Saturday, December 28, 2013

A World of Ice

Last weekend, the freezing rain went long into the night coating everything in a brilliant blanket of ice. It was a beautiful (and slick!) world we awoke to on Sunday morning! The temperature was quite cold, and the sun refused all day to peek through the thick gray cover of clouds. Judging by the forecast, the 3/8" or so of ice we had received was going to be here for awhile, so I refrained from going on a 'photography walk' until the cheery sunshine returned. 

Monday morning that time had come! The sun broke through and lit everything up . . . and photos could not fully capture the incredible brilliance. It was so bright with the sun reflecting off of all of the ice that at times it hurt the eyes! Yet it was so beautiful as well . . .




It was slick walking on grass like this! Though easier on the grass than in the areas where the ground was bare. :)







The ice stayed well into the week until warmer tempertaures arrived. With that and sunshine, things began melting so quickly, and it looked like it was raining outside! And sounded like it, too. We enjoyed the beauty while it lasted, though we were all grateful to welcome the warmer weather and sunshine that we've had since then!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bracing for a Winter Storm

Freezing rain has already begun to fall and there is more in the forecast for today, and tonight and then snow on top of that. Fitting weather for the first day of winter! :) Earlier this week, though, we had beautiful days with highs in the 40's and 50's which allowed for the blanket of snow to slowly retreat and then disappear . . .

Slowly, slowly the snow is melting


Aurora and Sierra

There are a few remaining strawflowers in the garden, and they provide
quite the striking contrast against the snow

As much as I enjoyed the beautiful snowfall last weekend, the warmer temperatures were very welcomed after our long cold spell!

Me out for a walk and thoroughly enjoying the warmer weather

The honeybees appreciated the warmer temperatures as well, and one day, two of the hives were seen busy cleaning house . . . .

 Taking their cleansing flights and removing dead bees from inside the hive

As the temperature dropped and the outdoors is now slowly being covered in a layer of ice, hands have been staying busy indoors this week with things such as . . .

~ Making Soap ~

 The first time using one of the oil infusions as a colorant! This soap was made with the oil infused with paprika (and it is a little brighter in the photo than what it is in person.)


~ Sewing ~

I have accumulated a pile of fabric to be made into garments for myself and for my Mom, and above are two of them (the top one is for an apron and the bottom for a skirt.) I am hoping over these next few weeks to put quite a dent in the "needs to be sewn" pile! Already one skirt is finished, and I have started on another.


~ Writing Letters ~
 
Ready to begin writing two little friends . . . another letter was just finished and is waiting to be mailed as soon as the weather allows for mail service!


~ Quilting and Embroidery ~
(which has been progressing well since my last post about them) 


With the winter weather and cold temperatures on the way once again, it will make for pleasant times indoors continuing to work on projects such as these!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Great is Thy Faithfulness

This hymn has been on my heart and mind as of late and I thought I would share it here . . . it is one of my favorites, and I hope that it will be a blessing and encouragement to you as it has been to me!

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Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Words by: Thomas O. Chisholm

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

His faithfulness is indeed so very great! And how very thankful I am for it.

"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."
Psalm 36:5-9

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(Both of the above photos were taken this past Sunday . . . one in the morning 
and the other in the evening, and they seemed to fit well with this post.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Making Memories

Leah, Gracen and Adelyn playing the piano and singing together . . . so fun to listen to!

Mom reading books to Adelyn

Adelyn and I having fun making potato soup together for dinner . . . I was cutting up the potatoes and then putting them on her cutting board for her to put in the pot. She loved helping!

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

The above photos were taken yesterday when Adelyn and Gracen spent the day 
with us - it was a fun day to say the least! :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Wonderland

We had our first significant snowfall of the season now! Winter weather advisories were in effect all day yesterday, and we had freezing rain in the morning which turned to rain during the day and then switched back to freezing rain in the evening and eventually to snow. When Leah and I stepped out the door to go get Willow and Dixie at milking time in the evening, large, beautiful flakes were falling from the sky and just beginning to cover the ground.

