Monday, October 31, 2011

Fiber Arts Monday: Putting It Together

   This weekend the girls and I spent some time 'putting it together'. Quilt blocks are like wild puzzle pieces; they fit in so many different ways- so many beautiful options. It took us several attempts to really find the right pattern for the pieces- and it wasn't the original plan.


   The fall fans made from the Dresden pattern were quite a dilemma. I was planning to place them in rows of fans...just plain and simple. Needless to say, the girls had much more artistic plans.


   One dear girl had half-circles in mind; a full size fan of warm fall colors. I liked it- then, my husband said- oh, cool, turkeys. Well, that didn't help.


   The other creative girl in the family decided a 'broken wheel' was the perfect plan- I thought it looked like a beautiful fall sunflower or a mum. She did not agree.



   After several hours of contemplation and consideration we settled on a creative combination of the two designs. A large 'broken wheel' sets the tone in the very center of the quilt top and is surrounded by half circle fans all the way around. Lattice separates every square with nine-patches holding it all together. Soft brown print frames the scene and a deep green border will finish it.





  
   One sweet teen girl set the crumb blocks in order for me, however, when I started sewing them together..something went a little wonky. Let's just say the seam ripper and I spent lots of time together last night...not pleasant time...I'd rather not talk about it. Maybe it will look better for me today? One can hope.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It Is Sunday


FAITH

"Without faith it is impossible to please Him."
Hebrews 11:6
Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into a right relation. Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual; of impulse and inspiration. Nothing Jesus Christ ever said is common sense, it is revelation sense, and it reaches the shores where common sense fails. Faith must be tried before the reality of faith is actual. "We know that all things work together for good," then no matter what happens, the alchemy of God's providence transfigures the ideal faith into actual reality. Faith always works on the personal line, the whole purpose of God being to see that the ideal faith is made real in His children. 
For every detail of the common-sense life, there is a revelation fact of God whereby we can prove in practical experience what we belief God to be. Faith is a tremendously active principle which always puts Jesus Christ first-- Lord, Thou has said so and so (e.g. Matthew 6:33), and it looks mad, but I am going to venture on Thy word. To turn head faith into a personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes. God brings us circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say-- "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Scaife Family Values: Silence

si·lence/ˈsīləns/

Noun:
Complete absence of sound.

Verb:
Cause to become silent; prohibit or prevent from speaking.

Synonyms:
noun.  hush - quiet - still - quietness - calm - stillness
verb.  hush - shush - shut up

   Have you ever sat in the silence? When the power is out; when no 'white noise' can be found in the background? True silence. It is rare to truly find silence in this world of technology and travel; but it is a treasure we value when we can find it. 
   In my home silence is found at the table; students deep in study..my husband resting from his overnight shift...my hands busy with needle and thread. No television, no phone, no idle chatter...silence. It is found in the barn; contented animals softly munching as they bask in the noonday sun..the gentle brush of the rake as stalls are mucked...the hammer of the woodpecker in the tall pine overhead. It is found in the garden...
   Quiet sprouts shoot forth from soil as a hawk calls in the distance. Water gently falls over tender green leaves to nourish the roots beneath. Hens lightly scratch just beyond the fence; their occasional cluck makes me smile. This silence lends to listening; to hearing the life and growth all around; to hear God's hand at work in the little things that surround me. 
   Without silence there cannot be rest- true rest. Even an afternoon of pulling weeds can be restful if our minds are allowed silence...the gentle quiet of life. Our bodies need silence to restore and refresh; a break from the demands of noise. Our relationships need silence; that ability to be together without the strain of conversation or entertainment. Our souls need silence...time to be with our Lord...to sense Him in the quiet stillness. 
   Our family values silence....the gentleness of being; the peacefulness of existing; the rest brought forth...by ...silence.


Friday, October 28, 2011

On The Easel


   In the corner of the room stands the tall black easel; a gift from days long ago. For many months it has been silent; neglected; left to itself in the darkness. The darkness would not be for long.


   Gentle hands use soft cloth to tenderly wipe away the dust gathered by forgotteness. Small drawers are restocked with purpose..their destiny fulfilled with the this and thats of creative supply. Once again, the easel is brought into the light and given a voice.

