Thursday, March 31, 2011

Raising Our Layer Flock....The Brooder

How we start off in the brooder .
   When new chicks come to our farm, I like to be well prepared. Ideally the brooder is ready a few days before they come. Our chicks generally arrive by order have hatched in our own incubator.
   Our brooder is a five foot stock tank linked with plastic sheeting covered with pine shavings. For the first few days I lay an old sheet or piece of fabric over the shavings to prevent the chicks from eating the shavings and choking on it. Two standard heat lamps are suspended over the tank by a one by six keeping the temperature a comfortable ninety-five degrees. One-gallon fountain water tanks are filled with fresh water and small trays hold starter crumble purchased from our local feed co-op.
   Since problems can arise (a week chick, illness, a sluggish late hatch baby) an isolation brooder is kept nearby. A large plastic storage tub is set up with a heat lamp clipped to the side, a small quart-size water fountain and small feed pan; ready and waiting just in case.
   Upon arrival we take each chick individually and dip their beak in the water; watching to see them drink on their own. Generally they find the feed rather quickly, however, if they do not, we dip their beak into the feed as well. We stay nearby a bit to ensure each one seems active and healthy, removing any that appear sluggish or unable to eat and drink. Weaker ones are set in the isolation brooder for special care.
   The first few days we monitor our chicks very closely. It can be challenging to keep the temperature comfortable in our crazy Texas weather. Empty or not, water fountains are cleaned and refreshed four times a day and feed is available at all times.
   Two to three days in we remove the fabric cover from the shavings and start using fountain-style feeders instead of the open trays; keeping the feed more available and less messy. At this point we base the temperature more on chick behavior rather than thermometer readings. If the chicks are scattered away from the light and laying flat they are too warm; if huddled and under the lights they are too cold. Simply adjusting the height of the lights (or removing/adding one) the problem is solved. Comfortable chicks are active and noisy.
   The chicks stay comfortably in the brooder until they feather out and seem crowded. When this time comes they are not yet ready for the big coop or the great out doors, instead, they make their way to the transition pen. Covered and safe, the transition pen is larger, fully enclosed with exposure to daylight, and pasture ground. In the transition pen, the chicks get a glimpse of the other farm animals; a chance to safely get use to each other.
   Raising a new flock is not hard and it doesn't have to be expensive. Though you can never be fully prepared, every little bit helps. How do you raise a layer flock?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Educating....With Scrabble Tiles

   I have said it before, and I'll say it again- learning can be fun and sometimes a little thing can make a big difference. Scrabble tiles are little things, but when we use them to engage our minds to learning they become big things.
   From my preschool classes to upper elementary, a tub of letter tiles gave ordinary phonics, writing, and spelling a new groove.Over and over again these tiles came off the shelve to liven up a lesson. Let me share a few:

... sort out letters you know the names and sounds of
... sort vowels from consonants
... pick a letter tile, how many words can you think of that start with that sound/contain that sound
... make word blends/special sounds
... build words you know
... spell words you are trying to learn
... make a "puzzle" using your spelling words

   The list goes on; limited only by imagination. We always made a game of such things- sitting in a circle on the floor we would pass the tub and choose tiles or let someone come to the tub and draw a tile. Small children seemed to love sharing what they knew where the older ones enjoy a challenge.
   When one of my teens was struggling to learn the parts of speech, I used the tiles. On slips of paper I wrote the parts of speech and placed them in a bowl. They drew a paper and used tiles to "write" a word that fit the part of speech they drew. Just another way to break up a day and make learning interactive and fun.
   These days those Scrabble tiles (and now Bananagrams) are in their box, used as they were created: to play the games. Every time the games come out the conversation turns to days when we used them for different lessons in our classroom. Lovingly they tease about "giant" spelling list puzzles and "round-robin" word competitions. Laughter fills us and bittersweet sadness comes as we realize just how much we've grown. Such memories live on when my girls babysit for others and pull out simple objects to make a lesson fun; memories of educating with a common box of Scrabble tiles.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celebrating Him.....

Happy Birthday Farm Daddy

   Today I celebrate him; the one who gets through every day with me. The one who balances me and keeps me on track; who knows me better than anyone would want to and loves me still.
   The first time we shared your birthday together, we had lunch with my family after church; I didn't even know it was your birthday- do you remember? Those early awkward days when we were still getting to know each other? Even then it wasn't about gifts or gathering- it was about being together; it is still.
   I have made so many lasagnas and chocolate cakes (all your faves) and gifts have come and gone, but it is still about being together. We share our home, our teens, our funny quirks and our families- all the things in this life and still we choose to be together on this special day.
   My prayers are for you daily; grace and guidance on this journey. We have come so far and yet have so far to to. I am ever thankful that once again it is my privilege to say with love and earnest joy, "Happy Birthday!"

