Friday, May 29, 2015

Getting Ready for Market

Some weeks there isn't much to do to get ready for the farmers market other than loading the truck up with everything (which still takes awhile!) Today, however, there was a lot to do! It was so pleasant working on all the various tasks indoors with the windows open, a cool breeze blowing in, birds singing, and for much of the day, there was the smell of rain in the air.

Some of the tasks that were done were . . .

Washing jars for honey  . . .

Right before being washed

. . . labeling soap (and while I had all the soap out, I decided to also inventory it, check the weight on all the bars to make sure they were still in my 'sellable range', and inventory the labels) . . .

 . . . printing and cutting more labels . . .

. . . bottling honey once the jars were dry (or as Leah says, "jarring" the honey :) . . .

. . . labeling those, too . . .

. . . making and printing a new sign for the honey (plus a few hive photos, too) . . .

About all that is left would be loading up the truck, but now the forecast for tomorrow has changed to having rain, which for a morning at the farmers market, rain is not a good mix with the soap! Even with a tent canopy, it is difficult keeping the rain from blowing in on the tables and also getting the boxes of soap, etc. in and out of the truck. So if the forecast doesn't change, we'll be waiting to go again until next week . . . and hopefully it will change!

There were some other soap related things done today in addition to getting ready for the market, one of which was packaging up an order and then going into town with Leah to mail it and to do a few other things as well. It's always fun spending sister time together! Even if running errands is not one of our most favorite things to do. :)

This next photo is from yesterday, yet since it fits with the theme, I'll share it here, too . . .


Someone had expressed interest in selling my soap in their local retail store so I put together this sampler set to bring in to show them. I am not sure if they will decide to carry them or not, but it was a good experience! And I think I'll be doing more looking into wholesaling my products to other local businesses.

Well, it's just about chore time so I'm off to take care of the chickens and the Boer does (and enjoy some time with their kids, too. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quilt Restoration and Some Thoughts to Share

As of late, I have had a little more time in the evenings so pulled out one of my 'winter handwork projects' to work on. It took awhile to figure out how best to repair this quilt, but now I have a plan!

 The quilt on the right is the one I am repairing first

Some of you may remember that this quilt was found at an antique store awhile back and for very little (due to its poor condition), and my first thought when seeing it was that it would make a great picnic quilt. It would be nice if it could work for a children's bed quilt, but even repaired, I do not think it could hold up to the rigors of daily use. Even though it's intended future is for a picnic quilt, it still needs to be in pretty good shape in order to be able to withstand things such as possibly having children crawling/walking/playing on it!

Two edges of the quilt had significant holes and fraying so the first step was to cut 3-4 inches off of those ends as well as about 3/4 of an inch off of another badly frayed edge.

One of the big holes on the edge

In the fabric scrap bins, I found a piece of white fabric that was enough to make a new binding. After cutting the strips, sewing them together, and pressing them in half, I sewed them around the edges of the quilt . . .

Now in the evenings, I have been working on folding the binding over the edge and handsewing it down. This is only the beginning of the hand sewing, though! The quilt top itself has one smaller hole through all of the layers and then around 80 of the little squares are either completely worn away or are badly frayed and will need to be replaced. So that is what is going to be keeping my hands busy during evenings for awhile. :)

On a different note, I'd like to share something I have been thinking quite a bit about the last several days . . . .

This past Sunday, my Dad was teaching on the first few verses in 1 Corinthians. As he taught, the other men gave input as well and brought in other Scriptures which led to a deep and thought-provoking discussion on part of verse 2 which reads "the church of God . . . who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus."

I'll share just a couple of the foundational things that were talked about and which stood out to me and were written down . . .

Those who are a part of "the church of God" (all believers) are "sanctified." Sanctified means "to be made holy" and "to be set apart", and it has two aspects to it . . .

1st) All believers are sanctified in Christ Jesus when they believe in Him. As Scripture teaches (1 Cor. 1:2 for example) all believers are 'saints' (or holy ones) in Christ as He has covered and forgiven their sins in His blood (i.e. Hebrews 13:12.) And we are saints not because of what we have done or do, but because of our position in Christ. Because of Christ, we are holy before God. Isn't that an amazing truth?