   Paper in place; slender fingers poise. Delicate touches here and there slowly, intently give way to shape and form. Silence is broken by a soft scritch-scratch, a swish, a long sweep of the charcoal pencil. Shadow and shade, light and luster come together in wonder and beauty..from her eyes it flows through her soul down her arms and from her finger tips making it's impression on page before her.





  
   Occasionally I pass by to see her deep in thought; pencil poised on her lips..she bites her tongue when she's concentrating hard on something. A touch here, a shade there...little marks to deepen or darken one place or another. I think it's perfect, but she always finds something in need of a little extra attention. My chuckle makes her shake her head....such an eye she must have; funny girl.


   Contented now the easel stands; once again filled with purpose and place. Canvas and paint scattered at it's feet evidence the high calling it has. She steps away for a time, but it will be a short time, for her hands have found a voice again and her heart sings with creative beauty as is evidenced by the pieces found on the easel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back to the Prairie: Just a Child at Play






   Long summer days faded into fall on the prairie; each days work grew as harvests came. When the canner was full the grandmothers would sit and chat while I slipped out to find my freedom in the big prairie farm.

   Canning day: trapped in the kitchen with jars and lids, beans and carrots and....the pressure canner. I saw a jar explode in that thing and I've been afraid of it every since. As the grandmothers become busy chatting over boiling pots opportunity opens; time to make my getaway!
   Slipping out the back door, I dart through the garage dodging little kitties on the way. No time to stop and pet one, goodness, the grandmothers might spot me through the screen door and chain me to the endless buckets of beans to snap or cherries to pit...ewe, no way..I'm running. Down the sloping gravel drive as fast as little bare feet can go (why didn't I think to slip on the shoes..oh, yea, no time!). Grass welcomes my toes near the tree line..another old friend greets me there: the old round rope swing.
   I don't know where it came from or how long it's been here, but I never remember a time when it wasn't here. Long yellow rope hangs high from the big tree...at the bottom an orange plastic disk is the perfect size for me. At the edge of the grassy area a smile creeps across my face. My feet take off with record speed toward the swing...one flying leap, my hands catch the rope as I make my way onto the swing.
   At the top of the sway the fall sun kisses my cheeks softly; my eyes close as the warmth embraces me. Gravity pulls me back to the earth tugging wisps of my hair free from their braids; they dance around my face like dandelion fluff. Again! Tugging the rope as far as it reaches I leap on and start the joyful cycle again; ah, freedom!
   Dozens and dozens of jumps and swirls, twirls and spins restore my little soul (after hours of kitchen canning torture). Then, in the corner of my eye, the tank! Near the swing sits a huge propane tank- shiny silver and big! Really big! In the summer that tank gets hot enough to eat your flesh right off your legs, but in fall...such temptation..it would be so fun.
   I dart the the garage, grab one of the braided rugs we use to sit on the metal lawn chairs...this will make a perfect horse blanket. Back down the slope to the grassy patch..excitement gives me tingles. I know I shouldn't, but....one quick look...then..
   Tossing the blanket on my sturdy steed I hop on his back. "Giddy-up," I command as I lean forward..bouncing with his mighty gallop. My hands hold the 'reigns' and my feet kick at his sides while we ride swiftly over the prairie grasses....braids flying as his main flicks my face. A giggle can't help but escape my lips...until.
   "What on earth are you doing?" ....busted! Here it comes...the 'you're going to blow yourself up' lecture and enslavement to the canning jars.

   In all the years I spent on my grandparent's prairie home, the orange disk rope swing hung there at the base of the drive right near the big propane tank. My grandmother would always warn me about the risk of getting blown up from bumping that tank; sometimes the temptation was just too much. God must surely have been watching me; it never did explode in all my rambunctious naughtiness. I suppose He understand the silly heart of a little child just at play.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Of Stalls & Stuff


    Morning dawns on the little homestead as I slip into my overalls and 'barn flops' for an afternoon clean out. The October air stirred with humidity, riling up the nasty little mosquitoes who decide to plague me while I work.