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Quilt for A Farmboy

Tractors and caps and plaids with that.....
   Several years ago, the farm boy received a set of bunk beds for his room; large, dark wood- they look like logs fixed together for a bed frame. We were now living on our homestead; raising our first livestock and preparing garden fields. Farm boy's taste has always run toward tractors and trucks; shotguns and rough stuff.
   We went to our local fabric store for ideas- I wanted to make him quilts for the beds; matching ones for both bunks. It didn't take him long to find his heart's desire: John Deer panels and plaids.
Tractors and dirt; every farm boy's dream.
   Together it came to be; tractors and caps with dirt mounds, plaids and that all important John Deer green.  Backed with plain muslin (his choice as well) and quilted with simple stitch-in-the-ditch style, the quilt was made in two's- identical for each bed.
   I made this quilt while homeschooling and answering phones for my family's business. Needing space to baste it, I strolled up to my parent's house to stretch the fabric over her large dining room table. Layers came together pinned in place for stability; I machine quilted a whole quilt in one afternoon while my mother took over the phones.
   Still today, the quilts grace the farm boy's beds; he wouldn't have it any other way. Though I often as to make him a new one, the old Plaid John Deers remain a treasure to him- a memory of days when we all came together to get things done. Days when we had lunch with Daddy and afternoons with Papa; when Mimi called down to the office to say before you go. When popcorn was popped and stories were told; when we made a quilt for a farm boy.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It Is Sunday....

Vision By Personal Character
"Come up hither, and I will shew thee things."
Revelation 4:1

   An elevated mood can only come out of an elevated habit of personal character. If in the externals of your life you live up to the highest you know, God will continually say- "Friend, go up higher." The golden rule in temptation is- Go higher. When you get higher up, you face other temptations and characteristics. Satan uses the strategy of elevation in temptation, and God does the same, but the effect is different. When the devil puts you into an elevated place, he makes you screw your idea of holiness beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear, it is a spiritual acrobatic performance, you are just poised and dare not move; but when God elevates you by His grace into the heavenly places, instead of finding a pinnacle to cling to, you find a great tableland where it is easy to move.
   Compare this week in your spiritual history with the same week last year and see how God has called you up higher. We have all been brought to see from a higher standpoint. Never let God give you one point of truth which you do not instantly live up to. Always work it out, keep in the light of it.
   Growth in grace is measured not by the fact that you have not gone back, but that you have an insight into where you are spiritually; you have heard God say "Come up higher," not to you personally, but to the insight of your character.
   "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" God has to hide from us what He does until by personal character we get to the place where He can reveal it.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Considerations Before We Buy

Day old chicks arriving on the farm.
   Once the decision was made to raise our backyard flock it was helpful to know the purpose we had in mind for the birds we would be raising. While taking a long morning walk together, questions and considerations were discussed before the purchase was made.

Concerning Breed
1. Are we looking for egg production, meat production, or both? What is my financial means to support either one?
2. Do we want large birds or smaller birds? What do we have the space for?
3. Will we want good brood hens who will set and raise a clutch? Am I willing to keep a rooster?
4. What are my concerns/convictions about hybrid/genetically modified breeds?

Concerning Housing
1. How are we willing to invest in this project?
2. Will they be caged, cooped with a run, or cooped with freedom?
3. Is my goal free range or restricted pasture?
4. Do we want a permanent structure, temporary housing, or a mobile structure?

Concerning Feed
1. Have we researched price, quality or quantities needed for the breed and brood size?
2. What are our convictions about medications and pesticides added to premixed feeds?
3. Will we be running a feed management program or open graze/free choice freed system?
4. Grain only or pasture?

Concerning Health
1. Are we familiar with ailments common to the breed we have chosen?
2. What parasites or nutrient deficiencies/surpluses are common in my area?
3. Will we vaccinate, use antibiotics, or pesticides; do we plan to use a holistic health approach?
4. Are we prepare to accept death, predators and the possibility of euthanizing?