2nd) And we are also being sanctified. We still have this fleshly battle inside of us and still have to strive against sin and to "put on Christ." In 1 Peter 1:15 we are called to "like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior." How convicting this is!

This second part of sanctification is a process in following God and growing in His Word and in obedience to Him. One of the men shared these verses from 2 Peter which illustrate in part this process:

". . . applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7.)

All of this is just a snippet of what was taught and discussed, and it was both encouraging and convicting. And as mentioned, it is something that I have given a lot of thought to the last few days. I had/have been struggling with some things, and what was taught and shared spoke to my heart. Both in being a reminder and an encouragement of who Christ is and what He has done (and is doing) for me, and then also what I am to be striving for . . . not being perfect (which none of us can be in this life!), yet growing in sanctification.

A verse that I read this morning from 2 Peter fit in well with all of this and was an encouragement to me:

". . . seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." (2 Peter 1:3)

Did you notice the word "everything"? God has given us everything we need for living our lives in a manner that pleases Him and walking in godliness. Everything we need is right there for us! Through the knowledge of our perfect and holy God which is learned through His Word that He has given to us. And the One who has sanctified us when we believed in Him, will continue to help us grow in, and through, this sanctification process.

Anyway, this has been on my heart, and I just thought I would share. And I hope it was an encouragement to you as it was to me!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Growing Garden and More

This spring, the garden has been doing very well! There are very few bugs (so far :), there has been a good amount of rain to keep the plants flourishing, great germination (save for one row of beans - it got a little too chilly and wet for them), no disease, and thanks to Mom's faithful hoeing, there are also very few weeds growing out there.

Part of the garden . . . potatoes, onions, beets, green beans and carrots

One garden project this week for Leah and I was hilling up the two rows of potatoes which was quite the job! I tilled along each side of the rows and then used a rake to pull the first round of dirt up around the plants and Leah followed with the hoe to pull up the rest. We had a fun time working on this together, though we were both rather tired by the end of it! With it being a total of 320 feet that we covered, it was a lot of dirt to move. :)

All hilled and ready to start growing lots of potatoes . . . hopefully :)

Zucchini plants

The strawberries are starting to ripen! I harvested the first few deliciously sweet berries last night.

There are quite a few apples on the trees this year! Leah did the big job yesterday of spraying the fruit trees. If all goes well, we should have a good harvest of peaches and apples.

We have also been enjoying salads from our garden now which has been nice!

Our 'salad bar' . . . several different varieties of lettuce, spinach, and radishes

Speaking of salads . . . we began making our own salad dressings years ago, and here is our favorite one to use. It is very easy to make and so good, too!


Ranch Dressing

-1 cup mayonnaise
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1/2 tsp. dried chives
-1/2 tsp. dried parsley
-1/4 tsp. garlic powder
-1/4 tsp. onion powder
-1/8 tsp. salt
-1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.


And if you prefer French dressing over Ranch, here is a great recipe version for that . . .

French Dressing

-1 cup ketchup
-3/4 cup white vinegar
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the ingredients; shake until sugar is dissolved.


On a different note, this afternoon Mom, Leah and I went to the homeschool highschool graduation of a friend of ours. We first met her when she was a young girl and she came to a Bible study that Leah and I helped teach (we were in our mid- to upper teens at the time.) I also taught her sewing and quilting lessons for many years, and then she was a part of Leah's and my 'girls group' during all of the years that we had that.

She has grown into such a sweet young lady, and it was special to be able to attend her graduation!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Special Day at the Nursing Home

Yesterday held another wonderful time spent at the nursing home! I love going there. When first starting back in January, the actual process of going and beginning to play was hard for me and I was quite nervous . . . for some reason, playing music in front of people has always been difficult for me and going into a strange place with people I didn't know, to be the 'center of attention' was intimidating! Yet once I was at the piano and interacting with the people, I loved every moment of it . . . and now it is easy to go. :)

Yesterday afternoon, as I punched in the familiar key code to enter the nursing home and stepped through the door, my heart thrilled with thankfulness for this opportunity as I looked out across the room and saw the familiar faces. One gentleman that I see nearly every time was sitting near the door. When going over to greet him, he asked me in his deep, slow voice, if I came to play music again. He was glad to hear I was! Moving from person to person with a smile and a 'hello', I made my way to the old piano and began playing.