   The little herd went out into the big field to graze; tasty greens made their little tummies bulge! Soft bleats were heard as they chatted about their afternoon forage; sassy little ladies- floppy ears and all.

  
   Little Lyla was on hand for some fussing. She is the smallest of them all and often the loudest girl in the group.





   With rake in hand my task began. As I worked in the dusty muck curious hens gathered nearby to check my progress. There clucks and cackles lead me to wonder- approval or not?


   A few roosters expressed their opinions from the corner of the stalls; their intense crowing rang long and strong over the whole property...goodness, what a holler!





   Doc watched intently, occasionally giving a pathetic whimper...he was begging for carrots and not the least concerned about clean up. What donkey cares about the state of a stall? They just want to snack.

  
     I thought I'd show you the absolute only thing I use a snow shovel for. Deep south winters rarely see snow of any kind, much less enough to shovel, so our snow shovel has a new job; pooper scooper. It works. On cold days, I channel my inner snow bunny and pretend..it works for me.



   Once the muck was mucked another little project started taking shape: the kid play-scape. Our fallen pine tree cannot be used in the fire place; the sap pops and cracks it's quite hazardous. Instead, we cut it into logs and piled and stacked it for a goat playground. It isn't quite finished, but they didn't complain- they loved it just the way it was!

   Tomorrow.....cleaning the coup? Maybe...after a day off..and a cool front...maybe.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Farmhouse Cooking: Baking 'Taters on the Go


   Life can be crazy; teens and their schedules, a farm and garden to upkeep..don't make me talk about the laundry- don't. Weird thing, the kids want to eat no matter what the chaos may be. One family favorite fun meal is baked potatoes, but, they have a down side; the oven. More often than not, it is way too hot to turn that oven up to 400 and keep it there for an hour- no way! So, we found a simple solution; the crock pot.
   Here we go. I use:
   potatoes, scrubbed clean and pierced all over with a fork
  a piece of foil large enough to wrap around each potato
  oil and seasonings (such as salt & pepper)






   I lay each potato on their piece of foil, drizzle it with oil and season it generously before wrapping it tight in a foil blanket. Setting my crock on low heat, the potatoes cook for four hours while we run errands, pull weeds or take a gym class. Easy, right?

  
   A few notes: No, no water is added. Yes, skins are tasty and quite edible. Is that a sweet potato, yes. I use sweet or russet potatoes with great success. Seasonings? Often just salt and pepper, but sometimes Cajun spice, steak seasoning, lemon pepper or even an Italian mix..change it up..it's awesome. How many in a crock? Depends on the size; my crock cooks up to ten or a few as four.
 
   The only thing left to do: set out your families' favorite 'tater toppings- butter, sour cream, cheeses, seasonings, shredded beef; let your taste buds run wild. What better (and quite frugal) way to feed a pack of hungry teens than a fuss free (no sweating around the oven) baked potato dinner- especially if you have to spend your day on the go.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fiber Arts Monday: A New Tip





  
   This week my fiber focus was on applique, fall fan applique. When working an applique piece, not all edges are, well, on the edge; some are in the center of a fabric piece. My metal clips won't be of any help in this situation, so, I move to plan 'b'- glue.
   It's no secret- I pin only when I must- and pins and applique just don't work for me. My solution to this quandary is common every day school glue. It's washable and free of dyes or colors- easily applied and very direct. I love it.




   I apply glue lightly to the fabric that needs basting. A dot does a lot, or a line or wavy stream; use what you need with out going wacky with it. Heavier fabrics need a touch more, but not so much as to saturate the piece.





   After applying a light touch of glue, I run a warm iron over the basted area to secure the pieces together. I baste a stack at a time, iron them, then work the applique...the glue holds until it is washed out later; excellent!

   Some questions I have had: Does it gum up the needle? No. Does it ruin the iron or the ironing board? No. Can I use other glues? I have used 'Tacky Glue" with success as well as clear washable school glue and even glue sticks; the glue stick work well with light fabrics. What about repositioning? No problem..it's easily moved before ironing..and after ironing, just give a light tug, the fabric comes apart and off you go. Does it stain? I haven't ever had a stain situation yet.