   We began to realize there is alot involved in raising a flock of poultry. By starting ahead, we developed a plan and started to work the plan. Along the way there has been success and failure; life and death; trial and triumph- farm life is not always as romantic as it may seem. Next week we will share a bit more about starting our flocks, setting up our brooder, and our method of feed and health care.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poutry Breeds We Have Raised

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
   Over the many years our family has raised poultry, many breeds have come and gone. Currently only our select favorites remain, replenished every other spring. In our experience, a few breeds have made the list of 'never agains'. Here we share our past and current breeds, our experience with them, and whether we would raise them again.

Layer Breeds:

   We have three top favorites among our past layer breeds: orphingtons, australorps, and the auracona. Each one a heavy breed bird excellent for both meat and egg production. Orphingtons and Australorps lay an abundance of hearty brown eggs, where as the Auracona lay large blue/green eggs. Roosters are protective of their flocks, yet social with people- not prone to aggression. Hens are good nesters and excellent mothers; setting their clutch even if a snake attacks the nest. My Orphingtons are 'golden buff' meaning their feathers are a yellow/honey color. Australorps are rich black with a green sheen- strikingly beautiful in the afternoon sun. The Auraconas sport multi-colored feathers of every range and tufts of feathers known as 'beards' on their cheeks. These breeds nest well, do not fly (due to size), lay even in inclement weather, and are smart enough to return to the coop when danger threatens.

   A few breeds made the 'mediocre' list; I would purchase if need be, but they only had a marginal run. Dominecer, Barred and Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Wyandotts were excellent layers (all brown eggs of medium size), however, in a short cycle and never in winter months. Each is a smaller breed than my listed favorites and were most often taken by predators. Not known to be broody, they were not good sitters or good mothers; often flighty and easily spooked.

   My least favorite breeds from experience are White Leghorns and Production Reds. Both were proficient in warm weather but seemed easily stressed in our Texas heat. Quite unsocial, they scattered at the sight of people and were quite easy targets for the hawks. Not known to return to the nest made free ranging them quite aggravating, and they were not nesters- often leaving eggs everywhere.

   One breed that has good qualities, but never worked out for us was the Bantams. Generally one-fifth the size of a standard bird, their eggs were quite small as well. Small and easily taken by prey, they had to be kept in protected housing or a netted range pen (completely enclosed top and sides). They were excellent layers, wonderful mothers and strikingly beautiful in their amazing range of colors- but not practical for us.

Meat Birds:

   We generally use the 'extra' roosters from our favorites list as our home meat birds, however, in recent years our kids have raised Cornish Cross in 4-H. These birds grow rapidly and are easily stressed. I find them to have a high death rate in our extreme Texas weather, yet they do dress out well as broilers, fryers, and roasters. Their time on the farm is short, only a six week run- yet they fill the freezer nicely and serve a good purpose. I don't think I would purchase this breed were it not for the kids' project; I would stick with standard breeds even though their dress out time is longer.

   There you have it; our lists of yeah and nays. Experience shared and learned. When considering your own poultry flocks be sure you know what their purpose will be, the stresses most likely found in your area, and what suits your family best.

* a great resource for breeds (with pictures) and their purposes link over to

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WIP Wednesday...Trying a New Frame

My dear husband bought me a new quilt frame this past Christmas- and I had not tried it out yet. The frame is a Flynn quilt frame made of light weight polls covered with muslin leader strips and end locks with adjustable knobs.

Intended to be used without prior basting, this frame has different polls for each layer of the quilt. Tension is kept by rolling the polls and tightening them on the side.

Useful for either hand or machine quilting, the vote came in for a machine quilted project. The vote was also in for a 'boy quilt'- John Deer print please. With such a demanding fan club (my family), the frame was loaded with a traditional John Deer 'father and son' fabric top and a John Deer logo backing.
The frame is loaded, the machine is threaded and the bobbins are loaded; the trick now is finding time to sit at the machine and actually get some quilting done!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Educating.....and a Box of Dominoes