The temperature was hovering right around freezing, and the snow was a very wet and heavy snow. Beautiful to see! Yet not the best for chicken pen netting, etc. and especially with already having a coating of freezing rain on everything. So last night until around 11:00 pm (at which time the snow began to taper off), every hour Dad, Leah and I bundled up and went outdoors to brush the snow off of the rabbit hoop house and off of the netting of both chicken pens.

With it being quite outside of the norm, this was more of a late night adventure rather than work. :) We had a lot of fun together! Plus we were able to enjoy the snowfall at a time of day we don't usually. And last night, it was especially beautiful . . . the moon and the nearby city lights were lighting up the sky and reflecting off of the snow so much, that even though it was late and would typically be quite dark, it was instead so bright out that we could see all the way across our neighbor's pasture and beyond into the cropland behind the pasture.

During one of our ventures outdoors and after the 'work' was done, Leah and I stood out there for awhile and admired the beauty of God's creation and watched and listened to the snowflakes falling from the sky. It was so peaceful!
 

Morning dawned today with everything coated in a blanket of white . . . the sky was heavily overcast and a few tiny snowflakes could still be seen from time to time slowly drifting down from the sky. Morning chores were enjoyable, and it was fun to watch the goat's reactions to the snow! Some were indifferent, others saw it as something to play in, and a few were quite skeptical as to whether it was safe to walk on or not. :)

Once all of the animals were fed and watered, I went for a pleasant walk with my camera . . . .

Part of the rabbit shelter with the chicken coop to the right of it

Ebony peeking at me over the fence (she's one who thought the snow was for playing in. :)

Sienna wasn't so sure about the snow, though!

Four of the beehives . . . right after this photo was taken, I cleared all of the snow away from the entrances.

Some of the goats . . . Willow, Ebony, Sienna and Aspen


Coneflower seed heads covered in snow

Bright red berries on the burning bush

Looking out across our neighbor's pasture

I am very much enjoying the first significant snow of the season while it lasts! Which won't be for long as warmer temperatures are finally on their way . . . as in, nearly a whole week forecasted to be in the upper 30's and 40's!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Always Being Ready

I had posted this over on Follow in His Steps, but as it is a more 
personal post, I thought I would share it here as well . . . .

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During times when we are in town, it is not uncommon for someone to come up to us and either make a comment about our dress and/or demeanor or to ask questions about our faith, what church we go to, etc. This has been a learning and growing experience for me! I love discussing Scripture with others and sharing about the Lord, but sometimes if I am not expecting it and if my mind is preoccupied with other things, it can be a little challenging to know how best to respond or to be able to switch my focus and thought processes to sharing about and/or defending the faith. So each time one of these opportunities arises, I try to learn from it and then prepare better for the next time!

Well last week, we had another of these opportunities . . . Leah and I were in town mailing packages and picking up some business supplies, when a man approached us in one of the stores and asked the question “What church do you go to?” That question opened the door for about a fifteen minute conversation with this gentleman. Towards the beginning of the conversation, we explained the basics about what we believe, and he shared that he belonged to ‘The Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic’ (There was more to the name, but I can’t remember the rest of it. I looked up the denomination online afterwards, and found that they have some significant doctrinal error . . . in addition to what we had already realized from our conversation with him.)

He seemed really interested to hear what we believed, and a little debative too, which made it interesting! We shared about the gospel for a brief time, and then the conversation turned towards the Trinity and the deity of Christ. This gentleman believed that while Christ was the Son of God, He was not God, but was instead just a great prophet and the first apostle. We talked together cordially about this for around ten to fifteen minutes asking questions, sharing Scriptures (including some of the ones where Christ Himself testified that He was God), and gently challenging him a bit, before he turned to go. As he left, it was our hope and prayer that something we said might encourage him to question his false belief and then turn in true faith to Jesus Christ.

Once the conversation was over, I began going over it in my mind . . . seeing what I could have said more clearly, thinking of other Scriptures that could have been brought up, what things that he mentioned that would have been good to address, etc. Basically, analyzing the conversation in order to learn and grow from it so that I will be better equipped for the next time as there is much room for improvement!