   So there you go..my nifty thrifty, oh so wacky, sewing tip: glue basting.....it's a good thing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It Is Sunday


NOT A BIT OF IT!

"If any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature:
old things are passed away." 
2 Corinthians 5:17

Our Lord never nurses our prejudices, He mortifies them, runs clean athwart them. We imagine that God has a special interest in our particular prejudices; we are quite sure that God will never deal with us as He has to deal with other people. "God must deal with other people in a very stern way, but of course He knows that my prejudices are all right." We have to learn- "Not a bit of it!" Instead of God being on the side of our prejudices, He is deliberately wiping them out. It is part of your moral education to have our prejudices run straight across by His providence, and to watch how He does it. God pays no respect to anything we bring to Him. There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.
When we are born again, the Holy Spirit begins to work His new creation in us, and there will come a time when there is not a bit of the old order left, the old solemnity goes, the old attitude to things goes, and "all things are of God." How are we going to get the life that has no lust, no self-interest, no sensitiveness to pokes, the love that is not provoked, that thinketh no evil, that is always kind? The only way is by allowing not a bit of the old life to be left; but only simple perfect trust in God, such trust that we no longer want God's blessings, but only want Himself. Have we come to the place where God can withdraw His blessings and it does not affect our trust in Him? When once we see God at work, we will never bother our heads about things that happen, because we are actually trusting in our Father in Heaven Whom the world cannot see.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scaife Family Values: The Past

past

[past, pahst] Show IPA
adjective
1.
gone by or elapsed in time: It was a bad time, but it's all past now.
2.
of, having existed in, or having occurred during a time previous to the present; bygone: the past glories of the Incas.
3.
gone by just before the present time; just passed: during the past year.
4.
ago: six days past.
5.
having formerly been or served as; previous; earlier: three past presidents of the club.


   The past- something we learn from, something we may not want to repeat. In the course of our lives we all develop a past; as individuals, as a family, as a society. So why do we value it? Without it we would not be who we are. Foundations of our lives were formed in our past; a heritage. While dwelling in the past is not the ideal, building upon it and learning from it are key. The lives we live now will be 'the past' for another.
   In loving and leading our children, we desire for them to learn from the past. National and world history, Biblical and personal histories; all vital learning tools. Taking the elements available, our children will learn who they are..where they come from, and how our lives came to be what they are. Such knowledge builds a foundation for their lives which they can develop and grow for their future families.
   To know your histories is one part, but skills from the past are another. We have taken many summer sessions to learn skills from our pioneer heritage; candle and soap making, gardening, agriculture and livestock practices...there is so much to learn! Modern technology has its place, but to learn the 'harder' or 'slower' way can benefit us down the road. For example, we know how to wash laundry with a scrub board and wringer... during a severe hurricane (no power for three weeks) we managed laundry quite well. Being able to cook on open fire blessed us with meals during those days.
   Our past is a piece of our futures. We treasure the 'where we've been' and look forward to were we will be by valuing and learning from those who came before us; from the pieces of our past.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Projects: The SIP


   Here in my part of the south drought is taking its tole on agricultural production; from large farms to backyard gardeners, production herds to little homesteads..we're suffering. In this we have two options: accept defeat or get creative. Since not having a garden growing morphs me into some kind of vicious mommy-monster...I am choosing the 'get creative' option.
   Research and rummaging led me to SIPs; self-irrigating planters. Now, I have never used them before..and, yes, I'm still planting some ground crops using soaker and irrigation set-ups,..however, the SIPs intrigued me. Using some basic shop 'remnants' and a little bit of skill saw here's what we did.






   We used: plastic storage tubs, corrugated drain pipe (the one with slits in it, otherwise, drill some holes around it randomly), pvc pipe. I placed a scrap of garden fabric over my pipe because I had it and I wanted the extra insurance for soil not to clog up the holes in the corrugated pipe.