   I love to teach; anything, anytime, anywhere. My heartfelt desire was to engage my students in a fun and effective classroom environment reaching each learning style as we went. Having a limited budget to work with, any extra-curricular items had to be either already on hand, or relatively inexpensive.
   One thing that became invaluable to my numbers/math/arithmetic time was dominoes. One set had each number set in different colors- perfect for pre-reading/counting color recognition and matching games. As the students' skill grew so did our domino activities.
   Counting the dominoes and matching is great fun, but why stop there? Start by writing numbers on the board, draw a domino, count the dots on one side of the line, point to the corresponding number on the board; now count the number on the other side of the line and find the corresponding number. Once the students could write their numbers they wrote it on the board instead of finding them.
   We're not done yet. As addition became a part of our learning, I would set up the blackboard __+__=___. A student would draw a domino, count the dots on one side writing that number in the first blank, count the number on the other side of the line writing it in the other blank, count all the dots on the domino and write it in the answer blank. Easy, fun, check-your-self addition drills.
  My students loved domino days, often requesting we use them more often. It was so satisfying seeing children's minds, hands, eyes engaged in activities that taught them foundational skills they would need for a lifetime.
   Stay tuned next week as we share another fun, interactive and inexpensive classroom activity!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dancing Stars and Prancing Ponies...

In a rummage through a remnant bin at the local fabric store, my eyes fell upon a panel that just spoke to me. Prancing ponies in paddocks with rough wood rails graced the fabric; bits and bridles lined the sashing. It was perfect! The question is perfect for what?

Taking it home that afternoon, the farm girls gave it a think- our simplynik just knew it was to be hers..but how? With a little creative help from simplyjen a quilt was drafted and drawn.

Using the same basic design we had for the ladybug print quilt (previously showcased); the horse panel would be encased in cream muslin, and outlined in simplynik's favorite fabric- denim. 
The meandering quilting design was another matter. We needed to make a basic plan (because machine quilting was still new to me) yet a it needed to stand out from my standard stipple.
After several doodles and drawings we all jumped when a meandering star pattern found its way to our pen. Once I got it mastered on a  sample piece, it was voted on for the big bed quilt.

And so the quilt Dancing Stars and Prancing Ponies came to be; a treasure for our oldest farm girl- the one who lives with horses. Unique and special, just like her...the quilt displays her loves and passions; some memories of farm girl life.
 The dancing stars stand to remind us of warm summer evenings when we sit on the old porch swing together watching as the sun sets and the stars find there way into the night sky; of many campfires with marshmallows and farm boy's guitar; of late night hikes on camping trips looking for constellations in the big sky.
Prancing ponies bring to mind all the wonderful horses that have come and gone, and are still to come, in this farmgirl's life. The crazy colt she showed at the county fair and the old pony who was his partner. A wild and crazy horse who had to go because he was dangerous. The ones she cleans up after and the ones she feeds each evening---the one who didn't stay long because a bizarre accident claimed his life.
And finally, those bits and bridles bring to mind the many sessions training many horses, many riders, and even herself. The times she fell; the times she was bucked; and the times she shined- and let others shine instead.
A quilt of memories made by all of us- together in love and laughter to remember always.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It Is Sunday....

Friendship With God

"Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"
Genesis 18:17

   Its Delights. This chapter brings out the delight of real friendship with God as compared with occasional feelings of His presence in prayer. To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God's will, and all your common-sense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God knowing that if you decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.
   Its Difficulties. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He was not intimate enough yet to go boldly on until God granted his desire, there was something yet to be desired in his relationship to God. Whenever we stop short in prayer and say- "Well, I don't know; perhaps it is not God's will," there is still another stage to go. We are not so intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as He wants us to be- "That they many be one even as we are one." Think of the last thing you prayed about- were you devoted to your desire or to God? Determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God? "Your Heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." The point of asking is that you may get to know God better. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stitching on a Saturday

   Sitting here sipping my coffee the soft sound of stitching brushes across my ear. Click, swish, pull...yarn and thought take form. Small hands work skillfully turning a simple ball of fine homespun into a practical piece of beauty. While I sit sipping on this Saturday, simplyjen sits heel socks for herself; simply beautiful. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Soaking up Spring...

   In a nearby portion of our state forest, our family strolled the trails to soak up some spring. Our native pines created a beautiful canopy over the trails still covered with the crunch of fall's leaves. Overhead the treetops were filled with the chattering of squirrels and the call of colorful birds.

    A favorite sight from this particular trail, the swinging bridge. Located among the lob lollies directly over a shallow creek bed, this bridge was a huge hit with our farm boy (who teased me immensely as we crossed over it).

    Beautifully arched over the path, a hawthorn berry gave us a spark of red color in its new berries. Who could resist such a picture? We marveled at the amazing bend of the little tree over the footbridge as we crossed over.