Since then, I have continued to give all of this a great deal of thought, prayer, as well as discussing it with my family, and have been evaluating my own heart. The Lord has called us as His children and as disciples of Christ, to “always [be] ready” (1 Peter 3:15.) Are we? Are we always ready to defend, teach, and share God’s truth with others? Are we prepared? How can we grow in this and become better prepared and equipped to effectively share God’s truth with others? For we should know what we believe, why we believe it, and then be able to articulate it in an understandable way and with “gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15.)

I came up with several ways to grow in this, and I would love to hear any advice or thoughts that any of you may share! Here is what I have so far . . .

--Read, study, and become very familiar with Scripture

This is one area that I am very thankful that my parents ingrained in me when I was young! How important it is to read the Bible from beginning to end over and over and over, and especially the New Testament. A good goal would be to read through the entire Bible every year and the New Testament twice. The more we read and become familiar with Scripture, the better our recall and ability will be in order to defend it and share it.

--Memorize key Scriptures that explain and teach the basic tenets of the gospel

I am seeing ever more how important this is! And then when the verses are memorized, to use them. To use not simply our own words (“I think . . .”, “I believe . . .”, etc.), but instead, “God has said in His Word . . .” or “Scripture teaches . . .”, etc. (and this doesn’t mean only using word-for-word quotations, but also includes explaining what is taught in Scripture.) God’s Word is effective! It is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (1 Peter 4:12.)

--Seek counsel from others, and especially older men and women in the faith.

In Scripture, the older are to teach the younger, instructing them in the truths of God’s Word. There is so much to learn from the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of older men and women of God!

--Prepare our hearts and minds in advance for when situations do arise (I think this one is key for me!)

Before going to town or to places where situations such as this can come up, pray and prepare our hearts and expect something to happen. Then if/when it does, it doesn’t catch us off guard or unprepared, but we are equipped both mentally and spiritually for it.

--When situations arise, immediately turn to the Lord and ask for His wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide.

This is vital! For we need the Holy Spirit’s guidance, leading and wisdom, and He can bring to our remembrance His Word and Truth in order to know what and how to share.

--Do mock mental ‘run throughs’ of various conversations that could take place.

Such as, if someone asks about why we dress the way we do, what answer would we give? How could the conversation be turned to sharing the gospel? What about if the Trinity is brought up and challenged, what Scriptures could be used to defend that Jesus Christ was indeed God in the flesh? What if someone says they believe that physical works (baptism, obedience, etc.) are necessary for salvation? How would we use Scripture to accurately show the error in this belief? What questions could we ask to help lead them to see that what they are holding to is not true?

For me personally, there are some areas I am better prepared to discuss than others . . . the error of baptismal regeneration for example. The reason why, though, is from a great deal of study on this topic and writing about it extensively. What if I/we did the same with other, or even all, major tenets of the faith? How much better prepared we would be for when different circumstances and conversations would arise!

Just writing these thoughts down convicts my heart and makes me excited to pursue (and continue to pursue!) these different ideas. I am sure there are other ways to grow in this, too, and I would love to hear any ideas that you all may have!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Infusing Oil

Today I started infusing several batches of oil with spices/herbs in order to use them as natural colorants in my soaps. It is a fun process and especially when seeing the finished colors!

Everything all ready to go . . . olive oil, cheesecloth, thread for tying the cheesecloth shut, three wide mouth quart jars, spices, and a scale

The olive oil measured into the jars, and the various spices measured and on top of cheesecloth squares (which in the next step, were tied into little 'bags' .) The spices used this time from left to right are: parsley powder, annatto seed powder, and paprika.

Ready to start infusing!

I use the heat method to begin with which is done by simply putting the jars into a pan of water and heating on low for several hours.

After being heated. I really like how the colors turned out! And especially 
the paprika (which is on the far right.)

Now I'll let them sit for awhile to darken a bit more (particularly the parsley oil), and then it will be time to use them in soaps!

Monday, December 9, 2013

So Thankful . . .

. . . that one of the little orphan girls that I had been praying for on Reece's Rainbow has now been moved to the My Family Found Me page!