   Basically you cut a length of drain pipe that fits in a 'u' shape in the bottom of the tub; this is your water reservoir. Drill a drain hole in the side of the tub 4" from the bottom to prevent over watering. Place a length of pvc into the drain pipe; this will be where you add water to the planter ensuring the water goes directly to the roots of the plants. As I mentioned, I covered my pipe with a scrap of garden fabric..it isn't required, but it made me feel better.
   When adding soil, you want to pack soil around the corrugated drain pipe..this creates a 'wick' for hydration. The upper soil layer is loose and airy. Now, plant!
   My SIPs have tomato and squash plants and are in my greenhouse already due to some chilly nights. I intend to place a few herbs in another one and a set of mescalin greens. As I said, I have never used SIPs before. so this is a trail and error for me, but it's better than doing nothing (for me, anyway).

   Now, the obvious downside: cost- if you don't have the stuff on hand, well, money lost; soil- if you purchase potting mix, well, money lost; time- you do have to do some cutting and putting together-ing; then, the obvious 'what-if-it-doesn't-work' element- well, that's a risk. On an up-note, they are not ridiculously heavy; I moved them completely full..so, bonus! All pieces are reusable if it's a fail; they go back to the 'remnant' pile in the shop. I get an "E" for effort from my family--it will keep me occupied for a while, right?





For more information and varieties of SIPs, please visit:
http://www.insideurbangreen.org/

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to the Prairie: Cup of Warm Comfort






   The visit of cool fall weather lead my mind down paths from long ago to a table where family gathered around and the howling of the wind outside was quieted just a bit by the soothing steam from a cup of warm comfort.


   I do not like cold weather. Cold weather means shoes and days indoors. Whenever a crisp bite is carried on the winds I can be sure to hear all about "catching my death' and how cracked my lips are or the intense need for shoes 'on those feet'. The prairie around me is about to look dead and bleak...it makes me so sad. The stern look from my grandmother yields my will; unwillingly I snatch my long forgotten shoes up and head for the door.
   Sitting on the step...begrudgingly lacing up the freedom-stealing villains, the barn kitties nuzzle my cheeks. They understand my plight (after all, they wouldn't want to wear shoes either). Cradling a long haired grey one in my arms, I set off down the gravel drive and ponder the sting of cold air and the shivers it brings.
   As afternoon starts to fall and the sun set reminds me of chores that amazingly slipped my mind, the warmth of the farmhouse calls to me. The kitty and I head for the back door with caution...at least I kept my shoes on.
   The creak of the back door brings an air of warmth inviting me in; shoes are shed in an instant as my bare toes shrivel at the chill of the kitchen floor. Peeking around the door frame I spy my grandmother at the stove stirring a large soup pot. Get on in here and warm up, you look have frozen. Relief, no mention of the chores. A faint scent is found, stronger with every step, something warm and inviting. Grandpa turns to me from his chair at the table. He smiles thought I was going to have to come looking for ya. His twinkling blue eyes let me know it's okay, and a surprise is in store.  
   Climbing up beside him, he offers my a cracker topped 'his way'; summer sausage and cheese cut thick. Others gather from here and there to take their seats around the table as my grandmother serves hot steaming mugs of buttery oyster stew. Salty and soothing...totally worth burning your mouth over! Grandpa crumbles a heaping handful of crackers in his..giving me a playful elbow..he knows I hate soggy crackers. Then there's the pepper...he shakes a heap of pepper on their that scares away a cold. Yea, no! I sip mine...buttery and creamy and just hot enough to warm you 'all the way down'..no wacky additions..just straight up.
   Around the table we all sit; stories are shared..events of the day...while soup mugs are finished and refilled; crackers are mushed up mercilessly with reckless abandon. Then, I reach the bottom of my tasty cup...yuck!..a sight that sends a cringe all over me...the oyster. Few things on this earth I can't stand the taste of more than a rubbery, gravely old oyster. Grandpa gets a hearty chuckle at me...what did you think was in it? Okay, but you didn't have to give me one...

   The tempting aroma of this rich and creamy soup lingers in my mind today as memories of those chilled nights run through me....as does the disturbing taste of those nasty oysters at the bottom of the cup. Due to my utter disdain for them, I never learned to make the soup myself..and have never had it outside their home. Never the less, nothing warms the soul quite like family gathered around a table sharing the thoughts of the day and a cup of warm comfort.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Birthday!