   Delicate blossoms from the dogwoods floated over the sides of the shallow creek; a soft pillow of white among leaves of bright green. Several such visions were spied on the trail...dainty and sweet; such unusual beauty.

   Our walk came to an end as the responsibilities of life called us back. The stroll along the trail gave us a break from the demands of our day; the burdens of work and worry. Sometimes you just have to step away from it all and spend a little time soaking up spring.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strolling On a Spring Day....

   Things have been so busy around our little home stead; planting and preparing, cleaning and cooking. We decided to take time away from the work for a stroll on a spring day. Down the road to a pretty patch of state forest, our family plans to hike a trail known to be excellent for bird sighting.
   So with camera in hand, water in the other, and a map in my pocket...we are off to stroll the woods today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Walk With Me Wednesday...Barnyards and Brooders

As I stroll the pasture fence, in the small loafing area I see...

Hens and roosters scratching and searching the fallen leaves. Soon the gate will open allowing them to roam the grassy fields and gather bits of bugs and greens to nourish them. Currently ending a time of molt, the hens are starting to produce in full cycle again; another abundant egg season begins.

Dear Willow rests quietly in the goat stall; happy to be alone in this space right now. Her approaching due date makes peaceful afternoon naps all the more special. In a moment she will waddle out to rest in the afternoon sun, but for now she enjoys the shade.

Genesis also is expecting a little one; her first baby. She would much rather graze the green pasture today. Here she is waiting for the little goat herder to lead her out to the grazing sight today.

Leviticus doesn't want to be left out. If Genesis goes, her brother Levi wants to go too. Such cuties; hard to pry myself away when they call for my attention.

Then there is our buck, little Typhoon. Not much for being led around, he will only move pastures if he can follow Levi. Such a funny little guy; quite shy still with us...he doesn't want to play.

Doc is always eager to roam the grassy lot or guard the hay shed. This funny donkey calls us from our work, seeking a good scratch or a tasty carrot. As keeper of the herd, he is quite protective of all the little creatures- often tattling on one who has gotten out of their place.

Hadassah just wants to run; chasing her farm boy is her favorite daytime activity. He jumps and runs as Hadassah tries to tag him with a sloppy wet kiss. This little girl is a bundle of energy and love. Our walks have been few these days with planting season upon afternoon romps with her farm boy make up for this.

Patch would rather be alone. Much older in years and living with arthritis, he likes time to himself in the afternoon sunshine. At the fence, he seeks a scratch and a pat..then he's off to find a place to himself for quite and comfort.

Noisy turkeys strut and gobble whenever they see someone passing by their pen. So big and awkward, it just makes you laugh to see them strutting around with such arrogance and air. Their calls can be heard throughout the day, bringing laughter to all who hear them.

My final stop is the brooder where little Cornish cross chicks cheep and scratch. Getting bigger every day we are nearing time for their move to the bigger pen. Keeping their feed and water pans full is quite a full time job, so every trip outdoor ends in a visit to their little home to check their needs.

Arriving at my backdoor, bread is done rising and ready for the oven. Soon the house will be filled with the delicious smells of fresh bread- drawing the farm kids in to pester me for a slice (before it's cool enough, of course). Setting the pans in the oven, I find myself grabbing an afternoon cup of coffee and heading to the sewing table. Hopefully I can get a few rows on the new quilt done before the timer calls for me. Until then, thank you for taking the time on this beautiful Wednesday to walk with me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Educating.....How We Spring Break

Outside...and a little slower...

   Years ago, when we started home schooling, the question always came, "What do we do with spring break?" Well, we went back to the basics...what was the purpose of spring break?
   In the early years of education, many school children were agricultural families; farming families. A break in studies was given so that children could be at home helping with planting and birthing on the farm. Studies would resume and continue on until the next break in season. With this in mind, being a small farm family, we developed our spring break education plan.
   Our studies do not cease, but slow down. This week is used to pull together loose ends, complete projects that need attention, or get those essays and reports finished. If one is struggling in a particular course, we take our morning time to focus on that subject only; getting better grounded in the material.
   With lessons taking less time in our day, the remaining time is spent planting our garden fields, caring for new babies (or mommas near due dates), and tending the many repairs that always come with our lifestyle. The greenhouse gets a good cleaning, as does the milk stall and barn nursery. Garden beds are filled with seeds and seedlings and covered with a good layer of mulch.
   Lest you think we never have any fun, let me also say we plan a few get away dates as well. In years past, we have gone camping, taken a trip to the arboretum, visited museums, and had long picnics at the state parks. This year, with working teens having schedules of their own, we are taking a few part day events: a trip to the co-op coupled with lunch out and a few antique shops, a hike at the nearby bird trail, and a movie date with friends.
   As our kids grow, educating through spring break changes with them; a few things remain the same...time together...working together..for the good of the family and the glory of God.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Make it Monday...An Oval Rag Rug