The room where the piano is located is one very large room which has the kitchen, dining room, sitting area, and a craft area. There is kind of a half wall in the middle which is where the piano sits. Then the hallways back to the residents' rooms extend from the large central room.

There were many people around yesterday (including kitchen staff clearing away tables) and shortly after beginning to play, there was a little group of sweet ladies in wheelchairs up by the piano. Some were ones I had already started to get to know, others were new to meet.

I played for them, and then sang some, too . . . which is another thing that at first, was not exactly easy for me. I do not have the greatest singing voice and have a lower range so typically sing alto, and with others. But a month and a half or so ago when residents were trying to sing along, I gave myself a little 'talking to' that it didn't matter what I sounded like or what the nursing home workers thought, but to just sing! And I have been each time since, and it has been so nice as the residents love to hear it (they don't care what I sound like :), and they love to sing along when they know the words. And I so love hearing their voices join in as we sing "Amazing Grace", "How Great Thou Art", and other songs together!

Yesterday as usual, between songs, I would talk with them, listen to them, laugh with them, and share about Jesus with them . . . since I am playing hymns, it makes it easy to begin talking about the gospel, Christ's death and resurrection, and salvation. And for the most part, their hearts are very receptive to hear and talk about these things.

One particularly special thing that happened yesterday was with a lady that I have seen just about every time I go there. She is usually sitting in her wheelchair somewhere in the dining room with an expression on her face that is sad . . . but something more, too, that I can't quite put my finger on. I always smile at her and greet her to which she has never had any response. This week, though, she began clapping after some of the songs! Then afterwards when telling the residents goodbye, I went up and spoke to her and she took my hand in both of hers and thanked me for playing. We ended up talking together for a bit, and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about that special moment with her!

What a great blessing these people have been to me . . . the joy many of them radiate, their genuine thankfulness for something so little as someone playing the piano for them, the smiles on their faces, the care they have for one another . . . I have learned much from them and have been so blessed by them!

It has been very special to begin developing relationships with them. I always greet the ones I know by name, and then try to learn the names of residents I had not met before. After the first several times of going, I also started a journal of sorts with the names of the residents and things that I learn about them.

C. for example loves riddles! She asks me the same ones each week :), and I always act like I don't know the answers and then laugh along with her when she tells me them. For example . . . Q: "Why do hummingbirds hum?" A: "Because they don't know the words!" :) She also really likes "Amazing Grace" . . . and sang along for the first time yesterday!

E. is a sweet lady that I have spoken with at length a couple of times, and she is a believer in Christ. What an encouragement it has been talking with her! I feel bad for her, though, as each time I see her, she tells me that her husband is coming to get her to bring her home and how much she is looking forward to going home again. She seems happy, though, and her love for Jesus and others radiates from her!

R. is another lady that I talked with for quite a long time one day . . . she has a sad family story and is trying to trust God through it, but it is hard for her. My heart ached for her as we talked together! I shared a number of things with her and some Scriptures in the hopes of comforting and encouraging her, and at the end, told her that I would be praying for her and her son . . . I do not think I will ever forget the expression on her face nor how tightly she squeezed my hands as she thanked me.

There are others who are within my journal pages, and I look forward to adding more as the weeks go by. And I still need to learn the name of the gentleman who greeted me at the door! This time as I was leaving, he got up from his chair, walked over to me with his cane, shook my hand, and again in his slow, deep drawl said "You're getting better, keep it up!" :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mom's Birthday Outing

Birthdays are always special days in our family, and if possible, we like to spend them all together. Yesterday was my Mom's birthday so part of what we did was take a family outing to a local conservation area . . . a favorite thing to do together!