 

Sweet Janna has a family coming for her! Of all of the children that have touched my heart on Reece's Rainbow, Janna was one who especially did so. Each time I went to her profile and saw her sweet face, my heart ached for this precious little girl and how I hoped and prayed that someone would come rescue her and love her and care for her. She had been waiting so long! And now that wait is nearly over, and the prayers are being answered! My heart is full of thankfulness that if all goes well with the adoption process, instead of facing the rest of her life in a crib in an institution, she will be in a loving home with her own family!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Today . . .

It is currently 18 degrees outside, and our five day forecast promises highs in the 20's and lows in either the single digits or teens. Lovely weather, isn't it? :) Winter is by far my least favorite of the seasons, though it does have its redeeming qualities . . . snow being one of them! Another is the break from the garden and outdoor work which frees up more time for other things. Right now, the only outdoor task that needs to be done is taking care of the animals (which has been a little more intensive as of late with the cold temps. - we're thawing/changing rabbit water bottles and breaking ice out of the other animals' waterers three times a day now!)

Between taking care of the animals, my time today was enjoyably filled talking with Leah while she crocheted and I packaged up a doll order, worked on another doll, and planned the two-week menu and made a grocery list with her . . .


It has been nice to be able to include some soups on the menu again! That is another advantage to cold winter weather. :)

Another advantage is the time available to work on various types of handwork, and one that will be my primary focus this winter is a quilt . . . it will look familiar to some of you 'older' readers . . .

This is as it was before being layered and having the quilting begun on it

Yes, it is still a work in progress! :) The quilting is about half-way finished now, and my goal is to have the quilt completed by the end of this winter . . . which is what I said last winter, too, but hopefully it will actually happen this time! 

Today I got it ready to begin hand-quilting another of the squares . . .

A template all prepped and ready to use to trace the pattern onto the square. I had cut small lines along the dotted lines which can then be traced through.

All traced and ready to quilt!

Another project I'll be working on during these winter evenings is this embroidery . . .

 Leah gave this kit to me, and I am enjoying embroidering it!

 The rest of the day was spent going to the post office to mail the aforementioned package, going grocery shopping with Mom and Leah, putting together this post, and in just a bit, I'll be heading outdoors to start the third round of chores for the day!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to Make Farmer's Cheese

As our does' milk production has been dropping, we haven't been accumulating as much extra milk as of late and especially since I have been freezing milk to be used in soap making during the off season (which will begin towards the beginning of January.) Last week, though, there was an extra gallon in the fridge so I made one of our favorite cheeses . . . Farmer's Cheese! It is a soft, spreadable cheese that is delicious on crackers and bread, too.

It is simple to make, and while the process itself is long, it has very little hands on time making it my 'go-to' cheese when I don't have a lot of time! I believe this cheese can be made using store-bought milk (as long as it isn't ultra-pasteurized) so I thought I would share the recipe and a little tutorial here in case any of you might like to give it a try.

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To begin, pour one gallon of milk into a large stainless steel pot (and a heavy-bottomed pot would be preferred as that helps to prevent scorching.)


Slowly heat the milk to 195 degrees (as in, taking about one to two hours to reach temp.)

Once the milk has reached 195 degrees, remove from heat and add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.


Stir for two minutes; you'll notice curd separation beginning here.

Let sit until cool; the curd will settle to the bottom leaving a yellow/green colored whey on top.


In the process of cooling and forming curd . . . it's starting to get a more yellow tinge on top!

Once it is cool, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth. (I line a stainless steel colander with the cheesecloth and then put that over a large bowl - the whey drains through and then is given to our chickens.)

Curd draining . . . it's just about ready here!

Meanwhile, finely chop onion and garlic (the amount depends upon your own tastes . . . depending on how much cheese curd I end up with, I'll maybe do between two to three tsp. of garlic, and two to three Tbsp. of onion. I don't measure, though, so these are approximates. :)


Saute the onion and garlic in three Tbsp. of butter until transparent (usually a couple of minutes.)
Set aside.


Once the draining curd is to the desired consistency, pour it into a large bowl.

Add the butter, onion and garlic mixture; add salt to taste; and also add whatever dried herbs you would like. (So far, I've only used dried basil and usually around 3-4 tsp.)



Stir well and then spoon into a glass dish and smooth the cheese out.


Chill in the refrigerator, and then enjoy!