   Braided, crochet or even knit, rag rugs are an excellent way to give new life to old sheets or extra pieces of fabric. We have used dollar sale remnants, denim, and even old t-shirts to make durable rugs for our little homestead.
   Once your fabrics have been stripped, the strips may be joined together in several ways. Some stitch the strips end to end on their sewing machine; later winding the strips into bobbins or balls. The book Rags to Rugs by Leisure Arts shows to "connect-as-you-go" joining strips by making small slits in the strip ends and looping them together. (I find it makes a "knot" that is difficult to crochet in) I generally join them by simply weaving in as I go; tucking a new strip end under another and crocheting along.
   Today we would like to share a basic oval crochet rug patter we use the most.

The Oval Rag Rug

Make your slip knot by making a loop at the long end and slip your size Q hook through.
Chain 20 stitches. Each chain will look like a V.
Single crochet in each chain. **I use double crochet; just my preference.
Single crochet twice in the last chain stitch. Work down the opposite side of the starting chain, and single crochet in each stitch.
Increase at the end of the row by single crocheting twice in each end stitch. By increasing at each end of the rug, you ensure it lies flat. **while working the rug, some curling will happen; once you lay it out it will take care of itself.
Continue working around the rug, single crocheting in each stitch and increasing at the ends. As the rig becomes larger, space the increases evenly around the end stitches to accommodate the size. You must increase the same numver of stitches at each end to keep a symmetrical oval shape. Slip-stitch in the first stitch of the precious round.
Finish the rug by pulling the fabric strip to the back side, cutting a slit in the strip lengthwise and tying the two ends of the slit in a knot. Weave a few inch length into the rug for stability.

   There you have it. Quick and simple using supplies already on hand; great for yourself, to give as a gift, or to create a treasured memory. When my kids outgrew their favorite "character" bed sheets, I made them into rugs for their rooms.
   Now, go raid your storage areas and make something beautiful!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It Is Sunday....

The Abandonment Of God

"God so loved the world that He gave..."
John 3:16

   Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself. My experimental knowledge of salvation will be alone the line of deliverance from sin and of personal holiness; but salvation means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God's personality, and I am thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself, I am caught up into the abandonment of God.
   To say that we are called to preach holiness or sanctification, is to get into a side eddy. We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ. The fact that He saves us from sin and makes us holy is part of the effect of the wonderful abandonment of God.
   Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its won effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware of talking about abandonment if you know nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realized that John 3:16 means that God gave Himself absolutely. In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. The consequence of abandonment never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him.

Our Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Strippin' the Sheets

Snip and strip...then into the pile.

Very therapeutic and relaxing...

   Some days ago, while cleaning the back storage area of our barn and workshop, I found a barrel full of old sheets. The barrel was a storage barrel from my husband's grandparents' farm; brought here many years ago and eventually given to us. Surprisingly, it was filled with old sheets from their home.
   Soft and worn..crisp from years of being dried on the line in the north Texas sun, sheet after sheet were pulled from the barrel. Some I recognized from the beds we slept on when we visited the farm. Sadly, none of the sheets fit our bed sizes. Not really wanting to donate these nostalgic mix matched sheets I decided to repurpose them.
   Strippin' the sheets is a contagious activity. Anyone in the near vicinity is drawn into the action of nip, tug, tear and strip. Using a ruler, I make little snips in the sheet every two inches across the top. Once the sheet is scored we simply grab the sheet and give it a firm pull all the way down. The strips are piled according to color in a storage tub.
   For some reason the sound of tearing fabric seems to draw helping hands from all round the house. My farm boy loves to help strip sheets- feeds his destructive male soul :) A few years ago, during a nasty hurricane, my mother sat with me stripping sheets to pass the time. I think about that every time I walk on one of the rugs we made from the strips made that day.
   Yes, it's rugs; the plan for these sheet strips. Handmade in double crochet fashion- ovals and rounds, these soft cotton sheets will continue their usefulness as rag rugs. Homey and soft, scattered all around the farm house; in front of the kitchen sink, beside the tub, at the foot of my rocking chair or by the side of a teen's bed.
   So as the sun sets beyond the trees on the east side of the barn, my hands will find their way to the basket of stripped sheets. A wooden crochet hook, hand made by my farm boy just for this purpose, will dip and scoop the strips of fabric wielding a web of beauty and practicality. As the woven strips take shape reaching just the right size, a new purpose will come from this day of stripping the sheets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday's Focus...Gardens