   Today is my Dad's birthday; I won't share his age, just that he is one wearing glasses in the picture above (ha, ha). Delicious roast dinner with a decadent chocolate cake were on the menu and gratefully shared together this past weekend.
   I wonder if he remembers cakes at the office? Crazy decorations on the truck (you know, the hideous green truck we all drove)? The year we draped everything in black and set a cauldron and headstone out? Pecan pies instead of cake? Brisket dinner..the one that sent one of us to the ER?
   What about painting and planting? No one grew more green beans than you did...picking five gallon buckets summer after summer? Muskadine jelly and fishing trips...my insane fear of the boat?
   This year remember Jen's little speech about the candles and a burn ban..the fire extinguisher and the funny acorn decorations on the cake...Remember we wished you a Happy Day...and many more!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fiber Arts Monday: Stitch & Miss

   It was a stitch & miss kind of week; time at the table was so hard to find. A variety of homestead projects lead me outdoors far from my hoops and frames...yet, in the end, a little time was found.





  
   Time for a few crumb quilt blocks was found; random bits became houses and patches..even a log cabin. It seems I'm a bit behind gathering blocks for my crumb; time to get a bit more serious about it.
  




  
   The end of day brought me to the couch for a snuggle under the hoop..stitching a few random tumbling stars on this heirloom treasure. Chosen by my oldest girl (she designed the quilting layout as well), she is eager to see time spent on this one.





   On the table today sits this sweet little swatch of fabric; baby birds under a palm tree. Time to go see what the day makes of this one. Happy stitching!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It Is Sunday....


THE KEY TO THE MASTER'S ORDERS

"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,
that He will send forth labourers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:38
The key to the missionary problem is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer not work, that is, not work as the word is popularly understood today because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God. The key to the missionary problem is not the key of common sense, nor the medical key, nor the key of civilization or education or even evangelism. The key is prayer. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest." Naturally, prayer is not practical, it is absurd; we have to realize that payer is stupid from the ordinary common-sense point of view. 
There are no nations in Jesus Christ's outlook, but the world. How many of us pray without respect of persons, and with respect to only one Person, Jesus Christ? He owns the harvest that is produced by distress and conviction of sin, and this is the harvest we have to pray that laborers may be thrust out to reap. We are taken up with active work while people all round are ripe to harvest, and we do not reap one of them, but waste our Lord's time in over energized activities. Suppose the crisis comes in your father's life, in your brother's life, are you there as a laborer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? "Oh, but I have a special work to do!" No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ's own, one who is not above his Master, one who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls to no special work: He calls to Himself. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest," and He will engineer the circumstances and thrust you out.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Scaife Family Values: Self-Sufficiency



self-suf·fi·cient (slfs-fshnt)adj.
1. Able to provide for oneself without the help of others; independent.
 
   To provide and not depend..sounds so ideal doesn't it? While complete self-sufficiency is not where we are as a family, every little bit helps. In the nearly twenty years of our marriage, we have made strides to be less dependent on others...better able to meet our needs without running here and there for this and that. 
   Early on, gardening was a key to our stepping away from dependence; natural foods grown by our own hands by our own methods. Every year new plots and new crops are added..currently we are growing four difference garden plots on our homestead..providing a large amount of our produce. Berry bushes and a couple of fruit trees were added last year- if they survive the drought, we hope to see them produce.
   My flock of hens were the second step...providing tasty fresh eggs and occasional meat. Since that first flock we have progressed to a seasonal meat flock and a batch of turkeys (grown once a year). The freezer full of meat has been a great blessing as well as a precious learning experience for our whole family. From housing, to feeding, to human and appropriate butchering...yearly advances and improvements are added here and there to ensure a better success in the next season. 
   The most recent additions were a dairy and meat herd. Our silly goats have been a great blessing to our self-sufficient life. Again, learning the ropes for natural production and health have been a challenge and a joy. Seasonal births of precious little ones, bottle feeding, home dairying have led to cheese making. The blessing of meat in the freezer..again..one more step. 
   While these things are all steps toward independence, other goals are always on the board: maintaining a debt free financial situation, continuing our educations (in classes or independently), as well as personal health care. In a self-sufficient life, education is important ..and on going. Libraries, online and in local colleges a wealth of information is available; why not use it? Let's not for get county extension offices and master gardener programs. They're there to help...learn from them!
   In all our endeavors one thing must never be overlooked; our dependence on God. From His hands all things are given; our life, our health, our land and it's produce. In our strive for independence, we never want to lose our dependence on our heavenly Father. Through prayer and seeking our journey continues...the journey of self-sufficiency.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dirt Under My Nails...An Obsession