The drive there itself is always so pleasant as the country highways wind through beautiful hills, trees, and open areas.

An old barn along the way

Before reaching the actual conservation area, Dad spotted this Scissor-tail Flycatcher along the road and stopped so we could have a closer look . . .

The day was mostly sunny, with a high around 70 and a breeze. It was beautiful out, and even though the place is a drive-through, we walked a lot of it! As I told Leah, I think I could have walked out there all day. :) It was so peaceful and refreshing!

There were very few people there yesterday, and we almost had the place to ourselves. We so enjoyed our long walks, watching the various birds, and talking and laughing together.

Mom and Leah looking for birds

Love views like this!

And this. :) God's creation is so diverse and beautiful!

The fish were active yesterday! You can kind of see some of them in this photo

Dad and Mom
(I had looked back to where they were and saw them like this and had to snap a photo. :)

Looking back towards where the truck was parked and where Dad and Mom were

Dad took this photo of me while I was looking for little warblers up in the trees . . . there were so many singing their beautiful songs, but it was difficult to find them!

Dad photographing

And one of the photos he captured . . . not sure what this plant is, but it certainly is interesting looking!

Leah and Mom
(Photo by Dad)

Dad and Mom

My sweet sister :)

Leah and Dad
. . . moments like these are ones we all love . . . simply being together and especially when out in the beauty of God's creation

Mom and I
(photo by Leah)

How thankful I am that she is my Mom!
(photo by Leah)

Two pairs of geese with their goslings . . . it was fun to see them!

Another beautiful view

As we were driving back to the entrance of the conservation area, Leah noticed a few snakes down in one of the narrow bodies of water along the road. We stopped there, and Dad and I got out to take a closer look.

At each body of water in the conservation area, there is a concrete area for the pump and a drain for the pool. This snake (which I believe is a Northern Water Snake) was swimming in the concreted area . . .

Dad and I were standing up on the grate that is over the pump, etc., watching the many snakes down in the water, when I looked down below my feet and saw this . . .

There was a whole pile of snakes about four feet below us all over the pump, etc.! (There were a lot more before the photo was taken, but they had already dropped into the water before I took it.) While I find snakes interesting, I do not like them, and that many right below my feet was a little too much! At this point, Mom and Leah came up to see them all, and needless to say, I left. :) Dad and Mom, though, watched them for awhile longer before we headed back home.

Turtles sunning themselves on a log.
It's funny as here we were out birdwatching and none of us even noticed the two small birds on the log! . . . until I uploaded the photos to my computer. :)

We had such a marvelous time together! And it was definitely a special and memorable birthday for Mom. I don't think we could have asked for a more beautiful day!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Song for Encouragement . . .

Recently one morning when I was cleaning, I put on a CD that Leah had compiled of some of her and my favorite songs. One of the songs I had only heard part of before on the movie God's Not Dead (which is a very good movie by the way!), but had not yet heard it in its entirety. Shortly after it began playing, I just stopped and listened as the words resonated in my heart. I have been there . . . perhaps you have been as well . . . and I am sure all of us can relate at least in part to this song!

And I hope that with whatever you have gone through in the past or are going through now, that the words to this beautiful song will speak to your heart and be an encouragement to you!

"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."
Psalm 36:5-7

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Simple Pleasures in the Everyday

The days have been so busy as of late! Spring busyness has arrived in full force, and we have all been enjoying it . . . garden work, outdoor projects, inspecting and working the beehives, keeping up with the mowing, sprucing up some of the goat pens and shelters, and more. Meanwhile fitting in all of the regular day-to-day tasks, volunteering, business work, farmers market, and other such things. Life certainly hasn't been dull!

Dewdrops on the strawberry plants

Amidst the busyness, I have been particularly enjoying and appreciating the little things that, for me, bring simple pleasures all throughout the days. Such as . . .

