want it. :) Hope you enjoy!


Broccoli Salad

-2 lbs. fresh broccoli
-1/2 lb. bacon
-8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2 mild red onion
-1 cup mayonnaise
-1/2 cup sugar (this much sugar made it a little too sweet for us - next time we'll be decreasing the amount!)
-2 Tbsp. vinegar

Wash and drain broccoli. Trim and cut into 1-in. pieces. Fry bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. Mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Toss with broccoli, bacon, cheese and onion. Coat all of broccoli well. Serve immediately.