   I love gardening; there, I said it- doesn't that feel better. The intense heat and extreme drought deprived me of my passion long enough...I am reclaiming my soil...taking up my broad fork and hoe...it's time to get real about planting. No, the drought isn't over (the heat has improved). My soil is a dust bowl and my compost is like chalk; ugly...there is a lot of work to be done.
   My family knows (as does anyone who really knows me) with out my garden time I am mean; I need dirt under my nails. The feel of living matter, soft and moist in my hands...it's earthy scent..the find of living things..it drives me. Seeing life spring forth from a dry seed humbles my spirit and leads my heart to my Lord. Harvests remind me of 'the gathering'; His growing and bringing together of His people. I need dirt under my nails.

   In an attempt to reclaim my garden and feed my gardening void, ten projects are on the menu for today:

1. Planting: soil is turned and amended now so it's time to set some seed.
2. Soaker hoses and drip systems: my research has led me to a few notions (cleaning my garden revealed crumbling soaker hoses..so new ones are needed)..we'll see what we end up with.
3. SIP's are being built: right now I have one complete..a self irrigating planter..for testing in and out of the greenhouse...how to's are coming.
4. The greenhouse: I've been braving the dry barren sight of my greenhouse..sad little thing..and am trying to soak and settle things in there..that's a task!
5. Mulch, mulch, mulch: with this drought, we're gonna need it! Seeds in, soil soaked, mulch on; that's the plan.

   Up keep, up keep, up keep. This garden season is going to be one great big challenge, and I'm okay with that. Facing such a challenge will fill the need..the dirt under my nails need..I've missed it so much! So who is joining me in this madness? Do you crave those little moments with the Savior getting dirt under your nails?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to the Prairie: The Little Farm Atop the Hill







   Just 'up the road a piece' from my grandparents' big farm was my uncle's little farm. I recall a right turn and a steep gravel road. Much debate always came over whether that could be considered a hill, but if you ever tried to petal a bicycle up it you knew it was a hill. Cattle grazed in the land leading up to the top where his home sat in a clearing. Woods surrounded his place making it an unusual sight- most had flat prairie grasses or fields..he had woods.
   Dogs always greeted you when you arrived; he liked them big and rowdy.kinda like himself. He was tall, real tall, with blond wavy hair that reached his shoulders. A bushy long mustache playfully hid his smile, but his laughter was so fun. You could be a real 'get dirty' farm girl at his place.
   His house was were cards were played and wild stories were told; velvet Elvis hung everywhere and Batman ruled...the fridge always had koolaide and messes were rather well tolerated. We never spent much time inside though, he knew that out in the summer sun and prairie wind where dirt nestled between your toes was where I loved to roam.
   Guns were something you learned to use and respect; targets were always available for practice. He'd line cans across a fence and let you knock off a few. In 'his woods' nature was full of life; mushrooms and trees, snakes and other wriggly things. Afternoon swims in the water trough were encouraged and most food was grilled outdoors. He was an outdoor person too.
   We got along well, my uncle and me. He called me 'Micky' because I reminded him of a mouse..small and into everything and constantly 'squeaking'. On the front steps of his place we sipped 'pop' and munched chips in the sunshine watching the cattle munch in the fields. Sometimes we went to movies together; a big sci-fi fan to this day. Once in a while we rode in his 442- I 'd never seen such a car, Old farm trucks were my favorite though. Bumping along in the big bench seat made me giggle as my hair whipped in the wind.
  
    My uncle no longer lives at his little farm atop the hill; he's in town now and works for the city. Elvis is still king, and Batman rules, but the cattle and water trough are gone; those gravel roads are traveled by someone else these days. Every once and a while, in my memory, I travel the long way up...to the little farm...for a visit.