~ Shaking out the rugs and sweeping off the porch in the cool, refreshing morning air as a robin greets the morning with its beautiful song and sunshine begins filtering through the trees

~ Hanging several loads of laundry on the line while the grass is heavy-laden with dew and while being serenaded by a host of birds singing

~ Flowers blooming

~ Watching the goat kids play together out in the pen . . . they are so adorable!

~ Making dinner . . . last night was Classic Chicken Potpie with the first fresh garden salad of the year (courtesy of a vendor friend at the farmers market - our lettuce isn't quite ready yet!)

~ All of us gathered in the living room together in the evening - chores, dinner, dishes done as we relax at the close of the day - visiting, reading, laughing, and simply enjoying being together as a family.

~ Freshly baked bread cooling on the counter

~ Washing dishes . . . we don't have a dishwasher (an automatic one that is :) so at least three times a day finds one of us ladies at the kitchen sink.

~ Walks down the driveway which are refreshing times for me to be alone with the Lord out in His beautiful creation, pouring out my heart to Him in prayer and also being still before Him.

On that note, I'll close this post with a couple of verses from different Psalms that spoke to my heart the last few nights as I read through them . . .

"My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us."
Psalm 62:5-8 

"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 . . .
 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You . . .
 When I remember You on my bed, 
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
Psalm 63:1, 3, 6-8

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Volunteering at a Therapeutic Riding Center

I have been looking forward to sharing about this for quite some time, but wanted to wait until I had some photos . . . and finally I do! (Courtesy of cell phones. :)

Back in January, I had shared that Leah and I had some exciting opportunities ahead of us this year for ministry and service. One of those for me is going to the nursing home (which has been going so well!), and the other is volunteering at a therapeutic riding center that works with children and adults with special needs. Leah and I have been volunteering there once a week (and occasionally more) and love it! It is definitely a highlight of our week!

Looking up toward the arena

For the first two sessions, we worked with older veterans which was really an honor. Mostly we were there to help if needed with saddling and bridling the horse, and then we walked alongside during the classes in case they needed help (such as helping them get their feet back in the stirrups after certain exercises) or if there was a problem. And we had so many fun and good times visiting with them as well!

This week was the last class for them, and for it, they went on a trail ride through the woods which was a lot of fun for them. Now that their classes are over, I'll really miss the two veterans I had the opportunity to work with.

The horse that one of the veterans I worked with rode

The end of their last class was bittersweet as goodbyes were said . . . though they might come out to ride occasionally just for fun so hopefully we'll be able to see them again sometime!

The veteran Leah worked with surprised her with this at the last class . . .

It was so thoughtful of him and will be quite the keepsake for Leah!

Some of the horses waiting their turns

Leah with her favorite horse there

The next session after the veterans is one with little children which Leah and I both love so much! The little ones we work with need quite a bit of assistance so we sidewalk next to the horse and hold the children on as they ride (a hand on their upper leg and one on their ankle.)

Then we also help with the therapy part of it - as the therapist/instructor gives instruction to the children to raise their arms in the air, twist in the saddle, point their toes to the ground, etc., we help the children to do those things as needed. We also have fun encouraging them, engaging them in conversation or talking to them, and more.

One boy, Will, that I have worked with for quite a few weeks has completely captured my heart. He is one of the happiest little boys I have known, and he has the brightest, sweetest smile. I love working with him!

Our 'team' (photo courtesy of Will's Mom)
Me, Will, the other sidewalker, and the leader

This week, he graduated to a new pony and a 'real' saddle which he loved riding thanks to the bouncier and faster gait! His smiles were nearly constant, and he was teasing me a bit sometimes, too. :) With the center's privacy policy, I am limited in what I can share here, but I will say that new progress was made this week to the point that it brought happy tears to the therapist's eyes and filled my heart with joy for this little guy.

He also worked on reining this week (with some help :), and it was so fun to help and watch him. He did a great job and had such a grin on his face while doing it!

It was a really special day, and one I don't think I'll ever forget!

Will and I after the session with his ribbon that he got (all of the children got one for a specific accomplishment that they reached during the last eight weeks) . . . so proud of him and the progress he is making!

Needless to say, Leah and I are so looking forward to continuing to volunteer there each week!