   Ah, Friday is here..the day we use to get our classroom assignments rounded up and ready for the weekend. It is also the day we select a section of our farm to focus on. Today we are setting our sights on the gardens.
   For several weeks we have spent our afternoons turning, tilling, and amending our garden plots for the upcoming planting season. As of today: fruit trees are pruned, mulches are gathered and ready to spread, seedlings and young plants fill the greenhouse selves, and our seed supply is ready to go.
   Sadly, our weather has been doing a strange swoop; breezy cool days with nights in the thirties- not optimal for many garden plants. Our cool spring seeds are in the ground, but our peppers and tomatoes, as well as many of our herbs, are still residing in the greenhouse until our nights warm a bit.
   So what is on the to-do list? Adding a few more rows of kale and lettuce, planting more onion sets, building more tomato cages, hilling the corn field. Cool weather herbs such as parsley and chives are going in the soil along with dills and thyme. I think we will give rosemary and basil another week.
   Walking the paths today, we reviewed our "written plan". Here is the current order of growing:

1. The front of our house became a garden plot last year. It permanently houses a few citrus trees and spring bulbs already in bloom. We have been adding antique rose bushes in the raised mound beds that will give color to the vast array of culinary and tea herbs waiting to be planted there.

2. The greenhouse garden plot housed tomatoes and cole crops last spring, but is ready for rows of peppers, cucumbers, and green beans. Along the back area near the tool shed, a path of squash - yellow crookneck and zucchini- will be prolific and proud. Already in place, a few sets of onions, a patch of lettuce, and a patch of carrots. The greenhouse itself will house a few hot house tomatoes with bed areas mulched over to cook out weeds.

3. Our outer field garden is the most extensive. It will hold a large section of tomatoes and okra sprinkled with a row of basil and sunflowers. A small area will hold lettuces, onion and garlic with kale and chard. One secondary planting of cucumbers will provide some shade for the greens during the heat that is to come. The far side of this field is reserved for the "three sister" setup. Rows of corn will stand tall and proud providing a trellis for runner beans. Melons will trellis the under path and flank the outer edges.

4. Behind our house in the extra space - but not too near the clothesline- raised tire beds are waiting to house winter squashes like spaghetti, butternut and acorn. Down the drive, we have a few more tires set to grow a section of pumpkins- sugar baby variety.

   With all the plans laid, all the seeds gathered, and rows ready for them all- time for this family to get dirt under their nails and mud between their toes; today we set some garden!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One More Project Off the Table

Some snappy pj's...
   After several days of cut and "paste" the five pair of pajama bottoms are finally off the sewing table. Now, typically pj bottoms are quick and done in a matter of minutes. This particular version caused a little time and creativity.
   Using two different patterns, these pj's are roomy yet well fitting. A drawstring waist allows for teen shape changes and comfy lounging, while the standard pattern gave the length and width in all the right areas. Fitting both the boys and girls in the family this pattern is a keeper.
..with a neat drawstring waist.
   There you have it..the reason I needed to figure out the button hole setting. This drawstring fits perfectly through a standard button hole reinforced with medium weight facing. The drawstring itself has elastic in the back with cotton "string" giving a nice flexible fit.
   With the table clear for now, time for a new project. Time to peak over the patterns and ponder the fabric stash for the next great sewing table topping....or maybe a new quilt..or totes, or even a fresh sewing machine cover for the new machine...or....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Managed the Button Hole Setting

   Finally, for the first time ever, I learned to use the button hole setting on a sewing machine. It surprised me how simple it really was. Once the foot is changed over, it is only a four step process and you're done. Wow, a new skill for the, back at it; I'm off to finish a project and start a new one!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Simple Quilt by Simplynik

