Friday, August 31, 2012

Rain!

This morning as Dad, Leah and I hurried to finish chores and build a hoop house as a shelter for Gunner, the rains began. First just a light shower, then the rain increased and remained a steady, soaking rain throughout the day.

 
You could hear it hitting the leaves of the trees, falling to the ground, soaking into our clothes . . . rain drops made streams running down our faces. Leah and I worked to bend cattle panels and wire them down to re-bar stakes that she had pounded into the ground while laughing, smiling, stopping to simply look at the rain falling from the sky, and enjoying what we have been praying for for so long . . . rain.

 
The rain gauge as of a short while ago.

The life-sustaining moisture has fallen all day long, and after a break for a bit this afternoon, it is forecast to continue through tomorrow evening. I can just imagine the plant and tree roots sucking up the much-needed moisture! Even with what we have gotten so far, it should be enough to save some of our many trees that have started to die. And it should also rejuvenate the pastures again so that farmers may be able to get in one more hay crop this year. There is an extreme hay shortage here and more hay to harvest would definitely be a blessing!

Puddles!

As I worked in the sewing room later in the day, listening to the delightful sound of rain pattering on the roof, glancing from time to time out the window to watch the rain fall, a verse from Psalms kept coming to mind . . .

"O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water."
Psalm 63:1

What parallels there are between the drought and rain to we ourselves! The Lord and His Word are like that life-sustaining rain to our spirits. The more we are abiding in them, drinking of them, and getting our sustenance from them, the more growth and fruit-bearing there will be; the lush green growth that comes from being well-watered.

If we do not, we become dry, thirsty, non-productive . . . 


Like many of the trees here which have either started dying or have become dormant, we likewise stagnate without the living water of the Word flowing into us.


Another verse that had kept coming to mind today was from the book of Hebrews . . .

"For ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;" (Hebrews 6:7.)

May our hearts be as the well tilled soil that drinks up the rain that falls upon our hearts! That seeks the 'rain' in God's Word and in abiding in Jesus Christ, our life-giving Vine. As I shared in something I had written several years ago that was related to the verse quoted earlier from Psalms . . .

"As the parched and cracked ground thirsts desperately for the life-giving rain to fall upon it and bring growth, so also should our hearts thirst and long after the Lord and His Word so that we can know Him more and grow, bearing fruit for His glory."

As this day is gradually coming to a close, my heart is thanking the Lord for the abundant rain He has given, and thanking Him for convicting and encouraging my heart through His Word!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fun Family Outings

 On the drive down to the music fest

The past two weekends we have been able to attend two much enjoyed events . . . this past Saturday, we went to the Homeschool Music Fest down in southern Missouri which was so enjoyable!

This was a beautiful spot! There are quite a few trees that are dying due to the drought, though, as you can see by all of the brown in this photo.

Visiting with people, listening to music, enjoying fellowship, and much more. We weren't able to stay terribly long (and thus, missed a lot of the music) as we needed to leave early in order to get home in time to do the milking and the evening chores. But the time we were able to spend was a definite blessing! The highlight for me was being able to see and visit with a dear friend of mine, Joy, again! We talked for quite a long time, and what a blessing and encouragement it was to me. (Thank you, Joy!) It was also fun meeting the rest of her family and seeing her girls again, too!

(I didn't take any photos at the music fest, simply because I knew we didn't have much time and I didn't want to be thinking about photographing when I could be visiting! :)

Due to the stress of the drought, some of the trees are changing color early - the reds were brilliant!

I do have photos from what we did the other Saturday, though . . .we went to the . . .


This was definitely a fun day! The weather was near perfect for being at the fair, and our family enjoyed wandering around the fair grounds, watching different judging events, going into the 4-H, Home-Ec, and FFA buildings, walking through some of the animal barns, and more. Here are a few photos of some of the things we saw . . . .

 
The draft horse judging was early in the morning, so we went there first and were able to see some of the Percherons judged. They are beautiful (and huge!) horses! 

We were also able to see part of the dairy goat show, and even some Alpines being judged (which are the breed in this photo.) It's hard to believe that it was only a year ago when we were walking through the goat barn at the fair and looking forward to when we would have our own dairy goats!

One of our favorite things . . . antique tractors!

This was a sweet display in the Home-Ec building . . . antique baby items.

This style of quilt isn't one I especially care for, but I could not help admiring the intricate quilting and trapunto work! Isn't it amazing? I can only imagine how many hours were spent creating this masterpiece.

An adorable smocked baby bonnet . . . this is one of those things that I would really like to learn how to do someday!

Several antique quilts on display. One of which had a tag saying who made it . . .

How special it must be to have a quilt with so much personal family history!

This was something my Dad liked . . . a handcrafted gun case. It had such intricate detail!

A wagon that I am guessing is for the draft horse hitches - those are always fun to see, but this time we weren't there when they were going on.

This was my favorite part of the fair . . . watching cattle judging! I had wondered if goats might end up replacing my love for cattle, but only a moment sitting in the stands watching the cattle being judged quickly assured me that cattle are still my favorite farm animal. :) And it made me smile seeing this little girl showing and working with her Limousin heifer. 

This was sweet! Father and son showing their heifer together.

One of the Budweiser Clydesdales 
(too bad they have to be the mascot for that company, but I sure do enjoy seeing these beautiful and powerful animals!)

Leah and I looking at the Clydesdales (photo courtesy of my Dad. :)

It was neat to see this! They were practicing in one of the outdoor arenas.

It was so enjoyable and refreshing to be able to enjoy both of these outings together as a family . . . a time to be together, enjoy one another's company, and take pleasure in things that are of 
interest to all of us!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Honey Harvest!

When we first began keeping bees last year, there were two goals in view (besides the desire to keep bees simply for the enjoyment of it!) - one, pollination of our fruit trees and vegetable garden, and two, honey! A first year hive doesn't generally produce excess honey for harvest, so we were anticipating the possibility of getting some this year. But then when the drought hit, we weren't sure if we would get any or not.

Dad and I inspected all of the hives again this past Monday, and two of them still had enough honey stored away for us to harvest some! You can imagine how happy we all were about that. :) We started with the hive that had the smaller amount of honey to harvest, and on Monday, put what is called a 'bee escape board' (a one way exit) between the honey supers and the the brood chambers. The next day, then, when we went out to pull off the honey supers, most of the bees had already vacated them. That made our job easier getting the remaining bees off of the frames!

A super with honey frames in it 
(by the time this photo was taken, some of the frames had already been extracted.)

Then came the exciting part . . . extracting! Something I was really looking forward to! I had gotten everything set up prior so we were all ready to begin. First we started uncapping frames . . .

 

In a beehive, once the honey is ripe, the bees cap it with little wax cappings. In order to extract the honey from the frames, these cappings need to be removed with an uncapping knife. If the comb is nice and smooth like the one above, it is a fairly simple process. The below frame was a little more challenging . . .

On this frame, the bees had drawn out some of the comb quite a distance, but then the center top portion of the frame was not drawn out nearly as much so its cappings were down lower than the rest of them.

At this point, everyone was noticing the delicious scent of honey filling the air! And everyone enjoyed a little sample from the honey that had come off with the cappings. It was so good! 

Daddy drying off the uncapping knife after heating it in a pot of boiling water (a step that needed to be done each time we uncapped a side of a frame.)

Here he's taking a turn decapping frames while I hold the wire rack still that the frame is sitting on.

In this photo, I was using what is called an 'uncapping scratcher' to remove the cappings that the knife missed. Look at all the beautiful honey on the back of the frame!

And while all of the uncapping was going on, Mom was busy in the living room repairing one of our rugs :) . . .


Once we had three frames uncapped, we started extracting! (Since our extractor only holds three frames at a time.)

Ready to extract!

Spinning the frames

And after the frames were extracted, the bottom was full of honey!
Which then drained out and into this double sieve. This was exciting to watch! Our first honey! 
(The first sieve has wider holes, and it removes all of the larger wax cappings, etc. The next sieve is much finer, and it removes whatever the first one can't.)

Once the honey flowed through the sieve, it drained into a honey bucket. It took awhile for all of the honey to drain and filter, and once it had, we covered the bucket and let the honey sit for a few days to let the air bubbles rise to the surface. After a couple of days, we bottled it!


This was a fun part! Especially seeing 4 half gallon jars fill with beautiful golden honey, and then also a partial, quart jar, too. The honey has a complex and deliciously sweet flavor which we really like! And to think that it came from our own bees!

All of the hard work, the bee inspections, the stings, the disappointments, the learning, the experimenting, the fun, and much more over the past year and a half, all culminated to our first honey harvest. Which is hopefully the first of many!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Best of Intentions . . .

. . . do not get blog posts written. :)

Every day for the past week, I have fully intended to put up a new post . . . the days have been full, and there is much to share! Such as celebrating Leah's birthday and spending part of the day with Ashley and Gracen thrift store shopping and then a wonderful evening with our whole family together, or about spending last Saturday at the Missouri State Fair, and then we also have a new goat, too, that I still haven't posted about! Then there is the honey extraction that we did earlier this week (which was so much fun!) My mind has certainly been full of many things to share, but the minutes in the day to actually sit down and put thoughts down on 'paper' and upload photos have not exactly been in abundance.