   Boot and jeans are her thing; bandannas are a great compliment to both. A few years ago our oldest teen designed and created a quilt for herself using some of her favorite fabrics: bandannas and denim.
   Sewing is not her favorite activity, so her quilt needed to be simple and easy to put together- yet designed to compliment her "boots-n-barnyard" style. She designed a quilt using bandannas we collected from her great grandfather's stash and soft denim as her backing. Stitching together whole bandannas in alternating red and blue pattern, she pieced the layers in a "inside out fashion". This means the quilt went: batting, quilt top (wrong side up), and quilt back (right side up). She stitched the layers leaving one corner open just big enough for her hand to fit through.
   After turning the quilt right side out, she slip stitched the corner shut..but it still needed quilting to stabilize the layers. Here is where I came in. I machine stitched in the ditch and corner to corner on each bandanna square, then finished a top stitch around the entire outer edge.
   The finished quilt still graces the foot of her bed today- a precious reminder of the summer she designed, pieced and finished her own quilt (with just a little help from me).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It Is Sunday......

Amid a Crowd of Paltry Things

" much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses."
2 Corinthians 6:4

   It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator- the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the gospel.
   Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh and blood actualities and work it out through the finger tips. We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you. Continually get away from pettiness and paltriness of mind and though out into the thirteenth chapter of St. John's Gospel.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, March 5, 2011

So Much To Do Saturday.....

* figure out the button hole setting on the new sewing machine - so I can
* finish those pajama bottoms
* get the new quilt top in the frame
* bake some cookies to restock the freezer
* stand in during the chores for teens who are at work
* bake some more bread
* set up Sunday dinner plans
* spend some time with my precious family

What's on your list today?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Working out the Weeds

   Every afternoon this week the farm kids and I have spent our time bent over the rows. With hoes in hand we are preparing the soil for spring planting. There is so much left to do.
   Gathering a bucket nearby, clumps of weeds and waste are hauled away from the garden space to make room for productive plants. These "greens" serve there purpose in the hen's yard providing nutrients for my sweet laying flock.
   It's achy and frustrating work weeding the garden; but no less than weeding the unproductive "weeds" in my life. I spend a lot of time pondering in the garden plots and today my heart wanders over to the unproductive "weeds" that have sprung up in my daily life.
   Being honest with ourselves is the first step in recognizing these undesirable plants. They leech vital nutrients from the soil and starve out the productive work in our live. As I fill the bucket with garden weeds, I made a list of personal "weeds".

*media; TV, Internet, magazines, papers, books, etc.
*social outlets; phone, text, Internet, email
*driving; wasted trips, unplanned shopping, unnecessary errands
*lack of routine; just plain not knowing what needs done and doing it
*poor stewardship; in diet, in activity, in time...huge energy drainers

   Not an exhaustive list by far, but a good start. For me the time in the garden was not only spent working the soil for my plants, but working the soil in my heart; my mind; my soul. Reflecting on these things gave me perspective of the countless ways to improve my daily activity. This does not mean I shut the door on all things on the list never to open it again; good grief. It means to use them wisely and make them count. Conversations that run too long often lead to gossip; too much media can lead to depression or discontent. The price of gas forces me to reconsider our trips here and there consolidating as much as possible. Being a good steward is respectful to my Lord and my husband who have graciously blessed me with the privilege of being at home, teaching our kids and maintaining our little farm.
   With one garden field clean and ready we must move on to the next; weeding is a never ending process- both in the garden and in our hearts. What are you weeding out this week?


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Way to Go!

   Our oldest teen has been taking duel credit classes at our local college for the past few years now. Recently she was accepted into the Honors program there. Her application was just accepted and her first class contract is now underway. What a way to finish her high school senior year; way to go!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Farmboy Shares ......

   Joining me today, our farmboy..and he has written today's post. Desiring the skills of self defense as well as structured discipline with strong mentors he began mixed martial art classes when the new year began. Training in the art of Muay Thai (one part of the mixed martial arts program) has become a passionate pursuit- and he has decided to share a little background on this sport with you. 

     Muay Thai is a martial art which uses the hands, feet, knees, and elbows; originating in Thailand and was used as a military combat; it was later used in ring fights. Before the 1930’s Muay Thai fighters used “rope wrappings” for their hands and a pillow for protective gear. A seashell was then used for a cup because it was legal to hit the groin, however after the police investigated the sport in the 1930’s, they banned the “rope wrappings” and also banned hitting in the groin. Now Muay Thai is a national sport that teaches self defense, national and international ring fighting, and self control. I enjoy Muay Thai for its exercise, the joy of sparring, and help encouraging the smaller children when they come. To me Muay Thai is a fun sport which allows me to have fun and learn new things which I can share with my friends and family.