I do hope to post about the honey extraction tomorrow, but until then, here is something else I have been wanting to share . . .

Guess who's walking now?!

  
Ryan and Ashley had told us that she had started walking, but last Friday was the first time we had actually seen it. It was exciting to watch! She's really enjoying practicing her new skill, and so far has taken up to ten steps at a time. She still prefers crawling, though, when she wants to get somewhere in a hurry! It is so much fun to kneel down, hold out your hands to her, and see her bright smiling face, arms outstretched as she slowly totters to us and into our waiting arms for a hug. Oh, the joy that she brings!

"Here I come, Aunt Sarah!"

 "But crawling is so much faster when I want to get to you and see the camera!"

(Taking photos of Adelyn walking was not the easiest as she always wants to be behind the camera and watching the little screen where the photos show up!)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Day with Little Friends

One day last week after morning chores were finished, Leah and I went and picked up three young sisters who are friends of ours and brought them back to our house for a fun day together. The drive was so enjoyable! The girls were all in the back seat laughing, talking, and having a lot of fun. The closer we got to our house, the more their excitement grew!

We finally pulled into our driveway, unloaded everybody, and headed inside to start on a project that was planned for the day . . . making zucchini bread! With the zucchini that these girls and their brother had grown themselves in their own garden! 

Earlier this year, Leah and I had helped them turn up a small area in their backyard and helped them plant some green beans, zucchini, lettuce and tomatoes. When the heat and drought hit, I was really hoping that their garden would survive and produce at least something . . . yet I knew that without faithful watering (for weeks on end), that wouldn't happen. But guess who did a fantastic job watering for almost two months? :) Yes, the children certainly did despite the heat and drought, and thanks to each one of their efforts, they were able to harvest lettuce and zucchini so far.

They were so sweet and wanted to give their first zucchinis to us since we had helped them plant their garden. So we ended up making a deal with them . . . we'd take the zucchini on the condition that they would help us turn them into zucchini bread!

Big sister grating while little sister watches and helps hold the grater still - they were fascinated by the process and kept wanting to look inside to see how much had been grated!

 
Older sister's turn

Leah helping the youngest crack her first ever egg! The first one was perfect . . . the second . . . well, lets just say it provided a lot of laughs all around and some messy hands that needed to be washed!

And into the blender they go!

The blender was fun to watch apparently. :)

After the zucchini bread was in the oven baking, we headed outdoors to enjoy the beautiful (and cooler!) day . . . visiting the goats was first as that is the girls' favorite animal we have. They love to watch them! Then we moved onto the rabbits . . .

Leah holding the youngest so she could pet a baby rabbit

Watching the chickens that were underneath of the coop

Then we visited the cats . . . the littlest girl always enjoys seeing them, and she and I sat here for quite awhile watching 'Kitty'

A walk down our driveway came next, and it quickly turned into a nature walk as the girls gathered what few flowers there were and other things such as cedar tree 'berries' and wild plums.

Our grass is even a little green here! What's not in the picture, though, is one of our big trees to the left which is all wilted . . . how badly we need rain! Instead of being in just an extreme drought now, our area has been moved into the worst drought level there is - 'exceptional drought.' At least the hot weather has left, and we all greatly enjoyed the beautiful day!

A handful of treasures

When we began our walk, I offered my camera to the oldest girl as she really enjoys photography . . . so almost all of the photos from the walk are hers! It was fun to see what images she captured such as this one of a turkey vulture flying overhead.

Me breaking off a thorn from a locust tree in order to show it to the girls

As the time came closer for the bread to be finished, we headed back inside where we spent most of the rest of our day together . . .

The two littlest girls were using the blocks as 'food' for the dolls. The yellow ones I believe were bananas, the green blocks were peas, and the blue ones were blueberries. :)

She loves to read! And she enjoyed a number of books that were on our bookshelves

Do you remember our 'lending library'? Well, we had forgotten what all books the children had borrowed and read, so the oldest girl went through the bookshelves with Leah, and Leah wrote down all the ones they had read so far and which ones they would like to read again.

Eventually, much to the girls' disappointment, it was time for us to bring them home (along with a loaf of their delicious zucchini bread. :) The drive back to their place was a lot of fun! And the girls assured us that they would love to be 'kidnapped' again!